May 13, 2021

Summer Project: Outdoor Kitchen

Something that's been on our project list for a long time is an outdoor kitchen. Dan has been grilling meat on his wood-fired grill for years, so expanding the outdoor cooking possibilities makes sense. Under cover makes sense too, although I think many modern outdoor kitchens are out in the open. But we want to be able to use it when it's raining, and the carport seems like the perfect place. 

The carport would be a good place for an outdoor kitchen.

So, what should go into an outdoor kitchen?

  • barbecue grill
  • stove
  • pizza oven
  • cold smoker?
  • someplace to store my solar oven
  • work/dining table

That's what's on our list. We have the grill, so we've been looking at cooking surface for pots and pans (the stove), and a pizza oven. Here's what we've come up with.

For the stove, we're going with the Walker Wood Fired Masonry Cook Stove (that links to where we bought the plans). Here are some front and back pictures from one of Matt Walker's videos.

Oven and fire viewing window side.

Firebox side.

The selling points (from his website, link above) were

"Incredible efficiency and smokeless performance, with an easy temperament. Easy to use, quick to light, and stable to cook on. . ."

The plans are highly adaptable; for example, we probably won't include the fire viewing window. And we've been able to source almost everything we need locally. It would almost be perfect, except that the oven is smaller than a standard size oven, more along the size of the oven in my wood cookstove. And the problem with that is that it's too small for my pizza stone. Hence the addition of a pizza oven!

But! This is not going to be the typical cob style pizza oven that is so popular. This is going to be a J-tube oven. 

From the building plans

I got a free copy of the plans for supporting the passive greenhouse video Kickstarter last year. It's made from two 55-gallon metal drums, so it will be plenty big enough for my pizza stone or a week's worth of other baking. The selling point was how much less wood it uses than a wood cookstove oven. 

So, there's our summer project! Or at least, that's that's the plan for our summer project. All subject to change, of course. 😺

May 9, 2021

Peanut Butter Granola

 Another pecan recipe that I want to know where to find. 😄

Yes! Those are our strawberries! (With slug bites trimmed off).

Peanut Butter Granola

  • 8 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (1 large 42-ounce box)
  • 2 cups chopped pecans
  • 2 cups unsweetened coconut
  • 1 cup natural crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp salt (optional)
  • dried fruit (optional)

In a saucepan, gently heat peanut butter, honey, and salt until liquidy. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Stir well. Spread out on baking pans or sheets. (I use three 9x13-inch pans). Bake at low heat (225°F / 110°C), stirring every 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown (about 40 to 50 minutes). Remove from oven and continue to stir occasionally until cool. Makes a gallon jar's worth. 

Recipe Notes: 
  • If adding dried fruit, add after baking so it stays soft and moist.
  • I only add dried fruit when fresh fruit isn't in season.
  • Any or all ingredients can be substituted!
  • different rolled grains
  • different nuts
  • different sweeteners
  • different spices
  • different nut butters
  • substitute butter for nut butter

We eat our granola with kefir instead of milk. 

Peanut Butter Granola © May 2021 by Leigh

May 5, 2021

Planting Pasture the Fukuoka Way

One of our seasonal chores is planting pasture. I have a long list of blog posts about my attempts to establish sustainable pasture, and admit it's been a slow road. Like so many other things on our homestead, we had much to learn. 

Initially, we simply broadcast seed and hoped for the best. Birds ate quite a bit of it, which is expected and why seeding rates for broadcasting are so much higher than for seed drilling. Dan has wanted a seed drill for some time, but we haven't found one yet at a price we can pay. So I've experimented with other methods. 

One experiment that has worked pretty well is what I call my "modified Fukuoka method." This method covers the seed with dirty barn litter as mulch. It's worked well enough so that we've gradually made progress to the point where we no longer have huge patches of bare soil to plant. Now, planting is mostly seasonal spot seeding. 

Last month, I added another One-Straw Revolution inspired technique - seed pellets. This is similar to the seed bombs I showed you last fall. The difference is that they aren't formed into balls, but spread out to dry as pellets. The bombs were fun, but the pellets let me spread the seed more evenly, so I think I prefer this method for my purposes. (The "bombs" are great for lobbing into a hard to reach area.)

For spring planting, I made my pellets with two forage mixes and a pasture seed mix, plus whatever seed I had handy such as clover, turnips, echinacea, oregano, sunflowers, sugar beets, etc. 

Mr. Fukuoka simply mixed seed and clay to form his pellets.
I followed the idea for the seed bombs and added compost.

Mix by hand (adjusting ingredients) until the seed is covered.

Seed pellets. I think the technique is better suited to smaller seeds.

Drying in the sun. I stirred it occasionally for even drying.

To plant, I took a bucketful and looked for spots of bare soil.

I think the pellets disguise the seed pretty well!

Making the pellets is a pleasant afternoon job for shade. I think as long as they are thoroughly dried, they will keep. So a large quantity could be set by for the next season. 

I planted this batch a few days before rain was forecast. I'm curious as to whether the rain will wash the clay off, and how they'll grow. I'm hopeful that this will help fill in the bare spots in the pasture with increased plant diversity. It's fun to experiment like this!

May 1, 2021

Chicken News

Our Dominique hens are now residing in Dan's chicken tractor. You may recall we initially moved them in as chicks. We had twelve chicks, however, so they quickly outgrew the chicken tractor and were moved into the chicken coop. Turned out nine of those twelve were roosters. We kept one and thought all was well until a hawk or owl got the rooster. Then a neighboring allowed-to-roam dog killed one of our three hens, so we're down to two. 

Our ideal number of chickens is six hens plus a rooster, so I looked around for more chicks. I finally found a breed we liked at our family-owned feedstore. 

These little gals are Speckled Sussex, one of Dan's favorite breeds. I was hoping for another batch of straight run (unsexed), but all that was offered was pullets. These come with a 90% guarantee of correct sexing, so I'm hoping we got at least one cockerel in the bunch! We need a rooster! I've got them in the house for now, and will move them to a brooder box in the chicken coop when they get a little bigger.

The other chicken news involves our neighbor. The other night I went out onto the kitchen porch and heard loud crackling and popping. I looked outside toward the noise and saw a humongous ball of fire next door. One of our neighbor's chicken coops was on fire. 

Dan and I ran over as fast as we could to help. The little building was made of plywood and pallets, and had created a ferocious blaze. My neighbor was hysterical and crying "They're in there! They're in there!" Someone had the garden hose going, but the water pressure was so low it wasn't making much of an effect. Fortunately, these neighbors have an above ground swimming pool, so I grabbed the nearest container to dump water on the adjacent chicken houses, while Dan started shoveling dirt to smother the spread of the fire. Miraculously, we were able to keep the fire from spreading to the other two little wooden chicken coops and the trees overhead. 

Turns out she had just moved 30 new chicks from the house into the coop. The extension cord for the heat lamp was apparently faulty and started the fire. The cord itself was burned about halfway to the house. The adult chickens survived because they were out in the yard, but all the chicks were lost. My neighbor was devastated. All I could do was give her a big hug. We don't plan for bad things to happen, but they do anyway, and we always feel responsible. Unfortunately, bad things happening are a fact of life.

As you can imagine, I was extremely careful to check our heat lamp and extension cord when I set up for our new chicks. They're about a week old now, so they'll stay in the house until they outgrow their tote. Then we'll set them up in a brooder box in the chicken coop. We can anticipate them starting to lay in September. In the meantime, I'll have to adjust our diet to what two hens can produce.