February 25, 2022

February 21, 2022

Brush Fence

Some of our property is fenced, some of it isn't. The garden and pastures are, but our woods aren't. But the woods is where I take the goats to browse, and while they mostly stick close to me, they don't recognize property lines and don't mind invading the neighbors to see what they've got growing. 

We've talked about fencing the woods, but it would be a big job. It just never makes it close to the top of the to-do list. One reason for that is because we've had a lot of pine trees fall since we bought the place.

We used to think it was because of disease or insect problems, but finally figured out that what we were observing was natural succession. The land was farmed 80 or so years ago, and the pines sprung up when the land went fallow. They grew fast, tall, and spindly, so that by the time we arrived, they were ready to give way to hardwood saplings. We're happy to see the hardwoods growing, but the fallen pines have made a real mess of the woods. 

We've made the best of the waste. Dan has milled a lot of thesm (see some of them here), but that still leaves a lot of branches. Some of the branches get chipped, and some of them become my brush fence.  

I cut them and pile them up along the property line.

Once the piles get high enough, the goats stay on their side.

Trees along the property line help hold them in place.

Every year or so they settle and need more branches piled on top.

Progress is slow, but I'm getting my walking trails back.

I work on it until the goats head back to the barn.

I doubt my brush fences would keep coyotes out, but they are very effective for keeping the goats on the homestead. And, they're free! Plus, it's good exercise and nice to see things getting tidied up. 

February 17, 2022

Book Review: Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning

I've mentioned this books a couple of times before (here and here), but I've never done a book review on it. Time to correct that!

The full title of the book is Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning: Traditional Techniques Using Salt, Oil, Sugar, Alcohol, Vinegar, Drying, Cold Storage, and Lactic Fermentation. It's a compiled work of the gardeners and farmers of Terre Vivante in Isere, France. The original idea for publishing the book was to preserve the techniques, themselves, but I have found it to be a fantastic resource for self-reliance. 

The book sports two forwards, one by Eliot Coleman for the first edition, and one by Deborah Madison, which was added to the second edition. The Preface explains "How This Book Came to Be." The introduction explains the benefit of these methods—preservation techniques that preserves nutrient value. It also touches on safety issues. Each chapter discusses a different preservation method and includes instructions and recipes.

Chapter 1, "Preserving in the ground or in a cold cellar." Did you know that the word "silo" comes from the French and originally referred to a hole in the ground? This chapter Contains a chart of vegetables that can be left in the ground all winter, and discusses various methods of underground storage including trenching, underground containers to make, and root cellaring. Includes illustrations. The last section of this chapter discusses increasing shelf life at room temperature. For example, squashes keep longer if oiled (includes a chart of how long various squashes keep), cheese can be stored in ash, and both squash and tomatoes keep longer if wrapped in newspaper. 

Chapter 2 discusses a method many of us are familiar with, preserving by drying. Explains various dehydrating methods: easy-to-make dryer trays, electric dehydrators, oven drying, sun drying, and string drying. Covers a large variety of fruits, vegetables. herbs, flowers and mushrooms. There are also instructions for drying some unusual food items, such as bread, yeast, and fish.

Chapter 3, "Preserving by Lactic Fermentation." Lots of recipes in this chapter, starting with the all-familiar sauerkraut. More unusual foods to ferment include green beans, radishes, Swiss chard ribs, tomatoes, zucchini, and plums. Recipes include various vegetable medleys, tomato balls, and tomato sauce.

Chapter 4, "Preserving in Oil." This is where I got the idea to store my feta cheese in herbed olive oil! In addition to cheeses, recipes are given for eggplant, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, zucchini, plus a variety of condiments.

Chapter 5 discusses preserving in vinegar. A variety of vegetables, seasonings, and even fruit can be given a longer shelf life in vinegar: beets, Brussels sprouts, cherry tomatoes, green peppers, tomatillos, mushrooms, cherries, and grapes. I tried it this year with horseradish, because the dehydrated root is too hard to use! But I like to keep in on hand for when I make my Supertonic.

Chapter 6 is preserving in salt. The modern mindset pretty much considers salt taboo, but it is an ancient preservation method. Includes recipes for grape leaves, green beans, lemons, and rose petals.

Chapter 7 is preserving in sugar as jams and jellies, candied condiments, or in syrups. Lots of recipes here, including a few with no-added sugar: apple-pear molasses, carob honey, and apple or pear syrup.

Chapter 8 is entitled, "Sweet-and-Sour Preserves." Lots of condiments in this chapter, including chutneys, relishes, and ketchups. There's also a section of recipes for sweet-and-sour fruits such as cherries, pears, and plums.

The last chapter is "Preserving in Alcohol." This includes wine making and preserving fruits in wine or brandy, with recipes for these. 

The Appendix contains a handy-dandy chart listing a variety of foods along with the best options for preservation methods.

224 pages, 250 recipes, and filled with lovely hand-drawn illustrations. An excellent book for anyone interested in preparedness or off-grid, low tech, and historical methods of food preservation. You can "Look Inside" at Amazon.

February 13, 2022

Winter Project List: Indoor Stuff

Even though winter is the slow-paced season, there's still plenty to keep us busy. I've shown you our outdoor projects, but because they are "weather permitting," the indoor project list is the to-do source when it's too cold, rainy, snowy, icy, muddy, or otherwise yucky outside. Last week, I defrosted a big bag of bones for making broth and my frozen figs for making jam.

The bone broth is pretty straightforward (my how-to here). It just requires planning ahead because the process spans four or five days.

I made and canned almost 2 gallons of bone broth for soups and gravy.

Figs make a pretty bland jam, so I like to mix them with other fruits for some tasty combinations. After defrosting, I had enough to make two batches.

I used half of the figs for a fig/dried apricot jam.

With the other half, I used fresh cranberries for cranberry-fig jam.

I've also gotten a start on spring cleaning and decluttering. Once garden weather gets here, there won't be adequate time for that.

My creative endeavor is my online photography course. It's fun, and of course, it's useful for blogging and project documentation.

My research project is learning about amateur radio. 

As you can see, I have plenty of interesting things to keep me busy! So, how about you? Are you working mostly indoors or out? Are you making headway on your project list? Or are you taking it easy this cold-weather season?

February 9, 2022

Forest Garden Update: What I've Been Planting

Here's another update from my winter outdoor project list. Besides swales, I'm working on my forest garden. (Planning pictures and lists are here). I started planting in September, but except for the pawpaws, I haven't made a blog record yet. This post is to rectify that! 

I started by transplanting seedlings that I found elsewhere on the property.

Pecan seedling. I've also been planting these in
our woods, like the pawpaws and persimmons.

The first of two transplanted redbuds. Besides edible flowers, redbuds are
nitrogen fixers. It's mulched with chop and drop from nearby crepe myrtles.

Also, I scattered redbud seed pods everywhere. This spring, I
have 10 more seedlings coming from our state forestry service.

In my research, I learned that strawberries can be part of oak tree guilds. So I bordered off an area beneath two mature oaks for a strawberry bed.

Oak guild strawberry bed, with 1st transplants in the ground.
In addition to strawberries, I also planted garlic in the bed.

As an experiment, I tried an idea from Bill Mollison. Instead of a swale, I dug a pit in the center of the bed for capturing water.

That is, I dug as much as the oak roots would let me.

Once dug, the pit is filled with wood chips.
The pairs of bricks are my stepping stones.

I don't know how well the pit will work, but it's not a spot for a swale. 

A couple months later, the strawberry plants and garlic
were doing well and tucked in with a layer of oak leaves. 

The last of my transplants was my potted golden seal.
I also ordered more roots to expand my golden seal bed.

Here's what I mail ordered.

Wild ginger.
Hostas. These started off well and then got munched
down, probably by skunks. Will they survive? Unknown.

One of two spice bushes, before it dropped its leaves. I marked all
my plantings with stones or bricks, so I'll know where to find them!

Here's another mulberry (which I now know I can propagate with cuttings). It's dormant now, but beginning to bud.


Next, I planted honeyberries (haskap). These were pretty much just sticks with roots when I planted them. Even now, I'm wondering if they're alive.

Scraping away the outer bark with my
thumbnail reveals it's green and still alive!

Haskap are primarily found in colder regions, but these varieties are said to do well in my USDA growing zone, so we'll see. They may require a little pampering the first several years, but if I can get them established, it will be worth it.

And here's my map, so I can remember where everything is planted. 

The fuzzy green circles are the mature oaks.

Some people start with beautifully planned out designs, but I couldn't visualize it. So my choice of planting places has been pretty haphazard intuitive. The pear tree (like the hostas) has disappeared, so I suspect its tender leaves were devoured by a skunk. I'll know for sure this spring. If they have survived, I'll give them a little fencing to protect them.

That's my progress so far. I think I'll add a path next. This spring, I'll have more to plant, including adding some annuals into the mix. Looking forward to that!

February 5, 2022

Swale Update

This week, we got 3 inches of rain, so I thought a swale update was in order.

Our first swale, hand dub, at the top of the garden.

Since my last swale blog post, we've finished digging the length of the swale, but need to finish the bottom. We started that by making a level trench the entire length of the berm side of the swale. 

That seemed an easier way to start than trying to get the entire swale bottom level. The rest of it can be dug down to that, slightly sloping to the trench.

Then came the rain. It poured for two days. The goats and chickens weren't happy about that, but the ducks loved it and we were curious about the swale.

3 inches of rain.

Full! It was pretty exciting to see. As it drains over the next couple of days, we'll have a better idea of how close to level it actually is. We'll make adjustments accordingly.

Swale Update © February 2022 

February 4, 2022

Last Day to Enter the Giveaway!

One more day to enter the giveaway for one of four paperback copies of How To Bake Without Baking Powder over at Permies.com. Winners will be announced tomorrow.

It's been fun discussing this subject with folks, and a lot of people have been surprised to find out that the book isn't just about homemade baking powder, nor focused only on things like sourdough. To get a better idea of the subject matter, I've started three threads at Permies that delve deeper into baking powder alternatives:

Permies is open to the public, so you don't have to have an account to read these. You only need an account if you wish to comment or want to enter the giveaway.

So, don't miss your chance! Come on over to Permies! If you'd rather skip the giveaway and simply purchase a copy, you'll find all the options here.

Last Day to Enter the Giveaway! © February 2022