Tag Archives: Urban Farm

Happy New Year

I know, I know.

I’m a little late with my holiday greetings. But as I said in my family newsletter (which I just sent out a few days ago), better late than never, right?

I’ve been doing a lot of reflection the past couple of weeks, as is typical this time of year. And also looking toward the future of this year. Are any of you already planning for your spring and summer gardens? Now’s the time to order your seeds and in some cases, get them started indoors.

I just read this online article (How to Pick Your Vegetable Seeds Without Going Crazy) and it’s got me dreaming!

But alas, my biggest decision this year is that I am scaling way back on my plans for our garden. Any when you have a tiny plot anyway, “scaling way back” means that I don’t plan to do much of any gardening this year.

The reason why is actually pretty exciting. We are hoping to be in the process of actually building our house this summer. Which means frequent trips between Oregon and Nevada. And as I learned last year, my garden doesn’t do so well if I’m not around to care for it. Imagine that. ๐Ÿ™‚

So, I’ll probably throw some carrot seeds in the ground and call it good. Those were what did the best and we ate the most of last year. And I love that they are frost tolerant and you can leave them in the ground all season and just go out and grab some as you need them.

It kills me not to really be making plans for the garden. But the trade off is worth it as we make progress onย our house.

A couple days ago was a fairly mild day here in the Portland area, overcast but dry and not too cold. So I used the opportunity to get outside and do some yard work.

Almost done! And it's a good thing, too, because the debris can is almost full!

Almost done! And it’s a good thing, too, because the debris can is almost full!

I scooped up the walnut leaves and put them in the yard debris can. Yes, we have a compost pile, but not the right set up to cook the toxins out of walnut leaves.

Just after New Years, we had snow here. It was a rare treat for us in the Pacific Northwest. Normally, any time there’s snow here, it’s covered in ice. This was a light, fluffy, “dry” snow. At the beginning of the day it wouldn’t even compact into snowballs. The girls and I spent 3 hours playing outside.

Our back yard looked quite different with a thin layer of snow.

 

And then, that night, a freezing rain came in, covering everything in a layer of ice.

For this girl from the desert, ice storms are pretty magical. It is surreal to see ice coating everything. However, I am glad no one in our family had to go anywhere. One of those times I am thankful that my man works from home.

The hens don't mind a bit of snow.

The hens don’t mind a bit of snow.

We had a bit of sad news recently. One of our hens (“Pepper”) was killed by a predator of some sort. Considering it was during the middle of the day in broad daylight, we think it was one of the many neighborhood cats.

Flower Girl with Pepper this past spring.

Flower Girl with Pepper this past spring.

Now we’re down to three hens, one of which doesn’t lay very many eggs per year and none in the winterย (our English Game Hen). The other two, however, have laid fairly steadily this winter (after their molt), even without supplemental lighting (for more information on supplemental light in the chicken coop, see this great article from Jill at The Prairie Homestead). I would love to add to our little backyard flock, but then I think of how much we are hoping to be gone this summer. And I think of transporting them back to Nevada when we do finally go. And I think, three chickens is enough. For now. ๐Ÿ™‚

And in the mean time, we’re dreaming. We’re dreaming big!

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

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First Frost

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We had our first frost here in the Portland area this morning. November 22nd and we just now froze! Gosh, the growing season is long here!

I love frosty mornings even if it does mean a bit more work to care for the animals.

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This morning’s chore was pretty easy, though. I just broke the ice layer in the chicken’s water dish and plucked it out. Not so easy when it get’s frozen solid.

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Frost sure is beautiful. God’s design frequently amazes me.

How’s the weather in your neck of the woods?

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

Garden update

While we were in Nevada, Dad decided that the big garden was done for the season. This is good news for the chickens.

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They are happily roaming the backyard again.

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Scaredy thinks the garden is her personal dust bath.

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Our small garden is going pretty well. The kale is finally taking off. I’m thinking I might still plant some spinach in the spot that the lettuce was in this spring. But I don’t know.

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The carrots have done well. We have really enjoyed eating those straight out of the garden this year (after a washing, of course!). I don’t think my squash is going to do anything. But you never know. We still have a month or so left of growing season (I know, right?!) Yes, it’s fall season, but on average, we won’t get our first frost for another month or so.

My container garden did not do so well this year. At least not nearly as well as I would have liked.

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The tomato plants were tall and scraggly and only produced a few tomatoes each.

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Nearly all the bean plants and flowers have struggled or flat out died.

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Really, the only thing I can say did half way decent was the jalapeno plant.

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And even then, the only reason I think it did well is because I don’t use jalapenos very often, so it has produced more than enough.

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Oh, and the garlic actually survived. I was shocked to see it growing back after not being watered all summer.

So, nothing did very well in the containers. I’ve been trying to figure out why and I think I have it nailed down.

Neglect.

Yep, that’s right. When a person travels at least one week out of nearly every month, things at home tend to get neglected. Especially since for me, all the days in between are filled with catching up or preparing for next time. Somehow, making sure the plants had the right nutrients, enough water, the proper sunlight as the season change, etc wasn’t high on my list.

Though I was glad to see that the crushed egg shells I put on the tomato plants stopped any more blossom end rot. And I did give them all a compost tea at some point. But it just wasn’t enough, I don’t think. That and maybe I didn’t have big enough containers. Or maybe they got too much sun. Or not enough.

And now here it is, the beginning of October and I really haven’t gotten much out of my plants.

But. They still have fruit on them, and I’m reluctant to give up on them when I know they can survive a while longer.

However, where they were on the deck was getting too shady with the waning season. So I moved them down to a corner of the otherwise barren big garden.

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They still look forlorn and scraggly, but I’m hoping that at least this was they’ll get the sunlight they need to survive for a while longer. Hopefully long enough to get me a few more tomatoes.

Well that’s it for now. How did your garden do this year?

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

Preserving the harvest

There is a house in our neighborhood which is vacant and for sale. In the back yard stands two apple trees and five (yes 5!) plum trees.

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Last year I got permission from the owner/tenant to pick their apples since it was obvious by the number of apples on the ground that they were not going to be doing anything with them.

This year I called the realtor and he gave us permission to take all the fruit we want.

Yay!

So I’ve been supplying us with plums to snack on for a couple weeks now. And I’ve had a basket of apples sitting in the corner waiting for me to do something with them.

Then two days ago a friend gave me some cucumbers and zucchini that she had left over after making all the pickles and relish she wanted.

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So today, I sat down with my recipe books and a pad of paper and made some lists.

Apples : make into cider
Cucumbers: pickle them
Zucchini: shred and freeze
Plums: unknown (I don’t care for plum jam/jelly. What else is there to do with plums?)

As you can see, I had some research to do. I finally decided to make plum butter amd a plum bbq sauce. But first we gotta go pick the plums!

Fist on the agenda for the day was to make the pickles since they are best when the cukes are fresh and they were already 4 das old.

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I’m not going to give a tutorial on how to make pickles. There are already a million of them out there, and I followed the instructions from the Ball Blue Book (one of my go-to canning guides). The only thing I changed is that I left out the sugar. I mean, really. Dill pickles do not need sugar!

However I did want to mention one tidbit that might be handy. The instructions say to tie the spices in a bag. I’ve heard that you can use a tea bag (the kind you buy empty and put loose leaf tea in to steep). But I don’t have any of those lying around, besides, I don’t like to use disposable if I can help it. You can tie the spices up in a square of cheesecloth or fabric, but that just seems awkward. What I’ve done for years now is use panty hose.

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Yep, I purchased a cheap pair specifically for this purpose so they had never been worn. I gave them a good washing. Snipped off the foot portion and tied a knot in the end. Then I just fill the tube with the spices and knot the other end.

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Because the fabric is so stretchy, when it is time to clean, it is a simple task to unknot it, turn it inside out over the compost bucket, and then rinse and wash. And since it is nylon, it dries almost instantly, too.

So once I had the pickles all canned, it was time to deal with the apples. The Hubby and Princess Girl helped cut them up. Because they were so wormy we only got about half of each apple for the pot. The wormy parts went into a bucket to be fed to the chickens. No waste that way.

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I put them on the stove to cook a bit and while they were heating, Princess Girl and I attacked the zucchini.

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I shredded, she packed. We put approximately two cups into each bag since that’s what most of my recipies tend to call for.

We did not blanch the zucchini. I have seen directions that call for it, but in my experience, it has never made a difference in the end product.

I got called away to help Mom with some stuff and when I came back I found that the apples on the stove had cooked down to apple sauce!

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I realized I had cooked them too long to make cider, so I changed my plans and decided to make apple butter instead. Unfortunately, all the peels were still in there. I know some people cook their apple butter with the peels on and they eventually break down into the sauce, but I believe that lends a bitter taste to the sauce and resulting butter. So, I strained out the peels.

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(Gotta teach Princess Girl how to take clearer pictures!)

I spooned the peely sauce into a mesh strainer and by tapping the strainer “ears” on the rim of the bowl and stirring the sauce in the strainer, I got most of the sauce separated from the peels.

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Another of Princess Girl's photos

Even though the apples were not real sweet, the sauce is some of the best I’ve made. I think that is because usually I use the Victorio strainer and it mashes the peels up and strains them out. And while the peels don’t end up in the final product, I think some of their flavor does.

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Princess Girl told me I have to keep this picture and post it. ๐Ÿ™‚

At any rate, I got all the peels strained out of the sauce (more food for the chickens!) And ended up with 10 cups of sauce which I put in the slow cooker with some cinnamon and clove. I will let it cook over night.

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I have to buy some honey tomorrow to use as the sweetener since we don’t have enough at the moment.

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Princess Girl helped me finish up the zucchini and get the bags ready for the freezer.

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Twelve pints of pickles canned, 6 bags of zucchini in the freezer, and apple butter cooking in the slow cooker. I’d say it was a productive day.

And tomorrow we go pick apples and plums.

I love harvest season and knowing that I am providing healthy food for my family. And it’s especially great when I get that food for free!

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

Summer Doings

I know I’ve been horrible at posting for months.

So, what have we been up to this summer?

Take a look and see!

We went camping:

We traveled to Nevada to work, see family, and spend time on the Homestead (click or hover over pictures to see captions):

We worked on house plans:Exterior views

And found a building almost the exact size of the one we are going to build:20150610_155031It’s cool (and helpful) to see the dimensions in real life rather than on paper.

We harvested cherries from our very own cherry tree:

Dad and Flower Girl planted the garden.20150609_161319

Princess Girl and her BFF ran a lemonade stand and made quite a lot of money!20150613_170558

One of my sisters came to visit and we made raspberry jam after picking the raspberries from her extended family’s farm!20150701_103628

We had some weird stuff happen in the chicken coop:20150702_102452

We were messy like a typical 2 and a half year old (there’s STILL specks of paint in the bathroom from this!):20150702_153057

We had our first tomato (and a couple more since then). Mmmmmm….

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We played with sparklers to celebrate the 4th of July:

We traveled back to Nevada once again, then to Missouri for a family reunion (click or hover for captions).

We did other typical summer type stuff (click or hover for captions):

And we traveled back to Nevada once again so I can work – ย (click or hover for captions).

So, you know. We’ve kept busy.

๐Ÿ™‚

My groupies

I went out to feed the chickens this morning and decided to let them out of their run since I finally got some bird netting around my small garden.

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The three hens who were not busy laying quickly headed for the compost heap on the other side of the yard. I put some feed out for them in their run and made sure they had water, but I had forgotten to bring out the kitchen scraps. I brought those out and emptied them in the big tray in their run and then went to stand on the back deck admiring the wisteria.

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Soon, however, Scaredy hopped up an the deck with me. I shooed her off. Then Pepper hopped up. I shooed her off. Then either Sugar or Salt (don’t know which is which) joined the crowd, and I think Scaredy jumped back up as well.

What are these chickens doing? They hardly ever come up on the deck, and here they were, all very insistent to join me up there. Over and over, no matter how many times I chased them off.

And then I realized something.

Just to test my theory, I walked over to the compost. My three groupies followed me. I walked across the yard and they quickly made their way over.

What did I realize?

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That’s right, I realized I was still holding the scrap bucket!

The empty scrap bucket.

But they didn’t know it was empty. They kept waiting for me to empty out it’s bountiful goodness.

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So, I walked to the chicken run where I had already dumped the contents and in no time at all, the girls were happily munching on radish and carrot tops from the garden.

As I walked away with the bucket in hand, no one followed me. They had gotten what they wanted. My groupies no longer cared about me.

And that is as it should be.

PS, I posted this on Facebook this morning. Four eggs yesterday! First time having 100% lay rate since the young ones started laying. Hopefully that will become the norm. ๐Ÿ™‚

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And look how dark those brown ones are. Absolutely beautiful!

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121