First: When we began to develop the place I planted flowers. The flower garden is such an important part of ANY property. Especially any place that I am. I was new here so I had to do my homework and find the flowers that LOVE neglect and love to live right HERE. I had to find plants that were native to our environment. Among others – Coneflowers are one of the natives that grow really happily around here. And the label said native and invasive and it has a bright juicy flower – so I bought one of each and then divided them and just let them have at it!
Once I had my flowers then I got hordes of these guys flying about. I have a number of flower gardens that are getting bigger every year, well Our John was sick of mowing grass anyway. And of course our bees need millions of flowers.
And yes the gardens are all about the bees. However sometimes other insect life creates problems. We are in a land of extremes. Here the pests come in droves, stay awhile and then leave just as suddenly. The year before last we had a plague of aphids – you could not breathe, they just stopped everything, the air was dark with them, it was so bizarre and deeply unsettling. Almost biblical except they were APHIDS! We had to hold cloths over our faces as we ran through these immense clouds of migrating aphids to and from the barn to the house. The animals were almost driven mad, these tiny tiny bugs took up all the air. They were coughing desperately trying to take a breath without inhaling the little buggers. They were here two days in a row then gone.
And look below for pest of the week, an introduced pest – this guy is not a native and he does not take up my air but this Japanese Beetle eats tons and tons of leaves. He eats everything in sight, silently. We have had trees stripped of all the green in their leaves, just left with these miserable skeletal leaves. He is voracious, greedy and my ENEMY!
This year they landed in the asparagus and then decimated the grape vine. In a day. I was appalled. I do not use pesticides. But you can kill them as long as you get the timing right. When they are really dense. Get the dishwashing liquid, (I use Dawn – I know it is not natural but something had to be done) water it down a bit, load up a wee sprayer and SOAK them. Just douse them in the stuff. I stood out there two nights in a row (after all good self respecting bees and butterflies and husbands were in bed) and sprayed with my little hand sprayer until my little hand about dropped off. Slowly working up and down the rows. And they DIED! I was thrilled. I was cackling with delight. Doing a little murderous caper. I was the sweet old lady knitting at the guillitine.
Though we are a wee bit worried that the wine will taste soapy this year. And there is no need for a summer prune just yet as most of the leaves have gone.. eaten in just a few hours. But fingers crossed. No other insects were harmed. And maybe we will still get grapes for the wine. Our first iddy biddy vintage this year so stay posted for that.
But I have digressed. Back to the journey into the cycle of sustainable farming. (I am still not happy with the label) But as I said: The first thing I did when I began to develop our little property was plant flowers, (and now I have this wonderful insect life for my birds and flowers for the bees and me) and after the flowers came the vegetable gardens and next I got a box of chickens delivered in the mail, then we bought Daisy.
Tomorrow I will tell you about the chickens and how they fit in. They do more than lay eggs you know. I will go out and take some shots of them now. Then I will make another batch of pickles. And maybe some crostini to go with the pickles. And what are we going to have for dinner?. I had better go out into the garden and see what is ready!
Well, I guess it is crostini and pickles and cheese for dinner. Did I tell you that I made that pound cake? It did not make it to the camera though.. got pounced on!
Talk to you soon.
Bad bugs eating my vines. Pesticide Free is such a Chore sometimes . I am whining about the threat to my wine….. Japanese Beetles but there is a way to deter them. I will tell you about that next time. For now Sunday Brunch:
Breakfast Potato Cakes. (for two and a half).. I am usually one and a half when it comes to these. This is really my daughters recipe and I have not asked her permission so HUSH! But I told you I would do breakfast.!
Grate two potatoes, finely chop one small onion, add a sprinkle of salt, wrap in an old thin tea towel and wring all the water out of it. Give it all you got! Get as much moisture out as you can. Empty the potato and onion mixture into a bowl. Sops adds finely sliced bacon now too but you can choose.
Add one egg, tblsp finely chopped fresh herbs of choice (I use parsley or thyme or basil or coriander). Pepper. I am big on pepper less on salt.
Mix. So simple I can’t bear it!!
Heat cast iron skillet, or electric frypan. When it is HOT add a tablespoon of butter. Melt. Place a good spoonful of the mixture at a time into the pan, making about 6 little potato cakes. Now, turn your heat low and let them cook. No poking, no turning. Do not harrass the potato cake! When you can see the sides crinkling up and browning (about 5 minutes). Carefully flip each one over, press gently with your egg slice to flatten slightly and cook the other side for another 5 minutes. Take your time, keep the heat on medium-low and let the cake really cook and get nice a crispy. Both onions and potatoes need to be well cooked. About 10 minutes should do it.
Serve hot, hot. With fresh parsley or chopped chives tucked in.
Tonight we had these potato cakes for dinner ( I added cilantro and lime) with freshly picked beans in a red curry sauce. This is why the photo is so rubbish, we were desperate to eat them while they were hot!
YUM! let me know how they turn out.
Reclaiming land from industrial horticulture, or factory growing (as I call it) is a daunting process. Our plans have the locals rolling their eyes. Why would you want to grow beef on grass when they get nice and fat (read obese) on corn. Whole generations of people actually think that a cow will go all scrawny if you let it graze grass and nothing else. That if it is not fed antibiotics with its water it will get sick. They have been convinced that grass fed beef is tough and inedible. Lean is bad. Healthy is a gimmick. And why grow your own vegetables when it is so much cheaper to buy a frozen pizza at Walmart? Yet growing food on your own farm to feed your family is not some new idea. This piece of land had been feeding people for generations. All food was organic until after the 20’s!. All farms had their own pig, chickens, beef, their own milk cow and enormous vegetable gardens.
I have an old poster for the sale of some stock from the farm we live on now. As I understand it Bert (My husband’s Great-Grandfather ), became ill, could no longer farm and sold off his stock (not the land), he died shortly after in 1921 and his wife Emma took over the cropping with the help of hired men and her sons as they grew. The barns and home fields still housed a few animals for the family table, the horses that were used on the farms grazed along side the beef cows. Big vegetable gardens grew close to each of the houses. The food was canned(bottled) in big glass jars some of which I have in my pantry. They were running a sustainable farm before the label was even invented. They took responsibility for feeding themselves. Here is the poster for the sale:Later, after the second world war with its warfare chemicals looking for a new home (i.e. fertilisers and pesticides), then aided by the corn subsidies of the 70’s. Big horticulture took over these small farms. In came the big machines, cutting a swathe of corn and soya bean rotational cropping through the small farms and systematically abusing some of the best growing land in the country. The barns were gutted and used to house tractors and combine harvesters that grew in size like Palmer’s, A Fish out of Water and they are still getting bigger. The animals were herded onto concrete pads and fed corn. The hogs jammed into sheds and fed corn. Sheep almost disappeared from around here completely. A huge percentage of the land is rented out to the big croppers who own the big machines that grow the corn. It is corn, beans and a little wheat absolutely everywhere around here. That is all.
Ironically I am surrounded on FOUR sides by this low protein, high yield, genetically modified field corn. With a wee lane to drive in and out.
I cannot see out. Yet there is no food in these fields. I cannot make a meal from what is all around me. It is a constant reminder of how a destructive trend can be so insidious in its pretty-ness. Look how green and healthy it all looks. Don’t get me started!! This is where High Fructose Corn Syrup, a banned substance in my home and a proven cause of obesity, and all manner of other icky food stuffs, comes from. OK I will stop now. Rants take up too much space! Below: TonTon helps show how tall the corn is.
So we are slowly breaking in new ground, acre by acre – year by year. Replacing the corn that we have no use for, our cows are not fed corn at all and nor am I. We have three acres in grass around the house already and below you will see our next two reclaimed acres. Sown in three different kinds of grasses and two kinds of clover. Our first task in reclaiming the land is to begin to build some topsoil. Millions of years of topsoil has been tilled into the air in only the last few decades, so building the soil back up is going to take some time and a lot of cow manure and compost. We have let the grass grow tall so what the stock doesn’t eat will be knocked down covering the dirt and encouraging micro-organisms and worms and new growth. Once again this will take a while. Daisy and friends are doing their best.
As you can see we are still fencing. We use recycled old power poles. Here is the old barn, which is needing a lot of work too. Our John’s Grandfather ripped the South side out to fit a combine in there. As we find the old gates, smaller doors, windows and interior timbers. We are not building it new, we are building it old and solid. Another long project.
So now you may be getting a feel for our mission. ( I ‘m sorry but we have to get serious every now and then) We are developing the strong sustainable cycle of growing and feeding and composting that will heal the ground and grow our clean food. I don’t mean that to sound so airy fairy. It really is much simpler than that. It is ordinary really. Simple.
Now I am going to go and work in the garden, in my short skirt but without the heels! Well maybe in the heels just to prove a point. Trouble is the pointy bits sink into the ground!
Tomorrow we will do breakfast. Thanks for dropping in again.
Here is the mint jelly – dripping (it will take the day).. oh and hmm.. yes that is baling twine .. holding it up.. oh. Ok moving right along!
These are the little cucumbers that I turned into the pickles you will see below
All before I had even dressed this morning. I did all this hot and messy work in my nightie early early. Actually I often work in my night attire in the morning. The kitchen gets hot. I am the barefoot cook. Plus I do not like to mix farm chores with canning/bottling. When I make cheese I have to stay clean for Hours!! It is Awful! OK I am going to leave you with the pickles as I am going to begin writing my next series of posts that are actually ABOUT how we farm as we do. But first I am off outside to do dirty stuff. See you soon. c
As promised here are the photos of us housing the new bees. I am learning as we go with bees but one thing for sure is that when working with them I move slowly and gently so as not to cause a ruckus. For some reason this is always accompanied by a soothing monologue. I tell them what I am doing and why. In a very low and soothing voice. I drone on!!! (terrible pun) OK, First the new super. For the moment it is sitting on a window screen which is set on a pallet under the trees. I was horrified to discover that the Pallet has Monsanto proudly stenciled onto the side .. horrors. I will paint peace signs all over their name later on!!
Here I am unpacking the nuc. It was a perfect temporary home. You can see the frames that I placed in there are full of bees. I will unpack each of those frames and replace them in the new super carrying their load of buzzing girls with them.
Mercy, those gardening gloves are ugly aren’t they. My beekeepers outfits are just whatever is hanging around that is pale. I wear long-sleeves because when I get hot I begin to glow (ladies never sweat they glow – don’t you know) and it seems the little bees are a bit attracted to the ‘glow’ and they tickle when they stand on me. Hence the covered arms and legs in 98 degree heat. Moving slowly and calmly is an exercise in discipline when it is that hot!
Now look below and you will see all the wee girls who have been left behind in the cardboard nuc. They will have to do The Crawl. You will remember last time they did the bee crawl. Once again I will place the box so that they can see the dark entrance and hopefully they will puddle straight in like good little bees.
Well, all the left over bees did crawl straight in. So grateful for the extra room I am sure. Those nuc’s are useful but small. Now this hive can get on with the important business of making babies and storing honey. I am not sure that I will be stealing any honey from this hive this year, we will see. If they give up any for me I will show you.
Well my gas tank was filled this morning (yay) so I am going to pick some peaches, set the gas burners aflame and make peach jam. Then pickle all the little cucumbers that seem to have been multiplying in the bottom of my ‘fridge.
See you again soon.
Does this ever happen to you. I decided to make a pound cake yesterday morning. It uses NINE eggs and my little cluckers are laying so well that even though I give away four dozen eggs a week and sell a few dozen to my regulars, I always have 3 or 4 dozen in the ‘fridge needing to be cooked.
Now pound cake goes into a cold oven so I had done all my prep when I turned on the oven. Nothing happened. It is a gas oven. I stood with my cake tin in one hand and my confusion in the other and looked at the oven quite perplexed. I am sure my little brow was furrowed. These things are supposed to just WORK when I push the little buttons! So then I turned on one of the burners to check if that worked. Nothing again. Very slowly the realisation crept into my sleepy brain the I had run out of GAS. A quick check of the enormous tank that lives in the garden confirmed this. Usually a big truck comes and fills it up. But someone has to CALL the little man with the big truck don’t they! mm
OK. No hot water. No hot food. So I called the company that handles our gas and the dear lady very sweetly told me in a very matter of fact and up beat voice that there is a fee of 200 dollars for the truck to come out of its way on the same day and was 4 O’Clock OK?. I spluttered and said “um.. well.. gee 200 dollars ..hmmm.. no … um.. well.. no ..thank you that is very kind, but No lets leave it for now. I will do without gas for a bit.” The woman on the other end was gobsmacked, but you will need your gas won’t you? Her voice had dropped as though she suddenly realised that she may be dealing with an irrational person.
Now I had been feeling all satisfied because I choose not to use air conditioning (and yes it is 100 degrees today but I this is my third summer without AC. I hate to break that kind of record), or watch TV or ever feed anyone processed foods (never, ever) or use the dryer in the summer and do without services that really are luxuries, or eat genetically modified food or go on frequent cross country shopping trips. But to do without hot water or the stove? Wasn’t this taking things a bit far?. I can just hear that poor woman telling her boss about those foreigners and their strange ways and they probably never wash anyway and I feel sorry for the children!! Her boss would nod sagely with half an ear on the phone.
But it really has not turned out so bad. It is actually ok. Last night after my swim I boiled some water in the kettle, poured the water into a big basin and gave myself a wash. It was fine. I felt refreshed. Actually I was probably cleaner because usually I just wallow about in a hot bath until I feel done then I get out again. The Silent One had a cold shower ( and was NOT Silent about it either) and he definitely felt refreshed. I have not needed hot water all day, just boiled a wee bit for the dishes in a kettle and washed the laundry in cold.
Tonight we will grill. I have picked zucchini and some baby beetroot these will grill up nicely drizzled with a basil oil and popped on skewers. We will have some of our own lovely lean grass-fed beef steak. The beetroot leaves will make a salad. I can even wrap a few freshly dug little potatoes in tin foil with a big dollop of butter and if I put them on the grill first they should cook. Quite a feast really, even without the pound cake. Which by the way I fed to the chickens, uncoooked of course. They were ecstatic!
I am wondering how long I could actually go without having that gas tank filled. How long could we go without hot water and an oven. I could dig out the electric fry-pan. Dare I call the woman back and tell her not to come at all!!
Rhetorical question really. I am way too lazy and often too filthy to do without hot water!! They are coming to fill it up on Monday.
Oh no, I almost forgot to give you the recipe for the pound cake be warned I am really quite terrible at recipe writing. Elise at //simplyrecipes.com/ is much better at it. She has a formula.! And I need to work out how to link it to a list.
Anyway pound cake is very old-fashioned and an excellent way to help your kids and the hard workers of the family eat eggs and good butter. Eggs are a fantastic food. Good butter cannot be replaced with ANY of those over processed over colored sludges they have lining the shelves of the supermarkets so don’t even think about it. If you saw what color that stuff starts out as you would NOT eat it. I always use Organic Flour then I am sure it is not genetically engineered wheat. the Silent One does not want to be a part of that particular experiment either.
Soften half a pound of butter.
Add 3 cups sugar and beat sugar and butter until creamy. Add 2 teaspoons vanilla. One at a time add 9 fresh eggs. Keep beating between each egg.
Slow mixer down and slowly add 3 cups of Organic Unbleached Flour, alternately with 1/2 cup of either cream or whole milk. NO half and half – that is terrible stuff.
Pour into large cake tin. Put into cold oven and turn on to 350 degrees. Start checking in an hour. If you can smell it check it. Usually this cake takes about one hour and twenty minutes in my oven. The cake is cooked when a knife speared in comes back out clean. Cool in the tin on a rack.
In the summer I store this cake in the fridge. It will keep for quite a few days. It is a big cake, so if you like you can even store half of it in the freezer.
Ok I am off out to shift the captured swarm out of its cuddly little nuc and into a proper hive. I will take pictures for you. Mercy all this swarming. I hope we get honey this year!
PS Sorry there are no pictures of the cake but I cannot cook it can I – with no gas! Next time.
There now. A few of my Motley Crew. As you can see it was a very quiet day on the wee farm. Bees are all present and accounted for. Phew. Vegetables are growing and the animals are just hanging out like sleepy girls in the long grass. c
I woke up this morning to this gorgeous day. The dogs and I start at 5.30. Still, sunny and so lovely. After the walk around the fences, I began to make Ricotta cheese with the whey from yesterdays cheddar and started the butter. I took yesterdays cheddar out of the press and popped it into my cheese fridge (a converted wine fridge.. I never keep wine long enough to even NEED a wine fridge!!) So I am toddling on with my day, happy as the proverbial lark, wander out to hang a load of washing on the clothesline and find this:
ANOTHER SWARM!.( the soundtrack of the day hits the LOW notes.) However (deep breath) this time I am ready. I only panic in a very mild way. Then I make up the little cardboard super that I bought last summer (when I remember where I got it I will tell you), it is called a Nuc. ‘Course now I have to convince them to move out of the wee oak tree and INTO their little mini home. First I will take the passive route and allow them to decide to go in. Evidently if you put the box on a white sheet they see the little dark hole and walk right in. So I will make the offer. Mm. Well my plan is that the little scout bees will be flying about, then they will look down and “Wow look at that piece of real estate, it even smells good and there is a feed waiting woo hoo.” They will fly back to Old Miss the Queen sat up there all Queenly like in her oak tree her bee minions fanning her to keep her cool. The Scouts will do the Waggly – ‘Found us a new pad’ Jiggly dance, everyone will agree in record time and later this afternoon they will pick up their beds and walk right in. Single file would be pretty!?
Nothing happened for a long time. And then nothing happened again. Well I got bored waiting. I went out with my hoe, climbed up the wobbly yellow ladder and gave the branch a good hard wack, they dropped with a shush onto the white sheet like good little bees and Who Knew commenced to crawl right in. I was impressed – I have to tell you that I was actually feeling rather smug!. Well I sat down and watched them crawl in and then I watched them crawl BACK OUT! oops.
There now, well, that was earlier. Now it is evening I am sitting in my study writing and waiting for the night to fall. We have eaten, pork soaked in home-made mint sauce, grilled onions in a herb vinaigrette and newly dug potatoes drenched in my own butter. Our John the silent one who gets up for work at 4.am is snoring quietly in the West Wing. Dogs are walked. All I have to do is lock the chooks up and carry this box of bees to its new home.
And as you can see the bees have slowly slowly been absorbed by the little cardboard Nuc.
Tomorrow I will work out how and when to transfer them from their Nuc (fabulous name) to a proper hive but not yet. Of course I don’t actually have another hive but I think I can cobble some bits and pieces together. But tonight all I have to do is move them under the trees to the bee garden. Soon.
Night is falling, the birds are changing guard and soon the fireflies will begin to dance up out of the cornfields.
Time for a wee wine on the verandah as I wait for the bees to drag their last few lazy bones inside the refugee shelter. Then I will move them (actually I am not sure exactly how I will move them but I do not want to break the ambient tone we are developing here.) Then it is a swim, then a shower then bedtime for me.
Ni night, (next time I promise I will begin the introductions!)
This is brilliant. I am sitting here at my old desk in our little old House on the Prairie writing to you and I have NO IDEA how to make this blogger stuff work. But I am desperate to just find the voices. . My husband (known from now on as ‘The Silent One’ .. he is that type.. we bought him an IPad for Christmas and never heard from him again) Anyway he and I live right out here in the boonies, far away from everything. Real Middle America. The Midwest. The land is flat and home to Industrial Horticulture. They grow Corn and Beans round here. It is barren. I am from New Zealand and he is an American through and through right down to the home made fruit wood charcoal in his grill. (In NZ we call this a Barbie, (the grill that is) no relation to the doll). And the house he grew up in is just around the corner.
Now I know you are looking at the picture above us (I think as I cannot see my published page yet) and wondering what has gone wrong- there she is in the prairies surrounded in NO PRAIRIE just corn, and yes it is growing so fast shortly it will be as high as an elephants eye and the header has a picture of a forest!!.. Mm. that is because all this is so new to me that i have not worked out how to load my own pictures yet. So please bear with me or give me some serious advice. But I LOVE to learn so drop in again.. it will be better every time.
The Fourth of July is a perfect time to start. Because the independence of the internet is mindblowing. Tomorrow I will begin to introduce you to the cast of characters that make up our tiny farm. We have sheep, cows, chickens and the usual motley assortment of dogs and cats. Oh and guineas. Lest we forget they will remind us. Plus huge vegetable gardens. Lovely meadows laden with clover and grasses. Flower gardens, piles of flowers. And herbs, herbs, herbs.
I know you are wondering why I am on here. What we want to achieve is a state of self sufficiency in a sustainable manner using organic methods. We do not have air conditioning or central heating (yes we do get to 10 below and more in the winter and wabder about the 90’s ion the summer). We grow all our own vegetables and meat. The Silent One is working on solar water heating (without buying a ready made unit from God Knows where) and I am working on a way to heave the water up out of the ground without using electricity. Pioneers did it!! But nothing is perfect. My bees swarmed yesterday. More on that tomorrow. And the Japanese Beatles have arrived today. mm
However.. tomorrow I will begin the introductions and tonight I will work on my layout. O I HAVE been able to load a pic so ignore paragraph two.. it is now obsolete!!
What do you think!?