Search This Blog

Saturday, December 8, 2018

It happens in the wee hours of morning

     Yeah, I woke up far too early. Not sure what the hell is up with my sleep pattern but there is really no method to the madness. So I flip on my laptop and think hmm, open my blog. Well why not at least let my readers know I am still alive and kicking. Well for all you fine folks who read or read my blog, I am still alive and well. Just dont ask me to explain my long hiatus. I guess life got busy and I procrastinated. A LOT!! For a long time it appears.
      I guess as we get older it just takes longer to get the same amount of things done thus less time and energy left at the end of the day to do things we want to do in our minds. We have been blessed the past 2 summers to enjoy our little grandsons here for extended visits on the farm. And they have finally moved a bit closer to Virginia instead of Phoenix. Eight hours is not a bad road trip to visit the kids. Sure beats 30 hours driving and 3 days on the road. All the kids and grands are great, healthy, happy and sassy. Hope to get to go see the littles for the Christmas holiday for a few days. We were certainly happy to have Rob, Amoy and the little boys here at our house for Thanksgiving this year for the first time in a long time seems like. Hard to believe Liam is in kindergarten now. Such a smart little boy. Zachy is quite the character. He is so much like Rob at that age. They just melt my heart.

     All is well on the homestead. Our garden was not good at all this season.  Blight hit the tomatoes and we had none, nada, zip, zero zilch from the garden. Glad I still had lots canned from previous years. Now for sweet corn, good grief, we can grow that stuff. Had more than we needed and as usual you cant give it away. People ask if its shucked. Ugh, hell no it aint, if you cant shuck it you cant have it. I cant tolerate people that lazy. I did locate some seed for white half runner green beans that I have been seeking for several years. These are the old variety that will develope a nice bean in the pod and the pod is still tender. They dont get tough and fibrous like some varieties I have gotten in the past. We now have about a lb of those seed to grow this coming year. Happy camper I am.  So many little things to tell you and dang I cant begin to remember them all at one time. So I will fill you in as time progresses.

     As for my latest hobby/obsession, its soft cheese making. We are members of a food pantry/coop here and from time to time we get over whelmed with milk products. Like last week when I had 6 half gallon jugs of heavy whipping cream. Turned that into butter. Oh yeah, I have not bought butter in going on 2 years now. We keep a LOT frozen from turning the heavy cream into butter. I also got 9 half gallon jugs of half and half. Well you can make cheese with it. As I learned lots of different cheeses as matter of fact. But it needs added lipase to put back some necessary enzymes that are killed off during the pasteurization process. Yep google is yo fren. I will learn to do this and make a decent cheese. I have made the 30 minute mozzarella and it is ok, just sorta bland. But the method is very simple. Paneer is another one for first time cheese makers to try.  Will fill you in as I learn.

     We did a bit of remodeling on the house this fall. Took this awful carpet out of the dining room and continued the laminate floors from the kitchen into the dining room. Love it much better. Easier to keep clean. Then I got the vinyl tile to do the small bathroom and the utility room. Folks those tiles are the bombdiggity. So easy to install over existing flooring, and dang they do stick down good. And they look nice. They look and feel like real tile, just not as cold on the bare footz as real tile. And to top off that Rob and Amoy got me a Deebot. Well who'd a thunk it? I love that thing. The one chore that makes my back hurt more than any other is running the vacuum. If you knew me you would know its a huge deal when I say I have not ran the vacuum since before thanksgiving. Yes, that long and the floors are still clean. The Deebot, who Rob named "little dip shit" I call him "dippy" for short, is like the Roomba just a different brand. I could not imagine something so small picking up the amount of dust and dirt this little guy gets. I was genuinely amazed. So dippy keeps the floors nice and sure saves my back a lot of pain. Now I can have some umph left to do other things I enjoy more. Yes I am hooked on technology now. lol Not to mention my new phone has "Bixby" to help me out. I gotta teach that fellow a few things before I let him type text messages for me tho. Yeah, don't ask.  Ok I admit , I am techno challenged. Maybe IF I live long enough I will find or take time to learn about all these newfangled toys that I have. Who'd a thunk 20 years ago that a person could have a vacuum that would clean the floors without any help from a person pushing and pulling one of those things. AND you can program it to do the floors while you are away so you alas come home to a neat tidy house. Or in my house you find Dippy stuck on a floor vent. Ah he ain't smart enough to remember where they are I reckon. Talented he is, smart he ain't. Or maybe its operator error. Now if only they made a self emptying dish washer. I know there is a robot in the works that can cook meals. Let you imagination take you about 20 years into the future and think of what could be. Or not. Smart TVs? Got em. Vacuums that clean without manpower? Got em. Robots that can cook? Got em. Oh and don't forget the cars that are in the works that drive themselves. Got em.

     Ok, now ya know I am still alive and kicking I will get on with this day and see what kind of mayhem I can create. Till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Its mid-summer already, how did that happen!!!!

Here it is mid June, summer soltice, longest day of the year. It seems just the other day we were hoping for spring and warmer weather. Well we got it now. It has been mi the mid 90's already this summer. Our garden is doing well all things considered. We thought for a while we might not be able to have one at all. But God blessed us once again. We got the field corn planted Easter weekend as well as the sweet corn, although Rodger was not feeling well at all. I think we both were really worried. Almost didnt bother with trying to plant a garden this season due to his health but we pushed on. Got out tomatoes, peppers and such transplanted and others things direct seeded. Everything came up good except the cucumbers. Those were zero sprouting. Replanted those a week or so ago. Finally got Rodger to see the family doc and long story short he was referred to a cardiologist and pulmonologist. He had been having chest pain when he exerted himself the tiniest bit. On May 11th he had a heart cath and 3 stents placed. As for his heart he is doing great. Just really low energy level. But we think this issue has been ongoing for a couple to 3 years and really has taken its tole as far as physical endurance goes. So he is doing cardiac rehab now and that is going great. So he is on the uphill swing. About 10 days after the heart cath he did manage to get our garden hoed out and tilled to try to combat the weed and grass issue. So far it all looks good. The beans are trellised and starting to climb the trellis. Sweet corn is short but tasseling out. Tomatoes have lots of green tomatoes on them. My blackberry canes are loaded with big green berries. Should have lots of good blackberries this year. My new thornless raspberries I planted ate looking good and have had a handful of berries on them this year. Rodger purchased some bird netting to use to cover the blackberries to keep birds and such from eating them. He and Jason got the net put up last evening. Now wait for ripe berries.

On May 27th we drove to Birmingham to pick up our 2 lil grandsons at the airport. A friend was flying his boys to Alabama to visit family and suggested the lil ones fly with him and make it a easier trip for us as far and getting them instead of the long drive to Arizona. So we have our sweet little grandsons, Liam and Zachary here for a month. We are taking them home leaving here about July 3rd or so. They have had a blast and as you other grandparents know so has this grammy. Such well mannered polite lil boys for 2 and 4 yr olds. They have got to play in dirt, play in the rain, gather eggs, pick and eat all the strawberries, just doing what lil boys like to do. If we can just keep the skeeters, chiggers and ticks from eating them up. They have their lil kiddie pool on the back deck to splash in to cool off on hot days.

Sasha loved the little boys as soon as she met them. Liam loves her, she still intimidates Zach bit.

Playing in the rain is especially fun when you can do it in your pajamas at Grammy's house.

Getting to go in the garden with papa is a big deal for lil boys. Until they get big enough to use a hoe at least.

Getting to watch the trains go by is a big deal when you are little I suppose.

As you can tell by the lack of pics of garden stuff and farm stuff I have been just entertaining and enjoying these lil ones. I know when they have to go home it will be entirely too quiet here for my liking. I have tried to convince their mom and daddy that it would be much cheaper and easier on all if we just keep them till mom and dad come home in December then they can take them home. That Idea is NOT flying at all for some reason. I can imagine they are lost to death without those noisy lil boys in the house.

Not much else happening here on the farm, so till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

I hope spring is here, finally.

I sure hope spring has sprung here. I got my seedlings started earlier this year. Had them all growing under flourescent lights in the summer kitchen till this past Saturday. We decided that instead of the added expense of covering our little greenhouse with some type of plastic we would just opt to use a cold frame for the seedlings as I am not starting near as many as I normally do. But still a plenty. So Rodger and Jason took off Friday evening after work and went to Lowes to pick up 1 sheet of the clear poly carbonate panels to cover the cold frame. Less chance of hail damage in the event we have that. And hoping we dont for sure.  So they got my cold frame built and put inside the fence in my herb garden to keep the dog out of it. She likes to carry off things she finds with our smell on it. She gave the guys a fit stealing their building material and tools Saturday. Poor Sasha had many new not so nice names that day. But they got er done. Then I got all the seed trays moved in and watered with compost tea. I do have some nice sturdy seedlings this year. yay me.

 Monday we had rain off and on all day so I spent my day going in and out of the house to take the top off, put the top on, repeat. This lil cold frame can heat up really quick with very little sunshine. This is so much easier to heat than trying to keep my little greenhouse warm enough for healthy plants. Tomatoes and peppers need warmer soil to sprout and grow than some other seeds. I did invest in a couple heat mats that are made just for the seed trays I use to supply some heat from the bottom to warm the soil and speed up the sprouting process of peppers and tomatoes. They worked just great. I had misplaced some of my bell pepper seeds and could only find the orange heirloom variety when I was starting the seeds. The next day I located the other pepper seeds and decided to start some of those as well. I used a deeper, about 6 inch deep, crate that I had to line with a feed bag, add soil and sow the seeds. The soil being deeper I could not use the heat mats under this crate. So needless to say I have tomatoes and peppers started one day using the heat mats that are several inches tall and a crate with pepper and some Amish paste tomato seeds that are just starting to sprout and come up where I wasn't able to use the heat mats. Heat made all the difference in how quickly the seeds came up. Also this year I have been using all natural fertilizer on my seedlings. I procured some composted goat manure from some friends and am making compost tea to use on the plants. In this compost tea I added some Lactobacilli serum to the bucket in which I have the manure for the tea. I have had no problem what so ever with damping off disease this year starting seeds. That in itself is a big plus for me trying to start seeds really early. Normally I just start my seeds in the greenhouse in early April no later than the second week. When we get cooler nights the soil cools even with the warmth of the sun during the day and I usually end up losing a lot of seedlings from damping off. In the greenhouse I could use about 3 tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide to about 1 and half cups water in spray bottle and mist the soil where the seedling are and this will sometimes stop the damping off and save the plants. But dang who needs the extra hassle. Not had to use that this year at all. I am very thankful and happy with my little bit of success  with seed starts.

Saturday I got my herb garden weeded and all cleaned out of debris from last season and over the winter. Talk about hard on the damaged back and bad legs and knees. Oh mercy, Sunday was tough. Anyway, that bed is all ready to add more herbs seedlings to when danger of frost is past. Maybe late April or early May will be safe enough to plant them without protection. I still have the strawberry bed to weed and get mulched. I planted 25 new strawberry plants this year to replace some that were spent. I intend to use straw to mulch them in with from now on. I learned the hard way that wood mulch was just too coarse a material to allow the runners to reach the soil and make roots and renew the bed.  Some of us just have to learn things the hard way. Was nice to not have to spend much time at all weeding but dang in the long run cost me in having to replace some plants. Chalk that one up to a well learned lesson at the school of hard knocks. I seem to learn a lot of things at that school.

Last week on one of the warmer days I got the fruit trees sprayed for the second time. Most of the stone fruits and pears had already lost their blooms. Not sure if they were lost from the light snow and cold or just that they were done. But the other trees, apples and nut trees are in 1/4 inch green tip stage and time for a spray. Got the neem apray mixed and Jason put the spray tank in the bucket of the little tractor and hooked the pump to the battery and off we went to spray. We had to use the tractor as my 4 wheeler is out of commission for a bit till the guys get a chance to work on it. Got er done tho.. At this point it is just wait and see how much damage the cold snap did to the trees that had already bloomed. Seems most of them were in the "process" of blooming and not in full bloom. I have noticed the pears are still making blooms so I might get a bit of fruit after all. God willing and we dont get any more serious freezes. We will take what we can get and be thankful.

We have been looking around for an "estate rake" to use in the big section of yard and orchard. An estate rake is used to rake up grass clippings to take off the yard. Usually pulled behind a 4 wheeler or mower. My intention is to use the clippings to compost for organic matter to add to the garden and orchard.  In reading and researching holistic orchard maintenance a lot of focus is on soil microbes and helping keep healthy soil. One way to do this is using the grass clippings to mulch trees and then encouraging the clippings to decompose to supply nutrients to the trees. Lactobacilli is one culture that aids in this process. I found online a method for making the lactobacilli serum to treat the soil and compost with to speed up the process.  A very simple process all in all. It is started rather simply. I will post this info in another post very soon. This serum can also be used to spray chicken and livestock buildings to eliminate odor from manure. It helps to decompose the same manure when put in compost as well. Anyway I have a science lab in my kitchen most days. One of these days I will have a mess when an experiment goes amiss. Till then I keep trying stuff.

In the house I learned to make a new bread that we are now addicted to. It is focaccia bread. Its an artisan Mediterranean bread. The authentic version has olives in it but none of us like olives so I dont use those. It was odd to me at first to make a yeast bread and not use bread flour but recipe uses plain all purpose flour. I will share the version I make for us. I use my Kitchenaid mixer to make this as I cant use my hands long enough to knead bread anymore.

Focaccia Bread

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons of hot water in Kitchenaid bowl
2 tablespoons sugar
3 1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons yeast
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil

In mixer bowl with hot water add in sugar, and 1 cup of bread flour, add yeast on top of this flour. Add remaining flour and then the salt. With dough hook attached mix ingredients a bit, maybe 1 minute. Pour in olive oil and mix well and continue kneading for about 5 minutes. When dough is smooth and elastic, turn off mixer and cover bowl and let dough rise till nearly double in size.
Prep 2 cookie sheets by oiling them with olive oil and sprinkle with cornmeal. When dough is ready turn on mixer and stir down dough. Divide in half. Press each half on the cookie sheets pressing with fingers till it is about 1/4 inch thick. Let sit for about 10 minutes. No need to try to be perfect, this is artisan style bread.
To prepare to bake, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using fingers make indentions all over dough and drizzle with a good olive oil. Sprinkle on about half teaspoon dried rosemary over each pan with dough. A good sprinkle of parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and chopped sun dried tomatoes that have been preserved in oil. You can also drizzle a bit of the oil from the dried tomatoes over bread as well. Top with a light layer of shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese.  You can add on some chopped olives if you enjoy those as well. Put in oven and bake till light brown. Tear into pieces at serving or cut like bread sticks and serve with a marinara sauce. Enjoy!!
We can make a meal on this and a bowl of marinara sauce.  This is a bread that you can top any way you like really . If you love garlic cloves by all means slice some onto dough. A thin layer of pizza sauce would be yummy with your choice of pizza toppings. An easy bread that can be used many ways. Limited only by the imagination.

Not much else happening here on the homestead, so till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Yep, back again for another round

I started my lil blog several years ago to more or less document our successes and failures here and to share a little bit of knowledge from things we learned along the way. Then somehow I started slacking on keeping my blog updated. Now seems like I am about 5 months behind. And a lot can happen in 5 months around here. After my last post we got to drive to Arizona and see our kids and the grandbabies out there. I tell ya, nothing like 2 little boys to make a feller drive for days no matter how much it hurts the body. They are worth every pain tho just to see those happy little faces. Then November was hunting season and spent most of the month in west Ky at the lodge helping out there. Back home and then flew to Arizona to spend 3 weeks or so with the kids and those precious lil boys again thru the Christmas holiday and the littlest one, Zach's 2nd birthday. Got back to my homestead shortly after new years and here it is March already. Dang where did the time go?

We have decided that we want to get all our garden planted by mid April this year like we use to do several years ago. It was just what my dad always insisted on doing. He said if you plant early things sprout and start to come up and you get them in ahead of the spring rains and just do so much better. Never knew of a year when dad failed to have a productive garden. Last fall Rodger did manage to get our garden plot turned so it can be worked a bit earlier this year. So this gives me hope we will be able to plant earlier this season than in the past few years. I did start my transplant seeds early also. I already have cabbage up, although they are lil ones yet. I did suck it up and invest in 2 seed tray heat mats to use for the peppers and tomatoes this year. Both of those need a bit of heat to sprout well and come up. I have herbs started as well as the tomatoes, peppers and cabbage. In my herb garden it is just easier to transplant small clumps of herb plants than to try to keep ahead of the tiny weeds that tend to come up with them. As far as my experience I have less lost of seedlings and plants this way. Not to mention I know where I planted things so less chance of them being trampled when I am in there doing weeding and harvesting.

I have done a lot of research on orchards and fruit tree care this winter when it was too cold to get out and do projects outside. Well at least for me. I want to be a snow bird and go south in winter as I get older. Just no place like home tho. Anyway, we strive to use very little to no spray on things here. I am well aware that it kills the soil and depletes it over time to use pesticides. We use No weed or grass killer, herbicides, on or near any of our crops. We decided to try to go organic as far as how we care for the orchard. I did a great deal of research on Neem as a tree spray. On researching it I found that most places, big box stores and even local farm stores just sell "chemical" sprays, not really organic. But they do sell neem oil spray. Only problem with this is the neem they sell is only 1 or 2 components of true whole neem oil. So I found an online source for whole neem oil. I thought with shipping it was kinda pricey but after checking the price of the partial stuff sold at farm stores it was actually cheaper over all. If interested in any of this info visit the site on growing organic and for the pure neem oil. Finally this past weekend I did get the first round of neem on my fruit trees and grape vines. I sprayed with the neen and fish emulsion to give the trees a nutrient boost for leaf production. We had put fertilizer on the trees and grape vines prior to the spraying. I did find a few small branches on my peach and cherry trees with bloom. Not totally bloomed out so that was a plus. I am sure we will have some frost and cold weather before we actually get to spring so hopefully they will bloom and produce some fruit this year. The apple and nut trees are not even in green tip stage yet so they should do ok. It is strange in east Ky to have 70 plus degree weather in February so this was the problem with some early blooms. I had read a news article saying that lots of commercial orchards are having an issue with trees blooming too early and will likely suffer frost and freeze kills this year. Cant imagine the price of fruit this fall if you can purchase it at all. If news is saying lots of killed fruit it might be wise for all of us that use a lot of canned fruit, homegrown or otherwise, to stock up on canned fruit early ahead of the price increases. 

                                                       Before pruning sweet cherry trees.
                                                   After pruning sweet cherry trees.

                                 Northern side of our orchard after pruning and before clean up

Last spring I ordered some baby chicks to raise a new laying flock. I being the dummy ordered 25 Buff Orphington pullets. Love this breed. Very docile sweet hens. I had hopes of getting at least one rooster albeit by mistake but that didnt happen. So I had 25 hens. Gosh they all started laying and I was over run with eggs. It is near impossible to sell country eggs here when people can go to the store and use their food stamps and get them cheaper. So I ended up giving a friend half my young laying pullets. I kept 12 and still get too many eggs. Not that that is a bad thing. I do appreciate the effort the girls put in, but just how many chicken fruit can a house of 2 or 3 eat? Well not as many as they provide. But I have a couple people who do get eggs from us so that helps a lot. We plan to build a new run this spring for them so they can be outside a bit but as for now they have to stay inside. Too many predators and our lil girl Sasha is not old enough to know to protect them. She thinks they are for her entertainment right now. She is just a puppy at 10 months old but will outgrow that stage soon we hope.

Last spring a friend in Virginia sent me some thornless blackberry starts. Most people say blackberry shoots, I call these things trees. This is gonna be a learning curve for me for sure. She had told me to tie them upright to a stake or fence. So this I did to the side of the garden fence. Oh geez, I was tying plants all summer. Once you have them growing upright then clip the top to a manageable height. Then they send out limbs off that stem, clip those limbs to about 1 to 2 feet in length. Those limbs will make more lil limbs, clip them to about 1 to 2 feet. All the growth I got from the plants last summer will bloom and produce berries this season. God willing. But am thinking now I sure dont need 25 of those "blackberry trees" I will be picking berries till the cows come home. But thas ok, I will be thankful and consider my self very blessed. Not to mention the fact I ordered some thornless raspberry starts this spring from Starks. Speaking of which, we decided if we are gonna plant trees, and perirrenial plants we are best served to just pay a bit more and get good quality healthy starts. So I will be probably taking our a few of the blackberry plants that are smaller and putting in some raspberry plants on the end of the row on the same fence as the blackberries are now. I am pretty excited to have berries that dont leave me bleeding when I pick them. I also had to purchase some new strawberry plants. I had a good idea once but it didnt work as I planned. I had planted strawberry plants in holes in landscape fabric then mulched them. It worked great for keeping weeds down. BUT the strawberry runners were not able to take root thru the layer of mulch thus they did not live once the plant reproduced. So my strawberry bed was not able to renew itself and now it has scarcely any plants. So last fall I took out the landscape fabric and mulch, tilled the soil, added organic fertilizer and am ready to plant new plants. I am gonna attempt to find some saw dust to use as mulch this year or maybe collect pine needles. It should be much easier for the new runners to take root and keep the strawberry bed renewed very year or so.  You live and learn I reckon.

These are the blackberry bushes tied back to the garden fence. Not to mention this is November.
These things were still growing into December. When we pruned the fruit trees in early February I went by the outside of the garden fence and clipped off some blackberry limbs that were hanging way over the outside. I am sure the deer will help themselves to any plant material or berry that is hanging out of the garden. Or the crows will help themselves. I do have netting to put over small trees and fruiting berries to prevent crow lose this year I hope. They ate all the grapes on the grapevines that are to the left of the blackberries outside the fence. They are going to be trellised this spring with a T-top trellis for ease of covering with netting when the grapes start to ripen.

So now you have a little bit of a catch up post. I am certain I am missing filling you in on something important so maybe I will remember it next time. Till then, blessings from the McGuire homestead.


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Short summer, early fall

I think our summer has been short, or did I just get busy and miss it? Or maybe a little of both. Even with a later than we liked start our garden did pretty well. As of now the only thing left in it is the sweet potatoes. They will be dug before the first frost. I did can a lot of green beans, the wonderful tasty Ky Wonder pole beans. We are now picking the dried ones to save for seed next season. Now God willing we will be able to always have pure seed to plant from year to year. Our tomatoes did marginally well. We did stake the largest portion of them BUT we didn't pull the suckers off thus the tomatoes were not large in size like they should be. Lesson learned for next year. Sweet corn did really well. I didn't get much of it as the damn crows wrecked havoc in there. We put deer netting over the top after it had tasseled and the crows flew under the net and ate the corn anyway. Evil things I tell ya. We had enough cukes to make enough pickles to last us. Okra went gang busters, got enough in the freezers to last any family for a few year. And I only use it in soup and gumbo. Although I did freeze some after I coated it with a cornmeal/flour, salt, pepper mixture for a quick snack to fry up. I am the only one that will eat it fried. I also froze some green tomato slices in the cornmeal mix as well. I did use a sharp knife to remove the thin green skin from the maters then rolled in the cornmeal mix, froze on cookie sheets then bagged them up for long term freezing. I love me some fried green maters when its cold as crap outside and snowy. Guess thas my hillbilly coming out.

Rodger dug a few sweet taters other evening to see how they were gonna do. Well, I think they did ok.

This bucket (5 gallon) was from about 4 plants. That is my foot and I wear a size 8. Thas a big dang tater. I truly hope there are not many that size to dig. Yeah of course they look cool, but you know how hard it would be to bake that thing and get it done or to peel it to make glazed sweet taters? There were several very large ones in what he dug but this one being the biggest. Impressive, huh? 

As it gets late in the year we always find ourselves in a time crunch to get all the things done and prepared for cold fall and winter weather. Rodger and Jason have been working their hinny off trying to get a new corn crib built before time to pick corn. We don't raise a lot of corn, just enough for cornmeal and to have enough to feed the laying flock thru the year. But it does no good to raise and pick it if the dang mice and squirrels are gonna get to it and eat more than us or the chickens get. So this new crib will be mouse and squirrel proof. Guaranteed. It is gonna be lined with rat wire so unless they have tin snips or a cutting torch, sorry about their luck. Get ya free meal else where.

I might get more work done if not for playing with Sasha. That lil girl is growing so fast. She is a big pup for just 5 months old. And she loves her family. Does NOT like strangers at all. My cousin and his wife came to visit for a bit on Monday and she was gonna go pet Sasha and I told her she could let her out of the kennel. Sasha would have no part of that. She was growling and showing her teeth. Needless to say they didn't open her kennel. Even tho I felt bad that they didn't get to pet her, they agreed that is what she should have done. A stock and guard dog should not take kindly to strangers. And sure seems she don't. If I had let her out and introduced them she would have been different I am sure. But her job is to look out for me and take care of the chickens. And she needs to do more growing before she gets to be responsible for the chickens. Just yesterday as I walked by our security camera monitor I saw a critter hop out of the woods into the driveway a lil bit from the house. Upon closer look it was a coyote. Within 75 ft of the house. In the middle of the day. I notice I have not seen as many rabbits as we usually see in the yard. Seems the coyotes may be a lil short on food and keep getting closer to the house looking for a meal. We keep Sasha in her kennel unless we can be outside or at least coming in and out all day. Don't like leaving her alone outside and her being young. It has really be tough cause I can not let my chickens run out at all. We are hoping to get a new chicken house built in a different location this fall so we can have a fenced in pen for the laying hens to be able to be outside and safe from stray dogs and coyotes. Just another chore to do before winter time gets here.

I was gone west to the hunting lodge for 2 weeks, had a good stay there and back home with lots to do and get caught up on. Then of all dang things my back and left hip we out. So I was in bed for nearly 4 days till I could walk. Still not doing the best, but ever so slowly getting better. Not sure what the problem is but hoping to find out results of my xrays tomorrow. But uncle had a pear tree that had lots of pears on them. I did pick some to bring home to can and make pear preserves. Oh my, the preserves are so very good. Beautiful amber color. I think the method I use to make mine is called "pear honey" and it tastes a lot like honey.

Yummy yummy, get in my tummy. So good with butter and a hot biscuit. There really is nothing like good home cooking. You cant get stuff this tasty in a store or restaurant. And I know what is in my home canned stuff.

Not much else happening here on the farm, so till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.


Friday, August 19, 2016

Fall is slowly sneaking up on us

Fall is actually sneaking up faster than I would like. But dang I guess it is past the middle of August already and not long till cooler nights and days. I guess I really didnt pay much attention to the calendar till I noticed the spent sweet corn stalks turning yellow last week. Geez, we just planted that stuff other day. At least it sure seems that way. The damn crows finally finished off the remainder of the sweet corn that was not even ready to harvest. Those things are the most aggressive feeders I think I have ever known. If you shoot to scare them off, in just a few minutes they are back in larger numbers. And it sure dont take long for them to destroy a patch of corn. Not to mention they have eat on some of the tomatoes, peppers and pecked at some of the unripe pumpkins. Mean lil devils they are.

Our peppers are in full productions right now, with lots that are getting red and ripe. We use a lot of bell peppers during the year in cooking. I only planted a few jalapenos this year as I am the only one that eats them and sure dont need that many taking up freezer space. My big freezer is mostly full now with the carrots, corn, okra, peppers among other things I cant think of right now. The tomatoes in the garden are starting to slack off producing now and some of the plants are spent. The Money Maker variety I planted have produced tons of small tomatoes that are mostly used for juice but are small enough to be a total pain in the arse to wash and get the seeds out of to juice. I take the seed pockets out to reduce the amount of water or clear liquid that comes to the top on the jars of juice. It actually makes better tasting thicker juice. Also when I peel tomatoes to make my salsa I peel and squeeze out the seed pockets and it makes the salsa nice and thick. Yummy!!

The mustard and turnips I sowed a couple weeks ago are up. Oh my, and did I forever get them thick enough on the ground. I didnt use the seeder I just sprinkled the seeds on by hand cause it was a small space. The poor little seeds just laid there on top of the soil for well over a week till we got some nice rain showers. And they ALL came up. So soon or later I will have enough mustard and turnip greens to can. And I do love a nice sweet raw turnip in late fall after they have grown in cooler fall weather.

Tomorrow will be a grape harvesting day here. About 90% of the grapes on each cluster are ripe so its time to cut them and make jelly, juice and wine. If allowed to all ripen they will start to fall off the vine. Then its on to the peaches. I have a few left that the crows didnt get after I put aluminum pans in the branches to keep them scared off. Lots to do here as fall fast approaches.

I got a comment and question from an older blog post on gumbo. The sweet reader ask if it was possible to half the recipe to can. I would think certainly you could half or double or what ever suits the needs of your family or canner size. If I make the mess to make a batch of gumbo I just go whole hog and make a lot. Takes no longer to clean up from a huge batch as it does a small one. Good luck and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

So till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Another day, a few more jars..........

It has been a busy day because for some reason I felt like I was behind canning. Our tomatoes are getting ripe but not a large amount at one time. So I make juice a few quarts at a time. I have a good amount of larger tomatoes that I am letting get a little riper to use for salsa. My Rob likes the homemade salsa so I guess I have to make some for him when I have extra tomatoes. The smaller tomatoes get turned into juice.

 We are getting several cucumbers now and make pickles every other evening. The okra has just went wild. I am freezing about a gallon of sliced okra every other evening as well. I use a lot of okra when I make and can gumbo and it never fails if I use store bought okra no matter the brand it always has a lot of tough fibrous pieces in it. That makes for a nasty texture when you take a big bite. Yuck, so I know if I grow it and cut it and freeze it that it wont be tough. Problem solved. Just another one of those things you can always do better yourself than depend on the store for.
After getting all the carrots pulled out of our small bed in the back yard Rodger got it all tilled up this evening and I got my mustard and turnip seeds sown. I am hoping I can get a good amount of greens to can this year. My canned greens are getting pretty low. I am the only one here that eats them but dang it when I want em, I want em. And that is another thing I dont like to buy. The store bought ones are usually chopped and have a lot of large stems chopped up in the mix and I take the stems mostly out of mine when  I can them. And I only rough chop or tear into bite size pieces not really fine.

We got our sweet corn taken care of a week or so ago and damn, the crows for sure got more than we did. I had a second planting that would have been ready probably by the end of this week. As my luck would have it, the crows feel too threatened but nothing stops the damn squirrels. They have pretty well obliterated the patch before it was even in the blister stage. So next project is the cut down the stalks and plant cover crop on the ground. That will likely be purple hull peas. I might even get some peas off the plants before frost. They will be inside the fence so the deer and turkeys cant get at them. Heaven help a turkey if it gets in the fence and cant get out. It for sure has been a battle of the wills to save things from the critters this year. We are plotting now how to deter them next year and just our luck it will be a different pest next season. I already know I am planting less cabbage and when they are planted they will be covered completely with some kind of cheese cloth material to keep the worms off. Damn those things destroyed all my cabbage this year. No kraut for me. Always something new to keep a gardener on their toes I guess. But am thankful we are able to restock our cellar this season so really should not complain at all.

I was in the summer kitchen today which is near the hen house and heard the hens raising a fuss cackling. I went out to see what was their issue. And lo and behold I got my first eggs, all 2 of em, from my 4 month old Buff Orphington pullets today. I was very pleased. So they should be laying full swing in another couple weeks or so. Needless to say this chicken momma is a happy camper.

I guess maybe these hens will at least earn their feed. Unlike the last ones I had that were really a dead expense.

I did a practice run last week on something I had wondered about for a while. I like fried green tomatoes but really dont care for the texture of them canned then fried. So I had a few that were green with just a blush of starting to turn color. I brought them in, and with a sharp knife peeled the skin off and dredged them while they were still damp in a mix of corn meal with about half the amount of flour added, a good dash of salt and pepper. Rolled the tomatoes in that mixture and put them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and froze them.  I think I left them in the freezer for a couple days. I took em out and fried them up. Oh my, they were perfect. Just the same as if done straight from the garden. So now I gots to get me busy or in my spare time (hahaha) slice more and coat them and get them frozen. Then I can bag em up to enjoy when the snow flys this winter and I can only dream of a fresh fried green mater. So if you like fried green tomatoes this method works like a charm. When I coated them in the corn meal mixture I did press it on each slice really well so they had a good coat on the outside before freezing. I guess we can say this ole gal learned a new trick.

Every year I try to grow something I have never tried before. This year I was blessed to get some plum granny seeds from Rita, a friend I went to school with. They are loaded with lil plum grannies. I picked 3 ripe ones this afternoon and brought them in the house. You can smell them all over in here. They are an interesting "thing" to learn about. They are also called pocket melons. In victorian times when a bath was a real luxury ladies would carry the pocket melons in their reticule (purse) or in their pocket to mask body odor. I have also heard or read that if they are cut and let around inside the house they will deter spiders and other unwelcome flying annoyances. The jury is still out on that one here. But in all fairness I did just bring them in this afternoon so maybe we give em time.

Certainly pretty to look at, but to my knowledge most people dont eat them. They are more for fragrance and looks and if you choose, to cover body odor. But in my humble opinion soap and water is a much better alternative. As for the insect repelling properties, I will let ya know.

So now its the end of a long day and appears tomorrow wont be any shorter. So till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.