Happy New Year and Welcome 2017!

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2017 is the year of the Rooster!!

As we say good bye to 2016, we evaluate all that it brought us! We make plans to improve and make things more efficient on our homestead. Here is a short list of things that we hope to achieve in 2017
1.) FINALLY finish the greenhouse and actually use it for starts!!!
2.) Depend only on our starts this year. Last year we bought a few pepper and cucumber plants. This year, we hope to do it all…and barter some of our starts at fairs and have another spring plant sale.
3.) Preserve our own seeds. I will experiment with the tomato seeds I preserved this season–if it work, it is super easy and there is no reason to buy seeds. If it does not work, then I shall try again and do more research to better my protocol.
4.) We hope to add to our home, so that will be a huge project! I am dreaming of having a bigger sun room or built in greenhouse, fingers crossed on this one.
5.) Work on a patch of grass that is overtaken by buttercups–we will conquer this war!!
6.) Put in our duck pond…maybe get a few ducks. We will only do so if we are able to build them a 100% secure home. I don’t want to ever live through another raccoon tragedy .
7.) Get meat birds to fill our freezers.
8.) Learn the art of making ham, bacon, sausages and other cured meats and smoked fish.
9.) Learn more about medicinal plants and dry more herbs for teas.
10.) Have an open house on the homestead.

A long hiatus from blogging–Happy Holidays!

It has been a while… I haven’t had a chance or words to sit down and share the last, gosh, 9 months of our journey to self sustainability. Today, I feel is the day!

There are many new and exciting events on the homestead.  I am officially a stay at home mom of 4!!  I was pregnant during the most prolific months of the year, making our huge to do list impossible and somewhat unrealistic!  Paul has been on double duty with chores and responsibilities–he makes me fall in love  with him all over again.  Although there was a lot to do–I feel like we accomplished quite a bit this year/season.

Since May, we have gotten meat bunnies, a breeding pair.  After numerous tries, we came to a conclusion that we are not rabbit people.  We tried all except barbecuing the meat.  I hear that’s the best way to eat a rabbit.  Maybe one day we will revisit the bunny meat.  As of now our bunnies, Buster and Honey will live out their years as manure producing pets.  Rabbit poop is excellent for the garden and its “cold” meaning it can straight into the garden.  Chicken poop needs to be diluted and has to “cook” for six months before its safe to use.

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We harvested our meat birds. This time around, it was a challenge for Paul.  We rented the whole set up used by commercial farmers and I believe that was our problem  (and Paul had the flu)!  It became so impersonal, it felt like we lost the connection with the birds we raised to nourish our family.  Don’t get me wrong, it was great getting 15 birds culled and cleaned in less than 3 hours but I think when we get our new batch of chicks in early spring, we will be going back to our old fashioned way of harvesting them.  We have to cull some of our older girls, we hope to confirm that our problem with the last harvest was just that and not a more deeper moral dilemma.  I would like to continue raising meat birds as the meat the kids consume is 90% chicken but I can not force Paul to do something he does not want to do.  Last harvest, our neighboring farmers Paul and Howard came to the rescue and helped Paul finish 7 of the 15 broilers.

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The chicks Debbie hatched are full grown adults. Unfortunately, 2 of the 3 are boys and need to go! One is a white mixed Araucana with a Rhode Island Red so he looks like a dirty white rooster with a little brown on his neck feathers.  The other one is a white Araucana and Brown Sexlink mix, he is more handsome but super annoying.  If all goes well, I might have found a buyer for them and three older hens.  If they don’t get purchased by the weekend, soup they will be. We can’t keep them in our neighborhood nor can they mate with our girls, since we don’t know exactly who their mama is.

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Food harvest and preservation 2016 was very plentiful and productive! We had our garden in full gear and collected a bountiful harvest,  We planted everything from seed and had a great success rate, which is a first for us. We have plans to expand and improve as always.  We used our seed blocks.  They were fun to play with and they produced quality starts.

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With our garden harvest, our beloved CSA from Helsing Junction Farm and the farmer’s market stand Carpenito Brothers we were able to preserve lots of good and healthy foods for our family to enjoy off season.  We made the most amazing marinara sauce from a recipe I got from Backwoods Home magazine where you slow roast the tomatoes on a bed of herbs, onions and garlic overnight at low temperature and then puree and reduce the sauce prior to canning. It was so good, I had to make a quadruple batch since the kids can survive on meatballs and spaghetti.  If anyone if anyone is interested, please comment and I will send you the amazing recipe!

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We also stocked up on tomatoes, green beans (plain and pickled), canned beans, canned Cioppino base (tomato juice from the roasted tomatoes and herbs, it smelled phenomenal), corn, peaches, cherries and plums (canned in minimal sugar syrup) and spicy Mexican vegetables–escabeche.  We also dehydrated mushrooms (foraged and from our garden, more on that in a bit) soup base vegetables (dehydrated fennel, leeks and cilantro/parsley melody), plums, apples and peaches.  We jammed quite a bit this year but not as much as we did in the past–we simply don’t eat that much jam.  All the jams we made came from local fruit, mainly plums and berries.  We had so many raspberries this year that we made five jars of raspberry preserves.

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I mentioned mushrooms above, I think it is safe to conclude that I love mushrooms.  Paul, being the wonderful husband as he is has gotten me a mushroom CSA.  Basically, the company send us mushrooms when it is time for us to plant them.  Thanks to them, we have harvested about 50lbs of garden giants.  We have did not get anything from the second batch and are still hopeful for the third (Milk mushrooms). It has been so cool to go to our very own mushroom patch and collect mushrooms.  We had so much that we gave away to my parents and sisters and dried a bunch as well. I am excited to do it again next summer!

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Quail, we finally got quail. Like literally a few days ago!  I am part of a Seattle Permaculture/Barter group and a gal was downsizing her flock and we were chosen by her to be their forever home.  They are super cute, shy and quite comparing to our LOUD chickens.  The last blog I wrote was about quail…and it was 8 months ago, so I am very excited.

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Last but not least the most exciting event since my last post was the change of seasons and the end of the growing season. We winterized the gardens and the animals.  Now, we are making crafts and goodies and getting ready for the holidays.  Time to reflect and plan for the next year. We hope to start planting our starts indoors in February and at the rate time flies, February will be here tomorrow.

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We hope that you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and wish you a Merry Christmas!!

Thanks for reading!!