Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Silly season

Definitely the silly season for animals. With three young wethers just recently separated from their mothers and trying to return, one more feeder pig who has to put on another twenty pounds in two weeks to meet the target weight of about 225, ewes who keep getting in the duck's stall in the barn or hop their fence to get apples, and a raunchy old ram who patrols the fence line of his pen like a North Korean on the DMZ, everyone is antsy and wants to be elsewhere, preferably in someone else's pen.

This too shall pass, though. The three lambs will go Sunday and I may take the pig too if I think she's big enough. That will calm things down. I'm hoping the ducks will go soon, back from whence they came, a student's private project. The apples will all get eaten or rot. And the ewes will get bred and stop coming into heat.

There's the small matter of an outside ram who has to come visit and breed the three daughter ewes. We'll need the pig gone for that, so we can use the pig sty for a ram pen. It's the best high security space we have, and this guy is reported to be big and a bit of a knucklehead. I hope the young ewes like him. The old ones will go, as they've always gone, with our own ram, Abraram, but he's the father of Molly, Maggie and Nellie, so they need to meet this new guy.

Snorri is his name, named for a Newfoundland viking.

Like I said, a knucklehead.

Silly season.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Not easy being green...

Last weekend I stripped all the large tomato plants and pulled up their roots and cages. This shelf full of ripening berries is the result.

Some are of the German Green variety and so already ripe. Most are just green tomatoes.

I probably won't can any of these shelf-ripened fruit since when finally ripe they are of poor quality. They get used for sandwiches and in cooking. Our family in England makes a green tomato chutney, but I never have the energy to can the green ones. What's the point if the pig or chicks will eat them, and we have so many already canned?

My favorite pickles are, in order: onions, brown chutney (AKA "Branston"), red cabbage, and sauerkraut. Aimee loves cabbage and cucumber pickles.

Our onions were all too big this year to pickle. Last year we had a lot of tiny ones. But we do have a flat of old spring onions I might try. Other than that, I'm done with canning season and into slaughtering and putting the gardens to bed season.

Last night I tried some of our peaches. Very good. So sweet. Worth the effort.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Busy as a couple of one armed paper hangers...

...is what we are now that college has started. Aimee is especially busy, as she is tapped for so many groups and committees. I have a barn to build with students, and two map-reading classes, but these activities include exercise, which at least makes me feel physically better.

Aimee is struggling to keep her chin up. And yesterday was our fourth wedding anniversary.

What this means is no blogging, or not much blogging for me.

We are still doing farm and homestead stuff to blog about, but less of it, especially now that most of the harvest is in. We have one pig, three lambs, and a trellis full of dry beans left to go. Everything else is in the house and canned, root-cellared, refrigerated, shelved or otherwise preserved. The remaining feeder pig and lambs will go soon.Soon the bad weather will come and we will slow down again. But this is the busy time at college.


But regular readers in need of a rural fix can do what I do: visit other blogs. Here are my favorites.

"Life at the end of the road" : a crofter on Raasay, a Scottish island I used to know well.

"Musings from a Stonehead"
: Another crofter, in eastern Scotland

"Sugar Mountain Farm"
, in Vermont

"Throwback at Trapper Creek", in Oregon

"Colour it Green", in southwest England

What I like most about these blogs is the daily round of work, and how similar it is to ours.

Time to go let the ewes out to graze. And it's Friday. I'm looking forward to a rainy slow weekend of not doing much at all.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Canning tom-ae-toes vs. bottling tom-ah-toes

Canning is what Americans do to fruit. Brits "bottle" it.

The procedure is much the same, although the equipment is, at least in the rural parts of America, much more easily found in hardware and grocery stores than in Britain.

These are Juliet tomatoes, a small plum- or Roma-style berry, suitable for canning whole. They are first washed in cold water, then parboiled in hot water to help free the skins, re-cooled in cold water, then peeled and placed in jars. Each quart takes about 40 peeled Juliets. We add 1/4 teaspoon of citric acid and a little salt, then boil the jars for 45 minutes in the water bath canner.

We also canned whole some Amish Paste and froze a bunch of quart Ziploc bags of mixed tomato sauce, cooked to thickness with basil, oregano and garlic already added.

We have now on hand more than 40 quarts of canned or frozen tomato products and we're about 3/4 done with the harvest. We did will with the Juliets which keep well and avoid rot. We lost some of the Amish Paste to base rot. The other large varieties were productive but we lost some to rot, water cracking, and mice. The pigs got all of the bad tomatoes, which they scarf up happily.

Even so, we have as much as we can use this winter and perhaps more.

Most of the cherry tomatoes have gone to waste because we've been too busy at work to pick them.

Aimee made 80 half-pint jars of pesto, which we also freeze. And we arranged for Hamlet, the fattest of our two feeder pigs, to go to the butchers. Ophelia will follow when she's put on a bit extra. Right now Hamlet fights her for food, so she's leaner than she needs to be.

We won't starve, or be cold this winter.

When we remodeled this house we put in a huge kitchen, 28 by 14 feet. There's lots of room for this kind of work.

Aimee made cheese again, so we're having pizza tonight. With our own sliced fresh tomatoes and Aimee's pesto.