Friday, September 29, 2017

Great seed company, great cause - Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

I had to share this notice I received via e-mail because it's absolutely wonderful.  Baker Creek is a company that I've been ordering from every year for about 8 years now and everything about it is great: heirloom non-GMO seeds from around the world, customer service is excellent, $3.50 flat rate shipping AND they include at least one FREE seed packet with every order.  Sometimes I'll end up with 2 or 3 orders from this place a season - the selection is that fantastic.  I have no connection to this company apart from being a very loyal customer and advocate.

They ship year-round and internationally.  Not only are they donating proceeds from orders but they are also donating garden kits to people who lost their garden in the storms. Who does something like that? Baker Creek, that's who.  Thinking of something you want to grow next year?  Now is a good time to order it.

I just drafted up my seed inventory for 2018; you can see the previous one here, and will post it soon.

Everyone who was worried about my goose - thank you!  It's doing just fine and you would never know anything happened.  And I learned a lot, but that's for another day. 

UPDATE - I just put in a $25 order and it looks like they're sending me TWO free seed packets - about a $6 value.

This was the e-mail I received today:


Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company may be located on a small farm near a small town in rural Missouri, but we are neither uninformed nor complacent about the devastation caused by the recent hurricanes in other parts of the world.  Our hearts go out to those who have lost everything except their lives, and our hearts go out to the families of those who actually did lose their lives.

We want to do more and we want you to help us do more.  Many of these people need IMMEDIATE assistance of food, water, and medicine.  It takes MONEY to get those things to them.  In an effort to get that immediate aid to those who need it, Baker Creek is running a special for an entire week in which we will donate 100% of the seed sales to World Help, who will distribute supplies to Puerto Rico and other areas damaged by these horrific hurricanes.  All sales proceeds from all orders placed today, September 29, through next Friday, October 6, will be donated to World Help to help them move in food, water, medicine, and other needed supplies.   

We also are donating home garden restart kits to any individual or family who has lost their gardens to these horrific storms.  If you or someone you know has lost a garden in the hurricane and could use a start up seed kit, please send your story and contact information to and to the attention of “donation” so that we can send you a starter kit.

Our friend Rick Young of World Help says, “The destruction is unfathomable in Puerto Rico!!”  He elaborates, “The electric grid will need to be completely replaced, no cell towers, no electricity, no power lines. This will be a major problem for over 3 million people, almost 2 million Americans. This is not for a few days or weeks but for months and years. It will take up to 2 years under normal conditions to completely fix the infrastructure.”  He further explains what many of us see on the news:  Barbuda had to be evacuated and remains uninhabitable.  Ninety percent of the buildings were damaged in Dutch St. Martin.

Please place your seed order online at  All proceeds will go to assist hurricane victims from online seed orders only.  Email us your story and contact information at for a starter kit if you lost your garden in the hurricane or you know someone who did.  
Thanks so much for helping reach people in the greater Caribbean, both financially and with seeds. Your order today will help get families back on track.

Please share on social media and with your friends and family.

God Bless,

Jere Gettle and The Baker Creek Family

Thursday, September 28, 2017

A goose accident, or not a good day for wussies

It's always something. Yesterday around lunch time I looked outside to see one of the geese sticking its head through the fence to sass the neighbor's cat. Totally normal around here. But then I looked out an hour later and it will still in the corner, just sitting there. Then it stood up and thrashed around and I understood why; it had its head stuck in the fence. I was home alone with a cranky, tired tot and had to call in backup before I could go outside and deal with it.

It wasn't good. Somehow the goose had gotten its head wedged very badly in ordinary 2x4 wire fencing.  There was a large cut to the neck where the fencing was embedded and it was standing in a puddle of blood. It had also cut the top if its bill. I ended up cutting the fence apart to free it.

I washed the wounds, refilled the kiddie pool with clean water and put Blukote on everything. That's the extent of my first aid kit.  It slept most of the day and when I checked on it to make sure the bleeding had stopped I had to ease its head out from under the wing. There was no protesting and I took that as a bad sign.

This morning though it seems to be fine. Eating, honking quietly and even stretching its neck to watch a flock of geese go overhead.

I was so upset when this happened because it seems like such a freak accident that I couldn't prevent.

This is where I cut the fence apart - how on earth did it get stuck so badly? It should have been able to just slip its head right back out of the fence.

If we had been gone for the day that goose would have suffered badly and died from dehydration and blood loss.  This purebred goose is part of a trio that I have some time and money in. And although I have at least one pair out there if I had lost my only male/female it would have been a disaster.

It made me realize how woefully unprepared I am if this situation goes south. In none of my poultry books is there a first aid or "when the shit hits the fan" chapter. I have no idea what antibiotics are safe for geese or the dosage. I did post to an on-line forum asking for advice and was told to "take it to the vet". This isn't a diapered house goose and I'm pretty sure that no one around here would touch poultry anyway.  Worse case senario while I'm competent to kill chickens and ducks all day I have no idea how to put down a goose. I'm not physically strong enough to do it humanely and suppose it would have to be shot.

 Everyday is an adventure and what a way to learn.

Also not for wussies; when I came in from treating the goose I looked out the window.  Whereupon I witnessed a goose getting it on with a duck and the chickens eating all of the bloody grass.  I may have gone blind a little and  immediately texted my husband and asked him to pick up wine on the way home.

This life, I'm telling you. Not for the faint of heart.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Squash harvest 2017

This year's winter squash. I think there are 25 total.

I rummaged through the garden yesterday and harvested all of the winter squash I could find. It really seemed like with as many plants as I set and how thick the vines were there would have been more out there but it doesn't look that way. There might be one or two still hiding in the asparagus patch but that's probably it.  As it is, since the garden was near totally neglected I think we did ok. Plus, look how pretty the porch looks!  I probably should have held off another couple of weeks to pick these but you do what you can with the time you have, right?

These are my favorites. I *think* that they are (on the right) either an immature Long Island Cheese or immature Musquee De Provence, the center one - no idea, the far left grew from seeds saved from that mystery squash bought last fall. 

Very excited about all the Spaghetti Squash, it's delicious with just butter, parmesan and pepper.  The Butternuts are beautiful too.  Am I the only one that finds it impossible to say "Butternuts" with a straight face? Butternuts. Ha!

So I was going through all of my seed packets trying to ID the squashes (since nothing was labeled out there) and found something that made me smack my head. Ugh!

These were growing on a bush plant all summer and since they were right next to the Patty Pans I assumed that they were summer squash and I had planted some fluke seed that didn't breed true.  They had a weird airy texture and so I kept picking them off and feeding them to the chickens.

Apparently those were my Delicata squash and I fed about 20 of them to the chickens.  Makes me want to weep a little.

All in all I think we did ok and I'm grateful to have these to cook with.  This Dark Chocolate and Pumpkin Swirl Bread is just amazing and a favorite around here.  I also like to make a soup with winter squash, coconut milk and shrimp.

How does everyone else cook it?

Sunday, September 24, 2017

One thing a day

Moving along with the goal of just getting one "homestead-y" thing done each day.  Slow and steady wins the race, right? Or at least participates?

I didn't butcher any quail on Thursday but I did make a green pesto-ish sauce.  It started out as a straight-up basil pesto, but then I remembered reading something somewhere about a pesto type sauce that contained green beans.  At that point caution and reason were thrown to the wind and random ingredients were thrown into the NutriBullet.  The result was a sauce that smelled and looked like fresh cut grass, in a good way.  It's made of basil, cooked beans, cooked potato, lemon juice, olive oil and ground walnuts.  It tastes like summer.  Froze tiny ice cubes of it and tossed them into a freezer bag. I can see using this maybe over chicken.

Thursday night the little man, Bee and I picked apples.

Friday I canned them.

Three pints, two half-pints.  Not a lot but plenty because I'm only intending to use them for things like coffee cakes and pancakes and such.

I guess a bit at a time does add up.  The canned goods cupboard is completely full and I just filled the drawer under the oven. No idea where anything else is going but i'll keep canning until the garden stops producing. There are more tomatoes to put up and maybe sauerkraut. Things are winding down.

Saturday the little man and I joined my sister and her kids at the Grape Jamboree in Geneva, Ohio.  Unfortunately it was blistering hot, like 90 degrees.  We only stayed about an hour before I called it and we headed home.  Long enough to have an ice cream cone and take in part of the parade.  The little man loved the parade but was pretty hell-bent on standing in the road so he was a bit frustrated with me.  He had great fun though.  It's a nice parade with marching bands and horses and a farm that hands out pumpkins instead of candy.  There is also a troupe of kids that perform on sky-high unicycles; it's really impressive.  I remember it was that hot last year too.  

Before we left for the festival I carried all of the geese and ducks back into the chicken yard.  They were making progress clearing the garden but the geese found out pretty quickly if they ran at the fence at top speed, then jumped, they could barely land on top of the fence.  At which point gravity would take over and their fat, fluffy asses would topple right over the other side.  Into freedom. Oh, well, it was a good idea at the time.  Maybe we need goats.  Nice, tiny pygmy goats. 

Today is Sunday and today I stained the new gate.  We have a couple of gallons of $5 mis-tint stains and outdoor paints that I've picked up over the years that all more or less match.  That's what I use to paint any poultry stuff.  The gate got stained a blue-grey color that is a shade lighter that what the chicken coop was painted.  It looks really nice.  The geese were mightly interested in this project and one of them kept sticking its head through the gate. So now I have a goose with a big swatch of blue-grey across its neck. It could be worse.  I also planted some more garlic.

Tonight we had a really great meal of grilled venison, green beans and this Jamie Oliver tomato salad.  Look at those grill marks!  I'm a lucky lady.  Need to remember to make this salad next summer, I had forgotten about it.  It's delicious.

Up for this week: I have no idea.  Need to pick and can tomatoes again this week for sure.  There are a ton of leeks that need preserved somehow... maybe freezing a huge batch of French Onion soup? That's all I can come up with.  The weather is supposed to turn on Thursday from hot-as-hell upper 80's to a more reasonable mid 60's so soup might be on the menu anyway.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Canning bruschetta, getting ready for fall

It's the end of September and I need to start closing up shop for the year.  Knowing how much work is out there and how little free time there is, I've decided to just do one thing every day.  It doesn't matter how small it is, but hopefully those things will add up.  There are still things to can, dry, freeze and butcher.  I'm going to put in a cover crop for the first time (winter rye) and the plan is to sow  some seeds whenever I pull a section of plants.  Lord knows that's probably about the only way it will get done; one hand handful at a time.

This week so far I've canned 7 jelly jars and 1 pt bruschetta.  I use these directions here from the Ball site.

This comes together quickly and is so handy to have around.  My favorite thing to do with it is to add it to a pot of mac n cheese along with Old Bay and shrimp.  It also makes a really good pasta dish if you've only caught one or two panfish.  The fish is poached in the bruschetta and flaked up, a little butter added and the whole bit tossed into noodles.  

I've taken up some of the beans and frozen them along with all of the jalapeno peppers. Also baked down a big winter squash.

Added the waterfowl to the center section of the garden to eat some greens and fertilize it.  The idea was to just put the geese in and that's what I did.  They were unhappy and confused.  The ducks were unhappy and confused.  The bitching and moaning got so loud that I carried the ducks over too.  While geese don't enjoy being picked up and carried, I've found that ducks always seem kind of delighted by it.  Everyone seems much happier together.  I've seen the geese eating greens and the ducks eating bugs but I can't tell so far if they're making much of a dent or just squashing all of the plants down with their fat little feet.  

On the agenda for today: if the little guy naps; butchering quail, if not; making and freezing a big batch of pesto.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Farm Aid

I went to Farm Aid with a great friend on Saturday.  I didn't even know it was scheduled but she told me about it and I bought our tickets in the first hour before it totally sold out.  It was an amazing concert.  The lineup included Willie Nelson, Neil Young, Dave Matthews and Sheryl Crow among others. 

We saw a performer I had never heard of until earlier this week, Nathaniel Rateliff, who was awesome.  Here he is playing the song Son of a Bitch on Austin City Limits.  It's bizarre that people treat it as a drinking anthem when really it's a a sad, hard look at addiction and withdrawal. 

We also sat through the John Mellencamp set.  I can now say that I have heard most nauseating phrase ever written in the English language performed live: "suckin' on chilli dog outside the Tastee Freez".  Just, ew.

I had it in my head that this would be what the old-school Farm Aid concerts were: a celebration of rural agriculture with some great music.  Sort of part concert/part Mother Earth News Fair hybrid.  To a small extent it was.  But it also felt like 90% commercialism, 10% agriculture.  It was mostly due to the venue and when you have a sold-out crowd of 23,000 I don't think you can do much to avoid it.  An example - I paid $42 for 2 draft beers and a plate of mediocre nachos - which is the fault of the venue.  And although by the food court there were cutesy compost/recycle/landfill bins, we had lawn seats and there were no garbage cans on the lawn.  By the end of the show we were standing in a sea of thousands of beer cans, dozens of passed out drunks and the occasional puddle of vomit.  It was like being in a dumpster.  There were some agricultural tents; one out past an exit but they were kind of uninspired and not staffed as well as they could be.  There was a fun seed swap and I took some things to trade.  Came home with parsnips, ground cherries and a mystery gourd mix.

The music redeemed it.  There was a point where I was dancing to the Dave Matthews set that was just magical.  It may have been the haze from all of the joints being smoked around me, but for a second I didn't feel like a wife or a mother but like that like girl with dreadlocks dancing to jam bands a million years ago.

I was not a big Neil Young fan before I got there but even I was stopped short at the start of the set. It was an experience that commanded attention.   Rolling Stone magazine said that he "came roaring onto the stage like a feral beast finally let out of his cage" and it was true.

Seeing Willie Nelson on stage first with Sheryl Crow, in his own set and then in a big group set, was a treat of a lifetime.  At 84 years old, he looks great and the music was fantastic.  I was thrilled to see his beloved guitar he's played since 1969, the one that he's worn a hole through.  The best part of the night was seeing everyone on stage together playing "Will the circle be unbroken" that transitioned into "I'll fly away" that was just beyond words.  No one has uploaded it yet, but I'll keep checking.

And there was a point where Sheryl Crow talked about a local farmer who stated that he got into farming because he wanted to know that he was doing something every day that he would never be ashamed of.  Yep, that.

It was a glorious night out. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Garden, cooking, life & Farm-Aid

So proud of the garden this year. It's the nicest it's ever looked, with the least amount of work ever put into it. I have the time to go out there about once a week and it's rewarding total neglect at this point.  We're getting a ton of tomatoes and it's time to start closing up shop: start making pesto, drying herbs, freezing peppers, those kinds of things. 

Probably Sunday I am going to move the geese into this part of the garden to assist with cleanup:

The garden poultry pasture.  At the end of July it looked like a barren moonscape.  It really recovered and there's some butternut squash in there, turnips, buckwheat and weeds.  I'm going to chuck the geese into it so they can take advantage of the free feed and I can take advantage of the help.

It's been cooler this week which has motivated me to get into the kitchen more.  It's been fun.

The little man's favorite thing to say right now is "Stir it up!"  So we did.  We made banana bread together.  He had a great time pouring, spooning and stirring. For like a solid hour.  Success was questionable going into the oven but they were delicious. 

This week also saw a venison loin with mixed grains, winter squash and pears.

Always a favorite: breakfast for dinner.  Potatoes from the garden, our eggs, tomatoes cooked in butter and herbs until they collapsed.

Homegrown rooster basted with pumpkin beer.  The sugars in the beer really helped get a nice crisp to the skin.

Canned a few jars of pears.

While they were processing we learned how to use the jar lifters.

What else.... The meat chicks are three weeks old and needed to get out of the wading pool brooder in my garage.  Actually they WERE getting out if it, that was the problem.  Running around and pooping all over the garage.  The chicken tractor still needs predator-proofed and it hasn't gotten done.   My dad, God bless him, heroically offered to grow them out for me at his place for the next couple weeks to take some weight off of my shoulders.

Meatballs on the cross-town move.  If you ever get the urge to cram 16 chickens into the back of a Honda CRV, don't.  The smell is horrifying.  The white ones are Cornish Cross, there are three Dark Cornish in there and an Easter Egger the company threw in for shipping box for free.  Really hoping that little Easter Egger is a hen.  It has grey legs and a pea comb; both signs for carrying a blue egg-laying gene.

Fall is creeping up on us.  It was a beautiful misty morning today.

I think my son's "pet" garden spider died.  She was huge and laid two massive egg cases, now she's disappeared.  One of the cases has hatched.  There are tiny spiders.  Isn't this pretty much what happened in Charlotte's Web?  He's going to be so sad when he notices she's gone.

Exciting news: I'M GOING TO FARM-AID TOMORROW!  Can I shout that from the coop-top? FARM-AID! Willie Nelson! Seed Swaps! Workshops! Local food! WILLIE NELSON!!!!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Canning fail?

Isn't this old ad fantastic? It's getting framed for the kitchen.

Been canning for about 10 years now and just had my first "fail", sorta.  There were a bunch of "really gotta use 'em" ripe tomatoes on the counter and I had no free time so decided to split up the work by peeling them and filling the jars at night and processing them first thing in the morning. They were left out on the counter because I had added the citric acid already and why not. The next morning I put them in the canner and brought the whole thing up to a boil together. I thought I was really smart.

Can you see the problem? Hello, headspace?

When I filled the jars they had the proper 1/4 inch of "head space" at the top. What happened? The Ball Blue Book tells me that they are totally fine to eat (thank God because we're talking 7 jars total) and it probably happened because the fruit wasn't hot when I packed it. Somehow this caused a loss of liquid.

But I still don't understand "why". They weren't put into a hot canner cold. Where did the liquid go? Everything sealed and the jars aren't cracked. It is, as we say here "A mysterious mystery ".

What a show-off. 

Anyone have a good canning fail? At least it's not like my pressure canner exploded or anything. Would you still use these?

Monday, September 11, 2017

The great Jamestown Fair

Jamestown Fair was held last week; my favorite end of summer holiday.  Or as I told my son, "The Farm Party".  The fair is dearly important to me and like I said last year, sadly, it seems to get smaller with each passing season.  I try to enter everything possible for displays because, frankly, if no one enters the fair there IS no fair. It is also my understanding that the fair is funded in part by the State budget so competing for the premiums is a good way to justify that line item when funds are dived up in future years.  

The fair may be small, but it's important.  And it sure as hell ain't going down on my watch.

So. Here's how it went.  This is what I rounded up to enter this year:

Eggs, veg, canned goods, flowers, herbs.  The day I gathered up things I was so disheartened.  Digging up potatoes to enter, it seems that I actually ended up with LESS than I planted ( due to mice?) and was also really unhappy with the quality of my flower and herb entries.  Was actually so pissed as to scrap the whole things but had told a friend I would take up his peppers to enter so....

Oh, my goodness.  Remember how I strapped this little guy to my chest in a carrier last year?  This year he insisted on pulling the wagon of entries.  Note to self: after parking waaaay down the block and pulling this to the school and nice security man on a golf cart saw us, gestured to the pavement right in front of the damn door and said "You know you can park here to unload, right?" Sigh.  

For the first time, I tried my hand at one of the baking contests and made a lemon pound cake from the King Arthur website (the suggested recipe).  It made two loaves but they were a bit too lemony for our tastes. 

Here's how I did:

Ribbons won this year. Wait, what's that big yellow one?

Third place in the King Arthur pound cake contest won this lovely tote bag. My first time entering a baked good contest, learned a bunch and will shoot for better next year.  Don't let it fool you, only 4 people entered.  It's a small fair.

Quail eggs. Sometimes there are so few entries in a category there is no competition.  I almost wish for withheld judging in that case.  My father summed it up best when he saw my ribbon and said: "Hey, your quail eggs won first place! Against... (Pause to gaze around, slight furrowing of the brow) yourself?" 

But maybe someone else at the fair sees those eggs and goes home and starts to look onto keeping quail. Who knows.

First place brussel sprouts.

Plum Lemon tomato, entered under "Named Heirloom". A mild, paste type that is a very easy grower. And look how pretty!

Anise Hyssop, entered under Herbs. A perennial that smells like black licorice.  I've read that it's good in baked goods like scones and coffee cakes, but it's kept here because the pollinators love it.

Part of the veg display.

My dad and our friend, discussing prize winning peppers.

The goats. My little man LOVES goats. These might be in our future come 4-H age. Meat goats, not dairy.  As usual, it rained the nights we went up. The first night the husband and the little guy and I stayed just long enough to leave ahead of the rain.  

A tri-color Mini Rex rabbit doe. This is the first tri-color I've seen since my beloved house rabbit Basil, who was obese and loved pancakes and Law and Order and would run to greet me at the door when I came home. He was my best friend. I should have checked the owner's name; there's a chance this doe could have been related to him.  Wow, do I miss him. And his buddies Henry and Pipkin.

(For anyone who knows me in real life that just read that last sentence twice - oh yes I did. Yep.)

The second night my dad came, it poured and we waited out a storm in the horse barn.  We got some fries and I wrapped a sweatshirt around the little guy's head as a makeshift hat.  My dad ran for the car carrying the little guy.  I carried the fries.  Not sure what that says about me as a mother.  Put the little one in dry clothes and we sat in the heated car eating greasy fair food.  These are things memories are made of.

We had a great time, won some ribbons, met some nice people, ate some fries and got rained on.  A good time all around.  See you next year, fair!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Pizzas, the fair, chickens and toddlers

My dear husband had a birthday last weekend and we did pizzas on the grill to celebrate. I want to make note of the dough we used because I lost the recipe we had been using and this one made a good crust.

For the dough:
1 pkt yeast
1 cup water
pinch sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
3.5 C flour

Into the Kitchen Aid mixer with the dough hook attachment for about 5 minutes. 

Rising time about an hour.  All rolled out before company came; cornmeal and wax paper between layers.

Toppings: whatever is in the garden, chicken breasts, quail eggs, mozzarella, olive oil, marinara, garlic.  I love it when we make these grilled pizzas but, honest to God, it takes me nearly three hours to prep for this.

Made 6 large individual-sized pizzas.

It was cold and raining so the guys ended up setting up the pop-up canopy to grill under while I finished the pizzas under the broiler.  They were delicious.  

In other news: 
  • It's Fair Week for me so the week has been dominated by getting ready, entering and enjoying the fun. Eating fries, etc. Lots of ribbons won and then some but that's for another day.  Actually because I have a 2 year old with me I'm not even sure what I ended up winning.  Guess I'll find out Saturday when I collect my ribbons. 
  • It's fall.  We've had a huge cold snap and the leaves are starting to turn colors. Not just one or two here and there but... yeah, a lot of leaves.  This combined with the Fair means it's officially The End of Summer.  I won't miss sweating but, damn. :(
  • The little hennie who adopted those babies like a boss has moved the family out of the old duck coop and is teaching them to roost in a tree.  The chicks are the size of potatoes and watching the little family settle into the pine tree for the night is nothing short of adorable.
  • Last but not least, my little man is starting to form sentences.  "Bye-bye cat!" "Not done!" "Mama, juice!"  and kissing both his beloved Bee and his little turtle puppet.  Be still, my heart.  I bought him a copy of the book Nursies When the Sun Shines because I haven't had a full nights sleep in over two years and am up three times a night.  Every single night.  We've been reading it but he's been less than impressed.

It's hard being two.

He seems to think the plot is part tragedy, part horror with some science fiction sprinkled in.  Thanks a bunch Dr. Sears.

Well, that's it for tonight.  Time to get some sleep before my 2 a.m. toddler wake up call.