Preserving Garden Herbs for Winter. 

Winter is coming. Anyone out there a Game of Throne-ers like us…? Yes? No? Well anyway…. winter is literally just round the corner here in the PNW, we'll not really since it's fire season here and fires are raging not far off. But with all these fresh herbs filling my house and garden I can't bear the idea of not having some around to lift up my stews and season our meals. Oh those long cold days. How wonderful that sounds right about now. So heres just a few ways I'm preserving my herbs:

  1. Drying
  2. Freezing in olive oil
  3. Infusing in olive oil & vinegar
  4. Pesto!
  5. Extracts and tinctures.

So most of you probably know how to dry herbs, but if not here's the short and sweet version. Bundle and tie herbs together and hang upside down, preferably somewhere away from dust and moisture. Once dry remove leaves from stems, crush or leave whole and store in an air tight container.

  • Currently hanging: Greek oregano, chives, lime and Thai basil. Today I plan to put up some pineapple sage to dry also.

  • Finished product: Greek oregano

Note: With all of the following recipes be sure to pick of any bugs and shake off any dirt hanging on so they/it won't end up in your finished product. I also rinsed all my herbs in cold water and patted them dry.

One of the best ways to preserve that fresh taste is to freeze an herb in olive oil. At the time I did this I had an over abundance of basil so that's what I did plus I love the flavor and olive oil is my chosen cooking oil other than the animals fats. So I simply cut up my basil with some herb shears, covered the bottom of my ice cube tray with the cut herbs and poured the oil over to cover.

  • After freezing overnight.

When it comes to infusing oils and vinegars it's as simple as stuffing a jar full of dried or fresh herbs and pouring the liquid over the top. Make sure all the plant matter is covered in the case of olive oil so as to avoid mold. I infused olive oil (any other oils work also; avocado, canola, etc.) with all kinds of basils and oregano. I infused vinegar with the basil also. These will both be used for salad dressings and cooking in the winter. Put them in a dark place to infuse for a couple months. If using fresh herbs you may encounter some cloudiness in your oils due to the water in the leaves. If so just leave off the lid for a day or so (if it's warm out) and the water particles will quickly evaporate. Below are a few of the infusions.

  • Vinegar left and olive oil right.

I don't know about you but I love pesto! And anyway I can get it cheaper than the store is right up my ally. Most of the ingredients are common stock for most kitchens, simply source yourself some pine nuts and you're on your way! I found a few great recipes on Pinterest.
Hint: fresh basil from the garden works best!

  • If you want this to last I suggest doing a double batch in order to freeze some and eat some fresh. As you can see mine is halfway gone… Can you say yum?!

Extracts and tinctures sound harder than they are and some recipes call for a little more measuring than I chose to do. I made it simple like Shaye from The Elliott Homestead with her echinacea tincture. I stuffed my jars full of these herbs and dumped vodka on them. My currents extractions and tinctures consist of echinacea tincture (recipe courtesy of The Elliott Homestead as I stated above) and chocolate mint extract. Very soon I'll be making my own homemade vanilla extract for which I might consult an actual recipe since it seems it needs to be a little more exact. As for the mint and echinacea I did as follows. Prepare clean jars. Clip fresh herbs. Leaves and stems (echinacea also the blossoms). Stuff in jars. Pour vodka completely over foliage so it is entirely submerged. Fasten with air tight lid. Boom.

  • Pow Wow Echinacea
  • Freshly stuffed jar of Echinacea.

  • After a few days the flowers will lose their bright color

  • Chocolate Mint extract

  • I highly suggest labeling everything you extract, tincturize, or infuse. Herbs lose their form and color slightly and it can be hard to tell what's what after a few days. Been there, done that. Labels are you friend!

Well there you have it! Many ways to save those fresh herbs. From freezing over night, drying for a weekish, or waiting those few months to use your yummy garden goodies you'll be set for winter. It's well worth it folks. Make sure you prune your herbs regularly so they stay around longer and don't bolt. Once they do save those seeds folks! Aaaaand don't forget to start more herbs for your fall garden, if you treat them right you may be able to keep them inside for the long haul!

Purple basil anyone?

Peace and Love,
Quincy

OUR NEW PREMIER1 Poultry Fencing

Ever since our arrival to the property we rent, especially when I got my first batch of chicks… I have hated our coop. It was here when we moved in. Shelves along the western facing wall of our garage under a small eve; that’s all we had to work with. I’m grateful there was anything at all and it was a great place to start. 

We learned so much. That’s why I’m here to show you the new digs and how I’m spoiling my flock in 2016. 

  
Don’t get me wrong, we made due for the two years we used the old coop. Sometime around our wedding this last December I learned a great deal about raising chickens and about my specific chickens.

I knew we needed change. None of my 12 hens were laying, for maybe 5 months this lagged on. And that was a serious problem. 

Remember when I moved the older half of the hens to the garden? 

 

Moving the hens and changing their environment jump started their laying and it was the best thing I could have done.  

Well folks, I am happy to say that all the girls and the Roos are in their new digs! 

I was tired of them being drenched by the rain, chilled by the wind, and cooked by the sun, season in and season out, everyday. 

  
The old coop (pictured above) was always soupy, no joke, winter made it into shavings and poop soup. And I am so glad I’m done with that phase of chicken farming. Doing with only what you have, no allowance for change, well peeps, no longer! My birds work hard so our family may eat,  they deserve no less than we hard from us in return. This time in the form of a brand new coop and run. 

I took the advice of the one and only Jusrin Rhodes of abundantpermaculture.com 

You can follow Justin and his family on their YouTube channel for awesome vlogs, Instagram for daily inspiration and photographs, and even Periscope from time to time!

He suggests Premier1 and I jumped at a new challenge. But it’s just the opposite. This fencing is so awesome and easy to use ta boot!

  
 (This is not an advertisement, this is just the fencing we chose for our homestead flock.)

This way the ground will be able to breathe and there will be zero accumulation of water. The flock has so much space to roam, scratch, poop… And that’s ok with me. It’s as if they are free range and not all at once. Plus there’s no poo on the porch so we’re happy homesteaders!

   
   
The best part is we were able to reuse the coop from my mothers house, so the only expense was the mobile poultry net. Want a tour of the new coop? 

   
    

  
   
One day in the future when we hopefully move onto our own spread we can mobilize this coop to make it that much easier to rotate our flock, permaculture style baby! For now they will rotate back forth around the coop, being the fixed point, situated roughly in the southern corner of the mobile run. 

This will enable them to eat whilst tilling and fertilizing, spreading compost for me, and after I grow a crop they will be moved over it to eat or till it back into the ground. How cool is that? 

Ok ok maybe I’m a bit of a permaculture newbie nerd, but I’m so excited I could pee. Quite literally… Alright alright, Ahem…

Even the ducks are stoked, they muddied the water tub to show their approval. And now we’re getting two eggs from this waddling girls, now that I can find the eggs everyday that is.  

Peace and Love

Quincy

GETTING STARTED WITH MEAT RABBITS

When it comes to homesteading it seems most of my friends and family think you must have property. That is the biggest misconception out there about us modern day homesteaders.

Not all of us own or even live on a piece of property.

And yes, I say this as I sip coffee on my back porch watching 5 horses graze the 5 acres we rent. Key word, RENT. Let me just preface this by saying that homesteading is about a sustainable mindset and lifestyle choices… not about your physical location.

Property is helpful, yes, but it is also lots of back breaking work. And folks you don’t even need 1 acre to be a homesteader.

So, in the spirit of spring and micro-homesteading possibilites, I thought I would provide some info on one friendly creature who can produce meat for your family, fertilizer for your gardens, gorgeous furs and practically eat for free! Give them a shot and I’m sure they will help you down the road to self sufficiency all within a relatively small space like a garage or shed.   

Yes I’m talking meat rabbits. As far as homesteading goes rabbits go hand in hand with sustainable permaculture ideas. They produce a lot of babies very quickly and the meat is fantastic. They eat weeds or grass (Wanna see how in spring/summer I feed my rabbits for FREE?) and can live either in or outdoors. If you’re a lover of small cuddly things and can’t bear the thought of eating them….. then maybe raising rabbits is not for you.


(How can you resist this face ^^^)

But if you’re someone who needs a small scale meat project, this is right up your ally. You’ll learn something new and be able to stock up on another white meat. The best part is that startup and infrastructure for a rabbitry is minimal. You won’t need big corrals or an extensive pasture. Well, and they’re cute as heck.


Here’s a few tips to get you started on your own homestead rabbitry.

1. Water bottles- You’ll need to chose how you want to distribute water to your rabbits, especially does pregnant or nursing. They drink a lot during this day so this is very important. We currently use these water bottles until we can implement nipple watering system. I purchased mine on Amazon here (affiliate link). With these water bottles I summits have to fill them twice a day, in summer, and they more than likely almost always freeze in winter months. This is just something good to keep in mind, no calling in sick for farmers ya know?


2. Feeders (optional)- I keep these galvanized slow feeders on our cages at all times in case I need to supplement with pellet feeds. But if you’re choosing not to feed by pellet these may not be necessary. I bought mine from a local feed store, but there are also available at a competitive price on Amazon. I have two sizes small and large (affiliate links).
3. Foot rest mat- If you have a cage like mine or many other breeders then your rabbits have a wire floor, and will have the need for a foot rest. If you chose not to go with a foot rest it is imperative that you give proper bedding for your rabbits to rest on. The reason being that rabbits can develop a condition called ‘sore hocks’ in which large nodule like sores appear all over the back feet from continual resting on their back haunches. No bueno. It can be treated but the more fluffies shouldn’t have to suffer. Ours were like $4 a piece on Amazon (affiliate link) so spend the little extra for quality of life for your bunnies.


4. Shade- rabbits don’t do very well in high heat nor direct sunlight. If they have adequate water they have a better chance but rabbits can succumb to heat stroke faster than most animals. Providing them ample shade and hydration in the heat of summer is huge. It’s definitely a time commitment, at times in summer I’ll have to fill the water bottles 2-3 times a day, hence my yearning for an ever flow/nipple water system.


5. Nest boxes- if you plan to breed you’ll need a nest box or two. Each kindling(expectant) doe will need a box from about a week before she kindles to about 4 weeks postpartum so make sure you enough. They also come in a couple different sizes for various sized breeds. There are even some great DIY patterns for them on Pinterest.

Rabbits don’t need the Four Seasons to produce happily raised and healthy fully grazed meat for you, just know that. Aside from the fact that these little guys are an amazing sustainable meat source they can also make great pets. My breeding stock are calm and one of my girls even LIKES to be held, so it doesn’t have to be sad when butchering day comes. These beauties serve a divine purpose here on our homestead, and our gratitude for their sacrifice is a happy, healthy, and cozy life free of stress.

Were currently monitoring a doe for labor so I’ll keep y’all updated, gotta get back out there!

Peace and Love

Quincy