Simply Delicious Homemade Pesto.

Hi y’all! If you love pesto you’ll love this recipe, if you also love preserving your herb harvest this post is for you.

Before this summer I never how simple and fun making homemade pesto was. Even better if you have your own right outside your back door, am I right?

All you need is a food processor/blender and cute jar to stuff it in and you’re set.

Ingredients:

  • 3 C fresh basil leaves (packed)
  • 1/4 C pine nuts
  • 1/2 C organic olive oil
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 tsp lemon juice (fresh squeezed)
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1/3 C grated Parmesan (fresh if possible)

Directions:

  1. Clean off any bugs or dirt from basil and rinse under water if needed (pat dry)
  2. Add basil leaves, pine nuts, lemon zest & juice, garlic, and Parmesan cheese to food processor and blend until well incorporated.
  3. Drizzle in oil and let emulsify and blend in well.
  4. Voila! Pack your yummy pesto into a jar and store in your fridge.

Make this pesto with any and all varieties of basil you choose. So far I’ve done sweet, Thai, and cinnamon… lime and purple are next up. I even started more seeds and took a few cuttings for indoor winter basil. Add it pizza, pasta, toast or anything your heart desires.

Cheers y’all!

Peace and Love,

Q

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

8 Free Seed-Starters

There’s no need to go break the bank on fancy seed trays. Up-cycle any of these for a quick and easy (and free) solution. Eventually I plan on buying a couple soil blockers in order to cut down on our waste and use of plastic, but until I can invest in that tool this is what we did this year. Check it out. 

  1. Milk cartons– these were empty epsom salt cartons we just cut the top off and filled with soil. 
  2. Toilet paper rolls– we save all our rolls for crafts or firestartes, and now see starters. Works great for peas since you can fill halfway and back fill as the sprouts grown taller. 
  3. Shallow boxes– this was my mother’s experiment and it worked amazing for sunflowers, and that’s just mulch from the chicken yard. 
  4. Shipping materials– fill with soil and plant. Boom. 
  5. Juice bottles– all did was cut off the top and added two drain holes. 
  6. Egg cartons— ever tried planting tomatoes in egg shells?And here’s a couple more options that I didn’t have the chance to try, though I have seen other folks find great success with also 
  7. Milk jugs– simply cut the jug in half and discard top half, poke some drain holes in the bottom and voila! 
  8. Coffee cans– coffee cans are great since they hold warmth quite well and can be reused many times. All you you need to do is take a hammer and a nail and add a few drain holes in the bottom. For an added effect only fill halfway with soil and cover it with plastic to retain temperature, sorta like a greenhouse.
  • One a side note: instead of buying more greenhouse seed trays I also started a great deal of our garden in paper cups and solo cups that we had lying around the house, saved a lot of money doing that folks!

As you can see, there’s no need to spend countless dollars year after year on expensive to buy cheaply made plastic seed trays. This is more sustainable and much more financially forgiving. Not to mention you will be cutting down on your household waste and reusing those paper/plastic/metal products. Most of the paper based ones can also be planted directly into the ground. Give it a try, what can you lose? And just keep planting seeds y’all!

Okra in the sunset.

Peace and Love

Q

    Summer Snipets. And What I Learned About Me. 

    We’ve been a little blog MIA lately enjoying all the sunshine! Here’s a little photo story of what’s been going on here on and off the Gardner Homestead. 

    Our hen Margox hatched our first ever batch of   homegrown chicks. All 7 chicks are growing up fast. 

    First time seeing those tiny feet!

    Spencer and I lucked out on some KID-FREE time and went to see Smash Mouth. Save to say I was wayyy more excited than my hubs. 

    Our little Murphy girl is a walking, running, babbling adorable toddler now. How did it happen so fast?!?

    Oh Ireland, my Ireland. Please stop growing up so darn fast! Love, Mom

    If we harvest nothing else, there’s always onions.

    Thank you to whichever previous tenant planted the beauties. This our third summer here, is the first year they’ve had a full bloom. 

    See that cute spud? Yeah he and his siblings froze to death in Mid-June. They’ve finally bounced back…

    Happy 4th of July from these Gardner girls. 

    What’s a homestead without a messy backyard full of chickens?

    This baby is chore partner, she’s always by my side (or on my back!)

    Kato’s first time packing. Deaf dogs need jobs to right?

    Getting lost in my hop jungle, our third season with these Willamette Hops is sure to be a big producer.  Can you say home brewed IPA? 

    Exploring the Metolius River trails with my tribe of toddlers and dogs. 

    My little Irish earthlings

    Symbiotic hiking partner, she’s a versatile baby. She gets a free ride, while providing never ending cuteness, drooly kisses, and keeps me in shape!

    Some of that 4th madness! Shhhh…

    I can’t survive a summer without these, my favorites!

    Exploring our natural world close at hand.

    Planting beans for nitrogen to feed the corn
    1/2 Farm girl 1/2 daddy’s little princess
    Giving some summer lovin’ to my favorites
    Ireland saw her first play, The Little Mermaid

    The peas, oh these lovely purple peas. 

    Weekly harvests are almost over.
    Ladder rack rabbit tractor? Oh, yeah!

    One thing I’ll never do again is plant the hops so close to the house. They’re a harbor for bugs and insects, some good and some bad, but all of them right at my back door 🙁


    Like I said, I knew there would be onions. So far we’ve harvested radishes, onions, lettuce, kale, zucchini, and shelling peas. 

    That’s just a little of what’s happened this summer. Trust me there’s more but I won’t bore you with it here. Head on over to IG to see our full homestead photo diary @thegardnerhome. 

    Oh yeah, and if I know anything about me it’s that I love summer, case and point for this short update. I’m spending more time with family, less time with technology, and that’s OK. Keep an eye out for some of our new projects and plans… YouTube Vlog? 

    No spoilers yet!

    What have you been up to on or off your homestead this season? 

    Peace and Love,

    Quincy

    HOW I FEED OUR MEAT RABBITS FOR FREE

    When I set out to raise meat rabbits last year I wasn’t worried about how I would afford to feed them. I simply thought, eh how expensive can they be? Granted they are quite small, but if you plan to pellet feed it will add up, and quick. 

    Rabbits will fatten on grass or just about anything green they can get their mouths on so feeding them cheaply is easily done. 

    I keep alfalfa pellets around for emergencies and winter months. But from February-March and on through September-October I can feed our rabbitry for free. 

    Be patient folks I can be long winded and tend to side track… Like right now…

      
    If you’re a returning reader then you know that my family and I rent 5 acres. Fortunately a little more than 75% of the property is irrigated with hand lines, unfortunately as of now we don’t possess the proper attachments for our tractor to mow and re-seed the field. 

    What does this all mean you may ask? It means we have a real weed problem. Gallons of water covering the field whilst grass and weeds duke it out for dominance of the pasture… You see if a pasture isn’t maintained properly then weeds will encroach and fight the grass out for ground space and sun exposure.  

     

    ^^^ See how the grass is barely making a play for space under the dandelion and other weeds?

    In many a folks eye this would be seen as a huge problem. Unjustly weed killer would be coating our property, that would be the end of weeds for good, and that’s ok for them. 

    But me? I wanted to put my new found permaculture knowledge to the test. And I certainly don’t want weed killer all over the soil that feeds my family and my animals. Isn’t there anyway I can turn this problem into a solution?

    And yes there was. There always is.

    End side track…

    Hey Q wanna feed your rabbits for free and supplement the flocks diet with some fresh greens? Heck yes I do! 

    So I just simply note where large patches of weeds are growing in the pasture and around the house or gardens. Usually twice a day  the farm kids and I head outside to ‘pick weeds for the rabbits’ as miss Ireland refers to it. In about 5-10 minutes the rabbits have all they’ll need for day and I’ll even gather enough to please the homestead flock. I’ll do this again in the evening when I check water bottles and bedding.  
    I make a point to grab variety for the rabbits so they have a little bit more of a natural choice. After all, they deserve it.  


    Of course I always have hay on hand for their bedding and general munching needs. 

    It may seem a little crazy to be out in the field twice a day pulling weeds for bunnies eh? But this time of year Im already outside filling water bottles for them twice a day as it is. So for me it doesn’t feel like a whole lot of extra work.

    I simply give them enough weeds based on my personal observations of the rabbits individually.(if there’s no greens left the rabbit could still be hungry, if its wilting and going to waste then I could be feeding the rabbit too much) I also determine their rations  according to size and whethe or not the doe is pregnant and/or nursing.

    When I do have a doe in one of these stages I will provide her with pellet food once a day while pregnant then free choice once nursing and weaning. The babies are fed both with mom from the time they can jump from the nestbox at will. This way they can be placed into rabbit tractors to fatten on the thicker parts of the pasture until butchering time. 

       

    And since I’m weeding a little everyday it doesn’t feel like annoying labor. I enjoy getting something out of these “useless plants” and so do the farm animals. 

    I’ve now exhausted all the weeds around the house and have moved to more distant zones. I love how much more aware of the ground we live on I am becoming. I’m getting to know it better everyday. Walking, looking for more weeds to feed the cavies, noticing the grass regrowth, the wildflowers, even the holes dug by the puppies, ahem. 

    I don’t hate the weeds like I used to. I’m finding purpose in them now. The animal are getting nourished by them. Little by little the grass is retaking the pasture and backyard. We’re saving more money with the animals then ever before. 

    Sunday lazy dayin’ around these parts. Peace and love y’all 

    Quincy

    Hello world!

    I began this blog over a year ago in the hopes of changing my families life for the better. To get us back to basics. To learn those homesteader skills,  those do-it-yourself hacks, and farming strategies our grandparents and great-grandparents had passed down them. That was normal for them, their everyday life. It was their usual, and now it is ours.

    Over the course of the last year my family raised or own meat (pork, chicken, rabbit), grew our own vegetables (no matter the catastrophe it was), began to eat an all organic diet, we’ve decluttered our lives with much more to go, we’ve preserved food, we even bought a vehicle in cash; it may be rusty, but we own it, and it hauls my wild pack of kids and dogs fantastically, we have learned to grow fodder to supplement the animals diets, learned to grow and breed meat rabbits, and learned to raise and butcher broiler chickens. To top it all off the farm stud and I finally tied the not in 2016, it has been a year full of changes and new experiences.

    This is only the beginning for us. We’re learning to be self sufficient one day at a time. One project at a time. One deep breathe in at a time. I can’t wait to see what we will learn in this year. Want to join the journey with us? Follow us here at our blog! www.thehomessteadgardeners.com

    Find us on Instagram @thegardnerhome

    Or on Tumblr @homesteadgardner