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

    Homestead Plan 2017

    Holy cow where did last year go?
    We accomplished a lot in 2016 and failed at even more. 

    The onions I planted so the horses could trample them…
    We’re learning to grow and live more seasonally and to appreciate what we have while we have it. 

    Like all homesteaders this is a lesson that has been tough to learn. We wanted (and did) to dive right into the deep end. Some of our endeavors were successful and others a horrible tragedy. 

    My little chicken helper
    But not this year. We’re on a new property with a whole new lease on our homesteading dreams. 

    We have learned so much the last two years and it’s it so lucky you can take all your trials and tribulations with you, isn’t it? I don’t know what I would do without all the hands on hours I’ve had of trying to make things work. 

    But that’s just it, we can’t make things work in our favor all the time. Sometimes we just need to go with that flow. 

    And I gotta say that all homesteaders have one flaw, the fact that we have to learn it on our own. Am I right? A fellow steader can tell you all their stories and give warning after warning but you’ll still need to learn it for yourself.  

    Raised beds which grew so much food!
    This is most ardently true of us Gardner’s. Were cheap (frugal) and we’re ok with a little hard work and good ole fashion elbow grease. 
    So this year there’s lots to be done. 

    Here’s a little of what we have in store:

    • Build Justin Rhodes’ Chickshaw
    • Put away 60 broilers in freezer camp
    • Establish our crop garden
    • Build more garden spaces and soil– put those chooks to work!
    • Build a greenhouse
    • Can and freeze our harvest for winter (basically I want to grow enough veggies to sustain us through winter)
    • Add 30 laying hens
    • Grow 10 turkeys- also for freezer camp 
    • Build a hog pen
    • Expand meat rabbit project – build pasture pens
    • Put up 5 tons of hay for winter
    • Fence in and seed front pasture – horse grazing

    It’s a lot to get done and that’s just the big things… 

      we’ve got a lot of work ahead and I can’t way for this snow to melt so we can get started!

      Peace and Love…. and seed starts!

      Q

      A homestead school experiment for Ireland

      Don’t Throw Away That Carcass! 

      Here on the homestead one of our biggest missions is to use all we can from all we have. In the case of the thanksgiving turkey that means keeping the carcass. 

      All we do is throw the hole thing into a large stockpot, cover with water, and let it simmer on a low setting overnight. 

      In the morning simply sift through and pull out all the bones and skin you can find (this can be a rather long process sometimes), add whatever veggies and seasonings you’d like and voila! 


      I add the veggies and seasonings after the bones and skin are removed just to clarify, then I simmer for a few more hours on low heat. 

      This makes a great turkey soup base to be used immediately or frozen for future use. Another option is to strain the meat from the liquid and keep the juice as a bone stock/ broth. The meat can be used for whatever, even dog food if you have too much leftovers sitting around as it is… if your house is anything like my house you’ll have left overs for daayyyys anyway!


      This way the gift of the thanksgiving bird keeps on giving, over here at the Gardner home we’re thankful for that and birds life for the nourishment it provides our bodies. 

      Wishing you all full bellies and overflowing hearts this holiday season! 

      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

      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