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

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

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