Prepping the homestead for a road trip.

As I sit here, sipping my coffee and avoiding the inevitable and lengthy list of to-dos that must be done before Wednesday, Im wondering why we agreed to this trip in the first place. I’m leaving my garden and my animals for two whole weeks. I’ve given my self a head cold from the stress of it, a talent I’ve had since I was an adolescent going on any family vacation. Like really Q, chill out. We. Will. All. Survive. Operation ‘Plant as much as I can before Wednesday’ is behind schedule. I’m not done packing.. for five people. And I’ve lost my favorite essential oil roller..

but baby this vacation and I need each other! The chance to show my growing family the place I love so much. See the inside of my grandparents house one last time. To fish all day, swim and lay in the sun. To spend 16 days and 16 nights with Spencer, no work all play? Done and done. Buh-bye homestead I love, I’ll be back for you..

Everyone needs a vacation right? To get away from their reality and live differently for a bit?

For a homesteader, a vacation is a scary adventure with unpredictable outcomes. Will the garden die? Or get swarmed by bugs? Will my chickens get slaughtered by the resident coyotes? Or will my goose finally succeed and I come home to fresh goslings? There’s are so many unknowns.. lucky for us we have some great best friends who’ve been there and done that with us on all things homestead. Without them, this trip would not be possible. I don’t say that lightly, they are literally the only people I trust with my babies, both plant and animal. They’ll be watering my gardens with love and shepherding my feathered flock. And for that I say, thank you thank you thank you & amen!

Because everyone needs a vacation guys, even a homebody homesteader mama like me.

It’s not easy either. I feel a little crazy, dragging our little family halfway across the country. And I’m sure Spencer will be tearing me from the garden kicking and screaming come Wednesday morning. Maybe it’s not the best call to head out in the middle of June? Major planning and timely execution got us to this point. From installing drip irrigation in one garden, in ground irrigation repairs in the other, building a new chicken run & treating the flock for mites, planting hundreds of starts & thousands of seeds, and a whole lot of mulching everything in sight I think we’re going to be ok.

Maybe the shelling peas will rippen before we leave, maybe it’ll be after. And it’s ok. That’s the best benny of house-sitting for a gardener, you get to reap the harvest while they’re gone. And of what plenty there will be. I might miss out on peas, spinach, and kale. When I get back the cucumbers, watermelons, and pumpkins will be vining around, maybe the raspberries will be ready, and I’m sure we will be rolling in salad greens and radishes. And all the while we’ll be teaching our kids to swim, eating fresh caught fish, soaking up family time, and recharging our souls for this life we love.

Here I sit still sipping coffee, writing this when I really need to get back to it. But I’ll definitely finish my coffee first. Then I’ll be logging as many hours in my happy gardens as I can before departure.

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

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