Monday, July 13, 2015

A Long, Summerly Post

I know I've been a bit quiet lately.  It's not because there hasn't been much going's the opposite actually.  Below is a glimpse into our summer thus far. 

Our gardens are doing great thanks to plenty of rain and time to keep after the weeds.  I know I've said this before but if you want to maintain projects like a big garden, you have be home to care for it. This is our new side-garden.  We moved it up beside the house when the pigs needed space. Since it's up by the road and right next to our house, we keep up with it better and get to enjoy looking at it out our windows.

(back garden)

During a weekend of company, there was a cherry pie that was overlooked in the fridge.  Having been inspired by this friend, I chopped the whole pie up, gently stirred it into slightly softened vanilla ice cream and refroze it.  I might just bake pies to chop them up from now on.  Swoon.

Our zucchini plants are producing like crazy. One day, I set out to quadruple my zucchini bread recipe to make 8 loaves (the number that fit in my oven) only to discover I had calculated wrong and was in the process of mixing up enough for 16 loaves.  Suffice to say, I'm done making zucchini bread for the summer.

Speaking of zucchini, we've discovered baked zucchini fries.  Cut them into spears (slicing away the seeds), coat them in beaten egg and dredge them in seasoned bread crumbs.  Bake them on greased cookie sheets for 10-15 minutes at 400 degrees (or until they start to brown) then dip them in ketchup or tomato sauce (as you're eating them). My six year old even likes them and that's saying something.

While our blueberry bushes are producing a small handful of berries every few days, it feels like a tease so we went blueberry picking.  I am so thankful for pick your own places that don't spray.  And we lucked out- the morning we went was cool and cloudy and the patch was empty.  We were able to pick along side the owner- a sweet, sweet lady- who gave me some blueberry growing tips amid lovely conversation.

Is there anything better than getting to hang your laundry outside?  Even if your mama has the clothes pin basket at the other end of the line?  I think not.

Peaches.  Will we ever get to eat them?!  The odds seem to be against us as either we lose the blossoms to late frosts or critters climb up the trees and eat every blessed one the day before we intend to pick.  This year, the frosts didn't get them and we wanted to make sure the critters don't either because they are LOADED under all those leaves.  So.  We saved the tacking strips from our carpet runner on the stairs and lashed them to the trunks.  Try and climb up them this year, you greedy buggers!

Not only were we able to split some of our bee colonies this spring but Jamey caught his first swarm this month. If I can remember how, I'll post the video soon. I wasn't home so he kindly set up his phone to document the event so I could see.  The swarm was probably one of our own, but it gave us another split, so all our hives are now full- three top-bars and three Langstroths.  And bees are busy everywhere.

Do our pigs look bigger to you?  While fully pastured pigs do grow slower than pigs raised on grain, it's rewarding to see them fill out and know that they are eating excellent cuisine.  In addition to being rotated through four paddocks in their yard, our friends bring us leftover garden produce from their CSA business and farmer's market stand.  Below you can see them feasting on summer squash. When they're not eating like people, they enjoy all the weeds we can send their way.  Weeding has taken on a whole new purpose around here thanks to them.

Speaking of pigs, I only wish I had done some videoing the other night.  Spock (the largest pig) took advantage of the electric fence being off (the line had become grounded in an inconspicuous place) and lifted a large gate with his snout.  He pushed it open and waltzed his way over to the chicken yard where he lifted that gate off it's hinges.  When we saw him, he was happily slurping up the chicken scraps we had thrown in their yard. Jealous much? Jamey chased that pig all over the back yard, somehow managing to keep him out of the gardens where he surely would've discovered the corn and hunkered down.  After watching the chase for a minute, I came to my senses and grabbed the metal bowl we use to carry scraps outside.  As I approached Spock, cowering in the weeds and trying to hide from his pursuer, I said, "Spock, get in that gate!" He, along with another pig who sneaked out as well, promptly walked back in the gate.  I'd like to think he was obeying me but likely he wanted scraps and was tired of the chase.  A working electric fence is our new best friend.

When we're stuck inside, our new favorite pastime is coloring beautiful pages from this book. We make photocopies of the pages so we can enjoy the book longer.  It's calming and aids well to conversation and read-alouds.

And last, but not least, let me introduce you to our new ducks.  They are Khaki Campbell running ducks.  They flutter and fly as much as chickens or maybe even a little less so.  We started with the four you see below but we lost one the very first night, likely to a predator.  After an intense game of chase-the-untame-ducks-around-the-yard, we corralled them into the chicken duck tractor where they'll live full time for awhile until they learn to call it home.  Then we can hopefully let them out each morning after they lay and shut them in at night.

We've only collected one egg so far (they've had quite the transition) but we hear they're excellent layers.  Their conversation is as, if not more, entertaining than that of chickens.  If they prove themselves worthy, we may increase their numbers instead of the chickens next spring.

I have two recipes to share that will hopefully come soon...this post is already long enough.  I hope you are having a wonderful summer!  Here's to hoping the second half will crawl along instead of fly by like the first half has :-).

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  1. Thank you for sharing. You have me thinking on so many new levels. The peach tree spikes are ingenious!

  2. So good to get your mid-summer report! We have made the zuchinni fries as well, dredged in milk, then a 2-part panko breadcrumbs, 1-part parm. cheese, then the oven. Yum! Also, hiding zooks in brownies and freezing shredded zooks in 2 cup bags for future baking.
    I always enjoy hearing how your sunflower patch is growing. Are you still selling them?

    1. Hi, Kim. Yes, we are growing sunflowers again this year- we actually have a few opening up so soon we'll put out our stand and Sam will start selling them again:-).

  3. I enjoyed your summer post. Now I forget, are all the pigs yours? or are they yours and the neighbors? Do you have a pond for the ducks?

    1. Hi, there! Three out of the four pigs are ours. We're raising one up for our neighbors as they did for us last year. We are using an (unused) cat littler box for the ducks' water. It's big enough that they can get in it if they want but this breed doesn't require water for swimming. You probably already know this but ducks need to scoop up their water to drink so standard chicken waterers don't work so well for them. :-)

    2. We had a Khaki Campbell (Peeps) and a Pekin (Whoee) as pets and both of them LOVED to swim and hang out in their "kids pool" pond. You have to dump it and refill it frequently, but I highly recommend getting at least a kids pool for your ducks. They will be much happier.

      I don't know if yours will be as sweet as ours were since you didn't get them as chicks, but I could hold our ducks in my arms like babies, stroke their bellies, bills, and feet, and they would just about fall asleep. Very special animals.

  4. You must have a good sense of humor in dealing with chickens and ducks and pigs. Enjoy the rest of the summer. Joan

    1. A good sense of humor or a screw loose. I'm not sure which sometimes:-).

  5. Could you share some of the blueberry growing tips you learned?

  6. Hi, Gloria. Sorry but it's not letting me reply directly to your comment.

    The owner shared with me that getting the ph right for their blueberries' soil is an ongoing issue. They planted their bushes 30 years ago and they are still trying to get it right. She shared that currently the ph is off again so they are working to remedy it. This made me feel better because our soil still isn't where it should be either. It's tricky for everyone- unless you live in blueberry country, of course:-). Even though their ph was off, her bushes were loaded with fruit. This was encouraging, too. You can't just ignore the ph but they seem to be slightly forgiving.

    I was also asking her about how they keep the birds away since the netting I use is very frustrating to work with/pick through/weed under. At their farm, they have wire/string strung about three-four feet above the bushes all the way down the rows. Attached to the wire is metallic, colored tape (about 1-2 inches wide and 1-2 feet long spaced maybe 5 feet apart). The tape flutters in the slightest of breezes and makes a gentle rustling sound (I kept thinking it had started to rain). She said that they have tried many things over the years and this method has worked the best.

    These are a couple of the things I remember best- I'll come back and add to this list if more come to mind:-).

  7. Thanks so much for the tip on using up leftover pie. I love baking pies, but we never eat the entire thing. My husband loves ice cream, so this is a perfect way to keep that leftover pie from going to waste. I can't wait to hear more about the ducks also. We have chickens and turkeys but thought about adding ducks next year. By the way, your gardens always look lovely.

  8. This is a beautiful(and fun, come on, chasing Spock around must've been fun!) post.

  9. Oh, I am ALL OVER the carpet tack strips on the peach tree!!! We have a stupid amount of squirrels here and they get into everything. I've been watching the peaches like a hawk but I just so afraid I'll miss the day they ripen and the squirrels will make out like bandits! According to last year in my garden journal, we have just a few weeks to go...

  10. We have a bunch of Khaki Campbell ducks, we love them! In case you didn't know, Khaki males get a really dark brown/green head and neck. One of the ducks in your picture looks like it could be a drake. Enjoy your ducks, they are a lot of fun, and the eggs are fantastic, especially for baking.

    1. Thank you for your note- we've been wondering if one or more are drakes because we've had them almost two weeks now and have only gotten one egg so far! I'm in touch with the person who sold them to us and may need to switch some out:-).

  11. I enjoyed this catch-up post my friend. SO much going on in your lives!! I know you know that I am on the same page as you with clothes drying on the line. (You were one of the very first to ever comment on my blog when I first started out...six years ago! It was on a post about my clothesline. It makes me smile to think of it.) What a brilliant idea to strap carpet tacking to your peach tree!! I hope you get to harvest all that yummy deliciousness and enjoy! I just picked up two of those colouring books awhile for Emma and the other for our niece.....SO beautiful!! What a great idea to photocopy and enlarge for your children! Hugs to you! Camille


Just a friendly reminder, if you know me personally please try to refrain from using my name. There are those who may try to locate me, break into my pantry and steal my pickled beets. Thanks:-).

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