Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Food, Glorious Food!

Every where I look, I'm surrounded by food!  Food in the garden, food in the pasture (hogs and goats), food strutting around in the backyard (the chickens), food in the nesting boxes (eggs), food in the woods (wild blackberries and raspberries), food in the beehives...  I thank the Lord each and every day for showering us with such an abundance of good, nourishing food.  And every day, I feel filthy rich, rich beyond measure.  To  our family, good food is a huge priority, much more important than clothes, cars or a nice home.  So despite the fact our 1880's house is falling apart in places, both our mid-90's vehicles are dented, dinged and running on borrowed time, and most of our clothes and shoes are hand-me-downs or from the thrift store....we still feel overwhelmingly rich.  Nourishing food equals wealth in this household!

And what good food we have so far!  The garden is pumping out more produce than I can handle.  Our grocery bill has been cut down significantly.  Dinner is always a fun challenge for me, finding new ways to use up our produce.  Here is what we have right now in the garden:

Produce in my garden carrier I bought from a gentleman at the farmers market.  The bottom is mesh, so it's easy to spray down produce before bringing it in the house.  
  • Radishes - Cherry Bell (for salads, potato salad or fresh eating with ranch dip)
  • Romaine Lettuce - Jericho (it tolerates warmer weather better than most lettuce)
  • Swiss Chard -Bright Lights (I use this recipe)
  • Kale - Red Russian and Dinosaur (try this recipe for a lovely kale salad - it tastes even better the next day)
  • Carrots - Dragon, Danvers and Colorful Carrot Mix  (the kids love them raw.  I also slice and dehydrate lots of carrots to throw into soups/stews over the winter)
  • Garlic
  • Potatoes -Yukon Gold and Russet (I've been digging up a few as needed for a meal)
  • Broccoli - Belstar and Early Green (kids like it sauteed for dinner or fresh with dip)
  • Sugar Snap Peas (To die for!!!  We eat about a quart of them each day, plain or dipped in hummus)
  • Shelling Peas (I shell these, then blanch and freeze them in bags, so we have fresh peas all winter)
  • Beets -Colorful Mix (only I like these!)
  • Strawberries (the June-bearing berries are done, but we still get a handful of berries every few days from the Everbearing plants)
  • Herbs, like Parsley, Cilantro, Basil and Thyme

"Cherry Bell" Radishes

Strawberries and Sugar Snap Peas

Carrots - red, orange, yellow and white!

Colorful carrots, ready to be dehydrated

The kids and I went to the local berry farm to purchase our year's supply of strawberries, seeing as how we didn't allow our berries to produce much the first year (we pinched off all the flowers, which allows to plants to grow stronger and ensures a good harvest next year).  We picked about 25 quarts of berries.  Some berries were used to make 24 jars of jam, while the rest were chopped, frozen on cookie sheets and then dumped into freezer bags.  We use these chopped berries to sweeten yogurt and oatmeal.

For the jam, we used Pomona's Universal Pectin and were thrilled with results.  Unlike most pectins that require you to follow the recipe exactly and use ridiculous amounts of sugar (sometimes it's more sugar than berries!), Pomona's allows you to experiment with low sugar options.  Each batch of jam called 4 cups of berries and then a sweetener of your choice, in varying amounts. We tried:

  • 1 cup of Apple Juice Concentrate
  • 3/4 cup of honey
  • 1 1/4 cups raw Organic sugar
After a taste testing session, the kids and I decided all 3 were delicious!  

As for the rest of the food on the farm..... The bees are hard at work in the garden! We opened up the hives a few days ago and were astonished to see how well they were doing.  Last summer was a hard season for bees.  Several beekeepers we talked to told us it was the worst year they could remember for honey, and to make matters worse, almost all the beekeepers in West Michigan lost their hives over the winter. After a rough start to our beekeeping endevour, we're excited to see how the bees will do in a good year!

Honey bee on a Borage flower

The new laying hens are growing up and we expect them to start laying in the next few weeks, which will bring our laying flock up about 27 hens.  We could be getting 2 dozen eggs a day soon!  Unfortunately, 6 of our "hens" turned out to be roosters, which I have little patience for.  They run the ladies ragged, chasing them all over the yard to "play leapfrog" with them (that's what I tell the kids).  It's time for them to go!  I just got off the phone and there will be some folks coming tomorrow to buy them and butcher them on site.  Good ridance!

So many pretty birds!

Our 25 meat birds will be ready for slaughter in about 3 weeks.  We'll team up with some friends and have a butchering day and fill our freezer with enough chicken to last us the rest of the year.

The hogs are putting on the pounds every day.  They continue to delight us with their playful antics and friendly personalities.  They especially love it when I spray them down with the hose on hot days.  I wish you all could see how funny they are and hear their grunts of happiness!

The goats are content in their pastures.  They are very gentle and my children spend hours playing with them.    We appreciate having them around and laugh as they bleat at us excitedly whenever we arrive home.  What fun animals!

Well, that's it for now.  Before we know it, the tomatoes and cucumbers will be ready and my canning pot in the kitchen will become my best friend again!  We're looking forward to filling up those nearly empty shelves of canned goods.  Again, feel free to stop by any time and take home some produce!


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