Sunday, February 19, 2017

Cover girl

Looking through old catalogs, we came across Nora's cover girl edition of Brushy Mountain Bee Farm.  While Eric was working there, he had a similar picture we had taken as his computer screen saver.  His boss thought that would make a nice catalog cover.  Our little beekeeper became famous at two years old!

Monday, February 13, 2017

What we've been up to

Replacing broken glass in the window panes to make this a little greenhouse

Bamboo bin to put food scraps in for worm compost

Some of the worms at work composting food scraps

Bin made of bamboo to contain leaves while they rot down for part of our future potting mix

Some of the fruit and nut tree scion wood ready for grafting onto our trees and other people's
  Lately our focus has been on infrastructure projects.  We are thankful to have many outbuildings, but each of these takes regular upkeep.  This winter we further shored up an old log building and are getting ready to put new metal roofing on the lean-to part of it.  The next step, which we hope to accomplish next winter, is to modify the east side of the building so that we can back our pull-type combine into it for storage.  Currently the only place we have to store our combine is in our main barn, but the combine is so big and takes up so much space we can't even walk a cow around it, and it's a hassle to have to move the combine every time we want to shovel manure or get hay in and out of the barn.  We're also in the process of repairing broken window panes on the small rock building we've been using for a tool shed.  It's all rock except for three windows which take up most of the south side.  It was previously called a potato house, which must mean that it was used for curing sweet potatoes in the fall.  Our new plans are to use it as a small greenhouse.  We've also been building some new useful structures with bamboo, a bin to hold and compost leaves and a bin to put food scrapes for worms to compost.  We've been weeding in the garlic, strawberry and spinach patches.  It doesn't seem quite fair that weeding is a winter chore as well!  Eric has started collecting scion wood from our fruit and nut trees, in large part to trade with other fruit growers for scion wood to graft onto our trees.  We're particularly excited about Asian persimmons after a small crop this past fall.  We have lots of little lettuce, cabbage and greens plants started in flats.  It will soon be planting time in the fields.  We've started working up ground with the tractor to plant spring oats, which we might even get sowed tomorrow

Sweet potato tasting

Pumpkins in the attic

   Hattie has been reading through Little House in the Big Woods this winter and in the first chapter young Laura Ingalls describes her log cabin home: “The little house was fairly bursting with good food stored away for the long winter.  The pantry and the shed and the cellar were full, and so was the attic.” She goes on to talk about playing in the attic: “The large, round, colored pumpkins made beautiful chairs and tables.” Nearly 150 years later, we've got a pile of pumpkins in our attic, too (though we haven't been letting the kids play on them!).  These are the heirloom pie pumpkins we've been growing and enjoying the last 3 years. They've been keeping well and are tasting as sweet as ever. Here are some ways we've been enjoying them lately.

Roasted pumpkins ready for the pulp to be scooped out.  The juice in the jar is pumpkin juice which is a delicious treat.

Roasted pumpkin cubes - I was planning to roast some peeled butternut slices for dinner the other day when I remembered there was part of a pumpkin left over in the fridge. So I peeled and cut this into one inch cubes and added this to the tray with the butternut. I tossed everything with melted butter and salt and baked at 400 degrees until everything was well cooked. The butternut squash was really good, but at the end of the meal, it was the pumpkin cubes that were all gone! 

Roasted butternut on the left, roasted pumpkin on the right

Pumpkin butter – Simply, pumpkin butter is sweetened spiced pumpkin pulp that has been thickened. It is delicious as a spread on toasted bread or pancakes, mixed into yogurt, or put on top of a bowl of oatmeal. We roast a pumpkin in the oven until tender then we scoop the pulp into a colander to drain overnight. (Don't forget to drink the juice, it's a real treat!) The next day we put the pulp in a pot and use a stick (immersion) blender to turn it smooth. Then we add honey and pumpkin spices to taste and then carefully cook the pulp until it is thicker. It stores about a week in the fridge or freezes pretty well.

Sauteed grated pumpkin
Sauteed grated pumpkin - This worked out quite well as a quick side dish. Grate raw pumpkin then saute in a frying pan with a generous amount of butter until soft.

Pumpkin pie – makes 2 pies
3 cups pumpkin pulp
9 oz (¾ cup) honey
2 ¾ cups whole milk
½ cup whole wheat flour
3 eggs
1 tsp. Cinnamon
¼ tsp. Allspice
1/8 tsp. Nutmeg
¾ tsp. salt
Use immersion blender to mix all the ingredients until smooth. Pour into unbaked crust. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until done.

Pumpkin muffins
Pumpkin muffins – makes about 24 muffins
3 cup whole wheat flour
6 oz (½ cup) honey
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
1 cup milk
1 cup mashed pumpkin
½ cup butter, softened
2 eggs, beaten

Put all ingredients in bowl and mix just enough to blend. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 min.