Gooseberry Update 2018

Well, the last of the gooseberry crop has been picked. It was a reasonable year in terms of yield. The main gooseberry patches gave me their average which considering the year is just fine with me.  We were able to keep the area around them mowed a few times which helps but they need a solid clean up.

The area around the bushes need to be trimmed out and removed the top layer of nature grasses and other plants are pushing in to hard and we had to do some hand weeding in the plants which is not the ideal. Once that is pulled back, then the plants need a good layer of well done horse manure compost put down and when the time is right, I need to trim out a solid 1/3rd of the branches out and get better air flow in the bigger older plants.

I got a new Gooseberry bush two years ago and it did nothing last year but grow.. given it was a tiny little thing, that was fine with me.. but this year it did give a few fruit.. the size of these fruits was huge.

They are the size of grapes where as my normal ones which seem really small next to them are about the size of your thumb nail. I will very interested to see if they will continue to as large next year when hopefully they will produce a larger crop of berries. I need to trim this plant in regards to shaping and I am going to see if I can root out the trimmings and make a few more of these plants.

I love that gooseberries have enough nature pectin in them that you can just juice the berries, add your sugar, bring to boil and jar up and do a ten min water bath session and it will set up all on its own.

Do you grow gooseberries? Do you make Jelly or syrup with them? Do you ever take the time to top and tail them to use them in baking, I have to admit that I almost never do, make a thicker no skin jam or jelly or syrup are so much easier to do.  What is your favorite way to use them? What size is your gooseberries?

 

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Bee Watering Station

So easy to make and so helpful to our native bees and other pollinating busy buzz. I do not have honey bees but I do have a lot of different native bees on the farm. This drought means that I am wanting to add in a few extra water station to the different areas on the farm.  Without the bee’s, I will have far less produce coming in.

I picked up a plate from my second hand shop and at the same place I found some nice blue glass bits to mix into a base of blue-grey gravel. Its important to give them a nice mixed surface to land on and drink off.

So lets talk a little bit more about why I choose blue.. most of the books will tell you that for the native bee’s yellow is their favorite color in plants (and yellow is important) but Blue is pretty special to them. Its not a common color in plants, however a lot of plants have a blue sheen to them that helps draw the bees to them.

To read lot more here is the link..

https://www.beeculture.com/bees-see-matters/

However here is the qoute that is the most important that I would like to share from their site.

Like us, bees are trichromatic. That means they have three photoreceptors within the eye and base their color combinations on those three colors. Humans base their color combinations on red, blue and green, while bees base their colors on ultraviolet light, blue and green. This is the reason why bees can’t see the color red. They don’t have a photoreceptor for it. They can, however, see reddish wavelengths, such as yellow and orange. They can also see blue-green, blue, violet, and “bee’s purple.” Bee’s purple is a combination of yellow and ultraviolet light. That’s why humans can’t see it. The most likely colors to attract bees, according to scientists, are purple, violet and blue.

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Raspberry Spice Cake Recipe

 

Raspberry Spice Cake

  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup of Butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp. of molasses
  • 1 cup whole milk (sheep in my case)
  • 2 cups of raspberries (This will give a very moist cake, if you want drier, use half a cup less)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp all spice
  • 1 tbsp. Baking Powder

Cream the butter and sugar together, then beat in the eggs, then add milk mix together. Add all dry on top and mix the batter well. Then gently fold in the raspberries and into a greased pan (9 by 13) or muffin tins and bake at 350 till golden brown and knife comes out cleanly (yes the fruit is going to sink in the way I did this) if you want more on toppish, mix half in the battery and carefully drop the other half on top and half push into the batter and then bake.

 

 

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Making homemade wool tags for the garden

Got Sheep? Yes, lovely hair sheep that I adore.. they are my favorites, so easy to work with. Got Wool Sheep? Why yes I do have two wool sheep in my wee flock..  but I don’t use their wool for spinning or felting or anything else that other folks use wool for what is currently considered a normal way.

Nope, I have a wool sheep so that I can use that wool in my gardens.. Don’t worry you can buy them in stores now all prepped and ready to go 🙂 However if you homestead or have sheep and you garden..  This post is going to interest you.. Don’t worry for the rest of you lovely gardeners. A) if you have a friend with sheep, I know they will be willing to give you some of the tag wool 🙂 if you ask. B) they now sell wool tags all cleaned and work done for you in the stores. Give them a try!

http://njsheep.net/wool-pellets-for-gardening-marketing-raw-wool/

Here is a little video I have done for you, its so easy to make these at home for smaller numbers and if you visit while working on them, you can make larger amounts for different rows in the garden.

 

I promised in the video that I would show a few more photos on the cutting and rolling as I could not do it while holding the camera in my hand.. its pretty easy to figure it out but here they are anyway.

So you do need to pull your wool into a nice loose line before cutting otherwise your balls are harder to roll and can end up to big.

This is the same line cut into the sizes I like and then below rolled into their balls.

I  have given thought that you could also give these a soak in a live active bit of water mixed with your best active compost pile before putting them into pots. That way if you bought soil, you could put your wool tags (or togs) balls in and also give your soil a massive boost in microbes at the same time.. Something for me to try and report back on 🙂

Have your used Water Wise Wool Pellets in your gardens? There is some great studies on this product done in Europe and it appears to be catching on in England (as a renewal resource) and its up and coming in the states.

Its a possible small yield revenue stream for homesteaders! Many of us sell our rabbit poo or other composts to local gardeners. If you have sheep, consider adding in selling the sheared an bagged raw wool with instructions as a added on item at the same time.

Up to you on if you have time to make balls to sell, myself personally, I can see ideally just selling the wool and having them do their own making. Ideal for those that are doing small raised beds and for mainly gardening in pots.

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Tree Hay and cleaning up pastures

I am still faithfully cutting and feeding out tree hay to the flock, they seem to really like it.. they come running when called an they will clean it all up, by tomorrow all the leaves and all the thin green tips of wood will be eaten off, leaving me with thin fire starting branches and large branches that are ready to be cut into small fire logs for stacking.

The still in milk ewe’s are without a doubt the ones that eat the longest at a time, they seem to really! like it. The lambs are more a graze or nibble.. the goat kids however are also crazy about it.. they really enjoy it!

On the flip side in the newly fenced off pasture (now called the Front Pasture) I have kept all critters out of it for the past weeks and intend to keep it critter free till mid aug at which point, it will be opened up for the sheep flock only as it will be my fall finishing lambs and flushing ewe’s. Then everyone is being pulled off it and I will be working it and re-seeding it heavily for stripe grazing next year with hot line fencing.

However this weekend we needed to get rid of the Canadian Thistle that was just ready to start blooming, they were cut down and allowed to dry in this crazy heat for two days and then they were done in a slow burn in our burning pit.  Every single other county around me has fire bans on and the truth is, we should as well.. but we don’t!  I got a nice started with some of the branches that came down in a storm and did not get feed to the critters (such a waste of greens) and once it got going, I dumped the somewhat dried thistle on top of it to smolder itself down.

None the less I took great care, I did it in smaller slower batches and used the hose to wet the area down around it just to be on the safe side. It made me hmm in regards to anything that could “ash” upwards in regards to possible spread.. its just way to dry to mess with..

It meant that I got to spend a couple hours in the shade keeping a eye on this, glad the job is done now as I did not feel I could leave it even for a few minutes at a time. I did do chores and cleaned out the rabbit hutches an raked up some of their poo as well.

The next chore that I must do in this pasture is to take the pitch fork and the wheel barrel and pick up all the horse poo’s and haul them out and stack them in a compost pile for future garden use. The sheep and goat can stay there and I will spread out some mixed finished compost in certain area’s of the pasture as I want to feed the whole pasture. I will look forward to seeing how it will do with different seeding out.

The chore after that is that there is a old feed area that now is in effect a five year old compost pile and I have a lot of compost-soil blend there that I need to dig out and move for garden use in the food forest area and then once I get to soil, I want to put it out a mix of fodder radish and beets into that area on the inside fence line. and on the outside of the new fence line, I am working that area to be a new garden area for next year.. my planned corn garden.

Its another hot one and we are still waiting on rain..  I am pleased and surprised how green our land is compared to those around us.. There are hay fields that have been cut and they are so brown, the lawns in town are brown as far as the eye can see. Other folks gardens are struggling more then our. I think we are holding at the moment due to the cover crops, the intercropping and a whole lot of compost in the soils. Still we are saving grey water from the house and using it to water in new transplants in our soft and hard fruit tree’s and bushes. I do not want to have those new guys die off due to our drought.

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Easy Fresh Tomato Garlic Pasta Topping

O yes, we have tomato’s starting to come in.. we have been getting fresh yummy cherry tomato’s for fresh eating or in salads, I had my first toasted Tomato Sandwich this week.

However yesterday we brought in enough Roma Tomato’s that I could make a super fast an easy Pasta Topping. It does not get easier then this folks.

Fresh Tomato Pasta Topping (it can’t be called a sauce per say)

  • 6 to 10 roma tomato’s
  • 1 peeled, diced white onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Salt- Pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp. of olive oil

In a good fry pan (or a large pot, you want a larger surface cooking area at med heat, add your oil, onion and garlic, cook till onion is clear and  soft, then carefully cook it just a touch more, you want some golden browning edges to start happening on the onion and garlic, then add your coarsely chopped Roma’s. I do not de-seed for this recipe, just top out the ends and go! Cook at med heat till it comes to a simmering boil( you want to see the bubbles) then drop your heat right to the simmer spot on your burner and let it cook for a mear 5 to 8 min depending on how big it is. you want to see the tomato’s start to wilt down and soften but still very much hold form.

So I cooked up following instructions on pasta, the key to this pasta is that you need to put a big old tbsp. of butter on the pasta after its been drained. Toss the butter in the pasta till melted and covered the Pasta lightly.

Serve up the pasta on your plate and then spoon that awesome tomato topping on to it, now you can add a bit of fresh herbs ( I used Basil) but I do not use cheese in this dish as what makes it pop is the fresh flavours of the tomato’s 🙂

You can serve it with garlic toast or a side salad but I will be honest, we eat it as was and hubby said.. DELIGHTFUL! Its hard to get praise from him LOL

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Pie Pastry Recipes


This is a old post from 2011 and I am bringing the whole post back as it such a good one. I should of course break each recipe down into its own post with its own photos. At the time when I was blogging, I didn’t know that splitting it down would be a good thing. Live and learn 🙂  Consider fresh fruits are starting to come in and one of the most amazing way to serve them is in pies or tarts. Knowing your Pie doughs and their basic differences would be a useful thing indeed.

The Basic Proportaions for regular pie Pastry are 1/4 tsp of salt to every cup of flour, and 1 part fat to 3 parts flour. The more fat added to the pastry, the shorter(lighter and crisper) it will be, a rich mixture is best for pies that will be eaten cold.

Butter, Margarine, Lard or Shortening may be used, and a mixture of fats tends to give the best results, butter and shortening, because the butter gives a a good flavor and the shortening a light texture.

For your rich Pie Pastry allow for 1 egg york for every two cups flour.

Pie Pastry

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup of fat
  • 4 to 5 tbsp of cold water

Ideally Sift your flour with salt into a bowl, cut in fat with a pastry blender, as soon as the pieces of fat are well coated with flour, rub in with figertips (clean hands) until the mixture looks like fine crumbs.

Make a well in the middle, add your cold water and mix quickly, until you have a firm but not sticky dough, kneed just until smooth, you can chill your dough before using, at least 30 min, or longer as long as it tightly wrapped.

Rich Pie Pastry

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3rds cup of fat
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3 to 4 tbsp of cold water

Process the same as above..

Grandma’s Pie Dough

  • 1 pd of lard
  • 6 cups of sifted flour
  • 2 tbsp of vinager
  • 1 whole egg
  • cold water.
  • Good Pinch of Salt

Shift your flour/Salt into bowl, then cut your fat into peices, mix with clean hands till you reach crumb stage, then in a measuring cup, put your vinager, your egg, beat together, then add enough water to get to one cup, make a well in middle and pour in, mix quickly till you have a smooth firm, non stickly dough. Make three full pies or six half pie shells.

Farm Gal’s Rich Pie Dough.

  • 1 pd of lard
  • 6 cups of sifted flour
  • 3 tbsp of Sugar
  • 2 tbsp of vinager
  • 1 whole egg
  • half Cold Water/Half Heavy Whipping Cream
  • Good Pinch of Salt

Shift your flour/Salt/Sugar into a bowl, then cut your fat into peices, mix with clean hands till you reach crumb stage, then in a measuring cup, put your vinager, your egg, beat together, Add at least 2 tbsp of heavy Cream then add enough water to get to one cup, make a well in middle and pour in, mix quickly till you have a smooth firm, non stickly dough. Make three full pies or six half pie shells.

To reduce the calories and to allow for a great deal of flexablity in making quick mini pies, I have started making small round pie crusts that fit my small glass baking dishes, and then I freeze the dough, then wrap with layers of wax paper and into a zip lock freezer bag to keep, and when I want to make a small fruit cobbler with a flaky pie topping, I make up the fruit and bring the top only and bake it off in the oven. You save on the calories by only having a top. Also you can just bring out a pie crust, let it thaw out, and then place fresh apple/fruit/a pat of butter or a drizzle of maple in it and make a mini tartlet to be shared.

In this case, it was one Pie Crust, with Walnuts, Sweetened Dried Cranberries with a pat of butter and drizzle of maple syrup, baked with a brown sugar top, served with a tiny scoop of vanilla icecream on the side.

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Raspberries

The summer raspberries are early, they should not be starting till late july but this heat has everything moving faster. Last night we had salad made up of our freshly picked tomato’s and Peppers.  Sunday was spent cleaning up our biggest raspberry patch. It had been pruned well in 2017 and it is truly loaded with fruit this year.

However it was not pruned this year and it didn’t get the out area cleaned out and kept out either and those lovely “weeds” not weeds loved all the feeding and manure I had put into the soil.  Hubby cleaned out all around it and then we carefully made two in rows into the patch so you can walk in and reach from all the sides..

So many Raspberries are coming.. but if we do not get rain, I am going to have to haul water to give them a drink or I will lose some of the harvest.. The ones we are getting are looking really good so far.. Its daily picking at this point..

I picked yesterday morning and by this morning, I was bringing in more cups of them, sugared and into the freezer they go. I am going to just keep freezing them as they come in (well, any that are not just eaten fresh with a bit of cream) so I can make batches of things at a later point.  My fruit/veggie freezer is slowly but surely starting to fill up. I need to pick more pea’s today and get more bean runners to climb their leads.

I have the plan to make some lovely tarts in the near future..  It would be so good with some fresh bright red jewels in it… Hmmm o yes!

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Red Currents 2018

We have a truly lovely haul from our red current bushes with pounds of them coming off each mature bush, some of the bushes are smaller-younger that are not as many but the older ones are having a outstanding year!

After each bowl full was picked, it came in the house, was cleaned up (what is with the snails in the bushes this year LOL) and weighted and then into freezer bags they went, they will be frozen solid till I have time to do them all in the steam juicer and then this year its nice and easy.. A batch or two of Jelly.. one pure Red current.. One Red Current and Elderberry Flower. and the rest is going into simple syrup, used for Pancake syrup, drizzled over meat as a glaze, or into a glass for a cool summer drink or into some hot tea to add a burst of flavour in the hard depth of winter.

The bushes are in need to pruning and a number of the cuttings will be saved for the creation of new bushes.. All 13 of my current bushes comes from the two I bought for the farm the first year we were here. I want to make more and move more of them into the front hedge row food forest style gardens.

I have Black and White Currents as well, but they never produce as much as these reds do, I have even bought different kinds of other Black and White Currents to see if the strain of them will make a difference. However at least here.. the red are the clear winners.

I loved my dried red currents from last year but I still have some for the kitchen use and I am all out of jelly and Syrup!

What about you? What color of current is your favorite? Do you find one type does better in your garden zone? or your Soil Type?  What is your favorite way to use your Red Currents?

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Homesteader Pea’s

So these are homesteader pea’s or so I was sold heritage homesteader pea’s and in some ways they are bang on.. 68 to 70 days from planted to harvesting, able to grow in cooler soil and withstand heat and still produce very well.. the correct size of the pods and ideal number of pea’s.. Its a older pea having been introduced around the 1930’s and its a great short pea that can withstand a lot of different types of springs.

See we are doing great right?? up right up till the height of the plant lol.. they should grow about 3 feet tall and mine are well over six feet and still growing and flowering.. hmmm

None the less I am very happy with these pea’s and I think I will save some for next years plantings but I am wondering if they are crossed.. not that I mind.. If they do everything else right but height, I am ok with it.. I just am wondering what I am going to get next year if this was a f1 cross..  because I can’t see many gardener’s who plan for a 3 foot pea plant to be happy when it scales 5 to 6 feet an more lol

What kind of pea’s are you growing this year.. any surprises in your garden.. I also have a bean plant that was sold as a climber and I think its bush.. the surprise of new seed lol

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