Spring Asparagus

It’s that time of year, when you can head out to the garden with a knife in hand just before supper and cut a enough fresh spears to make side dishes of fresh asparagus. The flavour that comes from just picked 5 minutes before use is amazing!

The meal above was blackened chicken with butter herbed veggie and fresh lemon asparagus.. A little butter, a little lemon juice a tiny hit of lemon pepper, a mear minute or two or med-high heat and its ready!

We started Asparagus from seed many years ago on the farm and we still have a few mature plants that made it though the loss of our main garden, and will will move the plants before they tear that whole area up to put in the new sepetic tanks and weeping fields.

Last year as part of my large bulk plant buy, I brought in a case of 500 plants, 150 plants stayed here on the farm, the rest were placed out to different folks for their gardens within my community.

The truth was that we planted them to close together, I know this and it means that I will need to manage that patch and feed it out heavily but it came up despite the drought of 2020, we watered it a number of times and was happy to see so many ferns up.. It got a major clean up this spring, I left it all as cover over the fall and winter..

and if you just thought? why did it get planted to close.. the answer was simple, we had prepared a very nice garden area and when the plants came in, they came in bare root and that was the space that was ready for them.. Its very possable that over the next few years we will take out some plants from the edges but more likely, I will just expand the sides and keep growing the bed /garden up in size.. Asparagus are one of those strange plants that needs to be covered but will grow its crowns up and out of the soil, so you can in fact increase the grow space height wise.

I have three beds with three rows per bed with reach over from the outside and two walking paths that are bedded down with straw cover.. Bed 1 is the one that we are picking from on almost every plant, they have at least one thick spear that is meeting my yes, pick that.. about 50 percent of bed 2 is being picked and I do not understand it but we are taking nothing this year from bed 3 as the spears while coming up are late and very thin indeed.

I knew that I would take no more then 1 spear per plant this year being as its year one on the farm, and year 3 for the plants themselves.. once they get their next picking or two, we will weed it out once again and then we are going to bed them down with a good portion of clean straw and let them fern up.

I have started a new tray of seeds that are being grown to be planted out in under layers in some of the food forest under plantings. They are not going to be active plants for the garden food but more as back up just in case plantings.. The ferns are very pretty as a plant on their own..

Do you go hunting for wild patches of Asparagus? Do you have a small or a big Asparagus patch in your garden? Do you start yours from seed or do you buy 2 year old crowns? Did you know that there are a number of places in canada that you can buy a box of 500 crowns at a time for a crazy heavy discount pricing and that if you can work with friends and fellow garden folks, it might be the best way for you to get a larger plot of them started.

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May Declutter Goal -Clothes

May is a very busy time of year when it comes to the yard and gardens, and I want to work a lot on the tear down in terms of hours put into sorting, scrap(for money) recycle storage for future use on the farm (tin, wood etc) and trash, load it up and get it hauled out..

So the goal in may is a little easier to do so that I do not feel the same pressure on working though things in the house but will still feel that I am getting something done..

I am going to go though my clothes and put them on and wear them, and if I can’t stand them and take them off within a matter of minutes to hours, then I will get rid of it, ideally freshly washed and donated if in good shape, or possable cut up into rags if not.. hopefully I will not “trash” very much in this regards but still move a good amount of items.

Now maybe its just me but I expect its not.. I love really great sales and cloths are no different and most of the time I never regret getting things from certain places. In fact I can honestly say that it has saved me and my household thousands of dollars over the years.

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So I know that I will keep that part of the program, the first one that we really need to work on is hubby’s, he normally sits around 210 to 220 but in the past year he has lost a great deal of weight and got as low as 155, we have gotten him up toward 160 and they (the doctors) would like him right around 165..

As you can imagine this has changed his clothing sizing and so we did get a new going out outfits, 5 pairs of new jeans (3 colors/patterns) new jean belt(as his other was way to big) 4 pairs of work or house wear pants, as his old ones were fall off him to big and 5 new T shirts/polo type shirts.. and one new nice go to town jacket..

What we need to do is go though his (not needed now for 14 months and onward) work cloths for the office, and sort out all the ones that no longer fit him and donate them onward to find new homes.

As for myself, I need to clear out the ones that do not fit me right, to tight in the arms, to short in the arms, etc etc.. you are not allowed to try on the 1 dollar clothing items at the big second hand shop so you do your best to eyeball everything but sometimes it just does not work out right.

While I will try and do it on rain days, the bottom line is want to sort though the closets and drawers in may.. wish me luck..

Ps, thanks Silver for the nudge on the cloths sorting.. your comment inspired me..


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Declutter 365 Update

Well, I have been Rocking the Declutter program of 2021.. I mean its been crazy good, around 30 to 50 percent of things are being rehomed, about 20 to 40 pecent is being recycled in some way and 10 percent is being trashed.

I have reached the goal of 365 and blown past it.. and I have full plans to keep going! We had our big spring garbage clean up. We hauled things out and set them in three ways.. Scrap went in one area, all kinds of household items that I felt could and should be recycled and then there was need to go ot the dump, including very old bed/mattress that we had taken out of the house late last fall/early winter when we got new beds in the house.

I am thrilled to report that the scrap was snagged first and formost, in fact the first batch went so fast, that we looked, pulled an set out a second grouping and it was also snapped up.. while it took a little longer, EVERY single thing that I was hoping and felt that could and should be rehomed also had folks stop and take them home with them. Things were put on Saturday and Sunday..

Weds, the county trucks arrived and loaded the bigger stuff let that was and should have gone to the dump, it was great to get them off the farm. When we moved to the farm, there as was a spring/fall county wide clean up.. but three years ago, they went to once a year only, they also limited and narrowed the focus on what could be picked up.

Having said that, they increased our blue box recycle program at the same time, so its a bit of a trade off there and they increased and created a number of recycle programs drop off places at the local dump, instead of just throw it in.. they have a number of spots where you can sort things depending on what you are taking so that ideally it can be sorted properly.

Many/most of the things I am sorting is NOT garbage, and so it has gone to the second hand shops, been gifted to friends and so on.. Its the strangest thing, I would have thought that the stress of the pandemic would have me gathering in more resources and in many ways it has.. depending on the items, I have increased some things by 6 months or upwards of 2 years..

However, on the flip side, its really pushed me hard to narrow my focus in many ways.. I was honestly not expecting that narrowing but I am good with it.. I am not getting rid of anything that we use even if its only used only once a year or certain times of the year in regards to homesteading.. I still am firmly in the camp of 2 is 1 and 1 is none.. and I perfer to have at least 3 or 5 of the really heavy duty, we use those all the time things..

The narrowing is far more focused on the “someday” or the “wow, what a deal”

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The someday items are things are back ups of back up that I ha never used in years because my perferred choices are solid.. let me give a example of that, I love my cast iron pots and pans, I use them all the time, then i use my stainless steel pots.. but I have had back up pots nad pans that just sit there.. in case.. but I finally went.. really.. I mean I have three back up cast iron pans, if for some unknown reason I break my current cast iron pans, I am going to reach for the “backup” cast iron pan, not the hey what a great deal, I got a whole box of pots and pans at a farm sale.. time to let those “somedays go!”

The wow what a deal is tied into this directly, I love finding high qaulity items at the second hand stores but I also tend to have ended up over the years with more then I need.. a example there is my heavy duty soup toureens.. I love my small one that would hold for 4 to 6 peaple.. and its a keep for sure. but I do not need 2 of the 10 to 12 peaple large ones.. so I am letting one of them go.. because the truth is, while it is nice to have one, if I need to do so, I have three big roasters that could be used for the same purpose in a pinch.. sure it would not be as pretty to put a roaster on the table.. but again.. I might use the big one a few times a year max.. and really want I normally use is my shuttle chef.. it keeps everything so much hotter to serve for folks..

Sorting though things and organizing is where I am at.. I want to use my space to its max ability, I want to be able to know where things are, what I have and keep the older being used first and the newer being properly stored for future use. In this regards I am making huge strides and I could not be more pleased.. I am not lowering or leaning things we use, need or that we could save money on in regards to sales an so forth.. but I am working to have a more orderly life and to knowing what and where everything is.. onwards and upwards..

Has the past year made you gather more, made you put up more into “storage” or has it made you a meaner, leaner, much more focused as well?

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Sour Cherry Uses

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In 2020 our Montmorency Cherry tree did very well indeed This tree does very well in our Zone 5 and it the type of cherry we all think of as the “cherry pie” tart filling that you would buy in the Bakery or in the canned pre-made cherry pie filling.

While we enjoyed the cherries fresh, we also put away 4 cups of them into one of my amazing freeze its (honestly, they cost a pretty penny but I adore that they have saved me from going to the freezer bags, worrying about glass in the freezer or the plastic wrap that you use in a food saver) I am coming into my 2nd season with these, I have used some of them at least half a dozen times so far everything washes up perfectly, no damage to anything and I find them like I do jars.. as I work my way though them, I wash and store them and then as the season’s and the gardens come in, I fill and go again..

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The key on them is to make sure you use the smallest tub possable, look how amazing those cherry that have been frozen for close to 9 months look.. beautiful..

I made two little batches, Hubby Got a No sugar, cooked low and slow Sour Cherry Jam that was served with heavy cream.. I on the other hand, made mine vanilla and wood smoked dark maple syrup with a touch of salt.. I took out my last phillo dough that I had in the freezer and made home baked cherry turnovers..

Wow.. what a amazing treat.. the flavour on this filling was the perfect blend of sweet/tart full bodied cherry.. It could be used as a jam, used as a filling for turnovers, tarts, pies or the middle of a black forest cake or a version of it or for keto black cupcakes.

Do not forget that you can use it as a topping or filling for Cherry Cream Cheese Fluff

It can also be used in making a lovely sauce that can be used for meat as well.. Details given in my Duck Breasts with Cherry Sauce.

Here in ontario at the lcoal farm boys for a mear two to three week window each summer they sell a 3 kilo bucket of fresh grown sour cherry’s pitted in juice.. they are as close to growing your own as you can get that I know of.. I have at times seen that bucket frozen but its harder to come by that way..

In most places in Canada, we can not grow sweet eating cherry’s but we can grow sour pie cherries and there is many ways to enjoy them in the kitchen..

What is your favorite recipe that uses Sour Cherries? If you have a link put it in the comments please.. Look forward to hearing how you enjoy these sweet/sour treats.

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Grainy Mustard Horseradish Cream Sauce

Mustard is something I have always liked, I grow alot of mustard plants, both for the greens and for the seeds on the farm, I use mustard to help “clean” the soil as it will push out wire worms the year before planting potatos or can be used as edge trap crop in many ways.

I have always liked a good hot mustard (keen’s) is the favorite for certain dishes and a good frenches mustard on hamburger or hotdog goes a long way to a childhood taste profile

However in the past year all kinds of mustards have come in front and center in many ways due to the facf that they can be used in dishes for hubby being low carb, low or in some cases, no sugar added.

This blend is becoming a household favorite, it can be served hot as a “mustard drizzled version of gravy” or it can be thinned down a bit more and used as a salad dressing.

Grainy Horseradish Mustard Cream Sauce.

Half a cup of Yellow, Black, or Brown Mustard Seeds or a blend of them Ground into a course paste (or use a premade grainy mustard).. it takes me around a cup of seeds to get my half cup or right aroudn there of ground paste, add a touch of vinager to the blend if you want to do so.

2 tbsp of heavy cream (or half and half would work, or if you do not do milk products, you can use coconut cream, its different but it does work)

1 TBSP of freshly finely grated horseradish root or 3/4th to a full tsp of prepared horseradish in a jar..

A pinch of salt 🙂 to your taste.. not much is needed..

Ok, so if making a salad dressing, you can add the prepared mustard paste to your bowl, your cream and your horseradish.. if you want you could mix a little mayo in but please try with just the cream first.. thin it down with a tiny bit of good vinager if needed..

The dressing goes very well with different salads but for those that forage, its a extra delight for those more “bitter” edged wild greens.. Delightful!

Now on to hot, again premix everything in your bowl and then after you have taken your steaks, burgers or in the case of above, my duck breasts out of the pan, in the time the meat needs to rest before slicing or serving, into the pan goes that sauce.. you are just warming it up and adding a bit of those pan drippings into the flavour profile..

I do hope you will give it a try, so worth the effort if made from scratch but also just as good if you put the musard, horseradish and cream together from prepared jars..

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Sour Cherries “Juilet”

Our little homestead now has 7 different Types of Sour Cherry Tree’s or Dward Sour Cherry Bushes. While they are all tough “sour” type they are not all “cherry pie cherries” some are sweet enough to eat fresh, some are better for canning and yes, I have two that are to be said to be the best for wine. I am looking forward to learning how to make a SWEET homemade Cherry wine for both a bit of sipping and for cooking with..

Juilet cherry flowers April 24th 2021

This is NOT my photo, my little Bushes are not this big yet, but it is a lovely example of this type of Cherry cross and I am personally thrilled that they are thicket cherries,  they are pruned for sale on a single stem but if you bury them a little deep, they will start to push up sister/babies faster and while it does mean you need to do some pruning, it also means you if something happens to the main stem, you will not lose your plantings.

So what is the reason we are having a little post on cherries and with a focus on Juilet, who is hardy to ZONE 2, which lets face it is overkill on my Zone 5 farm.. but this spring has been very different, first we have boken records for having some of our warmest days currently on record for 60 to 80 plus years and we didn’t just get a warm day and then cold.. no we had a series of warmer then average days and then of course being april we have had frosts, cold, snow and pea sized hail..  

I have watched post after post on my local big city garden group and its clear that the heat sink of the city has pushed the growth of their leaves and flower buds harder then here on the farm,  we had a very nice snow pack and it took its time melting out, we had snow on the farm a good 8 to 10 days longer then the city appeared to.. so I think that helped as well. 

Juilet Cherry Bush type was the first to hit bloom stage on the April 24th, I will be taking any and all cherries off the bushes this year to get them focus on roots and growth but I will report back if I have cherries to take off on this very early first to flower.. 

What is happening in your neck of the woods? Do you have Cherry Trees, Cherry Bushes, do you have the Sask Dwarf Hardy Cherries series of 4 or some of the 4? Are you seeing early warming, early flowering? or are you within a normal spring for your own area?

 

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Stuffed Meatloaf in Pasta Sauce

While we love a good meatloaf, sometimes you need to try something a little different, this cheese stuffed Meatloaf in a tomato based sauce is sure to please.

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Cheese Stuffed Meatloaf Balls with Pasta Sauce

2 pounds of grass fed lean beef

4 1 inch by 1 inch solid cheese of your choice, I used homemade cheese but Mozza would be good.

2 eggs

1 tsp of your choice of favorite Herb Blends you like for meat.. or if you do not have a blend, start with Salt, Pepper, Chili flakes, Garlic powder, Onion Powder, Basil and Celery Seed..

3 cups of your choice of Pasta sauce, In my case I went with chunky Basil, if you are home canning, this is a one liter jar of pasta sauce.

Prepare your cheese into your cubes, set to the side.

In a clean bowl, put your meat, eggs, spices and blend well till it holds its shape nicely in a ball, then split into four equal size balls, flatten the middle and put your cheese in and pull the meat over the cheese and close it up..

In a good cast iron pot or any another good heavy pot you use for the oven, put a layer of the sauce down.. lay your half pound stuffed meatballs down into the pot, pour the rest of your sauce around them, then take a little more seasoning (in my case it was montreal steak spice) and sprinkle on top of the meat. Cover and bake 55 to 65 min at 350

Now if you are low carb, can be served with the Cheese Stuffed Meatball an sauce with a lovely side salad.. but if you are eating carbs, you could put some potato’s in there, or rice or a little bit of pasta..

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Pricing! (Garden)

While prices across the whole system are up and you can expect to pay more, a reasonable more.. However it has become clear to me that there are peaple locally and across the country that have decided that they can “work the system”.

I am beyond frustrated, locally within a hour of my farm, there is a new “garden business” that is using one of my own tag lines that I have used for a number of years and I am getting feedback that there is crossover on the wording..

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A lovely multi-bed Kitchen Garden

It happens, they are common words and I can and have used them, and I will keep using them alot in case they decide that they are going to try and legally take them as their name.. but worse is their pricing.. its insane..

A graden box that could be found on our local facebook market place or kijji for 180 to 300 is instead 800, plants that could be gotten for Xx at the greenhouse is X4 because they bring them with them with your “plan” its a sqaure foot garden box.. do you really think that plant is worth a 300 percent markup because they said.. put it here?

Worse then all that, is that they have found a way to make money by selling “online” content of their mentor and doing it in levels just like a MLM company.. and the starting course is almost 250..

Do you have any idea how many hard cover garden books you could own for 250 dollars, you could buy a garden book collection that would answer every question you could think of..

The money saved by paying going rate of 250-300 for the garden box would allow you to buy the seeds or even the seedlings to fill it for the next 10 to 15 years!

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So let me be really clear on something.. We can plant in the ground!

Honest! I swear its true.. now I know that there are real reasons to use a raised garden box, you live in town and the ground is not good, heavy heavy clay, pure sand.. or you have a small backyard that is all patio stones and you need to put a small garden box on it..

There are postives to garden boxs, I know and agree with that.. I have some for a reason, but we are pricing out huge sections of our populations by making it seem like we need a thousand plus to invest in a garden box.. those boxes need to be filled and soil costs money!

Until you go to fill that box, you can not grasp how much it will cost to fill it! and for those in town that are buying soil by the bag, they are going to be stunned at how little a bag is going to do in one of those big boxes and then its going to settle after that..

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Now on to better news, I am thrilled to say that I finally found a company to buy my top soil and my natural cedar mulch from.. I will have 10 tons of cedar mulch arriving towards mid to late april depending on when it thaws enough and the half loads are off the roads and a full 20 tons of top soil arriving in early may.. As well as another 22 tons of wood based bedding cow compost, with the ability to get a second load.. plus I hope to add a ton thought out the whole season of femented Barley leftovers from beer making.

I also have 3600 hundred pounds of straw for ground cover for the gardens as well..

This means that I am well set to top anything in the kitchen gardens, the hill garden, and all the extras required to do the pathways for the blue moon garden area and then we get busy on creating pathways/beds/plantings and more in the knot garden and the Boogaloo food forest garden..

It took a number of calls and searching but I finally found a place that had reasonable prices that wanted to work with me. Honeslty I thought they were to far and the first blush, they said that to.. to far, then the hubby said.. wait.. ask what she wants and once they found out I want “full sizes” as much as your truck can load in one go delivery’s they were like.. yes and they had good prices to start with but they gave me a lovely 150 discount on the cedar plus free deliver.. Awesome!

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Birds.. Ontario March Canada

Hello Folks..  In the next days and weeks the spring migration will be starting in terms of the birds.. but this post is of the birds that stayed the winter plus one guest family..

House Sparrow hanging onto a birch twig

We have so many different kinds of sparrows, this lovely female house sparrow on the birch tree hit a delightful pose for me.

My whole yard went quiet and then I figured out why as this Adult Northern Strike went after a chickadee on the middle yard feeder and missed and went to the top of the tree to watch the birds.

When we went out for chores, I was only able to grab one single photo of this years offspring, what a healthy looking young Northern Strike.. Its the first time I have seen them hunting on the farm, they were just passing by.

I really like this lovely view of both female and male Evening Gosebeaks a bird that is considered on conserve list and they are moving their range, its my understanding that they really like my norway maples and I have noticed that they have eaten all the keys off the trees.

Not only have they been a pretty bird with their flash and boldness in the yard but they are very vocal and chatty.. we feed at least a hundred plus daily.

We have two kinds of woodpeckers in the yard and in total we have 5 mated pairs.. delightful busy birds, they live in the forest but visit a certain times daily.

I have to date only had White Breasted Nuthatches on the farm, perhaps someday I will get different kinds of nut hatches but not yet.. I have three mated pairs of these funny birds.. they race up and down and hang at the oddest angles lol

Mr Red has stayed the whole winter and now in the past week as the weather has warmed, he has taken to finding a very high perch on the top of the spruce tree and has started his mating calls.. man can he sing.. He needs to come closer to the house and he will find his call will carry much further in the eco we can get but so far, he is sure that his spot is the one.. this day, I was amazed to get his photo from below and he is edged in the sun..

The ravens are busy collecting the sheeps wool as they drop it.. They were gathering it up on the pathways. That’s nests eggs and chicks are going to have a very warm nest for sure.

So many Redpolls they are very happy flock birds coming in from dark to light and so many inbetweens in shading.

The Finches are as always a delight.. and what would a canadian winter be without our black capped chickadees.. singing always, so bold, they love to buzz you as they fly by your head so fast lol. In the local parks, so many peaple will show little vidoe of the city chickadee’s landing and taking peanuts or sunflowers directly from peaples hands.. Ours are not that friendly but they are by far the most bold bird in the yard.

Overall, we have had the pleasure of hosting around 150 to 200 plus birds daily at our feeders for most of the winter 2020 and 2021.. we have run 4 feeders daily and we have to fill each day BOSS (Black Sunflower Seed) and a mix of smaller seeds, along with bird fat blocks.

I will see what I can do in terms of taking new birds as they travel though and doing the odd bird photo post..

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March Pantry Challenge 2021 Week 2

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We leaped into spring like weather this week!.. so much melting.. we had our first “false” spring and it was lovely! We broke our weather record on weds.. the old high was 10c and we got to 14c

I spent time out doing bird photos, but will give them their own post.. we have had 4 ewes lamb so far, so on farm we have fresh milk and fresh eggs coming in.. (chicken only) my ewes have so far all had singles, considering how poor the pasture was, while I did flush them in the fall, looking at them, i think we will be having a lot of singles.. I am strangely ok with this..

Still its a good idea to put up some extra colstrum in case of a bottle baby but with my big bagged up ladies that can easily feed twins, its a ideal time to make some beestling cheese as well.

In terms of eggs, the hens are starting to pick up a bit and we are getting 4 to 6 a day, perfect for our own needs and the farm dogs..

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The greenhouse is being shifted from growing greens and such into seedling starting.. we are taking off the last of the pea pods, the cucumber plants have started producing male flowers.

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The forage end of things locally has been Nanda, Nill.. nope.. The sap had a few days of first run.. so there is that! Otherwise, we still have lots and lots of snow cover!

So are you ready for the big news? We were able to turn off one of our freezers, adjusting what was left into the space in the remaining freezers.. This is a such sign of winter wearing on and it means we are doing what we should be.. eating out of our pantry/freezers/farm.

I cooked up one of our pork roasts and honestly its a delightful treat, so good.. it was a low slow roast and it was heavenly!

That’s it folks.. a quiet steady slow week with lots of basic meals

Fried dippy eggs

Beef Veggie Stew

Beef Barley stew with pea’s and turnips in place of potatos

Roast Pork

Rabbit stew

They are not the very same.. but they are delightful and very close in type..

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