Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Going Bulk!

In an effort to not only eat healthier, but to save money, I've taken the leap into buying certain pantry items in bulk.  This is not a massive truck load of stuff delivered to my house, but me heading to a market and picking  and choosing what I want.  With Caris and a list in tow, off we went to Baesler's Market in town.  They've had a bulk section for some time now, but I've never really checked it out until today.  On my list was black beans, red kidney beans, lentils, steel cut oats, and then a huge question mark.  I wanted to allow for some flexibility, after all!

I didn't quite end up with what I wanted, though.  Surprisingly, they did not carry red kidney beans in bulk.  What I came home with was bulk black beans, pinto beans, pearl barley, and green lentils.  (oh, and some banana chips that didn't make it home, but we won't talk about THAT)  I ended up buying packages of red kidney beans off the shelf in bags.  They had french couscous, which I almost bought, and quinoa.  I've never used quinoa, but I wouldn't be against trying it one time.  There were many different varieties of rice, but I had already stocked up on rice, so that is saved as a mental note for next time.

For those of you who know me well, you know I LOVE mason jars!  They are invaluable in my house, and store everything from left over soup to nails to flowers, and now, bulk dry goods. They are now full of my bulk goodies, waiting for a day when I have the time to make soup, or whatever other recipe I might happen upon.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Farm Happenings

This blog has been mostly quiet for the season, because of the drought.  We've spent many, many hours watering plants in the hopes they will not fry in the 100+ degree temperatures.  Sadly, we've lost many plants to the lack of the rain high temps.  But, there have been some surprises this season.

"Honeybun" Sweet Corn (hybrid)
We harvested sweet corn about a week ago.  This variety is called "honeybun".  It is not an heirloom corn seed, because we live so close to commercial corn fields that heirloom varieties do not produce well.  With the drought, I was expecting very tiny ears with many undeveloped rows.  What we discovered, however, was that while some of the ears had missing kernels, most were just fine.  It was a very nice surprise to actually harvest corn.  A little early, but I'll take early than none at all!

"Yellow Pear" tomato (heirloom)

Even with the drought and heat, we're getting a good amount of tomatoes.  In the last few days, we've also harvested about 10 pounds of tomatoes.  The Rutgers, Marglobe, and Roma plants have been doing great since we wrapped soaker hoses around them.  The Beefsteaks are not doing as well, but they are producing some here and there.  Our yellow pear variety produced first this season.  They are small and very sweet, perfect for snacking and salads.  Actually, many of our first Rutgers and Marglobe were more cherry-like in size, but now they are beginning to grow to full size.

Ready to become sauce!
Yesterday, we processed about 10 pounds of Rutgers, Marglobe, and Roma tomatoes into salsa and pasta sauce.  We purchased  a Sauce Master at Rural King, which has multiple screens that can be interchanged, depending on what you are working with.  We bought a salsa screen, and will eventually purchase the pumpkin and grape screens.  The screen that accompanies the unit is fine and not a seed comes through.  The salsa screen allowed the pulp and seeds through, and we ended up with a bowl of skins that the chickens devoured.  All in all, we ended up with 4 pints of pasta sauce, 3 pints of salsa, and 1 pint of salsa ready tomatoes (we ran out of salsa seasonings!).  There are still plenty of green tomatoes on the vines, and we have two plots of Beefsteak and more Marglobe that were planted later, and have been slowly getting bigger and bigger.  We're hoping for a late frost and an extended growing season this year!

Three Rhode Island Red hens
Not all has been good on the farm, however.  With several weeks of 100+ temps, we lost several year old hens from the heat, as well as one tom turkey.  The heavier breeds of chickens just don't seem to tolerate the heat as well as others, and these were the ones we lost.  We did make several valiant rescue efforts, one successful, and two not.  The Barred Rock that made it has recovered completely and is back with her coop mates and laying like normal.  The new Rhode Island Reds had been separated from the others in the coop, but due to the heat they had to be combined so they could have a cooler spot.  This resulted in 1 cockerel being almost pecked to death, and a hen with a similar injury.  They have been residing in our garage (AKA, the MASH unit) for quite some time now.  They will have a new home down at the in-laws once the meat birds are all processed.  As far as heat goes, the RIR's that we purchased as chicks earlier this year seem to tolerate the heat better than the others.  Next year, we will likely add Australorps and possibly some Leghorns to our little flock.  (I really want a Leghorn rooster to name Foghorn!!!)  

Ruby- farm dog wannabe
So that is what's been happening here at Aurora Bryn Farm.  The only other piece of news is our new addition to the family.  Ruby has been with us for about a month now.  She is a golden retriever/Labrador mixed breed puppy we acquired from a local rescue.  Her owners were about to dump her and her little mates into the river bottoms before some kind soul rescued them.  Ruby likes to bark at the chickens, and has made a mortal enemy of our remaining tom turkey, who rushes the fence at her whenever Ruby comes close, which is every time she is out there.  Ruby has a bit to learn about being a farm dog!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Homemade Liquid Laundry Soap!

So I decided to take a chance, and attempt to make our own liquid laundry soap.  I've seen multiple blogs about this, and read countless recipes.  Since we're becoming more and more ingrained into living a sustainable lifestyle, this seemed like the next natural step.

Here is what you need:
Everything shown was purchased at Rural King: borax, superwashing soda, baking soda, and bar soap.  I used Fels-Naptha, because it seemed to be the one that was the most used, and it was readily available.  Note this has both washing soda and baking soda.  I searched long and hard for a recipe that used both, because I am a long time fan of baking soda and its regular uses.

Here is the recipe I used:
1 cup borax
1 1/2 cup baking soda
1 1/2 cup washing soda
1 bar soap
1 quart of water to melt the soap in.  2 gallons for later.
1 5 gallon bucket.

First, grate the soap.  A box grater seems to be the best way to do this, just be careful when you get to the end of the bar!

In a large pot, heat 1 quart of water, and add the grated soap. Medium to medium high worked the best.

You have to constantly stir this until the grated soap is melted, and do not let it boil.  I noticed the soap tended to stick when I stopped stirring to measure out the other stuff.  I didn't take a picture (oops), but in a large bowl, add the borax, washing soda, and baking soda together. When the soap is completely dissolved, take it off the heat and add in the dry ingredients.  Stir this in really well- I ended up using a whisk to make sure everything was incorporated as it should be.

After everything is mixed together, pour the soap mixture into a 5 gallon bucket, and add 2 gallons of water and mix well.  Because I was worried about whether or not all my stuff was mixed well, I stirred it in the bucket for a long time.

I had some help....

This is what I ended up with.
Cover this for 24 hours, then check your consistency.  Here is where I'm in the dark, since this is my first batch.  Tomorrow evening about this time, I'll open it up and hope for a gel-like consistency.  My plan is to transfer a portion to a mason jar with a plastic lid, and keep it by the washer.  I guess you'll have to shake it before using, so a mason jar seems to be the logical choice for a container.

I'll make sure to post again tomorrow on whether or not my soap was a success!

Friday, February 10, 2012

We were thinking about raising some hogs on our property, only two so we can have one in our freezer at the end and one to sell. The goal we set at the 2011 Thanksgiving dinner at my parents house was to have a 90% + meal that was either raised or grown on our hobby farm or at my parents house. Aurora Bryn Farm has 2.33 acres and my parents have 40+. We should be able to make this work!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Our egg production is still going strong with an average of 9 to 11 eggs per day. We are starting to get enough of a customer base that getting rid of them is no longer a problem. Sometimes our biggest concern is having enough for ourselves so we will be going in with some friends and ordering another ten or so laying hens for our flock.

We are also going to do have meat birds again this year and this time we will be doing double what we had last time. My father is going half with us so this time we will be able to have them commercially processed at our local butcher rather than me doing them all here.

I have a coffee table full of seed catalogs. It's nice to think about the garden in the middle of Winter but you are likely to catch a serious case of Spring out!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Me on the old Ford in 2010
Here is a tractor I can get to when ever I want.

Here is a picture of a tractor that I don't have.


I grew these Danvers Half-Long Carrots in the 2011 season and saved  the biggest and best by breaking the tops off and burying them in very loose soil in the same manner that they would have grown in the first place. They were all at least 3 inches below ground level and these have been in the garden for a few months. I put them into the ground where my potato patch was because that soil was already well worked from the massive potato crop.

This was my first attempt at this trenching method for keeping root crops and I was quite happy with the results. Make sure you mark the location well so you don't end up finding them with the tiller next growing season. Needless to say I will be using this technique in the future on carrots and other hardy root crops. The only problem you may have to deal with is an animal who likes carrots as much as you do taking some for their own winter snack.