Thursday, September 29, 2016

Fall is in the air!

Finally there is a change in the air.  We got some much needed rain and the oppressive heat and humidity combination is gone. There is fog over the Green River when we look south in the morning, just like last year in late September.
Ralph got the cover crops in, the main concern was the dry soil. Would they germinate? The east garden has good cover of the Sorghum Sudan grass and the Austrian peas, the peas germinated better on the east side of the garden as it tends to hold moisture better than the side near the house.

The west garden just planted to Austrian peas, Sorghum Sudan grass and Daikon radish.
The west garden has been divided in to two areas, one for cover crop and one for fall greens and root crops. We also used up a lot of old seed, planting carrots, Tatsoi and beets. Our Amish neighbor found a way to speed carrot germination in this areas heavy soil. Put boards over the new planting, this stops the soil from drying out from sun exposure. Check often and remove the boards when the tiny sprouts show up. It worked, we have excellent germination of carrot seed that never showed any signs of germination this past spring.
 Boards over carrot seeds to help stop crusting of the soil.

I am curing some squash and have been dehydrating some. I am pleased with how squash reconstitute after dehydration. I throw a handful of dry squash cubes in a stew or soup toward the end of cooking and they remain al dente and add the wonderful flavor of fall to whatever I am cooking. The basement is not cool enough yet and we are storing cured squash in the workshop on shelving Ralph made for that purpose. These shelves have space between the planks for air flow.
 Tan Cheese Pumpkin

The Tan Cheese pumpkins are amazing, I hope to cook the first one this week. They were vigorous vines with excellent leaf cover and great disease tolerance. The Guatemalan Blue is a dilemma, great vines, One Squash.....yes one, in a 30 foot mass of vines. However it was totally delicious, one of the best tasting baked squash we have ever eaten. Our Blue Hubbard are huge and I think Ralph and I will deliver several of them to our neighbor for her big family. Trade goods!
A Blue Hubbard Squash, the size of a basketball!

We have some old old varieties, one called Seminole Pumpkin. They are perfect for us. Prolific and small. Very hardy to heat and humidity as well as bugs!

The Seminole Pumpkins

You might notice the "fertilizer Pellets" next to the pumpkin. Yup we have deer!

There are Pennsylvania Crook Neck squash, I just like these. Lots of meat and pretty colored. They also taste good and bake well. The ones we had last year store well for 5 months. They do vine though and we found them with the Blue Hubbard and Sweet Meat, both a long way from the main Crook neck plants!

A very nice Pennsylvania Crook Neck Squash.
There are Sweet Meat squash to try, they still have very good stem attachment and are not ready to pick no matter how tempted I am! 
 Sweet Meat Squash
We have Thelma Sanders Squash, a nice acorn type that stuff well. They did not like the heat so much and stopped flowering when it got hot. We have a few though and I use them to stuff with a sausage vegetable mixture, topped with cheese! One squash is just right for two people.
 Thelma Sanders
It has been a good to see squash when I walk around the garden. It is like buried treasure, you don't see them until the vines start to die off then all of a sudden squash start to appear!
We learned so  much this summer about our new climate and yes we are already looking forward to 2017's garden. It is one of the positive things about gardens. The looking to the next one and new varieties and experiments!
The chickens are doing well too. Three Australorpes went broody all at once, they hatched 19 chicks, one died and they abandoned one [house chick#2] but the three of them share the stress of raising a horde. The three hens share the work all day but at  night it seems they all take care of their own. One hen had a terrible hatch and only had two live, then one of them died so she is the proverbial hen with one chick and she is fanatical! She shares the work through the day but night finds her in her own place with HER chick!
 The Horde and the Three Mothers.
 It is such fun to watch them all!
The first chicks are turning out to be very nice chickens and much bigger than the parents. We got a good mix of hens and roosters. I love the color of the Buff Australorp crossbreds.
  A "Buffalorp" pullet.
 Some of my help coming back from Picking squash.
" Are you looking at me?"
Ralph made what we call teepee's out of scrap plywood or chip board we have cleared up here. They are simple, shelters made when you screw 2 pieces of plywood to a 4x4 on a 90 degree angle and then just set them on boards on the ground. The poultry love them and you can find odd mixes of ducks, hens and turkeys under them in rain or on hot days! 
 Ticky the barn cat discussing something with a young Buckalorp rooster.
The little stray cat that showed up has become a wonderful addition to the farm. She doesn't bother the hens with chicks and sleeps where she can watch everything. She catches mice and even moles! The kittens are slowly getting tame and are starting to hunt. They respect the hens as they have been pecked enough to know what a beak can do!
 This is what greets us when we go out to work. Our crazy flock!
So now I have got to get some serious work done, dehydrating squash and making Green Tomato strawberry jam.
The cool weather is such a relief and now I feel like I am getting things done. No more afternoon naps to avoid heat!  Soon we will have fall greens and I will have replaced a lot of the canning I did last year with new fresh things.
Do take care and God Bless all of you.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Meet John Doe

Ralph and I love old movies, Randolph Scott, Gary Cooper  and the ladies to match them. Women were feisty, brash and looked out for themselves when they needed to but they appreciated good  men, strong men, men who had the courage to lead, dealt with their inner failings and were generally nice guys!

Anyway last night we were trying out a new program on his Linux OS  called Clipgrab. It allows to you download youtube videos and watch them advertising far anyway. We found this movie "Meet John Doe". It stars Gary Cooper and a very young Barbara Stanwyck. We had not seen it before so we popped up some popcorn in our Amish Popcorn Whirly Pop [Mushroom Popcorn for me, Yellow Hi popcorn for Ralph] and we set to watching it.

We had no  idea what to expect but as the tale unfolds we became thoroughly engrossed.

Partial write up below is thanks to Timeless Classics Movies where the link leads you to.

"Meet John Doe" is a 1941 American comedy drama film directed and produced by Frank Capra, and starring Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck. The film is about a "grassroots" political campaign created unwittingly by a newspaper columnist and pursued by a wealthy businessman. It became a box office hit and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Story. Though the film is less well known than other Frank Capra classics, it remains highly regarded today. It was ranked #49 in AFI's 100 Years... 100 Cheers.

Meet John Doe...

Barbara Stanwyck

 One of the stills used for the you remember how exciting it was to see new movie posters at the local theater?

 Introducing John Doe to the press photographers.

One of my favorite moments in the movie...

News about 'John Does' Speech.

The tale unwinds...

This movie was made in 1941. I do hope you take the time to watch it or you already have. It is a statement that has disturbing similarities to politics now but it does not expect politicians to fix everything. It is a delight in this jaded age of political correctness. 

God Bless and let us know what you think of it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

So much to Do!

We have had a few nice days, some much needed rain and there is still a hint of the aggressive heat of this past summer. The Hummingbirds have gone, it is so strange as the last few days they flew around me and yesterday two perched on the squash outside the bedroom window and stared at me. Today we have seen not a one and the feeders are full. Were they letting us know they would soon be going to their winter  homes? I already miss them!

We have been busy with all the things we got behind at and Ralph got the first of the cover crop, minutes before the rain. The harvested area of the East Garden in now in Austrian Peas and Sorghum Sudan grass. We purchased a small spreader and then Ralph went over it with the power harrow and that seems to have worked well, scuffling the seed into the ground and then packing it firmly.

There is a lot more to flail mow and last night Ralph mowed while I took photos of the poultry. I so wish I could explain how good they are for ones spirit. Ralph was getting exasperated with them as they tried to get every bug the mower disturbed or scratch tasty roots right in front of him.

So here is the evenings work in photos!

A hen with 3 chicks, she was having quite a time as the chicks went crazy looking for bugs and ran in 3 different directions after them. Just as she got them rounded up after one bug hunt they would rush off on another!

We really love the Buckeye hens, they have grown into lovely hens and have such character. They always look so serious!

"Shoeless Joe" our main rooster, he is really quite special and knows it. He is so good to the hens but most certainly boss Rooster!

He does take a good photo.

The Buff hens are sweet and so friendly, anyone who wants sweet quiet gentle chickens that are a lovely golden should get this breed. They are chatter boxes and always clucking or brawking!

 The young Royal Palm turkey's go everywhere and walk at a near jog, they chase grasshoppers all over the big field.

This is where Ralph had mowed, the poultry was all over it. They get a lot of grubs but they also like the fresh chopped weeds. 

Now I know there are no photos of the actual working going on but it was. I just got distracted by all the goings  on.

Remember the house chick? Well she is still coming in to the house to roost on her chair. If we do not get to the door when she wants in she has now taken to perching on the yard light above the door! She knows we will not miss her here.

Here is an example of a snack around here. Litchi Tomatoes and a yellow Tommy toe. So tasty!

We had this strange cloud formation to the east of us after a storm blew through here the other day, it bathed the place in a strange pinkish/orange light, quite beautiful.

This is the sunset on the west side of the place the same late afternoon as the odd clouds.

Now this is not one of our Chickens. She is a Silver Laced Wyandotte that belongs to our neighbor who cuts our hay. He has a nice small flock and they are free range too. She was watching me as Ralph and Jim discussed the hay field plans.

 Some of our Black Mexican Corn, I think the drive for crop uniformity has taken a lot of the fun out of harvesting. These cobs are just such a wonderful range of colors and even the sizes are handy. Small for children and the LONG ones for corn fanatics. It is not a sweet corn as such, but in the milk stage just as the color starts to show faintly, it is really good table eating!

Now last but not least...I love cut flowers to brighten a table but we have not got them here...yet. I also love the feathers from the turkeys so this is my vase on our table. I never need to water it!

 I hope this meander about the place has entertained you. We have nicer weather to work in so there is a lot on the go, but thats part of a small farm, growing your own food, being more self reliant and living well. I look around us and I  know money cannot give us any more than the gift God bestowed on Ralph and I with this opportunity.  God Bless you all and be safe and live well.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Does Anyone Have A Good Recipe For Shredded Chicken? (A Ralph Post)

Just about the time I think chickens are pretty smart, they try to convince me they are dumber than a rock. We’re trying to get things ready for fall/winter. One of those things is a cover crop on all bare soil and next years garden locations (and maybe some hay fields). We don’t use commercial fertilizer. God provides. We have a well fertilized yard (thanks to chickens, ducks, turkeys, and guinea). The same works for the garden. We collect from the barn and apply to the garden. What the poultry apply to the yard, stays there (for us to step in). The yard has grown wonderfully all summer long. It is really green! The poultry wanders all over this place. They are truly free range. They don’t get penned up, except at night. They eat bugs, grass, house scraps, garden waste, etc. Targets of opportunity abound. We are not finicky about the yard. The curious thing is: as well as the yard is growing, we hardly ever mow it. The poultry do. We will mow about every three or four weeks to get the high bits, but they keep it eat down quite well. And fertilized! Quite well!

The cover crop? We want to suppress weeds and slow any chance of erosion. We want to eliminate/reduce soil compaction from tilling and prior tractor use. We want to add organic matter. We want to add nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, boron, etc. to the soil. We want to do what we can to balance out the soil for next years use. The manure and a good cover crop works toward this goal.

We are going to use Austrian peas, sorghum-sudangrass, and Daikon radishes. This will all fall/winter kill. The Austrian peas add organic matter and nitrogen. The sorghum-sudangrass adds lots of organic matter (reports of 8,000 pounds per acre per year of dry organic matter, not live weigh), a massive root ball that holds the soil to prevent erosion, all that growth inhibits weed growth (especially winter weeds this fall), and with the first frost, it dies. After it dies, it will fall over and mulch the soil to lessen erosion and the splash of falling rain. And it insulates the soil and its microbes. And the daikon radishes! They are massive drills. They have a root. And that root goes south! It can be 3 inches plus in diameter and up to 2 feet long. And it has lateral roots off of that. All of this is terrible for soil compaction (great for us). Those roots mine minerals and bring it up toward the surface for next years crop to use. The radishes will winter kill and decompose. The root channels are channels for water to enter the soil pass the soil compaction and it is a channel for next years crop’s roots to go deep. I have read of people doing no till. They will plant a tomato, pepper, etc. into the decomposed radish and its roots go deep because the soil compaction is broken. The new crop loves all those minerals. Even if you till, you have lots of “new” minerals for your crops. 

 Austrian Peas

 Sorghum Sudan Grass

 Berseem Clover


   Daikon Radish soil breaking cover crop.

We are thinking of Berseem clover and Sunnhemp for next summer as a cover crop. Sunnhemp is a legume – think nitrogen – with a deep root system. Both of these are expensive. I was thinking of berseem for this fall. No one had heard of it or they couldn’t get it. I was surprised how few even knew what I was talking about. Southern States didn’t know what it was, was it a white clover? No, it’s an old Egyptian clover. They got on the phone. It was over $150.00 for 50 pounds, but no one had it. Hence, I got Austrian peas. They both winter kill. The reason we are thinking of these is odd and contradictory. We are exploring this possibly. People are planting these between the crop rows to out compete weeds. Then they come down the row with a lawn mower and mow it over against the crop as a mulch. It does not rob water from the main crop. Or so it seems. And the cover crop covers the soil so that rain does not splash soil and disease up on to the lower leaves of the main crop. And they add nitrogen and minerals to the soil. Like I said, they both winter kill.

So, that is the background. I have been out mowing the field where next years garden is to go. Most of next years gardens will be on new plots. This years garden goes back to hay/fallow/cover cropping. The gardens that have died back have already been mowed. That flail mower does wonders on corn stalks, weeds, brassicas that have gone to seed (next years volunteers), beets, spinaches, etc. Everything is just chopped up to about 2 inch lengths and ready to decompose. I will till a lot of it in as I prepare to seed the cover crop. I will be interplanting all three on all fields, while the supply lasts. I have a 50 pound bag of each, but the radish seeding rate is about 15 pounds per acre. I guess the hay field may get some. I don’t intend to carry any seed over to next year.
Using the Grillo and Flail Mower to cut uncontrolled weed growth.

The same area a few days later when the mulch is drying and beginning to rot.

This is what the Flail mower does to large plant growth.

 You can see here how tall some of the weeds are and the Grillo with the Flail mower cut through it beautifully.

So, I am busy mowing hay stubble in preparation for a cover crop. And chickens being chickens, they feel that is a call to dinner and they come a-running. We had chicks hatching all summer long, here and there. They come out. The older chickens come out. We have ducks and turkeys checking things out. It is a menagerie. It is nice to see them coming from everywhere. They have learned that the Grillo equals dinner. When I am tilling the garden, they are getting grubs and roots. I love them getting the grubs for me. When I am mowing, it is cricket and grasshopper, etc. time. It is comical to see a chicken running after a grub or grasshopper or whatever when she has a large tennis ball or baseball attached to her breast. She is so stuffed and still trying to get more. And it is cheap chicken feed. With all of the rain we have had here and the heat, we have few mosquitoes and insects around the house. We don’t see many bugs, but the poultry sure do find lots to eat when I am running the Grillo.

We have had few insect problems in the garden. But we have had lots of chickens in the garden. And here is a contradiction to what I had been led to expect. Your experience may be different, but we have had good results with poultry in the garden. Ducks are suppose to destroy a garden. Our ducks spend a lot of time in the garden. But they seem to be getting grubs and slugs and… I don’t know what all. But they love it in the garden.
The squash vines heading out of the garden!

And the chickens? They are about the worst for roaming. Anywhere and everywhere. Near and far. Tall weeds along fence rows (I need to get that mowed). Open ground. And in the garden. The south garden is on the other side of the barn. The rows are 200 feet long. And the chickens are pass the end of the garden. The east side of the garden is a row of winter squash and pumpkins. Big vines! A couple of weeks ago, I was trying to mow along the edge of the row/vines. I glimpsed something out of the corner of my eye. I looked. There was nothing. In a moment, I got that glimpse again. This happened at least four or five times. I was starting to wonder about “me”. And then I saw it, the upright tail of a Buckeye hen. For just a quick moment. I stopped and went over to see if there was a problem. There wasn’t any problem. She was traveling the trails they had under those big vines. They had trails everywhere. And there wasn’t just one chicken in there, there was a bunch of them. And all the trails! And not one vine was dying from being stepped on. And I didn’t see any squash bugs. I can’t say that was because of them or not, but I didn’t see any. I guess it was cooler in there out of the direct sun. And bugs. I was surprised they weren’t out with the other chickens around the Grillo. 
There is a hen in here!

Anyway, back to dumb chickens. I think I read somewhere that the blades on the flail mower turn about 10,000 revolutions per minute (rpm). They will chop up a 1 inch thick weed stalk/corn stalk, etc. Those chickens feed right up against the mower. That is where all the bugs are being uncovered/thrown out. I have had them run into the mower. I have had them stop in front of the mower. I have had one on my right see a grasshopper or something about 30 feet away on my left. What eye sight! It will run right in front of the mower or run over top of it. One day, one is not going to make it. I am not looking forward to that day. I dread it. But they sure are happy! What really catches me off guard real badly is the one that sees a bug right in front of the mower. It runs over real fast and stops in front of the mower. Time to grab the clutch and brake, fast! They generally move out of the way of the oncoming mower, slowly (usually). And then you have a girl that has seen a bug and knows it is in the grass there somewhere? And she isn’t going to let it get away. Even if that big, noisy mower is coming. I am glad the blades are in the center and not up front of the mower. This afternoon, I had a Buckeye tail under the edge of the mower before I could get stopped. No where near “danger”, but still unnerving. One of these days… I dread having them around, but they are enjoying the feeding frenzy so much and I am enjoying them and their antics so much. It is a dilemma. And they must be a one sided DD with that tennis ball up front. Some day, one is just going to explode from eating so much.

Forgotten note: The poultry in the garden: They have given us a little damage, but not nearly as much as the bugs would have. For us, the poultry in the garden is a good thing.

On to a happier subject: Garden bounty. We had a nice coincidence. Fiona gathered some Craig’s Grande jalapeño type peppers from the garden. I watched a Wall Street Journal video on making Texas Twinkies. She married the two up. The result is fantastic. Try them. Highly recommended!

Bacon wrapped Jalapeño poppers

8 good sized Jalapeño Peppers
1 pound good quality thick cut bacon☆
Cream Cheese
Cheddar cheese
Toothpicks (wooden) if needed
Parchment covered cookie sheet

Cut the Jalapeño peppers in half lengthwise, remove the seeds and ribs (this is where the heat comes from)
Spread cream cheese in the bottom of each half.
Cut the cheddar cheese into strips as long as the peppers and about pencil thick, lay one of these strips on top of the cream cheese filling.
Wrap the cheese filled pepper with a strip of bacon and hold it in place with a wooden toothpick.
Place the peppers on the parchment covered cookie sheet.
Bake at 375 until the bacon is crispy. The longer you cook the peppers the milder they should be.
Remove from the oven and let set for 5 minutes.
The bacon makes a huge difference. The first time I made these I used cheaper, regular cut bacon, it wrapped easily but it was too fatty, not enough meat left after baking. If your Jalapeño peppers are smaller you can use a half strip of bacon per pepper. The WSJ had shredded beef brisket inside the jalapeño, also. Pretty well child safe for eating. Not much heat in ours.

We try to not let much go to waste around here. We found a couple of squash in the east garden where I was mowing down everything for the cover crop. They were volunteers. They were immature. One had started to rot some from ground contact and one of those ground induced rots. The chickens got the rot. She cut up the good parts into small pieces. She had a recipe for Zucchini Cobbler Pie. She tried the zucchini on me. No advance warning. I wondered where she got the apples for the cobbler. Our apples were finished. She told me it was zucchini. I was pleasantly surprised. She figured if it worked for zucchini, it might work for immature winter squash (think down the road when frost is coming and you have loads of squash coming on and no time for them). She tried it. It was about as good as the zucchini (she liked it better, it was more dense). Here’s the recipe:

Zucchini Cobbler Recipe - Fiona’s notes

This is the recipe as I received it. I have changed it a bit.

I use 1 cup of lemon juice may be because our zucchini is less moist than a lot of zucchini varieties.

I add 1 tsp of ground clove to the filling part. I also reduce the sugar to 1/2 cup.

I replaced 1 cup of flour with rolled oats for the crust mixture.

I followed the recipe exactly the first couple of times and it is very very good that way. However I wanted to make some changes for us.

The other thing I did was replace the zucchini with immature winter squash. We had two in the East garden that had their vines broken when we tore out the weeds. They were nice big squash and I hated to chuck them. When I looked up recipes for immature winter squash I found out you can use them instead of summer squash. They worked even better than zucchini!

Zucchini Cobbler Recipe

5 cups zucchini – peeled, seeded & chopped
½ cup fresh lemon juice
¾ cup white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups white sugar
1 ½ cups butter, chilled
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a 9x13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
2. Place zucchini and lemon juice in a medium saucepan. Cook, covered, over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, or until tender. Stir in ¾ cup sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and nutmeg. Simmer 1 minute longer, remove from heat, and set aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour and 1 ½ cups sugar. Cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir ½ cup crumb mixture into zucchini mixture. Press half the remaining crumb mixture into the prepared pan. Spread zucchini evenly over crust. Crumble remaining crumb mixture over zucchini, and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon cinnamon.
4. Bake in the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden and bubbly.

Fiona got this recipe from a friend of hers. We hope Becky doesn’t mind our sharing it. It is a wonderful, decadent product. Dangerously good!!! 


We are more fortunate than a lot of people. For that, we are thankful. We have the room where our poultry can roam freely. And we let them. And they seem to be very happy with that situation. They are living as their ancestors did. It is good for them. And it is good for us. It seems no matter where we are, there will be poultry there (or will be shortly). They give us many curious moments and many laughs (and many frights). They will come up to us and just “talk” away. I haven’t learned the dialect yet, but they think I need to know what they are saying. Maybe its the location to a collection of juicy bugs that they are willing to share with me. If I am in the way, they will just walk over my foot, or under it. If I am walking across the yard, I will probably have an entourage following me. If I stop somewhere, and Loopy-Lou is around, she will come up and grab my leg MEAT, and twist. That is her trademark, the twist. She wants picked up. And NOW!!! It hurts, a little, but not bad. It is more cute than anything. (And it keeps pesky neighbors from making a second visit.) She just wants attention and to be petted. She has that cute factor worked out to the max. She does not like being ignored or put off! She is irresistible. She is one of our many joys, just a little more demanding. And my favorite!!! I will pick her up and we will go on my way. And we will just talk and talk to each other. She is one of life’s most pleasant joys. Everyone should have one. She is mine. Uh-oh, and Fiona is too!!! BIG trouble for me! Fiona has Peepers! That’s her story to tell sometime. Peepers is a blonde! So is Loopy, but she is a bleach blonde. Peepers is a natural! Loopy is loopy because she is loopy. Peepers makes peeps.

Anyway, it is time to pass this on to the editor for copy and proofing and publishing. May you have or find joy in your life. God can and will help with that!

Our hope for the best for you and yours and may God provide you with many blessings,

Ralph and Fiona