Independence Days

Three Cheers for Volunteers!

Last week we went out to the garden and found THIS!  Volunteer spinach!  Hooray!

We decided to take advantage of the nice weather by getting a bit of garden prep done and putting a few seeds into the ground.  Rick also helped the neighbor get more ready on his garden by digging out three tree stumps and getting some major tilling and composting into the beds.

Our neighbor is cracking me up.  When he first wanted to do the garden he gave me free license for garden design as long as it included corn and potatoes.  Now he’s got definite ideas about what he wants and doesn’t want, so we are modifying the plans I made all winter a bit.  I’m actually really glad, since it tells me he’s a lot more excited about his space than he is letting on.  We’re adding carrots and onions.  He’s from Indiana and missed the corn fields, so we are planting four long rows for him to walk through.  I talked him into beans with the corn, though he thinks he “won’t like how it looks,” he’s willing to let me try it since I keep telling him the beans will help feed the corn.  But corn and beans are still a few month off.  This is what we actually planted this weekend:

Plant something – spinach, lettuce (four kinds), radishes, and peas.

Harvest something – eggs, compost and a leaf or two of that volunteer spinach.

Preserve something – Ah – TAMALES!  My friend, Jen, came over on Saturday and while Rick and the boys kept busy digging out tree stumps, we made a triple batch of corn and poblano tamales.  We ended up with 90!  Jen took about 30 of them home and let me keep the rest.  She was super generous and I’m very grateful!  We put away enough for five meals in the freezer, and kept out enough for Saturday’s dinner and lunch on Sunday.  And – OH were they delicious.

We also learned about making lard – we rendered pork fat both last year and this year.  But we learned a bit more this time around.  We ended up coming up short, so we added bacon grease.  I knew I was keeping that around for something!

Waste Not – compost and recycling

Want Not – Sunday we bought a few new baby chicks.  I really want a hen that will go broody so we can have her raise future chicken generations, so we’re hoping the Buff Orpington will provide on that front.  We added another Araucana, because I really love getting colored eggs,  and I’ve been thinking of actually, finally, selling some eggs, just to recover the cost of the feed, so we added a third – a Black Star.  Wouldn’t it be great if one of them liked to lay double-yolked eggs?  We had one pullet in the last batch that laid them nearly every day like a champ, but she was killed by a fox attack.

Build Community Food Systems – Well – already mentioned the tamales and the neighbor’s garden.  That’s it for this week.

Eat the Food – lots of items from the pantry.  Nothing special.

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Categories: Chickens, Food, Garden, Independence Days, Recipes, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Happy Chickens Lay the Best Eggs

LOOK what we got this week!

Plant something – not yet… this weekend if it doesn’t snow though!

Harvest something – eggs! Even old Mayzie girl laid eggs and she’s four this year!  We’re so happy to be back in eggs from out own girls.

Preserve something – two quiches and a bag of soup went into the freezer – I’m trying to get some meals frozen for when the baby comes.

Waste Not – compost and recycling, scraps to chickens, etc.  And I’m seven weeks straight on planning meals!

Want Not – We scored some twin beds for the boys from craigslist.  They are a really nice set that can be bunked or not.  We’ve already set up H’s and he LOVES it.  We’ll be saving his other bed for the new baby when they are older.

Build Community Food Systems – shared some frozen green chiles and grape jam with my sis & bro-in-law.

Eat the Food – Duck was on the menu this week.  I usually have a harder time using our game birds than the elk or venison, but I am making a point to do it.  And I LOVE duck!  Served up two zucchini-green chile quiches using veggies from the freezer at brunch.

This is my favorite duck recipe: Doug’s Grilled Duck Breasts from Field and Stream Magazine.  So yum!

Categories: Chickens, Garden, Independence Days, Recipes | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Still Working Towards Independence

So I know it’s been a while since you’ve seen an Independence Days update.  Since October I think.  Well we’ve still been working, just nothing consistent over the winter, and no planting since that last post either.

My friend Annie has been keeping track through the winter and I am so impressed by her.  I thought I’d finally update what we’ve had in the last two weeks or so.  Also – I’ve totally lost count of the weeks (somewhere in the 40’s, I’m sure).  So going forward no more counting… just updates as they come.

Plant something – nothing yet.

Harvest something – eggs!  Some of the hens have started up laying again.  Hooray!  Two eggs last week, so far, another eight this week.  Yippee!

Preserve something – turkey stock – that’s all.

Waste Not – compost and recycling, scraps to chickens, etc.  Kept up the meal planning – 6 weeks straight now!  Made some turkey stock from the bones of a turkey and some rather limp veggies from the bottom of the fridge.  Went through the boys’ clothes and toys again.  Also sorted through Rick & my closet.  With a small house I just don’t have room to keep this stuff around.  So some other lucky kids will benefit from the Goodwill donations.  I did pull about 8 jackets and sweatshirts that I’m going to take to the used kids clothing shop to sell.  They usually buy that stuff, and for some reason, this season we ended up with a kajillion jackets for each kiddo.

Want Not – ordered seeds!  Hip hip hooray! – More on this below.  Also we got black-out/thermal drapes for the boys’ room.  They have old wooden single pane windows back there, and although we put up storm windows and the plastic, they were still freezing cold.  We hung up one set of curtains on one window and put a quilt over the other window (we’re waiting to hang the second set until we move their room around when E leaves the crib soon).  But just that little change has made a huge difference in the temperature of their bedroom.

Build Community Food Systems – Our neighbor ordered potato seeds for us to share and we got the corn and beans and carrots he wanted.  Plus we ordered veggies for our space, and based on some hopeful swapping with some friends, even modified what we were going to plant in some areas.  :)

Also blogged about Non-GMO seeds and that sparked a conversation on Facebook with a friend who is working on her first garden at her home.  A little something.

Eat the Food – Turkey from the freezer.  Chiles, corn, jalapeño powder, pickles, frozen tomatoes, peaches, plums, elk, grouse, pheasant, beans and jams all getting used.  We’re really working through the freezer this year.  Our onions, garlic, potatoes, winter squash, strawberries and raspberries are all completely gone already.

Categories: Independence Days | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

Independence Days: Week 31

Plant something – nothing

Harvest something – eggs, tomatoes, kohlrabi, zucchini, eggplant (!), pumpkins.  The chickens are really slowing down with their eggs.  In fact we had to buy some this past week.  :(  I harvested three of our eggplants.  They were a bit on the small side, but I didn’t want to take the chance of them getting a frost without us even getting one.  They were delicious.  There are a few more still out there.  We’re going to let them grow as long as the weather holds out.

Preserve something – dried more tomatoes on the dehydrator, froze some winter squash puree.

Waste Not – compost and recycling, scraps to chickens, etc.

Want Not – nothing.

Build Community Food Systems – started working up a plan for my neighbor’s garden.  After six years of watching us, he’s announced that he’d like a space in his yard (next to our garden) where he’d like to grow corn and potatoes.  He asked for help and we are HAPPY to give it!  Yay!

Eat the Food – made a couple yummy things this week.

Orecchiette with Butternut Squash Cream Sauce

Cook 2 cups orecchiette pasta in salted water until al dente.  In the mean time, saute 1/2 a diced onion in olive oil until soft.  Add 1 tsp dried sage and saute until fragrant.  Drain pasta reserving 2 TBS of the cooking water.  Return the pasta to pot.  Add the onions and 1/2 a butternut squash that has been roasted until tender and smashed slightly to the pot.  Stir in reserved pasta water and about 1/4 cup half and half.  When all is well combined stir in 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese.  Serves 2.

Double Chocolate Jalapeno Muffins (pictured above)

So I took the original recipe found here, and substituted three fresh jalapenos that had turned red (therefore a bit sweeter than the green ones).  So delicious!

Categories: Food, Garden, Independence Days, Recipes | Tags: | 3 Comments

Coop Tour Recap & Fall Planting

Last weekend was the first Denver Chicken Coop Tour, which was fantastic!  The Botanic Gardens sold out all 120 tickets for the tour, and each ticket was good for up to 4 people.  We tried to count how many people came to view our coop and bee hive, but it seemed like they came in gushes and spurts instead of a steady stream, and I lost count at just over 80.  I’m not certain on the exact number, but it we’re sure it was well over 100 people.

Most of the questions were about how the coop was constructed, what we did on vacation, and how difficult the maintenance was for our five hens.  A few predator questions as well.  It was really enjoyable.  We talked to people who lived in the country with chickens and wanted to see other people coops, people who wanted chickens in their own back yards and people who thought it was great fun that someone in an urban area would keep chickens.

I actually had a wonderful time, and am really looking forward to next year’s tour.

Here’s the update for weeks 29 and 30…

Plant something – mums, asters, irises (again), garlic, chard, spinach, kale, rhubarb, snapdragons, cosmos.

Harvest something – eggs, tomatoes, kohlrabi, zucchini, pumpkins.  Rick harvested two ducks this weekend as well.

Preserve something – tomatoes frozen, spicy kale and potato soup made and frozen, chicken and some chiles in the freezer, more jalapenos and a few experimental tomatoes on the dehydrator.

Waste Not – compost and recycling, scraps to chickens, etc.  Tried and failed at making cheese – twice.  But the chickens thought both the weird, over-cooked curds and the whey were great – hahaha!  I actually started planning meals again, something I’ve neglected all spring and summer.  Planning saves a lot of time, money and food!

Want Not – Got cast iron skillets, a large food scale, and a giant awesome stockpot from my grandpa!!!!!!

Build Community Food Systems – The Denver Botanic Gardens/Denver Urban Homesteading Chicken Coop Tour!  We actually got a thank you note from a tour participant in the mail this week!!  Asked the waiter at a restaurant if their organic produce came from local farmers.  ;)  It’s a small step, but an important one.  We actually ate at two restaurants lately that get their produce and bread locally.

Eat the Food – lots of good stuff.  Not sure what recipe to post here.  But I can tell you that dehydrating tomatoes is super easy and they end up packed with flavor.  The romas we just cut in half and the sweets we cut into thick slices.  Salted them all, sprinkled on some thyme and stuck them in to dry.  They have turned out great!

Categories: Chickens, Food, Independence Days | 4 Comments

Independence Days: Week 28?

Wow – I think it’s twenty-eight.  I have sort of lost count.  So we’ll go with it.

This week I’ve been playing catch up with the house and laundry and trying not to let any of the food go bad.  I don’t yet have all the green chiles peeled and in the freezer yet.  I’m hoping they will make it a couple more days, but I’m afraid they might not.

I’ve also been trying to get a lot done around the yard.  This weekend is Denver’s chicken coop tour, which we’re participating in.  So of course, I want our yard in an unnaturally clean and perfect manner.  ;)  Ha!

Back when we picked peaches, we got a few apples as well.  they’ve been yummy and lasting quite a while on the counter, but our time is about to run out with them, so I decided this morning to dry them.  I’ve never dehydrated apples before, so wish me luck!

Here’s the update this week.

Plant something – some more flowers and bulbs.  No food, but I am hoping to get a few seeds in the ground to over winter (garlic if it’s not too late).

Harvest something – eggs, tomatoes, kohlrabi.

Preserve something – tomatoes frozen, French onion soup made and frozen, some chiles in the freezer.  Put apples on the dehydrator this morning.

Waste Not – compost and recycling, scraps to chickens, etc.

Want Not – nothing.

Build Community Food Systems – I just realized that I never told you that H, E and I helped with a film that Denver Urban Homesteading is making to get the city of Denver to lift the law preventing chickens inside city limits without a permit.  I am excited to see the video (I think it will be on youtube), and I will certainly share when it’s finished!

Eat the Food – made a big pot of veggie soup just to use some things up!  I also made this eggplant lasagna that was a bit of an experiment – the original recipe was a bit different, and I didn’t have what was called for so I made some substitutions.  It turned out really yummy.  Here’s the recipe – it sounds so weird, but it tasted great!

1 ½ pounds eggplant sliced ¼” thick
3 Tbs olive oil
coarse salt and ground pepper
4-6 slices bacon cooked until crisp and crumbled
¼ tsp ground all spice
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
1½ tsp dried oregano
5 cups Bechamel Sauce (I would increase the milk in the recipe to 5 cups, the flour to 1/3 cup, and add 2-3 cloves of garlic)
8-12 no-boil lasagna noodles
1 cup shredded swiss cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Toss eggplant with 2 Tbs olive oil, salt and pepper and put on a baking sheet.  Roast eggplant in 400 degree oven for about twenty minutes.  Meanwhile, make your Bachamel sauce and cook your bacon.

When the bacon is crisp, remove from pan and drain off most to all of the drippings.  Add 1 Tbs olive oil to bacon pan and all of the herbs and spices.  Saute about three minutes, and add crumbled bacon back to pan.

Spread 1 cup sauce in the bottom of an 8×8 pan (I use a pan that is about 8×10).  Place two or three noodles over sauce.  Layer with half of the eggplant.  Then 1 cup more of sauce and ¼ cup of Swiss cheese.  Layer two or three more noodles.  Layer on all of the bacon-herb mixture.  Top with another cup of sauce and another ¼ cup of Swiss cheese.  Top with two or three more noodles and repeat eggplant layer with remaining ingredients, reserving the Parmesan.

Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes.  Remove foil, top with reserved cheese and continue to bake 5 -10 minutes more until the cheese is bubbly.  Remove from oven, let cool 15-20 minutes and serve.

Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, Food, Independence Days, Recipes | Tags: | 1 Comment

Independence Days: Season of Work!

Yes, the harvest season is here, and it feels like we are working non-stop putting up food!  Last week, we made grape jam, finished putting away the peaches, and worked on the yard for a bit.  Rick dug out an area for a new flower bed for me in the back yard, and after we removed all the grass, we were disappointed to find concrete about six inches under the surface of the dirt.  So that turned into a week long project of digging out the concrete, but while it was in progress, H had a great time playing in the piles of dirt.

Thursday, the boys and I went to Berry Patch Farms with a friend who used to be a member of the CSA.  We picked raspberries and had lunch together and talked farms and home schooling.  They did not have strawberries at Berry Patch when we went, so Rick and I took the boys back to pick strawberries on Saturday.  It was cold and rainy, but we had a great time.  H found a toad while we were there and enjoyed carrying it around for a bit before letting it go.

When we got home it was too wet to make jam, so we froze most of the berries, and started in on freezing the plums.  I really wanted plum jam, but it’s been a pretty overcast week so far, so they will have to sit in the freezer until another hot, dry, jam day.  We finally measured out the plums and ended up freezing nearly 70 pounds.  There were probably another ten pounds we ended up tossing to the chickens or composting.  We are hoping to trade some with friends who are making lots of apple sauce this year.  ;)

Yesterday at the farm, we were allowed to pick an extra bushel each of peppers and tomatoes.  The tomatoes are destined for the freezer.  We were able to roast the Anaheims, and once peeled, we’ll be set for the winter in the green chile department.  Hooray!  Of course, that means I still have lots of work to do this week.  I hope you can understand why the blog’s be so far behind these days!

Here’s the update:

Plant something – quite a few flowers, a pink pampas grass, but no food..

Harvest something – eggs, tomatoes, zucchini, kohlrabi, cukes, raspberries and strawberries, Anaheim peppers.

Preserve something – 15.25 pints grape jam, the rest of the peaches sliced and frozen (except a few I reserved to eat fresh and some set aside for making preserves with strawberries), strawberries and raspberries in the freezer, a few more gallons of tomatoes in the freezer, 67.5 pounds of plums, some corn and some beans to the freezer as well.  Dehydrated jalapenos.

Waste Not – compost and recycling, scraps to chickens, etc.

Want Not – nothing that I can think of right now.

Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, Chickens, Food, Garden, Independence Days | 3 Comments

Fruit

This weekend was the weekend of fruit.  On Saturday morning we went to Palisade for the second time this summer, and we came home with 319 pounds of peaches.  150 pounds were for friends, and we kept the other half for ourselves.  Then, Sunday morning, before we had even gotten a peach into the freezer, my brother-in-law came by with over 1500 Italian plums.  Thankfully the plums are a bit green, as we didn’t really have much time to mess with the fruit on Sunday.

Monday, we ate some of the plums in a plum coffee cake, and then we went to our friend’s home outside of Allenspark.  Mike grilled and we gathered around the fire pit, and had a nice evening with friends (and peach cobbler), watching the smoke from the fire in Boulder county blow over the horizon.

On the way home we stopped outside of Longmont where we could see the fire above Boulder.  My pictures here don’t do it justice, but it was incredible.

Tuesday is farm day for me, when I go and work at the CSA.  I brought home our share, and had barely pulled into the drive when our friend, Rich drove up with twenty plus pounds of concord grapes!  These grapes are our favorite and they were very generous!

So we have a fruit filled week ahead of us.  I had actually planned to pick strawberries and raspberries this week too, but I am putting that off until next week in hopes that I can get somewhat caught up around here before adding more to it!

Here’s the update:

Plant something – nothing.

Harvest something – eggs, tomatoes, zucchini, peaches

Preserve something – three batches of peach preserves, two and a half boxes (approx. 30 lbs) of peaches sliced and frozen, 3½ pounds green beans frozen, 1 gallon bag of tomatoes frozen, 2 batches of carrot soup in the freezer.

Waste Not – compost and recycling, scraps to chickens, etc.  Lots and lots went to the goodwill over the last couple of weeks.

Want Not – nothing that I can think of right now.

Build Community Food Systems – all the fruit trading!  Yum!

Eat the Food – as mentioned, plum cake and peach cobbler.  Also eating all the yummy farm veggies.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  ;)

Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, Chickens, Food, Garden, Independence Days, Recommended Reading | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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