Friday, March 27, 2015

First Week of Spring

At long last, the winter is OVER! (Sort of, there are flurries here today...) Signs of life are beginning to appear once again!

It's going to be a busy spring this year! Last week, we picked up our Agri-Fab Disc Cultivator . We're planning to expand the garden area to the full fenced enclosure (about 1/8 acre or so), but will have to wait a week or so to get started between ground thaw/mud and having to borrow a hitch from my Dad. Our ATV has the ball hitch, the cultivator requires a sleeve... 

This past week, I also got 3 types of sweet pepper, 3 types of hot pepper, cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and 11 types of herbs started indoors. Surprisingly, the broccoli came up in only 4 days time! I'll be starting tomatoes this coming week, and hope to get peas, onions and greens in the ground next month. I'm very excited about all the new medicinal herbs we're adding to the fold. I'm going to have to pick up a second seed starting shelf!

It's been warm enough to walk around outside with just a light jacket (save today, snow flurries...), there are signs of life everywhere! Under the protection of fallen leaves, I've found thyme and oregano, and irises. The lilac bush has already gotten buds as well. I regret not planting some daffodils this past fall. I am hoping that my sage bush made it through the ridiculously cold February temps. No sign of life yet. 

The Cheepers and Lil Duckies are about a month old now. I am amazed at how fast the ducks have grown! The smaller (presumably female) Andie has already begun quacking! They are MUCH more messy and require more maintenance than baby chicks, but they certainly have entertaining personalities! Our adult hens have begun laying eggs steadily again as well. 

Tomorrow we're aiming to do some spring cleaning in the barn, and some more pruning. We already cut back the pampas grasses and rose bushes, but have some damaged/dead branches to remove around the grounds as well. Have a great weekend!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Happy Spring! And So, It Begins...

FINALLY! After 20 straight days of nothing above freezing in February, I was ready to throw in the towel and move to Aruba... But, I can live with mid 40's and sunny for now! :)

What better way to celebrate the first day of spring than to start some seeds! That is, that's what I'm planning to do if I can get Brian to bring my greenhouse shelf up from the basement LOL Here's a run down of everything I'm starting tonight (Tomatoes next weekend!):


Basil, Genovese
Bee Balm, Lemon
Chamomile, German
Echinacea, Purple/White
Lemon Balm
Parsley, Italian Flat
Summer Savory
Sweet Marjoram


Broccoli,, Waltham 29
Brussels, Long Island Improved
Cabbage, Earliana
Cabbage, Early Golden Acre
Cauliflower, Snowball Self Blanching
Leek, Bulgarian Giant
Pepper. California Wonder
Pepper, Cayenne Long Thin
Pepper, Hungarian Yellow Wax
Pepper, Jalapeno Craig's Grande
Pepper, Italian Pepperoncini
Pepper, Mini Yellow Bell
Pepper, Trinidad Scorpion

Why all the peppers, you may ask? Between Dilly Beans, Spicy Garlic Pickles, Pickled Peppers, Stinky Cauliflower, Salsa, Spaghetti Sauce and medicinal concoctions, we go through A LOT LOL

I'm very excited about our garden expansion, and the additional medicinal herbs I'm adding to the arsenal this season. We picked up our disc harrow yesterday, so we should have no problem getting that back 1/8th acre in shape!

Have you started any seeds yet? If so, what? Anything new this year? Any tips for growing any of the herbs I'm trying out? Let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

RECIPE: Hot and Sour Soup

This savory soup makes a great lunch, or side dish for a hearty stir fry!

I recently had the opportunity to try Hot and Sour Soup. I am a big fan of Asian cuisine, and especially love spicy foods and sour, vinegar based pickled goods. After one tasting, I immediately set out to try making my own! This recipe has been developed from several across the net, as well as my own trial and error, and to my own taste.


4 c. Chicken Broth
3 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
1/2 c. Diced Mushrooms
1/2 Tbsp. Sriracha Sauce
1/8 tsp. Garlic Powder
1/8 tsp. Cayenne Powder
1/4 tsp. Ground Pepper
1/4 c. White Vinegar
1 Egg, beaten
2 Green Onions, chopped

Bring chicken broth to a boil, add soy, mushrooms, sriracha, garlic, cayenne and pepper. Simmer for 5 mins, then add vinegar and simmer an additional 5 minutes. Slowly pour beaten egg into broth, and stir for 30 seconds. Add green onion, remove from heat and serve hot. Makes 4 servings.

*You can make a milder version by omitting the cayenne, and using half white and half rice wine vinegar.

Friday, March 6, 2015

DEHYDRATING: Brown Sugar Cinnamon Apple Chips

Apple Chips have become quite popular among snackers looking for NON-GMO/organic food products. However, they can be quite pricey! Good news is, they are extremely simple to make at home!


3 lb Bag Apples*
8 c. Water
1 tsp. Lemon Juice
2 c. Brown Sugar
1 tsp. Cinnamon

Combine water, lemon juice, sugar and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Stir til brown sugar begins to dissolve. The lemon juice will prevent browning.

Slice and core apples**. As you slice the apples, soak them in your brown sugar solution for appx. 5 minutes before loading them onto your dehydrator trays. If you wish, you may sprinkle additional cinnamon over the trays before dehydrating for a stronger flavor.

Dehydrate apples on 135 degrees for 6-8 hours, depending on dehydrator wattage. Store chips in a ziplock bag for easy snacking, or store long term in mason jars in a cool, dark, dry place with an oxygen absorber in each jar. One batch will make about 1/3 gallon baggie full.

*We prefer Granny Smith, but any apple variety will do! Red Delicious pictured above.

**We use an automatic Apple Peeler, Corer, Slicer. Works EXTREMELY well for large batch processing. Be sure to leave skins intact.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


About a month ago, I took advantage of a 10/$10 sale on celery. I found the pic on my phone and realized I'd forgotten to post the instructions for dehydration! It really couldn't get any easier, no blanching or other special preparation!

No blanching is required, but be sure to thoroughly rinse each rib. You'll then slice the celery. Nice thin, uniform thickness slices work best, about 1/8" or so.  (I use a food processor with a slicing blade to prepare the celery.)

Once you have a bowl full of thin slices, spread them out on your dehydrator trays in a single layer. You'll want to use screens or fruit roll inserts, a little overlapping of slices is OK. There is no need to meticulously arrange each individual slice!

Process the celery at 135 degrees for about 6-8 hours, depending on the wattage of your dehydrator. You may wish to rearrange slices about halfway through processing time to ensure even drying.The finished product will be crisp, and easy to crush, and slightly brighter green than the fresh celery.

Store your dehydrated celery in a clean glass jar with an airtight lid in a dark, cool, dry place. Add an oxygen absorber for long term storage. 2 bags of celery will fill a pint sized jar.

Dehydrated celery is especially convenient for throwing in homemade soups, and embellishing box mix stuffing (along with dehydrated mushrooms!). It's also important to have for homemade dry mixes.

Monday, March 2, 2015


Saturday afternoon, after our 4H meeting, we stopped off at Tractor Supply... and picked up 2 more residents, Pekin Ducks!

This is our first time raising ducklings. They are quite a bit messier than the chickens, they love to slop around their water! They're still pretty shy, but we're working on that. In a few days or so, we'll be able to let them go for a little swim in the bathroom sink. Ducks are sold "straight run" meaning we do not know if they are male or female just yet. . Regardless, I want to name them Duckie and Andie after the characters in Pretty in Pink! 

It's a good thing we bought our chicks when we did, they were already sold out of the Ameraucanas and Jersey Giants at Family Home and Farm. Here's a short clip of everyone this afternoon. The chicks are getting wings already! Duckies are getting a few little tail tufts: