Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Farm Fresh

I'm fairly proud of this. We're officially "mostly" off the supermarket grid baby! Yeah!!!!! It's been a lot of work, but well worth it.

Yesterday I fiddled around in the garden and harvested some more vegetables that were ready to go into the freezer. I've been working for the past 7 years on building my two veggie gardens and getting the soil nice and balanced for an array of plants to thrive in. It's been a labor of love, but very much well worth it. We live in a high desert climate, so it's a very dry growing season and there are tons of rocks in the ground (much like Ireland). We used the tractor quite a bit when we first started our gardening project years ago, by stripping the planned areas down where we wanted the gardens to go, and then filling them back in with some nice new fertilized top soil. Craig and I invested in a big old used rototiller that we put to work every fall and spring cultivating the soil.

This year the neighbors asked me to take over their raised bed garden as well! I was honored, and of course said yes. I get a half share of the veggies grown in that garden as well.  Yippee!!! 
Purple Viking potatoes!  This is my first round of potatoes that I've harvested so far this year.  We've got more in the garden, as there are also Yukon Gold's and blue potatoes in the ground as well.  My eight plants of purple taters gave me about 15 lbs. to go into the freezer.  I think that by the time I get the rest of the Yukon's and blues dug up, we'll have around 40 lbs. of potatoes in storage for the year.  These purples were in a 5 gallon bucket before I took them into the house to clean, slice, blanche, package, and then freeze.     

A view of some of the items in our big freezer.  Half of the Walla Walls sweet onions are in there already, but we still have more growing in the gardens.  Craig and I eat a lot of onions because I put them in just about every dish that I cook!  There's also about 15 lbs. of stringless green beans, cucumbers, carrots, sliced red tomatoes, zucchini squash, crookneck squash, acorn squash, eggplant, red and green bell peppers, jalapenos, sweet banana peppers, cabbage, rhubarb, and frozen strawberries in there as well.

A view of the basket full of frozen veggies on the other side of the freezer.  This large freezer will last us over the winter and into next fall, just in time to re-stock it with next years crop.  There is not a single store-bought item in our freezer anymore!  I feel pretty good about that.

Craig and I like to pick wild blackberries from down near the river, and I make big batches of freezer jam out of it.  And we've also got a couple of rhubarb plants growing out in our front yard that I like to make blueberry/rhubarb jam out of.  (I'll also make a pie or two every year from the strawberries that come from our neighbors berry patch, and I add the rhubarb into the mix.) 

I also delved into making my own sausage last year.  We used to have a meat processing plant do sausage for us, but it was expensive.  So for my birthday I purchased an electric meat grinder and decided to do it myself.  (Yeah, I know... what a great birthday present to myself!  ha ha.  But, I did really need it...)  So I butchered a couple of our older sheep during the winter and made them into sausage.  I experimented with several different recipes - hot jalapeno sausage, Moroccan sausage, Cuban sausage, honey mustard, and a couple batches of maple sausage.  Waking up on a cold winter morning made the batches of pan-fried sausage even more delicious!

We also traded a local fellow two of our spring lambs for a hog.  Remember Curly?  Well, there he is - all neat and tidy in a freezer box.  I had to have a meat processing plant come and process the pig, because I'm honestly not sure how to skin one.  The rest of the processing I probably could've done myself, but I'm not comfortable skinning one out.  So the professionals got the job.  We've ate most of the pork steak and chops, but there are a few that are still left in there.  There's also some nice big roasts that we'll probably finish off this winter.  It was worth the trade. 
I also grow some chickens and turkeys to butcher every year too.  Craig and I bought an electric plucker a few years ago, and we're able to process our birds at a good rate.  We have another smaller freezer in our garage that is filled with frozen chickens and turkeys.  I think that there are around 10 birds still left from last year frozen in there.  I love smoking a few chickens and turkeys in the winter time in the smoker machine.  Our neighbor that lives on the west side of the road is a fisherman, and sometimes I'll trade a couple of frozen chickens for some large whole fresh salmon or steelhead. 

Here are some "snacks" from the garden.  The little yellow pear tomatoes are good to sit in front of the television and just pop them into your mouth.  Yummy!  And I like to make thin slices out of the zucchini squash, and then fry them in seasoned olive oil for some "zucci chips".  They make a healthier alternative to actual potato chips.

The laying hens give us eggs on a fairly regular basis.  I usually sell most of the eggs to customers, but I'll keep a dozen or so around for our own personal use.  (I do the same with the sheep and chickens/turkey meat - I sell most of it, but keep a little bit around for Craig and I.)  A win win situation.

So that covers most of it.  We've got veggies and fruits in the freezer, and meat and egg proteins available walking around on the farm.  All that we've got left to cover is the dairy - but I've got a plan for that too.  There are two very cute little Alpine nanny goats in the pasture that probably wouldn't mind sharing some of their milk and cheese....  (I can see that my next birthday present will most likely be a small hand-held milking machine...)  Also, my dad has a colony of honey bees - so I like to bum some fresh honey off him every once in awhile too.  It's awesome for honey-roasted ham, jerky (yeah, I make that too!) and also adding a spoonful to a cup of hot steaming Early Grey tea on a cold winter day. 

Anymore, about the only thing that we go to the grocery store for is: toiletries, detergent, coffee and tea, Craig's crackers snacks, and a gallon of cow's milk.   We're making an attempt at being a healthier household that steers clear of the Monstanto goo that's floating around out there.

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