Sunday, October 21, 2012

Foraging, Freezer Filling, and Fun

Life on the farm can be interesting to say the least - you never know what is coming next. You need to be ready for almost anything - at any time.

The past three weeks found us shifting gears from collecting acorns and wild mushrooms, to healing a sick sheep, to watching boys gather eggs and roast peppers.  We were even gladly interrupted one evening by our kindly neighbor and bow hunter, Jim Sanders, who dropped us off a deer he harvested on a neighboring property.  Al even gets attacked by one of his own roosters... (he's now in the freezer)  A bio-diverse farm - it is quite the experience for sure!

Since our last update, the earthen oven has really come a long way - it now has just one thick insulating layer of cob to go.  Dave built a beautiful arched opening, and we hope to fire the oven up in the coming weeks for a test run.

The bees are doing well, but one of the two hives in particular was not able to produce enough honey for food for the winter, so we will be supplementing with large sugar cakes inside the tops of the hives. Bees do not go dormant and will even venture outside when the temps move over fifty degrees.

Opala, one of our yearling Icelandic lambs became ill recently from a heavy parasite load and required treatment.  Watch this very interesting video here:

The boys were busy helping Al & Dave build a second sheep shelter for spring.  They really enjoyed working a full size hammer and driving the large nails home to secure the hemlock siding.  When they needed a break for some sustenance, a batch of freshly made Kale Chips was waiting for them in the kitchen.

Here's how to do it:  Simply coat de-ribbed kale leaves with olive oil, some salt and pepper and bake until crunchy somewhere between 250 and 325 for 10 - 15 minutes - turning once is best.
Keep an eye on these as they are best when dark green and crunchy - try to keep them from turning brown.  They are outstanding!    

Along w/ brussel sprouts and root crops, kale is the one vegetable that keeps on giving long after the first frost.  Another outstanding way to use up that extra kale and get some serious nutrition at the same time is to make a "massaged" kale salad.   Just de-vein some kale leaves ("dinosaur" kale works best) and rubbed them down well with a generous dowsing of olive oil and some salt an pepper.  Then add fresh or dried fruit, nuts, shredded carrots, or anything you can think of.  We are particularly fond of dried currants.  Tahini also works as dressing.

As the October chill begins to set in each night, we have been forced to make a decision regarding heating the old farmhouse - stay on as oil addicts with our oil burner, or get the old Kalamazoo convection wood/coal furnace in the basement back in action.   We have chosen the latter.

The old furnace works like a champ and heats the house thoroughly very quickly.  There are warm spots since the heat radiates through only one central floor grate, but all in all it does a great job.  With close to 40 acres of woodlot, we are pleased to be using our own resource to heat the home.  Now Dave and Al will be doing a lot of chainsawing and hand splitting of fallen timber to stock up for winter.

Speaking of trees, Al and his dad,Dave recently cleaned out the hollow side of the 300 - 400 year old sugar maple up near the waterfalls.  The old giant had been struck by lightening years ago and a large limb and section of the tree had collapsed about five years ago, opening a depression of sorts where rotten wood, soil and debris were accumulating.  This has since been cleared out to allow the cavity to air dry and prevent further rotting.

We close with a link to what having a family farm is all about - kids really enjoying themselves and discovering so many new and interesting things each and every day...

Enjoy some more photos below from the first half of October at Old School Farm...  and feel free to pass on our blog if you are enjoying it - thanks !

Quercus macrocarpa - Mossy Cup Oak -
Delicious for Acorn muffins.
Dave Benner with 1/2 of a "Chicken of the woods" mushroom -
These can weigh up to 25 lbs and are incredible sauteed - especially in scrambled eggs.

Dave adding an insulating layer of clay/sand/straw
mix to earthen oven.
Al with giant golden storage beet - the greens are even delicious
Als' friend Adrian takes a crack at splitting some ash
After just one bottle of some serious hard cider "truth serum" -
provided by a local farm

Too many roosters and bad behavior helped make
this decision easier for Al.
Our moss patio overlooking the pasture
The warm glow inside the old No. 23 Kalamazoo...

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