Consecration Acres

"If ye labor with all your might, I will consecrate that spot that it shall be made holy."

The race to beat October

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I think it’s the monumental nature of what we’ve undertaken for October that leads me to feel as I do about September.  It is somewhat akin to the nesting urgency at the end of a pregnancy–must get everything done NOW before baby comes!/before the chickens are ripe! And I’m pretty sure that ripe is the technical term.

The laying flock is doing better!  The loose astroturf was torn out of the next box and temporarily replaced with straw while we were waiting for the permanent nest pads to arrive.  Elijah did that the same day that Isaiah set up their watering system and within a couple of days we were getting 3-4 eggs daily.  Apparently we  got seven today.  I’ll have to start figuring out what to do with eggs again…  We never got to setting up the third roost or the permanent feeder.  They are still  on the list but lower priority now that the chickens are happy again.  The new nest pads have since arrived and we were shocked by how very like a …bed of nails they are and have only replaced one nest box in case they don’t like it.  I know chickens don’t weigh very much and they only have to stand on it (because chickens lay eggs standing up–did you know that?) but it still seems like it would be mightily uncomfortable.  Perhaps they will discourage broodiness because they are so painful to sit on.

The summer garden is continuing to produce.  The girls continue to bring in tomatoes and peppers and we’re finally getting our first squash.  As I’m not getting out to the garden much, I can’t keep an eye on things to the same extent that I did when I checked on our raised beds during the twice daily goat milkings (wow, am I ever glad I am not doing that now–once-daily is so much saner), but from the looks of what is coming in, I still think we would benefit from some shade cloth and some thicker mulch.  This is a hot, hot place.

The corn was a bit of a bust, but that was expected.  I read recently about a different variety of corn–a dwarf hybrid that is supposed to do well in places with short seasons.  We do not have a short growing season here, but I’m thinking that maybe we could get the corn finished by the time the really hot weather hits and I’m also wondering if its shorter stature might make it less of a heavy feeder.  Seeds are great for dreaming and experimentation because they are cheap.  I have this gut feeling that once we figure out all our quirks, this land is going to be really productive, we just need to get through our slow beginning.

I read a list of questions geared to help record the year’s garden successes and failures and plan for the following year.  One was to list the things you are buying a lot of and figure out how to grow it yourself.  We buy a lot of melons, cabbage, cucumbers, carrots, eggplants and sweet potatoes.  We also buy a lot of tomatoes in cans.  Even with fresh tomatoes from the garden available, the convenience of canned usually outweighs small gains in flavor when it comes to cooked foods.  I think I need to add “learn to make and can tomato products” to my list for next year.  How many jars would it take to keep us in tomato products for a year?  Mind boggling to imagine…

Speaking of food storage related math problems…we are supposed to be deciding on a new chest freezer to accommodate an influx of fresh chicken meat and I think I’ve come up with my ideal freezer set-up: a fruit freezer, a vegetable freezer, a meat freezer and a dairy freezer.  With this set-up the freezers could just be organized according to specific sub-types, i.e. cherries in the northwest corner, blueberries north, cranberries northeast, etc.   The small fridge freezers could then be reserved for short-term leftovers, frozen stocks and milk cooling.  The math problem is to figure out how much space a year’s worth of each of these things would require and figure out the largest capacity we would require during the year.  For instance, I don’t need to accommodate a full year’s supply of both cherries and cranberries as their seasons are six months apart.  Yes, there is such a thing as a year’s supply of cranberries.  In my house we can go through 2 pounds of cranberry sauce in a meal and my kids like it with chicken and pork as well as turkey.  We are serious cranberry eaters here.

I made chevre this week, sort of.  For some reason I decided to press it slightly, rather than just draining it.  It is good, just a little drier and firmer than is traditional.  The kids ate nearly the whole batch at lunch.

This week we canned more plum butter and dried a dehydrator-full of peaches.  Bethel also canned another small batch of sweet pickles.  They turned out flavorful, but a bit soft.  I am wondering if this is just due to the variety (lemon cucumbers) our friends have been sharing with us or just pickler-error somewhere along the way.  If we had grape leaves we could toss one in, but that will have to wait for next year–fingers crossed.  Elijah started some cucumbers in a cardboard box from a packet he found on the garage floor, has now transplanted them to the garden and they are blossoming now.  We will see if the heat holds out long enough to harvest very many.  The days are still quite warm but the nights are already significantly cooler.  We’ll see how temperature-picky they are.

This week’s batch of butter is better still than its predecessors.  Eventually I am really going to have this down.  I made it on a cool morning with well-chilled cream, bowl and beater.  I forgot to chill the washing water again, which I think is preventing me from washing as thoroughly as I ought, as the butter starts to melt and get greasy and I start to feel a sense of urgency about getting it into the fridge.  My yield was a little lower and it took a bit longer, but the flavor was much better with the fresher cream, the melt point seems a bit higher and the mouth feel is great.  Getting there!

I am still sitting on this hay seed order.  I must bite the bullet and get it in soon.  There is simply only so far I can get with reading and we must try growing some of this stuff.  I found a pretty comprehensive list of pasture plantings online and thought maybe it could help me concoct the perfect blend for our pastures, but I just couldn’t quite get there.  I got: tolerates heat but requires regular water, tolerates drought but requires acidic soil, tolerates alkaline soils but goes dormant in summer heat, etc, etc.  There is no easy answer.  I’ll just have to make my best educated guesses and start experimenting.  I will make mistakes and it will be ok…I will make mistakes and it will be ok…

Elijah has been reading this book and is working on developing his own bread recipe.  The results thus far have been quite delicious.  I must say, I am a confident enough baker to tweak and repair, but I don’t know that I am ready to step out into open space that way!  It is always so fun to see what untrammelled kids will do and come up with.  It’s such a delight to be able to provide them with the time, space and materials to get on with it all.

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