Consecration Acres

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

Leave a comment

A little planting and dreaming of irrigation systems…

It was a rather slow and not terribly productive week. This next week we have dentist appointments, and egg hunt and the (agony-inducing) semi-annual seasonal clothing switcheroo event so it will probably be a less-productive week as well. Ah well, into every life some slow must fall.

We did hack away at planting a bit. While the little girls planted two packages of radishes in an area about 4’ x 6” (!) I put in the peas, carrots and parsnips. The carrots and parsnips are covered with burlap as a recommended alternative to trying to cover them with 1/8” of soil. I am trying not to be impatient and just sitting tight for their long germination period. I hear that carrots, in particular, can be pretty fiddly to grow so I’d probably better just settle in for a long learning period as well. I noticed after I planted them that the package recommended NOT applying any type of fertilizer to the soil immediately before planting to prevent hairy and forked roots. Oops. If they sprout and grow then we may just have to use them for juicing. Also, I have a zillion or so parsnip seeds and they are only viable for a year on average. Three varieties was probably overkill.

The boys and my husband finished the second raised bed and the seed potatoes arrived yesterday, so that needs to be on the to-do list for the week.

I planted all but three of the blueberries and serviceberries yesterday. I chose a site where they could get a little afternoon shade, but it’s even further away from the faucet than everything else. When Isaiah came in from watering the orchard this week (before I planted the blueberries), he flopped down on the couch and said, “we need to get an irrigation system in!” So true, and we are just going to make it worse as we continue on bed-building. Our dream is to be able to 1) put in a faucet every hundred feet or so in the fenced orchard/garden area so we can water without having to use 300’ of hose, 2) get the berries onto drip irrigation and off of the weed-feeding soaker hoses, 3) get the trees onto drip irrigation—there are 30(?) of them after all, and 4) automate it all. I wish we could that month back when we all had the flu. We could really use the time.

Kitchen stuff—I ordered some Heremes jars for fermenting. The gasket is supposed to do a reasonable job of allowing gases to escape, while preventing oxygen seeping in during the fermentation period. I decided against the pricey Fidos as a couple people said that had gotten good results with the Anchor Hocking brand. Elijah and I both want to try out making kimchi, but I need to track down some daikon radish.

Also, the strawberry/apple butter is a little wet (I should have evaporated it another half day or so), but very good. It will be gone before we are sick of it. I am thinking of trying strawberry/pear butter this week.

Leave a comment

Mulches, a milestone and more marmalade

This is one of those weeks when the week I envisioned was tossed out the window by a scheduled, but unknown to me, event. As I look back on the week, it seems like we didn’t get much done and yet I am as tired as I would be at the end of a finished-the-to-do-list week. I think I just lost a lot of time and energy in adjusting and trying to compensate in my schedule. This is one of those times when my natural disinclination to live life on the fly is a liability.

I did, however, hit a major milestone this week—I filled up the last of my pint-size canning jars! I know, I know, you are all falling off your chairs in your excitement, but I truly never thought I’d see the day. Much as the laundry hamper, but in reverse, I believe I have some empties again today, but it was a glorious moment while it lasted.

The food item that tipped me over the edge was strawberry-apple butter. My attempts to make straight strawberry butter here were sheer insanity—4 pounds of berries yielded a little over ½ pint of butter! I was so disappointed, as I had made and loved it (and gotten a reasonable yield) back in Oregon from the awesome Hood strawberries we got back there. Initial taste tests on this have been favorable so I’ll record my process. I used up the last of our cheap apples (about 35 lbs), sauced them, filled my two 7 quart slow cookers, cooked them down about ¼ of the way and added two pounds of strawberries (on sale this week!) to each, and then cooked it down the rest of the way.

I also made ginger marmalade. Wow hot, but delicious. I used this recipe, but cut the sugar down, left a little more liquid in and used dry pectin. I pressure canned it as my “ginger pH” internet query informed me that ginger was the same as figs and leeks, both of which require additional acid to safely water-bath. We will see how we end up using the stuff. Will the kids brave watery eyes to eat a peanut butter and ginger marmalade sandwich?

I went to the grocery store and bought the week’s groceries, more jars, more pectin, 20 more lbs of strawberries and a 40 lb box of D’anjou pears. I didn’t know how to respond when the guy bagging my groceries looked at my cart and asked, “Are you making smoothies?” Um, yes…60 lbs of smoothies…

The grapes are in and all the berries are mulched. After seeing how much bark mulch it took just to put a small ring around the bases of each plant, I started thinking that mulching the entire row in between plants was not a great idea, but what to do? Then Elijah started talking about using rock mulches and I was staring at all the rocks we pulled out of the ground when we planted and, well, 2+2=4. So now I’ve rock mulched most of the blackberry row. It looks pretty nifty. I hope it will keep the weeds down between the plants. I’m hoping to get that done by the end of the week. We are supposed to creep up to the mid-80s by then. There is still much to do out there and the day is coming when I am not going to be able to stand the heat.

Isaiah planted all the onions. Grace went out and pulled up two, excited by what she found.

Apparently, I set at least one of my sweet potatoes upside down as it is growing green leafy shoots under the water. Oops. My instructions said to put the pointier end downward. It looks like I guessed wrong.

And Ella is no longer being milked. She is eight weeks from delivery and was only giving about 1 ½ cups per milking. We are still getting a fat quart from Penny, but are missing the extra milk. As my attempts to freeze milk for the dry months resulted in a lot of wrecked bags of milk, I will go back to making some rice milk to get us through. I need to figure out some way to protect the frozen milk from damage.

I think that’s it for the week. My husband and I are having fun going out and envisioning our garden/orchard/berry patch in a couple years’ time. It is finally starting to look like something.

Leave a comment

Planting, caring for plants and learning about Motherhood

We have had our first 80 degree day now and the land shows it. The grass is growing thick and high, the blossoms are now beginning to drop and leaves are bursting out everywhere. This is really the prettiest couple of months we have here and I am trying to enjoy it. Summer appears long, hot and dry in the not-too-distant future.

The fruit trees are also leafing out. As they do so, I see my pruning errors in stark-er relief. I also realize that entirely skipping pruning the pomegranates was probably a bad idea. They looked so small, but they are up and at this whole growing thing and could use a little clarifying. I am hoping they will not be past remedy come next winter. I may need to research summer pruning of pomegranates. We fertilized all the trees, got the moldy hay spread around their bases and topped it with some bark mulch as well. I really wanted radial hardwood chips, but could only do so much. I have found permanent tree labels that should work—time to get them ordered.

We did a lot of work on the berry rows this week. The raspberries, blackberries and kiwi are all in, so we just need to plant grapes this year and put in the supports. We are using t-posts and wire as per this method. I have read that there is a type of wire called berry wire. It is supposed to be “softer”. I am not sure what soft wire might be like…  I need to research and determine whether it is worth the price. I am trying to keep my OCD side from having conniptions right now. When the boys heeled in the plants, they took the blackberries out of their containers, so now I don’t know what is what and, of course, I could not plant varieties together. Another issue, of course, is that my plant guarantees are pretty much useless since I won’t know what something is if it happens to die. Also, the rows are not straight. Aaaaaaaaaah!

Grace and Jordan helped pick rocks from the holes before we planted. Grace exclaimed “It’s a rock!” every time she found one, and Jordan expressed doubt that it really was a rock whenever she found one. Elijah and I just had a good laugh as we worked.

Bethel, Jordan and I spread compost and straw on the strawberry beds. The chickens had gotten into the beds and done a little “thinning” while looking for bugs and trying to find an adequate dust bath spot. They made kind of a mess, but I wonder if it might help a bit. The beds have been quite crowded (between not feeling well and “when to do dormant-period maintenance if one’s strawberry bed never goes dormant?” inaction) and I could see this sparser arrangement being better for them. Even if the rows are not straight.   Aaaaaaaaaaaah! There are a good number of blossoms and developing berries. I am hoping for a good harvest.

The blueberries have gotten their 1st helping of cottonseed meal and are awaiting their mulch. I am thinking about planting these potted ones out with their new compatriots. We have a spot that should get some afternoon shade and that has been acidified by a nearby pine tree. I will probably still need to figure out shade cloth for the hottest months, but I think they all have a reasonable chance of success and happiness over there. I am also planting a variety of serviceberry over there that is supposed to do well in our zone. We shall see!

In the kitchen this week—a batch of dill pickles and three more quarts of marinara sauce. The marinara has never been as good as the first time. I think it is just due to the tomatoes, but I am considering using my mom’s recipe next round. It should be about the same processing time in the canner.

And we have only one in diapers now! Woohoo!! With the other kids, potty training has ended up waiting until the child gets sick of diapers and does it themselves. When I wanted them out of diapers it was just an endless parade of tears, tantrums and accidents, but as soon as they decided, it was over and done with. But just to throw a monkey wrench into my expectations and modus operandi, Grace is an extremely patient child, including being patient with yucky pants. Attempts at encouragement and having her try to go on a schedule were completely unsuccessful and so, this week, we just took off her diaper. She was a little sad at first, but settled down to being patient again. A few issues, but she’s doing great and handled her class at Church today (1st time out of the house) like a champ. Tomorrow we’ll attempt a short road trip as we go to pick up a food order.

I received some rather bad news about a friend of mine this week. She is my age, a mom of twelve children (the youngest just turned one in January) and has just been diagnosed with a cancer that modern medicine hasn’t really been able to get a hold on. We are praying for a miracle. I met her and another mom-of-many back when I had three children and was unsure how much longer I should/could keep going with having babies. The two of them had much in common and would sometimes sit and talk about their experiences and insights while I listened and tried to pretend that I had a clue. The things I learned from them changed how I looked at motherhood.

  • I learned that they didn’t have children because it was easy for them to do so, but because they were obeying the promptings of the Spirit. Upon learning that my friend was pregnant (again?!), one rude young relative asked my friend, “Was this planned?” My friend answered, “This is part of His plan.”
  • I learned from them that each child brings both blessings and challenges essential for the growth and perfecting of the mother. My other friend said that as each child made her a bit better, she figured Heavenly Father would need to send her 100 in order for her to become perfect.
  • I learned that we don’t necessarily see what is missing before a baby is born, but their importance is plainly evident after birth. When rude people would assert that my friend had too many children, my friend would ask, “Which one should I not have? Look at my children and tell me, which one would we be better off without?”
  • And after hearing their stories of how hard it was to announce their pregnancies to family and friends, I learned that a pregnancy, no matter how inconvenient, how quick on the heels of the last, no matter which number, no matter the age or circumstances of the mother is always a reason to rejoice and congratulate. Yielding your life to God is never an easy thing, no matter how many times you have done it in the past and being given the stewardship of one of His children is no small matter.

By the end of a couple years of being friends with them I had decided that these wonderful women were not so odd, that they had clear vision and good reasons for the choices they made, and that their reasons could be mine as well. I pray that my friend will recover so that she can continue to share her love and wisdom with her family and others whose lives could be changed by her influence.

What greater gift dost thou bestow,
What greater goodness can we know
Than Christlike friends, whose gentle ways
Strengthen our faith, enrich our days.

Leave a comment

Goat and garden news and multiplying marmalade

I’ve given this week my all, and perhaps some. Joseph has not been sleeping (I don’t know if it’s teeth, introducing solids or something else) so there’s not been much to draw on, but it is all thoroughly gone now and I am ready for a Sabbath. Sunday is such an interesting day. By intentionally limiting my activities that day I find that I am not only refreshed heading into the week, but even quite anxious for and optimistic about Monday morning. “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath”, indeed!

Bad news first: Penny is not pregnant. Our vet came out and ultrasounded her.  I was not surprised.  Though her body condition’s improved, she is not round and wide like we’ve seen her pregnant now twice in the past. So, no babies for her this year. We’ll milk her through and try again next year. Can I tell you how incredibly grateful I am that I saw Ella flagging back on Christmas Eve? That was such an answer to prayer. We would have had two un-bred goats otherwise.

And now the good news: our home soil test kit arrived and the boys checked the pH of the soil we had our neighbor haul up from the creek bed and it’s NEUTRAL!! After hearing stories of horrible alkalinity hereabouts, my berry loving heart leapt. Yay! All our garden crops should be fine and the berries will just need some monitoring and nudging rather than extreme measures. Elijah also checked nitrogen—very low, but no surprise. That and phosphorus are both typically low in our area and situation. I’m more curious about potassium levels as they are supposed to be high around here, just typically unavailable due our overabundance of magnesium. We may find at some point that we can just supplement N and P and go without the K for a while.

I bought some onion sets from a guy out in AZ. I kept reading that, in our area, you could plant onions sets in the Spring, but I couldn’t find anyone who actually carried them. They all just looked at me funny and said that they only had them in the Fall. Anyhow, I am glad to get ahold of some as I am anxious to get some experience curing and storing them under my belt. There are a bunch of things we are planning to grow, not only because we enjoy eating them, but to learn how to store them. This is a big year for gardening school.

And we are still waiting on gypsum, which has proven harder to get ahold of than we anticipated. We hope that it gets here before summer gets more of a foothold. It was seriously warm here today.

Aside from taking the kids to the dentist (an all-day event) I spent a good chunk of every day canning or preparing to can. I made more marinara sauce (not as good as last time as the tomato seeds were awfully bitter!), a batch of sweet pickles and then I started marmalade yesterday. Having an abundance of good oranges and a penchant for marmalade, I wanted to make a lot. My recipe yield was six ½-pints. I wanted twelve pints, so I quadrupled the recipe. That math makes sense to me. Anyhow, as I sliced fruit and added quart after quart of water, I had to keep switching to bigger pots to accommodate the bulk (note to self: slice finger near the end of the process next time not on the fourth out of twenty-eight pieces of citrus—ow) and finally set it to boil in a fairly full 20-quart stock pot. After two hours of boiling, the bulk had reduced somewhat, but was still impressive. I was tired, so I stuck it in the fridge to finish today. This morning I pulled it out, sweetened it and set it to boil again. As I can’t do much sugar and the recipe relied largely on the sugar candying for thickening, I added some gelatin to help it along. Half an hour later it had reduced a little more, but was still a rather giant vat. It was also still extremely runny, so added more gelatin, mixed it well and then started ladling it into jars. I ladled and ladled and ladled, ran out of clean pint jars and started filling quart jars. When it was finally empty I had 13 pints and six quarts—more than twice what I was anticipating! I have reviewed the recipe numerous times to see if there was something I missed…I simply cannot figure it out. So, in two weeks (the minimum aging period for this recipe) we will start eating vast quantities of marmalade…or perhaps marmalade sauce, if it doesn’t set…

Also in the kitchen this week, I started a new batch of sauerkraut. The last one that I made a couple of months back tastes a little odd and no one ever wanted any. This one tastes better, but it started off funny. When I went to check the brine level at the end of the first 24 hours (I prefer self-brining, it possible, but will add water if it’s low at that point) the cabbage had reduced in volume by about 1/3 overnight! I’ve never had one do that before. Fermentation mysteries.

I’m taking advantage of cheap apples (40 lbs for $15) and made an apple crisp. Lovely. I really think one ought to be thoroughly sick of whatever fruit is in season before moving on to whatever is next, and I have not gotten my fill of apples yet. I’ll give it a good old college try this month.

The sweet potatoes are growing, if slowly, in the windowsill. I lost one of the original ones to rot, so I started another from that same batch the next week. I read that typically slips are grown from potatoes around 2” in diameter (not the 4” monsters that were sprouting in my pantry), so I have a couple of jars with some smaller ones as well. Nothing growing on those yet.

And I found a flea on my bed this afternoon. One of our houses was infested with fleas when we moved into it, so I am well-acquainted with the nasty little things. Time to keep Joseph away from the kitties and review the instructions on treating fleas with DE.

Never a dull moment.