Consecration Acres

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

Solar cooker, suckers and a rebounding garden

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While summer is far from over, I am feeling hope of cooler temperatures. Our overnight lows are consistently chilly and keeping the evaporative cooler on overnight leads to in-house lows of about 56F. The kids complain occasionally, but it means we top out at 73 or 4 with the added bonus of starting off the morning in sweaters—clothing of the gods. Perhaps just the Norse gods… I need to start paying attention to our combined high and low. A neighbor of ours says that ideal grass-growing weather is when the combined temps equal 100F. My pasture-seeding experiment last year was a complete flop, I believe in part because I seeded when the books said to and it was still far too hot to sprout before everything was cooked or eaten. Speaking of weather (and I sure do!) the larger weather patterns are suggesting an El Nino year. Apparently, last time this brought torrential rains and flooding to our neck of the woods. Boy, could we use a little of that.

The garden has noted the cooler temps and those plants that have just been hanging on are waking up and becoming productive. The tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and tomatillos are going crazy. If we can keep the birds and voles off of them, we will have a glut. This week we also harvested our first little handful of potatoes. One of the plants had died, so I poked around underneath and pulled up spuds! Bethel worked them into yesterday’s potato salad. We are also quickly eating our way through all our butternut squash. They are on the smaller side (due to irrigation system breakdown, perhaps) and very, very sweet so we’ll go through three in a sitting. We need to start using up the pumpkins. August is hardly the time I feel inclined to start eating pumpkins, but I feel much less inclined to watch them go bad, so it’s time to start working through them.

The corn has been disappointingly starchy and not very sweet. I’ll continue to try to pick it earlier, but at some point I’m going to throw in the towel, dry it and grind it into cornmeal. Fortunately, the goats love the stalks and husks and the chickens will eat the cooked corn very merrily after we’ve all maxxed out on starchiness. With animals around, there isn’t ever much in the way of true waste.

I’ve been cooking most of our side vegetables in a diy solar cooker. A woman from church taught a group of us to make this solar cooker and it’s worked really well for potatoes, yams, beets, carrot and parsnips. I tried baking bread in it this week, but I got it out a little late and it didn’t finish before the sun went down so I had to switch it to the oven. The texture was lighter and coarser than usual—different, but everyone liked it and it was gone within 24 hours. I will try again.

Isaiah is still working on our latest garden irrigation system. He is barely keeping pace with the breakage of the older one. While perhaps well-suited to a careful adult watering a long border of flowers, the hoses have not withstood melons, pumpkins or the not-so-careful approach to turning on the soakers most often employed around here.

In the exciting world of preserving…I made a batch of German pickles from my mom’s recipe and two more batches of marinara sauce. The German pickles need a few weeks to fully become themselves, but we fished the last few out of the bottom of the pan (hot-pack pickles! Who knew there was such a thing?) and divided them up between us. They were universally liked. I prefer them to the sweet pickles I’ve been making, as the flavor is more balanced between sweet and sour. I ended up switching spices around a little as I was out of dill weed and yellow mustard seed, so we’ll see next month how they are with the added flavors of black mustard and dill seed.

I still need to get out and prune suckers. The ones on the apricot tree are as tall as the tree itself, and that’s just since March! It’s just too bad I don’t want to grow myro29c-fruit, whatever that is. It appears it would do quite well.

Separating the babies from Ella at night has been great and we’re enjoying all the milk. I’ve got to use one of these cool mornings and make butter and clear out all my old cream jars in the freezer. Butter-making is a beast in hot weather, but I’m afraid I’ve put it off so long now that it will be a bit freezer-flavored. Summer strikes again. And registering our goatlets is on hold for a little while now as, if I joined ADGA tomorrow, my membership would be good only until 31 Dec 2015, but if I wait until 2 Sept, it will be good until 31 Dec 2016. So, I hold my horses/goats. We are having a hard time deciding which girl to sell and which to keep. Blossom has been healthy and vigorous and a little more even-tempered from the get-go, but Flower nearly died when she was first born and has the distinction of being our only black and white goat, so everyone’s a little sweet on her. Fortunately, we still have time to decide.

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