Shellin’ The Beans

This spring we planted Black Beans from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and a couple weeks ago they were finally ready to harvest. I decided to plant the “Cherokee Trail of Tears” variety, mostly because of the cool story behind it.

When the Cherokee people were forced to leave their homes and march on the Trail of Tears to the reservations in 1889, they brought the seeds for this variety of bean with them from Tennessee to Oklahoma. Since we lived in Tennessee until last year, I though it would be fun to plant these beans. They did really well- the purple pods are so pretty! When they were beginning to dry out we picked them and hung them to dry over our kitchen window for about a week. I was afraid it would start to get rainy and they would mold if we left them on the plants in the garden. Turns out, I had nothing to worry about, since we’ve had lots of sunny weather up until a few days ago. But in Washington, you never know.

Once the beans were dried out, it was time for shelling. The kids and I took the bean vines out on the porch and got to work!

We had fun chasing the beans as some of them exploded and beans went all over the place.

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We ended up shelling around a pound of beans- definitely not enough to keep us from starving if we were living completely off the land, but for a first crop of about 8-10 plants, not too bad. I am going to save all of the beans for planting again next year and hopefully we’ll get enough to eat and save for seeds the year after that.

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The beans are super shiny and pretty- way more good looking than the dull black beans you get in the store. I’m excited about the prospect of eating them next year. It will be worth the wait, I think.

Have you ever planted heirloom beans? How did they do for you?

Crock Pot Applesauce- an easy recipe

It’s the beginning of apple season and one of the best ways to use the lesser quality apples (Transparents, Crab apples) is to make them into applesauce.

My great-uncle and aunt have Transparent apple trees and they got a ton of them this year and graciously gave a few boxes away to my mom and I.

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Transparent apples tend to be kind of mealy and are not very good to eat just off the tree, so they are the perfect candidate to be made into applesauce.

Since I work most afternoon/evenings, I don’t have time to cook applesauce over the stove and then can it, (although I would LOVE to) so I’ve taken to just making applesauce in the crock pot and then freezing it.

It’s SUPER easy.

Basically, you take your apples, peel, core and slice them.

Throw them in the crockpot.

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Put on the lid, turn it on high for about 2 hours or on low for 4-ish hours, until your apples are soft and mushy.

I don’t puree it or anything, just let it cook til it’s soft and stir it up really well, and it gets pretty smooth on it’s own.

Then I let it cool, and put it in mason jars (with an inch or two of headroom) or gallon ziploc freezer bags and stick it in the freezer.

And that’s it!

So easy and delicious. You don’t need to add any sugar or anything for Transparent apples, although I might add some kind of sweetener for Crab apples as they tend to be a little more tart. I’m going to use my applesauce for making Mom’s Multi-Grain Bread, or just for a “dessert” in the winter. It almost tastes like apple pie, it is so yummy.

What is your favorite way to make applesauce?

Do you can it or freeze it?? I’d love to hear from you!

Chicken Coop: The Final Product

Howdy!

We’ve been done with the chicken coop for a while, but I forgot to put up pictures of the finished product.  For the whole process of how we build it, check out my DIY Chicken Co0p page.

So here are some pictures! 🙂

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My mom nailed up old apple boxes as nesting boxes inside the coop and put up some nice roosting poles as well. The silly chickens actually sleep on top of the boxes instead of on the roosting poles…but at least they have the option of roosting if they want to.

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We also made a wire enclosure for the chickens so that they can be safe from hawks and eagles, as we have a LOT of them around here. There are a pair of eagles with a nest in a tree just across the road and since we’re surrounded by fields there are plenty of mice and rabbits for them to eat….hopefully they won’t get any chickens!

The chickens also have a door cut into the wire enclosure and they have full run of our small fruit orchard so they can run around and get bugs and grass and all those good things. They love walking around in  the tall grass and hiding under the trees.

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The chickens are 11 weeks old now and I think we have at least 3 roosters, maybe 4. See the difference in the comb size of those two Buff Orpingtons? I think one is a rooster and one is a hen.
Depending on how many we end up with, a chicken butchering tutorial may appear in the future. 😉

We still have about 9 weeks before they start laying eggs, but we enjoy them so much- chickens are just such happy little creatures and having them around makes me feel like a real homesteader even if they’re not pulling their weight yet. I can’t wait for those delicious eggs!

I hope you have a lovely weekend, I think we’re going to go to a Native American Water Festival and the Farmer’s Market tomorrow. Maybe it will even be sunny! We’ll see. 🙂

 

 

The Garden, She is Planted. Mostly.

So, I bet from the title of my post you can guess what I’m going to write about.

Yup.

Our garden is finally in the works- most of the seeds are in the ground and a few are poking their brave little heads above the soil to open their leaves to the world.

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This is a Cherokee Trail Of Tears Black Bean.

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I think this is a Calima Bush Bean. I think.

I am so pumped!

I really hope everything doesn’t die.

Sorry, that was bad English.

I really hope that most of the seeds survive- we’ve already lost all but two broccoli plants ( out of 6) and a couple of my tomato plants are about to bite the dust.
Thankfully, I have more seeds I can plant and replace the ones that died.
I also have a few crops that I’m going to wait until late summer to plant, like another round of broccoli, some parsnips, and turnips and then in the fall I’ll do another round of lettuce and spinach and cabbage.
Here is my garden plan: it’s super high-tech. See?

Who needs a fancy computer plan if you have paper and a pen?

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That’s the only way I know what is planted where; I didn’t take the time to label everything in the garden. Maybe I will after the plants all sprout, we’ll see. There are some pretty cute ideas on Pinterest.

For those of you who can’t read my crazy drawing, here is what we planted:

Alaska Peas, Sugar Snap Peas, Zucchini, Sweet Postatoes, Soup Beans, Marigolds, Arkansas Traveller Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Calima Bush Beans, Zinnias, Red Potatoes, some other potatoes that were given to us, Black Beans, Amish Paste Tomatoes, Ox Blood Beets, Cherry Tomatoes, Oak Leaf Lettuce, Rocky Top Lettuce Mix, Spinach, Chives, Broccoli, Cilantro, Leeks, Chiogga Beets, Atomic Red Carrots, Half Long Guernsey Carrots, Radishes, Cabbage and Garlic.

Whew! I also have a bunch of herbs that are growing in containers, like Basil, Chamomile, Thyme, Oregano and some others that I still need to plant like Horehound, Borage and Yarrow.

I’m not sure where I’m going to plant those yet.

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For now, I’m just out there in the garden every day, pulling up grass roots and pesky weeds, anxiously scanning the dirt to see if any new seeds have popped up, and squealing when I find them. It’s the simple things in life. 🙂

Transplanting Tomatoes

I planted some tomato seeds a ways back- about a month and a half ago,

and stuck them on the window seat, where they would get lots of light.

It turns out that they didn’t get quite enough light, and got kinda leggy so I added a florescent light and that helped.

I think next year I might invest in a grow light and heat pad.

Anyway, the time had come to transplant those little babies-

their roots were growing out of the newspaper cylinders and egg cartons I had planted them in.

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Hubby is such a sweet heart and surprised me with a bunch of larger containers and I had some leftover seed starting soil, so I went ahead and transplanted the tomatoes, 4 to a container.

Did you know that when you plant tomato plants (even the ones you get from the store) that if you bury the stalk all the way up to the top three leaves, it will root out of the stalk and give the plant a more secure base, making it stronger? I just think that’s so cool!

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When I was transplanting, I realized I had started a lot more little tomato plants than I thought!  I ran out of containers and had to get creative- luckily my dad consumes loads upon loads of powdered coffee creamer (put in loads and loads of  coffee, of course) so he had a bunch of these laying around and was kind enough to share them with me.

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The little tomato plants look much happier and these will let them grow big enough to plant into the ground in a month or so. (At least I hope they will!)

I’m SO excited- this weekend we’re tilling the garden! Our neighbors down the street are super generous and nice and they are letting us borrow their tiller. You can probably guess what  one of my next posts will be about. 😉

I also have more chicken news, if you’re not sick of hearing about them. Some is sad and some is good- I’ll tell you what’s goin’ on  tomorrow.

The Roof Is On the Coop!

Last week, we put the roof on the chicken coop.

By “we”, I mean my dad…  😉 Thanks, Dad!!

Hooray!!

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My dad put up cross rafters, then layered the sheets of roofing and screwed them down. We used the same roofing as on the house and sheds; so everything matches nicely.

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Then dad put up some chicken wire across the space at the top of the coop, for ventilation and so no predators can get in.

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Now our little chickies are warm and dry and can stay in the coop all the time! They’ve been in there since Wednesday and are loving the extra space to run around and clean straw to scratch in.

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We still have a few cracks to seal up and we’re going to concrete around the base of the coop to keep critters out (mostly our dogs) and then we’re going to build a chicken run outside of the coop. At some point.

And we’ll build real roosting poles and nesting boxes for the inside of the coop as the chickens get bigger. I think we’re going to use plastic crates for the nesting boxes.

Once the chicks get a bit older, we’re just going to let them free range in our fenced orchard and garden and hopefully they won’t get eaten by hawks. We lost a chick earlier last week because it jumped over the short partition we had over the doorway of the coop and got picked up by a hawk, so we may end up letting the chicks free range less than we expected. I’ve heard that stringing fishing wire over the top of your enclosure deters hawks, so we might try that. Has anyone had success with that? Let me know if you have! 🙂

Foraging: Stinging Nettles

A new thing I’ve been trying lately is foraging- using plants that are many times considered weeds as food or for herbal use. It’s amazing what is in your own backyard if you know where to look for it!

Stinging nettles are one of those plants that up until a few months ago, I considered a nuisance.  They grow all over the place; they sting and it hurts!!  I remember falling into a nettle patch as a kid and I’ve never thought of nettles fondly since then. The raised welts they leave sting so bad and then they itch- it’s just not fun to experience.

But-

Nettles actually have a lot of uses medicinally!

They are a diuretic, can help with hay fever and urinary tract infections, they help reduce inflammation so they can be useful for helping with arthritis pain. They are also high in iron and nettle capsules or tea is frequently suggested for pregnant women to help boost iron and to help reduce or prevent bleeding. (I drank nettle tea when I was pregnant with Eliana.)

I even read that if you’re stung by a nettle, rubbing another nettle on the sting can help reduce the pain. I don’t think I want to try that one though! I’ll just stick with rubbing plantain oil on it.

For a nice list of other things nettles can help with, go here.

Also, another great article on nettles is here, including how taking nettles can interfere with prescription medication you may be taking.

Always make sure herbal supplements are safe to take if you’re on medication, because some may severely change how your meds work. Don’t just assume it’s okay to take since it’s herbal!  

Okay, so if you want to go foraging for nettles, here’s where to look: they like disturbed areas- oftentimes near the road or somewhere that has been logged- the nettles on my parent’s property grow down where an old barn used to be, near the rubble pile of wood from when the barn collapsed. That also happens to be in a wild blackberry patch, so my foraging experience was somewhat prickly- in addition to getting stung, I also got caught by the blackberry thorns!

Here are what stinging nettles look like:

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They have wide, almost heart shaped leaves with notched edges and reddish stems with prickly hairs on the underside of the leaves as well as the stem. These are what sting you if you touch them.

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See those prickles? Those are what have the chemical in them that creates a stinging sensation when it comes in contact with your skin. Ouch!

They grow pretty tall- I’ve seen nettles taller than me and I’m 5’9! But you want to harvest them when they are first coming up out of the ground.

Make sure to wear gloves and long sleeves, and use scissors to cut just the top few leaves off the nettles- that’s the most tender part. They are less bitter. The best time to go nettle foraging is right now- in the spring, when the nettles are just springing out of the ground. Once they’ve been out a while they lose a lot of their potency and are tougher and, as I said, more bitter.

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 Even though I was wearing gloves, the sneaky hairs on those nettles got right through the knit part and still stung my hand!
I managed to get about half a paper grocery bag full of nettle tops. Not too shabby for just a few minute’s work!

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I brought them inside and put them in the china cabinet to dry, since I don’ t want them to get dusty or small fingers to try and grab them and get stung.

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Once they are dry, they don’t sting anymore. I’m going to crumble the nettles up and make my own tea blend with nettles, red clover flowers, chamomile and peppermint.

I might also sprinkle a bit into soups to add some more vitamins into our diet. Since it will just look like basil or oregano; no one will be the wiser. Mwahahaha! 🙂

Have you ever foraged nettles before? I”d love to hear about it!
Also, if you want to read about some of my other foraging adventures, check out my new foraging page.

 

This post shared at Wildcrafting Wednesday

Chicken Coop Update

Hi, did you have a nice Resurrection Sunday yesterday?
We had a lovely “linner” (lunch/dinner) of ham, mashed potatoes, asparagus and salad and then watched movies and a bunch of my sibling’s friends came over and we played games well into the night. It was really fun!

Today, I thought I’d update you on our chicken coop progress.

It’s still not quite finished- we need a roof and to put up the chicken wire enclosure, but there are four walls and we’re able to put the little chickies out during the day.  There is a chance that they could be eaten by a passing hawk or eagle, but since the dogs are usually outside and chase away anything that might be lurking around, the chicks are fairly safe.

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This is Daisy, peeking over the board we put in the doorway of the coop to keep her out and the chicks in.

My mom and dad had some beautiful cedar shingle siding left over from when my grandmother had the house built, so we used that for two sides of the coop. It looks so pretty!!

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The walls made out of poles had pretty large gaps in between them, so we nailed up boards over the inside to keep out drafts and rain and possible predators. Some of them are old signs from around the Island that my great- grandfather found and brought home a long time ago. (This land has been in my Dad’s side of the family for generations.)

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The chicks are going to be five weeks old tomorrow- it’s amazing how quickly the time has gone!

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They are looking more like real chickens now instead of babies.

Only 15 more weeks before they start laying eggs! (only 15…haha)

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The kids are enjoying holding them, as you can see, and I love watching the chicks peck around in the dirt and hop and fly and play-fight. Chickens are so lovely!

Do you have chickens? What is your favorite thing about them?

Hodge-Podge: Chicken Update and Sourdough Starter

So, I don’t have a “real” post for you today but I thought I”d update everyone on how the chicks are looking and share a few other random things.

The chicks are almost three weeks old!

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They were getting way too crowded in their other container (a flat-bottomed planter) so we went dumpster diving and got a couple of discarded refrigerator boxes and taped them together to make a new enclosure for them. It’s pretty ghetto, but it works!

When we were in the process of stuffing the giant cardboard cylinder into the small garden shed, the chicks got their first taste of the outdoors. At first, they were kind of scared and huddled together, but then they decided to explore a bit and all found this plant hanging off the side of a container..and went to town on it!

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They are so cute and awkward looking! The silly things are still getting their feathers so they look all weird and scruffy and it’s hilarious to watch them try to fly and jump and fight with each other. Our chicken coop is still not finished but it’s coming along nicely, maybe in a few weeks we’ll be able to move the chicks into it. We still need to finish one and a half walls, then seal the cracks in the walls and put the roof on. So there’s still quite a bit of work that needs to be done.

On a completely different, unrelated note; I’m making my first sourdough bread starter!

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I found this post on how to start one, then read this post about it too.  I’ve been growing my little jar of wild yeast for 6 days now and it’s definitely smelling like sourdough bread and is getting nice and bubbly.

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I keep trying to get everyone to smell it, but no one seems to be as excited about it as I am. 😉

I’ll update you on how my first baking goes- I’m can’t wait to try it!

We’re also starting sweet potatoes today inside the house, I’ll write a post about the seeds we’ve planted/ veggies we’ve started later this week.

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I hope you had a great weekend and have a nice week! It’s sunny here and gorgeous, even though it’s still kinda cold and very windy, the blue sky is just beautiful and the plum trees are starting to bloom!