Monday, January 30, 2012

Orchard

Here's our orchard we planted last year 2011.  We planted the following varieties of fruit trees:

1. Four Apple Trees (Gala, Nova Spy, McIntosh)
2. One Cherry Tree (Stella)
3. Three Pear Trees (two self pollinating trees and one grafted variety that has 4 trees in one - Bartlett, Bosc, Anjou)
4. Peach Tree



Each tree has been staked up and has a mouse guard on the bottom.  We also put mulch around the base of the tree to help with water retention...but pulled the mulch away from the base of the tree to keep any rodents from making a nest directly next to the tree and nibbling away.

The tree in the middle is a wild maple tree.

To go along with all the fruit trees - we also purchased a Pleasant Hill Grain fruit grinder/cider press.  See below.  We tried out the grinder and press last year with crabapples and it works great.  We made crabapple jelly (low sugar) from the harvest.  Very excited about using it further this year....so we can perfect our technique.



The photos are courtesy of Pleasant Hill Grain's website - http://www.pleasanthillgrain.com/fruit_press.aspx.  check them out...they have a few other kitchen items I am interested in too.

Horseradish

So last Fall, after my horseradish plant leaves had turned brown...I dug up and harvested some of the root to make homemade horseradish.  I wanted to share these photos of my small production - and when I say small it was really small.  Hopefully at the end of next season I will yield more - but for one growing season it was a good learning experience.



So the above photo was my horseradish root after I cleaned it up.  Below is my horseradish processing station - which had to be outside because of the strong horseradishy smell that will burn your nostrils - ha

So after grinding up the horseradish root in the food processor, I just added some vinegar.  It was very tasty and I think I got about 1/4 cup of homemade horseradish.

It was delicious!  Love that horseradish - especially on hamburger patties!!  Grow some -

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Seed Sprouting

So I've tried fermenting and pickling...now I think I'm going to try seed sprouting!  A few things I've learned rather quickly about sprouting...it's nutritious, always fresh, it's cheap and fairly easy.  Sounds good to me! 

Seed Sprouting Jar, Glass Half Gallon - 1 pc,(Handy Pantry)

Amazon has the above "glass" jar seed sprouter for less than $15.00 and I think I will add it to my kitchen collection.  I love the fact that it's glass - I've only seen seed sprouters in plastic tray forms.

From what I understand, all you have to do is soak your seeds for about 8 hours (or overnight) in lots of water.  Rinse the sprouts well every 12 hours being careful not to move the sprouts around too much.  Drain sprouts well and do not leave any standing water.  Lastly, you can harvest sprouts by gently pulling ripe ones out from the rest. Store harvested sprouts in a plastic bag in a cool dark place, such as a fridge, and rinse them every 3 days or so. Most sprouts will keep at least a week like this and often longer.

Garden Tools

Well beside the Mantis tiller, my next favorite garden tool for pesty weeds is the saddle hoe.

I remember using this tool when I was a kid to weed a rather large sand box that my brothers played in. I had forgotten about it until I saw it in the store last year. I plan on getting a few more this year for my co-gardeners (you know who you are) ha.

What garden tools do you use and would you recommend as a garden essential??

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Seed Starting Time!

Well I am getting geared up because it is seed starting time and this year I am planting "Heirloom" seeds.  There has been so much talk about genetically modified and hybrid seeds and after full investigation I have decided to make the switch.  I purchased my seeds through Burpee and some through Gurneys.

I purchased a small indoor greenhouse to get us started.  It is made from PVC and has casters.  I currently have this greenhouse set up in a small spare bedroom by the window.  But I have also attached a special fluorescent light to assist on those cloudy/snowy days.  It was very easy to assemble and has wire shelving to allow better circulation.  It is about 5.5 feet high and 1.50 feet wide.


To begin with I will be starting my different varieties of tomatoes and peppers.  Since this is my first time starting seeds, wish me luck!

I am also thinking about purchasing a heated mat to start some of my other vegetables like cabbage, kohlrabi and brussel sprouts.  I have read that this is the recommended method.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Recycling idea

My daughter made me this hanging vase for Christmas! The idea came from pinterest.com. She actually made me three of them - right now I have fake poinsettia flowers in them but once Spring gets here I will put fresh cut flowers in them!

Two Year Plan

Well - it's down to the wire.  I'm two years away from making one of the biggest changes in my life.  Self-sufficient living.  Moving from the city, working in Chicago, and converting to the country homestead. I feel that this is change will suit me and my family.  Moving back to the old family farm and re-making what it started out to be and what it will be in the future.

This year I have a lot on mind.  Planting heirloom vegetables (and saving seeds); herb garden; building a pole barn; expanding our chickens by adding "meat" chickens; canning, drying and preserving foods; farm purchase and addition of a beautiful master suite; beekeeping; winemaking and cider making; and of course our orchard that we planted last year!  There is SO much to do I am feeling the excitement of the season already!  Lots to plan for - lots to coordinate - and LOTS and LOTS to talk about!  Very exciting!

Stay tuned for more details.  I am going to be updating more often and showing you the entire process of this wonderful experience!