Summer Vegitables

canned

So you are all probably thinking “Uh huh, he said he would update once a week, yeah right.” LOL. Well, I try, but am only getting time about every other week. Last weekend we had our Annual Helmig Farms BBQ competiton so we were a bit busy.  Every year we host a large event (about 60 people this year here at our farm, where locals get together and compete in BBQ’ing in four catagories :Chicken, brisket, ribs, and pork.  Medals and trophies are awarded,  food and drink provided for every one, and a great time had by all. Alot of visitors seemed to gravitate towards the vegitable garden and asking different questions. As for our summer garden update, we took our last picking of green beans and wax beans on Tuesday night. I still need to pull up the plants as they are all done just have not had the time.  We were able to can 27 pints of green beans out of the deal, so that will be nice this winter. When canning, the wife did her batches just plain beans and some homemade bacon that I butchered and cured last fall. The batches i did i added the same homemade bacon, but also through in some homegrown chopped up white onion.  The peas are also all done, we ended up with 4 gallons of peas frozen.  They take up alot of room in the garden but are sure yummy, and for pea lovers they are a wonderful treat in the wintertime in casseroles, on salads, etc.  The pea plants are already all ripped up. Later this weekend my Dutch Flat Head cabbage is ready, so i will need to shred it and ferment it for sour Krout. Recipes are on the internet as for recipes, it takes about a week or maybe a little more depending on volume, temp, etc. Also i notice my onions have fallen over.  Stalks have not turned yellow yet, but will today or tomorrow I am assuming. So i will need to pull them as well, bunch them, and hang them. Hang onions in a cold dry place for maximum keep time. Depending on the species you can keep for example yellow onions almost into next planting season. My white onions for example, or red onions, or walla walla’s will not keep near that long due to their sugar content. You can still hang them, but they will spoil fairly quick. Debating trying some shredding and freezing methods this year for longer keep time on the white onions.  Tomatoes are doing wonderful, growing like weeds, and fruiting, but are not yet ripe. Zucchinnis have had one massive picking already. We canned 18 jars of Zuch-relish, and I gave about a dozen Zuch’s away to my mother as she likes making Zuchinni sweet pickles. She wanted to trade me a few jars in trade for the produce, but I don’t much care for sweet pickles, so politely refused. There are about another 50 lbs of Zuchinni that are still growing but not yet ready for harvest. My garlic never did all that great, as they were from 2 year old cloves, but i will take the ones I can and hang for drying to use for re-planting stock next year. Carrots are also all ready for harvest, and are very large. I added some sand into the carrot area before I tilled it this year, and they grew a world better! Much larger in diameter and length. Will probably get 10 pints or so out of the carrots.  Peppers are also doing well, jalepenos and bells, and have been being used through out the summer for cooking. I didn’t plant a whole bunch of peppers this year as i still have loads of them in the freezer from years before.  On a side note “Sammy” our Yorkshire pig is fattening up nice also, and loving the canning season! Sammy gets all the scraps from canning, and plants i yank up, etc on top of her feed ration. So she is a happy camper, and will be more than ready to butcher in fall. Butcher time is strictly dependent upon pigs weight, and cool weather. I wait till the weather is cold so i can hang the pig and age it for a few days, but not totally cold enough to freeze, as frozen animals are a PAIN to cut up and process. usually October is prime butchering season. 

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Brush Removal Day (F**K*NG Sotch Broom!)

ImageLooking out my Living room picture window this morning, hot cup of Folgers in my hand, the aroma from the coffees steam drifting up my nostrils, and the sun beaming into the living room from the East. “This will be a great day to do some spraying!” I think to my self. I havn’t posted anything in about a week, i started a new job as a machinery operator and overtime has kept me pretty busy. Yesterday (Saturday) was my first chance in a week to tend to the farm. We have new baby goats born earlier in the week that have taken up my workday evenings in feeding and casterating and general care. So saturday i grabbed the trusty Troy Built brush cutter and set out on the 20 acres with a full tank of mixed gas and a vision. “Brush Be Gone!” here in northwestern Oregon “Scotch Broom” and “Tansie” are the two main culperates. Tansie will actually kill alot of livestock, especially cattle if they injest it. So it’s a must for removal. I spray the hell out of it every year. Or if I am walking by and see a plant I will try and pull it up by its roots, leaving the roots exposed to direct sunlight to kill the little bugger. The other bad weed we have is Scotch Broom. This stuff isn’t really poisonous to livestock, but it literally will completey take over a farm around here in a matter of a couple years! It’s a real booger to kill. It’s a bi-annual plant, so it only comes back every two years, so just when you think you got it all killed, cut, sprayed and all gone, the crop from year before last comes up and you got a whole new crop of the stuff. The other problem is seeding! There are probably 10,000 seeds on one single plant. So once it goes to seed, one single gentle wind and the stuff has seeded it self over literally 5 acres! I will admit during bloom it is very pretty, but it starts off like a thick 1 ft tall carpet, by the next year it is 6 feet tall. After a couple years, I am not exaggerating, this crap will be an inpenetrantable solid wall 12-15 ft high! Spreading and seeding itself every year along the way and spreading. Long story short, who ever got this stuff started here in the Pacific Northwest should have a red hot fire poker shoved up their ass! Every year i spray, and cut, and spray and cut and spray and cut. Our farm was over ran with the stuff when we got it, part of why we got it so cheap. Every year it’s a constant year long effort, and every year I gain about an acres worth, it’s a hard battle to just break even and keep the stuff nuetral with out getting worse, let alone making head way one it. But, what i have been doing and has been successful so far, is i spray it a few times when i can, then go and cut it off with the brush cutter. I build a fence around the area etending the pasture, and put goats in it for about 2 years, as they eat off any new shoots and seedlings coming up. This seems to work pretty well, but is not cheap, and is a lot of work. Any ways, so yesterday, I took out the brush cutter. I cut a piece about 3 acres in size (yes, by hand with a darn weed eater with a blad attatchment, hence what I mean by alot of work). Some of it was sprayed and dead, other spots were not, and were still healthy growing plants. I cut them off any ways, so at least they will not goto seed on me, I can keep it kind of nuetral this year, and allows me to focus my real hardcore scotchbroom killing and removal efforts in other locations. And since the sun is going to be out today, as soon as the morning dew is heated off the grass, and everything is dried up a bit, I’m gonna fill up my back pack sprayer and head off. I will do one pack sprayer of CrossBow to spot spray Scotchbroom, tansie, black berry vines, and any other broad leaf weeds vines and plants i do not want. Once that is done, i will mix up another backpack sprayer full of my own custom mix. I will mix 1/2 Crossbow (and not water it down as much as reccommded) and the other 1/2 will be Round-Up (It too will be a little more concentrated that recommended). The reason for this mixture, is i use it along my fence lines, the driveway, etc. It pretty much kills everything. My fences have a hot (electric) wire running about 10 inches off the bottom wire, so i spray the fence lines to keep things from growing into the electric fence and shorting it out. I do this every year, and the result is about 6 inches on both sides of the fence line, that is just bare dirt, where nothing grows. PERFECT! It also makes fence repairs, removal, etc ALOT easier not having grass and weeds and vines growing up through the fence and making it all tangles up and hard to get out of the ground. Also, the less organic matter that grows, the less that dies, which leads to the least amount of decomposed organic matter, resulting in a LACK of top soil getting taller and taller each year, which in turn for the general farmer means that the bottom wire of your fence pretty much remains where you originally put it, instead of the bottom wire getting covered by dirt, rusting off, and comprimising your fence strength, usability, and helps the bottom line of actually keeping critters inside the fence where you want them. In case some people are not familiar with general herbicide applications, CrossBow is very useful, and kills broad leaf plants only(It WILL NOT kill grass), it great for spot spraying unwanted plants, weeds, vines, etc and not killing all the grass or having big dead spots all over. Round-Up is another very useful spray, but it kills grass, and smaller kinds of weeds like dandilions and that sort of thing. This is great for spraying along fences, spraying driveways or walkways, around flower beds, that sort of thing. Always be sure to read labels, and try and think ahead of what you really want your end result to be. In other words, if you want grass around to grow and look nice, or to feed livestock, or to choke out young upcoming brush and weeds, then keep Round up the hell away! On the other hand, if you are trying to keep grass out and keep vines or berries or other broad leaf organics alive, then keep the crossbow away from it. As i write this I keep checking outside, the sun is up pretty good now, I can feel the heat from the window, telling me it’s about time to go out and start mixing up some weed killer! Thanks for listening folks.

Catching Rain

I am sitting in my comfortable recliner, some annoying cartoon on tv that my 3 year old is watching, the fire next to me roasty and toasty, and on the window panes the rain beats hard. The past week or so it has been half way decent weather out, but here in early spring with fresh new fruit trees in the ground, seeds planted in the garden, we need a rain. Which brings me to my topic of the day. Catching, and using rain to our benefit, not work against us, and here in western Oregon we get TONS of rain! Lets start off by first mentioning that in spring, rain is needed to help growing trees and shrubs establish root systems, and provide water for the growing plant to begin structural growth, bud development, and over all cell structure. With out the rain, plants would just wither away and die. Same for seeds planted in gardens or flowerbeds. The rain is needed to keep these seeds moist and germinate so they can sprout and grow up through the earth. One way of harnessing rain that some may not think of, is i store rain water. I have rain collection units around teh farm here, from 5-gallon buckets at the bottom of gutter down spouts, to rubber maid tubs catching rain off the wood shed roof. Why would I collect rain water you ask? Well, if I was in the city the use of rain water for plants would be super beneficial due to city water containing so much cholorine and flouride and such and would provide the plants with a more pure and nitrogen enriched source of water. However, we do have a well here on the farm, so the purity of the water is not an issue. Mostly i use the collected water for animals. The rabbits and the chickens both live off the collected rain water (except in the summer, then it is well water). Its also handy sometimes having some easily accesible water for washing off farm or garden tools, rinsing off eggs, washing off dirty hands what ever. Rain is our friend, not our enemy, and has a million uses. As the years progress I intend on expanding my rain catching system to something a little more substantial, but in the mean time what i have will have to work. Happy rain catching every one.

Mulching and Wood Chip Day

As Spring continues here in the Pacific Northwest grass and weeds are starting to grow. I am seeing grass and weeds sprouting in our gravel driveway, and many other places around the farm that I will definately have to start spraying soon. I was thinking of this yesterday evening as i rolled myself a smoke, sat on the porch looking up the drive seeing all the scotchbroom turning dark green and healthy again. Darn stuff. I have about a 3 acre piece that is not fenced in yet, and goats and stock can’t be kept in there to keep the brush mowed down. So this particular piece of land, until i get it fenced, i have been keeping brush down by hand with herbicide, weed eaters, machette, and hand shears. Not very fun. And of coarse it has to be the brushiest, rockiest, most uneven piece of ground on the whole place where I can’t even take a mower into. Oh well. Any ways, was sitting on the porch last night, thinking about some fruit trees i have, some flower beds, and other things of that nature, and decided that with weather permitting I will make today mulch day. During the fall I save two large 100lbs feed bags (the white woven plastic strand kind). In one I pick up dead and fallen maple leaves and stuff it full. In the other I put wood shavings. The savings i get from cutting wood all year round. Sometimes when i have a big burly hunk of wood with knots every where I will just lay it on it’s side and use the chainsaw to split it into desired pieces. Yeah its more of a use of gas, but it saves having to beat and beat and beat on the darned thing, but also it gives me nice long wood shavings, which I use in around the place in lew of Bark Dust. Just a side note for folks, if you stand the block of wood upright and saw through it, the wood chips will be very fine, and powder like, if you lay it on its side and cut with the grain you will get those long strands I am talking about. Just a note.

Any ways, alot of fruit trees and flower beds (the ones that are planted already and sprouting up) will get a layer of crushed and crumbled broken up leaf bits (1/2 inch thick or so, maybe an inch) fallowed by an inch or more of wood shavings. Mulching helps retain moisture in the hot summer months, but it also help prevent grass and weeds poking up through. No it doesn’t totally stop them, but it does slow and impeede them. My only advice for others doing this, is I also take a soil ph tester with me as I do this. The wood shavings has potential of making the soil more acidic over time. each  year I test around the trees and beds, and ajust accordingly to what each species likes and needs. Happy gardening folks

Gardening Season

Well it is that time of year again. Early spring when things are starting to bud and days are getting nicer. Last week during a short dry spell i was able to get the garden all tilled up (Approx. 50ftx60ft). Also i have already planted a row of garlic (15ft) and 3 rows of bush peas each row approx. 15ft as well. When ever i plant seed into the ground and it cannot be visible for a while i use kindling sticks i chop about 16 inches long or so and string to mark the rows out (two sticks with a string end tied to each, then stick one stick in the ground at the beginning of the row, and the other stick in the ground at the end of the row) This little trick helps aid me visually for planting other rows, and getting the row spacing i like, and it also helps me in weeding and checking growth. Instead of my eyes wandering a large garden area, looking for what i hope is my vegetable seeds sprouting, all i have to do is look underneath the straight strung string, and see if sprouts are coming up in a straight line, and weed (hoe) out any other riff raff and weeds. I am also wanting to plant my onions here any time, but am waiting for another weather break and a good onion start sale to come up. Not in a huge hurry though, as I have plenty of time to get them in the ground. I planted a row of lettuce also next o the garlic. Still waiting for it to start coming up.

In other news, for Valentines day the wife and i decided to get each other fruit trees instead of chocolates and flowers. I bought her a Winsesap Apple, and she bought me a Bing Cherry. I think this will be a great tradition. We are looking forward to the orchard collection we end up with after ten years or so. So far our orchard includes a Halehaven Peach, a Plum (cant remember the kind off hand), a Lodi Apple, a Winesap Apple, a Red Delicious Apple, a Bing Cherry and two rootstock grafted trees which if successful will also add a Yellow delicious apple and a Fuji Apple.