The Demise of the Fig Trees: A Backyard Orchard Culture Update

Our garden is verdant, and the trees look like lush new things bursting into life. We even have fuzzy baby peaches huddled together on one of the branches in the more vigorous peach tree. Our Montmorency Cherry was profuse with its blossoms, and I feel a tickle of pride whenever people walk by our garden and point or smile in appreciation. I have every reason to be pleased with our backyard orchard culture going into its second year… except our fig trees died. Both of them.

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The Quick Pickle: Food in Jars Mastery Challenge

The entire month of April seems to have flown by, and I’m staring at today’s date wondering where each of those the days has slipped away to. Maybe they’re hiding with all the months that have already disappeared into 2017. What hasn’t vanished is my interest in expanding my canning repertoire. The skill for the April Food in Jars Mastery Challenge is quick pickles.

I know that pickling vegetables was a way that homesteaders historically preserved many vegetables and other miscellanies (pickled pigs feet anyone?) through the winter, but I have never much cared for pickles. As a child, I hated them, and as an adult, I have come to occasionally nosh on a pickle or two if they are served on the side of my sandwich. I’ve just never much cared for them. Heck, I still have a jar of pickled zucchini and yellow squash from two summers ago in my stash of canned goods. If pickles were people, they would be the acquaintances to whom I’m polite and friendly but rarely seek out to chat about where all those sneaky April days had vanished to.

One of my foster kiddos, however, loves pickles. She was as interested at the idea of making her own batch of pickles as she was disappointed that we weren’t growing cucumbers in the garden. So, we walked to the grocery store, picked out some cucumbers and other ingredients for the refrigerator dill pickles, and had at it. Let me tell you, making two pints of quick pickles was as snappy as this month has already been. The cucumbers were swimming in their pickling brine and into the fridge before we knew it. We left them to stew for a few days, and we busted them out for our black-bean burgers this weekend. Even I enjoyed them enough to have two, and that admission has to be saying something for any pickling fiends out there. Maybe I’ll have to try out a few more quick pickle recipes.

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Impressing (or Terrifying?) the Kiddos by Installing a Package of Bees

This is my third year installing a new package of bees. I have hopes that I’ve sufficiently learned from the failures of the first and second year to be able to quip that the third time is indeed the charm. We’ve moved the location of the hive to a sunnier spot (although a truly sunny location is absent in our backyard). Conveniently, that sunny location is near a window in the house… which means that our foster kiddos got to see something few people really get to see in person:  beekeepers in action.

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Garden Work and Blossoms

After chaos of construction, I relished working in the garden this weekend. I planted a few overdue seeds while the kiddos complained of child-labor laws for daring to ask for an extra 90 minutes of help around the yard. (Gasp!) My husband added compost to the garden beds and mixed the other barrel. He set the final garden bed into the slight slope of the hill and filled it with wheelbarrow and wheelbarrow full of dirt. After this miscellany of prep work and post-due planting, our garden is officially, officially ready for spring.

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Sheared Sheep

I have been counting sheep in my daydreams for the last year. I’ve even begun reading about sheep in my waking moments too. I’ve read Hit by a Farm and Sheepish, and now I’m buried in the Accidental Farmers. I briefly went a little sheepy and had reserved five other books about raising sheep before I came to my senses and left with just Hit by a Farm. I sometimes need to reel myself in a bit. At any rate, I have been enjoying my non-fiction sheep-related adventures even if actually owning sheep are far off (or perhaps never) in my future.

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Roasted Garlic Jelly, with a side of Herbes de Provence

The Food in Jars Mastery Challenge is well under way, and I finished out the month by making a batch of roasted garlic jelly and Herbes de Provence wine jelly on my day off on Wednesday. I desperately needed the time to myself to be crafty and do my own thing, and I wanted to add just a few more jellies to my mastery challenge. I already made the sour cherry jelly and lavender wine jelly earlier this month for the challenge.

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Back to Basics: Bees, Beehives, and Biscuits

After years of scheduling conflicts with the NEKBA beekeeping class, we finally were able to take their beginning beekeeping course this year. We attended our first of two classes yesterday. In many ways, the first half of the class was review for us. We knew much of the information that was presented in the various sessions, and my husband did find one of the presenters a little snooze worthy. I gently reminded him that we all aren’t as engaging and talented teachers as he is. Even though the first class focused on basics we mostly already knew, I think the class is going to be worth it on the whole.

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