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Fighting tomato blight with pennies

Smallest wood stoves

Propagating persimmons: Germinating seeds, grafting, and transplanting

How many batteries do I need for my solar panels?

Automatic chicken door

Nov 2014

A year ago this week:

Tall vine harvesting notes

High-density pear trees

Sharpening chainsaw chain with grinding stone

Pie(s) are squared

Nov 2013

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Preparing to brine a turkey

"You'll probably want to brine your turkey," my pastured-poultry producer said when we picked up our 22-pound beast.

I've brined lots of chickens, but my mind drew a blank when I tried to imagine how to keep a tremendous turkey cool while submersing it in a bath of salt water. But the answer is simple --- brine in a cooler.

Brining a turkey in a coolerStep one --- scrub that cooler to within an inch of its life. After cleaning ours thoroughly, I also soaked the cooler in bleach water for a couple of hours just in case, then let it dry overnight to fully kill any bad critters. At the same time, I filled some tupperware containers with water and tossed them in the freezer to create homemade ice packs.

Next, I mixed salt and water and poured the combination into the cooler along with lots of ice. And the turkey of course! Put on the lid and your bird will tenderize in cool safety for eight to sixteen hours.

Turkey roaster

Next step, remove the turkey from the brine and let it air dry uncovered in the fridge overnight. This step is necessary if you want crisp, rather than soggy, skin. We decided the easiest way to do this was to put the turkey in the roaster....which didn't work until we turned the humongous bird sideways.

Then roast and enjoy. Have a great Thanksgiving!

Posted Thu Nov 26 07:03:35 2015 Tags:
goat breaks down door of barn with antler pounding

Abigail pounded on her door this morning until it busted open.

I knew when I first heard about the new pounding last week it would be a matter of time before something more heavy duty was needed.

The solution was to replace that beefy screen door latch with a heavy chain.

Posted Wed Nov 25 15:28:00 2015 Tags:
Picking frozen greens

Mustard, Swiss chard, and kale freeze all the time in the garden. They thaw out and keep on growing.

But what happens if you pick frozen leaves and bring them into the kitchen to cook later?

Answer: The greens turn into goo. Edible if cooked right away, but not really up to snuff.

Moral: Pick your Thanksgiving greens now and put them in the fridge for tomorrow's feast!

Posted Wed Nov 25 13:11:22 2015 Tags:
Making pies

Every fifteen years or so, Mom pulls a 1974 Good Housekeeping article out of her hat and makes me read it. I wish I could share the whole thing, but it's still under copyright, so I'll just sum it up with the title and subtitle:

"I Remember, I Remember": My 97-year-old mother tells about Thanksgiving when she was a girl --- cornmeal johnnycakes, five kinds of pie, turkey, goose and capon, blueberry flummer. And all the family home.

The story is written by my great-aunt Ruth Tirrell and tells about the feast her great-grandmother and great-aunts made for city relatives returning to the Rhode Island farm around 1885. And each time I read the story, I see something entirely different. This year's gem was the fact that the family relished potatoes, onions, turnips, and parsnips...but considered carrots only good enough to feed to cattle.

Cranberry raisin apple pies

I think I can probably sneak in another little quote about pies without being sued:

"The pies that kept well --- apple, mince and cranberry --- had been made --- all three dozen of them --- a month or so before and laid out on the attic floor. All the women pitched in now to make squash and blueberry pies...."

The family joining me tomorrow is much smaller than my great-great-great grandmother Mary Greene's massive clan. So I figure we'll get by with a 9x13 butternut pie and two deep-dish cranberry-apple-raisin pies. But I followed the family tradition of making dessert ahead to beat the rush. Pumpkin-type pies, especially, taste better on the second or third day!

(And thank you to my pie consultant, Joey, for deciding on the dessert menu.)

Posted Wed Nov 25 07:38:16 2015 Tags:
Turkey slaughtering

Monday was turkey pickup day. Our friends let us drop by early so we'd be sure to get home before dark, which means we got to see the whole butchering operation in action.

Turkey butchering station

The farmers apologized profusely because...the turkeys are too big this year! "That's good, right?" I asked. "More money for you?"

"No," they answered. "We have to give people a discount to get them to take the bigger Cooling a turkeybirds since most folks don't know what to do with leftovers."

"I love leftovers," I replied. "Give me the bird that's going to be the hardest to move."

They hemmed and hawed. "You really don't want that one. We can't really sell it. It has a bit of skin torn on the back due to the plucking process...."

"Looks a lot better than some of our birds," I answered. "Hand it over."

Pig and goat

By way of apology, they offered a pack of last year's bacon. I think I know who got the sweeter end of that deal. Thanks for the awesome pastured meat!

(Moral of the story: If you're buying meat or produce from a real farmer and don't mind a few cosmetic blemishes, you'll make their day if you tell them so. Americans eat with their eyes, and delicious grub can be hard to move if it has a spot. You'll probably get a discount too!)

Posted Tue Nov 24 06:23:34 2015 Tags:
Family photo

I wore Mark out driving in a huge loop through multiple big cities today, so I'm stealing his posting spot to make up for it.

Frost-protected figFirst stop --- Thanksgiving feast part one with the Bristol clan. I particularly liked seeing Mom's frost-protected fig tree. Hers produced quite a few more figs than ours this past year, either because of her warmer city location or her impressive insulation job.

Next stop --- stocking up on groceries for our Thursday feast. (More on that in tomorrow's post.)

Then home at last to rest up for the second day of Thanksgiving --- pie day!

Posted Mon Nov 23 16:16:11 2015 Tags:
Goat eating honeysuckle

We've been writing a lot about dead animals lately, so I figured you might enjoy seeing some live ones. Here's Artemesia eating honeysuckle...just because.

Goat eating mangels

What was Abigail up to when that picture was taken? Straining to get to a pile of discarded mangels that I'd pulled out of the fridge root cellar when she refused to eat even aged, carefully chopped mangels.

"But you hate mangels!"

"Nope, love 'em."

"But these have been frozen and thawed and frozen and thawed so they're half rotten."

"Yup, love 'em."

I really don't understand goats.

Cat inspecting ditch

Well, I guess I do understand goats. If you think of them as vegetarian cats with hooves, everything becomes much clearer.

Speaking of cats, Huckleberry's inspecting my drainage ditch in the photo above. Summer gardening season hit before I finished burying the overflow pipe for our IBC rain barrel, so I'm just now finishing up the project. Good news is --- our tower handled the weight of the heavy rain barrel with no problems and the ground behind the trailer did become significantly drier as a result. Bad news is...well, there isn't really any bad news, except for me being so slow to finish the overflow pipe.

Posted Mon Nov 23 07:08:42 2015 Tags:
door sealing

2015 is gonna be the year we stop letting hot air escape out the back door.

Posted Sun Nov 22 12:50:47 2015 Tags:
Anna Deer 6.0
Hunting from the window

I "hunted" our 2015 deer from the couch and shot the button buck through the front window. The hardest part was waiting for the goats to move out of the way so I was positive I wouldn't injure anyone I cared about via friendly fire.

We're finally starting to become old hats at butchering a deer, so there's not much to say other than --- Thank you, Jayne, for the awesome gambrel! Instead, here are some stats for those of you keeping track at home.

Deer gambrelAll-time scores:

  • Mark: 1.5
  • Anna: 4.5

Yearly totals:

  • 2009: 1
  • 2010: 0
  • 2011: 2
  • 2012: 1
  • 2013: 1
  • 2014: 0 (Heavy acorn year; deer barely came into the garden.)
  • 2015: 1

Venison as percent of annual  meat consumption:

  • about 8%

Amount of damage deer do to our garden compared to their food value:

  • Roughly even, trending toward us getting more food from the deer than the deer get from us in recent years

There's still time for us to bag another deer this year, and we certainly wouldn't mind the additional delicious, pastured meat. But I've found that once either-sex rifle season starts in earnest, the critters get much wilier and I can no longer hunt them from the trailer. For example, my neighbors on one side tell me they've already killed five deer so far this year, and I suspect the neighbors on the other side are equally productive. A pretty average year here in deer-central, where hunters fill their freezers in November to feed them all year long.

Posted Sun Nov 22 07:33:19 2015 Tags:
pulley and gambrel system being used to hold up young buck

This morning I woke up to the sound of gunfire.

Anna shot a small buck just past our blueberry bushes. That's 5 for her to my 1.

We spent the morning butchering which was easier than times in the past thanks to a new pulley and gambrel system. Thank you Mom and Jayne.

It took a few minutes to figure out but really made raising and lowering easy.

Posted Sat Nov 21 16:37:20 2015 Tags:

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