Saturday, November 30, 2013

Remembering Jack the Dog

Jack, my dog, has died; he died Thanksgiving evening. 
For fourteen, nearly fifteen years, he has lived and worked with Ken and me.

He was a charmer.  When we went to look at puppies and choose one, he kept coming up to us, sitting and wagging his tail.  

He chose us

Even as a pup Jack was a creative problem solver.  When we let him know jumping up on people was unacceptable, he simply leaped up, licked a person's face, sat down facing them and wagged his tail.

He became Jack the Dog when, during a pottery show here, it appeared he was about to misbehave and I shouted, "Jack!" A boy's head snapped around.  Remembering he was also named Jack, I yelled, "No, not you - Jack the Dog!"

Jack was clever and wanted to please.  Since he was my first dog, he and I went to obedience classes.  We were told that by the end of the session Jack needed to do a trick.  With minimal effort on his and my part, he could sit and shake by the second class - even the instructor was impressed. 
He was also a lifelong learner - Ken taught him to roll over after he was an adult -
that old dog could learn new tricks!

Our dogs are working dogs, and Jack took his job seriously.  

He not only protected us, but also the garden and poultry.  The only time he harassed a bird was when I moved it without him - he was trying to move that cockerel to where he had been and Jack thought he should be.  After that I moved birds with Jack so he knew where they should be.
Unlike his predecessor Ken's Abby, and successor, Oscar, he did not bark until unwanted animals decided to move on; he merely dispatched intruders - muskrats, woodchucks, possums, a stray cat, raccoons, and he could even kill a skunk without getting skunked.  He faced off an aggressive bear  when I went to close the chicken coop one night.
Not only tough, Jack sought out people and other dogs - he was a social animal.  He went to drum circles where he made many friends of two and four legged variety.  His disadvantage was being a black dog in the dark.  Once he got under foot at a pottery firing, and poor Jenny - cracked ribs.  She still made a fuss over him each time she saw him

As he aged and moved into retirement, he trained Oscar his successor.


He maintained good health until a couple days ago.  

He was a bit weak and disoriented,  and then he left our lives as graciously as he arrived. 
I miss him, and feel so grateful my first dog was such a good one.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Making Sauerkraut

Each fall Ken harvests heavy storage cabbage.  We store some for our CSA over winter, and we make the rest into sauerkraut.  Sauerkraut consists of two ingredients: cabbage and salt.  Making lacto fermented vegetables of any type (kim chi, sauerkraut, vegetables in a salt brine) creates pro - biotics that aid digestion.  

First Ken harvests cabbage with the outer leaves and piles them on a pallet under a tarp to prevent frost damage when temperatures drop to single digits.  

Then one of us starts to take off the stems and outer leaves we will not use for sauerkraut.

I filled two carts of these tough leaves to feed to the geese.  

As I cleaned cabbage I sorted into those I would save for the CSA and those huge heads that would make sauerkraut.  It was a good year - the heads were dense and heavy.

Once I get that done, I clean up the area outside

Then I moved them into the lowest coolest level  of the house to a clean sheet covered table.  

Then Ken got the processing area ready - kraut cutters and clean tubs.  Once each tub was full, Ken weighed the contents and added salt.

Then Ken brought the cut, salted cabbage down to a barrel.  He punches it down to get out any air.  When finished he weighs down the cabbage so the liquid released remains above the cabbage.  Then he covered the barrel with a clean sheet.

This year Sam helped.  He was really efficient and we were glad he came to help.

Spreading Compost

Ken makes his own compost of plant material, chicken bedding, and manure.  Compost is made one season prior to application to beds prior to planting.  Each fall Ken uses the last of the season's compost on beds he prepares in fall for spring plantings.

This year Ken's old manure spreader is not working, so he devised a system using a tractor with a front end loader and wheel barrows.

He loaded the front end loader and then dumped the compost into the wheel barrows

Then he spread the compost and pulled any large remaining plant material.  Now the beds will be ready to plant in spring.

Chicken population reduction

Each spring we incubate our eggs and let hens sit on eggs to hatch them.  This is how we replace our older hens.  In fall we choose which roosters to keep and which hens are still productive.

The rest go to the freezer.  This year we had one hatch that was later, so the cockerels are still a bit small.  Ken has them working - they are cleaning out the bugs and weed seeds in the greenhouse.  Some warmer day soon, they will go to the freezer, too

Ken Cooks

Ken loves to cook.  And when the days get shorter, he gets up and cooks.  Some days it's a pie, sometimes an apple crisp.  And this year with his huge rutabagas and German giant kohlrabi, he has been making "brassicas au gratin."

Here he is making his famed au gratin sauce.

Of course he is laughing at me taking photos - thank you, Ken
Some wild hair there, Dude!

Soup Stock

After we butcher in fall, Ken places the bones in a large stock pot he got because the electric wiring did not work.  He placed it on a metal barrel and lights a fire under it.

He simmers the bones until the meat softens; then I pick the meat off and return the bones and simmer a day or two.  Once the stock is done, Ken strains it and I can it.

One batch this fall needed to be reduced, and I did that on the cook stove

The I pressure canned it.

Once the pressure goes down, the jars come out and
as they cool, the lids pop as they seal.

I labeled it and then it goes on to the root cellar shelves
This year we have venison, pork, chicken, and Evan and Sarah's lamb.

Making Wine

first fermentation
I like to brew beer, BUT we don't grow barley.  We DO grow fruit that can be made into country wines and melomels (honey based fruit wines).  So I make what is called "country wines."

first fermentation - inside the bucket
Each year I like to make elderberry wine - our first country wine that we received as a wedding gift some twenty years ago.  Elderberries boost the immune system, and we were told to drink that first elderberry wine if we felt we were getting ill or just "under the weather."

first fermentation - under the fruit
I also like to make wine from our apples, Nanking cherries, grapes, strawberries and raspberries.  It all depends upon whether or not we have surplus and berries that are small, seedy or harvested during wet weather.  There is a hierarchy of fruit - best to CSA and on line or on farm sales, slightly blemished fruit and a sharp knife makes great jam, and then the seedy, soft or otherwise unmarketable fruit makes great wine!

Right now I have some apple grape and some elderberry in the second stage of fermentation.  Next I will be sorting berries from the freezer and making jam and more wine.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

CSA Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This box has salad mix, Brussels sprouts, red cabbage, pie pumpkin, French grey shallots, garlic, leeks, potatoes, rutabagas, baby carrots, beets and sage.

Parsley - inside for the winter
Field Notes.  Ken has been wrapping up various projects as weather permits.  He needs to get some mulch on the garlic and shallots he and Sam planted a couple weeks ago.  He is still setting up hoopettes in the garden for fall and spring planting.  He is still harvesting greens from garden and high tunnel.  

Thank you, Sean!
Last week a friend visited and wanted "to be put to work," so he and Ken filled up a section of the cook stove wood rack. Thank you!

And we have been talking about what to plant next year.  Seed catalogs have begun to arrive, and I need to get orders done before there is no organic seed.  As nice as it is to see demand for organic go up, it does mean I can't put off seed orders until January anymore.


I am nearing full capacity in the root cellar.  As our year round vegetable business expands, the root cellar seems smaller and smaller.  I have a couple barrels in another corner I can block off and keep cool.  This has been a bumper rutabaga year, and Ken has tried some new storage crops as well.  

We have also been reducing the animal population as well.  Two weeks ago the pigs went, and I have gotten a couple emails thanking us for raising great pork.  And last week we took out the cockerels and old hens.  Ken has a small batch of cockerels not yet large enough to butcher.  They will go on a warm day in December or January with a couple geese.

Squash warmed with toasted nuts
From the Kitchen.  With the cool days and nights, we light the cook stove every morning and many evenings as well.  My focus shifts to slow cooking and oven cooking.  Ken has been tackling large jobs in the kitchen many mornings.  Today he sorted squash and all the ones with blemishes got cleaned and placed in the oven to bake.  He will make a pie with some and I will serve some as a side dish.  I like to toast nuts in a skillet, place on a cutting board and chop.  Return to the pan with butter and heat up the squash.  Sometimes I beat an egg in the squash and then I usually flip the squash into a larger buttered pan so the egg gets fully cooked and the squash puffs up like a pancake does.

I addition to baking potatoes, Ken has a new favorite potato "recipe."  He scrubs potatoes, cuts them in chunks, boils them and then peels them.  He sets them aside, and in the morning one of us will make soup and serve it over "smashed potatoes."  They combine with the soup, and thicken it and add texture.

Rutabagas are part of the brassica or cabbage family.  They are one of the cruciferous vegetables - quite healthy.  We usually add them to soups, but many people combine rutabagas and potatoes, boil and mash them.  Ken has been making au gratin with rutabagas and kohlrabi this fall - very delicious and satisfying.

Happy Thanksgiving!  With that in mind, this box has some of our favorites - pie pumpkins, sage, shallots for stuffing, potatoes and rutabagas.  We wish to express our gratitude - we couldn't do this without you!