Homestead Happy Snaps

As hot and dry as it still is, we’re still managing to get-r-done. Much has died in the garden, but the weeds and grasses still thrive with irrigation. We used to complain how well we grew grass and weeds, and little else, but we have a different attitude now. It all serves to feed the critters, who in turn feed us, which is a pretty good deal.

The honeybees love the purslane, and we love the honey.

The goats love the morning glory, and we love the goat cheese.

The bumblebees love the luffa flowers, and the pigs love the luffa fruit, and we love the bacon. How fortunate for us this cycle of life!

The volunteer cucumber has shown me we can indeed get fruit in 100 degrees, it just has to be from a fresh plant.

Fence clearing duty, thank you! And who doesn’t love pink zinnias?

Peek-a-boo!

I think we can tell who will be the next herd queen—Bluebonnet, daughter of the current herd queen—go figure.

A fantastic shot from a friend in the northeast US, so amazing, I just had to include it!

Wow! Almost makes me want the new IPhone.

And last but not least, Bubba and Buttercup in their favorite places, which is always, as close to Hubby as possible. 🙂


Thanks for stopping by!

Homestead Happenings

Just posting some happy snaps to distract our attention away from all that’s dying in the garden. And the fact that the hens have mostly stopped laying, our oldest goat is looking dangerously thin, the grass has turned crispy, and there’s no end in sight.

Bubba trying to keep cool

Still, the kids are growing like weeds.

Walnut’s nearly as big as her mama already (back left) and even little Athena (front) is catching up to the rest of the kids.
Morning glory, another goat favorite

The birds and the bees are still doing their thing while we can’t manage to stay outside past 11 am.

Unfortunately, so are the ants. The leaf-cutters are slowly destroying our young fruit trees. Only the more mature pear is escaping their attack.

Almost ready, fingers crossed!

Plants are simply amazing. The purslane and arugula are growing fine and make a great pesto. The sweet potato vines are a goat favorite, the okra’s just coming in, the peppers and watermelons are still hanging in there.

The zucchini hasn’t given up either, and somehow we still have broccoli that’s not bitter.

Just as the old cucumbers got bitter, the new volunteer is producing like crazy. Not too shabby! 😁

Homestead Happenings

Time to wine!

It’s hot. It’s dry. It’s miserable. Every day we enter the garden and the orchard knowing we’ll find something else dead.

First it was the tomatoes, then the salad cucumbers and cantaloupe, now it looks like even the tomatillos are giving up before ever producing well. The squashes are all struggling and the peppers and figs are mostly stalled.

I wish that meant it was time to rest on our laurels and have some long, slow and sweet indoor days of movie marathons and Kombucha cocktails.

But no such luck, because it’s time for making wine!

Our painstakingly cultivated Muscadine grapes are not doing well, we expect a minimal harvest, at best.

But, the native Mustang grapes are a lot tougher, apparently.

So, fortunately! We’re still able to make some wine and jam.

Did I mention it’s really F’ing HOT? And dry?

I’d whine a lot more, except I keep going back to the miracle of all the critters and plants who can take it so much better than we can. Though, I know they are struggling too, and are just less whiney than I am.

And just for those keeping track, the ‘chemtrails’ have not abated.

Homestead Happenings

Just a wee hodgepodge of happy snaps and some light commentary for today.

Our preserving efforts have been at fever pitch with bushels of cucumbers and melons coming in. The Noirs des Carmes cantaloupe that was my main prize experiment for this summer has been a success, for the most part. We’ve gotten loads of melons, way too many to count, and the majority of them have been good.

But many of them have ‘exploded’— and that’s not just split, but within a day, before even being fully ripe, they’ve blown open completely. Some are tasteless even though fully ripe. Some are softening while still small and unripe.

The pigs have been the great beneficiaries of these rejects. I do understand why this melon is not commercially available and is not a favorite at farmer’s markets either, even though when they’re good, they’re delicious. Though some of these issues could certainly be the extreme heat and drought, they do not last long once they are ripe. They must ripen on the vine, and once ripe they last only a few days before rotting.

For us they’ve been prolific and very tasty even under stressful conditions, so they will be a keeper. Needless to say, we’ve been eating A LOT of melon! Melon for breakfast, snacks, aqua fresca, desserts, juice, syrup, jam and smoothies.

A small fraction of our harvest, preparing to make preserves.

We’re trying to take advantage of the heat by trying out a recent gift, a sun oven!

Our place is so small and we love cooking, but it’s hardly economical heating up the whole house every afternoon, when it’s blazing hot outside, and while inside the air conditioning is blasting away.

The kids are growing so fast! I’m slowly, gently trying to ween them. In this heat I don’t dare take too much milk for us, just enough for our morning coffee. But the daily training is still essential, for us all.

Around 5:00 am I separate mamas and kids for about 5 hours. The kids are eating grains and forage already, but they don’t like to be long off those teets, that’s for sure! By 9:00 they are wailing and it’s hard to listen to them while we’re working away outside, but it must be tolerated.

I train them on the milk stand and bring them a wheelbarrow full of sweet potato vines, which they devour.

A few baffling successes have been carrots and broccoli that are still producing in this heat! This is a first for us. I guess I got the timing and variety just right, for once. They are both under shade cloth and not totally productive or tasty, but good enough for us and a very nice surprise.

I’ve started some seed trays of tomatoes and lettuce indoors for the fall garden. Fingers crossed, I’ve never had successful fall tomatoes so far, but you never know, considering those carrots and broccoli!

Homestead Happenings

Just trying to keep cool these days, physically and mentally. We can’t spend all day outside anymore, as we’d prefer. It’s crazy hot and dry and we’re losing the crops at a rapid clip in these unprecedented June temperatures.

Fortunately, we can spend the hot afternoons in the cool kitchen, adding to our skillsets and our supply of delicious homemade staples—such as ferments, my domain, and canning, Hubby’s expanding speciality.

It’s so hot and dry, and generally miserable day and night, that I find myself continually amazed at how resilient some species are.

Also getting supplemental water and looking great, the most cheeriest of all the flowers, no contest.

We’ve lost the tomato crop prematurely. It wasn’t a total loss though, we’ve got enough for fresh salads and salsas, but not a bumper crop for canning, unfortunately.

And the fresh ones are delicious! Literally, the variety is called ’Delicious’ and they really are not fibbing. Saving those seeds for sure.

And, we’ve got a cucumber first, a volunteer! And with that another mystery with a pleasant surprise.

I’ve planted this variety for several years now because it’s been such a great producer. But I’ve not planted it with any intention of seed-saving, so it’s gone in right next door to other cucumber varieties, and melons, and squash, without a second thought.

And yet, it’s produced a true-to-type volunteer, which I most certainly will be taking seed from! We regularly get cherry tomato volunteers that produce beautifully, and always get volunteer tomatillos, Luffa, cilantro, basil, but this is a first for cucumber.

Volunteer ‘Arkansas Little Leaf’ coming back over the fence

Other crops like the peppers are still producing fine, but the spaghetti squash is also starting to peter out already.

The birds and bees and 4-legged manage much better than we do.

Though, let’s not forget, they are watered and fed and do no real work and lay around all afternoon and evening!

The milk stand has become their playstation!

There’s not nearly enough milk for cheesemaking yet, but I’m studying up!

Thankfully for the good old-fashioned snailmail I’ve gotten a divine treasure—a guide to traditional French goat cheese-making—originally published in the 1950s, in a humble effort to save the world from industrialized cheese.

Obviously, he did not succeed, not by a long shot.

But it is still a fascinating read on a sweltering Sunday.

Squash Mysteries

Hey, you bee, you got my cucumber in my Trombetta!
Right?!

Some interesting twists and turns in the garden, as usual.

I did realize that cross-pollinating between cucumbers and squash do occur. It’s result is sometimes ‘parthenocarpic’, fruit that is seedless.

But, different fruits off the same plant?
This is news to me.
But, I’ll bet the Robo-Bees in the future technocrazy will have an ap for that!

These really did come off the same plant, same age, Hubby just happened to harvest some before I got a side-by-side photo. Next time.

I have the big seed-saving goals this year, but there is a learning curve for sure.

Because of space requirements, and that learning curve that seems to be getting steeper by the month, I decided to start with just a few crops. I already do most of the herbs, and the other easy stuff, like okra and sunflowers. I’ve ventured slightly into peppers and tomatoes, with negligable results.

Cucumbers, melons and squash are all in the ‘challenging’ category. I thought I planned correctly when I put the ones I want to seed-save at opposite ends of the garden, but then. . .

In my reference book, The Complete Guide to Saving Seeds by Robert & Cheryl Gough, it seems pretty hopeless. “Recommended isolation distance for varieties that can cross-pollinate is 1 1/2 to 2 miles; recommended isolation distance for other Cucurbita species is 1/4 mile.”

As in, Miles?! Oh my.

And furthermore, there’s another squash mystery. I’ve got zucchini right by Trombetta, as already mentioned. Yet the zucchini leaves, which look gorgeous, better than I’ve ever seen them, are flowering, and not producing. Yet the cucumbers and Trombetta are producing like crazy, and the Trombetta leaves are not really looking too good.

Any gardener, myself included, would immediately claim a gorgeous zucchini plant flowering just fine, but not producing, is the result of poor pollination.

But, I know, that’s highly unlikely. First, I’ve seen bees on them. Second, the nearby Trombetta and cucumber, also bee-pollinated, are producing just fine.

So, what gives?

And furthermore, more, why does spellcheck capitalize Trombetta and not zucchini?

I’m open to facts, theories, or random guesses.

Homestead Happenings

Busy days on the wee homestead as we try to maximize our production with the swelter season clock ticking. The scheduled weather is HOT and DRY for us for the foreseeable future and just staying on top of the watering is a big task.

Hubby’s pond water pumping system is a life saver for the plants, but it still requires an entire morning per section in the garden, around the house, in the orchard, which means he’s walking back and forth, moving hoses, rearranging sprinklers, and sweating. It’s not easy, or free, but comparatively it’s our best option and I’m very grateful for it!

Adding shade cloth and screening wherever we can.

And, while I’m on the gratitude train, let’s give a big cheer and thank MAN for the air condition! We’ll be spending much more time indoors for a while, me especially.

Welcome new additions to the garden this year, Poppy and Nigella. Very happy for these, I’ve tried many times for poppies with no luck, and the nigella was gifted from a friend and the blue and white flowers are so darling and the seeds so delicious!

We continue to experiment with different preserving techniques and flavor combinations and it’s SO much more enjoyable for me to have his company and help in this endeavor, now that he’s home all month long!

Last year’s experiments of watermelon rind pickles and melon butter were a fine success we hope to repeat again this summer. Lately he’s also been making cream of mushroom soup from our foraged chanterelles that is SO delicious, as well as blackberry preserves. He’s also canned a bunch of potatoes and made a huge batch of ratatouille for the freezer. That’s a first for both of those, so we’re looking forward to the taste test.

The cucumbers are coming in well, the melons still looking very promising, but the heat is definitely taking its toll on the tomatoes already. That is disappointing because we do love tomatoes and needed to re-stock our marinara this year. Hopefully we’ll find some neighbors with a bumper crop who are willing to trade for some of our prolific squash!

Lots more to share, on another day! 😁
Thanks for stopping by!

Trial & Many Errors

There’s the good kind of failures—like those you are able to remedy; And the bad kind—like those you can’t control; And the worst kind—like those you could control, if only you could figure out what went wrong.

We have a collage of all 3 today!

Failed cheeses, failed fruits, and sun scorch.

Penicillium roqueforti has dominated my Little Turds and now we have little blue turds, which is a big fat failure.

This is the most aggressive cheese fungus and once the spores get started it’s extremely difficult to correct the issue. As much as I love blue cheese, this is not the process for making it. As a surface mold it does not taste good, it’s the veining of the blue cheese that brings out the nice flavors. I don’t make blue cheese, because in order to make other cheeses you must exclude the blue to get the white (geotrichum candidum),or any others, to dominate.

Even a hobbyist will quickly learn that you need a separate space, equipment and unique aging fridge just for the blues. This particular invasion happened very quickly, in just 2 days, because a beverage fridge does not make a very good aging fridge for cheeses. But, it’s all I’ve got. The temperature varies unexpectedly and you can’t control the humidity. Sure, a lot of cheese makers out there claim there are certain tricks for modifying the humidity levels of the mini-fridge, but they just don’t work, or they are far too high maintenance for me.

The fridge got too cold by just a few degrees, and this was the result. The two without any blue are from an older experiment, also failed, because their white fungal coat is not thick enough. I’m hoping a snug fig wrapping will magically transform the problem. But, I doubt it.

Wrapped in fig leaves (with a bit of sage on one too, to cover the naked parts) back into their Tuperware-fashioned high-humidity space, and back into the aging fridge.

As for the little blue turds, I’m going for maximum shock treatment, just to continue the experiment at this point, because I think they are beyond repair. I have them at room temperature now and I might even try spraying on some geotrichum candidum, just to see what happens.

The orchard is a continual string of failures, the nectarines being just the latest one. We’ve planted so many fruit trees in there we’ve lost track. We planted a couple of plums, one that actually produced for a couple of years, then both suddenly died. The grapes are looking terrible this year, the apples hardly ever bloom and never produce any fruit, the peaches die a year or two after planting, and now we finally got some nectarines and they look like this. The worst part is, once you cut out all the bad parts, the few nibbles of good fruit you have left are absolutely delicious.

Oozing and pock-marked and tiny. ☹️

We’ve got one reliable pear tree, another two that get a great crop about every 3 years. And the figs, my favorite, that are on some boom-bust mystery cycle we haven’t figured out.

Hubby is beyond frustrated with the fruit trees, so he’s got a mini-project filling up the orchard now, his own hog feed production line.

I think he’s trying to teach those miserable fruit trees a lesson by planting a thriving row of squashes between the rows as feed for the pigs. The cost of feed is getting crazy! And of course, we’d much rather feed the pigs off the land. Trombetta and chayote squashes, and luffa, are growing great and will soon make for some happy pigs.

Luckily we at least have some giant blackberries to soothe our disappointments a bit.

While the garden is still hanging in there despite intense heat and very little rain, the signs of stress have already started. Even heat lovers like the turmeric are getting sun scald. The leaves of the tomatoes and tomatillos are looking equally sad. I’ve covered what I can with shade cloth and screening, and I’ve got my fingers crossed, and that’s about all I can do about that.

Sir Turmeric has a sunburn and Trombetta’s leaves are looking sad.

If the melons disappoint me again this year, at least I can feel better knowing the bees were very pleased. That is, except for the little bitch who stung me on the middle finger while I was harvesting cucumbers. The simplest of all these problems to solve—must wear gloves now while harvesting.

The Noir des Carnes cantaloupes alive with so many buzzing bees!

Oh, and last but not least, the shallots never bulbed. No idea why. I bet Bubba knows, but he’s not talking.

Homestead Happy Snaps

I have so very much I could be reporting on from the wee homestead, but I only have the energy to share some photos, a couple short vids and a few brief comments.

We’ve got some really weird weather that has us back in long sleeves and pants after a few weeks of blistering heat. I have no time to get started down that fool’s path at the moment. Moving along.

The bees have finally graced us with their presence in the garden, I was getting a bit worried! They are all over the cucumbers, which we’ve just started harvesting.

They also found the cantaloupe at last, thank goodness, this is my primo experiment for this summer. This is a true heirloom French cantaloupe, Noir des Carmes, which you can’t buy anywhere in these parts. I learned from the seed catalogue that what we call cantaloupe in the U.S. was renamed, these ’muskmelons’ in green or orange (with the ‘netted’ skin) are not the original cantaloupe, which does not ship well, and so was never popularized here.

“Noir des carmes” cantaloupe, named after the Carmelite monks.

Hubby had some surprising success with peas in his ’gorilla garden’ — a new experiment. We were gifted a garbage bag full of seeds, some of them 8 years old, which I thought would be useless. He threw them down in a spot he’d roto-tilled for the purpose, mixed up all the cool-season seeds together and broadcast them, watered them a couple of times, and we actually got a big bowl of peas out of the effort. I so love fresh peas and they are not always a reliable crop around here. He planted them later than advised too, so I was very surprised he got anything at all. He estimates germination at about 20%.

We got a great harvest of onions and canned up a couple of batches of French Onion Soup, mmmm. I have my glove under one in the middle photo to show their nice size. It was our best onion harvest to date, and I think that is owed to all the sheep poop and the mild winter.

I was proudly exclaiming to Hubby some kudos on our team effort with pressure canning the soup when he had to burst my little bubble by explaining how that makes us one teeny-tiny fraction closer to the recommended annual Ball Blue Book chart from 1966.

We have kittens! We just happened upon them in the old tractor barn while gathering dewberries.

The kids are growing SO fast!

They are following mamas into the woods, playing and jumping around and are so fun to watch.

Once again, I did not mean to hit ’slow mo’ on this short vid, but it’s a good thing I did, because you can really see the ‘look’ of triumph in Walnut’s demeanor after she bullied tiny Athena. I guess goats are something of a belligerent species!

And to end, the best part, my new She-shed, thanks to Hubby, which will get an entire post of its own very soon!

Garlic still to be harvested in front of my recycled garden shed—
Oh the joys of being at the top of Hubby’s to-do list!

A Bit on Gardening

“He is grumpy and coarse and all the things I was warned about. He takes his contest with nature very seriously and finds no comfort in its unpredictable forces. Like most gardeners, he never vacations. In winter when all is quiet and still, he would much rather spend his time fretting—about the fruit trees budding, about the relentless springs frosts that may or may not come, about the sun and the moon. Gardeners, I discovered, are tough, content to be grim”

The Cook and the Gardener: A Year of Recipes and Writings From the French Countryside by Amanda Hesser, 1999

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