Archive for the ‘Homesteading’ Category

Preserving the Harvest – Canning!

So I wanted a garden this spring.  Not just a few plants out behind the house, but a real garden with beds and significant plantings of vegetables and fruits.  And though it’s no acre garden, it’s pretty big for a first year gardener.  I have enjoyed planting the seeds, watching them grow, keeping them watered, and now we enjoy the harvest.

However, though I may have slightly underestimated the time input needed to get the garden going this spring, I really didn’t know how much time it would take to preserve the food this summer.  I’ve been canning about once a week this month.  Canning is one of those things that by the directions seems like it should only take about 2 hours.  Usually it takes me the better part of an evening, maybe the late afternoon as well.  So far I have a good batch of carrots, a batch of sweet pickles, and a batch of dill pickles.  If I could can cantaloupe, I’d have a ton of that.  Is there ANY way to preserve cantaloupe?  It’s all ripening at once! I’m about ready to do a batch of tomatoes, but really need to see a bunch of them ripen at one time

Sweet Pickles

to get many jars of them, they cook down so much.  I also blanched and froze 10 heads of broccoli, shredded and froze 6 zucchini, and made another 6 into 3 loaves of zucchini bread.  Also, we are grinding our own grain this month with the addition of a grain grinder attachment for the Kitchenaid.  The flour and the bread it makes are amazing!  My zucchini bread was made with organic freshly ground locally sourced white winter wheat, home grown organic zucchini, home grown free range chicken eggs, and locally sourced honey.  It is gooood stuff, and good for you!

So, it’s a bit of a time commitment to preserve the harvest this summer, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon.  In fact I have 25 lbs of peaches coming next week from the Oklahoma Food Coop, as well as bushels of pears about to ripen on my sister’s 3 huge pear trees.  Should be a delicious fall and winter we have after all this laying by!

Enjoy the fresh fruit and vegetables of summer, and take a few Saturdays to preserve some of it for the fall.  You’ll be glad you did!

 

~~Lacy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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150 lbs of chicken feed this evening, one scoop at a time…

 

This past winter during cotton harvest I wrote a poem called The Farmer and The Farmer’s Wife.  I will share it below, and then share my reason for sharing it.  It seems today that perhaps it needs to be updated just a bit.

The hazy crescent moon heralds the harvest of fall crops and a familiar rhythm of life apart and yet together. 

The farmer labors in his fields, building the family’s way, walking the steps of his father, looking to the sky with thanks, and fullness of heart and weariness.

The farmer’s wife labors at her kitchen sink, building the family’s way, walking in the steps of her mother, looking to the sky with thanks and fullness of heart and weariness. 

They steal a warm hug every morning and send with each other words of strength.

He smiles when he sees her nearing the field with warm food, made just to his liking. 

She smiles when he opens the lid and heartily enjoys the work of her hands. 

He walks back to his machine proud of his work and holds his chest just a bit higher with his wife’s gaze upon him, her wave and smile are strength for the evening. 

When the work is done and the ground lays bare waiting and resting from its great toil, the farmer and the farmer’s wife sit outside and rest together, looking to the sky with thanks and fullness of heart and hope for the spring to come

when dirt shall be turned and seeds shall be spread across this great land and they shall smile together again

and share a plate together again in the fields with thanks and fullness of heart,

with her admiring his great labor and him finding strength in her smile and her gaze

and in the One who makes the soil and the seed and the water, somehow transforming them into food and cloth,

the family’s way, and a depth of meaning in life that far exceeds a simple square of seeds and the sweat on his brow and the food and cloth they make.

The haze of the crescent moon and the fog on the morning crops somehow transforms the seeds and the soil

and the farmer and the farmer’s wife

all together.                                                           ~Lacy Haugan, harvest 2011

 

So that was my poetic outpouring one full of heart harvest eve.  It’s true, there are many days and evenings like the ones described in this poem.  But this poem was written during the winter, when so far on our farm, all other things have come to a close.  No garden.  No broilers.  No brooder full of baby chicks.  Just cotton, quietly sitting in the field, waiting patiently to be gathered in the harvest.  For the farmer’s wife, the rest of life seems to slow down as the weather cools.  Children come indoors, yards take care of themselves, gardens sleep, and the farmer’s wife enjoys baking corn bread and a pot full of hot beef stew to take to the farmer.

Baby chicks must be monitored throughout the day. Not too cold, not too hot, adequate feed and water, all tucked in nice and cozy in the brooder.

But, during spring, oh during spring… how can I describe my first spring as a farmer’s wife who has a farmyard full of animals?

I don’t think that I have the inspiration tonight to bring that peaceful touch to it like I did for the harvest time poem.  Where as harvest rings more of waiting for the farmer to come home, the greatest extra chore being taking out the meal to the field, during spring planting time there is no waiting for the farmer to come home.  I’m too tired to wait.  I don’t know when he’s going to come home, and it doesn’t matter too much because I’m too tired to talk, and so is he.  When the farmer is gone during the spring, my day feels a lot less like buttery corn bread and hot beef stew, and a lot more like…

-driving the truck and trailer to the feed mill or farm store to pick up tons of feed and supplies routinely throughout the spring
-checking and filling empty animal water buckets up during the day
-moving chickens from brooder to field pens every week – the most exhausting job on the farm so far
-making dinner and taking it to the farmer in the field

My new ride quite a few times each week.

-putting the fussy youngest child to bed early after a long drive back from the field
-racing the sun to get the animals fed before dark
-groaning when I realize there is no more feed left in the bin
-driving down to the barn to lug 50 lb bags of feed into my minivan (I might or might not need a truck.  Inside I still want a prius.  🙂
-scooping out 150 lbs of feed one scoop at a time into 30 different feeders
-swatting the gnats, mosquitoes, and flies from my beaten up shins over and over, wishing I had taken the time to put jeans on
-looking to the sky and thanking God for the help of my 8 year old son, who is filling the 13+ water buckets one at a time
-rushing to duck tape the brooder tarp window flaps closed before the rain comes tonight
-checking each water bucket and feeder one last time before heading back inside, the sun has beaten us and it is already dark
-cleaning up dinner and kissing my son on the head as he reads before bed
-putting away the big batch of fresh bread loaves I made before dinner, some to the freezer
-changing out of my covered in dirt and grime clothes and into some clean comfies

Then I soak my aching muscles in some couch salve, and treat my mind to the art of reading and writing.  Today I wanted to plant zucchini plants and pumpkin plants, I wanted to water my garden and spend some time staking my tomatoes.  It was cool outside today, and the heat will be pressing down on us again in just a few days.  I never made it to the garden, but maybe I will tomorrow.  I have set out an easy meal to cut down on meal prep tomorrow.

I guess all of this to say that though I do at times during the day have somewhat of a semblance of normal, (thankfully the farmer is still doing morning chore time), the afternoons and evenings have taken on a form of their own with the farmer completely otherwise engaged (on the tractor planting).   My oldest child has risen to the occasion and for the most part is really helping me bare the burden of taking care of the home and farmyard on our own.  My youngest has her good moments, but on the whole does not much enjoy mommy being unavailable during the evening.  I am not sure yet how I am doing with it.  At moments I feel like my oldest, proud to have taken care of the farmyard on our own.  Other times I feel more like my youngest, irritated that I am committed to giving my evening hours to these animals when I have other needs that are waiting on me (my children, the kitchen, and simply my desire to slow down after dinner instead of rev up for chores).  I am sure that my thoughts and emotions here are simply part of the process of becoming not the farmer’s wife whojust takes dinner to the farmer, but instead, the farmer’s wife who takes on the chores of the farmer when he is away.  It’s a big job, and I don’t think I was quite ready for it.  But hey, the end of planting season is in sight, and I have almost made it through.  And then the end of chicken season will come into view and life will slow down for a while as we ease into fall.  Seasons are the fabric of life on the farm, and this season is SPRING.  No mistaking it.

~the farmer’s wife

 

Wal-Mart… closed?!

Today the kids and I went to town to accomplish 3 things.  1) deposit check at the bank.  2) get building supplies at lowes to complete new chicken tractors.  3) get needed home supplies at Wal-Mart.  #1, check.  #2, check.  #3… no can do.

There was no storm anywhere in the tri-state area, the temperature was a beautiful 75 F (no heat/overuse grid problem), but for some reason Wal-Mart had NO ELECTRICITY today where I live.  It was out for quite a while.  There was no shopping to be done.  In fact, to make sure everything ran smoothly during the outage, police were on sight.

It was very strange.  People were coming out of the store empty handed saying, “no power”, or talking animatedly with each other.  A few cars kept trickling into the parking lot (power worked in the surrounding businesses), but there was a long line to get out of the parking lot.  We had all come to get what our families needed, but we had returned home empty-handed.  This does not happen very often, and I contemplated such an experience throughout the rest of my day.

What would happen if I went to buy what my family needed, and it just plain wasn’t available?  There was simply no way to buy it right now.  It could happen.  Power outages, grid overloads and blackouts, natural disasters, world events, and other occurrences are not some unheard of fairytale that only happens to other people.  It happens, here in America, and it could happen in my home town.  Now I don’t want to live in a state of fear or panic – the Lord will provide and take care of us.  But if you consider how people have lived for all of civilization (up until the last 60-80 years), preparing for unexpected times was historically normal living.  Only the last few generations have relied completely upon 24/7 availability at a retail store.  And realistically, there are times and will continue to be times when that is not possible.

What would my family need should Wal-Mart and the other stores power not resume to normal after a few hours?  Or a few days or weeks?  Would we have the food and medicine and water that we need?  Would we have the household supplies to take care of ourselves should our power go out?  There have been times when an ice storm has kept the power off for more than a week even here in the southern state of Oklahoma.  Would I have what we need to take care of our family for a while without power, without Wal-Mart?

It’s worth considering.

~Lacy

An Ugly Day in the Garden

Tomorrow is 9 weeks that we have lived in our new home here at the Haugan rancho.  And today I have reached my limit on clutter.  CLUTTER!!!  Piles here, piles there, piles everywhere.  Okay, not everywhere – but I am really ready for some order around here.  So, I wrote out a list, room by room, of the things I’d like to finish or reorganize.  There are about 30 things to do on the list, some of them small and some of them large.  I bet most of the small ones get done first.  But even if they do, if I do just one thing per day I will be much more settled in here just a month from now.  Knowing myself better than that, I bet it won’t take quite that long.  But seeing it on the page makes it feel much more doable if I just pace myself, one thing at a time.  Tonight I unpacked the children’s medicine into a bin and organized it, and gave it a new home in a cabinet.  I also threw out a few unneeded or old items.  That’s the beauty of organizing – in the process you also simplify.  Less is more.

In other news, the wheat crop in the field around us is gorgeous this year.  It is tall and strong and waves like the ocean when the wind blows.  We are just weeks away from harvesting it and I think I will miss the pretty green wheat.  For a while it will be yellow stubble, and then the 20 acres around us will be put into grass for pasture, and the rest of the field will be sesame!  A brand new crop for us this year, we’re trying a few fields of sesame.  I’ve never seen a sesame, so I am looking forward to watching it grow.

It was bound to happen – I do live in a field.  You guessed it, I found a snake.  Not the farmer, but I found it.  I was happily shoveling away in my wood chips pile, mulching my newly planted strawberries.  And without warning, there the ugly black thing was in the pile.  Of course, I ran and screamed for the farmer.  Luckily, he was home.  He came out and dug through the pile until he found it and did what had to be done with any such enemy.  Luckily I was out of town for a few days after that.  It sort of gave me time to air out after such an incident in my garden.  With that ugly incident, bug trouble in the garden, and the new elephant mosquitoes that are attacking me in the cool of the evening, I am about to lose my desire to be in the garden.  A sad sad thing.  So tonight I got back on the proverbial horse and dug my shovel into the wood chips again, hoed some weeds from the raspberry plants, and mulched away.  No ugly sightings this time, though I did finally go inside after the mosquitoes got larger than quarters.  Not sure I will have the brevity to mulch when the farmer isn’t home anytime soon.  I used up my small pile tonight and will have to have a new pile dumped over by my garden.  It will be a few feet deep at least.  Eeeekkkk…..  The farmer really loves mulching, I’m just sure he’s been wishing I’d let him help me with that. 

I haven’t posted many pictures of my garden, and the truth is that I am such a novice at this that I probably won’t unless I have some great successes.  In early spring the seedlings sprouting and growing are always exciting and such a miracle to enjoy.  But then the hard work of fighting off a sky full of hungry bugs begins, and I, unwilling to use chemicals, feel so helpless.  I’m going to try Neem, maybe order some lacewings or ladybugs – but I don’t feel to hopeful.  It seems no matter how exciting reading gardening books is in March, horticulture is a science that will take much perseverance to learn.

Here’s to the death of every offending bug and snake in the surrounding 20 mile area. 

~Lacy

A Laundry Room Life Makeover

This week marks two months since we moved to our new house.  Our old house had gas appliances and our new one is all electric.  The house came with an electric stove, but it did not have a washer or dryer.  We brought our washing machine with us.  I had been using an indoor drying rack on and off for 6 months (to help keep the house cool in summer, etc), so I decided to delay buying a dryer.  It’s been two months now that I haven’t had a dryer and I am doing just fine with the dryer rack.

I use one like this that I found in the laundry aisle for $15 or so.  I hot glued some clothes pins to some paint stir sticks, connected them to a pants hanger and use two of those for extra socks, rags, etc.  If I have extra towels that don’t fit on the rack I throw them over the kid’s shower rod for a few hours.  I dry Keith’s work clothes outside on the porch, and often hang up shirts to dry inside.  There is no laundry hanging in my living room or kitchen, nor is it all over our bedrooms.  It seems to fit nicely in the laundry room and on the shower rod.  I can do a load of clothes, a load of towels, and Keith’s work clothes on one day, then finish up the next day with a second load of clothes.  If we have another load I will usually do it a day or two later to make sure it’s a full load.

So we are using no electricity to dry our clothes and that’s a good savings and it’s also self-sufficient living approved. 🙂  I have always hatedfolding and putting away laundry.  Not sure why, but it is one of my procrastinated chores.  But using a drying rack, when I remove the item from the rack, I simply fold it and stack it and since the kids’ rooms are right there I go put it away.  I am sure it is mental, but somewhere between no big stack of baskets of clean clothes and it’s just a few things on a rack, the chore seems to have gone away.  Same amount of clothes, but in its new form the dread has gone.  🙂  Yay.

So when you pair up making my own laundry soap this winter (still using and liking it) and changing from a dryer to a clothes drying rack, it seems my laundry room life has undergone a complete makeover!  For now, perhaps for always, I will keep my washing machine.  I like it.  ♥  Happy laundry day!

~Lacy

Raising Chickens

I desire to raise more of my family’s food.  Much more of it.  In fact, I would like to raise almost all of it if ever I could.  I would LOVE to have a larder packed full of row after row of home-grown, home-preserved, organic and super-healthy sustenance.  We have expanded our garden quite a bit this year, though it is still a far cry from producing a year’s worth of vegetables and fruit for a family.  We’ll get there, step by step.

Day Old Chicks in the Brooder.  We keep the tops of the feeders open the first day or two because amazingly they are small enough to get stuck in there.  ;)

Day Old Chicks in the Brooder. We keep the tops of the feeders open the first day or two because amazingly they are small enough to get stuck in there. 😉

One of the main ways we are growing our own food right now is by raising chickens.  Every day the little ones go out to gather the eggs… like fresh manna every morning at our house.  I don’t think the wonder of those eggs appearing out there every morning will ever wear off.  We love our laying hens, and we love their eggs.  We also raised our first batch of meat chickens last fall.  It went fairly well for a first run and has been good eats for us all through the winter and spring.  We are expanding our chicken farm this year to provide free-range chicken and eggs not only for our family but for many families.  We will be selling both chicken and eggs in a few months, and right now we are in the thick of chick season.

The farmer has spent the last month rebuilding a planter and a disk, as planting season will be upon us in a matter of days now.  He drug that disk through the fields yesterday evening and all day today, and crashed into bed this evening – 14 hours bumping through the field can really take its toll.  He has worked very hard this month, and I am really proud of him.  I’m not sure how he knows how to rebuild a planter or a disk, or set up the guidance system and 2 other computers that go in the tractor, but I am really thankful that he does.  But back to my original thought path – we are up to our necks in chickens around here!

Right now we have 160 almost 2 month old pullets out there, who will begin laying 50-60 dozen eggs a week in a few months.  We have 250 broilers (meat birds) who just got moved out of the brooder, about 2 1/2 weeks old.  We have another 225 3-day-old chicks in the brooder, cute as can be.  We have 3 more batches just like that coming in the next 3 weeks.  At the height of chick season in about 3 weeks we will have 1150 broilers and 160 pullets, as well as the miscellaneous rabbits, roosters, turkeys, and our own family laying flock.  By that time, I am hoping that the farmer will have his crops planted…or at least be getting close.

My Feed Run Today

Simultaneously starting two businesses at once is a big job for any couple.  There is much to be done.  I am so glad that my body has held up physically, as I am not the strongest of stock.  I have picked up chickens from the post office, gotten them settled into their brooder, restocked the brooder with wood chips, restocked food and water daily, washed out waterers, and yesterday moved 250 broilers out to a chicken tractor in a scorching spring heat wave (with the help of my son).  Today I got to pick up 2 tons of chicken feed at the coop, cruise through KFC on my way back with some lunch, and catch escaped chickens from their pen.  I have worked the ground by hand and planted my garden almost entirely myself.  And I say this because I am so thankful for the strength and stamina to work, with my body and my hands, with God’s creation outside my doorstep each day.  What a privilege, what a joy.

And tomorrow I get to wake up and do it all over again… 🙂  Wohoo!

Lacy

 

 

You’ll find me in my garden…

Today the 2012 garden took from the grow lights inside to the great outdoors.  They landed in a brand new garden bed of fluffy compost, got a good shower from a lead-free hose, and got tucked into a nice layer of wood chips.  This week I got a trailer load of compost and a truck load of freshly chipped trees delivered to my farmstead.  Yesterday my husband helped me lay down a thick layer of newspaper to start our new garden beds, and covered it with a thick layer of compost.  Today we finished making the wide beds for the cool weather veggies.  Later in the day my son and I planted out all of the romaine lettuce, black seeded simpson lettuce, mixed loose leaf lettuce, bok choy, and onions.  We both enjoyed our time planting together so much, we can’t wait to get out there and do it again.  Next we’ll tackle the broccoli, spinach, carrots, celery, and garlic.

In no time we’ll be elbow deep in delicious red tomatoes…

Gardening is the best hard work of all!

If you need me, come out to the garden to find me.  There are no phones in the garden, as our hands are always covered with dirt.  Just the way we like it.

Next time, photos of the new gardens.

Lacy