Thursday, September 22, 2011

Jamly

Jan collecting grapes
The muscadine and scuppernong grapes have been ripening over the past few weeks. The vines we have are overgrown and we hope to prune them before next year. We do not even know what varieties we have! This post follows our intention to make jelly with the grapes, but as you will read, the result was "jamly."
Ripening grapes. This is our blush pink variety.

A ripe deep purple grape
There are small purple, large deep purple, and a blush pink. We have been enjoying eating the grapes, but their skins are a little tough! We decided to make grape jelly as the grapes seem to be coming in at full force!
We mashed the grapes and simmered them on the stove for ten minutes. This allowed for the pectin to begin thickening and the juices to break down.

Cooked grapes on the stove.

Then we processed the cooked grapes in a food mil in order to separate the seeds and skins out.
Food mill over a bowl
Grapes being crushed in the food mill



Discarded skins

Liquid after processing in the food mill
After the processed juice sat in the refrigerator for twenty-four hours, sugar was added and the mixture cooked until set.  It was then we realized we forgot a major step in making jelly--draining the juice in a jelly bag so the result would be clear jelly!  Oh well, too late.  The cooked mixture was put in jars and hot water bathed until complete. Therefore, the finished product is called "jamly," an intention to make jelly with the result of jam.

Canned jamly

It has a wonderful flavor and a good consistency

Appropriate labels

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Watermelon Frenzy

Chasing watermelon rind
In August, as member/owners of the Company Shops Market, we received a free watermelon after spending a set amount of money on our groceries. Our free watermelons went to the chickens! For the month of August they were delighted with the treat! We made some videos of the frenzy created when the chickens were fed watermelon.
Below are our older chickens. In general, they are more open to a variety of foods, and like to eat apples. This may be because of their vicinity to the apple trees. They are also better at grabbing the watermelon pieces and shaking it, possibly in order to get more of the fruit off the rind.

One of the chickens with a rind, mid-shake
They also take off with the watermelon in order to escape and try to find a quiet place to eat alone. That fantasy does not last long as there is always several more following behind!


Chicken carting either a piece of melon or a piece of tomato around


video

Below are our younger chickens. They do not like apples as much as the other flock, but get especially excited about figs and watermelon. It is fun to watch how they grab the watermelon and run with it across the yard.

Chicken running with a melon rind

Checking out the melon rind

video



Now that it is September, they are not quite as excited with grape skins and cantaloupe rinds!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Signs of Fall

While the first day of fall is officially Friday, September 23rd, we have been seeing some signs that it is coming! The trees are starting to change color a little bit. This may have more to do with the lack of rain we have had rather than the onset of fall, but one can be optimistic. We have been having cooler mornings with some heavy dew lately.
Dew on the bean pod
Orb spiders have been popping up all over the farm. One particular one has taken over the herb bed and has made a gorgeous web across the basil.
Orb spider

The vines for the melons and squash have been dying off, meaning that the fruits and squash are about ready to be picked and are at the end of the growing season.

Butternut squash vines dying back
Our second round of beans are finishing up and the plants are dying back. Goodbye, fresh green beans!
Bean plants turning yellow and finishing up
We are looking forward to the fall as the gardens wind down. Perhaps this will give us time to reflect on our season and start planning for next year!



Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Glimpse of History

Recently while digging potatoes our friend Noah found a piece of metal crusted with dirt. Not just any piece of metal, though! With some of the dirt washed away, this appears to be half of a shoe for an oxen, as it is shaped differently from a horse shoe and appears to be one whole piece rather than having a broken end where it split in half. This is a very exciting glimpse into the possibility of how our farm was once worked! Who knows how far back in time, but it could be that once this land was plowed with oxen!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Gathering Eggs

Our larger chickens on pasture began laying eggs over the last few weeks! We go out at least three times a day to check the nesting boxes and gather eggs.  Because these hens are new at laying eggs, some of the shells are thin and they can break when lots of eggs are in one nest, especially when one more hen decides to sit on them and add to the collection.  Then the nest boxes and the eggs get really messy!  For some reason chickens prefer to enter a nest box that already has eggs in it.  Checking the boxes frequently and collecting any eggs assures cleaner eggs and nest boxes.  The nesting boxes are accessible from the outside by lifting the roof.

Jan checking the nesting boxes

A curious chicken checking out the view from the open nest box.

A hen, possibly sitting on eggs
They are also accessible from the inside where the chickens are able to access the boxes. The hens seem to have a few favorite laying boxes.

There are nesting boxes on either side of the Hen-a-Bago

The chickens seem to be eager layers.  We are now gathering over three dozen eggs each day!

Fig Collecting and Bug Eating

Ripe fig
Over the last few weeks our fig tree has been covered with fresh figs! We have been eating them fresh, freezing, and drying. At the bottom of this post are a few recipes related to ways we have been cooking with them.

The fig tree
While collecting figs, a tasty looking beetle was found on a leaf.

Chickens love bugs as you can see below. . .
video
Some recommended recipes for the figs:
Roast figs with goat cheese (have not tried it with the peppered honey yet!):
http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Fresh-Figs-with-Goat-Cheese-and-Peppered-Honey-235549
Fig tortilla pizza (have not tried it with ham, but it is excellent with thinly sliced tomato!):
http://www.indobase.com/recipes/details/fig-pizza.php