Saturday, October 26, 2013

Spring Broccoli Is Now Fall Broccoli

This Broccoli was planted way back in the spring as soon as the ground was thawed. We let it go through the summer because when a brassica plant flowers it bring in all kinds of beneficial insects. When we checked it the other day we were surprised to see nice full heads of broccoli waiting for the dinner table.

This cabbage was planted early spring as well. The heads did not tighten up and get big enough for harvest in the spring so we let it go through the summer. In our experience, cabbage will put on a good tight head at the end of summer into fall.

This Eucalyptus is a new addition to our garden. Eucalyptus cinerea is very hardy for a Eucalyptus plant. One source says this variety is hardy down to -4 degrees F. Zone 6a, where we are, has a average temperature low of -10 to -5 degrees F. I hope this perennial tree will establish itself. The lady in the booth at the plant show where I bought the plant seemed to think it was completely fine in our climate. After doing some research on it, I think it may die back over the winter and come up again in the spring. It may be to cold for this plant to establish as a tree in our climate. But the tag it came with says it is hardy down to USDA zone 6. So we will just have to chalk this up to a experiment.  I will let you know how it goes.

I got this fig tree from my friend Mike B. Not sure what variety it is. It is suppose to be cold hardy in our climate. He is growing figs in Newport KY and they went crazy this year. He had so many figs on every branch, I was truly amazed. We tend to be just a little bit colder over the winter here in SW Ohio. I hope this tree gets established and I get as many figs as my friend did this year. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Fall Colors And Fairy Rings

Fall is my second favorite season, spring is by far the best season, in my opinion. There is something about fall that makes me happy. It reminds me of pumpkins, jumping into giant leaf piles and Harry Potter marathons. Not only is the forest around us turning beautiful shades of red and orange, our perennial plants are giving us a show.

Hazelnuts turn a wonderful yellow-orange in fall. I thought we were going to get at least three hazelnuts this year, but the squirrel farm in our oak trees has seen to that. It's okay though, I know we will always have dinner for at least a week with our self sufficient squirrel colony. 

Blueberry leaves turn a dark red in the fall. I think we are up to 13 blueberry plants now. The key is to get them ripe before the birds have at them. I saw a cardinal come day after day and eat our ripe blueberries this year. Once these plants get big and bush out I won't mind sharing a little with the local wildlife. 

Here is the Russian mulberry I planted last summer. It has quadrupled in size in just over one year. The leaves are just starting to turn. They look like they are variegated. I can't wait for this tree to get taller than me and produce a ton of berries for my future chickens and or my wine operation.

I have not identified these mushrooms yet. They are completely ringing one of my white pine trees. It reminds me of a fairy ring. And no, I am not going all hippy on you, a fairy ring / circle is a real phenomenon, check it out here. I should go out and do a spore print. I am sure they are not edible, but I would like to know what they are.

They are seriously everywhere around the white pine. I wonder if it has anything to do with the large amount of straw I have had next to the pine for a couple years. The mushrooms are no where else on the property. Any guesses as to what they are?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Small Harvest And Lazy Dog Balloons

We are not sure what the deal with our garden is this year. Last year we had such an abundance and this year it has been a bust for the most part. I know part of it was not weeding and watering as much as we should have, we are not going to make that mistake next season.

So here is our best harvest this year. We got other things like zucchini, strawberries, mouse melons and peppers, but this has been the most photogenic harvest this year. Dara fermented the cabbages in this picture. She made a fermented apple cabbage stew last night. Now if we could just find some canis root for tea...

Here is our friends Mike and Heathers dog Rhododendron Maximus (Rhody) relaxing in the sun. This picture doesn't do justice to how close those balloons were. It was pretty surreal watching them float by the house.

We could hear the gas being turned on and off on the balloon like it was in the back yard. I assume they had to land somewhere near our house judging by the decent angle. One day we will go up in a hot air balloon, maybe we will fly over our house. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

We Lost One Of Our Hives.

Homesteading is not easy, nor is it always sunshine and roses like some blogs would have you believe. I feel it is important to share our mistakes and set backs so others can learn from our experiences and realize it is okay to mess up and not get it right the first time or in this case the second. That said I love what we are doing, and can't wait to add more plants and animals to the property.

I realized the traffic in one of our two hives had changed in the amount and nature. I noticed the hive entrance was not being guarded and the amount of bees coming and going had diminished. None of the bees going in the hive had collected pollen and when I looked under the hive I did not see any bees bearding the comb. 

When I opened the hive my suspicions were confirmed. The hive had swarmed. I am not sure if the queen died and they had to raise a new one or they did a split. Whatever happened they had to raise a new queen. Here is what a queen cell looks like. Instead of the uniform hexagons bees normally make, queen cells look more like a mud wasp made them. I found other smaller queen cells around the comb, but I am pretty sure this is the one the new queen emerged from. All the other cells were much smaller than this one, leading me to believe the queen that came out of this cell went around and made sure there were no usurpers in the wings.

This is all that was left in the hive, a handful of dead bees. I have no idea what happened, maybe the hive was stressed and they left after the split. Whatever it was it happened fast. In a normal hive dead bees are cleaned out regularly, so to see so many dead bees left behind makes me scratch my head. All the honey and pollen was completely clean out. I am sure the swarm took most of it and the bees I saw coming and going were robbing what was left. If any bee keepers out there have a theory on what happened please comment down below.

On a happier note, the new comb guides are working much better than the original design I went with. The comb is nice and straight for the most part and no significant cross-combing happened. You can see the comb on the right of this picture was starting to curve a bit into the next bars but that small amount of movement is easy to fix.


You can see the new comb design here. I used cove molding with a 90 degree angle to give the bees a more defined guide. I am not as discouraged as I was last year when this happened. Maybe because I lost both my hives last year. But mainly because of a podcast I heard about capturing local swarms and how easy it is. I plan on making a couple swarm traps to use in the spring. In the meantime I am going to focus my energy on keeping our other hive healthy through the winter. I am going to feed them this year, hoping they will make it through. If not, I will try my best to catch a couple locally adapted swarms in the spring.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Want To Help A Small Business Get Off The Ground?

Home brewing runs in the family. My cousins Joel and Matt have been home brewing beer for many years now. They planted hops over 6 years ago so they had their own fresh hops to brew with. You know, I never asked them, but I bet they planted hops in 2007 because of the hop shortage, maybe one of them will chime in on the topic in the comment section. If you are a home brewer you will remember 2007 as, "the year of the global hop shortage". Do to a flood of hops on the market in the years leading up to 2007, farmers got out of the hop business bringing the amount of hops on the market down. If that wasn't enough, a large warehouse in Washington full of hops burned to the ground in October of 2006. This made for a perfect storm, and sent hop prices through the roof if you could even get any. I remember my brew store had a 3 ounce limit on buying hops and you had to buy at least 10 pounds of grain to get them.

At any rate, 2007 saw the genesis of  "Ocean State Hops". The OSH crew consists of my cousins Joel, Matt and Kara with help from their friend Abe. Ocean State Hops is a small business in Exeter RI that is, in their words; "fueled by a passion to cram as many hops into each batch of beer as humanly possible". I, being a fan of this style of brewing, applaud their efforts at making beer that tastes like beer. I make a batch of beer that consists of me cleaning out the freezer at the end of the year and throwing every ounce of hops I have into one batch of IPA. I named this super-hopped beer "I Pee Hops."

Over the years the business picked up, they started selling to local breweries and kept adding more and more hops to the farm. This season they got really smart and went to a pick-your-own hops model. You come to the farm, pick a vine, cut it down and take it home. Fast, easy and smart. Well what could be next in the natural progressing of things? Starting a brewery of course. Matt and Kara recently purchased some brewing equipment from a brewery doing an upgrade and they already own the property where the brewery will be located. What they need help with is a 100 year old barn they want to retrofit with plumbing, a bar, a viewing area, refrigeration, everything you need to have a tour-able brewery.

So this is the barn in question. I grew up coming to this property almost every summer and have many memories playing in and around this barn. I am so happy Matt and Kara have decided to make this property their home and give this old barn a new life. I can't wait to see the operation in full working order. They have decided to name the brewery "Tilted Barn Brewery". I will cheers to that!

So please consider helping my family realize their dream of opening up a brewery on a piece of land that has been in our family for over 50 years. If you want to help out, here is a link to their Indiegogo campaign. Anything helps and they have a bunch of incentives at different backing levels. I can't wait to get my TBB shirt! All pictures in the post courtesy of Tilted Barn Brewery.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Paleo-ish Zucchini Lasagna

Remember those giant zucchinis I picked? Well we found a use for one of them at least. Lasagna noodles!!! 

So, I made this lasagna out of yard veggies and local beef. The cheese I used was Kerrygold (I must say their Dubliner cheese is my favorite cheese ever). The cottage cheese was Kalona SuperNatural. Tasty stuff.

I chopped up a couple peppers and some onions to add to the ground beef. I think I used 5 garlic cloves as well.

I sliced up the noodles and put them in a colander. I read that you should sprinkle with salt and let sit a bit so the excess liquid drains off. I combined two scrambled eggs with a container of cottage cheese and fresh parsley (don't use as much as I have pictured above unless you really, really love parsley).

I layered the prepared meat sauce (Seasoned tomato sauce, 1 lb of beef and veggies), zucchini strips, egg and cottage cheese mixture, topped with cheese and I did this three times. The top layer I sprinkled with fresh oregano and parsley.

Here is the precooked finished product. I baked it covered until I decided it was done (probably like 45 minutes) and then took the foil off and bumped up the heat to brown the cheese on top. 

Sorry there were no after pictures. It was devoured almost immediately after it came out of the oven.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Growing Your Own Vitamin C in Zone 6a

Okay, think back to a very cold January in your past. Did you have to pull out your "winter" jacket on that terrible day the temperature dropped to a frigid 40 degrees Fahrenheit? If the answer is yes, then you are geographically lucky and probably live in a climate where large reptiles could kill and eat you if you are not diligent. If the answer is no, you may live in the mid-west like me and can't grow citrus. So how does a gardener grow vitamin C in the mid-west? Plant a rose...

This beautiful rose is called Rosa Rugosa (R. rugosa). It is native to eastern Asia, where it grows near the coast, typically on sand-dunes. Its natural range goes from southeastern Siberia to northeastern China. It is found on the Island of Japan as well. It has many common names including; beach rose, shore eggplant, shore pear, beach tomato, sea tomato, beach plum, sea rose, salt-spray rose and in Korea, it's name translates to "flowers near seashore".

Rosa Rugosa is now found all over the world. It was introduced to the United States via New England in the 1770's. It quickly spread into the wild due to its ability to tolerate salt spray, ease of propagation and the fact that it is hardy down to USDA zone 2.  It is considered invasive in many parts of the world. One of these days I will do a post on my position on "invasive" plants. Suffice it to say, I have Rosa Rugosa all over my property.

Most rose gardeners will dead head their roses to trick the plant into producing more flowers. With Rosa Rugosa you want to let the flowers fall off naturally. You will be left with these, the rose hip, also know as rose haw and rose hep. Rosa Rugosa has some of the largest rose hips of any rose. When they mature they are one of the highest concentrations of vitamin C in the plant kingdom. When dried, they have a 1-2 percent L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C) concentration, making them higher in vitamin C than citrus.

During WWII, German submarines were sinking many commercial ships around Great Britain making it very hard to get citrus. A campain was started in Britain to encourage the wild harvesting of rose hips to make a syrup for infants and children. Severe vitamin C deficiency is known as scurvy. There is a reason pirates (in the movies at least) use scurvy as a derogatory word, you don't want it!

Rose hips are packed full of lycopene, an antioxidant that prevents oxidation of LDL particles in your blood, that's a good thing. It also has vitamins B and A as well as essential fatty acids the body cannot produce for itself. Rose hip tea has traditionally been used to treat respiratory infections, joint pain and as a salve to treat sore mouths. Here is an abstract of a study concluding using rose hip powder benefits people with rheumatoid arthritis. Here is another study, same result for osteoarthritis.

Some care must be taken when eating them. Once the rose hip has ripened you can eat them raw by simply biting off the outside of the fruit. You don't want to pop one in your mouth and chew because they have seeds, and most importantly, fine sliver like hairs in the interior that have traditionally been used to make itching powder.

The internet is full of how to's on making rose hip tea, fruit leather, soup, jelly, jam, syrup etc... I will add that if you wait to harvest them until after the first frost, they will have more concentrated sugars. If you need one more reason to start growing this plant on your property, you can make wine out of it. What more do you want in a plant?