Growing Home Again


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Blessed Samhain and Happy Halloween!

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May the ancestors deliver blessings on you and yours…
May the new year bear great fruits for you…
May your granted wishes be as many as the seeds in a pomegranate…
May the slide into darkness bring you light…
May the memories of what has been keep you strong for what is to be…
May this Samhain cleanse your heart, your soul, and your mind!

~Author Unknown

Blessed Samhain and Happy Halloween!

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Fall Garden Prep – Part 1

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What is fall garden prep? It’s all about doing whatever you can do now so when the snow melts in the spring you have as little to do as possible before seeds and seedlings can go into the ground.

On our homestead, this has traditionally meant pulling out leftover plants, gleaning seeds, and preparing beds with compost and manure. This year those plans stand but we are also including building out more raised beds, filling them, and covering both the beds and the walkways in fresh mulch.

So Step 1a: Start pulling out plants! It’s as easy as it sounds. Walk up to a plant and carefully pull it out of the ground.

I try not to disturb the topsoil and mulch too much – it’s an ecosystem after all. Mother nature in her infinite wisdom has designed this system.

Let’s pause here for a moment. When’s the last time you paused and looked at how Mother Nature builds our planet. Take a walk in the woods – what do you see? Trees, scrubby plants, fallen and rotting timber and leaf litter – everywhere. How do you suppose this all works? The tall trees need food and have deep and penetrating roots. The scrubby plants roots reach out but not so far down. Then there’s the bugs and creepy crawlies. So the leaves fall from the big trees onto the ground. They sit and rot. Bugs walk and munch on them. Worms squirm and then they POOP. Yes, I said it. I have small children. I say POOP a lot. It’s that poop that breaks down the leaves, creates manure that heats the leaf litter and cooks it to compost and then to fresh dirt. There are also the fungi that root in the fallen timber and at the base of standing trees. They all depend on that layering of fresh soil, decomposing organic matter, and fresh leaf litter (plus a bit of straight nitrogen courtesy of herbivores and carnivores).

That’s how nature works. Why not replicate that in your garden? Remember when I spoke about Back to Eden Gardening? Go check it out. The how-to video is legally FREE TO WATCH! Go watch it. You don’t even need to believe in Eden – it’s about how the world  works. How the Mother works.radishes

While you are pulling out those plants – take a look around. Are there any plants you can eat? What about ones for your animals? Set those aside. My goats and pigs LOVE corn stalks. The lettuce and spinach that has bolted – once you take the seeds your goats and pigs won’t turn their noses up at those bitter greens.

The ones that aren’t edible (e.g. nightshade plants) can go into their own pile to be checked for disease and if clean to compost. Everything in your garden can be consumed directly or indirectly. This year’s green bean plant is Grandma’s Green Beans and Ham meal this year and next year’s ham once the piggies finishing processing it for me!

Step 1b: While you are busy pulling out plants, did you miss any possible seed sources? Sure it’s probably frosted a time or ten. But those seeds are built to deal with frost. They are little DNA vaults, waiting for the perfect time to unleash their own brand of chaos in the world. In this instance, the chaos they unleash provides food for us!

Next Fall Garden Prep Post: All about Raised Beds


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Beef and Barley Stew

Fall and winter are the time for stew and soup cooked low and slow. The last of the fresh vegetables grown above and the first of those grown below and newly harvested meat
Yesterday was the day for Beef and Barley Stew. It’s one of my family’s favorites. When my oldest son arrived home from school yesterday he said he wanted to eat the house – it smelled sooooo good! He’s only 5 and I’m happy to say, he already has a good taste in food.

Beef and Barley Stew

Ingredients

  • Knob of butter
  • 3 pounds stew meat or ground beef.
  • 3 cups chopped onions
  • 1 pound mushrooms – cut to roughly the same size as the stew meat.
  • 2-quart beef or chicken broth. May be reduced to 1-quart broth and 1-quart water for homemade broth
  • 2 teaspoons fresh marjoram or savory
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 1 cup roughly chopped carrot
  • 3 cups potato or celery root cut to the same size as the mushrooms and stew meat
  • Salt and Pepper as desired
  • Sour Cream
  • Fresh dill

Directions
Begin by chopping all ingredients – it makes life so much easier! Warm a large dutch oven or soup pot to high and sear batches of beef in small batches. You wanted some blackened edges. Set aside once complete. In the same pot add the onion and sabeef-barley-stew-ingredientsuté quickly. Sautéing is what gives the onion and the soup flavor, otherwise, you just have boiled onions! Who wants that? Remove the onions and repeat the same process with the potatoes and carrots. After you have removed the potatoes/celery root and carrots (they won’t be done yet!) add about 1 cup of liquid to the pot to get the burned bits off the bottom. Burned bits = flavor. Add the meat, marjoram or savory, onions, potatoes/celery root, carrots and mushrooms back into the pot. Add the remaining liquid and reduce to LOW heat. Stirring occasionally, let simmer for about an hour. Add the barley and keep at a low simmer for another hour – stirring occasionally. Salt and pepper the stew as desired.

To serve, ladle out stew into separate bowls and top with sour cream and plenty of fresh dill. The dill and the sour cream make the dish! Don’t be stingy!

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Brown Butter Sage Pumpkin Ravioli

I love sage. Smelling it, cooking with it, gardening with it (cabbage bugs hate it), smudging my home (it cleans the air – mundane and magical too!). I officially love sage. I grow a dozen plus sage plants a year and sagealways have at least one growing indoors. It pairs with all foods fall and winter. Dries well too.

Ever so shockingly, I was craving sage the other day and apples. I was also super short on time as I am most evenings. Dinner must be either preplanned and set in granite or we’re eating something I can dump out of a canning jar.

Oh yeah, I also have an unhealthy obsession with Trader Joe’s.

Which brings us to tonight’s dinner. One sage craving + one shopping trip to Trader Joe’s + left over apple sausages in the freezer from the last bulk chicken processing.

Brown Butter Sage Pumpkin Ravioli

Ingredients

  • 2 packages of Trader Joe’s pumpkin ravioli
  • ½ cup butter – fresher the better
  • Handful of fresh sage leaves – thinly sliced
  • 3 to 6 garlic cloves – minced
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to boil and salt liberally. While the pot is heating up, in another pan on medium high heat melt ½ cup butter. Once the butter is melted, reduce heat to medium and let the butter burn a bit. This is how you get BROWN butter. It will take a few minutes to get there. Remember – light golden brown butter is the goal, not black butter! Reduce heat as low as your stove top will allow and let the temperature reduce. Hopefully, by now your water is boiling. Add the Trader Joe’s pumpkin ravioli. When the pot has returned to a boil, reduce the heat to a gentle boil and cook for about 2 minutes. You don’t want the ravioli to be mushy folks! Mushy ravioli is just gross. Bac1008161807k to the pan with the brown butter, add in the garlic and about 3/4th of the sage. Salt and pepper to taste. Under no circumstances should you add the parmesan cheese now. Bad things will happen (see pic)! By now, the pumpkin ravioli should be cooked. Drain and add to the brown butter. Carefully toss the pumpkin ravioli in the brown butter.

Plate as desired and add parmesan cheese. Toasted pine nuts are also a tasty addition. To toast pine nuts, place in a medium high skillet for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. I recommend serving with fresh green beans and apple sausages.

Enjoy!

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There’s always tomorrow…

Jack Frost has been busy painting on the homestead lately. This morning I noticed the first condensation on the windows (yes – we need newfrosty-grass windows) and frost on the grass. The leaves on our beans are starting to shrivel and my warm weather plants are done for the year. The pigs feasted on the remains of squash and melons the bugs and field mice nibbled on as well as the vines. They seemed quite happy with their breakfast salad.

As we continue into the dark half of the year, my thoughts turn inward. I wonder what I accomplished during the light half of the year. Was it enough? What time did I squander? What time did I use wisely? There’s another list. Can you tell I like lists and grids? Putting pen to paper makes it real. Once I make the list, I stew on it for a few days and then – I BURN IT! A small cast iron cauldron, rubbing alcohol for a cool flame and my list. I feel like Mickey Mouse in Disney’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – minus the cleaning mishap! Burning the list is cathartic. I’m tougher on myself than others. I know what I screwed up on and start looking for tomorrow.

Once that paper is burned, I start looking to tomorrow. What do I want to accomplish when the sun is reborn on the Winter Solstice – the light half of the year? I need to start planning now. For me that with prepping the gardens to be tucked in for the winter. Planting garlic bulbs, pulling whatever remains, building new raised beds and repairing old beds. Mulching, fertilizing, and laying down plastic to smother weeds that will sprout in the spring where I’d rather they not. I also do my final count on hay and scramble if I don’t think I have more than enough. Do I have winter grain? Dear reader, what are you doing now to plan for tomorrow? A quick peak into my pantry – what do I need to have more of next year? You get the idea…

I imagine that my ancestors might have had the same thoughts, the same dreams, the same fears. I feel it most when I look up to the dark skies on crisp fall nights. Surely they must have done the same thing. Looking forward to the day when the sun is reborn in the sky is the mark that they’ve made it through dark winter and the light is slowly returning. But more on that later.

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What’s done is done and put away for tomorrow. Now is the time to plan. Now is the time to feast and now that….

There’s always tomorrow
For dreams to come true
Believe in your dreams, come what may.
There’s always tomorrow
WIth so much to do
And so little time in a day.

~ “There’s Always Tomorrow” from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Next Post: Fall Garden Prep