Sunday, March 3, 2013

Here's to New Chapters

I am still a little sore from yesterday. It seems my body doesn't bounce back quite as quick as it did twenty years ago :)
I am active in the "big brothers" program and my "little" Chase and I have been hanging out together for almost seven years now. Yesterday he came out to help me get my raised beds ready for the year.
I started by getting a yard of topsoil from my local nursery.
I am fortunate to have such a nice nursery only a couple miles away.
My truck and I are the same age until April--47 and still going strong. Well, the trucks still going strong :)

Last year I put in almost straight composted horse manure. This year I realized I needed more topsoil so I added only dirt to my beds and pots.
I mixed the dirt with the compost as I went. It was pretty laborious but  I was very happy to get these beds ready for spring.
I also got my blueberry bushes trimmed up as well as trimming and re-tying my espalier apple tree. I also have a new addition, my two Chippewa blueberries had some issues last year. They produced tons of berries but many of them fell off early. I purchased a different type of blueberry this year in hopes of cross-pollinating them for better results.
My three Blueberries all trimmed up and ready for spring!

I have a small bed ready for some raspberries and Chase's mom told me she had plenty of raspberry canes to share so I was pretty happy about that.
We were very fortunate the rain held off just long enough for us to finish the beds and pots and put the cat deterrent chicken wire back over the beds before the first drops started falling. Then it was off to lunch and a trip to the local swap meet where Chase found a glass dome that looked like an old Victorian cloche for his mom for $5.
 We finished our day by stopping at the feed store and picking up some seed potatoes to start chitting on the windowsills. This year I am planting all of my potatoes in large black nursery pots. It just isn't as much fun as it used to be to dig those potatoes out of the ground. I have a few of these pots but it is time to hit up Craigslist and find some more.
I'm going to have two rows of four of these potato pots here.

Spring is coming up fast and I feel like I'm already behind! I need to get my peas in the ground tomorrow and my potatoes in as soon as they start to show some eyes. I have got a few starts under lights in my garage. I have cabbage, brussel sprouts, kale, lettuce and some cherry tomatoes started. I could also sew some spinach, carrots and onions too.
I also got my worm bin ready for my delivery next week. I am trying out some of the European Night-crawlers this time. I did order 5lbs. of Vermi-compost as well to make some tea. It ships Monday and they are only about 100 miles away so hopefully I will get it soon.
I guess I need to get back out there but at least I got the real hard stuff done!
Ready for planting!
Right as the light is fading an overall shot.

The Spring always represents a new chapter in our lives but this one is especially dramatic. In less than two weeks our one and only child will be getting married and moving out! She will also be finishing her bachelors degree in June.
With an empty nest the house will definitely have a different feel but I am excited for my daughters new journey as well.
Well the sun has just popped out again time to get outside so I'll see you again soon.

Hey!     Is your garden ready?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Making the move to real foods

I have recently been adding more and more real foods to my diet in my journey to a more sustainable whole food diet. As I look back I realize I have tried quite a few different things and thought I would share some of them with you.
About two years ago we tried our first grass fed beef. We have never gone back. Grass fed beef is lean and has a wonderful flavor. As far as cost, we ended up paying about $4-$4.50 a pound after the cutting and wrapping and butchering waste. This is $4 a pound for hamburger and $4 a pound for T-bone steak. Overall cheaper then the grocery store and the grocery store beef is  simply not in the same league as far as taste and quality goes. We are pretty good at calculating our use but if we run low on beef we cringe at the thought of having to buy "supermarket" meat. Thank goodness we have a local butcher who can tide us over until the next beef is ready.
Grass fed beef is cooked completely different then the fatty meat you get at the market. I used a meat thermometer on mine for quite a while when we first started cooking it. Remember "Low and Slow is the Way to Go" with grass fed beef. Cook it right and you'll never want to eat that plastic covered stuff in the store again.

More recently I found a great egg source right on my way home from work. I get to see the actual chickens that lay the eggs. True free range eggs are full of more nutrients then cage raised commercial birds and have an exceptional taste. Their yolks are a deep orange color as opposed to the pale yellow eggs you get at the supermarket. They also are tougher to break so they make great over-easy eggs!  Canfield Farms also sells locker lambs and sheep breeding stock too.
Aren't they beautiful?

Two weeks ago I bought the first raw whole milk I have had since I was a kid. My plan was to skim off the cream for my coffee and drink the rest. I got a little over zealous and bought a whole gallon instead of a half. I was a little afraid it would spoil because I don't drink milk that often. I got it home and skimmed the cream off and then poured myself a glass of the milk. I liked it instantly, I really thought it would taste too thick or weird but it tasted wonderful. The cream works great for my coffee as well. I have also found that I really like a glass with dinner every night. I swear I feel better after drinking raw milk with my meal. Must be all the good probiotics that pasteurization kills. I was fortunate enough to find a store that sells milk from the Old Silvana Creamery nearby. I can also run up to the farm and pick it up. It is only about 30 minutes away. They run a small Jersey herd and are passionate about making a safe and delicious product. I am excited to try making some Kiefer soon!
The Farm Stand

Just tonight was my first time eating free range chicken. I recently visited R Heritage Farms in Gold Bar, WA just a few miles from my house. They have a wonderful little farm raising free range poultry and true pasture raised hogs. The birds were butchered on Saturday. I got the chicken on Sunday and aged it in my fridge for five days until Thursday. On Thursday one went in the freezer whole and the other one got cut up for grilling. It was my first time cutting up a whole chicken but I think I did pretty well:
Not bad for a first time!

Of course the back and other bones went into the freezer for soup stock down the road. I cooked the chicken on my gas grill at a low temperature. I cooked it to the proper temperature using a meat thermometer. The results were very different then "regular" chicken. True free-range birds have a much more pronounced flavor they have much more "chickeness" then the store bought version. The meat was much firmer than I have had in the past. I remembered these birds actually used their wings and legs so they are larger and have a firmer muscle. all of the pieces were nice and juicy. The breasts were not the pumped up supermarket size but were moist and delicious. I hope to be able to try some of their pork this April when they butcher next.
The "herd" at R Heritage Farm

So those are a few of the things I have tried in my transition to whole sustainable foods. In addition to these I have been trying many different recipes and eating fresh produce from my own garden and local organic when I can.
It's been an up and down journey but overall I am making progress. What steps have you taken to begin eating real foods?


Monday, January 28, 2013

New year and new direction

I have decided to revive my blog! I recently came back and realized my last post was about taking a break from technology for a week or two. Well, it's been almost a year since my last post!

I have a lot of plans for the coming year. For the first time I am really attempting to change my garden from a hobby to a major contributor to our health, budget and goal of eating more whole foods.
We actually removed a small part of our back yard last year. We have added an espalier apple tree, an Italian prune tree and another type of blueberry to cross-pollinate my two existing bushes.
I was not happy with my garden in 2012. It was a miserable cold, wet and gloomy Spring and early Summer. I think that some of the seeds I ordered were not suited at all for our climate here.
Many of the plants that did grow did poorly. Potatoes and Zucchini were a bust. In fact so were all my squash along with my cucumbers. I also tried to grow corn but it never produced anything. Of course my peas, lettuces, carrots, kale and other cold weather crops did well. My green beans also did well.
My new espalier produced a decent amount of apples for being in a new home. This year although the blueberries produced well, few of the berries stayed on the vine until they matured. I think this was do to the lack of cross-pollination. I have recently got a nice mid-season blueberry bush to pollinate them.
We bougth some heirloom tomatoes while passing through Chelan on a weekend trip. Unfortunately I did not harden them off properly so they did not do well but the few that did make it were delicious and made me want to try again.
My wife had picked up some hanging pots for the fence for some flowers but we ended up planting them up with some cherry tomatoes. They were a huge hit! We had hundreds of delicious fresh cherry tomatoes.
With all that the important thing was that I learned a lot and know I can make a lot of improvements this year.
This year I will plant crops that are proven in our climate. I am growing sunflowers for seeds instead of just show. I have purchased meters to help me determine moisture levels and PH.
I'm looking forward to this coming year! I intended to post pictures but I haven't been getting home much before dark.
Hopefully this kind of catches you up and I look forward to getting back to regular postings!