Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Processing Rhubarb! Lots of it.

 We have a lot of rhubarb.  Think 8 or 9 plants.  They make for a busy spring figuring out what to do with them...and this year I can actually process most of it! 

So far I've made (in two canning sessions):
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Filling (10 pints)
Rhubarb Compote (8 half-pints)
Sliced, frozen rhubarb.

I am a fan of rhubarb for a couple reasons, but mostly it's that it is fresh and edible in early May!  Here, in Montana.  I've eaten strawberry rhubarb cheesecake before, but have never really considered what can be done with it before this season.  This year I'm going to can all that I can! 

Rhubarb Compote

Chopped oranges and lemon (I wish my camera would do close-ups well), I love the colors and the citrus smells;  They go so well with rhubarb.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Cows, Milking-Sub, Rhubarb and Seasonally Neglected House

The cows are officially in next to the barn for us to work them!  I'm excited.  Well, maybe not excited about hopping around the pen halter-breaking calves (and teaching Carrara - who's 2 1/2 - to lead, not just tie), but excited just the same.  I'll be gentling a molly-faced black heifer too, she's Opal's best pal and the farmer & co. want her to be the replacement for her aged mama is the mellow cow of the herd (mama was a bottle baby, but is now an old cow).  She was born the same month as Opal, so they've been the two little heifers of the herd and have consistently stuck with each other from pasture to pasture.  They eat, sleep and play together.  Pretty sweet.  Even sweeter is that the farmer who owns her and the land (and the herd) was concerned that they would be separated.  I am not milking her too.  Just for the record.  She's apparently just going to be a best pal of Opal's for the foreseeable future.

Today the kids and I fed the girls, then went in and haltered & tied Ruby, then brushed her spring-shedding-hair off.  She is almost completely slick and shiny now.  My favorite way for a cow to be! 

I went shopping for a couple rope halters for the little girls to wear/drag/get worked in, but only found tricky-looking ones that have all kinds of buckles and chains...not the dragging, comfy-ish type.  So I bought 10 ft of nylon rope and will be making my own.  Or just attempting to.  Maybe just letting the kids "rope" each other with a severly mangled and melted, 10 ft section of rope.  I'll keep you posted, but will hopefully be putting up a "how-to" for making them soon!

Both Ruby and Carrara were artificially inseminated (AI'd) a week or so ago, so we'll find out around the 27th if they took or not.  Hoping, hoping, hoping that they did and they the calves don't come out until next year.  I've watched "The Princess and The Frog" too many times, I just had a flash of the little blonde one asking the Evening Star: "please, PLEASE, PLEEEEAAAASE?!!!!!" and felt that it was a perfect example of how much I want calves next year.

In the meantime, I've been milking my friend Letha's Jersey a couple times a week so that she gets a break and we get fresh milk.  It makes me so happy to milk, and I love that it's a cow that's got a few seasons of milking under her um....udder?  I don't know if it's because I've only milked Ruby - who was new to it entirely - or because she's a very nice girl for me, but it is so so much mellower milking Nova.  So much.  She's a nice girl.  I think that I'll try milking Ruby just tied up and hobbled (I just tie Nova up, she hasn't made me want hobbles yet - thank the Lord!) after she eats her grain; that she may like that more than the stanchion.  Lots of time to think about that.

We got our wheat and clover planted early yesterday morning, and can hardly wait to see how it works out.  I'm fairly certain that the children, the short dogs (we have a Bassett/Bordercollie with short legs and a Chihuahua/Terrier/ghetto dog), and the cats will have a ball running through it this summer.  There may be little tunnels everywhere, and I'll love it.  How fun!  We're hoping that the wheat produced on the previously-a-dog-pen section will help feed my mom's chickens, and that it and the clover will improve the soil.  The wheat that's grown up front (between the sidewalk and the street) will be consumed by us.  Clover is a nitrogen-depositing plant that has lovely, deep roots to help aerate the soil for whatever grows after it.  We have some pretty heavy soil in a couple places so I'm hoping it really works!

My house is clean but covered in randomly-placed shoes and jackets and seed-packets.  I guess that'd be clean but not neat.  I don't know, it's driving me crazy whatever it is, but it's much more important to plant right now than anything.  Plus, it's not like the stuff is going anywhere - it'll be waiting for me when I have a moment!  I've been painting a bit too, priming trim and wainscoting, painting the wainscoting finally, and am thrilled with the results!  I didn't realize how much the rental-looking paint jobs in our house bothered me until now, so I'm resisting the urge to go on a rampage and do the whole house at once.  There's cleaning to do, and planting.  I just paint for a half hour a day or so and it's coming along well, and I'm not going crazy because I want it all done now.  This is new thinking, and I like it most of the time.

I've started harvesting rhubarb, then just slicing it up and freezing it for now.  I need to can it as conserve and pie filling, but haven't had a chance this week.  I have all the stuff though, so soon!!  It is wonderful to be harvesting from the garden again, even if it is rhubarb.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Gardener's Seed of Faith

My tomatoes have come up en masse!  This warm sunshine has brought both the seeds planted on the 12th and the 20th up. 

Nature knows what it's doing.  It is willing to wait...often unlike myself. Sometimes it takes weeks for a plant to emerge, maybe more than a month.  Still, that tender stem will emerge and those soft first leaves will unfurl, slowly pushing the weight of the soil off to reach for the sun.  

Gardening from seed - I've learned - takes a faithful, trusting heart.  It is much easier to skip the hard part, let someone else be potentially disappointed by a dud seed or marauding ants carrying your seed away.  Each year I garden I become more patient.  The winters are so long here that, come spring, we are famished for fresh anything.  We wait and wait for the first edible fruit of our labor to mature enough to be savored. 

To be directly nourished by my labor is about the sweetest return I can imagine; whether it's milk, eggs, meat, or produce.  It makes me immensely thankful for a strong body and a willingness to try, to learn.

I can tell you that some people have no desire to grow things, and I get that...I just love to eat and cook so it's a natural fit for me!  Our place is the land of seedlings at the moment.  We have seven kinds of potatoes in: French Fingerling, Amisk Ranger, Alpine Russet, Dark Red Norland, Yukon Gold, German Butterball and All Blue.  I am oddly thrilled about taste-testing them this fall, but of course, until I'd tasted anything but the .37/lb store potatoes I wouldn't have known to be excited.  We have bush peas (Sugar Daddy and Amish Snap) in & up all over, carrots (Dragon and Scarlet Nantes), five plantings of all kinds of onions, two different kinds of chard, Chiogga beets (finally coming up a month later!), a few kinds of lettuce, some flowers here an there (tons of sweet peas, hollyhocks and sunflowers are going in this year), and the cold frame has masses of vegetables and herbs sprouting by the day (today our Cheyanne Pumpkin and Jade Blue Corn came up along with more tomatoes).  When we get back from our 5 day trip, I'll be planting many more seeds outside because we should be close enough to frost-free that by the time the seeds germinate it'll be past our last spring frost.  This is a gardeners hope anyways. 

May nature treat your seedlings well this spring...I have read so many reports of farmers having trouble in the "corn belt" and they're saying that it will cause food prices to rise if they are in any way attached to corn products (meat, cereal, soda, etc...pretty much 90% of the store is my guess - woohoo).  Not a bad time to test your faith in a seed.