Sunday Homestead Update

It has been such a busy week!  Between our second week of homeschool and settling into that new routine, the hatch, harvesting from the garden, canning and drying produce, re-arranging rabbits and selling some meat, a surprise butchering session, and just normal day-to-day chores and life at the farm, we are all pretty exhausted at this point.

Canning the Barter Tomatoes

No, there isn’t a type of tomato called the barter tomato.  I am referring to the tomatoes that we bartered to get.  🙂

We can’t grow tomatoes in our climate without a greenhouse.  We hope to build a greenhouse soon, but until then, we figured no garden-fresh tomatoes for us.  That is, until my friend who lives somewhat near us, but in a much lower elevation (and thus a tomato-friendly climate) said she wanted to grow enough tomatoes for her family AND our family and trade them for our farm-fresh eggs (because she can’t have chickens where she currently lives).  It was a wonderful deal!  A total win-win situation.

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So this week I picked up the first round of tomatoes.  I wanted to run a full load (or close to it) in the canner and there wasn’t quite enough barter tomatoes, so I stopped by a farm that sells produce and grabbed some tomatoes from there as well.  The price was so good I got a few more than planned…but oh-well, more jars to line the pantry I guess.  So we have been canning the tomatoes the last few days while we anxiously watched the incubator.

I like to can my tomatoes raw-pack in their own juices.  I then use them in soups, stews, chilis, spaghetti sauce, and casseroles throughout the winter.  I follow the recipe in the Ball Blue Book for this.

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It was fun to use my new reusable canning lids again!  I love that I wont be throwing these out throughout the winter as we open and use the tomatoes.

So far we have canned 11 quarts and all of them have sealed great (just in case you are still wondering about the reusable lids).  We will be continuing with more tomato canning this week.

Harvesting in the Garden and Drying Herbs

Several things were ready to harvest this week.  First, there were some turnips that did not get eaten by the root maggots (YAY!).

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The beets were also ready.  We are trying to learn how to save seeds, and with beets and other root crops we must over-winter the roots in a root cellar that is between 32-40 degrees F, and 95% humidity.  Then next year we re-plant the roots and they will grow flowers and then go to seed.

Our “root cellar” this year is a small dorm refrigerator.  So I pulled up the beets, brushed them off a bit, cut the stems off about 1-2 inches above the root, packed them in damp sand in plastic bins, and put them in the “root cellar.”  We will see how this goes!

I also read that you can dry beet leaves, crush them and add them to soups and stews for their nutritional value.  Since we don’t like eating beet greens raw or steamed, I thought this would be a good way to use them.  So they are hanging and drying currently.  For those of you wondering why the stems aren’t purple – we planted golden beets.

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With the impending first frost that usually comes in the next few weeks I decided I would like to dry some of my herbs that I have grown in the garden.  We have enjoyed them fresh all summer, and now I’d like to try to put up some for winter.  I have never done this before, but found some books that talked about it.  So I have sage, rosemary, basil, chives, and parsley currently drying.  Some are hanging, some are on my dehydrator racks (the dehydrator is not turned on).

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Rabbit Quarantine

The quarantine time is over for the two new does that we bought for my son’s rabbit business.  When my husband and my son went to move them into the rabbitry with the other rabbits they were shocked to see the two does breeding.  Uh-Oh.

The breeder checked and double checked the does before we bought them.  We checked and double checked the does before we bought them.  The breeder has been sexing rabbits for 25 years.  We have been for 6 years.  And yet still, somehow, a mistake was made.  We got a buck and a doe.  This just shows how hard it can be to tell, especially on younger rabbits.

So here we thought we had two does that would be bred in two weeks to our buck.  But instead we have a buck and a possibly pregnant (but we have no idea when she first got pregnant nor when she is due) doe.  Sigh.  Never a dull moment around here.

We called the breeder.  He apologized and was really awesome about the whole thing.  He said he would trade us out the buck for another doe.  He has one that just reached breeding age and he said he would breed her to one of his bucks before we pick her up so that she can be productive while in quarantine for the next 4 weeks.

So we will be giving this doe a nest box now and we will just leave it in there with her for the next 33 days or until she kindles, whichever comes first.  She is pretty young, so there is a chance she didn’t take, but there is also a chance she took 3 weeks ago and is going to kindle soon.  I guess we will find out!

Surprise Meat

We had a surprising call Saturday late at night from local dispatch.  We are on a list for road kill.  When an animal (usually elk or deer) is hit by a car and called in immediately the animal is available for meat to the next person on the list.  We are NOT talking about roadkill that has sat on the side of the road for who knows how long.  It is fresh and still has plenty of good meat on it, although usually some is lost to damage from getting hit by the vehicle.

The call on Saturday was for a cow elk.  This is a huge blessing for our family as a full cow elk can meet our red meat needs for about half the year.  So my husband quickly loaded up the trailer and headed out to get the elk.  The whole back end of her was ruined, but we were able to save the front two quarters and the loins.

It isn’t the ideal time of year to be dealing with meat, and we are in a little heat spurt right now and for the next few days, so we needed to deal with the meat right away.  In addition, we are heading into bad bear season.  During the fall the bears instincts are telling them to eat and eat and eat in preparation for hibernation.  We are just starting into the time of year where we will see bear at all times of day, not just at night, and the time of year when the bear are very aggressive about getting food, even to the point of breaking into buildings and cars.  In our area the bears have been trained for generations now that humans mean food because people don’t keep their trash secure that bears have become a huge problem here.  My in-laws had one get in their cars last week.  It actually opened the door by the handle, and each car has a different type of door handle.  They are now locking their cars!

Needless to say, having the meat hang for a few days was not an option due to the heat and the bears.  So today has been a surprise butcher day.  It feels great to get all this free, healthy elk meat into the freezer for the winter!  What a blessing!

We have definitely started into the autumn season of storing up food this week.  I love this time of year!  There is just something about seeing a pantry lined with jars of home-canned items and dried herbs, and a freezer full of wild and home-grown meat that is SO satisfying.

A lot of work, but definitely worth it!

4 thoughts on “Sunday Homestead Update

  1. What a post – so much is happening! Besides what you’re doing (never heard of replanting things next year specifically for them to go to seed, interesting) in the “normal” farming/gardening sense, I love that you are taking advantage of bounties outside of your own patch like the swap-tomatoes and road kill. Yes, road kill sounds kind of bizarre but what a great idea to stop waste and help fill the freezers in the area. Fantastic initiative and you’re really smart for taking advantage of it.

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    • Yes, it sounds strange to some people but it really is a great way to keep from wasting perfectly good meat.
      Out of curiosity, how do you get root veggies to go to seed in your climate? Do you just leave them in until the next season? That’s what I heard is done in warmer climates.

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