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Monday, November 23, 2015

State of the Homestead

Garden: It's nearly the end of November and we're still getting peppers, eggplants, okra, and kale. We've been pulling kale from the same plants for two years in a row! 

I picked over five pounds of serrano peppers and turned them into pickled peppers and hot sauce. Later today I'll use up the last of the bell and poblano peppers in a sausage and pepper medley.

I've been using the eggplants for sandwich fillings. I like to saute thin strips of eggplant with spinach and green onion and stuff them into toasted pita bread. Delish!

Our tomato plants died off during the height of summer (too much sun) but I started new plants and they're producing fruits now. They're not as prolific as the spring tomatoes, but I can't complain when I can pick fresh tomatoes in December.

My only disappointment has been my romaine lettuce. It's gorgeous, but still bitter even with the cooler temps. I've read that black seeded Simpson lettuce is less prone to bitterness so that's on my list for next year. I'm determined to grow sweet lettuce. 

The winter garden consists of: peppers (hot and sweet), tomatoes, radishes, beets, kale, spinach, snow peas, carrots, potatoes (in pots), eggplant, sweet potatoes, chard, garlic, pumpkin, winter squash, and strawberries. 

I accidentally planted cucumbers! Oy! So now I have little baby cukes on the vine. I'm trying to keep them protected for another few weeks until they're harvest size.

I also planted soybeans (a lark since I knew it was too late to for them), but they actually produced pods. Still, they could've used another 3 weeks of warm weather. Soybeans are a great cover crop though, so they won't go to waste. They'll amend the soil.

We had a light freeze over the weekend, but it looks like everyone weathered it fine.

Goats: I think the girls are pregnant. We've yet to decide for certain, but we may just raise these kids to sell in 2016. They sold really well this year. 

We've been toying with the idea of raising a small cow for the freezer. We'd have to get other people to go in with us because there's no way we could store, let alone eat a whole cow. It's a two-year idea at least. From what I've read, 18 months is the average age for slaughter.

I kind of like the idea of raising beef on our pasture--with no antibiotics or growth hormones. It's a 'maybe' project for the think-shelf.

Chickens: After raising the Marans for two years, I've decided to sell the birds next spring. They lay beautiful dark brown eggs, but they're fussy birds, and don't lay near as prolifically as the Australorp or Americaunas. 

We may add a few quail next year. I've never tasted quail but Greg says they're good. I don't mind trying a few to see what they're like.

Rabbits: Alas, Frodo (our male rabbit) tries his best but he has a hard time mating with our bigger girl. I'll probably sell him in the spring and find a bigger bunny to do the job. 

Around the house:  
We put up a fence for our indoor atrium. I didn't want to do it at first, but I got tired of the dogs picking up a mouthful of dirt from one of my potted plants and then expertly grinding it into the light-colored Oriental rug.

It was the perfect weight in wrought iron for indoor use. The only thing I did was paint it a bronze color. 

Countdown to Thanksgiving: This is the week when most of the US settles down to food and family. I bought a small turkey this year. The sides dishes will come from the garden. Broccoli, snow peas, and garlic mashed potatoes. 

Greg gets his traditional homemade pumpkin pie all to himself. (I dislike pumpkin.)

We're planning for a quiet Thanksgiving. Good food with my weird landscaping dogs and my best guy.

How about you? If you celebrate Thanksgiving, what do you plan to serve?

Have you ever tried quail? How would you describe the taste?

Gardeners, do you have any lettuce recommendations? 

And raise a paw if you have a pet that likes to spread dirt like a coal miner. You can cry on my shoulder. I know your pain.


Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Yum on the hot sauce and eggplant!

We're planning a quiet Thanksgiving, too. I'm hoping to have finished my personal NaNo goal (65, 000 words) by then but words might be on the menu this Thursday. :)

Lynn Viehl said...

Your bounty is lovely. What wonderful peppers! I can't recommend a romaine variety but I remember my grandmother always picked her leaves before they grew too big to keep them from getting too bitter.

We're doing the traditional turkey, and invited a couple of people over who otherwise wouldn't be having a dinner (one of my dad's traditions.) We're also going out visiting in the morning to take some goodies to someone who has to work the entire day.

I've had quail a couple times, once with a garlic sauce and another time with wine and veggies ala coq au vin. It's got a bit of a dark, gamey flavor but it's not unpleasant, and it's not greasy like duck. Very small, though -- like a third of the size of cornish game hens, and you know how little they are. :)

Stacy McKitrick said...

Wow! That's quite a garden. I don't have the patience or taste buds to grow all that. Oh, and the yard. Guess I would need one of those, too. :) We're spending Thanksgiving at my friend's this year. She's home and cooking. Yay!

betty said...

That eggplant sandwich sounds delicious!!! All great things from your garden indeed! I hope you do have success with the sweet lettuce next year :) I cringed just a bit on your quail plans; love watching the ones that come here to eat from the dredges of our feeders; I would have a hard time sitting down to eating one of them, but let us know if you guys do go that route; would be interested in your thoughts of how they taste.

Its just hubby and me for Thanksgiving this year too; it will be delicious food I'm sure since he's doing the cooking :)


Mike Keyton said...

Two things, Maria. Bitter lettuce is good if mixed in with other lettuce/green stuff/herbs etc. Iit adds to a medley of tastes. Ref the cow - would you butcher it yourself? (and look into those big eyes)

Ref everything else, it does look idyllic, but a lot of work goes into an idyll - unless you're Marie Antoinette.

Maria Zannini said...

Madeline: The eggplant was delicious! I love veggie sandwiches.

Re: ...but words might be on the menu this Thursday.


Maria Zannini said...

Lynn: Anything with garlic sauce would get my attention. LOL. I rather like a gamey taste so I might be okay with quail.

Re: Thanksgiving tradition
We used to do that too with a friend who was always alone on Thanksgiving. He's since passed away.

Maria Zannini said...

Stacy: Better bring that friend an extra nice hostess gift. She's a keeper!

Maria Zannini said...

Betty: To me food is always delicious if someone else is doing the cooking. :)

re: quail
Oh, that's right. You have regular quail visitors. Sorry. I promise never to cook quail for you if you come to visit.

Maria Zannini said...

Re: lettuce
True. I hadn't thought of that, but I did have my heart set on sweet lettuce. It doesn't go to waste though. All my animals love it.

Re: cow
We wouldn't do the processing ourselves. We're a little too old to handle that big an animal. There's a small processing plant not far from us. We can trailer the cow to them.

Angela Brown said...

Bitter lettuce aside, you've got quite the garden haul. That sausage and pepper medley could be something that could turn into an HEB favorite if you ever decide to check into that.

I know of a former coworker who raises a cow and a few pigs for slaughter. You're right that the meat from it could be a whopping size. She pays a little extra for special packaging, but one nice sized pig lasts her and the fam a good half a year, including cooking special meals for the holidays.

As for Thanksgiving, going to get with friends and enjoy a nice meal together. Unfortunately, my sexond job is in retail so I will be among the not so smiling workers getting shoved around by shoppers.

Maria Zannini said...

Angela: I'm sorry you're having to work through Thanksgiving. That sucks.

At least you'll be able to spend dinner with friends.

Marlene Dotterer said...

It all sounds wonderful. What a great autumn!

I kept my raised bed when we put in the new landscaping, planning on still trying a few vegetables when we can spare the water. I tried to plant fava beans as a cover crop, but the squirrels dug up the seeds by the second day. I guess I'll try to start the seeds indoors and transplant them once they've grown. I don't think the squirrels with bother seedlings.

Rick bought some fine mesh to cover the bed but he hasn't gotten around to installing it. I'm also considering making a hoop house. Will that keep the squirrels out?

Author R. Mac Wheeler said...

all I can say..."I'm glad there's a grocery just down the street."

I'll be in desperate straights in the apocalypse, I know. But, I have always lived for today.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

LOL. I had a child who would always did in the plants when he was a toddler. I haven't tried to grow lettuce for years. Everyone is at our house so we're having a big feast. Already have it all purchased except tomorrow I'm going out to purchase some wine for after dinner. Happy Thanksgiving.

Maria Zannini said...

Marlene: We had a little trouble with voles but nothing too serious. Most people with vole or squirrel problems use hardware cloth to protect seeds/bulbs.

Netting did thwart birds and rabbits from devouring young plants.

Maria Zannini said...

Mac: I enjoy gardening. It's hard work, but it gives me ample rewards. Besides, no grocery store tomato can compare with home grown.

Maria Zannini said...

Susan: Happy Thanksgiving! I know it will be extra special for you this year.

Re: toddler
At least he grew out of it. ...I hope. :)

Jenny Schwartz said...

I love these posts about life on the homestead. And I'm glad you and Greg are feeling better.

Lettuce suggestions? I've only tried growing romaine or cos lettuce, and it looked after itself, even managing to self-seed (and thereby give away my slackness in maintaining the vegetable garden!), but this was in a cooler, clay soil.

Maria Zannini said...

Jenny: I like when stuff reseeds itself. :) Freebies!

Maybe it is my climate. I've had delicious grocery store romaine that was quite sweet, even the bigger, darker leaves.

Cos lettuce looks like it might be worth a try.

Rebekah Loper said...

I'm interested in lettuce recommendations too. It's hard to get a harvest of it here in Oklahoma where spring goes from 'too cold' to 'too hot' in the blink of an eye.

I haven't had quail meat, but I have had quail eggs (they were good, though definitely a different flavor than chicken eggs). They're considered to be a delicacy, I understand, so you could even have some extra income from that, possibly.

Maria Zannini said...

Rebekah: I was surprised how many people were selling quail on Craigslist. I didn't know it was so popular.

re: lettuce
Climate-wise, we're probably in the same boat. It can get so hot here. Nothing but the hardiest drought tolerant plants make it. I'll let you know if I find anything that works for our zone.

Mark Noce said...

Great harvest! Unfortunately, the gophers and squirrels got a lot of mine. But some of it came in ok:)

Diane Carlisle said...

OMG, my sister has garden after garden and I'm not surprised if her husband isn't building her another plot as I write this at 8:15 in the morning the day before Thanksgiving. lol

Maria Zannini said...

Marc: It was a constant battle for us too. I say if they want some of the food they need to be there to weed and water. No work. No food. :)

Maria Zannini said...

Diane: You can never have too many gardens! LOL.

Sounds like your sister and I would make great friends.

Shelley Munro said...

Lol on the dirt and the dogs. Bella dug a hole about an hour ago and then raninside with dirty feet. Hubby shouted and her and now they're not speaking.
Lettuce seems to need a lot of water in order to be tasty. At least that's what we've found. Kale seems to be very fashionable but I don't like it. Ugh!