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Funny how when you begin living off of what is growing in the season and what is presented with you, you begin living in the seasons.
Fall is for prepping for winter. Cooking the last of the garden. Baking.
Gardening is getting overwhelming with trying to eat everything that is being produced, and I finally caved to preserve the remaining for winter.
To say the least, the week has been FILLED with cooking and baking. Having more time in the kitchen, also more time planning.
Planning winter projects, what can be done indoors and how to keep busy when we are not spending time outdoors.
I have posted about my Fermented Lemonade in the past but, I do continue to continuously make it.
The recipe is extremely easy to put together – just enough time to juice a few lemons. I like to use this lemon juicer for easy squeezing that also does not take up a lot of kitchen space, because sometimes that is limited.
The kids drink the lemonade – which is like their daily probiotic. Our kids do not drink a lot of fruit juice and hardly ever drink soda – carbonated water is usually their ‘soda’. I get shamed for it, but ya know… they like it!
It is an easier drink to make and drink (for some) than kombucha – which we also brew. Plus it is good on a hot day, or with a little alcohol (for me, not the kids).
Whatever the use – we love lemonade and the bacteria from the whey eats out a lot of the sugar, but remains fairly sweet.
This batch is currently on second ferment and will be ready to enjoy Sunday!
Properly Canning Tomatoes.
In years past, I have enjoyed preserving tomatoes, but have always frozen them – this has led to freezer burnt tomatoes that just did not thaw correctly.
After a few instances of bad ‘canning’ process, I decided I better find a recipe that can not only be preserved in a jar, but is also not going to make the family sick.
The damn chickens keep eating away at all of my tomatoes in the garden – they are caged in, but not fenced and those little feather ‘friends’ can jump a solid 3ft if they are motivated. The giant tomatoes growing next to the greenhouse disappear as soon as they begin transitioning from a lime green to a gentle pink. They do not even get a chance to turn red, it seriously IS a crime.
Anywho – the in-laws were smart and they fenced in their entire garden with 3 foot fencing. No, they do not have chickens, but they do have bunnies and deer. Their tomato plants are THRIVING and some of the fruit were as big as two fists. No joke. So, when they asked if anyone wanted any, I gladly grabbed what was left after everyone took their share.
Basically I blanched and cooled the tomatoes to remove the skin and simmered them on medium-high heat for thirty-ish minutes. I did not seed them, I hope I do not regret it.
Then I waterbath sealed them for 35 minutes after adding citric acid and salt.
Despite this taking over an hour to complete, I was able to get other things done while the tomatoes were simmering and processing in the jars.
This year I decided to simply can tomatoes that I will use for red sauces this winter, but next summer I may get dicey and can my own tomato sauce.
It really is nice to have food that is processed fresh and by your own hands.
I always say we lose respect for our food because so much is purchased in a factory – we use a half a jar of sauce and toss it because it grows mold in the refrigerator. When we take the time to process the food, we know how much work went into growing, cooking and preserving the food, it almost hurts to let it go to waste.
Okay, so we have noodles and I believe zucchini noodles are generally accepted as zoodles, so squash noodles MUST be squoodles… right?
That is what I am going with: squoodles.
The garden produced some MASSIVE straightneck squash this summer. Like, I wish I would have offered it up in a fair. Some of them were as long as my arm and definitely wider. I mean, what am I supposed to do with these?!
The chickens ate a few, naturally.
I can’t get mad though, because…. free food!
The amount of garlic zucchini and squash this household has consumed this summer is UNREAL. It is time for a new way of preserving – for this, processing and freezing was the answer.
During winter months our family eats our share of spaghetti squash – it is so comforting and delicious! Plus – it is healthy. The idea behind preserving the zoodles and squoodles is so that we can substitute the spaghetti squash with the squoodles.
Squoodles are really delicious with a little extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), sea salt, garlic and feta cheese. By really delicious, I mean heavenly.
Our freezer now contains three family meal servings of squoodles, and the garden still has a few more in the works. I truly hope that these preserve well and do not get freezer burnt.
Vegetable noodles are a great way to not only incorporate healthy vegetables into the diet, but also lower our processed carb intake. As you will see by the next segment, we are not carb-free, but we try to eat less carbs. Not for any reason other than our society eats so many carbs in other forms and situations, that a simple elimination is sometimes beneficial.
Plus – eating more veggies is almost never going to hurt, right?
Putting the Final Touches on Bread.
YUP. Cue the carbs.
The past year has been my mission to find a good quality bread that provides our family a soft sandwich bread that also is healthy.
Two weeks ago I made a batch of two loaves that were delicious. They really were impressing me!
This week another batch found its way into the books. The bread was cooled off and not even warm, but the decadence that hit my taste buds was even better than the first batch.
I made a few changes with rise times and oiled the saran wrap on the second rise. The result was a fluffier, nicer bread. (ha, as if the first bread had an attitude. Don’t ask… they’re just adjectives. Go with it.)
The bread was wrapped and placed into the fridge, a few days later we cut a few slices and the bread had a rougher texture… hmmmph.
I think that I need to test how long the bread will last on the counter, and to see if it will hold its texture better at room temperature. I mean, store bread often molds before we use it, so I cannot imagine that homemade bread will last long… but maybe we can freeze it and thaw it on a week we can plan more ‘bread’ meals.
I mean… this is the struggle of transitioning from grocery dependent to dependent on our own foods. Are we there yet? Not even close, but small strides.
Learning to use what we have, and to plan meals around what is on hand… or pulling out meat (or bread) on the week we will use it is going to be absolutely necessary.
Who Run the Farm? Todd.
Would this even be a ‘The Sheep Shed’ blog post if there weren’t animals included?
Todd has been in our farm only a handful of months – he was gifted to us by a friend when their residence no longer allowed roosters.
Since his adoption, he has lived with the sheep – he has not gotten along with our flock rooster.
Originally Todd lived with the male sheep – Friedrich & Shaun. To be sure he would stay within the confines of the fencing, one of his wings were clipped. This throws their flying off balance and makes it difficult for them to fly.
After awhile, Todd would fly over the gate and I would chase him back in. It was a fun game, until it wasn’t. Then one night Todd flew over the gate to the girl sheep’s coop. That was that… you do you, bro. I let Todd live with the girls. After awhile Danny joined them.
They lived happily ever after… until they didn’t.
The past few weeks Todd has been flying over the gate of the girls’ pen and roaming free on the farm.
One morning I woke up to a rooster crow that sounded suspiciously close to my window. Confused, I peeked out the window and saw Todd… crowing…. outside my window.
I chased him back into the sheep pen and went about my day.
Todd hopped the fence again.
I chased him back in and gave him food.
Todd hopped the fence again.
I let him live his life.
Todd owns the place.
Every morning at 6am he jumps the fence and perches outside our bedroom window and sings his song. What a lovely long.
Then he irritates our flock rooster – Darth Vader – for the free-ranging duration of the day and as the flock chickens coop up for the night, Todd finds his place into the girl sheep pen for safety.
He doesn’t do anything too extremely wrong, he doesn’t hurt or test the children, and at this point… I am tired of chasing him.
Todd roams the farm as he pleases, and that just might be his place in our farm.
I did have to tell him that if he does not stay in his designated home, I cannot guarantee his safety. If he gets eaten, that is his choice.
The mother in me made me tell him the possible consequences of his poor decisions, and that if he decided to make those decisions, it was his choice.
Of course, if it were life and death, the toddlers would not be granted such freedom. But Todd is a bird and not a Toddler. The name makes it confusing.
Needless to say, we are constantly learning.
Learning how to adopt more of the ‘old lifestyle’ all while living in the present time.
The best thing is…. each season serves a purpose. Living for each season’s purpose has not only been fulfilling, but helps to look forward to the drab seasons and accept them with open arms. Also learning to live in the moment of each season has become much easier.
There are still struggles of living in the moment on the day-to-day, but having a plan for the big picture helps to keep the daily goals more achievable. When you plant a bunch of squash and tomatoes, and then are faced with preserving them… either you live with the consequences (albeit good, also daunting) of our actions, or you send all of the fruit of your labors to the chickens. Neither are bad, but one should have a higher priority than the other.
I chose to deal with the consequences by preserving the food and thus learning to adopt more of the lifestyle. While in the kitchen it is easier to be motivated to do more than planned. I mean, we DID need more granola bars, and coming up with a veggie smoothie that tastes good were to bonuses this week.
If you ever have any questions, or ideas for future blogs, comment below or shoot me an email!
From the farm,