Shut Er Down

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We stopped heating the greenhouse last night.  It’s been in the 20’s overnight and doesn’t pay to keep heating it for just a few things.  It has a propane heater and its own tank.  We picked the meyer lemons and brought the lemon tree inside to live with our other potted citrus for the winter.  We picked the hot peppers and have them air drying to end up in hot pepper flakes.  We brought the cucumber plant and the ghost pepper plant inside to see if we can continue to force them to yield.  We got a really late start on the ghost pepper when we received seeds in July so it’s just now flowering.  They are the world’s hottest pepper at a million scoville units.  A farmer has been selling them for $5 per pepper at a neighboring market.  I have one I am drying for pepper flakes and seeds and we’ve got the plant so there’s that.   It’s incredibly expensive to heat the greenhouse in the dead of winter.  It’s pretty huge, 16′ by 40′.  We tried the first year we had it and lost power around midnight that January in below zero degree weather.  By the time we woke up and realized we had no power therefore no heat, everything was frozen.  We lost all of our potted citrus, vegetables, hibiscus, herbs, saffron.  Since then we don’t even try.  The tropicals come inside and the cool season crops stay down there for an extended indoor season.  We also entertain in the greenhouse.  We’ve got our old dining room table set up there permanently.  We had guests over for dinner this weekend and had dessert in the greenhouse.  I call it destination dining on the farm.  With the heater going we had gingerbread, sour cherry pie and blackberry wine by candlelight with the moon glowing through the covering.  It’s hard to believe a commercial greenhouse setup can be magical, but it can.

Season End Chores & Poopy Fleece

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We’ve got our clay pots and tomato cages moved off of the back deck, although they haven’t been scrubbed clean yet… We’ve stockpiled some compost for next Spring and are getting ready to shut the greenhouse down for the winter.   The fleece by the door is actually what’s called skirting.  It’s the poopy part that gets removed after shearing because fiber artists don’t like to have to deal with it.  I collect it on shearing day and stockpile it for the garden.  I’ve used it as both mulch and to line the bottom of clay pots.  Think about it… it’s all natural and full of fertilizer and is compostable.  It makes our gardening containers lighter than if they are filled completely with soil and nurtures our plants at the same time.  I should bag and sell it at the farmers market!  Sheep Sheet.  Skirt Dirt.  Dung Fluff.   BM (Baa Manure)…  The possibilities are endless.

Pear Trees

They’re ornamental Bradford Pears which means no fruit, but pretty Fall foliage.   They sit at the end of our 1/2 mile driveway which hopefully will be paved before we have any snow.  We’re on the list.  The last we heard was it’s supposed to be done by December 1st.  Or was that started by December 1st?  At any rate, December 1st is Wednesday so we’ll see.  Small town living can be a struggle some times to get work done.  Or to get someone to show up for an appointment.  Or to hope what work you do eventually get done is quality  Last year our driveway was so bad there were a few days we couldn’t get off the farm.  That’s why we traded our smaller pickup for a big 4WD one in January.  Here’s hoping for an easy winter!

An Indoor Bed

It’s located in the greenhouse.  We decided to try some non-heated greenhouse gardening over the winter so my husband built a 3′ by 8′ by 1′  bed lined with weed barrier fabric and filled with topsoil and compost.  We relocated a few things from the garden, like beets that were being chewed on by bunnies and potato plants that came up after we plowed our potato bed under, then seeded the remaining space with cool season crops.  We’ve got spinach, broccoli raab, buttercrunch lettuce and carrots coming up.  We’ll see how this experiment turns out.   It hopefully will give us some fresh farm veggies in the dead of winter.   That’s the plan at least.  In the foreground are some resting mushroom logs and a potted horseradish plant.

Brined Turkey

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I brined our heritage bronx turkey this year and it was the best we’ve ever had, bar none.  I’m not sure if it’s because of the turkey or the brine or maybe it’s the roasting method I got from Martha Stewart on the Today show Thanksgiving morning (wine and butter soaked cheesecloth wrap).  At any rate, I’m certain the brine will work for any poultry and I’m going to keep in my culinary bag of tricks.   I sauteed 2 split heads of garlic and a sliced orange in olive oil for a few minutes, then added a gallon of cider, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 1 cup of kosher salt, a T. of peppercorns, fresh sage and fresh thyme from the garden.   I brought that to a boil then cooled it to room temp and added a gallon of water for two gallons total of liquid.  The turkey was left in the fridge soaking in the brine (quite a trick for a 22 lb. bird) then rinsed off and baked.  If you try this, leave the bird in the brine for at least 12 and not more than 24 hours.  We had friends over for Thanksgiving dinner.  It was this guy & his lovely wife –  http://eatocracy.cnn.com/2010/11/23/55-shepherd-craig-rogers/#comment-70336

Roasted Vegetables

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It’s what we look forward to most every Thanksgiving… except I’m making a bourbon maple pecan pie tomorrow so there’s that.  The veggies I worked with this year were some of ours and some from the store – everything to the right of and including the asparagus.  After peeling and slicing and saving the peels for our chickens, I drizzle them with olive oil and splash them with vinegar (I collect special vinegars just for Thanksgiving) and sprinkle them with salt.  They go into a 350 degree oven for at least 30 minutes.  Start checking and tasting them then, and go in 10 minute additional intervals if you think they need some more time in the oven.  I’ve included a photo of the roasted pepper because that’s the trickiest one to know when they’re done.  They get wrinkly and dark on the tips which means the skins peel off really easily after they cool.  I do them a day ahead of time and serve them at room temperature on Thanksgiving.   Easy and delicious!

Honey

She’s one of our oldest chickens.  We got her from the sherrif, who retired to raise poultry.  She’s a red sexlink.  Isn’t that a stupid name for a chicken breed?  Evidently it stands for awesome layer because she gives us a large brown egg every day of the year.  Our other chickens stopped laying about a month ago and will start back up late winter.  I talked to a few other farmers at the market last Friday who have layers (lots of them) and they have all taken a break.  Honey is very inquisitive and likes to eat treats from my hand.  She squats down for me to pet her when I go into the chicken yard.  She’s like a dog… who gives us omelets.

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