Archive for March, 2012

Horseradish, Rhubarb, and I Sure am Enjoying this Early Spring!

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

We dug horseradish this morning, and processed it this afternoon. I posted a little tutorial about processing horseradish a couple of years ago. That was a fall crop, and it was really good. But we find that spring horseradish has more bite to it, and we prefer to dig it in the spring.

So, we dug up a small amount of horseradish this morning. And I’ve gotten so many questions about the best time to dig horseradish that I took a couple of pictures that I hope will help.

We like to dig horseradish when it first appears in the spring. There is a reason for this. If you dig horseradish when it first appears most of the energy is still in the roots. And that means the roots will have plenty of “bite”. This will produce “hotter” horseradish when it’s processed. We also find that the root will be more pliable and less woody. We prefer it this way.

So…… this is a small patch that we dug. Notice the small leaves? That’s about the largest the should be.

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And notice the fuzzy kind of growth there? Well, that’s really the ideal size you want to harvest it. We’re a little late this year because the warm weather snuck up on us.

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See all those roots up there? You want to leave those little roots. Just take the big chunks. Well, we take a few of the small roots – because those are gonna have that wonderful heat in them! But don’t pull the whole plant out – you just want to take the biggest roots and a few of the small ones. Every single stinking piece of root you live in the ground is going to give you more horseradish.

Did I mention horseradish can be very invasive? Well it can. It seriously can. That is if you consider too much horseradish to be an issue.

Which we don’t.

But we do like to keep it contained.

Because it will take over……

But….. if you feel you would like to add to your horseradish patch, or maybe start a new patch, or maybe even share your horseradish with friends, well…. just cut off the top part of the plant – the green growth – and stick it in the ground, and you’ll have more horseradish than you know what to do with. When we dig horseradish I either replant the tops, or I wrap them in a wet paper towel and then give them to friends. It’s very easy to grow and share. In fact, I’m not sure what you would have to do to kill it.

Here’s the pint of horseradish we ended up with after it was processed.

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We also harvested some rhubarb. Guess what I did with this?

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Yes! Of course! I made our first rhubarb pie of the season.

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That’s all kinda bubbly yummyness right there.

This picture is for my cousin, Julie. Last year, as we were preparing for winter, I dug up a couple of young Borage plants to overwinter in the greenhouse. As you can see, one of them is blooming and a couple of blooms are going to seed. I’ll save them for you, Julie.

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I also noticed that my Bleeding Heart is blooming in the flower garden.

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So is the Primrose.

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This early spring has been a blessing. I’m very happy about that. Especially since the new baby chicks I ordered will be here Monday. We got the brooder ready for their arrival today. I’ll be sure to post pictures of the new peeps when they arrive.

And I’ll leave you with this picture of Diesel. He’s laying on his “thunder rug” by his daddy’s feet. This is the special rug we put down for him to go to when he get’s nervous about thunder storms. And this early spring has definitely brought some early thunder storms with it.

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I think even Diesel would agree that this early spring is worth it.

Signs of Spring – and Some Knitting Projects

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

It’s hard to believe it’s the middle of March, and we are already seeing signs of spring here. I’m certainly not complaining!

Neither are the bees. They were up bright and early this morning.

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We fed them this afternoon and I wish I had remembered my camera. I’m so tickled at how quickly they’ve built up their hives so early in the year.

The daffodils are welcoming spring with wide open arms.

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The horseradish is making it’s appearance.

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The asparagus is peeking out of the ground.

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And the rhubarb is happy for the early start.

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Bobby Lee has started greeting each morning loudly from the top of his favorite stump.

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Spring seems to be coming early this year. We’ve had such beautiful weather for the past week or so. Soon we’ll be working in the yard on most days. I can’t wait!

I spent much of last fall and winter learning to knit. I got most of my practice knitting dish cloths. Lots and lots of dish cloths.

And then I graduated to slippers – and I knitted a few pair of those.

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I knitted a headband with a flower to wear in the winter and Dolly modeled it for me.

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My friend, Mary Ann, welcomed her first grandbaby this year, and I knitted this oven hanger/tea towel for her.

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I’ve started several projects that I haven’t finished, but the one I’m really excited about right now is a Feather and Fan scarf, made with Conshohocken Cotton yarn. It’s only 4 inches wide and intended as a spring/summer scarf. I love the pattern, and I love the yarn.

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I’m sure knitting will slow down as the warmer weather gets here and the daily outside chores mount. In fact, I need to get busy starting some seeds and getting potatoes in the ground!

Have you been working on fun projects over the winter? And are you seeing early signs of spring this year?

Chicken Coop Addition Update – and Making Cheddar Cheese

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

We’ve had snow, rain, sleet, wind, and cold weather sprinkled in here and there for the past couple of weeks, but, when the weather cooperated, we’ve (mostly Bernie) been working on the chicken coop addition.

This is what it looked like about 2 weeks ago.

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Bernie’s been working on it as time and weather allows, and this is what it looked like last weekend.

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Yesterday he ran electricity over to it from the existing side, and we’re planning to insulate it and wall up the inside this weekend, and put the steps back in front of the door. Then it will be ready for the baby chicks that should arrive here on April 2nd. Later Bernie will finish the soffets, and I will have to paint it.

A couple of weekends ago my friend, Susan, visited us from South Carolina. And she brought some farm fresh whole milk with her.

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She brought 4 gallons of whole milk, and 1 gallon of buttermilk. I’ve used the buttermilk for buttermilk biscuits (and they were ooooow-la-la) and I plan to freeze some of it for use in fermenting vegetables. The whole milk was delicious with my breakfasts, and with 2 gallons of it, we made some cheddar cheese. We made our first cheddar cheese a little over 4 years ago, from a kit we bought from the New England Cheese Making Supply Company. I had to order new cultures and rennet, but we used the same mold that came with the kit.

So I have 2 things to say about making cheese…… 1) it’s really tasty and 2) it takes a lot of time……

We decided to make Farmhouse Cheddar because, even though it’s better when aged several months, you can eat it in about one month.

Making Farmhouse Cheddar requires 4 things – whole milk, cultures, rennet, and time. OK, maybe 5 things – it also requires the necessary equipment. Which isn’t very difficult, really.

We started by pouring 2 gallons of whole milk into a stainless steel pot, and adding mesophilic culture.

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When it reached 90 degrees, we added the rennet, covered it, and kept it at 90 degrees for about 45 minutes.

Then we cut the curds.

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Next we put the pot into the sink that was filled with hot water and slowly raised the temp to about 100 degrees.

Then we strained the curds through a cheese cloth lined colander.

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We tied the cheese cloth, and hung it over the bath tub spigot to drain.

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We let the curds drain for about an hour and a half while we made and ate our pizza.

Then we put the curds in a cheese cloth lined mold.

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We folded the cheese cloth around the curds and added about 10 pounds of pressure – in this case it’s foil covered bricks.

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After about 15 minutes, we increased the weight to about 20 pounds of pressure – again, foil covered bricks.

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After 12 hours we flipped the cheese and continued with 20 pounds of pressure for 12 more hours.

Then we carefully removed the cheesecloth and let the cheese air for about 3 days or so to form a rind.

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After the rind formed, we waxed it.

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And in about a month we’ll remove the wax and eat it all up :)

Oh, and with the whey, I made some ricotta cheese that was really tasty.

The farm fresh milk Susan brought us was delicious, and I’m sure it’s going to result in some wonderful tasting cheddar cheese. To thank her for her kindness I sent her home with a box of meal worms to raise for her chickens.

But I’m not sure the worms will bring her as much as enjoyment as the milk brought us!