Monday, November 21, 2011

the BIG table

We now have a super BIG work table in the project/living room. It measures about 4 foot wide by 8 foot long and is about 4 foot in height. This will give me plenty of room to sort seeds for saving, plenty of room for making stuff, and a great place for collecting clutter. It also fits in quite well with our other decor and was very budget friendly to build.

Manthing ran across a couple of large things (wall sections perhaps) at the warehouse that were being tossed out. We do not know exactly what they originally were but when he saw them he saw tabletops. He also snagged up a few wood pallets that were being tossed out as he saw legs! Yes, yes, our table is completely made of someone elses garbage and cost nothing but a couple hours of time, mostly spent rearranging the room, and moving the pieces and parts in since it had to be assembled inside. The only monetary cost was for the screws and nails holding it together and to make hangers on one side for pots and pans. To assemble, all he did was cut a few inches off of each of the pallets so that it wouldn't be quite so tall then attached a piece of plywood on the underside of the table top where the 2x8's stuck out to make hidey holes on the underside. We then brought it all in, stood the pallets up and slid the top over the pallet tops and attached. He then added a couple braces for support.

There is plenty of storage area underneath the table and the legs (between pallet slats) can hold small things like cookie sheets. A few hooks will be added to hang pans from and chop blocks will be set atop for butchering and such. It will be sooooo much nicer than the teeny tiny 3x2 foot table that I have had to work on!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

fur friends

Utana has found himself a new fur friend. Apa is a 4 month old red tick hound staying here with his human. He is plum full of energy and Utana adores him.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

mushroom logs-first harvest

Just as I was beginning to wonder if the mushroom logs were going to do anything before winter set in, low and behold I checked them yesterday and noticed we had some beauties ready for harvesting. We got about 4 pounds of the oysters and I do believe I saw a few shitakes growing under there. Hopefully the rains coming in will get a few more grown out before the cold weather sets in.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

every once in a while...

some talented folks roll through here! After a long day filled with all sorts of craziness: some good and some not so good we ended it with a jam around the campfire. The sound isn't the greatest and doesn't do them justice.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Betty the bunny

Meet Betty, a new to us and new to us breed of bunny. She is a 7 week old Silver Fox. The Silver Fox is a rare breed of domestic rabbit native to the United States. They were developed by Walter B. Garland of North Canton, Ohio, and bred for meat and fur. The breed is recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association and was originally registered under the name American Heavyweight Silver in 1925. In 1929 the name was changed to the American Silver Fox and later to Silver Fox. The Silver Fox is a part of Slow Food USA's Ark of Taste, the catalog of US foods in danger of extinction.

Silver Fox are a large, docile breed weighing 11-12 pounds for an adult female, and is named for its thick blue-gray or silver fur. The Silver Fox is one of the rarest rabbit breeds in America, and is considered critically endangered by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.

Babies are born either solid black or blue and begin to show silvering of their fur at about 6 weeks. The silvering process takes 4 months to complete. The fur of a Silver Fox is extremely dense and 1-1/2 to 2 inches in length. When the fur is stroked from tail to head, it will stand straight up until stroked in the opposite direction. This trait is found in no other breed and greatly resembles the pelt of the silver fox of the Arctic.

Even though they are a large breed, they are very gentle, easy to handle, and love attention. They have been dubbed the Teddy Bear of the rabbit family. Does are easy breeders, high milk-producers, are excellent mothers and make great foster mothers. They adapt well to any climate and sudden changes in temperature do not appear to bother them. Direct, long term sunlight will, however, burn their fur to a rust color.

The Silver Fox make a good pet or meat animal. They have a deep loin that provides good meat proportions on the carcass. They are known for their very high meat percentage, dressing out at 65% of live weight. The taste of its meat is considered high quality with fine texture and taste. For a much more detailed history on the Silver Fox, check out the link below.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

fall in the mountains

North Georgia in the fall is like a circus for the senses. These photos have been taken over the last month around town and home. The colors were somewhat muted because it has been so dry.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

easy coffee cake

After looking around for an easy, won't break the bank, coffee cake that I would be able to cook on the wood stove or on top of the wood cook top, I ended up just making my own recipe using bits and pieces of other recipes and then tweaking it to my liking. Although I was a bit weary of how it would taste, it came out quite lovely.

‎1 cup butter

1 ½ cups sugar

4 eggs

1 ½ tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

3 cups flour

1 quart peaches or other fruit


½ cup brown sugar


1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 tablespoons butter

Soften butter, mix with eggs n sugar. Then throw flour, sugar, salt and powder in and mix it up nice. Spread about half the mixture into a greased pan (9x13 or whatever). Drain peaches and chuck over the top of the mixture in pan, shake cinnamon around to your liking. Sprinkle the brown sugar around and spread the other half of the mixture on top. Bake at 350 until tooth pick comes out clean.

for the topping

Mix sugar, flour, cinnamon, and butter, until it makes coarse crumbs. Sprinkle the topping over the cake and bake

Since I cook over wood, I typically use a large cast iron skillet rather than a baking pan although a dutch oven would also work well. If I was actually baking in an oven I would make a crumble topping but, since I don't, I make a confectionery sugar drool for the top and shake a bit of cinnamon around. Nutmeg is good in place of or with cinnamon.


½ cup confectionery or brown sugar

½ tsp vanilla

1-2 tbsp water

Monday, October 3, 2011

chicken of the woods

It is the fall mushroom season and this is one of the finest that can be found. Commonly called chicken mushroom or chicken of the woods, Laetipous sulfureus can be used in any recipe that calls for chicken or in traditional mushroom dishes. Rather than rewrite what has been written many times before here is a link to read more on it. When we had a chicken the other night, I made an Argentinian recipe called pollo el verdeo with it. It was quite tasty and very easy to make.
3 cups sliced mushroom or chicken
1/2 cup cream (plain yogurt works well)
6 green onions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 cup vegetable stock or chicken stock
1.2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons cornstarch
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp butter
Cook "chicken" and garlic in skillet with butter til done. Add wine and green onion to skillet. In a bowl, mix cornstarch with cold broth and stir until completely dissolved and no lumps then add broth to prepared chicken. Reduce heat and cook 5 minutes. Add cream and mix thoroughly and cook until desired consistency. Serve over rice or pasta.

Friday, September 30, 2011

the weather is a changin

Fall is officially here in the South! Tonight and tomorrow we are going to be very close to frost temperatures and we will be lucky to get to 60 during the day. The last couple of days, I have been harvesting and pulling the tomatoes. To be honest, I was entirely sick of the tiny toms but was sad to see the regular ones come out of the ground. I now have a couple few gallons of tinies to do something with, two five gallon buckets of green tomatoes, and a nice pile of ripe ones to work our way through or preserve.
The only plants left in the summer gardens are a zucchini, two peppers, one big tomato, herbs, zinnias, and some tobacco that I will fetch and hang tomorrow. The fall plantings are doing rather well although very slow to grow due to the extreme weather we have had until now. Things are starting to look pretty naked and drab around the place, at least until the leaves start changing, and then, that color too will be gone. I still have a few more things I would like to get in the ground soon and we are trying cover crops on some of the beds for the first time this year. When we went to town last week one of the stores had Australian (I think it is supposed to be Austrian) snow peas at a very affordable price so we grabbed a few pounds.
The greenhouse is nice and rather full of plants and I will be adding more as I get time and space. There are peas, tomatoes, cucumbers, ginger, herbs, cabbage, broccoli, collards and other greens as well as a couple flowers and trees. It looks so very green compared to outside now. I must find a place for a chair in there so on the soon to come dreary days, I can go n get my green on.

Friday, September 23, 2011

tobacco-storing and cutting

I realize there are 2700 ways and everyone says their way is what works when it comes to the storage and curing of tobacco. This is how we do it on a very small budget and while I will not say it is the best way, it does give us a nice smooth tobacco that didn't cost 500 bucks to set up. We have tried it a few different ways over the last few years and we finally think we got it figured out. Again, this is just our way, our experience and our story. What works for you may be a little different or a lot different depending on your situation.
Sure, hanging tobacco for a year or two is a good idea in theory. Unfortunately, for most of us, hanging anything for two years would create all sorts of issues with space, cob webs, wildlife and other nastiness that I would prefer not to have on my tobacco. For us, the issue is room, mold and critters. A good pack rat will hoard away a months worth of tobacco in a single night. And, quite frankly, I am not going to continue buying tobacco for a year or two while waiting for what I worked so hard to grow to cure and smoke.

Anywho, once the tobacco is hung to dry it will require a couple of months to turn to a uniform brown color. This is where some folks think it should sit for a couple years. We don't! Once it is dry we pick a morning where the humidity is high and the leaves are flexible and strip the veins from the leaves. We are not overly picky in this process and only work on the center vein, the others will chop up later on in the process. Once the veins are removed we just throw it in a box, any box, so long as the top can be closed to keep the dust off. That's it! It can be just that simple.
We have played with this method the last couple of years in an attempt to get a better flavor out of the tobacco. We have figured out that it cures and develops a nice flavor once it has been cut and then stored. For storage we like to recycle coffee cans as they seal in the flavors and aroma while keeping yucky stuff out. It makes storage much easier since they do not take up near the space and we also know exactly how much tobacco we have.

Since most of us do not have the money to spend a few hundred dollars on fancy schmancy tobacco choppers and I know we didn't and still don't, we also experiment with different ways of cutting the tobacco. The first year we simply threw it into the food processor. It works but is very difficult to get the shredded tobacco a uniform size. A couple seconds too long and you end up with a powder and a couple seconds too short and you have tobacco that's three inches long that is difficult to roll and near impossible to smoke.

What we have begun to do is make a roll of leaves and place it between two blocks of wood, then take a C clamp and close it down to make a small brick. Once compacted, release from the clamp, take a sharp knife and slice it thinly. I have not tried it but have read of people using old school paper cutters to cut it after making the bricks. From there, a quick whirl in the food processor or a small herb/ tobacco grinder will bring the tobacco to a usable size. There are a couple advantages to using the food processor. Larger amounts can be chopped at once and it is easy to add any flavorings(honey in a bit of everclear or vodka). It is a good way to evenly distribute it through the tobacco without making a mess of things.

Once the tobacco is cut and chopped to the size you wish, stuff it into coffee cans or other container and let it cure and develop the flavors. The longer it cures the better the flavor that develops. I would like to say that we have let some of our tobacco age a couple of years and then tried it, but we have not. We always need to use it within a few months time. Maybe one day we will get to the point that we have tobacco enough to store some for a year or two before trying.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

tobacco harvest

Though much of the tobacco is still very healthy and green, we came to the realization the other day that we realistically have 3-6 weeks until our first frost. Tobacco quits curing when the temperatures are under 55 degrees and since tobacco cures best outside, it was time to start cutting it down and hauling it up to hang.Many who grow tobacco hang the entire plant to dry. Because of space issues and humidity issues here, we tend to hang the big leaves by stringing them up in small bundles and then putting the smaller leaves on racks in the sun. We actually prefer sun drying all the tobacco but this requires a lot of extra time and effort in the process and I can't be fussed over the time or the effort.
The tobacco has had a really good growing season this year and we were only able to get about half of it harvested and hung yesterday. Next weekend we will cut the rest. This week I will make a couple more posts on de-veining, storage and chopping.

silent sunday

Thursday, September 15, 2011

tobacco seed

It is the time of year to harvest the tobacco seed pods. We typically leave just one or two plants to flower and make seed for the next year. It is said that the seed from one tobacco plant is enough to plant about an acre worth of land. I like to always have plenty so we save two plants. This year, however, I saved three so that I can try and naturalize some next season.

Once the tobacco flowers the plant will develop seed pods up where the flowers were. Some people like to bag the seed pods so that they will not break open and sow themselves but we have never had that problem so I don't. Once the pods turn brown they are ready to harvest. I put the seed in a bowl so that I don't lose them all over the place and just break each pod apart and then sift the seed though a small sieve. Make sure they are dry and package them up for next year. It's as simple as that. The photo of the seeds above is just one plant and is about a tablespoon of seed. Though it does not seem like much, tobacco seed is about the size of a toothpick head.

Monday, September 12, 2011

monday's mountain musings

Howdy ya'll! I'm still kickin n screamin, just been a bit busy. Have I ever mentioned that I hate math? Iffin I ain't I will now just so my whole world knows that if my postings are few and far between I am likely lost in numerical neverland. Not an enjoyable place really, so, no need for jealousy. No, really, I aint jokin. The next 4 months of my life is filled with math courses and while I do very well with stuff I use all the time, stuff I don't use frustrates me. Its all good as once it is done I should never have to take another math course again!

Things on the homestead are really slowing down now. We got some much needed rain (6 in) with depression 13 or "the storm formally known as lee." Unfortunately, it seems to have brought with it some yuck! Immediately after if stopped raining I noticed nearly all the summer plants were fading out and dying off. It isn't blight but it is definitely something. The tobacco, however, is still growing very well. I am not complaining a whole lot about the die off as it does not seem to be affecting the fruits on the plants, it has not bothered any of the fall plantings and quite frankly, it's time for summer gardens to die. I am ready for the more relaxing fall and winter garden seasons. Most of the fruit left on plants is for seed saving rather than eating with the exception of the tomatoes.

With the rain, thankfully, came some cooler temperatures which kicked the fall plantings into gear and got them growing. The cabbages are beginning to head and many of the greens are micro-green size. The cukes, beans and maters in the gh are all flowering and the peas are sending up tendrils. Lettuce is very slow to get growing this season because of the heat but hopefully they will get growing soon too.

Hopefully, now that I am a couple weeks into the new courses and the gardens dying I can get my act together and get back to posting a bit more regularly than I have been the past few weeks.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

around the homestead-gardens n stuff

The gardens are doing amazingly well even though we have had no rain for going on two months. A lot of time is being spent watering the gardens trying to keep what we can alive and trying to give the fall plantings a fighting chance. The incessant heat is making it hard enough on them , the least we can do is dump water on them every couple days and even then, it should be more.

Most of the summer stuff is still producing so finding space for planting stuff has been an issue. I interplant what I can in the beds with summer stuff as much of the fall stuff doesn't mind a bit of shade.Of course, the seeds I just swept up and dumped from the GH floor are growing the best, in the weedy flower bed of all places. They sure a pretty though. To help combat the lack of space issue, Measa made a bed the other day from wood I had pulled out of another bed that refuse to stay in its borders no matter what I do to contain it. This bed will take some remediation to get some good soil in it as it is quite rocky and not real deep because of where it is located.
Bunnies were getting into the big bed across from the GH and it is one of the places I like to plant full of fall plants. After they ate the first 20 cabbages in there we decided there was no point in putting anything more in there until the fence was fixed. Measa worked on that last week between watering beds and running to hide from the heat. Now it is all fenced in again with a door on either end
Hopefully this week I can get the remaining fall plants in the ground after having spent most of last week writing finals papers. Unfortunately, I get no break between semesters of classes so started back at it yesterday.The good news is, after this semester, I only have two more blocks of classes. I really cannot wait for next spring when I am not tied to the computer everyday for half the day. It will seem nice even if it is just for one term til I start again.

Monday, August 22, 2011

monday's mountain musings

A few observations from the homestead as of late since watering has become an every day chore just to keep things struggling along. The heat is unrelenting and rains are nonexistent. I realized that our entire life right now revolves around the gardens and there is little time for anything else. Thankfully, there are two of us around all the time and sometimes all three of us are here to split the work or nothing else would ever get done!
over 4 hours watering gardens=650 gallons of water
over 2 hours picking veggies
over 2 hours preserving veggies
1 hour planting veggies
2 hours cooking dinner, rolls and dessert
1 hour fixing driveway from fetching water everyday