Archive for the ‘Heirloom Gardening’ Category

Our Furry Friends Are Hopping Into Spring

Although early spring sometimes brings cold snowy weather, here in South Dakota, it usually doesn’t last long this time of year.  After a day or two, the snow melts in late March and early April.  Sometimes this type of weather creates chaos on the farm in early spring.  You just never know a month or more in advance what the weather will be when the barnyard animals give birth, and a sudden cold snap can cause problems for newborn animals.  Several years ago we had a doe kid (first born of twins born to our alpine doe, Claire) who was delivered during a freakishly cold weekend in March and ended up with a frostbitten back leg.

On the other-hand, livestock having babies and increasing their family-size is the backbone of 4-H livestock projects.  To enable our 4-H’ers to grow their rabbit herds, we recently purchased 2 nest-box heaters for keeping litters warm until the babies grow fur (like rodents, baby rabbits are born bald.)  The mothers do pull fur to line their nests from their belly and sides, but if it is chilly and/or windy, this is often not enough and early litters are easily lost to exposure.

This year, we started off our 4-H projects by breeding Henry’s doe, Lady to his new blue Mini Rex buck, Slurpie, and Charles’ new doe, an albino New Zealand named Crystal, to his red buck, Lakota, in late Feb.  Lady delivered a nice all blue litter of 5 kits on March 26th.  Crystal kindled the day after, but had her 8 babies on the cage floor and lost them all to the cold.  Pa made a mistake in leaving her dead litter for me to see.  A rodent of some sort (out in the barn) ate the dead kits, then managed to get into Lady’s hutch and got her babies too.

The weekend after, we bred Lady’s daughter, Beauty, Henry’s castor-colored doe, Anna-Beth and Charles’ red doe and rebred Crystal. Two weeks prior to that, we had bred Charlotte to Slurpie and Blur to Lakota.  Both Charlotte and Blur are due to kindle next Saturday.

If all goes well, it will really get hopping around here.  As a side benefit, we should have a fabulous increase in rabbit manure to fertilize our garden  in the coming months of spring and summer.

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It’s Been a Long Time (Since Last Year’s Garden)

Wow, it has been far too long since I’ve made a new posting.  All of the computers in the house were broken for several months and our library (20 miles away) has a 30 minutes time limit per patron/per visit for internet usage. Unfortunately our twice a month trip to the library was barely enough computer-time to delete all the junk email from my inbox.

So, I deeply apologize for being completely out of touch for approx. 2 months or so there.

We’ve had a rather mild winter here in South Dakota once again. And I am wondering if we will have another drought summer with lots of grass- hoppers as we did last summer.  (However, our tomatoes and peppers really seemed to enjoy the hot summer weather last year.)  I say lots of grasshoppers, but of course it was NOTHING like the nearly Biblical Plague of Grasshoppers that Laura Ingalls Wilder describes in her book, On the Banks of Plum Creek… I can certainly be thankful for that.

We’ve started a few vegetable plants indoors already in our windowsills. Lettuce, Herbs and a few cherry-type tomatoes, all of which make good container garden plants. Toward the end of this month we will be getting the indoor mini greenhouse out of storage and setting up our grow lights and really getting busy starting our heirloom vegetable and flower transplants so they will be ready to set out in the garden this spring.

Varieties We plan to Grow in 2013: (Not a complete list, but a nice start of one.)

Beans: Gold Marie Vining (wax type pole bean), Royal Purple Pole, and Chinese Long Bean

Broccoli: Purple Sprouting and Romanesco

Carrots: Amarillo (yellow), Atomic Red (red), Cosmic Purple (purple), Snow White (white), plus an heirloom orange carrot

Cabbage: Red Express

Cauliflower: Cheddar, and both a green and a purple variety.

Celery: Red Re-Selection

Cucumbers: Dragon’s Egg, Boston Pickling, Uzebeski

Eggplant: Ping tung (very sweet elongated variety)

Popcorn: (the only corn we will grow this year) Dakota Black

Peppers: Lipstick, Chocolate Bell, Orange Bell, Yellow Bell, Red Bell, Green Bell, Mini Bell, Anaheim, Santa Fe, and Sweet Banana.

Pumpkins: Red Warty Thing, Cinderella, the pumpkin that looks like it’s covered in peanuts and a blue pie pumpkin that my grandmother always grew in Oregon.

Tomatoes: Black Prince (which we loved last year),  Black Icicle, Orange Icicle, Green Zebra, Chocolate Cherry, Yellow Pear (which come up wild here every summer), Pink Caspian and Nature’s Riddle to name a few.

*Traditional garden center hybrids like Better Boy and Early Girl have never really done well for us here on this farm, but many of the heirlooms we’ve tried have done very nicely on our farm here.  One notable exception to that was the “Mr. Stripey” plant I bought last year at the local big box store… it was the weirdest tomato plant I have every grown… huge plant with weird fuzzy leaves, lots of blossoms… but it never produced a single tomato fruit  despite plenty of bees and other pollinators(I am sure that other people do fabulously with this variety… it just never did anything for us, making me wonder if it’s not adapted to the Southern US or something?)

We’ll probably grown a dozen or two others, but I can’t remember them all off the top of my head.

The Adaptable Pumpkin Pie

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving y’all!

   The daily management of meals is complicated for families with multiple food allergens.  When the holidays arrive, the stresses of meal management multiply to seemingly a thousand-fold.  This year our holiday meal issues will include managing for the following foods issues: 2 people who are allergic to milk and bananas, 1 person who can’t eat foods with gluten, 1 person who’s allergic to soybeans and avocados, 1 person allergic to strawberries and 1 person who’s diabetic.  This traditional pair of Thanksgiving recipes is written toward persons with these food allergens and with substitution suggestions for the diabetic too.

A Little Schoolhouse On the Prairie Moment (aka An After-schooling Lesson):  Allow your children to help you with your holiday baking.  The youngest toddlers will have fun with a bowl and wooden spoon, older toddlers and preschoolers can help w/ cookie cutter decorations and stirring.  Older kids get an arithmetic lesson in measurements and fractions when they help measure and stir the ingredients together and can practice understanding temperature by setting the oven to preheat at the correct temperature.  Ask your teenagers/preteens to convert temps F to C and measurements to metric system for fun or research for the family the origins of various holiday foods to share this information with the family during the meal.

Traditional Pastry Crust

(A Gluten-Free/Soy-Free/Dairy-Free

adaptation of my grandmother’s pastry crust)

*This recipe makes a 2 crust pie or 2 one crust pie plus extra to be used for decoration

1 cup Spectrum Palm Shortening (or lard… grandma always used Crisco, plain or butter-flavored)

     *if using lard, chill it in the freezer for an hour or two prior to use.

 3 cups Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour blend w/ xanthan gum already in it (I like Jules Gluten-Free Flour or Namaste Perfect Blend flour) or more as needed

    *amount of flour needed will vary due to natural moisture in the flour blend and the type of “shortening” used, lard is softer and will need more flour to make a good crust, however, it’ll also make a little bit larger batch.

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cider or rice wine vinegar

Ice water

   Place  flour, salt and shortening in a large mixing bowl.  Cut the flour mixture into the shortening with a fork or pastry blender if doing it by hand.  I prefer a more mechanical method for the sake of speed.  I place these ingredients in the bowl of my Kitchen Aid stand mixer and cut the shortening into the flour using the whisk attachment.

Add the vinegar and mix well (many of the gluten-free recipes I have come across in the last 2 years for baking have contained a small amount of vinegar with the explanation that it helped somehow activate the xanthan gum that is used as a binder to replace gluten???  Not sure if that’s right or not, as what I know about xanthan gum is that it activates in most liquids, but I liked that the tiny amount of vinegar gave the crust some pleasing  flavor, as it was otherwise a little blah to me after using butter flavored Crisco for many years.)  Add the ice water very slowly by the teaspoonful, mixing well between additions.  You will find this recipe needs less liquid than your typical wheat-flour based pie crust, especially if you use lard in place of shortening.

Once mixed, divide dough into 2 portions.  Form into 2 discs and wrap in parchment or wax paper and chill dough for several hours in the fridge.

Remove from the fridge.  Line the surface on which you are rolling out your dough with parchment or waxed paper.  Sprinkle the paper with tapioca flour or cornstarch.  Place your disc of dough in the center of the paper and sprinkle this with tapioca or cornstarch too.  Place another piece of parchment or waxed paper on top.  Using your rolling pin, roll out dough into a thin sheet.  Remove the top layer of paper and gently lay your pie plate on top of the dough upside-down.  Carefully and gently flip the plate and dough over together.  Press the dough down into the pie plate gently then cut away excess dough with a knife.  Crimp or flute the edge of the pie using your favorite method.  Shapes may be cut out of excess dough using cookie cutters to place on the pie after it is filled with it’s filling.  Try leaves, pumpkins, acorns etc for Thanksgiving or stars, mittens, trees, reindeer etc. for Christmas.

*For a 2 crust pie, repeat the dough rolling instructions for the 2nd crust after filling the pie with it’s filling, then crimp or flute and decorate.

** For a pie shell that is to be filled with a chilled filling, place the  crust in the pie plate, prick crust w/fork to prevent air bubbles, then cover with foil and fill the crust with dried beans or pie weights.  Bake at 350 F for 20 to 30 minutes (depending on your oven).  Cool and fill with chilled filling or wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze for later use.

Traditional Pumpkin Pie

Gluten-Free/Casein-Free/Soy-Free

with low-sugar suggestions

Pie Filling:

1 (15 oz) can solid pack/pure pumpkin puree (or if you prefer, roast a pie or heirloom pumpkin in your oven, scoop out flesh and use this in place of canned pumpkin– directions to follow at the end of the post.)

1 cup sugar (or 1 cup Splenda/Sugar blend or 1 cup Stevia in the Raw, if using sugar substitutes, plan to keep this pie chilled in the fridge to prevent it from molding if making it ahead or if you have leftovers)

1 can (15 oz) coconut milk (unsweetened)

3 eggs

2-3 teaspoons ground cinnamon (to taste)

1 tsp.ground  allspice

1 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. ground cloves

1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg or mace

In a large mixing bowl, mix sugar (or substitute) and eggs with a whisk until well blended.  Add pumpkin puree and whisk until well blended. Pour in coconut milk and once again mix in very well with a whisk.  Stir in spices until thoroughly mixed.

Pour into your prepared pie crust.  Decorate top of your pie as desired, sprinkling top of decorative crust pieces with a little granulated sugar or colored sugar sprinkles for sparkle.  Bake at 350 F for approx. one hour (or maybe a little longer… you want to bake until the filling appears to have set up since this is a “custard” type pie) depending on your oven.  This crust does not brown quite as much as a wheat flour based crust, so personally, I’ve been able to skip the step of covering the edge of my crust with foil and baking at 2 different temperatures.

To Make Your Own Pumpkin Puree:

    Choose pie pumpkins or small to medium sized heirloom pumpkins (the green Jaradale and the light orange and dark red-orange “Cinderella” pumpkins are among my favorites for this).  Depending on your timing, you can cut the pumpkins in half, scoop out the seeds and place cut side down in a baking pan with a little water in it and bake for 30-60 minutes (depends on size of pumpkins) or until tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

OR

knock the stem off your pumpkin(s), wrap the whole pumpkin(s) fully in foil and heat your oven to 200 F, place wrapped pumpkin(s) on a cookie sheet(s) and place in the oven before going to bed, allow pumpkin(s) to slowly roast ovennight. Check to see they are tender first thing in the morning and remove from the oven to cool.  When cool enough to handle, cut in half and scoop out the seeds.

For both continue as follows…

Scoop out flesh with a large metal spoon and place into a large bowl or the bowl of your food processor (this may need to be done in several batches).  Mash puree by hand with a fork or potato masher or puree in a food processor.  Set aside the amount needed for your pie or other recipe.  Portion the rest out into 1 qt. freezer bags and freeze for later use.

This roasting, mashing and freezing process also works with other types of winter squash and is an excellent way to preserve the squash crop from your garden.  (Summer squashes can be grated raw and frozen for later use as well.)

We Want to Hear From You

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Well, this is our 20th blog post at Modern Pioneer Family!  We’ve been blogging almost a month now, so we’d love to know just what you, the readers are thinking!  We want to improve your reading experience.  Please take a few seconds to vote in our poll, so that we can bring you more of the posts that you will love most!

We are thinking of posting blog posts on our various topic catagories on different days.  Make them “regular features” here to keep us sort-of-organized.  We already have our Mystery Recipe Monday features.  Are  you all liking that one?  We are definitely going to start doing a middle of the month-ish, after the 4-H meeting recap and update on the Farmer Boys’ 4-H projects.

What else would you like to read about regularly?  Service Dog Saturdays with the K-9 Pioneers?  Lots more recipes for Gluten Free cooking?  How-to’s on fixing or building things with Pa and the Farmer Boys? Crafting and household how-to’s with Ma?  the Littlest Pioneer Girl’s lessons in grammar and vocabulary?

After a month, it’s time to find out what is going to bring you the readers, back for more? We always welcome your insights, questions and comments to our posts, and are especially looking forward to them when do a post like this one.

Besides, it’s an important election year, so we think it’s a good thing to practice voting… that way maybe we will all remember to vote in the Big Election this coming November.

*In other voting news, my Senator, John Thune, has a Bill before the Senate to stop the Labor Board from making it illegal for youth from working on their own family farms.  Please write, call or email your Senators and Congressional Representatives and ask them to support Senator John Thune’s Bill and the future of our rural youth. (Young pioneers of today grow up to become the leaders of tomorrow. In the uncertain days ahead of us, we will need strong, opinionated voices, well-developed leadership skills and a tireless work ethic… there is no better place for the modern young pioneer to learn these skills than “on the family farm” no matter how small or large that farmstead may be.)

Rain, Rain Please Don’t Go Away

(Shhhhh…The secret to perfect garden soil is…..Bunnies! Chickens! And Goats! Oh my!  Go ahead… Get Your Manure On!)

So,it rained early yesterday morning until about 10 am or so.  I hope it continues to do so off and on this spring, as it’s been such a dry winter in South Dakota.  Usually we get several feet of snow between Nov/Dec and April.  This year we’ve had less than 8 inches of winter precipiation… most of it ice rather than snow. (Of course after 3 spring/summers of heavy flooding, really doesn’t seem so bad.  But my farming neighbors with their traditional grain crops to plant seem somewhat concerned about having a drought summer… very bad for the corn and wheat crops particularly if we don’t get rain in May/June.  I don’t want to see food commodity prices going further out of control, as grocery prices are already so high, along with fuel and clothing too.)

I do wonder though that the neighbors GMO (roundup ready) corn doing less well, might actually be a good thing for us, if Pioneer Pa plants popcorn (quite the tongue-twister… lets say that 5 times fast) as one of our family’s crops this spring.  New to farming and gardening and wondering WHY?  Corn is a crop that utilizes wind to polinate and I’d rather not have the neighbors’ Monsanto patented Genetically Modified Organisms polinating my kids’ favorite snack.  My oldest child in particular seems very sensitive to GMO’s in his diet,  as seen by his increased stimming (self-stimulating) and increased echolia behaviors when he has regular (non-organic/traditional) cornmeal or corn syrup in his diet, but seems fine eating popcorn.  Popcorn as a crop has been less “tinkered with” than the startchy common dent corn that is used for human and animal feed purposes and ethanol production.  However, popcorn can and does cross-polinate with dent and sweet corn varieties if the wind and planting times are just-so.

If you are gardening (small urban/suburban farming) this year, just say no to the GMO’s.  Please plant open-polinated heirloom plant varities in your garden.  the more folks who do so and the more people who continue to save their own seeds from their crops, the better chance we have at keeping the genetic diversity and wholesomeness of our food supply.

Recently, Monsanto has been sueing small organic and heirloom farmers and gardeners for patent-infringement, when Monsanto’s GMO crops that were planted by these farmer’s neighbors contaminated the heirloom farmers crops.  Anybody who knows anything about an organic or heirloom farmer knows that WE DON’T WANT OUR CROPS CROSS-POLINATED BY MONSANTO’S GMO’s!  This is a well-duh sort of moment.  Anybody with half a brain can figure out that this situtation is completely backwards.  If anybody is being infringed on it’s the heirloom farmer, NOT an enormous multi-national seed conglomerate.  Seriously… shouldn’t Monsanto have thought about the possiblity of cross-polination by wind and insects PRIOR to tinker with and trying to patent life???

For more info on the fight back against Monsanto, check out some excellent articles on the subject and also the fight to get GMO’s labeled on foods from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds at www.rareseeds.com

K-9 Pioneers update:  At 24+ hours old, Shiny’s puppies are doing very well.  Mommy has lots of milk, is a very attentive mother and the pups are pleasingly plump.

Spring Is Sprung (Just a Little Early)

We Modern Pioneers, have had an eventful weekend.  Today, March 11th, 2012, marks the return of Daylight Savings Time here in South Dakota.  This will be a difficult adjustment for Mordern Pa and the 2 Farmer Boys, as they will have to start getting up and getting ready for school and work an hour earlier.  It won’t really affect the Littlest Pioneer Girl… babies are funny like that… if you can’t understand something as complex and weird (and currently pointless in my opinion) as Daylight Saving Time, then it has absolutely no bearing on you.  A baby sticks to the same schedule that is typical for that individual baby, regardless of where the numbers on the clock are set.

Yesterday we had a blessed event take place in our barnyard.  The advent of our 8th kidding season.  In the wee hours of  Saturday, March 10th, our 6 year old Toggenburg doe, Hokey Wolf’s Wilma (owned by our Farmer Boy Charles since March 2008), gave birth to a 9 lbs buck kid, sired by our Toggenburg buck, HDGD John-Christopher Sparrow (Johnny).  the boys have decided to name Wilma’s son Racer.

We also began preparing our garden for spring this weekend. For the last couple weekends, Pioneer Pa has been cutting pieces to size for raised garden beds out of plastic pallets he brought home from work to recylce for this purpose.  He built two such garden beds last summer and I would like to eventually add 8 to 12 more of them.  The black plastic of the pallets help to warm the soil and this is particularly useful for growning heat loving garden plants like tomatoes, peppers and melons in our quite short northern growning season, since warmer soil helps the plants grow more rapidly.  Working in the garden this weekend, we decided to build a new raised bed to a spot where a peony bush used to be but did not come back after being transplanted last spring.  In one of the existing 2 garden beds, I planted lettuce seed in this weekend (Iceburg and Black Seeded Simpson that we had left from last season’s garden), as this cool season crop needs to be in as soon as soil can be worked, so that it can be harvested before weather turns hot (very warm growing conditions caused plants in the lettuce and cabbage families to “bolt” or go to seed, rather than produce the crisp and delicious leaves and immature flowers (in the case of broccoli and cauliflower) that we harvest as foods.)  Much of the lettuce and cabbage crop families will be turned under in our garden beds around the end of May or first weeks of June to make way for tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers, herbs and melons.  In mid or late July, we may plant more of these “cool season” crops for a fall harvest, just before the frosts return.  As soon as the groud thaws out a little more, hopefully next weekend, we will reset the other existing raised bed so that  there is a wider aisle between most of the garden bed areas.

We also decided where and how we were going to space the new raised garden beds and our wide planting rows to facilitate using some of our chickens for weed control by pasturing them in our garden in moveable “chicken arks” or “chicken tractors” (so-called because the birds till the soil when they scratch about looking for weeds and bugs to eat and work their own manure into the garden soil).

Pa intends to buy a rototiller later this spring to facilitate breaking in some new ground to expand the garden.  Giving him a place to grow amaranth, milo (sorghum) and millet for gluten-free flour, popcorn, winter squash and pumpkins.  We will also be re-doing our garden fence this spring to keep the goats and calf out of the produce.

Saturday, during a trip to town for a bottle of propane for cooking and running the clothes dryer and for buying soy formula for the baby, we stopped in at the local farm & feed store.  The children had great fun looking at the baby chicks and young rabbits, this got the boys into the mood of helping to decide what kinds of chicks and ducklings we should think of purchasing to refresh our flock.  We will be starting some new pullets (young female chickens) soon to replace the more aged hens, since most of our flock is between 3 and 5 years old now.  We plan to put the oldest hens (most of which are Pa’s Cuckoo Maran hens (lay a very dark brown egg) and Americuna’s (lay a green egg)  in the chicken arks in the garden along with our roosters and get a new incubator in order to hatch some of our own replacement chicks from specific breeds or breed crosses.  Pa wants to purchase some Light Brahma pullets, as these are supposed to be good winter layers (unlike our current hens, although being feather-footed, Brahmas are often poor layers in the heat of summer). I would like to get some dark cornish chicks (from which I may keep a few roosters, the females will probably go into the freezer as Cornish Game Hens for roasting and cooking purposes) and some White Rock pullets, so that next spring we can produce our own sex-linked (chicks that can be gender sorted by color at hatching) broiler or roaster chicks that can be pastured.  (Traditional white feathered Cornish-Rock cross “broiler” chicks that can be purchased at feed stores, from most poultry catalogs are the same as those grown by Tyson Foods… chicks that grow so rapidly that they are unable to walk even a few feet and are completely unsuitable for a pastured growing system.)  The boys are planning to get both a few chicks of their own and some ducklings, but aren’t sure what kind they want yet.

This evening will be spent pouring over poultry catalogs and online poultry websites deciding which birds and how many we will be adding to the barnyard this season.  Some of our favorite poultry websites are: www.cacklehatchery.com and  www.mcmurryahtchedry.com.

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