Tag Archives: food preservation

It’s Autumn!!!


There is this wonderful scene from Pooh’s Grand Adventure (persevere through the advertisement!) that perfectly captures my feelings about this time of year.

“It’s Autumn!”

“Hot chocolate-y mornings and toasty marshmallow evenings indeed!”

Summer is hot and bright and the day is filled to the brim with endless tasks on the farm.  After the sogginess of spring it is a warm and welcome relief to be planting, weeding, and eating the early harvest of new greens and sweet berries.  Seems that there just isn’t enough daylight for the tasks before you.

Autumn brings the fruits of your labor.  Like the ant, endlessly preparing for the winter to come I am grinding through canning and preserving.  Right now the harvest is in full swing, canning and pickling and freezing and butchering and storing.   About the middle of October someone will mention putting something up in jars and I think to myself that I just can’t do one more batch.  Just can’t. Lost my will to can.  Do not have to fill EVERY jar.

Then it is done.  The frost hits the pumpkins, rain starts and harvest is finished.  The endless trips down the stairs to the basement canning pantry with full jars and the commensurate number of trips upstairs with boxes of empty jars – wide mouth quarts for pickles, peaches and tomatoes, narrow mouth for grape juice and apple cider – it just stops.  And then, a reversal happens and suddenly the full jars are coming back upstairs – two, three, four at a time – to make stew, soup, chili and other warm, comforting meals for cold, dark, winter nights.

Autumn is also a busy time for local farm with pumpkin patches and corn mazes.  Great article in the Sun the other day about Kenneth Jensen’s B-17 Corn Maze in Poulsbo. For a list of other harvest related activities in Kitsap check out the Kitsap Visitor and Convention Bureau’s Harvest Festival Page!  Farmer’s markets will all run through mid-October.  Bainbridge and Poulsbo markets have extended winter seasons through December for holiday shopping so even if you didn’t plant a garden you can still enjoy the bounty of the season!

Gimpy Farmer

Q:  What happens when a farmer with a bad knee chases pigs through the garden?

A:  A farmer with a torn ACL!

Now, if this were a real joke the punchline would be funny rather than painful!!  Why was I chasing the pigs through the garden?  Because they were out of the pen and having a joyful, if short-lived piggy frolic through the fall plantings!!

Last Wednesday reminded me of several things…the importance of latching the gates, how much damage livestock can do in a relatively short period of time, how quickly hogs can move when motivated, that pride cometh before the fall, and the fine and perilous line between health and injury.

On Tuesday I took some pictures of the garden to share with friends because while it was a bit weedy it was producing like gang-busters.  Tomatoes, potatoes, beets, onions, corn, basil, cucumbers, peppers…the list goes on and on!  I was putting up pickles like crazy, making pesto with the basil, freezing gallons of green beans – and in one quick trip through the garden the cows and the hogs took care of all that.

Cucumber patch
Morning harvest
My laying flock – and the Rooster!
The flea-bitten, bad-smelling, egg-sucking farm dog in the penalty box after running through the garden…yet again!
Green beans (foreground), lettuce, cabbage, beets, basil, onions, peppers and celery (bit of random planting toward the end!)
Broccoli and corn

What?  Cows too??

Yes.  When I got up early Wednesday morning the cows were standing in the front of the house having spent an hour or so trampling things down and mowing through most of the beets, green beans and corn.  With a little cajoling and bribing with grain the girls went back in their pasture, I got the chores done and went on with my day.  THEN, right before dinner and in the aftermath of the bovine invasion, hubby looked out and said, “Are the hogs supposed to be in the chicken pen??”  The answer of course is “NO!” We dashed out and herded the hogs back to their pen.  A couple thoughts about big hogs: capable of short bursts of high speed, they are short on stamina and quickly get hot and tired.  Pretty soon they just want to go back to their wallow and cool off!  Before they get there they can make you dodge and run a bit – which is when the torn ACL happened.  The hogs zigged, I zagged, and my knee didn’t so I ended up hobbling back to the house for an ice pack.

Convalescing helps with the pain but my mobility is still pretty compromised and I will find out on Monday if surgery is in my future.  In the mean time teenager #3 is doing most of the chores, including milking and feeding the chickens, in addition to her own chores. Regretfully, this solution isn’t sustainable as she starts OC next week and won’t have time to milk in the morning before school.  To deal with my limitations we are working on getting rid of the hogs a couple weeks early (okay – tomorrow!) the flea-infested, egg-sucking farm dog is going to the groomer tomorrow so I don’t have to wrestle her into the tub and I am working on finding a temporary home for one of the cows.  I can milk but it takes forever because I move very slowly!  Snail’s pace!

As I make calls and get offers of help with milking and chores from other farmer friends I am very touched by the out-pouring of compassion and concern. I have also spent lots of time thinking about what would happen if I was farming full-time.  I have several other off-farm jobs, including my gig at WSU Extension, most of which can be done sitting down.  And, more importantly, we have one full-time off-farm income with good benefits and health insurance.  As a full-time farmer I would be hard pressed to take time to recover properly.  Cows need to be milked and hay needs to be cut.  By way of illustration, one of our hay growers took a fall off a horse last summer and broke his pelvis and one leg.  His neighbors cut and stacked his second cutting hay and his father-in-law did all his irrigation for the remainder of the season.  We saw him in October and he was still limping badly but he could get up on a tractor and do his own farming again.  It was a significant challenge for his family and they are still digging out from the medical bills – and his wife works for the local school district s they actually had medical benefits.

A frequent comment about farming in Kitsap is that it is “Part-time” and while that is a valid observation – this isn’t solely a Kitsap phenomenon.  Nationally, 85-95% of farms have off-farm income.  Kitsap merely mirrors the trend nationally.  Reasons for off-farm income are varied – but many farmers I know rely upon off-farm jobs for health insurance.  Given that farming is one of the most dangerous industries,  the importance of medical coverage can’t be understated.  As more and more young people enter agriculture (which is great given that 60% of farmers in the US is over 55) the trend of relying upon off-farm income is going to continue.

The next time you are thanking a farmer for feeding you, wish them good health as well.  They can use it!!


Seduce Me (with safety!)

Making Peach Pickles today (see the recipe from “So Easy to Preserve” below) because that is one does this time of year when you have green peaches and don’t want to wait for them to ripen because you MUST can something!


Peach Pickles


8 pounds peeled peaches
2 tablespoons whole cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon ginger
6¾ cups sugar
1 quart vinegar
4 sticks cinnamon (2 inches long)

Method: Wash and peel peaches with a sharp knife, and drop into a cold solution of ½ teaspoon ascorbic acid and 2 quarts water. Dissolve sugar in vinegar in saucepot and put on range to heat. Boil 5 minutes and skim. Add spices (tied loosely in cheesecloth). Drain peaches. Drop drained peaches into boiling syrup and cook until they can be pierced with a fork, but are not yet soft. Remove from range and allow peaches to set in syrup overnight to plump. Bring to a boil and pack into hot jars, leaving ½-inch headspace. Cover with syrup, maintaining the ½-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe jar rims. Adjust lids. Process 20 minutes in boiling water bath. Yields about six pint jars.

This extension-tested recipe is safe for home canning if the directions are followed.  But it is sort of boring – it makes me wonder if there isn’t something more.  I miss the days when community recipe books said things like:

“According to Mrs. Ina Mae Jones of Petersburg, these pickled peaches are a perfect accompaniment for roast pork and delightful on ice cream.  Her bridge club is clamoring for the recipe!”

If the bridge club is clamoring then this is something that I MUST make!  It seduces and entices me – I can envision the pork roast on a beautifully appointed table with a gleaming jar of beautiful golden pickled peaches bringing a bit of sunshine to a dark winter meal.  Oh, wait, that is just what the blog post will look like!!  The reality is quite different – at least at my house!  I also recognize that however glamorous and attractive the cookbook or blogger makes a dish or recipe sound, if it isn’t safe for my family then I want nothing to do with it!

WSU Food Safety trained me – vigorously I might add – in safe and appropriate procedures to preserve all manner of foods at home.  I am anointed by The Mother Ship (WSU Pullman) to provide information and answer questions about all home preservation and food safety issues using APPROVED MATERIALS.  These are defined as anything that was tested for safety (for processing time and preservation method) by the National Center for Home Food Preservation or any Extension program dated 2010 or later.  We are not able to teach classes or certify volunteers in a Master Food Preserver program because our office (WSU Kitsap) does not have a food science or food safety faculty member on staff.  Right now there are only four counties with a food safety faculty member – which is about par with the rest of the nation. Shifting priorities within the national land grant university system in general and extension programming in particular 15-20 years ago moved resources from traditional home economic and natural resource faculty (food safety, clothing and textiles, agriculture) into economic development and youth and family since folks weren’t cooking, canning, sewing, and farming as much as in the 40s and 50s.  Like all large institutions this change took place slowly and over a decade or so and was combined with regionalization of programming in an age of cost cutting, changing the face of extension considerably.

The problem?

A few years back we had this little economic downturn and families and individuals returned to many of those tried and true ways to save money in tough times – cooking, canning, sewing, gardening, farming – and not only did they start to do those things – but they started to BLOG about it!!  Many folks tried to pick up traditional food preservation and canning skills after their families had taken a couple generations off.  Lacking experienced teachers and taking the lead from the explosion of DIY and cooking shows folks started trying new things and tweaking recipes not realizing that the principles of safe home food preservation are based upon the acidity of the product being canned.  Low acid foods CAN NOT be processed safely in a water bath canner.  So, that onion jam recipe that looks so tasty?  It can’t be safely preserved – you can make it and keep it in the fridge – but don’t can it!  When Martha Stewart makes jam and seals it with paraffin?  Run away!  Use the jar labels but not the food preservation advice!  Someone gives you Grandma’s cookbook?  Put it up on the shelf along side those vintage kitchen tools – it will be a nice decorator touch.   I know that this may hit close to home for some because often if I suggest that using a recipe from 1940 might not be safe in an online forum, a Facebook flame-war errupts as everyone weighs in with “I have been doing it this way for years and we are fine!!!”  My response is often: “If your doctor pulled out a medical book from the 1940s as his major resource in treating cancer for you or a member of your family, what would you do??”

So, what are you to do if you have a question about a recipe or need food preservation or food safety questions answered?  Extension is online and here to help!   Check out the WSU Kitsap Food Products page for links to all of all the extension publications containing safe and tested recipes for a wide range of home preservation.  Check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation for recipes and tips.  Or, give us a call at 360-337-7026 and leave a brief message.  We will get back to you within 24 hrs if possible.  If you are right in the middle of a project and need help NOW you can tap into the resources of our neighbors to the south and call the OSU Food Safety/Preservation Hotline at 1-800-354-7319.  It is staffed from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from July 15 to Oct. 11.  In 2012 they responded to about 3,500 calls from consumers!

Happy (and safe) canning!

Grocery Shopping

GroceriesI went grocery shopping the other day.  And, I spent more than $100.  That isn’t a big deal – it is just that I don’ t do it very often.   My grocery bill is typically $30-50 a month for food – and another $50 or so for other essentials like TP and shampoo.  That isn’t much considering that the “average” family spends between $150 – $290 a WEEK according to the USDA.  Why is our bill so much lower than the national average?  Mostly because we plant and grow our own veggies, raise meat and eggs, preserve our bounty, process in the home dairy and cook at home.   Simply put, we produce more than we consume.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, my feed bill is not inconsequential.  I spent $240 at the feed store last month and I do get the hay pretty cheap ($195 last month) but that still puts our food costs at about 25-50% of the cost of the average family.

Which begs the question — is there really that much savings in fermenting your own pickles??

I guess so.  I mean, we do ferment our own pickles (there are 2 gallons of cucs in brine sitting on the counter right now and if the kitchen wasn’t such a mess I would snap a picture for the blog!), preserve jams, jellies, green beans, salsa, tomatoes, grape and apple juice, apple sauce, and pickles, and make our own yogurt, butter and cheese…which is a bit more “Pioneer Woman” than most folks.  But we don’t make EVERYTHING.  This should be pretty obvious since there are s’more fixin’s and potato chips on my receipt!  I am thrifty, but not insanely DIY enough to make my own marshmallows no matter how easy that America’s Test Kitchen says it is.  You will also notice that there are potato chips (You MUST have potato chips for a BBQ!) and a couple loaves of bread on there – because I haven’t had time to bake bread lately.  Like I said, we are thrifty – but not Amish!

So what is the single thing that saves us the most $$$ on our food budget?  I cook at home and I make most meals from scratch.  Snacks are homemade (chocolate zucchini bread anyone??) and ingredients are fresh, local or homegrown, and unprocessed.  Simple.  But time consuming at times because we are more scratch than most.  Take my lasagna for example  The cow is days away from calving so we are a little light on milk right now, but I love to make lasagna because is uses 5 gallons of milk!   The mozzarella cheese takes three gallons and with the left-over whey and two more gallons of whole milk I make the ricotta.  Then, a pound of hamburger and a pound of ground pork (from our own beef and hogs), canned tomatoes (from the garden), garlic, onion (ditto!) in the sauce and the only store bought input at this point is the lasagna noodles.  My recipe makes two 9×13 pans of lasagna – which should be at least  four meals unless I am feeding the hay crew dinner.  Pop one pan into the freezer for another day and I have  a couple of cheap, quick meals for busy nights down the road.

The real cost of this kind of cooking and lifestyle?  My time.

One can feel just a bit like the “Little Red Hen” (I milked the cow, I made the cheese, I assembled the lasagna…) because it is time and labor intensive.  Is this the most efficient use of my time?  Perhaps not when one looks at the cost of a pan of frozen lasagna in the grocery store or Costco.  Is my time really worth only $9.99 for a whole day’s work?  Depends upon your perspective.  At the same time I am making the lasagna I am building relationships with my children who work with me, passing on skills that many have forgotten or never learned, and making a conscious decision about the value of producing rather than consuming.

“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” ~ Albert Einstein


Plan to Can?

BI Q&A FLier

WSU Small Farms Team is here to help!   The Bainbridge Grange has invited us for a Home Canning Q&A  on August 13th at 7:00pm!  The grange is located at 10340 Madison Ave NE, Bainbridge Island.  Topics covered will include basic canning principles, water bath vs. pressure canning, types of equipment, and approved recipes and resources.  Pressure gauge testing will be available at the workshop for $5.00. Whether you are just getting started or would like to update your knowledge of home food preservation, join us and learn!

If you can’t make it to the workshop WSU is available to answer food safety and preservation questions by e-mail or phone.  Contact Diane Fish (dfish@wsu.edu) or call the Small Farms Program at 360-337-7026.   Online food preservation and safety information is available on the WSU Kitsap Extension website (http://county.wsu.edu/kitsap/agriculture/food/Pages/default.aspx).   Pressure gauge testing is available by appointment for a $5.00 fee.  Gauges should be tested annually.


Marinated Mushrooms!

A couple weeks back farm girl friend Shannon and I took a little road trip to the mother ship (WSU Pullman) for a food safety adviser and preservation workshop.  Along with 33 other folks from all over the state we were the first group in almost 10 years to receive food preservation training from WSU.  We can now answer questions and share resources about food preservation so give our office a call (360-337-7026) if you need some help preserving the harvest!  But, I digress.  One thing that we did while we were there was practice canning, pickling and preserving!   My favorite recipe of the week?  Marinated mushrooms!!  So, this week I was at the local grocery store and they had beautiful button mushrooms on sale.  What is a girl going to do but buy FIVE pounds of mushrooms and pickle ’em.

I cracked a jar and had some with steak on Sunday night and ate the leftovers for breakfast this morning.  I am thinking they would be divine with an antipasto plate.  Time for some fresh mozzarella!  Now, there are lots of variations on the web – but when canning it is important to use tested recipes from approved sources.  If it is an extension publication, published by the USDA or shows up in the Ball Blue Book you are good to go.  If your recipe is from a blog, just say “Whoa!”  It is crucial to have proper acidity and processing method and time for home-canned goods to be safe for your family.

Here is my recipe for Marinated Whole Mushrooms (from “So Easy to Preserve” from the University of Georgia)

  • 5 pounds small whole mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup bottled lemon juice
  • 2 cups olive or salad oil (I used olive)
  • 2 1/2 cups white vinegar (5%)
  • 1 TBSP dried oregano
  • 1 TBSP dried basil
  • 1 TBSP salt (canning and pickling salt!)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup diced pimiento
  • 2 cloves of garlic, cut into quarters
  • 25 black peppercorns
Select very fresh unopened mushrooms with caps less than 1 1/4 inch in diameter.  Wash and trim stems to 1/4 inch.  Add lemon juice and water until covered and bring to a boil.  Simmer 5 minutes.  Drain mushrooms.  Mix remaining ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Fill jars with mushrooms and hot, well-mixed oil and vinegar solution (I ended up layering my mushrooms and mixture so that all the onions/pimientos weren’t on the top of the jar).  Leave 1/2 inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles and wipe jar rims.  Adjust lids.  Process for 20 minutes in a boiling water bath.  This recipe makes 10 half pints.

The Dark Days Challenge

The 2012 Dark Days Challenge is upon us.  Shannon, who is more motivated to participate in these sort of things than I, signed us up.  And then today, she had a dinner failure.  So, it falls to me to keep our end up.  Good thing that we had a decent dinner tonight.  Those Sundays when we eat left-overs, chips and salsa and scrambled eggs for dinner don’t really make for a very convincing blog about sustainable, local or organic meals….all winter long.

During late summer and early fall the blog world is full of folks posting about eating local, 100-mile diets, 100-foot meals…ad infinitum.  Now, I am not a complete zealot like the 100-mile folks.  I am not going to run down to Scenic Beach and dip water out of the Hood Canal to evaporate and make sea salt.  We grow and raise about 90% of what we eat and I cook from scratch much of the time – which upon reflection makes me sound sort of Amish which isn’t the case (the bonnet not withstanding) – but let’s just say we are less dependent upon the grocery store than the average family.

Frankly, during that time of year I am too busy canning, freezing, picking, weeding, feeding, milking, and mucking to blog about what we are eating.  I think about blogging a lot while I am doing those things!  But until they develop the technology for me to plug a USB port unto my ear and download all those great blog posts composed in my head it isn’t happening.  The really interesting thing about those days in the garden and nights canning and freezing is that I am doing all the time consuming and hard work associated with warm winter meals.  Beans frozen in August take minutes to heat for dinner in December.  Tomatoes blanched and canned in September make pasta dishes in minutes for mid-week meals – garlic harvested in July is Fettuccine Alfredo when I have  a yen for something rich and creamy.

So, as we kick off the “Dark Days Challenge” I thought it would be interesting to go back in time and take a look at the genesis of tonight’s dinner!

The menu –

  • Pork Chops – the last of the chops from a hog butchered last spring.  We buy piglets from a neighbor, fatten them on extra milk and grain and butcher about twice a year.  We don’t buy any extra meat and eat out of our freezer all the time so we go through a whole hog, half a beef, 20 or so broilers and 10-15 stewing hens a year.
  • Smashed red potatoes – from the garden with fresh cream and salt and pepper.
  • Milk gravy – pan drippings, milk and Shepherd’s Grain Washington grown white flour!
  • Sauerkraut with apples and onions – we had great plans to collaborate on the ‘kraut this summer but the day we were planning on doing it I got side-tracked so Shannon made it.  She jump-started the fermentation with whey from some homemade yogurt and it has a wonderful zing to it.  The King apples were picked at my mom’s house right before Thanksgiving and the onions were from the garden.  I season it with a bit of brown sugar, pepper and caraway and saute until caramelized.  Very tasty.
  • Applesauce – from Mom’s apples.  I typically can 15-20 jars – need to get around to doing that.
  • Pickles – dutch spears made from the abundant cucs we planted last spring.  This is a refrigerator pickle recipe that I got from The Joy of Pickling.  I only made a few because I didn’t know if we would like them.  Need to make more next year!  Sweet, tart and spicy!
  • Green beans – from the garden.
  • Milk – from Ellie
  • Raspberry Juice – from the berry patch

And the best part about this meal?  It was a meal eaten around our family table with my husband and children, we were truly grateful for the bounty of our life, and were able to talk and laugh as we enjoyed the fruits of our labor.  Regardless of whether your food comes from 100 miles or 1000 miles from your home, if you are unable to eat with the people you love, they are dark days indeed!

Giving Thanks

Early this summer I posted about the busy-ness of farm life in the summer.  Now that we are in late fall there is much less going on but there is still some activity.  Here is a sampling of what happened this week on the farm.

We got a new rooster the other day.  Until now we have only had roosters on a temporary basis.  When you raise chickens straight-run (from eggs instead of buying them at the feed store) at least half of the flock will be roosters.  But, on our farm – when they crow, they go – straight into the freezer!  However, a good rooster takes care of the hens in his flock.  He will call them to tasty tidbits, send out the alarm when predators come around and for natural flock behavior hens need a rooster.  So when Shannon ended up with an extra roo this year we offered to take him.  Foggy (a nod to Foghorn Leghorn!) is a handsome fellow with golden plumage and a dark brown tail.  Perhaps we will have some chicks in the spring if we get a broody hen!

Time for once a day milking!  Alexis has been dried up for about a month now, Ellie is on her way.  We went out of town for Thanksgiving after morning milking so Ellie is now down to once a day milking.  She is still giving almost two gallons a day, most of which is going to Frank.  He is the bucket calf we got last summer after I had a moment of insanity and bought a second cow!  Originally the plan was to just graft him on to Alexis and let her raise him so I only had to milk one cow.  After two weeks of tying up a homicidal and unwilling mother cow twice a day while he nursed to make sure she didn’t kill him outright, I decided that I would rather spend 5 minutes milking her than 20 minutes watching her.  Frank took to the bucket like a champ and is growing nicely.  He is scheduled to go into the freezer with the hogs in a couple of weeks.  Everyone is appalled that I am going to process a veal calf because there has been so much press around animal welfare issues on veal but  Frank is not locked-in-a-box-in-the-dark veal.  He is running-around-the-pasture-drinking-milk-being-a-nuisance veal.  We also need to have fewer animals in our pasture during the winter to keep down the mud and because both cows are going to calve in March, Frank has to go.  Besides, by Christmas there will be no more milk.

We enjoyed Thanksgiving with family.  My contribution was PIE.  I spent the last week making apple pie filling with Shannon.  I put 15 quarts in the canning pantry and I think she ended up with about 12 quarts.  I still need to do some apple sauce but that is it for canning for this year.  I called my sister-in-law all excited about the prospect of bringing an apple pie – only to have her say, “…and I will be making apple and pumpkin so how about you bring something else!”  So, I brought Pecan, lattice-topped Cherry, and Chocolate Silk Pies.  The chocolate silk pie was a last minute addition because I had extra pie crust and have been on a pudding binge lately.  When you have gallons of extra milk you get creative – and a batch of pudding uses 2 quarts of milk!  My recipe is adapted from one I found on Culinate for Creamy Chocolate Pudding.  I make a triple batch with whole Jersey milk and omit the butter (there is a limit to how much fat one needs!)  For pie filling I add a bit more corn starch than the recipe calls for and the resulting pudding is more like chocolate ganache than pudding.  It is dense, chocolatey, smooth and creamy.  Heaven!   I brought home leftovers of the pecan and cherry, but the chocolate was GONE!  Our turkey dinner will be either Sunday or Monday depending upon when my bird is defrosted.  Sooner would be better than later because it is taking up precious fridge space but I am willing to wait for turkey leftovers!

My mom’s firewood is finally done and in the woodshed.  After 40 years of heating with wood I keep thinking that she will give up and get a pellet stove.  After all, she will be 78 this year and doesn’t get around as well as she used to.  But, no!  Last year when her woodstove died she bought – you guessed it – another woodstove.  Because she has a small house she has a small stove – with a 14″ woodbox.  This means that we need to make sure that the wood is cut small enough and the pieces are well split.  Every year we put her wood up, and every year we wait until it starts raining.  This year was no exception.   But, the wood is in and she will be warm this winter.  My kids used to grumble about helping split and stack 3 cords of wood but now they are older and appreciate the chance to help their grandma.  It is gratifying to see my grown kids serving others and reaching out!

Our family is blessed by a bountiful life and at this time of year we are very conscious of our fortune.  We have a full pantry and freezer after a summer and fall of “putting up” from the farm and garden.  Our children are growing up to be generous and capable people.  We are part of a wonderful community of farm friends and others who enrich our life.  We have good health, a comfortable home and stable jobs in a time when many don’t have those blessings.

As we approach the holiday season, I try and keep in mind that the most important things in life aren’t really things at all.  We try and give experiences for gifts but if you are going to give this year, be farm-friendly.  Several local farms offer CSA’s or Farm Share programs and I can think of nothing better than the promise of fresh veggies during the depths of winter.  The local farmer’s markets have extended their season so you can still buy gifts from local vendors.  And for the kiddos on your list there are a couple books that are favorites around here and help children learn more about farm life.


Seems lately that most of the things I do happen by moonlight (or Moooo-nlight as the cows would say!)  As summer comes to and end and the days get shorter there just doesn’t seem to be enough daylight for me to accomplish all the things on the list.  Milking by moonlight has become a common affair, as well as doing the rest of the chores.  At our house evening chores consist of putting the chickens to bed, including rounding up the few that feel the need to roost on the apple trees in the orchard rather than in the safety of the coop.  Then, we milk and feed the cows, give the calf some milk and tend to the hogs.   Milking is fairly straight forward, taking about 5-7 minutes per cow on a good day, but it doesn’t take much to upset the girls and slow things down.  Cows are really creatures of habit; they thrive on constancy and change upsets them.  Elinor gets milked first, followed by Alexis.  They greedily race out of the field and into the milking shed in anticipation of the grain in the feeder – unless I have forgotten to toss the grain in, or if someone is visiting and decides to watch me milking, or if there is a wayward chicken in the feeder, or if a truck is running in the hay barn…and the list goes on.  Any of the aforementioned things can throw the cows into a tizzy resulting in them ducking out of the milking shed and ending up in the middle of the barnyard, sans lead rope and halter, while I frantically try to entice them back with a bucket of grain.  As you can imagine, this is much easier in the daylight.  Fewer shadows to spook the cows, and they are easier to see in the daylight as they run around the yard!  Fortunately, we have never had to chase them back from the road, and they are pretty easily coaxed back by their fundamental greed for grain.  After one of these merry chases, they will fuss and squirm during washing up and milking, taking forever to let milk down and dancing around during the process as well.  After all, they don’t get out much and a gallop around in the moonlight tends to get one all worked up – even if you are a cow!  After we are done milking we feed Frank(enfurter) the bucket calf and give the remaining milk to the hogs.  Frank was supposed to be grafted on to Alexis so I would only have to milk one cow, but apparently she has NO interest in being a foster parent, and after two weeks of trying to overcome her homicidal (bovicidal?) tendencies while he nursed, I gave up and he now drinks from the bucket.  This isn’t to say that he doesn’t persist in trying to nurse on the girls when he is out in the field with him, but they treat him like a very large, black and white spotted fly; they kick and swat at him until he goes away.  I don’t let him out with them very often because he is so annoying that they end up exhausted from running away from him.

Other late night activities at our house?  Snapping and blanching green beans, making freezer jam, canning pickles, processing peaches and tomatoes, and making salsa.  Seems that by the time you spend all day picking beans, berries and cucs and working on the farm, the only time left to preserve and process is after the sun goes down!  So, after all the outside chores are done, we clear off the kitchen table, dump a 5-gallon bucket of beans on it, turn on a good movie and the entire family snaps beans.  It is something I remember doing as a child, and I am sure my kids will have similar memories.   In talking to Shannon, apparently having a “family snap” wasn’t unique, though she remembers doing it while watching sports on TV!  Involving your kids in food preservation is a good way to start them off right eating seasonally and locally.

If you want to learn more about food preservation by moonlight (or even by daylight!) check out our newest series of classes.  We are partnering with the Kitsap YMCA to offer a fall canning series.  Follow this link for registration information.  If you want to learn more about sustainable farming (mostly during daylight hours!) WSU Kitsap Small Farms team is offering the Sustainable Farming and Ranching Class beginning on September 29th.  Information on this class is on the web at http://county.wsu.edu/kitsap/Documents/2011_Small%20Acreage%20Flier%20and%20Registration-%20Silverdale.pdf.  Learn what it takes to have a sustainable small acreage farm or ranch and take a realistic look at goals, resources needed and opportunities available. Guest farmers speak to the class and field trips are taken to local farms. Open to academic students and community members for continuing education units.


Are you Hip?

Shannon and I talk to people all over the county and beyond about what we do and everyone has advice for us about what classes we should offer (it is sort of like being pregnant actually!)  After looking at all the requests, and discarding some of the more unusual (do people REALLY want to learn how to make their own shoes??) we put together our summer/fall offering.  In keeping with the national trend toward sustainable lifestyles and looking back at cool skills that are still relevant today, we put together what we think represents a pretty cool offering!

So, grab a gal or guy friend and join the WSU Kitsap Small Farms Team this summer in a  six-week adventure exploring the tricks and techniques to living a more satisfying and sustainable lifestyle!  Whether you want to preserve the best of the berry season with jams and jellies, take your home brewing to the next level, conquer your fear of pressure canning, make creamy fresh cheeses, learn soap-making, or your mission is to preserve the crunchiest pickle, Hip Homesteading has something for you!

Thursday Classes  10 am—1 pm

  • July 7th—Jammin’ ~ Make delicious jams and jellies
  • July 21st— Cheesemaking ~ Fresh cow and goat milk cheeses
  • July 28th—In a Pickle ~ Crisp and crunchy pickles and relishes
  • August 4th— Soap Making ~ Sweet-scented delights for the bath and body
  • August 11th- Under Pressure ~ Pressure canning and preserving low-acid foods

Fieldtrip:  Thursday, July 14th 6pm—9pm ~ Homebrewin’ @ the Slippery Pig Brewery with Brewmaster Dave Lambert

Monday Evening Classes  6pm—9pm

  • July 11th— Cheesemaking ~ Fresh cow and goat milk cheeses
  • July 25th—Jammin’ ~ Make delicious jams and jellies
  • August 1st—In a Pickle ~ Crisp and crunchy pickles and relishes
  • August 15th—Soap Making ~ Sweet-scented delights for the bath and body

All Classes are held at the Silverdale Community Center, except for Homebrewin’ which will be taught at: Slippery Pig Brewery, Finn Hill Rd, Poulsbo WA  98370.   Cost is just $35 per class, and as always 4H and FFA youth are FREE.

Register Online at: http://county.wsu.edu/kitsap/(click on “Calendar”) or by mail: WSU Extension Kitsap Small Farms Team, 345 Sixth Street, Ste. 550, Bremerton, WA 98337. For more information contact: Shannon Harkness at shannon.harkness@wsu.edu or (360) 337-7026.