Iiiiiii don’t want to work, I just want to play in the dirt all day…

You’re welcome, by the way, for that earworm.

But onto more pressing matters, like how am I supposed to weed my garden when I am sitting at my desk???

How are transplants supposed to become plants without plentiful, rich soil not clogged with overgrown grass?

And then of course there are all the animals we want to play with – we have added laying hens to our Urban Homestead this year – although my cousin SWEARS one of our pullets is a cockerel.  This is a total bummer, as he/she is our favorite one.

chick on michael

We will cross that bridge when we come to it.

 

 

Soup Season

It is October 29th and for some bizarre reason it is 65 degrees out today. It is blazing hot in my house right now. But it wasn’t the other day! And I was finally able to make my butternut squash soup again. This recipe was inspired by Shaye Elliot’s Lentil Soup. Google her. For realz.

Our garden had several “volunteer” Butternut Squash plants this year, so we have an abundance! These were the Waltham Squash Variety. You can order those here. We purchased ours at the local Comstock Ferre (such a fun family trip!)

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These were the first squash we had show up. Such a beautiful plant. Drought resistant, thank goodness, because this summer was hot and dry!

We planted five and had another six or seven plants show up! And our bees pollinated like crazy.

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Here is the first harvest. I did harvest several more which were still a little green before the cold set in. Needless to say, we will be eating a lot of squash this winter.  This awesome soup recipe is one way we really enjoy this winter bounty.  I will occasionally throw in an apple or two if there are some lying around.  I did try adding a little sugar pumpkin but that was a little too starchy for my families liking. We won’t do that again.

Enjoy!

Butternut Squash Soup –1 hour prep time

Ingredients

Three medium sized Butternut squash, roasted.

3 Quarts of stock (chicken or vegetable – I have used both)

1 stick butter

1 cup olive oil

I large yellow onion

1 shallot or clove of garlic

(an Apple or two – optional)

3 Tablespoons fresh rosemary chopped fine

3 Tablespoons fresh thyme off the stem

Dash of red pepper flakes

1 Tablespoon sea salt

1 Tablespoon black pepper

The Day before

Roast butternut squash face down on an oiled pan – I do them on my grill, they get a nice smoky flavor. Don’t mind the char, it adds nice flavor to the soup. Leave on the counter overnight to cool and sweat. This makes is so much easier to get the skins off the squash.

The Day of Soup

Peel the skins off of the squash, fork mash the squash.

Slice onions and shallots/garlic

Melt stick of butter in the olive oil on the lowest heat possible, you don’t want to scald the butter. Once melted add the sliced onions and shallots. Sweat these, until translucent, then increase the heat to medium heat. As the onions begin to caramelize add the thyme and rosemary and stir in to coat the herbs with oils. Add salt and pepper and red pepper flakes. Once you can smell the thyme and rosemary then add two quarts of the stock and bring to a simmer. Then add the squash and mix, (apple if you are using it) it will be lumpy.

It will come to a boil quickly, lower and simmer for about 20 minutes. Cut the soup off at this point and let it cool.  If you have an immersion blender use that to blend the soup into creamy texture, otherwise ladle into blender and “liquefy”.  Add extra stock as necessary to bring the soup to the consistency you like. When you go to re-heat the soup it will be filled with air so COVER the pan because the bubbling and popping is HOT. (Ask me how I know this LOL). I serve with a dollop of sour cream on top and some crusty bread with a green  salad on the side.

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Summer Bounty

It occurred to me that it is October.  My last post was some time in June. It’s like I totally disappeared during the summer. I wanted to share our humble attempts at urban homesteading – because we work full time, have a child in High school and want people to know it is possible to live a little more sustain-ably without a lot more effort.

bounty

A gift basket we were able to give

My “real” job is Move Coordinator for large school construction projects, which entails me working mostly during summers and during school vacations. It’s cool, I am used to it now. However…when you have a ginormous garden, several types of farm animals and keep bees, blogging about all of it takes a backseat.

We had some awesome successes and of course we made a few mistakes, harvesting things too soon for fear of “losing” the crop – which in this case we missed an entire second season of green bean growing because we pulled our plants out when we were expecting the crop to run out but because of our extremely hot summer but there was an entire second growth of green beans!

Our biggest success this summer was in canning.  We canned tomatoes, cukes, green beans, peaches, pears, apples, grape jelly and on and on. And yes, we had to do it almost every day.  But it was a choice we made. My awesome husband is so great at his “stickwithedness”, he would stay up sometimes until midnight finishing up the pressure canning before he went to bed. This was our biggest “goal” for our harvest – putting food by.

Mid summer harvest

Our first week of canning was a success!

Another disappointment was in our rabbit harvest.  We raise meat rabbits, and our kindles were very small this year. One in July with just four kits surviving, and another in September with just one kit surviving.  This was a “build-up” year for us, establishing a good set of Does – ideally six – so we did not intend to harvest all of them anyway – but we discovered after some research that the male sperm count gets really low during extreme heat. So even though we gave them shady, breezy, cool areas it was incredibly hot this summer. Not great for sperm production I guess. You learn something new every year.  So we have two new does to add to the mix, Fanny and Bandita. We are up to four. When we have six we will only breed them twice a year so they don’t “burn out”. This staggered schedule lengthens their life and is a much gentler breeding schedule.  Ultimately we want to be producing about 40 lbs of rabbit meat per litter x 6, that’s 240 lbs of rabbit a year- the plan is to keep the freezer full.

Our sweet potatoes TOOK OFF this year – apparently they LOVE heat! We will harvest those soon, probably late October and are hoping for somewhere around 300 lbs of sweet potatoes.  We also planted a five Butternut squash plants, and then had a few ‘volunteer” plants, so as of today we have about 40 butternut squash, all seasoned well and will keep for the whole winter!  Oddly we only had one zucchini plant, and it only gave us 4 zucchini! And no pumpkins…not even a volunteer.

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The sweet potato garden

Our fall crops are exceptional! Fennel, turnips, beets, rutabaga, Swiss chard and of course the kale is in it’s prime. Our herb garden flourished, with the exception of our Rosemary – which did not grow. Not. One. Bit.

honey

My personal favorite, spring clover honey.

We added three hives to our original two this year. Of those three, one survived and is super healthy! We extracted about 40 pounds of spring clover honey, and we will extract about 80 pounds of summer honey pretty soon.

Our laying hens are doing great! We added seven for a grand total of ten now and they are all laying the most beautiful rainbow of eggs every day.  My honey built them the grandest hen house this summer. Safe, winterized, easily cleanable and mobile!

Hen house

Dad is almost done with the coop for his girls!

eggs

Almost too pretty to eat…almost.

The asparagus and strawberries were wonderful. Our newly planted blueberries made it through the hot summer by the skin of their teeth – we shall see how they fare through the winter.

It is a daily love, like having another child that never grows up. But we love our little homestead – what I am even more grateful for is our children love our little farm.  Together we were able to participate in the restoration of our environment, our own health and be more in touch with the rhythm of the seasons.  It is truly a blessing! We could not do any of it without the pure grace of God. Truly, we depend on it.

Brunch!

Late summer brunch

We do it all so we can enjoy plates like this. Sauteed kale, Sweet potato hash, over medium eggs and sliced tomatoes. Yes please!

 

Equal vision and a balanced mind.

IMG_20140702_125003Apparently it takes a half-a-
lifetime of experience to figure out how to take it easy on yourself. At least that is what we are figuring out…and there is no place that shines the light of this  more brightly than urban homesteading.

With planting schedules, weeding, mulching (so you don’t need to weed, duh), harvesting honey, splitting wood, breeding schedules for rabbits, thinning seedlings, tending to molting chickens and nevermind the three working adults and a 16 year old with his first full-time summer job! Oy!!!

Thankfully Michael and I humbled ourselves several years ago and began to meditate and pray together each morning. We repeat the same morning prayers each day. One of the lines in our prayer,  “Grant us an understanding heart, Equal vision, balanced mind…” jumped out at me this morning – like I had never heard it before!  I realized that in this request of God we are asking Him to help us see ourselves (and others of course, but that is another story) right sized – not all good, and not all bad but with EQUAL VISION and a BALANCED MIND.

Sometimes…no, most of the time Michael and I are muttering under our breaths to ourselves about what we forgot to do, or missed out on, or did not plant in time. But if I was allowing God to bring me what I request every morning, equal vision and a balanced mind, I would be walking around muttering under my breath, how great it is I got my kitchen clean after breakfast, and how awesome that I have three loads of laundry on the line by 10:30am, and how I meditated, showered and dressed before 7:30, and how blessed I was to answer the phone and be of service to a friend who needed to talk and how I remembered to start dinner in time to feed my family before an evening of obligations!

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I thought I was a conscious pray-er, but it seems I need to slow down, think about what I am asking for, and then get out of God’s way and receive His Grace and Mercy!!  One of my favorite scriptures is Hebrews 4:16 (KJV) “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”  I prefer the KJV because it interprets “in time of need” – leaving open whose need God is giving me grace and mercy for. Which in this case might be my own!

Thank you God for this equal vision today. Thank you for letting me see myself with Your eyes!

Amen.