January 27, 2015

A Slice of My Life


Cracker patrolling the front fenceline at sunset.



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My hope is to inspire you, and to encourage your homesteading plans and your dreams of a
simple, self-reliant, God-dependent life. You can follow me at:
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January 26, 2015

Growing Fruit

When we first moved to Oak Hill many Septembers ago, we bought a collection of dwarf fruit trees for fall planting. We were truly "putting down roots".

 
Our young trees

Fall is a good time to plant fruit trees. Cooler temperatures are less stressful on the trees and they don't need to be watered as often when they are being established. The roots become accustomed to the soil and are ready to take off growing in the spring.

We planted four varieties of apple, three plums, and two cherries. I was iffy about the cherry trees since the leaves can be toxic to goats, but they came in the package we bought so I just planned to be extra careful. Both cherry trees died that first year though, and we didn't replace them.



There are three sizes of fruit trees: standard, semi-dwarf and dwarf. Dwarf trees will produce much earlier than standard trees, but the lifespan of dwarf trees is much shorter than standard trees. We planted dwarfs, and had fruit the second spring. Eleven years later though, the trees have pretty much stopped producing. If we'd planted a few standard trees at the same time, they would now be ready to produce fruit. If I were to do it over again, I'd plant some of each.




We've also planted many peach trees and a nectarine, but lost them all to various reasons: winter kill, borers, grasshoppers, and wind damage. We didn't try apricots after research showed that their early blooming usually coincides with frost here in Oklahoma.



We tried grapes, raspberries, and the little native kiwi but I wasn't able to keep them alive. My thumb that was green in Michigan hasn't been as successful in Oklahoma. It's much harder to keep something alive here in the extreme heat and summer drought. We had a strawberry bed for a year, then rabbits ate the plants. So many lessons to learn.



The native blackberries have more than made up for my brown thumb though. They are the hardiest thing on the planet I think, and the problem isn't keeping them alive but keeping them under control. One "patch" in our hayfield is bigger than our living room and kitchen put together.



With the exception of one year when the drought was so bad that all of the immature fruit shriveled up and dried before they were ripe, I've braved the heat, mosquitoes and chiggers and filled buckets with wonderful, delicious blackberries. What a blessing they are. I can them whole, make jam and jelly, eat them fresh, and freeze the rest.



Another Oklahoma blessing is the native sand plums, tiny red jewels with a large seed on a thorny plant. They're not really worth eating raw, but they do make good jelly.

There's a saying that the best time to plant a fruit tree is five years ago; I completely agree with that. I've tried to at least replace the trees that have died each year but I'm a bit behind on that. Our elderly neighbor, a widow who lives up the road, always plants new trees each year. That reminds me of another saying, "to plant a tree is to believe in tomorrow."


Related Posts:
Canning: Sweet and Sour Plum Sauce
Harvest Apple Jelly
Blackberry Jam


This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


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My hope is to inspire you, and to encourage your homesteading plans and your dreams of a
simple, self-reliant, God-dependent life. You can follow me at:
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January 25, 2015

Silver Sunday and Being Thankful

I am thankful to the Lord, my God, for:

- ducks on the pond
- my birthday
- a special family dinner
- the opportunity to learn something new
- family & friends
Silver Sunday

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10 (NIV)


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January 23, 2015

Friday Follow-Up


This week:

-- I worked as show secretary at a cattle show over the weekend. The weather was beautiful and it was the largest turnout we've ever had, but it's a lot of work before, during and after. I've been thankful for a couple of days of rest, because now it's time to work on the county's 4-H and FFA spring show.

-- It's nearly time to start planting seeds indoors, so I'm going through my seed packets and deciding what, if any, I need to buy before the catalogs are sold out. I'm also getting ready to order my meat chicks, which means getting the brooding area (our mudroom) cleaned out and ready. It seems as though my "spring rush" is earlier than usual this year.

-- My birthday is this weekend! I'm going to be 45 years old again.



When I decided to make a different soup each week in January, my plan was to can several pints and eat the rest for lunch. So far - and I've done this for two years now - I haven't canned a single jar of soup, it all gets eaten up!

-- This week's posts were Beef Barley Soup from my Month of Soups series and Watching Rosie Grow. She's doubled in size in two months!




-- I've fallen in love with this adorable sign from animalzrule's etsy shop.

GOAT Sign 9"x12" "ALUMINUM" H3125G

-- What I found: Pruning Fruit Trees: Open Center from Stark Bro's Nursery. If you are growing fruit trees, you know that pruning is important and it can get away from you fast. I'm always afraid I'll do it wrong, so this article was very helpful.


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My hope is to inspire you, and to encourage your homesteading plans and your dreams of a
simple, self-reliant, God-dependent life. You can follow me at:
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January 21, 2015

A Month of Soups: Beef Barley Soup

As a child, my family went through a period or two of pretty hard times. My parents knew how to stretch a dime, that's for sure. Their own parents had survived the Great Depression and had passed on a heritage of frugality and common sense. I grew up on salt pork and lima beans, fried hominy, and other Depression-era foods such as beef barley soup.


Beef barley soup is one of those dishes that uses whatever ingredients you have on hand. I chose to use my slow-cooker to make this week's soup so that I could let it simmer all day long without having to babysit it.


I started with a package of beef soup bones from the steer that we raised for the freezer. I browned them in a heavy pot with two tablespoons of melted butter. When the meaty bones were well-browned, I moved them to my Crockpot and added a quart of my homemade beef and tomato stock, a cup of water, and some salt and pepper.


Then I added chopped carrots, celery, onions and garlic to the pot and sautéed them in the butter and fat left from the beef bones, added them to the Crockpot and turned it on Low. There's that mirepoix again - carrots, onions, celery. I went a little light on the celery, it isn't hubby's favorite ingredient. You can use more or less of each vegetable as you wish.


About an hour before dinner I removed the soup bones, pulled the meat off the bones and returned the meat to the pot. I added some dried parsley and 1/2 cup of pearled barley to the soup and continued cooking for the last hour. This is a perfect dish for pearled barley, the long, slow cooking time makes the barley tender but not mushy.


My mother sometimes added a can of tomatoes, a handful of frozen peas and some whole kernel corn. Ina Garten from the Food Network adds leeks to her beef and barley soup. Add what you like and what you have on hand, it's an excellent way to use up the bits and pieces in your refrigerator.

Beef Barley Soup

2 Tbsp butter
beef soup bones or oxtails, or use 1 pound stew meat
1 quart beef stock (I used beef and tomato stock)
1 cup water (or more if desired)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 medium carrots, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
2 ribs of celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp dried parsley
1/2 cup pearled barley

Brown soup bones in 2 tablespoons butter in a heavy pot. When well-browned, remove bones and add to slow-cooker. Add beef stock, water, salt and pepper to slow-cooker.

Place carrots, onion, celery and garlic in pot with the melted butter. Sauté vegetables until tender and add them to the slow-cooker. Cover and cook on Low for 4-6 hours.

Remove bones and pull off the meat. Return meat to slow-cooker. Add dried parsley and pearled barley. Simmer for another hour.




A Month of Soups 2014:
Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
Ham and Bean Soup
Beef Barley Soup


A Month of Soups 2013:
Chicken and Mushroom Soup
Broccoli and Cheddar Soup
French Onion Soup
Albondigas Soup



This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops
including the Homestead Barn Hop.


~~~~~

My hope is to inspire you, and to encourage your homesteading plans and your dreams of a
simple, self-reliant, God-dependent life. You can follow me at:
Facebook | Pinterest | Bloglovin | Subscribe via email
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