Simply Resourceful

Simple ways to be more conscious about how we use our resources.

Shitake Mushroom Harvest!

After a few weeks of dry weather, we received a few days of rain.  Everything here needed a good drink, including the mushroom logs we inoculated in 2013.  This is our first large harvest from these logs: 5 lb 3.2 oz

They were recently moved from the side of the house to behind the barn in a shady, humid area.  The logs are elevated off the ground with cinder blocks to allow air circulation and minimize rot.

The logs were moved because the top logs were drying out from too much sun exposure and lack of moisture. The bottom logs produced much better. 

Looking good!

After saving a few for fresh eating, the rest were dehydrated: only 0.4 pounds after dehydration.

Canning Carrots and Using a 41 Qt. All American Canner

The day started with only one simple task: preserve carrots.  Little did we know how much of an undertaking this was going to be...

This year we were a bit over-zealous with the carrot patch.  Last year, all of our root crops rotted with all the rain.  Thankfully we had enough jars left from the previous year that we managed to have enough carrots to last us through winter.  The idea of preserving a little extra because of next year's uncertainty is something I find very important in homesteading.  
This year's varieties: Danvers, Dragon, and St. Valery

Pulling root crops is so satisfying---you just never know how big the carrot will be!

There is a dual benefit to using the broadfork at this stage.  It helps find carrots that were missed during the first picking and it loosens the soil for buckwheat planting.  The soil doesn't stay bare for long!

That's a lot of carrots...

For Mother's Day this year I received the Bron Mandolin and a pair of cut resistant gloves.  While I cleaned the carrots, Jon cut them, and Paul put them in bowls.  Thank goodness for the help...a lot of work for one person!

This year Jon splurged and purchased the All American 41.5 quart liquid capacity canner.  There are many aspects about this canner we like: 
1. Made in Manitowoc, WI  
2. No rubber seal to replace  
3. It can process 19 quarts and 32 pints at one time!  

For six years I have used a seven quart canner, but Jon wants to save time in the kitchen and keep the heat from the canner outside during the hot, humid days.

The only negative aspect about this canner is its sheer size and inability to fit on my current glass-top stove. We threw around the idea of an open fire, but that adds an entirely different challenge with keeping pressure constant.  Jon and I would prefer not to use propane but short of getting a new range our choices were pretty limited.  In the future, we would like to have an outdoor kitchen with a sink hooked up to a grey water system and an old stove just for canning.  Until then, we are using the current set-up. 

It was a long grueling 13 hour day of processing carrots from start to finish.  Paul was a great helper and found ways to entertain himself.  This kid loves to build and design structures like this carrot castle!

I prefer to push through large projects in one day rather than extend them into the next day.  It was satisfying to wake up the next morning to all 73 quarts sealed waiting to be wiped down and stored.  

I think we have enough carrots to last us awhile, don't you think?  A few weeks ago Jon planted 2 rows of Solar Yellow Carrots for a fall harvest.  Jon just can't resist trying new varieties!  *sigh*  I think Jon and I can agree upon one thing: only plant carrots for fresh eating next summer. 

Some Chickens Love Japanese Beetles

You know the phrase, "One person's trash is another's treasure?"  Well, the same thing can be true for bugs.  Some garden pests such as Japanese Beetles are a huge problem in our garden, in particular when it comes to grapes, berry plants, and edamame. These beetles have a hard exoskeleton and are not easy to squeeze between the fingers so we knock them into a bucket with a little water in it.  (The water keeps the beetles from flying out easily.)  One of our chickens, who we affectionately call "Turkey", absolutely LOVES the Japanese Beetles (and their grubs in spring) and she comes running to us from across the yard whenever she sees us carrying a bucket---talk about a good example of classical conditioning (remember Pavlov and the salivating dog from Psychology class?).  Turkey is so eager to eat the beetles that she literally climbs into the bucket to get them!  Turkey has made it very clear to the rest of the flock that only SHE can have the beetles; we don't mind - she literally eats hundreds of them at one sitting.

Damage to the edamame (soybean) plants from the Japanese Beetles.  They are most prevalent in the early morning and evening hours.

A Happy Turkey after a Japanese Beetle snack. 

Using Row Covers for Pest Control

Every year we try something new in the garden.  This year we are using row covers for the plants that receive the most pest damage.  This list includes: members of the brassica family (e.g. broccoli and cabbage), eggplant, squash (e.g. Turk's Turban and Hubbard), and bush beans.  These plants seem to attract pests that do heavy damage to the crops.  By using row covers, we are essentially keeping the moths and other pests out which will save a considerable amount of our time.  The pests include: cabbage worms, flea beetles, squash vine borers, and mexican bean beetles.   

The row covers (Agribon 19 83'' x 50') were purchased from Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply.  We used #9 wire that was purchased through Grower's Solution on eBay. 

Each wire was cut about 6.5 feet long.  

Plants were put under the row cover on May 4th. 

The above picture was taken on May 17th.  This spring has been abnormally dry which makes watering under the row cover a challenge.  A drip line would be great for this.  We have noticed that the plants under the row cover have required less watering than the plants exposed to the direct sun all day long. 

The above picture was taken on May 30th.  No cabbage worms so far!

The row cover was removed about 2 weeks before our first broccoli harvest because the plants were pushed up against the row covers and the fabric couldn't raise any higher.

The squash looks beautiful this year because squash vine borers haven't gotten to them yet.  They are too big for the row cover so they are out in the open.  The squash are putting down roots along the vines so we have been covering sections of the vines with dirt.  We were told if the plant is rooted in several places, it has a better chance of surviving the squash vine borer because even if the main stem is injured, the remaining vines should be okay.  We'll see if this "trick" works!

About this blog

A weekly update on our adventures of trying to be more self-sufficient by using resources wisely. We explore a variety of topics that most broadly fit in the "Homesteading" category, i.e. beekeeping, organic gardening, edible landscaping/fruit forest, food preservation/canning, woodworking, soap-making, and environmental stewardship.

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