Summer Vacation Day 42 – ……and the canning begins

This morning I put up six jars of seedless blackberry jelly and six more jars of peach jam.  We picked the berries from the hedgerow over a couple of days, cooked them down with a little water and strained them.  I collected this until I had enough blackberry juice to make a couple of batches of jam.  The peaches came from the little peach tree in the kailyaird. The tree is young and broke last summer under the weight of the peaches and during a summer storm so we pruned it very severely this winter.  We weren’t sure we we going to have anything to harvest but we had six peaches so I decided to use them for jam.


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Summer Vacation Day 40 – Spit Roasting by the Fire

I canned a few pints of corn this morning while we were setting up a lamb roast for supper. DH built a fire out in the fire pit while I put the roast on a spit (like on the Tudor Monastery Farm with Ruth Goodman). We bought the hand-forged campfire cooking set a few years ago but never used it so I decided to try it out when I found the clearance roast in the freezer.

It took about 6 hours all together.  We put the coals near the roast, but no under it.  The roasting pan went under it to catch the drippings to use for basting.  This configuration helps to prevent flare-ups.

It was juicy, cooked to a lovely medium and tasted really nice.  We will definitely try it again.

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Summer Vacation Day 35 – Only 39 to Go

Things are fermenting all over the place at the Backyard Farm.  We’ve got sourdough, kombucha teas (one regular brew and a try at a continuous brew), blackberry soda, garlic fermenting in honey, apple peels fermenting into cider vinegar, and yoghurt all working away.  I think I’m going to try a kombucha coffee today and look for a recipe for a small-batch mead.  In the mean while, here are some photos of the ferments……

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Summer Vacation Day 34 – Let’s Get Something Done Day

I woke up this morning to blue skies – FINALLY!  It’s been a very dreary summer so far.  So I bounced out of bed, came downstairs and decided it was a good day to accomplish  several things that have been waiting around for me……

I took care of the most immediate dairy needs.  The cream needed to be separated , the milk bottled, and a new batch of clotted cream started.  I heat the milk in a low,wide pan at about 180F for 10 hours or so, let it cool overnight in the refrigerator, skim off the top layer and whip it up in the mixer. (I’ll add more photos to the gallery as the process moves along).

The next job was applesauce.  DH and I purchased some lovely early season Lodi apples (and this year early is really early) at the Farmer’s Market in Milwaukie, Ore on Sunday without tasting.  They have a lovely, tart taste, but are really soft.  After a little research I found out that they are a great apple for making sauce with, so sauce it is.  For two dollars, we should end up with four jars of beautiful, unsweetened applesauce.  I just peeled and cored them (I kept those bits for cider vinegar), cooked them down with a little water, ran it through a food mill and popped the sauce into jars.  I’m processing the jars for 20 minutes in the steam canner.

The next task on the agenda was wiping down the Havarti – I’ve developed a mold problem.  I tried brine, but it keeps coming back so today I decided to try white vinegar.  Hopefully I can get this under control.

Next, I’m going to go out to the garden to move a couple of blueberry plants from the berry garden to the new Kailyaird (kitchen garden).  They aren’t doing well where they are – not a single berry from 10 bushes.

*** Added

The two berry bushes are transplanted and watered well in.  I’m hoping they all make it.  This isn’t probably the best time of year to be moving them, but it’s when we have time and we’re not getting any berries anyway.


The new wine fridge that does’t seem to get very cold got a scrub out with vinegar and I put in one of the cheeses I made last week to test out the temperature and humidity for aging cheese.

I also decided to take advantage of the sunshine and scrub the outside of the greenhouse – at least the parts I can reach.  I’ll have to check in with DS tallest to finish up the roof for me and ask DH to kill the wasp nest in the corner.


DH came home and I convinced him to help me to transplant an old rhubarb stump into the new garden.  It may live, it may not, but it’s better off than where it way in the deep shade of the back yard.


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Summer Vacation Day 33 – Getting Back to Normal

The last week has been a little trying here on the Backyard Farm.  Our lovely Mastador, Kenton, got vey ill and we almost lost him.

Kenton - the Mastador 2013

Kenton – the Mastador 2013

On Wednesday, last week, Kenton stopped eating and then on Thursday started throwing up and developing diarrhea with blood in it – a lot of blood.  I took him in to the vet on Thursday afternoon and he was diagnosed with hemorrhagic gastroenteritis.  He was treated with antibiotics and some puppy Pepto and we went home.  On Friday, he still wasn’t eating and threw up the yogurt that I tried to syringe feed him so we went back to the vet.  They x-rayed his gut and found no obstructions so they gave him an anti-nausea injection and sent us back home.  On Saturday, he still wasn’t eating and was very depressed and lethargic.  Even more worrying, he wasn’t drinking much.  I had read that dogs with this condition can present as hydrated, even as their blood is thickening, and that IV hydration early is recommended.  I took him to another vet (ours was closed) and they hydrated him for 6 hours.  He came home is much better spirits and finally took 1/4 cup of white rice from my son’s hand.  That was the turning point.  He is now up to almost three cups of rice, chicken and yogurt a day – spread over several meals.  He no longer needs his anti-nausea medication and is playing with his buddy Maizey.

Needless to say, not much happened around here while I was on “sick-doggie watch” and DH was teaching summer school and attending the Nation Drivers Safety Conference.  We did manage to get out today, finish a couple more sections of pickets on the garden fence, transplant a couple of blueberry bushes and fertilize the vegetable and the herbs in the greenhouse.  I’ll try to get a few photos tomorrow.

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Summer Vacation Day 27 – Cheese and Spices

I started the morning by making another batch of Havarti. This time I think I cooled the wash water too quickly and the curds didn’t cook well. Some back into the pot after pressing for some more 150 degree water for 10 minutes. I’m having a bit of trouble with pressing as well. I have a mold that’s too big, one that’s too small and none that are just right.

Today was also the day to take stock of the herbs and spices. They seem to be tucked away everywhere. I need to open all of the containers and give them a sniff to see if they need replacing. Of course, Maizey wanted to help…..

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Summer Vacation Day 25 – Work, work, work…..

Today I popped out of bed at 8:00 ready to tackle my nemesis, the pork shoulder arm picnic roast.  I have never been great at roasts – they always turn out really fatty and greasy.  This time I was pretty resigned that the dogs were going to have a treat, but I tried anyway.  I scored the skin and applied a rub of salt, pepper and oregano then into the oven it went at 250F.  I checked it at about 2:00 and the internal temperature was 195 degrees.  It was delicious.  The skin did crisp as much as I had hoped but I didn’t crank up the heat and try to crisp it either – we were busy in the Kailyaird by that point.  We pulled it off the bones and had nice chunks of roast for supper and the dogs had some slightly chewy cracklings for us to practice their safety word with (the weird word that they will drop anything for and immediately for).

Dear Husband was off to teach summer school this morning, but a power outage at the school sent him back early to work some more on the garden.  Yesterday we had about 20 yards of chips delivered so today he was able to add another 4’x8′ raised bed to the garden, but also to spread even more mulch on the paths.  While he was working on that, I was able to use the shop vac to blow loose gravel off of most of the driveway.  It was getting so bad I thought I was going to slide on it and take a spill down the drive. Tomorrow I’ll need to finish filling the new bed, plant a few squash in it, put it a couple more tomatoes and pumpkins and hopefully finish one more section of pickets on the fence just to the left of the gate.

garden 3

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Summer Vacation Day 23 – The Loss of a Tree

Today we tried to move a large Blue Spruce from the new Kailyaird Garden but as we started to dig we found trunk rot.  It probably happened when the pigs rooted around and press dirt too high on the truck.  It couldn’t be save so out it had to come.  A hour, two shovels, an axe and a lot of struggling later we were faced with a dead tree, a big root ball and a really big hole.  IMG_1801We decided to “plant” the old climbing tower and put cucumbers at the base.  Tomorrow I’ll add some string to give them something to hold on to.  We also removed the chicken wire from a section of fence so I can start adding pickets and planted a couple more tomatoes.  So much work and so little to show in this photo.


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Summer Vacation Day 21 – The Birth of the Kailyaird

I’ve always wanted a nice kitchen garden, a potager, or a kailyaird (in honor of my Grandpa McDougall) and despite all of our efforts over 17 years, it just never took off.  Too many little gardens that required too many changes of the sprinkler and too much shade caused by 17 years of The Wood growing ever taller around us.


The Back Garden Raised beds in 2010 – still pretty sunny back there.

We’re decided that some large scale changes are needed here at the Beavercreek Backyard Farm.  The place is messy, overrun with weeds and just not producing well.  A couple of years ago we tried putting an additional veg garden in the area where the pigs were housed, but it was a weedy mess and generally not great.   The backyard vegetable beds had become much too shady and the moles/voles/gophers were tunneling in and eating or ruining everything. IMG_1785

  •  The three 4’x8’x1′ raised beds and their soil was moved from the backyard to the pig garden. Each was placed onto a bed of chicken wire (cheaper than hardware cloth – the car needed repairing) and lined with newsprint to, hopefully keep weeds and critters at bay.  This extends on to the paths which we hope to cover with chips if free ones become available in our area.
  • The chickens had been hanging about in the pig garden, digging dust holes and making a mess so additional fencing must be sorted.  We are adding pickets to the existing three-rail fence.  These came from deconstructing some fence sections that we picked up for free several years ago.  Additionally a new run of wire fencing is temporarily serving as a boarder between the chicken yard and the new garden.  This fencing will be moved later to repair the goat fencing that has been crushed – over and over – by the neighbors falling trees.
  • The 8’x8’x1′ raised bed from the back garden has one rotten board, so we will be taking that apart and repurposing it to match the others bringing the total in the pig yard garden to 4.
  • IMG_1782
  • I dragged an old play structure climbing tower down from it’s previous incarnation in the Upper-Fenced garden (also not too shady) and we will “plant it” later in the week for a cucumber trellis.
  • The blue spruce in the pig garden is up for grabs on Craigslist and if not one wants it we’ll either move it to the edge of the wood or cut it down.


  • Eventually the chickens will move up to the Upper-Fenced Garden and the blueberry plants from there will come down to the Chicken Yard making the Chicken-Pig Complex into a pretty Kailyaird with a nice potting shed, a garden bench made by my husband grandfather Ivar, and a small greenhouse just across the drive.


    Coming soon – The Greenhouse Redo

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Summer Vacation Day 19 – Where is the time going?

I had a busy morning today.  We had picked up some meat on clearance and it was time to vacuum pack it and put it into the freezer.  There were about 27 packets of chicken breasts, 3 pounds of Italian sausage, and 4 pounds of stew meat (beef).  In addition, I’m making a pot of beef stock and another pot of chicken stock from some scraps and bones.  The diary needed to be done too – the cream is skimmed and tomorrow I’ll be making butter and yoghurt.

I also had time to spray paint so o four garden furniture cushions – they were really sun faded.  I used Rustoleum in Harvest Orange – really thin coats.  They look so much better.  Hopefully the paint won’t flake off on to anyones clothes.


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