Sunday, October 7, 2012

Would You Shoot This Cat?

In England, a "Jaffa Cake" is a sweet treat something like an oreo cookie, only with orange jelly inside... hmmm...

But at Peaceacre, "Jaffa Cake" (affectionately shortened to "Jaffa") is our newest stray kitty rescue! The owner lives down the road from my daughter's boyfriend. The boyfriend heard through the country grapevine (the cornvine?) that the owner was going to shoot this adorable kiitten if somebody didn't take it off his hands by sundown... Two phone calls and one bumpy gravel road ride later, Jaffa joined our family! I know he looks mean in the picture, but really, we think he's Jaffawesome!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Summer Recap, Heading Into Fall

Wow! Recapping this past summer, all I can say is H-O-T!!! And add a lot of Bermuda grass...

What do you do when you discover Bermuda grass has invaded your 5,000 square foot garden, and you don't use chemicals... Well, we did some research, and came up with what we think is a pretty good plan. We planted an orchard! And we're using black plastic to smother out the devil grass for future raised beds. All in all, it's a good alternative to either going crazy trying to control the invader, poisoning the earth, or giving up. None of the above for us! This has worked beautifully. Despite the heat, we now have a wealth of healthy fruit trees and bushes thriving in our garden. Here is what we planted:
  • Johnny Red apples
  • Macintosh apples
  • Royal Cherry
  • Tartarian Cherry
  • Peaches
  • Apricots
  • Pears
  • Blueberry bushes
  • Blackberry bushes
  • Raspberries (but they didn't make it)
  • Strawberries
  • Asparagus (not a fruit, but a perennial nonetheless - and, yum!)
  • Horseradish - another perennial
  • Concord grapes (kinda iffy)
  • A variety of hardy herbs
In addition, we squeezed tomatoes, eggplants and yardlong beans into the mix, since the trees won't be tall enough to block out the sun for years to come.

We also utilized the kitchen garden for our peppers, onions, more tomatoes, cucumbers, flowers and herbs. So far no Bermuda grass has managed to encroach that close to the house.

Our Aurucana baby chicks are getting BIG now, and they are just fantastic. So much fun to watch. It's like having a flock of eagles in your back yard. They have finally bonded with the barred rocks, and all are now equitably sharing the henhouse.

Sheep and goats doing fine. We were a little worried when the heat index hit 110 and stuck there for what felt like weeks (and probably was). Fortunately they have the shade from the woods behind our house, and they made full use of it, believe me.

The bad news - so busy with Peaceacre business, we did not get a fall garden in. We're going to miss lettuce in April, and the fine Brussels Sprouts flavor of turnips hoop-housed all throughout the winter. We're relying on our farmers market friends to keep us in fresh high tunnel produce this winter.

Finally gave the windows to build cold frames away to a friend - good luck, Eric! We held onto them for a solid year, then thought, what the heck are we actually going to do with these now that our garden is an orchard???

Again, wow! It's been a busy summer and fall. But we feel pretty good, our animals are happy, our freezer is full of veggies. So we didn't get it all done... But we had a lot of fun.

We will give you updates on how planting an orchard to fight Bermuda grass works out!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Homemade Mayonnaise Recipe

We have not purchased commercial mayonnaise in years - and when you try this recipe, you will see why! Homemade Mayo makes the store bought kind taste like what it is, a jar full of chemicals. Bleh. We use farm fresh eggs from our chickens. If you don't have chickens of your own, visit your local Farmers Market and buy some Farm Fresh brown eggs. DO NOT TRUST GROCERY STORE EGGS!!!

Here's the recipe:

4 egg yolks

2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice

4 teaspoons white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon mustard powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 &1/2 cups canola oil. If you prefer, you can use olive oil - but I have had problems with olive oil going bitter in the finished product. I like canola.

Add all the ingredients except the oil to a blender. Turn on your blender, and S-L-O-W-L-Y drizzle the oil into the mix. As it starts to turn into mayo, you can add the oil in a steady stream rather than a drizzle.

This is easy, easy, easy! And it tastes great on tomato sandwiches made with heirloom tomatoes (read the next post down)!

Homemade mayonnaise will keep for about a week or so in the fridge. Remember that there are no weird chemical preservatives involved, so you can't push it to the back of the fridge and pull it out a year later and still eat it. Kind of disgusting that you CAN do that with Miracle Whip. Think about it.

In Praise of Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes!

I have heard a number of people expressing skepticism about heirloom plants in general, and tomatoes specifically, saying that they fear the heirloom varieties are too fussy and won't produce as much as the hybrids. NOT TRUE! For the past two years, we have grown heirloom Fox Cherry cherry tomatoes I started from seed purchased from Baker's. Last year when all our other tomatoes were consumed by blight, the Fox Cherries were the only ones that were unaffected and which produced abundantly until the first frost in October. This year's crop is just as prolific. We've been experiencing a massive heatwave here in Southwest Missouri, and the Fox Cherries are alive, well and filling my sink to overflowing, as you can see in the picture on the left. This is one day's harvest.

Now, what am I doing with all these tomatoes? They're primarily snack food! Chris takes them to work in his sack lunch, Conor munches on them by the bowl full. Plus, we've been tossing them into pasta, slicing them for sandwiches, sharing them with friends, neighbors and even our chickens! And I've been freezing them by the bagful for winter, as well.

And drying them, of course! Here is a great dehydrator recipe for a small batch. Double as necessary:

40 cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1 clove garlic

1 tablespoon basil, oregano, parsley or whatever herb you have on hand or prefer.

Mix all together.  Soak tomatoes in marinade overnight, or at least 4 hours.

To dehydrate, put the marinated tomatoes skin side down on your dehydrator rack and sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Dry at 125 degrees approximately 5 to 9 hours. Just be sure to check frequently after 5 hours.

These are fantastic! I store mine in the freezer. But if they are completely dry, you can store them in the pantry.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Keeping Chickens Cool During a Heatwave

During the intense heatwave we've experienced here in Missouri this summer, we have been concerned about the youngest mebers of our flock. Our adult chickens are free range and hang out in the shade of the woods behind our house during the worst part of the afternoon. But we just bought six Arucana pullets (the chickens who looks like hawks, and lay the very cool blue-green eggs), and we have them temporarily confined because they are so small. In the heat, we have had to be very inventive in our compassionate care for them. Here are some easy ways to beat the heat:

Ice Mamma

We call the first trick "Ice Mamma." Fill a 2 liter bottle with water, and freeze it solid. Put it in with the chickies on a hot summer day, and they will cuddle it, climb on it, rub themselves aginst it, and treat it like a beloved mamma! And they'll cool themselves off in the process! Keep two or three of these going in the freezer all the time, so you can switch them out as they thaw.

Trick #2: Frozen fruits and veggies. We freeze watermelons, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers - whatever you have an over abundance of in your garden, freeze it for a few hours and put it in with the chickies. They love it! And, of course, it cools them down.

Some people say we spoil our chickens, but these are cheap and easy ways to keep young chickens cool and healthy in a heatwave. And why not want that?

Sunday, January 10, 2010


This face says it all... This picture of my son Conor was taken on a Christmas Day hike in the woods behind out house. It was cold, but this was actually before the present BRUTAL cold (real temps in the sub-zero range, even after sunup!) set in and stayed.

This round of cold weather has been a real challenge. Our pipes froze and then busted, so we have had no hot water for four days. We're getting a minor warm up today, so Chris finally gets the unpleasant job of crawling under the house to attempt repairs. We heat primarily with wood, and have burned through our stockpile a lot faster than we had expected, just keeping the house at 60 degrees. Chris and Katlin have the outside chores of feeding the animals. Chris is up at 5:00 AM, because a job that takes under half an hour in the summer now takes 2 solid hours - breaking through thick ice in water tanks, hand-carrying fresh water from the house, giving extra rations of hay and grain, etc. We have a house full of our own dogs and cats, and have even taken in our neighbors' outdoor pets. So, needles to say, I am walking through the house with a broom and dustpan pretty much all day. The chickens are cooped up for their own good, which they hate, being free range chickens most of the year. We started deep-bedding the coop early in fall, so they're snug.

Chris saw animal tracks leading right up to the chicken house door, and packs of coyotes yip-yip across they lake all night. But we don't have to worry too much, because our handsome and loyal (and slightly crazy) Anatolian/Akbash Shepherd "Scout" refuses to come inside at night, even in temps down to negative 7, wind chill negative 12. He has his own cozy straw bale doghouse, but I'm still amazed that, though we try and try to coax him into the house, he simply will not leave his post. He's bred to be a sheep guard dog, and he loves his job. He should get a medal for a job well done.

Scout on Guard

Our Handsome Scoutie!

Scout in His Cozy Straw Bale House

I've been staying home to tend the fire and the animals, which has given me a chance to catch up on some things. I finally started knitting a scarf using yarn I spun using my Romny sheep's wool. It is very silky and long and a joy to work with.

I also got a chance to sort my seeds from last year, to get a feel for what I already had before I start putting together a seed order for spring. I took a few minutes to dream about how great my garden is going to be this year, and also to think about my goals for 2010.

They say that spring is a time to do, and winter is a time to learn. And although it's miserably cold, winter will go by fast. Every year I regret not taking better advantage of the slow time of the year, but this year I am hoping to change that. More on goals later...

All in all, our family is hanging in there!

Don't forget to feed the birds and squirrels! Here's an older post about how to build a squirrel feeder.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Sampling of Summer at Peaceacre Farm

We promised to post some pictures of our various gardens, so here it is December and we're finally getting around to it... Looking at the pictures from last summer, I'm already missing the sunshine and warm temperatures! Our vegetable gardens weren't nearly as elaborate as they have been in previous years. Toward August, they had become seriously neglected. Which just goes to show, you can't do it all... I focused more on my flowers and herbs this year than I did on vegetables. Our first year participating in the Farmers Market taught us a lot. The biggest lesson we learned is that it takes a lot more time preparing, packaging, setting up, selling, than you can possibly imagine before you actually join a Farmer's Market. As my daughter so wisely phrased it, "you really do sell things" -- which means that you have to replace them frequently. The experience was 100% positive, though. And we'll learn a little bit more every year that we remain members of the 10th St. Community Farmers Market! Fortunately, even though our vegetable garden suffered a bit this year, we had plenty of fabulous organic produce to choose from every Saturday morning from the other vendors, and that made it all worthwhile!


One of our shady herb beds

Anise-Hyssop. This is one of the indredients in Peaceacre Peaceful Blend Herb Tea. Not only is it a wonderful tea herb, it attracts humingbirds and bees. Perfect!



Yarrow, Lambs-Ear, Catnip

Holy Basil

Chocolate Mint

These are just a few pictures of some of my favorite herbs. As you can see, I'm not into formal beds. I plant my herbs, to quote Paul McCartney, "here, there and everywhere..."


Green Beans (looks like they need thinning... I never did, though, and we had a bumper crop like you wouldn't believe!)

Working in the garden. In the front is a beautiful patch of boarge that self-sows like crazy everywhere, every year.

More green beans!

I put this arbor together using branches that were knocked down in an ice storm a couple of years ago. The innocent looking plant you see growing in profusion is called "Chia." A friend of mine gave me one tiny seedling. Chia seeds are an ancient food used for energy, endurance and well-being. But watch out! One seedling can take over an entire garden... Talk about energy!

Working to create a perrenial flower bed in the front yard. Our goal is to have this bed cover the entire front yard, to eliminate the need for mowing... This was my husband's idea!


I'm already thinking about next spring!