A Single Woman’s Adventures and Mishaps While Farming in the Forest.

Happy December 1st!  Just another 20 days and winter will officially arrive! I love winter. I love the” all snuggled in” feeling I get sitting in front of the wood stove. Usually I have three dogs and a cat in close company. I love the  beauty of the forest in it’s bare and occasional bleak austerity. The  Black Locust and Yellow Poplar are standing naked. Some are wearing their beautiful crowns a hundred feet in the sky. I love the white pines that stand sheltering me from the wind coming up occasionally from the south west. Those were planted some long  time ago by a dear soul since departed. I get the impression they were set to mark the side of an old cart road barely, discernible these days.

Here some simple lessons I seemed to have forgotten since the last of the previous season’s freezing rain, ice and snow season and just had the opportunity to remember last week during those three wet and freezing days we had up here on Spoon Mountain Farm.

Work harder and more when the sun shines. Do the heavy work early in the day. Take breaks before you have reached your last gasp. The work will still need to be done twenty minutes from the time you feel you are about to drop. Have something warm to drink and sit down for a few minutes, but not on anything too comfortable.  Take hot water out to melt a hole in the layer of ice in the  goat’s and Alpaca’s frozen water buckets. That way you can stick  your finger in the hole and remove the inch or so of ice that has formed during the night. Get waterproof gloves. Pay attention to were the sun shines longest during the day. When ever possible, put your buckets where they will get  the most sun.  This means paying attention to where the sun is because it moves and a couple of weeks can make a difference.  The buckets will take longer to freeze up again if the sun is on them. Do not kick the rubber buckets. It only hurts your foot. Keep the water you are pouring into the bucket well away from your boots. Pouring cold water into your boot is not any kind of fun to walk around with while doing the rest of the chores. Make more trips with lighter buckets. You’ll last longer at the chores and feel better at the end of the day. The same goes for hauling the hay. Give everything fresh water every day. Make sure the chickens have some bedding to keep them warm even though they prefer to roost. Try to keep drafts out of the coop. Very cold water is no where as uncomfortable as freezing water when you mistakenly pour it into your boot while transferring drinking water for the livestock from the bucket you are hauling to the bucket they’ll be drinking from. Carry your jack knife and cell phone religiously in the snow, and ice. Buy a pair of YakTraks . Attach them to a pair of sturdy boots and wear them every time you go out. They will tear up a good pair of boots if you are always taking them on and off.  Lastly. Indulge your self without reprisal when it comes to making delicious food with more calories than you generally would eat in warmer weather. Recipes to follow in my next entry.

 

October 20th 2013 The Day of the Cabbage

This was the day to work with mountain grown cabbage. I love it! I didn’t grow any this year. I got mine from Pete who has a seasonal stand on Rte 58 about halfway from the farm and Meadows of Dan proper. I get them by the bag which weighs in at 50 lbs. This year I went “halfsies”  with my WWoofer, Lyn.  She spent time teaching English on an Island in South Korea and learned many new ways to enjoy cabbage while she was there.

Today I worked on making two cabbage delicacies,  Chow Chow and sauerkraut.

 Chow Chow was something new for me when I moved here to the Blue Ridge. I’d never heard of it before coming here. What I discovered is that it is as varied in taste as as the person who makes it. It can be sweet , spicy, hot or super hot and beyond super hot!  Generally folks around here, I am told like, it mostly with pintos and corn bread. I’ve become a great fan of Chow Chow with pintos and also as a side accompaniment to things I cook that might be considered East Indian cuisine such as potato and pea curry and other types of curried dishes. It’s also great with various breads. I like to make flat breads such as Nan and pita and chow Chow is great to serve with the warm bread. My recipe follows but now I want to talk about my experience making sauerkraut.

My first sauerkraut adventure began with an odyssey wherein I searched for the right lid to put pressure on my newly purchased one gallon ceramic crock. That was easy enough to get at the Poor Farmer’s Market right here in Meadows of Dan. It’s a great place and anyone taking a scenic drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway ought really to get off at Meadows of Dan and check out the stores here. Say “hi” to the friendly ladies who can set you up with a delirious sandwich and all the  fixings to take on a picnic or a hike or stop and have a sit down at Jane’s Country Cafe.

But wait, I’m off topic. Back to the sauerkraut. So, I have my cabbage and I have my crock and I have my recipe, which also will follow, and I think I’m ready to go! Well, no. I need a lid, something to keep the cabbage submerged in the brine and a weight, Maybe the weight can be a big clean stone or a one gallon jug filled with water. this needs to be a glass jug so it will fit in the crock. So it’s another trip to Felicia’s. That’s the other name for the Poor Farmer’s Market and also the name of the lady who owns it.  This time I get a one gallon jug of apple cider. It was outstandingly fresh and crisp and sweet in it’s flavor. I still haven’t found the lid for  the gallon jug to sit upon, however. Now these can be purchase din wood online, but they can be pricey and I didn’t want to wait much longer to get stated on this project. as it was I had to drink a gallon of cider, and as you know, that can’t be done in a day, with any kind of good result.  I went on a quest to find a dish that would fit neatly into a one gallon crock without being so tight that it couldn’t be easily lifted out. This way no easy task. It took all afternoon and I went to every establishment that sells on consignment and such in the area. Finally i found a Blue Willow roll plate, not a dessert size plate, not a salad plate, but a bread and butter plate. I paid too much for it. But never mind, finally I had everything I needed. I was psyched! I wish I could say I had the best kraut I ever tasted. Not so. Being a novice, I caved at the first sign of scummy stuff floating on the top and tossed the whole thing out. Here is what I learned after the fact. Don’t do that! I have since learned this is a typical occurrence and does not affect the end product adversly. As I write I am now on my second journey on the way to becoming the creator of soon to be amazing sauerkraut. This time I am getting it right. I will let you all now how it turns out.

Now for my Chow Chow recipe. This will be included in my up and coming Spoon Mountain Farm cookbook which will be this, this winter’s   writing project . 

Spoon Mountain Farm Chow Chow

2 quarts finely shredded cabbage, about a medium head

1/2 cup finely chopped sweet  onion, more to taste

1 cup finely chopped  mixed red and green Bell pepper 

2 cups vinegar

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon mustard, what ever kind I have in the fridge, usually brown

1 teaspoon Tumeric 

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

2 teaspoons celery seed

2 teaspoons mustard seed.

Mix the first three ingredients, the veggies which you sprinkle with the salt and then place  them in the fridge for 4 to 6 hours.

After the 4-6 hours have passed, combine all the other ingredients , the vinegar, sugar and spice mixture and simmer them on the stove for bout ten minutes.

Next add the veggies and simmer another ten minutes and then bring to a boil. 

Next pack the boiling hot  mixture into clean heated canning jars. Leave only 1/8 inch head space. Place canning lids and rings on the jars and invert jars turning them upside down so the heat is on the lids. I do this on a dry dish cloth. Turn the jars back to upright when the jars are cool. They should have sealed nicely. Date the jars and enjoy your Chow Chow.

 

Wow! First Day of Autumn, 2013

It’s has taken me since February until today to actually get back to “beginning” Spoon Mountain Farm’s blog . I can’t even begin to tell you how many changes have occurred. For one, this is now a solo operation. The life partner has moved on. This is bringing new changes and ideas to the concept. They are good. It is all good. It will be different but wonderful. New solutions will replace other solutions and everything will move along in harmony with nature and the Divine. I have great faith in this.

So let me tell you about the Farmer’s Market in Stuart. VA! It  is open on Friday mornings from 8 to 12 AM and that is where you will find me most religiously every week. All the venders are WONDERFUL! I could never say enough positive things about these farmers and how hard they work to bring delicious quality produce to the market and to your table. If you can’t make it on Friday mornings you can find the market open on Tuesday afternoons beginning at 3:00 PM.

Spoon Mountain Farm currently contributes by offering several items made here. First up is the amazing  mohair yarn produced  by the happy Angora goats who reside here on the mountain. It is offered in completely gorgeous natural white in a  light sport weight  blend of ninety percent mohair and ten percent merino wool fiber. the spinning mill tells me the merino is added to help with the consistency of the spinning process. I also have some that I have dyed her on the farm using food grade dyes and a natural acid mordant.

Right now, I have a very limited amount of hand spun Angora fiber. I am sort of keeping it as a pet, not wanting to part with it, but I have more raw fiber out with a local hand spinner and that may be available as prime knitting season approached. On or around the end of October I should have some natural charcoal grey light sport weight yarn coming back from the mill. I am really happy abut this. Last year I bought a black goat and named him Socks. That says it all. I think his fiber will make the best socks you could ever put on your feet. Given the property of mohair fiber, they should last you for years to come, offsetting the initial investment price. Believe me, it is worth it!

If you want to learn the basics of knitting on any given Friday morning, bring along a pair of knitting needles and a bit of worsted weight yarn. Any kind will do, but the better needles to choose will be between sizes 6 and 10. Why? Well the bigger the needle, the fast the swatch works up and that is helpful when you first begin. Who doesn’t like almost instant gratification. Once you learn you’ll have a wonderful life long skill you can enjoy for years to come. It’s never to early or too late to learn, so come on along and take a free lesson on a beautiful autumn morning.

Now moving on to other items. We have a growing  assortment of natural skin care   products which are made here using all natural ingredients. Included in the recipes are such things as bees’ wax , organic coconut oil, vitamin e and natural and organic herbs, this product line was born out of a workshop I gave on how to make your own. A participant came back and said she really didn’t want to keep making them, but she would like to buy some of balm, because she found not only did it keep her lips soft and moist, it was great for her cuticles,elbows and other places where she experienced a little winter dryness. Voila! A product line was born. It’s in it’s infancy but it’s growing prettily which some retail venues recently added. You can look to Greenberry House in Meadows of Dan where you will find Leslie creating amazing creations in fiber and also many interesting collectible and books It’s a perfect place to stop and browse and knitters can bring their friends and hubbies along and be certain they will have ample opportunity to browse the many interesting things the shop offers. You can find a basket of soothing and relaxing Spoon Mountain Farm products  currently at the Woodberry Inn in Meadows of Dan. The Inn is right off the Blue Ridge Parkway.  If you need peaceful accommodations or a relaxing meal, try the Inn. The menu is lovely  and all choices are freshly prepared. The full bar and dessert menu round out your dining experience in an  atmosphere that is fresh and clean with lovely windows overlooking the property.

Spoon Mountain Farm’s additional staple Farmer’s Market product is homemade Biscotti freshly made each week with only the best ingredients and of course farm fresh eggs produced here by a happy flock of eight hens and a mighty fine rooster. All the girls and their fella have a free range outing every afternoon allowing them to scratch and peck as nature intended. Did you know chickens have something like 32 vocalizations? They communicate their emotions vocally and cluck to each other. Non chicken owners may be skeptical of this information, but spend a year or two with your own flock and you will be a believer.  I know when they lay and I know when they are disturbed and when they are contentedly bedding themselves in for the night after being off on the afternoon outing. There is a lot to love about chickens besides those beautiful brown and other colored eggs.