Garden Harvest

11-July2014_DSCF7064The garden is starting to come along, with us being able to harvest some of the vegetables. Vegetables such as tomatoes, corn, and others will be available for harvest soon.

Most of the plants are doing well, but there are issues with the watering system that may have contributed to the death of 3 or 4 tomato plants. 

Unfortunately, I had to use some pesticides today.  The aphids and other pests were just too populous to even think about controlling with organic means.  I used a spray that will not be absorbed by the roots, and while that will not control everything, it will be good enough to save the plants.

So far, the total harvest is:

  • Kale: 6.7 pounds  11-July2014_DSCF7061
  • Cucumber: 19.69 pounds
  • Green Onions: 5.375 pounds
  • Zucchini: 55.109 pounds
  • Tomato (Golden Nugget): 7.5 ounces (they are just starting)
  • Lettuce (leaf): 20.962 pounds
  • Lettuce (head): 1.6 pounds
  • Beets:  4 beets

Grand total:  ~110 pounds

This is what we did with some of the things we harvested:

12July2014_DSCF7113    11-July2014_DSCF7117

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I wanted to make some sausage since the Summer Sausage I made in February is gone.  I made three types of sausage, 5 pounds each type.  The sausages were a Polish without Marjoram, Polish with Marjoram, and a breakfast sausage.  The sausage was smoked using the A-Maze-N Smoker, with 3/4 Maple and 1/4 Apple wood.  The smoker was lit at both ends. 

One of the issues I have with the Cookshack AmeriQue it its inability to cold smoke without a heat baffle, and smoke evenly at cold temperatures.  Using the A-Maze-N Smoker, I can still get a good smoke at 130 F.  Now I need to find a fan mod to get DSCF7077better circulation in order to properly cold smoke evenly.  Of course, for regular smoking, the AmeriQue is a truly wonderful smoker.

This was also the first time I used the LEM 5 pound Sausage Stuffer.  The LEM was fast and also gave a better texture to the finished product.  The problem I had was with the casings, which seemed to be very weak in places.  But, in the end it worked well.

The Recipes:

Recipe (Polish 1):11-July2014_DSCF7081

Batch Size: 5 pounds


5 lbs. Pork Butt (2267 grams)
1 cup Ice Water
38.54 grams Kosher salt (Real Salt)
1 tsp. Cure #1 
4.35 grams Cracked Black Pepper 
13 grams Minced Garlic

Recipe (Polish 2):11-July2014_DSCF7104

Batch Size: 5 pounds


5 lbs. Pork Butt (2267 grams)
2 Tbsps. Yellow Mustard Seed
4 tsps. Kosher salt (Real Salt)
1 Tbsp. Cracked Black Pepper
1 tsp. Cure #1  
1 Tbsp. Marjoram 
15 Cloves Garlic – Minced

Recipe (Breakfast Sausage):DSCF7111

Batch Size: 5 pounds


5 lbs. Pork Butt (2267 grams)
1/4 cup Ice Water
4 tsps. Rubbed Sage
4 tsp. Kosher salt (Real Salt)
3 tsps.. Cracked Black Pepper
1 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
1 tsp. Cayenne
4 tsps. Thyme
1 tsp. Rosemary
2 Tbsps. Brown Sugar
1 tsp. Nutmeg

The sausage turned out great, though the heat and the smoke in the smoker was a bit uneven due to, I think, the lack of air flow within the smoker. I am attempting to find a fan that I can put in the smoker to get a proper air current and an even heat and smoke at low temperatures.

The sausage was vacuum sealed and placed in the freezer


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Cherry Wine and Mead


A picture of Misty drinking coffee during our morning garden tour.

I decided that it was time to make my cherry wine and mead from the sweet (black) cherries that we picked recently. Nothing fancy going into these two batches, just simple and hopefully, tasty.

I also made a Pinot Noir and a Cabernet Sauvignon (Wine Expert) today.  There are nice kits that I have made before, and compete favorably with a couple of the local wines. 

I am impatiently waiting for my Pinot Noir and Cabernet grapes to grow.  With one exception, all of my grape vines are doing well.  I think I lost one of my Cabernet vines.  Only a couple of years to go!

In the mean time, here is a picture of one of our table grapes:29June2014_300_2036

The Mead:

I decided to use Costco Clover Honey.  I have used it in mead before and it was quite good.  The local honey is very nice to eat, but it is also very strong tasting with a lot of thistle, sage, and other flavors that may not compliment the cherries.  I also did not boil the honey as I see absolutely no benefit, and the losses of flavor and honey components is not worth the small chance of preventing some (rare) type of infection.  That is what Campden is for, and besides, the raw fruit is full of “stuff”.

The cherries were frozen at negative 5 F for about a week to allow for fuller juice extraction.  The cherries are sitting in a 5 gallon nylon paint straining bag, along with all other ingredients save the yeast.

I may add some additional honey to the secondary to increase the ABV a bit.  Thinking another 21 to 23%’er!

The Wine:

Just cherries processed as above and table sugar.

The Yeast(s): 

For both the mead and Wine, I have decided to use Lalvin 71B-1122.  I chose this yeast for its ability to metabolize the malic acid present in the cherries.  If I need acid, I will add it later.  Since the mead is going to be in the 20% range, I may re-pitch with Lalvin 1118 after the 71B reaches its potential, which is about 14% ABV.  I have had it go way above 14% before, and with care it may take care of the mead on its own.  1118 is excellent for restarting a stuck fermentation, and also great in the secondary.  I have used it in my 23% ABV Blueberry Mead in the past, and I like it. 

The wine is going to be 16.57% ABV, so I am sure that the 71B will run through that with no issue, leaving the right amount of residual sugars to making a nice wine with little or not back sweetening.  If not, I have more yeast and 100 pounds of sugar to deal with any problems.

1July2014_DSC2095Additional Information:

For both the wine and mead, I will be adding 48 fluid ounces of Cherry Wine Base from Vintners Harvest in the secondary.  I have had a 96 ounce bucket of the base sitting at home for the past 4 years, and now I have an excuse to use it. 

The cherries registered a Brix of 23.35, which is a bit above what I had initially thought.  Actually, my go-to calculator had a pre-determined Brix of 16.  Don’t know where that figure came from, but it is being changed.  Nice to have a refractometer – finally!

All ingredients, with the exception of the yeast, is sitting in the primaries with Campden.  I will pitch yeast tomorrow night at 1600.  Wine will be in the primary for 7 days, and probably the same for the mead.  Secondary until they are in a place I want them, then bulk aging for 6 months for the wine, and a year or two for the mead.  I figure the wine will be done in 7 months to a year, and the mead in 2 years as something to drink, and 3 to 4 (and longer) for something to enjoy, depending on final ABV.

The recipes:

Cherry Melomel:

Batch Size: 6. gallons
Potential %AVB:  20.64


20 lbs. – Clover Honey – Costco  
25 lbs. – Sweet Black Cherries 
48 fl. oz. – Cherry Wine Base (Vintners Harvest)  *added in secondary


6 ea. – Campden
3 tsp. – Pectic Enzyme
1 tsp. – Tannin FT Rouge
6 tsp. – Yeast Nutrient  – added at start and again at 1/3 sugar break
1 tsp. – Yeast Energizer


Lalvin 71B-1122 rehydrated in yeast energizer
Possible addition of Lalvin 1118 for secondary fermentation

Cherry Wine:

Batch Size: 6. gallons
Potential %AVB:  16.57


11 lbs. – Table Sugar
25 lbs. – Sweet Black Cherries 
48 fl. oz. – Cherry Wine Base (Vintners Harvest)  *add in secondary


6 ea. – Campden
3 tsp. – Pectic Enzyme
1 tsp. – Tannin FT Rouge
6 tsp. – Yeast Nutrient  – added at start and again at 1/3 sugar break
1 tsp. – Yeast Energizer


Lalvin 71B-1122 rehydrated in yeast energizer

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Critters of Idaho

29June2014_300_2026We were walking around the garden and saw this little guy.  I was able to approach within a few feet and took this picture.  We think it is a baby robin, but are not sure.  Micha saw one in one of the bushes buy out house and I took another picture of it.  Then, the cat saw it and decided it would make a tasty mid-morning snack, and it grabbed it. 

Micha, seeing this, screamed (which was entertaining in itself), distracting the cat and the bird was able to escape.  Pretty funny actually, and I am glad the bird was able to escape, because knowing the cat, it would have dropped it off at 30June2014_300_2043the front door as a present for Micha. Look at the image on the right carefully and you can see the bird that the cat almost caught.

One of the things that I was disappointed with last year was the lack of nice butterflies around the property.  This year however, I have seen a few flying around, but they have not landed long enough for me to take a picture.  Finally, yesterday a butterfly was drinking from the lavender bushes by the front door, and I was able to take a few pictures.



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One Month Garden Update

13June2014_300_1990Well, The chicken laid an egg in the coop this time instead of under a tree.  Of course, we had to catch it and lock it up in the coop for a couple of hours, but hopefully it will understand where it should lay eggs.

I put a golf ball in four of the 6 nesting boxed to “trick” the chicken(s) into thinking that they were actually eggs in the boxes, hopefully letting them believe that this is the place to deposit the eggs.  Tomorrow maybe a new egg in the proper place without all of the fuss of capturing and locking the critters up – maybe.

The garden is now one month old and things are really growing.  Below, I have placed an image taken on the 23rd of May and beside it another image taken on the 23rd of June.  We have already harvested raspberries and blackberries, strawberries, lettuce, kale, and one pumpkin from the garden.  In the next day or two we will also harvest some zucchini and pickling cucumbers.  Additionally, Micha is continuing to pick apricots, which we are dehydrating.

The pictures:


The herb garden is also doing fairly well.  I am finding that some things that I thought would be easy to grow do not actually grow well in the garden (basil, oregano, sage, caraway, parsley, and a few other herbs), but some do exceptionally well (comfrey, lavender, rosemary, nasturtiums, petunias, different mints, and some others).


Planning for next year:  Build 6000 sq. ft. field for wheat, barley and oats.  Build 6000 sq. ft. field for a sustainable chicken garden.   Also, plant three more cherry trees,  two additional apple trees, and three other fruit trees that I am deciding upon.  Goats or sheep next year also – just a couple or three.

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Our First Egg

Yesterday, one of the chickens escaped the run and was sitting under one of the pine trees next to the run.  When we moved her, this is what we found:


The white egg (the one on the left) is our first egg from our Idaho chickens.  A bit small, but who cares.  It laid another one a few minutes later, after it escaped again.

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The Beginning, and The End

Simply, from this: 


To this:


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It is Cherry Season

20June2014_DSCN0402As you can see in the picture of Micha picking cherries, it is cherry season in this area.

We were driving down our road last Thursday and saw a sign advertising U-Pick Cherries for 0.50 cents a pound.  After we returned home, Misty hopped on her bike and rode about 3 miles to the cherry orchard to see what was going on.  She came home with a pack full of cherries.  Misty and Micha liked them, so it was decided that we would go early Friday  morning and pick cherries.

We managed to wake up early, before the day became hot, went to the orchard, and 20June2014_DSCN0415proceeded to pick cherries.  About 3 hours later, the three of us managed to pick approximately 130 pounds of sweet cherries.  While it was hard work, it was also quite enjoyable, and it was difficult to convince Micha to leave.  I think she did not want to leave all the cherries she saw on the trees, but also did not realize how many cherries we had picked.

Micha and Misty have been cleaning and pitting the cherries, and we are also dehydrating 15 pounds of them for baking and later use.  Misty canned some for pies in a light syrup also.  As for me, they prepared 50 pounds of cherries that I am 20June2014_DSCN0468going to use in a 6 gallon batch of mead and a 6 gallon batch of wine.  Figuring to use a bit more than 4 pounds per gallon and shoot for an ABV or 20% for the mead, and 14% for the wine.  I would like the mead to be on the sweet side, and a dry wine with possible a bit of oak.

Our two apricot trees are producing apricots now also.  Micha has been picking them daily, and we now have tables, dehydrators and boxes full of drying apricot halves.  I do not know how many pounds she picked, but I would imagine that there are about 2 – 5 gallon buckets full.  Possibly 40 or 50 pounds maybe.

Fifty cent cherries and free apricots – hard to beat that!

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Time Goes Quickly.

26March2014_300_1916We were just coming in from another hard day in the garden, and the scene on the left appeared. As time went by, the rainbows made a complete arch and connected on the other side of the shed. Quite a pretty scene.

I think I have said this before, but once again, the garden work is finally finished.  I have completed the watering system, planted all of the plants and seeds, completed everything chicken related, and hand mowed 2 acres of grass and weeds.  So, the garden is finished.  Now, saying that, I also have to say that the garden is no where near being complete.

What have we done this year just in the garden spaces? 

  • 26March2014_DSCF7027Developed two garden patches, one totaling 4,900 sq. ft., and another around 2,800 sq. ft., as well as developing the start of the orchard grid.
  • Planted 13 trees, including:  3 cherry, 1 peach, 1 nectarine, 7 apple, and 2 Asian pear trees.
  • Planted about 20 grape vines including five taken from around the property that were dying but now doing quite well, and 13 different berry bushes.
  • Planted the following plants grown from seed:  53 various tomato plants, 200+ bunching onions, 100 Walla Walla onions, 9 broccoli, 46 various cabbage plants, 15 kale, 60 sweet/hot pepper plants, 23 or so cucumber plants, 49 potatoes, 40+ leaf and head lettuce, 4 eggplants, 5 tomatillos, 16 various squash plants, 6 or so musk melons, and probably some things I am forgetting.
  • Planted the following seeds:  A lot of carrots, beets, fennel, around 400 corn seeds (2 seeds per hole @ 200 holes, and 13 different varieties) a 50 foot line of various bush beans, 9 watermelons, 8 musk/honeydew type melons, and 100 onion starts from store.
  • Planted the following herb plants started from seeds (I do not have a count of the plants):  dill, cilantro, parsley, valerian, angelica, sage, basil, spearmint, chrysanthemum (edible), comfrey, caraway, St. Johns Wort, Bee Balm, yarrow, and a bunch of others.
  • Constructed 35 foot diameter herb garden to plant the herbs and other plants in, including 10 or so lavender plants, 2 roses, and various other plants.
  • Installed drip irrigation systems for the vegetable and grape/berry gardens and all trees.  The above right image is of the first test of the drip irrigation system in the vegetable garden.  Took a few tries, but it works fairly good now. 

EVERYTHING planted with one exception is heirloom, open pollinated.  Four of the tomato plants were from hybrid seeds.  Supposedly you get 2 – 4 pound tomatoes from this thing, so I simply had to try it. 

While the work was fun, it was a lot of work, and for the past three weeks (three months actually) all we have been doing is working in the garden 7 – 9 hours per day.  But, as of today, 95% of the corn is up, 75% or the beans are up, the carrots and beets are starting to grow, and some of the melons and seed planted squash are starting to push through.  Most of the grape starts are alive and thriving, the berry plants are doing great, and all of the plants we planted are healthy and growing quickly.  So far the effort has been worth it, but I am looking forward to a break in the next week or so when the garden will actually be complete.

I do have a few things left, including planting a second planting of seeds such as cabbage(s), melons, watermelons, pumpkins and squash, as well as construction 100 feet of trellis for the tomatoes, building support for the hops, building trellis’ for the grapes and berries, and routine maintenance of the property in general.  Figure out if I want sheep this year or next, and then build sheep facilities.  Some of the above will not happen this year because of time, and the fact that I want to do other things such as hike, bike, and find a job.

I was out messing with the irrigation system last week before planting and found a new gardening buddy:


This thing was about 5 feet long.  I followed it a bit to get a few pictures, but left the snake alone hoping it would continue to wander the property eating mice and such, but unfortunately I found it dead a few days ago.  Now sure what happened, but I hope another will come and take its place.

We also have nice birds here:


The yellow bird nests in the front yard.  The image is a bit fuzzy as it was taken through the kitchen window.

Remember the chickens and how small they were the beginning of March?  Here they are now, grown and about ready to be invited over for a BBQ:


That is it for now.  Hopefully I will be able to update the blog more frequently now that things are (hopefully) slowing down. 

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Evening in Idaho


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