HOW WE BUILT OUR COMPOST BAYS… FOR FREE

One of the projects we worked on last week was our compost bays. Last year we had a pile in the back of our garden that was an untamed mess. It was hard to turn and impossible to keep contained. When we moved the fence recently, we realized we had enough room to install a permanent composting area. We are super short on funds lately, so we decided to get scrappy and use whatever we could find for free. We had seen multiple ideas for composting systems made out of pallets and we had a pile of them at our garden, so we thought we’d give it a try. We made our system into 4 bays; one for cooking compost, one for compost that is ready to go, one for super woody stems and stalks that take longer to break down, and one for storing mulch or straw for the garden. Here’s how we did it:

Start by making really silly faces and picking the perfect spot. I feel silly faces make every project run a bit smoother. Make sure you pick a spot that is centrally located for ease of use.

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We then gathered some old t-posts we had lying around from putting up fencing and stringing tomatoes.

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Next, we lined the pallets along the side of the fence and started making 3 sided bays with them. We placed the t-posts in the openings in the end of the pallets and drove the t-posts into the ground to secure them.

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Now, just keep going until you have as many bays as you think you will need. We recommend at least two (one for cooking and another for ready to use).

Here is the finished product. I think it looks pretty good!

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Peace, Nicole and Nick

A DAY IN THE LIFE.

People often ask us what we do this time of year. While it is a time where we slow down a bit, there are still many chores and preparations for the coming growing season that happen daily. We have been moving fences, designing a greenhouse, constructing cold frames, building compost bays, and planning space for more chickens. (We will be blogging about most of these, so stay tuned). Yesterday we decided to focus most of our energy on our garden layout and cooking enough food to help heat the house.

We always start our morning with a hearty breakfast. I made breakfast while Nick tended to the chickens and the dogs. This barley bowl is super tasty and filling! We were super excited to use some blueberries we had frozen from summer and local maple syrup in this dish!

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Here’s the brief how to:

Add 1 cup of barley to 3 cups of water and bring to a boil

Reduce heat, cover and cook for 25 minutes

(Most of the water should have absorbed, but if there is a little left, don’t fret, just strain it off!)

While the barley is cooking, combine 1 cup of  mashed blueberries with 1/4 cup of maple syrup in a sauce pan.

Bring berry syrup mixture to a rolling boil

Reduce to a simmer and cook until liquid has reduced by half and you have a nice, bright purple syrup

Place your barley in a bowl, top with blueberry syrup, and crumbled pecans

YUM! This recipe makes 4-6 servings depending on how hungry you are!

After breakfast, I started making our bread for the week. I used a super simple recipe that can be found here. I like this recipe because it is so versatile. You can take the basic recipe and change it up to make it your own. The recipe in the link calls  for all purpose flour, but we use half all purpose and half whole wheat. Here is what the process looks like.

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The recipe says to drape the dough with plastic wrap while rising, but we don’t use plastic, so I dampen a cloth napkin with warm water instead. It works great, helps keep the moisture in, is an eco-friendly solution, and looks pretty too!

I couldn’t resist the warm bread straight from the oven, so we made some egg salad. I used eggs from our chickens, aioli, and apple cider vinegar all mixed up. Then I added dill, paprika, cracked black pepper, a little onion, and lovage to taste. It’s so delicious. We paired this with a mixed green salad, and lunch was a success!

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After lunch, we each had big projects to work on. I spent the next 5 hours planning our garden layout while Nick reinforced our rabbit hutch, and loaded up some wood that we will use to frame in our greenhouse.

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My mind was boggled. We are growing 89 varieties this year. I felt like I was playing veggie-tetris all afternoon.

Before we knew it, it was time for supper. I roasted some veggies we had saved from our garden last year (beets, carrots, garlic, butternut, sweet potatoes) with some rosemary and olive oil. The beets were super bright and stained my hands the loveliest color!

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Then I made a risotto with the bone broth I made a few weeks ago. We had a green salad with it and it was delicious!

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After supper, Nick tended to the chickens, we cleaned the kitchen, and started planning for today.

A slow, but fulfilling day indeed!

Peace, Nicole

TOASTER PASTRY MORNING

For those of you who follow my instagram feed, you already know I made a pot pie this week. It was delicious! This meal resulted in a leftover round of pie dough in my fridge. I woke up this morning so hungry and with a little bit of a sweet tooth. I went straight for the pie dough. A year or two ago, I was gifted an amazing book from my sweet friend, Kathryn. I used it ALL the time now, but I hadn’t made the toaster pastries until today. Boy, have I been missing out!

The wonderful books is The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making by Alana Chernila. I love this book and her blog, Eating From the Ground Up and highly recommend you check out both! Here is the book:

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For the actual recipe, you’ll have to buy the book here, but I did want to document my experience with these.

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I rolled out my dough, trimmed it down, and added the filling. We used a Strawberry Rhubarb Jam that my good friend Jamie made for us this spring (I seriously could sit and eat this by the spoonful, y’all).

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Then I crimped the edges and made them all pretty and pop-tarty.

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I popped them in the oven and went outside to visit the chickens while they baked.

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I took them out of the oven to cool when I realized I didn’t have any powdered sugar to top them, so I decided to make my own. I mixed one cup of organic sugar with 1 tbsp of non-GMO cornstarch in the food processor until powdery.

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The end result? DELICIOUS! I can’t wait to make them again!

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Peace and pastries,

Nicole

Bone Broth a.k.a The Reason I’m Not Technically Vegetarian

Oh, bone broth, I love you so! This may be the one reason I am not a full fledged vegetarian. The one and only reason I ever eat chicken is to have the leftover bones for a nourishing broth.
I have some simmering on the wood stove now and my jars are all laid out ready to be filled for the freezer. If you haven’t made bone broth yet, I suggest you try it soon! The temperatures are dropping to a frigid cold this week, so it’s the perfect thing to have on hand to warm your bones and protect and nourish your body! It is so easy to make and is a great way to use up kitchen scraps. We love to throw lots of veggies in ours, and we often use whatever scraps we have leftover from preparing our chicken dinner. We also I like add lots of medicinal herbs to ours to help boost our immune system.
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Here is how we make ours:

1. Put chicken carcass and veggies or clean veggie scraps in your largest stock pot (we used onions, apple, celery, carrots, shallots, and garlic)
2. Throw generous amounts of whatever culinary herbs you have dried or fresh from your garden (we used lovage, parsley, rosemary, thyme, turmeric, and oregano)
3. You can stop here and move to #4 if you don’t want to use medicinal herbs in your broth, but if you want to enhance the healing properties of the broth, we add the following: oatstraw, stinging nettles, burdock, holy basil, and chaga mushroom
4. Fill pot with filtered water, and bring to a rolling boil
5. Reduce heat to simmer and simmer 4-6 hours

This will keep a couple days in the fridge, but we like to freeze ours to use throughout the season.
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New Year’s Day Meal

We always get super excited about planning our New Year’s Day meal! We always make sure to eat plenty of black eyed peas and cabbage. This year we are making my great grandmother’s Dago Cabbage recipe, and eating the last of the dried peas and some of the tomato sauce we canned this summer.

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The recipe is quite simple, but guarantees a hearty meal to start your New Year off right!

1lb spicy ground sausage

14oz. tomato sauce

8oz tomato juice

1 large onion, chopped

1/2 bell pepper, chopped

1 head green cabbage, coarsely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp. dried oregano

Salt and Pepper to taste

Put cabbage on to boil while browning sausage. Add bell pepper, onion, garlic, oregano, to browned sausage and cook till veggies are soft. Drain cooked cabbage and return to pot. Add sausage and veggies to cabbage mixture with tomato juice and tomato sauce. Simmer for 30 minutes, add salt and pepper to taste.

That’s it! Piece of cake! We like to serve ours on top of freshly baked corn bread with a side of black eyed peas!

What are your New Year’s meal traditions?

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End of Year Gratitude

As I have said before, this year has been the hardest year of my life. I am glad it is coming to a close and that 2015 is right around the corner full of new possibilities and a second chance at taking care of myself like I should. I noticed today, I was spending most of my morning beating myself up for the things I didn’t do, and the things I wished I had done better. I then decided it was time to bring out the ol’ gratitude list, and in the spirit of a new year on the horizon, a very personal list of my goals for the coming year.

GRATITUDE
1. hope
2. my wonderful, amazing, supportive husband
3. seed catalogs
4. friends and family
5. the ability to choose
6. creativity
7. my animals
8. my health
9. the power to create my destiny
10. passion

GOALS
1. stop letting fear rule me
2. finish herbalism school
3. be kind to myself
4. slow down
5. let my passions pave my path
6. meditate daily
7. love myself fearlessly
8. do not stop moving forward and growing as a person
9. laugh more
10. don’t let other’s negativity dictate my future

Please share your goals and gratitude in the comments section if you feel so moved.

Peace,
Nicole