Microbusiness: Artisanal chocolate and seed production
Mark worked up this awesome video of the second half of our Trouvaille Farm tour. If you missed it, the first video looked at the larger picture of the farm business and ecosystem while this one zeroes in on their income-producing gigs: artisanal chocolate making and growing seeds for seed companies.
(Yes, I’m posting for Mark. He seemed to think it was more fun to rip out a stained old toilet and put in a new one rather than spend five minutes playing with a computer. His loss, my gain!)
Save a bundle on homesteading literature (plus septic system management)
Would you like to start 2023 with a little (or a lot) of homesteading inspiration? If so, I highly recommend this limited-time bundle of $285 worth of ebooks and videos, marked down to $35 for a couple more days. The massive compilation includes a Joel Salatin video, books I’ve read and recommended on the blog previously (including Understanding Roots and Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist), and my own Weekend Homesteader: Winter.
On an unrelated note, Mark and I are slowly figuring out how to live with a septic system instead of a composting toilet. Our health department comes out to inspect new systems every five years, and we got a B on our first report card. Apparently we need to tweak our flow levelers for more even distribution, to clean the filter under the outlet riser every six months, and to keep woody plants out of the leach field.
We’d mowed the septic field when we first got here, but we’re not lawn aficionados and I wanted to develop better pollinator and firefly habitat so I started letting things grow up. In lieu of mowing, we’re instead hitting the autumn olives, blackberries, and rose bushes with the chainsaw, figuring the same treatment annually might do the trick. It was either that or succumb to the always-present urge for goats…
Trouvaille Farm tour part 1
We met a nice farming couple recently that gave us a fun and interesting tour of their operation.
Okay, so I know I promised you a farm tour video this week. How about next week?
Instead, here’s a bit of our journey through time for the solstice. Building a stone house in the early 1800s with unnamed guy and cat Woodrow…
Hanging out with the 1905 fire department. (Glad we didn’t drop by earlier since volunteers to the 1820 fire department were first required to purchase their own leather bucket.)
Then we were wowed by a wood-burning locomotive from the same era.
Yes, we did sneak away to enjoy the Portsmouth Floodwall Murals. Definitely worth a visit if you’re ever in southern Ohio.
Freeze tolerance of fall crops (18 degrees Fahrenheit)
I’ve written a lot in the past about critical temperatures of spring crops (especially flowering fruits), but I realized I don’t say much about what fall crops can handle. Usually, we’re down to the hardiest vegetables by the time we get a hard freeze. But this year, a very dry late summer meant some fall crops were running late, which was okay because we enjoyed a very long lingering autumn. Then the forecast suddenly called for the better part of a week below freezing with lows around 18 Fahrenheit, leaving me struggling to figure out what to harvest early and what to cover up. In case you’re ever in a similar situation, I thought you might like to see the results.
The image above is from the morning after the first hard freeze, broccoli I harvested early on the right and broccoli I chose to cover with a caterpillar tunnel plus row-cover fabric on the left. Everything looks pretty good, right?
Not so fast! Freeze damage usually doesn’t show up that first morning.
A couple of weeks later, the results are clearer. Uncovered broccoli pretty much bit the dust while broccoli under cover was damaged but kept growing in the warmer spell that followed. I’m not holding my breath about getting a crop from those last few plants though.
Recommendation: Harvest the broccoli early.
Elsewhere in the garden, I had two beds of lettuce, both under caterpillar tunnels plus row cover fabric. Both got nipped, but the younger lettuce (shown above) has since regrown. The older lettuce, which was starting to bolt, is now rotted down to nothing.
Recommendation: Age of the crop makes a different. Lettuce in its young prime can bounce back from a hard freeze if it’s protected but it’s probably a good idea to harvest anything that’s ready just in case.
My darling kale, of course, did pretty well both under cover and in uncovered beds. Some leaves were slightly nipped; others weren’t. We’re still happily consuming a couple of meals of kale per week, often in the form of Kale Pesto.
Recommendation: Kale is our most cold-hardy fall crop if it’s moderately mature. If you’re low on row-cover, you can wait to cover this one up.
Not that I was going to do anyting to protect my cover crops, but I thought you might like to see them after the hard freeze too. On the left — rye and vetch are thriving. Center — the oats are half-dead. Right — oilseed radishes are pretty nipped too. Of course, I wanted the oats and radishes to die and rot into the soil before spring, so this is actually good news.
What about carrots? I got spooked and harvested the rest of ours because we had so many and they were so beautiful that I couldn’t bear to risk it. But our new friends from Trouivalle Farm put theirs under a version of a quick hoop and are still harvesting as needed out of the ground.
Recommendation: Be brave! Try leaving at least some carrots in the ground under row cover.
(Stay tuned for next week — we have a fascinating interview from Trouivalle Farm’s proprietors coming your way once Mark edits it into shape!)
How to harvest a Luffa sponge
A short and fun video on how to harvest a Luffa sponge.
Favorite fall apple varieties
Our local farmer’s market has the most apple varieties I’ve ever seen, all harvested close to Athens, Ohio. As a result, I’ve been running taste tests over the last few years, picking new (and old) favorites.
Before I go on, I should tell you what I like in an apple — a good blend of sweet and tart, preferably also crisp (although taste is more important to me than texture). You won’t find apples like these at the grocery store even if they share these names. Head to your own farmer’s market, fruit stand, or U-pick orchard to find the tastiest treats.
Okay, which varieties won the prize? The first one is the old standby I’ve been enjoying since I was a kid — Stayman Winesap. When caught at its peak, this is an A+ apple. If harvested a bit too early, it tends toward sour and might be more of a B+. (Look for the bright red skin as a visual clue of sweetness.) Later in the winter, Winesaps turn mushy and are more of a B.
Goldrush was a new one on me, but has become my go-to apple in the winter. It’s a little sweeter than Winesap but still has some tartness and a good flavor complexity. Plus, it stays crisp for quite a long time. The tastiest Goldrush apples tend to have a bit of a red blush, but even the solid yellow ones are an A to A+.
I’ve yet to find Liberty appples being grown by a traditional farmer, but homesteaders often plant them because they’ll bear fruit without any chemical sprays. They’re a bit denser than the others but boast a flavor explosion that definitely beats the pants off any other apple I’ve eaten. That said, I can’t be sure whether the difference is the variety or the cultivation method. Beyond-organic techniques lead to lots of micronutrients in the soil which in turn tend to turn flavors up extra high. Regardless, this is a solid A+ apple, maybe an A++.
I can’t wait to hear the results of your own taste tests. And if you end up with way too many apples after buying up every variety at the local farmer’s market, definitely try making a vat of skin-on applesauce.
Shopping cart for firewood transport and storage
We upgraded from a firewood tote carrier to this Wellmax shopping cart with wheels last year.
Now we can carry twice the amount with less effort.
The side spokes mostly popped out but weaving some steel wire or thin rope is an easy way to fix it.
Once inside it provides a tidy way of storing the wood.
Anna lifts from the top while I push from the bottom to make it even easier and safer.
Harvest End Soup
When your harvest looks like this:
It’s time to cook this:
- 6 cups of cherry tomatoes (or 2.5 cups of stewed tomatoes)
- 1 chicken breast with bone in (or 3 cups of chicken stock and one cooked chicken breast)
- 1.25 cups of chopped sweet peppers
- 2.5 cups of carrots (or some combination of carrots and sweet potatoes)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon paprika (I used unspicy, but you might like it spicy)
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 2 cups of green onion tops, chopped into small pieces
- sugar (to taste, if your tomatoes are late season and sour)
Optional serving suggestions:
- Stirring in cheese is always yummy at the end. Parmesan works but an herbed goat cheese was amazing!
- Mark likes bread on the side.
How to make it:
This is a basic soup recipe, so you don’t really need to read this part. Here’s what I did:
- I cooked the chicken in the instapot with a bit of water for 10 minutes on the meat setting. Once this was done, I picked the meat off the bone and put the bones back in the instapot with three cups of water to cook for an hour to make broth. Cooking longer would have been better, but I was impatient.
- Meanwhile, I cooked the cherry tomatoes in just a little water until they were soft (about ten minutes). Then I ran them through the foley mill to remove the skin and most of the seeds. If I was using roma tomatoes I wouldn’t have bothered with this processing, but cherry tomatoes are very seedy! I suspect foley mills are not the modern way to do this — please comment if you use a different gadget to get the same result…
- Next, I mixed the processed tomatoes with everything except the chicken, the broth (because it wasn’t done yet), and the sugar. Cooking this mixture for about an hour on medium to low heat will soften the vegetables, at which point you can remove the bay leaves then use an immersion blender to create a relatively smooth texture. (If you prefer vegetable chunks, skip the blending step.)
- By this point, the chicken broth was done, so I added it into the main pot along with the cooked chicken breast (broken up into bite-size pieces). The soup probably would have been even better if I’d simmered it for about an hour with all ingredients in the pot, but I was hungry and it was delicious just thrown together like this!
I used the littlest carrots from the harvest (on the left in the photo above), which wouldn’t keep long in storage. If you have sweet potatoes, I’d recommend using half carrots and half sweet potatoes, in which case you shouldn’t need any sugar.
If you prefer beans over meat, chickpeas are your best option in this soup.
Soup color depends on tomato color. I usually make it with red, but our tommy-toes were yellow this year. It tastes the same either way.