Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Starting work on this year 's crop

This year's crop will be mostly fruits. We've decided to expand on our strawberry production by using two beds for them in stead of the one we had last year. We bought a few extra plants, but most of last years' plants have survived through the winter. I hope they will produce many many strawberries this year that will be even sweeter then those of last year.

The blueberry bush is already blooming and growing like mad. Even the redcurrant is starting to sprout green stuff. This rather surprised me as during the winter it was basically nothing more then a sad bundle of sticks. I thought it had simply died off. Guess not.

Remember the pumpkin I carved last autumn? We saved the seeds of it and we'll be raising up two of them inside the house and move them to one of the beds this year. See what happens. We've also got tomatoes, zucchinis and pickles to fill out the remaining beds. And some pepper seeds that we will be potting. Those will be staying in their pots though.

This year we will also be trying out something else. We hav ebought some cherry tomato seeds and we are going to try and grow them upside down, hanging from a pot. Just to see if we can. It would be a great way to save ground space.

Aside from all the backyard farming I hope to get back on track with myy wood carving. I have a nice walking stick project going and I'll show it once it's finished. One of these weeks I will also finally try and get around to setting up that batch of mead. And as for the sausages, that will take me a bit longer. I'm too bloody busy as it is ;-)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Just a quicky

Here's just a quicky update. No, this blog is not dead, it's just been hibernating for a bit. I've been brooding on some plans for the coming year. The backyard farm will most probably go the fruit way this year. Having fruit bearing plans in the garden makes it easier to keep an eye on them. Also, the cats and dogs make sure that there will be very few birds coming in to snatch our harvest.

Another thing is: We might be allowed to use a plot of land belonging to some friends of ours. We are still deciding wether or not we want to take up the offer or not, so there might be a 'not so backyard' farm added to the repertoire.

As for further projects, due to circumstances my woodcarving has gone on hold for a bit. I have however decided to set myself up with a brew of mead. Supplies still need to be bought, exact recipe to be chosen but then its on to some home brewing! I will ofcourse document the process to the best of my abilities. This first batch will be a sort of test batch, after which I hope to start creating my own brews. The first task is to find a recipe that might seem nice, then make it to confirm that and then work up from there.

We also picked up a meat grinder some months back and that still hasn't been put to use, mainly due to time constraints. That will change. I plan to make some traditional dutch dried sausages called metworst. And maybe some of the braadworst types. With these I will also be looking for a starter recipe and after a succesful test batch I will start experimenting with different herbs and spices to create my own 'brand'.

So, that's it for now. Sorry about the long hiatus.

Oh, and happy new year and all that jazz!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

There is no spoon?

The weather is growing colder here. And a lot wetter too. So, since I wanted to start doing some crafty stuff of my own I ordered myself a good knife and a special knife for hollowing out wood and started carving a few bits of wood I had lying around. I'm actually quite pleased about the results!

The knives I use are the Mora Companion Heavy Duty and the Mora Wood Carving Erik Frosts 164. I 've had good experiences with Mora knives during my merchant navy days and only read good reviews on them. Those reviews proved to be true for me. The knives are sharp, retain their edge well and are not that expensive at all. Carving is a lot of fun when you have sharp tools to do so.

The wood I used came from my mother-in-law's garden. There used to be a fig tree there. She wanted to get rid of that, so I chopped it down and reduced it to chunks for my fire place. That was over half a year ago.

So last week I grabbed a few blocks of the now dryish fig wood just to see if I would have any fun carving stuff out of wood. No sense in going out to a shop and buying premium wood if you don't even know if you'll like working wood in my opinion.

I started out simple with a few spoons. A few days and bandaids later I got these spoons done. Carving spoons can be done quite quickly if you have a bit of experience. I think I can do one in about an hour or two once I get into the routine of it. Maybe more. Those will be quite crude ofcourse, but usable. I sanded down the results and oiled the spoons with olive oil right after carving. They probably won't last very long, but that is mostly due to the wood not being propery dryed out before I carved it. There were a couple of deep cracks in the blocks that I had to get rid of before making the actual spoons. Apparently it is quite handy if the bowl of a spoon is actually water tight :p Anyway, here is a picture of the resulting spoons. The wood grain came out really nicely with the oiling!

Tools used: Two knives and a bit of coarse and fine sandpaper.
The first spoon I made is the big one on the left. It is quite chunky and bulky, but functional. The little one on the right is a bit more refined already. The last one I made is the one in the centre. This one is a lot thinner then the other two and again a bit more refined. I think I'm getting the hang of this carving thing. Time to head out to the wood shop and get some proper wood to work on!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Just a shorty here. There isn't much going on at the moment. Today I carved up the two remaining pumpkins, so guess what we're having for dinner tomorrow :-)

And this evening we've got two nice lanterns shining brightly into the night. Enjoy!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Of soup and leftover art

Do you remember the pumpkins we bought little over a week ago? We used one up. Well, not quite actually.

We made ourselves some lovely pumpkin soup. But as this pumpkin was quite big it didn't turn out to be "some" soup. We had enough for a dinner for three and still had about 3 litres left over. So that's sitting quite comfortably in the freezer destined for later consumption. And a lovely soup it was!

 We saved some of the seeds and hope to plant those next year so we can grow our very own.

The thing with making pumpkin soup however, is that you get stuck with this big hollowed out husk of a pumpkin. So I decided I'd try my hand at carving one into a lantern. First time I've ever carved one and I'm quite pleased with the end result. Too bad they don't last very long once you've carved them and set a light in them. Anyways, here's my very first lantern creation!

The carvig was done with a Buck folding knife. Basically because I had nothing better at hand.
The finished lantern on its' pedestal next to our front door
And a close up of the carving.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The desolation that is my backyard...

This weekend we went ahead and harvested what was in our backyards. The last of the beetroots will be pickled and stored for later consumption. All the other beetroots were boiled and canned. It is really a shame that the ring pattern ets lost in the boiling. Well, not entirely. The red turns a sickly shade of yellow. It looks like we canned onions or something. I bet they'll still taste fine though.

We had a really great tomato year. Until the last weeks. The plants were absolutely bursting with tomatoes, but htey were still green. So we left them on the plants to let them ripen. Then we had a few really big rain showers. That messed it all up. We took off all the tomatoes and put them in the sun inside our house so they could ripen further. However they just turned black and/ or mushy. So basically we only had one meal from our own tomatoes. Another lesson learned I think. Maybe put them outside a bit earlier next year.

The strawberries are still going strong. We've got flowers and fruits popping up constantly. I'm curious to see how long they'll keep going.

Now on to the big project: The potato towers!

The results were... Discouraging. We started digging out the beds and found no potatoes at all. Until we got to the bottom pallet collars. Those were packed. We pulled out about 10 kg of blaue sweden and roughly 8 kg of blaue congo. Quite a lot of work actually. I like geting my hands dirty though.

This seems like quite a decent haul, considering we only used 0,5 kg of seed potatoes for each batch. I am going to have look into what a 'normal' harvest nets you to see if this was average or a lot. Here's an overview of our harvest. I cut two potatoes in half to show the inside colour. The blaue sweden (white flesh) are really crumbly when cooked. Good for mashing I think. The blaue congo turn a bit blue when boiled. Their taste is better in my opinion though. We will make hutspot with those at least once. Just because we can! How colourfull that will be!

While digging out the potatoes we noticed that the plant roots just went straight down with no offshoots whatsoever until they arrived at the bottom layer. So either I did something wrong or these breeds of potatoes are unsuited for towering. Or it simply doesn't work.

We also went to a local farmer who sells his harvest alongside the road. My girlfriend is going to make a nice big pot of pumpkin soup today, of wich portions will be frozen for later use. We got 3 pumpkins. One of them is absolutely HUGE! I'll get some pictures of that one once I'm done eating it and have carved up the husk for a lantern. But the stands were so nice my girlfriend shot some beautiful pictures of them. Which I can't keep from you! They convey that great, warm autumn feeling. Enjoy!

Now on to our plans for next year:
We will see if can rent a small plot to start growing more! The plans so far are to put our potatoes on that plot and not tower them up again. Other planned vegetables include onions, leeks, beans, pumpkins and cabbage. A friend of us is planning something along the same lines, but wants to grow a lot of peppers of different breeds as well. I see sharing and trading possibilities here! :-)

The backyard farm will be converted to fruits. The plans are to fill up one of the potato beds with strawberries, have one and a half bed of tomatoes and half a bed of cucumber. That leaves us with one bed to be filled with lavender. And we will probably get another berry bush.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The first beetroots have been harvested!

It's been a while since I last updated this blog. Well, here it is! We harvested the first beetroots. Only a few were big enough, so we left the rest to grow on. A week or two later we harvested zome more and right now we still have about half a collar filled with beets in the yard. The harvested beets we canned, just to see if we could. I personally expected the beets to turn red. Alas! They turned a rather uninteresting yellowish white. The rings also mostly dissapeared. We'll be planting regular red beets next year. Raw they looked fantastic though.

The collar overflowing with beets! As you can see the potatoes kind of fell over and are now hanging over the other collars. The other plants don't seem too bothered though.

Here they are fresh out of the soil:
 And after peeling and cutting:

The potatoes are doing nicely and have started to dry out and turn yellow. I'll leave them at it for a little while longer before starting to dig them up.

The past two weeks have been tropically hot, especially for the Netherlands. Our blueberries and strawberries are doing great on it! Also the tomato plants are developing a lot of well... Tomatoes! Look how pretty these look!

Not much else to say at the moment really. We've spent the last few weeks eating outdoors a lot and barbequeing whenever we had the opportunity.

This week we hope to go berry picking at our regular locations. We've checked the places a few times this season and it seems we will be having a lot of blackberries. Then it's on to blackberry jam making! Huzzah!

Oh, and here's a picture of one of our cats. She has made a habit of sleeping under the potato foliage. I usually notice when I put the hose on the plants and she comes flying out ;-)