5 articles Articles posted in Homesteading

Black Pepper, Lemon , Tart Cherry

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Tart cherries. Preserved in vodka. Flavored with black pepper, lemon.

A friend posted a picture to facebook, a jar of deep red brandied cherries. so of course I ran right out to the local farmers market to grab a bushel of the sour little gems. I didn’t have any brandy, and I’m not a huge brandy drinker anyway, so I started kicking around some ideas to spice up vodka and make a cordial worthy of these little seasonal treats.

I love black pepper infused simple syrup for an unexpected flavor in summer cocktails. Lemon juice and rind to bring added depth. Vodka to preserve, will also turn into a lovely cordial that will taste great on the rocks or with soda water after the cherries and lemon infuse the vodka.

1-2 pounds tart cherries, pitted
3/4 c sugar
3/4 cup water
1 Tbsp black peppercorns
Rind of one lemon, no pith
Juice of one lemon
2 c Vodka

Bring sugar, water, peppercorns, and lemon rind to a boil, boil for several minutes until sugar is completely dissolved.
Let simple syrup seep 1 hour to overnight to infuse syrup with flavor, strain the mixture and add syrup, cherries, and lemon rind, lemon juice, and vodka to large glass jar.
Let sit, agitating periodically, for 6 weeks.

Spring Cleaning- Chickens

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I’m going to tell you a little secret, despite my enthusiasm for keeping and raising backyard chickens, I’m actually, deep down inside, in a place I don’t like to admit exists, kind of terrified of them. I’m scared of birds and getting pecked.

So why on earth would I want to keep chickens? For one thing, I like the idea that we can cultivate our own food and I can teach my children stewardship and where their food really comes from. For another thing, I have always had this idea that backyard chickens are just really cool, and I wasn’t wrong, they are, this was a great decision for our family. But finally, I really like doing things that scare me. I have learned that once you face your fears, most of the time you’ll discover they were unfounded, and next thing you know, one less fear.

And so I sit, Monday morning, one fear lighter.

We have two silkiess, a small breed with fine fluffy feathers and gentle dispositions. Because their feathers are so fine and so fluffy they get so much dirtier than our other chickens. This was a wet muddy winter. The silkies needed a bath. Surely they were not going to like this, right?



Well, I was surprised. Although everything I’d read said most chickens would actually, really enjoy a bath I was skeptical but… they actually really liked it. They chilled out and let me wash their feathers, their feet, and didn’t bat an eye when it was time for the blow dryer.


Cop was very gentle when he was petting them, and Henry helped when it was finally time to take them back to their nice clean coop the next morning. I always hold my breath when Hen picks up the chickens, imagining a Lennie situation, but he is calm, gentle, and responsible every time.


Welcome Home Chickies

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Phew! Two months later permits acquired, coop built, chickens feathered, and it was finally time to move the girls out into their new home.


We still have some beautification to do, and we’re unsure what we want to do with the bit of land next to the coop, but we likely won’t do anything with it until next summer.


For now garden projects are done, and it’s all maintenance mode until fall. Here that means weeding. I think it’s hilarious that as a kid my most hated chore everyday was pulling weeds, and now it’s a part of my evening that I look forward to everyday.


And as you might imagine, the chicks are the talk of the town right now. People always stop and talk to us about the gardens (our yard back up to a nice large park and walking path) but now everybody wants to come and see the chickens too.

May’s Garden

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The path is finished! This path is 3 summers in the making, and Josh finally finished it this weekend, I’m so pleased with it, we’ll get some ground cover to fill it in and next summer it’s going to look amazing.


Last summer we had temporary plastic fencing up to keep the dogs out of the beds and it got the job done, but our goal s to have a functional and aesthetically pleasing garden space, so we’ve been on the lookout for a more attractive option. I think we’ve found it, and its on the way, so we took dow that ugle plastic fence.  We also continue our journey to find the best tomato cages period. We’ve done the conical tomato cages you can buy at the garden center, the heavy duty tomato cages you can buy at the garden center, the square box tomato cages you can buy and last summer finally a PVC and pipe structure Josh built. So far nothing supports the monsters we grow (gotta love that amazing Midwest soil) and looks great.


This year josh turned to Martha Stewart because, let’s face it, she knows her stuff, and constructed these cages out of concrete reinforcing mesh. They are non galvanized so they have a pleasing rustic look in our garden, and they are sturdy. I’ll report back later in the summer on how they work out.


Our next project is getting the coop built and our chickens in residence.  The only place we can put the coop to meet all village requirements is right in the middle of what was the asparagus bed. We dug up the bed because we were going to bag the asparagus this year anyway (a lot of work for a little reward asparagus) but the asparagus just keeps growing back! Oh well, the girls will have a little snack. I’m looking forward to one last push of work in the garden, then it’s just maintenance until harvest time.

Do any of you have garden projects going on? I’d love to see them!


Window Boxes

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This past week we’ve finally “dressed up” the side of our house that was looking a little boring.

With only nine inches between the driveway and the house we didn’t want to put in plants that would require a lot of watering and lead to us soaking our foundation. So we opted for window boxes.

In the two boxes outside the living room window we put a variety of flowers including some petunias, snap dragons, marigolds, dichondra, and a few others, with some tall guys in the back and some hang-down guys in the front.

Then, in front of the kitchen window we planted some basil, mint, cilantro and parsley. This way we can just reach out the kitchen window for fresh herbs without having to go outside.

Out on the patio we also planted a selection of other herbs; some thyme, and a variety of mints (chocolate mint, apple mint, pineapple mint – think of all the mojitos and ice cream toppings!).

And last, but not least, our neighbor no longer has to stare out her kitchen window and look at our drab, blank wall.