summer greens at Mountain Glen Farm

summer greens at Mountain Glen Farm

Friday, August 31, 2012

Waiting For The Shot

There is a beautiful, metallic green hummingbird that frequents my Cardinal flower, my butterfly bush, and my blue salvia.  I see him several times daily as I watch from the inside of my house.


Outside, I observe him more closely as I weed near his favorite plants. 


But, when I have my memory recorder (camera), he vanishes.


This morning, I decided to sit quietly on the back deck, camera at the ready, within a few feet of the favored blue salvia to wait for his visit.


I waited, and I waited.  No hummingbird in sight.  But, I did find interest in the bee that was intent on collecting all the nectar from that salvia plant. 


Later in the day, there he was; that hummingbird flying from his favorite perennial to favorite perennial.


And I…inside!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Second Opportunity

The 'rebloomer' iris in my garden.

starts like this

and, expands to this

Not all irises rebloom for a second time during the growing season...this one does.



Wednesday, August 29, 2012



Monday, August 27, 2012

More Than Just Apple Pie

The apples started to fall prematurely off my trees over one month ago.


The wasps came in and hollowed out the fruit.  The squirrels carried them off.  Buddy thought they were his ‘fetch’ ball.


Now, it is my time to zero in on the apples…pies, pies, and more pies come to my attention.


It is apple pie making time. 


And, I am ready…to eat, that is!


I made my first apple pie of the season on Saturday; and, today it is gone, as in eaten.   And, if you remember from an earlier post, I just do not make a  wimpy 8 or 9 inch pie plate apple pie; I make a 9” X 13 “ baking dish apple pie.  I make a three crust recipe for my apple pie.  I double the amount of sliced apples required for an ordinary apple pie.  My apple pie is quite generous; and usually, quite tasty.


And, …


I mowed the upper lawn around the house today; I was joined by a substantial number of butterflies.   They were so pretty as they floated from flower to flower. 


As I steered around my apple trees, I could smell the robust fermenting of the windfall apples; almost as if the ground was drenched with wine.


A surprise and added bonus of the windfall apples…a beautiful Red-spotted Purple was drawn to and  partaking of the sweet spirits.


There is more to an apple than apple pie!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

More Herb Drying - Dill and Tarragon


I plant dill for two reasons:  to have fresh available if we can pickles, we never do; and, for use in my cooking/baking. Dill rye bread is so savory and delicious.


The process is the same as previously executed for my other herbs (basil, parsley); wash, remove usable parts (dill includes the feather-like leaves and immature seed heads) and place on the dryer racks, plug in the electric and wait.  The mature seed heads are not dried; they are stripped of their seeds which are placed into air-tight storage.  The seeds are used in dill bread, too.

fresh dill on rack

dried dill on rack
The strand-like leaves are dry in minutes, but the seed heads take closer to two hours.


dill seed stripped from seed heads at right
Again, that herb aroma - this time, dill - drifts about my kitchen. 


And, again, once dry, crush the dried herb between the fingers, discard stems, and place into air-tight containers.  I opted for the glass jar again since the dried dill weed looks satisfying and pleasing as if on display.


This way, I get to enjoy my efforts in two ways; not only in my cooking/baking but also on exhibition.


Doubly delightful!


Tarragon is a perennial herb I have had growing in the garden for years.  Two years ago, I used some to make tarragon vinegar.  The tall wine bottle filled with the vinegar and sprig of tarragon looks charming sitting on the counter next to my stove. 


Unfortunately, I like the looks of the packaging so much, that I tend not to use the vinegar.  But, when I do, the food is enhanced with a hint of the wonderful tarragon flavor.

fresh tarragon
I repeated the dehydrator process with my fresh tarragon.   One full, all four racks, dehydrator produced a full 12 ounce jar of dried tarragon flakes.


Again, the piece de resistance of the herb drying processes…the aroma wafting through the house.


Drying herbs will now be a mainstay on my harvest season ‘to do’ list based on the splendid, heady scents alone; cooking/baking uses being secondary.

dill seed at top, dried tarragon (left) and dried dill weed (right)

The saying, “Smell the Roses” could just as well be “Smell the Herbs.”  They are comparable to my senses!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Funny (?) and True

My daughter Becky was out-of-town for a few days.


While gone, I would go by her place to make sure the cats were fed, cows were in pasture, mini-garden watered and such.


I notice one of her fairly new garden chairs was getting fluffier, day by day. 


I assumed that little Callie, mother cat of two growing kittens (they are about as big as MOM now), used the padded chair for a bit of reprieve from her kittens. Callie is still just of shadow of her former self as she continues to nurse.  I could not deprive her of this luxury.


After Becky returned, I pointed out the furry chair seat.  She just thought it was Callie, too.




One morning she looked out her window and discovered a big, old, grungy groundhog napping. (Note: Groundhogs live in holes in the ground.) He regularly returns - ugh!


And, he not only naps in comfort but he snacks on her lovely; albeit once lovely, sunflowers growing next to the deck.


My comment, “The nerve!”


Perhaps, once the sunflowers are eaten, he will move on…we are hopeful!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Dehydrator Drying… Next!

Parsley is next.

I did not grow much parsley this year as I was experimenting with the herb in my garden.

For future reference, I also decided try a bit of drying since I was so happy with the results from drying basil.

I do use dried parsley flakes in much of my cooking (soups, stews, lasagna) and baking (herb bread), so the necessity of growing and drying is justified.

fresh parsley leaves on tray

A quick wash, remove the leaves from the coarsest stems, plop on the dryer racks, plug into the electricity, and wait!  And, while I wait, I smell the pleasing aroma of fresh parsley leaves.

dried parsley

After a couple of hours, the parsley is dry.  I rub the dried leaves between my fingers to flake, discard any stems, and place into storage. This time I am employing a lidded glass canning jar. The dried parsley looks so pretty; bright green and ready for use in the glass container.

Drying herbs is so easy and so pleasantly and earthy aromatic. 

I enthusiastically recommend the entire process: growing, drying, cooking/baking.

My next trial …dill. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

'55' Farm Improvement - Water System, Phase Two

The project continues…two, four-hole, frost-free stock waterers were installed; one in the barn lot and one just past center between the barn lot and the far end of our property.

These locations were chosen based on proposed grazing management techniques already in use at Mountain Glen.

Our cattle are grass-fed.  To optimize the grazing, the cattle need to be moved onto fresh pasture on a regular, short rotation.  Thus, large pastures are divided into smaller usage units. This management provides prime grass, nutritionally, for the cattle and it provides the most favorable conditions for grass quality improvement; the old ‘win-win’ proposition.   

Along with food, cattle require gallons of water on a daily basis.  Water needs to be accessible to every unit.

pad form filled with concrete

concrete leveled

concrete pad complete - drying

Thus, the decision on the location of the waters; these two sites provide the ideal situation for the cattle to have easy water access from each grazing unit.  The waterer is a hub; in which, the small pasture units are connected.  The dividing fences between the units are the ‘spokes’.    
2nd waterer location - a community affair...not quite the game of checkers at the general store, but comparable

As a result, many pasture units can utilize one ‘watering hole’.  And, the cattle spend an inconsequential amount of time at the creek.

the inside workings
it works - see the water streaming in

no cows, but evidence that they have been using their new waterer
Oh, there they are...grazing the lush pasture!

Phase two…complete!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Deja Vu

Yesterday, I was outside gardening.  My gardening consists of anything happening with all things vegetative  within the confines of the formal (I use that term cautiously) yard - tending the vegetables, mowing the grass, weeding, trimming shrubs, pruning trees, transplanting perennials…get it?   Anything that is done outside the perimeter fence of the yard, where the livestock reside, is considered farming.

Albeit, I was standing under my ‘wisteria gone wild’ trying to trim back the tangle, for the third time this season, when I heard an approaching jet.  We have fighter jets fly over the farm on a regular basis, one or two  per week or so; guessing that the maneuvers are training exercises and not spy missions.  You heard about those maneuvers, right?  Our government is spying on cows.  No lie!

'wisteria gone wild' becomes 'wisteria going to the burn pile'

I always stop what I am doing to watch the approaching jet; follow it over the farm; and  beyond, over the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Some jets are louder than others, some jets fly lower than others, some jets fly in pairs rather than singly.

This particular jet was a loner, and it was flying lower than any I ever recall over the past 20 some odd years. The jet was so low that I thought I saw a bolt holding a light on the wing tip.  And, loud; my ears were ringing.  Within seconds, that jet had to quickly increase its altitude or crash into the mountains; it cleared.

I took a few seconds to regain my composure before returning to the chore at hand. 

my wisteria under control, again, if only for the moment

Five hours later, I experienced a repeat of that earlier incident…low flying jet, ear-rattling clamor, precision maneuvering.

What?  Was one fly-over not enough for the day? 

Evidently, not!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A Wonderful Aroma

I cannot stop sniffing my fingers.  They smell like licorice; and, I like licorice.

basil bouquet

I was stripping leaves off a basil plant. And, even though I have washed my hands several times, my fingers retained the pleasant aroma.  So, I keep sniffing.  Quite frankly, the scent is quite relaxing; not quite lavender, but close.

Thus, another ‘first’ for me….drying herbs. 

Today, I am drying basil.  The essence is permeating my kitchen and it makes the entire process fun and joyful.

Basil dries quickly.  Within a short hour or so , I am removing the dried leaves, crumpling them between my fingers making basil flakes.  Then, into air-tight baggies and I am set with a year’s worth of dried basil. 

I still have a couple of plants left in the herb bed which I will continue to utilize fresh while I am able.

Basil is a favorite herb of mine, and I am glad I discovered a new way; for me, that is, to extend my basil season!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Canning - Pros and Cons

I am getting tired.  I have been canning for days.  The yields are small, adequate for a family of two adults, but the time and energy spent have taken my vigor to a new low.  Yes, I admit, I am getting old and slowing down.

On the up side, I enjoy canning; so the smaller yields do make the task more manageable; thus, keeping the process pleasurable.  I like growing my own fruits/veggies, I like preserving the bounty for use during the non-productive months of the year, and I like eating the flavorful food I can boast as my own.  Therefore; I will continue to can, freeze, dry my garden abundance.

Today, I canned the tomatoes; rich, red, and pure Roma tomato.

I wish the timing of my preservation would give me at least a day’s rest /recuperation/clean-up time between the marathon sessions.  At the moment, my kitchen floor has grapes, raisins, bean ends, herb leaves, and tomato tops gathering in the corners and along the cabinet edges.  Have you heard the saying, “She is so clean you could eat off her floors.”   Not in my case, but I do have enough food on my floors to make a meal.   I also have a bucket full of newly harvested potatoes and a basket of onions under the window counter.  And, ripe cucumbers line the counter along with a few green tomatoes that fell off the plants while harvesting the ripe ones for today’s canning.  Kidding aside, there is no lack of substantive food in this house.  And, that is a good thing!

I have tried to stagger the plantings to stagger the ripening; but for some reason, that technique never seems to work.  Everything; and, I do mean every fruit and vegetable, seems to ripen at almost the exact same time.  So, I tackle the daunting undertaking with the knowledge, that in the end, I will have jars/freezer containers of colorful and delicious food waiting for a time when I will need them.

Not only is that thought satisfying, but I smile; filled canning jars lined up on my shelves - a small and simple pleasure for this farm wife.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Canning First

Yesterday was a first…I canned banana peppers. Not only did I can banana peppers for the first time ever, but I had help from my daughter, Becky.  Becky and I have never canned together, ever; a kind of Kodak moment.  Is Kodak still in business?

This was my first attempt at canning banana peppers because this is the first time we ever grew them in our garden; naturally, the canning follows the growing. Becky also grew them in her garden.  So, we combined our efforts to make the final product.

I am not a hot pepper fan, but I do like the taste of sweet banana peppers on sandwiches; adding just a tad of sharpness.  My first exposure to the banana pepper was when I went wild (I rarely experiment with new foods) and had them included on my sandwich at the local Subway.  Hmmm…I liked them.  I wondered if I could replicate the flavor.  I wanted to give it a try.

Peppers are fairly easy to grow.  We grow green peppers annually; and on occasion; jalapeƱo peppers. Personally,   I steer clear of any hot peppers, even the growing of such, because of a mishap years ago when I tried to make salsa for Glenn.  My hands were ‘on fire’ for days.  It was a most unpleasant experience.  But, I digress...

So, we planted banana peppers.  The plants were very prodcutive.  And, once an adequate amount accumulated, it was time to can.

I prepared the jars, the canning supplies, and the pickling juice.  Becky cleaned and sliced the peppers; I was taking no chances.

The peppers cut; they were spooned into the jars, hot pickling juice added, lidded, and the jars gingerly placed into a hot water bath to seal the lids. 

Voila…done.  Oh yeah, clean-up was my job, too!

And, the taste?  Well, we will not know the outcome for at least two weeks; the stated ‘resting’ time in the recipe.  But, they are pretty and oh, so colorful!