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Savory Sweet Potato Soup

October 5, 2016

I love soup in the cooler seasons of the year. This one is one of my favorites.
Gluten-free. Dairy-free (if you opt out of the sour cream garnish).
Satisfying!

Curing sweet potatoes for long term storage...like 8 months!

Curing sweet potatoes for long term storage…like 8 months!

Savory Sweet Potato Soup

    2 large Onions, diced (3 cups)
    2 large Celery rib, diced (2 cups)
    3 tablespoons+ Bacon Grease &/or coconut oil (bacon drippings, as I prefer to call them, adds a really rich flavor)
    3 pounds (about 6) roasted Sweet Potatoes, peeled (about 3 cups packed)
    1 quart Chicken or Beef Stock+
    2 teaspoons Sea Salt
    1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
    1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
    1 teaspoon Dried Sage
    1/2 teaspoon Dried Thyme
    dash Turmeric

    Garnish with:
    Ground Nutmeg
    Chopped Pears
    Sour Cream, optional

    1. Cook the onion and celery in the oil over a medium-low heat, until the onion is transparent but not brown, about 5 minutes.

    2. Add sweet potatoes, half of stock, onions & celery mixture to a food processor and puree until smooth, scraping down the bowl, if necessary.

    3. Return to the pot, and add remaining stock.

    4. Season with salt and cayenne to taste. (Be careful on the salt if you are using store-bought stock. It may not be needed.)  If needed, add a touch of extra stock to reach the consistency of a thick soup.

    5. Garnish & serve.

    Serve with a Reserve Chardonnay

Sweet Potato Harvest

October 4, 2016

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Weather finally cooled so I decided to tackle the sweet potato bed that I planted months & months ago & never touched again.

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I have not tried to grow sweet potatoes before so this was an experiment. I wanted to prepare another bed for moving strawberries & thought I would let the plant break up the dirt for me. I had no idea what would happen.

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I bought 1 package of small plants marked “Sweet Potatoes” at Lowe’s late last Spring, covered a 5-foot by 4-foot area outside the garden fence with cardboard then poured out 3 big bags of organic garden soil on top.

Mason wanted to help dig, then wanted to take a nap where I was working.

Mason wanted to help dig, then wanted to take a nap where I was working.

The slips were planted in the dirt then covered with pine straw as a mulch. Nothing else for about 2 weeks when I suddenly wondered if I should treat the sweet potatoes like white potatoes & cover the emerging leaves with more soil. So I did. Once.

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Lots of vining leaves covered the area even invading under & through the garden fence. Lots of leaves. Periodically I would yank a bunch out or I think they would have taken over the top of our hill.

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The bed was well watered with a sprinkler on a timer.

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To harvest, I thought it best to pull the vines off the top then work my way down. I could not believe what I found! Sweet potatoes! Huge sweet potatoes! Just brush the dirt off the top & there they are! Pounds & pounds & pounds of sweet potatoes! Have you ever seen a 6-lb sweet potato?

6 lb!

6 lb!

I haven’t weighed them all yet but I’m thinking there is well over 50 pounds, gosh, maybe 75 pounds of sweet potatoes! It took all my strength to pull the garden cart up to the house & into the garage.

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If you are coming for Thanksgiving, plan on eating sweet potatoes. Sweet Potato Pie. Sweet Potato Muffins. Sweet Potatoes Praline. Sweet Potato Soup. Raw Sweet Potato Salad. Sweet Potatoes baked, candied, every way I can possibly think to prepare them!

I’ll post a recipe tomorrow.

Almost Mute Monday: Cantaloupe & Eggplant

October 3, 2016
Another puppy-stolen cantaloupe!

Another puppy-stolen cantaloupe!

The 1st & only eggplant of the year!

The 1st & only eggplant of the year!

We Have Hens post script

September 24, 2016

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The chicken coop is now in what was the dog yard. Seemingly safe. I leave for choir practice. DH wants to mow the front & back lawns with his new lawn mower.

It ain't pretty but it's up!

It ain’t pretty but it’s up!

“Keep the pups in the garage until we are sure they won’t go over the fence,” says I. “They don’t want to be in the dog yard. They won’t go in.” Hmm…
While I am at choir practice I turn my phone off – no distractions, only music for an hour & a half. When I get to my car after practice I turn the phone on to text DH that I am rolling home from church. This is what I find:

“dogs bad”
“found dixon in pen with chicken in mouth – one was running to front porch – I caught it – dogs locked in garage”
“chickens are all accounted for but pretty scared”
“bad dogs asleep”

Not good.

So Thursday I placed insulators & ran wire around the chicken yard, installed our very old electric fence charger & waited to see dogs touch the wire with their noses & get a shock. Nothing! Evidently the charger is dead. (Anyone else ready for autumn weather? I drank all the water I could get down while working, a quart of coconut water, a big bowl of bone broth after & still had horrible leg & foot cramps all night! This heat is going to kill me!)
Off to Tractor Supply for a new charger Friday morning.

Mason sniffing the not-working electric fence.

Mason sniffing the not-working electric fence.

New charger installed. Lines all the way around checked for no grounding. Safe at last…I hope!

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All 8 hens came out at the same time to graze for the very first time!

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Post-Post Script:
While I was bush-hogging the top of the hill I saw Dixon heading for the chicken yard. I followed quietly…well, as quietly as I could on a tractor. He lay down next to the tarp side of the yard in the shade, lifted his head & touched the electric fence. “Yelp! Yelp” He was off like a shot across the driveway & away from the chickens! SUCCESS! Poor puppy.

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SAFE AT LAST! at least from dogs…

We Have Hens part 2

September 23, 2016

As I said, NO HENS! I didn’t panic. I quickly parked the car, glad I had packed cold groceries in the ice chest, grabbed my big hat & took off running to where the coop was parked next to the barn. Of course, puppies were excited – Mom was running! Idiot dogs! I ran back to the house, locked the dogs in the garage with their water. Mason was thrilled. He loves sleeping on the cool concrete floor of the garage.
Running back to the coop, not quite out of breath, but note to self: work on your cardio! The red line was not on the fence. It was hanging down & clicking which makes me think the electric fence was working. I do not know why it was hanging down. Did DH not attach it? Did the pups knock it loose? Doesn’t matter. I turn off the power & quietly walk to the coop.

No longer a dog yard, instead a chicken yard.

No longer a dog yard, instead a chicken yard.

Praise the Lord – 2 hens are inside & seem unscathed! So where is everyone else? I reattached the roosts inside the coop (not good! dogs got inside?) & close the end door of the coop. I close the small door of the run, pick up the overturned range feeder & close the larger door while I refill the feeder.
I call the hens, like I call Harry & Carole’s hens who actually run to me when I call, but mine are still skittish & this isn’t going to help. I reset the fence but leave the power off. That’s when I hear chickens. One was coming from the neighboring pasture fence row, very agitated but obviously wanting to be back with her sisters. I lay the fence down on that side, open the big run door then step back, all the time speaking quietly to the henny-pennies. That makes 3 of 8.

I didn't calm myself before I snapped the pic.  Sorry for the blur.

I didn’t calm myself before I snapped the pic. Sorry for the blur.

Walking around the hedgerow & the garden hoping they haven’t gone too far, I see feathers in different places but no blood – good! They should have survived.
It’s been a couple of hours, I still have groceries to unload, I’m hot, tired & aggravated. Time to take a break.
Back to it, this time with Dixon on a leash to maybe sniff out the hens. He does! He pulls me to the garden fence & lays down as I hear the hen squawk. A solid black hen, missing all of her tail feathers is trying to move away from the dog through a large canna. I manage to catch her in my hands & pull her close because the puppy thinks it’s time to play again. Sternly admonished he goes down quickly. Hen goes back to the coop, poor little thing. No blood, but no feathers – she should heal. 4 of 8.

Still nervous.

Still nervous.

I need to pick raspberries having not been in the garden for a few days, okra, purple hull peas & bell peppers, too. Shorts & sleeveless top, I step into the bramble & hear a chicken! Trying to coax her out doesn’t work but it does get me seriously scratched up. Every time I get her near & reach out my long-handled net she goes under the plants the other direction. Frustrated, I call Harry. “Please help!” He comes quickly. He goes to one end, I go to the other, he pokes at her with his long-handled net, I wave my arms & she’s out! Gently guiding her to the coop, she’s in! 5 of 8.
Harry & I walked the top of the hill but no more chickens were seen. He advised that I wait until evening, “They should come home to the coop as the sun goes down. Be patient, leave the fence down & the pups locked up.” Okay. Not like I really have a choice.
Sun goes down. I walk out. 2 hens, pretty as you please, are walking around the fence trying to find a way in. I lower the fence on their side, open the run door, walk around the coop encouraging them to the door side & rejoice when they walk inside! Fence raised again. 7 of 8. Where is the last one?
Tuesday – no #8. Tuesday evening, DH flies in & wants to know why the pups are in the garage. A brief, limited explanation ensues. Better to tell him a little at a time.

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Wednesday – DH going to help me move the coop into the old dog yard/kennel. Puppies on leashes we walk to the barn, take the semi-permanent dog fence down, take the electric fence down. By this time the hens are back in the coop; they had been scratching around in the run. We are about to move the coop when the dogs dart toward the hedgerow fence & I see something move. A hen! DH grabs the leashes & I go down on my knees into the privet, poison ivy & every other noxious thing you can think of in a hedgerow. She is trying to get through the fence but not successful – HURRAH! I gently take her in my arms holding her wings down, talking/cooing to her & place her in the run with her sisters. That’s when DH gets the rest of the story – the story of the missing hen.
The move took a bit of elbow-grease, then reattaching the run, leveling the waterer, setting the feed then admonishing the dogs when they got too close to the fence. Safe, I hope.

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It took a couple of hours for the girls to venture into the run then out of the run into the grass. They are still skittish & go into the coop when I step too near the fence or into the yard. We are going to free-range these ladies once the permanent coop gets built & the puppies get trained a bit: just because hens squeak when you pull their feathers does not mean they are toys. Note to self: no more squeaky toys for the dogs!

One egg was broken when it fell from the nesting box.

One egg was broken when it fell from the nesting box.

3 eggs on Sunday. 4 eggs were waiting on Monday. 2 eggs Tuesday (1 a double-yoker) 2 eggs so far Wednesday. Not bad for very upset henny-pennies!

Eggs over sautéed squash from the garden.

Eggs over sautéed squash from the garden.

We Have Hens

September 22, 2016

It has been an exciting last couple of weeks. Myron (pronounced May-run) called saying his pullets (young hens) had just started laying, so they were ready to find their farm.

Delivered to the front porch, then gnawed on by puppies before I came up from the lower pasture & got off the tractor.

Delivered to the front porch, then gnawed on by puppies before I came up from the lower pasture & got off the tractor.

We were not yet ready for hens. The puppies have just climbed out of the kennel for the last time & were running free on the farm. That means absolutely nothing is safe. Particularly cantaloupes & carrots, both being dug up or stolen on a daily basis. We haven’t built our chicken coop because I want a chicken “tractor” – a chicken coop that is moveable so hens can eat fresh grass everyday & their poop gets spread around to nourish the ground.

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DH suggested we buy a chicken coop kit so we could figure out what we want, we would be moving forward & we can build the permanent structure later when the weather finally cools. We have been running 5 – 10 degrees above normal the past few weeks. Onto Tractor Supply’s website, Lowes.com, Wayfair.com I go looking at a large selection of coops, reading the descriptions & reviews, finally settling on a coop on wheels with a screened chicken run from Wayfair.com.

4 nesting boxes

4 nesting boxes

It was supposed to be delivered in 2 weeks but arrived after 1 week. Glad about that. It took me 6 hours to put together – DH was out of town. I realized it was very small, basically just a bedroom with a tiny patio-ish. There are 4 roosting bars across the main floor of the coop, 4 nesting boxes, 2 removable trays to clean out the poop, a door on either end. The run has 2 screen doors with latches, 2 screened windows with latches.

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We fetched the hens from Myron & his sweet wife, Christine. Of course it was pouring down rain so we got to sit & visit for a couple of hours with these salt-of-the-Earth folks. Myron sells hens to help pay for their grand-daughter’s college. Christine collects quilts – some are just gorgeous!

Myron in the tall sorghum searching for hens.

Myron in the tall sorghum searching for hens.

The rain stopped & off we were to the chicken yard by the old barn in the back of the property. Oh my goodness, I thought these young hens were going to be small. Wrong! They are huge, full-size hens! Running in the tall sorghum growing as a hiding place from predators, Myron’s chickens free-range. Using a large net on a long pole, Myron calmly walks through the yard until the hens are next to the fence & he drops his net on them one by one. We collect them in a large, wire dog kennel then DH & Myron load them into the back of our pick-up. DH didn’t expect them to be so heavy.

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Rain beginning again, no sun to charge the solar-powered electric fence, this may be a problem. Puppies are very excited with all the movement inside the run & the fence is not sturdy. The girls settle in & we make the dogs walk us back to the house. So far, so good.

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Sunday morning we have eggs! Yippety-skippety! Eggs from our own hens! Excited! Problem – puppies charge the fence & break right through. Good news – hens run to the chicken coop & run immediately & take shelter as I run immediately screaming, “BAD DOG!” I didn’t know if the hens were more afraid of Dixon or me.

8 hens

our hens

Monday morning – I leave well before daylight to meet with our trainer; DH has an early flight to Ohio so he must skip. DH opens the coop, both doors; opens the run, both doors; turns on the solar-powered electric fence charger then takes off for the airport. Uh oh! I have a chiropractic appointment after my workout so after errands I return home around noon. The fence has been knocked down! No puppies to be seen & NO HENS!
Maybe I should continue this tomorrow…

It’s Been A While…why do I keep saying that?

August 17, 2016

Farm life is busy… & I mean very busy in the summertime. Gardening. Bush-hogging the pastures. Canning pickles, salsa, tomatoes. Making jams & jellies. Freezing veggies & berries. From dawn till dusk I’m working.

Coming from the kennel

I didn’t mention the pups, Mason (blue collar) & Dixon (red collar). They are keeping me really

    busy!

    Lucy waiting

    The Great Pyrenees puppies are now 7 months old, weigh around 70 lbs & dominate quite a bit of my time.

    M&D don't get to come in the house often...

    M&D don’t get to come in the house often…

    They are learning certain words: pond, porch, pasture, pool – I bought them a kid’s wading pool so they could cool off on really hot days.

    Portrait

    Mason is learning “walk slowly,” “whoa!” & “easy,” all for use while we are walking – they on their leashes, me in my running shoes!

    Dixon is always a bit slower to learn. This could be because of his Parvo Virus early in life. He was a really sick pup in the beginning.

    They are learning. They are definitely growing. They are the calmest, sweetest pups imaginable.

    Laying down

    Last weekend our dearest friends came for a visit to see the house for the first time. (They hiked up the hill with us the first month we owned the property 2 years ago before any work had begun.)

    Tasting Mom's hand

    They also got to meet the boys…the puppy boys.

    Back to the kennel

    Dave said the best thing he liked about our farm is the dogs. Yep. Me, too!

    Mason

    Just a reminder of how small & adorable they were last March.

    Dixon