Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The start of a new series…Happenings on the Homestead - July 2012

July: An interesting and exciting month for our family...we learnt so much, experienced so much and loved so much...I remember only the joyful moments found in it...dear, dear July...

However, I will miss many things in my life that changed in this month...I’ll miss sweet friends who left for another life in another country and I’ll miss the moments that can never be relived with my family...

First leaves on our apple tree...

But I do not want to look on the downside of July; I wish to look at the bright side - this month I truly tried to bask in God’s riches and grace.

Peach blossoms...first of the season...oh how delighted they made me feel!

This area is being developed for a big food garden.

But first of all, welcome to our little piece of earth, where we hope to grow abundantly in Christ and live sufficiently off the land...this is God’s farm and He has graciously allowed us the privilege of working it and at the same time have Him work in our hearts.


Somehow we managed to achieve so much in the garden during July...I think it was due to the fact that the weather played along about 70% of the time...I cherished the warm days and cheerful skies and made the most of them. I planted lots and lots of seeds towards the middle of July and now I see them greeting the world in their trays!

Seedling trays resting on top of the rain tank...

Our kitchen garden in the process of being developed...we’re getting there!

Our second batch of potatoes...

We harvested our first lot of potatoes this month and managed to get five meals for our family out of that crop – not bad seeing as it was a) our first attempt b) the size of the patch measured only 2m x 2m and c) I got too impatient and pulled out the plants when the tubers were still fairly small. They were divine anyway and had a completely different taste to that of store bought tubers.

Hmmm...I used our first baby potatoes in a stew...

...And as a side dish with roast chicken.  I steamed the potatoes until tender while I fried together a few diced spring onions and five crushed garlic cloves.  I then placed the potatoes, garlic, spring onion and a huge dollop of farm butter in a dish and tossed gently.  They were delicious - if I do say so myself:)  lol.

Other harvesting done this month included a fair amount of lettuce, celery and parsley for salads. I actually picked a few heads of broccoli today for a warming sweet potato and broccoli soup. The recipe is at the bottom of this post.

Already Dad and I have begun sorting out our other veggie patch which is at the back of our house (see photo at beginning of post). Dad hoes the area to be used for planting and I help him by clearing out the grass and weeds. Dad then has to lay plastic along the sides of each bed in order to keep the pesky moles out. This takes him a long time...

I managed to plant another crop of potatoes in the new veggie area on Saturday and we are almost finished patch number two where I’ll plant broad beans and runner beans. There are so many other things we need to plant NOW but poor Dad only has so much time after work and on weekends...I struggle with my back so I cannot really do any hard work in the garden other than planting and weeding. We’ll get there in good time, though! My mom has taught us to live by the old adage: ‘Slow and Steady wins the race!’

Fortunately, we did plant lots of peas at the beginning of July so they are growing nicely now in the small kitchen garden as well as carrots and beetroot which I have sown successively. I’ll let you know what crops we’ve got in the new garden next month.

It is exciting to see more and more space being taken up by vegetable and fruit producing plants.

Animals and Meat...

In July the milk production went from good to great and from great to amazing! This morning I came inside with ten litres of milk. Dude, the foster calf, is almost fully weaned now, so I have to get every drop of milk out Molly’s udder. It is rather tiring and I do prefer it when there are calves to suck out those last few drops! Dude has a full feed in the evening though.

The most wonderful thing about fresh milk is the lovely layer of cream that rises to the top after 12-24 hours of refrigerating...I am so happy I acquired the job of scooping the cream off and making butter! I really love all the jobs that come with farm life and I’m happy I get to lend a hand in all of them, but milking and making milk products happens to be my favourite of all...

We don’t get quite enough cream to make quite enough butter for our family, so we do have to buy in each month. But as our milk production has increased this month, so has our butter making! We reckon we get over two bricks a week (over 1kg of butter) from Molly.

We are getting laying hens very soon – Nancy is delighted because she’ll be in charge of them!  Dad and our neighbour, Uncle Terence, began building the coop this month and should complete it in August sometime. 

Most of our meat is hunted by Uncle Terence when he can and the rest we do have to buy in.  However,  it won’t be too long till poor Dude grows up...eventually we’ll also have chickens which we’ll slaughter for meat:(

My favourite chore of the day is milking Molly and looking after the calf. That is, if it isn’t raining...

In the Kitchen...

July isn’t our month for much preserving...however, we always have things to do in the kitchen, whether it is bread baking, butter making or just general food preparation. I spend a lot of my time cooking which is time happily spent for me...

Mom plans the meals and I help her by telling her what we have in the fridge etc. I also have the privilege of cooking several times a week for my family. You could actually say I see to a lot of things within the running of the kitchen because most of my chores happen there – I am chief-in-charge-washer-upper (if you get such a word as that) and chief-stove-looker-afterer (I KNOW there is no word such as that!). As mentioned I do the butter making and generally see to the incoming and usage of milk and milk products. Mom sees to most of the bread baking. Nancy has to do the drying up and Beth dries the plastic dishes and sets and clears the meal tables. Gabrielle does her share by drying the cutlery. I like to see that the kitchen is tidy for my Mom so she can function properly there once every meal is complete.

We also use a wood stove which has a small oven. Although it does take longer to work with, it saves us a LOT of electricity every month and I have come to love it so much that I prefer working on it to the electric stove - plus it heats up the house!

Beth and Gabrielle helping Mommy bake.

Mom likes to encourage us in the kitchen and makes sure Nancy and Beth have time to make things too.  Here Beth made yummy corn fritters for lunch while Nancy made oven potato chips and guacomale (below) for lunch another day.

As promised, here is the recipe for our yummy sweet potato and broccoli soup which I made today:

15ml butter
250ml ready-made white sauce
500ml chicken stock
1 large head broccoli, broken into florets
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
Salt to taste

Heat the butter. Saute the sweet potato for a few minutes until it justs starts to brown. Add the chicken stock and bring to the boil. Cook until the sweet potato is tender. Add the broccoli and cook until just tender. Transfer the vegetables to a blender and process until smooth. Add the white sauce and pulse until well combined. Transfer soup back to pot and heat through.

The incredible thing about this meal was that it cost us virtually nothing to make. Here is a brief rundown for you on what it might have cost and what it actually cost us to make: Note that I quadrupled this soup recipe to feed our family for two meals.

125g butter - Approx. R5
2.5 litres milk - Approx. R15
Chicken stock – Approx. R5
3 large heads broccoli – Approx. R15  
About 12 small sweet potatoes - Approx. R20
Other and electricity – Approx. R5

= R65 (a conservative estimate)

It was amazing to think about the ingredients I used in this soup because they were either given to us or we made or produced them ourselves. Plus we didn’t use any electricity and our wood was free! All it cost was extra time and effort.

Butter made from our own cream from our own cow – zero
Milk from our own cow – zero
Chicken stock was homemade on the wood stove – zero
Broccoli was grown in our garden – zero
Sweet potatoes were given to us by our neighbour – zero
We didn’t use electricity. Instead I made the soup on the wood stove and used wood we got for nothing – zero

If only we could live like this always, but it is a start! One day we’ll get to eating everything that we either grew or produced on our homestead. I only see these blessings as gifts from God – I never thought He’d see fit to give us our hearts’ desires as it says in Psalm 37! The pleasures that come with the hard work and the satisfaction found in living a self-sufficient life is incomparable!

I love living differently to others and I am so grateful for the Lord’s goodness. I think I learned how important it is to be thankful this month – my greatest memory from July was watching Jesus work and provide in our lives and in our hearts:)


P.S. We do find time for schooling and leisure, it just happens whenever we can get to it. We have a room in the house, meant to be the lounge, which is quite large and my mom has converted it into a stunning school room. We spend lots of time learning and creating in there!