Chocolate Box Cottage Diary, Vol 3
Week 18: May 6, 2023
It’s been a while, but Samuel and I did a homestead walkabout this weekend. What is a homestead walkabout, you say? It’s simply walking around our place with open eyes and a notebook. It’s very informal. We look for what’s blooming, appreciate what we have, and try not to be critical. A homestead walkabout helps us see what’s happening at our place on at least a monthly basis.
You can reap the benefits of monthly walkabouts at your place, too. Note what is in bloom, what needs fixing, and what you can do to make your place more…whatever you want it to be, whether that is attracting more butterflies, providing more fresh produce, or more relaxing by creating a sitting space outdoors.
Our place is a little more than 3 acres, so we divided it into zones: lawn areas, pasture and orchard, gardens, hen yard / marsh / ponds area, and driveway and woodshed.
We noticed dozens of strawberry plants popped up in the lawn. This is a resource we could choose to take advantage of by transplanting them to another area that doesn’t get mowed or we can leave them be.
Pasture and orchard
The pasture is sloped and contains a wide mixture of plants from timothy grass (Phleum pratense) to clover to herbs like Great mullein, mayweed (aka stinking chamomile), chickweed, and nuisance plants like wild blackberry vines, and poison oak. We actually did not find any poison oak, so either the sheep ate it all down or it is very (thankfully) sparse.
The Gravenstein apple is one of 10 apple trees in the pasture and orchard area and there are 4 more along the driveway, bringing the apple tree total to 14! This is 2 more than we thought. Our two favorites are the Gravenstein and a pale yellow that may be a Yellow Transparent. These two are biennial bearing, meaning they bear apples every other year and opposite of each other at that. We have always liked it that way. Oddly, last year’s hard May freeze upset the cycle and now both are in bloom this year, which means next year neither will bear fruit.
Sam stumbled over a metal stake in a low spot in the orchard. It was obscured by Himalayan blackberry vines until he burned them this weekend. He will try to determine if the stake is a marker and if not, remove it for safety.
Hen yard / marsh / ponds
Last fall Sam cut brush, mostly blackberry vines, cattails, and willows in a successful effort to evict a pair of bears that were camping in the hen yard. This weekend he burned the heaped up brush and we talked about revisions to the hen yard fencing.
Sunny days make me think of bubble tea, a throwback to when our girls were in high school. I cooked small tapioca pearls in water and brewed a pint of Enchanted Forest Chai and refrigerated both. Later I combined the two and added milk plus a touch of brown sugar for a super fun refreshment.
Convenience without the can
Home-cooked beans are so much better!
I soaked 2 pounds black beans, 2 pounds pintos, and 1 1/2 pounds navy beans overnight in salted water. The next day I drained and rinsed them, and cooked them until tender with seasonings.
Part of the seasoned pinto beans were turned into bean dip with my trusty old Vitamix and divided into half pint jars to freeze. (Pureed or mashed beans cannot safely be canned at home.) The remaining pintos, along with black beans and navy beans, were divided into freezer Ziploc bags in amounts that match our favorite recipes.
Bean packets are frozen flat on cookie sheets. Once solid, they are “filed” in a plastic shoebox and returned to the freezer where they are easy to locate. Flat packets of beans are a wonderful kitchen convenience! To thaw place packet on the kitchen counter for about an hour or in a bowl of warm water for 15 minutes, until the beans break apart. Then heat them in a saucepan.
Precooked beans are perfect for Sweet Potato Nachos, chili, Confetti Bowl, or as a side dish.
I am a fair weather kombucha drinker – meaning my kombucha crock sits neglected in the corner next to the Tea Station from about November to April or May.
Now that sunny weather has returned, it’s time to brew kombucha. I pulled the fabric cap off to inspect the SCOBY. It looked surprisingly healthy, so I cleaned the crock out, brewed a fresh batch of sweet tea, and added it to the crock with a cup of liquid from the previous batch and the SCOBY. The house is still cool and kombucha likes it warm, so I checked the temp with my favorite thermometer and added a heating pad to make it cozy.
I am anticipating all kinds of fruity and herby fizzy drinks! Tell me, do you brew kombucha? I know it’s not everyone’s “cup of tea,” but I love it.
Thank you for visiting Chocolate Box Cottage!
Michele and Samuel
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