Real Family Farming in Tionesta, PA
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Only 9 more days until we reopen for the year! I'm excited and overwhelmed all at the same time. I'm glad I was able to take 2 more days away from my day job next week, because as it is I put in almost a full day every evening after I get home. There is so much to do!
I bottled my first homemade vinegar this week. It's champagne vinegar, made with nothing but champagne (ok, domestic sparkling wine) a little water, mother of vinegar, and time. It's fantastic!! I'll have a few bottles for sale and I've already started the next batch, but it will be a few months before it's ready. I've been drying herbs in my little food dehydrator, so far I've packaged chamomile and some oregano. I need a bigger drying space!
We got some quail eggs and set them in the incubator last night, along with some Delaware chicken eggs from my girls here. If all goes well, we'll have quail eggs & meat for sale by mid summer. The Delawares will be to increase my laying flock, because those are my most productive and favorites of all the breeds we raise.
I was going to transplant some zucchini and pepper plants just now, but I see a wild turkey at the edge of the garden right now. They are so neat to have around, I'll let him clean up some insects before I go out to plant, as I still have a few hours of daylight left.
We still need to clean up the stand, but the fridge is plugged in and full of cheese. Tom, Dan's father, picked up our first order of raw milk cheese from Whispering Brook Cheese Haus, so we're set to go with that again. New this year (for us) is a cheddar made from goat's milk and an Italian cheese with sun dried tomato chips, basil, and garlic. We also got a lot of the Dill & Bacon cheddar which was so good we sold out of it the first day we had it last year. We also have Longhorn (Colby), Mild Cheddar, Smoked Sharp Cheddar, Jalapeño, and Horseradish again this year as well. So now I just need to forget it's down there so there is some left to sell!
I've been working on updating the website page with products and prices. A good portion of it is already live, but I'm holding off on listing the veggies yet. I don't want to advertise things only to find they just didn't ripen in time for the first weekend. I do try and go out to the garden nightly while I'm tending the rabbits... maybe if I just stare hard enough, I'll magically make the peas ripes or something...
I've also been working hard on getting the June e-newsletter completed. It's almost ready to go out, hopefully I'll have the time to get that out next week. We also participated in donating wool & hair for the oil spill, but that's a story I don't have time to type out tonight! There is still so much to be done, and I won't get it finished if I'm blogging. We hope to be seeing you next weekend!
Posted by Emily
@ 07:13 PM EDT
I'll be watching the mail carefully, as we've got some exciting packages scheduled to arrive this week!
If all goes according to plan, I'll have my new vinegar bottles and herb jars delivered tomorrow. I've got a new batch of Blueberry-Basil Vinegar to package, but I've been waiting on our new containers. I think these salad dressing-style bottles will be easier to use than small canning jars. I'm also very excited to finally package some of the champagne vinegar. The mother of vinegar has been working for the past few months, and it's finally ready! I'm excited to try it in some of my favorite recipes. If you've enjoyed any of our flavored vinegars before (we also sell Dried Herb and Mulled Blackberry) be sure to look for them in the new containers as well. Once the herb garden gets going, I hope to have some new varieties this year too!
The oregano is growing rapidly, thanks to the warm temperatures and the gentle rain we got this weekend, and I'll be putting some in the dehydrator this week. I'm hoping to expand our line of dried herbs from the organic coriander and dried basil we offered last year, and oregano seems like a great place to start.
I'm really excited about Friday though, because that's when our turkey poults will be arriving! Dan and I have talked for the past year or two about getting a starter flock of heirloom turkeys. While we have raised the regular broad-breasted white before, and will have some again this year, they are a completely artificial breed. To satisfy the American taste for white meat, the breasts on these birds grow so large, they cannot even mate naturally. All eggs are fertilized via artificial insemination. While I like to think I know my birds quite well, that's more up close and personal than I'm willing to get with a turkey! Happily, there are a variety of heirloom breeds of turkeys. While not as fast growing or large breasted, they have the ability to breed naturally, they have the "motherly instinct" to sit on a nest until the eggs hatch, do well in free range & pasture based systems like ours, and are an intelligent, beautiful bird. The hardest part was deciding which breed to raise. I quickly decided on the Bourbon Red. A native of the Kentucky area, this breed is a beautiful reddish brown with edges of white on its wings and tail. Dan, however knew from the beginning that he wanted the Royal Palm, which has a stunning black and white pattern. What to do? Since we just couldn't agree, we decided to order some of both. Our broiler chicks are now three weeks old and have gone to an outdoor pen, so the indoor one will be cleaned and ready for our little turkeys when we get the phone call form the post office telling us to come pick them up!
Posted by Emily
@ 05:18 PM EDT
I'm finally in the process of making vinegar. One of my Christmas presents was a vinegar cask, a large, pear shaped container with a spigot on the bottom. It is used to ferment the vinegar, with the final product being heavier and sinking to the bottom. The spigot lets you remove some without disturbing the "mother." The mother is a whitish, jelly-like substance that floats on the top of the liquid and converts the alcohol in wine, hard cider, beer or any other alcoholic beverage into an acid, which make vinegar. It functions much like yeast does in home beer or wine making- it's best to buy a good starter so you can be confident your end product is going to be what it is supposed to be. It was also a treasured possession years ago, much like a good starter for sourdough bread.
The first step was deciding what kind of vinegar I wanted to make. The season is past for buying good, local, unpasteurized apple cider, plus I would need to ferment it into alcohol before starting the vinegar making process, so I figured that could wait until next fall. I don't use a whole lot of red wine vinegar in my cooking, so I though a nice white wine vinegar would be a good choice. However, Dan and I have really developed a taste for a champagne-dill mustard lately, and I just can't seem to re-create it here at home. I'm thinking that I need champagne vinegar, and I simply can't buy it locally. So, it just seemed logical to try and make some of my own!
The next step was to buy the champagne. Since I live in Pennsylvania, the only place to buy it is at the state-controlled liquor store. When I walked in, I was the only customer in the store, so the gentleman working there came over to try and help me find what I was looking for. I was just comparing prices, because I'm not going to buy really expensive champagne to turn into vinegar, a moderate priced one seemed like a much better idea. When I explained what I was doing, the man got a very puzzled look, and suggested which brands were drier and might be more like vinegar. I tried to explain that it was a process of refermenting the alcohol, which seemed to totally lose him. I'm sure I'm the only person who has walked into the Tionesta liquor store lately for vinegar making supplies!
After I made my purchase, I brought it home and poured the champagne into the cask, added some water, and dumped in the mother of vinegar culture I had purchased through the LocalHarvest online store. I covered the opening loosely with cheesecloth to keep out dust and kitty hair, and put it under the sewing machine in the living room. It needs to be near the wood stove, as the mother works best when the temperature is near 80 degrees. In a few months, I'll be sampling my own vinegar!
Posted by Emily
@ 12:41 PM EST
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