An impressive veggie

Georgia LongThis past weekend, my dad brought in some cowpeas. Now, the type of cowpea that we grow is pretty impressive looking as well as delicious. The name of what we grow is Georgia Long, and they do get long. We’ve even seen a few reach 30 inches.

IMG_6897The ones dad is holding there aren’t quite that long but they are about ready to finish drying for seed.

Anyway, the Georgia Long bean is one that my family originally got from a Seed Savers Exchange member from Missouri back in 1987. Here’s a short story that my dad wrote about this cowpea, “I received seed for this variety in 1987, from a Seed Saver’s Exchange Member in Missouri.1
Right away, my wife Jerreth and I shared some seed of Georgia Long, with her grandparents in Salem, Illinois (southern part of the state). They grew it every year from then until at least 1997. Grandma passed away in 1995 and Grandpa’s health was so poor, that in 1997 he presented me with a bottle of seed and asked me to keep it going from him, as he couldn’t garden any more. He had forgotten that we had given the variety to them originally. While growing this “bean,” Grandpa planted about 20 feet on tripods and had so many that he absolutely couldn’t eat them all. He would put out his surplus on a picnic table in the front lawn and a sign advertising free green beans! (I still have some of the 1996/1997 seed, in the same bottle. It tested out at nearly 100% germination in 2007!)
We lost our seed sometime between 1988 and 1992, when we lived in a very high cold rain forest in the Mexican state of Puebla. Life was too unsettled to keep seed going, and most of our heirloom varieties were not suited to that climate. We got more seed from Jerreth’s grandparents in 1994, and grew it until 2000, in the Mexican state of Hidalgo, in an irrigated desert environment. It did very well in the desert. This variety likes heat and tolerates white alkali conditions.”

An older gardener who was in his 80’s that my Dad spoke with some years ago, said he though these cowpeas might be the same as Yardlong.

Any way you cut it on the history of this cowpea, I know that every year, we enjoy harvesting this impressive cowpea, and definitely enjoy eating it over the winter.

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Fall harvest: just a few things.

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Sweet potatoes uncovered.

One of the things I love about the fall, are the things we harvest at this time of year. My family eats a lot of sweet potatoes and we use squash and pumpkin in a sweet creamy drink called atole. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of that, but here’s the recipe:

Americanized Pumpkin Atole
*To a blender add:
1 egg
a few glugs of molasses
some sugar (brown or white)
2 cups of cooked squash
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon of ground cloves
optional – 2 or 3 tablespoons of peanut butter
*Milk (at least a pint)
*Blend this all up and taste to see if it needs more sweetening.
*Pour the mix into a pot and heat until just boiling. I normally pour this mix into a two quart pot and add some additional milk before heating it.
*Serve and enjoy!

I also found this lovely lady’s blog about atole which does have some pictures. It could be a day or two before I next make it and I just discovered that since I’m not in the habit of snapping pictures of my food, I don’t have any of that. Any way, enjoy her post on it. She gives more recipes as well for more types of atole. : http://www.lacocinadeleslie.com/2012/10/atole-de-camote-sweet-potato-atole.html

Pilloncillo cones by the way are similar to brown sugar and we found that we can substitute brown sugar instead of trying to slice or sliver those cones. (On a side note, I was a pilloncillo cone thief as a kid. My poor mama was always wondering where the cone ran off to. I’d eat the whole thing and be a bit sick, if I didn’t get caught.)

We eat sweet potatoes with brown sugar and butter, or as atole, or just as is after baking them. Some of them are sweet enough to eat just as a snack.

sweet potato vines                      The above picture is of our sweet potato vines.


A day for making soap

IMG_6836My family makes our own soap. Sometimes we make goat’s milk which is my favourite, and other times, we make soap like the one I made today. The soap I made today is 19th century soap.

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I made one batch of lavender, and one batch of peppermint soap. The one big thing I have to say about soap making when you are making lye soap, is be very careful with anything that has lye in it. I made the mistake of adding water to the lye while my face was still over the pitcher. Bad idea! It about shut down my breathing and my eye sight for a few minutes. I’m ok now, but that’s a mistake I won’t make again. I also did get some lye soap on my skin while I was working. The way to stop the burning is to put white vinegar over the spot that got splashed. That neutralizes the lye. This is what the lye looks like before it is put into soap after you’ve turned it into liquid form:

lye mixture
Once the soap is made, you need to let it set wrapped in towels in a warm place for two weeks so that the lye can supponify with the fat in the soap. This soap used coconut oil, olive oil and goat fat. This was what that looked like melted down and ready to mix with the liquefied lye:

Lard Coconut oil and olive oil

If soap making is something that you would like to learn to do, I would recommend this book:

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It’s what my family uses in our soap making. I love being able to control what goes into my soaps. We uses lighter scents or no scent in our soaps most of the time. I have very sensitive skin so I have to be careful about scents.

I was very excited recently though because I got 3 trays of a new mold. Horse soap, here we come!IMG_6841IMG_6850

Mystery of the lost dogs

One of the Anatolian crosses doing what livestock guardian dogs love to do! He watches everything.
One of the Anatolian crosses doing what livestock guardian dogs love to do! He watches everything.

Last week two of our three livestock guardian dogs disappeared. My heart sunk when they did not return to the farm after two days. Right now, hunting season is in full swing for bow hunting and I was afraid that some annoyed hunter might have shot the two missing dogs. (By the way, I am not anti hunting. I do love deer meat.) Several days had passed and still no dogs. I was getting ready to write the dogs off as having been stolen or killed. More likely killed.

We had some friends of ours coming for a visit that Saturday. Flea from Jones Natural Chews Co. always has dog treats on her. Saturday morning, one of the dogs came back over the hill to the farm. No sign of the older dog though. Just as Flea and her husband pulled in, the other dog made a very happy go lucky appearance. The treat lady had arrived and he had to be sure to be present when she was.

My family and I were delighted to see these guys but we wondered where were they for the past several days? Did they camp on a gut pile from a hunter? A neighbour of ours finally gave us an answer. Our dogs had decided to guard a couple of fawns that had gotten caught in a hog pen.

Fawns
The fawns our dogs were guarding.

The dogs were going to make sure that the babies weren’t going to be eaten by any predator while they were helpless. Once the fawns were discovered in the pen, and dogs and fawns were released, the dogs escorted the fawns until they were sure that the babies were going to be safe, and then deeming that job to be finished, they came home to the farm to check on the other animals (and no doubt see what Flea had brought them). They get so excited about the goodies from Jones. You can go see their blog here: http://dogtreatweb.com/

Drying crops and planting crops

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This time of year, on our farm, we are doing fall planting. Lettuce, garlic, spinach, kale, basically cover crops such as Austrian winter peas. We are also digging up the sweet potatos. Another thing that we have started doing is dehydrating some of our produce. We can some of it, and dehydrate other things.

Just the other day, we were dehydrating onions. They can then be used in soup or anywhere else that dried onion is called for in a recipe. We have also gotten onions in the past that were left overs from big get togethers. The onions were just going to go to waste. So, we dehydrated them and used them over the next winter in soups and other foods.

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The way that we dehydrate pretty much anything, whether it’s bananas, onions, apples, carrots or anything else that you would want to dehydrate, is first we cut the item we are going to dehydrate into thin slices.

Then, we put it in the dehydrator trays and check back in a few hours. Simple, easy, and will save you money. I personally love to dehydrate apples and then take them to work as a snack.

dried apples