Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Everything Asparagus


Recently I received this email from June in Wisconsin. I have gotten several emails about asparagus recently and wanted to just touch base on growing asparagus........

Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge in your farm. What a blessing to me! Would you please explain, burn the aspuargus old plant when they are done every year, in order to prevent it from disease (My husband and I just plant it last year, 10 plant). Would you please teach more detail on how to hatch chick, how kind of tool will need and setting and how.  3yr ago we bought some layer and 1 rooster but the rooster didn't live through.
Thank you for taking your time to help.
Happy Mother's day to you
June in Wisconsin
June thank you for the Mother's Day greeting and I will try to answer some of your questions. 

The first thing every spring this is what my asparagus bed looks like. This bed is almost 16 years old and still producing. As soon as the weather starts warming usually about turkey season every year you will see the spears begin to emerge. I do not cover my bed in winter.  Once the sprouts emerge I cut everything LARGER THAN A PENCIL. I recommend that if you are starting a new bed don't cut it for two years. I never cut my asparagus past the first week of June. After that I simply let my asparagus come up and the fronds develop. 

At this time I weed the beds and apply rabbit manure every year. Asparagus are heavy feeders.

I string a string and use a shovel and edge the bed to keep the grass back and have a clean edge for mowing. you can add a thin layer of straw as mulch at this time if you want just not too deep so as not to rot the crowns. 

As the season progresses the plants will bloom. ( The female plants) 

The blooms will become berries

The berries will ripen. The birds love them and when they eat them then I get small asparagus coming up where ever the birds poop. That is why you see them along fence lines, under trees and bushes. Anywhere the birds roost and poop. I get lots of them around my bird bath.  

Then comes frost. The fronds turn brown like everything else in the landscape. The sap goes down to the root and the top of the plant dies. That is when in winter or very early spring you can chop those fronds down, mow them down with the mower or even burn them off. That destroys any overwintering asparagus beetles that may be hiding in the foliage or any dormant overwintering diseases. Burn or dispose of the dead fronds and start all over the next year. I have managed to keep my asparagus patches thriving for almost two decades like this. 

Once your fronds are picked they can be frozen or canned. 

Hope this helps answer any asparagus questions and good luck with your patch June. 

My next post will be on incubators and hatching eggs so check back tomorrow June for the rest of your answers. 

Check on the canning page above for recipes on canning and freezing asparagus.  

Blessings from The Holler

The Canned Quilter

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Farm Goings On

Well here is another week at the Holler. Spring has definitely arrived but the temperatures are  cool for spring temperatures this week. We have started opening the house every day and the laundry is again on the clothes line. The trees are budding out as well. Our young chestnut trees are blooming out by the clothes line for the first time. We are wondering if we might have chestnuts this year for the first time. We started those trees from seeds and it seems like just yesterday we were setting them out. 

We continue to work trimming rose bushes and shrubs to get rid of the winter kill and weeding flower beds and such. Mowing is a regular chore right now with all the rain we have been getting. 

The tulips are starting to get beat up from the rain and I will be cutting the blooms off soon and adding to the compost bins. 

Remember my huge "Knock Out Roses" that are so pretty every year. I almost lost them this winter. By the time we cut off all the winter killed wood there isn't much left. I am hoping they come out of it. 

With the return of the blossoms on the columbine the hummingbirds have returned as well. I saw my first one yesterday. once the columbine blossoms go away then they feed on the blossoms on the trumpet vines on the clothes line poles all summer. 

The Bridal Wreath or Spirea is beautiful this year but I did lose one of my larger bushes to the winter cold weather as well. 

The tulip Tree is in full bloom too. 

That last late frost came just in time to nip most of the peach blossoms so there won't be any peaches this year to speak of. The apple trees on the other hand are loaded and there will be plenty apples to make up for those lost peaches. 

I on the other hand have been busy with freezing mushrooms and O Wise One has two catfish cleaned and filleted in the refrigerator waiting for me to freeze those up as well. 

The Asparagus is rolling in on almost a daily basis and since I still have plenty in the freezer I have been canning it every two days. 

The tomato plants are still on the porch waiting for their turn to be planted in the garden. I am holding off hoping the weather stabilizes just a bit more. I like to plant my tomatoes the last of May or the first of June. Rarely before that and it always works for me.

The brassicas on the other hand will go into the garden here very shortly. We have potatoes and onions  up as well as peas. The strawberries are blooming and I cleaned out the raspberries last week. A huge thank you to Katzcradul for my start of those last year and they are filling in nicely. Last week we planted corn, green beans and field peas. As soon as it dries up a bit I will try to get out there and get some pictures for everyone. My rhubarb is growing nicely and it won't be long before we are eating Grandma Edna's rhubarb cake. O Wise One picked out pecans all winter to go in those. 

I have 12 laying hens and 4 are broody and setting on nests. I still have jars of chicken in my pantry from last year. I may be putting chicks on Craigslist like my turkeys. 

And speaking of turkeys both my first and second hatch of turkeys are gone. Both hatches sold out within 48 hours on Craigslist and I am now running a waiting list of people to call when the next 3 hatches are ready. I will save a few for myself but we still have turkey in the freezer and jars even from last year. So this year we will put up less turkey and chicken for ourselves. Now that it is just the three of us we just are not eating as much as we once did when we had more kids at home. Time to cut back more. 

So we start another year here in Hickery Holler. Thankful every day that we survived a long and brutally cold winter. Thankful that we continue to be healthy enough to produce as much as we do of our own food. Thankful for the land that provides nourishment for our bodies and our faith that provides nourishment for our souls. And yes even thankful for these aching muscles and looking forward to our bodies again becoming accustomed to the hard daily garden work. And thankful for all of you that visit so often to read the ramblings of this old man and woman. May we all have another great gardening year and fill those pantries and larders. May the grass stay short and the corn grow tall : ) 

Blessings from The Holler

The Canned Quilter

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Freezing Mushrooms

For all of you Moms out there Happy Mothers Day!

If you noticed the main photo changed this week to reflect the large picking of mushrooms we have. With large amounts of rainfall recently the spring morel mushrooms are thick. We have been blessed to be able to forage not only enough to eat but also enough to freeze for use throughout the year. Just a note though... I am sure we got at the least as many ticks as mushrooms. The ticks are horrible this year. 

Once we got the morels home we sorted them and removed any ones that had bad spots and set them to soak for a short period of time in a salt water bath The salt water bath helps to kill off the bugs. We don't soak them in salt over a half hour though because it will also make them turn mushy. Instead we squirt them with the spray nozzle from the sink to thoroughly wash and remove any leftover wildlife : )

O Wise One also found a couple of the big red beefsteak mushrooms. 

Once clean some of the mushrooms we chopped up into smaller pieces. These I will use just like the purchased mushrooms from the supermarket in casseroles and sauteed with onions for over meats and such. Recipes that call for mushroom soup I make my own white sauce base with butter, flour and cream or milk and then add sauteed mushrooms to make my own mushroom soup.  

These pieces  go into small jelly jars and half pints. The perfect size for smaller servings. Then I pour water over them. Now  I do not fill them to completely cover the mushrooms but rather just enough water so that the top mushrooms are in some water to freeze. 

And when I run out of jelly jars or want a few for larger servings,  they go into MILK CARTONS. I have read several places for people looking for something to freeze in other than plastic. I will share my late mother in laws trick of using milk cartons. Years ago my own mother used to buy freezer containers that were made of cardboard with a wax covering. I think they are no longer produced because everything has gone to plastic. But with questions now arising about the safety of using plastics for freezing I have reverted for some things to the way they used to be done. These cartons are from my year long purchase and use of dairy products. We buy from the Amish dairy when we get the chance but during the winter that is a rough drive through icy winding back roads and many times like everyone else we resort to out local supermarket dairy case. That milk,buttermilk and creamer all come in cardboard and wax cartons. These are the handiest thing that I recycle. 

I use the small 1 quart ones as soap molds for my homemade soap. 

I use the small pint ones and sometimes the larger ones for potting vegetables for the garden. Tomatoes love those deep quart cartons. 

And I recycle them to freeze things in. This was my late motherinlaws go to container for freezing fish and mushrooms. The trick is to cover them with water.    

Leave about 1 inch headroom and like the jars put water just to the bottom of the top layer of mushroom pieces.  

Ready to go into the freezer with water in the jars. 

I also wanted some halves for a recipe that I have where I stuff the cavity with crabmeat and cheese and then roll and fry. Kind of like jalapeno poppers only mushroom poppers. So I put some in cartons that were simply cut in halves also. And fill to within 1 inch of the crease where the carton was folded on the top. Now the next trick. Mushrooms float so after you fill the container with water place crumpled piece of foil over the top and push down. The foil will hold down the mushrooms as they freeze. Notice in the above picture the top two containers already have foil.    

Another shot of the cartons with the foil. 

Now freeze until frozen solid!

These are frozen solid and see how the top mushroom pieces are sticking out of the ice? Now take some water and cover them completely up. They are frozen solid and anchored in the ice and you want all the pieces completely encapsulated in ice. Then no freezer burn or absorbing bad odors or tastes.  

The same with the cartons. The mushrooms are frozen on the bottom in the water and the foil is also frozen into the water. Now cover the foil with water to the fold line of the carton. ( Not the very top lip but where the carton is first folded )  Now put them all back in the freezer. 

What you want is a solid jar of mushrooms and water. Notice on this jar that there are no parts of the mushroom exposed.

Now we are going to take the jars once frozen solid and hold under tap water long enough for the frozen water and mushrooms to slip out of the jar. Just a word of warning: this is harder than it sounds because those blocks of ice are slicker than cat poop on a linoleum floor ! 

Then I will roll each jar of frozen mushrooms in waxed paper and then in aluminum foil. 

 These individual chunks of mushroom can be taken out as needed and allowed to defrost naturally in the refrigerator.

And those cartons....once frozen the tops are folded flat and taped. Freezer tape does not work well for this so my kitchen helper, known to you all as O Wise One steps in. As you see he still belongs to the " Bigger Hammer Club". Their motto is everything can be solved with zip ties, hot glue and a larger hammer. If all else fails have lots of duct tape! 

Those cartons of mushrooms halves will be allowed to defrost naturally in the refrigerator then the water poured out and they are rinsed and breaded. They taste almost like fresh put up this way.  

So as mushrooms season winds down I find my freezer full of breaded mushrooms, mushroom halves in cartons and mushroom pieces for cooking. Now I know someone is going to ask and yes I have heard that some people can them and have for years. I have never and have read that they can be dangerous to can that they put off some type of toxic gas that causes botulism to form. So for now I do it this way.   

I would be interested to hear if anyone has any experience with canning them and how you do it!

Until next time...

Blessings from The Holler

The Canned Quilter

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Breading Mushrooms and Freezing

So many people measure the passage of time by the calendar. Some by the coming and going of holidays. For us here in Hickery Holler living so far off the beaten path our time is marked by the passing of the season and the animals and plants that abound in each one. Spring for us is marked not only by the daffodils and warmer weather that so many associate with spring. For us spring is here when the crappie (fish) spawn and become easy to catch in the shallow waters of the local streams and farm ponds. Just about this time the turkeys are strutting and turkey hunting season opens in this area. The third thing is the asparagus again put up those delicious tender green shoots.  And at the same time if you are really lucky and the gods are smiling you stumble on some wild morel mushrooms. Or a patch or two.   There is one meal we look forward to every spring. The first fried crappie of the season. The first morel mushrooms battered in cracker crumbs and fried with them  and the first of the asparagus spears. These three things usually come about the same time every year.  

Well for us the morel mushrooms were plentiful this year with plenty left over for the freezer. First we rinsed them really well. Then we split them and soaked them briefly in a salt water solution to get rid of any bugs that may be hiding in them. Then rinse. 

Next the halves were rolled in beaten egg and then in crushed saltine crackers. 

These are dropped in hot grease and fried till golden brown. Served beside fried crappie and some roasted asparagus is a meal fit for a king in our opinion. 

If you are lucky enough to have extra at this stage we freeze them on baking sheets until completely frozen. Once frozen we take them out and wrap them in waxed paper, then place them in Ziploc freezer bags. Then the freezer bags are stacked in a plastic Rubbermaid container that then goes in the freezer allowing us to take out a single bag at the time but protecting the fragile mushrooms from getting broken up by other food being put in and taken out of the freezer.   

So on a snowy winters day we can take out some frozen fish and some of these mushrooms and fry them and close our eyes and pretend it is spring all over again. 

Tomorrow I will show you an alternate way to freeze them. 

Blessings from The Holler

The Canned Quilter

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Spring Babies

You can tell it is the spring of the year. The turkey gobblers are really strutting their stuff. And all four hens are now setting on nests of eggs.

Before the turkey hens set O Wise One filled the incubator with turkey eggs also. 

The first bath of 20 hatched last Tuesday and went on Craigslist on Wednesday. By Friday they were all gone. They never even made it to an outside brooder. We kept them in a small box in the bathroom under a light so they were easy to get to when people came. It was so muddy back by the brooders from all the rain we thought people would appreciate that. 

While the baby turkeys were here they were well observed. 

Seemed like every time I missed those two grandsons of mine I knew exactly where to look to find them. 

Next batch of eggs in the incubator are due to hatch on Thursday.

The babies brought us $8 per bird. Our turkeys are all Bourbon Red and are considered a heritage breed. They really seem to be in demand in this area or maybe just turkeys in general. 

Blessings from The Holler

The Canned Quilter
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