Where did the last 4 weeks go? Between the holidays and fighting colds and bronchitis down on the farm it feels like we have been missing in action around here on the farm blog. I say we are long over due for a little Down on the Farm update!
This lovely cheese platter pictured above was a practice round for a little special project we are working on. We took this platter to our family Christmas Eve party along with some tea. It was super yummy and the last treat we enjoyed down on the farm before coming down with a round of colds.
Around the Farm
Yes, the shade cloth is still on the greenhouse in December and January. No. We don't really need it on the green house this time of year. Summer got crazy busy and then lead into a crazy busy holiday shopping seasons. And, well there sits the shade cloth. It is getting time to get that thing off of there, get the greenhouse cleaned up and start planting! After trying so many different things in the greenhouse we decided its really best for greens of any kind (kale, lettuce, chard etc.) and starting seeds. So this year the tomatoes, cold weather crops like broccoli, cabbage and such will be going in the outside garden. And no more stringing green beans. They make lots of beautiful leaves but not much fruit. What garden plans do you have brewing?
A couple of the girls hoping to get treats. Here in Oregon we don't get much snow, just lots of WET! So the pasture is wet and mucky and the grass isn't growing. The rest of the yard is similar and these ladies are starting to look bored with their surroundings. Another month and the grass should start growing again and we can rotate them around the farm once more, putting them to work, which they love.
Most of the ladies also went through a molt about a month ago. This one is one of the last to go through the process. The poor things loose all their feathers so that they can grow new ones. They don't look very healthy during the process but its completely normal. When chickens molt they also don't lay eggs because their bodies are busy making new feathers and trying to stay warm. For a few weeks there we had a chicken protest and were only getting a couple eggs a day. I'm glad to announce that most of them are back with it and we are getting 10 or so eggs a day now. Its never fun to buy eggs at the store because we just don't know how the chickens were treated. If they got to be outside eating bugs or if they are some of those strange "vegetarian" chickens that never get a worm or bug. Just incase you didn't know, chickens are not vegetarians. They love their grubs and meat too if that is what you feed them! They can even out beat a cat at catching mice!
Here sits the lonely mobile pastured poultry set up. With so much rain and no grass growing the girls only turn their work space into a mud hole. So during the winter they get a bit more freedom in the pasture where they are not as likely to scratch it up too bad. In the mean time we continue to pile compost and manure from the barn on the garden space to add nutrients to the soil. When spring comes we will move the chickens through that pile so they can scratch it up and fertilize the garden some more before we mulch and start planting in the nutrient rich soil.
We do have a few things growing. This was our first year to plant a winter garden. I'm thinking that I didn't get the starts in the ground soon enough. These are some turnips that are coming up ok but slugs and bugs seem to be getting them because it is so wet. I have hopes they will grow more when spring comes around but I'm not sure if the bugs and slugs will get to them first. One never knows how it will go unless they try!
These tiny turnips are at least the right color but they didn't grow very much. We enjoyed them in some warm soup. They taste just like potatoes when cooked that way!
Earlier in 2017 we planted a test row of zinnia's, some herbs, borage and chamomile. Our goal was to see how well they grew but also which ones would over winter and come back. It looks like some of the borage either survived the frost or started growing back. This picture is of the tarragon that made it through the frost. Quite a hardly herb and a win in our book. The flowers of course succumbed to the frost but we will see in the spring if they reseeded themselves.
This picture doesn't do it justice but there between the brambles and the tree is the entrance to the children's favorite place known as the "Whisker Store". Its a little hole among the brush that they made a fort out of. Its not near as hidden as it usually is the rest of the year.
Some of the plants around the farm seem to think that since it isn't in the low teens temp wise that its now spring. The rhododendrons are starting to bud and the hazelnut trees are sending out tassels, and all the fruit trees and such show signs of budding. Hopefully they don't get a shock by another cold spell. I'd like to think maybe spring will just come early!
Usually I'm on the ball when it comes time to plant. There isn't any where I love to be more than in the garden or greenhouse getting my hands in the soil and watching one of the miracles that God allows us to participate in - growing plants. With such a busy holiday season and then fighting bronchitis for 3 weeks it really wasn't even on my mind. Other than to get that greenhouse cleaned up. The Farmer has been after me to order seeds though and get a move on it early. The Baker Creek Heirloom Seed catalog came the other day and I'm excited to start dreaming and ordering seeds. Planting always gives us a hope for the future!
Tea Stuido Progress
With not much to do outside this time of year the tea studio is seeing more and more progress as we near the end of its completion. A big change came right before Christmas when the wall in our dining room that separated the old house from the new came down.
The wall mostly out and the view from the dining room to the new foyer, or at least that is what we are calling it for now. The door goes to our new garage and to the left are the stairs to the tea studio.
The Farmer hard at work taping and mudding the stairwell to the tea studio. Around and around the building we go, when it ends... no one really knows. But in the mean time the Farmer works as hard as he can to get it done, one more coat and one more round. Some day it will be a beautiful workspace for blending and sipping tea.
Even with the drywall up and not finished it really gives shape to our new tea blending workspace. This area will have counters for shipping and packing along with a big island in the middle for blending tea and creating other herbal conceptions.
Just to the right of our packing and blending area we will have a desk or two and between the two window's closest together, a table for sipping tea and talking about all things herbal and business.
Turning to the right again is our kitchen area that will be set up with commercial sinks for washing and drying dishes.
And last but not least one of the views from the many windows in the tea studio. This one is one of my favorite with the view of our outdoor gardens and the chickens. Also the beautiful mountain side across the way that you can't really see in this photo. Some day a table will sit here with chairs to sip tea and take in the view.
Below the tea studio is our garage and down the road, as our business grows, our shipping department. The Farmer has been hard at work dry walling the area and finishing it off. Its such a nice big dry space!
There is our commercial sink that will be going up in the tea studio and also the door way to our future root cellar. No more storing the harvest on the front porch and under the house! YAY!
In the Farm kitchen
The Farmer has really been doing most of the cooking and so the only Farm Kitchen photos this time around are from Christmas. The last day or two that I didn't come down with a cold and could still cook. Cheesecake is our Christmas Eve tradition for dessert. We have a special meal every Christmas Eve, meatless and usually featuring salmon. Its a combination of a Russian, Polish and Bulgarian tradition where they celebrate the most Holy Night, Christmas Eve, with a large meatless meal. This meal features 12 dishes and many of ours are Russian and Bulgarian since that is where 3 of our 4 children were adopted from. The cheesecake is probably the most Polish item on our table. This one was made gluten and sugar free (aside from the toping which I had to scrape off because of my sugar allergy.
Usually we stay home this evening but this year was special and we visited family earlier. Everyone else indulged in treats and so they weren't as hungry as most years when normally we are fasting before our 12 course meal. (This year Christmas Eve was on Sunday so we didn't have to fast). We ended up keeping the meal more simple and not having all 12 dishes. Salmon with capers and lemon butter sauce, broccoli, garlic mashed potatoes, mushroom soup, olives (green and black), pickled herring and of course cheesecake dotted the menu. I guess we were not too far away from 12 items! We commence our meal with special prayers for Christmas Eve and the reading of the story of the birth of Christ.
Farm & Family Traditions
For the last several years we have had the tradition of getting our Christmas tree just a few days before Christmas. As we keep Advent from the start of December-ish to the 24th of December we prepare for Christ's birth with prayers, fasting and reading of the four thousand years those in the Old Testament waited for their Savior to be born. Our Christmas season on the farm starts on Christmas and lasts until February 2nd, the Feast of the Purification. So we naturally want our tree to last for that time! Since we live in Oregon, Christmas tree country, its not as hard to find a tree as other areas in the country but it can still be a challenge. So many of our trees are shipped out of the state to other states that many of the tree farms here are closed down the week before Christmas.
Thankfully we have some dear friends that happened to be clearing one of their tree fields and gave us this lovely tree for free. It had a couple of places where branches had not grown. So the Farmer took a trick from my paternal grandfather's book and drilled a couple of holes to stick branches in. Worked perfect if you ask me! Nothing like an old time Depression Era hack to make things work just perfectly!
Christmas morning probably looks like most around here. Having prayed our midnight mass, I woke the children up for presents. Yep... me, mom, wakes the children up. I still win the prize for being up first on Christmas morning! I know my brothers are probably cringing right now because of all those years I woke them up so excited. What I can I say, I was born a Christmas baby! A few years ago I started wrapping the children's gifts in brown packing paper and then instead of tags I print out pictures of them from the year past in black and white. I tape them to the packages and they have to find their picture. They each get three gifts - representing the Three Wise Men. Santa also doesn't bring the gifts but they are given by the parents and the Christ Child is the one who sends them. We do our 'stockings' during St. Nicholas day on December 6th brought by the saintly bishop himself.
While they were all mostly sick they still had plenty of excitement for the morning. They are all getting so big!
Moving on into January we were excited to get to celebrate my maternal grandparents 60th wedding anniversary. Lives that have spent so long together, going through many trials deserve to be celebrated with love, friends and family.
Their love is multiplied in their children and grandchildren and may they have many more wonderful years together continuing to help each other along.
In the Farm Store
The farm store has continued to be very busy the last few weeks. We sent out our VIP limited edition blend to our tea club members here in January featuring this earthy yet robust Golden Turmeric Spice tea featuring marigolds grown in our own garden.
Such a beautiful tea and so nourishing to the body as well. The benefits of ginger and turmeric are well known and make it a great blend for this time of year when colds and the flu are rampant. Perfect with some local raw honey and blended into some Golden Milk.
Remember that cheese platter at the beginning of the post? That was practice for this and while I can't totally spill the beans yet let me tell you that tea pairs excellently with cheese. That whole wine and cheese thing? Yah. That. Let me say that tea and cheese has you beat. Though I know wine drinkers love their wine so this might be an alternative for a quite evening, for those who can't drink wine (me! me!) or those who want that third flavor that hot tea brings out in cheese... something wine just can't do.
While we say farewell to this last month at the farm, we leave you with a sneak peek at what our new lip balms will be looking like! A new batch of Vanilla Chai, fresh from the farm kitchen! They bring some fresh new bold lids to match. Keep your eyes peeled as we start to switch over. There will also be many new products coming to the farm store in the next couple of months as spring comes our way. Thanks for stopping by the farm and we hope that your family is well and healthy!
Welcome to our Family Tea Farm!
Howdy from our farm to your home! It is said that the, "farm is the nursery of the family," and that "the family is the nursery of the nation." We hope you enjoy your visit to our blog as we share with you the happenings on our little "nursery". Thank you for following us on our journey and watching us GROW! Read more about our farm HERE.