Winter Done Right
Some days it feels like spring is right around the corner. Daffodils are popping up out of the ground, and on the occasional sunny day the robins appear out of nowhere to hop around the farm in search of those big juicy worms we grow in Oregon so well. On these days I breathe a sigh of relief that winter is almost behind us, and I give thanks to the universe that this winter has been good to us, nothing at all like the heartbreak of last winter. Temperatures have generally been pretty mild, and we haven't had much in the way of bad storms. We had a few snow days, but for the most part they were the perfect kind of snow day. The ones where you wake up to a winter wonderland, enjoy a few hours of the sparkly winter landscape and then by late afternoon the snow is almost melted and it's back to business as usual the next day. We did have one snow storm that lasted a few days and caught our tom turkey Ringo off-guard when he decided to sleep way up high for the first time ever and he woke up in the morning surrounded by snow, wondering how to get back down! We've had our fair share of gray and rainy days, but we've also had lots of amazing sunrises, more than I can remember in years gone by, and I've run outside in my pajamas on more than a few occasions to try to capture the gorgeous colors in the sky while the turkeys are staring at me and wondering where their breakfast is.
I've already got one thing on my 2020 to do list checked off the list, which is learning how to brew kombucha. I'd been intrigued by the potential health benefits, my husband and I have both enjoyed the other types of home brewed beverages we've tried making, and the biologist in me was really excited about having a science experiment in the house that I could watch grow and change almost every day, In the beginning of January, a nearby farm friend gave me a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) and a lesson in kombucha brewing. I was able to get our continuous brew vessel successfully established, and we've already tried our first few bottles of kombucha. We tried three flavors, raspberry, ginger, and blueberry. The raspberry and ginger were our favorites so far, and there so many more flavors I can't wait to try - especially once it's gardening season and we can use fresh berries and herbs as flavoring ingredients. We've also been enjoying lots of delicious meals featuring veggies I grew and preserved from our garden last year - squash, roasted tomatoes and marinara, greens, chili rellenos, and pesto are things we regularly enjoy over the winter. One of my favorite new recipes I've made this winter is bean and kale stew using the 'Good Mother' stallard beans that I grew. Not only are they really pretty and fun to cook with, they maintain some of their unique speckles after cooking. They are a plump bean with a nice texture, it's hard to describe but just like everything else, you can definitely taste the difference when you grow it yourself. We've also been enjoying popcorn made with the beautiful glass gem popcorn that I grew, and even though it still pops white just like regular popcorn, I never get tired of looking at those beautiful rainbow seeds before they go in the popper!
The new chickens we added as chicks last spring are all doing well. There are a few new favorites, including Pepper, one of my two barred Plymouth Rocks, and even though she in no way replaces Raquel, she's given me a lot of smiles this winter. Most of the younger chickens have started laying eggs again. We are getting about 4 dozen eggs a week these days, and that will increase in the next month or so, once a few of our older chickens and the turkey hens start laying again. I'm enjoying having enough eggs to sell to friends and family and to make egg art again, it's the little things ya know? The bee hive that we started last spring is doing well, and I was able to open it up to check on the colony on a recent sunny day. The hive was bursting at the seems, it's hard to tell in the photo, but a lot of bees came pouring out to enjoy the sun that day, so I'm feeling good about their health as we near the end of winter. I cleaned up my greenhouse and started a few cool season veggies these last couple weeks, and there are already a few things sprouting! I'm hoping we get a few dry days soon so I can get outside and do some weeding and start getting the garden ready for spring planting. In the meantime, I'll continue to enjoy my indoor activities like making soap, sorting and packing seeds for seed swaps, and maybe I'll even get around to knocking off another thing on my to do list for this year - making cheddar cheese!