I'm Kate St.Cyr. Frequent wearer of overalls, with a day (okayyyyy two to three) old braid in my hair, and questionable material under my fingernails. I love lard, raw milk, and old fashioned ways. I am trying to navigate and find my place in New England, and turn our antique 1700's farmland into a thriving self-sufficient farm and homestead once again. Follow along on my homesteading journey for some good eats, natural and old fashioned ways, and some adorable animals.
I recently took a beehive oven bread baking class at a nearby historical society which opened my eyes up to a whole new world of possibilites. I learned how to properly bake in my own beehive at home as well as various types of leaveners. The highlight of the class however, was when the instructor gave every participant a sample of barm yeast starter to take home!
Barm is the foamy yeasty by-product of beer that is skimmed off the top in the brewing process. When combined with a slurry of flour and water, it feeds and strengthens the yeast allowing it to flourish and grow into a living culture. So, what do you do with it? Bake bread of course! Throw away your dry yeast packets. Any recipe that calls for it, barm starter can be used instead. Although using a starter does require a little more work than ripping open a packet of dry yeast, the little effort required is well worth it!
When you live on a farm or homestead especially with animals you have good days and bad days. Thankfully, we have mostly good days here which I really attribute to quality feed, care, and attentiveness. But, bad days do creep in and today was a really bad day. Today, I had to say goodbye to my gander Hank.
A little more than a year ago I was was anxiously waiting for the post office to call and inform me that my fuzzy peeping goslings had arrived. I couldn't wait to bring them home, snuggle them, bond with them, and watch them grow up to become guardians of our flock of laying hens.
With the exception of our dairy goats and obviously Annie, every animal we keep has an expiration date. For the meat chickens and turkeys it's six months or less, pigs it's around the seven-eight month mark, and laying hens around four years or when their production drastically drops. We are a small farm and homestead with self sufficiency as our primary goal. Because of this, every animal has a purpose and some stick around longer than others.
As far as the geese go, their purpose was to be guardians for our flock of hens. Eggs are a bonus, but this is not their primary job or meat for that matter. They can guard whether they're six months or six years old. Because of this, they weren't organized into the "I'm going to eat you" compartment of my mind that the meat chickens, turkeys, pigs, and laying hens go into. So, I allowed myself to get attached and care for them. Making today's decision all the more difficult.
The time of year has come where my seasonal depression rears its ugly head and stops in to say "hey I'm here!". I'm sick of being cold, the gray, the mud, putting on jackets and hats, the lack of green, etc. We have gotten a few "teaser days" of spring where the temps warmed up (even into the 50's a couple times) and I could frolic in the sun and pretend I was accomplishing things outside. Thinking of these days make it torturous when winter smacks us back to reality, ergo the seasonal depression. But, these quiet and antsy times give me time to not only reflect on everything accomplished in 2017, but plan, draw, and make my to do lists for 2018! It gives me hope! Check out what we have in store.
Sometimes I get so distracted by the overwhelming and seemingly insurmountable amount of work I have ahead of me in terms of home and land restoration, raising animals, and general life, that I forget to stop and look how far everything has come. I look at my newly opened pockets of land wishing and dreaming for wide open spaces, and have completely forgotten that only a year and a half ago there was nothing but woods. Granted, we have only cleared about 3% of our land, but it's something and we are making progress.
Then there's the kitchen. Ohhhh my kitchen. I love it. It's old, beautiful, oozes character that few have, and I dare you to find a single level surface or square corner in it! But the old girl didn't always look that way. Ohhhhhhh no. She used to have painted teal floors, deep dark red painted brick, unsealed cabinets, and raw skimmed walls. Whaaaat? Yes, it was beyond horrific...and dirty. But, I saw the potential and started plugging away the second we stepped in the door. Now, it is the gem of the house and if I could, I'd sleep in it. To appreciate truly how far it's come, we need a starting point. So let's see where it all began shall we?
These photos are straight from the Zillow listing, and this is what I saw when I went to look at it the first time.
So I'm going to come right out and say it... I am not a fan of grass. That perfectly manicured lawn look is not for me. First of all, it wouldn't look perfect because I have oodles of animals and animals poop. I live on a small subsistence farm, and the last thing that I have time for is mowing grass. And for what? For looks? Sure, it can be fed out to the animals, but they don't eat it all so it ends up being a waste. A waste of time, and a waste of space. I don't want to spend hours mowing, or use what could be valuable garden space to feed my family on an aesthetic monoculture.
Last year I came across a French style of gardening that I wasn't all that familiar with. Potager Gardens, also known as kitchen gardens consist of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers woven into a beautiful yet functional space. I was immediately intrigued, and began googling my heart out. Results yielded photos of beautiful raised beds made of wood and rocks, with natural walkways woven in between bursts of pollinator loving colors. This was the solution I was searching for to transform the grassy area out my back door and kitchen (it was meant to be) into a useful and beautiful space.
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