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Oregon Cherry Season

 

 

I’ll obey them in the winter when the doctors say to me
I must give up steak and chocolate, and obedient I’ll be.
To improve my health and figure in December they can try.
But there’s none of them can stop me when it’s time for cherry pie.

–Based on the poem, Cherry Pie, by Edgar A. Guest, 1935

Last summer, during cherry season, we went to one of our local farm stands and found that they had bags of sour cherries for sale.  For a long time I’ve wanted to make a cherry pie with sour cherries, but didn’t have a source for them in California.  They may be sold there, but I never found them.  I did make a pie with sweet cherries, and that day is best forgotten.  That was my only experience with cherry pies.  So…sour cherries. In Oregon.  We bought a bag, and I found a recipe, and oh. my. goodness.  It was the best pie I have ever eaten.  I told Bruce that we had to get a sour cherry tree.   Off we went to the nursery and bought one Montmorency (sour), a Rainier and a Stella (both sweet).  The Montmorency and Stella are self-pollinators, but the Rainier is not.  The Rainier is a yellowish cherry and probably the sweetest of all the cherries.  The Stella is a large, deep red cherry.  They were sad little trees compared to our other fruit trees, but I had high hopes.  Of course, I’m always surprised when anything ever grows, but I still had high hopes…because, there are cherry pies to be made!

Sometime in the spring, our little tree looked like this–

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Oh, wow!  Blossoms on the Montmorency tree!  Keep your fingers crossed!  Then there was this–

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Fantastic!  Fruit on the Montmorency tree!

I didn’t think there would be enough fruit for a cherry pie this year, so in June, we again drove over to our local farm stand, Brosi’s, early in the morning, and spent a very lovely morning picking cherries.  We may have gotten out of control.  We picked a total of about 55 pounds of cherries–sweet and sour.  The sweet cherries were Lapin, and you never saw such a deep red color as on those cherries.  They were gorgeous, and juicy, and sweet and so delicious!  The sour cherries were half red and half yellow, and had a bit of sweetness to them.  I don’t know the variety, but they were not Montmorency.  Here we are having fun in the orchard–

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daughter Sara; Bruce on the ladder; Sara on the ladder

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Lapin cherries

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Brosi’s sour cherries

We took our haul home, and proceeded to wash and pit them.  We bought a cherry pitter that only does one cherry at a time and it is labor intensive.  I think I’ll be looking for a better one before next year.  We canned all of the sweet cherries and some of the sour.  The bulk of the sour cherries went into the freezer and the rest went into…what else?  A cherry pie!  With all those cherries in the freezer, I can have a cherry pie whenever I want to…or better yet, a cherry crisp.  It tastes the same and is much easier.

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washing the cherries; pitting-the pits go to the bottom chamber; the cherry sits in a depression and the plunger forces the pit out

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we canned sweet cherries in bourbon (supposed to be brandy, oops!), sour cherries in bourbon, and sweet cherry jam with amaretto

So, what happened to our little Montmorency tree?  It ended up having quite a lot of fruit on it, so much so that we had to put a net around it to keep the birds from eating the entire crop.  Now, unlike Brosi’s sour cherries, these Montmorency cherries actually are sour, so I don’t know why the birds like them.  They also had a bright red color.  We picked enough to make half a batch of sour cherry jam and I have no idea why we have any left or why I wasn’t eating it straight out of the jar.  It has the same cherry flavor as the sweet jam with amaretto, but it’s more of a sweet/tart flavor.  This is now officially my favorite jam.  Maybe next year I’ll be willing to part with some jars.

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Montmorency jam


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Spring Garden Projects

In addition to tilling and digging and raking and pruning the garden, planting the summer vegetables, tending to the yard and all the other things to do around here, Bruce and I have been working on a few special projects in our spare time.

The first project which is mostly done, I think, is the hoop house.  I think of it as a chicken coop, but it is a type of greenhouse.

“A hoop house is just what the name suggests, a series of large hoops or bows — made of metal, plastic pipe or even wood — covered with a layer of heavy greenhouse plastic. The skin is stretched tight and fastened to baseboards with strips of wood, metal, wire or even used irrigation tape and staples. You can build one for a few hundred dollars or a few thousand dollars.

A backyard hoop house can make it seem like you moved your garden hundreds of miles to the south. You can count on four to six weeks of extra production in spring and fall. By adding an inner layer of cover inside a hoop and picking cold-hardy varieties, you can grow right through winter — even in the coldest climates.  A hoop house usually has no heater or ventilation fan. It is heated by the sun and cooled by the wind, providing that you remember to open the vents in the morning and close them in the afternoon.”

http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/hoop-houses.aspx

Bruce had help, in March, from our friend, Jeffrey Jenks, and the house is now full of plants and some blueberry bushes.  I don’t have much to say about the labor on this project, but I know it involved a lot of measuring and leveling and trying to figure out how to keep the wind from blowing the cover away.  I think it looks grand, and the plants seem to love it.  For now Bruce is using it to transition plants from the regular greenhouse to the ground.  So the plants start as seeds in the greenhouse in late winter, get moved to the hoop house in the spring, and into the ground in late spring.

 

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The second project grew from Bruce wanting a way to label the plants out in the garden plot so we can easily see what we have.  We had gone to the Master Gardener once a year Trash to Treasures sale and I found a whole boatload of metal stakes which gave me a great idea.  I took the stakes, cleaned them up, taped off a section, painted them with one of three colors of nail polish, and wrote the name of one type of plant on each stake with a Sharpie pen.  I think they look splendid and they really stand out in the garden, plus they are easy to read.  If I remember correctly, I made eighty of these beauties!  Does that tell you anything about the size of Bruce’s garden?

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The third project may be the best of all.  Last year we went to a local place to pick strawberries.  I had read about this method of growing berries but hadn’t seen it until that day.  The berries are all grown in PVC pipes about 3-4 feet off the ground.  This makes for excellent strawberry picking!  We had intended to pick one or two pints, but we picked a whole flat and only stopped because the box was full.  So Bruce got to work and we now have our own “easy to pick” strawberry plants!  Bruce told me today that there are tons of berries on the plants, so with this recent hot weather, we should be picking in no time.  Yum!

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Bruce pounded the stakes into the ground which was a noisy job; He found a guy in town who welded the metal stands;

Bruce cut holes in the pipes and added the dirt and drip irrigation, and the plants, of course.

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You can just see the beginnings of berries; the all important drip irrigation runs through the pipe

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Those are the main projects so far for this year.  The barn still needs to be painted, but you know there is the rain and the heat and that holds up finishing that project!


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On the Hunt

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Bruce and I went out one morning on the hunt for the elusive wild strawberry.  We had seen evidence of them in the woods, with the plants and blossoms, but had never seen any fruit.  Since there were blossoms in late April, I figured now was the time to find those berries!  We headed out from the house and walked straight into the woods.  We found a large patch of strawberry plants near the creek, but no fruit.  We knew there were more up by the road, so we headed up there.  On the way, we found a number of interesting things.

Strawberry Hunt-Deer Skull1  Strawberry Hunt-Lizard

Deer skull and antlers; lizard

Strawberry Hunt-Rose   Strawberry Hunt-Parentucellia viscosa-Yellow parentucellia

The roses are blooming all over; Yellow parentucellia

Strawberry Hunt8  Strawberry Hunt-Geranium richardsonii-richardsons geranium 

Oregon checker mallow; Richardson’s geranium

Strawberry Hunt3Triteleia hendersonii-Henderson's stars-rare Strawberry Hunt- Zigadenus venenosus-Meadow death camas-trichodes ornatus

Henderson’s stars (Triteleia hendersonii) (rare); Meadow death camas (poisonous), with Ornate Checkered beetle

StrawberryHunt-Euphydryas chalcedona-Chalcedona Checkerspot    Strawberry Hunt7

Chalcedona checkerspot; Western tiger swallowtail;

The Ornate Checkered beetle (Trichodes ornatus) is found only in North America.  Its worm-like larvae live mostly in bee nests of the Megachilidae family species, or Mason bees.  They are parasitic and in the nest they feed on bee larvae or pollen.  As adults, they feed on yarrow, milkweed or other yellow-flowered plants.  Since we have Mason bees and they are very beneficial to the garden and orchard, it was good that we found this insect and can take steps to manage it.  We have to remove the bee nesting materials from the orchard shortly before and immediately after the end of the nesting period and store them away from other nesting bees.  Commercial traps are available, consisting of a plastic container with a pheromone-impregnated capsule that attracts the beetles during the bee nesting period.

Wikipedia; http://insect.pnwhandbooks.org/sites/insect.pnwhandbooks.org/files/pdfsection/beeprotection.pdf

Livestock farmers know all too well the havoc Meadow death camas can inflict. It’s a favorite among sheep. Death camas, or Zigadenus venenosus, are native to western parts of North America. The toxic alkaloid zygadenine (considered by some to be more potent than strychnine) is present in all parts of the plant and can cause some serious consequences when ingested.  Elaine Nelson McIntosh, a dietitian and food historian, suspects death camas may have been to blame for the illnesses that plagued the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1805. Food was scarce and the group was suffering from malnutrition. The Nez Perce tribe offered the travelers fish and bulbs of a plant they believed were blue camas. At the time, the plant wasn’t in bloom, making it hard to differentiate between it and its evil cousin. Soon after, the group fell violently ill for weeks. They ate their dogs to sustain themselves for the rest of the expedition.

http://blogs.britannica.com/2010/02/death-camas-toxic-tuesdays-a-weekly-guide-to-poison-gardens/

After a short hike we came upon the second patch of strawberry plants and oh boy, we found the berries!  There were two and they were red and very small, but not very sweet.  That was disappointing and a lot of work for no reward.  I think we’ll leave them for the deer and other animals.

StrawberryHunt-Fragaria vesca-woods strawberry   Strawberry Hunt-Fragaria virginiana-Mountain strawberry

Strawberry Hunt-Strawberry

 


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Time to Prune

On our farm we have many fruit trees, apple, plum, prune, pear, cherry (sweet and sour), persimmon, grape and quince, approximately 25 trees.  Last year we moved here too late to prune any of the trees, but in spite of that, most of them produced a good amount of fruit, especially the apples.  This year we decided we had to prune, because the trees were getting out of shape, and they just needed some care.  Not being the Master Gardener of the family, I don’t know anything about pruning, or even if it is really necessary, but it was something new to learn.  Bruce has had quite of bit of experience with pruning fruit trees, as he was in charge of a small orchard in California, associated with the Master Gardeners.

I actually do have some experience with pruning, it’s just not applicable to fruit trees.  My method is to get an electric hedge trimmer and chop off all the new growth of any bush that dares to grow in the garden.  I also have pruned roses, with a bit more restraint, but not much.  Nothing ever died, so I felt ready to step it up and take on the fruit trees.

We started out by helping a fellow Master Gardener with his rather large orchard.  It was an MG training class and they let me tag along.  The trees looked like they were newly planted, but they were about three years old, so they weren’t in great shape.  That was perfect for our group!

So, with that practice under my belt, we set out to the garden and started with the apple trees.  The fun part was cutting the branches and trying to figure out which ones needed pruning.  The not-fun part was cleaning up the branches and raking up the sodden, dead leaves from under the trees.  It took us three days to finish all the trees and I thought, well, either we did a good job and we’ll get fruit this year, or we totally hacked them up and we’ll be buying fruit at the market.  Our goal, if I can remember, was to trim the lower branches because some of the branches on some of the trees were almost touching the ground. as in this photo–

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We also wanted to establish either a main branch heading upwards or a tiered shape, plus get rid of dead and crossed branches.  Take a look at the photos and see for yourselves what the result was:

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      The first tree, an apple, before and after.  You can tell the before, because of all the leaves under the trees.

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We did the pruning in January, and had to wait until April for this:

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Pruning17  PruningC  PruningD

PruningI  PruningF  PruningG

And then, the trees thanked us with these little gems:

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I’d say our first pruning was a huge success.  All of the fruit trees bloomed, even the pears that didn’t do much last year.  Now, all we have to do is wait until the end of summer  and into fall to reap the harvest of our hard work.

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Lurking in the Garden

I woke up early one morning about a week ago, looked out the window as I usually do, didn’t expect to see anything different, because I usually don’t, but that morning, I saw this:

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That guy was in the flower garden, just a few feet from the house!  Nevertheless, that’s an amazing way to start the day!

Coyotes (Canis latrans) are a member of the dog family. Canis latrans means “barking dog.”  As a “top of the food chain” predator species, they play a valuable role in naturally controlling other species, such as rodents and Canada geese.

Thick dense fur can sometimes make coyotes appear larger than they really are. In Oregon coyotes typically weigh between 22 and 30 pounds.

Their primary diet is made up of small rodents, but coyotes are opportunistic and will consume a vast array of foods including birds and insects, fruit and vegetables, human garbage and compost, outdoor pet food and small free-roaming pets.

http://audubonportland.org/wcc/urban/coyotes

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Trees

When we considered moving to Oregon, Bruce’s dream was to have a nice, large piece of land with plenty of room for gardening.  I found a piece of property in Roseburg that was just perfect for both of us in that it has a very nice house, lots of acreage and a 2 acre garden.  What we didn’t plan on was having an established farm.  Our farm is a tree farm, planted in Ponderosa pines by the previous owner.  And boy, do we ever have a lot of Ponderosa pines!

The bark helps to distinguish it from other species.  This is a hardy, drought tolerant tree having thick , protective bark comprised of stacked plates that sometimes look like puzzle pieces. The deep cracks in old tree bark smell pleasant, like vanilla with a hint of butterscotch or warm cookie.  Old growth ponderosas grow 150 to 180 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet in diameter.   http://www.bentler.us/eastern-washington/plants/trees/ponderosa.aspx

We don’t have anywhere near old growth status, but they are all a decent size.  We are supposed to go out in the late fall and winter when the sap isn’t running and prune the lower branches of each tree, which increases the diameter of the tree and in turn, will yield a higher price when logged.  (See the post on November 1, 2013, called Lifting and Falling to read more about this process.)

At any rate, we do have a lot of trees, but apparently not enough for Bruce!  He just recently ordered 100 saplings and we ended up getting about 250 of them.  Oh my!  Bruce wanted to fill in some bare areas of land and since he had so many he planted them in areas where they probably won’t grow, like the swampy spot down by the neighbor’s pond.

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Can you see any planted trees in the photo on the left?  They are there, but they are very small.

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The trees, even if we don’t live long enough to see them harvested, have many benefits.  They are a very nice ground cover that I don’t have to mow, they provide shelter for the elk and deer and birds, they block us from the neighbors, and they just look great!

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Vegetable Garden, March 2015

The spring garden is off with a splash!  It has been a warmer than normal late winter with close to normal rain fall. So it has been very tempting to get into the garden and start planting!  The muck boots have been a requirement and soil compression is a constant concern.  It has been a pleasure to have the roto-tiller constantly at hand, so that on those days when the soil is dry enough I can get at breaking up the soil and getting the rows ready to plant.

Harvest:  The asparagus started throwing up shoots the last two weeks of March. They are a tasty welcome to spring and a driving force to get the garden into full gear.

Growing: The garlic and shallots that were planted last fall are looking great!  The fruit trees are in full bloom, the wildflowers are starting to bloom, and of course there are weeds everywhere!

Planting: Fennel, yellow and red onion, bunching onion, leek, lettuce, spinach, parsley, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, romanesco, and kohlrabi plants were planted from seedlings started in February indoors.  Parsnip, carrot, beet, turnip, and Swiss chard were direct seeded in the garden.  Pea and radish were direct planted in the garden every 3 to 6 weeks to stretch out the harvest.  Lettuce is being seeded indoor every 8 weeks as well.  We got a few days when the temperatures got down to 29 F. and that took the basil out, but no worries more basil is sprouting indoors now.  Everything else appears unaffected by the cold nights.

Seeding: Basil, lettuce, pepper, artichoke, and cardoon have been seeded and are sprouted.  I will be seeding tomato, squash, melon, cucumber, and eggplant indoors very soon.

Projects:

Germination box: I decided that trying to maintain the 85 degrees F. temperatures in the small greenhouse that the pepper seeds need to germinate was too difficult and too expensive. So I built a 30” x 60” x 24” insulated box, hung 4 shop lamps (2 LED and 2 fluorescent), and attached a thermostat.  I now can maintain 85 degrees F. at about 90% humidity with less than 210 watts of power.  If the plants do well under the LED shop lamps I will go 100% LED next year; at that point I will be using 140 watts of power for heating and lighting.

Larger Greenhouse: I have been working on a 10’ x 18’ poly film greenhouse.  Our good friends the Jenks came to visit and Jeff helped me get a good start on this project by building the supporting structures.  Since then I have completed the table tops.  I have to build the ends, attach the loops, and apply the poly film.  This is sort of a back burner project as it will not be needed until the end of April.  OMG that is just weeks away!

Berry patch:  During a dry patch, I cut in a 40’ x 60’ plot for our berry patch in which we are planning to grow blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries.  I plan to start with one 40’ row of each with room to add a second row of each if we feel like doing so. The strawberries will be grown in 6” PVC pipes about 38” off the ground for easy and clean harvesting.

Bird houses:  With help from the Jeff, I built and hung 10 bird houses, 5 for wrens, and 5 for western bluebirds.  Both of these birds eat a lot of insects and I wanted to encourage them to hang around. As it turns out, the tree swallows think they are just the place to setup housekeeping!  The good news is tree swallows eat insects as well so I am good with them using the bird house as well.

 A friend of ours called this kind of late winter weather that is warm and not too rainy “sucker season.” It makes you think spring is here and that you should start planting, then when you have your plants in the ground here comes the cold wet weather that Oregon early springs are known for.  Well, it did get the basil!  And if it gets really cold the parsley will not make it, maybe even the lettuce will take a hit!  On the other hand, it feels so good to get working in the garden, working the soil, hearing the birds, and planting, who really cares if a cold, wet snap takes some things?

Plans:

Preparing the garden: As the soil dries out, I will be tilling and forming rows in the rest of the garden for planting.  I have to wait until the middle of May at the earliest to get this done.

Indoor seeding:  Tomato, squash, melon, cucumber, and eggplant will be seeded the early part of April.

Up potting:  The basil, lettuce, pepper, artichoke, and cardoon I seeded in early March will be up potted and grown out in the small greenhouse, then moved to the large greenhouse at the end of April.


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Good Times

Our friends, Jeff and Nancy, came up from California to visit us for about five days in early March.  We were quite sure that we would all be sitting around the house watching the endless rain, but the sun came out and the weather was beautiful and warm.  We went on a couple of day trips around the area.  We hadn’t yet been to the Winchester dam and fish ladder, so we picked up some pulled pork BBQ sandwiches and coleslaw in Roseburg ( you must go here– https://www.facebook.com/pages/Neighborhood-Smokehouse-Grill/472787789449719 ) and had a picnic at the dam.  There is a nice parking lot at the top and a staircase down to the fish ladder.  Halfway down, we stopped at some benches and ate our lunch and watched the river go by.  What a nice treat for us in the wintertime!  Sad to say, March is just about the only month in which there are no fish going up the fish ladder, so that was disappointing.

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https://roadtrippers.com/us/roseburg-or/camping-rv/winchester-dam

We also took a wine touring trip but only went to two wineries–Hillcrest and Reustle.  Hillcrest is very near to our farm and it is Oregon’s oldest estate winery and the birthplace of Pinot Noir.

Jenks14 http://www.hillcrestvineyard.com/

Reustle winery is further away, up north near Umpqua, but still in Roseburg.  We sat outside and sampled some of the different wines that they have.  We decided to become wine club members (even though I don’t drink much wine) because they have a grassy amphitheater with great views and it looks like they’ll have some nice concerts in the summer.  http://www.reustlevineyards.com/

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After Reustle, were were hungry, so we drove a short way over to the Lighthouse Center Bakery and Cafe in Umpqua .   It’s a very nice place, with a post office on one side of the building, and on the other side there is a small grocery and cafe.  The cafe sells lunch, fresh baked breads, and bakery items and it is all vegetarian, but it’s so delicious that you seriously consider becoming vegetarian.  You can eat inside or out and on a nice day it’s best to sit outside and enjoy the fresh air and great views.  Also, don’t pass up the Lentil Stew.  http://lighthousecenterbakery.com/

When we weren’t driving around Bruce and Jeff worked on some farm projects.  One project was the making of ten birdhouses, bluebird and wren.  The birds were very anxious to set up housekeeping and wasted no time in checking out the houses.  They were inside the newly hung houses as soon as Bruce moved the ladder to put up the next house.  I’m not sure if the bluebirds or wrens were able to snatch any houses for themselves as the swallows were very aggressive and did not care that they were not tree swallow houses.

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Jenks11  Jenks-Western Bluebird Jenks-Swallow

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We hope you had a good visit, Jeff and Nancy!  We enjoyed having you here, going to new places and getting some help with the projects.


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Saussiche!

We have been wanting to make our own sausages for a very long time, and even bought a book by Bruce Aidells.  The problem was that we could never find sausage casings, and so that project fell to the wayside.  Fast forward to our move to Oregon and becoming Master Food Preservers.  Our daughter recently gave Bruce a book on sausage making and as in all things serendipitous we found sausage casings while wandering around the Cabela’s store in Eugene.  So now, we have the MFP training, the book AND the casings!  What else could we do but to make sausages?

Sausage making is a traditional food preservation technique and originated as a way to preserve animal trimmings.  Sausages may be preserved by curing, drying or smoking, and apparently, fermenting.

Sausage is ground meat mixed with fat, salt and other seasonings, preservatives and fillings, often packed into an artificial protein or genuine animal intestine casing. Most sausages are made with pork or pork with another meat, but today you can also find beef, lamb, veal, chicken, turkey, etc.  Some also use fillers like oatmeal and rice to stretch the meat a bit.

Traditionally, sausage casings were made of cleaned intestines, feet, skins or stomachs in the case of haggis and other traditional puddings. Today, however, natural casings are often replaced by collagen, cellulose or even plastic casings, especially in the case of  industrially manufactured sausages.

Sausage synonyms:  snags; bangers; salsiccia; wurst; sausissons

Wikipedia

http://www.food.com/library/sausage-295

http://www.foodsubs.com/MeatcureSausage.html

 

The book we used is called, Home Production of Quality Meats and Sausages,  Stanley and Adam Marianski

http://www.amazon.com/Home-Production-Quality-Meats-Sausages/dp/0982426739/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1422576659&sr=8-1

This is a book that attempts to bridge the gap between “meat science and a typical hobbyist”.  The goal is to have the reader “understand the sausage making process” and “to create his own recipes”, thereby becoming independent of the recipes.  A full one-third or more of the book is concerned with the science of making sausage–just the kind of book that Bruce wanted!

We made three varieties of sausage: Italian Sweet, Italian Hot and Longanisa.

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Longanisa is a Philippine version of a Spanish Longaniza sausage.  It is also popular in Argentina, Chili, Mexico and all other Spanish speaking countries.  In 1565,  Spanish Conquistador, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, arrived in Cebu, Philippines from Mexico and established a Spanish settlement that lasted over three hundred years .  Along with everything else they brought with them  they also brought Spanish sausages, which had to be modified somewhat due to differing climates, but the names remained the same.  This sausage can be dried or smoked and can be kept fresh or frozen and cooked.  (Home Production of Quality Meats and Sausages, Pg. 245.)

Bruce did most of the work–figuring out how long it would take to defrost the pork, grinding the meat and mixing all the ingredients together.  I helped by pushing the meat into the stuffer so that Bruce could feed it into the casings.  I think in the future we will use a proper sausage stuffer, instead of the Kitchen Aid attachment.  It worked fine, except that it is too high above the counter-top and makes it difficult to control the casings.

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We bought collagen casings, because Bruce didn’t want to use intestines.   Collagen casings are mainly produced from the collagen in beef or pig hides, and the bones and tendons. They have been made for more than 50 years. The latest generation of collagen casings are usually more tender than natural casings but do not exhibit the “snap” or “bite” of natural casing sausages. The biggest volume of collagen casings are edible, but a special form of thicker collagen casings is used for salamis and large caliber sausages where the casing is usually peeled off the sausage by the consumer. Collagen casings are permeable to smoke and moisture, are less expensive to use, give better weight and size control, and are easier to run when compared to natural casings. (Wikipedia)

That being said, they are not easy to work with.  We found that if we overstuffed them they would break.  Also, you can’t finish them off like you can with natural casings.  With natural casings the edges stick together, but not so with collagen.  They don’t twist and stay twisted so we had to tie the ends with cotton string, which had a tendency to slip off.  So we had to be inventive to make sure the string stayed on the sausages.

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We finally got all the meat made into sausages, but we had some that had broken.  I suggested that we mix all that meat together and make more sausages.  Oh, boy, they were the best!  We had them for breakfast for several mornings.

All in all, making fresh sausages is very easy and you get the benefit of putting in the ingredients that you want and leaving out the ones you don’t, such as too much salt.  All three of these sausages are delicious and we are looking forward to making some lamb Merquez sausage next.


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Winter on the Farm

We didn’t know what to expect for our first winter here.  Last year it seemed to be very cold and the few times we came up to check on the house the weather was either foggy, icy, freezing, snowing or raining.  We even got to experience something called “freezing fog”.    So…when the air is foggy, does the fog freeze?  We didn’t know, but it didn’t sound good.  We found out that it occurs when liquid fog droplets freeze to surfaces, forming white soft or hard ice.  It is basically the same as that soft white ice that forms inside a freezer.

On most mornings when I look out the windows I see a lot of fog, which usually dissipates by afternoon, but not always.  All in all, it hasn’t been especially cold this winter, but we have had a few mornings with temperatures in the teens.  We have also had quite a lot of rain, but it’s not worse than what we had in a normal year in San Jose.  In fact, the rain is very welcome, as long as we don’t float away!  With the rain we now have both ponds filled and the grasses are turning green.  This in turn has encouraged the waterfowl to return and forage for food.

It’s difficult to understand how anything flourishes here in the winter, because it is cold and foggy and often rainy.  I haven’t figured out how the deer, elk and cows can tolerate such cold temperatures.  On the morning that the temperature was 16 degrees, the cows were out in the field eating the grass.

If you care to read about it, here is an explanation from Penn State:  http://news.psu.edu/story/179081/2009/02/26/horses-and-other-livestock-can-thrive-cold-weather.  Good to know so I won’t worry about them, and I’m guessing the deer and elk have an adequate amount of food and water.

After the rains started the mushrooms popped up everywhere, but they are now mostly gone.  There were frogs singing at night, but they are gone too.  The elk have started coming down from the hills and we’ve seen them a few times here and there.  As always we have our small deer population with the three fawns growing up fast.  We also often hear the coyotes at night, and we even spotted one in the cow pasture one morning.

It’s good to see and feel this change of seasons.  It’s not a harsh change, but enough to make us more attentive to what’s happening around us.

To signal the change of seasons and the coming of winter we had leaves changing colors all over Roseburg, but none prettier than our own persimmon tree.

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Sara found these mushrooms a few days after Christmas when she took advantage of a non-rainy day to take a walk around the farm.  The first one is a black mushroom and the second is a cup type of mushroom.  Of the two major groups of cup fungi, I believe this is the operculate cup fungi, which have a hinged lid at the tips which opens when the spores are discharged. In the third photo are the “seeds” that were in the cups, which are sterile cells called paraphyses and they often forcibly eject the spores upward into the wind for dispersal.

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I found this mushroom growing on a tree in the yard.

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The turkey flocks are larger now and we see them much more frequently than we did in the summer.

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Wintertime has brought out the bucks.  Our deer (I’m fairly confident) are Columbian white-tail deer. The Columbian white-tailed deer is listed as an endangered distinct population segment in the lower Columbia River area under the federal Endangered Species Act, whereas the Roseburg population was delisted in 2003.  No matter, this is the only way deer are getting shot on our farm.

Click to access OFRI%20managed%20forests%20elk%20deer_for_web.pdf

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These were taken on the morning that the temperature was 16 degrees F.  Brrr…It was too cold for the birds.  They are waiting for the sunrise and hopefully warmer temperatures.

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Dramatic sunrise and sunset.  One nice added extra that we hadn’t counted on when we moved here is that we now have clouds!  I sure did miss them living in California.

We still have several more months of winter left, and it could get colder and rainier, but I think I’ll probably find something interesting to investigate.

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Dew on the grass shining in the sunset