With all of the rain lately, we’re not getting much outdoor time, so we’re coming up with some easy projects to pass the time away. These are one gallon bottles transformed into fermenters. For one of them we just bought a gallon of apple juice, and added a little sugar, yeast, and flavoring. With the apple juice we took out to allow for fermenting, we put it in another gallon jar with 2 1/2 pounds of honey, some yeast, flavorings, and topped it off with water… that’s called mead if you weren’t aware of it. Ok, to be technical, it’s called cyser if you add apple juice and metheglin if you add spices, so we’re not sure what to really call it. The hard cider is already done fermenting and starting the clear, and the mead should be ready in about two weeks. If this works out, we’ll try various combinations of fruit juices mixed with the hard cider and mead and see what happens. If it doesn’t work, we’ve only wasted a gallon, and about 1/2 hour of time, but if it does work, we can enjoy the results.
Next experiment… quail! I built a rack of quail cages a while back, and now it’s time to try it out. Although the eggs will be smaller than our chicken eggs, quail are a lot more prolific, start laying a lot sooner, and are a lot easier to clean and dress out. They are also a lot easier to protect from predators, since they will be in cages in the garage. I got the eggs on Ebay, so it’s a bit of a leap of faith, but they were cheap enough to make it worth it. They take around 17 days in the incubator, and then 3 weeks in a brooder. We’re hoping that we can build up a half a dozen or so of consistent clients to buy eggs and meat so that we don’t have to worry about keeping up with advertising. If we can sell to a restaurant or two, that’d be great!
We went with coturnix quail, since they’ve been bred for centuries, and start laying after only 6-8 weeks. Normally, a hen will lay around 200 eggs (one a day), after which they will graduate to the dinner plate. I’ve seen people on youtube that can dress out a quail in less than a minute, and two of them per person makes a good meal. If you’ve ever dressed out a chicken, you know how much fun that isn’t.
Requirements are minimal. High protein food (we’re using game feed), water, 14 hours of light a day (we have a floor lamp on a timer), and protection from wind.
It may be a little hard to pick out, but imagine nine different varieties of freshly potted dwarf heirloom cider apple trees. We got them as bare root plants from Raintree Nursery and we’re starting them out in pots to see if any of them will be happy as container plants. The big concern is keeping them away from the deer while they’re so young. I’ll build fencing around the ones that go into the ground. When they start producing apples, we’ll be experimenting with different combinations to come up with some killer hard cider.
Nineteen… count ’em, nineteen packages of different varieties of heirloom tomatoes. Some for eating, some for selling, and some for preserving seeds. We should easily get over three hundred plants, so we’ll be pretty busy next month when it comes time to start the seeds on a warming pad under the grow lights. Any of you local folks who’d like to grow something special this year in the way of tomatoes, keep us in mind. They’re usually safe to plant outside around the first part of May.
It’s still December, but the seed catalogs are already arriving in the mail, and we’re making lists of the favorites we’re going to plant again, and new varieties that we’d like to try. Somewhere in our ramblings we ran across a youtube video describing paper pots for starting seeds (search on DIY: Newspaper Pots), so we’re going to do an experiment to see how well they work, and if they’ll actually last until planting time. We’re great fans of soil cubes (search youtube for How To Make Soil Cubes for a video I made last year) since there’s no transplanting shock, but this might work just as well. We also encourage all of our gardening friends to check out and join Regenerative Agriculture on FaceBook for information, tips, and news of people all over the world who are doing great things in small scale agriculture.