Favorite Dishes from the Garden: Squash

One of the fun things our first few years of growing our own food taught us was how to get creative with meal time.

When you’re looking at your 12th consecutive day of having yellow squash for dinner, you want to spice things up – literally and figuratively!

We’ve got the fried squash down perfectly. In fact, it’s usually requested by the June birthday girl since its the best thing.

Sadly though, we can’t live off fried squash so we started looking at other flavors we liked and tried them with squash.

One of the earliest attempts was squash pickles.

They were a start but not really a meal.

One of us got to craving pizza but this mound of produce kept staring at us. We then had the idea of taking some of the bigger squash and turning them into pizza boats!

This was a great way to use up the larger squash that weren’t as tender as the smaller ones but are still just as delicious. We also cooked these on the grill since it’s just too hot to run the oven in the house.

We took 2 good sized squash and cleaned and prepped them. They were washed, cut in half and the insides scooped out for either the compost pile or chickens.

They were seasoned with salt, pepper, onion and garlic powder, as well as since Italian seasoning, since we’re making pizzas, after all. We drizzled with olive oil and set cut side down on the pre-lit grill over medium heat for about 6 to 7 minutes. Try to avoid any burning at this step. It’s not a yummy taste.

After that, flip the squash over so the skin can cook and so that the pizza toppings can get started. We used some ready made pizza sauce but of course homemade will be just as good. Spoon 2 to 3 spoonfuls then start layering in toppings. Pre-cooked Italian sausage or ground beef , pepperoni slices, basically any protein that you like on a pizza goes great here. Then some veggies. We love mushrooms so those were a given. Peppers, onions, spinach would all be great too. Top with any kind of mild, easy melting cheese like provolone or mozzarella and a little more Italian seasoning. Return to the grill and finish off for about another 4 to 5 minutes or until the squash is fork tender and the toppings are melted and bubbling slightly.

Cool for a couple minutes and then dig in!

We also a squash hamburger bun and even squash “mac and cheese”.

We used our own frozen squash, cut into slices and then halved. They went right into a pot to cook in their own juices from frozen. A little salt and pepper to season.

After the squash had cooked through, we lightly drained it and added a can of cheese soup. Just a splash of milk was used to thin the soup. Not much was needed since there was so much liquid from the squash. From there, we seasoned to taste and were ready to dig in!

The squash mac was in pretty heavy rotation because it is so easy and tastes good too.

Do you have any squash recipes we need to try? Any other twists on a favorite that we missed? Share in the comments and let us know!

2019 wrap up

Little late with the wrap up post on 2019, which is about perfect because 2019 seemed to be the year of being a little late.

Just as with any place there was several successes and failures on the Homestead.

Greenhouse was finished and worked great for the head start on spring planting.

We also got to experiment with putting down black ground cover, which we liked and will be getting more for the future gardens.

Wild rabbits did eat at least 50% of what we planted, but the greenhouse worked.

We started breeding rabbits on the homestead, took it slowly but did successfully raise and process three litters.

Our first group of chicks had zero losses. We bought 3 different breeds and supposedly no roosters. Ended up with entirely different breeds and six roosters. So surprise for us we also got to do our first rooster harvest in 2019.

Bought 6 more chickens to replace the rooster fiasco this time they were all hens, but again not the breed we thought we were purchasing. They lay eggs though, so we are calling it a win.

Also, we started getting eggs!!

We were able to finish the barn and immediately started planning an expansion …. Might get to that this year.

Planted a few more trees and bushes, but to be completely honest we did not take care of the ones we already have. The blackberries were taken over by weeds, the blueberries were all eaten by something. Even had a plum tree that was real dead before we noticed. Strawberries grew, but they did not have much flavor, so they were mostly ignored for the rest of the year.

Berries and orchard have to be more of a priority this year.

Fall garden was non existent. We started some seeds, but it stayed into the high 90s all the way into October, then rained for what seemed like a month. We probably could have still planted, but just got disgusted by it and took the fall off garden wise. We did a small raised area for cabbage and another for carrots.

Land clearing we did not do much. Really just maintaining what we had already cleared. Bandit, the farm dog, uses the brush line as his boundary. We really dont want to get rid of that boundary without the fencing to keep him in. Money was not in the budget in 2019 for what we needed, so nothing additional got cleared.

House building we did a lot more planning, over planning, and then planning it to death. 2020 something tangible has to happen with the house. The trailer is slowly falling apart and still not worth putting any money into fixing.

We will do a future post on plans for 2020 as of now the top 5 are (we know this will probably change several times.)

  1. Start on a house – actually for real get started
  2. Raise more rabbits/ chickens for the freezer.
  3. Add to / take care of orchard.
  4. Barn expansion.
  5. Start nut trees

Hopefully in 2020 we can get more accomplished, which I think that is the goal every year. Still loving the adventure!

What’s something else we could work on for 2020? Let us know what you think! Drop us a comment!

Chicken Coop

For a more permanent house for the chickens, we needed a coop. Looking online there were of course thousands of options. We took parts of what we liked from each and got started.

Built it a little off the ground to help deter predators (the electric netting hopefully is the real defense). Made the floor with one inch hardware cloth to help keep it clean. Winters generally are not bad here in TN but if it gets a real cold snap, hay or even wood planks can easily be put on the bottom.

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The sides and the roof were easy. It is just a box. Made the back where it opens for a bigger cleaning when needed. Put a smaller box out on one side with roof that opens with 3 nesting boxes. As usual they only use one really, but they are there.

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The lid on the top and nesting box is some of the same sheets used for the green house , if you have not seen that post go check it out. This time we went with a darker sheeting but still lets in plenty of light during the day.

Had some paint left over from another project so the coop got painted purple. We like the color and it looks good on the green run area. Not that it stays green long with hungry chickens on it daily. The chickens have not complained about the color, as of yet.

The chickens have been using the coop for months now with no issues. The first group of 12 , 6 ended up as being roosters so it was freezer camp for 5 of them. We got 6 more as replacement. They ended up not being the breed we expected, but they are chickens and lay eggs so it works.

Going to be keeping a laying flock of no more than 12 at a time. They will only be using the coop at night and possibly bad weather, so there is plenty of space for them. They are all about a year old now and still the 12 do not take up even half the space at night.

Here are our first eggs!

We consider the coop a success but there are a few things we would have done different.

  1. The frame itself needs more support, on uneven ground it shifts to the point it is hard to open / close the big back panel
  2. Would build the nesting boxes without the seam at the top , which constantly leaks. Not an issue for effectiveness, but is going to cause an issue with longevity and have to be replaced soon.
  3. Make it more movable. This is something we still will do (open to suggestions!). Moving the coop around the property is not easy as it should be. Debating on wheels, possibly skis on the bottom, but something to make it less of a pain to move.

Any thoughts? Comments? Suggestions? We would love to hear from you!

Rabbits on the homestead.

We had always kinda had in mind that chickens would be the first animals on the homestead. We had rabbits in the back of our minds but still thought chickens first.

As time and work went on, the ease of rabbits kept popping in our heads. Rabbits would be a way to get some animals and a renewable source of meat on the place, where as we still did not have the area cleared for the chickens . Also we did not have the money for the netting we wanted to use for our flock. We had already done lots of work on the barn and had a place for rabbit cages.
A deal presented itself and we very quickly built some rabbit cages and our new residents moved in.

We started with three red siblings, New Zealand Red’s, which turned out to be two girls and one boy, and also one older black rabbit female who was a proven breeder. The original idea was to breed the Red buck and black doe to start our group, but the black rabbit never took to our new place. She was scared all the time and never adjusted to us. You could just tell even after a few months she was miserable. On the other hand the three red bunnies were not the friendliest but were getting along well enough.

So the plan shifted from keeping the Red buck and black doe , to keeping the two red does to be part of our breeding trio.

That meant we needed another buck. When a very good deal on one popped up we snatched him up quick.

He is half Flemish Giant Half Silver Fox, has a great temperament, likes treats, tolerates being handled and has already sired a litter of bunnies at our place. He is a keeper!

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We only bred one of the girls for the first round, wanting to make sure that we could handle having a litter at our place. Getting our feet wet without going overboard which is not always our go-to move! Not that we expected trouble but one litter is easier to deal with than two if something were to come up.

The one red girl we bred proved to be an excellent choice so far. She is taking care of her seven babies as well as any rabbit ever has. So now we have a few weeks to get another cage ready. Debating between a rabbit tractor type cage or another closet wire cage they are currently in. Either way we, will need one for the last few weeks of growing them out.

Bandit the farm dog

The first animal on the farm was Bandit. We got him when he was tiny. He is supposedly a mix between Australian shepherd and Australian cattle dog (blue heeler).

There wasn’t a dog for the first little while on the property because it was too busy getting other things cleaned up first. Growing up, always having dogs, it seemed weird not to have one on our little place. Kept looking online and in papers at dogs and puppies. Even called and asked about a few but they were already gone by the time we would ask.

Then there was Bandit. As soon as we saw his picture we knew he was the one we wanted.

He has been a great addition and the place just wouldn’t be the same without him.

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He trained well and can sit, stay and “leave it” which even works for food placed on the floor. He would rather be outside than inside, and has his own bed room he stays in during the day. His bedroom has an outside door with doggie door that leads to a good size pen as big as the entire back of the trailer.

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Left the pen door open one time after mowing, went to work the next day and he just stayed in the yard (we got lucky there).

He does like to make a mess with some of his toys. Here he is in a before and after with a stuffed hedgehog.

He does ok with the animals we have so far. Very curious, as would be expected but he has not really tried to mess with any of them. Not really sure what will happen when something gets out and starts running. Like most dogs, he gets triggered when something is trying to run away. Still waiting to see what will happen there.

He loves being outside and patrolling the property and he watches out carefully for the kitties.

Chicks and Chicken brooder

We have been wanting chickens since day one of the homestead. Actually we wanted chickens years before the homestead.

Being on our third year in we decided to go ahead and get some.

4 barred rock (turns out we did not get these as expected maybe just got 8 Rhode Island reds)

4 Rhode Island red

4 Golden Comets

So not going into the chicken industry yet, but it is always exciting to get new animals on the homestead.

We started them out in a giant Rubbermaid tote which worked great for the first few weeks!

We did some research on a bigger area for them and found this brooder idea from Lumnah acres. Chick Brooder

It was easy to build and has worked fantastic for the past few weeks. I made mine a good bit taller than their plans, mostly due to Bandit, our dog, and we had the materials.

The things I like most about this set up is when taken apart can be stored easily , and it can be used for various animals for a little holding pen when need be. I’m thinking I might make another one for our rabbits at some point.

The chickens are healthy and happy. They started out in the house but were eventually moved to the porch. They are now in the simple coop we built and in the area we want them to prep for next years garden. Have not let them out yet, letting them get used to where home is. Hopefully we get to release them soon.

Will be posting more about the coop later. Any questions? Comments? We would love to hear from you!