Sweet Summer Farm

Grand's Apple Pie

Sweet Summer FarmGrand's apple pie is awesome. It's great in any season, but really good in the fall made with fresh local apples. Grand has been making this pie for over forty years, and it's definitely a family favorite.

Apple Pie

Ingredients

• 4 to 6 cups of sliced apples
• 1 cup of sugar
• 3 tablespoons of cornstarch
• 3 tablespoons of frozen orange juice concentrate
• 1 teaspoon of grated nutmeg
• 2 piecrusts

Instructions

1. Mix together the sugar and the cornstarch. Set aside.

2. Mix your frozen orange juice concentrate with your nutmeg.

3. Gently stir orange juice concentrate and nutmeg mixture with the apples.

4. Sprinkle the sugar and cornstarch mixture on top of your apple mixture and stir.

5. Place your bottom pie crust in your pie plate and pour filling into your pie plate, then place your top pie crust over your filling.

6. Crimp your pie crust however you like, and cut several small slits in the top.

7. Bake at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes

Hints from Grand: Check out our pie crust recipe — Grand's Best Pie Crust Ever. Grand's favorite way to seal the two pie crusts together is to just use a fork. You take your fork and press the crusts together all the way around the pie. Grand also likes to brush the top of the pie with a beaten egg white and sprinkle it with sugar; it makes for a very pretty pie.

Sweet Summer Farm Grows Peanuts

Sweet Summer FarmEarly in the spring, we planted a small patch of peanuts. Peanuts are a big crop in GA; as many of you might know, former president Jimmy Carter was a peanut farmer. They grow really well in South GA, so we thought we would see how they did in the North GA mountains. Honestly, we did not have a lot of hope for them, but we were surprised. When we dug up our plants, we were delighted to find quite a few peanuts. There are not enough to keep us in peanut butter for the next year, but hey, we are going to enjoy having a nice big pot of boiled peanuts!

Peanuts need a long growing season. We started ours inside under grow lights. They came up and grew great, but when we transplanted them into the garden they wilted badly. Thankfully, they soon recovered and grew at a steady pace. Peanuts like sandy, loose, and well-drained soil to grow, but you can still grow them in clay soil. Which was perfect for us, because we don't have anything near sandy soil.

We eventually saw small yellow blooms, and that means they've started making peanuts. After a long wait, they were finally ready. There is no sure sign to tell when they're ready that we know of. Just look on your seed package and it will tell you the number of days till mature. Otherwise, you will just have to dig one of them up and see if your peanuts are ready to eat.

Peanuts go through a process called pegging, which means that they have runners underground that also produce peanuts. The plants don't just produce peanuts at the crown of the plant. It all depends on the variety and in what conditions they are grown in, but they should produce about 25 to 50 peanut pods. We planted our peanuts in a small square "peanut patch," which was actually too small for them. We still got a good harvest, though. Next year, instead of a small patch, we plan on making a long, rectangular, three-foot-wide row. We are thinking about plowing some sand and compost into the row before we plant.

Peanuts plants grow to be 12 to 18 inches tall and up to three feet long. So you should space your rows about 36 inches apart. If you don't want to start the seeds inside and then transplant them, then you plant the seeds directly into the ground. If you do so, you need to make sure that it has been three weeks after the last frost and that the temperature of the soil is above 60 degrees. You should plant your seeds just shy of 2 inches deep, and 4 to 6 inches apart.

It is really fun to grow peanuts; we enjoyed them this year! If you have not tried growing peanuts, give them a try. It might turn out better than you had hoped.

Peanuts

Peanuts on the vine 

Growing Mushrooms

Sweet Summer FarmOn one of our trips to the Mother Earth News Fair, Grand bought some shiitake mushroom plugs. Grand took them home and placed them in the fridge, and unfortunately there they stayed for months. But, finally, we decided it was time to see if we have what it takes to be mushroom farmers. (Well, OK, maybe not farmers exactly, but at least see if we could grow some mushrooms.)

We talked to our friend Ron Cabe, a super mushroom farmer. We buy almost all our mushrooms from him at the farmer's market. Being the great person that he is, he agreed to help us do our mushroom plugs. You can read all about the preparing of our mushroom logs in our Learning To Grow Our Own Mushrooms post.

After we finished our logs, they got to relax in a nice shady spot in the woods. When about eight months had passed, our friend Ron "Mushroom Man" Cabe said they were ready to soak — because to actually get the mushrooms to grow, they need to soak in some kind of water. So we headed down to the farm, and the logs got plopped down into a nice deep spot in the creek. The logs soaked for a couple of days. We put them in on Saturday afternoon and left them in the creek until Monday afternoon. Then we took them back home to their shady spot in the woods. Well, in a week we found some mushrooms! To celebrate, we had cheese and mushroom omelets with our new mushrooms and fresh eggs from the farm.

We love mushrooms, so we've been thinking about growing some different types. We're always using mushrooms: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you have ever grown any kind of mushrooms, please let us know what kind and how you grew them. We would love to hear from you!

Shiitake mushrooms
Photo by Fotolia/twomeercats

Happy First Birthday, Sweet Summer Farm!

Sweet Summer FarmHello from Sweet Summer Farm,

This month we turn one year old. A year ago this August, we closed on our farm. We had looked for several years at farm after farm, never finding just the right one. If we liked the land, then there was no water; if there was a great creek or pond, the land was too steep to farm. We spent almost every weekend driving around over three different states; most of the time, a drive-by was all that was needed to eliminate each farm. A farm would sound wonderful on paper, but the seller had forgotten to say there was a convenience store next door that was open twenty-four hours. Let's not forget the farm with a "beautiful creek" that was really only about the size of your arm. And of course, the one that was on a five-lane highway was not what we had in mind. The creek was often the property line, so you are sharing the creek with your neighbor, and we once looked at a farm with a barbed wire fence down the middle of the creek so that the neighbor's cows could drink out of it. Maybe a plan for them, but not so good for us.

Then we got the call about this farm. Our agent, Dale Holmes, said we had to come look at it. It was beautiful. We loved it! Could this be the one? The creek ran right through the middle of the farm; there were pasture and woods. The house was in fair shape, and there was a barn and an old corn crib. After much talking and worrying, we decided this was the one: our Sweet Summer Farm.

We have had a lot of changes over this first year. The first thing we needed to do was put in a driveway. We cut down lots of overgrown boxwoods and tons of weed trees — the property had not been well cared for over the years. We plowed and planted a large garden after stopping every few minutes to dig out rocks. We have put in a small orchard; the deer have really enjoyed it, they think it is a salad bar. We have planted blueberries and raspberries, some fig trees, and three pecan trees.

In addition to all of our plants and trees, we have poultry. First, we have our beautiful Silver Lace Wyandottes. The first update on them is that, sadly, one of our hens has passed away. The second update is sad, too: our rooster had to go. Buster was a beautiful rooster, but his behavior was unacceptable. When he went after Grand and left her bleeding, he had to go. So he was given away. Next, we have our littles, aka our bantam chickens. The biggest and most wonderful update of all is our bantams have STARTED LAYING! Our bantams now have layed roughly two dozen eggs. Grand is going to make mini deviled eggs. All of us are very excited to start using tiny eggs.

The last type of animal we have is our wild and crazy ducks. The wonderful update here is that our ducks have started laying beautiful blue eggs. It's really cool to have brown eggs, blue eggs, and tiny eggs.

We are really enjoying our beautiful little farm. There have been a lot of changes in the past year. It has been a lot of work, but mostly it has been great fun and a wonderful experience. We are looking forward to many years in this very special place. We feel very blessed.

Our beautiful old farm houuse
We love this old farmhouse!

Pasture to Garden in just one year
Our large garden!

Our chickens are neighbors
Our chickens are next door neighbors.

Our wild and crazy ducks
Our crazy ducks.

Our sign is finally up
Our sign is finally up and looking good.

Our old barn
Our old barn Love it!

Our favorite place to be after a long day of work, the creek!!!
Our favorite spot! Down at the creek after a hard day. We are so lucky!

Our Wild and Crazy Indian Runner Ducks

Sweet Summer FarmWe wanted to do an update on our Indian Runner ducks. Well, about all we can say is "bless their hearts." We just feel so sorry for them. They are absolutely terrified of everything.

We purchased them to forage for bugs on the farm. We were hoping they would help keep the slugs and the Japanese beetles under control, but so far they are yet to leave their pen. When they see that we have left the door open, they run away from the door loudly quacking bloody murder. They run as far away from the opened door as possible. Making a small, tight, duck wad, they step all over each other, each trying to get closer and closer to the center of the cluster of seven ducks. If we circle around them and try to herd them out the open door, the poor things run from us and toward the open door. Then in an instant, they all at the same time seem to realize, "OMG the door is open!!! The horror of it!!! RUN AWAY, RUN AWAY!!!" The ducks' nervous breakdown is now complete. The poor things make a mad dash to the door of their duck room in the barn, where they remain until they think all danger has passed. Just hiding out in the dark until that evil door is once again closed and latched.

Once we decided to catch the ducks and place them out in the orchard, right next to their pen. BAD idea. The poor little soul we caught first ran into the duck pen from the outside over and over trying to get INTO the pen. His misery was so sad. We don't know what we have done to mess up these poor little ducks so badly. It really is a shame; we so wish they could enjoy free-ranging on the farm. But right now we are just hoping for some duck eggs.

If you have Indian Runner ducks and have any ideas that might help, please let us know.

indian runner ducks 
Run away!

indian runner ducks 
Don't open it!

indian runner ducks 
Hurry! Let's hide in here.

indian runner ducks 
Thank goodness, the evil door is latched.

Grands' Greatest Sausage and Cheese Biscuits Recipe

Sausage and Cheese Biscuits on a Plate

Hints from Grand:

You can make "Drop Biscuits" by dropping heaping tablespoons of dough onto a greased cookie sheet if you don't want to roll them out.

You can also make the biscuits in a muffin tin by scooping up a 1/4 cup of dough and dropping it into a greased muffin tin.

Grands' Greatest Sausage and Cheese Biscuits Recipe

INGREDIENTS

4 cups of self-rising flour
1/2 stick of butter
2 cups of grated cheese
1 pound of sausage
2 cups of buttermilk

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Place sausage in a frying pan with about half a cup of water. Mash sausage with a fork as it cooks because you want to have crumbled sausage. Cook until well done, and set aside.

3. Measure your flour into a large bowl, Mix in butter. You can use a pastry blender or, Grand's trick, you can grate the butter into the flour

4. Stir in the cheese then stir in the buttermilk. Start with the first cup of buttermilk and then add milk until the mixture becomes a soft dough. You may not need the whole second cup

5. Stir in the sausage.

6. Roll out the dough and cut with a biscuit cutter. Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown

Biscuits in a pan 

Sausage and Cheese Buiscuits

Our Harvest Has Started

Sweet Summer FarmHere is an update on what is going on at Sweet Summer Farm. We are really enjoying our first spring harvest. We just planted a few rows of potatoes to see how they would do in the hard soil. We didn't buy any potatoes, we just planted some leftover potatoes we got from the farmers market. We are excited to have harvested over 50lbs of potatoes. We've also started harvesting a few onions and that's good because we use lots of onions. Grand puts them in almost everything she cooks. We have also harvested our garlic and came home with a "table full" as you can see from the pictures below.

The tomatoes are doing very well and we hope to get a large harvest. There are many little tomatoes, so we are very hopeful. We are looking forward to some great tomato sandwiches. But it is going to be hard not to pick them green and fry up some green tomatoes. Wouldn't they be good with some homemade pimento cheese? Just thinking about it makes my mouth water!!! Guess we will have to wait and see which one wins out in the end. The truth is I am sure there will be plenty of both. Hopefully, lots of canned tomatoes to enjoy this winter, maybe some homemade ketchup.

The cabbage, however, isn't doing very well. It has some worms and isn't looking very good. Still, we think we will have a few small heads to cook up with the potatoes. We hope to harvest it very soon. Our peaches are also getting bigger and are looking good. Well, they looked a lot better before the deer came by, but we are thinking we might get a peach or two. It would be nice to at least get a bite of fresh peach. Well, if the deer don't mind! The peas are growing fast, plus we have more of them to plant. The peppers look great and lots of baby peppers are enjoying the hot weather here. We have some squash seedlings we will be planting this week, as well as some okra and butter beans.

We're so looking forward to the next couple of months at the farm. We will keep you posted on how everything is going. See pictures of our harvest down below.Love Digging Potatoes

Love digging potatoes

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A "table full" of garlic

Love that Garlic!

Love that garlic!

Potatoes & Onions

Potatoes and onions

Baby Tomatoes

Baby tomatoes

Green Peppers

Green peppers

Blueberries

Blueberries

Our Biggest Crop, Japanese Beetles

Our biggest crop, Japanese beetles!

Raspberries

Raspberries