Friday, May 25, 2018

Violet Syrup

I HATE mowing down, sometimes, I'll mow around a particularly cheerful bunch, even if it leaves an odd tuft sticking up in the middle of the lawn.  I've said before that I would be perfectly happy letting the grass on the one side of my parents' house turn into a happy little's just not really socially acceptable, since we're in the middle of town.


I had been dreading killing the thriving colony of violets that populates our yard every spring, but I knew that I HAD to mow soon.  I spend a lot of time researching various off-grid lifestyle things these days, and that inspired me to see if there was anything interesting that one could do with violets.  For example, I know that you can make violet jelly, but I was delighted to discover that there are actually all kinds of things you can do with the blossoms and leaves!  

In fact, apparently only two violet leaves can fulfill your daily vitamin C requirement!  Violet leaves and blossoms have many health benefits, and can be used in teas, balms and salves, as a poultice, and even simply in your salad!

I chose to try turning the blossoms I collected into Violet Syrup.

The recipe is pretty simple, though there seem to be a lot of variations.  Here's the basic idea:

1. Collect violet blossoms and rinse
2. Pour boiling water over blossoms, just enough to cover them
3. Let sit for several hours or overnight
4. Strain out the blossoms, saving the violet-infused water (squeeze the blossoms to get as much water out as possible)
5. Measure the violet water, put it into a saucepan, and add twice its volume in sugar (ie., if you have 1 cup of violet water, add 2 cups of sugar)
6. Stir over a low temperature, avoiding boiling, until the sugar is dissolved
7. If desired, add a few drops of lemon juice, which will intensify the purple color
8. Pour into a jar, let cool, and store in the should keep for several months

My blossoms ended up soaking for an extra whole day because I ran out of time on Wednesday.  The violet water smelled quite floral when I strained the blossoms out!  And despite the fact that many of my blossoms were white instead of purple, the liquid was still quite a lovely shade: 

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Here's what it looked like in the saucepan: 

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And then, a few minutes later...ta-da!!!

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It is rather exotic-looking, isn't it?  :D  

It's VERY sweet, and tastes like honey with a hint of something floral in there.  I think it would be a nice addition to a plain tea, or possibly drizzled in small amounts over vanilla ice cream.  I'm honestly not sure what else to do with it though, lol.  :P  It was a fun experience, though, and I'm glad that I found a use for the violets before I mowed.  If anyone local wants to stop by and try a taste, let me know!

(By the way, I did try eating a violet leaf.  It was decidedly leafy...)

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A Random Tuesday in May

I had a pretty laid-back day today.  The only large-ish project I accomplished was mowing the back yard.  For the record, I still wish that I could apply for a variance with the town regarding keeping livestock.  A couple pet sheep would make excellent use of the grass in this space: 

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It's hard to tell from this angle, but it grows pretty lush.  Oh well.  I'm guessing the town would say no, and even if they didn't, keeping sheep in the middle of town would probably not be a very nice, neighborly kind of thing to do.  :P  

Oh, I did also start a fun project today, but it's not done yet, so I'll have to tell you tomorrow how it went.  Here's a clue, though...the project involves these: 

I had my big camera outside with me in the morning, and I kept kneeling and even lying down to get just the right angle for a parents' house is on a busy road, so I was wondering what all the people driving by thought about the weird person flopped on her stomach in the yard with a camera!  :P  

Bee warned!  The next photo contains a Bumblebee (or a Humblebee, as my four-year-old niece calls them).  This means you, Bekah - scroll fast past this photo!  :D  

The Lilies of the Valley are slowly making a comeback...there used to be a big colony of them along the road, but the town wiped them out when they put in a new sidewalk several years ago (they ripped out a big bank of wild roses, too).  I guess they didn't kill all of the Lilies of the Valley, though!

The Creeping Phlox is in its prime.  Lol, we've always joked that that sounds more like a disease than a plant.  :P

Back to work tomorrow.  The busy season is approaching fast.  Lol, it seems to come back around faster every year!

Anyway...good night, and happy Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Breed Profile #8: Oberhasli Goats

It's been quite a while since I've done a breed profile!  Now that I have land, I'm starting to get more serious in my research regarding what farm animals I'll be raising eventually.  It'll still probably be next spring/summer before I can get any goats, chickens, or pigs, but I'm collecting information and learning where breeders are now.  

Today's goat breed is right near the top of my list; honestly, it's probably between this goat breed and maybe one or two other breeds.  Not to say I won't ever try a different breed, but I've got to pick one to get started with!  :P


The goats in the following photos belong to Worth the Wait Farm in Denmark, Maine.  

Breed Profile #8: Oberhasli Goats

Oberhaslis are an interesting breed - though there are plenty of them in their native country, Switzerland, they are recovering from near-extinction in the United States because for a long time, they could only be registered as a similar breed called the Alpine, even though they have distinct and valuable characteristics of their own.  A few dedicated people kicked off the effort to preserve the breed; the Oberhasli gained its proper name (it was formerly called the Swiss Alpine) and its own herdbook in the late 1970s, and has been slowly increasing in numbers and followers since then.

A medium-sized breed, the females range from 120-150 pounds, and the males can get as large as 175 pounds.  Mature does should stand at least 28 inches at the withers, and bucks should be 30 inches or taller...a couple inches shorter than most full-size dairy goat breeds.

Oberhaslis, also known as Obers, have a distinct color pattern called chamoisee - brown (ranging from tan to a rich bay color) with black markings.  Apparently you can occasionally get an all-black goat; if it's a doe, she can be registered, but black bucks may not be registered.  

One of my favorite characteristics, and one of the main reasons that I'm considering Obers as my first goat breed on Butterscotch Farm, is that they're known for having a calm, friendly, gentle temperament.  And unlike some breeds, they're not necessarily habitual escape artists.  

Their milk is sweet, with a medium butterfat content, good for making cheese.  The owner of these Obers also makes goat milk soaps and lotions - something I'd like to try doing as well at some point.  

This breed is also a good choice if you've ever wanted a pack goat to tote some stuff around!  I'll have to tell my Dad, who insists on carrying half his library around with him in a couple briefcases that are the size of small suitcases.  :D  (Hi, Dad...)

Anyway...I'm really liking the sound of the Oberhasli.  I probably would only need a couple to satisfy the needs of my little homestead.  I do want to investigate a couple more breeds before making any final decisions, but the Oberhasli is definitely a top contender!

Happy Monday, everyone!!  :)  

Thursday, May 17, 2018


So I can't remember if I've said this before, but my land is currently in timber tax, a low tax bracket designed to encourage the growth of timber for commercial sale.  Unfortunately, you have to take acreage out of timber tax in order to build a house on it, and that comes along with a hefty fee.  You also have to have a forester put together a forest management plan so that you know how to maximize the growth of your trees for harvest.  

I had a forester out on Monday for a consultation, and he estimates that it'll be 15-20 years before my trees will be able to be harvested again, since it was logged sometime in the last couple of years.

That suits me just fine...I'm happy to have two decades to decide whether I want to sell my trees!

I need to keep walking around and decide which few acres I want taken out of timber tax to put my house on.  My initial thought was to only take out 2 acres, but I took some measurements the other day to get an idea of what 2 acres looks like, and now I'm leaning toward 4-5 acres, just to be sure there's enough space for a few small pastures and all the necessary outbuildings.

All the details of this adventure are like fitting together the pieces of a puzzle - I have to do such and such before I can do this other thing, but first I need to do this...  :P  

I think this is a low-bush Blueberry plant: 

Spotted this guy as I was driving away: 

Ironic, because I thought, "Wow, I'm not sure I've seen a (live) Porcupine in person before"...and then the next day, my friend was out on a hike somewhere else in Maine, and her poor dog got a face full of quills.  Maybe it's Porcupine season??

In other news, I made an exciting purchase yesterday...something that makes me feel like a REAL homesteader (albeit a modern one, lol): 

Heh heh heh....  NOW I can get some stuff DONE!!!  :D  :D  :D  

(And that's good, because look at this ridiculous mess I have to clean up...)

And this isn't even the worst section!  

One of my goals, though, is to make use of what's already on the land as much as possible.  I've got some ideas of things to do with all of this junk wood; hopefully I can get start making progress soon.  Lol, I think I've got many years of work ahead of me...but it'll be worth it!!  :P  

Monday, May 14, 2018

Garden Progress

I caved and bought a few plants today...I had definitely run out of time to start my tomatoes from seeds!  :P  

I bought a regular tomato plant, a cherry tomato plant, some Romaine lettuce, and some marigolds.  And I still have space left over...I'll have to look through my seeds and see what might fit in there.  If all else fails, maybe just a few more flowers!  

The peas and sunflowers are still very cute little seedlings in the back row...hopefully they catch up before the other plants throw too much shade on them.  I've tried to place things carefully so that they'll get adequate sun.

Lol, I find it entertaining to think that I've got my garden in this little wooden box when I have a huge chunk of land over in Maine...but this will do for this year.  I have a lot more planning and research to do before I figure out how I want my gardens set up over on my land.  

I hope everyone had a nice Monday!  :)  

Thursday, May 10, 2018


I've got one little raised garden bed, and so far all I've planted are peas and sunflower seeds.  Hopefully I'll get some other stuff in there before it's too late.

The sunflowers started coming up's amazing how much promise and hope those little seedlings hold.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Cute Cows and a Random Chipmunk

I was hoping to have exciting news today...I drove a couple hours south to look at an antique, disassembled timber frame house that's for sale.  But my contractor friend Scott and I agreed that it's not in nearly good enough shape for what the seller is asking - and while it's carefully blueprinted, it's not clear on whether it includes the sills, floor joists, or roof rafters.  So unless the price comes WAY down, I'm going to pass on that one.  (By the way, major thanks to Scott for taking the whole afternoon away from his work to go look at a pile of old wood with me!  :P )

It was still a good day, though.  It was a beautiful day for driving, and we passed by lots of gorgeous scenery and neat old houses.  And the seller of the timber frame was kind enough to show us around the big old meeting house he's renovating.

Plus, I got to see Scott and Renee's cows.  :)  

For quite a few years, Scott and his wife Renee have had Scottish Highland cattle (the fuzzy ones with the horns), but they've recently added some Belted Galloways.  When the two breeds mix, you get some interesting colors and patterns.  I think this one is really cute:

This one below is one of the purebred Belties, for reference.  You may have heard these called "Oreo Cows," lol.  :P

"What are you lookin' at?"

Scott put out a couple fresh bales of hay, and all the cattle immediately started drifting over to the feeders.  Well, most of them drifted...a couple got a little crazy, lol!  

"Hay?  Yahoo!"

"I call dibs!"

"Not if I get there first!"

"Mommy, wait up!"  

"Happiness is a big bale of fresh hay."


Okay, stepping away from the cow captions....

The property is really beautiful.

Would you believe that a few years ago the entire, 12-acre cow pasture was wooded??  Scott and Renee have put a LOT of work in for this wonderful view!

Lol, this is good inspiration for my property...I hope that it looks half this good in a few years!  

Oops, almost forgot the random chipmunk!  Here you go, and happy Wednesday, everyone!  :D