February on the Homestead

Dinner of homegrown food and homemade bread.

February is an exciting month on our homestead. Not only is the weather unpredictable - false spring one moment, hail or snow the next - but it's a time for prep work.

For example, I finished butchering our excess roosters. (You can read about why and how I butchered them here.) This time, things went much more easily. (Funny how some practice helps that happen!) I was pleased with the weights I saw; I had several roosters who were 5 lbs. dressed. Most were in the 4-4.5 lb. weight range. The littlest was 3.5 lbs. Bear in mind that they were not a meat breed; they were farmyard mutts from dual-purpose or layer chickens. We've already eaten a couple, and they are absolutely delicious. So much tastier than store bought, of course - they just don't have as much breast meat as commercial Cornish Cross chickens do.

So...I was down to a single rooster, which I chose because of his good looks, his friendly manner, and his eagerness to care for the hens. He spent two blissful days in rooster nirvana...and then I found him dead in the hen house. He appeared to have died in his sleep, poor guy. (That was a first.) So now I'm asking around with locals to see if I can find a rooster someone doesn't want. Sigh.

I butchered a total of 10 roosters. Here's half.

The not-so-lucky rooster who remained.

This made me think about our dear Fido - a meat mutt rabbit buck who has given us lots of wonderful babies. He's a gentle soul, and so handsome...and he's just not quite been himself since his mate Fiona died. I suddenly realized he's probably pretty old. We don't know his exact age, but we figure he's at least 6 years old. So I decided it was time to breed him in hopes of setting aside at least one of his offspring to keep his line going on our homestead. As usual, Fido was eager to comply, and so was Clydine.

Fido and Clydine, over a year ago.

But the real sign that winter is nearing it's end is that I've been sowing seeds. I started my winter sowing early this month, sowing Bull's Blood beets, Umpqua broccoli, Franklin Brussels sprouts, Farao Cabbage (a new variety for me, said to stand a long time in the garden without splitting), Morris Heading collards, Amazing cauliflower, wild Russian kale, Winter Density lettuce, Javalin parsnips, Purple Top turnips, Legend tomatoes, plus a few flowers: zinnia, marigold, cosmos, and Shirley double poppies. Already, all the seeds have germinated.

Winter sown seeds.

I also started some warm-season crops indoors:  Dark Star tomatoes (which did very well for me last year), plus two new-to-me tomato varieties: Koralik and Oregon Spring. I also sowed Golden Star bell peppers, which were highly productive in my unheated greenhouse last year, as well as new-to-me Early Jalapeno and Pathfinder Serrano peppers. I'm also trying my hand at onions from seed. (Early in my homesteading journey, I tried unsuccessfully to grow onions from seed. Thereafter, I only bought sets.) I started a few Walla Walla and Patterson storage onions.

Indoor sown seeds.

The winter garden is almost done, but for now, I still have a few things I can harvest fresh. The Brussels sprouts are looking brown on the outside, but if I peel back the first layer of leaves (like you would a cabbage), they are beautiful and tasty. I harvested the tippy tops of the Brussels (the part that looks like a small - but not mini - cabbage) a few days ago. I also harvested the cabbages in the garden, which were mostly secondary growths that appeared after harvesting the main heads. Most of these were a little bigger than a baseball.

The February garden.

The carrots I overwintered have few leaves, but the roots are absolutely delicious! I have a few small beets, which I'll give a little more time to grow before I harvest them. There are some turnips, too. The exposed roots may not look pretty, but I'll peel them and they'll be at their peak of good flavor.
My remaining kale and collards have gone to flower, which makes them bitter (though still edible). I'll let the bees enjoy the flowers for now, but will soon pull the plants and feed them to the chickens.
Overwintered turnips.

Overwintered carrots.

Cabbage and Brussels sprout tops.

Brussels sprouts.

February Produce Totals:

At this time, we're mostly eating produce that I preserved last year. Even so, we do eat fresh food from the garden during the cold months, as listed below. To learn more about how and why I am keeping these totals, click here.

Serrano and Jalapeno Peppers (from the unheated greenhouse): 1.64 lbs
------------> $2.59 conventional (no organic option; our Walmart doesn't sell serranos, so I used the price for jalapenos only)

Brussels sprouts: 10 lbs. 1 oz.

------------> $40.25 organic, $28.98 conventional

Brussels sprouts tops: 1 lb. 2.5 oz.

------------> $1.88 organic, $.98 conventional (using cabbage prices, since Walmart doesn't sell Brussels sprouts tops)

Cabbage: 3 lbs.

------------> $4.56 organic, $2.46 conventional 

Carrots: 1 lb. 4 oz.

------------> $1.19 organic, $0.85 conventional 

Saved in February:

$50.47 if purchased organic or $35.86 if purchased conventional.

Saved in 2024 so far:

$106.02 if buying organic and $86.73 

I learned to peel chicken feet this month!


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