Strawberry Fields Aplenty- well for right now.

 

WE PLANTED STRAWBERRIES!

LOOK! THEY’RE ALREADY GROWING!

We dug out a long trench, lined it with some good garden soil from Maine’s very own Coast Of Maine line, lined them up and down the row and filled them in. We are trying to decide if we want to go the traditional route of straw or if we want to use black garden fabric, as we have a lot of it on hand already.

We planted them over the course of three nights- like literally planted at 8pm and on… at one point I asked for a head lamp for my birthday and not really as a joke.

The third night, Mr Gillis’s cousins, two other MrGilliseseses (??) helped us plant the last 50, and also helped us get some of our pumpkins into the ground.

I’m really excited about this (ok we’re both REALLY EXCITED about this)…. we planted 100 bare root Sparkle(a mid season variety known for its flavor) and 100 bare root Honeoye( a mid/late season type with a long harvest season).

MrGillis even wanted to order another 100 each, because the field was so small once we had them all in, but Johnny’s was already sold out for the season….

So next year, we’re going to go big…. really big. Like 1000 roots big.

For now, I guess we’ll have to be happy planting the Alexandria Strawberry Seeds we bought- this is an Alpine variety which grows double the standard wild berry size.. bonus points for edible flowers!

That’s about that for this one tho.  Until next time, have a wicked good day.

Homesteading Dreams – Building Cold Frames

Here at Gillis Gardens, we have dreams. Some of them are in laborious progress, such as our production kitchen and rainbow flock of egg laying chickens… others are probably unattainable for years yet(my personal favs being a greenhouse within a wallpini for tropical growing or getting into aquaponics and farming our own tilipia) but we have a lot of them.

We believe in that itself. Having dreams, goals… things that you reach for past what you have or know now. None of ours have to do with being rich, or gaining fame. It’s more about pushing our own limits at what we thought we could accomplish between us and our drive. Maybe that can be a blog for another time. Today we are talking about realizing a dream of ours that we’ve had for some time.

Building Cold Frames.

I know, quite the lofty goal there, but cold frames are important for homesteading for a big reason- it is going to extend our planting season by a few months.

From the renovation on the shed, we have a lot of of old windows, random hardware junk and different sized pieces of wood. What better use for all that stuff, then to pair it with some hay bales and bags of dirt to create THIS:

This is just the first one that we threw together real quick. We put the bales up on their sides, layered some hay in so that there was more insulation between our dirt and the cold ground and put a bag of dirt in. Then mrgillis slit the plastic and lined the sides of the hay bales with the extra. Next, he got fancy and put hinges on the windows for easy open access.

But one cold frame wasn’t good enough. We had a truck full of bales and a “malt beverage” into both of us, and it was almost 70 degrees out in April in Maine. This deserved some celebrating and some work. So we rearranged the bales and ended up with three cold frames.

Mrgillis made a neat brace for the windows too. He’s just that thoughtful. Meanwhile, Izzy and I played.

The Next day, it was up in the 60s again, so we planted salad greens and micro greens, because if it works, eff yeah we have fresh produce in our front yard. And if it doesn’t well it wont be long and it will.


So, to cap it off, we spent about 20 bucks on hay, reused a bunch of old windows and hardware instead of trashing them and have the ability to start growing outside about 5 to 6 weeks earlier then in years past… it also will extend our harvest capabilities well into the fall. It was a quick project and gave us a good reason to be out enjoying the fresh air and beautiful Maine spring day.

In fact, it was so quick and easy that MrGIllis is ready to go get another truckload of bales and make 3 more. I’ll post an update as spring moves along.

Until next time, have a wicked good day!

Update for 04/23/17-


We have 4 cold frames and SPROUTS! Yea!

Update for May 7th 2017

The coldframes are  a rousing success! We have lots of tomatoes, peppers, squash, marigolds, cucumbers, pumpkins, watermelons, leafy greens all sprouting and growing OUTSIDE in MAINE in early friggen MAY.

We are so excited about the possibilities that these cold frames open up for growing fresh food out of season.

Have a wicked good day!

Update 05-29-17 – cold frames are a definite, long lasting success! We have tomatoes and peppers, cukes, pumpkins and a mini salad garden that we’ve been harvesting from for weeks now…. and they are all cold hardened already!

This has been a great first foray into lengthening our grow season, and we’re excited to do this for many years to come. It was great not having to transform a room or closet into a plant nursery for once…. Still lots more to go tho, so until then, have a wicked good day!

Weekend warriors – The Sum of February 2017

It seems like, as long as this winter has been, it is now just flying by. February always kind of sneaks up on us… like oh here I am and BOOM hahaha now I’m already gone. It wont be long and we’ll be focusing all our energy on things that need to be done for outside…getting chicks, starting seedlings, cruising plant nurseries for good deals.

But that’s still a good month or so away, so for now, I’ll update you on our big kitchen/chicken hospital renovation, which, is actually at a multi-level type of disappointing standstill at this moment…

When we last left you, we were uncovering some serious issues.

Thankfully, we aren’t really the type of people to give up easily… With all the walls torn out and the water damage fairly visible, we were happy for our local handyman to tell us, all the work was not for naught..

So, it was time to rip into the floor. We were excited/nervous, because we didn’t know what we were going to find.. .more insect activity? More mold? Just a bunch of rot? D.B. Cooper? A swamp?  Well we were pretty sure we weren’t going to find a swamp, but it never hurts to expect the unexpected.

MrGillis spent a fair amount of time just ripping down the rest of the walls, cleaning out old insulation, mice/bug nests and trucking it all out. After that, came the Next Big Step in our plan. Removing the floor so we can get rid of all the water damage, level it out, replace and rotten and missing floor  joists and redo the interior of the kitchen well enough to last a good 20 years…

 

My dear hubby did most of this, unless he couldn’t get all the screws out. Then I came to the rescue, with my super helper skills…essentially, I would hold the floor board up, putting stress on where it was giving us trouble, while he figured out where to attack from…  with some help from the circular saw, we got the floor out.

That took basically that entire first weekend of February… it sure didn’t feel like we got a whole lot done, but really, we know, we are getting there…

The second weekend of February, was another weekend of mrgillis working mostly by himself… while izzy was napping, I rushed out and hauled dirt out in 2, two gallon buckets while he shoveled it. It was a bit of a crazy hour and a half, but we got a lot done and I am eternally grateful that we have a baby monitor that we can count on to work with us while we’re working outside and she’s napping away in her extremely, toddler proofed room.

 

We managed to fill that sucker twice before we called it a job well done.

That’s right, we took out over two tons of dirt, wood, bark, insulation, and some weird animal skeleton that was wrapped in plastic(I know, right? It’s got us too.), 4 gallons at a time. It was, well, an experience. We were both pretty sore the next day, and I only put in 1/5 of the time mrgillis did. He insists that my time was invaluable tho, as we really got some dirt out when working together….

So, that pretty much took the sum of the second weekend of February.

Immediately following that, like literally sunday night into monday, we got hit with a huge state wide blizzard that shut down all of Maine basically. We spent the entire week cleaning up from that, over and over again because snow drifts. Seriously. I was shoveling the chicken and shed paths 3 TIMES A DAY. And not little 5 minute clean up jobs. I would go out to thigh deep snow in the AM, get it out of the way, and by lunch be shoveling knee deep snow again.

Also, we got our new kitchen sink setup installed! But that led to another not so great discovery

The third weekend, well, mrgillis and I dropped the little one off at my parents and absconded to the queen city for an overnight stay at a motel.

One, because we got it for free, two because a quality nights sleep was the perfect  belated valentines gift for the both of us, as parents to a 21 month old and three, CLEARANCE sales..and chinese food we didn’t have to cook ourselves.

 

Kmart in Bangor is closing and tractor supply club was having an additional 20% of all clearance deal.. so we hit kmart and spent all kinds of the green stuff on birthday and christmas presents for this coming year and we stopped at 3 different tractor supplies over the course of the two days and got so many goodies for the garden for super cheap…. we found everything from earth worm castings, to a drip irrigation system, to 3’x8′ aluminum screening for making windows (that was 70 CENTS a roll people!) two machetes and a saw for bushwhacking our way around the back property on super super clearance. I also managed to grab some cute wrapping paper and a new sign for my kitchen. We also looked at some sheds to convert to coops, because we don’t know how much time we have to build from scratch…

And that brings us to now, the last official week of the month. We still have no kitchen or chicken hospital. Maple tapping season is Literally on top of us, and we have no where to boil it down.

We’ve taken stock of our maple syrup and are ok with the fact that we wont be making more this year… we also decided that if needed, we can house the chicks in the house for a few days, because we do know we HAVE to get chickens this year… spring is springing and we are only getting a few eggs.

BUT the good news is, Charlie the handy guy came around this last week and told the hubby that after we clear out under two particular spots and take out the bathroom floor we can start jacking it on saturday! Progress!

Anyway, we have about a bazillion things to do, and I have like a thousand blog ideas, even some already in draft from, so I guess, time to call it.

Until next time, have a wicked good day.

 

 

Having animals is never easy on the tender hearted

When you decide to go into any kind of animal husbandry with the intention of ethical, compassionate and care-oriented rearing of those animals, you know you’re going to get hurt. And probably a lot.

Our first batch of chickens, we got 8- 4 pairs of different heirloom birds, kinda like a Gillis Chicken Ark. As they got their feathers in and started coming of age, one started crowing. We named it Rooster, in hopes that the ironic name would work its mojo and it would just be a really noisy hen. We named its sister Hen as further irony. These were the Silver Laced Wyandottes. We also brought home Buff Orpingtons who became Buffy and Dawn, Amurecaunas that were named Falcon and Hawk, and Australorps, Astrid and Na.

When the birds were old enough to go outside, we knew for sure we had a rooster, named Rooster, in our midst. And, unfortunately, Rooster, was a loud rooster. From 30 minutes before dawn hit until the very last hen was in the coop at the end of the night, he would crow. And crow. And crow. If we stepped outside, crow. If we had treats, crow. No treats? Well that actually started to lead to attacks.

During the first major attack, I went the scared 1st time chicken owner route, and kicked my way out of the coop.

After the second time that beautiful little bastard attacked me, we decided he had to go to the chopping block. That story is another, very painful blog tho.

But that is the shortened story of our first loss.

Our second batch of chickens, we lost a baby chick the day after we brought them home.  We think she got to cold on the long ride home, in the cold that is Maine in February…That was sad, preventable, and we vowed to try our best to keep it from happening again.

The other five we had brought home made it outside and all got names, personalities… they were accimilating to life with the older girls, getting big…just starting to lay. We had two Barnvelders, Peatree and BB, Two Red Stars, Lucy (more on her here) and Pippi, and one pure white Amerucauna, who we called Blanca.

One morning in September, I went out to the chicken coop, and saw bloodied, white feathers everywhere. I found parts of our little Blanca everywhere, including on our back porch.  Sometime thru the night a racoon had gotten into our fence and then took our girl right off her perch as she slept. Mr. Gillis gathered her scattered remains, and buried her out back while I cried and blamed myself for being to lazy to go out and close the door better the night before. That was a hard lesson, and from then on we screwed the door shut every night instead of just relying on hook and eye latches.

We brought home our third batch of chicks the next spring, one Delaware we named Ethel, one barred rock we named Rocky (quite clever, I know) and 4 Easter Eggers that ended up being called Luna, Matilda, Milk and Scout.

For a year and some months we are at 17 happy chickens clucking and scratching around the yard. Then I noticed one of our original girls, Astrid, is not clucking. Or Scratching. Or doing really much of anything. And then I notice she is sleeping in the boxes at night instead of the bar. So I bring her into the house for a little checkup. She has food and grit in her crop and it is neither impacted nor sour. Her feet are clean and blemish free. Her airways are clean and free of blockage. Her breathing was fine. Her coloring was normal. She even ate some food, and drank some water while under observation. After 48 hours I put her back outside assuming she was just being a little weird.

Two days later I looked outside to the pen and saw her lying, unresponsive, in the chicken door. I ran outside and gently picked her up. She was breathing the heavy, wet sounding   Breath of sickness and her comb was purple. I feed her some electrolyte water, tried to get her to eat some mash. Rechecked for all obvious signs of sickness or injury. I researched online and in my books for hours. I read every thing I could find about what might possibly be wrong, and tentatively diagnosed her with acute liver failure- a sure death sentence without a real time line… could be hours, could be days.

Knowing what had to be done, I struggled all night with how to cull her, without causing a lot of pain and distress… I went to work the next day, stomach twisted with our sad chore for that evening, consuming my mind.

She was gone by lunchtime.

That was another hard lesson about the inevitability that we will lose all the animals we ever care for. Not all of them will be dramatic and quick. Not all of them will be quiet and tidy… All we can do is make their lives as fulfilled, and as good, as possible.

Well, that’s my story and I’m ending it on that.

Have a wicked good evening.

Setting up the homestead Part 5

What a whirlwind of a weekend! We took a drive up country to the Amish store – mostly for piping for our wood stove, but also with a “lets buy awesome stuff” attitude. It was a kinda murky late fall morning, but the colors were beautiful and the ride was peaceful- especially with a passed out Izzy in the back seat.

We made it, first to Brookside, a little restaurant next to a hotel off the highway before you hit Canada. I had a waffle covered in strawberries and fresh whipped cream and MrGillis had an omelet breakfast… Izzy charmed other patrons with her coloring abilities and general good attitude.

After breakfast, it was off to the Amish country store, the Pioneer Place in Smyrna.

I cannot say enough how much I love this place. Where else can you buy a gallon of Bragg’s apple cider vinegar for 20 bucks? Or a dozen whole nutmegs for under 5? I bought my first bottle of essential oil there (teatree was my gateway oil)  and I got all the metal serving ware we used at our wedding. Their bulk flours and other baking goods are insanely low priced, and I get my pastry flour, wheat gluten, and a bunch of other stuff there as often as possible.

They have a little bit of everything from boots, to plumbing, to kitchen and health and even some toys. We’ve gotten many a good deal there – including all the pipe for our wood stove. Izzy and I had a lot of fun wandering around while MrGillis talked to the nice Amish man about what pipe we’d need. We also managed to grab some chocolate covered raisins and trail mix that was a gift for my parents.

After heading out of Amish Land we headed into Houlton to do the rest of our shopping before heading home.

Our GPS took us thru some real back woods traveling on the way home- the weather was still pretty murky. We dropped the Bug off with her grandma and headed over to the old homestead to get some work done before supper while MrGillis mused aloud about how nice it would be if the groundwork was just miraculously taken care of…

YEA GROUND WORK! Are you friggen kidding me?! My psychic hubby totally called it! My husband’s uncle came by and helped us out! When we pulled into the driveway and saw that going on, it was seriously the best feeling all day, even after our awesome trip.

Yea for almost having the windows and doors almost covered! MrGillis has really been busting buns to get this place as tight as possible before the cold really hits. We’ve been lucky so far that we haven’t had any major freezing nights.

Yea for one floor done, another floor ready to go AND OHMYGOD I ALMOST FORGOT TO TELL THE BEST STORY OF THE WEEKEND-

So we went to another one of our big fav stores this weekend, MARDENS, to scope out the flooring situation, because we need flooring for 4 more rooms. Well, we walked up to the flooring area and could only find ONE PIECE of flooring the size we needed, and that was  in our ever tightening budget. BUT it had a big HOLD sticker on it. Well I convinced MRGillis that HOLD does not mean SOLD and he should ask about it. TURNS out that the hold sticker should have been taken off the day before AND WE GOT TO BUY IT! A roll of 12×14 vinyl sheet flooring for 132 bucks! The best/worst part is, as we were signing the info sheet, THE GUYS THAT PUT IT ON HOLD CAME TO GET IT. The store employees were very professional, and mrgillis and I weren’t carrying it out with us, so no words were exchanged, but the floor, was ours!

yes. the truth is right there. ANY DIFFERENT collusion of events, AND WE WOULD HAVE NEVER GOTTEN THIS FLOORING.

day MADE. AGAIN.

But the downside of getting all this awesome stuff and putting it down here in this shed, and then telling the entire internet about it, is we feel the need to up security. So my job for the afternoon, other then helping mrgillis, was to beef up our lock situation.

Yea for padlock installation success! I must say, I’m pretty happy with my first lock installation, along with the doorknob I fandangled in there weeks back as well.

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And a big woohoo for the  pieces of our next big project – wood stove installation! Our furnace has been cleaned recently and is working well, but we have 20+ acres of woods out behind the house, with two cords already sectioned out and stacked, drying for next springs cutting, splitting and stacking again. we also were given two different wood stoves over the past 6 years that we’ve just been holding on to waiting for a time to come. Well that time is now. And next spring- We’re throwing the other one into our first permanent greenhouse. But that is another blog, sometime in the future.

So today, Wednesday the 2nd of November, we got the phone call we’ve been waiting for. Coastline Homes is delivering our new home TOMORROW MORNING! By 8 am they’ll be pulling in with it is the word.

We have a lot going on for the next two weeks, so I don’t know if I’ll get a bunch of blogs posted, but I’ll try.

Until next time, have a wicked good night!

 

 

MOFGA Common Ground 2016

It was a beautiful, chilly start to our Saturday morning. We were on the road before the sun had even broken over the horizon. So early, the chickens were still sleeping peacefully on their roosts.

But with a 3 hour drive in the general direction of way out of town, we wanted to get there, and get there at gate opening – There being Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association’s Annual Common Ground Fair.

See, this is our 4th year attending and every year has been an earmark of some sort. Our first one was the year he proposed, the second one we were married and unknowingly pregnant and the third was Izzy’s first year going, at all of 4 months old.

This year was special in its own way because Izzy was turning 16 months on the day we were attending and would be able to really enjoy the fair, unlike last year where she mostly slept.

We got to the south parking area at about 9, pulled into the appointed parking spot – WHICH happened to be behind the very tree Mr. Gillis proposed at in ’13 – and proceeded to unpack all the baby gear out of the truck and into the stroller. We then hiked the 10 minute trail that brought us to the gateway to fairdom.

This is always an interesting, refreshing walk. The first part of it takes you thru the huge parking lot that is really just lots of grassy knolls covered in vehicles of every order. Even at opening time, the place is always already packed. You follow the line of people until you reach the road crossing area, and that leads you to a trek through some woods.

And it is a bit of a trek- its got hills, stumps(which i have tripped on in years past), and Draft Animal Crossing signs. There are also composting outhouses and Fun Fact Info snippets posted on signs along the way. At the end of this trek, you cross the railroad tracks and walk up one final hill to the South Gate.

On the way in, I always ask to keep half a ticket for our memory jar- this year the gatekeeper let me just keep both whole tickets!

As we walked, we marveled at how busy it already was at quarter past nine- On this side is the one of the farmers markets and its always buzzing with activity. First things first, we always go to the MOFGA store tent to get our yearly poster. We have one from each year we’ve attended, along with the oddball Maine Heritage Orchard poster.

Once we had accomplished that- despite a long winding walk in a line that extended far out the tent doorway, it was time to explore, see some animals and do some shopping. First, to explore we walked the pathways, circled the pavilion. Went here, there and everywhere, sometimes twice.

Then it was off to see the animals! We took Izzy to see the goats and sheep- the rabbits and some donkeys off in the distance. We had to stay out of the poultry barn this year because Izzy wasn’t digging crowds so much.

 

After that we took off and wandered through the vendor areas. We bought some soaps, an organically raised jade tree for our tree frog Casper and I splurged and bought possibly one of the most expensive things I have ever bought- A $33 skein of beautiful angora and wool mix yarn in this soft green that I plan on making into a hat for Izzy.

By now we were all getting pretty hungry and so we got into line for some pulled bbq sandwiches. We sat on a grassy dip in a area next to the trees. The weather had been pretty fantastic all morning, a nice breeze and warm sun, but sitting there we were noticing a slight chill in the air. We decided to head back to the farmers market and gate to get on the long road home.

On our way out, I made one last stop to grab some raw chocolate milk, which I drank on the very long hike back to our truck as we let Izzy explore and walk a good deal of the trail herself.

It was a pretty amazing day and I am so glad that we take time out of our busy lives to do little day trips like these. We really both believe that no matter how tired we were when we finally got home that night, it is well worth it to build those memories and traditions now, for Izzy to grow into. But we have a lot of ways we build memories and a few traditions we’ve been working on for a few years now…. that’s another blog tho.

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Until some other time then, have a wicked good day.

Roadside foraging- Apples.

Apples- now this is something that is abundant in Maine. They are literally EVERYWHERE this season.  And while we love going to orchards and grabbing a peck or two, how we get the bulk of our apples is pretty simple. 

We ride up and down old county roads. We find a tree that has apples down around the bottom, because that means they are ripening. We stop at that tree, and Mr. Gillis gets an apple. And then we taste test it. 

If it’s good, we take a bag full and mark its location on our gps. If it’s not, we chuck the apple and get back on the road.   

Mr. Gillis on the back of the truck with our homemade fruit picker

  

He picks and I try it out. I have a more discerning palate as far as ripeness goes.

  

Big, small, red, yellow, crab… we’ll stop and try anything

    
 

 This usually turns into an all day adventure, so we treated ourselves with our favorite takeout- which we were lucky to catch open, as they were closing that day. 

Our favorite takeout, located in Linneus

  

I got the fried clam tenderloins and Mr. Gillis got a sub.

    

A little nature photography

We found some interesting places, some looked like they might even be old apple orchards.   

Apples are everywhere right now.

  

Going places we probably shouldn’t go..

  

This season has been one of the best in recent memory.

  

 Now, we do also buy apples from local orchards, because we really believe in supporting local businesses. And in the interest of full disclosure, we buy apples from the grocery store, there’s nothing wrong with Fuji, or Braeburn or golden delicious. There is a lot wrong with the Macintosh, tho. But the majority of our apples come from this type of hunting and gathering. And a very nice lady named Carrie that gave us a whole bucket of beautiful red crab apples for jelly. 

If you want to read some really good stuff on apples and the lost heritage of the American orchard, check out John Bunker the Maine Apple guy. 

We still have some picking to do but I’ve already made and frozen apple sauce. Which is actually the topic of my next blog…. 

So until that time, have a wicked good evening. 

A little blog about failure.

Sometimes, no matter how badly you want something, or how hard you work at it, you fail. 

Recently, Mr. Gillis and I, spent two weeks making jams, dilly beans and fudges to sell at a festival in Machias, Maine called the blueberry festival. This is a festival that’s been going on for 40 years, and has always been a local economic boom for the town and surrounding areas. We have taken part for 5 out of the last 6 years. 

This year, we failed to meet our sales goals. By a lot. 

It is always disappointing to work hard… And I mean pulling late nights and early mornings, to accomplish something that you’re proud of, and have it just…. Well flail. 

Our day started out on a high note. We had the truck packed the night before. We were on the road only ten minutes later then planned, which anyone with a 12 week old baby knows is an accomplishment of its own. We arrived on time, got set up and sat. 

And people walked by. 

But no one walked by us. 

We watched as hundreds of potential customers just kept going by without a single glance our way. For every thirty people that wandered by, we had one drop by our tent. Anyone that works festivals knows a sad reality. If only one in every thirty are looking, even less are buying. 

Now, we did makes some sales. We had some new and interesting products that people knew they wouldn’t find in other tents. But it’s hard to feel good about a dozen sales when you were prepared for a hundred. 

But that’s our goal this week. To feel good about what we accomplished the last two weeks getting ready for the festival. To be happy that we ran into some old friends we hadn’t seen in a long time. To be proud of how well our little girl did hanging out with us all day. To be happy that we have plenty of jam and jellies made to gift our families for Christmas. 

It’s all about the recovery, after everything is said and done. 

Failure isn’t about not meeting your goals or expectations. Failure is about learning how to be better prepared for the next time. 

So until next time, have a wicked good day. 

Blueberry Fields Forever

Recently, we went on our yearly excursion to the blueberry fields of Columbia- Downeast, Maine. These fields are owned by a friend of the family, and we have an arrangement- We rake blueberries to our hearts content and we give him canned goods and zucchini bread.

So my darling hubby and I packed up the munchkin and got on the road. We made a quick pit stop to pick up my mom and nephew, and hit the fields around 10 am. My mom and I have raked a lot of blueberries in our lives, so we filled the boxes while Mr. Gillis hung out with the kids. My nephew is almost 5, but our daughter is only 10 weeks old, so he pushed her stroller, while he helped my nephew pick wildflowers to give to my mom.

Wildflowers for Grammy

They also did do some raking themselves.

Hard at work.

Afterwards, we rewarded ourselves with some ice cream. It was a pretty great way to spend the morning. But we had 4 boxes of blueberries that needed to be cleaned, so it was homeward bound for us.

2015 blueberries

2015 blueberries

So to the nitty gritty of this post- how on earth do we get that many berries cleaned before they go bad? Well the short answer is, we don’t. We freeze a box after being winnowed, for future use as chicken snacks. Blueberries are one of their favorites.

But that does leave us with 3 other boxes to clean out for jams and my personal stash of freezer berries. So, the setup requires a few things. We use a couple of sawhorses, 2 large totes, two boards, a large box fan, an old screen from a window, and a container to catch the clean berries.

My husband set this up- he is always very handy.

Our homemade winnower.

Our homemade winnower.

What he does is set up the sawhorses a few feet apart. Next he places one tote in between them. Then he uses the boards to brace the box fan. The screen goes on top of the sawhorses. The other tote is used to hold up the container that is ready and waiting for your now cleaner blueberries. I say cleaner, because this only gets rid of most of the leaves. You’ll still need our next setup to get out the underripe berries.

Now, place your berries in small amounts on the screen while the fan is on its highest speed. Swish the berries around with your hands gently, or even shake or tap the screen lightly, and watch the leaves whirl on up and away. This works best when berries are newly picked and firm.

Cleaning away.

Cleaning away.

When the berries are sufficiently leafless, lift your screen at an angle and carefully tap the berries into your container.

Cleaner berries, ready to go to the next process

Cleaner berries, ready to go to the next process

Now, repeat until you’ve cleaned a good amount of berries. I usually keep going until an entire container is done, take a break and go back for some more cleaning.

As you can see, the leaves are mostly gone.

As you can see, the leaves are mostly gone.

This is before and after the fan treatment. Yea for a successful winnowing!

Next up for those berries is the deep clean. But it will have to wait til my next post.. I have a lot more winnowing to do.

Until that time- have a wicked good evening.