Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Melora says that if I don't find it, it'll just be a chance for me to make my own cake and make it better. No, huh-uh, can't do it. If I don't find it this morning, I'm gonna have to... (dum, dum, duuuuummmmm) Call my mother and ask her if she remembers it all. Oh help.
Monday, December 22, 2008
"In the deep midwinter, frosty wind made moan.
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone."
Those words, from the old carol "In the Deep Midwinter", pretty well describes what it's like around here. Wowza it's cold. Woke up this morning to 1... that's ONE... degree with some serious windchill. Went out yesterday and filled the bird feeders, poor souls. I about froze my hands off in the process even with gloves. High today is predicted at 18 degrees. Snow moves in tonight and may leave us with 2" and 1/4" of ice. Fun, fun!
Been slow around here... gotta bake and do laundry today... probably need to wrap some presents, and I have yet to get in my yearly viewing of "It's a Wonderful Life".
Busy, busy, busy.... Merry Christmas to all!
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Actually, what got me looking for it again was my need to send a thank you to the guy that 'took me under his wing' and showed me how to process chickens. I thought of this picture and knew I had to find it. It just says it all.....
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
We've broken into several jars now of the homemade applesauce. It's really good and the kids devour it.
I have a little bit more shopping to do for my wife and a friend, but otherwise, we're done. Yeah! I used to enjoy getting out in the crowd and mess and shopping for presents, but I guess I'm getting older and now I just think it's ridiculous. I don't have much patience anymore as well. I suppose my kids take all I have, so when I do go shopping, be it for groceries or gifts, and the line is a mile long and there are only three lanes open and another 24 closed - at 6:00 p.m. - I get a little testy. Most of the time these days, I try to psych myself up and remind myself not to get in too big of a hurry.
This weekend I'll be making "The Fruitcake". Yes, a real bonafide fruitcake. No rum flavor. It's full of dates, pecans, and candied pineapple and cherries. It has a boatload of sugar and just enough liquid and flour to hold it all together. Truly, it's more fruit than cake and it's very good. "WHY on Earth," you ask, "would I make fruitcake?" Well, it's my mom's recipe. She used to make it especially for my grandfather. But after he passed away some 10 years ago, she decided she couldn't do it. Didn't even want to look at the tin she put it in. Well, my sisters weren't going to do it and I wanted to. So she handed the recipe to me - the original piece of paper! She no longer has the recipe in her possession, it's mine. It really is good and does a fair job of redeeming the bad rap that fruitcake gets. I'll probably also make Santa's Thumbprint cookies. No, not peanut butter cookies with a kiss on top. These are the real thing, too. A sort-of oatmeal cookie with almond flavoring, melted chocolate on top and a pecan half. My personal holiday favorite.
I'll be singing next Wednesday evening as part of the worship team at our Christmas eve service at church. Check out my church at www.mccth.org. Melora and I attend the Exchange service on Sunday evenings. To get an idea of what we 'put up with' sometimes in our pastors... check out http://reson8.org/stuff/video/. Here, you'll see a selection of some really fine acting and general goofiness. Really funny stuff, especially if you know the people in the videos. But I think even without that familiarity, you'll find them pretty humorous.
Hope all is well with you and yours. Take some time and enjoy the season. Watch some of those favorite Christmas movies, listen to some old Christmas music (or some new), eat unhealthy stuff - and enjoy it.
Merry Christmas to all!
Sunday, December 7, 2008
We get our eggs from an Amish man and his wife in Parke County, Indiana. There's a pretty good sized community of Amish up that way. His name is Mr. Peachy. So yes, they are literally Peachy eggs.
Mr. Peachy has approximately 320 Golden Comet hens. That's one in the picture above. Isn't she pretty? Golden Comets are a decent sized bird, known for their cold hardiness, and prolific laying of large, brown eggs. These birds belong to a breed of chickens known as sex-link chickens. Ok, before you get worried, this is totally on the up and up... Sex-link chickens are breeds of birds developed by crossing two different breeds for various reasons. One reason may be simply to obtain the best characteristics of both parent bird breeds in the new breed. Another, more common reason for developing sex-link breeds is that you can tell a pullet (female) from a cockerel (male) just about as soon as their down dries after they hatch. The sex of the bird is linked to their down color - sex-linked. These chicks are born with the males and females having different colored down. This is a great thing if you work in a hatchery and need to fill orders for nothing but pullets. It saves both time and money. Most non sex-linked chicks all look the same, so you have to pay a professional chicken sexer (how would you like that job?) to look at each chick to determine it's sex. And that's not an easy thing to do! So, Golden Comets are a cross between a Rhode Island Red and a White Leghorn - or 'Legern' as some country folks might say.
Mr. Peachy uses very organic, sustainable methods for raising his chickens. During warmer months, the chickens are pastured on grass by means of a chicken tractor, sometimes called a chicken ark. A WHAT? Yes, a chicken tractor. Here's a picture of a dad moving his nice looking tractor....
Chicken tractors come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some are quite small and one person could move them easily. Some are very large, have wheels, and require a real tractor to move them. The purpose of these contraptions is to house the birds safely, while being able to provide them with as much natural food as possible. This usually requires that the tractor be moved a couple of times a day for smaller models, to only two or three times a week for larger models with more 'pasture' area. Mr. Peachy has a larger tractor and movable electric poultry netting (solar powered I'm sure). Yes, there is such a thing as electric poultry netting and it works the same as electric fence. The voltage is lower, but then again, the chickens aren't as big as a cow. Mr. P. says he moved the birds a couple of times a week. For more pictures of chicken tractors, click here.
Now that winter is setting in, our farmer says he's moving the birds into a large greenhouse he has. It has a dirt floor that he'll cover with wood shavings or other bedding. This is the first year to try this, but there are several benefits to it. Chickens need sunlight in order to lay eggs. During the winter, they typically slow down their egg production simply because there isn't as much sunlight. But in a greenhouse, what light there is will be completely available to the birds. Further, it will help keep them warm. Yet another benefit is that, though they won't have grass to eat, the warmth will encourage insects to work their way up through the ground and the chickens will eat them. Any other feed the chickens get is organic as well. Mr. Peachy assures me that the birds will each have several square feet per bird to move around. More than in a traditional egg production CAFO.
For anyone who's never had one of these eggs... wow, are they something! Golden yolks that make your food look like you surely must have added food coloring. They're rich and very delicious. Of course, this color might not be as bright during the winter, as the birds will have fewer, if any, greens to eat. Mr. Peachy thinks the chlorophyll in the grass is what gives the egg yolks their deep color.
Mr. Peachy also sells whole chickens, ready for the roasting pan or the freezer. Organic, pastured, healthy, no antibiotics.
So now you know a little bit more about where our Peachy Eggs come from and the methods used to get them. Hope it's been informative and helpful!
Christmas, since it's almost upon us, can be a time when materialism can really run rampant. For example, a Wal-Mart employee was literally trampled to death in a mad stampede of people rushing the store on Black Friday, all trying to get a deal. Sad. No pun intended in this paragraph, by the way.
My wife and I have a Christmas Club at the bank. Each paycheck, a certain amount is set aside and we get a check along about October to spend on Christmas. Really, it's just a built in safeguard against going broke at Christmas, since we're not disciplined enough to set the money aside ourselves. The bank does it for us. Ehh, nobody's perfect. Anyway, our Christmas Club isn't huge, and we buy presents for everyone on our list with that amount (ok, plus a little more). But it's still less than some people we've spoken to spend on just one of their kids!
So here are some ways we're slouching away from prosperity this year.
We're doing something different with Christmas this year. To avoid the 'glut' of presents on Christmas day, we decided to help our children appreciate the season a little more and mix things up. Each Sunday of Advent, I gather the family around, talk about one aspect of the Christmas story (last week the Angel and his messages, this week Mary and Joseph's obedience), light an Advent candle, say a prayer, and then the kids get to open one present. On Christmas day, they'll have stockings to open, and two or so nicer gifts we're saving. But they'll enjoy the season more as we go along. PLUS we're taking the focus off of 'stuff' and putting it back on the true reason for the holiday.
Another step, and a big one, I think, that we're taking this year is as follows. My family (Mom, sisters, etc.) have gotten to the point where buying for everyone is really more of a chore, than a joy. We don't need anything, and our 'wants' are pretty expensive sometimes. We've decided that we're going to spend the money on a needy family this year. For whatever reason, the rest of the family thinks they still need to buy for my kids "because they're little". We've bought mom a little something too. Otherwise, we're buying presents for a mom and her two daughters who live with the mom's mom. That's more like it. Something real, substantial, helpful.
Those are just a few ways we're working on removing the materialism from life this holiday. No, we're not perfect. The wife and I spent more than we intended on the kids, but we're not broke, either. We're working on it. I challenge you to try it too.
More to come....
The other day, my daughter had a friend over, and despite my feelings about cold weather, I took the four kids (my three plus one) into the woods behind our house. I caught some of it on 'film'...
Sadly, this small woods is slowly being overtaken by Chinese Honeysuckle. That's it above with the green leaves and red berries...
This is my water garden - well, what's left after the flood this past summer. It's frozen on top. Notice the impression of the oak leaf in the ice after one of the kids took it off the top? And the little blob of orange in the lower right corner... that's the head of one of the goldfish, very much in a state of torpor.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Also, being that I shave my head, it sometimes gets a little chilly in the winter around the house. I have a nice fleece hat for outside, but it's just too hot for indoor wear. So I made one. Knitted it in just a few hours and had it done. It fits great and I like it quite a bit. As a matter of fact, I'm going to knit one for the older of my two sons in a camo green. Here's my hat:
I'm pretty doggone pleased with myself. The wife loved the wreath and I'm keeping warm!
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
Ok, 9:00 a.m on November 21st and the temp is 21 degrees. It's gone up two degrees in the past 20 minutes or so.
Anyone that knows me very well will know that I HATE WINTER! I hate being cold. I'd rather deal with being hot in the summer than being cold in the winter. That's just me.
A good friend in Michigan, up above Traverse City, said he's got 4 inches of snow on the ground with 6 to 8 more by weekend. Yeah, ok, but I don't exactly live in northern Michigan, do I?
We had some pretty good snow flurries last night, as well as a few on Monday morning. I doubt we get anything significant before January, but still. I haven't seen flurries this early in the year since the snow of Halloween '89 (remember that? - Melora was a senior in HS and she, her sister and a friend went trick-or-treating as carolers).
Ok, yeah, I like snow for Christmas, though around here that seems to be more the exception than the rule, which makes it really special when it happens. I remember actually praying for snow on Christmas as a kid. But after January 1, that white stuff is just not welcome. Sure, kids love it, and a nice, clean blanket of the stuff is pretty for awhile. Then people drive on it. It turns to slush (if it doesn't freeze again), it gets blackish-gray and it's just gross. I say we skip winter and go straight from Fall to Spring. I know, I know... there's too many seeds and plants that need a hard freeze to germinate and grow. I'm just saying...
I will tell you this. About two or three months ago... back when it was still nice and warm and sunny out... I was in the back yard doing something (don't remember what) and I had this funny thought race through my mind: "Blizzard. We're due for a blizzard." And I could see the yard full of snow. Made me a little worried actually. I barely remember the big one of '78. Snow drift up to the top of my swing set in the back yard. Let's hope it wasn't a premonition I had.
All that, and I still have leaves to rake. Silly Silver Maples and Bradford Pear took forever to shed leaves.
Stay warm, my friends!
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
I got to their house at around 8:20 a.m. and accompanied Eric to the hen house. After looking over the flock, he and his kids caught the few birds they were going to keep. The others, we took by the legs and carried to the edge of the garden... where waited a board with two nails sticking up about an inch apart. Each bird, in turn, was held by the legs and wings and their head placed between the nails. Then the axe. Quick. Done. I even used the axe quite deftly. Below is what is left, after the birds bleed out, which was done while we held them, so they wouldn't run all over in their 'death throws'. I warned you, it isn't pretty!
Next came the part that most people really hate. The scalding and plucking. For the 'farm challenged' among my small readership, scalding a bird in hot water helps relax the skin so that the feathers come out nice and easy. Usually there are some small, almost hairlike, feathers left that you burn off by passing the bird over a small flame. Unfortunately, these birds are in the process of molting and had numerous pin-feathers that we had to scrape off with the back of a knife. Grossed out yet? Here's a pic of Eric dipping a bird in the water before plucking.
Before I went over today, I had had little interaction with Eric, who is a doctor. But through the course of the day, I found a man who is something of a kindred spirit. He gardens, raises chickens, is thinking about goats, just planted a bunch of fruit trees yesterday... He's a homesteader. On top of that, he's a father of four, a husband, and a committed Christian. We had a very good day working together and talking about life, homeschooling, parenting, animals, gardening, bees, property... oh, just everything that came to mind. It was really a blessing to me to be able to spend a large part of the day there. So I'm thankful.
Oh, and about a half hour before I left, Ethan, the 8 year old son, shot and killed a squirrel with his dad's .22. That was his second squirrel. I understand it takes about two to make a good pot pie. But, since I was there, and it had to be done anyway, I got to watch as Eric cleaned the squirrel, so I learned that too. Melora about gagged when I mentioned the thought of hunting squirrel. She says they're rodents and she just can't do it. Sigh. Oh well.
Monday, November 17, 2008
I had to undo about five rows of knitting on my afghan because I had about 10 stitches in a row that were backward (of all things) and there was a hole about two rows below that where I'd evidently dropped a stitch. Fixed that, then discovered another hole two rows below where I was knitting. I was able to fix that without undoing anything. Yeah, I'm learning. It won't be too pretty when it's done, so I think we'll just keep this one.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
There's been a rash of sinus infections going around the town here lately. Neighbors, friends, and family all have had it. And this one seems to be ugly, it hangs on for several weeks. My sister is currently under the weather, significantly, with pneumonia and has been getting sicker, leading up to this current bout, for a few weeks. I caught the sinus infection and still have remnants, three weeks on now. It moved to my chest a couple of weeks ago and I STILL can hear myself wheezing in the night. I've been taking Xopenex that we got for my son last year. I only take it when I need it. It's a nebulizer med and it works. Of course, that indicates that I have asthma. So I wake up in the morning and cough up all sorts of happiness. Yech.
On another note... If something doesn't change, I'm only gonna have one kid left come Spring, cause I'm a gonna knock at least two of 'em in the head! And it's only November. They get kinda antsy, teasing each other, tormenting... gets on my nerves BAD. I didn't have siblings young enough, or close enough in age to have this experience with, so it's new to me. And it's making me crazy. Which leads me to the following.
There's a man at our church that has two grown sons. I've been praying for a long time for a mentor, someone that can help me along this pathway of fatherhood. This man is well spoken of - very well spoken of. I'm told his relationship with his sons is very good and he's quite a godly man. PLUS he has a dairy farm! How awesome would that be? He runs a grass-fed production, which is what I hope to do someday with my milk cow. So not only could he help me be a better dad, but boy could I learn a lot. His extended family hails from Switzerland and he's been over there to visit distant relatives. Anyway, he has a real dairy operation... they make cheese, butter, etc. It's goooood stuff. I was hoping to get to his place and help him make cheese, but my schedule just won't coincide. My plan was to spend the time with him, get to know him a little, then ask him to consider being a mentor. But now I think I'm just gonna drop him an email and lay it out and ask him that way. Nothing else is working out. We'll see how that goes.
Today was a busy day. In addition to doing school with Anna, I put up some veggies. Yesterday was the last delivery of the season for our CSA (consumer supported agriculture) group. We got a head of cabbage, carrots, celery, potatoes, cauliflower, parsley, turnips, and celeriac (it smells just like celery, but it's a root like a carrot). Not only do I have my box of veggies, but there were three more not picked up. Anything left is mine to keep, and I usually end up with an extra box every week or so. Anyway, we split our share with a friend, so she gets a whole box and I get one, plus two of the others. So, I cleaned, cut, blanched, and froze celery (yuck, Baldwin food service ruined Melora and I on that stuff - celery salad sandwiches), cauliflower, carrots, turnips, and celeriac. I'm dehydrating the three bunches of parsley. We had a bunch of potatoes from previous drops. I've put them all in a cardboard box with newspaper around them to 'cellar' them for the winter in the garage. We'll see how that goes. I did the same thing with 9 heads of cabbage. Yeah, we're eating it. I cut up a head a week ago or so and cooked it up with green beans and some ham bits. It was good. I feel like such a real homesteader, it's just really rewarding.
I also am making meals stretch. I bought a small ham loaf last week and baked it with cloves, honey and pineapple. What we didn't eat I froze. It was only one of those small loaf things, but I used some for a batch of ham salad for lunch Monday. I made ham and cheese quiche tonight (love that), and I still have a portion to use later, probably in the crock pot with pinto beans. My kids'll eat just about anything. Four meals from one nine dollar ham! I also bought two roaster chickens at KMart on sale a couple of weeks ago and made one. We don't eat a whole chicken, ever. So I cut the second breast off and froze it and will use it in stir-fry tomorrow night. The rest of it went into a pot and cooked down into broth and meat. It also had onions, garlic, and rosemary which it was originally stuffed and baked with. It'll make some yummy chicken and noodles. Also, don't ever throw out that last tablespoon or two of veggies that nobody eats at dinner. Collect it all in a freezer bag and, when the bag is filled, put it in a pot, add water or broth, herbs, etc. and you've got some great veggie soup. Or add meat to it if you want. THEN you can throw out what doesn't get eaten.
And finally, I just (literally) got a phone call from a man I met through the home school co-op. He's a doctor, has four kids. They have chickens and he's gonna butcher some. I told his wife two Monday's ago that I wanted to learn how to do all that and would love to help. She told her husband and he just called and set up the time and date. I get to help kill chickens. I'm so excited! Now how crazy is that? I'm so easily entertained, huh? But really, it's a skill I will need some day. Just like cleaning fish, which I learned to do this summer.
You know, all this said, I used to feel kinda badly because I'm such a 'Jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none'. I know a little about a lot of things. Have some experience with a lot of things, but don't master anything. That used to get me down. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that just maybe God made me that way so I'd be cut out for homesteading and do it relatively well. I'm finding some solace in that.
I'm homesteading in suburbia. Have a great rest of the week!
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
My own experience is a matter of necessity. You see, about half of the windows in our house are newer, tilt-in, double-hung windows. I clean them once a year (yeah, ok, so I should do it twice a year, but like you do it that often!!!) in the fall to clean off all the crud from the year so I can see out them during the winter. Why in the fall? Well, I have a touch of Seasonal Affective Disorder and winter is a real downer for me. So I need all the sunlight and clear view I can get.
The other windows in the house are old. I have to remove screens and put in storm windows. The job was made more difficult this year by the fact that the storm windows had about 13 inches of dried mud on them from where they sat in the garage during our flood this past June. So I had to get the hose out, in the cold weather, and wash them off. BUT, after several hours of diligent work on Saturday, all the storm windows are in and we're closed up for the winter. Only our large picture window needs cleaning inside and out to finally be done.
As an aside, I happened to break one of the storm windows in the process. I had kept the old storm window from the bathroom window that we'd replaced several years ago, and I got to thinking... long story short, I replaced the broken pane with the old window, and only had to cut a strip of glass off one end to make it fit right. I was quite proud of myself!
And now for something different....
I knit! Yes, it's true. I've joined the growing number of men in the world that take up the sticks and work em like magic. Actually men have been knitters for eons and even had guilds in England back in the day. I picked up the hobby last winter with hopes of one day making myself some sweaters and socks. Those items are a little tricky to start out with, so I'm taking it easy for my first effort. Last winter, I basically just made a couple of pot holders as I learned the garter stitch, stockinette stitch, and purl stitch. I started out trying my hand at some of those stitches again this year and decided finally to quit putzing around and actually make something....
So here it is. An afghan I found on the Lion Brand Yarn website (http://learntoknit.lionbrand.com/). I went to JoAnne's and bought my yarn and appropriately sized knitting needles, rushed home, and cast on.
It's not going to be a huge blanket or anything, but it'll be cozy. The yarn I have is actually called 'Claret'. Pictured is the color 'Cilantro'. I'll be sure and take pictures to share later on. Here's hoping I don't get screwed up and really mess it up. But at least it's a project and it thrusts me into the world of 'real knitters'. Yee-haw!
Special thanks to Joel B. for showing me how to peel an orange using a spoon, way back in college. It just came in handy with the kids.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Today I went to a free, public seminar at the West Terre Haute branch of the Vigo County Public Library. This diminutive building was the setting for the kitzchy (how DO you spell that word?), monthly meetings they call "Coffee Thursday", complete with coffee and cookies. The wife and kids tagged along, because they thought they might do some school whilst I was in my meeting. However, never having been to that particular branch, we didn't realize that this would be near impossible. The meeting took place right out in the open and there isn't any other space or rooms... so there was talking and noise. Remember, I used the word "diminutive". Not much school got done there.
The seminar was on beekeeping. The speakers were an older couple that have been beekeepers for two years. They had 12 hives, but this past summer, a flock of barn swallows ate the bees of 6 1/2 of their hives as they left the hive to forage. Bummer.
I can't say that I learned a whole lot more than I already knew about bees. Oh, some little tidbits and facts I learned, but not too much more that was useful and helpful. One or two bits of info, is all. But it was still fun and entertaining, sitting there with a group of old women and one mom with her infant and young daughter.
I went to this "Coffee Thursday" because I do want to try my hand at beekeeping some day. Papaw did it when I was a kid, and I use honey in my bread baking, and in sweetening tea, etc. We also put it on cereal, etc.
It's very healthy for you you, honey is. If you buy honey produced within 50 miles of where you live, it'll help your allergies a lot. It's a natural antiseptic and can help heal wounds. It's just an amazing thing. Honeybees weren't native to North America and had to be imported to pollinate fruit trees brought from Europe. The first captive hives came to America in 1640.
A bee may travel as far as 3 miles from home to collect nectar and pollen. Each bee only produces 1/12 teaspoon of honey in it's short 40 (or so) day life. And, a bee could fly around the world on two tablespoons of honey! Isn't that just amazing?! The average hive, at the height of the honey season, may contain 60 to 80 thousand bees, with upwards of 100,000 not being impossible. A hive usually loses some members during the winter and starts the nectar season with somewhere in the neighborhood of only 40,000 bees. A queen can lay up to 1,500 eggs a day, lives for up to five years, mates with up to 8 males, on one nuptial flight, and, because of her size and job of egg laying, does absolutely nothing for herself. She is fed, cleaned, cared for, and her waste removed by attendant nurse bees.
Anyway, I may try to find a mentor next Spring to show me the ropes and give me the ins and outs of beekeeping, first-hand.
As a point of interest, I usually buy a 5# jar of unpasteurized honey for $14.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
I have a friend that's very into healthy eating. She makes all her family's bread, to the tune of five loaves a week, though she usually gives one away. She also makes tortillas, waffles, pasta... all that stuff. And she uses her own fresh ground wheat. She heads up a shopping group that orders wheat berries (that's what you call the grains) from a company and has them shipped bulk to save money. There are quite a few people in this group. They order hard and soft white and red wheat, spelt, kamut, and I'm sure several other grains. These usually come in 50# bags or 45# plastic tubs. Now, you have to have a grinder in order to use this stuff. My friend has a grinder. It's niiiiicccee! Expensive, but nice.
Let me pause here and answer a question you may have.... One loaf of bread takes about three-and-a-half cups of flour. The grinder grinds about 8 cups of berries at a time, which yields about 12 cups of flour.... That's a lot of flour! Doesn't it all go bad before you use it up? (There, right there, that was the question. Did you catch it?) First of all, you typically don't grind it all at once, because it would lose much of its vitamin content due to time. However, you can prevent this by freezing the flour. More on that later. But no, the wheat and grain berries don't go bad as long as you keep them dry and pest free (no bugs please). When archaeologists uncovered the tombs of the Pharaohs in Egypt, there were some tombs that contained pots with wheat berries in them. Much to the scientists' surprise, these berries were STILL viable and sprouted when planted, after centuries in a tomb! Some of the folks in the ordering group went a little overboard with the Y2K scare and ordered a BUNCH of wheat berries. I guess some of them are still using the last of that supply with continued good results. Now, didn't God just know what He was doing?
Anyway, this friend of mine, Tomi is her name... she called the other day and said that there was an extra 50# bag of hard white wheat left and wondered if I'd want it. She said she'd grind it for me if I could put it in my freezer. Um, let's see... fresh, whole wheat flour.... 50# of berries for $27..... Yeah, I'll take it. So I went yesterday and she let me use her machine to grind the last little bit of berries so I could have the experience using the machine (it's a Nutrimill if you want to know...http://www.pleasanthillgrain.com/nutrimill.asp). She also gave me about 12 cups of soft white wheat flour for use in no-yeast baking, like for cookies or pastries. So now I have a ton of whole wheat flour in my deep freeze which should last me well through the winter.
I've been using store bought whole wheat flour for my baking up to this point, but even the 'whole wheat' from the store isn't really whole wheat. It doesn't contain the bran or the germ, which is where most of the nutrients are. So I've been adding wheat germ when I bake. NO MORE! I was so excited about this flour that I came home and baked a new loaf last night, even though we still have part of a loaf left. This loaf baked up so high and nice, it's amazing! I think I'm ruined when this flour runs out. Maybe I can be like the widow that fed Elijah during the famine and it'll never run out......
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Other than that, I have a sinus infection with some accompanying chest congestion. I feel poopy.
Have a day.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Something you may not know about me - I'm a Superman fan. I've always like the Man of Steel and enjoyed reading his comics (though I rarely bought one as a kid). But I just think Big Blue is cool.
I've been doing some reading lately. A week or two ago I finished a book by an archaeologist/philologist (a person who studies languages). The book was written in the 80's. I actually forget the name of the book, but his two other books on the same subject were called 'America B.C.' and 'Saga America'. His position is that Bronze Age Europeans actually traversed the Atlantic and visited North America centuries before Lief Ericson did, as our modern history books tell us. There are actually numerous sites in Canada and the U.S. that are near copies of European Bronze Age dolmen, stellae, burials, etc. These folks would have come over before the last ice age would have made that kind of sea travel impossible. Many of these are inscribed with early Celtic, Scandinavian, and Basque writing, called Ogam and Tifinag inscriptions. Most archaeologists have dismissed these inscriptions as mere decoration or 'wear and tear' of centuries of weather. However, to the trained eye, they tell a very real story, relaying the voyages and accomplishments of European traders and kings - most notably, a Norse king named 'Woden-Lithi'. Sorry, but I can't even remember the author's name right now. Good reading with a lot of pictures to illustrate his points, though.
Another book I'm looking at right now is called 'The Irish in Ireland'. It's a brief history of Ireland from pre-Celtic peoples, to more modern history. It's VERY brief.
I've got my eye on a couple of other books to read when I'm done... A new book just out called 'Liberal Fascism' which shows how many of the policies of liberal politicians through American history are actually rooted in Fascism. It's a scholarly work, and not the ravings of a craze 'Right-Wing Bleeding Heart'. The author doesn't leave off without a word or two about the need for some caution and care by the more conservative side of politics.
And finally, 'The Good Old Days'. It's a collection of interviews, diary entries, testimonies, letters, etc. of Germans involved in the real front-line killing of the Holocaust during WWII. I understand it's not for the faint of heart. But I'm always fascinated by peoples' personal stories, and especially when I can find out the answer to, "What in the world were they thinking?"
I get these books at the library. Good thing too, or I'd be flat broke, have no space in my house at all, and have a very unhappy wife.
All of these right along with the two or three other books unfinished on the shelf to pick up at leisure, several books borrowed from a friend, some homesteading magazines, and a couple of other books I checked out at the library. Go figure.
Well, I guess I did have something to say.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
After the apples are good and soft, you run 'em through a food mill. I got mine from Rural King for about $20. It's an invaluable tool and it's a whole lot easier than pushing it all through a strainer/sieve.
This, then, is what you get. Add some cinnamon to taste and put it into hot jars with hot lids and stick it in the hot water bath.
Process them babies for twenty minutes......
And voila! Applesauce! If you're curious (and more for my own information as much as anyone else), 3 pecks of apples -or 3/4 bushel - will produce 10 quarts and one pint of applesauce, give or take. I had a small tragedy during the hot water bath. One of my quart jars cracked along the bottom. I heard it happen but didn't know which jar it was. So I had to take them all out at the end. I found the broken one. Unfortunately, all the applesauce in it ended up in the water as I pulled it out of the pot. Well, live and learn. It could have happened because I didn't have the jar hot enough for the water, or maybe there was an inherent flaw in the jar during manufacture. Oh well.
Today, I'm making apple butter (sorry, no pics - it took forever just to upload these pics). I'm using one peck of apples (the left over from the bushel I bought). So far, 5 pounds or so of apples have produced 5 1/2 pints of the yummy dark brown delight. I've got another 6 pounds or so of apples in the crock pot cooking right now. By the end of the day, I'll probably have another 5 or 6 pints. Boy, is it yummy... sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. I love this stuff!!!
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Well, after about two or three days of writing, revamping, and rewording, I finally put together a letter to the land owner that I thought was professional, appealing (as in "Please give me this property"), and tasteful. I had Melora read it and she thought it was good. So it went in the mail on Monday. He should get it tomorrow or the next day. Here's hopin', ya know?
As for everything else... Since our house is one of the drop spots for our CSA, any boxes left over at the end of the day are mine. I hit the jackpot yesterday with three boxes! We split our share with a friend, so when there's an extra box, we give her one whole one and we keep one. So today, she got a box and I got three (ours plus two extras). I've been a busy boy today. I put up three freezer bags of broccoli, five quart bags of green beans, and probably six or eight bags with two Corona di Toro peppers cut up in each. Of course, except for the peppers, I had to blanche everything before freezing. PLUS, I still have some beets to pickle tomorrow. I also have two HUGE turnips. What the world am I gonna do with those? I don't eat turnips. I remember my dad taking one and eating it raw with salt... yeeeccchhh. All of that, not to mention the bushel of apples I bought yesterday to turn into sauce and applebutter. Yeah, I'm busy, but it's worth it.
Not much else to say. That's all for now. I hope to have something to report soon about the farm.
Friday, October 10, 2008
Isn't she purty? That's a Guernsey cow. Not my first pick of a milk cow, but nice to look at nonetheless.
No news about the farm. Haven't even written the letter yet. I suppose it's probably because it requires me to sit and think for a while and I can't even come close to that with my three raving lunatics running around.
We're headed to the apple orchard on Monday, where I'll buy my usual apples for applebutter. But this year, there'll be an additional purchase as I intend to make applesauce. My boys can go through a whole jar in one sitting, so I think it behooves me (no pun intended) to look into ways of cutting that cost a bit. Making my own unsweetened and cinnamon applesauce might just do it. Gonna be busier'n snot.
Also of note, Grant turns 4 on Monday. He's quite excited.
Melora got another "A" in her Masters' work. She's doing exceptionally well and I'm quite proud of her. She stresses out so much about stuff though. I do try to help her see things more clearly and rationally. HA! Listen to me!! Ain't dat a hoot!?!
Well, that's all for now. Until next time, be well, do good work, and keep in touch. (Thanks Garrison Keilor).
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Friday, October 3, 2008
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
The lard rendering went well. Though I'm afraid I got some 'soy fat'. It doesn't set up firmly like I imagined. It also has a funny taste and smell. Is that supposed to happen?
The clothesline is doing great. I've probably already saved a good bit of pocket change by not using the dryer for the 16 to twenty loads I've hung out. And I kinda enjoy it. The only problem is figuring out how to keep the line from loosening and sagging so badly. I keep tightening it up, but the weight of wet clothes tends to pull it down a bit more. It's not the posts, those are in cement. It's the wires slipping through the U-bolts. I'll figure something out.
I planted my garden. I know I'll regret what I've done later on, but I always think bigger than I should. I planted 9 sweet pepper plants. About 10# of Kennebec potatoes, probably 50 to 60 Texas 1015 onion sets, some mesclun lettuces, (and here's the insane part) 4 cherry tomato plants, 4 Golden Jubilee tomatoes, 4 Fantastic tomatoes, and 8 Romas. I plan to use the Romas for sauce. The Fantastics will be eaten and used along with Goldens for juice and maybe some salsa. I've made a lot of work for myself. I'll also be getting tomatoes from our Crop Share which begins next month. I hope to be able to acquire a dehydrator and dry out some of the cherry tomatoes, besides using them in salads, etc.
I also put some herbs in pots: Spearmint, Lemon Balm, Sage, Rosemary, Basil, and Oregano. Hope that goes well.
That's about all going on here. Spring has been beautiful this year. Last year we had a very late, hard freeze which killed a lot of the flower buds on the trees, etc. The Bradford Pear in my yard had very few if ANY flowers on it. But this year it was covered. Up until this past weekend, we've had unusually warm weather, like upper 70's to low 80's. But last weekend, yesterday and today, the weather has been a bit more seasonal. Only in the 50's today. But they say the temps are to be in the 60's tomorrow and 70's on Thursday. Oh well, I still love Spring. Thank Heaven winter is OVER!!!
We know a lady that homeschools her kids. I hesitate to call her a 'friend', she's more of an acquaintance. She had somewhere around 50 chickens and two Guineas. She says her family doesn't go through a dozen eggs in a month (which may explain the appearance of their health to some degree). They raise the birds for their girls to show at the fair. They have some nice birds. But she hates to see food go to waste, sooo........ They may not be organic or free-range, but they're free and fresh. She said I could have eggs whenever I wanted them. She gave me two dozen last weekend and wouldn't take a penny for them. I dunno. I'm not complaining though. I was able to give one dozen to a neighbor that had mentioned she wanted some fresh eggs. I'll find a use for them somewhere, somehow.
Have a good week!
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Today is the first day of Spring. FInally! But instead of being happy and thrilled, I'm bored out of my skull. It rained for two days here and the front yard flooded, as well as the back. It's going down quickly, but it's still gross and has turned everything into a mud puddle. The sun shone today... quite brightly. However, the temps and damp earth made it feel a little on the cool side. So I sat here all day bored and, frankly, lonely. I can say that outloud here because no one reads my pathetic blog anyway. You see, I'm kinda frustrated with my best friend lately. Without going into a lot of details, I'm feeling a little taken for granted. That not only frustrates the dickens out of me, but makes me a little sad as well. So now the sun is going down. Got about 41 or 2 minutes of day left, and I'm feeling a little glad for it. That means I'll be that much closer to going to bed and putting this slow, miserable day behind me.
I have decided, however, that I am pathetically low on serious friends. I've got all kinds of acquaintences, but very few people I'd actually call "friends". I guess I should do something about that so I won't have these boring, lonely days.
Saturday, March 8, 2008
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
For years, a lot of people have gotten away from using lard in their cooking because it's "fattening" and just has to be bad for you, I'm sure. Everyone, that is, except the old timers and the people that know how to make really good biscuits and pie crust, they still use lard. But much wiser and 'healthier' people these days know they should never use a product that comes from a natural source, can be made easily, and is generally pretty cheap. NOOOO! We must use processed vegetable matter, chock full of partially hydrogenated oils. Let's call it Criscrap, shall we?
Having recently (and I don't know what took me so long) read the label of said Criscrap, I wanted to knock myself in the head for being so stupid. Here I am trying to avoid all kinds of unhealthy stuff and I'm using that stuff to season my skillets and make biscuits. Sheesh, am I stupid.
So, I decided to forgo my cultural bias and ignore my upbringing on the subject and buy a tub of good ol' fashioned lard. I went to my local "Wally-Morgan" supercenter and found a tub of the stuff. Just wondering if it might list what kind of animal the fat came from, I looked at the label. It read, "Contains lard and hydrogenated lard". I wanted to scream right then and there and spent the next 10 minutes, at least, muttering under my breath about the stupid stuff and fuming. So this morning I go to another locally owned store to buy my meat for the week (I won't buy it at that other place anymore. Do you KNOW what they put in that stuff? Yeecchhhh!). I asked the butcher (yeah, a real live butcher, go figure) if they had lard. "Yep," says he, "It's on the top shelf of that cooler over there." OH GREAT! That's what I was hoping for. I go check it out. Nooooo, say it isn't soooooo. More "Lard and hydrogenated Lard". CRAP! Do the powers that be wanna kill us all? MUST they put it in LARD!!!!!??????
Needless to say, I'm vexed. I'm not sure what I'm going to do. Some day I'll have a pig of my own and have all the fat I want, but until then..... I guess I'll have to look harder for some place that has a real butcher where I can get some fat and make my own. I'm so put out.......