Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Cookin' with Wood...in Style!

Since our home has two wood burning stoves that we use all winter long to heat our home, we have often dabbled a little in cooking with wood. Now, thanks to our awesome Craigslist find we can do so in style!

When making something like a soup, stew, or stock that needs to simmer for a good part of the day, it has always seemed like such a waste of energy to also run the electric stove top, so we often utilize one of our wood stoves to get the job done.

We scored this beauty right around Christmas time and Mr. J plugged away at sandblasting and repainting the top and shining up the nickle trim throughout the winter. The enamel was in very nice shape, and it's rustic look fits our home perfectly, so all I did was give it a good cleaning.

Since it took us until March to get it in the house and all cleaned up, we only had the chance to use it a handful of times, but we have BIG plans for our new dual-purpose appliance next heating season.

Mr. J did bake a couple of loaves of bread on it this spring; one turned out perfectly, the other, not so much.
It will definitely take some practice for us to learn how to use it, especially the oven, but boy will it be a fun learning experience...

And at least we'll stay nice and warm while we're learning! 
Mrs. J :)

Friday, May 23, 2014

Wake Up Call

     Things have been so busy around here over the past six months that we could have easily posted about something new once a week, if not more so! The main problem has been that there are only so many hours in the day. We have at least a half a dozen posts started, and we will get around to posting them eventually, but right now we are just taking a deep breath and thanking God for all that he has blessed us with.
     We have a beautiful, healthy, happy family and a beautiful space on this Earth with which to enjoy them. Our lovely reproduction home is tucked neatly in the woods, yet we also have wonderful neighbors, and live close to our neighborhood schools, shopping centers, and many family members and dear friends.We have our own little slice of heaven back here on our Small Farm in the Woods. We really do.
     In all the hustle and bustle of life lately we may not have been as appreciative as we should have been for all that we have. Things can get pretty busy when you're trying to live off the land as much as possible and animal husbandry is not for the feint of heart. It is definitely more work to live a "simpler" life, that's for sure! And it is easy to get hung up on and overwhelmed by the concept of having to do it all. Future plans for our homestead, and to do lists have definitely been ruling our lives lately. Our fall/spring anthem "It's a very busy time of year" has been sung quite a bit lately, and I think that both Mr. J and I (with the greatest of intentions, of course,) had lost sight of the big picture.
     Even though we may not have had the time to notice that we were letting things get the best of us, it seems like our all knowing God was watching us and honed right in on the fact that we needed a wake-up call. Well, we got that wake-up call first thing this morning when Miss E came in to our bedroom to wake me up today. Mr. J was out in the barn milking the goats and I had been laying in bed awake for almost 30 minutes. I have this terrible habit of continually hitting the snooze button and "sleeping" for just a few more minutes before finally getting out of bed. It drives Mr. J nuts, so I can only get away with it when he's already up and out of the house.
     Anyway, Miss E quickly put an end to my antics when she awoke; she came right down to our room and was talking to me about catching a kitty to snuggle with when I saw her glance out the window of my room, frown, hesitate, and then point out the window and announce "fire, Mommy." The second I heard the word "fire" escape from her mouth, I was on my feet. I ran to the window, and upon discovering a small pile of burnt wood and orange flames where our coop full of 50 almost 4 week old meat birds were supposed to be, yelled out a not so nice phrase and bolted out the side door. I ran full speed, barefoot (and pant-less,) down our partially paved, partially gravel driveway yelling out Mr. J's name. He heard me from the barn and met me in the driveway. I quickly told him the meat bird coop had burned to the ground and was still burning. I cannot remember my exact words, but I basically told him it was all gone and that I needed him to put out what was left of the fire so it did not spread to the woods or our house. It was then that I noticed Miss E had followed right along with me in her stocking feet. While Mr. J went out back to take care of the fire, I scooped her up and brought her inside.
As soon as he awoke Mr. T had to see the fire for himself.

     We went to the window of my bedroom to watch Mr. J, and that's when it all hit me. I immediately started to pray and tremble. Miss E hugged me and started to tremble as well and that's when I realized that I needed to pull myself together. I had done such a good job up until then and this was my chance to either totally freak my child out or show her how strong I could be. I started saying the prayer I had already begun saying in my head out loud for her to hear as I hugged her close to me. I thanked God for her observation skills, my ability to react quickly, and asked him to help Mr. J successfully put the fire out as quickly as possible. I took a deep breath, squeezed my little girl tight, and kept praying out loud through my tears. Thank God everyone is okay. Thank God our house was spared. Thank God it was only our small, detached coop. Thank God it was not our barn and all of our other animals. Thank God it was not our main coop which is attached to our garage,  which is also attached to our house.  Thank God everyone is okay.

Thank God. 

Shaky voice and all, I wanted my child to hear how grateful I was for this wake-up call. If only everyone could be spared tragedy in their lives like us and have an (ultimately safe) wake-up call like this. 

Are we bummed that our 50 meat birds are gone? Absolutely. 
Is this going to put a kink on our Memorial Day Weekend plans? Yes. 
Is is a total bummer that is going to cost us quite a bit of money? Yes. 
Are we just a tad bit shaken up today at the thought of our poor baby meat birds being cooked to death not 50 feet away from where we slept? Absolutely!
But you know what? It could be so much worse and all of those things seem so trivial right now.

Thank God for this wake up call. 
It truly was a blessing in disguise.

Because of this blessing...
Our girls entertaining themselves this morning while waiting for me to pull myself together and fix them breakfast.
     I slowed down just a bit more than usual for a change. I picked wildflowers with Miss D and we made a pretty, fragrant centerpiece for our kitchen table. We went on the internet and used my flower books to help us identify the flowers we had picked and I showed her how to cut and arrange them in small glasses so they will last longer.We also hard boiled eggs, cleaned dandelion greens, and concocted a fresh dandelion green salad for lunch. One of her favorite things right now is to make salad dressings and "wonderful salads." She was beaming with pride at her creation and even ate some of the fixings separately-I think the idea of eating dandelion greens was a bit much for her! We also made and canned a 1/2 batch of dandelion jelly with the blossoms. While we were having our girl time, Mr. J took Mr. T to the Tractor Supply store with him and out to lunch for some guy time. And this evening we plan to have a Movie Night as usual, but instead of doing the dinner dishes through half of the movie, I planned ahead, prepped our dinner and did the dishes before we even got Miss E off of the bus so that I can actually sit and snuggle with my children without the guilt of knowing I left a messy kitchen behind. Before this morning's wake-up call I was laying in bed, looking ahead to the upcoming 3 day weekend as another chunk of time where I knew would not be able to get everything done, and now I have changed my entire approach. I may not get my entire perennial garden edged, weeded, and mulched. I may not get my entire house cleaned, or all of my online coursework completed. I may not get to attend every party we've been invited to, or be able to see everyone I hope to, but I can tell you for sure what I will do...

I will Thank God for every breath I take. 
I will Thank God for every giggle and smile I witness from my too-quickly growing little children, and I will Thank God for everyone in my life that really, truly matters. 


Thank you, God, for your ever so gentle wake up call.
 We obviously needed it.
Mrs. J :)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Love Is In The Air

   Huck and Tom have been in rut for the last couple of months and the time has come to put them to good use. The smell hasn't been that bad around the farm, but when you get close to them you can really smell them. Along with the musk smell that comes from their glands, they also urinate all over their front legs and face. This must really turn on the ladies.
   A doe goes into heat every 21 days and last for about two days. Sometimes they are subtle about it and sometimes not so much. Montana is one of those unsubtle does, she yells at you when you go out to see her and when you let her out she runs right to the buck pen and yells at you to let her in. Sally and sugar will just go up to the buck pen and shake their tail back and forth as to say " I'm ready". Katy was a little more difficult, she didn't have much signs at all other then standing next to the buck pen.
   If you put a doe in with a buck and she is not in heat, she will have none of his antics and start head butting him. But, when there is magic in the air and the time is right, she will stand still and let the buck do he is job. So far all the does are breed and we are waiting to see if they cycle again. If all the does took, then we should have a bunch of babies running around the farm early May.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Vegetable Garden 2013

    With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I thought it would be appropriate to share this year’s harvest. We had some successes like the carrots and broccoli; we also had some failures like the squashes and tomatoes. We did get some squashes and tomatoes but they didn’t do as well as last year. One of the problems we had were insects on the squash plants. By the time we got them under control, half of the plants were gone and I had to replant. Every year we learn something new and get better at it.

   This was our first year growing broccoli and we couldn’t be more pleased with results. I had a big spot in the garden were I planted tomatoes last year and instead of have to can bags and bags of tomatoes we decided to plant broccoli. I planted seeds directly in the ground and not starter plants. The broccoli grew well like this and made it easier on the roots not being transplanted. The first harvest we ended up with a decent crop, what we didn’t expect was how well the plants did after the first harvest. It seemed like every time I went out to the garden, I was bring back a bag of broccoli sprouts from the off shoots. Once fall came, I pulled some plants up every day to feed to the pigs. None of the plant went to waste, we even tried baking the leaves like kale chips and they were good.


    In the early spring I planted the seeds directly in the ground. I’m not sure if I watered them enough or what, but most of them didn't pop up. I sent a email to Johnny Seeds, where I got the seeds, about my problem and they sent another packet of seeds to me free and without questions. That’s why I like dealing with local companies. The second time seemed to work a lot better; of course I made sure to water them better too. Once fall came Miss E and Mr. T helped me with the harvest of the carrots and the beets. They had a blast pulling the carrots out of the ground and making a big pile for them to admire. We ended up with about 125 lbs. of carrots. They kids love eating fresh raw carrots from our own garden.

   Basil was the only herb we tried growing this year. I tried making my own plants inside but failed due to lack of sun light. Luckily for us, a friend of ours had a bunch of extra plants and was able to give us some. We grew them in one of those patio boxes that holds water on the bottom. The plants did ok, but could have done better if they had more sun light. Mr. T helped with the harvest, we would have been lost if not for his dump truck. We store the leaves in the freezer. We found that this is the best way to keep the flavor strong.

   I planted the potatoes in the same place as last year, and just like last year we had the same great results. I was able to keep the bugs of the plants long enough for them to grow well. I tried not mounding the plants, and didn’t notice that much difference in the ones that were mounded. When harvest time comes everyone gets involved. All the kids put on their boots and gloves, and come out to help. As I dig up the ground they look for the little buried treasures and put them in the bucket. It’s a lot of fun. We ended up with about 150 lbs. of potatoes this year.

    This year I tried a type of lettuce called Tropicana from Johnny Seeds. I loved the way they came out. I planted the seeds directly in the ground and just watered. It’s a leaf lettuce that grows in a tight bunch and does very well here. I tried growing them in the spring, summer, and fall; and they grew well in every season. We’ll continue to grow them next year.

   We tried growing garlic in old tires this year and it worked well. I bought some hard neck garlic from a local produce shop and put them in the tires with some dirt last fall. As spring came the garlic started to grow. Once the main stalk turned brown we pulled up the garlic. Each plant had five big cloves on them. It worked out so well that I made a spot in the garden to plant some of the cloves in the ground this fall. We’ll see how much we get next year.

   When I went to the nursery to buy some jalapeño plants, I came across some habanero pepper plants and decided to buy them along with the jalapeños. They both did well in the garden and were able to harvest a lot of peppers. I tried making some pepper jelly with the habaneros and even though it came out well, the smell it made in the kitchen was way too hot to bare. I pickled the jalapeños and gave away the rest of the habaneros at work. They are way too hot to do anything with.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Pigs' Last Day on the Farm

I loaded the pigs on the trailer this morning and gave them a ride to the butcher. I'm happy to report that it was very uneventful, unlike last year. I didn't feed them the day before, so when I put a pile of apples and some grain in the back of the trailer all but one of them walked right in. The last one needed a little nudging with a piece of plywood and of coarse, she was the biggest one. I'm trying a different butcher this year and so far I'm impressed with the service and price. We can't wait tell Friday when I pick them up.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Fried Apples

   There is nothing like taking a healthy food and making it completely unhealthy. We were able to pick some apples at Uncle K and Aunt V's house this weekend and wanted to try making something other than apple pies and applesauce. Inspired by our trip to Legoland this summer, we looked up the same recipe they use for fried apples.
   You take some apples and peel them, then slice them up into fries. Then you toss them in corn starch and put them in the deep fryer, my favorite kitchen device. After a couple minutes, take them out and sprinkle with some cinnamon sugar mixture. Then enjoy them. 

I can’t say what they taste like cool because they never make it that long.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Cookin' Roosters

   This spring we hatched our own chicks in hopes of replenishing the chickens that eventually die or get eaten by predators. We thought the ratio between hens and roosters would be around 50%, but it seems like we have a lot more rooster than hens. Every time we think “that hen will be a neat to have in the flock” the hen turns out to be a rooster. We only need one rooster in the flock, and only one rooster crowing all the time. So what to do with all these roosters?
   There was a time when thinking about butchering a rooster was out of the question, but after raising meat birds and other animals its gotten easier to deal with. The reality is that our family is going to eat meat; it’s hard enough getting the kids to eat as it is and taking meat away would be even harder. If we are going to eat meat I would rather know that the animal lived a good life and had a quick death, not lived in a confined little area and never seen the light of day. It’s not easy to do, but some animals are born on our farm and some animals die here. I don’t think I would want it any other way.
    I only butchered two of our roosters, I’m waiting tell the rest get older to make sure they are roosters. I also did two roosters for someone that I sold six chicks to this spring. Someone else heard I was butchering roosters and asked if I would do four of his roosters as well. We ended up with eight roosters here waiting to be butchered, that’s a lot of crowing going on. I butchered them the same way I butcher the meat birds, so there was no problems to speak of. I bag them up, and gave the other people their roosters back to go live in their freezers. After a couple of days we roasted one of them to try it out. We found that it tasted great, but was a little bit chewier than a normal meat bird. We’re thinking that we might make chicken sausage with the rest of the roosters in the chicken coop. I also butchered one of the turkeys to see how big they were getting, 17.5 lbs. He is living in our freezer right now, but we’ll see him again on Thanksgiving.