Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tub O Lard

A few weeks ago we sent our piggies off to be "processed" a little differently.  Different as in Shaun got to go through the entire process of seeing first hand each step of take our pigs from field to freezer.  Let's just say I was green with envy when he came home telling me all the details.  Next time I will be taking a vacation day from work, you can bet on that. 

Tonight we got our smoked meat back.  The rest was brought home after they processed it and went into the freezer.  We now have one huge country ham, two slabs of bacon, hog jawl and one huge Tub of Lard!  I had asked for the lard and knew they were cooking it down.  I really didn't expect the entire thing.  I guess I'm the only coocoo bird that wants it to make biscuits and suet and who knows what else! 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Feeding My Soul

Sometimes I don't even think we realize what is missing.  It might be something we enjoyed doing years and years ago that was simply put aside or an activity, like mine, that takes up so much time only certain times of the year.  On Saturday I tapped in to the canning part of my soul and realized just how much I miss it and how much of a part of my soul it has become.  It may sound odd if you have never canned food that you spent time with.  From seeds saved or bought, I planted it and watched it grow, worrying at times if there was enough water or not enough fertilizer.  Then took time to do something with it.  Saving for winter by learning the art of putting by, putting up and savoring flavors of summer.

Last year I grew black beans for the first time.  In my mind, I judge the quality of a Mexican restaurant by if they serve black beans as a side dish.  Not many do.  The experience of growing the beans was very satisfying and we wound up harvesting about... well more than a my largest Mason jar full from five plants.  I loved sitting on our porch on hot summer nights shelling beans.  There is just something about shelling beans and breaking beans that is very therapeutic.  Sometimes I will take them to summertime family gatherings to have help.  Plus I have a sister who loves breaking green beans.

I have gone through the whole process of letting the dried beans soak overnight or trying the quick soak method.  I've let them cook in the crock pot for hours at a time and don't mind that process if I know what's for supper tomorrow night and think that far ahead.  It wasn't until I read The Barefoot Farmer, as seen in a previous post, that it hit me and I could not wait until the weekend.  I had something else to do with my dried beans.  He said that they take their dried beans, fill a hot jar only half full of beans and the rest of the way with boiling water and a tad of salt if you wish.  Then process them at 10 pounds pressure in your pressure canner for 40 minutes.  That's it.  Easy as breaking beans and at the same time so extremely therapeutic to my canning soul.  The pride of what I made came rushing back in when those jars came out of the canner.  So beautiful and the next time we are having tacos or burritos for supper, all I have to do is open up a jar of summertime black beans and they are ready to heat up and season. 

I was so amazed at how the beans expanded.  Just like I had let them soak all night long and cook after that.  They may still have to cook for a bit when the jars are opened.  That is yet to be seen.  We are still eating left overs from my other suppers from over the weekend.  Canning just feeds my soul.  The fact that I can make something myself and put it away for several suppers to come and not have to worry about picking it up at the store just tickles me. 

 I couldn't even wait to to take a picture.  I should have wiped the jars off first!
 I also canned three parsnips and one big turnip that my boss had given me while the pressure cooker was out.  Might as well!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Meet Miss Kitty

Miss Kitty or Kitty, which is the name she answered to most promptly since she came to live with us, is Shaun's new barn.  He says she is my cat but that is only because I think he doesn't want to admit that he likes a cat. 

Shaun met Miss Kitty while working on a job clearing and cleaning out a junk man's place.  R.C. was literally a junk man.  He had building after building full of stuff.  If you needed a piece of a certain kind of chain, he had it.  And he had tons of it.  He passed away this past October and after he passed the family had to move his wife in with kinfolk up North because she wasn't in a state to live by herself.  Sadly since then she too has passed away.  Well, Shaun and his bull dozer were hired to tackle a big part of the "clean up" of this property by the family.  It was there that he met Miss Kitty who previously belonged to R.C. and was left by the family.  She was an outside cat and was fending for herself sleeping in the barns and where ever.  She and Shaun became pals.  He shared his lunch with her several days. 

One day he and a friend tried to get Miss Kitty in to one of the animal crates that was there and she was having no part of that.  A couple of weeks later we stopped by after days of rain to see if it was dry enough for him to work the next day.  Sure enough as soon as Miss Kitty heard him she came running and meowing as if to say "Here I am!  I'm ready to go home with you now!"  Shaun picked her up and she just purred and meowed.  Then he handed her to me and we got in the truck and brought her home. 

She is living in Shaun's shop and enjoying it.  It is well insulated and she's got all the food, mice and birds that one kit can handle.  She really responds to love and is slowly learning how to play.  She isn't fond of going outside much.  Maybe it's because Dottie ran her up a tree.  I figure once it warms up and the doors are open for longer periods of time she'll venture out more.  For now she's making her home and seems to enjoy herself and the love she is getting from us.

Today during the sunshine, I opened the door and sat out on the concrete.  Directly she came out with me, rolled around on the ground and explored the tree line a little bit.  I am proud of her and am happy that Shaun thought enough of her to want to give her a new life with people that love her.

She has been with us since December.  I did get her to play with a stick on her belly just a little today.  Sweet girl.

Our Compost Pile

How we made our compost pile Saturday morning.  

First we hit the top field and gathered corn stalks.
Next, we cleaned out the chicken house and laying boxes.  We gathered all the straw (poo included) and lined the house, boxes and muddy ground with all new straw.
 The chickens immediately started scratching around.  I don't know if they liked it or not but surely so, their little feet were tromping in mud.
Now they are kicking and scratching around.  I threw a little sunflower seeds down to give them something to look for.  They liked that.
 This is how much chicken poo I gathered from the top of their house where some of them roost.  Gross I know but oddly enough I was tickled to death! 
This shows the cornstalks on the bottom then a layer of chicken poo straw and one chore down.
 Since we currently have no pigs I thought it would be a great idea to get the bedding straw from the inside of their house which also has poo in it.  Still stinky in fact.  I had to put a bandanna over my face.  But it'll make for great fertilizer.
 Piggie house straw layer.  I didn't take it all because a couple of field mice ran out so I thought I'd leave them some warmth.
This is our final product.  Oh.. I didn't make a picture of dirt clods I dug out of the garden.  I put the layer of chicken poo on top and then the garden dirt and kitchen veggie scraps.  I gave it a good soaking with the hose and now she's off to rot on her own.  I plan on turning it once a week and when I add scraps from our kitchen.  It is so nice to have somewhere to put my scraps now that the pigs are gone.  I cannot wait to experiment with our compost this summer as garden fertilizer. 
These were blooming in the woods.  Don't they know it's January?!?!  With this unseasonable weather we've been having I reckon not!  I brought these in the house.  I couldn't resist.
I also couldn't resist using the clothesline despite how windy it was.  I didn't have to chase anything down so it turned out alright. 

I had an extremely productive Saturday.  The compost pile was just the morning chore.  And it was a fun one.. stinky but fun!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Music

I seriously hope that the music featured here on my blog doesn't offend you or bother you.  My playlists are a compilation of songs that I enjoy and I hope you do too.  Sometimes when I am in my kitchen I'll crank up the laptop and click on peppysis just to listen.  Where else can you dial up Ella Fitzgerald and it's right there? 

Today I am choosing to share a pack of TV theme songs that I find take me back a few years.  OK! A lot of years!  But there sure are some good ones.  I remember summers when school was out watching a lot of these shows.  I know each one of my sisters could close their eyes and names each show within a beat or two.  Not that we were stuck to the television growing up.  One of the shows on my playlist, excuse me, two of the shows featured we were not allowed to watch.  Threes Company and The Facts of Life.  I really never got that one.  Not sure Mom ever really watched it to deem it unsuitable, she just didn't like the name.  Every one loved Tootie... c'mon Mom!

If only I could find Mama's Family theme song for my list!

I really hope you like them and truly hope it doesn't deter anyone from visiting.  If you don't like it... turn your speakers down!  Love ya!  Seriously.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Creative Moments

A very special Aunt of mine gave me a very special box.  I don't really think she even knows just how special this box was, maybe she did. 

A lot of the time creative outlets can be snubbed out by lack of the right supplies.  I may not have the right kind of paper for water coloring or a perfectly flat chalk board for drawing.  And then sometimes you learn to use what you've got instead of rushing out to by supplies that won't be used but the one time.

When I got home and went through the box that came from her sweet, sweet Mother that we all loved dearly, I discovered paint brushes, exacto knives, drawing pencils, coloring pencils (real ones!) and two sleeves of pastels.  I have to say I am taking it slow with the new found supplies.  But this past weekend while spending two hours away from home and having a little "me time" I ran across a low priced sketchbook at a book store.  I felt the pages for paper weight and they felt just perfect for the pastels and even water color.  It was thicker than any paper I had at home and had one hundred and ninety two, acid-free pages.  For $9.99 I bought it. 

That evening I used the pastels for the first time.  I had such a ball.  I doodled some flowers in a tea cup on the first page.  On the second page I decided to copy some work I had seen.  I am not a big fan of copying other's work but how else can you learn sometimes but to look, draw, look, draw.  After all, famous sculptors have been copying God's work of human art for centuries. 

The Art Box and Sketchbook.
 The Art Box Supplies.  I adore these paint brushes.
 Sleeve of Pastels.
The Original Artist's Work.
The Copy Cat's Work.  a.k.a. Me
Not too bad I don't think.  I wasn't much pleased with the balcony on the upper left.  I just couldn't get that curve right.  Something to work on.  I did change a few things up because the proportions turned out differently.  Working with the pastels was su much fun.  It has a chalk feel and I guess it kind of is like chalk.  You can make a few squiggles with a piece and then blend it with the tip of your finger to fill the space or combine with a color closeby.  I definately cannot wait to add more pastel work to this book.  I hope to fill the entire book with colorful artwork of my own.  I did note at the beginning of the book the date that I started it.  That could differ greatly from the day I finish the book huh?!

Did I mention the pages are perforated? 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Seeds on Their Way

Sometimes I have so much on my mind that I want to blog about that it is terribly hard to pick just one.  Because the moment might have and probably has passed for the ones that I don't choose.  So, you just get left out. 

I received my new seed catalog in the mail several weeks ago.  Which has left me drooling over new varieties of all kinds of vegetables and flowers.  I get a real odd feeling when I don't know what the fruit or vegetable is going to taste like because the hybrid is NEW.  Frankly, it scares me.  Is it suitable for this area?  Will I have to do something weird to the soil?  Am I paying too much for something I don't know will work? 

I like to save seeds from our garden that I know have done well and that we have tested and approve of.  Those seeds become heirloom seeds.  I learned today that you shouldn't save hybrid seeds from year to year because they can loose something and go back to their parent state.  Meaning if you bought a flower hybrid seed that is red with white stripes down the middle and save the seeds from it, the next year's crop may only be red and loose the concocted stripe that made it a hybrid.  I don't totally understand how they cross them up in the first place... well I sort of do but I could be wrong.  I saw them cross up orchids on channel eight one time. 

I didn't get my seeds from the big commercial catalog that I had to buy my garlic from last year.  Honestly, they are just too expensive.  So I decided to check with a gal who's blog I visit from time to time and fellow gardener to see where she has bought her seeds in the past because I trust her....even though she doesn't know me.  OK I just totally got stuck on her blog going to get the link.

 She wound up sending me to Renees Garden.  I found a ton of seeds, pictures of the results, growing instructions and all for a not so bad price.  Actually the price was half of what the big time catalog was charging and the flowers that I chose are going to be beautiful.  I mainly bought flowers that I am familiar with.  I got Zinnias and Cosmos in different colors than I have grown in the past, Portulaca which I have planted in the past but never from seed, Dahlias because I couldn't resist and have to have something new to grow, and Hidcote Lavender... please wish me luck.  I have never done well with lavender and I don't know why.  But I keep trying.  I would show you pictures but I won't swipe without permission so I promise to share when the flowers are gracing me with their beauty this summer!

I'd like to let you in on a book I happened upon in the library yesterday.  I actually put it down twice because it was not the subject I came in there to search for.  I gave in and geez I have been attached to this book ever since!  It is The Barefoot Farmer by Jeff Poppen.  It seems more like journal entries about gardening and homesteading for real and the best part is that this fellow is local.  I say local... it would probably take 45 minutes to get there from here but it would be mostly back roads.  Anyway, I have learned so much from this book already and he has given me the confidence to... wait for it... compost.  I have such a farm girl plan for this weekend.  While I was reading the compost pages last night, I got up out of bed, got my journal and a pen and started making a list of resources that I already have on our farm.  Rotten hay, pig poo, chicken poo, decaying leaves, corn stalks.  For the first time I felt silly for having all the goods right here that I need to fertilize my own garden and plants with.  Why am I holding back?  I can't wait to dig my hands into some pig poo on Saturday!  With gloves on ofcourse!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The New Chickens Are Here

Funny thing happened when we ventured to Amish country a weekend or two ago on a quest to buy a few new laying hens.  We have one rooster (that hates me on random days), one hen who lays one egg every day and one hen who lays no eggs on any days.  I'm not real sure she knows she's a hen.  Maybe she's just one of those workers hens like the worker bees... female but no Queen.  It has been a passed time around here that it is costing us more to feed these chickens than our return is.  Which is usually the way it goes.  So, on a Thursday, my loving husband turns to me and says "what are you doing this Saturday" and I say "not much" and he says " want to go to Kentucky and get some new hens?" I say "heck yeah!"  I buy two eighteen packs of eggs every two weeks.  I cook breakfast every morning.  If I can not have to buy eggs... I'm in.

So the two of us, along with one dog and two friends, also interested in purchasing laying hens, ventured to Amish country early Saturday morning.  We looked everywhere.  We stopped at stores, and at an Amish butcher's farm (who had plenty running around but none for sale) and even at a "small game swap meet" that wasn't having a swap meet that day but had an abundance of fowl running around everywhere... still no chickens for sale.  All the while, my husband kept mentioning a place called "Gold City" which I envisioned, from all the talk and turns trying to find it, looking something like Opryland or a huge indoor flea market that sold livestock on nice pretty Saturday's to eager searchers such as ourselves.  After directions here and there and highway this and state route that and not even knowing we were on the right track in the distance appears... Gold City ... city limits sign!  We were there!

Turns out Gold City, KY has a feed mill and an old general store and from where we were, that appeared to be it.  Not downgrading the town by any means here.  It's just all the hype and hooplaa led me to believe different.  We were very hungry for a bite at this point and the dog needed to tinkle.  We went in the store which had more deer heads mounted on the wall than our living room, I was quite impressed.  We went to the counter and each ordered a sandwich that turned out to be hugemongo.  deli sliced meat and cheese of almost whatever type you wanted on white or wheat.  I wound up having to share some of my roast beef with Dot and she appreciated that!  We go to sit down at the table that had chairs which also had someone eating there already who promtly told us to "have a seat, I won't bite you... unless you taste like country ham."  I liked him and he was the talkingest thing!  He talked about Elvis and Graceland (fittin convo, that day being the eve of Elvis' birth and all) and his daughter who was up texting all night and his wife that didn't want to take a motorcycle ride with him that day.  He was a rambler I tell you.  Finally he asked what we were doing in Gold City.  We told him about our morning and how we hadn't had any luck finding any laying hens.  At that point, our new found friend, proceeded to turn around and hollar to the whole store "Hey! Anybody got any laying hens for sale!!"  The other table of diners all shook their heads no with big smiles on their faces while we sat there half red faced with our mouths open as our eyes were led to the gal working behind the counter with her hand raised.  The husbands went and had a chat with her while the gals went outside to tend to the dog.

Turns out, Amy, who's mom and dad own the store, lives 3 miles down the road and has been raising chickens on their little piece of heaven on earth.  We followed her to her house and met her husband there who helped us catch up eight hens.  Four cinnamon and four black and white speckled ones.  They were just the nicest couple of people we could have met.  We left there with eight chickens, two dozen eggs and two canning jars of bean and barley protein for the chickens that she had made.  Sweet as pie they were! 

Four of the chickens stayed with us and four went home with our friends.  We are now up to two eggs a day which isn't bad for the middle of January I'm told.  Amy said the black and white ones should start laying eggs in April.  Our rooster, J.R. as Shaun calls him (you don't want to know what I call him) has temporarily stopped flogging and stomping his feet at me since he's gotten some new girlfriends.  The new hens have settled in nicely and by this summer we will have to move their hen house and maybe give them some more room too.  

We currently call the man who announced our need to the whole store, Elvis.  He disappeared into the distance on his Harley moments after... his work there was done.  Thanks Elvis.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Valentine Memory Game

As a child, one of my favorite games was Memory.  Where you have the little cardboard squares with pictures on them and have to match up the pictures.  Mine was adult and baby animals.  You would turn over a square cow, for example, and try and turn over the baby calf to match.  Or chicken to chick, dog to puppy, you get the picture. 

Well, I am always looking for ways to use my old canning lids and last week I had a thought of placing stickers on one side... a memory game was born.  This is so very simple and delightful at the same time.  Also it's a great way to re-purpose 20 or 24 used canning jar lids! 

You can really use any kind of pictures or stickers that you want.  This game uses different colored hearts with two of each color for matching.  Simply click  here for a copy of the pdf hearts.  Cut them out and glue them on to the top of the canning lid.  I used Mod Podge cause I'm that kind of girl.  You can use plain ole school glue if you have it.  Once they are dry, you are ready for an old fashioned, homemade game of memory!  Shaun even played a game or two with me!  We each won one round so I'm pretty sure we need a tie breaker... maybe later :)

I will tell you that the pdf of hearts for you to upload lost one set of hearts somehow.  So you can choose to omit one color of hearts.  This resulted in twenty two hearts which would leave your board uneven.  It's up to you.  Have fun!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Black Bean Delish Side Dish

I have had a thing for black beans for some time now.  I love a good tasty heap of well-seasoned black beans on a chip with a nice dollop of sour cream resting on top.  When I cook black beans as a side dish it's hard for me to keep a spoon out of the pot while they are cooking! 

Last summer, I tried my hand a growing black beans in our garden.  What an easy thing to do and such fantastic surprise to shell the dried bean pods.  I ended up with a couple of quart sized canning jars full and a big smile from me!  It is probably cheaper to buy a bag or can of beans at the store but it's not near as much fun.  And a gardener's job should always be rewarding.  That's why I like to try new things in the garden.  I've already been seed shopping and have my magazine marked with sharpie and post-its all throughout. 

Black Bean Delish Side Dish

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 packet Sazon
1/4 cup ketchup
a handful each of green pepper, red pepper and onion chopped (how's that for measuring)
1 clove garlic minced
4 or 5 dashes hot sauce (please do not omit this, and please use Texas Pete)
a few dashes black pepper

In a sauce pot, cover black beans with water, doubled (meaning about an inch over the beans.)  Add all ingredients to pot and cook at a simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

If you choose to use dry beans, soak the beans overnight.  Drain beans the next day.  Use the steps in the canned bean recipe except increase cooking time by an hour and water by 2 cups. 

I seriously wish I had a picture of the finished product but sometimes you gotta blog when the moment hits you.  I am making my black beans for lunch and they have another 30 minutes to cook so.  You'll just have to make them and see!

BTW - if you don't have a garlic mincer or don't feel like getting it out and washing it after, here's an easy trick.

Place the peeled garlic clove between a small folded sheet of wax paper.  Lay a wide knife on top of the garlic and give it a good whack or two.  Chop slightly and you're good to go.  You dont' have to use a knife, just anything non-breakable with a solid surface for crushing.