Thursday, March 31, 2011

Our Homestead Update

It's almost Spring!! Dare I say it? The rain may come back in full force if I actually said it aloud! The kids are begging to go outside each and every day and I've been weeding one of the gardens and pulling up raspberry starts to giveaway. I don't know where all the weeks go. They slip by way too fast. Fast enough for me to have a hard time keeping up with it all!

So here's what we've been up to.... We recently made a family trip down to Calaveras County to visit my grandparents. Or as all of you Mark Twain fans would call it, Jumping Frog Country. It was my grandfather's 85th birthday and we had somewhat of a family reunion for it. Creeks, baseball, shooting, family, food and great fun! Hubby and I have still been debating on when we should get our next hogs. Getting them in April is better, weather wise, but it probably means that we'd have to take them to a butcher in the end since fall is too busy with tree work and hunting season. Taking meat to a butcher and having it actually leave my sight always worries me slightly. Am I really getting all of MY meat back? Is it someone elses? Mixed with someone elses? *shudder*

Getting them in July would mean worse weather for butchering but we can do it ourselves. We'd then end up butchering 1 hog in November (along with the turkeys) and one in December.

Turkey's you say? Yep, they're back. Well, one is. We got one of our turkey chicks this week and the other will be coming early next week. We have them set up in the garage. We've been using this little brooder system for years and it works great. Plus, it's easy and inexpensive to make.


1 Rubbermaid tote
1 heat lamp
Feeder and waterer
a couple pieces of scrap wood
some type of small fencing (we used 1/4" fencing)
small U nails or smaller straight nails that can be bent

With the wood, make 1 box, sized to fit over the top of the Rubbermaid container, similar to if you were making a raised bed box. Cut a piece of fencing to fit over the top. Nail it down securely on all 4 sides using U nails or straight nails that you can pound 3/4 of the way down and then bend over to secure the fencing. Attach another piece of wood, anywhere on the box, to use as a "post" for attaching your heat lamp.

There you have it! We store the top when it's not in use and then wash out the tote and use it as well for other things.

This little brooder works well for maybe 6 chicks or 2 turkeys, since turkeys are larger, until they really feather out. The nice part about using the wood for the top frame is that it's heavy. Not too heavy for a person to lift but much too heavy for any little critter, wanting to make your poultry dinner, to budge.

I'm excited about doing turkeys again this year. It will be nice to compare last year to this one. I've also started a file to keep track of all of our livestock expenses so I'll be able to share just what our animals and the food they produce are costing us!

Wyatt is off to the Portland Swap Meet with his grandpa this morning. They'll be in their element- surrounded by car stuff until Sunday!

I've really been trying to carefully examine our gardens this year and what we are going to grow. With the economy like it is, I want to make our garden as productive as possible. Of things we actually eat. While it's nice to have a beautiful garden full of all kinds of different produce, if we're not eating all of one type of produce then it's a waste of space. I don't need two 10' rows of carrots...we just don't eat them all! If all my garden ends up being this year is full of green beans, then so be it! Trust me, we eat green beans. (That may be a slight exaggeration.) But I do need to realistically think of what are we going to actually consume besides what it is going to be the most aesthetically pleasing.

Guess what I didn't do yesterday? Build a fire. That really hints of spring! It was warm enough not to have any heat going in the house. This morning though I did break down and build one. Even if I let it die off later, it still was nice to have.

I guess that's about it here. Beyond the normal day to day that is.

What have you been up to?

Monday, March 21, 2011

the proof

Made today. Inspired by my last post.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

the food police

People that know me personally know that I'm pretty picky about the foods that my family eats. Some may even say worse things than that. (I'm not pointing any fingers though!) But the truth is, I AM. And unfortunately, I think the way we eat seems quite foreign to most folks.
In one of our more recent conversations, hubby and I were trying to figure out how many families in our community, that we know, eat the same way that we do. We could only name 5. No wonder our health food store is itty bitty! No wonder Safeway's organic produce section is only about 1/8 of the produce department! There's no demand for it here.
I've heard folks talk bout the 80/20 rule. It's where you eat "healthy" 80% of the time and then you allow for 20% of the time to be "not so healthy." The occasional, "We're on the run so let's hit McDonald's" or "Corndogs at the baseball game are just going to have to be our lunch." In my mind, I guess I can find that reasonable. Reasonable if you're not part of my family that is.
See what I mean about being picky?
I like to abide by the 95/5 rule. I'll skip Mc Donald's- AT ALL COSTS and really? I'll pack a lunch for the baseball game ahead of time so we're not caught hungry without healthy food to eat.
How do we abide by the 95/5 rule? Well, for starters we don't eat out. At all. I think the last time we did (actually, I know) was at a friend's son's birthday party. It was at a pizza place and the pizza was great! That was back in August of 2010. Meal planning helps tremendously with this. I'm usually never caught in the "hmmm, it's 4pm, what's for dinner tonight?" scenario. Then we pack food where ever we go. We pack a lunch for the drive home from church. We pack food to go up to the snow. We pack food for the long drive down to Grandma's. It's really not that hard. Then we buy healthy food. Grass fed meats and butter. Raw and non-homogenized organic milks. Organic produce......and so on. We don't do juice. We try our best not to do processed foods, and if we have to, we buy organic ones.
So, what's the 5% then?? DONUTS and the occasional trip to the ice cream shop.
But mostly, donuts.
I love donuts and guess what? So do my kids...and my husband. I'll happily turn my eyes away from things like brownies, even "homemade" out of a box Betty Crocker ones. I'll turn a cheek to pies made with partially hydrogenated soybean oil (yep, that's Crisco.) But some things, like a sweet, round glazed donut should never be left uneaten. Ever.
What do you give in to?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Fall Field Trip

I know, I know, it's not quite even Spring yet and I'm already planning a homeschool field trip for the Fall! I got wind of this expo yesterday and can't wait till September. The National Heirloom Exposition!

Here's what the exhibit has to offer:
Join seed companies, farmers, gardeners, chefs and food organizations for the National Heirloom Exposition in Santa Rosa, California, at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. This will likely be the largest event for heritage agriculture ever held. Learn from America’s top growers and food celebrities! Enjoy workshops, demonstrations and great music.

See over 2,000 varieties of heirloom produce on display. Growers and seed companies alike will display the diversity of heirlooms at this historic exhibition of our culinary heritage.

Enjoy our heritage livestock show brought to you in part by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. Dozens of heritage poultry and small livestock breeds will be on display.

Bid on art, farm products and produce at our Garden Benefit Auction!

Vote on your favorite works of art during our Garden Art Show.

Participate bring your produce, animals and art to display at this historic event!

All profits from the National Heirloom Exposition will be donated to school garden projects and other food and garden-related charities!

This is going to be a fantastic day of learning about seeds, plants, gardening, food and animals for all of my kids (and me too.) If you're within driving distance to Santa Rosa, CA, I'd love to see you there!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

talk about rescourceful!

I'm currently in the process of reading 4 different books. I'm not sure that's a good thing. I'm feeling slightly overwhelmed by it all and realize that if I really want to get as much out of one book as possible then I should limit my reading.
On my list right now are:
Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World (this needs to be my first priority since it's also my Bible study)
(which technically was a birthday gift for Timber but I didn't realize how much good info was in it when I purchased it from Amazon used books!)
I'm only 1/4 of the way through the last 3 on that list but while reading The Little House Cookbook last night, I was inspired. When I told my husband of my inspiration he said I was crazy. I'm going to let you be the judge.
Do you recognize this bird?
I'm sure that most of you do. It's a Starling, also commonly called a Blackbird. Right now and throughout the summer we'll have a lot of them here; attempting to make nests in the bucket on Gavin's bucket truck and in the eves of our house. I've read that they are very pesky birds to farmers as well. Some may say that they're overly abundant. This idea seemed like a win-win situation to me...
Blackbird Pie
(from the Little House Cookbook)
Serves 6
12 Starlings, plucked and dressed
1 medium yellow onion
2 whole cloves
2 Tb browned flour (recipe below)
Salt and pepper
Sour Milk Biscuits (recipe below)
Needed utensils: Meat cleaver or scissors, 2qt. saucepan, bowl, rolling pin, 10" milk pan (or some type of pie-ish plate for baking)
With meat cleaver or scissors, cut birds in half along the breastbone or backbone. Put birds, giblets, onion and garlic in a saucepan with 2 cups of water and simmer covered about 2 hours, or until leg can easily be pulled from bird. About half the liquid will cook away.
Preheat oven to 400. Prepare biscuit dough, just moist enough to hold together in a ball.
Put the dough on a surface and roll out, with as few strokes as possible to a 10" circle, 3/8" thick.
Remove Starlings and giblets from broth to milk pan. Discard onions and garlic. Stir browned flour into the broth and heat it to boiling for a minute or two, stirring the while. Salt and pepper slightly thickened broth and pour over the birds. Cover the pan with the biscuit crust.
Bake pie at 400 for 10 minutes, then lower heat to 350 and bake for 10 minutes more, or until crust is cooked through.
Browned Flour:
In a skillet, over medium heat, toast the flour until it resembles cocoa powder, stirring constantly to prevent burning. It will take 10-15 minutes.
Sour-milk Biscuits:
2 c white flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 to 1 c cultured buttermilk
3 Tb drippings
Preheat oven to 425. Use oven to melt dripping sin pan or baking sheet. In a bowl, mix dry ingredients well. Turn pan to coat it with fat, then pour drippings into bowl and work into flour mixture. Add buttermilk and mix quickly to make a ball of dough. Turn onto floured surface and roll dough, lightly out to 3/8" thickness. Arrange biscuits side by side in pan, inverting them to grease tops ans well as the bottoms. Bake in upper half of oven for 12-17 minutes or law raw dough on top of Blackbird pie!

Now really folks, talk about self sufficiency! We've got these birds all over our property on a daily basis. We're talkin' free meat! But alas, Gavin isn't too excited about it. Maybe I can convince him to try it? We'll see!

Disclaimer: *Before shooting any wild birds on your property, please check with you local fish and game department. Unless, of course, you're one of those "live on the edge" kind of people*

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Homemade almost Organic Hot Fudge

I'll admit it, ever since I was pregnant with my daughter I've been a sweets junkie. Before I had her, I liked sweets but now I LOVE them. My hips can attest to it! I try to blame the extra padding on "3 kids in 3 years" but I really think it's just the cheesecake and the peach cobbler, the cookies and the brownies.
Here's one of my favorite recipes that is easily made at home and beats any brand you can buy in the store.
Homemade *almost* Organic Hot Fudge:
1- 14 oz. can organic sweetened condensed milk
4-1 ounce squares semisweet chocolate (if you can find organic, great!)
2 tablespoons organic butter
1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract

In a double broiler (I just put a glass bowl into a saucepan 1/4 of the way filled with water,) combine the milk, chocolate and butter. Cook and stir over medium-low heat until chocolate is melted. Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla. Pour into warmed mason jar and seal with lid. Keep refrigerated until used completely...which may only be a couple of days. :)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

One Reason We Homestead

In light of a short conversation I had and one overheard today, I felt compelled to share just one of the reasons we homestead. The conversations had to do with our government and food, specifically food prices. (Let's not even go there on recent GMO approvals!!) The talk got me thinking, one of the main reasons that we homestead is independence. Now I know that may sound cliche. We are living here in America right? The land that was founded on independence! The land where you could escape from the religious and lifestyle laws that we imposed onto you? For freedom! And yet all I really see is America becoming more and more dependent on it's government. Democracy? Pssh. Freedom? Ha. Why don't you ask the farmer in Wisconsin who's farm has been raided by the government time and time again about how free he feels. Raided by the government. Shut down. And for what? Because they're selling a wholesome, nutritionally sound product?
As far as I'm concerned (and you can call me crazy if you want) I'd love to take my family off to a place where the government no longer knows we exist! I'd be glad to hand in my social security number for someone else to use. Really, by the time Gavin is old enough to even draw social security it will be gone anyway.
Our current home is still run heavily on the help of the government. We have power and a phone, health insurance and vehicles. We have a mortgage! But we are working towards moving as far away from the support as possible. Doing what you can- at your home, with what you have available to you, is the first step in the right direction. So we have a garden, which I want to expand this year. We raise chickens, turkeys and hogs. We make our own soap and detergents. I sew some of our clothes (although I'd like to do more.) We're self employed.
Small steps in the right direction. On my to do list: get a milk cow, raise honey bees, raise lambs, raise beef, move off grid, grow a HUGE garden, and have a HUGE orchard. Some issues we just won't be able to get around, like having vehicles. My husband needs his work truck I don't know how many trees he'd be able to trim with a horse and buggy. We can't grow our own grains at this point so we have to buy grains to mill into flour and for our animals. Building supplies for the house. We can mill our own wood but, nails, screws? I guess it all just depends on how independent from the world you want to be. There are luxuries that I do appreciate- like gas stations and my dishwasher. But the further removed we can be from it, the better off we're going to be in the future.
*I am now stepping down from my soap box. Thanks for listening!*
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