Friday, December 14, 2012

I Love Thrift Stores! ........But, there are rules......

I love thrift stores! After all what's not to love? You never know what you are going to find, so it is an adventure. You are saving a lot of money by buying used. You are reducing the amount of "stuff" that fills our landfills. In many instances you are coming home with higher quality products than otherwise fit your budget.  You are also keeping your hard earned dollars at home working in your community, many times going directly to a local charity. So, thrift store shopping is good for your wallet, good for the planet, a rewarding pastime and ultimately good for the soul :)

Here are some of today's treasures  ( solid maple bench/table $5, 3 yards of flannel $1, milk glass mixing bowl $3, pastel metal hanging planters $1, huge bag of paperback books for daddy .25 each, three nice flannel shirts $2, white leather nursing shoes $3.......


Rule #1 You don't always find what you went looking for, (if you went with an agenda), but you almost always will find treasures, so slow down and really look.

Rule #2 Don't bother stopping at a thrift store when you are in a hurry. This relates back to rule #1, you need time to slow down and look.

Rule #3 If you significant other is not into thrift store shopping, DON'T TAKE THEM WITH YOU! Seriously, you will not enjoy it, you will feel rushed and there are laws against killing them for ruining your adventure.

Rule #4 Think outside the box. You may not need a giant clear glass cookie jar but that same cookie jar would make an awesome terrarium that you can keep to enjoy or give away as a gift (think cheap, unique, personal gift).

Rule #5 It is not ALL about YOU! Keep your eyes open for cool gift ideas for Christmas and Birthdays. This is a win-win situation. You get to save money on gifts, plan ahead and have your very own adventure doing it.

Rule #6 Take the largest vehicle you own when thrift store shopping, you never know what you will find. Wouldn't it just suck to find the hot tub you always wanted, its only $25 and you are in a car when you have a perfectly good pickup in the driveway at home?

Rule #7 Be careful who you share your adventure with. If you and your dear mom collect the same thing, DON'T TAKE HER! Think harmony in the family, you don't want a wrestling match in the middle of a store you would like to be able to come back to. Plus, as mentioned above, there are laws against killing people while thrifting.

Rule #8 Vacations are awesome thrifting opportunities. While in different locals you may find region specific treasures that would never show up in you hometown thrift store. Plus, thrifting is cheap entertainment while traveling.

Rule #9 If you have friends and family that are "above" thrift store shopping, for heavens sake don't tell them thats where that lovely set of silver you just gave them came from.

Rule #10 ...... This is the very most important rule of all.........Have fun :)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Smelly bones..... A Theory......

Ever since we started eating grass fed meat we have notice how quickly bones/carcasses start to smell REALLY BAD.  I am not referring to fresh bones but cooked ones. It does not matter if it is a rotisserie chicken carcass or bones from a roast.  In no time at all they smell really foul in the garbage. Scenario, boil a chicken for dumplings, bone the chicken and discard the bones in the kitchen trash, by the next morning they stink. Do the same thing with a factory raised chicken and the bones do not smell that foul that quickly.

My hypothesis is that all the crap (preservatives etc) that are pumped into factory chickens when they are processed makes them not rot as quickly as naturally processed chicken bones. It reminds me of the twinky that will live longer than I do. Do I want to consume something that doesn't rot naturally. If it doesn't rot naturally what does it do to my body when my body tries to digest it? Just a random thought.....

Sunday, September 30, 2012

For the love of Pears..............

The universe finally allowed time for some canning today! Our Sand Pear was the only one that bore this year due to the weird winter but she bore a phenomenal number of pears. My beloved Ball Book had a syrup recipe using Honey so that is how the batches started, when the honey ran out I replaced it with Agave, then added vanilla and cinnamon to the third Agave batch, finally ending with a brown sugar batch when the Agave ran out.

Fortuitously Erin over on the Polyface Hen House Blog  posted a nice Plum Cake recipe today that I stole and used pears instead of plums, it was a huge hit! So I thought I would share it here too. Just a note on using pears, I cooked mine in agave syrup for about five minutes before adding them to the cake.

Pear  Cake  (or other fruit of choice)
3 eggs; 1/2 c. butter, softened; 1/2 c. sugar; 1 t. lemon zest; 1 c. flour; 1/2 t. baking powder; 1 1/4 c. plums, pitted and sliced
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease and flour one 9 inch tube pan.  Separate the eggs.
  2. In a small bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.  Beat in the egg yolks and lemon zest.  Stir together the flour and baking powder and then beat the flour mixture into the creamed mixture.  Gently fold in the egg whites.
  4. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan.  There will only be a little over an inch of batter.  Arrange the pears, attractively over the batter.
  5. Bake for 40 minutes or until cake tests done.  Allow to cool before serving.
*** Recipe courtesy of Polyface Hen House Blog

Thursday, September 27, 2012

We are still here.........

It has been seven weeks since my last post. The farm is doing well although it has been largely in coast mode because of school. I have been in school for quite some time but until this semester it was pretty laid back and really didn't compete with the farm for my time. That all changed this semester when my actual RN classes started. The first three weeks went by in a mad whirlwind of being in class all day everyday trying to absorb everything we needed to know before we started our first round of clinical rotations. We are now in our second week of our first clinical rotation and are finally starting to get into a more regular predictable rhythm. I finally feel like I can take a deep breath and devote a little more time to the farm.

First day of clinicals

Last weekend we sorted out 25 pullets from the grow out tractors and set them up in a grow out tractor being converted to a layer tractor and encircled them in a fenced "learning yard" so they can get used to the new tractor as home base. They new girls have learned the routine quickly so their fence will come down this weekend and they will have true free range during the day. The new ladies are from two age groups about three weeks apart. They still have a bit before they start laying. Our original laying flock of ten are finishing out a molt and starting to lay more consistently.

We have a few stragglers from the last batch of broilers we processed that will be processed this weekend. Once these are done we only have one group left that will be ready in another 2-3 weeks.  I would like to try a small batch of Peking Ducks. Erin posted on the Polyface Hen House Blog back on the the second about a trial run they are doing raising ducks in tractors on the same schedule and feed as broilers and they are doing well. Her post gave the little shove I needed to brave a batch myself. Now I just need to talk Rick into it :)

Roasted Duck for Christmas Dinner Sounds Amazing!

Until next time, may your gardens be green, your larder be full and your family happy!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The farm becomes like a child......

As I prepared to make a trip to Nashville to see my sons Alex and Adam this week I felt like I was leaving a fourth child, the farm. Rick, my husband, will be taking care of things while I am gone for 5 days. Rick helps out and does some of the daily feeding on the farm already but as he works full time plus lots of OT, it is normal for him to go long stretches without interacting with the animals and frequently I have made feeding changes he is unaware of, so getting him up to speed and leaving him with all of it was a bit stressful for both of us.

I am an admitted control freak. Many years ago I came to understand that just because two people don't do something exactly the same, neither is doing it wrong. This is a very powerful concept for a control freak. As I left the farm today I had to let go and know in my heart that it will still be there when I come home.

How do you handle it when you take time away from your farms, families etc?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Mathias Joins the Family

We have a 100+ pound new addition to the family. Mathias Bear is a year old Golden Retriever / Rottweiler cross. He came to us from the local pound. If his training goes well he will be a working farm dog and possibly livestock guardian.  He is not of the typical guardian breeds but his personality is that of a very mellow watchful guardian. He has only been with us for 24 hours but so far is amazing me with his manners and all he knows.

Instead of relying on commercial dog food we will be making homemade food for Mathias. Although the ingredients change we make a diet high in protein, with added fruits and vegetables and minimal grains. Todays batch had a base of chicken livers, hearts and necks with grated squash, pears and a handful of stale Kashi Heart to Heart cereal added in. For added convenience we cook up a tags batch and freeze it in individual servings for convenience. Making your own dog food allows you to make good use of farm surplus, save money and provide a healthy diet for your hard working canines.

Our First Babies Graduate.....

Our first litter of rabbits weened and graduated to a pasture Hare Pen today. All of our breeding stock were purchased as babies and raised up to breeding age so today's first litter weened is a major mile stone for our little rabbitry. We have two more litters 4 weeks behind these and more on the way. We also have more purchased breeding stock and broilers growing out in hare pens. We started with a variety of weened stock from various sources and grew them out so we could be picky about breeding stock and cull the rest as broilers.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Rabbit Breeding Experiment

When we started acquiring stock for the Rabbitry we bought two Flemish Giant does to use in a cross experiment. Although they get very large, Flemish Giants put most of their energy into bone structure before putting much flesh on. This makes them a less than optimal choice for meat production. I hypothesized that by breeding a standard buck to a Giant doe I might be able to achieve a happy medium between size and feed conversion. The first litter of crosses is 18 days old and represented by the grey kit on the left. The brown kit on the right is 20 days old, from the same sire but a standard mom. As you can see although not marked, there is a size difference in the kits. The Flemish mom kindled 7, 2 were dead at or shortly after birth, a third runt died the next day and we were left with 2 nice sized kits (the grey being one of them) and 2 extreme runts which have miraculously survived. The second Flemish doe kindled 14 nice sized kits on the cage floor without having pulled any fur, all were dead by the time we found them. This being the case between the strange assortment of sizes in the first doe and the second does dead litter we have little data so far. The plan is to keep litter size and weaned weigh info on these litters and evaluate the results.

What "out of the box" experiments have you run on your farm?

Here are some great rabbit recipes from Larson Rabbitry

Barbecued Marinated Rabbit
Entertaining on a busy schedule? Prepare this recipe the night before - the longer it sits, the better it tastes! Preparation time, 15 minutes; Marinating time, 3 to 4 hours or overnight; Cooking time, 1.5 to 2 hours. Makes eight servings.
                 heavy duty aluminum foil
                         cooking oil
2                   medium carrots, diced                  2
2                   medium onions, diced                  2
2                   small tomatoes, diced                  2
2                  cloves garlic, crushed                    2
2               whole rabbits (1.25 kg each)           2
                less heart, liver and kidneys
2                   whole cinnamon sticks                 2
125 mL                   dry sherry                             1/2 cup
10 mL                   dried parsley                          2 tsp
5 mL              dried oregano or rosemary        1 tsp
5 mL                        salt                                        1 tsp
                    freshly ground pepper
Prepare foil pouch, big enough to enclose the rabbits, by joining two large sheets of foil together, forming seam. Brush foil with oil. Place prepared vegetables and garlic on foil. Arrange rabbits over vegetables and place cinnamon stick in empty cavity of each rabbit.
In small bowl, combine remaining ingredients and pour over rabbits. Close foil pouch tightly to completely seal in marinade, removing most of the air. Refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours or overnight.
Place foil pouch on 180°C (350°F) barbecue grill, on the top shelf, or bake in 180°C (350°) oven, for 1 to 1.5 hours (flip over after 45 minutes), or until rabbit is almost cooked. Carefully open foil and lift rabbits onto lightly oiled barbecue grill or oven broiling rack. Brush rabbits lightly on both sides with oil. Cook, turning frequently until evenly grilled or broiled on both sides (about 10 to 15 minutes each side). Remove from grill or oven; discard cinnamon sticks and serve.
*** A store bought marinade can replace spices to make things easier! ***  If using marinade sauce, brush extra sauce onto rabbit after removing from foil to glaze the meat.

 Braised Rabbit with Strawberry Mint Sauce
A refreshing sauce of strawberries and mint provides a delincious contrast to the mild flavor of tender brazed rabbit.  Preparation time, 10 - 20 minutes; Cooking time, 40 minutes. Makes four servings.
25 mL                      butter                    2 tbsp
5 mL                  red wine vinegar                1 tsp
2 mL                   ground cinnamon              1/2 tsp
1 mL                    ground cloves               1/4 tsp
4              legs of rabbit, 2 front, 2 back            4
125 mL                  rabbit stock                1/2 cup
                      or chicken stock
125 mL          dry white wine or apple juice       1/2 cup
500 mL               strawberries, fresh             2 cups
                      or thawed frozen
3 to 4           sprigs of fresh peppermint          3 or 4
                 or 10 mL dried mint (2 tsp)
In a large skillet, over medium high heat, melt butter.  Stir in vinegar, cinnamon and cloves.  Add rabbit pieces and brown lightly on either side, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Add stock and wine or apple juice.  Bring mixture to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to simmer.  Cook rabbit 30 minutes or until tender.
In blender or food processor fitted with metal blade, process strawberries and mint until smooth.  Remove rabbit from skillet and transfer to serving platter; keep warm.  Drain cooking liquid from skillet and add strawberry puree.  Heat sauce over medium heat 3 to 5 minutes stirring continuously until warm (do not boil.)  Pour sauce over rabbit.  Garnish with strawberry slices and mint. 

Saddle of rabbit in mustard sauce
You will need:
1/2 pound fileted saddle of rabbit
3/4 cup of heavy cream
1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
Dredge the meats lightly in a little flour. Saute until browned. Heat cream, mustard, pepper, and garlic in saute pan until boiling. Add the browned rabbit, cook until the rabbit is cooked through and the sauce is thickened, about 4 or 5 minutes. Serves two. 

 Boneless Rabbit Stew
1 whole rabbit
ground black pepper
slow cooker or casserole dish
vegetables to taste (celery is good!)

Cut the rabbit into three sections, then cut off all easily removed meat with a knife and then cut this into small (1/2 inch) cubes. Dredge cubes in flour with black pepper and garamasala to taste. Put remaining bones and meat into a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for five minutes. Put boiled bones through sieve, keeping the stock. Let bones cool. Saute cubes in small amount of vegetable oil until browned. Remove remainder of meat from cooled bones by hand. Put all ingredients (except bones!) into casserole or slow cooker, bring to the boil and then simmer until cooked.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Pear Sauce, Grape Juice and other bounties......

I put up pears and grapes last year but they were more of an afterthought than an eagerly anticipated harvest. Our peaches, plums and nectarines did not produce this year due to the weird winter so I have been hanging my hat on the loaded pear trees and grape arbors to make up the majority of our preserves and canned/frozen fruit for this year. Every day I check the pears and eagerly hunt the grape arbors for ripening fruit. Today it was there :)

The first batch of pears are cooking down in the crock pot for pear sauce. When it is done I plan to freeze it in pint jars. I cooked the first grapes down then blended them and hung the wonderful mush to drain for grape juice. Today was not a good day for jelly making due to time constraints so I set the first harvest up for more "set it and forget it" foods. The house smells wonderful between the simmering pears, the dehydrator full of Basil and a batch of oat meal bread I baked today. This is what home is supposed to smell like.


Peal and core pears and load in crock pot. Color preservation aid of choice optional, I have used lemon or fruit fresh to keep sauce from browning.

Some recipes suggest adding any desired spices at the beginning and some recommend adding after you drain and mash your pears. I am going to save my pear juice for future recipes so I will be adding my spices and sweetener at the end.

Add 1- 1 1/2 cups of water to pears and cook down in crock pot on high aprox 6 hours until tender.

Drain pears and mash. Reserved pear juice may be saved for future recipes (pork roast etc)

Add desired sweetener to taste (honey, sugar etc) as well as any desired spices (cinnamon, clove, ginger, nutmeg etc.

Sauce can be put in jars and frozen, used immediately or canned (follow safe canning directions for apple/pear sauce). I freeze in point jars and take a jar out to defrost in fridge as needed.

Oatmeal Honey Bread

2 cups warm water, whole milk or buttermilk (if using milk warm it so it will activate your yeast)

2 tbs active dry yeast

1/4 cut honey

1 tsp salt

2 eggs

1/4 cup olive oil

1 cup rolled oats or other rolled grain ( I use mixed rolled grains to add more oomph)

aprox 5 cups unbleached flour (I am a fan of King Arthur flours)

Mix warm water/milk, honey and yeast and let stand ten minutes (I put this directly in my kitchen aid mixing bowl)

After you have a nice head on your yeast mixture add eggs, oil, salt and oats and start mixing (can be done by hand, I use my mixer with the dough hook from here on for all the mixing).

Start adding flour one cup at a time and continue mixing. When your dough has formed a stiffer ball that wants to hang on your hook it is ready to kneed.

Oil large bowl with a tablespoon or two of olive oil.

Place dough on floured surface and kneed just long enough so it is not sticky anymore and you start to feel an elasticity to the dough as you kneed. Place in oiled bowl, cover with damp towel and place in warm spot to rise for apron an hour or until doubled.

Prepare 2-3 loaf pans then turn your risen dough back out on floured surface and kneed for a minute, divide into equal parts and form. Place in loaf pans and cover with damp towel. Let rise 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350. Once loaves have risen use serrated knife to slice top before placing in oven. Bake 30 minutes. 

Add butter/honey/jam..... and enjoy.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Do you have those projects..........

Do you have those projects that it takes you a while to get to, then when you do they were SO easy you kick yourself for putting them off? I have had all of the stuff to set up the automatic water system in the rabbitry and on the rabbit tractors for WEEKS. Every day when I fill bottles I think, I really need to install the automatic waterers. Between the heat, being busy and flat out procrastination I didn't do it until today. Wouldn't you know, it was SO easy and SO fast, I am still kicking myself for putting it off.

The system I have set up on the tractors and in the rabbitry is a very simply gravity system using a five gallon bucket for the reservoir, tubing, t connectors, these cool gizmos that keep the tubing off the cage so they can't chew it, other cool gizmos the sipper fits into to latch on the cage and the sippers themselves. I bought filtered connectors to go on the buckets but I did not use them I just drilled a hole and put the tubing straight into the bucket like we do for the auto waterers on the chicken tractors. I have not finished installing cages in the rabbitry but have all the pieces to run water to them easily when I hang the cages. I ordered everything but the buckets from:

Here are photos of how it is set up.

The 5 gallon reservoir is sitting on an old ladder and bungied to the corner post for now. This is temporary until we decide how we want it permanently.
The tubing runs across the top of each row with individual feeder lines to each sipper.

This handy gadget holds the sipper on the cage and keeps the tubing out of the reach of sharp teeth.
 One can never rest throwing cute baby bunny pictures in.....

The original love/hate relationship...

This has to be one of the original love/hate relationships. Who among us does not love living close to nature and her many creatures. On the other side of this coin, any of us who have gardens and raise livestock are in a constant battle to keep our gardens and animals safe from them. This lovely mom and her two fawns were grazing two pastures over from our property this morning. She is beautiful, the sight of her twins was a true gift, now if they would stay out of my garden so I can feed my family, we will get along so much better. My rational side reminds me that we have chosen to live in their world, for this land was certainly theirs before it was ours. My homesteading side is really tired of losing hard work and food to them... sigh.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Visits from Murphy...

Do you have those weeks were everything seems to come crashing down, literally! Last week was like that around here. It started a week ago Tuesday when I went to town for a massage, walked out from my appointment and the van would not start. It had been running fine, no problems, no forewarning, just poof! So I called Rick and wonder of wonders he hadn't worked late and was able to come to the rescue pretty quickly. These are the times that marrying a mechanic really pays off, god love him. The diagnosis was that the fuel pump had given up the ghost. Rick preceded to drop the 30 gallon (full) gas tank right there in the gravel parking lot and change out the fuel pump. Now is when I mention that I during this process I managed to kill the battery on lil red while he was fixing the van. Apparently with automatic lights if you get in on the passengers side, turn the key on to roll the windows down then turn the key off the silly lights stay on. You have to open the drivers side door to trigger the mechanism that turns the automatic lights off! Oh, and neither car had jumper cables in it (grumble grumble).  The week proceeded with more vehicle issues, a massive limb falling on the house (we hadn't even cut up the last one that fell but missed the house yet), and our refrigerator died (just bought a new upright freezer a week ago don't you know). Through all the turmoil I was trying to get ready for a really big Pharmacology test and the universe was doing everything it could to mess up study time. As I look back now that the test is over and I passed it, the dust has settled and for the time being Murphy is leaving us alone, I have to acknowledge all the blessings. My husband is a mechanic so we could fix the van, we were able to get the limb off the house and cut up with no real damage to the house, and there was money to replace the refrigerator.

Sometimes it is hard to are the blessings through the turmoil when everything seems to be imploding. Try to take a deep breath and open your eyes to the good when Murphy visits.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Another volunteer for relocation

When I climbed on the mower yesterday to try and find the yard again, this lovely fellow crawled out from under it. He is a Grey Rat snake, also referred to as an Oak Snake around these parts. After thanking him for making his presence known before he helped himself to any eggs or baby bunnies, I tucked him in an old plastic tool box that I keep exactly for this purpose. When I finished mowing, the snake and I went for a ride out into the national forest that borders our farm and I introduced him to a new home. As much as possible we try to work with mother nature and relocate critters like this that can cause issues on the farm.

Have you relocated any visitors lately?

Why Scurvy elephant, you ask...

Wayne Dyer tells a story from his childhood about over hearing one of his teachers tell another teacher that he was a "scurvy elephant". When he went home that day he went straight to his mom and told her about it. Concerned, his mother went to see the teacher and asked about this comment. The teacher told her, after stating that Wayne had once again "gotten it wrong", that what she said to the other teacher was that Wayne was a "disturbing element" because he didn't do things the way everyone else did them. I agree with Wayne Dyer in that the world needs a lot more "disturbing elements" and have considered myself a scurvy elephant ever since. It also fit because I have collected elephants all of my life :)

Monday, July 2, 2012

Learning the hard way.

We try to foresee potential dangers and guard against them. Today we lost 4 rabbits to heat stroke due to a completely avoidable situation. These are the mistakes that make my heart ache. It never occurred to me that our horses might flip open a rabbit tractor roof door. Apparently one of the horses really wanted some rabbit food and managed to flip open one of the hinged roof doors. It was 100 degrees today and this left the rabbits in this tractor exposed to the direct sun during the hottest part of the day with no shade to retreat to. Miraculously we only lost 4 of the 10 that were growing out in this tractor. Foreseeing the possibility and this could have been avoided. All of our tractors now have bungy cords on the roof doors now.

I hope our loss can help others to look around and identify similar weaknesses before losses occur.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Better late than never......

After many hours of enjoying and learning from other blogs it is time to start one of our own. In an earlier life I considered blogging to be an act of  the self-absorbed. In time I have come to rely on the farming and homesteading advice from my favorite blogs. It must have been a truely busy day if I didn't check to see what was new with the ladies of Polyface Farms at Sharing recipes, ideas and the struggles of everyday homesteading makes us all stronger and feel less alone.

The goal of our little corner of the blogoshere is to share, entertain, and every once in a while maybe even teach those who are even more newbie homesteaders than we are (though we are still very wet behind the ears ourselves). So grab a cup of tea and come see us once in a while.