Our first trip ice fishing was a success! We were dressed in many layers and I had pocket warmers in my mittens and socks, and between the two and the not bad temps, we managed to be out there about 5 hours.

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Every Wisconsin event needs Brats, right? And of course, I brought my fermented Kraut! By late afternoon we headed home, started up a fire in the house and got to fish cleaning, which we were doing for a while! There are now quite a few frozen fish meals set aside. All in all a great day!

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In the last entry I showed the lettuce mix I am growing in the greenhouse. With the extra blanket that I drag over the plants on the inside, they have kept growing nicely, despite the temps. They are getting bigger now..

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Green is amazing to see at this time of year.

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We made a trade of beef for bacon, with a farmer friend. This night dinner was fermented cabbage, our friend’s bacon, our eggs and fermented radishes and carrots with sprouts grown on the counter. If this were served at a Farm to Table restaurant, I believe it would be a repeat item on the menu!

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One last bit of food porn… bartered bacon, homemade bread, sprouts grown on the counter and topped with Watermelon radishes from cold storage.

At this point in the year, it is time for a list. What are our plans for the cattle this year, how many pigs will we get, discuss chickens for meat and eggs, figure out where to make more garden space, decide when we will prune the grapes, apples, raspberries, and more… Soon it will by syrup season, and then it all begins again. A year of food starts with Syrup in the Spring and ends with Pumpkin processing in the Fall.

Other areas of attention

I’ve been making frequent trips to Chicago to see my parents. Life is getting harder for them, and so this area of my life has been getting much of my attention. How lucky and grateful I am to have my sister to do this with me. The two of us have been taking turns spending time with Mom and Dad as well as coordinating needed services and other needs they have. It’s tough to see how quickly things are changing but I feel grateful and lucky to have parents at my age. Many of my friends lost their parents years ago, so while this may be hard, it comes from good fortune.

This all has made keeping up with my business and keeping up with our routines here a bit trickier. Hubby has picked up a lot of the Chicken chores for me, while I’ve been trying to catch up on work, and also because he knows how much I love doing chores in sub-zero temps. The trade off is that when he comes in from doing my chicken chores, I have hot coffee, a fire going and a breakfast for him, so as always it’s divisional labor, and it always works out.

I’ve been making pot after pot of soup these days, and have been enjoying having loads of beef bones to work with, they make such rich stock! A freezer full of beef and beef bones, whole chickens and a local turkey, is a soup makers dream!

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Soup. It’s what’s for dinner. A lot.

snow tree

It has not been a very snowy Winter, disappointingly, but we’ve had a few pretty mornings. This particular morning, came after I had been away for a week with my parents, and this was the first morning back. It was quiet and still and exactly what I needed.

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…and while all that was going on, these little ones are still slowly getting bigger. It is now the third week of January and there are greens! My “blanket” system for the mini high tunnel seems to be working well. It pulls over the plants in addition to the hoop itself that protects them. I wish I had planted them earlier…next year. We just traded some beef for bacon and although we don’t have tomatoes, we will make Bacon, Lettuce and maybe radish sandwiches, with lettuce grown here, in January.

This is new. I’ve been making Fruit Kvass, which as far as I gather is when you put 1/3 quart fruit in a quart jar and fill with water and 1-2 T of honey. It sits for a few days, and goes through a fizzy phase. When it was about done I strained it, and we used the fruit on homemade yogurt. The Kvass is good on ice, or in a cocktail too. This one used last summer’s local strawberries and our rhubarb, and it tastes like Summer!

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The Chickens have been hanging in there with the cold, and we are getting about 10 eggs a day. I’m working toward getting the word out that we have eggs here, mostly just friends are buying now, but it will be nice when we have more customers, for now we’ve been eating hard boiled eggs, egg salad, and this weekend potato salad:)

We are eating well, between our beef, chicken and eggs, and, bartered pork, and veggies and fruit supplies in the freezer are holding up well, I find that when I go to the store it’s the same thing…milk, butter, rum and coke (having a hard time letting go of that one), flour, coffee, and a very few other things. It fits in one bag and then I’m not back for a while. If we had dairy on our farm, it would cut off a big chunk of our small list!

weave

Soon we will head out to Portland to visit our Daughter and her family. This very pink item is for my 2 1/2 year old grand daughter. She loves PINK! This woven mat can be used for picnics with her new tea set and her dollies, or a mat to sit and read on or as a doormat in her room. It will be fun to give it to her in person! Time to start a new weaving project. It’s fun to pick out the colors. My daughter, who lives in town, saw on the local buy/sell Facebook page that someone was selling fabric pieces, this was perfect and added to my palette of colors. I have so much to select from now!

new ferments

New ferments are always fun. When I first thought about setting up ferments I thought it was about tasty foods with probiotics, which they are, but it’s become so much more for me, it is creative, they are beautiful, and here is the really sappy part, the process of making them, I find soothing, even peaceful. I love the process, I love the product and oh yes they are tasty and filled with probiotics!

This weekend we will try ice fishing for the first time. Hubby had put some fish in the freezer about a month ago, that he had caught, and when we cooked it up, the other day, we realized how nice it was to have fish for a change. Hopefully we will catch a good amount to put in the freezer. We’d already decided to go one more round with our leaky pond that we want for a fish pond. This dinner pushed it over the edge. We’ve purchased a pallet of Bentonite Clay to put on all the exposed sidewalls of the pond, and spread over the surface of the pond so it will sink and get drawn into the leak, all sources say this should plug the leak right up. Fingers crossed! We really want our own fishing pond!!

Farm Catch up… (mostly photos)

The is the wonderful aftermath of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving Soup. I was the lucky one who got to bring the carcass home from Thanksgiving. My sister who hosted our beautiful holiday was heading down south afterwards so that is why I got lucky enough to bring the carcass home. She had purchased a turkey that was raised on a small farm in their region and it was delicious. This Thanksgiving Soup is a tribute to her lovely meal, with bits of the stuffing that was in the bird, lots of rich turkey flavor, our carrots and shiitake mushrooms, and herbs. There was enough for her to have some as well as my parents, and my daughter who lives in town. It tasted wonderful!

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The weather has been more than odd, we have had 60 degree days and rain and mud and an occasional frost to let us know it is in fact December.  The weather forecasters are promising a Wintry mix tomorrow, one that involves, rain, sleet, hail, and snow, any of which will be measured in inches. I will get all deliveries done tomorrow early then lock myself in for the duration.

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Despite the mild temperatures Wisconsin is unpredictable, especially these days, so the wood pile continues to grow. We have been burning as though it is October. A small fire at night and a small fire in the morning. Tomorrow will be different.

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Because our hay gets wasted when on the ground to feed, and because our old round bale feeder ended up entrapping our Bull one time, we now have this feeder. Hubby created the design and the good news is that no one has gotten stuck in it yet. He loads it from the top with the forks on the tractor. Hopefully this will keep them from turning half their food into bedding!

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I’ve been trading eggs to our neighbor for his micro green flats (after he cuts them for customers). It’s nice to see the chickens enjoying greens at this time of the year! It’s a perfect deal!

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The good news about the weather is that it is helping my lettuces and radishes grow in the mini high tunnel. Hopefully salad will not be far off. We’ve never had greens coming in this late, but we have also never had warm weather like this in December!

Moving inside…to the kitchen of course.

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This new yogurt method I am using is awesome. So much less work and reliable and delicious, nice and thick too! Sometimes it takes a while to get it right like bread making. Finding the right recipe took over a year, but now it is reliable, this new yogurt method is the best and so it is a keeper.

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A few entries ago, I mentioned that I had taken all my frozen tomatoes and prepped them for making hot sauce, ketchup and bbq sauce. Well, finally I can say it is all done. I have two batches of hot sauce, one is hotter then the other, both of them use the fermented pepper, garlic, dried tomato, onion puree as a base. They are a bit hot for me, but I have gotten good reviews:)

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Finally the Raspberry Mead is ready!! It is a bit strong I think but I like it. Definitely could do some tweaking but not bad at all for a first time try. Next maybe peach?

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Many people say, but if you don’t buy produce, then what do you eat all Winter? Looks to me like between the extended cold storage at my neighbors and my Summer efforts packed away in the freezer that we are doing just fine in the Winter months!

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And here is one of my favorite breakfasts, however, this one was special as it was finally ready Christmas morning! Great way to start the day. Finally, a pic of my Hubby’s Christmas gift to me…. Ready?

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My own 1960’s Colt 22 LR, with a beautiful Walnut stock. I am working on getting the siting down, it is so nice and light for me. Do I see Rabbit dinners in our future?

Deer Camp 2015

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks, with friends here hunting, Thanksgiving and 2 different sets of visitors that happened to pop in to town at different times. We basically have had Deer Camp 2015 for the last week and a half. There were several days of no deer and then one of them did get one. It was almost the one that got away. They actually didn’t find it till the next day. Thankfully they did and it was my first time seeing someone skin a deer. I secretly wanted to take the knife and do it myself, as he was in a bit of a hurry and I actually see butchering as an art and would have enjoyed taking the time to do it it a bit more tenderly, either way the task was done, and he did go home with a deer in quarters. I am sure he had a lot more work to do that night when he got home though. We couldn’t honor the heart the way I would have wished to, because we are in a CWD zone and so you have to wait for the test results (not everyone does this but we would), and so therefore I wouldn’t feel ok eating the heart the day of the hunt:( The coyotes will have no misgivings about taking care of it though.

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In other news…

firewood

It’s fire wood time. Again.

honey ferments

Since the Winter is around the corner I’ve started some honey ferments. They are pretty and delicious. Our house seems to be too cold for them to ferment so they are really infusions. I am not much of a tea drinker but add a little pineapple honey to tea and suddenly it is tasting a lot better:) I learned that people used to store fruit in honey as a way to preserve fruit for Winter. I also have a garlic honey ferment going, people swear that the honey fermented garlic is good for colds. The fermentation process does not offer probiotics like most ferments, but garlic and honey are both great for the immune system so why not try it? So far, thankfully no colds yet!

I haven’t posted a dinner in a while, but it looked so delicious on the plate I had to do it!

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Locally raised pastured Red Wattle Pork, our brussels sprouts, our wild appleasauce, and our cabbage, fermented into Sauerkraut. I know I’ve had “too much of the Kool Aid” but I take a lot of pleasure in looking at my plate and thinking about when and where it came from, before I begin to eat.

Gravy with Heart

My Thanksgiving assignments were as follows: Mashed potatoes, Gravy, and Pumpkin Bread. Oh and I couldn’t help myself from bringing some of my ferments as appetizers!

The potatoes were from a neighboring farm and mashed up beautifully. The pumpkin bread was made in part from, our roasted pumpkin, along with our eggs, and it was sweetened with Black Walnut Syrup that we collected last Spring.

The gravy is always a trick. You see I bring the gravy to Thanksgiving, and heat it up when the bird is ready to serve. It’s a bit non-traditional because this is generally something you make after you take the bird out of the oven using all the wonderful golden and browned bits. I often make a bird a week before thanksgiving and use the drippings to make the gravy but then of course the turkey at the table is less of a treat since you just had it a week ago.

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This year I decided to take another course of direction. I pulled the 50 necks and 50 hearts, out of the freezer, from when we butchered our birds last Summer. I sauteed the hearts about a dozen at a time, and scraped every dripping into a bowl. Then I took said necks and put them in the oven and poured the drippings from the hearts over them.

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Then I scrapped all the drippings from pan after pan of necks until I had a considerable amount of drippings.

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I still wanted more drippings so I took all the necks and put them in a pan on top of the stove and rendered more drippings. Now I had a full bowl of browned bits and drippings!

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I then took the necks (yet again) and put them in water to make a very rich roasted tasting broth.

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Once the fat settled to the top of the drippings I put that in a pan and made a roux with flour, adding broth until I had this amazing gravy! Talk about not wasting anything!

My contributions to the meal included something from 3 different seasons…the Black Walnut syrup was collected in the Spring, the ferments were from our summer garden veggies and some from the neighbor,  the chickens were processed in late summer, the Pumpkin was from Fall. Not something everyone thinks about these things but I can’t help but notice that it took a year to gather, grow and raise the food I brought for the meal, and it is a very satisfying feeling.

My sister who made the wonderful, family farm raised, organic turkey for our Thanksgiving table, offered me the carcass which I couldn’t say no to, and she sent me home with all the drippings from her bird and it all went into the pot with the carcass and some water. I was going to use the neck meat from all the chicken necks I had used for the gravy, but when I saw them in the fridge I thought why not throw them in with the simmering carcass and drippings? I now have a fire in the wood burner and a huge pot of rich and delicious turkey broth simmering on the stove.  When it is done, I will freeze and share the Thanksgiving soup with family.

We come from a long line of soup eaters!

 

Names and Stories

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This is Jack and his Mama, Shadow. Shadow, and Jack (and Jacks sister, Jill) came to us together. They were our first cattle. The was no way to resist calling him Jack, since his sister was already named Jill! Jack was a funny guy, who liked to kick up his heels at the most unexpected time. Good thing that when you have cattle with horns you are expecting the unexpected all the time!

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This is Runaway. He came to us with his Mama Caramel about a year after we got our first Cattle. His name is Runaway for well, obvious reasons! Little Runaway always found a way to be on the other side of the fence! He had a beautiful reddish coat and managed to continue to nurse till his last day, leaving him with a bit more fat on him than Jack. Runaway gave us quite a scare when he knocked his horn off over a year ago. I am a nurse and personally never saw so much frank red blood. It was one of our green horn experiences that when we got through it we realized that we had another challenge under our belt that resulted in success. This always feels good, of course then there are always new challenges that come up that we aren’t sure how to handle either, till it happens!

I can not say how many people have said about out animals, “oh you can’t name them”, explaining that then it will be too hard to take them to the dinner table. I’m not sure why not naming them makes anything easier,  perhaps people feel that if I don’t name them then I will have less connection making it more comfortable for me to process them? I don’t want to be more comfortable. I want to know the animals, and have a connection. We want to feel what we are doing, completely, and we do.

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This is Jack and Runaway, they have names and stories.

I do not wish to forget them or their names. This is the morning that they went into the processor. They were our very first beef to process. I wouldn’t say it was a hard decision, that day, to process them, because that very hard decision had been made long ago, but it was deeply felt, knowing we were going to end the lives of these beautiful large creatures. We are beyond grateful, to them, for the food they put on our table, and the meat we sell retail from our freezer will help pay for the exorbitant costs of purchasing and licensing our freezer, insuring our meat business, and getting our LLC formed. This is the beginning of our farm business.

Every time we process animals we know why we are doing it and we feel good that we gave them a peaceful and safe life with good food to eat. We also feel good, literally knowing our meat, and how and where it was raised. We are meat eaters and it feels profoundly good to know that we’ve taken responsibility for providing for ourselves. Not everyone who wants to do this has the opportunity to, and we are so very grateful we can do this.

Here is our beef.

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The two steers hanging in the foreground are ours. The butcher kindly took the time to let me come in and see them hanging, to learn a bit more about what we are doing. He shared thoughts with me, and he has been doing this for 40 odd years, so it was helpful. It was startling to see the other room of cows that had the grain fed beef. Wow, what a difference. They were completely white with fat as compared to the “red” cows you see up above. He thought they looked just right for grass fed, which we enjoyed hearing. We picked it up about 3 weeks later and happened to have company the next night because it was basically Deer Camp 2015 here this year, with lots of people in and out and even some out of town guests. We cooked 6 different cuts between the steaks, burgers and a slow cooked roast. We had concerns since it was our first time. Were our grasses good enough? Did they get enough to eat? Would they be too lean? All of our worries dissolved away when we shared our beef sampling meal together. Everything tasted wonderful. Nothing was dry, all cuts were full of flavor and we couldn’t have been happier with our product. We had our first beef sale yesterday, and it felt great knowing that we were providing them with delicious meat!

We have learned and grown so much since we started this 3 years ago, (and of course we have so much more to learn), but I couldn’t possibly be more pleased with our progress. I knew this growth would be an incremental process and in looking back on this blog I am reminded of some of the many steps we took. We started with 3 cows, and the next year we added 12 chicks, and 2 hogs, then another cow, a bull and a young bull. The next year we had 3 hogs, 9 cattle and 24 chicks. This year we had no hogs, because we were processing our first 2 beef (no more freezer space). We had 58 chicks this year and processed 50 of them, we also sold our first calf this year. Additionally we have learned so many new things…hubby has built three chicken coops, installed an automatic waterer, added miles of fencing for the cattle, and kept us warm with ample firewood. We learned about new mushrooms to find, how to tap many different types of trees, doubled our garden space and I even learned to get over my canning disaster of 1985. The pantry is loaded with canned and dried foods, I have learned to ferment successfully and learned how to blanch veggies for the freezer without turning them to mush. We buy very little at the store anymore, what with chicken, beef, eggs, a large vegetable garden, apples, pears, berries, grapes and rhubarb we only lack for dairy and I do barter for goat milk when I can get out to the goat farm. We have learned to barter all kinds of things, and it always is a win-win for all involved. Sorry to quote a T-shirt but Life is Good!

I wonder what I will be looking back on a year from now?

Fermentation Fun

I recently said I was learning a bit of Fermenting but wasn’t quite ready to jump on the Kombucha train. Well, never say never because I can see I am working my way down that path. Let me say first, that I am not the only one who tried one Ferment and then turned their kitchen into a secret lab of bubbling bottles. It starts with Sauerkraut. The mushy Sauerkraut that comes out of a bag is all I’d really known till now. Yes, technically Sauerkraut from a bag or homemade are the same thing but only in the same way that a Lion and a barn Kitten are both cats. They are that different. I also love the process. No more frustrating appliances to slice it in mere minutes. A knife and a cutting board is all I use, I am not looking to be efficient with time here, I enjoy the process. It then goes into a large stainless bowl where it gets salted and sits, waiting for it’s massage;) Once the salt starts drawing liquid out of the Cabbage it gets a good massage, and it softens a little. It is then packed by heaping handfuls into wide mouth jars. It gets packed in with a wooden tool and then the waiting  begins. It’s very pretty to watch it change over time.

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Here is a beautiful bowl of Sauerkraut, that is amazingly crunchy and so delicious. I had to wait 3 weeks for this pretty bowl. It is said that for the best probiotic effect to wait 4-6 weeks or even more, but I couldn’t it just looked too good!

This is the thing about making Sauerkraut, once you start you have can’t stop. Sauerkraut is the gateway vegetable to full blown Fermentation Frenzy! I keep trying new things. I did discover that Brussels Sprouts pickled, are a bit intense when you smell the jar after opening it. I have gotten a bit of complaint from Hubby on that one. I learned that the brussels sprouts jar I did with radishes was more smelly, but still tasted very good, and the one I did with just carrots and dill and Brussels Sprouts was much less so, but also very good. I think of it in the way great cheeses are smelly! My Great Grandmother used to make pickled Brussels Sprouts and so I like them because they taste good, and because they make me think of her.

What else am I fermenting?

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These jars were newly set up in this photo. The left one is mixed veggies with Beauty Heart Radishes, Green Peppers, Red Peppers, Cauliflower, a few Thai Chili Peppers, Garlic and Dill. The one on the right is Sauerkraut, or will be in a few weeks.

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This jar is the veggie jar on the left side of the above photo, but it was 3 weeks later. The veggies are crunchy as can be, a little salty, a little sour, and a lot delicious, similar to a Kosher Dill Pickle. The Brine is also delicious, but, not surprising, because I am that girl who sneaking hits of green olive brine while pregnant!

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Here is what the veggies look like served up, I had to take the picture fast because they lasted only a couple of minutes!

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The secret lab is growing. The Raspberry Honey Wine continues to bubble, the Kimchi was doing it’s thing (my version of Kimchee that is), and the middle jar is filled with a variety of hot Peppers, garlic, onions, and dehydrated tomatoes. This jar after about 3 weeks got strained, and the veggies got pureed, and it made…

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THIS HOT SAUCE! I personally am scared of it, but will use it as a base to make several types of sauces. I will be cooking all my tomatoes down after Thanksgiving and will be using this in combination with the tomato sauce.

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This is a variety of goodies. 2 kinds of Kraut juice, vinegar pickled green tomatoes and cukes, and fermented sauerkraut, pickled beets and mixed veggies. I love them all.