…his name should have been Pooh Bear

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This was just before the snow storm, one of the first nice Spring like days, and someone got a little over excited about getting the hay in the middle of the feeder and got stock, not unlike Winnie the Pooh. Hubby had to take apart the feeder while I chatted with the wedged over eater. He didn’t seem too disturbed by the process, he just kept eating.

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The other night we sat down to dinner and I just had to take a picture of these beans from last summer. Still beautiful, still delicious and still plentiful in the freezer. I believe we will make it to be bean season ever being without! I do need to sort through the freezer, though, and tidy it up to make sure I know how much of everything we have. It’s a fine line to have enough till fresh veggies come in, but not too much when fresh veggies come in… It will be interesting to see how it balances out.

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And here are next season’s beans in this box!

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This here was an accomplishment! I am hoping, like last year, to knit a scarf for many at holiday time. Last year when I tried for this goal  I had never knit anything before, and well, yes, I thought it would go quicker. I did get two projects done but that was all. My goal this year is to be prepared with many knitted gifts. The good news is that I had started quite a few for different recipients and so I have a start on several of them. This one, though, is for my friend’s birthday. I accidentally finished it incorrectly, but it doesn’t matter. I am excited to give it to her. I really like the material. When I first started knitting, I found that buying yarn at a mega craft store offered many choices and I have a few very pretty scarves going that use some nice looking yarns from that store, but I found that I wished there was also a story behind the yarn, rather than a factory. I looked around on Craigslist and it was great luck to have find a very nice woman selling wool! This scarf is made from that wool, which I bought from her over a year ago. She raised the sheep that this wool came from. She showed me knitted sweaters and socks she had made while she told me about the new life she was starting in Mexico, which was why she couldn’t keep it all. She was sorry to part with so much of her wool and also some wool she had from her friend’s sheep, but she was glad it was going home with me, she knew it was appreciated. Hopefully she is enjoying her new start in Mexico, I am enjoying my start at knitting and using her wool that came with a story attached to it.

Some of this and a lot of that!

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First we did this… Hubby was pleased to find a window of nice weather in mid March to get some early burning done, and I got the mini High Tunnel planted.

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Then Midwest weather happened…

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Back to making fires in the morning, and rearranging schedules due to not being able to get out of the driveway.

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Of course that returned us back to soup and bread, but when isn’t soup and bread good? This was a pork based broth from roasted neck bones, I browned slices of our Italian brats and added that and lots of beans and vegetables, so it was a spicy bean and sausage soup. I had no idea what it would be till it was done, but it turned out great!

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I am happy to have re-found a sandwich bread recipe that I like, because sometimes I tire of my go to, no knead bread even though it is delicious. This bread sliced up really nicely and I made it into two slightly smaller loaves so one is sliced and in the freezer, ready to go for a busier day. It’s nice to have a back up loaf

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Despite the snow Hubby did get me into the property where my granola kitchen is located, but without his 4 wheel drive and determination it wouldn’t have happened. He also sees snow vs. truck as a personal challenge (insert winky face here).

On the farm news:

I got the mushroom spawn ordered and all bare root stock has been ordered. This year 2 dwarf Plum trees, 6 Somerset Red Seedless Grapes, 2 Elderberry, 1 Goji Berry, 3 High Bush Cranberry, and 2 Red Currants. My hope is to turn the area around our house into food, wherever I can, by adding each year. Fruit is something that we have the least diversity of here, and this would really improve that. Currently our wild fruit on the farm are limited to, apple trees, black cap berries, and a few Mulberries, and possibly still some gooseberries to nibble in the woods, but that is a complete stretch. We do have fruits that we have planted such as a small amount of raspberries, some grapes which so far is just enough for a couple of weeks of table grapes in the summer, and some trees that we planted such as; 1 pear, several apples, and 1 sour cherry. Last year I traded for melons, but hoping this year I will do well with Watermelons and Cantaloupe. Turns out they are both amazing dried, but more so the Watermelon which could be marketed as natural candy:)

Hubby would prefer farming not so close to the house, but I really like it this way. The predators are less likely to come up on the lawn near the house, which makes vulnerable berries and such, safer and I like to be able to see all the animals when I go out and have the garden close by. Our food is knitted into our everyday life, and without getting too warm and fuzzy, it makes me feel just a little bit closer to the way people lived a long time ago…right here.

Getting my feet back on muddy ground, and it feels great!

Well, for the first time in a long time I have been off the farm for an extended period. Interestingly, everyone’s idea of an extended period is different, and I have to be frank and say that being a way for a whole weekend is hard for me these days. This was much longer. It started with a birthday trip to Florida to celebrate Dad’s 90th with Mom and Dad and my sister (who also flew in from North Carolina). It was great spending the weekend with Mom and Dad and we were all so very grateful to be able to celebrate this mile marker with Dad. The flip side is Dad was not feeling terrific and as his doctor said, “these men of the greatest generation are minimalists and never complain, the flip side is you often don’t know how bad they really are feeling.  This is my Dad, definitely among the greatest of that great generation. The long and short of it was we ended up back down there a week later for an extended period of moving them home, getting the necessary medical work done and getting Dad feeling better, and to that end, he IS feeling better. I feel a bottomless well of gratefulness for this. Once we got them comfortably in their house, and moved in, as best as sister and I could do, we all did a lot of hugging and returned to our homes. Turning into the driveway and seeing the farm after being gone over 13 days this month, was an incredible thing. Simply being in the same room as my husband was an incredible thing. It was good to get the rundown on what’s been happening on the farm. I missed a week of “brutal cold”, according to hubby who generally thinks sub-zero is “nice out”, so it must have been bad. By the time I got home it was Mud Season, yes that’s a title. I couldn’t have been happier to put on my tall boots!

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It’s official!

Here are other signs of Spring!

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I am up to about 4 gallons of sap at this point. I decided to only tap Black Walnut trees this year. We got a little bit of the Black Walnut syrup last year and it was great! Up until now we have been tapping the neighbors Box Elder Trees, but this year we will stay on our land and just tap what we have. We should have plenty of sweetener for the year! I still have a bit of Box Elder Syrup from last year too!

The farm spring round up news…chicks, hogs, and cattle

It is an amazing time of year. Due to the last month being an odd one for me I am behind on a few things, ok, a lot of things! I have been baking and delivering granola like crazy and finally got my chicks ordered and seeds ordered. I may have pushed my limits a bit on the chicks and garden this year, but the chicks arrive on May 11, will be in the brooder for 5-6 weeks in the garage and then we move them on grass each night till late August. It’s a fair investment in time, I think, for enough chicken meat for the year. This year I am going to push to have all livestock have not just two purposes on our farm (as I did for the chickens and hogs last year) but, at the least 3 purposes. Instead of the chickens that we pay to purchase and raise providing us with just meat and eggs, this year they will provide us meat, eggs, egg money (that covers their initial cost as chicks) and a bartering tool. I ordered 50 roos, and 8 hens, of the 50 I will freeze 30 birds in halves so we have 60 halves for the year, that is more than one half a week, or enough for extra people as needed. We eat a half at dinner, so it is perfect for us. I will freeze 5 whole for company, which always looks nice, and then the remaining 15 I will barter with our neighbor or other neighbors for items we need, such as goat milk, or a winter share of potatoes, carrots etc. We are planning 4 hogs this year… if, as the Hog farmer friend told me, “the girls work their magic”. Here’s hoping that they do! I will try to sell 2 in halves or whole, one by piece and for barter, and one for us. The even bigger news is that the cattle will begin to “earn” their place on the farm this year. It’s been almost 3 years since we got the Scottish Highlands, but when you raise grass fed, grass finished beef, you need to be one patient farmer. Well the time has come, which has prompted a lot of research, conversation and exploration. On one of my explores I decided to look for Facebook pages relating to these type of cattle. I proceeded to message a person who had just such a page, and guess what? Not only did they want to help me, they messaged back and forth with me for over an hour answering so many questions we had about upcoming processing, knowing if the animal is ready, and many other questions. I asked this kind man for his address to send him a granola gift, and as of yet he still hasn’t. People can say all that they want about the pitfalls of Facebook, and I agree there are a host of them, but being able to have this easy connection as a resource, and learning and sharing with kind helpful people is wonderful. It made the world smaller that night as I messaged from my farm in Wisconsin to his farm in North Dakota. Obviously, one has to be careful when reaching out like this, but really, getting help from someone who raises Highlands seemed pretty low risk;) After this communication hubby and I  feel so much better about our upcoming processing and now I am thinking more about the terrific upcoming soup bones and less about all the worries! I think perhaps I was thinking too hard. I do this. Ask anyone in my family.

Saturday is my birthday and I think I will spend it working up the soil in the mini high tunnel and getting my first seeds in the ground. A perfect birthday. Oh and of course one must plink on one’s birthday too, so maybe a little shoot out with hubby?

This used to be unusual, happily it is more common now.

As I drove down into this valley for a goat milk barter, I was able to spot this Eagle and capture it in a photo. It’s nice that when I drive in the country, it’s easy to stop in the middle of the road to take a picture because there usually is no one else on the road! Notice the Eagle is carrying his lunch! It is so nice to see these beautiful birds, I’d say we don’t go a whole week without seeing one. We used only see them during migratory changes, so this has been a treat!

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It’s been so ridiculously cold that soup for breakfast, lunch and dinner is fine with me, and this was some of the best Tortilla Soup I have made. A wonderful combination of chicken stock from our chickens, tomato sauce from last year’s tomatoes, and all kinds of summer veggies from the freezer. The tortillas are locally made and the cheese is made about 45 minutes away from here and is about the best Cheddar in our book! I don’t do a lot of purchasing of food these days but when I do, I love buying locally made products!

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I’ve started doubling up on my bread making, seems we are going through it more quickly, as mostly it’s soup and sandwich or soup and bread for at least one meal a day. Temperature today was a high of 3, but mostly it was below zero all day and who really wants to discuss the wind chill numbers, right?

We had some great news! Last summer when we came upon all the extra fire wood, due to the tornado by Hubby’s folks house, we thought it wouldn’t be dry till next year, and right about now, the wood chore is getting a bit old, so when hubby tried out a bit of it from one of the full wood cribs, we found out it was dry enough. It has really lessened chore time for hubby! It will be nice for him to coast for a bit!

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This is what a mirage must look like to chickens in the dead of Winter.

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Some of our neighbor’s lovely micro green flats that he delivers to restaurants are not always restaurant quality. Once his chickens have their fill of the extra trays our chickens get lucky! After they got over their initial fear of this new green object, the boldest one checked it out and then alerted the others with her “I found something great” clucks!! So nice to see them eating something green. I do throw them some sprouts I’ve been growing in the kitchen but these micro green flats are far superior.

Today the wind is howling. It’s a sunny 4 degree day, with wind chills right now at almost -20. Today will no doubt be an indoor day for me, the colder it gets the more I want to cook. Tonight, being Valentine’s Day and all, I used it as an excuse to pick up some local beef (for a change from Chicken and Pork), and so I will cook up some steaks, mashed potatoes, Italian flat beans, and some summer strawberries for dessert. Also, I think I will make a batch of Tortilla Soup. This day needs soup!

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Going out to feed the chickens today will require these! I got them at St. Vinnie’s for $2.00 and they are real sheepskin and they were NEW! When I wear them outside my hands don’t know they have left the house!!

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In the midst of this…Mom and Dad sent beautiful sunny Oranges for us from Florida. Honestly it was like the choir struck a chord when I opened the box, I swear sun rays came out of it!! It was so nice to eat these juicy delicious oranges, that I wanted them to last longer. I decided it might be fun to make orange marmalade, but apparently I would have had to use up all my delicious oranges on that, so I decided to try and make it out of a simple syrup and tiny diced orange peels with the white part trimmed off. Well, it didn’t thicken as much as I would have liked BUT when life gives you thin marmalade, make french toast syrup:) I tried it the other day and it is awesome!!

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I’d be happy eating it with a spoon…

What’s been keeping me busy lately is the Granola biz! It is going through growing pains but in a really good way. I will update when things are finalized, but it has consumed my time and brain, and although that is all good news, today I will need a change. I will be ordering seeds, planning the garden and looking at Chicken breeds, well and of course cooking. Wednesday we are going to tour someone’s chicken operation near here. We have driven by and his set up is great. He has about 15 chicken tractors lined up and moving along daily. I am looking forward to this, in hopes it will help us figure out our Chicken plan for this year.

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This is our bull Scotty, and he is the man. He feels the only good hay is the hay that can barely be reached. I guess it’s the bull version of the grass is always greener on the other side?

The kitchen is my laboratory…

I noticed today that my kitchen counter is beginning to look like a series of experiments. Currently lined up on my counter are two jars of fermenting carrots, 2 jars of fermenting kimchi and a 4 tiered stack of sprouts growing. Next to that is dough rising in a covered bowl. Additionally my pantry fridge has a large bowl with a wooden spoon laying across it and hanging from it is goat cheese draining off the last of the whey. It is my kind of laboratory and I love my lab. Here are pictures of the latest experiments…

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Spicy Fermented Carrots

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Cabbage, carrots, radish, celeriac root, in a brine, soon to be kimchi.

While this one wasn’t a cooking experiment, it is a prototype for a little soap draining dish to have my new wonderful goat milk soap in, so it will drain nicely and last a long time.

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I have to yet figure out how to keep the wood pieces together at the bottom… when finished, then I will oil them to resist water, but it’s doing what I hoped and I was pleased with it.

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Winter time redefines salad. Here is a winter salad…beauty heart radishes (purchased from a local farm, sprouts (grown in the kitchen), hard boiled eggs from our lovely ladies, and goat cheese, from a recent goat milk trade and a bit of fresh (frozen) salsa (from last summer) on top.

And about salsa… Last year I canned plenty and made freezer salsa. We liked the freezer salsa much better. It is not fresh but not cooked like canned. When it comes out of the freezer the texture is not the same as summer, but the taste is like summer. It’s nice to eat the fresh tasting salsa first before moving over to the canned later in the year.

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Another spin on the radishes and goat cheese and sprouts. A perfect snack while prepping dinner:)

Chicken dilemma…

I have been trying to figure out my chicken order for this Spring and I am doing mental gymnastics trying to figure it out. Our tiny high tunnel was a chicken tractor last year and I will be using it as a green house this Spring. After Spring when it warms up it will be lifted off the garden and become a tractor again. (After the meat birds are in the freezer it will become a tiny high tunnel again to plant cold crops in for Fall and a bit into Winter.) I would like to have more meat birds this year but am struggling with the housing aspect. Decisions need to get made though and so I will try and iron the plan out this weekend. Chicks need to be ordered, and seeds need to be started. I have always had my bartering Organic Farmer neighbor start my plants and we trade back later, but I would like to not run up the barter sheet as fast this year. I’ve not started my plants before, so time for more learning, and figuring out a growing space indoors for them.

Now, I am off for really granola deliveries and to pick up more goat milk. I’ve started saving the whey in the freezer for the Pigs this Spring:)

How granola found us goat milk!

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One day last week I received a “like” on my granola business’s Facebook page. As any curious person might, I checked how this new “like” might have found really granola. I quickly looked her up and found she has a Soap business of her own and makes goat milk soap. I had seen her nice soaps and so I “liked” her page. Then I got a Facebook message from her, and seems we know similar people and she, like I, enjoys bartering! As I have mentioned many times, dairy is the one thing we really don’t have, but until now I couldn’t seem to find anyone who could trade milk for something we had to offer. We agreed upon Friday, and I gathered jars for goat milk and granola to trade for both milk and soap.

Friday came and I wove my way down through the valley past a county park and lake, and then just a bit further and found their home. I was met in the driveway by a large dog who escorted my car down the driveway, and as I opened my door, wondering how the dog would respond, it came over to my door and sat down and looked at me. Yes, good dog. There is something about being greeted by an 80 lb dog and not knowing how it will feel about you being there, but clearly this boy was looking for pets and “atta boys”. I didn’t see anyone apart from my new friend till a little girl of about 6 came walking up the driveway toward me. I told her that I bet that I was looking for her Mama, and she smiled and with her hands in both pockets she tipped her head and said “follow me”. We got to the door and with one direction of her hand, the dog that outweighed her by 30 pounds took off directly, and around the corner to his dog entry at the back, and I was brought in to a kitchen with a hearth and fire roaring in it. Here I met my new friend and tasted goat milk like it was the first time. I am discounting the time I tried it when it tasted very “goaty”, and was told the reason I liked this was because it was so fresh! She heated water on her wood stove in the kitchen and made french press coffee and I added the goat milk which made it creamy and delicious. I was won over! I was sent off with 4 bars of beautiful soap, and two half gallons of goat milk – one fresh for drinking and one a few days old for making cheese, and I said goodbye to tiny home school girl who used words like, precarious, casually.

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The crackers turned out like biscuits, for some reason I haven’t been able to get them thin enough but the goat cheese mixed with tomato powder, basil and salt was wonderful!

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Although we do have frozen green beans, yellow beans, collards, kale, brussels sprouts, italian flat beans and broccoli in the freezer, I was craving fresh greens, and so are the chickens! I grew these sprouts for us and for them. Tonight we had a BLT spin off… No knead bread, our bacon, local radishes (huge) sliced, sprouts, mayo and well drained fresh salsa. We had a build up of eggs so I used last nights left over boiled potatoes and added hard boiled eggs, some dill relish and local onions to make potato salad, and served it with a cinnamon applesauce and local ginger brew. It was like a summer picnic!

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Here is a radish salad with spouts, after the picture I got the idea to sprinkle goat cheese over the top. Mmmmmm!

Coming up? Spring planning…..