Cold day to clear brush!

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It might be hard to tell in the photo, but Hubby and two others from Fish and Wildlife are down in our small ravine area, the area we fondly call the old camping area (we later found an even better one, hence “the old”).  I don’t think they imagined when they scheduled this that it would be so ridiculously cold! They are down there clearing out the weed type trees and clearing out unwanted brush, this helps restore it to the old habitat it used to be many years ago. They are taking down some small cherries and apples too, so I asked that they throw those aside as they would be good wood for smoking meat or fish.

It is crazy cold to be working outside all day, so when Hubby came in on a lunch break I had a hearty lunch of soup, 2 sandwiches and hot coffee, waiting for him. Tonight something substantial; locally raised pork chops, home canned applesauce, mashed potatoes (from our organic farmer neighbors), and some organic broccoli (sadly from the store). That should help after being outdoors for 8 hours in these silly temperatures!

Even though the temperatures the last few days have barely gone above zero, it is supposed to get up to 40 degrees this weekend. I am thinking it would be a good time to grab the apple and cherry before it gets buried in the next snow, depends how muddy it is to get there though, because if it’s not freezing it’s sloppy and muddy, because…this is the Midwest:)

With the forecast of warm temperatures I’m thinking I can have a chance to get down my first layer of “kill mulch” for the new garden. BUT to find the mulch, hmmm. I’ve emailed the neighbors, I trust that wherever our wonderful organic farmer neighbors get their mulch is a place I would want to get mine! I also wrote the local brewery to see if they may have by products from brewing that might be suitable for mulch. Another thing that would be good to do in the warmer weather would be collecting kindling for making fires in the house. A certain someone implied there was lots of kindling and that I shouldn’t go and collect any out of the brush piles. Then it snowed 2 feet and then that someone ran out of kindling, which for this newbie makes starting a fire a real trick. I am getting better at using the little hatchet to make kindling but I really need just the right piece of wood to be able to achieve this! So collecting it now that the snow has melted is the way to go if I want to have a decent success rate at fire building!

Today was a day I planned to do a few errands, but then I thought again, and realized that I really could do it all tomorrow, and so it was a pj day here for me, and being that we are down to two slices of bread, I will be make a new loaf in just a little bit. Enjoying some new “channels” on Pandora, watching it snow, and yes taking care of business at the same time, the best way, in pajamas 😉

About finding a balance…

I never intended to be away from this for so long. We had a very busy couple of weeks getting things ready around here before going out West to see our family. Our kind neighbors looked after our little trio of a cattle herd. Funny how it couldn’t be more the country way to have this happen, in fact it is a great diversion for tired children at about 4pm to go see the cows. What’s changed a bit is that while they watch the animals when we are gone they can text us with questions, or photo updates, funny, so not completely the ‘ol country way! We had a full week out there, in the Oregon area, which was totally enjoyable. We spent a couple days on the coast which was beyond beautiful, and then back to the city to see oodles of family members. It was wonderful to catch up, it was also a lot of socializing packed into a small window, which for us not-used-to-being-social-folks was a lot but, it was wonderful to be there. After many nights of different beds and lots of visiting we were ready for our quiet lifestyle on the farm to come back and settle into for sure! As we went through our routines after returning home, the comfort of our home was felt in everything we did, even beyond our everyday complete gratefulness for this life we have here.

Here is a picture of the amazing beauty we left behind on the coast.

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It was back to granola business though the next morning after returning, catching up on orders, baking and delivering kept me very busy, and all thoughts of garden planning, chicken coop designing etc were fleeting thoughts as I waded through that and the daily items like bills, laundry, cooking, and shopping for food. Sunday was a self designated “no granola” day, not that I don’t love my little business, but there are lots of things to love! With the weather here being cold enough to threaten school closings the next day and a projected -10 degree actual temperature tonight, I holed up in the house on Sunday reading and note taking on garden planning, composting set up, and worked on lists like “what to plant”, and “what to freeze/dehydrate, root cellar or can”.  Also a chart by month with things to be thinking or working on each month related to growing, storing, or processing food. Shopping at the store has becoming a bit of a game. I’ve eliminated a lot of items over the past few months, the list includes but is not limited to…paper napkins, paper towels, bread, buns, sauces, anything from the deli, and all but a select group of meats, (these are mostly local and all organic). We love to get our cheese from a cheese maker in a small town where the store is only open on friday mornings, which on the good trips includes a great small town diner for breakfast. So shopping has become a game of bringing home less and less, which will be oh so much easier when gardening in the summer. Vegetables now, are local, or organic, and sometimes traded for babysitting the children next door! I’m loving trading these days!

Tonight’s dinner is Chicken Tortilla Soup from homemade chicken stock, hubby will also get a yummy turkey, cheese and veggie sandwich on whole wheat bread I made yesterday. It’s been my experience that husbands in general are not so creative at lunch time, mine stares in the fridge, and mostly gives up. Since I no longer buy deli items, he is at a loss, and so in lieu of the old fall back I am trying to have healthy lunch options in the fridge. Today I have pulled chicken simmering in the crock pot. He loves pulled pork or chicken with coleslaw on it on a bun, which is perfect since I made coleslaw a couple of days ago, and way to much of it at that! I will make more buns tomorrow. In general I’m making extra portions and freezing them singly so there are lunch foods for us, now that we are both home most of the time.

Tomorrow will be an important granola business meeting which may tell some big changes for the business, but regardless of if it changes or not, my focus needs to be balance now, incorporating the business but while enjoying living, working and eating closer to home and yes continuing my game of what else can I quit buying at the store;)

The low winter sun is beaming into my eyes, almost blindingly, through the kitchen window, and despite this the temperature reads a whopping 5 and will get 15 degrees colder yet tonight! With the tractor having a missing part, hubby can’t bring the giant front end loader full of wood around to the back door but he is on his 3 or 4th wheelbarrow load! I am going to put on my four layers and go stack it near the door so it is easier to get at during the night. Goals tonight… stay warm and watch a movie together.

As for steps taken towards? I now understand, no till planting, what a kill mulch is, and know the difference between wet keepers and dry keepers when storing vegetables and fruits. I have ideas for our compost area, and have a list of places to check out for free resources such as weed free compost, or wood chips, even big bread carrying racks that the delivery trucks use for delivering commercial bread loaves in, turns out they are perfect for stacking in root cellars so there is air around the vegetables. I have emailed the gentleman I refer to here as “pond guy” to see when he can come out and consult with us on our pond. I am committed to making it bigger, and to stock it, which would mean in addition to the beef from our cattle, and the chickens for meat and eggs and the veggies in the garden, the goal would also be to have a supply of fish of our own! So although no tangible progress has been made, I’ve learned a lot and continue to day dream.

FIG strikes again!

I have these moments I call FIG moments. Fate Is Great! You know the times that something great happens because for 12 reasons or another you ended up somewhere you didn’t intend and it worked out great?

I was out on purchasing ingredients one day and on the way I found a store that I thought might be a good venue for my granola. After I left the store, which I hadn’t planned to go to, I noticed a antique store next to it. As I have said I have been looking for an antique coffee grinder. I returned the fake antique coffee grinder to Amazon that was seemingly made of Balsa wood and was made for hands that were the size of an average 5 year old. I’ve been to a few antique stores and never found one, and unlike usual I actually asked if they ever get them in, ordinarily I quietly browse, find some great pyrex and leave when I don’t find the coffee grinder. The woman whispered to me that the St. Vinnie’s two towns away did have one. I was thrilled. Then I went and got my ingredients and went to stop at a small french cafe for a cup of Tomato Basil Soup and when I pulled into the parking spot I thought, oh forget it, I have Chicken Tortilla Soup at home, from stock that I made so I decided I would just head to St. Vinnie’s. I was going to stop at Walgreen’s to pick up the dog’s medication, that’s another story for another time, and then I figured, I could pick it up at the grocery store tomorrow. A whole long list of variables occurred but I finally arrive to St. Vinnie’s and I couldn’t find the grinder. I did find 2 sets of brand new cloth napkins and since I’ve made a vow to not buy paper napkins or paper towels anymore, I have been picking up lots of towels and napkins at St. Vinnie’s to replace these purchases with more durable items that can be reused. So I was happy with my find but when I was paying I said, I sure should have gotten here yesterday, I hear there was an antique coffee grinder but someone must have bought it. AND THEN IT HAPPENED… the woman behind me in line says… “do you mean one of those antique ones with the crank and the drawer down below,” and I nodded, wondering what she would say next. “I have one, would you like to buy it?” Yahoo! Total FIG moment! Fate is great! Really how many turns of events brought me to be standing next to this woman in the check out line? I met her the next day in St. Vinnie’s parking lot after she had emailed me showings on ebay for similar items costing $99, and she asked me for $40 and a bag of granola. DEAL! It’s a wonderful grinder! As you will see below by adjusting the wing nuts you can make an espresso grind all the way to a course grind, and it literally can not break! We made our exchange and then ended up going inside and checking out other goodies together. She said, “keep my number, I’m a bit of a hoarder, so let me know if you need something, lol!” Now I can buy beans in bulk from a local Fair Trade Coffee Roaster in town, no more pound bags of ground coffee from the grocery store.

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coffee grinds

Camo and Carharts

Writing these entries is a very special time for me, really. It represents taking time out to sit and think/ponder/wonder and more. I had more then a few teachers in school who wrote on my report card that I was a “daydreamer” and preferred looking out the windows to listening to my teacher. Well, what can I say, guilty as accused. This little blog here, allows me to sit down and daydream with free license, and no judgement.

Having said all that, I have not had the time to keep up the site, so I have been stockpiling photos as they come along and finally I get my window of time now to do this!

I have after the blizzard pictures. It was a very, very beautiful snow, in particular because it was such a heavy wet snow that it blanketed things quite dramatically as shown below…

after the storm

At this point we still were nowhere near out of our driveway! It took a Hubby 8 hours of plowing to get us out all the way to the road, but when we got there it was so drifted you couldn’t go anywhere anyhow! Oh well, I was quite happy to be a shut in!

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The day before the storm Hubby went back to our Craigslist friends who were giving away the 4 x 4 windows mentioned in another entry. When we went to get them originally, there had been an inaccuracy in measuring and they were actually more like 4 x 5 and wouldn’t fit in our truck. We ended up having a nice dinner with a friend who lived near where the windows were but still had to plan a trip back out there later for the windows. With the storm coming we thought it best to get them before they got buried in 2 feet of snow, which would have been the case as the people were storing them just on their lawn, stacked. So he went and got them with the trailer after making a rack to hold them, and it was beginning to snow as he drove home. He was glad to get off the road with them. We will go back and get 5 more windows, when these people complete their rehab on their house in the coming months. Hopefully we can get started on our greenhouse by the time the weather starts looking Spring-like!

I recently did a bit of consignment shopping and found something known as a Krumkake iron. It makes a flat cookie with a pattern in it and while warm it can be rolled into a cone shape and filled with cream or ice cream. It is the same as the Bratzli Cookie and I believe also a Pizzelle, or something such as that. It’s all regional, but the irons generally are quite expensive, and I wouldn’t think of getting one but for 4 dollars, and cast iron, yes, I thought about getting it! Check this out…

bratzli:krumkake

The cone shaped item is for rolling the cookie while warm. Oh and the sifter was 90 cents and since I’ve actually never had one, I decided why not? I’ve used it quite a bit already making bread and buns, and I like the way it lightens up the flour before mixing. Not sure why I have never had one.

Other things that have been happening on the farm is that we took an important first step into raising beef. It was time for our little bull Jack to get banded. He is not a bull we would be breeding and therefore he is a bull that will become food for us.  This was a Camo and Carhart kind of job. It was hard, but a reality in the process of raising beef and this little bull in a couple of years will provide us and friends and family some very high quality food. We will have provided Jack a quality two years side by side with his Mama, with ample available grazing, clean fresh water, a sunny paddock, shady pasture, treats, and head scratches.

The process of raising animals for food is one we continue to talk about. It’s serious, it’s a responsibility and there is no joking about this.

camo and carharts

The granola business has been keeping me very busy and is going through a growth phase, this also has been a big top of conversations of late. I’ve done my best to get in some chicken reading, bread baking and garden planning but not as much as I’d like. Yesterday Hubby had friends over for the Rose Bowl and I wanted to make something for them, after all the game was on at dinnertime. I will say the guys never ask and are always appreciative, really I just love cooking and they are a great audience, they appreciate everything! I was determined to come up with something without going out to the store. There were three of them and one is a vegetarian so what to make? I did have brats and fortunately I keep vegetarian “brats” around because I like them. There were no buns but I had solved that problem before, buns are quick to make and take oodles less waiting time than bread so they can be almost last minute! The grill was encased in ice so even for us northerners it was too much for me, usually we laugh at cold weather when it comes to using the bbq but I wasn’t going to chip through the ice. I cooked them indoors and no one cared, like I said they are so glad to get anything no one would ever complain. I had some frozen peppers and cooked them with onions, and then I got out my new “mandolin” mom gave me, Mom likes buying kitchen tools, and sometimes I am the lucky recipient of these tools! I was able to make beautifully cut french fries with this great tool, only damaging one finger just a little bit. Guess there might be some tips to using it, but I just figured it out as I went along. I baked them in the oven, I’m not a big fan of hot oil, it seems to linger in the house forever, as well as being less healthy. Try and stop me though from the occasional excellent french fries or well made fried chicken at certain restaurants, that’s tough to say no to for sure! When we have our own chickens we’ve raised, I am definitely learning how to make excellent fried chicken. Anyhow, the dinner all came together, and they were happy as could be with their brats smothered in onions and peppers, on homemade buns with a pile of french fries! I sent it all out to the shop where they were watching sat in my very quiet house and read. Ahhhhh

Finally the other day we had an amazing frost! We have taken many frost pictures here, but this was different. It was like the crystals built up on each other and it was an amazing scene!

frost

A nice finish to the entry yes?