A Florida visit – sunny and warm!

As I have said before, this has been a busy time with family events. I generally fly once a year out to the coast to see the kids, or some years we camp and don’t fly at all. This year started with a trip to Portland, Oregon to see family, of which we have a lot of in Portland. That was January, then in February my sister and I made the annual pilgrimage to Florida to see Mom and Dad. We spend a few days with them and then allocate a few days for ourselves down on Anna Maria Island. Weather some years has been very cool and some years we sneak in one nice day, after all it is February. This year was unprecedented with each day being perfectly beautiful and my peeling nose is the proof. Why do I always mess up the first day in the sun, feeling like, “oh it’s only for a few minutes, I will put it on tomorrow?” NOT doing that again. My sister and I had great fun, waffling between doing nothing important and having spontaneous planning sessions relating to the two businesses we own between the two of us, I with Granola, and she with her wine business. Sometimes those planning sessions were dotted with too many beach drinks and what they lacked in productivity they packed a punch in the fun department;)

beach view

book beach

I also did some excellent reading on the beach, here is the proof! This book is intoxicating, really, and it all makes such beautiful simple, sense.

home in the storm

When I returned home there were a few struggles and bumps as I ended up diverting, delaying and then finally heading home where we were experiencing a heavy snow storm. Here we were getting ready to turn into the driveway. It was a long day, and I could not have been happier to get back to the farm!

Yet another step towards, and a noisy one at that!

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So, I was excited to be helping with a task like this and actually make a difference in the workload for Hubby! We were able to cut most of this tree up in good time with two of us working on it at the together. Although I was using the “little” chainsaw, it was a lot of machine for me to get used to using! The gear alone was a workout…quilted lined overalls, protective chaps, andĀ  layers that included; long underwear, pants, extra shirts, heavy work coat, big boots and a hard hat with ear and eye protection. This all while carrying the saw was a definite challenge and workout especially while carefully navigating over all the cut limbs and branches! It wasn’t as big a workout for him, but I went to sleep kind of sore, and very pleased!

Keeping my focus

It’s been hard lately finding time to keep my focus and make my steps. There has been oodles of family stuff going on requiring travel here and there. What with parents in the South, and a new grand daughter on the west coast in the end of April, and relatives up north, it’s been tricky to stay focused on both my steps and my business. The business is likely undergoing some restructuring and it feels like everything is in flux lately!

The best way to soothe my soul is to go back to my steps. Lately that has taken the form of cooking as everything outside is nothing but frozen tundra. Even the woodpile was frozen together last night, requiring a bit of banging around to loosen up a few pieces. The wind literally howled yesterday, for the majority of they day, and so we really piled on the wood to combat the wind. Our relatively tight house even had wind whistle in, in some spots we never knew about. Silver lining? Now we know where are leaks are, so we will add a bit more weather stripping here and there in hopes of sealing these small spots.

As I continue my game of…”wait a minute, I could make that instead,” I went out and bought my Masa Harina Flour. Now to try out the press that hubby brought up from the basement. I literally haven’t any idea what it used to press, but it worked beautifully for my tortillas, as long as I kept them small. Good bye store bought tortillas and corn chips! Here are some pictures of the press, the tortilla and the yummy chips and fresh pico de gallo when it all came together.

tortilla press

tortilla

chips and pico de gallo

This snack was a one of hubby and company’s snacks for the Super Bowl. I enjoyed a NON super bowl event with friends and supplied plenty of this for our gathering as well. I would say that tortilla making was a success. I learned that even though I could see my hand through the tortilla they weren’t quite thin enough so I will make them thinner next time, but all in all they were very good. I baked them rather then frying, although I bet they would have been awesome fried:)

A new thing to tackle was my fear of pizza crust. I don’t know why but both pizza crust and pie crust have been things I am daunted by, always feeling like they won’t turn out right. It can’t be that hard right? So I tried my hand at a whole wheat crust pizza and never again will I think crust is hard thing to make well. It was awesome!!! Check it out below…

pizza

It actually made TWO pizzas this size so I was able to cut up one and put all the pieces in the freezer for quick lunches or a dinner in a pinch with a salad to go with it. The pizza was so good, of course it had the best local cheese on it, and lots of veggies; portabella mushrooms, fresh garlic, green onions, and tomatoes. It was a definite make again, and took NO time at all. I used to (I confess) buy cheap pizzas that were 4 for $10 and then we would pile on good cheeses and veggies. We will not be doing that anymore!

When not working on the Granola biz, family commitments or cooking, I have been read read reading! We had a good garden talk while driving up north last weekend to see family. I have my lists of things to plant, and we did go outside and put in sticks to mark off the new chicken area and garden area. After changing our plan for the old goat yard that was to become a chicken yard, and instead making it a pig pen, we had to reconfigure the garden spot and the chicken yard, but we think we have that all squared away now. I am ready to order my chickens for about the 3rd week of April, I selected Buff Orpingtons for their cold hardiness, because they brood well, are dual purpose egg and meat birds and are generally said to have good dispositions. Today I will be calling the “pond guy” seems emailing isn’t his thing and I want to nail down a date for our pond evaluation, and get pricing on fixing it and stocking it! It’s all very exciting that this will really happen!!

Because winter has been getting long and I have been thinking so much about gardening and fresh garden food, I needed something to eat that reminded me of warmer days, and look what I found in the freezer mid winter…

strawberries

Yummy strawberries picked last June, at a nearby farm. As I looked out at the snow and the icy driveway, I remembered how hot it was the day my daughter and I picked these berries. It was nice to have taste of summer goodness!Now… back to the granola biz

…and five more inches tonight

Mostly it has just snowed and snowed! Three inches here, 6 inches there, and it continues to pile up. Unfortunately, our tractor which hubby is always in charge of fixing has run into a problem even he can’t fix. It was sadly loaded up on a trailer and hauled away for repairs. That was three snow storms ago. That leaves us down to one vehicle, because only the truck will make it in and out of the driveway, without the tractor being able to plow us out! Tonight another 5 inches are coming, we are crossing our fingers that the tractor will be fixed soon. Tomorrow is supposed to be a delivery day, and of course the snow will be fresh in time to hit the road, I might combine errands and deliveries with hubby tomorrow, he loves the challenge of fresh snow, in true man fashion.

I have been continuing my game of what not to buy at the store anymore. So far my newest discovery is pretzels. The other night we were snacking on the last of a bag of pretzels and hubby asked if I would pick up more at the store next time. Well that prompted an immediate smart phone search, hmm how to make pretzels. I found a recipe from a cook I know of, and generally has pretty tried and true recipes. I thought I would give it a try. Then I saw another recipe which turned out to be the recipe I found, with some improvements, this one boiled the pretzels in a good IPA beer. Hubby loves IPA’s so much that if a bar doesn’t have a good IPA he will actually order water! No other beers will do! So I made this recipe which really was quite easy! We like the crunchy hard pretzel nuggets, so that’s is what I made. They turned out pretty darn good.

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Today I am going to town and will get some Masa CornĀ  (Harina de Maiz) flour and try my hand at Tortillas, which of course leads to not only homemade tortillas but also homemade corn chips! Two more things to take off the shopping list. You do need a press, unless you have a hidden talent for making tortillas by hand. I looked on ebay at antique ones to get ideas for how to make one and then just as I had come up with a super easy design to go over with Hubby, he said “wait a minute” and came back with this amazing looking cast iron press he had in the basement. I have no idea what it was intended for but I am going to try using it as a Tortilla press. He cut me two squares of wood to press them between and then I will put parchment between the wood and the dough and then hopefully it will press very nicely! I am looking forward to trying this!! I have been invited to a “not super bowl party” at a friends house, yea you guessed it, I am not a big football fan. I am hoping to bring these corn chips and some pico de gallo. I got the recipe for the pico de gallo from a work colleague who moved here from Mexico at fifteen. She always made the best food for work potlucks, it was a down side of leaving my other job:(

We met last week with our Chicken friend. She gave us lots of knowledge and ideas to think about for our Spring Chickens! Totally looking forward to all Spring has to hold for us. She gave us new ideas and changed some of our old ideas. We thought we were going to be discussing the old goat yard with her for the chickens but we had a change on that one. When Fish and Wildlife were out here working on our project in the woods, one of them told us about his pigs that he has. They are Black Heritage pigs. As we started inquiring about his prices for his slow raised pork, he showed us how our old goat yard (that we thought was our future chicken yard), would be perfect for two pigs with little to no changes in fencing. So why buy pork when you you have a perfect pig pen? Of course pigs get lonely if they don’t have a pal, so we will get two piglets, come May. We will go out to their farm and see what their operation is like before we purchase said pigs, and yes I know they are cute and yes I am aware that often they are affectionate with their people, it’s ok, I will have the same affection for them, without doubt. I also can’t forget what I am doing here. I am raising healthy clean food for us, in the process I will (here’s my mantra) enjoy giving each animal a happy pasture, back scratches, a shady tree and outdated granola for treats! (My first batch in the new kitchen way back when was too sticky, thus the lucky pigs and cows!)

Lastly, my newest “step” this week was my first chainsaw lesson! It was not as hard as I thought, and I quickly realized the skill is more in knowing how the wood will react when you cut it, then knowing how to actually cut through it. The picture below shows my homework for this week….

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Now I am off to the store, haven’t been there is a while, hopefully I will be buying, very little!