Farm Christmas

measurable snow

Even though it has been in the well below zero wind chills on and off for quite some time, it has only been Winter  for 4 days on the calendar. We most recently got close to 8 inches, on top of what was left from several smaller snows, but just to spice it up there was some freezing rain before it and after it. This resulted in all kinds of looks and sounds. At the farm where, I bake my granola, in a shared kitchen, the Maples were encased in clear glass-like ice, and when the wind blew through them they literally sounded like a percussion instrument.

I also saw very cool things on my “commute” to the kitchen.

on my commute 2

Bummer that these apples never got picked last fall, but they sure look amazing coated in ice!

on my commute 3

It seemed each time the road curved the scene changed. Here things were coated in layers of frost, instead of ice.

Christmas Day was wonderful. It snowed Christmas Eve and on and off all day on Christmas. We all exchanged gifts that were so wonderfully useful like, toasty warm socks, flannel shirts, gloves, hats, and slippers. We also exchanged some gifts that were local products to the area which is always fun to do.

what to do without wrapping paper

Last year after Christmas, I decided I was done with wrapping paper for a whole list of reasons, but mostly because it is an item for which the entire purpose is to rip it and throw it away. I’m done. So this year I used pillow cases. It was perfect. It was easy to clean up from and kept the surprise until the recipient pulled it out. I was thrilled and boy was “wrapping” easy!!

We ate very well too! I hope someday to raise our own turkeys but this time it was a natural, free range, turkey from the co-op. We mashed a pile of my neighbors potatoes, and made stuffing using the neighbors carrots, local onions, and a fresh egg from the coop. I cooked some of last years green beans and yellow beans from the neighbor and made cherry vanilla ice cream for dessert, using the cherry liquid from the canned giant west coast cherries my daughter shared with us. All in all a delicious and pretty local meal.

Chickens Xmas Eve

The hens also ate well on Christmas Eve. They enjoyed two bowls (no shoving this time) of yogurt and oats and some organic scratch I found for them. Happy Hens!

It was a very nice Farm Christmas.

Wrappings are trappings and a busy time of year…

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Wow, delivery afternoons are getting dark early these days. This picture of a neighboring farm was taken at only 3:30 in the afternoon!

This is a busy time of year with holidays and family gatherings bumping up against each other all at once. Each one is enjoyable and fun, but requires preparation and planning. It is now Christmas time, and my perspective is quite a bit different this year. I’ve lost the notion to purchase a gift for each person on my list. Although I have purchased some very practical and useful items for some, most people this year will be receiving gifts I have made, much of it from my summer bounty of food preservation that I so enjoyed doing this past summer. Gifts include pickled items, jams, bbq sauce, dried tomatoes, salsas, hot cocoa mix, chocolate chip cookie recipes in a jar to be made at home on a snowy day, and even pork, which to the right recipient is more appreciated than any purchase from a store! My nephew couldn’t have been happier with his bacon and bbq sauce package! I’ve also added to the long list of “what I don’t buy at the store anymore”. I’m done with gift wrap. Wow, an entire business built on making something to throw away! Trees come down, ideas get designed, rolls and rolls of paper get printed, and then it’s boxed and shipped all over the place so we can go into a store and buy it so that someone can tear it off and throw it away, ugh. I just can not do it anymore. I’m giving gifts in leftover boxes from my business, and apart from that pillow cases or pieces of fabric work well, or in some cases I will just ask the recipient to close their eyes and put out their hands! Of course also on the gift list was granola from my business. I’ve yet to put the name of my business on this blog, as my focus on the blog is Homesteading, however, it’s my granola business that has allowed me to be able to break a trail into homesteading so here you go little business, time to introduce you to each other. Blog, it’s time to meet really granola

I’ve been busy meeting orders for Winter Gift Giving Jars for the business, as well as keeping stores supplied with bags. It’s taken me a bit back from the homesteading activities but being that it is winter there is less I can do towards homesteading, with the exception of collecting eggs, feeding chickens, baking bread and snack items, and keeping the fire going. It’s also been a time to really take in, and enjoy the bounty of last summer as our meals at this point are all within about 1/4 mile of our home! Between our fresh eggs, chickens in the freezer, the items I canned, a freezer full of fruits and vegetables, with another freezer filled with pork, and my winter’s share of potatoes, carrots and onions from our organic farmer neighbor, we relish in each meal as we account for where each item on our plate has come from. Another awesome part about Winter is that it is all about hot coffee in hand, a good fire heating the house and settling in with notes from the past year and seed catalogs for next year. More of this, less of that, plant this earlier, things I should have planted but didn’t, etc. Also a time to be doing the same with notes from livestock raising this year. How many chickens next year…do we have the infrastructure and pasture enough for more pigs…learning more about marketing the pigs such as selling “on the hoof”, which is a much easier way to sell large amounts, but certainly requires more knowledge and connections. There is so much to learn, and Winter is the perfect time for this. There will be more time for all of this after the first of the year. So yes there have been distractions which can be a negative word, but it doesn’t have to be at all, holidays and family are wonderful distractions! In January things will settle into the long part of Winter, which is also a nice time of year, and very quiet.

Last night I tried making a double batch of no knead bread, it turned out great. The house smelled awesome, the bread was delicious, and the snowy scene out the kitchen windows was quiet and beautiful.

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So much to be thankful for…

I’ve been a bit pulled out of my routines, but all for good reasons. We had our wonderful west coast family out for a good long visit over the Thanksgiving holiday. Celebrating a holiday with my older daughter’s family and children, and with my younger daughter who now lives in town is beyond wonderful. Our house was filled with family and laughter and more noise then this house ever has anymore, despite everyone’s efforts to shush for the sleeping baby:) It was all great! My grandson was simply blown away by the amount of snow he woke up to on his first morning here. He was all excited about sledding because 1+ inches of snow to him is a “snowstorm”!

west coast meets the north

He was pretty excited to get out there with Grandpa!

During the visit, our daughters headed south early to help their Grandmother cook for Thanksgiving, which was beyond special for all of them. Then we came down Thanksgiving Day with our contributions to the meal. I brought gravy. I make this ahead from stock – which was gifted to me by my sister this year, this was definitely a collaboration of efforts! I also brought Pumpkin Bread from our own roasted pumpkins and our own eggs and Pumpkin Pie, again from our roasted pumpkin, our eggs AND I sweetened it with the Elder Syrup we collected last February from our neighbor’s Box Elder Trees. It was delicious and got good reviews! I also brought some Rhubarb Chutney I had made last summer, it is great on poultry. The meal came together beautifully, Mama’s bird was a beauty, and so tasty, Sister’s potatoes were delicious, and she’s inspired me to to try making a pecan pie sometime, I never have and love it. Hers was yummy! It was great to be surrounded by so much family while sharing a delicious meal that came together with everyone’s efforts and love.

So now with Thanksgiving past it is time to get back to focusing on my business and the farm, getting back into the rhythm of baking and delivering my granola, as well as keeping up with home life, the chickens, and cooking. Yesterday I went and saw my favorite chicken lady, she has a wonderful store in the next town over, and she told me the value of giving the chickens scratch grain (some people call it chicken candy) during this really cold weather. She said if you give it in the late afternoon they fill their crops with it and then digest it overnight which helps to keep them warmer. Tonight the wind chill will be -10 so I was glad for her knowledge and was on my way with my sack of chicken goodies!

Today I have been moving pretty slowly, having a cold is a good time to get some things done, like wrestling with the healthcare.gov website and taking care of emails, and contacting people who were interested in our pork. I also made chicken soup with the remnants of our chicken dinner from the other night. That has to help a cold, right?¬† I did get out for a little fresh air, and sorted some buckets of kindling, which is my secret weapon for a quick start fire. It was nice to get out, even with the crazy temperatures. The weekend project is getting the garage reorganized from the arrival of the pork freezer and relocating it to a permanent spot. Then I can open the boxes of pork to sort it by pieces into the freezer. There are definitely people waiting for it! So, there is always plenty to do around here, but for today it was nice to have a quiet day at home to move a little slower and to keep adding wood to the fire…