Taking Stock

We are getting to that time of year where I am taking stock in the freezers. What we used too quickly becomes a note for next year. What we have used slower is for one of two reasons, one being that I was worried we would use it too fast and I didn’t gauge it right, and the other reason because sometimes there are things that are less easy to come up with ideas for cooking. These are mostly cuts of meat I am unfamiliar with cooking, and for those items I get out cookbooks, or check in with some websites that are go to pages for me when needed.

This, freezer find, was our very last bag of whole tomatoes from last year, and with it I also brought in, from the freezer, a few pounds of ground beef, leaving us with just 2 lbs left! We will see ground beef again in the early Summer when our steer gets processed. We will be eating pork and chicken till then. These tomatoes became delicious pasta sauce, which now is in the freezer in containers and will become “convenience food”, for a quick dinner.

Also in the kitchen…

As I took stock on the freezer I found these turkey necks and of course put up a huge pot of them. In this case, taking stock, lead to making stock! They were given to me by a turkey farmer a couple miles away from here. I bought a turkey from him, last Fall, and apparently he doesn’t have enough customers for turkey necks because he sent me home with about 8-10 pounds of necks for free! These, as I mentioned in an earlier post, are like gold to me, just like my Mama taught me they were. This giant pot is filled about 2/3 of the way up with turkey necks, and then covered with water. They have been simmering since yesterday noon and will continue to do so till tonight or possibly tomorrow morning. Good thing I reorganized the freezers, I will be putting a lot of containers of broth in them.

My plant starts are going great! I made a bit of a rookie mistake by starting too many, but as it turns out, I will be able to sell/trade many of them. I started with 2-3 seeds in each compartment of the seed tray figuring that they wouldn’t all germinate, but they did! I pulled them out and separated them thinking that I would lose some while I pulled them apart. I tried hard to not tear their little roots up, when I divided them, and again they all made it! I will be able to sell many of these tomatoes starts, and the money made on them will pay for all my seeds. Can’t really beat that!

These are just the re-potted ones I separated, I have many more to separate today, as well as re-potting my red and green cabbages. Once again taking stock and trying to figure out what is enough for us and what is for sale.

Despite our crazy snowy weather, followed by nice weather, followed by snowy weather, these tenacious little Chives presented themselves in time for a plate of scrambled eggs and chives this morning. There is not much green out there yet, but little bits are appearing quickly. We should have Spring green colored grass by next week, it’s so close.

These were gathered on a walk yesterday. It was a beautiful warm day, and the Cottonwood buds are maybe not perfectly ready but very close, close enough to use, and I will gather more this week when they swell further, but before they show leaves. The buds are resinous, quite sticky and have an interesting, in a good way, smell to them. Cottonwood buds can be made into a salve to alleviate sore muscles. I have never made it before but it is said to be very effective, and can be bought commercially online. I am excited to make this and see how it works for me. It is also referred to as Balm of Gilead.

Here are the buds in Olive Oil, sitting in the sun, doing their thing. Once they have sat for enough time, I will strain it and mix it in the proper proportion with beeswax and coconut oil to make it a soft enough salve to rub on the skin. It might be nice after a long day of gardening or food processing this Summer.

Although I mostly write about farm and food, we are about more than that here. We are family, farm and food, although with much of our family spread out around the country, we don’t often have large groups around the table. Recently though, we had reason to celebrate a special occasion here. It was a warm and wonderful feeling seeing so many people around our table enjoying each other. The Currier and Ives dishes, I have enjoyed collecting from second hand stores, made the table quite pretty.

Between Seasons

Currently it is snowing and underneath the snow is a fine layer of ice. No April fool’s day, its the 3rd, this is just plain old Midwestern Springtime. A day ago I was collecting sap and it was running well, and today I was doing the winter thing, making soup and hot buns to have for dinner.

The cattle are happy in any weather and they have been mugging for the camera. This little fellow is Splash, and below is his Dad, Scotty, everyone has been soaking up the sunshine that we had so much of last week.

This time of year there is little green for the chickens to find to eat. We are looking forward to Spring and Summer, when the birds will start out on grass and we will have nice orange egg yolks again. This day though I got the lucky text from my neighbor who farms micro greens. Often he has trays of the them that are not usable, either because he cut what he needed or they got too tall etc. He filled the back of my car with trays for the birds, and I left him with eggs. The birds were thrilled, and my kind neighbor was happy with the eggs.

This picture goes under the category of…sometimes you need more help. You reach a point in life where you want to keep doing what you are doing but you find it getting harder to do. That is when it is time to upgrade tools so the machines can do the harder work. This new unit will make hubs jobs infinitely easier. Looking forward to my driving lessons when things warm up.

And speaking of getting older…we go through so much of this golden broth!! We are firm believers in the benefits of bone broth for the joints, and so I make this much about every couple of weeks. I make it mostly from our stewing birds we have in the freezer. It is such rich and delicious broth! I know I have mentioned this before but it’s become an integral part of our routines, and so it continues to pop up in my posts.

Each year we hope to learn a few new things to add to our list of homestead skills. This year we expanded into smoking meat. We have so far smoked delicious ribs a few times, brats, pork hocks, that were great in split pea soup, and even a side of salmon from a local who fishes in Alaska. This past weekend though we went for the biggie. We pulled out the two pork bellies we had been scratching our heads about how to properly prepare. We had great guidance from someone with experience, and he coached us well.

Ready for the cure….

I rubbed the cure on the bellies. Then they went into the fridge for 5 days.

Day 5 they got rinsed and then put in the fridge to dry for a couple of hours. It was then smoked for 2 hours.

… and here is our uncooked bacon after it’s been smoked. It turned out really well. We enjoyed every bite. We have some tweaks to do to lower the salt a bit in it, but we are very satisfied with it! A new skill learned!

As the season struggles to show off it’s true colors, I found myself poking in places just to see a sign! Here it was, a sign of encouragement from my Rhubarb, showing me it has full faith in the season! Looking forward to rhubarb crisp already!

This will all look so different in just a matter of weeks!