Friday, February 18, 2011

I'm cold and there's a goat in my living room.

At least that's what I was saying a couple weeks ago when I woke up to this:
It's just wrong! WRONG WRONG WRONG! Living in Texas (south central Texas) means you should never have to walk outside and see snow on the ground. Ever. But there is was, and everything was frozen - including my feet as I slogged through it to feed the animals - and my winter garden? Toast. By Thursday of that week, the kids could walk across the small pond and the big one was iced completely over as well.
Here is John taking water out to the cows - two 5 gallon buckets at a time! I can't tell you how many countless buckets of water we took out to the various animals - sometimes several times a day! I guess farmers up north have this all worked out but we just don't expect to find every source of water completely frozen up. We are still in the midst of repairing all the lines that broke at the guest house and the processing building - what a mess!

We had just gotten a little goat (Billy) and of course we couldn't leave the little guy out in the cold so he came to live in the house with us for his first week - luckily he is just the sweetest thing and can't bear to be away from us for two seconds - literally. If we walked into the other room for even a couple seconds, he would start bleating loudly until someone came back into view. We had to do school in the living room all week to keep him quiet. It was fine with us since we were all huddled around the fireplace anyway.
It was sooo cold that I had to rise the bread in front of the fireplace! Very pioneer of me don't you think? One thing I am going to miss is sitting by the fireplace reading a book while the cold wind blows outside.....aaaaand... now I'm over it. Bring on the hot weather.

Another new baby! Welcome Samuel - bull calf born on the 16th.
That night I was in bed and after John came in from tucking in the kids, he told me Ian said something strange. John says "Ian said when he was feeding the cows today, he noticed that Abigail and her mom were off by themselves and that Abigail was wet and smaller." We looked at each other and as I lept out of bed, John ran to get the lights. We rushed out to the pasture and sure enough, we had a new calf. We put Samuel and his mother in the corral, treated his umbilical cord with iodine and gave the momma some range cubes. We had a good laugh about Ian's lack of perception - Abigail was wet and smaller indeed - and a different color!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

It's a GIRL!!!

We had our very first calf born last week! Remember the horrible freezing cold rain storm Saturday night??? Of Course! When else would a calf be born? Ian saw her early in the morning when he went to feed the pigs and we all came running...through the pouring rain... to see our new baby. Poor thing, she was soaking wet and shivering so we gathered her up and brought her in to the corral (mom close on our heels) dried her off with towels, and gave her a nice hay bunker to warm up in. John and I were covered in mud, soaking wet and freezing our tails off but the happy baby went right to sleep while momma munched hay. Ella promply named her Abigail and we just love watching her romp all over the fields with the other cows now.

If you have never planted a winter garden, well, you need to pencil it in for next September! Here is what I pulled for dinner a couple nights ago - yum! Did you know lettuce loses 50% of it's nutrition within 24 hours of being picked? You don't need acres of land - just get a book on square foot gardening and have at it! Trust me, I'm the world's worst gardener but seeds just want to grow and you can have food in your own backyard - now if you get a little crazy with this (which might happen 'cause it's so darn fun) don't go blaming me when the neighbors get cranky because you dug up your lawn to grow 15 varieties of radishes.

We used to have this thing where after Christmas, the kids could have 3 of their toys to play with - the rest had to be put in a closet and they could get one new one each week (I KNOW, we are mean, horrible parents :) We don't do that anymore because now that they are older, they usually get one or two big presents instead of a million toys. Anyway (there actually is a point to this story and not just to illustrate how we are screwing up our children) when you put something away for awhile and "rediscover" it, it makes it way WAY more fun.

About a year ago, John bought me a grain mill and dough mixer (I'm not kidding here - it really exists) because my friend Jo had one and she's really awesome so darn it, I needed one too! So he dutifully purchased them and I immediately put them on a shelf and forgot about them. So Jo (probabally realizing that I was far to stupid to make them work on my own and just a little too gadget happy) encouraged me to sign up for this blog called Kitchen Stewardship - and I did. And it's AWESOME! Her blog puts my blog to shame - seriously...this woman has the energy of a hyperactive 4 year old on a six pack of soda. She blogs nearly EVERY day and cooks and grinds her own grain and everything! But I have more kitchen toys so clearly I win. Kidding.

Long story longer...I finally pulled out the grain grinder and since the organic wheat I bought never made it into the garden (no rain for 6 months really kills the window of opportunity for
getting wheat to grow) I threw it into the Nutrimill and tried my hand at... well...whole grain everything!

Here is some dough soaking overnight before being made into bread. This is a Bosch mixer - some people get chills when they hear Lexus or Mercedes - not this girl... say Bosch or Kitchenaid and I'm all aflutter.

Whole grain granola bars - yum! They disappeared faster than a David Copperfield elephant.

I even tried the fresh ground wheat in my favorite Brown Butter Soda Bread recipe and no one complained! When I first told Ian we weren't going to eat white bread ever again, he whined and said he wasn't going to eat bread anymore till we "got the good stuff". Took about a week. Amazing how quickly a hungry child will change their mind - he loves wheat bread now - can't believe anyone would eat anything else.
Yes folks, it's just that easy.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

So I finally realized why I haven't been blogging... I mean, aside from having to work dawn to dark running a farm, homeschooling my children, keeping the house clean and creating nutritious gourmet meals each night. I mean aside from all that, I realized that it all came crashing down a couple months ago when I overheard John telling someone how funny my blogs are... wow. Seriously. That is a lot of pressure. I can't just be funny on demand ya know and so now and I feel all this pressure. to be funny. Ugh.
Well, after much reflection, I have decided to free myself from the pressure to write amusing and interesting blogs and just say what's on my mind. No more funny - anything funny from here on out is completely unintentional. Whew! Now that I have that off my chest, I will now blog with no pressure.
So recently we've been listening to some of Joel Salatin's Vision Quest talks (that my very excellent friend Jo gave me) and he is WonderFUL!!! Shame on you if you don't know who he is - just the godfather of all pasture based farming...duh. And naturally my kids are listening as well and absorbing every word. Like sponges. And much of his talk is about his trials with government regulators and all the obstacles he faced as the forerunner of the local food movement etc.
NOW my very crazy/funny/weird son plays Health Department Raid with his legos - see the scene I came upon when I walked into my kitchen the other day.

Ian's big goal in life is to become a lawyer so that he can defend farmers and sue McDonalds and Tyson. John and I can't decide whether to be proud or afraid for this child's future. Scary.

The other night I made roast chicken with butternut squash, mushrooms and garlic. Delish. I'll post the recipe on the website. By the way... this is a Freedom Ranger which is an absolutely wonderful bird. Yum. I love fall root veggies and gourds. And mushrooms and garlic... OK I never met a food I didn't like...except lima beans...yuck. Maybe if I put some in the garden I'll be forced to love them. Or the pigs will :)

Look what The World is Coming to an End Soon Santa brought me! A dehydrator!!! A BIG ONE!!! I asked for a dehydrator for Christmas but I was thinking the little Ronco model that holds like 10 grapes or something... not this "Store Enough Food for the End Times" model that I unwrapped on Christmas morning. Gracious! Needless to say, in the past few days all of the food has disappeared from my fridge and is now in vacuum bags in the pantry awaiting the next armageddon. I'm having an absolute ball dehydrating food but do you know how many apples I have to slice, peel and core to fill 12 shelves? I'm exhausted! Ya know... some women get jewelry for Christmas. Suckers.

So I threw everything I could find into the dehydrator and ... oh good god... is that avocado on the second shelf up? Yup. Dehydrates about the same as slices of butter. Don't do that. It doesn't work. Darn. Pigs liked it.
Apples, pears, carrots, tomatoes, oranges - oh my. Next nuclear winter comes, party at my house.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Worst blogger EVER!!!

Yes, it's true - I'm the absolute worst blogger on the planet - I just checked my blog and I didn't post one single thing in November and only once in October. I could make excuses but we all know what excuses are like...and I don't even have any pictures for you... well, I have one...

We have been eating a LOT of chicken so I am becoming the resident expert on chicken stock and it's magically delicious properties which are numerous! Short of fueling the space shuttle, this amazing liquid can do anything! It's practically a superfood in a pot - it cures ALL ills (caution...this statement has not been evaluated or approved by the FDA) and I have just discovered a secret that my owl and hawk friends (HA!) taught me - the head of the chicken is really the best part!

Yes, I often cook broth with the carcass left over from our meals and it was WAY better than that travesty they call chicken stock at the store but last night I put in three heads and six feet with the carcass and BAM!!! Chicken broth ala'extrodinare! It was golden, rich and mmmmmmmmm. And if you put enough onion and celery in, you can't even see the heads staring out at you (just kidding...their eyes are closed) just don't stir it too much or you have to keep poking beaks and toes down into the broth with is actually pretty amusing in a witch's brew kind of way.

I had read an old chicken broth recipe that said to remove the skin from the feet which I did on a few of them but even I have to admit that it's creepy and gross so I stopped - hey, it's all getting strained out anyway! I now have more chicken broth in my freezer than I can shake a stick at ... winter colds, do your worst!

Can you tell that I have been reading a book on the origin of old colonial colloquialisms (I challenge you to say that 10 times fast!) Yes, this is actually the kind of stuff I read when I'm not reading farming books. My favorite so far is haywire 'cause I actually really get that one! I deal with hay wire a lot and it can be pretty crazy for sure! Warning - many weird expressions will be liberally sprinkled throughout my blogs so be on the lookout 'cause here on the farm we talk turkey and go whole hog!

Until next time,


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ugh... How long since last post???

Alright, so its clearly been crazy busy around here and I have not posted in some time which is not coming as a shock to anyone in my family or close friends - honestly, if they didn't call me to make sure I'm still alive, I probably would never EVER talk to anyone right now! So here is the news in a nutshell: We have cows. 4 beautiful Murray Greys were delivered by the nicest couple you have ever met - love them - and how cool is the husband's name: Horace McQueen. Just saying it makes me feel like I'm on Lonesome Dove (which is John's all time fav. show) So we had this awesome shade structure built (by our very wonderful friends the Kellys) so that while we are doing this management intensive grazing thing, the cows can have shade. Don't even begin to ask what the MIG thing is unless you have an hour or so to kill. Just know - it heals the land and improves the pastures while keeping the cows healthy and making more work for us. Naturally.

The same day the cows came, we hosted a showing of FRESH and it was awesome! We had a huge turnout and the screen we rented was soooooo cool! I want one!!! I tried to talk John into it - even trying the "we could watch Survivor in the backyard every week!!!" but it's a no go - once you add up the projector, speakers and the rest, well...cha ching doesn't even begin to describe it.

The fall garden is in - everything is growing well - I'll post pics soon - no really. I will.

Pigs are doing great - happy and funny as can be.

Still dealing with an owl problem - hate that darn thing - just invested several hundred in some blinking red lights that are supposed to keep it away. Wouldn't a .50 cent bullet do the same thing? If there are any game wardens reading this, I'm just KIDDING! For now.

I've gone out several times at midnight and there it is, just sitting on the barn or pole trying to decide which chicken to eat. We rescued two Great Pyranees that are keeping it at bay - mostly.

Our processing shed is built and we are getting the electricity and water hooked up - just in time for our first on-farm sale day. I have been overwhelmed and amazed at how many people manage to just find us because they are looking for clean, humane food. WOW - we have done virturally zero advertising and we are getting close to selling out of all of our chickens and turkeys. John thought we were crazy to raise so many before we even had one single customer but people are hungry for real food and God has provided like crazy. We found a wonderful church near us and have started going to a bible study each week and... it's all good here on the farm.

Well...maybe exept that small bit about how it hasn't rained in over a month now so if you are looking for something to add to your prayers - rain would be nice.


So... I even hate to post this pic... but one of our rabbits just kindled (translate to gave birth) to four babies. They are so darn cute it just makes you want to squeal (well...maybe only if you're a girl) so the absolute hardest part about raising meat rabbits is just how darn adorable they are as babies. What kind of heartless wretch do you have to be to kill and eat these fuzzy cuties? I'll let you know in December - they are already sold so the date is looming.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Walk on the wild side and evolution of an organic garden

So I'm walking out to the pasture a couple days ago and I see mushrooms growing on the ground and naturally I think "Wow, free food!" I'm shocked when I bring in my harvest and my family acts like I'm trying to kill them....Puleeeeze!!! These can't possibly be poisonous right???? Well to allay their fears, I look up poisonous mushrooms on the internet and darn...I find the exact same mushroom listed as a killer...I hate when my family is right, I'll never live this down... BUT says the definitive test is that the spores of the deadly mushroom are white! I do the little prescribed spore test and....
HA! Clearly this has black spores. They still are not convinced so I take a couple bites (Actually the internet said worst case is that I end up in the hospital with severe stomach cramps and the internet is never wrong - so there) I told the little doubting Thomases (and the one big one) that if I make it 6 hours with no ill effects, the mushrooms are just fine. I did get a little nervous when they all set their watch timers :( BUT HA! again 'cause here I am days later, still alive with no ill effects whatsoever! It's sauteed' mushrooms tonight baby! And lest you wonder...they taste FABULOUS - like what the store bought mushrooms taste like in their dreams.
So now that I have survived Domestic Mushroom Experiment 101, I am on to putting in the fall garden. Step 1 - till the ground (we are strip tilling this year and hoping to go to a no-till next season - more on that later) Step 2 - put up a fence when I realize that Bessie is just waiting to munch all my tasty new plants. She stolls over daily to check out what is going on.

These are super wide rows, I know! But I have lots of room and efficiency is not my main goal here. I left plenty of room to mow between the rows since I am leaving the grass to hold the soil in place and help the moisture content. I am also doing organic wheat in a huge tilled area to the right of this picture. I bought it from a local grower so I'm pretty proud about the whole thing. Fresh bread soon to come....well...not soon really, but one of these days. Don't start salivating yet - I'll let you know when.
Step 3 - put in hoops to support the netting. This is the most important part of the organic garden because it will keep insects and birds away from my crops without having to use any chemicals. That's the theory at least. I'll let you know how it goes.

Yes, the gigantic hat is required attire for working in the garden. Just so you know.
More about the new fall garden in the next blog - stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

So much going on!!!

I just realized that I haven't blogged in over a week and now I have so many things to try to remember... ugh. OK, let's start with the rain situation - the grass was beginning to get a bit a crispy and then...hallelujah! Rain, rain and more rain! We had a FULL rainbow TWO days in a row - it was spectacular and awe inspiring and just really really.... um, hmmm... nope, can't think of any words that will do it any justice - you had to be there.

Newest animal on the farm.... PIGS!!! We found a show breeder that was willing to sell us some rare Glouchestershire (Gloustesheer if you're a Texan) Spot Pigs. These wonderful pigs are on the critically endangered list because they make really bad confinement housed pigs and will really only thrive on pasture. Gotta love an animal that demands fresh air, grass and sunlight to grow. They are hilarious and we have really enjoyed watching them root around in the dirt and swim in their watering trough. The best thing about having pigs though is that I no longer throw out even one scrap of food. Of course the kids have caught on and now anything they don't want to eat is "I'm saving this for the pigs" It's not really complimentary for my cooking but so far the pigs haven't complained - bless their little pink noses!

And then we nearly went a whole week without adding any more animals to this ark - gasp! But luckily we drove up on Saturday and picked out 6 new cattle. Let me explain... two bred (read pregnant) cows and their most recent calves, technically six head of cattle - sort of. They are a breed called the Murray Grey which - can you guess??? Are known for their excellent pasturing skills and meat quality. I also think they are really pretty - hee hee, I'll bet it really irritates all the old, rough and tough cattle guys when I say that but 'cmon... they ARE! Pretty. There...I said it again.

I'll add tasty when the two steer calves dress out in January but until then, pretty. The one with the red tag is ours - they are being delivered to the farm (when they get here do we have to call it a ranch?) on September 25th after their vet check. Yes, for anyone paying attention, that is the same day as the FRESH screening here so needless to say, much coffee will be consumed.

Whoa... this is one of the steer (educational note - a castrated male) calves - he's gonna be a big fella - I think we'll call him T-bone.
Let's see...other exciting news...a reporter from Country World magazine came out to the farm to do an article on us!!! He watched us moving the turkeys and feeding the animals and of course waited until I was completely covered in crud and sweating to take my picture....sigh.... I just can't seem to make this look glamorous - oh well, I guess these days no one would recognize me if I wasn't covered in gunk and sweat.
Everything else is going great - we have new customers every day and I think the Turkeys will be sold out by the end of the month - everyone seems excited by the chicken program and the new fangled processing shed is being built this week. Chickens are laying more eggs every day and if Ella can stop making eggs and bacon every day for breakfast we may actually have some to sell. The Lord is raining his blessings down on our little farm in a million different ways. Praise!