Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy Inde-Thanks-Pendence-Giving Day!!

The family is in for their annual Summer vacation.  Christine (sister), Joe (B.I.L.), Memphis (nutjob Boxer dog) and Dad (well, dad) come to visit us and take advantage of the nearby lake fun.

With all the rain we've been getting, we were darned lucky to actually get out on the water this time.  The lake levels are really high and most of the boat launches are closed because of it.  Dad & Christine rented a pontoon boat for the afternoon and we boated, ate chicken and salad and watermelon and cookies and swam and laughed.  Fun was had by all (except for Memphis, who did NOT get to go on the boat, nor get to eat any chicken).

Because of work schedules and other time constraints, it appears that we won't be celebrating Thanksgiving with the family this year.  So since we were all together now, I though that maybe we could have Thanksgiving now.

Dad splurged on a frozen turkey, Mom made buttery/creamy/delectable mashed potatoes, I made the obligatory green bean casserole, dressing and turkey gravy, Christine brought a frozen berry pie and Joe brought the adult beverage.  It was one of the most hassle-free, albeit a bit non-traditional, holiday dinners I've ever prepared.  The fact that we had berry instead of pumpkin pie felt a bit strange, but not as strange as having a ripe watermelon sitting on the counter for "Second Dessert".

...or another turkey leg for "dessert".
So today we're giving thanks for many things; Family, Freedom and Fun!

Happy Independence Day!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

I gained ten pounds

Although there is the distinct possibility that I did in fact gain ten pounds in the last few days (family is visiting, that's my excuse and I'm sticking with it), that's not exactly what I'm talking about.

We (meaning Paul) are finally able to see the light at the end of the pork-fat tunnel.  The chest freezer has had packages (and packages, and packages, and....) of frozen pork fat in there since the last time we were gifted it from Aaron.  Paul sliced up several bags (and his thumb) and went to rendering it
Thumbs Up for Soapmaking!
And yes, that is duct tape.  Sometimes a Band-Aid just doesn't cut it.
Get it. Cut it?!  Ugh. Nevermind.
Since we already have quite the stockpile of lard for our culinary use (and I can't convince my Mom to take any), I thought it would be a good idea to show Paul the ropes of soap making.  That and the fact that I no longer have any room in the refrigerator or freezer for more lard.

Making your own soap is really not that difficult.  There are just a few simple ingredients, the most basic recipe containing nothing more than fat, lye and water.  There are just a few simple rules; don't be a moron and remove the children & animals out of the soap making area.  If you'd like a somewhat more detailed tutorial on my unprofessional & happy-go-lucky process of making soap, click HERE.

I showed Paul how I make my blender soap and what to look for in that magical moment of "trace" that all makers of soap strive for.  I showed him my "Soap Diary" with all of it's trials, errors and successes.   And although I was wont to scent every single batch with the wonderful aromas of Patchouli or Sandalwood, Paul refused to let me make more than one as he didn't want the entire house to smell like "a dirty old hippy".  So he also got to go through my box of fragrance oils and pick out his favorites.

We made four, 2 1/2 pound batches and they are currently sitting in the dishwasher until they can be unmolded and cut up into bars.  
Figured since I don't use the dishwasher anyhow it would make
a great place for my soap to cure.  And yes Dad, those are the
restaurant quality breadpans you gave me.  Which I will still
use for making bread after the soap is out of them.
We took free pork fat, mixed it with some caustic solution and BAM! - our house gained ten pounds of wonderful, aromatic, handcrafted soap!

And as soon as they are ready to ship, I promise that I'll have a give-away here so you can lather yourself up with a homemade concoction of pig fat and sodium hydroxide.   Not THAT sounds like something worth waiting for, right?

Right.

Monday, June 29, 2015

A Plea for Pickles

Hoping some of my blogging buddies can help me with a pickle we're in.

Paul and I made a batch of refrigerator dills last week and I followed some sort of online recipe.  We tasted them after 48 hours of sitting in the fridge and said "Wow!".  Not as in "Wow, that's great!", but "Wow, that's potent!".  Too much vinegar.  I think it was a 1:1 ratio of vinegar to water and not much sugar, maybe 3 tablespoons (for a gallon) along with the dill and pickling spice. 


Don't get me wrong, I'm going to eat them all.  As a matter of fact, I've got a bowl of sliced pickles that I'm crunching on now (and puckering up my mouth after each bite).

So, can any of you share your dill pickle recipe with us?  Either refrigerator or canned, although we'd prefer canned as I'm hoping that we'll have soooooo many cucumbers that we'll have an entire shelf dedicated to pickles in the pantry.

And heck, if you've got a super-duper bread & butter pickle recipe, we'd appreciate that as well.

Thanks!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Ott'a Here

No, I'm not leaving for some wonderful vacation on a island with white sands and fruity drinks bedecked with paper umbrellas.  Heck, I can't leave the homestead for more than 24 hours.  Besides, I don't do fruity drinks; I'm a whiskey kind'a gal.  And given the recent string of 97+ degree weather, I'd be more apt to splurge on an Alaskan cruise than a tropical island.

So even though I haven't been "out", we did have a couple of our livestock get out.  Fortunately for me, it wasn't on accident.

Maypop, the last Boer doeling, left for the FFA barn this past week.  She was not very happy about it either.  Her mother, however, didn't seem to mind that much and as a bonus, I've been able to get her on the stanchion and get some of that milk her kid is no longer drinking.  Now MY kid and I are able to enjoy some fresh milk.

And since the temps have been in the "It's so hot I'm rendering" digits, I had to let the little chickens out of the kidding pen in fear that they would cook into a stew.

They weren't quiet sure what to do when I opened the door, but as soon as the goats saw the open kidding pen, it quickly escalated into a crazed-caprine-stampede, every goat trying to be the first in the pen in hopes that there was bowl full of grain in there (which of course, there wasn't, but that doesn't stop them)  The chickens flew out of there like they were thrown from a catapult.  I  had been hesitant to open the door for fear of them getting pecked to death from the older birds but since we're down to only two roosters (one of them being Twinkle Toes, a gimpy one) it helps a lot; no gang of roosters to chase down all that new chicken booty.

Once they set foot out of the pen, they kind'a huddled together still inside the main barn aisle but soon hopped down to terra firma.  Smaller goats came to check them out, and the chickens hurried under then barn in fear of the small, bouncy ones.
Is it safe to come out??
OMG!  It's one of those bouncy things!!
Run away! Run away!!
All day the chickens popped in and out from under the barn, going a little farther every time and by the end of the day they had found the chicken water bucket and the grain bucket.  Come dusk, they managed to huddle together near their old confines so I simply scooped them up in one fell swoop and put them back in the pen for the night.

I probably won't put them in the main coop for a while in fear that the older hens might pick on them in the close quarters.  Then I'll have to break them of the habit of roosting in the kidding pen and try to get them to voluntarily go into the main coop.

It's a never ending chicken drama here.

Monday, June 22, 2015

I don't do Subtle

We live at the end of a dead end, country road.  And there used to be an annoyingly regular influx of lookey-loos, turn-arounds and Sunday drivers that would take the road to the end (i.e. our front yard), then do a U-turn, or at least try to do one.  There isn't really room to bust a U-ie, so most times it was a sixteen-point turn, making me wonder if any of these people ever took Driver's Ed in high school.

We have a driveway alarm so know I when someone is coming down the drive so I try to get out in the road to glare at them meet them before they get to the house.  Sometimes the turn-arounds would be apologetic, wave & say they got lost or ask for directions, but by and large, the drivers would spin around and sling gravel going back up the road. I even had a guy toss his cigarette butt out the window on his way out (I gave him a piece of my mind and had I been closer, would have chucked a rock at his back window).

Since we have a small child and livestock running around the yard, this was not only annoying, but dangerous.  

Paul put a farm gate up near the beginning of our property and I was thrilled.  It cut back on those unwanted / uninvited drivers.  But sometimes I get a little lazy forget to close the gate.  And I kid you not, the moment that gate is open we start getting the religious door-knockers and turn-arounds again.  Where's the Girl Scouts selling Thin Mints?  THEY never seem to come down here when the stupid gate is open.

Well, now that we have Charlie the GSD (Giant Sloppy Dog) even if I forget to shut the gate, most people are either hesitant to exit their vehicle or just high-tail it out of here.  Charlie isn't aggressive and if anything, I think he may have at least a mild case of narcolepsy, but just his physical presence is enough to make people not want to stick around to see if he's going to be happy to see you or want to put your head in his mouth.  One of his toys is a basketball.  Which he carries around in his mouth.  Just saying.
Charlie making sure that the grass isn't going anywhere.
Is he smiling because he's happy to see you....or happy that he'll
be making a snack out of your still-warm liver?  You decide.
So, you'd think that the one-two punch of the farm gate and the GSD would be a subtle enough hint that you are not, in fact, welcome here.

But no.  Some people. just. don't. get. it.

So I had my wonderful Sees-ter make me a couple of these puppies:

And they are going on the posts on the farm gate.

Dont' think I'm a total scrooge.  My friends know who they are, and that they are welcome any time (especially if they're bringing whiskey or when we're splitting wood).  But sometimes people are oblivious to subtleties and you just have to be painfully, unmistakably, indisputably blunt.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

14:43:21

Fourteen hours, forty-three minutes and twenty-one seconds.

That's the most amount of daylight we will have for the entire year of 2015.  Not only is the Summer Solstice today, it's also Father's Day.

So Happy Father's Day to all those men who have brightened our lives with your love, humor and wisdom.  May you continue to shine in our lives, no matter how far away or how long missed!


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Some Sage Advice

One of my most favorite side dishes is also one of the easiest to prepare.

No, it's not me opening a bar of chocolate, but making oven roasted potatoes.

I chop up white, red and sweet potatoes, drizzle olive oil over them and sprinkle them liberally with herbs, salt and pepper.  And that's it.  Then they go in the oven (with the chicken we had last night).


My favorite herb combo for roasted potatoes included sage, rosemary, oregano, parsley, salt & pepper and I'll sometimes put a shake or two of garlic powder on it.  Last year I was able to harvest and dry a bunch of herbs from my continually expanding herb garden and have been using those in the kitchen.  I've recently discovered how much I enjoy sage so my stash from last year is dwindling.

But no worries.  My sage plant overwintered last year and bloomed beautifully last month.  The flowers were filled with bees and I even got a good picture of a hummingbird moth visiting for a snack.  I should probably look into propagating some it as I believe the time is just about right to take some cuttings.

It's also high time I went out there to harvest some more sage as well as the chocolate mint for drying.  Not satisfied with just taking over the herb garden, the mint seems to have plans on taking over the entire front yard and I may have to issue an herbal restraining order on it soon (i.e. whack it back with the weed whacker).