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A Quick Step

I say that Homesteading is like dancing.  The challenge is you do not always get to plan what dance you will be doing.  Today, the Lord blessed us with a quick step.  Things happened rapid fire and we were just responding to them.  Which can be a blessing and God always works things out for our good, sometimes it is just hard to keep your footing!  

One the farm we are having a challenge with foxes.  Today, the fox took our “pet” turkey.  Now, we do not normally have pet turkeys, turkeys are here for a season and then they are frozen.  This turkey had an umbilical hernia when it was younger.  This needed time to heal and she was not able to go to butcher with everyone else.  The problem then compounded itself.  She became 30 pounds.  We did not have a way to disbatch her on the farm and she was too big for the butcher to do.  So we kept her until we had another plan.  Little did we know the fox was the plan.  My husband went out and saw the fox killing her.  So we knew this was a fresh situation.  As sad and horrible as it is.  This meant that we would be able to save some of that 30 pounds of meat!  We were able to save and cook that meat for the dogs.  There was nothing wrong with it. It was perfectly wonderful meat, but I just felt safer giving it to the dogs than to me.  This situation meant that our dance changed.  We had to process this animal right away.  We respected her, loved her and valued the gift God had given us, we did not want to see it go to waste.  

While all this was going, I was in the process of making chapstick, bottling vinegar and rendering lard in the kitchen.  I had to quickly finish what I was doing to make room for this blessing.  Time to turn on the music, put your head down and just dance.  

Making our own chapstick is something that we have started to clean up our lifestyle and use the blessings God has given us.  We use the wax from the bee hive and coconut oil.  That is it.  Clean simple chapstick using the “waste” product of bee keeping.  Part of the homestead is using all that you have been given.  
The vinegar is made from apples.  These are the storage apples that have started to go soft in the apple fridge.  I chop them up, fill a jar with apples, water and a tablespoon of sugar.  Cover with cheese cloth and let science do the work.  This jar sat on the counter for 6 weeks till it reached a pH of 3.  Today was the filtering and bottling day!  It feels good to be able to make vinegar for my family.

 
The dance continues.  This is the dance from a couple of weeks ago that I just never hit publish.  It can be added to the snapshot of this weekend. 

Sunday Snapshot for Jan 24. 

I am horrible at keeping up with the blog, I am sorry for that.  There are so many things that I do as part of the dance that we call life and I dont think of them as extraordinary.  My loving husband reminds me that our life is not ordinary and I need to write about it.  So I am just going to write about our weekend.  A normal weekend!  

We are down to only 6 bars of soap, so it was time to make another two batches.   Our soap is very simple, it is lard, goats milk and lye. We also have a few variations that include lavender oil or tea tree oil.  My family has sensitive skin and we like to keep our skin care simple.  We use this basic soap as hand soap, body soap and shampoo.  I prefer the lavender oil and during the summer when we have poison ivy and bug bites that tea tree oil is amazing.  This weekend we made a batch of with lavender oil and a batch with just goats milk.   We do this every couple of months, when we notice our supply is running low.  Start to finish it maybe takes us about an hour.  The bars of soap have to cure for about 6 weeks after they are made. 

Next, we organized and cleaned out one of our barns/sheds.  We use this building for many things throughout the year.  Right now, we are using it to get our wood splitter and lawn mowers out of the winter weather.  

The afternoon was brisk but the sun felt great.  We took advantage of the sun and split about a half a cord of  firewood. There is going to be a wintery mix of weather headed our direction this week and we wanted to get some firewood on the porch ready to use.  

As we approach the end of January, it is time to start planting for the high tunnel. Lettuces, kale, leeks and celery were started today.  We will be starting seeds now weekly till August.  It just becomes part of our weekly dance.  For the next few months the seeds will be started in the house, but eventually we head out to the high tunnel.  Our bathroom is our temporary winter  grow space, which means that we will not be fostering kittens for a while.  When we foster kittens we use our bathroom as the kitten room. We are sad to not have them, but thankful for the break and ready for the next season of our year. 

In addition to making dinner and planning out the details of our meals for the week, we made the dog’s food for the week.  Our dog has been put on a special diet by the vet.  It is rice, chicken and pumpkin to supplement her store bought dog food.  We buy the rice in bulk but the chicken and pumpkin come from the farm.  We feed the dogs old laying hens, roosters or male ducks.  This helps to keep the flock controled and allows everything to go to use.  Crock pots or the woodstove  make short work of cooking the squash, rice and chicken. We are thankful to reduce the amount of dog food we are buying at the store.  I do not think we will ever produce all our animal feed on the farm, but we are working to supplement not only the dogs food, but the pigs and chickens feed as well.  This year we will be planting a garden just for the animals.  A few seeds, soil and sunshine can save us hundreds of dollars in grain.  

This year we are still working on making as much as we can on the farm.  I have told you how we are replacing store soap with our soap.  Another simple replacement we have made to reduce waste and save money is paper products.  We use cloth napkins, washcloths, and handkerchiefs.  The toilet paper we use is bought in bulk and there is no plastic in the packaging.  Reducing our pastic useage, which is one of our goals. 

These are just things that we do as we go about our day.  The dance always changes as we the needs of the farm change.  I dont always know the steps or the song, but I dance my way through it anyway.  

Life is a Dance, You Learn as You Go. ~John Micheal Montgomery

Happy New Year!

It is a new year and everyone is ready for a big change. Here on the farm we are making a new committment. We are changing things slightly, but mostly we are just taking it to the next level of what we are already doing. The year 2021 has us reflecting on our blessings. We are going to try and function with less, do without, live off the food the farm produces, eat local for what we do not grow and reduce our plastic waste. It may sounds like a crazy commitment, but it all goes hand in hand. If we are working so hard on the farm, we should eat what we are working to grow. If I am really eating what I am growing, I do not have room for from the store processed foods. When I stop buying from the store processed foods, I am reducing my plastic use. If we do need something, we will try to find it used or buy Made in the USA products. If I am a part of a farming community, I should support the farmers around me and buy from them and not far away. As I produce more on the farm, I decrease my carbon footprint. The difficult part for me is going to be the processed foods and giving up Chick-Fil-A. I have added a loop hole for my addictions and my children. We are eating foods that are as local as possible. UTZ potato chip company farms and produces their product locally. My daughter agreed to do this year experiment as long as she could still have potato chips. I am getting coffee that is not grown locally, but grown sustainably and roasted locally. Cheese, even though we produce it on the farm, I have not mastered cheddar. We will be buying cheese from a local farm that makes amazing cheddar. Still reducing our carbon footprint and eating local. We will have to buy some raw ingredients that we do not grow, like baking soda, flour, etc. Also, I still will be buying some of our grain products, like some pasta, bread, crackers and rice.  I am not able to grow those things.  We will try to get that as local as possible as well, the foods we can not get local with come from Imperfect Foods, which is still reducing our carbon footprint. So there you have it. Welcome 2021! I also wanted to clarify, we are not starting with an empty house. Our cellar is full, our pantry is full and we have full freezers. Most of the food is food we have grown and stored. We have dressers full of clothes, my kids rooms are full of toys and books. I am not depriving my kids of joy and forcing them to walk around naked! We have already been blessed with so much stuff! We want to stop buying more and truly use what we have already. So before we started this, I freaked out and wanted to buy a couple things, just in case! I admit, I did buy some cheese curls that I am hiding for emergency emotional snacking in the future. The other thing I freaked out about and wanted to buy was pens. Pens. If I ever wondered if I was truly a writer at heart. Pens. I want you to know I did not panic buy pens. There are thousands probably already in the house. I will just clean out drawers, finding the ones I already have instead of buying more. Cleaning out, using what we have, and not giving in to the fast “click” of Amazon. That is my goal. Part of eating what we have is menu planning. With it being winter and the garden is not producing, we are eating off what we have already stored. This allows me to make my menu for months at a time. I wrote another blog on how I do that here. This is what is in the rotation for this week. Menu planning, and a little prep work can cut down on the need to run out for dinner. I made a big batch of sloppy joes for lunches through the week, when that runs out I will make a pot of soup. Today, I will make banana muffins and oatmeal bars for breakfast throughout the week. This is our menu for the week.  Sunday: Pizza and leftovers Monday: Ham, broccoli and rice. Tuesday is always tacos. Wednesday: Salmon, pad thai noodles, carrots. Thursday: Chicken, sweet potatoes and green beans. Friday: Breakfast for dinner Saturday: Meatball subs with homemade rolls.

Poor piggie

One of our surprise piggies punctured his mouth and split his lip. It is almost like he gave himself a clef palette.  We took him to the vet when we realized how deep the puncture was and that there was internal soft tissue damage.

The vet is amazing! Im grateful that we have a large animal farm vet that has a heart for the animals. She sedated the piggie and sutured his mouth. The puncture went almost into his eye socket. It was very deep. Luckily, he had not developed an infection and we caught it early. Eight sutures later our little Scar Face boy is back together.

This is the number one reason our farm will never be organic. On an organic farm I would have had to kill this piggie or let him suffer. We got him the care he needed. This care includes an antibiotic. An organic farm can not give an animal an antibiotic.

We are back home now and my little Scar Face is not allowed to go back out with Mom for 24 hours. We are allowed to take him to nurse from her in the morning. Tonight he will stay with me, he still has too much of the sedation in his system. He does not like the idea of being away from Mom. So he screams. Non-stop screaming. I force fed him some goats milk by syringe and eventually by bottle. He took some but most drained out his cut mouth. Im praying he is going to be able to nurse! The milk has calmed him down some. He is almost asleep.

I hope, I will be able to transfer him to a dog crate soon so I can get some rest. Caring for this baby reminds me of the poem, So God Made A Farmer.

https://youtu.be/7UBj4Rbq3ZI

It is one of my favorite poems. Enjoy! Farm On and God Bless!

Surprise Blessings

On Sunday, when we were sorting pigs, preparing to load them for butcher, we noticed that one looked like her belly was hanging lower to the ground.  It almost looked like she was bagging up getting ready to have babies.  We kept her back and decided not to send her to butcher.  Every year we butcher one hog for ourselves and then we sell off the others.  We knew that keeping her from going to butcher meant that we were going to loose our family’s hog for the year.  We were willing to make that sacrific and not abort these babies IF she was pregnant. God blessed us with very large hogs this year and there would be enough.  He always provides.

It is difficult to pregnancy check a pig.  If they are a really tame animal you can ultrasound them towards the beginning of the pregnancy, but other than that it is pretty much a wait and see game.  We had no way to know 100% if this pig was pregnant or not.  We just knew she did not look right.  We are fairly new to having pigs born on the farm.  Normally, we buy babies from another farmer and raise them out till butcher weight.  We are very inexperienced when it comes to breeding pigs.  We have a boar on the farm and we had been trying to get our dear sweet sow Elsa pregnant for years.  Turns out it was not in God’s plan for Elsa to have any more babies.  The boar works just fine!

Going back a couple months, we had two times where the pigs busted through the gate to get in with the boar.  Unsure if they became pregnant or not, we scheduled our butcher date late enough in the year that we would be able to wait and see.  We had a sow deliver in October as the result of one of theses midnight rendezvous with the boar.   Well, turns out the girls got in one other time that we did not know about.

The pigs were sent to be butchered on Tuesday.  It is Thursday and we found six babies. 

Momma choose to have babies in a huge pile of leaves.  It was the best she could do on her own, but we stepped in to help her keep the babies warm.  Using the insulation of the leaves we made what my daughter calls “ham in a can”.  We put a metal port-a-hut on top of the pile of leaves and mixed in a bale of straw. We took more leaves and covered the whole hut like a hobbit house.

Over the door my husband built a tunnel to keep the wind out.  When I crawled in the hut to check on the babies this morning my glasses fogged up.  It was warm and toasty inside even though there was frost on the ground.  What a blessing!  I am worried we are not out of the woods yet.  These little piggies are going to need extra care, being born in the winter is not easy.  Praise God for blessings and the wisdom to not send her to butcher. 

This last picture is just for a size reference! That is a baby piggie next to my cell phone. 

Farm On! God Bless!

Emotionally draining but worth it


The past two week have been very emotionally draining.  We are a working farm.  We produce our own food.  In order for me to have bacon, I have to butcher a pig.  
I write a post like this every year.  If you have been around for a while, it would not offend me if you skip this post.  I think it is therapy for me to write it.  Part of farm life is butchering animals.  It never gets any easier.  Our family does not become numb to it.  It is always difficult.   This year we butchered a sow that had been on our farm for several years.  We loved her.  She was a 700 pound pet. Her name was Elsa.  Elsa came when she was called.  She loved apples, belly rubs and to “watered” with the hose on warm days.  She acted more like a giant Golden Retriever then a pig.  Elsa was getting up there in age and she was not able to have babies anymore.  She was also slowing down.  It was time.  She was not sick, we think she was just tired.   We had to choose to butcher her or probably end up composting her.  We felt like butchering her was a better way to respect her life.  Still did not make it easy.  We cried. The night after she was butcher I was an emotional mess.  I missed my princess girl!  That was when I saw this article.  

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-swinefever-muyuanfoods-idUKKBN28H0CC

This is an article about the largest hog operation ever that is being built in China.  The company will raise millions of animals a year, in a multi-level factory setting.  Those hogs will have no quality of life!  Never touch grass.  Never feel the sun. Never eat an apple or have belly rubs.  In an instant I remembered why we do what we do.  It is difficult, but I know that the animal had to best possible life.  After reading the article I was able to take a breath and have peace.  This is why we do what we do.  

Our hogs are not raised on concrete.  They are raised in a field, with grass, mud and sunshine.  Our animals are fed extra veggies from our garden, whey from cheesemaking and extra eggs from the chickens.  The grain that they eat is locally grown and made from real grain, not by products or chemicals.  If they are sick, they see the vet.  We care for them the best we can.  We are still learning.  I pray we never stop learning and improving.  At the end of the day, they are happy pigs. I can feel good about eating happy pigs.  

What are you eating?  Know your farmer!  Grow on! God Bless! 

Drum Roll Please!

I am so excited to announce what our family will be starting in 2021.  After much prayer and a crazy 2020, we have desided to simlify our life.  We have been building up to this point, so we are not totally unprepared for this.  Okay, let me step back and explain.

 We are a family that believes in the local food movement.  We believe that food that comes from more than a couple hundred of miles away should be a treat not a regular part of our diet.  We also want our daily living and buying habits to reflect our belief of respecting the planet that God gave us.  As a family, we were motivated by the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle:  A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver.  The book is the story of her family eating only food that came from within 100 miles of their house.  We want to take it a step further; reduce our energy useage, our buying habits, get out of debt, reduced single use plastics and grow the food ourselves. Adding to that, our persute of a simplier life and to go back in time to before industrialization of America and the disposable society that we are surrounded by. Please dont get me wrong, there are a lot of modern inventions that I am very grateful for.  We do not want to discredit any of that, as I sit and type on a computer, we just want to make things last longer.  Not buy every new thing on the market and practice living with less.  I dont want to say minimalism because running a homestead is anything but minimalisitic. We are simplifiying and working on being less materialistic.  

What will this mean specifically?  We will only be purchasing things like grain items, some oils, raw ingredients I can not make myself, like baking soda for example.  We are going to drastially reduce our processed food consumption.  I will be making almost everything from scratch, sandwich bread and corn tortillas will be the exception.   There are a few things that are in our diet because of health needs, but we will source them as locally and environmently friendly as possible. Overall, we will be buying anything we do not produce as local as possible or we will be doing without.  Any food that I can not get locally, I will be getting from Imperfect Foods, to help reduce food waste as much as possible.  

This will go for clothing, bathroom products, cleaner and house hold goods.  As much as we can, we will make our own or use what we have.  We already make soap and have just started making vinegar.  If it is something we do not make, we will try to buy used first.  Then if we have to buy new we will buy local and/or no plastic if possible.  Significally reducing any single use plastic products or packaging. 

As far as energy, we have removed our dryer from the laundry room, all clothes will be hung on a drying rack or the line.  We heat our house with wood, we have sold our tractor and well be trying to use the animals more effectly on the farm.  I am sure we will be doing more posts about that in the future.  

Our goal is to do this for a year.  Document it, share what we are learning and the challenges we encounter.  It is not going to be perfect, it will be a learning process.  I would love for this to be a life long change for our family and it would be amazing to help others make the change as well.  

So here it goes, the start of this amazing journey!  We appreciate your support, your prayers, your comments and your questions.  Lastly, we hope you enjoy learning about our adventure. 

Menu Planning

https://unsplash.com/photos/HUiNRjXr-bQ

FAll is finally upon us. The garden has slowed down the bulk of our harvest season is over. Our freezer is full, the cellar is full, we are ready for winter.

During the winter months we still try very hard to eat seasonally. We do not buy a lot of produce from the grocery store. We use the fruit and vegetables that I have frozen or canned during the summer. This makes menu planning so much easier. During the warm months, my menu is 100% based on what is coming out of the garden. If we have a huge cucumber harvest, we will be eating cucumbers for lunch and dinner. When the watermelon and cantaloupe start coming in, that is a huge part of our diet for the weeks when we are harvesting them fresh from the garden. We try very hard to eat, fresh, local and to eat what is in season at that time. As a result of this, I make our menu based on what is coming out of the garden or what is in season. Now that fall is here, I know what is in my freezer and I can make a menu for months at a time. It is so liberating to not have to think about dinner for months at a time! So… this is how I do it.

Index cards! I bought a pack of index cards and harassed my family. I asked every family member to list their favorite meal. If they gave me just a side dish, I pressured them to give me a main course to go with it. After I got tacos and pizza 50 times, then I looked through my recipes and recent Pintrest pins. What are meals I have made in the past that were hits and what worked? I just wrote the name of the meal on an index card. Think about soups, breakfast for dinner, 100% vegetarian meals, beef, pork, seafood, chicken and favorite birthday meals of the past. Write them all down, one meal on each card.

I then went through my index cards and wrote whether it was a beef, pork, chicken, vegetarian, pasta and Sunday/crock-pot meal. Here are some of my index cards in their categories.

BEEF: Sloppy Joe, tacos, meatloaf, hamburgers, steak, beef and broccoli stir fry, stuffed peppers, meatball sub, shepherds pie, and fajitas.

CHICKEN: Wings, popcorn chicken, chicken wraps, grilled chicken on salad, garlic basil chicken, fried chicken, BBQ chicken, chicken stir fry, Hawaiian chicken kebabs, and chicken enchiladas.

PASTA: Mac and cheese, baked ziti, ravioli, chicken mozzarella and sun dried tomatoes, lasagna, cal zones, pizza, Alfredo, spaghetti, and hamburger helper.

PORK: Open egg-roll, pulled BBQ pork, ginger garlic pork tenderloin, ham, egg and cheese sandwich, pork chops, ribs, ham steaks, pork fried rice, sausage gravy, BLT’s.

VEGETARIAN: broccoli cheese soup, potato soup, grilled cheese and tomato soup, salmon, tilapia, pancakes and eggs, baked potato and salad, quiche, mix veg stir fry over rice, beans and rice.

Photo by Miguel Andrade on Unsplash

CROCK-POT: Turkey breast, tortilla soup, chili, pork roast, beef roast, chicken pot pie, roasted chicken, and kids pick.

Now, I just pick a card from each category. There are 6 groups, 6 meals a week and one night of left-overs or kid pick. On average I have 10 meals in a group, so that it 10 weeks worth of meals. Done! I fill everything into the calendar and if I need to buy something I add it to my grocery list for that week.

That easy! This system allows for you to plan two and a half months of meals at a time!

Next post we will talk about Lunch planning!

Trying to Keep Up

God is good!  The garden is producing and the goats are producing.  We are doing the best we can just to keep up!  This is what we have been up to…

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Peaches:  We are trying to capture this summer gold for winter sunshine!  We have canned 12 quarts of  sliced peaches and 24 small lunchbox size jars.  I am so grateful for my mothers help with this.  It is so true that many hands make light work.  Everyone had a job and we were a well oiled machine.

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Tomatoes:  This week we are putting up diced tomatoes in their own juices.  This is an easy job, thankful for the break.  We were able to chop and process 18 pints of diced tomatoes.  I put chopped hot peppers in 9 of those jars so that it would be ready for Queso.

Peppers: Peppers are still producing like crazy.  We shared some peppers with a friend and we froze a gallon chopped.  Last year we did not freeze any peppers so we are thankful for the bounty.

Dairy Processing: We are almost out of yogurt so I made a gallon of that.  I am doing an taste test experiment, to see if we like cultures from our yogurt in the fridge or powder cultures.   I will drain at least half a gallon of this for greek yogurt.  I prefer greek yogurt for breakfast and regular yogurt for smoothies.

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I made a batch of cheese.  It is a farm cheese, kind of a mix between a cheddar and a provolone.  It is great in eggs and melted on garlic bread.  We use it like you would a cheddar cheese.

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We also broke down an cheese wheel that I made 3 weeks ago.  This way it would keep better in the fridge.  This cheese should have aged longer, but it is still good.

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With the whey I  made two batches of bread dough.  I will turn one batch into bread for the week and the other I will make pizza dough for a quick pizza night.

The Herb Garden:  I harvested basil which is in the dehydrator for cooking with this winter.  I also harvest lemon balm.  This is being air dried for hot tea in front of the fire! Tomorrow I jar up all the dried herbs that I harvested last week.  I think we will have plenty of everything for the winter except dill.  I replanted dill and cilantro.  There is nothing like fresh cilantro on tacos and dill in salad dressing!

The food cellar is filling up, the freezers are filling up, we feel so blessed.  It has been a great summer so far, thankful for the blessings we have been given.  We are getting closer and closer to raising all of our food, with a couple exceptions!

Thanks for catching up, keep growing!

Pantry Update

We are really working hard to become as food independent as possible.  We know that we will still need to buy grain products; flour, rice and chips. As well as, baking products, like baking powder and chocolate.

Here is an update on what we are doing this week to get closer to that goal.

The tomatoes and peppers are producing great which mean salsa!  We have put up several batches of salsa.  As of today we have 28 jars.  My boys love salsa so I am estimating that we will need 48 quart jars for the year.  This will be made up of 24 jars of HOT salsa and 24 jars of mild- medium salsa.

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So far we have canned 7 jars of beets.  This is no where near enough.  We are praying for a strong fall beet harvest.  We need at least 15-20 jars of beets for the year.

Peaches are in season.  We work with a local family owned orchard for all the fruit we do not grow on the farm, or we do not grow enough of.  We will have to plant several more blueberry plants to not have to buy those.  Peaches, back to peaches, free stone, yellow peaches are the only way to go.  They are amazing.  The only problem is while I am canning I believe I ate at least 5 peaches one slice at a time.  We canned 7 jars of peaches with two can in the fridge to get us through the week till we go to the farm again.  I see a peach coffee cake in my future! We also froze blackberries.  Can you say ice cream and smoothies!

Our onions did not do well so we had to get a bushel of onions.  I have been using them for salsa as well as freezing chopped onions for the winter. I have frozen 12 pounds of chopped onions.

Peppers have been doing so well that I have been freeing them as well as adding them to salsa.  We have frozen 5 gallons of chopped green peppers.  These are great in the winter for chili, omelets, sloppy joes, and pizza.  We easily can go through 10 gallons in the winter.

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Okra!  This is a new one to freeze for me.  I put away 2 gallons of chopped okra.  I am hoping to use it in stews, soups and sloppy joes for the winter.

There are at least 4 months that we do not milk the goats. So we freeze milk during the summer. Whole milk for winter yogurt.  As well as spun milk for drinking.  The cream from the spun milk gets turned into butter.  I have frozen several pounds of butter.

The summer squash is slowing down. So I am freezing some yellow squash for winter muffins.   I will freeze about 8 cups, which is four batches of muffins. I already froze zucchini for bread.  I may try to freeze zucchini noodles, but I am worried that they will be mushy.  I also froze some zucchini tortillas for tacos.

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Alright, back to chopping!  Happy Harvesting!