It started with an island…

“Let’s do this…”

Famous last words, right?!?

Hey, it’s winter, the farm is quiet, lets relax and contemplate life…

Nah.

This is how a typical thought goes in these parts. With our little farm, we can always do something, fix something, improve something…always something. ūüôā

One quiet morning we looked at the kitchen island, that we’ve pretty much always hated and thought, “Hmm, let’s find something bigger!” In theory, this sounds great but in reality, I am a bit¬†of a frugal gal, so going out and spending a ton of money makes my stomach churn. ¬†Paying someone else to do something that I can figure out…no way. ¬†I am a bit of a DIY gal an autodidact, a big word that I recently read somewhere meaning, a self-taught person, and thought “that is me!”.

Out of sheer frugality and stubbornness my love affair with Annie Sloan paint began. I am a researcher at heart, I want to know all of the variables and the best way to do something before I begin. Not because I am a perfectionist, but because I don’t want to do it over. If you ask my husband, he’ll tell you that I am not a fan of backtracking, so doing something over, drives me nuts. Out of my research, I found Annie Sloan Chalk paint. Since that fateful day in early January, I’ve refinished a buffet and small dresser¬†for the kitchen islands (then we topped them with walnut), ¬†all of the kitchen cabinets, ¬†4 dressers , a large mirror and an antique hutch. ¬†I can honestly say that I am addicted to refinishing furniture with this stuff. No sanding, no priming just paint, lightly sand and wax. I am always on the prowl for new thing to refinish. God love my husband, he picks them up for me and brings them home. He does not complain when I sold our perfectly good, newer bedroom set for 2 old and mismatched dressers that I then refinish to match. He does not say a word, actually he helps, not painting, but searching and finding new pieces. The really cool part of if all is that it costs us next to nothing and we usually come out making a little! It’s like a game of shells, we sell a piece and buy a piece, usually for less, refinish, sell, buy a piece, buy paint (which lasts a long time) and so on.

It started with an island…

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Before

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During

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During…

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Hard to believe that these were pieces of furniture!

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Before and after

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Before and after

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Before…

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After…still looking for the right pulls.

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Before and after

 

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My apothecary!!  I have wanted a place to store my potions and lotions forever!

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This is so old that the glass has bubbles in it! Love!

Swoon worthy….every piece! ¬†I am in love with my new found friend Annie Sloan and all of our “new” old furniture.

If I can do it..You can too! ¬†Try something new, learn something new, don’t be afraid.

The Gardens end…

Well, she’s just about gone. ¬†The glorious garden that has given us so much this year is gone. ¬† The only thing left are celery leaves, no actual celery (I have no idea why), just leaves which I’ll harvest and freeze for stocks…works the same, ūüôā

The glorious garden that gave¬†us fresh veggies all summer, all that we could eat, is no more. ¬†At one point this summer, I couldn’t eat another cucumber… now, my onion dip is lonely and I’d love a garden cuke, but alas winter is near.

For our first large garden, she was very, very good to us…

Lettuces were eaten fresh and shared with others all summer

Tomatoes were plentiful and made into salsas, pizza sauces, marinara, soups, sauces

Cucumbers gave us canned and refigerator pickles and relish

Radishes were pickled and already eaten ūüėČ

Squash is cured and waiting the the basement for a cold winter dinner

Corn is frozen and canned in soups

Green beans are canned in soups and frozen too

Snap peas, frozen awaiting stir frys

Zucchini, ever so abundant is canned into salsas and frozen for soups

Carrots are frozen for soups and stocks

And hot peppers are fermenting for our first try at hot sauce.

And finally chicken bones from processing this week are bubbling away as stock to be canned for the cold months.

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I cannot complain at all.  The work that we did this spring and summer has more than paid off and has given us a renewed sense of pride in growing food for our family and an excitement for next year.  It was a trial year for us and we have some kinks to work out but we are happy and grateful to say the least.

We have a few things left to do to get ready for winter.  Garlic goes in the ground this weekend, cleaning out the gardens, pig processing in a few weeks and closing up the bees are the major things left to get done before it gets colder.

Then we can start seed¬†and chick researching for next year…maybe finally some fruit trees too!

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How 25 fuzzy butts turned into 35…

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Just a few short weeks ago, we got our 25 new chickies in the mail….well it was supposed to be 25, but 27 fuzzy butts showed up. ūüôā ¬†Yay for extras!

Man, did we have issues getting chicks this year. ¬†First off, we’ve never ordered¬†this early. ¬†We started looking in February, after the Valentines day massacre (that’s what we’re calling it anyway) when we went to close the girls up for the night and found one of them pecked to death. ūüė¶ ¬†So sad, we had no idea what happened at first. ¬†We thought something had gotten into the coop, but there is just no way for that to happen so we deduced that it must have been one of the other hens that did it. ¬†That and she had blood all over her beak…that was the obvious clue. ūüėČ

So we decided that rather than chance another going rogue, we made an appointment to send them away to freezer camp. ¬†That left us chicken less…for the first time in 5 years!! ¬†It was odd not tending to them daily. ¬†Then the littles arrived and I was back on chicken mamma duty. ¬†I figured that we’d get them free ranging by 8 weeks or so, but I neglected to do the math. ¬†You see, the chickens as yummy, friendly and egg filled as they are here for tick control. ¬†They love to eat ticks! ¬†That is the whole reason that we have them. ¬†I am deathly afraid of ticks. ¬†They are creepy and carry disease. ¬†YUCK! ¬†We don’t want to use¬†chemicals on the lawn so that the kids don’t get Lyme disease, only to end up poisoning them, that seems like a bad plan. ¬†So enter the chickens. ¬†Although they free range year round, I like to get them out as soon as the snow starts receding so they can get a jump on the bugs. ¬†But, as I said earlier…my calendar and my math skills did not sync up this year so we had not birds to eat the bugs early on.

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About 3 weeks old

Anywho…Our first day outside this year and I see a tick crawling on the tiny blonde hairs leading to my baby’s angelic face. ¬†Cue the freak out!! ¬†AGGHHHHH!!!!

There is no way that I could wait the 4 weeks until the little ones could get out to eat the bugs so the search was on.  Within 2 days we had found 8 organic laying hens and within a week they were re-homed to our little farm and eating all of the bugs that their little hearts desired, as well as tearing up my flower beds.  A small price to pay for peace of mind.

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The “older”gals

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Meeting each other for the first time.

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First day in the sun!

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Escape¬†artists…they popped right¬†through the fence!

I love these birds.  They are funny little creatures to watch and interact with and just having them roaming around feels like home.

So…Welcome all 35 fuzzy gals! ¬†We’re glad to have you!

Salted Caramel….

So seriously…

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YOU.MUST.MAKE.THIS.NOW

I have made this salted caramel over and over again and it is amazing! ¬†I have tried others and compared to this recipe…they taste blah.

Be warned though….

*You will NOT¬†wait until it has cooled down¬†to taste it. ¬† The smell will be so captivating that you will eat it right out of the pot and burn your tongue so, if you must taste anything of the remainder of the day…do so before you make this caramel

*Even though your tongue will feel like you’ve directly licked the sun at high noon, you will continue to sneak bites. ¬†It won’t matter, you can’t feel anything on your tongue anyway.

*You will not be satisfied with the little bites here and there as it cools from molten lava, so just grab a shot glass…you will and up drinking some caramel. ¬†I did. ūüėČ

What to do with it now??

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If there is any left once it cools down you can drizzle it on anything! ¬†Ice cream, baked goods, jar it and give it away…you are sure to make new BFF’s this way.

One of my newest ways to use salted caramel is to make caramel popcorn with it. ¬†I said it….HOMEMADE salted caramel popcorn!

Want more yum??  Take your favorite kettle potato chips and drizzle this amazing caramel and then some homemade hot fudge on them.  Let them set up and turn on Netflix.  Plop yourself  on the couch and munch the evening away!

Put some in your coffee…OMG!

Before I get ahead of myself….let’s get the recipe for the caramel going.

Ingredients that you will need:

* Willpower to not eat it all in one setting

2 cups organic sugar

1.5 sticks of room temp organic butter cubed

1 cup organic heavy cream

1.5 Tbl seat salt, pink Himalayan salt or the like.

Digital thermometer…very important!

Method of Prep:

Have all of your ingredients ready and next to the stove…once the sugar melts, it goes fast, so be ready

In a large sauce pan (the caramel will bubble in a few reps so make sure your pot is big…3 qts or so) put the sugar in over med-high heat.

Whisk the sugar as it melts.  It will clump and begin to brown.  Keep on a whisking until all of the sugar melts, then stop.

Place your thermometer into the sugar. ¬†It will continue to darken as it bubbles away. ¬†It will look a dark amber color. BE CAREFUL…it can go from perfect to burnt in no time…so watch carefully. ¬†It will be worth the fuss…trust me!

Once your thermometer reaches 350 degrees, put all of the butter in and whisk quickly. ¬†This is the first time it will bubble up angrily…so be careful. ¬†Whisk until the butter is melted. ¬†Turn off the heat.

Take the pan off the stove and add the cream….this is the second bubbling, so be careful. ¬†Whisk until incorporated then add the salt.

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Deny the feeling to dive into the pot…you will want to, but let it cool. ¬†Meh….who am I kidding…you will get a spoon, everyone does. ¬†I’ve made this recipe probably 15 times and I dip into the lava every time. ¬†It’s a ritual now. ūüėČ

Let it cool for a while and if there is any left, place it into a jar and store in the fridge. ¬†Please reheat in a pan on low heat. ¬†Don’t let the microwave destroy this nectar.

That’s it!

Let me know how you’ve used this recipe! ¬†I’d love to know!

¬†Oh..I’d also like to know that I am not the only one to dive in and scald my tongue…let me know when you’ve joined the scalded tongue¬†club. ūüėČ

What to do with that fresh ham steak??

Last year when we butchered our first batch of pigs, we kept the ham fresh because the butcher used nitrates in curing and that is something that we don’t want in our food so we decided that we’d cure it ourselves.

It was a BIG ham and we’d never done anything like that before. ¬†Long story short, because it was so big, the cure didn’t penetrate through the whole thing and only the outer 3 inches tasted like ham, the rest like a delicious pork roast. ¬†No harm, no foul…it was still delicious. ¬†Just not “ham” as we know it.

Fast forward to this year with a new butcher (still nitrate curing) and fresh ham steaks vs. a whole ham. ¬†2 of the ham steaks I threw in the crock pot with apples and onions and they were good, but drier then I’d like. ¬†This week I pulled out the last 2 steaks and decided to try curing them, again.

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Cured ham steak

For 2 steaks about 3/4 inch thick

In a large shallow baking dish for the brine:

1.5 qt of water

1/3 cup organic brown sugar

1/3 cup organic maple syrup

1/2 cup sea salt

1/2 teaspoon organic vanilla

Mix it all up until the sugar and salt are dissolved.  Put in the ham steaks in and made sure that they stayed submerged (you can weight it down with a plate if you need to).

Place it in the fridge for about 24 hours.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees

After 24 hours, rinse the brine of well.  Dry off the ham steaks very well.  Pan sear the steaks in a frying pan with some butter or even better bacon fat!!! Mmmmm..

When they are browned on both sides, place the pan (make sure it is oven safe) in the oven for about 20 minutes.  Depending on the thickness of the steaks, it may take longer or less time to cook.  Make sure your pork is 145 degrees in the thickest part.

Pull out of the oven and let rest for a few minutes…then eat!! Yummy!!

I served this with sliced potatoes roasted in bacon fat and sea salt and steamed cauliflower finished in the oven.

It felt like a frontier meal to me (minus the cauliflower of course). ūüėČ

The kids gobbled it up and the hubs was in awe of the impromptu ham experiment.

All in all a great meal and the leftovers of ham and potatoes made an excellent breakfast skillet the next morning. ūüôā

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Cured Ham Steak

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The Dinner Party….

Our son hosted his first dinner party this past week!

He’s 7. ūüôā

This child has been groomed to be a foodie. ¬†He was never given the option to eat or not eat. ¬†His only option was try it once, if you really don’t like it, then you don’t have to eat it. ¬†To this very day he eats everything, except mushrooms

Lately his favorite show to watch is the Pioneer Woman! ¬†He loves to watch her cook and his favorite episode is “Ranching in the mist”. ¬†He has watched this particular episode so many times that he knows the recipes and the wording by heart. ¬†The last time he watched this episode, he asked again if I could make the pop pulled pork. ¬†Well, we don’t really drink soda , so cooking with it is out of the question for me, so I’ve said ¬†no in the past to that recipe.

That same week we were all struck with the flu…boooo! ¬†The hubs came back from the store with a natural soda called Dr. Better, because sometimes you just need something carbonated and it tasted just like Dr. Pepper!! ¬†Light bulb!! ¬†When everyone was feeling better and Ree Drummond was again on the screen, he asked again and this time I said sure!

He did the entire meal by himself!  I put everything in the oven and made the dough (which was Gluten free) but he did the rest from chopping onions to peeling and slicing the apples for the pie.

The hubs took the little one away for a few hours so we could have some space alone to work, and work he did!  He started at 11:30 am and finished when dinner was served.

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Cutting Onions

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Seasoning the pork shoulder

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Adding a little Dr. Better

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Slicing apples for the flat apple pie

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Cutting the cabbage for slaw

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Mixing up the slaw

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Making the potato au gratin (yes, he diced all of the potatoes) ūüôā

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The finished pop pulled pork!

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Dinner is served!!

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Making caramel for the pie

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Pie is done!

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My guy! Sorry for the bad picture. 

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The whole meal was delicious! ¬†The gluten free dough was so good! ¬†You could never tell that there was no wheat in it at all. ¬†The caramel was not my favorite recipe…it was a quick caramel and it lacked the depth that I love in caramel, but I wanted to stay true to the Pioneer woman evening, so we made all of her recipes. ¬†I would certainly make them all again, with the addition of¬†this salted caramel. ūüėČ

I loved the feeling of pride that I saw on my little guys face when everyone was eating HIS dinner! ¬†He was exhausted when bedtime rolled around and I think a little bit more appreciative of the meals that we eat…knowing a little bit better what actually goes into them.

He is already planning his next party with meatballs, pasta and cake.  I love that he loves being in the kitchen and I love even more the time that we get to spend together cooking.

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Spring is not here yet….

I’m not sure that I have EVER wanted spring more than I do this year.

I am not quite sure if it is because we just finished reading The Long Winter, by Laura Ingalls Wilder or if I actually feel like this has been the longest winter EVER!

Long Winter

Either way I am desperately craving warmth and sunshine even though the low tonight is supposed to -9 degrees….I am trying to be positive as the over 4 feet of packed snow in the yard dwindles slowly. ¬†On the warmer days, every inch it melts is one inch closer to seeing grass. ¬†It usually seems to happen over night anyway.

One way to “feel” spring before it happens around here is to order our chicks and piggies for the year! ¬†We have done that already! 26 day old chicks will be here next week (some for meat and some to keep for eggs) and 3 piggies in a few short months!

The newest additions to the farm this year….. Drum-roll please….

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30,000 Honey Bees!

Yes…we (actually the hubs) is taking on the chore of bees…which is good because although I am not scared of bees and really appreciate all that they do for us, they creep me out…they are in the buggy category after all. ¬†I am getting better with that part of farming, although not fast enough in my opinion!

Next is a dairy cow…Oh, how I long for a dairy cow!!

Someday….*sigh*

Gluten Free Sunday Morning Potato Pancakes…

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Sunday Mornings around here are usually a slower pace, or we try to make them that way after the CRAZY busy year that we’ve had.

We always sit down to breakfast together and one of our favorite additions to breakfast is the potato pancake.

Easy, buttery goodness!  Not from a box or a mix it takes minutes to make and is a great sunday morning comfort food.

Ingredients:

(Organic if possible)

Medium Peeled Russet Potatoes ( you can use what you have, but russets work best and don’t brown as fast)

Butter

Salt and Pepper

Onion powder

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Put a large skillet on medium and add a tablespoon of butter.   Shred the potatoes 2 at a time into a bowl.

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Once the skillet is warm and the butter melted, grab about 1/3 cup of potato shreds and put it into the skillet.  Flatten with your hand.  Repeat until the skillet is full or until you need to shred more.   Sprinkle with salt, pepper and onion powder.  Cook until nicely browned, flip and cook until browned again.  You can hold these in a 200 degree oven until you are ready to serve them.

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Voila! Easy-peasy potato pancakes!  No fillers, no crap… Just delish!

Make extra and freeze ’em! ¬†The freeze great and reheat in an oven or in a skillet super quick!!

These would be a great side to any meal as well, not just breakfast! ¬†You can add rosemary and roasted garlic or jalape√Īo and cheese‚Ķthe combinations are endless!

Give ’em a try and let me know what you think! ūüôā