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, 🙂

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 😉

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!

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. 🙂  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. 😦  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. 😉

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!

Bone Broth aka Stock… So good for you!

Quite a bit has been said lately about bone broth ( I call it stock) and it’s health benefits from keeping the immune system healthy to remineralizing teeth!!

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Crock-Pot Stock

I make stock at least once a week.  Usually from chicken, but sometime from beef.  Stock is an amazing way to use up veggies and bones from other meals like roasted chicken or beef short ribs.   If I am pressed for time (who isn’t), I usually throw the ingredients in a crock pot on low before bedtime and strain it in the morning.  The recipe below is for a stove top simmer, but if you are pressed for time or want a great meal when you get home from work, just throw it into a crock pot in the AM and set it to high.  When you get home, strain it and add some veggies, beans, rice, tomato paste…so many options!

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Slow Simmering Stock

Ingredients:

Please us organic ingredients if at all possible.  Sometime I use whatever I have on hand to make a stock. Leeks, red onions…whatever herbs I have around as well.  The Recipe below is a standard recipe to follow.

  • A 4 pound  chicken
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut in 1/2
  • 4 ribs celery and tops, cut in 1/2
  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 10 sprigs fresh parsley with stems
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 to 10 peppercorns
  • 8 whole cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 gallons cold water

Directions

Place chicken, vegetables, and herbs and spices in 12-quart stockpot. Cook on high heat until you begin to see bubbles break through the surface of the liquid. Turn heat down to medium low so that stock maintains low, gentle simmer.  Add hot water as needed to keep bones and vegetables submerged. After about 2 hours, remove the chicken, pick off all of the meat and return the bones to the stock for additional simmering.  Allow the meat to cool and use in the finished soup, shred and season for chicken burritos, chop chilled chicken and mix with mayo, lemon juice and thyme for chicken salad….so many options!!
Back to the stock…Simmer uncovered for 6 to 8 hours.
Strain stock through a fine mesh strainer into another large stockpot or heatproof container discarding the solids (or eating them as a warm snack..yum!!). You can finish the stock by making into any stock based soup of your choice or cool immediately in  a sink full of ice water to below 40 degrees. Place in refrigerator overnight. Remove solidified fat from surface of liquid (you can keep the fat to sauté in or freeze it for use in roux) and store in container with lid in refrigerator for 2 to 3 days or in freezer for up to 3 months. Use as a base for soups and sauces.

Balance…

Balance… The dictionary defines it as “a state of equilibrium”

As one can plainly see, I have not quite struck the nail on the head with this balance thing for the past few months.  This blog is very important to me as it is a written history of our journey, a journey that we begun just about the time that I started this blog.  This blog is for me, it is for my family, it is our past, present and future.  It’s purpose is to be our story.  If along the way we help others along their journey with a quick tip, recipe or nudge to do something that they thought was impossible, or even a laugh…that’s great! Yay!

So…Back here I am.  I seldom get quiet time with all of the happenings around here, but when I am blogging, people seem to leave me alone.

I’ll take it! 🙂

My friends…this has been our busiest season yet for our businesses and being so, I got pulled away from much that I do.  There was less time for homemade items and new recipes.  Our Christmas was a little lighter on the homemade gifts this year, but fun none the less.  My dreams of sitting near the fire reading (with all of the down time that winter should bring) hasn’t happened yet….but it is good to have a busy business!  With the business, balance is harder to come by though…balance with the kids homeschooling, balance with our farm (thankfully only 15 chickens are hanging out with us this winter), balance in our family life and marriage, balance with the household, balance in general.  I am beginning to find balance again…through routine and schedules.  I am NOT a routine person…let me say that again.  I am NOT a routine person.  I much prefer to just do what comes, however with all that is coming at me lately, I’ve decided to try the routine route and see what come of it.  Sticking to it will be the hard part…but I believe that it will make my life easier…at least I hope it will.

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All said and done…we had a wonderful Holiday albeit busy.   Hope yours was wonderful too<3

Mud, Mud……

I wish I could sing that song “mud, mud, I like mud….I’m absolutely, positively wild about mud”…but alas, I cannot.  😦

It is not in my DNA to like mud or even messes, which is a really funny thing considering our little farm here!

Maybe it’s my subconscious telling me that it’s time to change my dirt free ways, maybe, just maybe. Although I am learning to be ok with messes and muck, I don’t think I’ll ever like it.  This past week my muck-less ways were really tested as it rained and rained and rained followed by 2 days of REALLY heavy rain.  All was fine and dandy until Sunday when the hubs went to feed the piggies and they were all but floating in their pen.  Their house and bedding were under water and their entire pen had about 4 inches in most places with deeper spots all over (those of which I found myself, lucky me!).

Out we went to move the pig house, once we did that we just watched the water flow right under the gate of the pen and just pooled wherever it wanted to.  Thankfully we had an extra set of hands!  My Hubs brother-in-law was here and he had the brain power to just watch the water and let it-lead us on the route out of the pen…so trench one was built and ran directly through the pen to empty it.  Then the real work began, the boys dug a huge trench to move the water away from and around the pen.  Thank goodness for quick thinking!

Everything is wet, but drying, thankfully.  As for the chickens,  this batch is not afraid of the rain and was fully embracing it for its worm producing qualities, taking a break on the porch every once in a while.

Getting out of the rain….

Our standard footwear these days…

What’s left of  the mud bath at the Piggie Pen spa….

They didn’t mind half as much as we did!

Oh…the treasures they are finding in the mud!

Trench one finally dried…

Trench 2 still running with rain water…

More water!

And there you have it…mud, mud and more mud.

 Not a dream situation at all, but hey…it’s all part of living on our little farm.

Life is getting back to normal as the sun decides to share itself with us, things dry and we are all still a bit soggy, but a bit wiser for it. 🙂

Around the Farm…

I’m not exactly sure what qualifies one as a farm, but to me, it is a big white house and an even bigger red barn. But seeing as we aren’t quite there yet…I suppose 15 chickens and 4 pigs puts us in that category even without the barn. 🙂

Well..It’s been a while since my last update and since late April through May for us has 7 close family birthdays, a special memorial weekend for my Dad a wedding and much, much more…I’m trying to squish everything into a few posts.

So…here goes…

Just one of the spring tulips…

~Two of the ladies doing what they do…

~Feisty the pig…

~More of natures beauty…

~Red checking out the camera…

~Blue digging up the dirt…

~One of the tulips that made it past the chickens…

~Pinky taking a break…

~Wanting to eat the camera…

~Typical shoe wear ’round these parts…

~Getting a little drink…

The piggies are growing faster than I could have imagined and love to eat everything from twigs and bugs to scrambled eggs!  They love to scamper around and frolic when sprayed with cool water on a hot day.  We gave them some beach balls to play with and they love them!   They are tilling the soil for us faster than we could have imagined as well and we are discovering just how rocky that area is.  Looks like there is some major compost and soil that’s going to be needed to make that area into our giant garden for next year as we had planned.

Our chickens are happy and eating all of the bugs in the yard and the occasional flower or two.  I now know why farms don’t have typically have manicured flower beds.  Fresh mulch makes for great dust baths and they seem to enjoy themselves so much.

Oh well. 🙂

We are moving right along into spring and I am feeling a bit behind as we should have started our seedlings long ago. 😦  Perhaps it will just be easier to buy the seedlings this year and direct sow the rest.  *sigh*  Maybe next year.  This year is flying by so quickly.

Off to feed the piggies again….

They’re here!!!

We have planned, read, built and waited, and now they are here!

Our little piggies!!

We started with  a plan of one, but who wants a lonely depressed pig, so we opted for 2.  Well if we’re going to have 2, why not 3?  What’s one more mouth??  So 3 it was.  We ordered them in the fall from a local farmer.  As we got closer we wanted one more, why not?

 So phone call after phone call, we finally found another little to join our brood only a short hour and a half away.

There was a little squealing from the new boarders at the pig farmers and the kids found some new friends who homeschool too!

All in all a great day!  Everyone is getting along well.  The pigs could care less about the chickens and the chickens are like  bunch of old gossipy ladies, squawking around trying to figure these new things out.  They do like new pig food though. Bonus!

So, without further ado….

Checking out the new digs!

Rooting around already.

The ladies checking out their newest farm mates.

Making a place to nap.

Fresh fruit and vegetable scraps.

Rooting in the dirt AND eating…pig heaven!

Tired from all the activity.

Checking out the camera.

The happy 4!  Can you guess which one was the late addition?!?

So, there they are!  The newest additions to our growing family and we couldn’t be happier. 🙂

What to do with a whole chicken?!?

As I stood in the grocery aisle not that long ago I overheard two women talking about what a waste it was to buy a whole chicken and it dawned on me that most people don’t realize the benefits AND cost saving that goes into using a whole chicken.  I’ve kind of made that my mission when the topic of chicken comes up and what I hear most is “I don’t have time for that”… but you do because it will save  you time in the long run.

We, as a family of four can get about 4+ meals out of one whole chicken!  That’s pretty good for a $10 investment.  I always look for the natural chicken on sale and freeze them or wait for a sale at Whole Foods.  When we are in a hurry, we even buy the natural rotisserie chicken at the grocery store for quick meals.   I do find that these chickens are a whole lot smaller than ones that you roast yourself.  When you do go this route, DO NOT THROW THE BONES AWAY!!  I’ll explain that part later.

One day we will raise chickens for meat, we just aren’t quite there yet….maybe next year. 😉

The best way to get the most out of your chicken is to first roast it.  If you work outside of the home, I would suggest doing this on a Saturday afternoon because it takes about 15 minutes of prep and 1.5 hours of cooking.  Heck, while you’re at it, roast two and you’ll have meals all week long!

Meal 1…

Roast Chicken:

1 Natural whole chicken

Olive oil

Fresh Thyme

Fresh Lemon

Salt

Pepper

Method of Prep: Pre-heat oven on to 425 degrees.  Place your chicken in a roasting pan (preferably on a roasting rack), remove giblets from inside.  Save the neck for stock.  Rub your chicken with olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme leave and lemon juice.  Place used lemon and thyme sprigs/branches inside chicken.

Oven sear at 425 for 15-20 minutes then reduce heat to 375 and cook until golden brown.  Should be about 1.5 hours.  Temp breast at 180 and thigh (near the bone) at 190.

Let it cool for a few minutes.  Remove the breasts and serve with your favorite sides, rice, potatoes, vegetables, or over salad. Yum!

 Meal one done!

Meal two…

Pick the remainder of the chicken from the bones after your roast chicken dinner and place in a plastic bag for another meal.  Perhaps some:

Chicken Quesadillas/Burrito/Rice bowl

 One organic diced onion

Leftover Chicken

3 cloves organic diced garlic

Organic Black beans

Frozen organic corn

Leftover cooked organic rice

Saute Onion and  Garlic in a a little olive oil.  Add leftover chicken, rice, corn and beans when onions are translucent.  Add some mexican spices, cumin, coriander, chili power, whatever you’ve got.  Heat it all up together.

Place in a  bowl or tortilla and top with cheese, sour cream and salsa. Eat!

or

 Chicken Fried Rice

Leftover organic cooked rice

Leftover chicken

Diced onion

3 organic eggs

Frozen organic peas, pea pods, carrots, broccoli, mushrooms whatever you’ve got on hand

Soy sauce

Sesame oil

Olive oil

Method of prep: in a large sauté pan or wok, heat up 2 Tbl olive oil and 1t sesame oil.  Sauté onion until translucent.  Add eggs and scramble in the pan until just cooked.  Remove eggs and onions.  Add a bit more oil, sauté any frozen vegetables and add chicken heat until warm then add rice. Heat the rice and add soy sauce to taste.  Finally add scrambled eggs in the end.

Mix it all up and you have another dinner!  Takes maybe 20 minutes to make and is such a comfort type food. 🙂

  If you do cook 2 chickens, you will have enough of the dark meat to throw in a slow cooker with some salsa or bbq sauce  to make some great pulled chicken for later in the week!  So many choices!

Meal three…maybe even four…

How to make Chicken Stock recipe is here in a prior blog post

I would suggest starting this on a Sunday morning on the stove or in a large slow cooker.  Your home will smell amazing!  There are so many vitamins and amino acids that come from making your own stock that the grocery store options don’t have plus, you are using an item that you have already paid for!  Whenever I have bones left over, I save them, freeze them and pull them out when I want to make soup.  I also make LARGE batches and freeze or can the extra stock so when we need a meal in a hurry, all we have to do is add veggies, pasta, rice, beans whatever is in the pantry or leftover in the fridge not to mention the flavor and extras that you get when cooking a batch of rice using your own stock, it’s amazing!  When you refrigerate your stock, you will have a nice float of chicken fat on top…save it for a bonus meal 5!

You can add fresh chopped or frozen veggies and pasta for a quick dinner.  You can even save some chicken to add back into the soup.

Bonus Meal 5…..

Once we’ve eaten chicken rice, noodle, veg soup for a few days we get a little sick of it, I turn it into a chicken ala king or chicken pot pie. Bring your soup to a simmer while you make a roux.

Take the chicken fat and flour, equal parts and make a roux(thickening agent) with it.

Step 1

Heat 6 tbsp. of chicken fat over medium heat until it is completely melted.

Step 2

Whisk in 6 tbsp. of all-purpose flour. You should have a slightly grainy mixture.

Step 3

Simmer the roux, whisking constantly, for six to eight minutes for a blond roux. The roux will expand and thicken as you simmer it, but it will gradually decrease in thickness the longer you cook it. If the roux begins to burn or turn brown too quickly, reduce the heat.  Remove half of your finished roux (incase you have too much, you can always add more if you need it)

Step 4

Take a little bit of your soup stock and whisk into the pan with the roux to temper the two together. Then slowly whisk in the roux and stock mixture into the rest of your soup.  Bring to a boil. It should be the consistency of a thick gravy, if it isn’t, add a bit more roux and boil again.  Chill and serve over rice, in crocks with pie shell top or in a pie shell for a traditional pot pie.  I freeze these pot pies and pop them into the oven when I don’t want to cook. 🙂

And, THAT is how you use a whole chicken, grocery store ladies! 😉

And now we wait…

We are ready for our newest additions!!  Next weekend we are picking up our piggies and we are so excited!!  We have planned and planned and built a great place for them to live and play and now we have to wait a whole week…I might just explode. 😉

In the beginning there were over 100 pallets…

And one handsome hubby…

And some good friends…

And some adorable kids…

And some grey, yucky looking pre-spring grass…

And a little extra bracing for some strong pigs….

And a little break for some in dirt playing….

And a ton of screws…

And a hill for extra grazing…

You can huff and puff, this house is going NOWHERE…..

Any pig would be glad to reside here in their 64×22 pen…

Less than $250 for pen and housing…reusing and reclaiming = Green living and happy pigs

And one approving hen awaiting her friends. ❤

There are nay sayers, those who think we are crazy for taking on this responsibility in addition everything else that we do in a day.  The difference is that we WANT to do this.  We want to have a little farm and learn how to grow our own food and sustain ourselves.  I love knowing where most of our food is coming from and that we know how to make and grow our own.  We are always learning and love that about this adventure.

Life is learning, I learned that from my Dad… ❤