He’s gone and joined the Army, the 1864 Army that is…

One gloomy day in July, my 9-year-old son joined the 1864 Army.  It took all of 90 seconds and the chance to hold a civil war era rifle and he was gone.

IMG_8527

IMG_8529

I know that he is only 9 and that it is not real by any stretch of the imagination, but to him (and to my heart) it was pretty real.  I felt a real excitement for him and a serious sad ping in my heart all at the same time.   Silly huh?

What ever will I do in 9 short years when he is off to conquer the world?!?  Although in his 9-year-old mind…he will be living with us forever.  I think it’s ok if I hold onto that particular thought just a little while longer. ❤

IMG_8586

IMG_8583

IMG_8566

IMG_8565

What a beautiful day and a great experience.

I love homeschooling these little people!  The wonderful experiences that we share, the memories that we make. Not only do they learn, but we do too.  ❤

No more CSA…

For the past 3 or so years, we joined a local, organic CSA from their start up. While we loved it at first, we found through the years that we weren’t able to really save anything for the winter and although we are culinarily adventurous, we had produce in the CSA that we never used. 😦  So we were looking for a better way for us to have enough for the summer AND have plenty to can without having to pay farmers market prices for extras.

We were bouncing around the idea of a greenhouse, which is a big expense and not at all pretty to look at on our small property.  I did not want to commit to an expense like that as I was not really comfortable in my black thumb gardening of the past so I suggested that we do a trial garden instead, to see if I could indeed grow things on a larger scale.  You see, I’ve had gardens in the past, from purchased seedlings, that I’ve basically given up on mid season, every single year.  Things get busy, weeds grow tall, I HATE hornworms and bugs…those types of things, so I was not convinced that I could do this, at all.

We had saved some seeds from the produce that we got at the farmers market to can last fall.  Unfortunately, the kids mixed all of the tomato seeds, so it was sort of a crap shoot what we would have for tomatoes.  What we also didn’t know is that your open pollinated squash second generation saved seeds can produce hybrid mutts of the squash world, which we have quite a few of. They’ll be interesting for sure when we crack them open.  Lessons learned. 😉

IMG_8199 IMG_8200

Since putting in the 1 acre pig fencing last year, it left us with the old pig area which was super compacted and really rocky.  We decided to find some way to try and amend the soil while adding more growing medium to the whole area.  We found an organic dairy just up the road who was selling their composted cow manure.  Score!  The pigs had really made the already unworkable land, really unworkable so it was our only real option.  They delivered 2 dump trucks full and we got to spreading.  The kids were right there with us, knee deep in cow poo!  Man, I love those kids!

IMG_8317

Once we got it piled into mounds, we planted what little seedlings survived (which was not a lot despite my loving hands and pro grow lights)…which left me feeling a little defeated.  My first foray into starting seedlings indoors left me with stalled growth at best and nothing growing at worst.  Any who..the little ones went into the ground and I replanted the failed ones from seed.

IMG_8440 IMG_8459

IMG_8465 IMG_8466IMG_8467 IMG_8723 IMG_8736

IMG_7598

After weeks of weeding and watering we began to see life!  That was the most exciting part!  I put these seeds into the ground, watered them and they GREW!  Crazy huh?!?  I knew how it all worked and had planted many times, but this year, something clicked.  It was as if someone had set off a button in my head that allowed me to really appreciate what was happening.  I spent lots of time in the garden, weeding, picking bugs off the plants (grow your own damn plants bugs!) and watering.  I talked to the plants, I actually thanked them all daily for the bounty that they provided us to sustain us now and through the winter.  It worked!

To date, we’ve canned over 200 jars of different sauces, relishes, ketchup, pickles and salsas.  I’ve frozen quarts and quarts of green beans, zucchini, carrots, corn and pea pods.  And stored away in the cellar are 50+ squash, yes even the hybrid mutts.

Moral of the story, the experimental season in the garden has been a success and I don’t think we’ll be needing a greenhouse after all.  We have a way to go and are constantly learning, there will be some tweaking for sure but I believe that the words for this season are grateful and thankful. ❤

There really is something so rewarding about growing your own food once you see it as a privilege and not a chore. ❤

Seriously, if I can do it….anyone can!

How was your gardening season?

How 25 fuzzy butts turned into 35…

photo

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.

photo 1

photo 2

photo 5

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.

photo 3

The “older”gals

photo 1

Meeting each other for the first time.

photo 2

First day in the sun!

photo 3

photo 4

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!

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.

photo 3

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). 😉

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. 🙂

photo 2

Cured Ham Steak

The Dinner Party….

Our son hosted his first dinner party this past week!

He’s 7. 🙂

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.

IMG_5488

Cutting Onions

IMG_5489

Seasoning the pork shoulder

IMG_5498

Adding a little Dr. Better

IMG_5505

Slicing apples for the flat apple pie

IMG_5510

Cutting the cabbage for slaw

IMG_5512

Mixing up the slaw

IMG_5515

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

IMG_5524

The finished pop pulled pork!

IMG_5529

Dinner is served!!

IMG_5532

Making caramel for the pie

IMG_5520

Pie is done!

IMG_5535

My guy! Sorry for the bad picture. 

IMG_5537

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. 😉

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.

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!!

IMG_4793

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!

IMG_4819

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.

Fortunate are we!!

Last Month we were fortunate enough to be part of a home school group that attended a class on the weather atop Mt. Washington and rode the Cog Railway up to the summit of Mt. Washington!  What a blast!  The kids are still talking about it and the experience of being on top of the world (at least in our little corner of it, anyway).    What a cool experience!  I remember going up as a kid, but I remember it being waaayyy scarier.  They have made giant leaps in the form of safety and new equipment.  As a kid, I felt like we could slip back at anytime and plummet to the bottom, which is how I thought I’d feel this time, but the ride was nice, very nice and felt safe.  The conductors were very knowledgeable and we learned about the history of the mountains and how some great folks worked tirelessly to preserve the areas wilderness.  We learned that the first building was built on the top of the mountain in 1852!  I can’t even imagine!

IMG_4730

IMG_4742

IMG_4723 IMG_4694

And finally VERY excited to have the schoolroom coming along!!  It has been a long process and we’ve had to learn a lot.  At this point, I don’t see anymore additions to our home in our future…but we’ll chat when all is said and done and we can move everything upstairs. 😉

IMG_4388

We are hoping that we can get it all finished within the next few weeks and finally have everything back in their places….. 🙂

A litte bit of Mexico…

IMG_2885

Perhaps the hubs was longing for our honeymoon to Mexico…Perhaps he looked around and saw nothing in the house to eat??

Anyway…

When the man is home on a weekend that we aren’t running around…then he is cooking Which is fine by me!!.   Enter the homemade corn tortillas.

IMG_2887

As I finished my own work, he was busy mixing and resting dough.  He had his Sous Chefs by his side and together they were rolling while the littlest Sous was pressing.  My little guy was so incredibly proud of himself that he showed me each and every tortilla before they were cooked.  Which left me getting very little work done, but hey…them be some yummy tortillas made by a super kid!  I am very lucky. 🙂

IMG_2888

While Mj pressed, Mark cooked.

IMG_2891

This went on for a good while until we had a giant stack of warm, salty, corny (he, he) tortillas.

IMG_2894

IMG_2899

 

We ended up with tostada like yumminess topped with grass-fed beef, our own canned beans, organic corn, organic salsa and the BEST sour cream out there…Wallaby!

 Seriously, this stuff is almost drinkable!

Anywho…Here is the link to the recipe that was used.  We were able to find organic masa harina too!  NO GMO corn here…ever! 😉

Give it a try…It is super fun for the kids too!

Piadina…My new love!

Welcome to the yummy world of Piadina!

Piadina is where I want to live, well actually it isn’t a place (not that I know of anyway), but to me it is a fluffy little island that I forever want to live on or at very least eat everything off of!

Piadina is a soft, fluffy little Italian flatbread made with lard, I said it LARD! Mmmm.

I first tasted a yummy morsel like this many, many moons ago.  It was light and fluffy and it was filled with a caesar salad.  Ever since then I have been searching for that flavor I had no idea what it was, I figured it was an Indian style flatbread.  The hubs was bored and since no plain old chicken salad sandwich will do at our house, he whipped out “I’m going to make Piadina!” five minutes before the lunchtime hunger melt down.  I had no idea what  he was talking about so I rolled my eyes knowing that the wrath of hungry littles was about to pound on him like a sledge hammer carnival game.  Good luck, I thought.  But alas, Dad is way more fun than Mom, so he was able to keep the natives at bay.

I let him do his thing and stayed out of the way until I smelled the fluffy goodness in the pan!

OH MY WORD!  It was heavenly!  Not in a brownie out of the oven heavenly way, but in a salty, bacon-ish angels calling sort of way.  I know, you are thinking “it’s just bread lady!” but it is ohhhh, so much more.

I ran over to the stove, I may have “accidentally” pushed one of the kids out of the way, tore a piece off the bread, shoved it into my mouth and I was taken back to that silly salad-wich that I had tasted years ago int he midwest!

 It was AH-MA-ZING.

Since I wasn’t really interested in the process, honestly I thought “you’re making flatbread, not interested” so I didn’t take any pictures until I tasted it, and then all I could do was snap one picture before I devoured this sandwich. 🙂

Piadina

 You must try this, it doesn’t take long to make and its flavor is amazing.

I am very much on a sprouted what kick lately, but I ran out of the sprouted wheat flour. Boo…So I vow to make this with sprouted wheat and see if there is a difference.

The recipe credit belongs here, to Food52 Blog and to her Nonna!  Thank you Nonna, no chicken salad sandwich will ever compare.

Here is the recipe:

Serves 6 (recipe can be multiplied)

  • 3cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 heaping tablespoons shortening or leaf lard
  • 3/4 cups warm water
  • 1/4 cup warm milk
  • Fillings of your choice like Prosciutto, ham, mozzarella, fritatta, salad, Nutella, pretty much anything you want .  ***I vote Chicken Salad!!***
  1. Place flour in a mound on pastry board or counter. Sprinkle on salt and baking powder, and mix together with your fingers.
  2. Make a well in the center. Drop in the shortening and rub it together with the flour using your fingertips. Lumps are okay! And it will still be pretty floury.
  3. Make a well again and pour in water and milk. Mix with fingers until dough comes together. Add a little more warm water or flour, if needed. You want a soft dough – not at all sticky. Knead for a couple minutes, and roll into a log shape.
  4. Alternatively, all the mixing can be done in a large bowl. I like to use a fork to mix everything together.
  5. Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces, using a scale if you have one. With one hand, gently roll each piece on the board/counter into a ball. Mom says to use your thumb and nudge the dough ball under with each turn. Set each ball to the side on a sprinkling of flour and let rest for 5 minutes.
  6. Heat griddle to medium. Slightly flatten a ball and roll out dough to about 9 inches in diameter. Gently lift and place on hot griddle, scoring the piadina all over with the tines of a fork. If bubbles appear, quickly pierce those suckers with the fork. Cook each side for a few minutes or until each side develops some lightly browned spots. Remove to a clean dish cloth. Repeat with each ball, and stack each cooked piadina over one another. Loosely cover with a dish towel. When done, cut piadine into quarters and enjoy with your favorite sandwich fixings.
  7. Piadina freezes well. Reheat on a griddle.