This Week…

This Week….

IMG_3439

~We are: learning about George Washington

IMG_3446

~We are: Drinking lots of coffee due to mid-night continuous wake-ups

~We are: Catching up on lots of work

IMG_3447

~We are: Falling way behind on laundry

IMG_3428

~We are: Wishing for spring but watching the snow fall

IMG_3448

~We are: Remembering where we were last year with piggie plans

pig pen winter

~We are: Planning for  this years piggies!!

~We are: Wanting a nap, very badly

~We are: Feeling pretty dingy for slipping on the ice while always preaching of “paying attention”

~We are: Wishing that the cleaning fairy would come over and do her magic

~We are: Thankful for the craziness of life and young, relentless spirit of these little ones

 

Beans, Beans the Magical Fruit…..

Beans!  Beans! Beans!

IMG_2364

From blazing saddles to kids songs, if you are a man or under the age of 14, beans usually bring one thing to mind..

The Fluffies!

That is what we call a gaseous emission around here, well mostly.  My son is 6 so anything related to the bum is hilarious AND the talk of it is never-ending. 😉

Now, if you are an old mom like myself, you think of the nutrition a value of  beans.  Cooked, dry beans are low in fat, high in fiber and packed with protein. Dry beans provide a rich source of vitamins and minerals as well as plant phytochemicals.

So, take that Fluffies!

The other good thing is that my kids love them and I love serving the babes beans, that is until all of the BPA in metal can linings appeared.  When I found out about BPA, I went out and bought a ton of dried beans knowing that I could get around it all this way.  Except that you need to soak dried beans overnight if you want to eat them without breaking your teeth and who has time for that!?!  I am usually the one pulling frozen beef out of the freezer 30 minutes before dinner.  Organized for meal times, I am not!

So, since I am still afraid of the pressure canner that we bought and I had a closet full of dried beans and a husband that is willing to try anything, we set off to can some beans.

I had read how to do it and even asked a very helpful Facebook friend but was still leery about how they would turn out.  There were opinions about soaking first, not soaking, partial soaking, blah, blah, blah.  We were feeling lazy and impatient so we just put the dried beans in the jars.

IMG_2363

We canned black, kidney and garbanzo beans

IMG_2365

Black bean were treated to Mexican inspired spices, Kidney beans were left plain for soups and garbanzo got an assortment of herbs.

IMG_2375

IMG_2371

IMG_2368

IMG_2379

IMG_2382

We topped some with stock and some with water.  Some with herbs and some with spices.  Capped them all and into the pressure cooker they went.  After about 1 hour, we began to smell the spices and I was convinced that one had busted inside that was going to set off a chain reaction of events that would send the pressure canner careening into the air taking off like an inflated balloon that you’ve mistakenly let go of while blowing it up, zipping around the ceiling until it crash landed in the middle of the kitchen.

 Well, thankfully that did not happen. 🙂 Phew!

All of the jars were sealed, none broken and we had lots of fast and convenient organic beans to grab for any meal.  The best part, they are less than half the price of the already canned beans at the store and it took us less than 15 minutes to prep and a little over an hour to process, set it and forget it style (unless you are like me, cowering in a corner waiting for the explosion).

IMG_2389

IMG_2392

 Pardon the goo on the jars, they were the bottom row in the water…

Now we have a closet full of beans, ready to eat!  I feel like I go to them more as an option for dinners because they are ready to go, easy and done.  I’ve even popped open a jar of chick peas to munch on… They are soooo good!

This is how we did it.

In each of the 12 oz jars we put 1/2 cup of beans, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and whatever herbs or spices that you want in them and filled the rest of the way (leaving 1 inch at the top for expansion) and give a quick stir. Cap those babies and set them in the pressure canner.  Follow the directions on the canner for water levels.  Start ‘er up and let ‘er rip for about 70 minutes. Then let your canner de-pressurize naturally.

Pull those bad boys out (with canning tongs of course) set them on a clean dry towel to rest over night.  In the morning put them away.  Simple as that!

We’ve flown right through the jars that we made, so it’s time to do it again!

** I found that in the 12 oz jars, I would put a little less beans, the really sucked up the liquid.  I might also try a really quick par boil before too…I bet that would help in pre-sucking up the liquid. 😉

I’ll keep ya posted…

IMG_2454

Wheat pizza with salsa, cheese and a can of our beans with frozen corn added to it.

Quick and yummy Mexican pizza!!

The visitor and the quilts….

With the help of my wonderful husband, my sister showed up at my door just before Thanksgiving.  What a surprise!!  Suitcase in hand and without anyone else’s knowledge, I had her all to myself.  🙂 Normally with such a big family, we all share her when she visits, but with no one aware that she was even here…she was all mine!  I felt like we were little girls again…hiding from the world in our bedroom closet.

She was a great help and with perfect timing, she came right in the middle of all of our craziness and was staying for a whole month!  One deliriously tired night as we were driving home from a busy day at the shop, we thought it would be nice to make a family gift, something for everyone. So we concocted this crazy idea that we’d make memory quilts from my Dads clothing that I had saved. Crazy, right?!?

 3 years ago when my Dad passed, I had saved some of his clothing with the intention of making quilts and just like most ideas…it was an “eventually” idea.  Meaning I would get to it, eventually.  When we were throwing out ideas for this present, I proposed this crazy idea and she accepted.  One tiny issue…we had never done anything remotely like this before.  She didn’t’ sew at all and I had recently rekindled my relationship with my sewing machine making some Halloween costumes and we were still in the dating phase, my machine and I.

 Now, when making something so sentimental, you can’t make just one and expect everyone to share, everyone will need their own to snuggle with, so this meant making 6 memory quilts!  The other issue was that we had 3.5 weeks to make all 6…AND it was our busiest season at our businesses, which meant a lot of time away from the secret project.

With a serious deadline looming over our head we got to work…watching Youtube videos on  how to make quilts.  Hey, you’ve got to start somewhere. 🙂

Our next step was to find enough clothing to make 6 quilts.   I had some, but it wouldn’t be enough so we broke the code of secrecy and asked my brother if we could dig into his stash of Dad clothing to add to ours and he agreed.

Then we got to cutting….being that we were making so many, we didn’t really have a ton of money to spend so we headed off to the fabric store with our coupons to buy the batting, backing and cutting equipment that we’d need.  Needless to say, we were at the fabric store a lot in this short 3 week time frame!

IMG_1852

We cut, and cut and cut some more until we had enough squares to make the quilts.  We laid them all out in the patterns that we liked, making sure that each quilt had the same amount of quintessential Dad clothes.  Each had a special, very recognizable center square and each had at least one pocket from his famous short-shorts, and for good reason.   You see, Dad’s clothing still smelled like him!  3 + Years of being in storage and we could still smell him!  We probably smelled every piece of clothing 10 times trying to jam that smell back into our memory again…it had been so long.  We figured that since everything was out in the open, that the smell would fade and we wanted for everyone to be able to smell him again…so everyone got a pocket in their quilt.  In these special pockets, everyone got pieces of Dad’s clothes that still smelled like he did.

IMG_1888

We ironed and pinned and sewed.  Then we ironed and pinned and sewed.  Then we ironed and pinned and sewed.  We learned as we went, taught ourselves and made some mistakes along the way but it was fun and very rewarding.  We laughed, we cried…I think we even healed a little.
I can’t even remember how many hours we put into these quilts.  It matters not. 🙂

IMG_3072

One of the 6….

IMG_3119

Mom’s quilt made out of al of Dad’s Sweaters

IMG_3120

My little machine sure got a good work out that week. 

IMG_3145

Laying out the batting and backing before edging

IMG_1909

All  done.

IMG_1884

The patch we made to sew on each quilt.

IMG_1914

Folded and ready to be boxed for Christmas…we finished one day before my sister’s husband came for Christmas!

IMG_1976

My Mom after she opened her quilt…the edging we used was one of their old sheets.

5138_1171695487085_2276671_n

My Dad…My Hero.

I thought I would put my quilt in the closet, never to be used because it was so precious to me.  I was wrong.  On Christmas morning my kids snuggled up (without my permission) under the “Pepere Blanket” as it is known around here and I’m pretty sure that my heart grew bigger that morning as I looked at them.  It felt as though Dad was hugging my little guy once more and finally giving my little lady the hugs she never got because he was gone before she was born.  The blanket has remained on the couch ever since….warming us all at different times during the cold days and nights.

Hugging us all, one more time…

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.

9668_4349526049158_1830925928_n

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

Bacon, Sausage and Lard…

Phew… we’ve had quite the busy week!

2 – 30 lbs hams curing and waiting to be smoked.

13 pints of lard rendered and canned just waiting for pie crust.

100 lbs of sausage (breakfast and Italian) made, stuffed and packaged.

Almost 70 lbs of bacon cured in molasses and maple for 5 days then smoked, sliced and packaged.

~Blueberry Maple Sausage

~Sweet Italian and Blueberry Maple

~Getting a little Maple Yumminess..

~Rubbed and curing for 4 days

~Resting an hour before the smoker

~Smoked for hours and ready for the oven!

We still have so much to do…I must have 80 lbs of fat left to render, but the majority of the hard work is done.

Rendering fat….

Thankfully a friend rendered fat from a pig that she purchased earlier this month and warned of the odor and being very sensitive to odor myself, I am glad that I decided to cook the fat outside on the porch in slow cookers…It definitely had a certain smell to it.  Outside it wasn’t bad, actually we were cleaning up the yard in anticipation of hurricane Sandy and my son yelled “it smells like potato chips!”, which it did. 🙂  That being said, when all was said and done I had the whitest snow-white lard I’ve ever seen.  Because our pigs spent their lives outside in the sun, their fat is chock full of vitamin D, second only to cod liver oil!  Can you imagine??  Have you ever tried to stomach cod liver oil?  Not my favorite by any means.  Good to know that my pastries and morning eggs will have serious amounts of vitamin D…perfect for the winter. Yay!!

Anywho, here is how I did it.  You can literally set-it and forget-it!

~Sunny day rendering a little lard

Cut your fat into small pieces, the smaller the better, the more lard you will render out.

Place it all in a crockpot

Add 1 inch of cold water to the bottom of the pan

Set the crockpot on the lowest setting

Cover and forget for about 6 hours

You’ll see the fat shrink and the lard will begin to fill the pan.  When the fat (which will become cracklings) begins to brown, it’s time to strain, strain through cheesecloth in a strainer.  This will be the whitest of white lard.  Perfect for baking.  Pour hot lard into sterile jars and top with sterile lids.  They will self seal and be shelf stable.

Place the fat pieces back in the pan and continue to render.  When the cracklings resemble bacon pieces, you can strain it a

gain and this straining will be a bit darker and have  a little bit of a bacon/pork flavor, perfect for breads and frying.  Anything that you want to have a little more of an in-depth flavor.  Some people save the cracklings and add them to salads or anywhere else you’d want a little crunch.  I can imagine that a chicken breast coated in panko crumbs and cracklings would be AMAZING!

I, however ended up tossing them as it was really late and I was kinda tired of them…if I’m being completely honest. 😉

~lard, glorious lard

Here is the dream shot, although not a great one…

Our goal….

~Our own eggs AND bacon!!

From the very first egg gathered from our backyard chicken house over 3 years ago we said “wouldn’t it be great to have our own bacon to go with it!”…

 Much to the nay-say of others and many thinking that we are nuts….we did it!

We did it!!

And we will do it again, next spring.

 It has been so much more than a learning experience, it has really made me more aware of where my food comes from and where I WANT my food to come from.

I do have to admit that I can’t wait until next year to have little piggies running around outside…they really are such neat creatures. ❤

If anyone local is interested for next year….let me know.  We would love to share our home grown food. 🙂

Off they go….

Off they go…

When we got these little ones over 6 months ago, we knew what their purpose joining us here on the farm was.  We respected, loved and cared for these animals from the moment they arrived to us.  We vowed to give them a healthy and stress free life in turn for them providing us with healthy, stress free meat for our family.

That time came this past Sunday…

I knelt down, looked each one of these creatures that I’ve been caring for in the eye and said a heartfelt thank-you.

It was now time and we had work to do.

The sun was shining for the first day in what felt like forever!  We gave them some of their favorite food to buy us a little time to make the necessary preparations…it is true that a pig will do just about anything for food.

We backed the trailer in, filled it with hay and positioned the ramp, we were ready to go…or so we thought.  When the time came, the gate was opened.  I stood in the trailer, shook the bag of food and after checking out the situation, 3 of the 4 came walking up  the ramp.  The other, well he wasn’t going anywhere.  He was going to make us work hard today. 😉

After a muddy 2 man, 2 woman, 1 hog, country fair style pig scramble, he was on the trailer and they were ready to go.

Once the trailer pulled away, the farm-yard was still sunny, but very quiet.  I have to admit that it was a little sad, they were my little buddies, always ready to greet me because I usually came bearing food. 🙂

Will we do it again?

YES!

 Our first year with pigs was a success!  And by success I mean, we raised healthy, well cared for, drug free, stress free pigs and my FEAR of them getting loose and having to chase them all over God’s green earth didn’t happen…thank goodness!

  We are very fortunate to have land and the time to grow food for our family and friends.

That is our pig adventure for now…

Perhaps next year, we’ll add some pastured chickens for meat….maybe. 😉

The last of the warm summer days…

Every year about this time I look around and think, did I have my windows open enough this summer?

Did we get enough fresh, warm air?

Did we do all that we wanted to this summer?

The answers:

There is never enough open window time. 🙂

The air is always fresh, though not always warm. 🙂

No, the summer escaped us, but all of the major ideas were accomplished.

Our garden was not uber fruitful this year.  We had a giant crop of cucumbers early on, before the beetles got them.  The  tomatoes did well before the hornworms got them.  Zucchini also did well, before the beetles came…We just donated the garden to the pigs, they loved it and are still digging out there, for a few more weeks anyway.

The seasons seem to change so fast around here!  One day it’s sweltering, the next the fire is roaring.  I fear that I’ve hung my last load of laundry on the line until the spring.  As much as I will miss all of the outside doings, I will have more time to take care of things inside now. 🙂  Bring on the baking, blogging, crafting and homeschooling!

I am ready.  We have had a very busy summer and are ready for a little slowdown.  We have some buttoning up of the farm around here, the chicken coop needs to be cleaned out and winterized, the pigs off to the butcher, summer gadgets put away for the winter and on and on….

Now that the warm weather is coming to an end, the grill will go away and so will one of our favorite meals.  It’s quick, a great vessel for leftovers and tastes great…

Since this is a quick grilling pizza, your sauce and toppings must be warm when they are put onto the pizza.

We used some leftover bacon from breakfast and garden goodies to make this one…

Pre-flip…

Post Flip.

Grilled Pizza!!

1 Dough ball

Leftovers from the fridge, garden etc…

Sauce

Cheese

 You can buy dough at the store or make your own.  I always pick one up while shopping, it keeps great in the freezer and is so quick and useful.  This dough was an organic sample given to us (perks of the “other” job)

Pre-heat grill to high, scrape your grill clean.  It often helps to take an old, clean towel drizzle  it with  olive oil and rub down the hot grill grates (quickly) using tongs to hold the towel.

Let dough sit out at room temp for about 20 minutes.  Rub a little olive oil on a sheet pan (leaving the corners dry).  Hand stretch the dough then place it on the tray.  Stretch the dough to the corners of the tray pressing the dough into the dry corners  (it helps the dough from shrinking back).

Meanwhile heat your sauce stove top.

Sauté all of your toppings.  I often just do this in a pan on the grill, top down with the pan handle sticking out while it is heating up….why waste the heat. 😉

Now….

Turn your grill to medium-high.  Slide your dough off the pan an onto the grill.  Close the grill and wait a few minutes.  Your dough will rise.  You are looking for nice grill marks on the underside and a nice crust.  Once that is formed, using a big spatula, place the spatula under the dough and begin to lift, quickly place your other hand to guide the top when flipping and continue the flip.

Now it’s time to top your pizza with the warm sauce, cheese and toppings.  Close the cover and allow cheese to melt and bottom to get a nice crust.  Once this is done, lift one side of your pizza, slide your original pan underneath and Voila! Dinner!

So Easy…you can omit the sauce and make it into a flatbread….

Pre-cook eggs, add salsa instead of sauce and you’ve got breakfast pizza…

Give it a try!  It’s an easy way to keep the kitchen clean and cool. 😛

If anyone out there has any organic remedies for squash beetles and hornworms, I’d love to know! 🙂

Fighting, fences and depression…..

Sibling rivalry is alive and well in the farm-yard!

After a little routine (well less than routine this year) lawn mowing, we heard a terrible squealing coming from the pig pen, not an oops I touched the electric fence squealing, but something quite different.

Three of the pigs had the 4th cornered and were biting his tail and hid quarters. 😦  The gentlest of the bunch was under attack.

We hopped in and separated them but once they see the red color of blood…it’s game on!  So after they went at him again, we decided that we had to separate them and the only way to do that was but splitting the area with the electric fence, him in one side and them on the other.

Yay!  It worked!  We tended to the wounds and he healed within a few days

New problem..pig depression.  Now, I am no pig psychologist, but we had one depressed piggie on our hands…it was pretty easy to tell.  Pigs eat.  They eat ALL of the time, they eat almost anything.  It’s amazing what will go through a pigs digestive tract only to show up on the other side.  Stories for another day though.   I knew he was depressed, because he would just push his food around and take a few bites (not to mention the escape to the side with his pals that ended up with more wounds).  He would sleep beside the fence, just inches from his pals.  It was truly sad and very heartbreaking.  When I went  to scoop the poop, as I lovingly refer to my chores as, he wanted to play with me.  He was lonely, so we bonded.. full well keeping in mind that this animal could eat me or crush me against the fencing. He missed his buddies and I was no substitution. 😦

We decided that they needed more space, so we ordered some electric netting and decided to sacrifice what was left of the garden so they would have a little yummy distraction when we put them all back together.  It was really cute, they sniffed each other and went on their merry way to till our garden.  They made quick work of it and have been pig happy ever since.  Every once in a while, Red will sneak up to one of his buddies and give a little snout rub as if to say “I missed you”.

I believe that this is the picture that got me shocked to the bone…um, yeah…the new fence works. 😉

They are hovering around 200 lbs each and are just a joy to watch.  I learn so much by watching them…they are such smart creatures.  The most peaceful part of my day is doing my chores, feeding them and watching them.  I really think we are ready to make the jump into farming a bigger property….I feel it in my bones. 🙂

Now…if only my bones would find that perfect piece of property!! 😉

Stay tuned!

Bacon Jam!!!

 Now I figured with a name like Bacon Jam, that THIS would be a recipe that I would really like…Man, was I wrong!  I am IN LOVE with bacon jam…I mean really in love.

This is our new go-to condiment.  It goes on burgers, in grilled cheese, with cream cheese on crostini, in chicken salad, on baked potatoes and we’ve only had it in the house less than a week!  I would venture to say that it would be amazing with a little vanilla ice cream! Yum!!

I brought a jar to a family cook out and made everyone try it!  Unless everyone was just being polite…the reviews were (as I suspected…) “where can we get some?!?”

(My husbands bacon jam filled dinner plate! Ha, ha)

Looks like I’ll be putting Bacon jam on my Christmas gift list!

Want some of your own…

Here ya go!

 After my family filled their plates the first night right out of the crock-pot I filled 3 jelly jars and 4 smaller jars

3 lbs bacon

4 medium onions sliced

8 cloves garlic

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup maple syrup (the real stuff)

1.5 cups brewed coffee

1/4 cup molasses

2 bay leaves

Chop the raw bacon into small pieces and cook in a skillet (render out the fat) until the bacon is nice and crispy.

Remove the bacon and set aside.  Cook onions and garlic in remaining bacon fat until translucent.

In the meantime, put the rest of the ingredients in a crock pot.  Transfer the onion and garlic mixture and the bacon bits into the crock pot and set on high for 3-4 hours or until you have a runny jam like consistency.

I got impatient and put it into a wok and reduced it that way (the smell was intoxicating and I just couldn’t wait anymore!)

Pull out the bay leaves and zip it all in the food processor until the bacon is broken up, just a few spins.

Put it into jars and refrigerate.  Add to everything!!

My favorite so far is store-bought natural rotisserie chicken, pulled and mixed with mayo and bacon jam! Delish!!

I would think you could can in a pressure canner, but I will ask the experts before I make that claim for sure. 🙂

Next time I think I’ll experiment with a savory bacon jam.  This one is on the sweet side, I can just imagine one with a bit more garlic and rosemary….Mmmm….

Pigs, Pasture and Amazing Grace….

After a VERY busy few weeks, things around our little farm have calmed down a tad…well, enough for us to tackle a few of the things on the to do list.  One of the big ones was to move the electric fence outside of the pig enclosure to move the Babes into fresh greens. Well, it was more like getting up the nerve to move the electric fence outside of the pig enclosure to move the Babes into fresh greens.

It’s a pretty nerve-racking feat.  You see, the hubs is not home for most of the waking hours and that leaves me to “chase” pigs, should the need arise.  This is not something that I feel is in my repertoire of things that I am good at, but the pigs needed some fresh greens and this is the easiest way, so my fears remain on the back burner.

So, move them we did and what many have told us it is true, they say that pigs won’t cross the line where an electric fence was…that is unless there is pig feed on the other side!  We opened the gate and they went right up to it, but not past it.  We tried to coerce them, push them, chase them and nothing until I shook the feed bucket and they came a running, right past the gate into the field.  Those Babes truly LOVE their organic pig feed!

Whenever they see me, they snort, grunt and occasionally bark and when I grab the feed bucket they start frothing at the mouth, literally.  NEVER, ever come between a pig and their feed, they go nuts trying to get to it!

( A happy pig, is a muddy pig. 🙂 )

Once they were through the gate, they started chowing away on the greens and digging up the dirt with their snouts looking for bugs and whatever else smells yummy at that moment. 🙂

Once they were settled, the hubs and I grabbed a couple of chairs and just watched them do what they do while we sat in sun chatting about the future, our goals, and dreams for our bigger farm.   The kids were actually playing and getting along, then we heard it…bagpipes!  Seriously?!?  Now, where we are situated, there aren’t a ton of people around us and hardly anyone is around on a late Sunday afternoon, but someone was playing the bagpipes.

 As magical as it seemed at the moment, I soon realized that it was coming from the church not too far away.  There were no services at that time, just someone playing amazing grace on the bagpipes.  There was no traffic and no noise, just peaceful amazing grace.  Even after I realized that the sound wasn’t coming from the heavens (bummer), it was still magical.  After all, it isn’t everyday the we are treated to a private concert of amazing grace while sitting in the sun, talking about what the future holds, watching our kids play peacefully and seeing our animals enjoy new pasture.

It was a magical, well needed afternoon.

Thank you Bagpiper, whoever you are 🙂