2015 Pigs….

pigs

Do you want to know the most worrisome part of raising pigs??

The escapes!

Pigs are naturally curious creatures and want what is on the other side of the fence, that is until they learn what the fence can do.  But until then they try and this crew succeeded well, multiple times!  These guys and gals were an adventurous crew to say the least.

The day that we picked them up happened to be the day of our son’s 9th birthday…happy birthday kid!  You get pigs! Yay!

Anywho, we safely got them into their new enclosure.  This crew is the first to be re-homed directly in the new enclosure.   We really thought they’d be good little piggies and stay within the fencing since this was their home now.  Umm..nope.

In the middle of the party the hubs and I taking turns watching the pasture for our little friends.  Then it happens…I don’t see them anymore!  First, let me say that they are little babes when we get them and have over an acre of tree filled pasture to themselves so they can be hard to spot even when they are grown and 235 lbs.  In the middle of the party, in our party clothes, we slam on our boots and run out the door.  Searching the enclosure they are no where to be found.  PANIC!  I grabbed a piece cardboard and off we went into the woods to find them.  These wonderful heritage breed pigs are not your typical pink color, these beauties are black, which makes them veery hard to spot in the forrest.   Especially when they are tiny, fast, and low to the ground.  Luckily they stayed together and eventually we spotted them, got in front of them with our make shift cardboard corral and nudged them back toward home at which time they WALKED right through the electric fence without even a squeal!

We need a plan B…oh and can some one pass the party punch??

We were so afraid they would do it again, that we stole the chicken fence (the chickens got a crash coarse in free ranging) and put that inside the electric fence. Ha! Take that cutie pies DOUBLE electric fence.  While all of this is going on, the guests of the party are non the wiser to the pig chase, until one notices that I’ve changed my clothes.  Then I had to explain how I fell in the mud in my dress clothes chasing pigs, during the party.  All in a day, right??

So we we are all good, pigs are back and in a double electric fence!  Phew!

Umm..nope.

Escape numero deux…

About a month and a half later while playing a video game with my little guy, I glanced out the window and see a black pig casually stroll by the window, then another…hmmm I thought, that is odd, then it hit me, the pigs are out!!

PANIC!!

It’s just me home and 4 pigs on the loose.  What to do??  Well. honestly, I don’t know what I did but after a bit of chasing and enticing with feed (I am built for comfort, not for speed), I got one back in the fence and the others followed.  Thank the lord!  It was decided then that we would have to run another electric line in order for me not to end up in the looney bin.  So that is exactly what we did and they stayed put, grew well and were happy.

These guys are the first to live their whole time with us with an entire acre + to do as they please.  They had a favorite wallow spot that I would fill once a day and on really hot days, they would bound down the hill to get a daily spray down of cool water, then back up to lay in the shade.  These guys were wonderful. ❤  Sweet, good natured, attentive and they came when called.  They loved their organic apple snacks and all of the organic garden goodies.  I am so very thankful that we can do this, raise our own animals for ourselves and for our friends.

We are truly blessed. ❤

2015 pigs

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. 😉

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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!

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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.

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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…

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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!

Organic Salted Caramel Popcorn!

 

 

 

 

Organic and Homemade Salted Caramel Popcorn!

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Seriously…It’s too easy not to make this for any occasion!  Movie night!  Teacher appreciation!  Road Trip!  Sneak it into the movies!!

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Wanna Know how??

Pop some organic popcorn, PLEASE make it organic.  It doesn’t cost much more for organic popcorn and corn is most definitely one of those nasty GMO crops.

Ok…so off the soap box and onto caramel corn…

1) Pop some organic popcorn

2) Heat up your homemade salted caramel

3) Pour warm caramel over popcorn, mix to coat all of the popcorn

4) Add anything you’d like…nuts, shredded coconut…whatever!

5) Spread flat onto a parchment lined sheet pan

6) Bake in a 250 degree oven for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

 

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There…you are now a magician! After all, who makes their own salted caramel popcorn! Oh wait, you do!!

Wanna be super bad??? Drizzle some melted organic chocolate chips onto the finished caramel corn once it has cooled.


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If you bring this to any party, rest assured that you will ALWAYS be invited back, it’s that good!

Enjoy!

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. 😉

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. 😉

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. 😉

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). 😉

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. 🙂

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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.

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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) 🙂

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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. 😉

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.

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 jalapeño and cheese…the combinations are endless!

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

Gluten Free Eating and Apple and Onion Roasted Pork…

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So….I’ve embarked on this gluten-free journey and so far so good!

 I have been so tired with a general feeling of crapiness for such a long time now, that I figured it was time to try something different.  Years ago, when the low carb craze hit, I did it and felt great (of course, I was a lot less fluffy then *wink, wink*)…but I remember feeling great.

 We eat great quality foods.  We eat organic foods with no preservatives or GMO.  We eat lots of fresh produce and meats that we raise ourselves (organically) or that we buy from friends who also grown organically.  We cook almost all of our meals at home, so we know what goes into them.  We don’t use chemicals in our home and use homeopathy as a means of getting ourselves well and  food based remedies as well.    We eat raw garlic and I make a bone broth (stock) at least once a week.  Why in the world am I so tired and icky??  I’ve been feeling that wheat/gluten is the culprit for a while but haven’t made the jump until now.  You see….I LOVE bread!  It is what I eat when I don’t feel good, it is what I eat when I do feel good, some form of flour is always being eaten here at home as a meal or with a meal.

I thought that the transition would be harder, but honestly, it hasn’t been!!  I feel better, have more energy (I’m not ready to run a marathon yet…) and am not craving the bread like I thought I would. Yay!

Sooo…as I embark on this journey I will create new recipes, I will try new recipes and let you know how they turn out!

My first official GF recipe is a Roasted Apple and Onion Pork Shoulder.  You could easily use a pork roast or tenderloin too!

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Ingredients:

4-6 lb Pork Shoulder (Pasture or organically raised if possible)

Bacon Fat saved from breakfast (you can use olive oil and butter or coconut oil)

5 Cloves of sliced Organic garlic

2-3 Medium Organic Onions, sliced

2-3  Organic Apples, sliced (skin on)

16 oz (or so) of organic chicken stock (homemade would be best)

1.5 Tbl Organic Balsamic Vinegar

3 Tbl Organic Maple Syrup

3 Tsp Organic Cinnamon

Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Put about a TBL of bacon fat into the Dutch oven on the stove on a med-high heat and sauté the onions  and garlic.  Once they are beginning to brown, add the apples, cinnamon and the balsamic vinegar.  Cook for a few more minutes then  remove from the pan.  Add about a TBL of bacon fat to the pan.  Generously salt and pepper all sides of the pork shoulder.  Sear all sides of the pork to create a beautiful brown crust.  Once all sides are browned, add the chicken stock (should come  about 1/2 way up the pork) and scrape the sides of the pan with a wooden spoon to get all of the yummy splatters into the sauce.  Add the onions, garlic, apples and maple syrup to the pot.   Cover and place in the oven for 2.5- 3 hours or until the roast is easily pulled apart with a fork.

Remove the roast (or roast pieces as it will probably fall apart) from the pan and set aside.  With an immersion blender directly in the pot, buzz the juices, apples and onions together to create an amazing gravy.  I may have splashed a bit of maple syrup into the gravy before buzzing… 😉

Crock pot Option:  I would assume that you could throw all of this into a crock pot, put it on low, go to work and return to an amazing dinner too!!

Although I did not get any pictures of it, I served this with organic carrot sticks roasted in olive oil, salt and pepper and with roasted organic acorn squash.

Roasted Acorn Squash:

Halve the squash carefully as they have a tough skin

Scoop out the seeds

Add a small pat of butter to each half of the squash

I added a teaspoon of brown sugar, salt and pepper to the squash

Roast for at least an hour at 350 degrees or until very tender.  Spoon the juices from the middle of the squash over the squash and scoop out onto the plates.

The kids LOVED this entire meal…I thought the Hubs was going to dive into the pan, he was nuts over it.  I’m glad that I wrote it down!

Here we are…A New Year!

Whoa!  As wonderful as 2013 was for us, it was by far the busiest I think we’ve ever been in our business and in our personal life.  It isn’t until we look back that we see exactly where we’ve been and what we’ve done.  I am so very thankful and feel very fortunate that we were able to accomplish all that we have this past year…without any mental breakdowns (although we were close!)

This New Year, my goal is to visit here more…to write more, for me and for the kids.  To really put forth a great effort and push on their schooling as we have a bit to catch up on and the allow them to be kids through it all.  I want to have more field trips, less craziness and more calm.  One can hope at least. 😉

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Before…

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During…

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After… (Play Area)

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After… (School and Office Area)

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After…(School Area with Magnet Wall)

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After…(Office)

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After…(New Stairs)

We’ve finally finished (well, mostly) our new school/play/office and added a bathroom.  It was a ton more work than we thought it would be, I blame HGTV for that.  They can redo and entire house in an hour…why can’t we put an addition on our house in 3 weeks…seemed like a no brainer to us!  As we found it, it doesn’t work that way and I thank the contractor that raised the roof, so to speak, for not laughing out loud in our faces for even suggesting it.  His portion was done in 2 weeks which left us to do sub-floors, wiring, framing,  bathroom, floors, insulation, sheet rocking, taping, sanding, mudding…blah, blah in a week.  Well, lets just say that 6 months later we are just finishing up.  We had some family help along the way.  My father in law was with us for a 2 week stint that turned into 5 weeks. I do believe that him being here saved our marriage from ruin as the Hubs and I don’t do projects together very well, or we didn’t until this rather large project came to be.  His knowledge was invaluable and I learned so much!

So here we are!  The best part of all of this, was that it all happened so fast that there wasn’t much time to think “what the hell are we doing, we don’t know how to do that!”.  I watched a lot of you tube to learn and the rest we figured out.

 We haven’t planned any big projects for this year, thankfully,  but may add a little something to the farm…at least we are talking about it any. 😉