Archive for January, 2012

Wild Winds and Disaster Preparedness

Monday, January 30, 2012

California wind

The weatherman is calling for high winds, like 60 – 80 mile an hour gusts, and lower temperatures over the next few days. That can only mean one thing… damage… and lots of it. Anytime we hear news like this we immediately go into batten down mode. We’ve been through enough windstorms to know the damage they can cause and the discomfort we will feel if not properly prepared.

Several years ago, on a cold January night, a storm blew through our area with the force that can be described as a gale. Brianne and I were living on the ranch at the time and the fierce winds uprooted over 500 trees, which knocked down power lines, broke the well pump, smashed windows, tore the roof partially off the barn and damaged a corner of our house. One tree even fell, front to rear, over my truck crushing it 6-inches. Needless to say, it was totaled.

We were pretty well stocked and prepared though. Living in an earthquake zone is a constant reminder that Mother Nature can strike unexpectedly. But, it was this particular storm with its power outage that lasted for more than a week that convinced me even more that we should never be without stores, water, light and a source of heat.

With the weatherman’s prediction we set about preparing.

Read the rest of the story »

A Homestead Pizza Party

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Homestead Pizza Recipe

Everyone in my family loves pizza. And, what better way to celebrate that love than with a homestead pizza party! This is no run-of-the-mill party though; this is a full-on feast of mature pies, best enjoyed when everyone pitches in to help with the creations.

Here’s how to throw your own party.

Invite a few friends over, open a bottle of your favorite wine (or beer), and spend the evening assembling, topping and baking each creative pie — just be sure to make a lot of dough the night before.

Share the evening’s workload by asking each guest to bring their favorite pizza topping. Or, pull some interesting recipes and assign ingredients for each person to bring. This will be a night of eating in stages, as each new pizza comes out of the oven, cut it into small slices so everyone can taste something new, different; another person’s favorite.

Need some ideas to get you started… Read the rest of the story »

Dabs and Dribbles = A Culinary Goldmine

Sunday, January 15, 2012

We’ve all had them, those tiny bits of leftovers that are too small for a recipe, but large enough that we don’t want to throw them away. Well now you don’t have to.

With a plastic ice cube tray you can freeze those little gems of flavor to use later on.

• Small amounts of chopped or minced onion can be frozen with water, then thawed and added to any dish.

• Ethnic sauces can be frozen and dropped into chili, salsa or marinades for a hint of exotic flavor.

• Unused bits of yoghurt are perfect when frozen and used while blending smoothies.

• When a recipe calls for only a few tablespoons of lemon or lime juice, squeeze and freeze the rest to use when you need a touch of tart.

• Cubes made from tea or coffees are prefect when cooling down a pot of caffeine. Better yet, drop a few tea cubes into a glass of lemonade to add a layer of flavor.

• Tomato paste in cube form is the perfect amount for a savory sauce.

• Pesto cubes speed up the prep time of pasta, crostini and other Italian delights.

• Pureed butternut squash can be stirred into soups, stews and sauces for added nutrition.

• Tomato juice can be used to add a bit of flavor to soups, sauces and stews.

From fruits to herbs to sauces and marinades these frozen nuggets have a big impact on flavor. So the next time you find yourself with a dab of this and a dribble of that, don’t forego it, freeze it.

Creative Commons License photo credit: jesarqit

Egg Bread Recipe

Thursday, January 12, 2012

In an attempt to reduce the collection of eggs filling my refrigerator I made this soft golden egg bread. It was perfect served warm with butter and honey, but the French toast we made the next day was divine.

¾ cup warm water (70 to 80 degrees)

3 Tbsp sugar

3 Tbsp vegetable oil

3 large eggs

1-1/2 tsp salt

3-1/2 cups bread flour

2-1/4 tsp active dry yeast

Place ingredients in bread machine pan in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select the “basic” setting and “light” crust setting. Bake according to your bread machine directions.

National Parks are Free for 14 Days in 2012

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Good news for cash-strapped economy weary Americans. This year, entrance to our wonderful national parks is gratis on several days in 2012: January 14-16 (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend), April 21-29 (National Park Week), June 9 (Get Outdoors Day), September 29 (National Public Lands Day), and November 10-12 (Veterans Day weekend).

I KNOW you’ll have a blast exploring some of what our country’s got to offer. After all — they don’t call it America the Beautiful for nothing — do they.

Seen the parks in your home state? Why not hop the border to a neighboring one?



Diamonds in the Hay

Monday, January 9, 2012

I found this small clutch of eggs nestled in a wheelbarrow full of hay.

Even on our short winter days we still collect 4 to 5 eggs a day.

Precious gems to be sure.

It’s an unusual thing to wake up in this farmhouse after the sun has risen. This is not an uncomfortable event by any means, but at 6:00AM the sky is still black, the chickens still asleep and the houses around the neighborhood still void of light. But this morning was different. The alarm went off and I slept right through it. When I finally woke, a sliver of sun was gleaming below a clear blue sky, something we haven’t seen in days.

Strange mornings like this aside, my first task of the day is that of a charwoman. I step out into the cold morning in a thick pair of Vermont wool socks and slide into a pair of muck boots. The ready woodpile is not far from the door, but on a frigid morning at dawn the winter temps are shocking. I gather my wood, collected and stacked back in October, and set it on the fire grate in a box pattern; two vertical pieces topped by two horizontal. I light the fire and when it catches I add more wood. With a fire crackling like a blast furnace I can feel the chill recede from the house and I head outside to tend to a waking barn.

My job changes from charwoman to stock tender.

The hens are first on my caretaker rounds. With the flip of a latch, Sophia begins a chorus of honks that shatters the early morning quiet. She runs for freedom with a coop full of chickens trailing behind. I step inside, pull the lid off the grain barrel and fill the hanging feeder with lay pellets. As a treat, I toss a few scoops of leftover sheep feed from our earlier show season. Troughs are emptied and re-filled with fresh water. Then I turn to the rabbit, topping off his metal feeder with pellets and replacing his water bottle. When there are lambs in the barn or a batch of meat birds, the morning routine takes longer.

Lambs must be separated and fed their individual rations. Show lambs, unlike lambs raised for the table, are carefully monitored for rate of gain, weight and finish so they are in perfect condition for their run to champion. The lambs will jump and kick and frolic when let loose from their night time prison, eventually running into their individual feeding pens, knowing what waits ahead. You can’t blame the boys for knowing what they want or having the spirit to demand it.

With chickens running free, the goose occupied, lambs chomping, rabbit contented and meat birds pecking, I am down to the last task of the morning.

I grab a hose and set the nozzle to shower. I drag it from bed to bed watering winter greens and dampening the soil around the new berry patch. The bed I transplanted more than a month ago is doing well, even if their biological clock tells them to go dormant.

The brood, flock, herd, passel and beds seem strong and at ease going into winter. There’s not much activity on the poultry breeding front. All the better I think. I’d rather hatch chicks in the bright light of spring then on a blustery day in winter.

Last ditch tasks are attended to. Potted gardens are watered, salt licks replaced if need be, cats fed and watered, eggs collected, barn tided and tools hung on hooks. The farm is ready…ready to go about its business of making meat, eggs, wool, and vegetables. In a few months baby chicks will be on the way, along with lambs, ducklings, turkeys and maybe kits. The idea of a French duck cassoulet or smoked turkey sounds amazing. This whole morning thing takes about 30 minutes…20 if I hurry or Brianne helps. I return to the house and a fire that beat down the cold now makes the house feel like a thousand degrees.

My next job is housemaid and cook. I set a pot of water on the stove for tea and hot chocolate, and heat up skillets for scrambled eggs, bacon and French toast. While pots bubble and blurp, I tend to dishes and laundry; and after all that…sit down to a fresh made meal from local fields and our farm. It’s a satisfying thing to cook what you grow and grow what you want to cook.

My last job of the morning, and most enjoyable, is writer. After dishes are done I see to emails and open up a word document to capture any writing ideas that pop into my head, so they won’t be lost in the flurry that is putting words to paper. I enjoy writing about our little homestead and encouraging others to pursue this life, even in the suburbs or cities; teaching how this farming thing can work and how living with seasons and animals and crops has always made me feel more whole, awakened new pleasures and purpose in me even after all these years. They are days of blessings; a life of blessings.

That is a weekend morning for this homesteader. The chores will change with the seasons, with the animals and with the needs of the farm, not the farmer. The warmer months can easily have more jobs in a weekend than can be managed, many revolving around chicks and lambs and gardens. But, in this time, between the warm nights and longer days, I am a charwoman, house maid, scullery maid, stock tender, gardener, mom, and writer. It is work that fills my heart long before the sun rises and long after it sets; and I am glad for the places it takes me.

Souper Simple

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Nothing melts away winter’s cold better than a piping hot bowl of soup. Even the smallest amount of vegetables and meat simmered in a rich broth and dotted with rice, pasta, barley or beans can make a satisfying meal.

Whatever your taste, a few simple tips will start you down the path to creating delicious filling soups.

  • Break out of your box—experiment. Find a recipe that peaks your interest and tweak it to fit what you have on hand or what your nose and taste buds tell you to cook.
  • Try using an immersion blender to create creamy soups without the need for high fat heavy cream. Or, blend only half the soup, leaving the other half chunky.
  • Use vegetables you have on hand; root veggies in winter, asparagus in spring, tomatoes in summer and squash in fall. Soups adapt well in any season.
  • Keep a well stocked pantry with staples like onions, garlic, spices and herbs, broth, rice, beans and barley, and you’ll never be far from a hearty bowl of soup.
  • Cook down chicken carcasses and beef bones into homemade broth and freeze to use later as soup base.
  • Garnish soups with fresh herbs, croutons or shaved Parmesan cheese and pair with a salad and some crusty home baked bread for a simple elegant meal.

Whether you fancy a roasted mushroom soup, a spicy red pepper or a smooth herbed tomato soup start your recipe search (and collection) today.

Creative Commons License photo credit: I Believe I Can Fry

2012 New Year’s Resolution

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Starting in the Smallest Places

I find that more and more people are working towards a simpler life, which means something different to each of us. To some it means a move to the country, to others cutting back on rampant consumerism, still others believe baking bread and cooking from scratch will bring a simpler life.

But, if you’ve been reading this blog for a while you know you don’t need acreage in the back-of-beyond to have a simple life. It can (and does) start in the smallest places. It can start in a closest.

I know that sounds a bit strange, so bear with me for a moment, folks. I’m a firm believer that you can tell more about a person from looking in their closet than looking into their soul. The amount of “stuff” packed on closet shelves; the disheveled stacks of sheets or blankets; the boxes of personal belongings; the jumble of casual clothes, work clothes, and special occasion clothes; the pile of shoes and handbags are a better indicator of one’s frame of mind than anything else. Closets are private places. They are hidden. They are where we ready ourselves to meet the outside world. How your closet is arranged, the amount of belongings you have is a better indicator of your state of mind than you might think.

Humor me a little longer, folks. Lay your head back, close your eyes and visualize your closet. Picture the clothes and shoes, purses, totes, and hats. Now think about what you store on the shelves. Can you see it all? Does just thinking about it make you shutter? Now, ask yourself, do I need all these things? Really need them? Or, are there things you could get rid of? Do you really need ALL those purses? Are there clothes that you haven’t worn in years? Clothes that are out of style, faded, damaged or don’t fit anymore? Do you have a stack of hats, but only wear one or two? A pile of shoes, but consistently wear the same ones?

If you sifted through and only kept what you truly needed and truly used, could you find the closet floor, space on the shelves? With a little bit of gleaning could you make your closet feel new again? Read the rest of the story »