Archive for the ‘In the Barn’ Category
I’m a big fan of using small bits of most anything to make hearty well balanced meals.—big fan. So much of what people leave behind in the fridge goes to waste when just a bit of creative energy can turn those bits into a wonderfully satisfying meal. Case in point — last night, when I was cleaning the kitchen I realized that my banana was getting too soft to eat. Usually I make banana bread out of the soft ones, but with my life as an empty nester a loaf of banana bread is too much for one person. My solution…turn that lone tropical fruit into a small batch of banana pancakes, with some help from a small amount of pecans I had in the freezer. Simple.
After mixing up a batch of pancake batter for one I mashed the banana, chopped a ¼ cup of pecans and threw it all into the bowl. Once that thick batter hit the hot griddle the kitchen smelled amazing; warm and inviting and comforting like an early fall morn. When my stack of pancakes came off the griddle I slathered them with butter and drizzled warm Vermont maple syrup over the top; added a few slices of crispy bacon and a sliced apple, and there it was—dinner. There’s nothing like the tantalizing smell of breakfast for dinner to turn your head away from the day and bring you solidly into the easy flow of a relaxing night. Perfect.
What little bits are looming in your fridge that can be made into a wonderful meal like a quiche, frittata, stew, soup or chopped to top a hearty salad? Be creative and eat well!
I saw this list of 101 homesteading skills and thought it would be fun to see how many of them I already knew how to do. After reading it over and checking them off I was surprised at how many I already use or knew how to do. It also gave me a good list of new skills to learn. Not all of them will pertain to a suburban homestead, but the list would be a good stating point for anyone trying to improve their knowledge of homesteading. And, I’m sure if we put our minds to it we could come up with 1001 things a homesteader should know.
Just for fun see how many you already know then make plans to learn a few new ones in 2013!
1. to use a chainsaw safely
√ to grow a vegetables & herbs
√ to sharpen an edged tool – knife, axe, hoe, chisel etc.
√ to use and store firearms safety
√ to tan rabbit skins
6. to read the weather
7. to spin wool, cotton or angora into thread or yarn using a spinning wheel or drop spindle
√ to use long handles tools without hurting your back
√ to light a fire indoors or outdoors
√ to buy at an auction without paying too much
√ to mend clothes
√ to butcher rabbits or chickens
√ to hang clothes on a clothesline
√ to operate & maintain a tiller
15. the unique traits of different trees & their types of wood
√ to cook from scratch
17. to pasteurize milk
√ to conserve & save water
√ to recognize healthy plants & animals versus unhealthy
√ basic sewing skills
√ to ear tag or tattoo an animal
√ to tell an animal’s age by its teeth
23. to replace a broken window
√ to drive a stick shift
25. Learn how to thaw out frozen pipes without busting them
√ to graft a fruit tree
27. to hand thresh & winnow wheat or oats & other small grains
28. to train a working cattle or sheep dog
29. to read the moon and stars
√ to make cheese
√ to live within your means
√ to catch, clean & fillet a fish
33. to use a wash tub, hand-wringer and washboard
√ to make soap or detergent
√ to build a bunk planter
√ to can canning & preserve food
√ to save seeds
√ to de-horn livestock
√ basic leather work or repair
√ to plan for the future – orchard, livestock program, or energy sources
√ to repair with duct tape, baling twine or whatever is on hand
√ to read an almanac
√ to put down an animal
√ to cook on an open fire
√ entertain yourself without electronic media
√ to shear a sheep, electric & hand
√ to maintain shears
√ to swap, barter and network with like-minded people
√ to make candles
50. to dig & use a shallow well
√ to refinish furniture
52. to drive a draft animal
√ to realistically deal with life, death and failure
√ to use & maintain an oil lamp
√ to treat livestock injuries
√ to restrain large livestock
√ to use a sewing machine
√ to give an IM or Sub-Q injection
√ to properly use hand tools
√ to recognize your own physical and mental limits
√ how and when to prune grapes and fruit trees
√ to hatch out eggs
63. to use a scythe
64. to skin a furred animal & stretch the skin
65. to tell the time of day by the sun
√ to milk a goat, sheep or cow
√ to stomach tube a newborn animal
√ to butcher large livestock
√ to use a wood stove & to bank a fire
√ to make butter
71. to knit or crochet
√ to make & use a hot bed or cold frame
√ to deliver a piglet, calf, lamb or goat
74. to know when winter is over
√ to plant a tree
√ to brood day-old chicks
77. to dye yarn or cloth from plants
√ to haggle like a horse trader
√ to bake bread from scratch
80. to use a pressure tank garden sprayer
√ to halter break a horse, cow, sheep or goat
√ to graft baby animals onto a foster-mother
83. to weave cloth
√ to grow kitchen herbs
√ to make sausage
√ to set and bait traps for unwanted vermin and predators
√ to grind wheat into flour
88. to make paper and ink
89. to learn when it is more economical to buy ready-made or make it yourself
√ to castrate large livestock
√ to choose a location for a vegetable garden or orchard
92. to weave a basket
93. to use electric netting or fencing
√ to make fire starters
95. to use a pressure cooker
96. to correctly attach 3 point hitch implements to a tractor
√ to trim hooves of goats or sheep
√ to sew a quilt
99. to make wine or beer
√ basic plumbing & electrical
√ to shoot a rifle & handgun
28 to go!
Not bad. Not bad at all!!
Today’s grocery store chickens are hybridized to be exactly the same as all the other grocery store chickens. They are bred to grow the same, finish out the same and be similar in weight. This fast-growing breed is called a Cornish Rock Cross. Typically, they range in age from 4-weeks, for a Cornish Game Hen, to 8 to 10 weeks for a full grown roaster. The chickens are the same; only their name has been changed, taking labels given to chickens from days gone by.
So, if you’re thinking that a Cornish Game hen is not a Cornish Game hen at all, but rather a baby Cornish Rock Cross, you’d be right. Cornish Game hens are not raised commercially any longer because they take too long to grow to a marketable weight.
Modern grocery store chickens also have white feathers and were developed in the 1980’s to gain weight fast on a limited amount of feed. It is true that some birds grow so fast that they sometimes have heart attacks or break down in their legs before ever reaching a butcherable weight. But, I think that is a factor in commercially raised birds more than homestead or small farm raised birds. Some growers even limit the feeding schedule to slow down the birds’ growth.
And, what about those white feathers? Well—the average consumer wants a pretty carcass to make a pretty roasted chicken to put on her family’s dinner table. Non-white feathered chickens can have black spots in the skin where the pin feathers broke off during plucking. This happens to white chickens too; only the consumer can’t see them because they are white. Read the rest of the story »
Our flock of chickens grew this week. Four new arrivals, 2 Welsummer and 2 Blue Wyandotte pullets were added to the coop. I hadn’t really planned on adding more hens this early, but when I realized some of my girls were getting on in years, slowing down their egg production, and my friend and chicken breeder Larry had 3-month old’s in the breeds I was thinking about, the plan sped up by a few months.
I’ve never really been interested in the plain production breeds like Leghorns, Barred Rocks or Rhode Island Reds. I want hens that are colorful, not only in their feathers, but also in their eggs. I already have Americana’s that lay blue-green eggs, and Black Cochin’s and New Hampshire’s that lay light brown eggs. The only thing missing was a breed that lays the dark chocolate brown eggs, like those Cadbury chocolates wrapped in shiny gold paper.
There are only two breeds that lay such dark brown eggs—Marans and Welsummer’s. Marans tend to be a little pricey for egg layers and relatively hard to come by, but Welsummer’s are more common. They are a Dutch breed…a combination of several breeds really. But, over time they have been refined and standardized by poultry breeders who took a fancy to them as soon as they were imported. Through selective breeding they have become a nice temperate addition to farm flocks, and the dark brown eggs they lay are an added bonus.
The Blue Wyandotte is a variety of the Wyandotte breed, meaning they are a “color” of the breed. Wyandotte’s come in a several different colors from golden and silver laced, to white, black and buff. There are even Columbian, partridge and silver penciled giving any poultry lover a wide range of colors and feather patterns to choose from.
Wyandotte’s are an American breed used for both egg production and meat. Although I like them for their solid medium brown eggs, I also think they are just what a chicken should be…plump, fluffy and fun to watch scratching in the garden.
(Blue Wyandotte Hen)
Right now they are housed in six foot long wire caged that was used when we raised meat rabbits. The cage will keep them safe at this young age, away from circling hawks and feral cats, and allow the other chickens to get use to new additions. Although I don’t think Sophia (our goose) is to keen on the idea of more chickens in the coop.
So…in a few months the flock will add a wonderful dark brown color to my daily collection of farm fresh eggs.
Breakfast can’t get any better than that!
Five weeks ago our winter batch of meat birds arrived, a replacement batch for the ill-fated group that ended up being a nice meal for a mama opossum and her babies instead of us. Fortunately this batch has been uneventful, just growing big and doing what meat birds do—eat, drink and poop…lots of poop.
We usually raise two batches each year, but now that Brianne is off at college I’m figuring out how to live, cook and farm as a single person. If I raise them up to about 6 pounds I can cut them in half, which will give me 30 meals. But, if I quarter them or cut them into parts I can make those 15 birds go even farther.
Raising fall birds is a nice option in our area. The weather is warm enough that the chicks only need a heat lamp at night, and since we don’t have the searing heat of summer the chicks grow easily without any stress from the heat. We do have to pay closer attention to the weather though. A sudden cold snap makes it necessary to keep chicks warm all day long until they are feathered out.
With the festivities and cooking of Thanksgiving over I concentrated on some needed farm chores. Gates were moved and fixed. The barn was cleaned. And, the chicks were moved out of the garage and into the barn where they will stay until butchering time. Fence panels that will contain the birds were put up, straw laid down, automatic waterers installed, feeders set up and finally, two at a time, the chicks were moved.
The 8-foot by 8-foot pen will allow the chicks more room to move around, but will also protect them from the elements.
The hens and goose were not quite sure about their new roomies, but by later afternoon everyone had gotten use to each other and the meat birds had settled in nicely.
By the time Christmas rolls around I’ll have a freezer full of chicken.
The late afternoon was spent cooking down the turkey carcass to make batches of meat and broth, the beginnings of soup, casseroles or pot pies. The remains of the breast meat was cut away and saved for sandwiches and salads, while two large stock pots bubbled on the stove full of bones, herbs, veggies and broth. When the pots had simmered for more than 30-minutes the carcass parts were placed on a cutting board to cool before the meat was stripped away. Once cleaned, the carcass had yielded more than six cups of meat. Stored in 3-cup freezer containers the turkey and broth will be the perfect amount for small-batch cooking.
It always amazes me how much meat can be cleaned for those simmered down bones.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned how much I love fall at least a time or two, but it’s true. I love the way the air smells on an early foggy morning, the way it fills your lungs when you take a deep breath; the way it smells earthy and robust in the evening, like rich compost. I love the way the sun glints and sparkles over the dew on spider webs and grass as I head out to the barn to feed the critters in the morning; the way it bounces gold and orange across a late afternoon sky, just before it sets. I love the color of the leaves as they turn red and brown; yellow and gold, I love gathering firewood, picking pears, making soup and tasting fresh pressed cider. Yep, fall is my season, no doubt about it.
It’s not the fall of department stores though. You won’t find skeletons or graveyards or scary, gross, bloodied or battered images on my farm, nary a one. My fall is the fall of old, of old European traditions when autumn meant celebrating the end of summer, a harvest put up and a long winter ahead. This is my fall, color and fruit and hearty meals and warm satisfying drinks. It’s a time when part of the garden is put to bed and part is planted with winter hearty seeds. It is a time to reflect on the past and look forward to the future. It’s a time for quiet and peace.
My first weekend of October started off with an early departure from work. The drive home was slow and relaxing, my mind wandered from freeway to highway to slow country road. When I finally arrived at the farm I set about watering and feeding, a much easier task since the barn is empty of lambs and meat birds; only the chickens remain. The berries are just about done for the year and our unusually cool early summer means we may not have pumpkins for Halloween; maybe for Thanksgiving.
Once finished in the barn and back in the house I set out pumpkin spice candles on the mantel, in the kitchen and on various tables around the house. I love the scent they give off and the glow they lay over the house is beyond serene. I pulled out the primitive paintings of New England fall days, treasures from a trip to Vermont years ago.
It seemed like I had barely fallen asleep when sis and I were awake and off to an antiquarian book faire. I love books and never pass up an opportunity to add to my gardening and farming collection, but this was not the place. Most of the books, although old, were not of my genre, so I headed home empty handed.
The long day left little to the imagination in the way of dinner. After a quick trip to the barn to collect the day’s bounty of eggs I was in the kitchen grilling lamb chops, making mashed potatoes and sautéing green beans, a simple dinner for a simple season.
Sunday was all about the farm and fall. We left the house early to gather a cord of firewood, adding to the stack that will be warmth and ambiance all winter, and found a tree full of fall pears, we picked a few. By mid-morning we were home and nailing up tin siding on the greenhouse. My goal is to have it fully enclosed and all my gardening tools, supplies and implements inside before the weather really turns. During a short break we lunched on leftovers and filled the crock pot with the makings of a hearty split pea soup; the start of a freezer full of easy meals.
It was afternoon when our arms began to feel the strain of swinging a hammer and pounding nails through metal. We pushed on though until the job was finished, then we sat back and admired our handy work. There’s nothing better than working hard in the cool of a fall day. It invigorates you, makes you feel like Paul Bunyan. But, smarter heads prevailed and rather than risking injury by pushing on we quit for the day.
When I had showered and rested a bit I pulled out a favorite fall treat— Apple Pecan Gingerbread. The aroma floated through the house while it baked, that, coupled with the scent and glow of the candles made the perfect ending to my first weekend of October. I can only hope they all turn out this wonderful.
Apple Pecan Gingerbread
5 tablespoons butter, melted, plus more for greasing
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
1/3 cup unsulphured molasses
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1-1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 Firm cooking apple like Fuji or Gala apple, peeled, cored and chopped fine
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch loaf pan with butter.
In a large bowl, whisk together buttermilk, molasses, sugar, butter, vanilla and egg.
In a second large bowl, combine flour, ginger, baking soda and pecans. Add apples and toss well.
Stir flour mixture into molasses mixture and then spoon batter into pan. Bake until cooked through and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 45 – 50 minutes.
Let cool in pan for 30 minutes and then invert onto a plate and serve warm or at room temperature.
As the number of small farms are on the rise, college grads are learning to farm from the ground up.
A reader sent me this NY Times article and I thought you would all enjoy it.
To read the entire article click here http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/25/nyregion/the-farm-life-draws-some-students-for-post-graduate-work.html?_r=0
Photo By: Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times