Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cheese Giveaway update

Everyone that has commented is in plus everyone from last week. If you want into the cheese giveaway, get your comment in now! I'll be drawing sometime around noonish tomorrow. I still have a piece available for donation, a 14oz round of cheddar...
We got just a little bit of snow from the great snow storm that was predicted. Just enough to cover the ground. it sure does make everything look clean and pretty.
We spent the whole day today cleaning the house. Apparently, the ventless fireplace decided it was dirty and sooted up the whole place overnight. So, out came the cleaning brushes and the whole thing had to be taken apart to be cleaned and the whole house needed wiped down. I can hardly wait to get the storage house all done so we can move into it with the wood burning stove and fireplace. I like the ventless gas fireplace but every little speck of dust seems to be attracted to it and makes it soot up.
Tomorrow is a whole new day, hoping we get some good news on the job front! I've got my fingers crossed.......

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Springs coming on

Ha, no, I didn't start seeds yet! Had ya going tho, didn't I? Still 2 whole weeks before I can even think about starting anything. It's been really, really hard to wait this time around. So much going on around here, not too much of it good tho. That happens... Soon enough I'll be starting seeds and working on growing that wholesome, healthy, chemical free food!

Okay, I just can't wait! I have another round of cheese to give away in celebration of Gods goodness, who's ready?

Everyone that was in for last week is still in, anyone else that would like a piece of home made cheese, post a comment and you're in. Sorry to my out of country readers, still working on how I can gift it you.

The slices are 14oz of fresh Cheddar cheese. One to give away and one for anyone that can't wait to win for a $12 donation. First come, first serve now, make sure you email me at so I know you want it.

Still no word on the job but we've got a couple other things in the works, maybe some good luck for us for a change!

Last minute add on to the post.... a completely home made supper here to warm up the cold boys in the house and stick to their ribs a little. A little biscuits and sausage with gravy! Got some home ground whole wheat bread rising there too.........

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Bull calves and chickens

It snowed this morning, flurries until around 1:30pm today. Now the sun is out and the wind is stiff and it is COLD outside. Hubby and I worked together to save time and finished up on the bull calf. I'll bet it took a good 20 minutes to get the feeling back in my fingers. Now it's soaking in a little salt water, waiting for me to get around to doing the clean up on it before I grind it up. The calf was still young enough to count as veal so it should be tasty eating.

I'm pleased to say I got 7 eggs today! Now I can make something sweet to go with supper tonite!

Still no word from the coalmine, I'm a little depressed over that. I did make a couple contacts today in hopes of finding something else......

dp, and katidids, your packages are on the way!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Giveaway Winner #1

Okay, everybody that left a comment got on a little piece of paper, hubby picked one and our winner for today is dp.
Congrats dp, drop me an email at and tell me where to send your gift!
Now, everyone that was in this week, will automatically be in for this next cheese giveaway. This Friday, I will post the next chunk of cheese and we'll do it all over again!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

What a Sunday

Isn't this awesome? I love rainbows. Too bad I've never found that pot of gold, we could all use one of those, couldn't we? Now if it just wasn't so darn muddy........

No milk to make cheese this morning, the cow folks "forgot" to save me some so I'm going to make sure they remember tonight. I'll be up late doing it but I gotta have some cheese. So, today I'm baking a cherry and a pumpkin pie. the pumpkin ended up going on a cheesecake pan since 2 of my pie pans have mysteriously disappeared. That happens around here every now and then, don't know where stuff gets away to.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Total Chaos-graphic photo

Well, this whole day ended up something I hadn't planned on. Before I even had my first cup of coffee it was already getting to be a dandy day.
One of the cows we've been keeping an eye on found it's way into the pond and had gotten stuck in the mud sometime overnight. It took half the day to get him pulled out but we finally got him. The poor little feller just wasn't doing so good. We gave him a few more hours with no signs of improvement and put him down. So, now we have cow on the menu. So much for getting Copper the sheep butchered this weekend!
So, by the time we got him put down, loaded up and home, it's almost dark. Then, get him jockeyed around and hung up and I sent my son in the house to retrieve my camera. He got tangled up in our tomcat, fell down and broke the camera wide open. I sent him back in to mess with it, thinking it was pretty much destroyed and by the time we got the little feller gutted, in the dark by the way, here he comes with a working camera. Now the cow is hanging to cool overnight and we'll work more on him tomorrow.
What a day! I still managed to get all cleaned up and cook some fried chicken, stuffing with mashed potatoes, gravy and corn for supper. Thankfully I already had some bread. whew, I need a nap!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Cheese Giveaway #1

Okay, it's time to share the cheese.
Here's what's on the "plate" today. I have 2 chunks of cheese here. 1/4 wheels, 14oz each. One I am giving away absolutely free. The other piece is for anyone who just can't wait to win a piece of cheese and wants to donate $12 to the blog.
The cheese is Cheddar, it is very mild with a nice, light taste to it. Slightly drier than your typical American cheese with a smooth texture.
Now, all you have to do to qualify for the giveaway is to make a comment. If you need to make one as anonymous, please put a first name in there so I know who you are. On Monday, I will draw a winner.
If you'd like to help out the blog and donate for a piece of cheese, please say so right away as it will be first come, first serve and you may email me ( or comment claiming it.
God Bless and good luck!
Update-okay folks, the one piece of cheese is spoken for, put your name in for the free cheese!

More on Bread making

Wow, I sure did not expect so many people to be interested in my bread making! I'd like to get a little more in depth on it since it you all want to know more about it. First off, I leave me ground wheat in a food grade bucket in the kitchen plus keep some to work with in a small plastic container on the counter. I grind up a couple weeks worth of wheat at a time and have never had it go racid on me, even in the dead of summer. The majority of what's ground up for flour is the hearts or wheat germ. I sift off a great deal of the high fiber outer hull part of the wheat and feed the chickens with it. if I leave that part in my flour mix, I end up with a dense and much flatter bread. Plus, it's easier to get the family into eating it if it's a lighter, fluffier loaf. Whole wheat is great but it just doesn't rise up like the sifted flour does and sure doesn't rise even close to as nice.

If I had a higher quality of wheat at my disposal, I could probably leave more of the hulls in and still get the rise and fluffiness to the bread but I have more soft red wheat than I do hard white wheat.

The recipe is a super simple one, I got it from the Hillbilly Housewife site(listed on my sidebar) actually. It just works so well with home ground flour that it became my every day bread recipe. I actually use several different recipes here but the Hillbilly Housewife recipe is my quick, go-to recipe because it always comes out well, even in a rush.
I prefer the glass over metal pans. for some reason that I can not explain, it just seems to me that the bread rising and baking in the glass comes out better than it does in metal loaf pans. I actually scoured flea markets and garage sales to find those 2 glass pans. I also have a couple of glass round ones I use that I like very much. They are small round caserole dishes. Also, the glass dishes clean up much easier than metal pans do and I never have a sticking problem with the glass. See how beautifully the bread rises in the glass baking dish? I just don't seem to get results like that using metal.
I'm making cheese today and will make a post later this evening for the farms first cheese giveaway. More soon.......

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Baking Some Bread

Here's a little bit of bread baking for you. These 2 loaves of bread have just been baked this evening. One of them is with "matured" flour, the other is some of the fresh flour I just ground and showed you in the previous post. Can you tell which one is the fresh? I got excited and pulled one loaf out a little bit too early to be a perfect match so I'm going to tell you which is which. The picture with the 2 whole loaves, the one in the back is the "matured" flour and in the picture of cut bread, the one on the right is the "matured" flour. As you can see in the picture, I cut the second loaf about 5 minutes of cook time too short but it is still a delightful loaf of bread. Just a little less crusty.

Grinding Flour

I've been looking thru the archives at all the things i've written since I started this blog and I noticed that I've talked a bit about growing wheat but nothing at all about using what I've grown. Baking with flour you've ground yourself isn't very hard at all. You can use just about any kind of grinder to make flour with. i've even talked to people that claim they can grind good flour with a coffee grinder. Now, I'm not saying I would do that, I'm just saying I've heard people claim that they can.

I have a Diamant grain grinder. It is super heavy duty, it has to be bolted down, it's hand operated and has stone burrs. I love it.

So, the top picture is the wheat I started with today. It's just plain old hand cleaned wheat berries that I grew. the wheat gets run thru the grinder for the first time and then it is sifted. The second picture is of the sifted wheat after the first run thru the grinder. The top bowl is the outer hulls of the wheat berries and what I intend to cast off and mix into the chicken feed. It is mostly the high fiber part of the wheat berry. The bottom bowl is the loosely sifted ground flour. Now, i could have used a finer screen in the first sift and the flour would be darn near white already but this flour is intended for our every day bread and I don't need to be so picky on the sifting.

Now, this bottom picture is the flour after it has been sent thru the grinder at least 3 times. It is the consistency of baby powder and is ready to set a couple weeks and "mature". After a couple of weeks, it will be ready to bake the wonderful bread you see on this blog.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Everythings Foggy

I'ts really foggy today. The air is warmer than the ground with our mini heat wave. Never fear, it's supposed to snow in a couple days. Todays weather does a good job to reflect the mood in our house as we're still waiting on the call to go to work. We haven't heard from any of the guys we know working out there so we haven't a clue what's going on or how much longer we have to wait now. Kind of a let down from this past weekend when everybody was calling all excited. Wish we at least knew what was going on.

Thought you all would like to see what's going on around the farm.

Everything here is gloomy looking with the mud and grey of winter. The driveway is a swamp along with the yard and barn lot. Everywhere you walk, you squish. I hate this time fo year. It's been kind of tough for me to resist the urge to get seeds started, LOL, I know, I keep saying that, but it really is hard. Seed starting is like a new beginning for me every spring and I am so very ready for a new beginning.
As you can see, I haven't butchered Copper the sheep yet. He's doomed tho, we're planning to butcher him in the next couple of days. I will shear him after I hang him up and save the wool to use learning how to spin fibers.

Old Johnyboy looks pretty comfy laying there, doesn't he? Molly is looking pretty good as well, I'm hoping the kid she's growing will be big and healthy.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A little Accident

Well, I had sort of an accident yesterday. Not really me all by myself, a rooster helped out. I had the hubby take apicture of it but it didn't show very well so I won't bother putting it up. So, here's what happened... Early afternoon and I'm out checking water and looking for eggs. The ducks are complaining so I get a bucket of feed and spread it for them. I turn around to walk back in the barn and get hit in the face by my rooster who is flying down out of the rafters. He hit me so hard, it knocked him a little loupy when he landed. His spur and claw raked right across the side of my face, knocked one of my front teeth loose and cut my lip. If that isn't a nice "how do ya do"? After all that, I found no eggs at all. A little good news tho, I got 3 this morning and the roo is doing fine.

Still nothing from the coalmine.......

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Another Happy Cheese Day

Today I'm working on another wheel of Colby cheese. I've got Colby, Cheddar and Monterey Jack done and ready for fresh eating. I'm thrilled because now I can make some cheesey breads and pizza!
There's the 2 home made presses I'm currently using and as you can see, the whey from cheese making is pretty rough on the wood. Each time I make cheese with it, I have to clean the board with super hot water, soap and a little bit of bleach to ensure there is no bacteria growth on or in the wood. Very important to do unless you want to make yourself sick while making cheese ;)
We're in a holding pattern on life here and everything is kind of revolving around farm chores, prayers and supper. Not much else we can be doing right now. Tuesday is what we're hearing now from several friends in the position to know. They are being very supportive and are constantly keeping us informed, which of course, helps with the feelings of despair and helplessness.
Another nice day here, party sunny and much warmer than it's been. I'm still fighting the urge to start seeds. Sunshine and warmer weather isn't helping me tho. I know there will be at least one more round of nasty weather for us and I hate to lose my seeds since I'm kind of close to being low on seeds. I should have saved more last season. I still don't have any eggs! it's been almost 2 weeks now and I'm starting to wonder if a critter might be getting them before I do. I have decided to check every hour for eggs to see if I can find them.
Oh, I almost forgot...... With the arrival of our first paycheck, I will begin giving cheese away. Anyone that speaks up in a comment will be eligible to receive some cheese. Plus, several people who have helped me thru this most unpleasant time in my life will be receiving a gift from my farm as well. My out of the USA followers, hang in there, I'm working on a way to share with you as well. I will also most likely throw in soap and some of my home grown and home made jams as well. So, keep an eye, it will be coming soon........

Thursday, January 14, 2010

All Jitters

Here's my favorite gardening tool out of everything I have laying around. this is what helps me grow such great fruits and veges and how I grow so much food. It's a multi meter and it checks moisture, pH and lighting for me. I use it at least 4 times a week thru the growing season and it's how I know my window plants are properly hydrated and have enough sunlight.

I picked this little gadget up probably 10 years ago in the end of season basket at Chinamart(walmart). It was marked down from $9 and some change to $3. I remember it because I really thought it was a heck of a buy at the time. I still do!

But why is this so important? Well, for plants like blueberries you have to have some way of knowing if your soil is right. blueberries love acid soil and can be stunted or killed quick without the proper pH level. Another example is the differences between horse manure compost and cow manure compost. Horse is around 8.6 and cow is very close to neutral(7). So, for most garden plants out there, you would need to do something to your soil to drop the pH level from that 8.6 down to around 6.7 or so to get a good harvest. Didn't know that? That's okay, I had to learn the hard way about all this stuff.

I grow lots of plants in containers and buckets. How else would I figure out if they are too dry or too wet? Well, I could stick my fingers in the soil all the time to see and that's not very accurate for a good root reading (plus it often disturbs the plant) or I could just stick this little bugger in there. The meter isn't very intrusive to the plant or it's root system, I don't get dirt under my fingernails and I get a good and accurate reading of what the plants' roots are feeling like. That allows me to better handle the over watering and the under watering. Some plants just don't like their feet wet and others prefer to be a little dry.

This is one of my many little secrets to growing all those awesome looking fruits and veges. A very handy little tool! I'm having a really hard time not starting seedlings. I know it's too early but that darn Seed Savers catalog has me all jittered!

Job update- no word yet. We have several friends out there keeping their ears open for us and got 3 calls this morning telling us all upper management was in a meeting at shift change today....

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Praise the Lord, looks like we'll have something in the next few days! Hubby talked to the contractor guy who thinks he can place him somewhere temporary by next week and a guy from the mine hubby wants to go to just called the house and said the whole mine is buzzing about him coming to work there very soon. Whew, I knew the Lord was listening! I've been thinking all morning on how I was going to get all it all done if I had to find work away from the farm.

So, here's what I've been up to while all the excitement was going on around here with hubby. I got the Colby cheese going and it's in the press right now. While I was working on the cheese, i whipped up some biscuits for sandwiches during the day. I've got some pan fried pork sausage left over from breakfast and my son likes to munch on it thru the day. So, he can have a snack while he's doing his schoolwork.

Now, what kind of trouble can I get into for tomorrow????

Hard Work and Worry

We're still waiting on the work call. It was supposed to be Monday evening but the coal company CEO seems to be ducking us now, not answering his phone. Now it's Wednesday, no one is answering their phones and the hubby has do get off that and get on to working something else out. Very disappointing and very frustrating. Just when we thought things were finally going to go our way. If he doesn't find anything, I'll be headed down to the temp office in the morning to see if there's anything for me out there. I don't see any other choice right now, the farm will go to pieces with me having to be gone working for minimum wage somewhere but I don't see much other choice right now. Please, if you pray, say one for me, I would appreciate it greatly.
Yep, that's a picture of some cheese! I've worked out a tentative deal with another local farmer with milk cows. It's a straight up trade, the milk for some cheese from each batch. There's a batch of Colby on the stove right now. So, if nothing else, I'll at least have some cheese.
Whew, it's finally warmed up slightly! I ground feed and flour last night and didn't shiver the whole time. I ground up a 3 gallon bucket of wheat for making bread. I still have some but the new ground wheat needs that "maturing" time to make a good, fluffy loaf so I try to keep ahead of my usage by 3 weeks as much as I can.
Not much else is happening here, I'm still trying to keep good self control over seed starting. It'll be hard tonight since the new Seed Savers Catalog just showed up in the mail. I so love that seed catalog, it's full of variety with excellent descriptions of performance and usage.
The dinger just dinged, off to work on the cheese!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Snow, Again?

Well, can you believe this? It warmed up a little bit and it's snowing great big snowflakes. I tried to catch them with the camera and a couple showed in the picture but not like I'd hoped. Great big huge flakes just floating down like feathers. I enjoy this kind of snow. According to the weatherman, it's going to be in the 40s this weekend. Boy am I happy to hear that! I'm sure the animals are happy too. The poor goats haven't seen the outside of the barn in a couple of weeks and the chickens are still in a huff over the snow on the ground. I had to butcher 4 hens yesterday, they had freeze injuries on their legs and were unable to get around. We had fried chicken for supper with some fried potatoes. This cold snap is showing up in the make shift root cellar as well. The onions and potatoes took a beating from the extreme cold and I cooked some last night that would have been ruined when it warms up. More incentive to get the real root cellar done come spring!

The spot where my tooth was is looking good today and it's not hurting very badly. I'm so excited, I got to eat breakfast this morning! I keep telling myself to slow down so I don't gain weight, LOL. Food is good tho, I hadn't realized how much I missed it!

Just 4 and a half weeks to go before I can think about starting seeds. I'm really dying to pull them all out and spread them over the kitchen table. I so love starting seeds, I get to dreaming about the garden, the fresh veges and the harvest. Always such a hopeful time of the year.

I'm a little on pins and needles today, we should hear something about hubby going back to work today around 3pm. I hope when the call comes in, it's to get him straight to his physical. Say a little prayer today for him, he needs the boost of faith.

Not much else going on around the farm today, it's still too cold to be doing much outside but the daily chores. I am going to try a new recipe or 2 I've picked up the last few days. One of them is a bread/dinner roll/doughnut recipe I got from my friends over at Pioneer Living. If you haven't checked their website out yet, you should. some really great people over there! The link is on the sidebar.

Time to work on whipping up some bread......

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Check this out......

It's my tooth! The bad tooth that has been plaguing me for the past couple of months is finally gone. I really got to chew my supper tonight! Oh, it's been tough cooking and baking, knowing I wouldn't be able to enjoy what I prepared. The worst part of it is, that tooth isn't rotten. It's doesn't even look damaged. Oh well, it's gone now and I don't have to worry about it!

Thank you to the angels of this world. People that care enough about others that they step in and help those who are in deperate need. Good people they are and I am truly grateful.
God Bless you and keep you.

Lack of...Something

Like most the country, it's been down right cold here. The picture is kind of pathetic but I was trying to show how little snow we got here. Not even enough to cover the field stubble. It flurried constantly for 3 days with no accumulations but the first night. The overcast and bitter cold days are pretty depressing. Gee, just what I need, right? Today, it's sunny and the reflection off the pitiful amount of snow we have is blinding. It's a glorious 7 degrees. Even with me going out and checking for eggs every 2 hours, I'm still finding frozen ones. the chickens have almost quit laying completely and i don't blame them. Way too cold! I've also kept them caught up in the barn where they can burrow in the hay if they choose to so they aren't getting their normal dose of sunlight. It's light in there during the day(skylights) but just not the same as being out in the sunlight. I can't have them with frozen feet. Just 2 more days of below freezing temps and then we're right back up to the 40s. That's a relief for me, it's awful cold over in the storage house right now. Had to let the power company shut the electric off so no heater anymore. The monthly customer charge was more than the power we used every month but we just don't have the money. Thankfully there's no water lines to freeze or I'd be in sorry shape.

It's hard to think about spring and starting seeds when it's so cold out but the time to get going is really just a few weeks away. I have resisted the urge to spread all my seed bags out on the kitchen table. If I get them out, I'll want to start some and I know it will be an exercise in futility with it being so cold and drafty in here. I'm struggling with the self control. Getting the seeds started is like a fresh start for me. Planting is always so full of hope and expectation, dreams of the harvest to come.

I found a good source of quality milk to start making cheese again. Of course, it's going to cost me so I'll have to wait for the hubby to become employed. It's looking like sometime this coming week. I've heard that so many times, I'm not making plans just yet. I'll have to pay the mortgage first thing since we're so close to defaulting before I go buy any milk to make cheese. I'm also trying to figure out what's left to go to the resale shop for fuel money. I'm about out of things to sell. To top it all off, I've developed a bad tooth over the past few days. I would imagine it's due to stress. the tooth has pushed up almost half way out, it's very loose and is preventing me from eating even with topical pain reliever. It'r right in front on the bottom and it's out far enough, it's pushing on the roof of my mouth. In a couple of days if it keeps going like it has, i should be able to pull it myself. Boy is that going to hurt. I don't have much choice tho, sooner or later, I'm going to have to eat. It's hard cooking and baking every day and not being able to eat the results. Well, at least the family has plenty to eat!

I think about this whole very bad year as a growing experience. I think about our acestors who lived like this all the time, struggling to pay their debts to the bank, desperately trying to keep enough food on the table to feed their families, all the hard work to keep their livestock alive thru the winter. I know by the grace of God, we'll make it thru this. So, if you have a spare moment, say a little prayer for us please.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Self Sustained-Growing a Little Food

I grow food for myself. I talk about it all the time. What I get away from and forget to talk about is why I do it. So, why do I grow my own food? Hehehehe actually for several reasons. The first and foremost is quality. The food you buy from the grocery store is nothing compared to what you grow, pick and eat from your own garden. Those store bought tomatoes with the thick skin and very little taste, those aren't what tomatoes are supposed to taste like. The spagetti sauce with hydrogenated oils, soy fillers and MSG etc in them, that's not good food. Cataloupes that cost you $4 and they taste like watery cardboard. Strawberries that cost you $5 and they spoil in just a day or 2. Why would anyone want to buy "fresh" vegetables that have a coat of wax on them? Onions that mold, potatoes with black spots and squishy spots, that's not good eating.

The next thing is availability and cost together. People have this idea that they shouldn't bother to take the time to grow food for themselves when it's so easy or convenient for them to just go buy it. Well, what if the whole world thought like that and quit growing food? What is entire countries discouraged their farmers from producing because they think they can just buy food from other countries? What if they stop growing food and develop all the land so none can be used to grow food? Who will feed all those people? Read this article from the UK Telegraph, you'll really be surprised. A government Minister has to have a symposium on growing more food. Well duh............

The 3rd and for me the most important reason why I grow my own food is- chemicals. I don't want to eat food that is grown with chemicals. The fertilizers, pesticides and growth hormones in commercial food is poisoning our entire population and we still keep buying it. Our meat has more antibiotics in it than the walmart pharmacy, we still keep buying it. It's infused with ammonia and we still keep buying it. Our bread is made with flour from GMO(genetically modified organism) wheat and we still keep buying it. Our eggs, milk, cheese and butter are overflowing with growth hormone and steroids and we still keep buying it. Why do we do that when we can grow safe and chemical free food for ourselves?

This coming season I am going to grow several items in containers so everyone can see how easy it is to have good food right at your fingertips.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Pioneer Living

Have you ever thought about how our grandparents or our great grandparents lived without all the modern conveniences we take for granted?

You don't have to live like the Amish to be a pioneer or to live a rural, self sustaining lifestyle. It takes work, lots of it. It's not a lifestyle to be taken on by the weak of heart. There's plenty of small things you can do to become more like the pioneers that founded our country. Simple things like reducing what you buy and consume by producing those things for yourself.

Examples of this lifestyle are as such-
-cooking for yourself not only with a gas or electric stove, but outside, with wood.
-doing tasks such as grinding your coffee and processing your foods without electric gadgets. 
-growing at least some of the food you consume
-recycling/reusing items for other things instead of throwing them away

These are just a few small things you can do and aren't at all difficult.

Choosing a more simple lifestyle is a good start toward a smaller eco-foot print kind of life.  We've been conditioned over the years to be consumers instead of producers.  We rely on outside supplies for everything in our lives.  Then, out of the blue, some sort of disaster hits us.  Anything from a natural disaster to who knows what kind of man made trouble and we find ourselves without all those things we take for granted every day.  Electricity, running water, a grocery store full of food.  Gas stations and convenience stores just waiting for us to spend, spend, spend.  What if it all disappeared?  Could you feed yourself?  Could you stay warm and dry during a horrible, frozen winter?  Our ancestors did all those things for themselves.  Fed themselves from nothing.  Kept themselves warm and dry when the snow was 5' deep and town was 20 miles away in a horse drawn wagon.  No electric, no internet and no texting!

Suddenly, learning some pioneer style skills doesn't seem like such a bad idea, eh?  Maybe it's time to find a few minutes to learn some of those old world, basic skills that helped us get to where we are now.......
Pioneer living. What does that mean? For a few years now, it seems to be something people are really interested in. For me, that's not very surprising. I'm in the trenches tho, struggling every day to keep ahead of my bills. LOL, I hardly have any and I can't keep em paid! Utilities and a small mortgage, no loans or credit cards and I'm struggling. Life is much harder now that 10 years ago. Is it really or does it just seem like it is? I think it is. With commodity prices as high as they are, I wonder how others around me make it.

I kicked off the “normal” several years back. I chose to stop being a full time consumer for several reasons. Mostly, my decision was due to what I consider to be the horrible state of food in our country. Eh, my opinion of the grocery store with it's shelves of boxes and plastic bags, piles of meat for sale that comes from some factory farm only God knows where... eh, you get the picture. A rant for another day. Anyway, I had health problems and I was determined to fix those problems by eating healthier, natural foods. How do I get those foods? I could have chosen to find a better grocery store and pay crazy, high prices for what I wanted to eat or... I could grow them for myself. At the time, I was planning on feeding a family of 4. No sense in me eating healthier and the hubby and kids eating what I considered to be junk food. Huge undertaking that was with a steep learning curve! And, of course, I took plenty of ribbing from friends and neighbors. Even a few strangers with the off handed comments about me trying to be uber-amish etc. I just laughed, yah, ha ha, and kept working on developing my own thing. I was never one to want to be like others. I always will be myself with my own ideas. LOL Guess I just suck at being a follower! Thus began my whole adventure toward living a more “pioneer life”.

There's plenty of information out there to get ideas from. Our countrys history is full of little anecdotes from our own pioneering period. “Taming the West”, LOL, ruining it is more like it! There are places in the “civilized” world right now where people live just fine without electricity, running water and all those things we take for granted every day. How do they do it? Actually, it's quite simple. To start with, their priorities are different. They spend all their time producing things instead of consuming. Their lives are rural and beautifully simple. What they don't have time or space to produce, they trade for with others around them that do produce what is needed. Their entire existence is different than the present day, civilized “American” way. What's the “American” way you ask? Hmmm, just go out shopping on Black Friday and you'll see exactly what I mean.....

The first aspect of providing for yourself is food. We've got to have it, every day. Now myself, just feeding me, I can cover myself up with plenty of food in a well composted 10x20 garden bed. If I really wanted to just eat vegan and be happy with it, that garden spot would be plenty good. Alas, I am an omnivore and I like me a nice hunk of meat. So, I raise critters and I hunt. I'm also frugal (another word for cheap) and I can squeeze that nickel until the buffalo's nose bleeds! Most of the time I really have to be that way or I can't pay those pesky utility bills. Hence the need to learn to butcher for myself. Yes, it's nasty and messy. Yes, the first couple of times I did a lousy job but no matter how you look at it, it's food. Pretty or not, it's still food and I did it myself. The best part of this whole thing is I'm eating. With a part time, minimum wage job, I'm eating without public assistance (link, snap, whatever they call it now). Would it be easier if I just buckled in and went down to sign up for public aid? Sure it would be. But then, I would be defeating the whole purpose of taking care of myself and doing it for myself. Just the idea of government aid chaps my whole being. I'm just stubborn like that I guess.

So, since you've read this far, you know I'm not “off grid” yet. Solar and wind power where I live isn't the most efficient but it can be done. Alas, those things take money and money is something I just don't have. So, I am trapped in the endless loop of scraping by to pay the utility company for something I could provide for myself if I had the start up money. “Sigh” a sore spot for me, no doubt. Getting off the “utility tit” is another way to live a more pioneering life. Save you a ton of money in the long run too!

Something else I do to provide a replacement ofcommercial products for myself. I make soap. I use what I make every day and even use it for laundry. I stopped buying commercial laundry soap several years ago. It is my personal opinion that clothes last longer washed in the detergent I'm making for myself. Plus, there's no smelly perfumes in it. I tend farm animals and I hunt. Those stinky perfumes in commercial laundry soaps cling to your clothing for days. The animals can smell that and it carries on the wind. By eliminating the stinky commercial soap smells, I have also eliminated the need for those expensive scent blockers deer hunters waste money on every hunting season. I actually just go out and sit in my tree stand in the same clothes I do my farm chores in and I never fail to get a deer. It always cracks me up, every year, all those fancy hunters outfits walking around come deer season. Do you think Joe Homesteader 150 years ago had him a special, fancy set of clothes to go hunting in? Not likely! If Joe didn't bag a deer, his family starved. He did the job, you can bet on that! Jane Homesteader washed clothes with the same lye soap I make. Huh, go figure, LOL It is time consuming and involves caustic materials (that can be made) but it's worth it.

The most important thing you can do in your journey to like a more “pioneering” lifestyle is to change the way you think. Society has been conditioned over the past 200 years to be more “civilized”. That word IMO, is evil because it undermines every aspect of natural life. Don't butcher for yourself, it's cruel. Go to the grocery store and buy it, it's a much more acceptable behavior. Grow grass in your front yard, the pretty green carpet is more pleasing and it makes your home look just like your neighbors. It's a much more acceptable behavior. Let's make a law that says you can't keep chickens in town because that one old lady hates the sound of roosters crowing. Now, go pay $3 a dozen for eggs at the grocery store because it makes our neighborhood more quiet. Stop going with the flow and accepting it just because “society” thinks you should be just like your neighbor. Think for yourself and do for yourself. Adapt and overcome. That's the pioneering way!

The Big Snow Storm

PFFTT, yah, some big snow storm. I know others around us may have gotten a large amount of snow but we sure didn't. I was actually kind of looking forward to some snow. I like snow. It makes everything look clean and bright instead of the dull, dirty, muddy, sloppy look we normally have for the whole winter here. One more thing, it alwasy appears like there is suddenly a whole flock of Cardinals flying around every time it snows. Their beautiful red feathers just stand out against the white background and it's so easy to see them.
I dug out a bag of my Dent corn seed this morning to show some readers what it looks like. I was going to just take a picture of some of it in one of my storage buckets but it's sooo cold out and my camera is on it's last leg, i didn't want to take a chance and steam it up so the seeds aren't cleaned but there they are.
Not much else is going on around here, too cold to be doing anything!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Home Cheese Making

I love cheese. I love it so much that I learned to make it for myself. The process had a little bit of a learning curve to it but once i figured out what the milk was doing and what each step was supposed to look like, I starting really having fun.

So, how does one go about making some cheese? First step is to get yourself some fresh cows milk. It has to be fresh because the process of homogenization ruins the butterfat and prevents the cream from separating. You just can't make a good cheese with store bought milk. Pasteurizing your milk for safety will not damage your end results in any way and give you a little piece of mind, not to mention ensures the safety of your end product.

What else do you need to make cheese besides milk? A good digital thermometer, some cheese culture, some rennet and a cheese press. I'll tell you how to whip up an inexpensive do it yourself press at the end of this post...

Now, you have fresh milk. 2 gallons is what you need for this recipe. it's Colby cheese and is it ever good.

Put your 2 gallons of milk in a stainless steel stock pot. You don't want to use aluminum, it reacts with the culture and rennet. Enamel pots and all clad both work if you don't have stainless steel. Using your digital thermometer and a low to medium heat, slowly warm your milk up to 86 degrees. Add your culture(measurements differ from culture to culture) and mix thoroughly, top stirring as well as full stirring to make sure the cream is well mixed with the culture. Cover the pot and allow to sit at 86 degrees for 1 hour.

Now stir your cultured milk well, making sure your milk is still 86 degrees. Add your diluted rennet(per instructions for rennet type) making sure to mix well for even distribution. Cover the pot and allow the rennet to set for 30 minutes or until curds give a clean break.

Cut the curd into 3/8" cubes and stir gently. let the curd sit for 5 minutes.

Heat the curds by 2 degrees every 5 minutes until the temperature reaches 102 degrees. Stir gently to keep the curds from matting. Maintain the curds at 102 degrees for 30 minutes while stirring gently.

Drain off the whey to the level of the curds. While stirring the curds, add cold water to them until the temperature reaches 80 degrees. At 80 degrees, allow the curds to sit for 15 minutes. Stir every few minutes to prevent matting.

Pour the curds gently into a colander and allow to drain for 20 minutes.

Break the curds into thumbnail sized chinks and add 2 tablespoons of cheese salt or fine ground sea salt. Mix into the curds gently but thoroughly.
Place your curds into a cheesecloth lined mold and press at 20lbs of pressure for 20 minutes.

Remove the cheesecloth, turn the cheese over and redress, press at 30lbs of pressure for 20 minutes.

Repeat the redressing process but press the cheese at 40lbs for 1 hour.

Again, redress the cheese and press at 50lbs for 12 hours.

Remove the cheese from the press and allow to air dry a rind at room temperature for several days or until the wheel is dry to the touch on both sides. Turn the wheel a few times a day during drying to ensure it dries evenly. Once the cheese is dry to the touch you may wax it for aging. At least 2 layers of cheese wax applied with a non plastic (plastic bristles melt)bristled pastry brush.

This cheese is also very good eaten fresh. I allow my cheese to dry for 2 or 3 days depending on the humidity and place it in the fridge for another 3 days to develop a smooth flavor and eat it. Cheese here almost never makes it to the waxed stage.

the cheese press is a simple construction. I used 1" thick, 12" wide pieces of board cut 12" long and simply drilled holes in each corner. I used stainless steel all thread rod with washers and nuts top and bottom to hold the press more steady. I used pvc pipe for the cheese mold, cut a wooden chaser to fit inside it and sit on top of the cheese wheel, a 3" piece of pvc to put the pressure on the cheese wheel. The top piece of wood is held steady by washers and nuts on top. Lightly set against the wood so as not to change the amount of pressure the bricks on top are applying. I learned quick that without the nuts on top of the board, the cheese did not press evenly and caused the bricks to shift and fall off. The all-thread was not enough to hold it on it's own.

This isn't a perfect design and I have tons of ideas on how to improve it but it is an effective press and is easy and cheap to whip together. A good starter press without having to put a whole bunch of money into it and still have good cheese. I am actually still using this press plus another one just like it.

To achieve the weight I need for each stage of pressing, I use a combination of bricks and weight bench weights. The free moving top allows the weight to be evenly distributed and it always stays the same as the cheese presses. Just don't forget to move the top nuts down every now and then or your bricks will fall off!
You will also need some sort of catch pan under your cheese press. As the cheese curds presses down into a cheese wheel, it expels whey. I use an old lipped cookie sheet under mine. Use one that you won't be using for baking anymore as the whey is actually quite acidic and will rust up the cookie sheet and eat the non stick coating off.
Oh, I almost forgot... I can't help you find fresh from the cow milk near you but I can help you find the cultures and rennet to make cheese with. Visit Steve at the the link is on the right sidebar!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Another Sweet Kick

I had a rough night, didn't sleep real well expecting the employment call to come in today. It didn't, I don't know why right now. So, I spent the late morning brushing horses and thinking about what I was going to make for supper. I decided on making a meal with some of the venison and beef scraps I have in the freezer. So, while that was thawing out, I ground up some wheat, some corn and a handful of oats to make some fresh cornbread and a couple sweet breads. I dug out some of the dehydrated bannanas, ground them up for some nanner bread, pulled out some dehydrated blueberries and got them soaking and worked up my batters. I should have checked how many eggs I had before I started, now I don't have enough for breakfast. Guess I'll have to make pancakes. As you can see, the sweet breads don't hardly get cooled off before they get sampled around here. I jumped the gun on the cornbread and pulled it out of the pan before it cooled completely and it broke on me. Oh well, it still tastes good.

Now I've got my meat scraps all cut up and browned in a pan of olive oil and chopped onion. When the meat was nice and browned, I pulled the meat out, added a couple cups of beef stock and a couple shots of lemon jiuce, brought that to a boil and poured it over the meat to simmer for a while on the stove. After about an hour of simmering, I'll add some home grown barley and parsley to it. when the barley softens up, I'll serve it over flour dumplings and home made egg noodles.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Lazy Sunday

I got to fiddling around today and ended up grinding a half a barrel of feed for the chickens. While I was doing that, half paying attention and reading Mother Earth magazine, a mouse ran across my hand! So, I spent the rest of the grinding time vaccuming in the grinding room and cleaning up the mess I found from a couple evil little mice. It seems, they found themselves a nice home in the futon mattress I had folded up under the work bench. they chewed half the stuffing out of it and generally made a mouse mess. There's a cat in the grinding room now. Hopefully the cat will catch the mice right away and leave the chick in the brooder tank alone.

It's been very cold here, the ground is pretty hard and the horse paddock is a lumpy mess. the old mare has been in the barn for more than a week and my paint mare just went in tonite. The little paint mare has been acting a little peculiar so in the barn she goes. Can't have her sick on me out in the rough, cold paddock. Plus, inside, I can keep an eye on how much she's eating and drinking. That will help me to know if she's really sick or just moody.

Not much else has been going on around the farm, just the every day cooking and bread baking. Too cold to get much done outside and no work yet. We thought we had a cattle sorting job this weekend, it would have given us a little more fuel money. The man did not feel well so the cattle sorting job got postponed until later this coming week. That's alright tho, it just gives me more time to bake a pie or some cookies!

Friday, January 1, 2010

It's a New year, New Start

Well, here it is, Happy New Year. As we do every year, we stayed at home and I cooked, we played games together and rang in the New year as a family. Apparently, we were disturbing the peaceful sleep of our kittens...

Everything is frozen outside so morning chores took just a little bit longer. It appears that my cute and cuddly stock dog has decided to entertain herself by chasing my ducks. Bad dog. I have not decided how to break her of this new habit yet since it's instinct for her to chase and herd and she's obviously bored.

Over at my pal M.D. Creekmores site, The Survivalist Blog-Daily Survival Blog, M.D. has written an E-Book which he is sharing for free. I have already downloaded myself a copy and read thru it. Well done M.D. and thank you for the gift! Visit M.D. Creekmore and download a copy of his book for yourself. It covers water, food, basic gear, big out bags, survival guns, urban survival, medical and has a whole section on resources.

On this day, I have been filled with hope (and tears of gratitude) for this new year by the kindness of a few readers. The glory goes to God for sending me such Angels in my time of desperate need. God Bless you and keep you.

It's official, there's just 45 days until I can safely start my seeds. I am looking forward to this new season with much anticipation. I have several things I'm going to try for the first time including growing some cotton and wolfberries(the Goji). I look forward to this year with much anticipation and excitement. Think of all the cool pictures I'll have!
I have lots of chores to do today, grinding corn and setting out some warm feed for the chickens to help them lay eggs in this cold weather. I learned that tip from a chicken feeding thread over that the American Preppers Forum. there's a link on the sidebar for it. Cool place with lots of useful information on it. Plus, it's so cold out, the rabbit water bottles are freezing a couple times a day. They need fresh water to help them keep warm like all critters do. So, it's water bottle patrol until this cold snap breaks.
Have a wonderful day!