Sunday, March 30, 2014

You never forget your first.....

Your first is always special, right?  Today I said goodbye to our first cow, Flower-bob.  

We bought her in 2009 and she gave birth to T-bone 



and then Clarabelle, but hasn't been able to get pregnant since. 
 It broke my heart, but we either had to sell her or put her in the freezer.  
Lucky for her, we didn't have room in the freezer.  
 
 So she went to her new home today.  
I didn't ask any questions about her fate....

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Homemade Rooster Sauce

The news came out last week or so that the Sriracha plant in California is being temporarily closed down by the California Department of Health.  Apparently, the fumes were annoying some of the neighbors, and the sauce is not cooked, only fermented, so it caused some concerns.   One of my Facebook friends posted the recipe and as luck would have it, I was gifted with a very large box of hot peppers that same day. My hubby is a HUGE fan of the sauce, so I thought I would try and make some myself.   I did two batches, one with red jalapenos and the other with green.

I followed the Allrecipes.com recipe for it:

                Ingredients

                        Makes about 1.5 cups

                        1 pound red jalapeno, stems cut off
                        1/2 pound red serrano peppers, stems cut off
                        4 cloves garlic, peeled
                        3 TBS light brown sugar
                        1 TBS kosher salt
                        1/3 cup water
                        1/2 cup distilled white vinegar

                Directions

  1. Chop jalapeno and serrano peppers, retaining seeds and                       membranes, and place into a blender with garlic, brown sugar,             salt, and water. Blend until smooth, pulsing several times to                   start.
  2. Transfer puree into a large glass container such as a large jar or pitcher. Cover container with plastic wrap and place into a cool dark location for 3 to 5 days, stirring once a day. The mixture will begin to bubble and ferment. Scrape down the sides during each stirring. Rewrap after every stirring and return to a cool, dark place until mixture is bubbly.
  3. Pour fermented mixture back into blender with vinegar; blend until smooth. Strain mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a saucepan, pushing as much of the pulp as possible through the strainer into the sauce. Discard remaining pulp, seeds, and skin left in strainer.
  4. Place saucepan on a burner and bring sauce to a boil, stirring often, until reduced to your desired thickness, 5 to 10 minutes. Skim foam if desired.
  5. Remove saucepan from heat and let sauce cool to room temperature. Sauce will thicken a little when cooled. Transfer sauce to jars or bottles and refrigerate.
I followed the directions exactly and on the second day I found this waiting for me:

 

So glad that I put the dish underneath the jar!

I let it ferment for 4 days, then continued with the recipe.  

Straining the solids out was the longest part of the process:


I bottled them up for Christmas gifts.

 I get my bottles from www.SKS-bottle.com  

I made my own labels, one for each variety:


Enjoy!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

DIY Advent Calendar

I remember as a child always having an Advent calendar.  It was always a picture of something wintry and had little numbered doors that opened up to some bad chocolate.  I started getting the kids some a few years ago, but I was always late ordering them and so they had to gobble up several days at once in order to catch up (I know, such a tragedy!).  Plus they are kind of expensive!  Last year, I decided to make our own and eliminate the waste and wait.


I bought some small muslin fabric bags off e-bay.  I had originally purchased them as packaging for my soaps, but I neglected to measure properly and they were too small.  *oops*  
However, they are perfect for some small candy canes or miniature candy bars.  


I stuck up some removable hooks on the wall between our family room windows, measured out some baking twine, and bought some brand new clothespins.  


Using red and green tempura paint, I painted the numbers 1 through 24, alternating colors.  For Christmas Day, I painted a tree with decorations.  The bags are very thin, so I put a piece of paper in each one to prevent the paint from bleeding through.

Please ignore the dirty windows, but you get the idea.  
Hope this gives you an idea to do it yourself!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Making Chicken Suet

The winters are understandably tough on the livestock.  The chickens are usually forced to stay in the coop since they don't like to venture out in the snow (or wind or rain).  Their egg production goes down to zero, which is natural for them as they need more light than we have right now, about 16 hours versus the 8 we get now.  Since we live off-grid, we don't have the extra energy in the winter to put in a lightbulb, and I prefer that our animals live as naturally as possible.  Since they only will lay a certain number of eggs in their lifetime, I'd rather not rush it out of them, and allow their bodies to have a vacation.  They eat layer crumble in the winter which I supplement with black oil sunflower seeds, since there aren't any bugs or fresh grass to gobble up.  They usually also go through a molt in the late fall and they need extra protein in their diets to regrow the feathers.  Most people are familiar with suet balls for wild birds, so I decided to make some for our chickens.  They are kind of expensive to buy, which is another motivating factor for me.

We usually save the grease when cooking, anyway, so we just saved it a little longer until we had a couple plastic containers worth. I know there is both pork and beef drippings, most likely some turkey and chicken fat too.

I picked up some silicone mini bread pans at the thrift store which were perfectly sized for a suet loaf.  I scooped out a little grease into each one, about half full, popped them in a 200 degree oven (on a cookie sheet for stability) until they were mostly melted.  

Then I filled it almost to the top with some bird seed (for wild birds).  


Since it's been below freezing outside, I set the cookie sheet outside to cool down and firm up.  Within an hour, it was firm enough to pop out and I wrapped them individually with wax paper.  

   



I'm storing them in the freezer (which you don't have to do if it's cool enough outside, but I actually have room in there right now!) and doling them out to the chickens every week.  Each loaf lasts about 4 days.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Free Buffet transformation!

I answered an ad on Freecycle for a free hutch/buffet. (Are you a subscriber to Freecycle?  You'll find it in the Yahoo Groups).  I LOVE wood furniture and I've been looking for a dresser for the kids' room f.o.r.e.v.e.r. but most are way out of my price range (ie. not free!)  I found an ad for a buffet with hutch and I jumped on it, drove the 50 miles to get it as soon as the poster responded.  I found that she had already removed all the finish off the buffet and some of it off the hutch.  Since I wanted the buffet first, and the hutch in the future (once the kids are done wrecking it...um, I mean using it!) I proceeded to do my research on how to paint it.  I visited many websites that stressed sanding in between coats of paint and varnish to finish it.



Buffet


Hutch

First I sanded the whole thing down, but didn't have to do much work, as the lady had done a LOT of work already.  I then painted the whole thing with primer.  

I was working in the barn, so I tried to keep my work area as clean as possible.  I didn't count on the cat, Bonnie, 'helping' me, though!



She jumped up on the top after I had the last coat of black paint done and proceeded to dance and shake her feet across the whole top!!! I had to sand her footprints and dirt off and do another coat of black.  After I finished painting, I finished it with a coat of Varathane Polyurathane, which promised to not yellow.  

After FIVE months, I finally finished it!  I'm ashamed that it took so long, but in my defense, I had a broken foot for almost 2 months.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.  ;-) I skipped putting on the middle door, mostly because I know my kids and I figured that it wouldn't last very long.  However, they put on ALL the hardware (which they also picked out).  I was a little concerned that they would carve their names into the wood using the screwdriver, but they behaved....for now, and they love it.  Right now they are fighting over whose close go in which drawer.  

Now to get started on stripping the varnish off the hutch!!


Friday, September 27, 2013

Fall has arrived on the Prairie

Autumn has come roaring like a lion this past week.  
We've had a week of rain and wind.  I can't believe how quickly summer passed.



This reminds me of all the work we need to do to get ready for {shudder} winter.  

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Surprise.....it's twins!

I heard a goat in distress yesterday, not surprising since the spring kids are always getting into trouble in one way or another.  This sound was a little different, though.

I hobbled outside to the pen (I broke my foot on a toy, just call me Burgermeister Meisterburger) to find Marlee cleaning off a little buckling.

I pulled her out of the pen into my hay/milking area and urged my daughter to close the gate, but she was having trouble.  I told her to leave it and I moved to lock it. Neither of us noticing the baby lying at our feet until about 5 minutes later when I saw something move out of the corner of my eye!!!  Oops, we were both freaking out that we may have stepped on it. 

Luckily, she's fine and moving great.  She is about 1/3 the size of her brother.