Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Chicken's ready

Remember the creepy meat chicks we got in September? Can you believe how big they are now!?!

 Look! Chicken is ready - the creepy meats are nice and fat!
We are working our way thru this batch and have some of them chilling in the fridge. We did two batches last week and did six more today. Mostly there are just hens left as we choose our "volunteers" based on size. Today's volunteers were just over 9 weeks old. Last week's were on track with the expected growth rate, but we were happy to have some larger birds.

Yep, thats my boot for scale. I wear about a 7.5 for reference.

Look what a difference this last several weeks has made. So far they all seem to be OK but when I part them up I'll see if there are any with the icky green muscle disease. 

My pal, AL, is growing creepy meats out for the first time so I wanted her to see how much they can grow in a couple weeks. Also to remind her that here are my best tips for dressing chickens (warning! it has graphic details - but no pictures) - this link is about rooster day but it also applies to creepy meats.

A couple things struck us again today.  So I thought I'd pass them along. The first, is that the creepy meats, unlike the older roosters, are really really easy to disjoint. Like... creepy easy... its kinda weird how easily they can be taken apart. My other pal FF, reminded me that its because they are so young - so we weren't so icked out. We kept thinking about this because the easily-parted-up thing is one of the chief reasons that meats are so darn creepy.

We also found a few with the weird leg thing but not as bad as our first volunteers last week. We had a couple that had trouble even walking. The fast grown causes structural problems and sometimes their legs can break just trying to hold up their own weight! Another reason why they are creepy.

We also had a couple with broken wings after the..um.. that is.. the "dispatching" part of the day. I'd heard about this from folks who dress chickens for sale. We hadn't experienced this before so it was kind of surprising.

Otherwise, everything went very smoothly. We skinned rather than plucked because we got such a late start and were in a hurry. As it was we ran out of daylight so we'll work on the rest of the meats next week. Until then I'm coming up with lots of ways to fry up this creepy meat in a pan.

And that is the creepy meat update. Happy Tuesday everyone!

Monday, November 29, 2010

What to expect when you are expecting....goaties

A while ago our pal, Chai Chai was interested in what to expect when you are expecting goat babies.

 Fat Deb - looking mighty low in the belly last spring just before kidding

But before I launch into that - has everyone seen this adorable pix of her goaties in the snow? Ohmigosh.. so cute! And since I'm a doofus and can't leave comments on her blog.. I'll answer her question about frozen buckets. Not much you can do but manage it. Some folks like heated water buckets but to be honest that kinda freaks me out. And I think you said you didn't have electric out there anyway. Probably the easiest is to get those black rubber type buckets that you can just pop out the ice. We take warmish water out twice a day to for our critters and just keep breaking up the ice every time we pass by. Hope that helps.

Back to goaties. First I'll say that I only know what I know, so make sure you read up in one of  Storey's guides to goats, the fiascofarm site, and/or the spectacular Onion Creek Ranch page of health articles like this fantastic one here.

Like most things around here we are content to do things as naturally as possible, so is true with our pregnant goats. Pretty much we don't do anything special other than to make sure they have good nutrition, water, and lots of fresh air. We don't supplement, make special trips to the feed store, or whatever. We just keep a watchful eye and let nature take her course. Some folks hop all around, get blood tests to ensure pregnancy, rush their goaties to the vet, blah blah blah. Nope. Provided everyone is up and around, eatin' and poopin',  we just let them be. One thing is sure tho...

Pregnant goats are ridiculous.

Right now Nibbles and Debbie are still trying to kill each other. The combination of not having Vita around, their hormonal selves, the changing seasons, and the introduction of the neighbors cows directly across the fence has turned them both into raving lunatics.

If I didn't know that she was pregnant I would swear that Debbie has rabies. She's moody, fussy, sneers at everyone and every thing, stomps her feet at everyone, and even tried to take a swing at me - which went very badly for her, by the way.

Fattie, aka The Blimp, aka Nibbles is eating everything that can't run from her. She's sulky, snippy, snotty, and has been complaining about the bad service since her performance at the breeder. Occasionally she will forget herself and come over to me for snuggles...then she will realize its me and so she tosses her head and stomps off. Sigh.

Not too long ago Nibbles had a day where she laid on the ground and moaned. If I didn't know better I woulda thrown her in the truck and raced off to the vet thinking she was on her death bed. Not so. She had a day like this with her last babies so I knew better. The last time she acted like this I called the Good Neighbors in a panic. Of course they came running and... nothing. Probably the babies were just positioned strangely in her belly. After a dramatic performance and a lot of attention she was just fine.

Both of the ladies have also had it with being milked. This last time they both hopped around, stomped their feet, and Nibbles almost kicked over the bucket. I think their udders are starting to be sensitive and they are tired of sometime touching their sides. So we are officially done with milking. Since I was just milking every 2nd day, I will just let them be and they will dry themselves off - that is, their bodies will reabsorb what milk they have and stop producing new milk. About six weeks before they kid (goat speak for "have their babies") they will begin to produce colostrum - the very important "first milk" which will help with the baby's immune systems. And their bodies will begin to gear up for a new season of milking. Technically you can milk until this six week mark, but they have had it and so have I.

This rather unflattering pic of Fattie and Fat Deb shows how round they get. See also that Debbie's udder is really getting full. I think this was about 5 days before she popped.

We are OK with the end of this season of milking because we are only getting about a quart between the two of them - so its not really worth the effort. And really - I just wanted one more round of fresh cheese from them. Our goal was to milk them thru November which we did. As such, both will receive "meet expectations" in their mid-cycle performance reviews. Their peer reviews won't be very good tho - the geese really hate them right now.

Anyway.

A couple of  "good to knows":

* Its OK if they are acting weird and/or if the herd dynamics change. If you are concerned tho, take their temperatures, observe carefully, check they are eating and pooping, etc.

* They might just act funny..for instance, both our ladies will turn and lick their sides in a way that they normally don't. Its not the "hey I have an itch" thing its kind of a dreamy look in their eye, lazy side licking that makes you look twice. They  may want you to touch them. They may NOT want you to touch them. This will change randomly and you'll never get it right. Don't take it personally tho.

* They should look good and fat - around the middle that is. Nibbles was at the breeder in mid-Oct. and she is already starting to get nice and round. Debbie was about the same time (different breeder) and she is starting to loose her "dairy" look and starting to fill out. Its OK if they look like barrels on skinny legs, especially in the cold weather. But if they are packing on a layer of fat..then you might want to cut back on the grain.

* Some folks will quote you chapter and verse about the exact amount of protein in your hay, when to change it, blah blah blah. I tend to glaze over with these discussions so I'll just say, "get good hay, feed it to them in reasonable amounts" and leave it at that. Last year we didn't have great hay and I think its what contributed to Debbie's vitamin deficiency and my ill-fated early morning run to Walmart. So check with your local extension office and university vet sites if you are concerned...and don't skimp on the hay.

* Check with your local 4-H club, breeder, or extension office to see if your part of the country will require you to provide additional minerals. For instance, this part of the country is deficient in selenium. This is important to proper nutrition so we give our goats a shot of something called "Bo-Se" to correct this and guard against white muscle disease. But who am I kidding.... our 4H neighbor kid does it, not me. This is specific to our region of the country and its important that you get regional info on this as it could be toxic if your soil is not selenium deficient. Check locally!

* Be very careful about what wormers you use! Some of them can be harmful for pregnant goats - so do your research or do what we do... don't use a chemical wormer while pregnant. Many of the herbal wormers are safe but be extra sure before you do anything.  We assume we will worm our does after their babies are a couple of weeks old and since we don't have huge parasite problems, we aren't over concerned.

* Keep good records so you know when the joyous day will arrive. There are some good "goat gestation calculators" out there - just do a quick google search. Some will even tell you when to stop milking so your doe can start making the colostrum. Note that not all breeds have the same gestation! The pygmies are different from full sized does so check out the specific breed sites. And, of course, there are variations between individual does.

* Keep them safe. Be extra careful with your gates and security so dogs, kids, or other predators don't chase or over excite them. Keep your routine to keep their stress level low. Hang around with them if they are fussy - they might just want to lean against you to get some additional scratches and snuggles. Keep them dry and out of the wind...and out of trouble. Remember when I found Debbie hanging from the feeder and I was afraid she would loose her babies? For heavens sakes. Goat are crazy and do crazy things. And they will start to get bored from being inside during the winter so suit up for the cold and just go and hang around them. 
Last year me and about 40 hens all sat around in the goat house with the ladies. We had a good time and the goats enjoyed the company.  We enjoyed the sunshine and had a nice time.

There are tons of sites out there that have lists of what to have on hand for kidding day. This isn't one of them. I readily admit that I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies... so I arm myself with a worried look, a bottle of tequila, and the 4H neighbor kid's phone number in my speed dial. Come to think of it... what happened last year is kind of a funny story ... maybe I should work on that one.

Anyway, thats what I know about expecting goat babies.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

One last use for leftovers...

Have just a few leftovers left over? How about a quick breakfast before you get out there?


I made this hash from the last nibs of stuffing, some cut into bite size turkey, extra carrots and onions, extra stock to moisten...and served with an egg on top. Of course I had some greens sauteed in garlic and olive oil. It was the perfect post turkey day breakfast. And don't tell anyone - I had white bread toast! I saved some from making the stuffing (don't worry - I'm making my own bread tomorrow).

Quick! Run out there and see if you have just a few leftovers left - then fry them up in a pan.

Happy left over breakfast everyone!  And now I think we are done with leftovers.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Post Turkey Day let down?

Now I'm not pointing fingers.... but I'm sure everyone has had a kind of disappointing turkey day at one time or another. You know.. you go over to someone else's house and its just not the same?  Or worse, you don't get any left overs. Well there is a cure, friends. I present to you.... easy peasy turkey breast and stuffing:

 Get off the couch and make yourself some leftovers!

Either you already scored your own $4 turkey and have a turkey breast or two in the freezer, or you were out at 3AM shopping the sales and got a "free turkey with purchase" at one of the big chains. Either way, run don't walk to your own kitchen and whip out some quick and easy "leftovers" so you won't be denied that turkey sandwich you are craving.

Step one: Get the cheapest bread you can find, toast it, and have your loving assistant rip it into chunks.
Step two: Season and moisten according to your favorite recipe, then dump in a buttered baking dish.
Step three: Plop in your (thawed) turkey breast directly on top of the stuffing, heavily salt and pepper the skin, dot with butter, pour some stock in the pan, and shove the whole shootin' match in the over at 350* - 400* for about an hour and 15 minutes.

Start checking at an hour to make sure the stuffing isn't getting over crispy (cover with foil if it is).

How easy is that? Now all you have to do is get the mayo and make that sandwich.

Happy leftovers everyone!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fresh pork an easier way - local producers!

Raising pigs is nothing to sneeze at and you need to have the right facilities ....so its not for everyone. Sometimes I get requests from folks to 'grow out' a pig for them either because they don't have the time, space, or inclination to do it themselves. 

But I got too much pig hatin' in me to raise them for anyone but us.  So I just politely thank them and say, "No." Good thing there are folks in your area that are happy to grow up a pig, have it dressed, and bring it it you wrapped and ready for the freezer.

The other day a bunch of us online gals were ogling a craigslist ad.... I gotta say.. the hams this guy had were amazing.  Dave at Spring Hill Farms right here in central Ohio was advertising hickory smoked hams for the holidays. One of the bunch called him up and placed an order. We all sat around waiting to see what happened and..... a very nice man delivered a beautiful box of pork right to her door! And he played with her goats so she was really happy.

I'd been lurking on his blog for a while. Dave and I seem to have similar thoughts on raising stock and when he started talking about doing things the "old timey" way. well.. I was sold. Especially since he raises Tamworth hogs. I have to say we are definitely getting Tams again - they are easy keepers, grow like bad weeds, free range like kings, and oh.. the bacons and hams are the business.

If you are looking for locally raised pork (beef and chicken also) in central Ohio look no further than Spring Hill Farms. Dave will get you set up, for sure.

Besides craigslist, another great place to look for local producers is on Local Harvest. This site is a great place to find local farms, CSA's, farm markets, and U-pick farms near you. Check it out - from bison to blueberries you are sure to find exactly what you need - locally.

Happy Hams everybody!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Run for your lives!

Hunting season starts.....
We have been hiding in the house the last couple of days because its.... dun dun DUUUNNNN...

Youth Hunting Season

I'm not entirely sure who's good idea this was but we've been keeping the turkeys incarcerated, the geese up by the house, and the dogs in a constant 'line of sight' ("stay where i can see you!").  As for ourselves we've been wearing bright orange hats and jackets, and running in a slow arching patterns while outside doing chores.

We aren't hunters ourselves because we think its easier to just go out in the yard and say, "Hey Meat! Come on over here so we can have you for dinner," instead of all that standing around in the woods. I don't have any problem with hunting - in fact, we like that they are keeping the "land rats".. I mean.. deer populations down. I just don't want any of them drunk ya-whoos tromping thru my woods and shooting at my pigs before the bacons done, if you know what I mean.

The best hunting story I heard was the guy who was all proud of himself for bringing down the elusive "black deer."  Turns out he checked in someone's goat. 




Debbie, not a deer. But she is a dear.

We usually dress our hogs on the first weekend of deer season, not on purpose but it happens. Last year we took our hams down to the local butcher when they were checking in the hunters. Our hams were bigger than some of the deer that were checking in. I think some of them boys felt pretty bad about us laughing at them. Yikes!

Anyway...

As promised, here are some cute puppy pictures. Everyone recovered from the hog harvest? I'll give you fair warning when I do the detailed, technical description but for now... how about this little angel?


She figured out she can bark so has been trying out her woofer. And her little ears are trying so hard to stand up.

Its taking longer and longer for us to run all the wiggles out of her. She's sleeping less and pupping around more.

Her brothers love her... even if she is the tag-along little sister and her whole head is smaller than Lucky's muzzle. She'll get big soon enough...but for now we are enjoying her puppiness. 

Happy Sunday evening everyone! Enjoy the full moon!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Remembering Hog Harvest 2009

Gentle Readers, due to the mature content of today's post,  the very young, vegetarians, and folks who don't want to know where their food comes from should look away.  Tomorrow I promise to feature pictures of our adorable puppy and maybe some chickens. If you choose to read on, consider yourselves warned. Just so's ya know - there are no pictures of killing, but if you consider hanging sides of pork "graphic" that's what you are getting. Are you SURE you are farm enough for this one? Alright then, cowboy up and read on.
 
Ah.... Thanksgiving... when every ones thoughts turn to... pork. Its hog harvest time folks and I can't wait! All summer I've been dreaming of ham, chops, bacon, and all that porky-goodness. We are getting ready to have our hog harvest so about this time of year I get all excited and start talking about it. The non-farm folks around me get nervous but even so.... a kind of 'train wreck' curiosity comes out in them.. what happens on that magical hog harvest day?

So let's reprise last years Hog Harvest. This is more of a "what happens" than a technical discussion. However, I will post a technical step by step post written by our pal, Bourbon Red, who is indeed our expert. That will be later on this month. But for now lets just satisfy the mildly curious. 

The first step of having a home hog harvest is to go and get pigs. Try craigslist, your local 4H kids, the livestock auction, or your Amish neighbors. We got ours in late June around here $50 - $75 per feeder pig is about right.

As far as growing them out, the Storey’s Guide on pig raising is actually pretty darn good. You’ll need sturdy fencing (just go with electric and save yourself some time), basic shelter, and feed. Don’t kid yourself hogs are messy, stinky, and destructive. But you can use that to your advantage like we did when we put them down in the lower hen yard that was totally infested with poison ivy. Nope it didn’t hurt them and yep, they destroyed it.

Is it worth it, financially? Depends on how you do it.  It’s worth it for us the way we do it – but everyone is different. We save money by feeding them the goat’s milk, eggs (always cooked!), and putting them on pasture. Add to that all the leftovers from the garden and kitchen…as well as our friends who have farm stands.. heck we think we come out far far ahead. Plus there is the cozy feeling of knowing we have a year’s worth of food in the freezer which is totally worth it.

What kind of pigs? I’m not entirely convinced that it makes a whole lot of difference for feeder pigs. If you were going to breed them (which I do NOT recommend) then maybe you might consider breed. We had blue butts one year which – aside from being fun to say – had bigger hams, but probably not as big as bacons than the Tamworth. The marbling on the Herford was exceptional. But I think the quality of meat is determined by feed than anything else.

I have to include a ‘before’ picture – thems those darn pigs of 2009 who hated me all that summer.


The one on the left is a Herford – he came in about 270lbs or so… and the one on the right is a Tamworth x Herford who was closer to 300lbs, if not a touch more. For home butchering purposes we can’t imagine growing out a pig past 300lbs – as it was that Tam was almost too big to handle without a tractor to move and hoist-to-hanging.

Our pal and Farm Master, Bourbon Red, comes down to lead the effort - which we are extremely grateful for. Most times I tell folks if you can cut up a chicken from the store you can dress poultry. But pigz are a bit tricky just because they are so large and dangerous - so we are glad for another big guy and someone with experience.

Of course it rained like the dickens the day before so it was mud soup for the ‘dispatching’ part of the day. The dispatching is the trickiest part of the whole operation. The theory is to stun them with a shot to the head, then cut their throats to let them bleed out. However, that can go wrong in so many ways. We know one guy who inevitably didn’t ‘stun’ his pig well enough with the first shot and that just made his pig good and mad. So his pig took off running which was hilarious until he ran about oh… an acre away.

Most of the texts I read suggest using .22 rifle for the headshot. However, pigs rarely stand still and the .22 requires some accuracy..so we found a 9mm to be most effective. One of the hard things about this part of the day is not hurting something you are trying to kill…and of course, not hurting yourself either. You want that pig to drop on the first shot. That guy who's pig ran off finally just got 'er done with a 12 gauge shotgun with deer slugs. It worked. 

The process was that me and the dogs took cover, The Big Man walked into the pen and did the shootin, then Bourbon Red leapt (like a gazelle I might add) over the fence and used a hunting knife to cut the throat to allow the pig to bleed out. This took just a few minutes. However, you need to make sure all of the safety bases are covered: no one else around, sure footing, a downward shot, a way to get out of the pen if an enraged pig comes after you, etc.

After they were bled out we drug the pigs up the hill and in front of the barn where most of the work would happen. We also needed access to water to hose off all the mud ‘and stuff.’

Our plan was to hang them in the barn to allow the carcasses to cool. Fortunately we had a cold night – well below 40*. We find that home butchery in warm weather just plain stinks. Taking advantage of the ‘organic refrigeration’ from a cold night solves a lot of storage problems. Unlike beef, pork does not need to be aged - just well cooled. So while you might hang a side of beef for several weeks, you really just need overnight (or two nites) for pork. But it has to be cold, real cold.

After they were well rinsed, we used Bourbon Red’s splendid home butcher saw from Lehmans to saw the heads off those beasts. He used his 8 inch chef’s knife to cut thru the skin, then used the saw for the bones. Next was the gut scooping. I kinda like this part. An incision is made down the belly and over the sternum. The saw is used again to open the chest then scoop out the guts. But be advised, do not be a fool and put the guts in a bucket. We used a feed bag – one that had a plastic liner which was really easy.

There was more rinsing with the hose then we needed to move the carcasses to our work surface for the skinning. The Big Man and Bourbon Red built a kind of open table out of saw horses and 2x6’s. With the help of our 4H neighbor kid (yes, his mother knew where he was and what he was doing) they hefted the carcasses up on the tables and we commenced to skinnin’.

Here’s our friend waiting to be skinned. See that he is ‘belly up’ which is the appropriate position for skinning, start at the hocks:



After sawing off the trotters, we used paring knives (I used a chef knife) to do the skinning. In theory you start at a leg and pull the skin toward you while using the knife to cut between the skin and the fat. My sides looked like they were done with a lawnmower. Bourbon Red’s looked like a work of art.

We skinned as far as we could then rolled the carcass to one side to release the back hide. The neighbor kid and I held the carcass to this side or that while Bourbon Red finished.

Then the real work started – we had to saw thru the backbone all the way down the spine which left us with two long half sides. This took the most time. At one point some fool suggested using a sawsall. No, that wont work, just man up and saw the darn thing by hand for heaven's sakes.

We used bailing twine threaded thru the back hock (above the joint, between the tendon and the bone) to secure the carcass on the hook of the ‘come along’ attached to the barn rafter. The work table was positioned directly below where the come alongs were hanging so we didn’t have to do much hefting. The work table was intentionally tall to allow us to pull the 'come along' hook most of the way to the table. This worked great.

Here are our sides o’ pork. Aren’t they lovely?

 

I could barely sleep a wink that night with all that fresh pork hanging seductively in the barn so we were up and at it at dawn. While I was fully expecting to go in and see one of the barncats swinging from the carcasses… the big sides of meat were just fine and well chilled. The hens were particularly interested in the big meat piƱatas hanging in the barn and that was pretty funny. I had to employ a number of ‘hen distraction’ techniques to divert their attention elsewhere.

After breakfast we got to cutting. Our goal was to first cut the sides into manageable hunks, carry them into the house, and do the particular cuts inside. The barn is a great place to work but I was cold so we worked inside. This made it even more important to make sure we had somewhere to chill the meat quickly.

We had already shoveled out the beer fridge and one of the chest freezers the day before so we were ready. Because it was so cold we could just put the hams in a cooler on the deck in preparation for their trip to the local butcher to be smoked. He charges by the pound – and even more (almost double!!!) if its sliced and wrapped. We save money by getting the smoked hams back whole and then we cutting them ourselves into steaks, wrapping really well, putting into freezer bags, and then in the freezer.

We'll talk more later about specific, secondary cuts - but before anything else we had to get the meat into the house.  So we cut ‘big chunks’ from the hanging sides. We cut the shoulders off first. For most of this I was precariously hanging off the ladder holding onto the wiggly side o’ pork while Bourbon Red vigorously sawed away. I got a lot of nasty stuff in my ponytail that day. But it was OK - I did it for the pork.

There are lots of technical specs on how to part up a pig and its really up to you to decide what cuts you want.  Mostly we wanted as much bacon as humanly possible. We’ll pay extra for the local butcher to do some of the bacon so it is sliced and wrapped. We’ve sliced some of ours in the past but its just not the same. And come on, we’re talking about bacon here and there is no skimping!

We kept one of the smaller bacons to do here at home in our barrel shaped smoker/charcoal grill. The process isn’t complicated… it just takes a while and our smoker really isn’t big enough for this kinda thing. We used Alton Brown’s recipe for the cure. After its cured then you let it hang for a couple days, then into the smoker for an all day cold smoke. We built a hickory fire that day in the wood burning stove inside and every hour or so I took a few coals out and put into the smoker. I couldn’t believe it worked but it did!

Back to the cutting table… We used the paring knife, the saw, chef’s knives, and a cheap but good boning knife. The trick is to keep the knives really sharp. I need to learn to sharpen them myself..but I think I can do it after watching Bourbon Red all day.

After removing the shoulder and hams, we used the saw to cut out the ribs. We deboned most of the loins for chops so beautiful they could make a grown man weep, cut up most of the shoulders (easier to precut for stews and such), and of course trimmed every scrap of fat. We used wax paper and freezer bags to put the parted up meat into – labeled of course.

Here is one of the big hunks ready for parting up:



We had several big pans to put the scraps and odd trimming into. One pan was for the dogs – clearly icky pieces or just not worth keeping. One was for the odd trimmings destined for the grinder, and the last pan was for the fat to make lovely lard.

Oh lardy, lardy, lardy the fat we got from these pigs was divine. The fatback was at least 2 inches thick, and then we just got a lot of fat from the trimming. One of the ‘lard buckets’ was so heavy I couldn’t even pick it up.  I’ll be making lard for weeks. I’m in heaven.

Of course I kept the ‘leaf lard’ from the belly cavity separately – it will be rendered alone as its highly prized for its delicate quality. You can check out the how to render lard thread here:

Anyway.

The cutting took several hours. Then we started with the grinding. Bourbon Red has an enormous grinder that we call The MOAG (Mother Of All Grinders). Seriously – its spectacular. We combined spices, fat, and the odd trimmings to make 10 pounds of sausage. We like bulk sausage so we did not use casings. All things being equal this was not a lot of sausage for the amount of meat we had to grind. But we use ground pork like ground beef so we opted for mostly just plain ground pork which can easily be mixed with the seasonings for more sausage later.

Then my favorite part of the day – we made liverwurst. Let it be clear that I love liver in the wurst way… oh man..its just heavenly. My love for liver started when I was traveling in Germany and was served liverwurst for breakfast! Could there possibly be anything better? I think not. So we used most of the huge livers for that but don’t worry – I have some liver intact for a big ol’ fry up.

I’ll have to track down the recipe for the liverwurst. It included most of two livers, trimmed fat, 3 onions, 3 huge garlic cloves, salt, pepper, bread chunks, and booze.. I mean 2 cups of red wine. We finely ground it with the MOAG.

The next day I used a hand blender to make it even smoother, poured it into pint jars, cooked in a hot water bath at 300*ish for about 1.5hrs to an internal temp of 160*. I didn’t have a pressure canner at the time so I had to freeze the jars of liver loveliness. But now that I have one - oh this year there will be jars of liver love for me all year...

By the time we were done grinding the liverwurst it was about 4pm-ish and everyone was exhausted. It’s a lot of physical work but so satisfying. The kitchen was a disaster and I used every single big pan or bowl I had. We packed up Bourbon Red so he could get home to feed his critters and my hubby and I fell into a heap. Over the next few days we worked on getting all the ground meat into quart freezer bags and cooking up the weird bits and pieces for the dogs. It takes several weeks to get everything put up and the lard is the last thing to be done.

We gave any truly weird bits and bobs – as well as the ‘cracklins’ from the lard – to the hens. They went hog wild for any ‘residue’ left from the pig killing so we didn’t even have a mess in the yard by the barn.

So except for the guts and the skins most everything from the pigs gets used. We don’t make head cheese – even I have my limits as far as eyeballs and brains go (ick). But I do love the jowels and they were smoked with the bacon we kept to do here.

So that's what happens for Hog Harvest - that wasn't so bad, was it? Everyone OK? Intrigued? Inspired? Did you barf on your keyboard?

I'll sort thru my notes and such and if you have questions post them in the comments and we'll do an FAQ in addition to Bourbon Red's technical ''how to" later this month.  But for now, I need to find my work boots and get out there. We are finally above freezing and I've got to go and check on the bacon...its almost ready.

Happy Friday everyone!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thanks B!, Good works, & Heifer International

Wow! We are incredibly blessed to know our pal, B. He owns a farm stand and just closed up for the season. He invited us to take the leftovers and we just got back from our second trip with the big truck.

We brought home pumpkins and apples for us and a bunch of stuff for the flocks and the pigz. The pigz went nuts for those little "Jack Be Little" pumpkins and decorative gourds. And the hens will love them later in the winter when they are stuck in the hen house and will use some to play soccer (and eat the seeds). Its a ton of food and will provide a lot of feed for our barnyard. We are so grateful for his generosity - thanks, B!

Normally we like to give our farm products in return when we receive gifts like this, but B is the sort of person who eats a mostly plant-based diet. So aside from the honey we gave him early on, we really can't offer a big ol' slice of ham or a freshly dressed chicken. We had to come up with something to show our appreciation so we decided to get the gift of livestock thru Heifer International in his name.

Miss Duck and Nibbles, Life Changers

Does everyone know about this charity? They do incredibly good works by providing livestock to people in need here in this country and around the world. Giving a cow, a goat, or a flock of poultry can completely change the lives of folks in real poverty. The milk or eggs provide food for the family or money from selling the goods, the manure provides fertilizer for their gardens, and the off-spring continue the cycle. Its a great organization.

While we were driving there I got to thinking. Now, I don't usually have very deep thoughts - in fact, I pretty much gave them up. After working in an industry that worships its own smarty-pantsness I'm kinda glad to now be a little shallow in the "deep musings" department. However, some folks around me find this a little annoying when they want to have deep thoughts. These conversations kinda go like this:

Other: Do you think there are alternative realities out there? Wouldn't that be great?
Me: Yeah, there could be a world that's entirely made of pie and its just me and a fork!
Other: Thats is?
Me: A never ending cup of coffee would be good too.
Other: *sigh*

or

Other: What is the meaning of life!? Why are we here!?
Me: To vigorously seek God and do good works.
Other: Thats it?
Me: Well, and eat a lot of pie.
Other: *sigh*

or

Other: What is the best in life?
Me: To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women. (Chai Chai if you get this movie reference you'll be my BFF forever, for sure.)

Anyway, my point is... even being out of practice in Deep Musings I was able to come up with a few thoughts that I figured I could pass along.

I was thinking about a conversation I participated in where a self proclaimed livestock professional was saying that people who don't have enough money shouldn't have livestock. Their point was that a 'poor' person wouldn't have the money to appropriately feed, house, or provide vet care so these 'poor' people should just stay out of it and leave it to the experts.

This was the stupidest thing I'd heard in a long time.

Sure there are designer farm animals and show critters... but for heavens sakes. Farming has a long and glorious history of helping poor people. Just as Heifer International has shown, having livestock can change someone's life and improve their family's situation. To a poor woman in Africa having a cow means being able to sell the milk and send her children to school.

In these parts, having your own livestock means being able to weather hard times without too much adversity and knowing that your next meal can come out of your yard and not a dumpster. We talked about farm-o-nomics and how the goats have paid for themselves (a couple of times, by now) not only by feeding us but also by reducing our feed costs for the rest of the critters. The milk feeds the chickens, the chicken eggs feed the pigs, the pigs feed us... all in a lovely circle.

So when I hear folks loud mouthing on and on about how you have to have this much money for a farm animal, or only buying a "quality" animal, I just have to shake my head. Sometimes having "mutt" goat is good enough to get a farm going, or getting a $6 calf at the auction can eventually feed someone's family, and those chickens that you pass along to a younger family... well, there's just no telling what kind of farm wealth that could build.

I don't think he knows it but our pal, B's generosity to us is paid forward over and over. Not only will a family receive a flock of geese somewhere in the world, but not having to buy feed for a while inspires and frees us up to 'pay it forward' to others -- whether its giving some hens to a younger family that calls in tears because they lost their flock and need chickens, or trading a bucket of apples for doeling that's sure to be a good milker to a woman and her daughters, or even giving a rooster to help a broken hearted woman...these good works will go forward. B's generosity is a great reminder that we are all in this together and giving your extra to others is a good work that has great rewards.

If you have the opportunity to do good works, like our pal B, don't hesitate. You just never know who's life you might touch.

And that's the end of my Deep Musings. Now I'm gonna go and have me some pie.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

She sits in her Good Dog Spot

If our first rule for good dogs was to remember that dogs are dogs then our second rule is, "We sit in our good dog spot."  Kai is learning this and its just so cute so see her happy little puppy face when she sits in her Good Dog Spot.
Kai goes to her Good Dog Spot after she 'works' - in her case, that includes just going outside. Good Dog!

One of the things I love about that Cesar Milan guy (the Dog Whisperer) is that he spreads the good news of the owners being their dog's pack leader. I really like his book, Be the Pack Leader: Use Cesar's Way to Transform Your Dog . . . and Your Life, but I have to say...I can't stand to watch the show. We don't have cable but you can find it on hulu.com if you dare. Its not Cesar, but the bad owners that make me twitch. One of the last shows we saw was a about a tall, attractive family who were terrified of their dog. Their dog. Not some strange dog - their OWN dog. Can you imagine?

The problem came when the family fed the otherwise, kinda well behaved dog. As soon as they brought out the food the dog turned into a tazmanian devil, barking and snarling and what not. The family stood frozen in fear as The Big Man and I turned, looked at each other and burst out laughing. As we were hanging off each other with tears rolling down our faces trying to believe it was real, we managed to sputter out, "What is the MATTER with those people... that would last about 2 seconds here!"

If you are considering a dog, or have one, I urge you to get the book to read the how's and the why's of how this works but basically, the responsibility is on you the owner to, in fact, "own" everything. As my pal SD says, "to own all the resources" which includes food. Cesar illustrates his feeding ritual which not only teaches the dog that you "own" everything, but creates a bond between you and your dog, and strengthens the dogs understanding of your role in its life. If you get the feed bowl out and your dog charges in, knocks you down, jumps up on you, barks, spins, or pees its pants, please get and read that book.

That dog who terrified it's family would never get fed acting like that around here. Our dogs sit in their Good Dog Spot, calmly, quietly, and patiently. Cesar would say in a "calm submissive" state, with ears down and back, and demurely (for lack of a better word).  Even little Kai with her squirmly little bottom has to sit down before she gets her food. She figured this out in about 2 minutes, it goes like this - dogs like food, dogs who sit get food, voila! She got it. Not only does she sit down - but she sits in her Good Dog Spot (one trainer I know calls it the dog's "Place"). The Good Dog Spot is a designated place where she always gets fed. This way there is no confusion about who gets to eat out of what bowl, or if they can just help themselves to the cat food in the other room.

Sometimes Kai's bottom doesn't leave her Good Dog Spot even when she is eating. Good Dog.

Our feeding ritual (or routine) goes like this: After we work outside, after I've had First Breakfast, and after the cats eat (you read that right, cats first), THEN the dogs get to eat. The dogs sit or lay quietly on their bed in the Dog Area as they see me prepare their food. The food sits it on the counter while I lollygag around and I'm ready to feed them. No one begs, barks, paws around, or stands there staring at me or they know it will take longer, and longer....and longer. They figured this out pretty quickly too. Quiet dogs get fed more quickly than naughty dogs.

Lucky sitting in his Good Dog Spot, ears back, not demanding. Good Dog. 

Once the bowls of food are ready we go outside to eat (unless its pouring down rain). Dogs get up from their beds, sit at the door, then I go out, then they quietly follow me out. I point to each dog's Good Dog Spot and tell them go to there, and then this is the most important step:

While sitting calmly each dog has to look me in the eye, I tell them "Good Dog", and THEN I put the food down for them to eat.

This is a great ritual. The dog knows that you are the one that brings the food kinda like the alpha wolves organize the hunt, eat first, then let the rest of the pack eat. It makes sense to them. And its one of the times your dog can really look you in the eye - its not confrontational at all as long as the dog is still in his "quiet submissive" state.

It might take a while for you to get your dog to look at you and not the food bowl... but this is easily taught by pointing to your eye and say "look at me." The motion of an exaggerated point to your eye will cause your dog to follow your hand. Always say "Good Dog" or "Good work" or "Thats my pupsy-wupsy I love you." Ok maybe that last one is for Kai but she's so darn cute.

Anyway.

You should also not tolerate any food aggression. At all. Ever. If the dogs are eating inside and one of the cats sauces in (Nicholas!) and causes any growling or if one of the dogs tries to get into another's bowl, either me or The Big Man marches in there and takes up the food. This causes some very sad faces.

Lucky came to us extremely food aggressive. Its didn't last long tho - but there were a lot of sad faces. Now he has the food ritual down pat and is usually the first one to his Good Dog Spot. And, not only can I take food out of his bowl, I can take food out of his mouth - without a fight or even a hint of a snarl.

He also had to learn not to snatch food or snacks out of my hand. Dogs should gently take food from you not act like a hungry alligator. And all food comes from my hand or magically appears in his bowl.

I'm pretty hard nosed that no one feeds the dogs but me for a couple of reasons. First, no one will be able to lure the dogs into a car or off the property with food. Second, it creates a strong bond between us and a reliable routine which is comforting to them. And, it makes it less likely they will eat something out of the yard. And there is plenty of weird stuff for dogs to eat on a farm. Ick. It also helps them to understand that food comes from me and not off the counter or worse - from the hen house with feathers still attached to it. All of these things make for a happy dog, a happy owner, and a well run dog-household.

We had someone who used to visit us and they would routinely try and throw whatever fast food scraps they had in their car to my dogs. When I told them firmly that not only don't my dogs eat people food, but that no one fed them but me - the visitor accused me of being controlling.

Um.. well.. yeah! Hello! Its ME!?! Person control issues aside...ahem.. the fact is if you are an expected visitor you'll appreciate that my dogs will stay behind me until you get out of your car and not run you off the property. And that 100 lbs of mouth and teeth aren't trying to get that burger out of your - or your child's - hand. But don't worry - I'm not that controlling... I probably won't make you sit in your Good Dog Spot.
Maybe.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday Snaps and Farm notes

Happy Monday everyone!

Some of the sophisticated ladies of the hen yard. That's Raspberry,  a cochin, in front.

Just need to get some fast farm notes in - what a weekend! We had warm 70*-ish weather and nothing but blue skies the last couple of days...so we really got out there and worked.

Finally all that "cover crop planting" that I've been talking about got done. I pulled out the remaining, now dead tomato plants, weeds, and garden stakes, tilled everything else under, added lime, calcium (I had some tomato blossom end rot), and then raked in winter rye.

The winter rye is doing great in the few areas that I already planted. And it comes up like "grass" - very thin leaves poke up which is great for the geese. I let OD and his crew into one of the gardens to mow it down. This gives them some grazing as much of the grass here is just about gone, and it will keep it from getting too high. In the spring I'll till under the rye (and all the goose poop) and will have even better soil.

We also planted the horseradish (next to the rose in a raised bed), an apple tree, and a couple of raspberry bushes. This doesn't seem like a lot but there was a lot of loading up the trolley with good composted material from the hen yard and hauling it up the hill to our hard-n-dead clay soil in the upper garden.

Last winter, in below freezing weather, we had to shovel out the goat house. Being cold and a little lazy we just dumped the litter in the lower hen yard and forgot about it. The hens went to town on the pile and scratched it into luxurious garden-ready compost. And it had a bit of gravel in it from the floor of the goat house - all good news for our bad soil.

The only real planting I have to do now is getting some garlic in.. I know, I know.. its late late late but our mild and dry fall has helped tremendously with these last minute projects.

Our Kai is doing great. She is growing like a bad weed - and eating like a horse. She's a big girl now and doesn't want to be carried.. but she's still little enough to be wobbly when she's over tired. Fortunately she makes it thru the night so no accidents and I just make sure I get up as soon as I hear the dogs start to paw around. And she only cries when she wants something - so she is doing great.

I love this pic of her - she's so little compared to her big brother, Titan!  But she always wants to be right where the action is - she tries so hard to keep up. She's gonna be a good hard workin' farm dog, for sure.

The barnyard is doing great:
* Debbie and Nibbles are getting nice and round. Debbie still goes between mooning about and having rabies. Nibbles eats anything that isn't nailed down.
* The geese are just lovely... ah.. to see them on the pond.
* Floppy's Five are just about as big as she is and I think they are mostly hens!
* The remaining Bugs seem to be mostly hens also - but one roo who "volunteered" for the pot when he started crowing. Mr. Tibbles is really starting to strut his stuff.
* We are getting turkey eggs! I think its one of the younger hens - but wow! Its way late in the season unless she thinks she will brood them.. we've been taking up the eggs and we'll figure out something.
* Dinner is ready! The meats are looking great and it will be time to invite them to supper.
* Hens are back on duty - miraculously just days after we sent one of The Brothers Dread and that hen-now-roo golden one to the pot, the ladies have gone off strike and are back to laying again. Just another reason to keep your best roo and send the rest to Noodle Heaven.

Have a great day everyone! Now get out there and soak up the last of the sunshine!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Meeting the moos

We were thrilled when our Good Neighbors re-fenced their pasture so it now comes just about to our hen yard. However the hard workin' farm dogs weren't sure what was over in the brush and kept on barking a warning to whatever the "intruder" was stay away from their territory. We couldn't have that going on all day so I figured I'd take the dogs over to meet the moos.

Upon reflection taking a "wolf" over to see a just-bred beef cow with this year's calf still at her side may not have been the best idea. It kinda went like this:

"Hi Cow!"

 
"Oh geez...."

 "Run for your lives!"

Just kiddin' - but I'm guessing Weekend Cowgirl is laughing pretty good about now. Yikes!

Actually, I think they established an uneasy peace when the cow didn't start shaking her head low and pawing the ground (a clear sign to run for your life) and Ti just stood quietly by my side. I told Ti that the cow was "mine" - which is just our command that means "whatever it is isn't a threat and leave it be." Soon she moved off and the dog thought that the big ol' moving bag of meat and poop was the best thing he'd ever seen.

Our goats can see the cows also. Debbie told me that she thought they were the ugliest looking goats she'd ever seen. Nibbles said that she like them because she "felt skinny beside that big one."

The cows share the pasture with the Good Neighbor's Boer goats and their ladies have come over to our side to see what all the clucking was about. And their buck came also. The good news is that its a sure thing that both my gals are bred - they didn't show any interest at all in him. But they weren't sure what to think of his ladies. Both Debbie and Nibbles stood like statues staring at the newcomers. This should make for some interesting times.

This new fencing is really a life saver for us - literally. The Good Neighbors fenced in the bramble between us which is where my arch nemesis, Foxy Brown and her gang of chicken thieves live. Once the goats and the cows clear out the brush we'll have a clear line of sight to look out for predators. And the cows will help keep the hawks away who won't prey on the hens if there is something big moving about nearby.

Thanks Good Neighbors!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What brothers are for

Our Kai with her big brother, Lucky:

What else are big brothers for but to give you snuggles and show you how to be a dog?

Some folks have mentioned how well trained, and well behaved, our dogs are. So I thought I'd throw out how we run our "pack" and maybe it will help folks with dogs or are considering getting some hard workin' farm dogs. I don't have a lot of experience with dogs - we got Ti when I got here to The Good Land five years ago and I've mostly been a cat person. But I figure we must be doing something right. One of the best compliments I received in a while was when my pal, SD, told me I was probably more of a dog person than I thought I was. This was coming from a woman who has rescued almost 400 dogs. I nearly fell over and I warmly received such kind words. So, dog person or not, here's what I know.

First, I'll say again that there is no way I could get all this work done without our team of hard workin' farm dogs. They are like having an extra pair of hands. Smart, willing to work, and driven to succeed our dogs Titan and Lucky are my best "tools" to running our farm. I love the comradery from being with dogs. Everything is "the best thing ever" and its a parade everywhere you go. This is very different from cats - who are very happy to barf on you while you are sleeping. Don't ask me how I know this. Anyway.

My number one rule for success with dogs is: Remember they are dogs.

I think the worst thing Oprah ever said was that dogs are "little people in fur coats." Nothing is further from the truth and this kind of hogwash is the cause of most dog problems. Its easy to understand why folks get confused. The best thing about dogs is that they read, and respond to, our body language better than any other animal. This gives folks the impression that they are like people. But they are not. They are dogs. It surely doesn't mean we don't love them less, it just means they are driven by a set of hardwired behaviors and instincts that make them work in a dog way. Which is great once you grasp this truth and work with it.

So we don't treat our dogs like children and certainly not spoiled children. We never ask them to do anything -we issue commands, we don't dress them up like people (Titan would die of shame if I ever put a kerchief around is neck), and we certainly don't put them in purses and carry them around. Around here the tail is not wagging the dog, or I should say, the dogs to do rule over us.

Instead, we have a pack. We use the natural instincts of the dogs to relate to them in a way that they understand. We have a physical hierarchy (the biggest and strongest is in charge - that's The Big Man), everyone has and knows their job, and we run a tight ship with no shenanigans. We use hard work and discipline to keep everyone in line - as we say around here, a tired dog is a good dog.

Take our Kai for instance and how she is fitting into our structure. If she were younger our old lady dog, Shady, would probably take more of an interest in her. But for now Shady just wants to be left alone so Kai keeps clear of her. Our #1 dog, Titan, is the current leader (the dog alpha, while we are the alfpha of them all) and his job isn't to play nursemaid to some puppy - his job is to be at my side and help me run the show. So the lower member of the pack - that would be Lucky - is given the job of "handling the new kid."

This means, Lucky plays with, corrects, and keeps track of Kai. He patiently sits there while she nips and pulls at him and only corrects her when he's had enough. He doens't ever hurt her, he just "mouths" on her head and neck to show her he's in charge of her. In turn she submits to him by stopping what she is doing, or by not struggling, or by cowering down. Ti does this to Lucky also...and we do it to both of those no-good-nicks if there is ever any malfeasance and we have to grab someone by the scruff of the neck (rarely). We tell Lucky, "Good dog" when he is playing or taking care of Kai to encourage him to keep up the good work.

The first thing I taught both dogs when we brought Kai home was "find that puppy." If she wonders out of our line of sight we send them off to find her. Ti will go and point at her with his nose and then come right back to me, and Lucky will hang back and round her up to get her to follow him. He also keeps her out of trouble. The other day Kai was toddling after one of the ducks. But I was on the other side of the fence and couldnt get to her to stop her. So I pointed to her and said to Lucky, "Go and stop that puppy!"

He ran over to her (in a friendly way) and got between her and the duck and mouthed on her neck. Then danced around to get her to come back toward me. That is a hard workin' farm dog, for sure. But he doesn't think its work - its just what dogs do. And he's very happy to do it. So our Kai is learning the ropes from her older brothers, with us watching over her of course. She's gonna be a great farm dog, for sure.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

It was a LOT of meatballs...

Meatball day was a raging success!


We ground two of the $4 turkeys and ended up with about 15-16 pounds of lean ground turkey. Since I trimmed and ground the meat myself I didn't include the skin (or any weird stuff) and there really wasn't a lot of fat - so it was exceptionally lean.

And the low cost was amazing - for basically $8 (two $4 turkeys) we got 15 pounds of ground meat and three stock pots full of stock. So at $0.53 a pound for ground turkey you can't go wrong. We'll get even more meat once the stock is strained - a pile for us (to be canned or frozen later) and a big pile for the inside cats.

Once the meatballs were baked and cooled we put them in gallon freezer bags and froze them in single layers. Now we are ready for super quick suppers. A couple ways we use them:

* Simmered in sauce and served over whole wheat spaghetti (think, "On top of spaghetti, all covered in cheese.....")
* Covered in tomato sauce in a baking pan, then topped with a bechamel sauce, cheese, and heated in a over at 400* until browned and bubbling. Then served over whole wheat penne pasta or polenta. Or...
* Sliced and served over thick sliced bread for open faced meatball sandwiches.

I'm telling you, you can't go wrong with $4 turkeys!

Now get out there and load up that cart! Happy Meatball Day!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Making it work in the Good Land - Turkey Time!

When my friend Eliza skyped me yesterday morning the first thing she said was, "It looks like your kitchen exploded!"

Well. It did. Wow have we been working hard. At this writing, within two days time I've:
* cooked down a pumpkin and got enough puree for 6 pies, including the one I made yesterday
* made and canned apple butter, and used it to made the above mentioned pumpkin apple butter pie
* made one more small pot of tomato sauce with the final dregs of the 'maters
* trimmed and ground most of the meat from one of our $0.19/lbs turkeys ... then I fried it all up in a pan. We ended up with 7 one-pound bags of already cooked "nacho meat" (mexically seasoned turkey with onions and peppers). We'll freeze the nacho meat and will have super quick dinners later on. Plus we had enough meat for tacos last nite.
* made and canned turkey stock
* ended up with about 3 bags of turkey meat for the cats, one bag of better bits for us, and a big ol' bowl of turkey salad for the next couple days. 
* made and canned yet another round of pear sauce
* made soup - pasta y fagoli - almost everything from our yard (except the macaroni)
* and made bread

It was a lot of work but totally worth it, especially since most of the food was free. Except for our $4 turkey and the spices, of course. We prefer our own home-raised meat and normally wouldn't have purchased a turkey.  But the sale was just too good to pass up. A 22 pound turkey gave us tons of food that we can use for lots of meals - even if it was factory raised and chock full of injected weird stuff.  It's still a great food value.

I know that lots of families are having a hard time financially. But don't buy into the hype that you can't feed your family anything but what's on the dollar menu. Now is the time to roll up your sleeves and make the system work for you. See a sale like this? Load up the cart, baby and get to work.

Taking advantage of these kinds of big ticket item sales, making friends with folks who either let us gleen from their crops, or just plain ol' growing our own food and not letting anything go to waste is how we are making it work in The Good Land. 

We used one of the turkeys last week. Twice we had roast turkey breast for supper then I made stock, and canned the left over meat. That was a $3.88 well spent. I dare you to find that kind of value from somewhere that you yell into a clown to place an order for "food."

When I tell folks about the great turkey sale most people think to get one and put it in the freezer to use for Thanksgiving. Of course you know that I'm a big fan of parting turkeys up, especially with just the two of us. I'm not even particularly sold on having a roasted turkey for a family. It takes forever to roast a bird that big and I think at some point you get sick of the leftovers. So we load up the grocery cart (limit 3 plus a $10 additional purchase at our local Giant Eagle grocery store) and get a years worth of turkey on the cheap.

Our price paid for 3 huge, 20+ lbs turkeys:

$4.09
$4.03
$3.83

You can't even get a package of ground turkey for that little. So its totally worth it. Grab your crock pots, stock pots, Kitchenaide Mixer's Grinder's attachment, some freezer bags and lets save some money! Ready?

Here's an easy way to part up a $4 turkey and really get your money's worth:

* Cut off the breasts, you can roast them at 400*-ish for about 45 minutes for a quick "hands free" dinner. If you are ambitious you can add some taters and carrots in the pan, or top with bacon, or coat with BBQ sauce...or any combination of the above. If you're feeling Thanksgiving-ish you can put dressing in the bottom of the pan, breast on top and voila. Easy peasy and a quick cooking time. For the two of us, its dinner and sandwiches for a couple days.
* Put the legs-n-thighs in the crock pot, fill with cold water and you'll get nicely braised meat to be canned (or frozen) later. And the stock from adding water. Technically I think you can cook turkey in a crock pot without water, but why not get stock while you are at it? You know all those cans of chicken stock you buy? HA! After you get some of this "home brewed stock" you'll never waste money on buying another can.

Or,

Cut off the breasts and as much thigh meat as you can (not the legs because they have weird little bones in them that are hard to cut out), remove the skin, and grind the meat. Quick and easy and now the world is your turkey meatball (or oyster or whatever). We have meatball day and make up a ton of them, freeze, and there you have it. A dinner made in just 7 minutes of standing up time.

Then,

* Make stock with the rest of it - don't forget that weird bag of giblets and things. Just break open the bag and toss them in the stockpot after you've filled it with water. I have an extremely reliable old stove so I let mine simmer over nite. DO NOT BURN YOUR HOUSE DOWN. I trust my stove with my life (literally) so make sure you know what you're is capable of before attempting this "extreme chef" move. When its done, the stock gets canned in the pressure canner... but for years I just portioned it up and froze it. You can freeze it easily in gallon bags, freeze flat, and there you have it. Together with a bag of turkey meat, you're minutes from turkey pot pie.
* After you make the stock, pick thru the meat and take out the best bits for you and then start a second pile for your pets (no bones). Can or freeze for later use.

We use the meat for all kinds of things - turkey pot pie, enchiladas, turkey salad, in pasta sauce etc. Turkey really is as versatile of chicken. So take advantage of your local grocery store turkey price wars and stock up!

Or if anything, contact your local church, shelter, or food pantry and ask if they will accept frozen turkeys as donations. At $4 you can afford to spread the turkey love to someone who needs a little help.

Happy Turkey-ing everyone!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Back from Babylon also, Angry Bread Line

Happy Friday Everyone!

I offer this as today's still life. What's on your counter?



Today we are working on the last of the blessed pears, some of the 'taters we dug up, and I'm parting up my $0.19/lbs turkeys from the store. And of course I have a pumpkin in the oven. The house smells like heaven on this first-cold-golly-it-might-even-snow-day-of-the-season.

Looking thru my notes I found this little bit that I thought I'd share. I was kinda laughing about something like this today so I dug it up.

I call it "Back from Babylon" or "Angry Bread Line"
--------
I recently went on a short jaunt to Babylon  – also known, loosely, as civilization. I was so glad to get back! Back home to the mud, the cold, the livestock, and the jacket with poop in my pocket…. Ah what a relief!

So I went to see some pals and their new baby and got another whiff of my former Big Life. I can tell you with 100% certainty that civilization was ridiculous. While I had a great time with the young family, I couldn’t have cared less about civilization. For the first time since I left my Big Life, I really didn’t have any desire to go back.

First, I completely embarrassed my gracious hosts by being too friendly and talking to random people. Back here a ‘Hello, friend!’ garners you a warm smile and a short chat. Out there I got the same kind of look I’d get if I were a knife-wielding crazing person. So I turned it down a notch and basically treated folks with a casual disregard, instead of Babylon’s norm – bitter indifference.

The incident that got me was when I went into a noted magazine’s pick for superfabulous new microbakery smack dab in the urbany-chic up and coming neighborhood. I opened the door and quickly scooted in as it was crowded inside and it was just plain cold outside. An angry voice behind me demanded, not said, demanded, “It starts here.”

It startled me.

It?

Starts what?

Where??

So I turned and found the angry face that matched the angry voice and I looked at her like she had lobsters growing out of her ears. She was obviously talking to me but I wasn’t entirely sure why. So I gave her a questioning but friendly look.

“The line.”

“Pardon me?” Jetlagged as I was I still couldn’t figure out why she was scolding me and I was genuinely perplexed.

“The line starts here” she said acidly. She said it loudly as if the other patrons would appreciate her scolding me. Ahh…. Then it all came together…. She was afraid I’d sneak in front of her and take the last artisanally crafted goat cheese and arugula flat bread.

I was tired. I admit it. But I couldn’t stop my own mouth and found myself saying, loudly, “I thought I’d just come in and look. If that’s all right with you.” (Big Midwest smile here) A few snickers from her line mates. And a blank look from her.

“Oh.”

I was still smiling. “Have a great day.” I wished her and I moved on.

I thought about how the folks down at our little feed store fight over, not who’s first, but who else can go first out of sheer politeness. Oh yes. I was back in the thick of it. The “me-ism”, the DWSA (Driving While Self Absorbed), the I’msogreatandyou’renot-ness…..  I have to say this time I found it kind of amusing.

While I hated leaving my young family and the visit was far too brief… I was glad when I stood outside baggage claim and The Big Man rolled up in the big work truck. We high-tailed it back for our little Amish town where you can’t get Thai food but the people are nice and are genuinely happy to see you.

The Big Man did a great job with all the critters. The turkeys were turkey-ing, the goats were goat-ing, the clucks were....well... clucking. And the dogs were very very happy to tell me everything that he did wrong ("Momma doesn’t do it that way…..").

So I got home. Back into the thick of this. At this writing I have two kettles of lard going, two stockpots simmering, and I’ve made another batch of the bourbon-cider-butter based country style ribs for supper. Ahhh.. home. I made some bread, dug some zucchini chocolate chip bread out of the freezer, and am going to get some ‘taters for roasting as soon I post this. The young cats are playing at my feet, the dogs are on their places, and all the critters are tucked in. Ahhhh… home.  Wouldn’t trade it for all the artisinally crafted, shade grown, fair trade, certified organic, small batched roasted coffee that Babylon has to offer.

Have a great day everyone! And really, I mean it. Genuinely.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Thursday Happy Snaps - 11 3 2010

Just a few happy snaps starting with a trolley full of pumpkins


Turkey Bob lookin' fly

Handsome roo and his gal

Flock of geese

Meats meatin' all around

And one very tired puppy....

Happy Thursday everyone!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pumpkin Ravioli

Oh golly, Heiko, you got me. Or should I "blame" Walt?  How about if I just thank you both!

After reading about each of your recent ravioli dishes I couldn't take it any longer... I made pumpkin ravioli last nite. They were so delicious... oh the pumpkin-y lushiousness!

Pumpkin ravioli in a sage brown butter sauce

I already made Thy Hand's Pumpkin Streusel Bread, and of course my own World's Best Pie... but such is my pumpkin madness that the ravioli were calling my name.

Pumpkin bread made with our own honey

In the old days I used to make a lot of fresh pasta - old school mind you, with a rolling pin and a knife - not with a pasta maker. But after I stopped getting my nutritional advice from women's magazines I found out that a plate of regular white flour (or semolina flour for that matter) is probably the worst thing I can eat (I lean heavily toward proteins and fat which keeps me upright...and ice cream, which keeps me happy ). So I stick to whole grains and almost only ever eat whole wheat pasta. You will never see me at Olive Garden.

But I couldn't resist the siren song of the pumpkin ravioli. So I dusted off (or should I say, dusted with flour?) my marble baking table, dug out my well worn copy of Marcella Hazan's "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" and set to work.

Pasta at rest, see that you add a touch of (goat)milk to pasta that will be stuffed

It just takes a minute to make the pasta dough, a few seconds to whip together the pumpkin puree, cheese, and spices, and before you can set the pot to boil the sage butter sauce is done and... pumpkin heaven. We served it up with turkey breast from one of our $4 turkeys. A fine meal on a fall day.

Happy Wednesday Everyone! Now get out there and make a pumpkin-y pasta..you won't regret it.

ps Heiko, I'll be making your fine Pansoti with Salsa di Noci soon. Come round for dinner, bring some cider and your pup. Kai says "hi" Eddie!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Piggin' out in the pumpkin pile

It's a pumpkin-a-palooza!

A couple weeks ago we left a note in a the pay box where we got that spectacular blue pumpkin. A farmer a couple towns away had a huge wagon full of them in front of his place

In the note we thanked them for their lovely buncha pumpkins and asked them to call us if they had any ugly ones they couldn't sell or that they wouldn't (or didn't) compost... and we'd be very happy to take them off their hands. And they called! So we went on down today to load up the truck. It was great!

It was the most sincere pumpkin patch I had ever seen. My eyes nearly popped out of my head and my mind was boggled. The Big Man started picking some pumpkins (where they told us) and I went on the hunt for the elusive blue pumpkin. Technically its a Jarrahdale. I've also seen them called blue "cheese" pumpkins. Of course I found them about 3 acres away and it was a very long walk back to the truck with those very heavy pumpkins. We left some of our honey for our new friends and headed home.


Excitedly we filled up the trolley and trundled a load down to the pigs and threw the pumpkins at.. I mean.. to the hungry oinkers. They went hog wild.


Really. Hog wild.


They loved them.

 
Did you know that pumpkin is a natural wormer? Just another reason to load up the hogs with pumpkins. Plus it gives them something to do. And they really dig in.


And a happy pig makes good bacon. Go bacon!
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