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.


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Nothing yet.... Nibbles may be faking it.

Based on her behavior last nite, I was sure I was gonna have some pix of adorable Nibbles' baby goats this morning. But nope. Nothing. Nibbles is apparently just working that "oh I'm pregnant come over here and pay attention to me" thing. She might be faking it.

Sheesh. Goats = crazy.

Random unrelated pic - but hey! Isn't everyone excited about the upcoming gardening season?

So nothing yet but the weather has changed dramatically and sometimes that's all that is required to get those little babies into daylight.

So maybe later. In the meantime, I have my official goat birthing kit ready - a bottle of tequila, the Good Neighbor's phone number, and my bad attitude about the whole thing.

In the meantime everyone, keep a weather eye to the sky. Big storms are rolling thru - is everyone prepared? Now is a great time to get your storm survival strategy ready. Figure out your "duck and cover" operation now. Make sure someone outside of your state has a link to your local weather radar (in case your power/internet/phones goes out and you can't track approaching storms). Get your phone charged up and have the most secure place in your home ready in case you have to seek shelter.

Here are some tips about storm preparedness and don't forget to check your local TV station - they usually have a page about what to do.

Guess I'll go out and stare at Nibbles' tailfeathers again for a while and wonder when the babies are going to show up.

Happy Tuesday everyone!


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Bubby's Big Paws

Remember when Zander was little? He was just a little lumpkins!  Now... well... now its an entirely different matter.
 Zander Hannibal BoneCrusher - not a lap dog.  We call him The Bubby.

Would you just LOOK at these paws!?!


These paws are huge!

He's growing so fast - if I even blink then I miss that one day he's all leggy... and the next he's all long in the body.... then pretty soon he has too much skin.... and then it starts all over again.

I can't even hardly believe that he was this small. Look at me with my hands in his chubby little mouth......


....look how small my fingers look now!

The Bubby is really good natured - and still has "puppy brain" all the time. Most of the time he looks like he's laughing.

We love him very much...we say he's "Bub-alicious."  He's always smiling and funnin' around.


Mostly he's just a big goof, thats our Bubby.


On Monday I had to make a flying tackle to get him to stop chasing one of the geese. So he's entered "that" phase... but that's OK. We'll get him into hard workin' farm dog shape just as soon as he outgrows that puppy brain.  It might take a while...

Happy Tuesday everyone! Have a Bubby Good Day!

Monday, February 27, 2012

I Make A Mean Pancetta

Isn't it beautiful? This is from the last batch - cured and then hung to dry. It's superb. This was one of the oddly shaped belly pieces. Its mostly meat so its almost like a ham or proscuitto. The thing I love best about this pancetta is the savory spices.


I've been shaving it paper thin and frying it as bacon with eggs-in-a-nest.  And also adding it to salad. You can never have enough pancetta, right?  I start cooking it on a cold skillet on low heat to render out that lovely layer of fat.

Not a lot going on here. Both of us are still under the weather so its all we can do to lay on the couch and watch 12 straight hours of The Tudors.  We got the dvd's from the library for free - but does everyone know how great Amazon.com's Instant Video service is?

We are going to try and rally today but we've been laid low by whatever virus is going around. I think I got it from civilization - just another reason to stay home where its safe.

Happy Monday everyone!  The sun is out here - anyone else going to try and get a bit of gardening done today?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Spring - just a little closer....

We've had such a mild winter so I know I shouldn't complain......


but in a few hours these little guys will probably be covered in snow.


But I can hope for spring, right? I mean, its got to be here soon....

Happy Friday everyone! Maybe if we all think warm thoughts we can get spring to show up just a little earlier?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Debbie's New Digs

The Big Man and I have both been a little under the weather - and with my recent trip - there have been a few projects that have gone undone. One of them is to separate Debbie - again - from last spring's doeling, Dahlia.
Debbie's new digs - in the turkey house.

Our prize milker, Debbie, may or may not be pregnant after her time with Too Short. But its hard to tell if she is making an udder - a sure sign of pregnancy - when Dahlia keeps sipping off her. Unfortunately the best place to put Debbie is in the turkey house on the side where the meat chickens are currently living. But they are still....well.... living as we haven't been able to send them to the freezer. You could say we were stuck between a silly goat and a meat march. Then it occurred to me that the turkeys sure did have a nice coop.....

So today I shoveled out the turkey-coop-side of the turkey house, shuffled them right on out and into the smaller auxiliary coop....and marched Debbie right in. She hated it. The turkeys were a little confused but I think it will all work out.
Debbie has a nice big coop to herself...and nest boxes to jump up on. Debbie! Get down from there!

The only downside, along with Nibbles and Dahlia screaming their heads off all afternoon because Debbie was gone, was that Debbie immediately jumped up on the turkey nest boxes. So I had to block her from doing all that hopping around. At one point she made a break for it and ran directly back to the goat yard fence. Dog #1 ran after her and there were a lot of sad faces, mostly Debbie's. I marched her back to her new digs with steam coming out of her ears. The dog smirked. (So did I.)

The plan is to keep Debbie separated for the next couple of weeks. She won't like it at all but at least she will either make an udder and have some babies... or she will just dry out and prepare to spend the saddest summer of her life with a sign around her neck that says "This is what losers look like" and listening to me tell her to put that coffee.. I mean.. hay down and get back to grazing because "hay is for milkers only."

The good goats news is that Nibbles is looking bigger and bigger everyday and her udder has just about filled out. She still has another week or so and I hope she can keep those buns in the oven. The other great news is that today Dahlia had a nice round handful of udder going. So it looks like Too Short really was Just Tall Enough.

That's the word in the barnyard. How about you? Anybody else have does making udders and getting fatter?

Happy Thursday everyone!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Prayer For A Traveler

"Oh Lord... thank you for getting me home...."

Within minutes of my plane touching down I verily threw myself down on this Good Land and kissed it. I escaped, once more, from civilization. No traveler was happier to get home to this funny little farm than yours truly. It was ridiculous. Those people are mad.

And not just crazy, I am here to tell you they are mad. All of them. Mad and angry and scold-y. You'd think they'd be happy. That part of the world has largely escaped the economic hardship that the rest of us labor under. Out there money falls like leaves from trees and washes up on the beaches like seaweed.  Those folks have everything they could possibly want.  But they are, by and large, very unhappy. Or at least that's what you'd think based on their behavior.

My country bumpkin-ness was apparent by the foolish way I tried to smile and be friendly. Apparently I walked too slow and I didn't get out of my parking spot fast enough for that expensively shod, luxury SUV driving nitwit. She slammed her "truck" in reverse and hit ramming speed before I could even pull out. For heavens sakes, you'd think if she wanted that spot so bad she would have put down her phone and let me out. I can't make any excuses for the dimwit who parked, I am not exaggerating, an inch off my bumper so they wouldn't have to walk that extra 15 feet from that other parking spot just across the street. I wished for my big truck so I coulda just rolled right over that little "car," such as it was. 

Pretty quickly the shine wore off of that big city penny.  I drove around giving out imaginary tickets for Driving While Self Absorbed, eating an inhuman amount of (very expensive) french pastries, and randomly yelling "I drive a big work truck and butcher pigs in my yard" just to shock 'em, y'all. Then I told them to triple bag my groceries in plastic just to watch their eyes roll back in their heads. I didnt recycle. On purpose.

You don't wanna know what happened when I got into a lively little debate about varmint killin' - I guess some of them folks are too tenderhearted to hear about how I lined the fence posts with pelts as a warning. Before they could burst into tears I told them that living in the peaceable kingdom was "all fairy dust and rainbow farts" until you go out and find some vixen running off with your favorite duck. There were some tears. Not mine.

I dared them to say one thing to me about how farming was bad for their environment  - just so's I could tell them that the carbon footprint of our pork equaled to the amount of gas used by our old tractor to drag them pig carcasses up the hill. I had hoped to make them spit up their out of season, grown-in-Chile nectarine on their expensive Italian leather shoes - you know, just for the irony of the whole thing.

The lowest moment.... realizing the "Johnny Cab" I was riding in was..... a Prius.

Of course, there were some bright spots. My BFF was completely generous with her time and drove me around to the best coffee houses. I got to see some friends I hadn't seen in a while, and of course my hosts reminded me, in a hundred tiny ways, how much I loved them.

I came home to a tail waggin' good time to find The Bubby is now almost as tall as Kai. The cats even sauced out to say they hadn't noticed I was gone...that much.  And there is nothing new to report with Nibbles.

We'll be back in the fracas now that the dust has settled off my traveling shoes. But for now I'm just gonna sit here, enjoy the fire, and say to myself, "There's no place like home... there's no place like home..."

Happy Wednesday everyone! Don't think for a second you're missing anything in civilization.  If you haven't done it lately, run right out and kiss the ground that sustains you.  Praise God for our life, for this Good Land, and all of the living things has make up our little world.  Amen and amen.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Get your hands off my bagged lunch

You know all that rantin' and raving I've been doing lately about the food police, and raw milk and how your government shouldn't tell you what you can and can't eat?  Chances are you're sitting there thinking, "Who cares? That doesn't apply to me, I don't have a cow.  What do I care about raw milk.. that OFG... always the alarmist."

Got a kid?

Got a kid in public school?

Firmly under the heading of "Reasons why home schooling may not be such a bad idea" - have you seen this story?  Mom sends her preschool kid with a sack lunch and the lunch inspector decides her turkey sandwich and stuff wasn't good enough - so they take it away and makes the kid eat chicken nuts?

What about that story horrifies you the most - that there is a "lunch inspector," that they took away the food the mom sent, or that the better option was chicken parts mashed together, reglued into an unidentifiable chicken part, breaded, deep fried....then reheated?

I have to say the more I thought about this the madder I got. I don't have kids but I tell you the truth. If a "lunch inspector" took away what I sent for my kid to eat and gave them the crap that parades as school food?  Oh, Friend.... that would be bad. I would go up there. Not, you know, to have a sit down meeting with the principal - I mean to tell you I'd Go Up There.  And it would not be pretty.

So that we are clear, I don't even let anyone feed my dogs. I would not allow the transfer of my responsibility to feed my kid - by action or inaction - to the school or any body else. Ever.

Honestly,  I thought this story was a joke or a hoax. But if you click on the links - including this one - you'll see that that state requires child care facilities to make the better decision for the parents. I'll just quote it for you but you should read the whole thing.

CHILD CARE RULE .0901 Food From Home When children bring their own food for meals or snacks to the center, if the food does not meet the nutritional requirements outlined in the Meal Patterns for Children in Child Care, the center must provide additional food necessary to meet those requirements.

It might sound well meaning and innocuous and I could possibly imagine the lunch lady saying, "Hey kid would you like some carrots?"  But take away the parent-provided lunch?  Maybe if the parents sent a bag of chocolate chips, corn nuts, and a beer for the kid to eat, sure I could see that someone would give the kid a better meal. But the mom sent a turkey sandwich, a banana, potato chips, and juice.

Even I can't find anything wrong with that and you know how I am. Chances are if you are sitting at a desk and reading this at work, you' probably having a turkey sandwich and chips. Better look around, friend, that lunch inspector could be headed your way.

Is child obesity a problem? Yes. But there is a world of difference between telling parents "you should" and "you must." You should send your kid with a healthy lunch....but for the state to define what that should be? And then to inspect it and take that lunch away? Are you kidding me? Lets not even get into what your kid prefers to eat, or maybe they just didn't want carrots that day, or maybe you didn't put the carrots in the sack....just throw all that aside.  Let's call this what it is - a state defined diet. Just let that sink in for a while. 
 
You should be mortified.

The grandma is quoted somewhere as saying, "This isn't China, is it?"  I think we should all stop and think for a minute about past governments who took over "parenting" their nation's children. Even if the "lunch inspector" did not say directly to the kid, "Your mommy isn't doing it right, but I'm here to help you."  The intent was pretty clear.

I don't know what your school districts are like, but the school lunches and food allowed on the schools around here are a joke. A healthy snack for the grade school kids is defined as chocolate milk and a bag of Doritos. I'm not even kidding. We were witnesses to this and could not believe it. And to make sure the kids don't get too much sugar, instead of removing the soda vending machines from the school - they replaced all the regular sodas with diet and energy drinks. I hope that you are shrieking with rage at reading this.

Apparently the school in this story apologized. But are you as parents satisfied with that? How about, "The school apologized, fired the lunch inspector, and spent the money improving its lunch offerings to the children by hiring an actual chef who cooks the food on site from real ingredients. Further, they used the money to better educate parents on what good nutrition is - instead of taking away a kids lunch."

Where I came from, the only one who stole your lunch was the class idiot.  And chances are the other kids were giving him a redneck style beat down because they wouldn't tolerate that kind of thing. Especially since everyone knew your mom packed the best lunches.

Parents, I can't speak for you but I hope you are outraged at this. Raw milk may not affect you but when your government takes away your kid's lunch and substitutes their judgment for yours?  There is a lot of mocking about a "slippery slope" but you can't pretend that the next step isn't that "they" are gonna show up and take your dinner off of your table.

If I were you, Parents, I'd grab my sack and tell the government to keep their hands off my kid's lunch.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Hog Harvest 2011 - What Really Happened

We can't say enough about the quality of the pigs we got from Spring Hill Farms for 2011. Those Tamworth hogs were so incredible - I'm even looking forward to getting this year's pigz! So while I'm dreaming of setting up the new hog lot and all the bacon that we'll get next winter - I thought I'd tell you about Hog Harvest 2011.  But first, a disclaimer.....

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. There will be pictures! We'll talk about blood and guts and there will be shooting and meat flying everywhere.  Don't read this or scroll down if you might burst into flames or puke on your keyboard! Look away! Here! Look at Nibbles instead! I'M NOT KIDDING. Consider yourselves warned.....

So you may be wondering why I'm even gonna show you? Easy - far and away the single most popular post of my blog is the How to Hog Harvest Step by Step.  You'd think it would be fluffy little ducks or something but nope. Its how to butcher a pig in your own yard.  More and more people are saving money - and learning how to be empowered - by raising their own food. So I figure you'd like to know. Here goes. Ready?

Best day ever - pigz, tractors, and booze. Whoot!

Unlike our sweeping saga (Parts One, Two, Three, and Four) there really wasn't a lot of drama on our butchering day. Actually there wasn't any drama. It all went off without a hitch. We had to wait until the second weekend in December to butcher. This was a little late but we had to wait until we had a couple of really cold days - and we had to coordinate our schedules with our pal, Bourbon Red.

Altho you can butcher in other seasons, waiting until its freezing has its advantages. First, if the ground is frozen you don't have to work in a big muddy mess. Second, its best to allow the pork to hang overnight to chill. You need below 40* weather for food safety and the meat is easier to cut if its well chilled. It also works out better for me if I have a couple cold days and nights in a row. That way I can work on the cutting at an easy pace over a couple of days. When it gets cold our big garage works great.  Of course if you have a huge meat cooler you wouldn't need to rely on "organic refrigeration." 

Bourbon Red and his kids ("the Poults") showed up the night before as its a pretty long drive. After some coffee the next morning we all ran right out to get to work. A couple days before we had set up a pen outside the hog lot so we were ready for action. We set up this pen so that we could confine the pigs for easier handling. And to stay out of the mud that the pigs worked so hard to make all summer.

Leading them out to the new pen where the ground was frozen.

A bucket of corn helped lure the pigs into the holding pen. We secured the gates and then someone sent me up to unplug the electric fence - which we should have done before. By the time I got half way up the hill the shooting was over. By the time I started back down the hill the pigz were being bled out. And that was it.

We used our ancient garden tractor to haul the carcasses up the hill to our work area beside the garage. Once there we used a hose to wash all the dirt and stuff off the carcasses and propped them up on their backs so we could do the gutting. True to our hillbilly ways, we used a 4x4 and a tire. It totally worked.

That's how to gut a pig.

I eagerly stood nearby with my biggest kettle during the gutting so I could get every precious piece of leaf lard - and all the usable organs. The rest of the guts went into a feedbag to be disposed of later. I think for one of the pigz we were so excited that we didn't saw off the head first... I'll admit we were very eager to get to the liver. You know how I love my pate!

Once we got the carcasses gutted we rinsed them really well and had to heave-ho them up onto our makeshift skinning table. This is really why you need a couple of big guys - even field dressed those pigs were huge! We removed the trotters with our handy meat saw.

Making short work of skinnin' them pigz.

For me, skinning is the hardest part. I'm just not very good at it. The trick is to keep your knives extremely sharp, to pull the skin toward you, and make a series of small cuts to keep as much fat on the pig as possible. Start at the hocks on the forelegs and work your way back. Once you've worked your way down the sides and skinned the back leg of the pig,  you can roll the carcass on one side and work on the back, then roll the other way to release the hide.

Then its just a matter of sawing the carcass into halves. Of course.... there's the hard way and the easy way. We grabbed a sawsall with a new blade and made short work of the halving. Yes we did.  Why cut them in half? So they will cool quickly and so they are more easy to manage.

Hanging the carcasses from a rafter in the garage makes sure they are far enough off the ground that your barncats cant reach the meat, and will allow the air to circulate around the meat to chill it as quickly as possible. I think it was about 25* the day we did this which was perfect. Just cut a hole in the meat between the bone and the big tendon in the back leg, push a piece of baling twine thru, and string it up on a hook. We used a 'come-along' secured over a rafter and just cranked it up to the right height.

The skinning table is really just some 2x6's whacked together on a couple of saw horses.

Then there was nothing to do but march victoriously into the house and have some cinnamon rolls and a bunch of coffee. All told it took several hours to get this done. But we weren't in any hurry so we took our time. We had a great day , the work was interesting, and we were wow'd by the size of the hogs and the quality of the meat. And the lard! Oh so much lard!

About this time there is usually some questions so I'll toss out the most common ones and you can let me know if you have more....

Q: Did you cry? Where you scared? Eeeewweeeee! How could you do that?!
A: Nope. Nope. And please calm down. If we can do this, you can do this. We aren't emotionally attached to the pigz at all and by the end of the season, frankly, we are sick of feeding them. But if this isn't your thing then that's OK, everyone has their limits. If you are interested but freaked out, try and find someone to mentor you. Or see if you can help or observe a mobile butcher that will come to your place. Or call these guys up and have them come and teach you.

Q: Why don'tcha just take 'em to the butcher or something?
A:  Why not do it at home? Provided you don't have problems like these jokers, there's no reason you can't. The tools are simple and just about anyone can master the technique. If you are scared, pray for courage. If you are freaked out, focus on the task. If you need help, ask - almost everyone knows someone who hunts, see if they will assist you.

It would have been silly for us to spend the entire day trying to get 2 huge pigs up the hill and into a scary stock trailer just to pay someone to do the work that we can do ourselves. And you know who cheap I am. The only reason we'd take them in to be processed is if for some reason we had to butcher out of season - and the only reason we'd take them in is because we don't have a big enough cooler for a whole pork.

Also I read on another blog that someone got their pork back from the butcher and the liver was funky. They didn't want to take a chance that the pig had been sick or whatnot. So they tossed all of the meat. That breaks my heart. I'd rather be able to see exactly what is going on and have everything under our direct control.

And I think its easier on the pigs. All they knew was that one minute they were happily munching on some corn and the next minute someone was handing them some bacon-angel-wings. They didn't even know what hit them.

Q: Why did you skin them? Aren't you supposed to scald them?
A: I'm not sure that having that much hot water around is such a great idea. And trying to heave-ho these monster pigs into a vat of hot water just sounds like it would be fraught with danger. I don't even think they would fit in a 50 gallon drum and I'm not sure there would be any benefit in buying some kind of specialty tub. One year we torched the pigs and all that really did was remove the hair. We ended up skinning them anyway. I don't think we'd be gaining much by not skinning them - for most of the cuts you'd take the skin off. Besides what I really want to get to is all that lovely fat.

Q: What about hanging them up to gut them? Why didn't you do that?
A: Ugh. For us that just sounds like more work than necessary. Bourbon Red tried this method and it ended in just a big pile of guts everywhere. Gravity is not always your friend.

Q: What tools did you use?
A: Check out this page for a complete list. You'll notice that we just used everyday stuff. And a sawsall. 

Q: What do you do with all the leftover "stuff" and "residue" and um.. heads?
A: Depends. If the weather is fitting we have a huge burn pile. Sometimes we let the chickens peck on the hides for a while. As for the heads... the local garbage guy knows not to look to closely at anything we put out there at the end of the drive.

So that's the way of it. Everyone still with me?

Remember this was just an overview - you can check out the detailed step by step directions of how to butcher a hog here

Do you want to learn more about where to get pigs? 

Or what you need to know to get started raising pigs?

Or how to feed pigs cheaply?

Or the benefits of putting pigs on pasture and feeding them from your barnyard?

What do you think - are you ready to give this a try?  Who's excited to get this years feeder pigs and turn them out to pasture?

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Nibbles

There she is....

Nibbles. Large and in charge.  Can you believe she still has about three more weeks until her babies are due?!

Congrats to my pal "J" who's doe just had some stunning kids!

Any body else got babies on the ground?  Happy Monday!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A Complicated Bolognese and a Stunning Lasagna

Back when I lived in civilization I used to make a lasagna which took about six hours to create - this included making the sauce, the pasta, and baking it. At the time the only thing I didn't make was the sausage...and even at the time I thought I could, given the chance.

It all started with bacon that I grew, butchered, and smoked. in my yard. 

Now that I have the chance, not only did I make the sausage - I even grew the pork and butchered it in my yard! I gotta say I'm pretty excited about that. I'll make this again in the spring, when the goats are in milk, and the only thing that won't come from my yard is the wine, a few of the spices, and the wheat for the pasta. But give me time, friends, give me time.

Most of the recipes I post are trying to show how easy it is to make your own food. But if you have a couple of cold days, and the inclination, you can make a complicated bolognese sauce for a stunning lasagna made entirely from scratch.
The battuto gaining flavor.

The bolognese ragu (meat sauce) recipe I have came from someone's old Italian nonna.The instructions are inexact (use "some" of this or "enough" of that) and cover an entire typed page - its more art than science.  But here is a good starting point.  Although I don't support Sunset magazine anymore I do refer to this recipe.  For the pasta, as with all things Italian I start with Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.  I also use her method for cooking the béchamel sauce and assembling the lasagna. Technically you can make this in several hours.

But if you really want to immerse yourself in slow food... do it like this...I stumbled across this site while I was searching for links for this post - can't you just fall into these pictures? See how he says that it takes 3 or 4 hours (at least) of simmering to make the sauce?  That's how to get 'er done. However, I cringed when he used canned tomatoes. Heaven forbid! Can your own, friend.

Marcella and I diverged from these instructions on one just one point - she and I add the milk to the meat and aromatics first...then the wine, tomatoes and such.  What's the difference? In "our" method you cook down the milk until its mostly evaporated and then add the wine so there is less of a milk base. I've done it both ways and for whatever reason I like this way better. But everyone's nonna has an opinion, I'm sure.

I actually made the sauce the day before and let it chill in the fridge overnight.  It must have cooked for about 5 hours until it was rich and hearty.  When I was ready to start working on the pasta I just put the sauce over gentle heat until it simmered.

I don't need no pasta maker (you know who you are).

One of the things I like best about Marcella's book is her stubborn (and correct!) adherence to doing things the old school way. She says in no uncertain terms that using the new whizbang gadgets will not produce the same results as just using your hands and the simplest of tools. Although she begrudgingly provides the instructions for using a pasta machine, there is only one way to make pasta for her and I. We go at homemade pasta mano y mano.. with a rolling pin and a knife.

Lasagna noodles waiting for the pot.

Buying a box of pasta is easy and cheap - but making your own lasagna noodles is a snap and I think my cost of goods was about $0.10. The eggs from the hens were on my counter and I didn't need much flour. There were no real measurements for Marcella's pasta - she says that how much flour and eggs you use depends on things like humidity and the size of the eggs. I used about a cup and a half of flour and 2 good sized eggs and one small pullet egg. The dough was smooth and yellow and beautiful. Did I use semolina? Nope just regular old all purpose flour.

The odds and ends became fettuccine for a quick snack.

Once the pasta was cut, cooked, rinsed, and ready I started assembling the lasagna. Unlike some instructions, Marcella says to butter the bottom of the pan and start with a layer of béchamel sauce, not tomato or meat sauce. And then you just build up the layers. I finished with the béchamel over the top of the noodles and then dotted with some basil I had in the freezer. Then heavily dusted with some of my grated goat cheese and into a hot (400*) oven. About 20 minutes later it was bubbling, browned, and stunning.

Is it worth it to spend two days making one meal? Couldn't I have just grabbed a Stouffer's frozen lasagna? Or just purchased all the ingredients at the store and thrown it together in about 15 minutes? Sure I would have saved time. But what is it worth to taste and enjoy a tradition? What about the value of experiencing what our grandmothers did for us? Wouldn't you love to connect with past generations even if its over one meal?

Most folks are so far removed from their food and their traditions that sometimes you just have to stop and smell the bolognese. Make food with your hands. Remember the effort and work it took to get that food. Breath in the heady smells of summer from that jar of tomatoes and that basil. Retrace all of your steps and all of the effort for making that pork sausage, starting with the day you went and got those feeder piglets. Enjoy being part of the process to make food.


Or you could just go to Olive Garden. But then after a mediocre meal you'd wonder what all the fuss is about and ask yourself, "Who on earth would waste all that time making something from scratch?"

Friends, sometimes you just have to live the traditions to fully appreciate life.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Medieval Life - how fun is this?

Has everyone seen "Christina: A Medieval Life" from BBC? Wow... I'm totally sucked in. I gotta watch the rest of it.

The other thing I'm excited about is the online version of Our Farm Of Four Acres and The Money We Made By it by Miss Coulton.  Thanks to PeterPansDad or the suggestion!

These should keep me entertained as this cold weather comes in. How about you - whatcha reading or watching?

Happy Thursday!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Nuts.

So much for my dream of reckless radish planting so early in the year. This is what we woke up to Wednesday.


Nuts. Drat. Dang. Curse you, White Death!


The dogs loved it. Kai did not want to come in at all and Zander thinks snow is the best thing that's ever happened to him in his whole life.  He looked at me adoringly, like I made it snow just for him.


Me and the cats hung out by the fire. There was a lot of sloth and not many goals were achieved. Accept.. you know.. sloth. The cats think the wood stove is the best thing that has every happened to them.  They look at me adoringly like I made the fire just for them.


As for me..... the weird winter/non-winter of 2012 drags on...this winter of my discontent... just as gray and bleak as my mood. (How's that for arty?)

I have high hopes for a happy Thursday and the melting of this White Doom Which Falls Just To Annoy Me. Come on spring.....

Anybody else spend yesterday by the fire? Looks like we'll get one day of reprieve then another arctic cold spell will be upon us. At least the cats will be happy.

Happy Thursday everyone!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Whatcha cookin'?

I'm almost too full to type this...wow! Do you remember the braised pork hock they made in this spectacular "how to cut up a side of pork" video? I made that Tuesday nite and it was stunning. Honestly I don't think I can move from the couch. And superDUPER thanks to whoever gave me the link to that site - but I can't remember who did! Lemme know if it was you and I'll give credit where its due.

Anyway, my extra yummy dinner almost entirely came from the yard. Easy, cheap, good, and good for you. You could probably even make it in the crock pot if you were gonna be gone all day. What could be better? It reminded me of a funny conversation I had with someone recently.

This person was telling us that we should never, ever trust Big Food Company X. Ever. Then they turned around and said they were on Weight Watchers and were doing great on it.

Us: * blink blink *  "Um.. so you know that Big Food Company X probably manufactures most of what's in them snacks and shakes and frozen boxes of whatnot you're eatin, right?"

And I think you know my feelings on what WW's is pushing lately.

Then the conversation turned an ever more troubling corner when they went on to tell us that sure, now that they were retired they could put a little more effort into controlling their high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and weight...but you know... its so much easier to just take the pills for it and continue their life as it has been, didn't we agree?

Us. *blink blink*  "But..um... are you sure about that?"

When we have visited them we've always been shocked at the amount of prepacked, factory made "food like substances" they have in their house. Almost nothing they eat is home made. I mean nothing. Not even cookies. They buy cookies. From Costco. In a huge tub. There's only two of them.

I find this very odd.

I have to wonder why would anyone live like that... especially after watching the news and hearing them squawk on and on about how we're all getting too much salt.  And this is hot on the heels of the report where some fool wants to treat sugar like a controlled substance. In both cases it was reported that much of the sugar and salt comes from commercially produced "food."

It might surprise you that I'm not actually against Big Food. Someone has to feed all these people. And I think one of the highest security priorities for this country is to keep food production (literally) in and on our soil. So Big Food has a place. I just think they are making the wrong thing. Mostly because people buy it.

Lets face it. The SAD (Standard American Diet) is sad. Filled with soda (diet or regular), food groups that don't exist in nature (like the "itos" food group), and sticky sweet who-knows-what's-in-that-food-like-substance. But it tastes good and its easy, right?  Not only is it sad, we think its kind of silly.

I admit it. We like to make fun of the "food" in the grocery store. Some of the more hilarious items we've found are pre-packaged spices for making one meal. You get an over-packaged plastic thingy with 4 or 5 separate, common spices that are pre-portioned so there is none of that tiresome measuring. White sandwich bread scares us both pretty badly. And don't get me started on packaged, pre-cooked bacon. Now that is a crime. Who wouldn't want to cook their own bacon?!?

We feel like we are lucky because we grow most of our own food. But even if you don't, or can't, the least you can do is eliminate the sugar and salt by starting with raw ingredients and making it yourself. And be careful about what you buy in a can. You might wanna check out the frozen aisle for bags of veggies that don't have any extra stuff in them. And not the frozen, tossed together 'meal's - just get the veggies. Mass produced pasta sauce? Stop it. Read the label - see all that salt and extra sugar? Move down the aisle 10 feet and get no or low sodium crushed tomatoes and make it yourself.

Heading over to the meat section? If the guy behind the counter is crying its because we were just there screaming with laughter over their meat selection or asking each other "Hey! do we need ham?" We think we are hilarious. But seriously, check the packaged meat carefully. If there is a label that says something like "Moist and Meaty" then be careful that it hasn't been injected with who knows what.

What if you can't cook?

Friend, here's where it gets hard. Everyone over 12 should know how to cook. I know a 10 year old with exceptional knife skills. You don't need to be a four star chef, but everyone should know how to take care of themselves. At the end of the day you are responsible for what you eat. You either make an effort to do it yourself or shove off the responsibility to someone else but either way its your choice. I love Ruhlman's rant on cooking. He also doesn't really believe America is too stupid to cook.  Neither do I.

If you won't cook, then shame on you. I know people who "won't" cook. To me that's like saying to your family that its 'good enough' to live under a tarp in the front yard. Technically that is shelter. But that's not really living, is it? Technically those packages of stuff you put in the microwave are food. Technically those bags of stuff you get at the second window after yelling your order into a clown is food. But that's not really living is it? If you won't cook, then go ahead and stand on principal while your family's health suffers. I'm sure you're making a point to someone.

If you don't know how to cook then let me introduce you to my friend Rachael. She is fun and has easy-to-make meals. If you are organized you can make these meals in about half an hour. If you are just getting started it might take longer. Set your DVR or Tivo or what not and record her shows. Watch them.  She starts making supper about 20 minutes before the show ends. Go ahead and fast forward to that point.  Then do what she is doing. And you can run right out and get her books - this one here and this one also. I don't have this one but it looks good also. See? Easy peasy. You can cook.

Once you get your confidence up then you can move on to other things. But you get extra points for making food starting with raw materials and that does not include the instructions "remove container from the plastic wrapping."

Back to my dinner and the folks we know who'd rather take the pills. My supper took less than 5 minutes to put together. It took me longer to unload the dishwasher than it did to put everything in a pot and shove in the oven. I went away for a while and came back and the house smelled like heaven. So I find myself unable to agree with them that its just easier, or better, to just take the pills. I'd rather have real food that I cooked myself.

Now what are you cooking today? What's for dinner? Snow is in the forecast so I have my mind on a complicated bolognese sauce made entirely from ingredients that came from my yard. It will take a while but it will be worth it.

Have a great Wednesday everyone, now get out there and make your supper. Don't believe the lie that its easier just to take the pills!


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Bad Moon on the Rise

Anybody else feeling the full moon? Wow!  If you're not just go and talk to Nibbles. She'll tell you all about it.

I do not believe in astrology but I do believe that natural events - weather changes, season changes, the rising or falling barometer, the amount of daylight, and the moon's tug on the earth impacts us all.

Right now Nibbles is getting the full effect of the full moon. I'm afraid if she sneezes too hard them babies are gonna go flying right out of her. The Good Neighbors came and checked her out. Even tho Nibbles isn't due for several more weeks, the consensus is that she may not make it that long.

So we are on high alert. And by high alert I don't mean that I'll be sleeping out in the goat house... I just mean that we'll be checking on her frequently. During daylight hours. And maybe a little before daylight because that's when the dogs get up. But I ain't snuggling with Nibbles in a sleeping bag out in the goat house for sure.

While the jury is still out on Debbie, The Good Neighbors think that Nibbles has about 47 babies in there.. well... actually they said "probably three", and that Dahlia probably has at least one. We all decided to just wait and see how Debbie progresses. The worst thing that will happen is that Debbie didn't get knocked up by Too Short and I'll get a cow this summer. I don't consider myself to be on the loosing end of that decision at all.

In between bouts of standing there fretting over silly goats, being outside has been fabulous. I talked to the feedstore guy and he said that as long as the ground can be tilled that I could get to planting. He said that the ground was probably close to 50* (best for starting seeds like oats and other grains) because we just haven't gotten that many really cold days in a row.

Our bad soil is still a little wet for tilling but the dogs and I spent the day in the upper garden. Kai has been busy ridding the world of rats. The Bubby had a hard growing day so he mostly tripped over his huge feet. And I hoed up some dry ground to plant some radish seeds. I'm also working on resurrecting my hillbilly hoop house which blew all to pieces in one of the big storms.

Overall Monday was a great day - full moon and all. Anybody else feeling that crazy moon?

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Monday, February 6, 2012

No wonder I need more dog food....

Would you just look at these two? Kai on the left and Zander on the right. Remember when he was so little?


And check out Zander's paws... they are already bigger than Titans.  He isn't as tall as Kai yet but he's catching up. At five months. Um...


...we are gonna need a lot more dog food for sure.

Happy Monday everyone! Its sunny and its gonna be 50* so look to my direction for the huge cloud of smoke. I'm gonna make a burn pile the likes of which has never been seen before. And if I end up burning down the woods, will someone come and bail me out?  Or just show up later with marshmallows and we'll all have s'mores!


Saturday, February 4, 2012

Meat March

Yesterday was so beautiful and the weather so mild that I let the meats out to see The Whole Wide World....


...they were a little timid at first. But then they waddled and meat-ed all around.

This has been a weird batch. We finally figured out that some of yellow and some have white legs. We have no idea if this has to do with their weirdness. Mostly we've noticed they are mean. Nothing worse than mean meat for sure.

Some of the roo's have been particularly aggressive - which we really haven't seen before. Sure one or two of each batch have emerged as Lead Meat, but this is a kind of mean meat madness that defies all explanation.

Our winter meat project has gone really well. We've been keeping this batch in one side of the turkey house. When we had colder weather - and these meat chickens were younger - we kept a heat lamp on them. But now they are big enough to generate enough meat heat to keep themselves warm. As long as it isn't too muddy we'll let them out to free range. They thought the grass was something else.

Because of some schedule changes we haven't been able to have a big meat harvest like we've wanted to do this the last couple weeks. But that's OK. The meats are just creepin' along. Getting bigger and meatier as they grow.

I checked with the guy at Tractor Supply - around here they are gonna get their chicks in the end of February! Anyone gonna take the plunge and get some creepy meats for the first time? Now is your chance!  Last spring we really thought our "one batch, two batch" project worked really well. We got one batch of about 10 or 15 meats, then several weeks later got another similar sized batch. This way we could stagger the meat harvest and not use up all the freezer space.

Happy Saturday everyone! Its raining ice here - is everyone staying dry? Snow? Anyone out it Colorado still digging out?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Mad about pancetta

I'm currently mad about pancetta. I'm not mad AT pancetta - I'm just crazy for it.


Isn't it lovely?

Remember when I did all that bacon making? Part of what I cured was their weird curly, round belly piece (as the pigz were so fat!). Usually you take a thin piece of pork belly and roll it up. But I just used the round piece. It was cured in a savory mix of salt and herbs for about 10 days or more. Then I wrapped it in cheese cloth and hung it in the basement. For about a week I eyed it suspiciously... then I took it down and carefully unwrapped it. I was expecting it to be maggot ridden and moldy. It wasn't. It was glorious.

So I immediately sent an email, shrieking my glee, to my pal The Gastronomic Gardener letting him know it worked. He loves bacon like I do - especially making it at home.

Its just beautiful.

Pancetta is usually not smoked but is dry cured. That's right not refrigerated, just hung up to dry. Isn't that weird? But it works. And as Ruhlman says, its not meant to be eaten raw but rather cooked, so provided its done correctly - its a safe process. Everyone ran right out and get his book, Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing right?

Pancetta can be used as a base seasoning for traditional, Italian meat sauces but I admit to just loving it fried up in a pan. For several morning this week I sliced it thick, fried it up in a pan, and had a "PLT" instead of a BLT for breakfast. And I think it will be stunning on the grill or even seared. I love it so much that I have another piece hanging in the basement. And I also have a couple belly pieces in the freezer that are destined for panetta glory.

The next time you are in the deli section look around for the pancetta. See how expensive it is? Sheesh - you can make that at home friends, yes you can.

Happy Friday everyone! Did you see the smoke from my epic burn pile yesterday? Whoot!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Has everyone been outside!?

WOW! What a "non-winter" we've been having these last couple days!  Today was the second day I was outside and in shorts! Pretty good for last day in "Jun-uary" and a fantastic first day of "Feb-uly."

 Ok it wasn't EXACTLY like June... there weren't any of these terrific sunflowers. But it was close.

We worked outside on The Big Bramble pile until it was almost too dark to see the The Bubby (Zander is mostly black and hard to see at night).  Of course the dogs have been loving being outside. Kai caught 2 rats in the woods while we were working yesterday. She was very proud of herself and I was totally creeped out. (ICK!).  She'll have the woods cleared of varmints in no time.

And its not just the dogs - the ducks and clucks and geese and everyone has been out roaming around. I know for sure my sweet little Pigpen aka Bianca aka Lady Gaga is laying so I'm also keeping and eye out for other duck's eggs. I can't wait to make a custard. Unfortunately for my little white duck...one of the ganders has taken a liking to her. They had her pinned down pretty good before I could run out and kick him off. She's safely in an enclosed yard now. Spring does funny things to the critters and as we know love is no respecter of species.

As for the goats, Nibbles has taken to standing in the yard and wailing. She's as big as a house and has started to make an udder. I think she has at least 2 babies - I don't think there are 3 but you never know. Dahlia is tried of me chasing her around feeling her up. I can't tell if she has a baby bump or not. But there seems to be a little something going on with her.

Debbie is the big question mark. Sometimes I look at her and think "yep she's got a baby in there" and other times I think this is gonna be her longer summer ever. I keep telling her "hay is for milkers" and she'll have to free range with the losers if she doesn't have any kids.  She hates me. If she doesn't have any babies then she might just find herself replaced by a cow. A sweet little Jersey girl who milks at least 3 gallons a day. And who won't give me any lip like these goats.

That's the doin's here. The rest of the week promises to be in the 50*'s and above freezing at nite. At this rate I'll have radishes sooner than later!

Is everyone outside enjoying the non-winter?  Happy Thursday!
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