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, November 27, 2013

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

The news has been all abuzz about the winter storm that dumped a bunch of snow on us and is moving on to complicate everyone's travel plans. Not us... this is what I'm doing today....

Hot cocoa and molasses-gingersnaps. If you are sitting at a crowded gate surrounded by crazy people pushing and shoving their way to the best overhead storage... just stare deep into the fluffy goodness of this whipped cream covered cocoa. Smell the heady aroma of ginger and nutmeg.... relax, breathe deep, travel warrior... you'll get there... eventually.

Is this your travel experience? Hold on - it's a wild ride!

As for me, I probably won't leave the couch much today. I'm going to watch one of my favorite movies and be thankful for this nutty little farm and all my crazy critters. Me and the dogs are going to play in the snow, run thru deep drifts, and then come inside and have another plate of snacking goodness.

Good luck, travelers!

Editor's note: WHAT? Another affiliate links to Amazon? You betcha! Do you know that you can go thru my store to rent or purchase movies online at Amazon's Instant Video Store? Yep! Just use the black Amazon search box on the right side of this page or click to find it. Purchase just like normal and I'll get a tiny percentage of the sale. It doesn't cost you one cent more but it helps me with the "cost" of this blog. Thanks!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Enternal Fire of the Deerly Departed

Yesterday was a humdinger. But just in case the Fish and Wildlife boys are reading... what follows is entirely hypothetical. You know how I make things up....and it's entirely possible that since today is a snow day - I might have added a little "special" to my morning coffee.

So the other day we headed out and found at the end of our drive - a dead deer. Right in a big heap. We looked at each other.

At this point I can assume there are three camps - the "Awwee's...." who's little hearts are broken at the thought of that beautiful, majestic creature laid low by a speeding Chevy. If that's you then all y'all had better stop reading as there is nothing but offensive material from now on. The "Ewww's" who think that's gross - but it wasn't too gross so keep reading. And the rest of you son's-o-golly-whats who think, "Awesome!" cuz there is a huge heap of free meat sitting right there. Right there!

"Awesome!" I cried and eagerly told my husband to go back so I could get my butcher knives.

"No." He said and drove around my free roadkill prize because there was somewhere that we had to be...and he thought it had been there too long. Drat.

Is roadkill meat gross? Depends on who you ask. A picture perfect headshot with a couple tons of steel is a gift for some but too icky for others. My favorite hunting story was about a guy who hit a deer which landed in another guy's yard. The both of them were out there trading punches to decide who owned it. "Finders keepers" or "I have the front end damage to prove it's mine "  - it's a sticky wicket.

I lobbied heavily for at least taking the back legs off the carcass for the dogs but I was entirely over ruled. By the time we got back it had, in fact, been sitting there "too long." There was only one thing to be done. We both grabbed a set of legs and whomped it in the back of the truck.

Then we showed the dogs.

They were definitely in the "Awesome" camp. Zander loved it the most and he thought his momma was the most wonderful person on earth to bring him such an incredible treasure. Until we told him to "leave it" and go in the house. There was sulking.

So now we had to "do something" with a relatively big carcass now resting comfortably in a wheelbarrow in one of my fenced in gardens. Technically I think you are supposed to call the highway department but because of where we live there is always a dispute over who has to deal with us. And the best we could have hoped for is that some guys might come along and dump a shovel full of lime on the carcass and let it rot. At the end of our drive. Attracting varmints and everyone's loose-running dog.

We also have a totally blind drive on a hill. So the eventual gathering of pterodactyls, I mean, buzzards which are as big as pterodactyls would eventually result in a horrific car crash for someone driving too fast over the hill. We've seen this before and since the shattered remains of someone's car was still all over the road from where that buck was hit we figured we didn't need anymore of that.

So we turned to our go-to solution. An awesome burn pile.

We had a ton of bramble and scrub pine from all of our clearing and a perfectly cleared place for an epic funeral pyre. So we got to work. When we had the fire good and hot my husband went and got the our burnt offering. Zander went nuts when he saw that big trolley of roadkill love coming right at him... then right past him... then be dumped on a scorching hot fire....

"WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?" We could hear the dogs collectively scream. They were agog.

My husband and I gathered even more bramble and pine and soon the fire was amazing. At first it smelled pretty bad. Then it smelled pretty good. The dogs danced and pawed around, noses in the air, behind us whining and whimpering. They thought it smelled delicious. After a while I thought so too.

Fat from grazing on all the free corn in the fields around us that deer carcass burned hot. Real hot. We could hear the fat sizzling and we piled on even more wood. With as hot as the fire was how long could this take, right?

Many hours later we were still out there.

We piled on more wood. The carcass was still burning. Punchy as we were from the hard work, the cold,  and the intoxicating smell of slightly-off venison - the stupid jokes started. I won't tell you which of made the roasted nuts remark. But you can probably guess.

Finally we just had to go and do chores. By that time the fire had pretty much died down and almost all of the carcass was gone. Except for the skull which was still smoldering. If it's still out there latter I'm going to dig it out of the ashes and make Nicholas a war helmet. That will be awesome.

Aside from shockin' y'all you might be wondering why I'm telling you this? Practicality.

If you have livestock at some point you are going to have deadstock. Then you are going to need a plan for disposing of a medium-large to very large carcass that is too big to just bury. If you have a backhoe or a tractor you are golden. If not sometimes you can contract someone to come and haul off the carcass. Or you can have a really awesome burn pile.

Be sure to check your local zoning tho. I kid you not, in a town near us it's illegal to burn varmints. I guess there was a guy who liked to burn roadkill groundhogs - I supposed that everyone needs a hobby. Unfortunately for him the neighbor lady did not think it was funny and apparently it was stinky. Worse for him she was on the town council and got a measure passed that made ground hog burning a punishable offense. Seein' as how burning a carcass is probably the least stinky thing we do over here we figured we were fine.

At this writing it's still dark. But at first light me and the dogs are gonna run right down and see if anything is left. I can't wait for Nicholas to wear his epic war helm.

Happy Tuesday everyone! Any body else burning varmints?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Importance of Storm Preps - That Video You Have to See

Has everyone seen the video going around of the guy and his daughter in the path of the Washington, Illinois tornado last week? I first saw it a couple days ago and it's just haunting.  I'm not embedding the video because I don't know those people but I figured it's OK to link to since it's been spread around online. Click here for the original youtube page.

But first, a couple of warnings....

1. This is hard to watch.

2. Send your kids out of the room before you click because there is a lot of (justifiable) swearing. But keep the sound up because you just have to hear this. That horrible metallic noise is their house being ripped apart.

3. Don't even think of making any unkind comments here. I'm not kidding. I don't know who has time to criticize how someone reponds to a terrible situation, but mean comments are not welcome.

I also don't want to sensationalize a terrible event. The reason I want to bring this to your attention is to see if we can learn from it.

Last Sunday I wore shorts to church because it was unseasonably warm. We expected to have plenty of time to get home and get our storm preps done. And we did. But there is always that one horrible moment before a big storm were you look around and wonder if all of this is still going to be standing when it's over.

For these poor folks - most everything they could see was gone. Six people were killed in Illinois and 1500 homes were destroyed.

Aside from the screams of that poor kid, a few things stood out to me:

1. Look how fast it happened. He showed the backyard and the rest of the neighborhood at about 0:15 then he went to the sheltered area. About a minute later he made his way out at about 1:17. Look in the background - the trees, the houses, the stuff.... all gone. Gone. It was about a minute. A minute.

2. That was probably the last time they were going to be in that house. Maybe for a while and maybe forever. The walls were gone. What would it be like for you if someone came into your home and said "In a minute you need to walk out of here and you can't come back." Then what? Where would you go? What if your car was gone too?

3. Look at all the stuff everywhere. The one thing that kind of killed me is that he panned the camera down for a second and I could see that he had those flip flop shoes on.... with all the debris, nails, and broken glass. That got me. Look around. What if the clothes you had on and the shoes on your feet were the only things you had to wear - to sleep in, to work in, to try and salvage your ruined belongings in - for the next several days. In one minute what if the only things you had on were the only things you had? 

This video was just... haunting. That's the only word I can think of.... and it made me review our storm preps.

We think we do a pretty good job with our storm prep. But this taught me a few things.

First, I'm going to be relentless in my reminder to "put shoes on your feet and your phone in your pocket." I always put on sturdy shoes when we have weather coming in. Shoes that I can walk over broken glass, or debris, or whatever. Shoes that I can work in - hard work like moving trees or construction or demolition.  What if you had to chainsaw your way out of your driveway? Or heaven forbid, have to pull a neighbor out of their house. Are you really going to do yourself or someone else any good barefoot?

And I'm now going to add "and your car keys too." Those folks had to leave their home, provided they still had a car outside, how could they safely and easily find their keys? They needed to get out of that house that second in case it collapsed. That is not the time to be wondering around trying to find your keys.  I'm definitely adding that to the list.

Next, we need to do a better job of having "to go" kits or bags. I love how these mommies make a "72 hour kit" with an empty milk jug for each family member. Plus they make this kind of thing approachable and easy. In truth, we probably would not evacuate unless there was some kind of forest fire. With all of our farm animals, even if we didn't have power or services, we would probably stick around. We are OK "off the grid" for a while. However, if we had to 'bug out' we'd waste time trying to get organized.

Also, I still have important papers in the house. I think one of my winter projects should be to scan them and keep them electronically accessible. I saw a story on the news about a gal who got one of her pictures back - from something like 170 miles away. Someone found it and posted it on a fb page and it was returned to her. I'd hate to try and find my truck title half way across the state.

That being said, there are a few storm prep things that we do well, including:

1. We closely monitor the weather. We are total weather nerds and so are our friends. So we would probably not be caught off guard. You should not be caught off guard either.  Typically we hear about "weathermakers" for a couple days before we are impacted. If you can't stand to watch the news get a weather radio, sign up for alerts, or "friend" your local weather guys so you get updates.

2. We have an action plan. We have a specific plan and order of actions to take out in the barnyard and inside the house to prep for storms. If we have 5 minutes or an hour we can get most of the barnyard secured. In the house we herd the cats and dogs into easy to manage areas so they are safe. We have a stack of carriers to contain our companion animals if we have to - and we know exactly the safest place in the house to hunker down with them.

3. We know where our chainsaw is....and it's not buried out in the garage somewhere under a bunch of stuff, unmaintained, and low on fuel. The one "thing" we grab when we are in the path of a storm is not the pictures or Grandma's bible... it's our chainsaw. Sharpened, fueled, ready to use, and near us in the basement. We are ready in case have to cut our way out of the driveway or get heavy limbs off the chicken house.

4. We make an effort to have our trucks full of gas - and we almost always have full, extra gas cans. After Hurricane Sandy folks had to drive long, long distances to get supplies. We live pretty far out anyway and even tho we are well stocked, what if we had to drive a couple hundred miles for materials? Or 50 miles for gas?

5. We have good attitudes. We both know that bad situations are made worse by complaining and reciting the bad conditions. Having a plan and working the plan provides for better attitudes which makes a bad situation more bearable.

It looks like we are in for another weather wallop this week so now is a great time to review your storm preps. Since we've got a couple days everyone should have plenty of time to stock up, gear up, and get ready. How about you? Are you ready for this next winter weather looloo?

What did you think - did you learn anything from this video?

And just a note on some of the comments on youtube ... I'm not sure who has time to berate a stranger on the internet on the worst day of his life... but that's horrible and shame on those mean people. If those mean people really don't have anything else to do but make fun of a frightened little girl - then they have too much time on their hand and need more chores...and to repent.

As for me, I'm going to pray for those poor folks - the dad and the daughter. Thank heavens they were not hurt - and the rest of the kids were out of town. I'm going to pray for their comfort and restoration. Then I'm going to go and look over my storm preps again. With sturdy shoes on my feet.

Happy Monday everyone!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Goat Pimpin': Nibbles Steals the Show

I should have called this "Hot Goats Ready for Love" but I wasn't sure that the title would make it thru everyone's porn filters. But believe me this is SFW. Mostly.

Nibbles. Always classy.

The unpredictable nature of this week just keeps on spinning. Thursday I had planned to spend the entire day canning the rest of the stock from the last whack of turkeys. That was until I went out to feed the goats.

One look at Nibs and I ran for the house, barked into the phone "HOT GOAT! HOT GOAT!", and I left about 6 minutes later.

Nibbles and I drove fast. Real fast. She was in the back seat of my truck screaming in my ear, "FASTER! DRIVE FASTER!" I put the pedal to the metal and in no time I was sliding into the gravel drive of a wonderful goat farm.

"GET THE BUCK! GET THE BUCK!" I yelled as I drug Nibbles' carcass out of the truck and hightailed it across the yard. I was in a hurry because I knew we had to strike while the goat was hot.

The professional herdswoman and I stood and chatted while Nibbles made a fool of herself. We had nearly laughed ourselves sick over ridiculous goat antics when Nibs shook off the amorous advances of the odorous buck.

"I guess she's done." I said and we both shrugged. I handed over my money and took Nibs by the leash and we waved our goodbyes.

Mercifully Nibs was happy to jump up into the truck by herself. Heaven knows I did not want to shove her now-nasty-ass into the backseat.  Just in case, tho, I had intentionally worn one of my husband's most horrid shirts. If it got the buck stank on that ugly shirt I was just going to burn it. However, much relieved from the ants in her pants our dear Nibs was much more accommodating about getting in the truck herself. So she did.

"Lets go." She declared.

We drove away.

Directly to Starbucks that is. Even tho I didn't get any of the buck stank on me... I could feel its putrescence permeating my truck. I walked directly in and washed my hands. I ordered a superdeluxe sugar infused coffee concoction and asked them to shake a little pepper on it because I had a goat in my truck that wasn't getting any fresher.

"Really? Could you bring her over to the drive thru?" Asked an incredibly bright eyed and polite girl.

"Sure!" I said. I got my coffee then pulled around.

Nibbles caused a sensation.

There were some predictable questions... like, "Whatcha doin' taking your goat for a drive?" and "Why did you cut off her ears?" But mostly they smiled and ooohed and aaahed. They wished me well and Nibs and I drove off again.

Let the record show that if all goes according to plan, and I can count correctly, Nibs should have those little money makers on the ground sometime between April 17th and the 19th. These should be some mighty flashy babies.

That's the report for now.  Are you checking your action items off your list?
Dahlia - check!
Nibbles - check!
Debbie - still on her PIP (Performance Improvement Plan)

We should also state that Daisy and Darla were in heat today. They probably will not be bred this year... but maybe. We'll see.

Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Peep Pops a Toe and Other Events From Yesterday

All of the events of yesterday could not possibly be adequately described in short post or a status update on 'the facebook.' So here is what happened.

Our Peep. Pre-popped toe.

1. You can't imagine how thrilled I was to finally get our local NBC channel back after it's summer hiatus when we don't get that channel. Eagerly I tuned in to watch what was happening in pop culture. However, I was deeply troubled emotionally by an all night dream where me and Kenye West, and the girl with the big bottom were friends. It was horrible. They are not quality people. See if I ever watch Entertainment Tonight ever again. Thanks, Mario Lopez, but you gave me nightmares.

2. Our part of Ohio was rocked by EARTHQUAKE CRISIS 2013. West Coast friends, try not to die laughing at our 3.5 window rattler. Honestly I was in town so I didn't notice anything. Everyone is all agog at the event tho. Despite this shocking shock we will soldier on. We will rebuild. Maybe I'll get some wrist bands made or something.

3. In the most unbelievable event of the day, our cat Peep popped a toe. That is, she dislocated her toe. Can you believe it? Yep. It happens. We think she got her claw caught in the carpet when she was fighting our basement kitty, Gato Diablo, under the door. When she tried to get away she wrenched her toe clear out of joint.

It took both of us to get her out from under the bed and shoved in a carrier.  We grabbed the emergency direct phone line to the vet, alerted them we were coming in hard and fast, and tore out of here like greased lightening.

Did you ever notice what jerks people are when they race around you and drive too fast - but if YOU have the "hey-get-outta-my-ways" then you expect them to just be understanding and move over? Yeah that. Lets just say we got there fast. Real fast.

Poor Peep. She's an especially tender victual anyway seeing that she is our bottle raised singleton.... but add that to her naturally occurring calico 'torti-tude"... and she is a handful. And she really hates the vet. I was basically laying on her while she was on the exam table, holding her so she would only bite me, when the vet popped her toe back in place. Good thing I was leaning on the table so heavily or my knees might have gone out from under me. I very nearly passed out.

Aside from the sore toe Peep got an A+ from the vet. She got a shot of this and some drops of that to keep her comfortable. Of course I didn't get anything. You'd think they'd at least serve shots of tequila.

At this writing (Wednesday night) our Peep is in a drug induced slumber on my husband's chest downstairs away from the rest of The Insane Cat Posse. She blames me entirely for the mild earth shaking, losing a fight to a basement kitty, being shoved in the dreaded cat carrier, going on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, and having some strange crazy woman yanking on her hurt toe. Occasionally Peep wakes up and give my husband big, sad eyes and asks him why I'm so mean.


As for me I'm going to take Peep another can of food and feed it to her with a spoon.

Happy Thursday everyone. How was your day?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Goat Pimpin': The Dahli Edition

It's a sorry day when Dahli is our best goat. Today was her lucky day.

Dahli. Our best goat. Today.

Someone remind me that if Dahli stays true to her 145 - 147 day gestation then her babies will be due somewhere around April 10 - 12 next spring.

Debbie gets and F-. She is not bred and is going to cost me another $100-ish bucks for a buck if she doesn't get her act together. As far as Nibs is concerned, I'm hoping that Dahli's buck scented self will throw Nibs into a predicable heat and then she can go on a date with a flashy buck who is a proven winner.

You know I hate this.

In the mean time our turkey harvest continues. For dinner recently we had turkey marsala - it was excellent. I'm serious. Turkey is a great all around meat that you can use in just about anything. Today will be meatball day. That means I'll be making another round of Liver Love Balls. I know you want a big ol' plate of them. Oh yes you do!

Happy Tuesday everyone! I'm trying to decide if I should tell you the whole story about Dahli's performance. Some shame may be involved.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Weathered the storm

We're back up! Wow what a line of storms! Is everyone OK?

We didn't have much a blow here but wow it was all around us. No damage but our internet was down. Trying to get caught up.

So for now... here is something truly amazing....

Doesn't everyone love Lil Bub? I'm a huge fan. Good job, Bub.

Happy Monday everyone - do you have any storm damage?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Just Wild About Schnitzel

I know you are probably wondering, "OFG, just what are you doing with all those turkeys?" Well, let me tell you. The Great Turkey Harvest of 2013 rolls on.

These turkeys are pretty darn big.

It's working really well to do a couple turkeys a day, let them rest in our beer fridge over nite, then I part them up the next day. We are down to 8 and hopefully by the end of the weekend it will be more like 4 or 5. We'll see how it goes.

While it's a certainty we won't be having turkey for Thanksgiving, we are enjoying turkey. A lot. As in we are greatly enjoying it and we are enjoying it in great quantities. Mostly, to me anyway, turkey is really versatile. Sure if you season it with poultry seasoning and cook it with butter it will taste like the most soon-to-be-forgotten holiday.... but you can do lots of other things with turkey. I'm kind of surprised that it's not more popular thru the year.

Note: the lighting in my house right now in horrid. I did the best I could. 

Right now we are on a meatball bender and a schnitzel tirade. Traditionally schnitzel is really just a cutlet, generally pounded flat as a pancake, then dipped in egg/milk, floured, then fried. It's tremendous and we are lovin' us some schnitzel.

It's extremely easy to make. I cut the turkey breast into cutlets and then get out a heavy cleaver. Sure you can use a meat mallet or a small fry pan, but my big ol' Japanese cleaver gets it done. Slap your meat between some plastic wrap and smack it flat. It's a lot of fun.

Then I let the flattened cutlets float around in some milk seasoned with some salt, pepper, and a little paprika. Put a little flour and/or some bread crumbs on a plate and then flip and flop the cutlets to coat.

I love this antique cast iron skillet....and chicken fat. I love to cook with chicken fat.

Meanwhile heat up your favorite pan and some chicken fat. Chicken fat? Sure! Why not? We still have some from when I rendered it out as chicken lard. And it gives a wonderful flavor. I could be mistaken but I believe it has a fairly high smoke point, based on results. Make sure you have enough to fill the bottom of your fry pan.

When the oil is hot, place the cutlets in the pan carefully and let them brown up nicely, turning once. At this point I usually turn on the oven to 400*. When the cutlets are done - browned on both sides - I put them in the oven to finish cooking and to keep them hot. They are done when the juices run clear. Depending on the size of your schnitzel this could be just a few minutes or 15.

These are really small cutlets. They were for lunch.

At this point you can enjoy all that schnitzel-y goodness as is.. or pour out the fat from your fry pan, keeping a couple tablespoons or so,  add some flour to the remaining fat and cooking it for a minute, then add some milk, and make yourself some gravy.

See? Wasn't that easy?

Hopefully you have as many potatoes as I do - and have them all mashed up and lovely. Then just fill your plate with schnitzel, potatoes, and gravy and watch all of your cares disappear.

This is one of our favorite farm meals. It can be done in about 30 minutes and requires very little effort. Why wouldn't you give this a try?

Happy Friday everyone! Are you making schnitzel?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Turkey Tools

Ah... Thanksgiving... fun with food and family, right? I was lucky growing up because we really did go to my grandmother's house, thru the woods but not over the river, and had a big splashy Thanksgiving with tons of food and lots of family. It never occurred to me that people didn't know how to cook a turkey with all the fixin's.  How's about a quick primer for the newbies and a reminder for the old pros?

Hands down my favorite Thankgiving tool is the book, Thanksgiving 101.


It's terrific. He has everything you need to know, laid out in an easy to follow format, including recipes, times lines, menus, and tons of Q and A. Even if all you've ever made are grilled cheese sandwiches, you can probably do a Thanksgiving with this little gem. Just do exactly what he says.

One thing you really need, tho, is an excellent roasting pan. I got mine years ago and I use it for many things and not just turkey. I have the stunning Bauen-Pagoda Home Restaurant Deep Lasagne Pan with Roast Rack. It's been worth every penny but it was quite a purchase at the time. Mostly you want a heavy duty, stainless steel, big and deep pan, with a roasting rack. I like that mine has handles that can fold down so it's easier to store.

You'll need a bunch of prep bowls also. I really love these heavy, stainless bowls. I have a ton of them. These deep ones with flat bottoms are perfect. Use them for making your dinner rolls, mixing the stuffing, and all kinds of veggie prep.

Speaking of dinner rolls.... does everyone know about Saf Instant Yeast, 1 Pound Pouch? It's spectacular compressed yeast that lasts forever and is a great price. You'll never bother with those little 3-packs at the store once you try Saf Instant Yeast. I keep it in the fridge and measure it out when I need it. So easy and a great savings.

Of course you'll need your pie accoutrements.... Pyrex Easy Grab 9-1/2-Inch Pie Plate, Mrs. Anderson's Baking Ceramic Pie Weights, and a Fox Run Marble Rolling Pin and Base.

And probably your best friend thru your cooking day?  You got it...

Believe me, you'll need more than just one the on your stove if you are cooking up a storm. I broke one recently but I think my record was that I had three of these timers... in addition to the built in ones on the stove and the microwave.

I really like this one because it's easy to set, I can see it across the room, and it has a magnet and a clip on the back. So it's easy to clip onto my shirt or stick on the fridge if I have several things going at once. Plus it takes a lot to kill one of these... don't ask me how I know this. 

For me the best thing about Thanksgiving wasn't the actual sit down dinner - but all the good time we all had cooking.....and then later that night or the next morning when we dragged out all the food and had leftovers. Nothing beats a turkey sandwich from Thanksgiving.

It was funny because recently someone - you know of whom I speak - reminded me of one of my favorite childhood memories. I revisited that fun thing when I had my happy baking day earlier this week. I intentionally made too much pie crust just so I could do this...

You see, B., I miss my grandma too and she used to make these also. Sweet little roll up treats from left over pie crust dough. Probably one of my favorite things.

Happy Thursday everyone! Are you ready for Thanksgiving? You only have two weeks left!

Editor's note: Are these affiliate links to Amazon? You betcha! Anything you buy from Amazon from these links gets me a tiny percentage of the sale. It doesn't cost you one cent more but it helps me with the "cost" of this blog. If you like this blog, or if I've helped you at all in your farming efforts, just make a purchase from Amazon from one of the links, my store, or the black Amazon search box on the right side of this page. It can be anything - one of my recommendations, books, movies, or whatever you need to buy anyway. Every little bit helps. Thanks!


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Baking on a Snow Day

Yesterday was a baking day to combat the evil Snow of Doom. The dogs couldn't have been happier with The White Death out there making everyone miserable.... to combat the cold, I had a happy baking day.

Remember last year about this time I received The Best Gift Ever.... the awesome Dahlia Bakery Cookbook signed and sent by Chef Tom Douglas. I figured I should celebrate the (almost) anniversary of my Major Award by baking that terrific Hot Buttered Rum Apple Pie. But alas, I had no rum... undeterred I still made the pie. Of course you can make it without the rum - it's still a fabulous apple pie.

The masterpiece before baking. And yes. It was delicious.

I really love this cookbook. The best thing that I learned about this pie is to bake it very slowly - this allows the filling to get extra delicious and the pie crust to become flaky and amazing. It also a great way to keep the house warm on a snow day.

Pretty sure you all know what I'm having for breakfast....

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Holy Toledo! Yep. It snowed

So I think we are going to have an inside day.....

Winter. It's here.

It snowed! And wow our windchill is 18*. The dogs have already decided this is the best day of their whole lives. Pretty sure I'm going to have a baking day.

Dogs are made for snow.

I'm so glad we hurried to get our snow preps done yesterday. We hauled up some firewood from down the hill, finally cranked on the furnace, and make sure we had everyone out in the barnyard tucked in early and bedded down really well.

Happy Tuesday everyone! Are you having a snow day?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Hog Harvest with Skookum Farmstead and Farmstead Meatsmith!

Holy hog harvests! Folks all around are working together to bring in the hog harvest. I know of butchering days near and far - including an incredible hog butchering class presented by none other than Farmstead Meatsmith at Skookum Farmstead.

You might remember our pal J. from our interview when he was working on raising and butchering creepy meats. He did a great job with that project and I was thrilled to hear about his hog butcher day. Even better, I was extremely excited to hear that they had Farmstead Meatsmith come out and hold a class at his place! What could be better than that?

Everyone knows Farmstead Meatsmith, right? The guys with the outstanding video of how to break down a side of pork? They also have some new videos that you just have to see, but my favorite will always be Episode 1 on this page.

So how lucky was J. to have the Meatsmith guys come out and have a class to show him how to hog harvest on the homestead? I have to admit I was a little jealous.... but then I saw this great video showing some of their day. Then I felt like I was part of the fun.

When I asked J what he learned (aside from the technical 'how to's') he said what I might have guessed.... that working with other folks on a project like this is just fantastic. There is no way to describe the deep satisfaction and sense of community when you get together with other people and find out what you can do.

While I think that J and his family are superspecial... the fact is they are just regular people. Regular, everyday people can butcher at home. All you really need is confidence and a couple of strong people and you can make your own meat right there in your yard.

Of course, it helps if the Meatsmith guys come out and hold a class - and you can find out more about their classes here - but really you can do this.

I'd also like to tell you about a terrific project that J is working on over on his blog. It's called Harvest Letters and it will be a collection of thoughts, essays, or poems about what it means to bring in the harvest - including from the garden, making your own meat, or foraging. I really think this is a wonderful project. Regular people need to know that making your food isn't some far away idea. You can contribute to Harvest Letters and read the submission requirements here. It's going to be a great way to share knowledge and encourage other people.

J, I can't tell you how proud I am of you! What an accomplishment!   And special thanks to Farmstead Meatsmith for letting me use the video on this post....and for understanding that I'm just a huge fan and not a crazy interweb stalker.

Happy Monday everyone!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Insantity Potatoes

Seriously. I can't dig one more potato.

I found another row of them while I was doing some clean up. The garden has been like a potato clown car - they just keep on coming. Or like the Terminator Tater.... it won't ever quit. Sooooo many potatoes.....

Happy Friday!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Woodland Goats

I've been taking the goats deeper and deeper into the woods. There's not a lot to forage right now but the gals sure do love to free range.

Woodland goats.

I have to stand right with them because the woods are scary and goats are ridiculous. But once they figured out there are still some wild rose, blackberry, and other scratchy bramble available they really went to town. Then I could do some more clearing work while they roamed around.

Nibbles and Dahli

Of course the goats went directly to this little apple tree we rescued earlier in the spring. Shortly after this picture there was some "discipline" and Nibs and Dahli stopped eating the tree. Goats.

Trees every which way.

We ended up having more storm damage than we thought. This mishmash is actually a problem. Some of the big tree limbs knocked down our perimeter fence. I cleared a path to this rubble while the goats screwed around.

Darla is Debbie's Mini-Me.

Having fence down is pretty bad business.The other night Kai let me know there were coyotes close and then something big ran thru our woods, close enough to the house that I could hear it. So we need to get our first line of defense...which is the fence... up and running. We need chainsawing and soon.

Not goats but Zander and Kai looked so beautiful the other morning.

That's the update for now. We got some rain, mercifully, so today will be mostly inside. I kind of need to get caught up so I'm glad.

Happy Thursday everyone!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

This is Where the Crying Starts

Remember the wind storm we had the other day? Well. This is the shattered remains of our apple pie dreams...

Gone. Apples, apple pie, apple crisp, applesauce.. all gone.

I literally felt sick when I found this toppled over little apple tree. It was so bad I had to turn around and walk back out of the garden, gather some courage, then walk back up to see if it was real. It was real and we were just heartsick.

What's the big whoop over one little tree? Well. We got that little tree, a heritage apple called Grimes Golden, the first spring we were at this property. Which means it's about five years old and this was the first season that it fruited. It was perfect. A perfect little tree with perfect little fruit - and it perfectly blocked out the stupid neighbors house. And there it lay in a perfect heap with absolutely zero chance of being saved. Completely broken off at the base.

The first year it fruited and now....we have to start all over again.

I tell you the truth, the Scriptures are correct when they say that there is nothing new under the sun and that the curse is still in effect. Everything you seek to control will rebel against you and your work will be hard. Nothing makes this more clear than farming.

In my former life I didn't fail at anything. I was always above average and could point to my markers of success. Here. For heavens sakes, here my character has been so strengthened by failure that I am now a shining example of humility.

I'm so used to failure that we have a little cheer out in the barnyard for it. I dress Nibbles up in a little pleated skirt and a sweater with "OFG" on the front, hand her some pompoms, and she leads us in this rally:

Nibbles: What are we gonna get today?
Nibbles: What do we control?

Then Nibbles awkwardly does the splits and the rest of us all trudge of to work knowing that our success is measured in who didn't die that day and that we absolutely do not control anything we do. It's very humbling.

It's very hard to explain to your city friends why losing one little apple tree actually made you put your face in your hands and cry. What's the big deal? Just get another one - right? Or worse, they ask, why don't you just go and buy apples from the store?

That's kind of not the point.

It's the time, the energy, the hope of seeing that little tree flower every spring and think, 'Is this the first year I'm going to get a harvest?' It's the joy of finally having a little orchard that you created with your own hands. Not to mention that little tree was finally blocking that stupid house next door.

Nibs benefited from my crushed dreams.

It took me three days to walk up there with my tools and start to cut up that little tree. But, as farming goes, the perfect little circle of life kept spinning. I took the branches down to Nibbles and the rest of the goats. They loved the leaves and the bark from those little branches. Later we'll get the trunk cut up, let the wood age, and then the next time I smoke bacon it will be applewood flavored. So nothing is truly lost to the farm - it just keeps the cycle going.

Daisy got in on the action too.

When I moved the trunk from its final resting place you can imagine my surprise when.... I found a single little offshoot. It was about as tall as me and snapped bolt upright when it was freed from being pinned. It may not have been much - and I don't know if it was rootstock or a true Gimes Golden treelet... but it gave me hope. And at least I don't have to start at the absolute beginning.  At worst we'll have a nice little shade tree and that is just fine too.

Look what sprung up!

Maybe that new little tree will gain some strength and grow..... and next spring it could be full of hopeful blossoms. Then we'll wonder, "Is this the first year I'm going to get a harvest?"

Until then we'll remember that this is nothing new under the sun, all work is hard, and we control absolutely nothing.

Happy Wednesday everyone! Is there anything new under your sun, is your work hard, and are you in control of anything?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Peepin' at the Post

The post office called me first thing this morning.....

Look who is here! New arrivals. Our winter meats showed up just in time. We are clearing out the turkey house and making space for these meat chickens which should be ready in January or so.

This little guy is so fresh he still has a bit of shell on his back. Now that's fast delivery.

Are we crazy to get winter meat chickens? Nope. We find it's easier to keep them warm in winter then to keep them cool in our scorching how summers. Plus... we are out of chicken. Aside from a few spring roosters and two more monstrous meats from this summer that need to be harvested -  we'd be looking at next June if we waited until spring to get chicks. I just can't wait that long for fried creepy meat.

We got them sips and settled. They all arrived vigorous and happy. Thanks Meyer Hatchery!

And now.... we have some turkeys that are just dyin' to come to supper.

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Monday, November 4, 2013

The letter "E" due to the time change

Today is brought to you by the letter "E" for "exhaustion" due to the stupid daylight savings time change. Just so's ya know... no one tells livestock or cats about the time change.

 What a non-work day looks like. Gloves, boots, and dogs all in a heap.

All that "get an extra hour of sleep" is a load of bunk. The cats started circling at their normal time and didn't know what my problem was - Itty Bity was particularly determined to get me up yesterday. Today Little Mo was on early patrol.

I am glad that it's light in the morning. But I about cried when it was pitch dark at 6pm last nite. The Big Dark is looming.

Today is about stumbling around in a stupor and if i drink enough coffee and do enough jumping jacks to shake off this brain fog, I'm going to be shoveling out the chicken house. Nothing but the glamorous life here, folks.

Happy Monday! Are you recovered from the time change?

Saturday, November 2, 2013

How to Butcher Pigs - Step by Step

We'll wrap up Pig Week with its logical conclusion... How to butcher pigs. The only future for pork is bacon, glorious bacon. You, friend, can butcher hogs at home - yes you! You don't particularly need special equipment or tools. Just a couple strong people and the courage to march out there and take care of business. Remember, we are just regular people. We had no experience with this at all. If we can do it - so can you. 

The only future for these hogs is bacon.
Today we have a re-post of my friend, Bourbon Red's, spectacular step by step instructions. This is the only reference we use when we get out there to get 'er done. This method has worked on smallish and huge hogs
Ok folks... let's get to it. This is where the rubber hits the road. The real McCoy. The business. The shizzle.... But first..the warning...

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 are LOTS of pictures! Detailed, up close pictures of pigs in various states of being disassembled. This is a detailed, technical explanation of the hog butchering process .  There will be shooting, blood, guts, and meat flying everywhere.  Don't read it if you don't want to know. Honest. This separates the men from the boys, the farm from the posers, the real from the detached. Got it? Ready?
Harvesting your own hogs at home is much easier than you might think. You don't need a lot of fancy tools or front end loaders or special facilities. All you need is two moderately strong people, a few tools and a pig.

The first thing is, of course, to kill the pig. I was unable to get actual pictures of this since it's a little hard to take photographs and plunge a knife into 300 lbs of kicking, thrashing hog. You've all read about making an 'x' from the pig's eyes to his ears and aiming for slightly higher than the intercepts of the two lines. That's what you're aiming for. The desired outcome is a stunned, but not totally blown away pig, ready for the next step which is sticking. You want the pig to actually die from loss of blood from the severed arteries in its neck. An alternative is to shoot the pig from behind. Aim right behind the ear towards the opposite eye. This is handy if you have a pig that for some reason doesn't want to come right up and face you.

Pig's brains aren't all that large - so sometimes it can be pretty tricky to get the shot placed correctly. We shot these pigs from the front with a .410 shotgun at point blank range. We usually use a .22 long rifle with hollow points - the .410 did a nice job without being to crazy. The .22 sometimes requires some back-up from a sledge hammer kept handy to the kill pen. The angle of the shot is also critical.
The tendency, when you're standing that close to the pig, is to want to shoot down at the pig. At that angle, even if you hit in the 'x' there's a very good chance that the bullet will go down through the pig's sinus cavity missing the brain entirely. This is not a good thing. Number one, you've hurt your animal - which, of course, is something that we're trying to avoid at every stage of the game. Number two - now you have a hurt, angry pig that you still have to finish off somehow (this is now not something he's going to recover from and live out his days rooting contentedly in the back pasture....). The important thing is to get down and shoot 'into' the pig - so the bullet goes in towards the pig's back and not down through the roof of his mouth.
What happens if you do just wound him? This happens. STAY CALM. If at all possible - without endangering any human bystanders - carefully take better aim and shoot again. If not - and this is not for the squeamish - have a sledge hammer ready to deliver the coup de grace. Stand square to the pig. DO NOT HESITATE. You've caused a problem you have to solve - right now. Hit him with everything you've got right in the forehead. Get ready to do it again if you have to - once should be enough though.

Make no mistake this is by far the worse part of the whole process. 99% of the time the pig will go right down and there won't be any problems - but if you do enough you'll have one that ain't so pretty. Getting taken down by a pride of lions out on the plains probably ain't so pretty either - but ...

So - you've shot your pig. With luck he's fallen right over on his side - or kneeled down on his front knees. He'll still be moving - shaking - maybe letting loose with a scream like all the demons of hell coming at you whatever. This is fine. Immediately, you need to get in there with a knife and stick the pig. Roll the pig onto his back and plunge the knife in slightly forward of the collar bone as close to the center as you can manage. Be careful - the pig may be kicking around by now. Stick the knife in and work it back and forth a little until the blood gushes out - not just bleeds but comes out in gouts. Usually you have 5-10 seconds after they're shot before they start the major flopping and kicking. That's the time to stick - for your own sake so that you can get out of the way. For this reason it's always best to have two people - one to shoot and take care of the gun and one to get in and stick. You can do both - just make sure you have someplace secure you can put the gun right away and get in there (safely) and stick the pig.

There are hundreds of pictures and videos of this out there - try a youtube search. It sounds much harder than it actually is. If you can't go watch someone first - you'll be fine. Just do it - afterwards you'll be amazed how easy (and fast) it really goes.

After you've stuck the pig and it's really bleeding well, step back. Get outta the way and let it do its thing. It might take it a little while. If it's still bleeding and kicking after a minute or so - try sticking it again - you may not have cut well enough. Chances are you'll be fine though. Go - right now and put the gun away. Have a little bourbon to calm you nerves and catch your breath - you'll need it.

OK - you've done it - you've killed and bled a hog! Congratulations. The rest is child's play by comparison.

Next step. Drag that hog out on to a clean('ish) surface - gravel is nice - clean concrete is nicer. Now grab a scrub brush and hose off the blood, mud and poo that might have gotten smeared all over during the death-throes. Go over the whole hog scrubbing and rinsing till you get him nice and clean. This will help immensely keeping the meat clean when you skin - why bother with all that nastyness when you can wash it all off in 5 minutes and know you've got a nice clean carcass to work with.

OK - now you've got some options. Traditionally, pigs were scalded and scraped to get the bristles and gunk off them. This left the hide on the pig - which was helpful if you were going to salt it down and hang it up to dry. Many traditional cultures would alternatively scorch the bristles by mounding straw over the clean dry pig and setting the pile alight. This works very well too and was preferred by many as they thought it closed up the pores better and made the bacon keep better (see Cobbett's Cottage Economy for example). A modernized form of this is to use a propane roofer's torch to burn off the bristles. We do this in the fall when we kill 7-10 pigs at a time simply because we don't have anywhere to hang that many hogs. The skin still really helps keep the meat clean - we scorch them, scrub them really well, gut and halve them and lay them out on a sheet of plastic on a concrete floor which really helps chill them down nicely. Either way you still have the skin on the pig and have to cut it off when you got to butcher the next day. Some like the 'cracklin' left on roasts, etc. I could never see the point personally - but to each his own.

The best and easiest thing (in my opinion) is to skin the pig right away. Then it's ready to go when you're ready to cut it - no fuss - no muss. There are, I am sure, a thousand ways to skin a pig. What we do is to make a skinning cradle out of 5 2x4's set on a couple of saw horses. Cheap and easy. Pigs skin most easily from the head back - rather than from the hind-end forward like one would normally skin sheep or cattle or deer. You can hang them by the jaw or by the back trotters - whatever. If you're just doing a few though a cradle really make it nice.

Now, with your clean pig on his back, take your knife and cut straight down through the throat just behind the jaws until you get down to the bone. Saw through this and continue to cut with the knife until you've severed the pig's head. Set aside.

Now you have a headless hog laying on his back.

Starting at the neck of the pig, cut down the centerline through the skin to the breastbone. Cut through the skin, fat and muscle to the bone. Careful when you get to the back end of the sternum - the guts start there. After you've exposed the sternum take your saw and cut through it - starting at the head-end of the pig. This will open the chest cavity with the heart, lungs, etc.

Now stick your fingers under the meat/skin and start to cut towards the back of the pig being very careful not to nick a gut. They're right there and it's pretty easy to get one. Don't. Take your time - the pig is dead now and it's a nice cold day. Relax.

On male pigs you'll need to trim around the penis. Cut down on either side and locate the urethra. Cut back till you've exposed enough to tie off. Tie it off with a bit of twine and drape it over to one side - just in case - so as not to spill urine on the meat. If some squirts out - wipe it off - it isn't the end of the world. You might need to trip off any meat it got on - just be careful.

Continue to cut down to the pelvis - the urethra runs down, around the pelvis and back up through the hole where the colon is - watch out for it as you cut down through there dissecting it loose and keeping it off to one side. (Female pigs you can just cut down to the anus.) Now, carefully cut down between the two back legs (hams) through the muscle and connective tissue till you hit the pelvis. Immediately in front of the pelvis you'll find the bladder - don't cut this. You can see the bladder in these pictures - the whitish thing on the right-hand side. Take the saw and holding you fingers as in the pictures, using tiny short strokes, saw through the pelvis. It won't take long - don't tear open the bladder - or the guts which may be poking out at you.

Once you've sawn through, push the legs apart to open up the back end of the pig. On males, loosen the urethra from the ham and keep it out of the way. Now, you can get your fingers down in around the colon, etc. work it loose towards the back and then cut around the anus. Tie this off to prevent spillage....

Now - back to the front end of the pig. Cut down through the neck to loosen up the windpipe and esophagus.
Also take a short knife and cut down the diaphragm on both sides.

Grasping the trachea and esophagus, pull towards the back of the pig.

You should be able to pull the guts right out towards the back. Pull gently but firmly - if you need to - flop them over the side and work free with your fingers - or knife. Be careful - you can cut yourself pretty badly on the ligaments, etc. that are holding the pieces parts in!

Now, spread out your guts in a tub (or on the snow!) and pick out the caul fat, liver, heart, spleen, kidneys - whatever you want to save from the tasty bits. Carefully pull the gall bladder off the liver - rinse everything off with cold water and set aside.
Now you're ready to skin your pig. With your helper, hoist the hog onto the skinning cradle and set his back between the middle two 2x4's.

Saw off the back trotters halfway between the knee and the hoof. Don't cut too closely to the knee (hock) because you won't be able to hang the meat by the tendon.

Saw off (cut off) the front trotters at the knee.

Skin the pig. Skin from the head end towards the back end. Keep the skin pulled tight and skim the knife down towards the skin leacing as much fat, etc. on the carcass.  Pig skins adhere rather firmly to the pig – this isn’t like skinning deer, steers, sheep, etc. – you can’t just shuck the hide off a pig.  Skin down as far as you can on both sides. Lay the skin over the outer two 2x4's and roll the pig to one side or the other to finish skinning across the back.

Now - starting at one end or the other start sawing the pig in half. Cut the meaty bits as you go with a knife so you only have to 'saw' the bone. Get someone ready to balance the two halves on the skinning cradle.

Poke a knife through the tendon on the back legs and run a length of rope/heavy twine through and tie in a loop.

Hang up the pig and rinse out the body cavity with cold water.

Go eat liver and onions. Make sure you fry apples with the onions and serve with plenty of red wine and mashed potatoes! Enjoy. Leave your pigs to chill well - overnight if you can. Over two nights won't hurt as long as it’s cold-but-not-quite-freezing where you have them hung.   

Don’t have someplace to hang them? No problem – lay them on a clean table, sheep of plastic on the floor – whatever. Just kind of stretch them out so that when the go into rigor mortis they’re not all curled up in a heap – that makes cutting them a little tricky.... (voice of experience....).  How cold? Well- mid thirties is nice.  Frozen pigs are frozen pigs and will require a chainsaw to cut.  Warm pigs are rotten pigs. Use your common sense.

Thanks Bourbon Red! Now you know how to harvest hogs. What are you waiting for? Get out there and give them pigz the business!
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