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, October 31, 2012

I Won A Major Award!

My first real major award! And I won it! I've been trying to win the "guess the pumpkin weight" contest at our feed store for years and this was my year! Finally!

My major award. A tribute to my mind power.

Every time I'd go into the feed store I'd take yet another slip of paper, write down my name, and guess another weight. I was bound and determined and spent a lot of time analyzing that big pumpkin in the window. I'd covered all my angles and included every contingency, including that they had soaked it with water to make it heavier. Every variable was considered.

So you can imagine my surprise when I walked into the feed store and all of them behind the counter took one look at me and started laughing. Not snickering, full blown laughter. This isn't altogether unusual. Everyone has their own fashion style and mine tends to be "just out of the barn and unfit for anyone to see" and sometimes I really hit it out of the park, if you know what I mean.

Finally the feed store owner stopped guffawing long enough to say that I was this year's first runner up to the big pumpkin contest. Now runner up is pretty good and its as close as I've ever been to pumpkin victory. I was pleased and allowed The Big Man to bask in the light of my achievement while I stood and received well wishes from the unwinning rabble.

They told me that if Fred, the actual winner - altho there is some suspicion surrounding his "win", didn't want the big pumpkin then I could have it. And I would be crowned the big winner.

I drove right down as soon as they called to say that Fred had passed on the prize. Turns out that son-of- a-golly-what is a pumpkin grower. I believe his professional status should have eliminated him right off the bat.  Harrumph.


There it was in the window for everyone to see, glowing with unparallelled glory. My big pumpkin.

I ran right inside the feed store. Predictably they all started laughing. This time it was because of what I was wearing.

"What?!" I demanded, "Look I figured I'd come here right after chores. Its just a little pig mud, like you've never seen that before."  More laughter.

"Look. Just give me my damn pumpkin."  I marched over to where it was still in the window.

The owner walked over and picked up my big pumpkin so he could carry all 43.5 pounds of pumpkin joy out to my truck. "So, whatcha gonnna do with your big pumpkin?" He asked.

"Well I'm gonna use it as God intended." I explained.  "I'm gonna throw it to the pigs!"

He nearly dropped it.

"WHAT?" Came the chorus from behind the counter. They were all all looking at me like I was out of my mind. Then they gave me disappointed looks because I wasn't going to make it into a jack-o-lantern or a pie or something. Really the only thing a big pumpkin like that is good for, being all tough and stringy, is a snack for the pigz.

I drove away from their sad faces.

When I got home I ran to get my axe and I slew that great pumpkin and threw its ruined carcass into the pig yard. My victory was complete.

So there you go. I'm going to spend today making myself a big crown and refer to myself as "The Pumpkin Winner." I hope to do good during my reign. Maybe I'll get to be in a parade or something.  And I'm going to start practicing for next year. The only thing better than winning the pumpkin contest...is winning two years in a row. Whoot!

Happy Wednesday everyone! Anyone else win the big pumpkin?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Perfect Meal for the Perfect Storm

Did everyone make it thru Sandy vs The Snow?  At this writing there is snow pouring down. Of course the dogs love it but no one else is happy. We have cold and windy conditions but we are all fine. Spent most of the day prepping yesterday so if nothing else I have a clean house, tons of snacks, and most of the laundry done!
Talk about a farm-made meal! Almost everything from the yard.

One of my better ideas when I parted up that first pig was to label the freezer bags of meat with meal ideas - instead of just what meat was in the bag. I had a couple bags of "osso bucco" - and with the on coming storm - this was the perfect meal.

The best version I've had of osso bucco was in the kitchen of a friend who used Mario Batali's recipe here.   I also consulted Marcella for her method as well. I learned there is a version without tomatoes, if that is your preference.  But as with all my cooking I mostly "loosely" followed the recipes.

These pieces were cut to size when I was parting up the pig. 

For instance,  I used pork shanks - which turned out beautifully.  This is a great way to use a kind of weird hunk of pork. I intentionally cut the shanks in the right size pieces just for this meal.

Brown on all sides.

The preparation couldn't be simpler - just brown the pieces. I used my favorite Le Cruset braiser...which I got for a steal at TJ Maxx, of all places.  They have some great deals.

Remove the meat and then add the veggies. I'd like to point out that I used the one and only carrot I've ever successfully grown in this dish. I was so proud.

After the veggies get a little color on them, add the meat back to the pan then add your spices, stock and wine. Be sure to deglaze the pan. I used red wine in this dish instead of white.

Chicken broth and red wine deglazes the pan. Bay leaves make for great seasoning.

Then just cover it tightly and cook it in the oven for about 2.5 hours - until the meat just falls off the bone. The great thing about this meal is that it basically makes itself - and its a great way to warm up the kitchen. Perfect for extra chilly days or if you have bread dough that needs to rise - the top of a warm oven is a great place to do it.

See how the bones become exposed? Test with a fork to see how the meat comes off the bone.

I served our "porko bucco" with lots of broth and with baked butternut squash (from our garden). Another great "mostly from our yard" meal!

And this is a great "two-fer" meal. I used the broth and the little bit of leftover meat as the basis of a bolognese sauce the next day. I browned some ground pork to "beef" it up and since the broth had the benefit of the previous day's low and slow cooking.... the meat sauce was done in a snap. Together with the rest of the baked butternut squash...my osso bucco meal then became a stunning pork and pumpkin lasagna!

Looks like its still snowing so I think I'm going to go and find some of that bread I made...and have some of the lasagna. Its a breakfast food, right?

Happy Tuesday everyone! Did you all make it thru the storm?

ps I'm not the only one finding the great value of this cut of meat.. check out how Freemotion uses beef shanks!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

I Baked Myself Happy: Pear Tart

We've had a certain amount of commotion this week and its left me at wits end. So I did what I could to pull myself together and then I baked myself happy.

This is a stunning pear tart. 

For whatever reason I'm stuck on french pastries. And why not? Usually they are light and delicious and not over sugared. I figured since I had my Cordon Bleu cookbook out I might as well make this pear tart...its an oldie but a goodie. And I still have a few stupendous pears left. Big ones.

Of course there is no one recipe for this so I'll try and slapdash together some instructions. When I was cooking my way thru the Cordon Bleu At Home I was excited about all the pastries that were included....but was not really thrilled with all the results. So I pieced together a couple different ones and came up with a beautiful tart that actually reminded me of when I used to go to Paris, back in the day.

Start with a pâte sucrée, which is just a fancy way of saying a sweet pie crust made with a lot of butter, some sugar, and an egg. Don't over stress if it calls for cake flour - all purpose is fine. There are a lot of recipes out there. I actually think this is easier than regular pie crust. You'll need to chill the dough for at least 30 minutes. Put it in your tart pan (the kind with a fluted edge and a removable bottom) and chill it again. Then blind bake it until the crust starts to brown just a touch.

And you'll need some pears, cored and peeled. You can be fancy and slice them very thinly and kinda squish them over with your hand to make that accordion shape. Or just flop them in your baked tart crust. About halfway thru I got irritated with all the slicing so I used the "just flop them in" method.

Then the filling. I took this from one of the apple tart recipes... it was something like 2/3 cup cream, 2 eggs, 3 Tablespoons of sugar, and a splash of vanilla beaten together. After you've decoratively arranged your pears - or just thrown them in haphazardly - in the baked shell, pour the cream mixture evenly over the pears. Then kinda give it a little jiggle to make sure the filling fills in all the spaces.

Then bake until set and lightly browned.... maybe 45 minutes at about 350*?

This tart is best chilled.  And wow!  The flavors are each a little boring on their own.. but together they are a masterpiece.

Happy Sunday everyone! Guess what I'm having for breakfast? Anybody else baking themselves happy?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Frankenstorm Preps

Good golly would you look at the weather map! East Side friends, do you have your storm preps ready? Seems like next week is going to be a dilly for sure.

I've been following the predictions for the upcoming "Perfect Storm" where Hurricane Sandy will meet up with that big cold front coming from the north....and it looks like the East Coast is going to be smack dab in the middle of it.

I admit that I didn't pay attention to that movie about The Perfect Storm a while ago....but apparently this "cold vs hurricane" happened before in 1991...but that storm happened out over the Atlantic. Sandy vs the Snow is going to happen on land as far as the predictions can tell...... which could be bad for everyone along the Atlantic seaboard and as far inland as us here in Ohio.

Depending on where Sandy makes landfall there could be snow here or in Pennsylvania....and at the same time we could be having the hurricane winds! For heavens sakes.

Which ever model comes true the fact is if you are in the East, or have family and friends there, make sure they are making their storm preps. Not only is this storm going to have all the hallmarks of a Hall of Fame storm - wind, power outages, flooding.... it could be a big money storm with damage already being estimated at $1 billion!

There's always some clown who makes fun of people who take the "better safe than sorry" position. Those were the people who were lined up around the block thinking fast food was going to save them.... while the rest of us breezed thru that storm in style. So get your preps in order and help folks you know do the same.

While I think its kinda funny that everyone is already wailing that Halloween will be ruined....and not about the potentially billion dollar storm.... I checked my records and it seems that the end of October is prime storm season (you can clink that link too for more storm prep tips). And don't forget that big snow that happened last year also. So maybe we shouldn't be so altogether surprised.

After this summer's big power outage we were lucky to get a good generator... so I think our preps will be limited to normal stuff like getting buckets of water ready for the barnyard, getting the laundry done, making sure we have plenty of feed for the critters, and making sure we have plenty of wood for heating the house. We have plenty of groceries, the trucks are full of gas, and we are set for batteries and such. So even tho we aren't going to bear the brunt of the storm we'll be ready just in case.

So is everyone ready? Got your storm preps done?

Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Danger Pie! aka Tarte Tatin

I like pie. I like danger. The only thing better than regular pie is pie that involves danger.  Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you...... tarte tatin.

Go find your heaviest skillet - I love this Le Crueset version. It made the perfect sized tarte for two.

What's tarte tatin? Its a luscious upside down apple pie with amazing caramel sauce. Its like heaven. Like upside down pie heaven. You can't believe it.

Your first step is to remove any over-interested cats or children from the kitchen. Remember this involves danger so you don't want to take any chances. Then go and find yourself a real recipe. To tell you the truth I couldn't find one that I liked. I believe I learned how to make tarte tartin from an old copy of the Cordon Bleu's cook book (I think this is it.). I couldn't find a good recipe on line - all of them just irritated me.

For any reason if the recipe says to "wrap a pre-made pie crust" or mentions "puff pastry" then just keep looking for a real recipe. Get yourself some lard and some butter and make your own crust. And peel and core your own apples.  That's what I did... and then I followed these steps...

Lotsa butter, some sugar, moderately high heat....and you've got yourself some caramel sauce. Apparently there are 97 ways to make a caramel sauce...and I'm not sure if mine was to code but it was syrupy, brown, and delicious. Add your apples and really mound them up because they will cook down.

The apples get cooked on top of the stove in the sauce in your heaviest skillet - a cast iron one does a great job - just until they are soft. Then slap the crust on top and bake in the oven.

Make sure there are plenty of vents for the steam to escape. Just tuck in the edges of the crust.

Sure putting a crust on scalding hot apples covered in a hotter-than-boiling sugar sauce sounds like danger but we aren't even to that part yet. After about 20 minutes or when the crust is browned and the sauce is bubbling.... go and get your biggest plate and your Ove Gloves.

Ove Gloves demonstrate the flippin' and floppin' part of the process.

I don't know what kind of witchcraft went into making Ove Gloves but they are the best thing in my kitchen. You can pick up anything hot with them - especially super hot stuff while cooking on a wood stove or on the grill.I use them all the time.

Center the plate over the skillet, hold tight, and invert..then let rest for a minute or two.

Now here comes the dangerous part, put your big plate over the now-even-hotter-than-scalding-apples in a sugar sauce....and flip it. Do not send scalding hot apples flying all over your kitchen. Firmly hold the plate against the extremely hot skillet and invert it.

The tarte should flop right out of that skillet and onto the plate in one fell swoop. Give it a second so all the apples land on the crust. You might need a spatula to release any hangers on. And voila! Tarte tartin.

Caramel-y lusciousness on a flaky crust.

To really do it up right you could serve the slices in a low sided bowl with a lot of cream.  And that is how you make danger pie. Who's fearless? Wanna give this a go?

Happy Thursday everyone! Guess what I'm having for breakfast?

ps Since the oven was hot I made another pie too...cuz.. you can never have enough pie. Am I right?

Regular pie - no danger involved.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wednesday Happy Snaps

I'm really enjoying the new camera!  Here are a few happy snaps from around the farm.

 Nibbles could be grazing but she's eating out of the wheelbarrow instead.

Just last weekend we had a fire and were snuggled inside trying to stay warm but summer briefly returned at its been just beautiful. Almost 80* today!

My poor crazy turkey hen, Runner. She always molts this time of year. She looks hideous.

We found an apple tree in our yard! Down where we've been clearing. It actually had fruit this year.

Pretty Dahli in a rare moment of not being ridiculous.

Lucky always sleeps curled up like a baby. He was giving me cute looks the other day.

and Nicholas strikes a pose for Chai Chai....

Happy Wednesday everyone! Is anyone else going to be outside today? I got a new rake and tons of leaves to use it on!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The War on Rats

The cold air of the still breaking dawn washed over Commander Zander FoeHammer like an unbound tide. Despite his size and strength Zander could barely keep up with his princess sister, Kai. She was fast and sure when she was on the trail of varmints. The Black Death and The Shining Light of the Realm thundered across the land like an unforgiving storm as the pale light of the sun's rays shattered the deep woods.

Zander caught himself before he bayed his joy for this glorious hunt. But they were of the order of Silent Hunters and he would not break tradition....even if the thrill of closing in on these scoundrels nearly made him lose his composure.

They had been on the trail of the renegade rats for two days. The battle was about to be joined. He could smell their fear. Zander's blood was hot and he was eager to unleash his liege’s vengeance on these hated foes.

He glimpsed a flash of Kai just ahead of him, heard the momentary pause in her footfalls indicating she had thrown herself toward her prey in one astounding leap...and then a scuffle. Shrill screams cut short.

Not half a breath later and the young captain was in the fray, lunging, and gnashing, one final shake of his great head and it was over. Breathing hard the Princess Kai and Zander looked at each other and laughed as they surveyed the scene. Their enemy was slain. There was no one left to kill.

Kai gave a wolfish smile, threw her head back, and gave a full throated howl of victory. Zander did the same and their voice mingled and melded and shook the dawn away as the silvery light flooded the great woods. Its coming light shone down on the horrific scene of death and destruction and many bodies that lay about them. Somewhere a mourning dove sang it's sad song but not for these vile villains now utterly dead at our heroes feet.

This story started two days before...

OFG burst thru the outer door of the Great Hall. Her personal guard formed up behind her and struggled to keep up as she quickly marched thru the passage ways. She shrugged off her cloak – the hides of many coyotes – and threw her leather gauntlets at her personal valet while she was yet hurrying along. Her captains were talking over themselves to give her an assessment of the situation. OFG was nodding and curtly issuing orders.

Runners had found her camp along the border the night before. There was news. She and the fastest of her party had rode hard thru the night to get back to the Great Hall. Col Ti was yet coming and was gathering the rangers along the way. She had only sketchy details and did not know what awaited her return.

At last the guards threw open the Great Doors to the Inner Chamber and OFG strode into the room. She was stopped dead in her tracks at the pitiful sight before her. Even the courtiers, usually so catty and unkind, were subdued. Some wept and all stood back from a lone figure cast down upon the steps of OFG's dias. A young duck hen was crying so hard her whole body shook. She wailed and sobbed uncontrollably.

The troubadour, Little Mo, stood near the young duck hen looking worried and a little surprised. He caught the eye of his liege and subtly motioned to her that she was still wearing her battle helmet. Snapped out of her shock, OFG carefully removed the great war helm. It had recently been commissioned and was unparalleled in the lands.

The helmet was fearsome to behold. It was made from a slain giant hog's head – Commander Zander's most recent victory. The giant skull, tusks and all, was enameled with a deep black and the eyes, so lifelike, were crafted from diamonds and emeralds. The striking black horsetail plume, a gift from Bourbon of the Red, hung nearly to the ground. OFG handed the great helm to a waiting page who's knees nearly buckled under its weight.

OFG gingerly approached the still sobbing young duck hen and, and taking her by the shoulders, raised the young duck up. “Speak, Child.” She encouraged.

The story spilled out between short, ragged breaths. When the young duck had finished with her dread tale OFG folded the little one in her arms. Her anger was ice cold but OFG would not unleash her rage in front of this newly undone mother.

“Rats.” OFG hissed to Princess Kai and Commander Zander who had just come into the Inner Chamber. Kai set her jaw and Zander raised his hackles and great black mane.

Rats had taken the just hatched babes right out from under the young duck mother. Caught between guarding the yet unhatched clutch and the live ducklings the duck hen was in an impossible situation. Who could she choose to save? She could not fight off the rats. There were too many and she was overcome. It was the second time she had been attacked. The first attack, before any of the dear ones hatched, was several days before. The young mother was able to fight off the rats the that first time... but now her babes were lost and her nest in ruins.

OFG gently rocked the poor soul and murmured soft sounds of comfort. But her eyes were hard and an icy rage ran in her blood. With a flash of her eyes she gave an unspoken signal to Princess Kai and Commander Zander to go and bring vengeance down on the accursed rats. Silently Kai and Zander bowed their leave and slipped away, their men at arms each following close behind.

When the Great Doors were closed and they were well out of hearing, both Princess Kai and Commander Zander started barking orders to their men.

“Battle Tiara!” Kai snapped. A page went running, his feet pounding the stone floor towards the armory.

Kai never wore a battle helmet - she always fought with her bare head unguarded. But her battle tiara was enough to cut at the courage of any foe. A grotesque combination of horror and beauty it dazzled and awed. A black burnished masterpiece of spikes and stars, when it caught the light it appeared to be aflame.

Together with her war paint, the sight of Princess Kai arrayed for battle caused the most study adversary to question his dedication to the coming fight. She had taken to painting the number of her war kills on her white coat, down her leg – in blood. Seeing her unadorned, save her tiara and decorated in blood, some foes just fell to their knees and begged for mercy. There would be none. Kai was fearsome and wonderful and she would not be defeated. Mercy was for holy men, not for a warrior Princess who was My Fighting Uruk-Hai.

Little Mo, along with the page from the Inner Chamber, hurried toward the Princess and the young captain. “Zander! Sir! Your liege bades you wear this helm. She wants to you carry it as her token as you ride out and defeat the scurrilous vandals.”

“My mother's war helmet? No...she couldn't mean...” Zander was genuinely shocked.

“Take it, Brother! You know how she is... and besides, I think she had it made for you.” Kai's eyes twinkled and Zander knew he couldn't resist them both. But this honor was almost to much for him.

Zander took the great helm from the much relieved page and carefully pulled it on his great head. It fit perfectly. Kai's eyes went wide when he turned and faced her.

“Now you look like The Black Death.” She said, her heart beating faster. He seemed transformed. A sudden chill ran up Kai's spine. This magnificent warrior before her was no longer her younger brother...this is who Zander was to become. For the first time she believed the telling. The sages were correct. His path had been foretold and now he walked it. From now on he would live his name, Commander Zander FoeHammer Hannibal Bonecrusher. She was so proud.

Zander drew himself up to his full height, his broad shoulders carried the huge war helm perfectly. The eyes of the great skull danced in the light of the torches and it seemed to come alive. The horsetail plume covered his shoulders and his back like a cape. He snorted a great breath and growled low. “To war.”

The hunt. The battle. The death. It all seemed to happen quickly but it was four days later when the heralds announced their coming home.

Together Kai and Zander entered the Great Door and victoriously crossed the Inner Chamber, side by side. OFG was seated with her council, Lucky and Col Ti at their places on her left and right. She rose and proudly smiled as they approached. Zander threw down the ruined body of his enemy at his liege’s feet. Then the young captain carefully removed the great war helm, and reverently bowed low before OFG.

“Your vengeance has been utterly fulfilled. Long live this Good Land and may grace and peace abide.” Zander rose.

Suddenly the solemn moment was broken when Princess Kai pushed passed Zander and flung herself at her mother. “I got the rats first, Momma!” She said laughing.

“I bet you did, Sweetheart, how many did you get?” Said OFG her eyes shining and rearranging herself in her chair to accommodate a wiggling princess.

“I don't know – there were too many to count!” Kai had started shaking her bonbon and had broken out in her hip swinging dance. She was chattering and telling OFG all of the details of their hunt.

To the side of the dias and out of the way of the bouncing Princess, Col Ti stood grinning at Zander. He clasp Zander on the shoulder. “Well done, Young Captain. That was very well done.”

Zander smiled quietly and nodded his thanks. He looked around the Inner Chamber which had just come alive with activity. Lucky had ordered feast foods to be brought in and had signaled the musicians to strike up a victory song. The courtiers were already gossiping behind their hands at the unruly Princess and her handsome brother. Some of them batted at the limp body of the dead rat while other twitched their tails in disgust.

It was good to be home, he thought. This was who he was and what he was to become. He was The Black Death, The FoeHammer. He carried the spirit of ancient generals and he was The Bonecrusher. He did not know how long this peace would last nor when the next battle would begin. But for now he tried to relax and enjoy it....yet something vexed him and he could not shake it. No matter, he thought and took a joint of freshly roasted meat from a nearby platter and smiled at his sister retelling the story of their hunt.

Meanwhile afar off in the Dark Woods a fresh evil was biding its time. It lingered in the shadows. Restless. But waiting......

Editor's note: New readers may begin this part of the story here and then here for the second part. And also the third part. The backstory begins here, then Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

Monday, October 22, 2012


For the love of Pete and all the saints! Would you just LOOK what we brought home yesterday?

Sir HumpAlot ThunderNuts, arrives to find a special kind of hell - our farm.

Meet Sir HumpAlot ThunderNuts. Can you believe it? We went out for ice cream and came home with a buck. Me with a stupid buck in my goatyard. AGAIN!  And yeah, I'm plenty mad about it.  The ice cream took the edge off but still... man.  Talk about getting your just desserts!

Go ahead all your mockers... get your laughs in especially since I had declared I'd never, never, never, EVER get a buck again.  I tell you the truth, sometimes life isn't fair. I've had plenty of "never say never's" but this one takes the cake.

What happened? What brought us to our lowly fate?

Bad luck and terrible timing, Friend. That's what happened.

ThunderNuts, with TBM for scale.

While I was loudmouthin' on about what a great situation we had with taking the goat ladies for dates up at the breeder what I didn't know is the The Big Man's craptastic truck was secretly plotting to steal all our joy and all our money in a clearly premeditated break down event of the century. So here I am cooling my heels while TBM drives my truck all week while his is getting fixed. If that wasn't bad enough, I'm not sure that Debbie was bred.

So all I could do this week - the Week of Weeks for the goats. Was sit around and watch all my dreams of expensive goat babies evaporate before my truckless-eyes.

And then. There I was standing around at the feed store near the ad board....and it caught my eye.... bucklings for just $50. Near our town. Available now! Come and get 'em!

So we did.

I can't hardly believe it. We drove to what could only be described as Deliverance-ville, then turned left and drove another 5 miles on a dirt road. I tell you the truth if I had been by myself I would have turned around. But luckily TBM was actually driving and so we pressed on. We did not hear banjo music.

But we did meet a nice woman with a beautiful herd of Boers and Nubians and mixes. She had a nice barnyard with all of the usual suspects and we laughed that we had about all the same things. But she had a bulldozer so I went a certain shade of envious green.

After perusing the lot we pointed at one of the bucklings that seemed to fit the bill. He's about six months old and is a Boer-Nubian cross. The daddy Boer was as big as a yak and as ugly as a gorilla. The momma wasnt around but I asked how much she milked?

"About a gallon and a half a milking."  A MILKING?!?!

I shoved the money in her hand, we scooped up ThunderNuts, and made our way back to what they would consider civilization - and we think we live pretty far out in the boonies.

The welcoming committee, Kai licks her chops.

Immediately ThunderNuts was initiated into our little farm. Dahlia went mad for him, batting her eyes and wagging her bottom. She coulda eaten him alive. Zander wanted to actually eat him - alive would have been just fine.  Then dear little ThunderNuts found the electric fence, got stuck in the other fence, was sprayed with the hose ("Leave that chicken alone!"), and Dog#1 taught him who was boss.

We're pretty sure ThunderNuts thought he had died and gone to hell. 

Immediately he got stuck in the fence. Immediately TBM had to fix the fence.

With that little goatling standing there screaming his head off, TBM said that it sounded like hell to him. In the background Kai and Zander whined and woofed their desire to end that little goat's problems....

Kai and Zander, wanna be goat enders. See how big Zander is!!

In fact, the only one who was happy about this entire arrangement was probably me - of all people. For exactly $50 in folding money and $6 in gas we have most of our goat problems solved. Of course, then there's Nibbles.

Even tho ThunderNuts is only the size of a small collie now...right about Nibbles size... the babies from a soon-to-be-full sized buck would be too big for her to have safely. So she is under lock and key in the free side of the Turkey House. Currently she is standing out there screaming her head off for all the coyotes to hear. I can hear a pack of them to the south of us and if she doesn't stop it I'll have to turn the dogs out to bark all the neighbors awake and keep the 'yotes out of the yard. For heavens sakes. Its a miracle that goats have survived as a species as long as they have even with our help.

Zander would love to help ThunderNuts out of his lowly fate....

To be sure I'll have to make a date for Nibbles with a mini-buck but I don't need to do that this week - or the next. So by the time I get my truck back we'll be ready for a red-hot-Nibbles-transport up to the breeder and she will be our last to kid.

One friend (you know who you are) has already been teasing me about getting another buckling and asked, "So how does crow taste?"  (insert a lot of laughing here)

Like goat curry, baby, it tastes exactly like goat curry. We figure the BBQ will be in about six weeks. Sure we'll try to pawn off ThunderNuts on some sucker but if not then cabrito may finally be on our menu.

So there you have it. Sometimes in this life you have to swallow your pride and get yourself a goat buckling. But as long as you are getting ice cream at the same time its not so bad.

Happy Monday everyone. Can you even believe it?

Friday, October 19, 2012

How To Eat Food You Know

The most often asked question I get about farming is something along the lines of, "How do you eat food that you know?" Or more likely it's said as a blunt statement, "UUGHGHH! How could you DOOOOOO that! I could NEVER eat something I raised!" Most times it's accompanied by a lot of flapping around a lot of ridiculous faces - a mix of horror and shock.

Here's the thing. I understand the flapping and the faces. I used to be someone who thought I could "never" butcher anything - let alone an animal that I knew. But the fact is, you can. You may not "want to" but that's a far cry from "can't." There tends to be a lot of emotion around this so if you are freaked out, or getting defensive, then understand I'm not trying to convince you to change your mind. I just get asked this a lot. So I'll try and feebly attempt to explain our position on it.

This question has actually come up a lot recently. One of my blog friends asked me if we would ever butcher any of our extra goat kids? The answer is no, but not because we "couldn't" do that... it's because the goat babies are worth more to sell as pets and dairy gals than the food value we'd get out of butchering them.

The fact is, we make more money selling 2 doelings than it costs to grow out a batch of meat chickens - and we'd end up with a lot more meat with the chickens. So while we could have one nice goat BBQ - it just doesn't make sense. Or cents.  Could we butcher a goat? Sure. Is Nibbles on the list? Nope. She's old and tough and we wouldn't get enough meat to make it worth it. So don't worry, Auntie Sally - Nibs isnt going to the grill. Just yet. The day isn't over tho. You know how that goes.

This also came up recently when I was talking to my favorite cousin, T. Cousin T is a hell of a guy and one of my favorite people. He's a genuine Oklahoma boy. He drives truck. He drinks beer. He can shoot black powder. The first time I met him he had a hat on his head made out of a varmint he was happy to kill. I was horrified. It was a fox hat.  I nearly cried when I saw it.

Back in the day I was fussy and self-righteous and thought that was the worst thing I'd ever seen. And after listening to his hunting stories.... I was shocked and amazed that someone would go out in the woods, shoot down Bambi, and gut it and grill it when there was all that food in the store....meat that was made without hurting any animals. Why not just get meat from the store? Why Cousin T? Why?

At the time he was manning the grill and they were making steaks. I sniffed. Steak....eeeuuuwee.. that was meat and I didn't want to eat it because it had a bone in it. I made my offense known. Under their breath the men-folk muttered that I must be one of them  "save the whales" types. That was years ago.

Fast forward to the other nite... me on the phone with Cousin T. Him laughing himself silly over remembering that incident...

He: Remember? Remember you were all ..... *sputtering and laughing*... Save the Whales!
Me, laughing:  And now look at me! I'm butchering pigz in my yard! How do you like me now?  ha ha!
He: Now? NOW? You'd be all, "Hey can I butcher that whale?"
Me: Sure! Them whales have got some bacon on them!

We thought we were hilarious.

It is a blazing understatement to say that my attitude has changed. And really that's all that you need to wrestle with when growing your own food. Your own attitude and how you think of things will determine what you can and cannot do. The saying "As a man thinketh, so he is" has never been more true.

As I've always said, the hardest truth about farming is that not every body makes it, and not every body gets to stay. When you stand this close to the circle of life you get the whole picture - the births and the deaths. You have to make hard choices. Sometimes you go out to find an old, or new, barnyard friend dead in a heap. Sometimes you are the one that has to put a barnyard friend down out of compassion or necessity.

It's not that you get "used" to it - it's just the death isn't that big of a surprise anymore. You see it really is part of the cycle of life. It doesn't mean that there isn't sadness, but you aren't overwhelmed by the shock. And after a while you understand what you can muddle thru.

At some point you'll go out to your barnyard and see that you just have too many bodies. You can try to pawn them off on your friends or you can sell them or... you can harvest the rewards of your labor. You can prepare yourself for this or you can allow the shock to send you reeling.  So steady yourself, point yourself in the direction of a full harvest, and believe in what you are doing.

And know your limits. We "couldn't" raise rabbits for the table - that's our limit. I know folks who would rather butcher rabbits than chickens - and we are the opposite. Does that mean that I think less of those folks? Nope! In fact, I have a friend who is destined to become the Rabbit Queen of her county and I'm totally cheering her on. She is going to build a rabbit empire and I'm her biggest fan. But every time I look at our cat, Pepper, all I see is a short-eared bunny and I can't think about butchering rabbits. All that is holding us back is the way we think about it.

Some folks don't name their livestock that is destined to be butchered. Or they name their pigz, for instance, Ham, Bacon, Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner - which I think is pretty funny. This helps remind these folks of their livestock's intended purpose. We gave up naming the pigz a while ago. Now it's just "This One" or "That One" or "The Big One" or "The Smaller One."  We call the entity known as a batch meat chickens either "Little Buddies" when they are small or "Dang them things stank" when they get bigger. And truthfully there is always a couple of the roos that get mean. We are happy to name these "First" and "Next"...and they are come butcher day.

Some folks can raise livestock but just don't do their own butchering - which is fine too. We enjoy doing the butchering and have our systems set up. Plus it makes more sense for us to do it here - less muss, less fuss and once we got our confidence up we figured out it's easier and less stressful for everyone. One minute that pig is wondering around looking for some snacks... the next it's dancing on a cloud in pig heaven with angels wings made of bacon.  And we figure we can save the money doing the work ourselves.

I guess the biggest thing is to understand where you food comes from. As my friend L said on her first butcher day, "There's a chicken under those feathers!"  Yep. Just like from the store. Once you make that connection it will change the way you look at your barnyard. Instead of seeing an adorable fuzzy wuzzy lamb standing there your think, "Wow that lamb looks delicious!"

At this point someone inevitably will say, usually in an accusing way, "Well. You wouldn't eat your DOGS would you?"  No. I wouldn't but in another country they'd be looking at Kai and thinking "Wow she looks delicious!" and thinking what a beautiful pelt she has and wouldn't that be great for a jacket. Some folks in this world would look at our cat Pepper and think, "So tender and delicious!" and would ask me what my price was for her, by the pound. Remember too that you used to be able to get a horse steak in almost every country in Europe. And you still can in most places. It was outlawed here for a time but now horse meat is back on the menu.

So pretty much everyone's sacred cow is a meal to someone else. It's all how you think about it. Remember that what you eat is largely cultural and almost always because of marketing. Some critters just have a better marketing team than others. Or other uses. Chicken used to be expensive and not often seen on the table. That's because you can either have a year's worth of eggs... or just one meal.

In the last few generations it became popular to think that growing your own food was some kind of low class, dirty work that "other" people have to perform. But remember that, aside from those folks, you can count on one hand the number of generations back to where almost everyone had to produce at least some of their food.

The Great War generations didn't really have a choice with rationing and what not.  And in the Depression the folks who did well were farm poor - at least they had food. No one thought twice about butchering their own food on the farm back then... in fact they were grateful because folks in the cities were eating squirrels or  pigeons, or out of dumpsters, or in soup kitchens.

So to me this aversion to eating food you know is really a "First World problem." For the first time in history we've had the luxury to not become involved in what is now the factory food process. To me that's not necessarily a great thing. We could launch into a discussion about the evils of factory farming but I'm pretty sure that's beating a dead horse and not getting a steak from it.

The point is that having your own food is a source of profound freedom. It's a great way to live, is remarkably rewarding, and is amazingly interesting. And eating food that you know just makes you more grateful for your life - and theirs. You strive to honor the process and be grateful for every meal.

So there you have it. If I went from a fussy, self-righteous, "couldn't do that if my life depended on it," won't eat meat that has a bone in it, "why would you kill a FOX!?!," card carrying member of the Save the Whales club.... to someone who is excited to get up in the morning and run right out there and butcher a pig in my yard....then you, Friend, can do it too.  It's all in the way you think about it.

Happy Friday everyone! Now get out there and raise some meat that you know...and say hi to my Cousin T for me. Tell him that I'm gunnin' for a fox hat too.

Editor's Note: Notice that no where in this post have I mentioned environmentalism, cruelty to animals, vegetarianism, or animal rights. No way, no how am I wading into that quagmire. If you have strong opinions on these topics then that's great and I am already clear on your position. Comments will be judiciously monitored and if you don't like it than that is just fine. I do not debate these topics on my blog or on the Facebook.  If you send me a mean email or comment I will just mock you to my friends...and delete it.  If however, you need a little more courage on this topic then you can contact me on email and I'll do what I can to help you.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Exclusive Self Portrait With New Camera!

My new camera arrived! I was literally stalking the mail guy yesterday - what a great day!  So to celebrate the fancy new camera I present to you this exclusive self portrait....

OFG, Self Portrait

Oh come one guys, you know that I don't post pictures of myself....as part of the terms of my Witness Protection Agreement when I left the DEA, of course. Ahem.

View down the hill to the pond.

I grabbed some other happy snaps with my shiny new Canon PowerShot SX150. I scored a great deal on this camera on Amazon and they shipped it right out. After a moment of disappointment - it didn't come with a memory card - I was able to snag out one of another device. I'm sure The Big Man will never notice its gone. So far I just love my new camera!

Debbie steppin' out. Could be newly pregnant.

This is the fanciest camera I've ever owned. I have a history of breaking things so I've only ever had cheap cameras. So bets are actively being taken on exactly when I'm either going to leave it outside in the rain or drop it in a water bucket. I've already made peace with the fact that it will eventually be ruined but for now I'm cuddling it lovingly.

The macro setting gives stunning results.

The entirety of my "new camera research" included walking into one of those electronic BuyMore places and looking at their "on sale" cameras. My requirements were "not expensive, macro settings, and at least 10x zoom." This model has 12x zoom and was a good price. Unfortunately, after nillynallying around for 30 minutes trying to decide which camera I wanted, it turned out they didn't have this one in stock and they couldn't even order it for me. And no I did not want the floor model or $10 off the retail price. So that's why I ordered it online. 

My Commander Zander FoeHammer Hannibal Bonecrusher. The Black Death.

I spent the better part of yesterday afternoon taking about 300 pictures and I have to say, I'm thrilled with the results. I'm not an artist at all and most of my pictures are just lucky shots. So I'm glad to have a camera that makes me look good.

Happy Thursday everybody!  Is everyone taking happy snaps today?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Debbie Does Dates

Hum.. I guess that title looks weird... I think it should be  Debbie's Doeling's Due Dates...That is... we have the due dates for Debbie the goat's next babies and hopefully they will all be doelings! 

We took Debbie up to the breeder for a date with the buck - a fancy Nigerian Dwarf with a fat title and who is um.... taller than Too Short. Apparently that little fella got the job done quick so Debbie is on her way home today.

Her due date will be March 13th or there about. Since she is bred with an ND buck her babies will be unregistered "Mini Manchas" and turn out to be about the size and temperament of Nibbles....but hopefully with better attitudes.

After swearing off ever having another buck we are just sending all the ladies out for breeding. You can read about everything I hated about having a buck here.  And you can read everything I know about goat breeding here.To be sure not everyone agrees with shipping your goaties out to be bred but that's fine. We don't have to all do everything the same. Right?

While we're at it...a note on registered vs not registered. No, we don't care if our goats are registered or not ....and no, we don't care if the babies are registered. There is a whole be scheme behind this registration thing and since goats are not our money making business we do not want to put the extra time and effort into the registration process. The only reason we are making goat babies is so our milkers freshen in the spring.

To be sure, if you want to have dairy goats you need to have a plan for the babies. We are lucky that Nibbles and Debbie have such cute babies because people buy them up like hotcakes. While registered babies would get a higher price.... that's not really our focus. People like the little goaties for pets and that is fine with us. We've never not sold the babies and if, for some reason, they didn't sell well then...um... cover your eyes goat snugglers.... we'll sell them to the local ethnic meat market. You heard me. Fortunately cuteness rules around here and we don't expect to be stuck with any of the babies.

Another thing we learned last year was that we needed to be smarter about who gets bred and when. Since its apparent that Nibbles will never be a good momma we needed to make sure that Debbie is in milk when Nibbles has her babies. This way Debbie will nurse the new Niblets until we can get them sold.

I had a thought that maybe I'd try and find a full sized buck for Dahlia and see if I could get a star milker from her.. but really keeping a doeling has been somewhat of a disaster for us. Debbie has allowed Dahli (her baby from a couple years ago) to continue to nurse - thats right, Dahli's a milk stealer. So all my good milk from Debbie has gone down the gullet of a silly goatie and NOT gone toward fattening up the pigz. Or cheese for me. Fortunately tho when Debbie came into heat this fall she kicked Dahlia off for good.

The only reason we haven't sold Dahli - despite my constant complaining about her - is that she is a milking superstar. She milked over a gallon a day for most of the summer - on her first year of milking! Next year when she freshens she is really going to be putting the milk that in that bucket. So she stays and I'll just keep complaining about her.

But for now I have to go and see if Nibbles and Dahli are in heat yet. If so its going to be another long drive up to the breeder.

Happy Tuesday everyone!  Do you have your goat breeding all set up?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Smell ya later, Summer

Just a couple happy snaps for Monday - the last of the quick pix from my old camera. I've been anxiously tracking the shipping of my new camera and it should be here today!

 The last of the beans before they were hit by the hard frost. 

Sunflowers basking in the late sun. 

 Last of the dahlias...they were glorious all fall.

This little gal winkin' goodbye to summer.

Happy Monday everyone!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Planting Garlic

I've been planting garlic over the last week or so. I don't have any idea what I'm doing. This is not a "how to" but more of a "Is this what I'm supposed to do?"

Head of garlic, soon to be planted.

Garlic, like onions, has not worked out for me. But I'm stubborn and I will not be defeated by an allium. So I will be victorious. In truth I tried garlic last year and had mild success. The best one grew in a garden where I did not plant it - so I thought it was a weed. When I yanked it out I was very excited to see one big head of garlic that was snappy and delicious. So I'm taking the garlic challenge again, for better or for worse. 

I got a great deal on garlic for planting!

I scored about 50 heads of garlic from a local source. I was very happy to give the finger to those big seed places and their expensive garlic starts and big shipping charges. I got some Music and German Northern varieties. I think I paid about $9 total for all 50 heads of garlic.  My plan was to plant in several locations - well away from those pesky chickens and all their pecking around. I'm pretty sure some of my hennies yanked up some of the starts this spring.

Breaking apart the heads was the hardest part.

I got my bad soil prepared as best I could, hoed up some trenches, and plopped in the individual cloves. Per the instructions I planted them about 2 inches deep and 3 or 4 inches apart.

Planting each clove.

And so I remember.... I planted 3 or 4 rows in the upper garden by the wonky little tree, 3 long rows by the unproductive apple tree, and 3 short rows by the asparagus bed by the other unproductive apple tree. By the way, them little apple trees had better get with the program or they are getting the axe.

Today I plan to plant the rest of the Music variety in the new garden bed by the truck turn around. I'll never remember but hopefully I'll have enough sense to look at this later. And next spring when I say, "Hey does anyone remember where I planted that garlic?" I'm hoping someone will remind me.

We look to have a couple warm days then it will cool off again. Now that the garden is closing up shop I'm finishing up the fall planting and have begun my clearing project with vigor. If you see smoke in my direction then its me having the mutha-of-all-burn-piles. But, um.. don't call the fire department... I've likely got it under control. Probably.

Happy Saturday everyone! Am I doing this garlic thing right?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Last Harvest Supper

We had another cold night and I think the news is going to call it "the end of the growing season" now. Its a good thing I brought in as much as I could from the garden the other day. I covered up a few things and I hope they made it last nite but it was below 30* until about 9am.

Grill cam!

In honor of the last big harvest I made a special meal. You'll recall that we didn't send any of the hams out to be smoked and cured by our local butcher. While it would never make sense for us to do a whole-hog-roast... I tried my hand at one of the huge roasts from our recent hog harvest. It was a huge success!

Roast cam! Oh.. it was delicious...

The roast was about 5 or 6 pounds and was from the hind leg.. some call this a "fresh ham" and you can order one from your butcher. All I did was salt and peppered it really well and then sprinkled with thyme and shoved in a few cloves of garlic, fired up the charcoal grill, and cooked it over indirect heat. I had no idea if it would take all day or 3 hours. It ended up taking about 4 hours and it turned out perfect. It even had the pink "smoke ring" just under the layer of fat! I figured Steven Raichlen would be proud. 

Smokey beans - so easy!

Since I had all those lovely coals going I decided to make some smokey beans as well. I took a couple of jars of my home canned beans (one horticulture and one black bean) and fixed them up with some bacon, onions, peppers, molasses, and home made stock. Then I just let them simmer along with the roast for the last hour or so.
The apples turned caramelized and smokey on the grill. Perfect!

And since I needed some dessert I peeled and cut up some apples and put them in a sturdy pan with butter and brown sugar. They happily caramelized with the roast also. The best part about this supper? Most of it came from my yard.

Today I'll be making some crusty bread and we'll have roast pork sandwiches for the rest of the week. Having a meal like this on the last big harvest day was a great reward for all our hard work this summer.

Happy Thursday everyone! Anybody else having a harvest supper?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Looks like meat's back on the menu, boys!

Probably one of my favorite movie quotes ever - and all that I could think about when the post called me this morning.  Look what show up today! Its the Winter Creepy Meats!

All the little meats are bellied up to the Meat Bar for some sips.

I got a great deal from Meyer Hatchery - 25 meat chicks for just about $20. They were part of a "Weekly Special" and it was a bargain for sure. Sign up for their email notifications to catch great sales like this while they last. I really like Meyer - they have great service and superfast delivery. 

These little guys will be in the house for a couple days - but not for weeks like last year! No sir, I have a coup in the turkey house all ready for them. The only reason they aren't in a peeping heap outside is that we are going to have our coldest night tonite. So they'll stay warm and safe inside...as long as I can keep all of these over-interested cats out of the basement.

Happy Wednesday everyone! Anybody else get a heapin', peepin' box of fun today?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Final Harvest

Yesterday I scampered around taking up as much of the harvest as I could. Good thing too because we had our first hard frost. The news says it got down below 30*!

A lovely harvest still life.

I gave the pear tree a good shaking and got as many of the pears as I could. No barncats were used but I ended up with a nice haul.

Purple turnips and blue pumpkins.

The big news was the pumpkin harvest. Finally! I grew a pumpkin! Actually several of them and they are tremendous! These are the blue "cheese" or Jarrahdale pumpkins that I like so much. I'll be cooking these down soon for all kinds of pumpkiny goodness.

A huge haul of turnips, greens, and a bucket of thinnings.

And check out the turnips! Tons of huge turnips. I loaded up a trolley full of them and wheeled them into the garage overnight. We need to get straw and then I'll make a nice little clamp for them in a convenient spot.

I also took up a bunch of the late planted greenbeans that I knew I'd never get to process. One day at the feedstore I asked if they had any more seeds and they handed me a huge bag of green bean seeds. They didn't think they were good for anything so I got them for free. Free! Its my favorite price!

Beans for pigz - they love them!

So I ran home and planted as many as I could - anywhere I had space. I knew at least some of them would produce...and if not... I could at least get them growing to fix the nitrogen in my bad soil... and also I'd have free eats for the pigz! Free food and fixed nitrogen?! What could be better?  I took up two trolley fulls of beans and their greens. Did it feel like a waste to feed them to the pigz? Heck no... those beans will feed the pigz who will one day be feeding me.

Smallest watermelon ever. Can't say I didn't try.

My sad little watermelon was the only disappointment. Next year will be my watermelon year - I just know it.

I also took up the sweet potatoes. They did not do great. Altho there were more than I excpected, most of them were cracked. I'm guessing because of the irregular watering (from the dry summer).  But even tho these are "ruined" they will be great pig food too. So it all works out.

Yay butternuts! Good for everything!

And now I need to get working to put up the last of the harvest. I've got some peppers and some green tomatoes to work on in addition to all of this. Any body else getting in the last of the harvest?

Happy Tuesday everyone!
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