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.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!

I love to pic of a peep from several years ago - come on, spring!

Have a great day, everyone!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Scenes from the First Work Day

Finally! Yesterday I got to work outside - the whole day. It was sunny and not snowing! The Never Ending Winter is losing its grip.....
 Nibbles lookin' very large indeed.

My biggest priority was shoveling out the right side of the Turkey House so we can install Nibbles. She's due to have her babies on our about April 6. But she's looking pretty darn large right now. I don't know if she'll make it that long.

Nibs' little legs are about to buckle under all that weight.

Of course we are doing The Critter Shuffle.... the ducks got evicted from that side of the Turkey House and they are pretty mad about it. But that will be short lived. Very soon our visiting drake will go to his new home. The lady ducks need to get acquainted with the very dapper runner drakes so those gals need to move back to the hen yard.

Keep it up, TZ, and you will be the star of Easter dinner.

The turkeys will stay where they are - for now. TurkZilla has been super aggressive and always on display lately. He's starting to give the ladies a little of the ol' 23-Skiddo... if you know what I mean. We are on the lookout for turkey eggs.  But TZ had better watch his P's & Q's.. I'm about sick of him coming after me. I'm not above having a turkey for Easter dinner.

I love Cindy's beautiful nest.

Next in line for the "Oh Please Pick Me For the Pot" are the geese. Our head gander, OD, and That Speckled One are chasing me all over the darn place. Cindy Lou has started a nest so the ganders are all in a lather. Bunch of hissing galoots! I had just about enough of them and locked them all (except for Cindy) in the turkey coop just so I could get some peace and get my work done. Cindy sat on her beautiful nest.

There was a lot to shovel out of the Turkey House - a long winter's worth of bedding. I had some combination of dogs with me at all time because I knew what lurked deep in the piles of barnyard litter..... When those rats finally made their move they were verily smited and their ruin was thrown down before me. Titan was well pleased with himself - and got a huge meaty bone for this efforts.

The ones that got away will soon meet their doom. Zander and Kai will see what they can dig up today. We need to get all those stupid rats out of the Turkey House before Nibble's little MoneyMakers.... I mean... adorable baby goats arrive. I'm thinking she has at least 4 babies this time. And no we do NOT need to go for another record breaking, boat sinking, net busting haul of babies this time.

Looks like we just got above freezing so I'm gonna get saddled up and head out - we are going to hunt some rats.

Happy Saturday everyone!  Anyone else working outside today?

Friday, March 29, 2013

So the butcher called....

You'll recall that we sent a ham and a couple of the bacons from our recent hog harvest out to the local butcher to be cured and smoked. Mostly we did it because I don't have a smoke house - but one day I will.... Until then we just have too much meat for me to handle. So it's easy to find a "custom butcher" in your area and take some of the meat in to be professional smoked. I really like our butcher, he's something else.

Well, yesterday the butcher called.... he said my bacon was too big for his equipment.

Is that right?

You can imagine that I'm not mature enough for some conversations....... All y'all can take that how ever you'd like but I started to snort.....

I lost it when I heard he had to trim it off a bit to make it fit.

That'll do, pig. That'll do. 

Happy Friday everyone! And not I gotta go and get my big bacons.....

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Dog in Glasses

I might owe the LensMakerMart an apology......

 My Good Sir looking very sophisticated.

You'll remember our last foray into the eye glasses giant....well. We had to go back. This time it was for me. Saturday afternoon Kai stepped on and broke my reading glasses. I leaned over to kiss her and my expensive and well worn reading glasses fell out of my shirt. The next thing I knew I was standing over the shattered remains of my freedom. Then the screaming started. For those of you who depend on glasses you know what is like. For those of you who don't you'll just think that a little tape will solve everything.

The Big Man with his 20/20 vision, recognized by everyone but the DMV, suggested that I quit my bellyaching and he tried to fix them with duct tape. It didn't work. So we packed up and headed down to the LensMakerMart.

They totally fixed me up and I received excellent customer service - despite the fact that I was wild eyed and practically screaming. I think they have a training program to handle distraught customers. She didn't even flinch when I shook my broken frames at her and yelled for that poor gal to DO SOMETHING. She did - and in less than an hour. 

I was caterwauling about this over on 'the facebook' and my friend K. said they wanted to see me and my new glasses. So I posted the above picture.

Happy Wednesday everyone! Can you see me now?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Makin' Bacon! I got my cure on.....

I spent most of yesterday makin' bacon. It was epic - so much bacon was made that I was delirious by the end of the day.

Bacon day looks like love.... 
All four of those pieces  (in the picture above) were ONE side of bacon - and not even the whole thing! Can you believe it?  Those porkers earned their every dime when we saw how big the bacons were......so my pig hatin' has come to an end and now I have nothing but love for them hogs.

Look at all that fresh pork just waiting to become bacony goodness....

Can you make bacon at home? Sure you can! It's easy and fun. You can check out this post for everything you need to make bacon - except a fresh pork belly. You can either run right out and get your own or order one from the butcher.

The first step to making bacon is to go and get your copy of Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curingby Ruhlman. Then just follow the steps.

Our bacons (that's the side and belly of the hog) were so huge I had to cut them down to manageable pieces before I could put them in the "salt box" to be covered in a mixture of "pink salt" (Instacure #2 for Drying Meats 1 Pound), sugar, and kosher salt. The "pink salt" has nitrates in it and it makes bacon "bacony" and stops the formation of bacteria - but if you are concerned about nitrates then don't use it. (If you don't use the nitrates then mind how you make and smoke your bacon.)

No, that is not a kitty litter box - it's a small wash tub from the Dollar Store. It cost one dollar. 

Once coated with the basic cure I put each of the bacon pieces into a plastic bag and then added other spices or just left it plain.  These are a few of a varieties I made:

Maple bacon
Black pepper maple bacon
Garlic super savory bacon
Black pepper bacon
Mildly savory bacon
White and black pepper and thyme and red pepper bacon

The Black Pepper Bacon is especially peppery.

We were thrilled to use some of our very own maple syrup for some of the flavors - how fun is that?

I also started to cure some pancetta - some stunning pieces. Those pieces are flavored differently - much more savory and with a little brown sugar. They will be hung in the basement instead of being smoked - that's basically the difference between pancetta and bacon. You can read about making pancetta in this post.

But my day wasn't over yet - that's right, I started brining a ham! You'll remember I did this project a few months ago and it was fabulous. However I didn't take any pictures of the "how to" because I didn't think it would work. It totally worked.

Come to think of it - it's really not a very photogenic process. I mean... it's just a picture of a hunk of meat submerged in some brine. Gosh - I think I need to be more arty about it. I'll work on that. In the meantime, I made a brine, put it in a food grade bucket, submerged the hunk of meat, and got you this picture:

I told you - not very interesting. Next time I'll include Nicholas and that will be more amusing - it's always something with that guy. See that I weighted the ham with a non-reactive dish (glass bread pan) and a jar filled with water sealed in a plastic bag (so it didn't leak.). Yes, my kitchen floor is probably dirty.

The next step in bacon, pancetta, and ham making is..... waiting. The bacons/pancettas will cure for about a week or 10 days and the ham will brine for 3 or 4 days. I'll flip and flop the bacons and pancetta so the cure is evenly distributed just about everyday. Then they will be smoked or hung to dry. That's it - can you believe it?!? How easy and fun is that?

This really is a great project. It just goes to show that making your own food is easy and approachable. You don't need a ton of special equipment or secret powers - just you and some know how.

What do you think - are you ready to make some bacon?  Happy Tuesday everyone!

ps If you need a copy of Ruhlman's book you can get it - or anything else you need from Amazon by clicking on the link below, using the search box on the right of this page, or checking out my Store. I get a little bit of each sale and it doesn't cost you a dime more. Thanks for your support!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Spring Time in Ohio


Buckle up, East Coasters, this is what is heading your way.

So far Spring get an F-.

Anybody got it any better out there? Happy Monday, such as it is.....

ps. Last year this time was remarkably different... you might not want to look if you are snowbound.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

March Meat Madness

Finally! One week and one day, two huge hogs, and hundreds of pounds of meat.... finally...March Meat Madness is over!

  Chops. That's the way to get 'er done.

What a haul! Nope I didn't keep records this time but we had a huge, huge, huge, net busting, boat sinking, freezer busting haul. It's been all meat all the time. My kitchen is destroyed, every knife has been used, every kettle has earned it's keep, my meat saw needs a new blade...and there is not another plastic freezer bag to be found.

I still have a couple of buckets of lard to render and I found one more bucket of leavin's for the dogs...but mostly we are done. What a week!

A couple things we learned:

* By far these were our most expensive pigz. Our feed costs were off the charts due to the exceptionally high price of feed, the failure of Debbie the goat to produce any milk last summer, the shockingly hot summer that caused the hennies to stop laying, and the extra months that we kept those pigz around.
* Winter pigz are the worst. Chores sucked. Hauling water down the hill and constantly worrying if they were warm enough just wore us down. There wasn't enough for them to eat off pasture (once the weather turned) so we had to feed them everything they ate all winter. The mud was atrocious. Luckily they had plenty of dry ground but having a huge waterer down there and having to muck thru the mud everyday was just awful.
* We intentionally grew the pigz out extra big on purpose - but this was about at the top end of what we could handle alone. The carcasses were just too heavy even when they were gutted and skinned.  Both of the pigz were over 300lbs - probably 320 - 350lbs.

So was it worth it?

Oh heck yeah! Holy pork what a haul! And those chops! And the bacons! Just extraordinary. Plus, have you seen how expensive meat is in the store? We nearly fell right over the other day when we peeped into the meat cooler at the local grocery. Every time food prices go up it makes our work here all the more valuable. Even if our costs to raise the pigs were high - they aren't near as high as having to buy meat in the store.

One of the smaller bacons.

So we stood there gawking at the expensive meat.....and then we burst out in hysterical laughter. I know I'm giving the meat guy a complex but we just think we are a scream standing there, slapping each other on the back, asking each other "Hey should we get some ham?" knowing full well that we had a freezer full of naturally raised meat at home. 

Plus, I don't know if you've been keeping tabs on this story. But you have got to wonder what is going on..  You gotta wonder where your store-bought meat is coming from, right? Oh but wait they have those Country of Origin Labels, right? Ok well then you are good to go. Did anybody else see this and wonder what comingle muscle cuts means?  Of course, everyone plays by those food labeling rules, right? Anybody want some British "Everyday Value Beef Burgers?" Or you could always swing into IKEA and get some meatballs.  So I dunno... I think we'll just stick to the meat we know.

So after all this pork processing guess what we are having for dinner?

That's right - chicken!

Ha! Happy Saturday everyone! Do you know where your meat comes from?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Brontosaurus Ribs

It's been all meat, all the time....I've got my hands full of meat and lard. I'll catch up soon!

Brontosaurus Ribs...with dog in the background.

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Monday, March 18, 2013

That Second Pig Came to Dinner

After our stunning pork victory on Thursday and Friday we took Saturday off to goof around and rest up. I pretty much spent the day buried in hulu getting caught up on bad TV. So you can't imagine what happened when I went to take the dogs out to the Dog Yard.

Hen swarm on a hog hide.. er.. from the First Pig.

The gate was open which was odd.  So with the four dogs trotting behind me I looked around to see if there were any errant chickens or ducks waiting to die needless deaths in the forbidden Dog Yard. Instead standing right there in front of me was.....

...the Second Pig.

Oh glory... there it was. The Biggest Pig We've Ever Raised. I'd say we were equally surprised.

Apparently the Second Pig got out of the hog yard, tooled around in the woods for a while, then moseyed up the hill, and wandered into the Dog Yard. I think he was interested in their water bucket.

I slammed the gate closed. Then the dogs figured out what was what and thought it was the best thing they'd ever seen. Fresh from her first real hog killin' Kai got all "Well lookit what we got here!" and Zander peed in its general direction - then charged the fence. 

I gathered up the dogs, ordered them up on the deck, locked them in, and then started yelling for my husband - just about that time the stupid pig walked thru the gate like it wasn't even there and started heading down the drive way. It was the damnedest thing I'd ever seen.

Luckily The Big Man rounded the corner just in time to get that pig's attention. He grabbed a bucket of corn and marched down the hill like it was feeding time. Pig2 merrily trotted down after TBM. With a little pushing and shoving we got the pig put back in the pasture, got the fence strung back up, and then turned the electric fence back on. Ooops! Guess we forgot to do that the other day.

But it sure did get us to thinkin' about that pig haulin' his own carcass up the hill....

Today (Monday) I have to work on parting that pig up but let's just say that the Second Pig came to dinner just fine.

Happy Monday everyone!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Hog Harvest 2013 - Round One

Thursday was a terrific day here on the farm. We had Hog Harvest Round One. By the time you read this on Sunday morning we'll be elbow deep is Hog Harvest Round Two.

I thought this was a terrific still life of our butcher day tools.

We only butchered one of the two mammoth Tamworth hogs on Thursday and wow are we glad we didn't do both. By the end of the day we were exhausted and my arms hurt. In all, we were only in the field a couple hours but we were at a disadvantage this time - the pigz were still down in the woods at the bottom of the hill. There was a lot of trudging up and down the hill that day.

Then I spent about 8 hours straight on Friday parting up that first pig. And it was the small one. We had to work quickly because we are losing the killing season. We need cold temperatures so we can hang the pork halves in the garage over nite. These pigz are so big there is no way we could get them in the fridges like we did with the smaller ones last fall. As it was we only had our choice of a couple of freezing days and nights. Anything over 40* and you risk spoiling the meat.

Dog#1 stands at the ready with the Bacon Wagon of Doom.

But first, here are the exact step-by-step instructions we used took to butcher our hogs. Here is a list of the exact tools we used (and thanks for everyone's support with my Amazon store!). Can you butcher a pig yourself? YES you can! It's not to difficult and really fun. Fun?!? You heard me - it was totally fun.

But first we'll put this disclaimer here.  If you are gonna burst into tears or have a break down or puke on your laptop because there is gleeful talk of shooting a pig and pictures of meat everywhere you should probably just look at cute pictures of Nicholas - he will commiserate with you. If you send me an email whining asking how could I possibly do that I will mock you openly to my friends and we will butcher the next pig in your name. Proceed at your own risk! Don't look if you can't handle it!

Thursday was glorious - it was 20* and sunny and we marched right down there and shot that pig. When I say "we" I mean my husband did the shooting and Dog#1, Kai, and I were back up. When I say "back up" I mean to tell you that I was armed with my full sized axe and two burly dogs just in case the shooting went bad. What do you do if the shooting really goes bad? Lean in and I'll tell you.

Before we even marched into the killing pen (a small pen we whacked together the previous day to separate that hog and keep it out of the mud) we discussed all of the variables and things that might happen - just in case. Most of the time nothing goes wrong but what happens if the pig does not immediately drop? What if you just wound it and make it mad? That's why you need to have a contingency - have a plan so there isn't any confusion. We came up with a short list and solutions:

What if TBM had to shoot him again? Hopefully that wouldn't happen. The best thing is not to panic and to wait and see what happens. Mostly you should just see the pig go down on his knees, fall over, then you stick him with the knife,  and then there is some thrashing. If that does not happen you might have to make a second shot. But only if it's a safe.
What if the pig ran? Then we'd get out of the way and let Kai and Dog#1 run it down. Because we have houses around us it would be foolish to try shoot at any other direction then a downward-ish killing shot to the head of that pig. Plus running and shooting is stupid and ineffective.
What if the pig turned on TBM? Then he would not fire additional shots and assume the dogs and I would rush in and I would sledge that pig with the axe. We had a back up gun but again, firing a gun in the direction of another person is foolish.
Why did I have an axe and not a sledge hammer as indicated here?  A war axe is my weapon of choice and it's lighter and easier to wield than the sledge.

But nothing bad happened, that pig dropped like a rock and never knew what hit him. Easy peasy.

My beautiful Kai. Normally she doesn't even wear a collar but we put a halter on her just in case I had to get ahold of her. We told her it was a "pretty girl necklace." She loved it and was very proud.

At this point I'll tell you that Kai did a stupendous job. This was her first official chance to help us. Normally it's just Dog#1, who's real job is to protect me - or TBM - if things didn't go well. We didn't know how Kai would do...but she did great!

She stayed right with me, she wasn't nervous around the pig. she didn't try and chase it as we were getting him into the pen, she didn't make a sound, and best of all - she didn't flinch at all at the gun shot. She didn't even blink. For a dog that is astounding and we were really proud of her! She did, however, tried to haul "her" kill off to her den which was pretty funny. But we called her to 'leave it' and she did. Kai was absolutely the star of the show.

Our only real glitch was that the we didn't have the hoses set up the night before. So they were a little frozen. We should have made sure we had them working so we could have done a better job of hosing off the carcass. The only other weird thing that happened was that my wedding ring got tangled up in the hog's colon and there was some surprise poop when I tried to untangle it...but I guess I shouldn't have told you that because now you are all probably vomiting on your fancy phones or laptops. Sorry. Here! Quick! Look at Little Mo.

The best thing that happened was that we used our Bacon Wagon of Doom to gut and skin the pig. It was the perfect work surface for me (I'm on guts). We could wheel the trolley... I mean... BWofD to a new spot if the sun shifted or the ground got to muddy. This worked out perfectly.

This was the small pig. A half a pork is a beautiful thing.

Once skinned we trolley-ed the carcass up the hill to the garage, used our sawsall to cut the carcass in half, then strung up the halves of pork in the garage to cool overnight.

Friday we marched right out there at the crack of 10am and got the first half of pork. We were racing against time tho because the temperature was climbing to about 50* and we couldn't risk the meat spoiling. I immediately set to cutting the first side up into manageable sized chunks so we could shove them into the exceptionally cold and cleaned out beer fridge. I also prepared other chunks to immediately be portioned up and put in the freezer.

Once I had the first side into big chunks and cooling in the fridge or freezer TBM carried the second half of pork into the kitchen so I could do the final cuts without worrying about it spoiling.

 That is some serious back fat, people. And look at that marbling!

Along about 3pm we realized we were in the soup. We were just about out of freezer space. And this was only the first monster pig. After a mild amount of panic we decided to resurrect an old plan to get another chest freezer just in case this kind of emergency came up. TBM was dispatched into town while I finished up cutting.

Chops. That's how they are supposed to look. 

So now we have a new freezer set up (our third chest freezer!), some bacons so beautiful a grown man would weep over them, a host of belly pieces set to be cured into pancetta, a heap of "stew meat" set to be fried in a pan at a moments notice, and two full hams that I have to do something with soon. You can read about my parting up strategy here... I basically followed the same formula. I didn't track the results this time but it seems we had twice as much meat as the day in that post.

I also had a huge kettle of leaf lard which is already rendered. There is a bucket of fatback and "regular" fat that will be rendered later. We also canned 14 quarts of leavin's and odd bits for the dogs.

See the chops to the left, bacon to the right, and I'm sawing generous ribs on both sides.

We are going to have the best fed dogs in the state - I can tell you that for sure. I put some of the long bones (that were generously covered in meat) in the crock pot overnight to be cooked for the dogs. It turned out spectacularly. It was so incredible that I took out some of the meat and made a "pulled pork" sandwich (complete with slaw) for myself! Yeah, those dogs aren't going to be suffering at all. 

Our Battle Princess fell asleep like this - tuckered out after a hard day's work.

Now that we know we know we can depend on her Kai will be at my left side the next time we butcher. And then you can bet that she will get a big plate of meat and bones. Next year Zander should be mature enough for this kind of work. I'll have a brace of curly-tailed bear killers in one hand, an axe in the other, and Dog#1 at my side. What a glorious day it will be!

Happy Sunday everyone! Now who wants some chops?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Lands of Snow and Ice - The Hunt

OFG and Colonel Ti stood on the high hill and looked down on the enemy.

“The killing season is drawing to a close, Ti, it might be too late.” Observed OFG.

Col Ti harrumphed and lifted his long nose into the cold wind. “Be assured, we'll have one more frozen night. Perhaps two.”

“You're sure?” She didn't sound convinced. Her old companion simply cut his eyes at her.  He didn't bother to reply - she knew he has never wrong about these things. Col Ti could scent the weather three days out.

“Very well.” OFG was still focused on the hogs milling about lower on the hill. “Recall Commander Zander and his rangers from the border.”

“And the Princess?” Col Ti narrowed his eyes, he was also following the movement of the hogs. They were enormous. The harvest would be full. The larders would be overflowing for months.

“No. It's better she completes her current task. It's most important to her.” Replied OFG as she climbed into her saddle.

“He'll leave soon then?” Asked Ti but this time it was OFG's turn to not answer. Scowling she turned her mount and trotted away. Ti knew he always left. The big man had stayed longer this time, but he always left. Ti watched OFG go but then looked back to look at the hogs. He breathed in their heady scent and smiled wryly. This would be a full harvest indeed.

Far to the north in the Lands of Snow and Ice the Princess Kai coursed thru shoulder deep drifts of snow. The icy wind poured over her as the sun dazzled blue-white on the frozen landscape. This land was foreign to her but the strength of her ancestors pulsed thru her veins. She felt alive, free, as if this was her purpose – her calling. She was a descendent of the BearSlayers, the Silent Hunters. Her size and strength proved the bloodline and soon she would confirm her name.

“Kai! Kai! Let it exhaust itself! Steady your pace!” Called a voice not far behind her. But Kai would not heed, the old boar bear was slowing. She was sure of it.

Kai's strong legs powered her out of the drifts and toward her prey. She was closing the distance.

They had roused the old boar bear from its den earlier. The chase had lasted most of the day. The old boar had been wounded well enough but the bear was strong so it kept running. If he made it to the open water the bear would be lost so Kai charged ahead. She wanted that hide before the sun set this long day. The value of a white bearskin cloak could not be measured. It would be the perfect gift for her father.

“Steady on, Kai!” But the wise old huntress knew her breath was wasted on the young BearSlayer racing ahead of her. She grinned wide and remembered her first bear hunt all those long years ago. Also of the BearSlayers she was older now, and slower, but Bandit's blue eyes sparkled beneath the glorious sky. She would teach this young Princess Kai the secrets of the hunt. High above them sea birds screamed into the wind.

And then Kai was upon the bear. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Mine Enemy is Slain

We were victorious yesterday. Mine enemy is slain.

And we had a terrific dinner of extremely fresh pork. It was glorious.

Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Worst Project Ever Pays Off

Remember The Worst Project Ever? Hauling all that gravel and moving and removing all that dirt was awful...but wow! It's really payed off.

Dog#1 says that using a "french drain" method of controlling extra water is the best thing ever!

One of the worst things about winter chores is dealing with all the frozen water buckets. Even if they aren't frozen solid you still have to empty all that water somewhere. We have a lot of water buckets. Just the Turkey House side has four buckets....each with a gallon or two...that is a lot of water to be dumped on the frozen ground. We either ended up with a soggy, muddy place or it froze and then we had a big frozen spot.

So I was thrilled to dump all that used water out in the gravel over where we trenched. It worked perfectly. In fact, I moved the goose tub over on the gravel so they can splish and splash all over and then I can easily dump it out in the gravel.

We used some of the gravel from Friday to fill in some of the muddy spots between the Turkey House and the square garden. One of the benefits of moving the garden away from the Turkey House when we trenched was that Kai and Zander now have unobstructed access for their rat killing adventures. But we had some dug up spots to fill.

Doing all that trenching really was a pain but it really payed off - in more ways then just keeping the water out of the basement. I'm pretty sure we are going to use this method in some of our other soggy spots.

Happy Wednesday everyone! How do you deal with emptying your buckets?

Monday, March 11, 2013

That's a Long Pig

Soooooo much bacon.......

Those are some long pigz.....

Looks to be about right.

Soon. Very soon.

Happy Monday everyone! Any one else dreaming of bacon?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

I Don't Give a Puck

Sports fans, I tell you the truth - I am not an athletic supporter. It's true. I don't like sports. At all.

The reasons are varied, and mostly uninteresting, but generally centered around how I believe that your time should be spent profitably and not given to idolatry. If you like sports that's just fine - I'm not trying to change your mind - sports are just not my thing.

You can imagine my surprise, then, when my husband announced yesterday morning that we were going to a hockey game. It goes without saying I don't give a puck about hockey.

Me: Are you sure I agreed to this?
He: Yep.
Me: Was I drunk when you asked me?
He: Nope.
Me: So what's in it for me?
He, knowing me well: Ice cream before the game. And there's fighting, and it involves blades, and sticks! And..... a cannon.

I grabbed my least pooped on jacket and hopped in the truck.

We drove about 97 hours to the nearest big city. Maybe it wasn't that long but it was a long way. We had a nice meal that I didn't have to cook and then made our way to the arena.

My past is checkered with being hauled to various and sundry professional sporting events - almost always these forays ended badly. It would seem my superpower is to attract foul balls. So some of my dude friends used to make me go to baseball games just so they could catch stray balls. I was the bait, as it were. They never went home empty handed and thought it was great. I hated it.

To be clear, another one of the reasons I don't like sports - especially professional sports - is because of the fans. As far as I can tell sports fans are really just a distracted mob with no clear leader. I don't like the noise of the crowd and I really don't like to be around loud, drunk, yelling people. And for some reason they do not like me. At all.

Apparently my complete disinterest and rabid disregard for their game angers drunk sports fans. I've had adult people scream at me for reading a book during their stupid game. For reading! And I guess falling asleep or wondering aloud, "For the love of pork and all that is holy is this thing over YET!" just really makes them all mad. There was almost always some kind of altercation every time I went to some kind of professional sports event.

So I paused as we walked into the Hallowed Temple of Sport. The Big Man tugged at my hand but I stood my ground and looked around nervously. I was unarmed and dog-less....and surrounded by crazy people. I voiced my concerns to my husband. He reassured me by saying that if violence broke I was "the perfect size" - because he could carry me over his shoulder with one arm and swing with the other.

I was not amused.

Just then a troop of smiling school children passed us. My dear husband started to snicker. The afternoon games are mostly for families.

"It's going to be fine." TBM said and pulled me deeper inside the Thunderdome.

I can honestly say that I am not afraid of heights but our section was really far up. Extremely far up. Those people on the ice looked like ants. I clung to my seat.

Then a whole lot of who-knows-what happened. It just seemed like a big mishmosh of people skating around in circles with the crowd randomly reacting to whatever was going on.There was not as much hand to hand combat as I expected and the blades turned out to be only on the skates. I had a feeling I had been Shanghai'd. So I shouldn't have been surprised at what happened next.

"I thought you said there weren't any cheerleaders." I said pointing to a gaggle of boobilicious young girls in very short skirts skating around during one of the breaks. TBM just shrugged and looked off feigning complete surprise like he had no idea.

There was more who-knows-what then suddenly the crowd was very excited and everyone stood up and cheered. I guess we scored a basket or something but what happened next was amazing.

They fired the cannon.

It was awesometacular. I immediately resolved to get a cannon for the farm. Then I realized that they fired it because our team scored. I wanted them to do it again. So I decided to take an interest in the goings on down on the ice.

Our team obviously need encouragement but I guess you aren't supposed to yell, "Come on, (insert Viking or Russian name), my granny skates better then you!" or "Hey Ref where's your seeing eye dog!" at these kinds of things.

I sat quietly and wished for a big foam finger because we were #1.

Eventually we reached the half way mark and that was plenty of hockey for the both of us. Turns out it was really only about an hour to drive home and we got here just in time for chores.

So all's well that ends well. We had exceptional ice cream at Jeni's, we saw ice skating cheerleaders, and were amazed by artillery.

Happy Sunday everyone! Any body else see cannon fire yesterday? Do you know where I can get one for the farm?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Ready for the weekend!

Yesterday was spectacular - we finally had a warm day and I ran right outside to work on hacking down a bunch of wild roses and brambles.

Random chicken picture. Hens enjoying the sun.

Then things really got good... my hubby rolled up with a case of beer, a sack of goat feed, and a ton of gravel.

We are so ready for this weekend!  Enjoy the sunshine everyone!

Friday, March 8, 2013

For Whom the Bell Tolls...

For Winter that's who! Dang! I'm sick of this whole winter thing. So I'm calling it. It's OVER.

Smell ya later, Winter....

Happy Friday everyone!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

March Snow

There you have it. The Big Snow.  I'm definitely having french toast for breakfast. It's an emergency after all.....

The good news is .... this could be it. This could be our last big snow! Of course that's only wishful thinking but I can't wait to get the garden going. If we can get some dry days I might get a jump on the potatoes. But we'll see.

This garden trolley Bacon Wagon of Doom isn't going anywhere today.

For now, tho, I'm just  going to snuggle in with the cats and sit by the fire. 

Happy Wednesday everyone! Are you enjoying the snow today?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Finally A Farm Update...

There hasn't been a farm update in a while mostly because we've been in the boring dog days of winter. Not much is going on.  If you asked me what I did on any given farm day lately my reply would have been, "Glared angrily at the snow, cursed the cold, and sat around glumly."

This is where I held my Monday Morning Meeting to discuss goals and objectives.

But finally a great day! Yesterday it was sunny (but cold) so we got outside and did what we could do. Of course we have another winter storm coming and by this time tomorrow we could be deep in the grim grip of another FTE.

Still waitin' for the Feds to bust thru the gate.

Luckily I spent all day Monday gettin' my boil on. That's right - I was cookin' up more of the "M."

Kai helped today. She thought the sap was amazing. Very helpful.

We had a great day - I hauled a bunch of firewood up from the woods and The Big Man chainsawed it to more manageable chunks and split it. I used any weird wood pieces for my sap boiling fire. We started with a little less than 20 gallons of sap - including all the sap that came flying out of the trees today. We are ready for french toast now!

The hens have finally started earning their keep. The longer days - made a little longer by having a light on in the hen house - has finally kicked them into gear. A couple of my funny clucks are trying to set nests but it's way to early for that.

But remember  my little garage duck? Well. Darn. It seems her nest lost it's structural integrity and many of the eggs slipped out from under her. I found a suspicious group of cold eggs lower down on the hay pile from where she made her nest. I didn't have high hopes for a hatch but still, a ruined nest is always sad. She'll give up soon enough so I'm not going to move her.

And then there is this....
That's one duck too many.

I'm not sure what is going on here but these ladies may not share a nest. It's bad practice and never ends well. We are still too early, really, for any hatch but I'll let them monkey around for a while with this soon-to-be-failed venture. I'd rather that they get their "settin'" out of this system so they can be firing on all cylinders when the real spring comes.

As for the rest - the goats are looking pretty good, the geese are ornery as all get-out, and the turkey hens are just happy doing their turkey "do."

My Good Shepherd.

Technically we are about 20* colder than we should be for this time of year - which is always disappointing. But this one super terrific day was just what the doctor ordered to lift my spirits. 

Happy Tuesday everyone! Did you have a great day? Anyone else getting this storm?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Snow Woe

I officially have winter fatigue. I'm sick of the snow and cold. For the last couple of days we've had flurries all stinkin' day. And cold. Real cold. I'm done with the whole lot of it. I have snow woe.

There's only one cure - let's take a minute to remember summer.... 

Remember summer when everything was green and everyone was happy?

You couldnt wait to get outside?

And there were tomatoes everywhere?

The whole world smelled like a spice shop....

Everyone was working....

And it was a like a party everywhere. 

Everyone just breathed in the sunshine and soaked up the spray from the sprinkler....

We need to get back to summer. Be Gone, Winter. Be Gone!

Happy Monday everyone! Let's think about summer today, OK?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

How to Make Your Own Backyard Clay Oven - by Gavin

One of the best things about being part of Farmer Liz's series on how to get starting growing your own was meeting some of the other folks she interviewed. I was really glad to "meet" Gavin in his interview here.

Gavin has a great site here with tons of information on getting started growing your own even if you live in town. He had done terrific work on his urban farm. And he makes cheese.

But what really caught my attention was the video he made of How to Make a Cob Oven. It's seven minutes of amazement. After I watched it I thought.... "I can do that!"

I've wanted to make an outside pizza/bread oven for a while now and this is post and video was terrific inspiration - and instruction - on how to do it.

The best part is - he has an ebook with instructions on how to build one!  The ebook is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and some other places too. You can also buy direct to get a .pdf version directly from his site. Click on this link to see how and where to purchase. How great is that?

If you have ever thought about this project you've got to check out the video to see how its done.

Thanks Gavin for a great site and a wonderful post about how to build your own backyard clay oven!

Happy Saturday everyone!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Sequestration and Nicholas: Hard Day #8

Yesterday Nicholas couldn't get out of bed. After a while I went looking for him and found him as such:

 Normally Nicholas sleeps like a Calvinist.

"Why aren't you getting up, little buddy?" I asked. He barely even shifted his eyes to look at me. I could tell this was gonna be a hard, hard day.

Yesterday nothing but unhappy looks.

Apparently Nicholas got up early and watched the CBS Eye Opener where he learned that not only is the sequestration impending... but that after one vote mid-day on Thursday most of the House members were heading out for a long weekend at home.

He verily wilted after he heard about furloughs and lay offs but the crushing blow was when they talked about the food inspectors being sent home and the impending famine in the land

"There isn't going to be a famine, Nicholas." I told him. For the record, Nicholas is not going to be the first to go when the hunger comes. 

And a lot of deep thoughts...

I hauled his carcass out of bed, threw him over my shoulder, and walked down the hallway....all to the sound of his violent protests...which were really just him huffing at me.

In front of the window facing out back, over the pond, I dead lifted Nicholas up as high above my head as I could hold him.

"Now what do you see, Nicholas?" I asked.

"A bird."

"No, no, little brother - further away...those big red things down there. Do you know what those are? Those are pigz. That's where we get our yums. We aren't going to starve, Nicholas.  And over there...those flappy, squawky things....those are chickens and that's where you get your yums. You aren't going to starve either."

My arms were starting to fail under his enormous weight so I set him down on the counter so he could consider all of this.  "Don't you worry, Nicholas. Everything is going to be just fine."

"But what about all of those people who are going to lose their jobs?" He asked.

"The sequestration is a sucker's game, Nicholas, there are going to be no winners here. Real people are going to be hurt by this whole thing. It's shameful no matter how you look at it. Even if none of those predictions come true...and who knows what is going to happen... it's a terrible thing to churn out so much fear, uncertainty, and doubt."

He was still muttering about the emotional fatigue of living under one crisis deadline to the next when I set him up on the couch to watch something funny on 'The Hulu." But at least he was out of bed.

I gotta tell you I'm damn sick and tired of riding the crisis roller coaster also. But I feel a lot better about our position knowing that if food prices rise or bacon is scarce we've already got most of our bases covered.

Most of the time people make fun of us for having our funny little farm. They can laugh all they want but what we have for dinner isn't going to be determined by whether or not a food inspector was on the job that day. If any of those knucklehead politicians show up here you can be darn sure I'm not feeding them. They can just serve themselves up a double helping of their own sequestration and chew on that.

Nicholas has had enough of this sucker's game. It was a hard day for Nicholas alright... the eighth of such.

Nicholas's Hard Day #1
Nicholas's Hard Day #2
Nicholas's Hard Day #3
Nicholas's Hard Day #4
Nicholas's Hard Day #5
Nicholas's Hard Day #6 
Nicholas's Hard Day #7
Nicholas's Hard Day#8
Nicholas's Hard Day #9 
Nicholas's Hard Day #10
Anyone going to have a good day? Or should we all just go back to bed?

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