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.

Friday, January 30, 2015

What REALLY happened to those pig headz....

You may remember that there was some question about what happened to the pig headz when we had our last butcher day. There was, in fact, a scandal. I had been sworn to secrecy but let's face it. We are all stuck in the house and the snow madness has given me fits. I can't keep this secret anymore so I'm blowing the story wide open. Get yourself a drink and read on....


It is a fact that my husband lives only to torment me. There is proof in that pudding. His new thing is to throw icky stuff into the pond. His big idea is to feed all our gross stuff (from butchering) to the catfish. He does it just to get my goat. Seriously. It is a fact that I am terrified to the stupid catfish. Oh sure maybe you love them, love to fish for them, fry them up in a pan, or heaven forbid... to engage in "noodling." But I don't. I wont even let them in the house.

My terror is such that I honestly don't even even know if there really are catfish in the pond. For all I know this is just some kind of lie he concocted to keep me away from the pond so he can have some peace and quiet well away from my ever growing list of farm chores. But it worked. I won't go down to the pond now.

From time to time he goes down to the pond to "check on the catfish" but I really don't know what he's doing because I won't go anywhere near the it. At nite I lay awake wondering if those horrible catfish with their wiggly whiskers and horrible gaping mouths are walking their way up the hill to kill me in my sleep. Catfish. The horror is real.


The other day one of my husband's appointed farm chores was go and get rid of those damn pig headz. They had been frozen solid in the garage. I instructed him to double bag those big ol' pig headz and put them out with the garbage. This is how it went:

He: We can't throw them in the garbage - they are too heavy. I know! I'll throw them in the pond!
Me: No. The pond is frozen.
He: They are so heavy they will break thru the ice....
Me: No. That is stupid and it wont work.
He: It will TOTALLY work!

Then he ran off toward the pond carrying the pig headz, one in each hand, yelling "YIPEEEE!"

I went and got my camera and the dog.

From the safety of the porch I could see him hurl the first frozen head with all his cave troll like strength. It sailed valiantly thru the air and landed with a thud and a wwwwooooowwwwwnnnnnnng noise...and then skidded way out in the middle of the entirely frozen pond.

I visibly saw him exhale, thinking "This couldn't POSSIBLY be happening."

So in a fit of brilliance he takes the OTHER totally frozen head.. and chucks that one too. A thud, a reverberating noise, skidding.

He actually scratched his head as he watched the second pig head come to rest in the middle of the frozen pond. It was like watching some kind of horrible game of curling. Both headz sat out there mocking him. I knew that he would never let this go. He's a determined fellow.

So then me and the dogs took up comfortable positions and watched him hurl a variety of heavy objects onto the pond - he threw each one more hopeful than the last that it would break thru the ice thereby sinking the horrible pig headz into the deep.


After a while I started shouting helpful and supportive comments to him such as:




Eventually he lumbered up the hill in utter defeat.

"Now what, smart guy?" I asked helpfully. He had no immediate reply other than to look at me for support which he did not receive. I gave up being a right fighter a while ago but all of that came flooding back as I smirked at my dear husband's failure. No one was more right than me about the pond being too frozen for pig headz.

As it was, we did not think we could just leave them out there...but neither of us was going to walk out on that frozen pond. No way. We needed some kind of solution to either get them off the pond or break the ice so the pig headz would sink to their utter doom as catfish food.

We bandied around a variety of ideas for a while including:

1. Using a cannon to break the ice.
2. Cutting down one of the pond-side trees so that it would fall on the pond thusly breaking the ice.
3. Him shootin' at the pig headz until they skittered across to the other side.
4. Hooking Dog#1 up in Zander's harness, tying a rope to him, and having him "get it."

Eventually we settled on a grappling hook. I made popcorn for me and the dogs. We watched as time and time again my poor husband threw that hook out onto the frozen pond and narrowly missed pulling the pig heads to safety.

He: (huffs)

You should bear in mind that this was one of the coldest days this entire winter. I went in the house after awhile because it was too cold to stand out there. Zander and Kai lasted longer than I did but soon after woofed for me to let them in.

Eventually my husband gave up and came inside. To be more precise, I wouldn't let him in the house until he told me I was right. He choked the words out. I made him lunch. It was serve cold. Like his defeat.

The working theory became that a raccoon or whatnot would march itself out there and pull the pig headz to the side of the pond. Then my husband could safely go and get the pig headz... and throw them in the trash like I told asked him.

It turns out that you just can't get good help in the form of varmints these days. No hardworking raccoon showed up. The pig headz sat out there day after day, their lifeless eyes staring blankly at the sky... waiting for the eventual spring thaw.

Pretty much every day I went down to the fenceline and looked to see if the pig headz were still there. They were. Every day I gave my husband a report on their status to which he would reply by huffing and lumbering off.

Eventually the pond finally thawed out enough and the pig headz did in fact sink to their doom as catfish food.

And that is what really happened to those pig headz. I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried. Seriously.

Happy Friday everyone! Whatcha got on your frozen pond?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

It really is coming....

It might not feel like it... but spring really is coming. Yesterday I went and looked at my peach tree and this is what I found...

Peach buds with little snow flakes.

Hopefully I'll have another banner year for peaches. Those tiny buds just might make it thru the cold. I talked to my orchard friends and they said we still have a long way to go. Here's to hoping.

In the meantime, we are in The Long Stretch.... it seems so far away and all I want to do is go outside. But it was 7* this morning... and I have a feeling it's going to get worse before it gets better. There could be freezing rain tomorrow followed by even more cold.

So what can you do? Keep busy. I have a lot of garden planning to do so that is fun. I'm also working on a 'clean out the basement' project. I received a fabulous gift of new shelves - and so I got those set up. Now comes the shuffling, sorting, and tossing. I got thru the first wave now I really need to get it finished up.

Happy Wednesday everyone! Are you keeping busy?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Snow Dogs and Fire Sale!

I know a lot of folks have it worse that us but wow I am not pleased with the snow-that-was-supposed-to-be-rain out there. The dogs love it.

We headed down to the woods this morning.

Everyone loved it.

So much snow and so many many things to see.

These two were the branch managers.

My Dog#1 just wanted me to throw the stick.

Zander's famous battle move is the "Bubby-gator"... he lies in wait. Kai usually comes back around but this time he sprang to action. They were like this the whole morning.

I'm sneaking this great sale in here at the bottom of the post - I just saw that the Amazon's Fire TV is on sale for just $84. That's $15 off the normal $99 price. It's not as good as when we got it for $79 in December... but still a pretty great deal. I'll have to do a post soon on how much we love it...but if you are over on 'the facebook' then you know it's my new favorite thing. I don't know how long the sale will last - they are promo-ing because of the awards Amazon's shows are winning. Check it out!

Happy Snow Day everyone!!! Are you Netflixin' on the Amazon TV or running thru the woods with your dogs?

Editors note: Check it out - affiliate links! Blah blah blah... these are ads for Amazon. I love Fire TV and I'm not ashamed to show it. If you click on a link and buy something then yay! I get a small percentage of the sale. I have to tell you this so you don't think I'm pulling the wool over your eyes. Consider yourself so advised. If you like this blog, or if I've helped you at all in your farming efforts, just make a purchase from Amazon from one of the links, my store, or the black Amazon search box on the right side of this page. I can't see who purchases what or any of the details. But whoever bought that stuff the other day - THANK YOU!! I really appreciate your support!

Monday, January 26, 2015

How to prepare for butchering pigs. And the worst thing that could happen.

One of my friends is about to butcher pigs for the first time. They were asking me questions about tools and such...and admitted they were a little nervous. That is just fine. One of the hard things about butchering is that most folks don't know what to expect. If you have an idea about how it's going to go then it will be much easier. Are you trying to figure out if you should take your pigs in for processing or butcher at home?

 Growing bacon.

Let's talk about how to prepare for butchering and about what the worst thing that could happen.

But first, let's put a disclaimer here that we are going to have a hard farm talk. If you think you are going to be upset then look here at Nicholas and Bitty. You might want to click around on cat links and stuff and then tomorrow we'll have a funny post or something. But let's be clear - if you think you are going to be upset then just look away. I always said I would tell you the truth about farming and we do not paint false picture here. And you should know by now that if you have something terrible to say then I will not publish your comment. Questions? Sure. But we don't fight here or make fun of anyone.


It helps to have some idea of what the butchering day will look like. So click around and read up, check out videos, ask friends, and do your research. I have a bunch of links for our butcher days so you can learn exactly what will happen as our Hog Harvest day goes along. Most recently this is what happened when we butchered about a month ago.

You also need a good set of step by step instructions. This is the only reference that we use. Just like the rest of life, everyone has "their" way of doing things. It turns out that there is no "right" way - it's just what works best for you. Some traditional methods, for instance hanging the hog to gut it or scalding it, do not work at all for us. So we don't do those things. Do what works for you.

Now you need to have your tools in order. Here is my best link for our hog processing tools. You would think that you might need a bunch of fancy equipment but not really. Remember too that it was not so long ago that just about everyone had to do some kind of butchering - so technically it is not difficult. A couple of good knives, a meat saw, and two reasonably strong people is all you really need.

Then you need somewhere to chill the meat. This is the main reason that folks butcher in fall/winter. We like to butcher at about 20* but really you just need to be able to chill to meat below 40* as quickly as possible. An unheated garage, barn, or heck just hanging it from a tree in freezing weather is a great place to chill a big carcass. If you really don't have any good options then you can cut up the carcass halves into thirds (hams, sides, shoulders) and put it in a fridge. So either take everything out of your fridge or get a fridge just for butchering. Put it at the lowest/coldest setting and shove the huge chunks of meat in there. In a pinch you can get a couple of huge coolers and put the meat on ice... but I would not rely on this entirely.

Unlike other meat, pork does not benefit from hanging or aging. Mostly you just want to hang it overnite so that it is easier to work with when you part it up. You really don't want to ruin all that meat so make sure you have a good set up for chilling.

Now the hard part. Someone has to march out there and shoot that pig.

This is where the shuffling of shoes and the avoiding of eyes starts. From what I can tell this is main reason that folks do not want to butcher at home. If one of you is a hunter then this is no big deal and you just get out there and get the job done. However, if no one in your group has ever slaughtered before, or killed anything as big as a pig, you might want to look around for help.

Almost everyone knows someone who hunts.  Or just about everyone knows an old timer who is willing to help. Check around for extended family members, folks you know at church, or an older farmer who is happy to get you started.

Even if you find someone to do the deed then you still have to march out there and maybe you aren't sure how you will react.

So let's pick this apart.

I've really been enjoying the series, "A Chef's Life" on PBS so I was glad to see their Christmas special included butchering a hog. This video is a pretty good demonstration of how folks react to the slaughtering part of the business. They start the hog butchering segment at about 32:46 with an introduction to the farm, preparing for the process, and then the actual shooting at 35:21. They show the farmer shooting the gun but they do not show the pig.  Watch this a couple times to see how folks are reacting. Maybe you'll get a better sense of what happens so you can get an idea of how you will react if you are not sure.

The thing I loved best about this was that the farmer was absolutely calm and was in complete control. Based on what he was saying, I believe the production people were trying to get the 'best shot' as in... the best camera view... but the farmer wanted the 'best shot' for the pig. He said something like, "No, I can't wait. If I get the shot I have to take it."

This farmer knew that the most important thing was to drop that pig on the first shot. From what I can tell it went perfectly. The other people's reactions are about what I'd expect. Some people seemed relieved, some seemed to think, "So.. that's it?" (And yep, that is it.) But I was pretty disappointed that the gal (Vivian Howard) kind of squirmed away, covered her eyes, and wouldn't watch.

I really wanted her to be the hero here. I really wanted her to show that real people can get out there and get the job done. I really wanted her to stand steadfastly and be interested instead of having an emotional reaction. I really wanted these things because I really want folks not to be afraid of butchering. I feel like this was an opportunity to give courage to folks instead of keeping that gap between food production and regular people.

I think it's a "thing" for people to think the only way to honor the process is to stand there and cry. I think there is an expectation that you need to have some kind of outburst or you are not a good person. But that does not have to be the case and I think promoting this idea keeps people from doing their own butchering.

So if I was to edit this video to encourage people to butcher, I would take that gal out and put in an unkempt, ill-dressed gal with a bad pony tail and a dirty shirt holding a full sized axe, with at least two dogs standing behind her. A big man would shoot the pig, it would go down, and that short, sturdy gal would say "Good work, honey" and then release the dogs to go and sniff around. That's what happens here. There is no crying or dramatic faces.

That's not to say that you shouldn't cry. That is entirely up to you. But you do need to control yourself and not become a distraction from the folks who are doing the job.  The fact is there are a lot of uncertainty during the shooting part of butchering and everyone needs to focus on getting the job done.

There is always the possibility that their might be a "bad kill."  What is that? Exactly what it sounds like. Some people think this is the worst thing that could happen. There are a lot of things that can go wrong when you are shooting a large animal. One of them is that the first shot does not work. If that pig does not drop to his knees then you have a situation on your hands.

Fortunately for us we've only had a few bad shots and none of them were dangerous. The best situation is that you can fire another shot and drop the pig. The worst is that the first shot will only make him mad, or that he will be scared and run, and even worse that pig will turn on you. You need to be prepared for any of these situations.

Having a "kill pen" set up is an easy way to better control the situation. Unless that pig just steps right over the hog panel like it was a spider web. So mostly your best hope is to control the situation using food to get the pigs attention, taking your time, and remaining very very calm until you get the perfect shot.

We did not have the perfect kill for our last butcher day. The first pig shifted and the bullet did not hit its mark. Fortunately the pig did not run and he did not turn on my husband....but the pig did walk away. We both stood back to see if the pig would go down or if my husband could get into a better position for a second shot. It took a few minutes and the pig wandered into the worst of the mud. Eventually the pig went down to his knees and my husband was able to safely get close and take a second shot.

This was not optimal at all because the pig was in the deep mud - which is why we had to get the pulleys and such to drag the carcasses out of the mud. Fortunately, the second pig went down perfectly with one shot.

What do you do if you have a "bad kill?" You do the best you can. You realize that the worst thing to happen isn't a bad kill - let's face it it's over for that pig as soon as you walk out there - but the worst thing is that someone gets hurt. By "someone" I mean a person...you, whoever is helping you, or any onlookers. This is why you need to be very careful, be prepared, and practice good gun safety.

One thing that can be very upsetting is that the pig could do a lot of screaming. This can sound horrible. However, you need to keep in mind that even carrying a small pig to it's new pen results in a lot of screaming. Pigs, even in good circumstances, can be loud. An enraged, wounded, or scared hog can be extremely loud.

At this point sometimes folks are over whelmed and the possibility of a bad kill has just scared them off. Maybe they think that maybe they should just hitch up the stock trailer and take their hogs into the butcher. It might seem like a better idea since a professional will do a better job, right? Maybe. I dunno. If the butcher has a bad kill then how would you know? It's a tough thing to think about but if you want to grow out your own hogs then you need to decide how you will handle it.

How do you prepare yourself mentally? To figure out how to think about butchering? Trying to figure out how to not hurt something you are about to kill?

By realizing that this is not a new thing. Slaughter and butchering are only new to you if you haven't done it before. This is the way people have lived for most of the entirety of our time on this earth. If you want to quibble it's kind of like "hunting and gathering" but in a really small and contained space. Regular people have gathered their tools, and their courage, and marched out there to get the job done. Pray for courage. If you need someone to cheer you on then I'll be that person. If you are scared then acknowledge it, think about it, talk to folks, do your research.

But don't believe the lie that butchering is just some weird ancient tradition that only some people are able to do. Regular people just like you can do this. If we can do it, then you can do it. Can you butcher your own pig that you raised? Yes, you can.

Now who is going to get pigz this year? We are already thinking about our next batch!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

And then it snowed...

Today we were expecting mild temperatures and our big idea was to go on down and get a load of gravel to fill the big hole developing at the end of our driveway. But then this happened....

So much for that big winter storm missing us. 

Looks like today is going to be about sloth and fire.

Happy Saturday everyone! Are you hanging out by the fire today?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Prepping for pigs

It seemed like just yesterday we were prepping for hog harvest day and how we are about to start getting ready for having pigz in the spring. Well, things move pretty fast around here.

 Pigz. Not horrible when they are kind of small. Then stuff like this happens.

The dogs and I have been out scouting the property for where we will put the next pigz. The last pigz did such a great job of clearing that I want to be able to use those lots for production. As the spring progresses we'll be doing burning, clearing, tilling, and planting cover crops.

They end up being big. Real big. So much bacon.....

When finding a good location for pigz I need to keep a few things in mind:

1. Have them as far away from the house as possible. Pigz stink. They just do. For everyone who is about to say, "Well's all's you gotta do to keep them from stinkin' is..... " Just stop. I do not like the smell of pigz. At all. In any form. I can smell them a long way off and they stink. Bad.

2. But they can't be so far away that the hose doesn't reach. They need a lot of water and hauling it by the bucket is difficult and annoying.

3. We need to make sure they are well fenced in. You know us, we can whack up fencing anywhere but we need to make sure the lay of the land is fenceable.

4. They need cover - specifically they need to be in the woods. It's cooler and they like the shade - the woods also provide protecting from wind and rain.

5. I need to build a new Hog Hut. The indomitable Hog Hut 2008 finally fell to shambles. That structure was entirely free and included roofing tiles I literally dug out of the ground. It was subject to much mocking but it kept all those pigs bone dry all of those years.

Pigz are best on pasture where they can get out there and pig around. 

We don't need many supplies but I do need to go around and find all those feeders and waterers. We'll use the big tub for the waterfowl until the next pigz are big enough to use it. 

I won't need to think about feeding and chow until the pigz arrive but we'll use the strategy that has always worked for us. Of course, one of my goals is to plant even more crops for them including beets, turnips, beans, and whatever else I can get going. I'll be working on my planting strategy as we go along.

One thing that we will do better this year is to manage all the "spring rush" eggs... our hennies will start laying up a storm soon. I need to make sure I stay on top of taking them up, hard cooking them, and putting them into the freezer for the pigz this summer. Last year I could have done a better job at that.

Let's face it. The only reason I put up with them is because of the chops. Yes. That is a dinner plate.

I'll also put in a call to the guy we got the pigz from last year. Maybe we'll get lucky and find a new source for Tamworths. The problem is that this heritage breed are now so popular that they are expensive. So we'll see what we can work out.

You can check out more about raising pigz here - on my What I Know About Pigs page.

Happy Friday everyone! Are you prepping for pigz?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Fixing up the greenhouse

Even tho there was some damage, I was surprised at how well my greenhouse did over the winter. We had a couple really windy storms that ripped one of the plastic sections.

The first section of plastic had entirely ripped off. I stored a lot of stuff in there and needed to get it covered back up. Mostly it was tools but I had a lot of potted up plants I wanted to protect also.

While we were in the worst of the weather we just took some used plastic we had laying around and tacked it into place...but then one more storm came along and that got ripped off also. Yesterday I went and got some new plastic and fixed it for good (you can see the more detailed 'how to' here).

When I say "for good" I mean... for now. I still want to get some commercial growers quality "greenhouse film" but that will take a while to get here and it's pretty expensive. My $25 fix was fine for now.

You can see how there is not a lot of area on the top to secure the plastic.

All I needed to do was to remove the ripped plastic and replace it with the new stuff. It only took a few minutes and most of that time was me wandering around trying to find my tools.

I loosely fitted the plastic before stapling into place. Hey look! There's me!

It's actually an easy project even for one person. I unrolled the plastic a little and ally-ooped the rest of the roll over the top of the greenhouse, cut to fit (generously), and stapled it all into place.

Probably not the most elegant job but it worked! And the door is back on it's hinges too.

The only difficult part was folding the plastic to fit around the door-end of the greenhouse. I pleated it the best I could and tacked it into place. I also had to put the door back on it's hinges - the wind ripped it right off.

So now I'm ready for action. We keep wondering if that was it for winter and now we are just going to have a mild stretch until the real spring shows up. Yesterday was glorious. I was outside with the dogs working on some clearing in the upper garden.  I was also trying to kill "Cousin It" which is a wisteria that is completely out of control. I have a feeling that fight will be ongoing.

I'm glad I got the greenhouse fixed up because we had some rain earlier and we'll have some again over the next couple of days. But for now it's (mostly) dry so I'm going to see what I can get done outside. Mostly just clearing but I'll take it.

Happy Wednesday everyone! Are you fixing your greenhouse or working outside?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Cuban coffee at the Red Velvet Cafe - my new thing

Yesterday I zipped right into civilization. I got my errands done and I made a fantastic find. Immediately stop what you are doing and plot a GPS course for Red Velvet Café in Pickerington. Not in central Ohio? Doesn't matter - make the drive. I was there for the cupcakes but what I found instead made me absolutely swoon.

Seriously. Check out these lovelies. 

These guys are really terrific. I was warmly greeted by the owner and immediately I could tell that they specialize in excellent service. He knew every one of his customers - by name and their orders. How great is that? I tried to find out a bit more about their business and found this article. What a great story!

The cupcakes were given to me in this beautiful box. Thanks! 

Here is where the real love started.... I asked for a cappuccino but, he asked, would I like a cuban style coffee instead?

Be still my heart.

I had to catch myself on the edge of the counter lest I actually swoon and fall to my knees. I've been wanting to try a real cuban coffee for months. Years. Let's face it. I've been waiting all my life for this. I even was hatching a plot to fly to Miami for the day just to try one of these coffees. Seriously.

I've heard about cuban coffee but, aside from a TV segment on one of those morning shows, I didn't really know what it was about. It's about perfection. 

What is cuban coffee? Well. It's kinda hard to properly explain. It's a very small "demitasse" serving of extremely strong and very sweet coffee like nothing else you've had before. If you have the chance you have to try it. 

I found a great explanation of "how to here" - plus check out how fun these folks are. See that the key is to use the "crema" - which is the very first part of the espresso - to make a sugary caramel mix that is then blended with the rest of the coffee. It's kind of amazing. It makes the coffee very sweet, creamy, and lucious. Add milk? Cream? Or anything else? Nope. Just one small cup of delight. 

The Red Velvet Café serves all kinds of incredible drinks including smoothies (I got a sample of a taro root smoothie) and the amazing sounding Hawaiian salted caramel almond latte. Wow! And Thai iced teas and so much more but I can only think about that cuban coffee.

I don't usually get to that part of the world but you can bet when I do I'll be stopping at the Red Velvet Café. THANKS for your terrific service, beautiful cupcakes, and excellent coffee!

Editors note: What's with the shoutout to a local biz? What did I get out of this? Did they bribe me with booze or money or free stuff to write this? Nope. They had no idea I was an undercover farm blogger on the prowl for extraordinary coffee. To them I was just the next customer to walk in the door. They probably won't even see this. Maybe they will - I'll thank them again on 'the facebook.' My point is... this is a great business that I will drive the extra mile to visit the next time I go that way. Plus hey! Cuban coffee is a fun new thing. I may try to make this at home. I already have the coffee maker it's this one - the stovetop espresso maker - the 3 cup version. And I saw in the video that this is the coffee that they used. Now see? Those are affiliate links. So if you click on those and order something from Amazon then I will get a small percentage of the sale. But as for cupcakes and stuff? Nope. I just got amazing coffee and incredible cupcakes

Saturday, January 17, 2015

How to make pudding

Last nite on 'the facebook' we had a hoot making pudding for dinner. I couldn't come up with anything else to have... so I figured pudding was a fine choice. When I put it out to my pals they decided that butterscotch was the way to go.

Butterscotch pudding. It's just terrific!

I learned two things about making butterscotch pudding:
1. There is danger involved. I did not burn down the house making the caramel sauce.
2. It actually has booze it in - they weren't kidding about the "scotch" part.

This is a great recipe and I'm glad I tried making it. I usually only make vanilla or chocolate but this was a really fun project. Normally I can't make a caramel sauce but this worked out - and I did not burn the house down. The only adjustments I made to the recipe were that I only made a half batch...and they had grievously underused the booze in this.... so I added a bit more. We ended up not being able to eat this butterSCOTCH pudding by an open flame and this one of the few treats that is not a breakfast food. Wow!

One of my pals asked about tempering the eggs (I was giving a play by play of this project). Basically that means to gently heat the eggs or you will end up with scrambled eggs and not a soft, silky, luscious custard. Someone else (thanks L!) provided a great 'how to' link to the tempering process.

I've been making custard for so long that I kind of forget that "pudding" to a lot of folks involves a little plastic cup or a box of mix. So I thought I'd share my how-to which is based on my Grandma Minnie's custard recipe. I believe the technical difference between custard and pudding is eggs. This is a custard due to the eggs... but I just call it pudding.

My Grandma Minnie's handwritten recipe.

We'll put a disclaimer here that some folks will burst into flames over the "uncooked" eggs part of this...but my eggs were still warm from the hen so I'm pretty sure they were extremely fresh. Don't die of salmonella or whatnot. If this makes you nervous then be sure you cook your custard or just make pudding instead. How's that?


1/2 cup sugar
2 heaping Tablespoons  cornstarch
3 egg yolks
2 cups of milk - you will divide this in the course of the steps
vanilla - big splash
salt - just a dash
chocolate - 3 Tablespoons of cocoa plus some chocolate chips or good chocolate broken into pieces.

Before you do anything get a nice glass bowl and put in a big splash of vanilla. If you are making chocolate pudding then also put in some chocolate chips (1/3 or 1/2 cup?) or some really good chocolate broken into pieces. Have this standing at the ready by your stove.

Put some chocolate chips and some vanilla into a bowl. You'll need this later.

Get a heavy pan and whisk together the salt, sugar, cornstarch, and egg yolks. Add the cocoa if you want chocolate pudding. Add a little cold milk from the "2 cups of milk." How much? I dunno...some. Enough to dissolve the dry ingredients. Let's call it about 1/4 cup.

Put the rest of the milk in the microwave until it's hot. For my microwave that means about 1:30 minutes. Don't scald it.

The sugar, cornstarch, salt, and cocoa.. mixed with a little cold milk.

Start to cook your egg mixture over very low heat...like a 3 or a 4 on your burner dial. Just until the sugar dissolves and the mix starts to come together. By now your milk should be hot.

Start with just a little hot milk - like a tablespoon. Add a little at a time. Keep stirring!

Now we are going to temper the eggs. Pour about a tablespoon or so of the hot milk into the warming egg mixture. Stir with your whisk. Stir like you mean it. Then add a little more hot milk... just a bit. Keep on stirring. Then add a bit more.. a little more - maybe about a 1/4 of a cup. Still stirring? Keep it up. Add another 1/4 of a cup. Don't stop stirring! Are you crazy!?! Keep stirring! 

Now your egg mixture and your milk should be about the same temperature in the pan... a couple more "add more milks" and all the milk should be mixed in.

It's OK if it's frothy. Note how there are bubbles all over the top of the mixture.

Don't freak out of it's frothy. In fact, that is awesome. Watch the bubbles - this will help you see the custard cooking and will let you know when it's done.

When you first start out the mixture will be foamy.

Now stand there and stir that custard - not in a frenzy - but keep it moving. Don't walk away from the stove. Don't talk on the phone. Just stand there and stir. You might be there for about 7 minutes. What else are you going to do? You can turn the heat up a bit, but not more than half way.

Then, miraculously, you will see that the mixture is starting to thicken up. The bubbles will kind of disappear and you'll see lines in the mixtures from our whisk. This is it! You are getting close!

Then it will become pudding.

That moment when your mixture becomes custard is nothing short of magical. Yay! How do you know it's done? When it's nice and thick and starts to hold it's shape. It will thicken up some more when it's refrigerated.

See how the custard holds it's shape? The lines from the whisk stay visible?

Keep stirring and take your pan off the heat. Carefully pour the hot custard into the bowl. If you are making chocolate you will need to stir in the chocolate chips or good chocolate until they are melted. Mix to incorporate the vanilla.

Pour the hot custard into your prepared bowl. Mix until the chocolate is melted.

Voila! Pudding. I like to eat the hot custard but that freaks some people out. So cover the bowl and let it chill in the fridge.

See? That wasn't so tough, was it?

Happy pudding making everyone!

Friday, January 16, 2015

10 things to do now while you are waiting for summer

If you are like me then you are starting to stalk around like a caged tiger and cursing the cold weather. But we are starting to see a light at the end of this bleak tunnel.... this week our weather will moderate and we might even get up into the 40*'s this weekend. Unlike what Stringer Bell thinks (see note), I have a lot to say about a 40* day right now. All of it glorious because I just want to get outside.  40* sounds like a dream.

Remember when it was summer and everyone was happy?

It's time to start getting ready for the growing season. Here are 10 things to do now while we are all waiting for summer:

1. Start planning your garden. Now is a great time to read up on how to get your garden going - grab some books and start envisioning your growing space. There are a lot of online tools out there but garden planning is a great excuse to get out there and walk around.

2. If you can, start working on hardscaping. Meaning.. do you need to start building pathways? Can you get a load of gravel or start shoveling wood chips? Maybe stake out some fencing?

3. We can't start seeds inside due to cats *points at the Insane Cat Posse* but I'll be able to start working in my greenhouse soon. You too can build a hoop house: Step One. Step Two. Step Three. Step Four.

4.  Start dreaming of your potato empire.... this is one of my popular posts and includes a link to one of my favorite gardening books.

5. Get your jars organized. My canning jars are everywhere. How are your canned goods? Have you taken an inventory to see what is left? We are just about at the half way point... so get those jars cleaned up, in boxes, and ready for action. You can also do canning projects like canning dried beans. Do you need canning tools? Keep an eye on the prices and look for sales.

6. Get your tools in order and get what you need.. especially some good gardening gloves.

7. Work on learning a new skill. I'm really enjoying trying out Thai food recipes. I'm on a mission to make the perfect pad see ew... I'm getting closer. The other day I made it back into town and got more sauces and such - and Thai take out... you know.. for science. What do you need to learn to do? Make a quiche? Lean to knit? Carpentry? Get up off the couch and start working on it.

8. Start trimming your fruit trees. I'll be working on this in the next couple of weeks.

9. Are you going to get started with livestock? Start reading up on how others are doing it like this great series by Farmer Liz on how to get started with chickens.

10. Don't forget to rest up. I have a feeling this is going to be a fantastic summer - so there is nothing wrong with getting a little R & R now.... it will be nothing but action and adventure when that first perfect day hits. Come on, summer!!!

Happy Friday everyone - are you getting ready for summer?

Note: Are you a fan of The Wire? Then you know about 40* days... if not, don't even think about clicking on this link if you are at work or around kids. Warning: language..I am not kidding.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


You know, it's pretty bad when you can tell the temperature by how frozen the water buckets are in the morning.  This is what low 20*'s looks like...

But hey there is some great art here!

Our cold weather should moderate in a few days... come on, 40*'s!!!

Happy Wednesday everyone! How frozen are your buckets?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Still smoking....

This is what I found when I went out to check the bacons in the smoker the other day.....

Thru this heavenly cloud of smoke I found.....


See that I even smoke the odd shaped cuts. They always tell you to trim your bellies so they are square and you end up with some weird pieces. So why not smoke them also? I can use these for cooking.

Double stacked... 

I had to improvise to get more room in the smoker. I just used another grill propped up on some bricks to give myself more space to do the rest of the bacons at one time.

It was beautiful. And this kind of looks like a fish or something.. hum...

It was amazing. So now I'm completely done with the hog processing from the 2014 season. Now all I have to do is sit around, eat bacon, and wait for this winter to end so I can start the pig raising process all over again.

Are you starting your day with bacon? Do you want to learn more? Check out this link for more on how-to's. Happy Tuesday everyone!

Monday, January 12, 2015

DIY Take Out Thai: How to make panang curry.

Today is a big slushy disaster. We've had almost every form of precipitation, including frozen fog, in the last 24 hours. Right now everything is melting but it will all freeze into one huge horrible, chicken poop covered ice field by tomorrow morning. What to do? Make panang curry.

Is it like take out? Yep. Sooooo yummy!

I love that I have friends from all woks.. I mean.... walks of life. My pal, A., knew the secret to making take out style panang curry - it's the sauce. You have to get the right one and not the one that you usually find on the ill-equipped shelves of the midwest grocery stores. This is it, Maesri Thai Panang Curry Paste.Why this one? I don't know but this really is the secret to making panang curry like you get in restaurants.  Probably because of the spices it already has in it.

The directions couldn't be more simple - I used this recipe that my friend gave me. How easy is that? The best advice I got from my pal was to use just half of the can of curry paste for one can of coconut milk. I don't really like overly spicy food so this ratio was just perfect.

 Start by cooking the palm sugar and curry paste in a little oil (I used chicken fat).

The normal red curry sauce that is easily found on the shelves is just that - red curry. But I like panang curry which is a little bit different.  I was able to find this at one of the few Asian grocery stores we have in our nearest big city for about $1 per can. But I couldn't find it in any of the nearby grocery stores.

Then cook the meat in the paste.

You also need some fish sauce and coconut milk. I also used some palm sugar. It comes in a sold, cylindrical piece and I just cut off what I needed. I wish I could find Kaffir lime leaves (this is a 3 pack) but they aren't in any of our nearby stores. There is a chance I'll go into civilization this week but not if this weather doesn't improve. So I'll probably just order them (yay Amazon Prime!). Until then I'll just use a squeeze of lime juice.

 How fun is the palm sugar? It comes in a solid cylinder. You can substitute brown sugar.

I've made this a couple times and it was really much much better when I let it simmer over an hour. The meat was much more tender and delicious.

Add the coconut milk, bring to a simmer, then cook as along as you can. Or 20 minutes if you can't wait.

Is this as good as take out or restaurant style? I have to say... yep!  We were thrilled to finally get the secret to panang curry. Now I just need to work on my pad thai and we'll be set.

Happy Monday everyone! Are you in a big slushy mess? Are you making panang curry?

Editors note: Look out! I've got affiliate links and I'm not afraid to use them! What's gives with the affiliate links? I really couldn't find most of this stuff at my regular stores so I looked for them online and yay! I found it on Amazon. It's where I get all my hard to find items - even grocery stuff. They even have a thing called Prime Pantry where you can get a big box of grocery stuff shipped at special prices for a flat rate. Isn't that amazing? If you need hard to find grocery items you can just click one of these items or use the black Amazon search box on the side of the page and I will get a tiny potion of the sale. Why? It's just a way Amazon promotes their products and services.  It can be anything - books, movies, a jackhammer, or something you need from Amazon anyway.  If you like this blog, or if I've helped you at all in your farming efforts, just make a purchase from Amazon from one of the links, my store, or the black Amazon search box on the right side of this page. I can't see who purchases what or any of the details. THANKS for your support!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Dat Smoke

Holy smokes! I've been working on smoking the bacons that we kept from our hog harvest. The first batch turned out fabulously. I brought these a little while ago:


I started smoking these yesterday afternoon but it was last nite before they were done. One of the reasons I like to smoke bacons on a really cold day/nite is because I can load up the smoker one last time with wood chunks and just go to bed. Our -3* this morning ensured they were entirely cooled over nite.

They are glorious.

You never really know how these things are gonna go so I didn't know if they were going to be good.... until I walked into the kitchen. The bacons had started to warm up a little and now the whole house smells like smoked love.

This is what awaited me in the morning. Bacon love. 

Primarily I'm going to use these for cooking and not as bacon-for-breakfast. We have the butcher-smoked bacon for regular bacon (and it is delicious). I'll use this as a base for sauces, pastas, and heck anything else I can think of.... we just love it.

Technically this is a smoked pancetta. Normally you would hang pancetta to dry for a couple weeks, however, the last batch of smoked pancetta was so good I wanted to do more. And yes, if you want to be a stickler..... smoked pancetta IS bacon but I'm not sure how to describe the pork belly that was cured with savory spices then smoked.

I have two more batches to smoke - one that is kind of weird odds and ends pieces.... and then two really nice bellies that were cured as maple bacon. I can't wait for those!

You can read more about making bacon and pancetta here. Can you make your own bacon? Yes you can! It's easy peasy and if you don't have pigz then you can order a fresh pork belly from your butcher. How great is that?

Happy Saturday, everyone! Are you smoking your bacons?

Friday, January 9, 2015

Cold weather livestock care: Outside? Inside?

We are having one of those weird days when the high temperature for today already happened and it's only going to get colder. Where are my barnyard animals? Outside.

Ducks have zero hoots about the snow. Snow? What snow?

One of the hard things about farming in winter is trying to figure out what is best for the livestock. The only "right" answer is... do what is best for your farm and your animals.

Here is how we break it down:
* How cold is it really? Is this a pattern of sustained cold or is this a one day event?
* What is the windchill?
* Is it sunny?
* Is anyone vulnerable? Who is most valuable and where are they?

Our valuable and vulnerable people are  in the garage locked up. Our barncats can just sit inside and while away the days under their heat lamp - there is no good reason for them to be outside. The motley crew of limpy and lame poultry can just hang out in there also. They have everything they need and do not need to be targets of attack by the rest of the chicken gang. The least amount of stress the better for them. If we had babies or meat chickens they would be locked in the garage also. Right now this is the only place where we have a heat lamp - the rest of the buildings are doing OK holding in the heat.

This turkey hen is soaking up the rays.

We've been doing a lot of shuffling around. Fortuantely most of our poultry are pretty cagey. They will stay in the sunshine and out of the wind. Mostly they are staying in the hen house - which faces the sun all day. There is kind of a slow motion shoving match to see who gets to stand in the sunshine. Some of the hens will brave the snow covered ground and hop over to the goat house - that door is standing open also so everyone can be out of the wind, on the deeply packed litter, and in the sunshine. The goats are in there too doing the same thing.

I have one ridiculous hen tho. She keeps ending up over by the garage. We had to chase her down last nite to make sure she got in the hen house. These are the ones you worry about finding outside, covered in snow the next morning. 


The goats are kind of a tough call. The Turkey House is the best nighttime spot for them but not a great daytime place. The doors face away from the sun so basically they are in a refrigerator all day. They will be happier in the sunshine, fresh air, and where they can move around. It isn't helping that Nibbles is in a raging heat and wants to fight everyone. So having them all outside is the better call for now.

The only ones we don't worry about are the ducks and geese. The Duck Garage gets the most sunshine and is the warmest. The ducks tend to hang out in the out-of-the-wind spot and soak up the rays, toddle around near their water bucket, and just keep to themselves.

I really don't worry about the geese. If your feathers are used for products meant for arctic exploration then I figure you are just fine. The only time when we keep them in is when it's not safe for anyone else - then they can just stay inside also. Mostly this is because it's easier to manage the dogs on days like this - we let the dogs roam around by themselves more and then we don't have to supervise them around loose poultry.

We make sure, tho, that the ducks and geese always have somewhere dry to stand. They will splash around in the water just fine but we want to ensure they can stay dry at night.

We also consider how long everyone has been cooped up. We had two days in a row when everyone was stuck inside. That's about the limit - after that everyone gets a little nutty and we need to open the doors.

I'm always amazed how there seems to be a tentative peace between warring poultry factions on inside days. Those who would normally be fighting outside on a normal day sit placidly next to each other during their days of incarceration. Of course, as soon as the doors are open it's a free for all.

Today is a day that is "iffy" but since tomorrow is going to be so cold I'm counting on today to get everyone solar powered, warmed up, get some fresh air, and ready to knuckle down and be inside all day tomorrow. If the clouds roll in then I'll start herding the troops inside. But for now everyone is enjoying the sun.

As for me - I'll be here beside the fire all day.

Happy Friday everyone! Do you have your barn doors open? Or is everyone cooped up?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Good Land's Official Winter Drink: The Wind Chill Factor

Since we are all sitting around grumbling about the snow and the extreme cold I figured tonite would be the perfect time to reveal The Good Land's official drink of winter: The Wind Chill Factor.

 Isn't it beautiful? If you make it right it will separate into three colors. 

Someone gave us a bottle of "O'Donnells Original Irish Cream Cappuccino." I honestly don't even know what it is but I'm pretty sure it's the Aldi's version of Bailey's. More or less. Kinda.

Anyway, that really isn't something that appeals to either of us but we were assured to give it a try. So I did. And now it's mostly gone. Pour it over ice? Over ice cream? Nope.

My nifty milk frother makes perfect foam.

I created a new drink and I'm calling it "The Wind Chill Factor." Here's what I did... I made hot cocoa - the real stuff from the recipe on the back of the Hershey's Cocoa box. While that was heating up I used my nifty milk frother to whip up some cream (or half n half) in a small glass. There should be about a third of the glass full of whipped cream, then pour in about a third of the glass with the O'Donnells stuff, then carefully pour in the hot cocoa. There you have it!

I tried to search on O'Donnells but this is the closest I found. Maybe it's a seasonal flavor, this Cappuccino, but it's really terrific. Since this bottle is about gone we'll have to find where our friends bought it. Altho the origins are uncertain, one thing that is for sure is that this is now the official drink of winter.

Keep warm everyone!

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