Saturday, February 26, 2011

New Things Around The Farm

Item ThumbnailI wrote about learning to knit in "Starters" and thought I would post a picture of my finished scarf.  My mother-in-law is staying with us and is an avid knitter and quilter so I will be learning more techniques soon.

Item ThumbnailWe have been getting more snow, thankfully just enough to dust the ground.  As I have walked around the farm I have been noticing footprints.  I first thought I had found rabbit or squirrel tracks, the more I looked at it, the more I realized they were deer tracks.  Rather large ones at that.
Item Thumbnail

The other tracks I have been seeing are from a cat, possibly two.  I see the tracks all the time, but have not seen the cats up close.  I'll keep them around.  Hopefully they will keep the mice population down.

Item Thumbnail
We have also gained another cow, who has a black calf, named Coal.  Our first cow, whom I have named Daisy Mae, has been showing the new cow, Midnight, who is in charge.
Item Thumbnail
Midnight is in the background, Daisy Mae and Moonbeam  stay close together

  I am looking forward to spring.  If for no other reason than to experience a new season on the farm.
Until then.  Sending love from the farm.  oxo

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Simple Household Techniques

A friend and I were talking the other day about ways we simplify at home and the various techniques we use.  I decided I would share a few; some you may already use, some you might decide to try.

1.  Saving the turkey carcass from holiday dinners to make into soup or stock.  We have been doing this since we were first married over 13 years ago.  My grandparents' church had their Turkey Dinner and then used the carcasses for their Turkey Stoup.  Yes, I spelled it correctly, it's a combination of stew and soup, hence "stoup."
Item Thumbnail
turkey chili with our canned goodies
To make turkey stock or soup, place carcass into a large pot and fill with water until carcass is covered.  Cook on medium until the meat has fallen off the carcass and the broth is flavorful.  Strain the bones and then either portion out into containers (when cool) for another day OR start adding chopped onions, diced tomatoes, chopped carrots, celery, and spices until you have a yummy soup.

2. Make your own yogurt.  It is very easy to do.  The Jan./Feb. 2011 issue of Hobby Farm Home magazine had a wonderful step by step article on how to make it from scratch.  When my husband and I were married we received a yogurt maker as a wedding gift.  We have never bought yogurt from the store, instead we have had rich, wonderful yogurt without all of the "extra" additives.

3. Using white vinegar and baking soda in place of harsh cleansers.  Because we have well and septic here on the farm I am careful about putting harmful chemicals that will mess with the balance of my septic system.  Vinegar is a natural brightener and it also kills germs just as well as bleach.  I use it to clean the porcelain sinks and often use it in the kitchen sink to get rid of berry stains.  In a pinch I have also used lemon juice, it works well and leaves a great citrus scent.

Item Thumbnail
sourdough bread
4. Saving the heels of a loaf of bread for bread crumbs.  My children do not usually eat the heels, let's face it, I don't either.  So when we start or finish a loaf of bread I put the heel into a container on the counter so it can dry out.  My husband will take the pieces and put them into the food processor and make them into bread crumbs to add to a meal later.  For the holidays he will make an entire loaf of savory bread and then cut it into chunks to make his own stuffing croutons.

Item Thumbnail5. Pre-soaked beans.  How many times have you wanted to make something but the beans are still dry?  We take various kinds of beans and mix them into a large pot and then cooked them.  Once cooled, we portion them into sandwich bags, usually 2 cups per bag, and freeze them until we need them in a recipe.

6.  Canning.  We moved here too late in the growing season to plant anything of our own. As I said in a previous post, we purchased fruits and vegetables from the grocery store and used them for canning.  It has been so fun to go into our pantry and pull out a jar of something we made from fresh ingredients.

Item Thumbnail
my great-gram's braided bread
7. Homemade bread.  Obviously I love to make bread.  This past weekend my cousins were in town and I made sourdough and Swedish rye breads for sandwich makings.  My dear cousin who has The Fox Fix blog and makes bread for a living, gave a thumbs up on the rye.  You don't have to make bread like your great-grandmother did. If you have a bread maker then you can make homemade bread.  My 60+ year old uncle uses his and has great success.  Homemade bread and turkey stoup are the best for rainy afternoons on the weekend.  See what you can do.

I hope these ideas have given you some ideas of your own.  Simplicity is something that is attainable, no matter where you live.  Let me know what you decide to make.  Until then.
Sending love from the farm,

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Watching the Homestead

My husband is visiting family while Travis, Arliss, and I mind the homestead.  I started thinking about all of the pioneering women who had to watch the ranch while their menfolk would take their cattle to market.  Sometimes the menfolk would be gone for over three months; how did they handle everything?
I am reminded of the movie "Old Yeller" and how Pa had to give last minute pointers to his oldest son, Travis.  We don't have many outside chores at this time of year, but it doesn't mean that there aren't things that need to be done.

Item Thumbnail
my starters
Every morning the beds need to be made, clothes picked up off the bathroom floor, and dishes need to be washed.  I also have the dogs and guinea pig to take care of and my sourdough bread starters to fed.
Item Thumbnail
snow, snow go away, come again another day
With the snow melting I can now find sticks that need to be collected and burned.  There are a few branches that need to be trimmed before the trees come out of their dormant stage.
some of the iris my m-i-l grows
I am also watching for signs of bulbs cracking through the soil.  It may be a bit early yet, but crocus and grape hyacinth are some of the first to bloom every spring.
My mother-in-law gave me seeds for poppies, wild Colorado columbine, and sweet william that are waiting to be sprinkled over the warming earth.  She has a garden that is amazing; having inherited her green thumb from her mom.  All around my in-laws' property she has planted hundreds of iris bulbs.  During the summer her flower beds are a constant floral fireworks display.
Carrots love tomatoes: secrets of companion planting for successful gardening [Book]
After the snow finally leaves for good, my dear neighbor, Mr. H., will come and turn over my garden, mixing in the cow manure I spread over it last fall.  I have planned my garden by using the book Carrots Love Tomatoes so I know which vegetables will play nice with others.  My seed packets are anxiously waiting to be planted.  I have a few places where I can put in hot beds to get a jump start on the seeds.

I have finished knitting my first scarf and will go back to quilting and sewing to occupy my time in the evenings. While my Dearest is gone I will be busy and counting the minutes until he comes home.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Signs of Warmer Weather

The weather here is quite balmy compared to our single digits last week.  I have even heard we should be near 45 degrees by Wednesday!  I went to check how the cow and calf were doing.    I thought I'd share some proof that it won't be winter forever...
Item Thumbnail
this is the closest she has ever let me get to them

Item Thumbnail
she turned her head as if to say, "go ahead, take the picture"

Item Thumbnail
these are our "Dorothy Doors" or storm shelter doors for the cellar

Item Thumbnail
The blue sky seems to beckon spring.

Well, we will keep hoping for spring to come in earnest.  In the meantime, I will keep looking for signs of it with my camera.  Hope you can find some signs where you live.
Until next time.  Love from the farm. oxox

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A New Day

I woke up this morning at 7 o'clock, like I do every school day, and saw the most beautiful sight.  The sunrise was sending orange-red light through my curtain.  When I pulled back the curtain this was my view.
Item Thumbnail

Item Thumbnail
There is such hope in the sunrise

After I helped my most wonderful husband with some home repair I settled in and made my mid-afternoon snack.  Homemade sourdough bread, with homemade spiced apple spread, and tea.  A lovely way to relax before Travis and Arliss come bounding through the door.
Item Thumbnail
The snowman mug fits the weather outside quite nicely

Item Thumbnail
Don't you wish you could share a piece with me?

For those of you who live nearby and are willing to brave the twists and turns of country roads, come for a visit!! I will gladly share my bread with you.  A dear friend came last weekend and left with various pints and quarts of our canned goods and a fresh loaf of sourdough bread.  This could be you! Until then...
Much love from the farm. oxox

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Snow, snow, snow

When the weather outside is five degrees above zero without windchill, it is hard to remember that spring is roughly seven weeks away.  I look at the four foot drifts and the mountainous snow piles in the store parking lots and think, where will all of this frozen water go???

Item Thumbnail
this snow drift is over 7 feet tall
My grandfather once told me that his dad hated snow.  I was in high school at the time and snow still meant snow days and ice skating on the frozen lake near my house to me.  I couldn't believe that great-grandpa had hated snow.  My grandfather told me then that he didn't have to wait until he was as old as his dad, he hated snow already.
It got me thinking, why would a farmer hate snow?  I figured it had to do with trying to care for the livestock, keeping the house warm, and just the brittle cold air that is outside.  I am an adult now and I can understand the way Grandpa felt.  But at 41, I still love the way the snow looks as it falls.  I love the way the snow brings on the feeling that Christmas will soon be here.  But when it snows in February and the temperature is in the single digits, what is there to look forward to?
Item Thumbnail
My dad's gooseneck trailer surrounded by drifts
I have decided that even when snow brings shoveling and sore shoulders for the effort, I will embrace it. If we don't get snow we won't have the necessary water for plants to grow in the spring.  If we don't have the cold, then the parasites and other garden eating bugs won't be killed off.  There are reasons for the snow.
Right now, it covers all of our farm and looks like the opportunity for a new beginning.  A blank canvas, if you will.  I don't ever want to hate snow like my great-grandpa, it has it's purpose; kind of like labor.  But that is a story for another day.
In the meantime I will be grateful for snow.  It means new things are coming.  I just don't get to see them yet.  What about you?  What does snow make you think of?  I'd love to know.
Until then,
Blessings, Gretchen

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Pictures of the Blizzard

As many of you know we were hammered by a blizzard this week.  I thought I would show you some of the drifts we have around the farm thanks to 16 inches of snow and a lot of wind.
Item Thumbnail
the wind blew the snow through the smallest crack into the barn
Item Thumbnail
The cow and calf  came through the storm just fine

Item Thumbnail
The drifts were all around the truck and van  

Item Thumbnail

the grain shovel I used to clear out the snow behind the vehicles

Item Thumbnail
I love the sunshine

Item Thumbnail
this drift is almost 7 feet tall

I hope you all were warm and survived the storms and have a great week.  Love ya!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Hopes of Spring

As the Midwest gets hammered with record breaking winter storms I thought I would share a few pictures that promise spring will eventually get here.
Item Thumbnail
Our first cow and calf
Item Thumbnail
toes that were hidden all winter will eventually be seen again

Item Thumbnail
the first salamander sticks out his head