Monday, December 31, 2012


Winter Pond

Winter is dark, long, ugly, and depressing. 
That was my old way of viewing winter, it was almost more than I could take when we moved here seven years ago. I had no experience with the natural rhythm of nature. I did not understand the need of seasons. I've learned winter is a time of renewal and rest, not just for me, but for the land as well.
It's a time when things slow down, focus changes. A time for catching up on reading, time to sit and plan for summer gardens, summer projects, seed orders..
For the first time this year I caught myself saying "I'll be glad when winter comes".
Winter has it's own beauty. We don't get much snow here, but nature has a way of decorating without that. I love being able to see deep into the woods after the leaves have fallen. A cardinal, going mostly unnoticed in the summer, becomes a thing of real beauty sitting on leafless branch.
I tend to think of October as being the end of the year. I believe that most farmers, homesteaders, "back to the landers", what ever name makes you happy, feel the same about October. On the calender today is the last day of the old year and tomorrow the first day of the New Year. For me today is not about parties, going out on the town, wearing funny hats and blowing funny whistles (not there is a thing wrong with that). It's about quiet contemplation, counting my blessings and being able to see the last year in hind-sight. Seeing that most of the problems of last year were really blessings in disguise...
Whatever your idea of celebrating New Years, I hope you take a moment to reflect and be grateful.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Lemon Cuckoo Orpington

Lemon Cuckoo Orpington Chicks
 These are going to be beautiful chickens! 
As they get older they will get a bit darker and the cuckoo pattern will be a lot more pronounced. I have three hens and a rooster, I paid 10.00 per chick from a local breeder. It's the first time I've paid more than 3.00 for a chick, ever. I saw the parents, they are big and beautiful, the breeder told me he paid $300.00 for the pair.
I'm looking for a "good" dual purpose bird. Normally I would not consider Orpingtons for this purpose. I've had them in the past and although they were good egg layers I didn't consider them to be big enough for a table bird. I'm hoping these will fit the bill, time will tell.
If you're raising table birds I'd love to know what breed and why you like them.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Rabbit Time


As we all know good, clean, healthy, sustainable food is hard to come by these days. Raising as much of my own food as I can is a priority in my life. As a matter of fact dealing with food, the cleaning of coops and cages, feeding, watering, reading about and the cooking of food is pretty much where my time goes each day. I like knowing what my food was fed, that it had a good life, and how it was killed.
It's important!

After spending the summer getting my laying flock together the next logical step seemed to be rabbits. As with chickens they are a sustainable source of compost for the garden. I say compost but really I've been taking the hay and straw mixed with rabbit poo and putting it on the beds as a winter mulch. My grandmother kept meat rabbits, used the poo on her garden, her tomatoes were out of the world!

The little ones in the pic are about 6 weeks old. Two females and a male. I have an older female, she just turned 6 mo. old. Just as soon as the young buck gets old enough I will breed them. I got wire to make cages, instructions abound on line. The wire is not cheap by any means but cheaper than buying cages, and it's not at all difficult to do. I've made one, have wire for another, and need wire for two more. 

I've turned what use to be my studio into a barn. I can heat that in the winter so breeding year round should not be a problem. My husband built a frame out of 2x4 for the cages to sit on. It only takes a few minutes a day to take care of them. Before winter hit us I was putting the older one outside in a make-shift enclosure each day. The trouble with that, of course, was keeping an eye on her to make sure she didn't escape. I will have to figure out how to make that work for all of them this spring as I hate for them to be cooped up all the time.

They are fed pellet food free-choice, regular hay and right not alfalfa hay. They also get dandelions, parsley, carrot tops, pear and apple wood to keep their teeth in shape. I will add to the greens they get this spring, right now there is snow on the ground and green is not a plentiful color.

I like the fact that rabbits can be scaled up or down according to your needs. I also like the sustainability of them, I'll never have to buy another one. Push come to shove, as with chickens, they could be raised on natural food alone, although you would not get quick growth. The meat has great flavor and is very versatile. Easy to kill, skin and clean, I don't know this from personal experience but both my husband and son are hunters and have shot and processed a number of rabbits.
All in all I'm happy to add rabbits to my food supply. If you raise rabbits or are even thinking of it I'd love to hear from ya!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Real Food

Homemade Mayonnaise
First time making homemade mayonnaise. I was surprised at how easy it was to do. It tastes nothing like "store bought" and it LOOKS nothing like store bought. Because I used my pastured eggs it came out very yellow, looking more like butter than the mayonnaise we are use to eating. Because I wanted this for turkey sandwiches I put a bit of dried thyme in.
Homemade mayonnaise this is the link where I got the instructions.
My son and I both like it, we're not mayonnaise junkies and this is very mild compared to the store bought stuff. My husband on the other hand, who is a big fan of store bought  is not fond of it. 
As far as I'm concerned it's earned a place in my fridge. I'll take real over fake processed every chance I get.
Of course, not being a commercially processed product filled with preservatives, it's not going to last a year in the fridge. I'm thinking about a week. How long it lasts is determined by how old the eggs are that you used to make it. My eggs were laid the same day. Having to make mayonnaise once a week is a small price to pay for being able to eat "Real Food".

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Rendering the Lard

Pig Fat

Do you render your own lard?

I recently found a local source for pastured pig fat. These people also sell grass fed beef, beef bones (for wonderful bone broth), also raw milk, butter, cheese, pastured pork and lots of other things. They have a drop off in town every Saturday which just happens to be the day we go to town. I'm thrilled to have finally found healthy food! I've been looking for grass fed meat and raw milk for a long time.  

Rendering your own lard is simple and healthy. I love it for baking, everything from brownies to wheat bread. All you do is chop the lard into small pieces, put it in a pot on simmer till the bits float. Strain out the bits, jar it up, and put it in the fridge.

Out of just a bit over 5 pounds of fat I got two quarts and almost a full pint. I pay $3.00 per pound of fat. It comes frozen and I keep it that way until I get ready to make the lard. It's a bit easier to chop if left a bit frozen. After chilling the lard will turn a beautiful cream color and become solid.


Now I know that there are a LOT of people who cringe at the thought of using lard for anything. I was the same way a few short years ago. I've done a lot of reading about real food and I would suggest you do the same. My favorite book on the subject is "Nourishing Traditions" by Sally Fallon. There is a wealth of good information in that book!

From Grass to Table

40 Pound Pastured Turkey

I said in an earlier post that I would not be raising any more turkey and listed the reason why. I've changed my mind!

This is Stomper, or was Stomper anyway. We killed him last Saturday so he could sit in the fridge for three days before going into the oven. I know it's hard to tell from the pic but your looking at 41 pounds of turkey! He was so big we had to buy a metal garbage can to scald him in before plucking. It took my husband, my son and myself to ready this bird for Christmas dinner. 

I didn't have a pan that came close to being big enough to cook this bird in (neither did any of our friends). My son came up with the idea of making our own pan from aluminum foil which we put on an oven rack. We poked holes in the foil so the juices could run into a pan on a lower rack. Then it occurred to me that this monster may not fit in the oven. On top of that I've never seen a 40 pound turkey much less cooked one. I decided the best way to cook it would be to put it in the oven on 250 degrees overnight. It took 14 hours! I turned off the oven and let it sit for another hour. 

Folks.. this was hands down the best turkey I've ever eaten! Wonderfully flavorful, tender and juicy beyond belief. The drippings were so rich they were almost black. We will get 11 meals from this bird! Soup, turkey pot pie, hot turkey an added bonus, I'll get about two gallons of rich bone broth as well.

The down side to all this is, I miss Stomper. He was a very vocal bird and more like a dog than a turkey. If I was outside Stomper was right with me, he liked to have his head patted, and was constantly under food. It was not easy to turn him into dinner, not for me, my husband or my son. In fact, he was supposed to be Thanksgiving Dinner, but none of us had the heart to end his life. The thing is he was raised to be food, not a pet. He had a good free-ranging life, and a humane death.

Why am I telling you all this.. maybe trying to work through the seasons and cycles of this way of life. Maybe to let those that don't yet know that this is not an easy way to live, but the most rewarding life there is. In this life you reap what you sew, I've always known this but nothing brings it home like trying to be responsible for your own food. If you don't plant it, you won't have it, if you don't preserve it, you won't have it, if you don't kill it, you won't have it, unless you buy it from someone else, I try to keep that to a minimum. 

At any rate, I was grateful to have raised this turkey and very grateful for the meals he will provide for my family. I don't see how I will ever eat another bland, flavorless, ill treated, antibiotic filled, disease ridden, toxic store bought turkey ever again. So if I want turkey for dinner I have no choice but to raise my own and take the good along with the bad.

I hope everyone had a blessed Christmas!

P. S 
As a side note, I checked the price on line for free-range turkey, our turkey would have cost us $280.00 (give or take).