Seed Starting

I hope that everyone has had a chance to order some seeds, grab some at a local store or save some from the food in the fridge.

I have been doing all of the above.  We placed an order for seeds last week from Southern Seed Savers Exchange and the seeds came this week.  Orders are still going out and they appreciate your business and patience.

wp-1585068843603..jpg

These are onions, celery, romaine and ice burg lettuce bottoms.   All of them will regrow.  Eventually, you can plant them or you can just continue to harvest them from your kitchen window. In this picture below, you can see the celery we have transplanted from the bottom of celery that we bought at the store. We also planted lettuce in this glass aquarium for the winter.  It stays warm, we can harvest when we need it and it reminds me of warmer weather.

wp-1585069145886..jpg

Okay now, back to starting seeds.  March and April is the time to start tomatoes, herbs, peppers, cabbage, lettuce, kale, etc.  All of these seeds need to be started inside.  We use our master bathroom.  It gets great sun all day, it is warm and we do not forget to water them.  When we put the seedlings in the basement I always forgot to water them.  In the bathroom they are a part of my everyday life.

You can start your seeds in seed starting mix or you can start them in just dirt from outside.  We have done both.  The seed starting mix is better, we use something called Jiffy Plugs.  However, in a time when we are all asked to stay home, just use the dirt from your yard. Bring it in and allow it to warm up before planting for better germination. Empty yogurt cups, and old egg cartons make great containers to start seeds in. You will want to poke a hole in the bottom of the yogurt cup before putting dirt in it so the extra water can drain out.   Place your dirt filled yogurt cups or egg cartons on an old cookie sheet with a little bit of a side to help you control the dirt and the water.  Place a couple seeds in each cup, find a sunny window, water well and you are off to the races.

wp-1585069515265.jpg

The most important thing with all of this is to try!  I always remind people the first year we planted a garden we had nothing that we planted grow.  God was generous and some of the seeds from our compost grew, but none of the seeds I planted grew. There is no time like the present to take control of some of your food supply.  Look at what is happening in the world today, things will get worse before they get better. Now is the time to learn!

 

Grow Your Own Food

During World War I and World War II families in the United States planted Victory Gardens to help lessen the food shortage as a result of the war.  Over the years from 1942 to 1944 during World War II, Victory Gardens grew 8 million tons of food for American Families.  As I watched grocery store shelves empty this week, I could not help but think about those Victory Gardens.  What if instead of hoarding TP Americans planted gardens?  As the effects of this virus spread across the nation, food shortage is going to become a problem. According to Modern Farmer, the average age for the American Farmer is 58.  The age group that is being affected the most is 50 and older.  Take a moment to let that sink in.  If the population that is growing our food, is the population that is becoming sick, what is going to happen to our food?

Image result for victory garden

Bonnieseeds.com

I don’t know the answer to that question, however, I can tell you I am not going to stand around and wait to find out.   We all need to take some accountability for our families food supply.  So how do we do that?  First of all, the next time you go to Walmart for your 100th pack of TP grab some vegetable seed packets and seed starting soil mix.  All of the Walmarts have them out right now  in the garden sections. Most grocery stores have them available as well, along with Dollar Tree and Dollar General.  If you are staying home and not going out at all, I recommend online suppliers like Burpee Seeds, Seed Savers Exchange, Annies, Johnny Select Seeds and Southern Seed Savers.

Okay, so you decided maybe you would take a try at this farming thing, what do you do first?  The good thing is that it is not too late.  Spend one of the days you are home watching your backyard.  Where do you get the most sun?  Think about trees that will cast a shadow in a month when they are full.  Ideally, you would like 7 solid hours of sunlight in one spot.

wp-1584568480873..jpg

201610241741

Now that you know where you are going to plant your garden all you need is a box.  Lay the cardboard out on the grass as big as you would like your garden to be.  Put bricks, dirt, rocks anything on it to hold it down.  Let it sit there.  The cardboard over the next couple of months will kill the grass, warm up the soil and bring any earthworms to the surface to start aerating the soil.

In my next post, I will talk about starting those seeds you are going to work on getting your hands on.  If you can not find seeds, start now saving the ones you have in your house.  Do you have that last lonely tomato in the bottom of the fridge?  Cucumber?  Dried beans?  Organic potatoes? Butternut?   Think about what you have around the house now that has seeds in it.  You might be able to us those, make sure the seeds have never been cooked. Raw vegetables only.

wp-1584568653238..jpg

This slice of tomatoes has seeds in it that will grow more tomatoes

Also, to plant a “seed” for future thought.  Most Tractor Supply stores have baby chicks right now, you could control your own egg supply too!  More about that and starting seeds in my next post.

 

This Week’s Meal Plan

Well it is Sunday night again, I am writing my meal plan for the week.  I would love to say that I will blog every Sunday night, but I know myself better than that.  It is a good dream though!  The nice thing about blogging the menus is that I can look it up when I forget what I am suppose to be making or if the cat ate my menu.  It also helps because when people find out we raise our own food, they always ask me what we eat, well read on my friends.

It is winter and what is fresh is limited.  In the garden we are still harvesting fabulous sweet carrots.  They are simply covered with a single piece of plastic and they have survived all the unusual weather so far. We will continue to harvest them as long as we can.  I prefer fresh carrots to frozen or canned.

In the high tunnel, believe it or not, we still have lettuce, chard, kale, radishes and some spinach.  I will be using these throughout the week.

Our freezers are massive, which is a blessing.  However, to be able to get anything out of them I feel like I need a safely line so I don’t fall in.  That being said, my husband does the “shopping” from the freezers each week.  The only requirement is that he picks the oldest meat first and chooses a variety.  This week he choose; Round steak, 2 half chickens, pork butt, frozen peppers, corn and green beans.

We do go grocery shopping at the store, but we try to only buy things we can not produce on our own.  Our family has a horrible addiction to chips and gluten free pretzels, so we buy massive amounts of those.  We also purchase condiments, rice, gluten free bread, some dairy products like cheese, butter and sour cream.

OK back to why I am here, this weeks menu!

Monday: Creamy Tuscan Chicken with Mashed Potatoes, and Broccoli.

First, because we raise all of our own chicken, I never use boneless, skinless anything.  We do not have any sun dried tomatoes, so first thing is I am going to turn the oven up to 400 and pop some frozen tomatoes on a cookie sheet and have them roasting.  Season the chicken with pepper and throw in a cast iron skillet with a little olive oil cover with foil and throw in the oven. Mince 4 gloves of garlic, gather, butter, a pint of stock, 2 cups milk (ours is goats), 1 1/2 cup parm, 1 1/2 cups spinach (rough chopped), Italian herbs, tbsp of flour or cornstarch, your potatoes and the broccoli.  Peel and wash your potatoes, make mashed potatoes how you like.  Steam broccoli.  Pull your chicken out of oven and remove it from pan.  Put pan on stove top, on med heat. De-glaze pan with butter and garlic, cook down spinach. Slowly add in your stock and bring to a boil.  Add flour or corn starch to milk pour in pan. Heat milk till small bubbles appear, add parm and herbs.  When everything starts to thicken, add back chicken and the roasted tomatoes.  Plate up and serve.

Tuesday: Taco Tuesday, with Taco Soup!

We had roast beef on Sunday night, I will cut up the leftovers and make a taco soup in the crock pot.  I will add a quart of stock, some frozen tomatoes, frozen green peppers, corn, green beans, onions, cooked beans, and taco seasoning. Serve with chips, cheese and sour cream.

Wednesday: Swiss Chard and Sausage Quiche, Hash Browns, and Frozen Fruit.

So I brown the sausage and use it for breakfast for the week. I pull some of the browned sausage out of the fridge.  If I had ground beef or bacon I would use that too. I also use whatever cheese I have on hand.  I have parm and cheddar this week, but I have used goat cheese, Italian cheese, and even Swiss cheese.  It is basically eggs, cheese, milk, meat, chard and onions.  It is the ratio that matters.  Sometimes it is crust less, sometimes I use grated potatoes for crust, this week I have left over pie crust frozen from Thanksgiving so I will use that. Heat oven to 375.  Roll out pie crust. In another pan, cook onions, garlic and chard in butter.  Cook till onions are clear and chard is cooked down.  In a bowl mix 4 eggs, 1 cup milk, 2 cups cheese and pepper to taste.  Pour egg mixture in crust, add sausage, chard and onions.  Top with a little more cheese and pepper.  Bake till firm.  Normally about 35-45 mins. While it is cooking my husband will make his hash browns and I will make a fruit salad out of the frozen fruit from the summer.   It is a cool and refreshing treat. Might even throw it in the mixer and make a sherbet type thing.

Thursday: BBQ Pork Butt Steak with French Fries and Pan Seared Radishes.

I am going to cheat this night and cover the pork with a jar of BBQ and hand it to my husband to cook on the grill.  We have a fryer, so I will chop up some potatoes for french fries and pan sear some chopped radishes in butter and garlic powder.

Friday: Cheese Steak Subs, and Salad.

Take the round steak, sear in cast iron skillet.  Throw in crock pot on medium with 2 chopped onions, minced garlic, pepper and a little water.  Cook till done, for me that will be till my husband gets home from work.  He will add sliced frozen peppers and he will slice the beef, then put it back in the crock pot on low till I get home.  We will serve on gluten free bread with provolone cheese and a garden salad.

Saturday: Honey Mustard Chicken with Potatoes and Green Beans.

Preheat oven to 375. To bowl add 1/3 cup course mustard, 1/3 cup honey, tsp garlic powder, tsp onion powder, add chicken.  Pour all of it into a cast iron skillet, add rosemary if you like it and bake till done.  Put some nice size baking potatoes in oven on rack and cook green beans on stove top.  I might throw this in the crock pot if it looks like it is going to be a long day. Wrap the potatoes in foil and put them on top of the chicken. I would quickly cook the green beans when we got home.

Sunday: T-Bone steaks, corn and kale.

I will be handing the steaks to my husband.  I will cook the corn and kale on the stove top. The kale is just butter and diced garlic in a pan cooked till wilted. Love easy dinners.

I hope you all have a great week.  Please let me know below what you have for dinner that is in season, or let me know if you like the recipes.  I received some good feedback from last week, let me know what you think. Enjoy your week and I hope to post soon to bring you up to date on the rest of the farm.

ncm_0267.jpg

 

 

 

Weekly Meal Plan

This evening I wrote out our meal plan for the week.  Something I do often.  I would love to say weekly, but there are weeks I just don’t have it all together.  My husband suggested I post our weekly meal plan, so here I am.

The method to my  madness is this; my husband chooses 6 different cuts of meat from the freezer.  I have a list of what is growing in the garden or what is in the fridge or freezer that has to be used.  I take the meat and the veggies with the help of http://www.pintest.com, I come up with recipes for the week.  You might not have a garden to do this, but you can do this with a sale flyer from your favorite grocery story  or what is available at the local farmers market.

This Weeks Menu

Monday

Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic-Maple Glaze, Apple Sauce and Baked Potatoes.

So take out your potatoes, wash the skins, poke holes in the skin with a fork, place in a 400 degree oven.   Slice brussels sprouts in half and place on a cookie sheet, drizzle with oil, salt and pepper to taste. Place in the oven with the potatoes.  On the stove top reduce 4 tbsp of balsamic vinegar, 3 tbsp of maple syrup till you have a glaze then remove from heat. Pan-Seared Pork Chops:  With a little corn oil heat in an oven safe pan to a medium heat.  Brown the pork chops on both sides in a pan then transfer to the oven to finish cooking, goal is 145 degrees. When you put in the chops, turn the brussels sprouts so they can roast on both sides.   Chop up two gloves of garlic and three sprigs of thyme.  Remove the chops from oven, remove chops from pan and set aside, add two pats of butter to the pan, scraping the lovely bits off the bottom, once butter is melted add  garlic and thyme.  When garlic is soft, add back the chops.  Cover with foil and set aside.  Remove sprouts, top with glaze.  Remove potatoes, serve with a side of apple sauce and eat

Tuesday

Taco Night, Beef Taco Meat with Rice, Beans, Homemade Corn Chips, Lettuce, Salsa, Peppers and Onions.

This one is easy,  brown ground beef, (sometimes we use cube steak), drain and add Taco seasoning.  I cut up peppers and onions and saute in a very little oil, cook beans in the pressure cooker, chop up lettuce and fry corn shells.  This is a quick meal for us, the kids help cook and we all look forward to Tuesday!

Wednesday

Crock-pot Rotisserie Chicken, Pan Cooked Potatoes and Chard Au Gratin.

I cheat with this one too. I take a frozen chicken from the freezer and put it in the crock-pot, top with garlic powder, onion powder, paprika and pepper.  To the crock pot I add a very small amount of water to the bottom, careful to not wash off my seasonings.  The potatoes are washed and peeled.  I pan fry them in butter and oil, not the healthiest but it is worth it for every once and a while.  I cook them till they turn golden brown. The secret is not to turn them too much.  The recipe for Chard Au Gratin is on my site already.

Thursday

Asia Garlic Sirloin, Noodles, Snowpeas, Carrots, and Peppers.

The sirloin has to come out of the freezer the day before.  Chop it into 1 inch cubes when it is thawed then marinade it in 6 garlic cloves, crushed, 1 tbsp fresh grated ginger, 2/3 cup low sodium soy sauce, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup oil and ground pepper.  Put on skews or pan cook it depending on weather.  Once cooked top with sesame seeds and serve over cooked noodles.  I will cook extra marinade for dipping sauce.  Stir fry the veggies and serve.
Love quick Chinese nights.

Friday

Crock-pot Brown Sugar Pork Roast, Rice, Corn, Salad and Roasted Radishes.

Also you have to take out the roast the night before. In the morning sear the roast on high heat on the stove.  Mix together crushed garlic, chopped sage, 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 tbsp corn starch, and salt and pepper to taste.  Place roast in crock pot and pour sauce over top.  Cook for 4-6 hours depending on your crock pot. We cook rice in the rice cooker, pan sear some radishes in butter, garlic and pepper. Lastly heat up some corn.  The salad the kids pick and build from the garden.  Love fresh veggies.  This is a veggie heavy meal because not all of us eat all the veggies, and I want to make sure everyone has at least one veggie. Some of us eat them all!

Saturday

A special reward meal for a kid, so Tacos again!

Sunday

Crock-pot Beef Roast, potatoes, Carrots, and Celery with Gravy.

I take this roast out the night before too, sear it in the pan the next morning.  After searing the beef, clean veggies and rough chop.  Leaving them in large chunks.  I add onions and a little bit of Worcestershire sauce to the meat.  Again put 1/2 cup of water on the bottom, not washing away the sauce.  Cook for 4-6 hours depending on your crock pot.  I will sometimes add potatoes wrapped in foil for those kids that don’t want things to touch.  This is a great Sunday meal, left overs for lunches and my husband can pick at it through out the evening.  If I play my cards right it is done about 2 and I do not have to cook lunch or dinner, score!

This is a picture of our week. I am sorry my recipes are not great, but this was a quick post.  I will work on how to write better recipes.  The problem is I do not really follow recipes and I get ideas for meals from the titles and pictures on pintest.  My husband laughs at me because most of the time if I do read a recipe it is a guideline and I do not follow it anyway.  I made sure I copied the names the way the ideas were posted on pintest if you need to search for the exact recipe.   Meal planning reduces stress for me and helps me mid-week when I have lost brain function.  I hope that this helps you too.

KIMG2591.JPG

 

 

 

 

 

Turkey Bone Leftovers

It is the day after Thanksgiving and you have finally picked all the meat off those turkey bones.  Now what?  Put them in the trash and hope the raccoons don’t get them?  NO!!! Those bones are packed full of vitamins and they still have a use.  Bone Broth!  Take all the bones, skin, turkey neck, whatever you have left over from that bird after you pick the meat off and put it in the crock pot. To the bones add a couple washed carrots, an onion, some celery, and maybe a glove of garlic or two.  Cover the whole thing with water and turn it on high.  Let it cook for at least 24 hours.  Normally, I will let my broth cook for 36 hours.  Then I run the broth through a gravy separator to filter out all the bones, left over veggies and to separate off the fat.  Lastly, I freeze the stock or pressure can it in canning jars.  Preserving the goodness of Thanksgiving to use throughout the year.

This turkey stock or bone broth is an amazing nectar.  When someone in our family is not feeling well, I will make their favorite soup with this broth. It is the base of my potato soup, taco soup, chicken/turkey pot pie, turkey and rice soup, even sausage and kale soup.  My husband and I will drink it plain like tea when we do not feel well.  You can feel the nutrition being absorbed when you drink it.

Our turkeys have spent 6 months eating grass, bugs, and soaking in sunshine.  Below is one of our turkeys helping me harvest tomatoes in the garden.  They are packed with vitamins and I want to respect their life by not letting any of those vitamins go to waste.

KIMG1036

“Cage-Free Pigs”

It is the difficult time of year when we take our pigs to butcher. Part of this emotional process is loading them into the trailer we transport them in.  The pigs get loaded the day before, so that we don’t have wrestle them into the trailer at the last minute.   Yesterday, I was upset because I did not like that my pigs were cramped in the trailer for 24 hours.  My husband offered me a word of, or I guess an article of comfort, that sent me through the roof.

KIMG2733.JPG

New law has just been passed that by the year 2020 California has to make all their animal enclosures “cage-free”.  On the surface that sounds wonderful, but lets dig a little deeper.  Below is the regulation quoted in The News Tribune,

“It requires that, starting in 2020, calves confined for production have at least 43 square feet (4 square meters) of usable floor space, while breeding pigs be given at least 24 square feet (2.2 square meters) of floor space in their pens starting in 2022.

Starting in 2020, egg-laying hens must be been given 1 square foot (144 square inches) of floor space each on the way to being cage-free by 2022.”

According to the new “cage free” regulations, the 14 x 7 trailer that I have the pigs in for less than 24 hours would be enough space to raise 4 pigs in, for their whole life.   FOUR pigs.  A single sheet of plywood is 32 square feet, imagine that in your head.  Go to the hardware store and get a piece of plywood. Put it on the ground and stand in the middle of it.  That single sheet of plywood, would be too big to raise a pig.  As you stand in the middle of that plywood, think about that being all the space you have for your whole short life. After living in a space, less than that sheet of plywood, when that meat goes to market it is labeled cage-free.   CAGE-FREE!  Do you feel CAGE-FREE standing in the middle of that piece of plywood.  Remember, that is  8 square feet more space than the new ” cage-free” standard.

My heart aches.  Our pork is raised slightly different and I am happy to say we do not sport the label of Organic, Free-range, Cage-free, or Humanly Raised.  Our pigs are offered an average of 10,000 square feet of pasture per pig.  Yet when I am asked about my product, the first question is, “is it organic?”  No it is not organic, and it never will be.  There is not a food industry standard high enough to label our products.

KIMG2614

My rant will end with this, please educate yourself.  If you are paying for cage-free or free-range or organic, take the time to know what that means.  Support your local farmers, regardless of the label.  Visit the farm, see how their food is raised. Purchase your food based on that, not on a label.  The label does not mean what you think it means.

 

The Article:

https://www.thenewstribune.com/news/business/article221193020.html

Our Current Season

We are learning that our plans are not always God’s plans.  This year has been very difficult with my health as well as with the weather.  Mud is a very difficult thing to farm in.   The animals have struggled with the mud, the crops have struggled and honestly I have struggled.  Our CSA season was very short.  The garden did not do well at all, you know it is going to be a rough season when you are harvesting pumpkins in July.  I believe God used these struggles to show us that maybe we need to take a step back from trying to make the farm a business.  We love our farm and that is not going to change.  We are going to continue to do almost all of what we are doing, we are just going to cut back to a Homestead Scale instead of a Farm Income scale.

For the next several years we will not be offering a CSA.  We may or may not offer pigs and we are going to be cutting back on our eggs and chickens.  Our focus is going to be raising the food for our family and enjoying our children while they are still here at home with us.

One day, way too soon, my children will be grown and I will get back into making the farm a business.  For now, I am going to focus on growing relationships not vegetables.  We are blessed with amazing children and a wonderful community.  That is our focus.  We will nurture and tend to those relationships, while working the farm for just our family’s food.

Thank you to our many wonderful customers, mentors and friends for your support.

ncm_0969.jpg