Tag Archive | homesteading

June’s A Jumpin

I was talking with a friend this morning and I reviewed the list of things that I would be doing today, it goes something like this:

Breakfast, coffee, devotional, animal chores, plant crop of corn, cook breakfast for this kids, start them on their school work, process 30 pounds of strawberries, laundry, mop and wipe down kitchen after making jam, cook lunch, help kids with more school, clean up, work in garden till 6, cook dinner, eat dinner, clean up dinner, help with evening chores, bath children, shower, and pass out!

As I look at that list, a few things change from day to day, like I might weed instead of plant corn, or process beets instead of strawberries, but this is my day.  No wonder I do not have time to keep my blog up to date!  The difficult thing with never leaving work is you never leave work.  I never get to say “Ok, Im done for the day”.  The minute you do that a chicken gets out or someone throws up.  I do however, need to find a way to write more.  So here I am relaxing, thank you for listening.

The pigs have arrived!  They are doing great, we were able to move them out of their baby pen and into the field this week.  They are loving the grass and the open space.  Their names are Ketchup, Mustard and Relish.  We keep saying that we are going to have a race, like they do at the baseball game but it has not happened yet.  These pigs are just as sweet and lovable as our last ones and we are just head over heals in love with this breed.  It is looking more and more like pigs will become a forever animal on our farm.  Within the next year or two we will get a breeding pair to guarantee we always have this breed around.

 

We are almost down with our spring meat birds.  One batched has already gone to butcher and the second batch will go in about 2 weeks.  This is the first year we have really been able to put them out on pasture and we are, as always, learning new things.  The major learning curve this year has been predators.  We have lost many birds, to raccoons and fox this year.  The fox is continuing to be a problem, we have trapped some, but electric fencing around the outside of everything seems to be our only solution.  We have added many small fence chargers for the moveable bird pens and for the pigs and goats.  This seems to be working but we still live in fear.

Lastly, we are happy to announce that we received our cost share grant from  Soil Conservation.  It has been a long, very long process and we are not done yet, but they did tell us we have been approved.  We are excited to start the next step which is planning, estimates, building and yet more paperwork.  It is worth it!  I can not wait to be able to open up those fields and let the animals run.

Alright, enough relaxing for me, time to start chores.  I hope you have a great day!

 

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Buying a side of Pork

So we are starting a new chapter on the farm, we are selling sides of pork.  We loved raising pigs last year and this is something we are going to expand on.  I hope we continue to love it!

 

Pork Cuts Vintage Vintage blackboard cut of pork

the picture is from imgarcade.com

This is the email that I sent out to inform people about what it means to buy a side of pork.  I hope that it is helpful to you as well, even if you do not buy from us.

Hello,
Thank you for expressing an interest in buying Pork from our farm.  This email has a lot of information in it but if you still have questions please feel free to call me.  Most of the people that we sell to are friends and family or friends of friends and family.  We love you all and will not judge you one way or another if you decide not to buy from us, this is not for everyone, we understand that and will continue to love you no matter what!

About our Pigs: Our pigs are Gloucestershire Old Spots, a heritage breed of pig that is an original homesteading pig breed from England.  These pigs were almost extinct in 1990 in the United States but are making a come back now through awareness and education.  This breed thrives on pasture, has an amazing personality, is easy to handle and the meat tastes great!  We raise our pigs on grass, not concrete like most pork is raised.  They play in the mud and sunbath.  They are given as much pasture as they want, but are fed grain as well, they are not 100% pasture raised. They are also given treats like veggies from the garden and they love apples and watermelon.

When buying a half an animal you pay the farmer for the animal, the farmer transports the animal to the butcher for you, and then you pay the butcher for the custom processing.  Buying pork in bulk can sometimes be confusing, especially if you’ve never bought your meat this way. You want to think about what cuts of pork you and your family like to eat. In the Spring, you might be thinking about grilling meats, but remember to think ahead to the fall and winter when you might cook more roasts and stews. The butcher vacuum packs the pork and it will keep in the freezer for a year or more. When you buy a side of pork, you are the one that calls the butcher and tells them how you want the meat packaged and processed.  How big do you want your pork chops?  How many pounds of ground pork do you want in one package?  How big do you want your roasts / ham?  Do you want it cured or left uncured?  Buying this way gives you more control over your food.

Lets talk Money: The cost is $4.25 per pound of hanging weight to the farmer (which is me!), and the custom processing costs to the butcher.  The processing costs varies slightly depending on what you want but it is about $80 give or take depend on the size of the pig. The price is based on the hanging weight of the pig, which is the weight after the head, feet and organs have been removed, but before it has been butchered into usable cuts. We estimate that the hanging weight of a side of our pork will be between 70 and 100 lbs. That equates to about $400 for a side of pork, plus the $80 to the butcher. Add those together and that is the per pound cost of the meat.  To compare it to the cost at the store, look at the price for a pork loin, ground pork, bacon, ribs, ham and chops; average all that together and you will get an idea of how the price per pound compares.
You pay $200 now to me as a deposit and the remaining $4.25 per pound to me when we find out the hanging weight.  You pay the butcher directly when you pick up your meat.

Cuts of Pork
There are five specific sections to a hog, two of each section if you’re buying a whole hog, or one of each if you’re buying a side:

– Loin
– Belly
– Ham
– Shoulders
– Ribs

This is a rough picture of what you can get, it changes depending on the size of the pig and how you want it processed: 6 pounds of bacon, 7 pounds of rope sausage, 16 pounds of ground pork, 6 pounds of shoulder roast, 4 pound loin, 9 pound ham, 4 pounds ham steaks, 9 pounds pork chops, 1 smaller pork loin, 4 pounds spare ribs, 1 1/2 pound spare ribs, and 1 1/2 pound baby back ribs.

Ok, I know that was a lot of information.  Please, please let me know if you have any questions!  I currently am picking up 3 baby pigs at the end of April.  I already have 1 1/2 reserved.  If you are interested please let me know so I make sure I have enough.

Still Learning

I wanted to set the record straight, right here and right now.  I know nothing about Homesteading! My husband and I have a dream.  We want to be food indepenant.  We want to live simplier lives and be good stewards of the gifts that we have been given.  This dream has grown and changed over the years leading us to where we are now, a small homestead.  Our dream has been fueled by fellow bloggers, Mother Earth News, YouTube, food sensitivities and a general love for dirt among other things. After growing food, composting, raising chickens, rabbits and fish for the past 3-5 years, I think it is still safe to say we have no idea what we are doing. 
I watched a documentory about Market Gardening and the woman said “how do you become an expert at something you only every do, maybe 50 times”.  That really resinated with me. Think about it, we are in our 30’s right now, if I grow potatoes for the next 50 years I will have only grown potatoes 50 times.  It is said that it takes doing something 30 times for it to become a habit.  How many times do you have to do something to become an expert? I am certain that I will never stop learning and I will never be an expert.
Now that we own our dream homestead, everything we are doing is new.  Even silly things like planting in the ground… I have never done that.  The only successfull gardening I have ever done has been in raised beds.  I do not know how to plant seeds in the ground!  This year is a perfect example of that inexperience.  All of our plants died.  I did not know to ask the previous farmer how much fertilizer he put on the field this Spring.  Who would know to ask that, it was just field grass. Well, weeks before we took over the property, he put the strongest fertilizer you can buy on the land and killed all my seedlings.  I just thought, “wow, you are really bad at this planting in the ground stuff”.

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Currently, we have 46 chickens and 7 ducks.  I have never owned this many chickens.  I honestly have no idea what I am doing.  We have read all the books, gone to workshops, researched online, but when it comes down to it, we have never done this before.  At this point I am just praying we do not get the bird flu and lose all our birds.
Within 3 weeks of closing on the farm, I decided it was the perfect time to get baby goats.  We have never owned baby goats, we had no structure to keep them in and no fences, we obviously needed goats.  I know nothing about goats, this is a fly by the seat of your pants, learn as you go operation.  With a lot of hard work from my husband, I can now say the goats have a great run in building and a fenced in yard. Currently are doing very well, but I have no idea what winter will bring.
Before closing on the farm, I contacted a pig breeder, because what you really need when you move to a farm with no buildings and no fences and no idea what you are doing, is pigs.  The pigs arrived a month after the goats and here it is 1120 at night and I am up researching how to raise pigs.  They are currently 5 months old, some people would have tried to figure things old before they bought them, but I am a fly by the seat of your pants kind of girl.

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So consider this your warning.  If you are coming here for experience and absolute education, this is not the site for you.  If you would like to come along side my family as we learn, please take my hand and we can jump in together. 

Beef Brisket

My husband told me that I needed to post more about our everyday life.  So today is just an ordinary Tuesday and I just put dinner in the oven. Tonight because I need to go to the grocery store, I am just using what I have on hand.  Tonight it is beef brisket.  Yes, I have beef brisket on hand.  We order 1/2 side of beef a year, every March. Ok stepping on my SOAP BOX: To make good meals, you need to start with good food. We grow our own or buy local as much as possible.  The beef that we buy, we know the name of the farm, we know the name of the farmer, the vet that takes care of the cows, the name of the cow, heck I know the name of the cow’s mother! I know where my beef comes from, that is so important.  It is really important to our family because there was this incident when stores where spraying their ground beef with red dye to make it look fresher, my husband is allergic to red dye.  I know 100% for a fact that there is no red dye in my beef!  Plus, I get a better price per pound than the store, plus, plus, I am helping small local farmers.  It is a win, win, win all around.This is the farm we choose to support, Family A’Fair Farm like them on Facebook to follow what they are up to.  OK stepping off soap box.

This time of year,  I always seem to have the higher end cuts left at the end of our “beef year”.  I think that I am going to use them for Birthdays or Anniversaries, but I never do.  So here it is the end of February and I am almost out of ground beef and chicken.  So we are having beef brisket on a Tuesday! Let’s get cooking.

If I was organized and planned my life out perfectly, I would have taken this brisket out of the freezer yesterday. I know I am committing culinary sin by not marinating my meat, but I function in the real world and I honestly am proud of myself for thinking about dinner before 4:30.  Also, like I said, I need to go shopping and we are at the end of a “storage” season.  I am out of my canned tomato sauce, I am out of chicken, out of ground beef, running low on onions, BBQ sauce, stock… the list just goes on.  I am so ready for spring and the food abundance that it brings.  Anyway, I threw together this brisket with what I had in the fridge, so pardon my unclear measurements.

My last minute marinade, is the last of the BBQ sauce that I have in the fridge, plus some water to make sure I cleaned out every drop of sauce.  1/2 a cut up onion, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 2 tbsp mustard, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 3 cloves of garlic (various sizes, about 1/2 tbsp garlic), 4 tbsp blush wine, plus some for myself, and yes it is after noon somewhere.  I also added cracked pepper and some paprika, I have no idea how much, just till it looked right.  I stirred all this together and poured it over my half frozen, un-marinated brisket in a 8×11 baking dish and covered with tin foil.

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I threw the whole thing in the oven on 275.  The high temp today outside is suppose to be 10 degrees, so I was OK with running the stove for a couple of hours. If I did not want the stove on, I would have put this in the crock pot this morning.

I am going to serve this brisket with gluten free no yeast rolls that I making from scratch, hand cut french fries and whatever green vegetable I can find in the freezer. I think it will be green beans, again my stock is running low!

I tried to add a recipe card, but I am having software problems.  I will update final pictures of the meal and a recipe card later this evening.
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Baby Bunnies

Today began like any other day, I made breakfast and got my husband ready to go to work.  It was cold this morning and lightly snowing.  I asked him to bring in a load of wood and to check on our expecting momma rabbit, Aurora.  He returned from the yard with 4 ice cold baby bunnies. In the past I would have just said that they were dead and put them in the trash.  However, since the last time we had cold babies,  I have been told over and over again a baby is not dead until it is warm and dead.  So I did what any normal person would have done and stuffed the bunnies in my bra until I could get the heating pad warmed up.

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I folding the heating pad in half and put them inside like a taco.  I rubbed the outside of the heating pad trying to stimulate them. About 5 minutes passed and I noticed that one of the babies was starting to wiggle.  My heart skipped a beat.  I had no idea when these babies were born or how long they had been outside of the nesting box.  I never expected them to be alive!  It took about 20 minutes, but three out of the four babies came to after being rubbed and warmed up.

My husband brought a large tote with pine shavings, hay, the nesting box, food, water bowl and Aurora into the house.  We are getting a winter storm today and I wanted to be able to keep a close eye on these precious babies.  Aurora is one of my proven does.  She does great in the summer, she is the rabbit that lives in my garden.  She is slightly spoiled rotten, she lives in the two story hutch with a nesting area that does not require a nesting box.  During the summer, she never drags any babies out of the nesting area and she is a wonderful momma.  In the winter, we move her out of the garden and into the Bunny Barn.  She does not like this idea.  In the Bunny Barn she struggles with babies.  I think that the nesting boxes are just not the right size for these large breed rabbits.  She pulls fur and makes a great nest, but always ends up with babies outside the box. Last winter she did not have any successful winter litters.  We will keep her inside the house just long enough to make sure the babies are doing OK and then I will take her back outside, hopefully by then the storm will have passed.

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Bringing Aurora in the house was a shock to her so I helped her feed the babies the first time.  I am hoping that she will calm down and be able to feed them herself, but right now I know those babies are very hungry and can use some cuddle time with Mom.  I flipped Aurora on her back and she let the babies lay on her stomach and nurse.  It was very cute.   I am thankful for the three babies that we were able to save.  I think this litter will always have a special place in my heart.

Sunday Success

I am very happy to announce that I have finally tattooed a rabbit. If you have been following my blog you will see that I have really struggled with tattoos.  I mean that it has become something that has haunted me.  I sell rabbits never knowing if the tattoo was actually going to work.  I am very grateful that everyone I have sold to has been very understanding of my deficiencies.  I have purchased multiple tattooing tools, still no luck.  Finally, I changed ink and eureka I have a tattoo.  I purchased Speed Ball India Ink Super Black from amazon.  Another rabbit breeder suggested it to me.  I am so thankful that it worked.  I know it seems like a simple task but is was really frustrating.

Now that we successfully tattooed this little buck we were able to separate him from his Momma and sisters.  We have several rabbits that are for sale and whenever I worry about running out of cages, buyers show up, so I am patiently waiting for that to happen again.

Today is the shortest day of the year, winter solstice, time to plant garlic.  I keep garlic cloves in my refrigerator, I know that they will last in the pantry as well, but in the refrigerator they last for a year or more.  These are cloves are from 2013 so I am really hoping they grow well, they had started to sprout in the frig.  I planted them in a deep bed of straw and rabbit manure.  I hope this will give them the protection they need from the hard freezes but still allow them to grow large bulbs.  wpid-img_20141221_154243.jpg

We are continuing to work like elves on our homemade Christmas gifts.  Our family is really simplifying our Christmas traditions and the one thing that we all agreed on, is that we do not need as many gifts.  My kids are truly amazing, but that is a book for a different day.  Anyway, we decided to have two gifts, one store bought and one homemade.  All of the gifts I am giving this year are sewn.  Below there are pictures of one of the puppets I am making for my son and the felt pretend pie I made for my daughter.  I hope they enjoy them.  I am unable to post what I am making for my husband because he occasionally reads my blog and I do not want to give it away.

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On a sad note we lost another chicken to a hawk. We are hoping that early in Spring when the ground thaws we will build a new chicken yard.  We need one that has wire on the top, we found bird netting is horrible to work with.  We would like to have a chicken yard and rabbit grow out pen together.  I have heard that the rabbits and the chickens enjoy each others company.  When the rabbits where in with the chickens in the past we did have larger litters, we will have to see if there is truly any connection between the two.

On a happy note, we are looking for some land to rent so that next year we can not only grow more of our food, but also food for our friends that really would like more of our veggies.  A couple of CSA families is my dream for the future.  I would like to eventually have a larger property and support my love of farming with a handful of CSA subscriptions.

That is all for now.    Merry Christmas to you all from Our Family to Yours.

Tomato Sauce

I think that I have finally found a recipe for tomato sauce that works for us and that I just love. I am honestly writing this post for me just as I am writing it for you. I have a very bad habit of tweeking a recipe to get it just the way I like it and then forgetting what I did. I am writing to down now for all the world to see so that I do not forget it.

As you know I do not have as much of a garden as I would like. I get a couple pounds of tomatoes a week but never 45 pounds like the Ball recipe calls for to make tomato sauce. I have created a recipe that uses just 6 pounds of tomatoes. I call it a recipe for normal people. It makes two quart jars of sauce. It is not as much sauce as the big recipes make, but it is the best way for me to preserve my harvest and enjoy tomato sauce year round.

My small batch tomato sauce. Makes 2 quarts

6 pounds of Romas or San Marzano Tomatoes. (I grow San Marzanos and I love them and I am never going back to another variety.)

1/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon of onion powder

1/2 tablespoon of garlic powder

1 tablespoon of mince onion

1 tablespoon of basil

1 tablespoon of molasses

2 tablespoons of lemon juice or 1/2 tsp of citric acid (This is per quart jar and it does not go in till you are ready to put the lids on to can them)

 

I wash my San Marzanos and I cut them in half, remove the core and any seeds that are there. The great thing about San Marzano is that there is very little seeds. They are a very dry tomato and there is not much “jelly” as my kids call it, on the inside. I put all the washed and sliced tomatoes in my stock pot.  I add all my seasoning and put it on the stove to simmer.  I start out at a low temp because I do not want any to burn on the bottom of the pan.  Once the tomatoes start to liquify I then increase the heat to about medium heat.  I let them simmer for about a half in hour.  Once all the tomatoes are soft I then use the immersion blender and create a perfectly smooth liquid.  Yes you read these instructions correctly. I do not take the skin off my tomatoes, I like the added texture, nutrition and it does not waste as much of my precious tomatoes.  Once it is blended I let it simmer till it reaches the thickness I like in a sauce.  I like my sauce to stick to my spoon so there are times it simmers for an hour.  There are times there is less moisture in the tomatoes and it only simmers for 1/2 an hour.  Either way you can simmer it till it is the thickness you like.  Place the sauce in two clean and warm quart jars, I put mine in the dishwasher, and add your acid, either from lemon juice or citric acid. Put your canning lids on and water bath can them for 40 minutes or pressure can them at 11psi for 15 min. (This is based on our altitude and the Presto Canner guide instructions.)

I hope that you enjoy this sauce as much as our family does.  There is just something special about opening a can of sauce that you made, I love it.  Enjoy the rest of your canning season!