Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Winter blooms

It's winter, which means most plants are dormant.
But not my house plants! My Christmas cactus, peace lily, and miniature lime tree are blooming! This is the second year I've had the cactus and lime tree, but the first time the lime has bloomed. The peace lily I received when my friend Cameron died in a motorcycle accident the summer of 2006. My Autozone coworkers went together to buy it for me, along with an angel figurine. This is the first year it has bloomed for me, aside from the blooms that were on it when it was gifted.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Crazy Life

I'm going to warn you up front. If you can't handle knowing how the beef on your table gets there, don't look at this post. After this week, I have a lot more appreciation for my Dad, for butchers, and for the cows we enjoy. 

I'll start from the beginning of this week, to give you an opportunity to stop reading. This was kind of a crazy week. I had a three day weekend due to Veterans Day and we had a couple projects planned. The cow was an unexpected third project that surfaced late in the weekend. The Hubs talked to his sister this weekend and she asked "Don't you guys ever slow down?" Well, no. I have a hard time laying on the couch and relaxing when there is so much that can be done outside. 

Last weekend, we started working on the retaining wall planter beds that will surround the house. The Hubs helped me start the wall - the leveling of the bottom course is the hardest part - and then I spent a lot of time on my knees leveling, stacking, etc. The dirt was surprisingly easy to dig through - we've had a lot of rain lately. Last weekend's weather was really nice for outdoor work. In fact, this was not even a project on the list last weekend. We were supposed to be inside finishing the island so it is more presentable for Thanksgiving dinner, but then decided we couldn't let such a beautiful weekend go to waste. 
The planned project for the weekend was pouring concrete on Monday. My Dad and one of his coworkers came over (my Dad is a concreter), and my brother helped, too. I stood at the end of the driveway and flagged down the concrete trucks. We live 20 minutes out of town, and I had to tell them to back in our driveway, which I'm sure the drivers loved, since we have a hilly driveway. 

Before the concrete, Dad and my brother went out to check on a cow. She had in been in the barnlot for several days because she was slow getting around. One of her legs was hurting her and she was laying down a lot. When they checked on her, she had rolled down the hill, under a barbed wire fence (breaking the lower wire in the process) and was laying down in the main pasture. After we finished concrete, I went to the farm with them to check on the cow. She was still laying down. We tried to help her up, and even tried using the tractor to help her stand and/or move her back into the barnlot. It wasn't working. The cow was in pain; she was scared and nervous. She was old and probably had arthritis.

Dad called around to several processors and they all said the same thing: We can't take a cow after she's been skinned, gutted and quartered. The cow has to walk off the trailer when she arrives. 

We were left with two options: 
1. Let the cow die in pain, and lose all the meat because we have to bury her. 
2. Kill the cow and process her ourselves, so that we don't lose the meat. 

Luckily, the Hubs recently purchased several pieces of equipment because we are processing our own deer this year. Also luckily - the weather was forecasted to be pretty chilly for a few days this week, so the cow could hang and "age" in the shed instead of in a processor's freezer.

After watching several YouTube videos on the subject, we decided we were ready. My Dad got a thermometer from the Vet and her temperature was within the safe range where we didn't need to be concerned about getting sick from eating her. (Keep in mind the biggest thing I'd butchered to this point was roosters. And my Dad had not helped with butchering a cow since he was in elementary school - over 40 years ago.) I must say I have immense respect for the decision my Dad made - I'm not sure I could have made the same decision in his shoes. Taking a life is not an easy choice, not a decision to be made quickly or lightly. This cow had been alive for over a decade and had birthed many calves which were sold over the years. She lived a peaceful life compared to cows in feedlots. She experienced open pastures and had a pretty awesome farmer as her caretaker. 
The Hubs and the Awesome Farmer

I don't know the live-weight of this cow, but it was a lot. Here's a photo of the cow after she was skinned, gutted and be-headed. She hung upside down in the barn from Monday evening until Thursday morning. 
Yes, that is the same tractor that I rode in my wedding.
Even Grandma helped 
We started around 9am on Thursday and finished around 12 hours later. 

I am grateful for the butchers that can mentally do this every day. I could not. This is heartbreaking work, and dangerous tools are required to complete the job - a gun, knives, a meat grinder. (In fact, about 20 minutes into the butchering yesterday, I sliced off a chunk of the knuckle from my left middle finger, about the size of my pinky nail. I spent the rest of the day with my finger wrapped in gauze and one-handedly operating the meat grinder. No, there was no point in going to the ER as there was nothing to sew back on/together.)

I am grateful that we were capable of doing this and that this cow will continue to provide for us for many months.

After this experience, I have a lot more appreciation for how this meat gets from a farmer's field to my freezer. I am convinced that if everyone had to do this, we would have a lot more vegetarians in our world. 

We were not very experienced in butchering, and our tools were not as professional-grade as what you'd find at a meat processors. We only got about 200 pounds of meat from this cow. (And a lot of skin, bones, sinew.) I have a lot more confidence now that if we were required to be self-sufficient, we could be. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


This was my view for most of the afternoon on Saturday. We were following the haybaler in the field, picking up bales. We got 4 wagonloads of bales. Half of two of the loads were lost on the way up the hill - just tipped off the wagon and fell! First time I remember losing that many bales. We came back and got them later. 

Then when we went to put the bales in the barnloft, the track that the hayfork travels on broke loose from the ceiling. We had to manually unload a wagon into the barnloft so we could pick up the last load from the field. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Last week, my brother and I took Freddy with us to the recycling center, and then stopped to get ice cream afterward. Freddy typically only rides in vehicles when he is visiting the Vet to get shots. He doesn't like riding in vehicles - shakes the entire time - and doesn't like the Vet either. We thought if we took him on more car trips, he might like riding in vehicles more.

He has to warm up to the idea. When he first gets in the car, he curls up in a ball on the passenger floor board, shaking. But after we get going, he stands up on his hind legs and looks out the window. And eventually stands on my lap and looks out the window. When my brother and Freddy first arrived at my house, Freddy was sitting on the passenger seat looking out the window.

 I have a lot of love for this pooch. I never knew I could love a dog like this, and I know I'll say that again when I have kids.

These are his "I'm out of ice cream; can I have yours" faces. (And no he couldn't have mine because it was chocolate.)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Making Memories (and Pears)

This weekend, while the men-folk were working on the slab for the Hubs' new shop, Grandma and I peeled and processed pears. We started with the red bucket (fourth photo) full of pears and ended up with 8 processed quarts of quartered and cored pears. 

This is on top of the 11 pints of pear butter and 6 pints of pear sauce, and 3 trays of pear leather I dehydrated. Oh, and the fifth of pear vodka I made. (Recipes to come later)

Grandma peeling pears

 I've decided that standard stove tops were not designed for canning. There is not enough room on a standard stove for a canner, a small pot for lids, and then pots of whatever the item is that's being canned.
Aren't they so pretty?
This weekend, I also pulled up the rest of the garden and removed the electric fence. To make way for the load of cow manure that hopefully will arrive from the farm soon. I pulled up at least 5 gallons of carrots. My plans for them? Blanch, slice and freeze to add to stews and roasts over winter. 
A tray of pear leather, before it was dried.

Some of the pear sauce and pear butter
I think I need to buy stock in Ball and Kerr canning supplies.

It's easy to talk with Grandma about her childhood when we are peeling away. Last weekend she told me about how her and Grandpa first met. Our neighbors were cousins of Grandpa's, and they told Grandpa about Grandma. He just stopped by one day and introduced himself, and then they started "dating". Dating meant attending church dinners and movies. Grandma said they used to have a brownish-red dog at the farm, and on the night that Grandpa first introduced himself the dog disappeared. Does that mean that Grandpa scared the dog away, or that he accidentally ran over the dog and disposed of him? We'll never know!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Feeding the garden

Today I harvested a cuke, an acorn squash, and lots of tomatoes.

I also gave a fertilizer spike to each fruit and nut tree, fertilized around the blueberries, cherry bushes, blackberries and raspberry. You read correctly, the blackberries (4 out of 5) and one golden raspberry are finally growing. I have 3 red and 3 golden raspberries in the ground which have already been replaced by Burgess once. I think I'll call the rest a loss and look for potted raspberries at the end of this season or early next year. (Or if anyone knows where I can get raspberries free for the taking...?) For more blackberries, I'm going to transplant some from the farm.

The North Star cherry tree (sour cherry) is officially dead. I started snapping branches to see if any were alive and green, and they all snapped off dead... I'm going to attempt to replace it at Sunny Hill, since I still have the receipt from last October, but I'm not expecting them to replace it. Turns out, there is a 5 year myke warranty tag on the tree. I don't remember being offered that warranty, which requires the purchase of a package of mycorrhizae, otherwise I would have purchased it. (I was offered that warranty when I bought our Christmas tree and bought it.)

I checked on the pear tree that came with the property today, and the pears are still hard as rocks. I'm not sure what variety the pear is, but it looks similar to Red Barlett, D'Anjou and Seckel on wikipedia: green with a red blush. The pears are smaller than Bartletts I've seen.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Garden Report 8.25.13

Sorry for the blurry picture, but at least I remembered to photograph!

Yesterday morning I harvested green and yellow beans, cucumbers, a yellow squash, tomatoes, tomatillos, beets, peppers and the last of the onions. I'd say it was a pretty successful harvesting. I think I'm going to make another cherry tomato pie, but maybe with mozzarella instead of chevre.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Garden Report 8.19.13

I've fallen a little behind with the garden report.... Not because there's not anything coming out of the garden, but I've had other things to do...
 Last week we made tacos with chorizo from the Butcher Block, pico with tomatoes, onion and cilatro from the garden, and fiesta corn made with onions from the garden, corn from the farmer's market.

 There's been a steady stream of green beans.
And tons of tomatoes. Not enough to can, but almost too many to eat fresh.

We got 1-3/4" of rain yesterday afternoon and evening, so it will be awhile before I get back in the garden again. There are tons of tomatoes and peppers ready again!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Last 2 weeks of harvest + Looking forward

 Tomatillos, black cherry tomatoes, yellow pear tomatoes, red zebra tomatoes, romas, green beans, soybeans, and a cucumber
 Peaches, bell pepper, onion, shallots, parsnips and carrots
Tomatillos, cucumber and green beans

With these tomatillos, I made a sauce served over chicken thighs and brown rice with sliced avocado and sour cream. 

 Yesterday I was driving up the driveway and looked off to the left and out of nowhere, there is a pear tree loaded with pears. Not a pear I planted, but one that came with the property. I guess we didn't notice it last year because it was so dry? I also noticed 2 more persimmon trees, which gives me 4 total persimmon trees. MMMmmm. Can hardly wait for fall!

Friday, July 26, 2013


Our bedroom windows face east and south, which I love because it's bright in the morning. But I hate because it's bright in the morning (difficult to sleep in). 

I bought these curtains and the curtain rods at Target. The curtains are Eclipse Fairfax Thermaweave in Tan. They are supposed to be "black-out" curtains and block out over 90% of the light. After I got home, I read the reviews and was concerned that they might not actually block out that much light. The reviews on Target are really negative. 

But here's our experience:

Curtains closed

Curtains open
I don't know about you, but I'd say they work. There will be better sleeping in on the weekends.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Cherry Tomato Pie

I knew from the get-go that this year would not be a year of "tomato crazy", when tomatoes in the garden were so plentiful they were driving me nuts. This is the first year gardening at our new house, and we didn't have time to get manure from the farm before I started planting. (This fall though, is a different story. And hopefully next year's garden will be so bountiful I'm giving produce away!)

Even though I'm not growing tons of tomatoes, a good friend at work is, possibly due to the loads of horse manure she incorporated into her raised beds. So she gifts plenty of tomatoes to me and others at work. The August issue of Better Homes & Gardens has a recipe for Cherry Tomato Pie, which inspired my version. I'll note at the end of the recipe which changes I made.

Cherry Tomato Pie (my version)

Crust: (Pat in the Pan crust from Joy of Cooking)
1-1/2 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp dried basil
1/2 c butter (1 stick)
2-3 Tbsp heavy cream

Mix the flour, basil and salt together. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender. Mix in the cream.

Dump onto a floured surface and need about 10 times. Then pat into a 9" tart pan, on the bottom and up the sides of the pan.

Bake the crust by itself for about 10 minutes at 375.

6 strips bacon, fried
2/3 c grated Parmesan
1 yellow onion, diced
1/4 c fresh basil, finely chopped
2 sprigs oregano, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 oz Chevre
1/4 c Miracle Whip
4 c +/- cherry tomatoes, cut the larger ones in half and leave smaller ones whole

Fry the bacon until crispy. Remove bacon from the pan to drain. Keep about 2 Tbsp of the bacon grease in the pan and use it to saute the diced onion until tender.

In a bowl, mix together 1/2 c of the Parmesan, herbs, salt and pepper, Chevre and Miracle Whip.

Arrange the bacon around the edge of the tart pan, as a second layer of "crust".

Then spread the herb-cheese mixture into the tart pan, then cover with the onions, and then the cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan on top.

Bake for 35 minutes at 375.

This is approved for breakfast, lunch,or dinner. Delicious when warm, but also chilled.

What's different:
1. The original recipe called for 2 layers of refrigerator pie crust instead of the homemade crust.
2. The original recipe called for 4 oz cream cheese instead of Chevre.
3. The original recipe used mayo instead of Miracle Whip (but I like the tangy zip!)
4. I added oregano because I had some fresh.
5. The original crust recipe does not have herbs.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Garden Report 7.16.13

I'm a little behind on posting photographs from this weekend....

I picked lettuce (a lot of which has bolted), pulled beets, carrots and a couple parsnips. There are still a lot of carrots and parsnips in the ground, but I pulled some to see if they were actually producing anything. Surprisingly they were, unlike the radishes that didn't have anything worth eating...

I also dug the potatoes. The tops had all died back and I was afraid there wouldn't be any potatoes, but we had about 3 -4 potatoes for every 1 potato that I planted. In their place, I'll plant some more sweet corn.

We stopped by the farmer's market on Saturday morning and I got a peck of peaches. I made 7 half-pint jars of jam, and a peach tart, and still have almost a whole box left. I've been eating a lot of fresh peaches and making lots of smoothies.

For dinner on Sunday, I sauteed potatoes, and another pan of potato and parsnip "fries". Everything tasted so great - possibly even better since it was home grown.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Garden Report 7.7.13

 Saturday I picked several more peppers.
 Check out the pepper plant on the far right. It used to have leaves. All the other plants around it have leaves.  I don't see any animal tracks or bugs. Strangest thing ever.
 This was an experiment this year. The tomato on the left I planted in the garden from seed at the same time that I set out the tomato plant on the right. I started several Dinner Plate tomatoes inside, but only one survived. I want more of them. We'll see how it measures up to the transplants.
 The first green beans are appearing!!!There are at least two in this photo (Where's Waldo?)
I started buying herbs directly from Frontier Coop. When I lived in Springfield MO, the organic store there sold these spices in bulk - you scooped out however much you needed and they sold by the ounce. There is a health food store here, too, and I would like to keep my tax dollars local. However, when I can get the herbs and spices shipped to my door for less than what I can buy them locally, I have hard time justifying. Even after shipping, it was cheaper to buy them online. I bought a pound each of: Himalayan Pink Salt, Ground Cumin, Cinnamon, Chili Powder, Garlic Granules and Onion Soup Mix. The salt, cumin, chili, and garlic will be gone in less than 6 months. We eat a lot of Mexican inspired dishes...

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Music to my Ears

This afternoon I spent some time at the farm. (Of course) Playing with Freddy. And picking blackberries.

Freddy likes to play in the cow pond. It is a rather muddy pond, full of catfish, and sometimes water snakes and snapping turtles. But today Freddy and the cows in the adjacent field were the only wildlife to be seen. My brother throws the tennis ball in the pond and then Freddy belly flops into the water after the ball to retrieve it. He steps out of the water and drops the ball inches from the edge (most of the time it rolls back into the water) and then positions himself for another fetch. Most of the time today was spent with his leash on, since the cows were nearby and he likes to take off after the cows. Then the cows moved on and we decided to try without the leash. Although Freddy was not up for that. We disconnected the leash and threw the ball and he would just stand there on the shore. Not sure if he liked having the leash as a safety-net or what, but if we reattached the leash he would fetch the ball. Next time I need to video the whole fetching, because it is quite hilarious.

Then I picked blackberries and had 8 cups of fresh berries. I brought them home with the intention of making Blackberry Slump and then decided I should preserve them instead. I now have 6 pints of blackberry jam cooling on the counter. (Couldn't find the half-pint jars - they are still packed in the garage somewhere...)

This year I bought a jar of pectin instead of boxes. Which was a great idea because I can make whatever size of batch I desire, but the directions were all on the back of the label and the label did not want to cooperate. So I had to find directions online. This is the coolest website ever. You select what type of fruit you're preserving, whether it's jelly or jam, and what type of pectin you're using. Then it gives you a chart of how much fruit, sugar and pectin is required for X number of jars. No math required!
Dear friend Mr. Water Bath Canner  - I look forward to seeing you A LOT this year!
Nothing better than the sound of can lids "popping" closed right after being pulled from the water bath canner.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Garden Report 7.4.13

Well this is a little late for an update, but better late than never.

Last week our taco night did not go as well as planned. Turned out the Hubs bought the wrong cut of meat, and even though the marinade was delicious, the meat was almost too tough to chew. Luckily we also grilled a tri-tip roast and deer steaks, and those served as taco fillings quite nicely. We used the chewy meat in breakfasts for a few days - cut up in very small pieces and mixed in with fried potatoes, topped with an overeasy egg. And I wonder why my cholesterol is high...? At least that's not my "everyday" breakfast - during the week my breakfast is whole grain cereal with fresh fruit.

The peppers and onions that were sides for the tacos included the above pictured peppers, fresh from the garden.

While some plants in the garden seem to be doing really well, others are stunted and looking a little sad. Turns out the corn and potatoes needed phosphate, and the beans need potassium. I fertilized the corn, potatoes and root vegetables with phosphate, and gave the latest planting of beans and corn a dose of the 10-10-10 fertilizer. I really hate using fertilizer, but I also realize the plants need to eat like I do. And since the garden is brand-spanking new this year, and we didn't get any organic matter (translation: cow shit) mixed into it yet, fertilizer will have to do.

These websites have been very helpful in diagnosing garden issues:

Last weekend I planted an azalea. I incorporated peat moss into the hole, and fertilized with the Root & Bloom fertilizer, and Sulfur. While I had the sulfur out, I gave a dose to the blueberries as well.

Saturday, June 29, 2013


Tonight we're having taco night at our house. We're making carne asada on the grill and all kinds of fixings. We're using the same marinade that the Hub's sister used when we went camping Memorial Day weekend, Tyler Florence's Mojo Marinade:
juice of 1 orange
juice of 2 limes, plus their zest
1/2 c olive oil
2 Tbsp vinegar
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
4 cloves garlic, diced
handful of cilantro, roughly chopped

I tweaked it a little by adding the zest.

For dessert, I made Oreo Pie, from a recipe given to me at my bachelorette party by a college friend.

This morning I went over to the farm to check on the bees. I was going to add another super, and had it all put together and ready to go. But then I checked on the bees and the super we added a couple weeks ago had barely been touched. So I rearranged the supers, to put the empty one below a full one. I think we might harvest honey this year (fingers crossed)!

While at the farm, I also played with Freddy. We played fetch with the tire. I brushed him. I asked him to sit and smile, and he rolled over on his side:

I asked a second time and got this:
He's probably thinking "Mom, just throw the damn tire already!"

He's such a smart dog. Handsome, too. And ornery.

And a kitchen update:
Please excuse the construction equipment beside the food...
We started putting our island together again last weekend. The wall on the backside for the bar was installed, as well as the bar top. We decided to go with butcher block countertops. I've been rubbing them down with a butcher block conditioner that I bought at Menards. Construction is on hold because we're still debating on putting an electric outlet in - which requires chiseling out the floor and connecting the new outlet to the existing outlet by the dishwasher.
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