Our baker

We don’t live close to an Einstein Brother’s Bagels. We don’t live close to a Panera bread. But we don’t miss them. Because our lovely daughter/sister keeps us supplied with yummy baked goods to fill our cravings for carbs. Everything Bagels!!

Didn't they turn out lovely?!

Didn’t they turn out lovely?!

Strawberry Fields Forever

Shortcake. Smoothies. Ice cream. Frozen. Popsicles. Jam. Pie. Sun-ripened, right out of the field.  Is there any shortage of ways to enjoy this delicious fruit?IMG_1348Every year we pick berries at the same place. The farm has been in the family since the 1800’s, I’m told. We are happy to visit with the owners every year. They are happy to see how much the kids have grown since last time.IMG_1349 We pack a picnic and enjoy the circle of shade trees and beautiful setting. I know how much work goes into keeping a place neat and tidy. I appreciate the work this farmer puts into his place. It is a relaxing, welcoming environment. I’m never tempted to pick berries anywhere else. IMG_1355The picking is fast. The berries are huge, but more importantly, delicious. What a welcome, tasty preview of harvesting fresh food this season. Strawberries are always the first fruit we pick every year.

Berry Bellah

Berry Bellah

Even the little boys filled up their flat in no time. We tried some new recipes this year. IMG_7911Chia seed, sugar free, pectin free jam. And jam made using Pomona sugar free pectin. Using the honey from Jeremie’s bees, this jam will be a healthy treat for us all year long. IMG_7910

The perfect hard boiled egg

The perfect hard boiled egg is not boiled at all, it seems. It is steamed. Fancy that!! My family loves deviled eggs. I mean each kid could eat a dozen without batting an eye. But usually it is so difficult to peel the hard boiled eggs! And if I used our fresh eggs then it was even harder. Sometimes I even resorted to buying store bought eggs, just to ensure that they were a couple months old. Because I had read that really fresh eggs wouldn’t peel nicely, no matter what.  I was perusing pinterest the other day and came across an article that recommended steaming eggs, instead of boiling them. It just so happens that tomorrow we are going to a dinner and have volunteered to bring deviled eggs :) It was the perfect time to try out this new-fangled method. Lo and behold! It works! I put the eggs in the steamer basket insert of my large stock pot. A metal colander would work as well. After the water came to a boil, I put the lid on for 25 minutes. After the timer rang, I rinsed the eggs with cold water to cool them down immediately. Voila’ – the perfectly peeled egg. Dozens of them. Ready to be deviled. Such an easy trick! Now, I only have to remember not to over-salt the filling. Right, Joyful Mother?IMG_7078

These are fresh from the coop, my friends! Didn’t they peel beautifully?

 

More than a steak

Remember my favorite gift last Christmas? The meat hook? I have this thing… I want to know how to cut up an animal into usable meat. Maybe it’s because I have to feed so many people. Maybe it’s because we all like to eat meat so much. Maybe it’s just another feather in my homesteading hat. But for whatever reason, I am intent on learning more about meat, grass-fed, organic, hormone free, healthy meat. How to produce it. How to process it. How to sell it. IMG_20150310_205305174We are fortunate to have a meat processor within minutes of us, who is USDA certified. Meaning we can sell our meat, that has been processed there, directly to consumers. There are only 12 in the entire state. And this processor is familiar with and a believer in holistic farm/animal management. Meaning one pays attention not only to animal production, but also to soil health, water management, animal health, basically all the components of a healthy farm. In the middle of the country, in the middle of hundreds of conventional farms, what an absolute jewel our processor is. We attended a class put on by the extension office of University of Tennessee, hosted by our local processor. We learned all about marketing beef direct to the consumer via farmers markets, or directly off the farm. We learned all about how much meat you will actually see from an animal. We learned about what kinds of cuts are available, where they come from and how best to cook them.IMG_20150310_211825194 We learned all this AFTER a fabulous meal provided by the host. Imagine.. a prime rib from a local grass fed Piedmontese steer, cold smoked, then cooked to a perfect shade of pink, drizzled with its own juice, so tender it cut with a plastic fork. That is what was set before us. And bacon? There was a bowl of bacon next to the salad, real bacon folks, about 7 inches high.Must have taken at least 10 pounds of bacon to fill that bowl. After that delicious meal, you can bet we were all eager to hear everything they taught us about raising such a product ourselves. A lot of the class was taught via slides on an overhead projector. But then we were able to go into the cutting room and see an actual steer so we could see exactly where the cuts were coming from. See exactly how much fat you want to leave on the carcass. See exactly how it’s done. We were not born farmers. We fail more often than not. But we are learning. And taking advantage of every opportunity we can to learn and share stories with others that know more than we do.

DIY ACV

If you’ve been around the “health food” world for any amount of time you have heard all about raw apple cider vinegar and how miraculous it is! Improve digestion! Boost metabolism! Regulate blood sugar! Balance your skin’s PH! Knock out parasites! The list of miracles goes on and on. We have been taking ACV for years and giving it to the animals as well. Usually we buy Bragg’s, an organic, raw vinegar. But lately I’ve been making my own and it is easy as (apple) pie. Save peelings, cores or apples past their prime. I had some that accidentally got frozen, so I used those and some cores. Fill a gallon jar 1/2 full with apple chunks no smaller than 1 inch. Add 1 cup honey or raw sugar. I used raw, organic sugar because I thought if we are trying to culture something with beneficial bacteria, honey which an anti-bacterial, wouldn’t be a good choice. Then fill the jar to the top with filtered water. Cover with a coffee filter or paper towel and rubber band. Let it sit for one week, stirring once a day. If it develops any moldy spots simply spoon them off. It’s no big deal. After 7 days, strain the apple pieces out and recover with a breathable top, like a filter or paper towel. Let it sit and ferment for another 6 weeks. It will develop a “mother” on top and may develop stringy things floating around. These are the good bacteria! A SCOBY, if you will.  Now your raw apple cider vinegar is ready for use. Add it to your animal water for increased health. Take a couple tablespoons before each meal to aid digestion. Make a tea with it to ward off the dreaded cold or flu. Enjoy!IMG_5815

The end.

It is finally over. Don’t get me wrong. I like to spend my evenings and mornings cutting up deer carcasses. In fact, I would have taken another 2-3 in a heartbeat. But it is somewhat a relief to know that there will be no more hunting this season. I owe all the children, Tommy and Charlotte especially, and Jeremie a huge thank you for all the meat they brought home this year. Many cold mornings. Even more cold afternoons. Legs falling asleep. People falling asleep! They were troopers and everyone took their tour of duty out in the deer stands and blinds. Except Roo.  I can hang up my fabulous waterproof apron until next winter. I can send my Buck knife off to be sharpened. I can really scrub my fingernails. We haven’t quite worked out all the kinks with our meat grinder. But we did freeze around 100 pounds of ground meat. And quite a few roasts and steaks. And I have replenished my jars of canned venison. We have enjoyed bacon wrapped tenderloin steaks. And now, we will be enjoying spicy, chewy jerky.

Yes, the girls and I had fun with curls :)

Yes, the girls and I had fun with curls :)

The processing facility near us makes fabulous jerky without all the preservatives. So I bought seasoning from them, then sliced up some roasts, marinated them overnight, and dehydrated them for about 6 hours. IMG_5572I also made some jerky in the oven, but rare is the time that my oven if “off-duty” for 6 hours. And in the oven I could only do 1 tray at a time. So the process went much quicker with my 9 tray dehydrator. Jerky is a favorite snack for all the kids and I feel good about them eating it since it doesn’t have any of the nasty chemical preservatives in it. You can bet this won’t last long!IMG_5595

Harvesting venision

IMG_5122We have gotten five deer this year, so far. With hopes of getting a few more before the season is over. Jeremie tells me that people up north hunt day after day, season after season, and sometimes never get one. How sad. I’m getting greedy. Seeing the canned meat on my shelves, and tenderloins in my freezer. Realizing how yummy and economical this meat is. Get me more, I say! I have watched numerous videos on youtube about different ways to process the meat. This one is my favorite. This butcher makes me think that if you crossed him, and cut up the meat wrong, you might be the one being cut up and dropped in the river. IMG_5195Tomorrow on the menu… bacon wrapped tenderloin filet of venision! Watch your drool!IMG_5136

Chicken soup for my soul

IMG_4434I have been knocked out of commission for the past few day. Burning up with fever, suffering from a breast infection. The last time I had one was when I was nursing Mia almost 15 years ago. A friend shared her favorite home remedy with me. Castor oil. I applied it topically and took bee pollen and propolis internally to boost my immune system. After I started treatment the infection was gone in about a day. But in the days before I started treatment, I was lamenting on the couch. So my sweetun’s whipped me up a pot of homemade chicken soup. To soothe my soul and warm my heart! So glad I keep a stash of frozen bone broth in the freezer at all times!IMG_4433

Twofer

I’ve been giving my steam juicer a workout these past few days. It is great because after I am done steaming all the juice out of the apples or pears I can put the leftover fruit into the blender and it turns into fabulous apple/pear sauce or apple/pear leather! There is no waste product. I’ll bet my little piggies are sad that I am using the leftover fruit for sauce and leather, because they sure had been enjoying the spoils of the juicer. After cutting and coring the fruit, I just let the steamer do it’s thing for a couple hours.

This is the reservoir where the fruit juice accumulates

This is the reservoir where the fruit juice accumulates

When enough juice has accumulated I simply fill the jars and let them seal. Normally when I make apple sauce I make it really chunky. There are some in the family that really enjoy a smooth sauce, though. So they are really enjoying the pureed fruit sauce. It is thick, creamy and taste really sweet. juicing 001

Brewin’

The other day I was in the liquor store buying 2 large bottles of vodka. What must they have thought of me and my 9 kids! I can only imagine 😀 But it makes me chuckle! No, I was not having a bad day. I was not trying to drown my sorrows. I was concocting something fabulous though! Black Walnut Hull tincture. A natural de-wormer for animals and it is also useful for humans as it is anti-fungal, anthelmintic (anti-parasitic), anti-yeast and a great source of iodine. It also has been said to re-enamalize the teeth. But is stains something fierce. So, you may have stronger teeth, but they will be brown. It’s ok to have brown teeth, I told my kids. We live in Tennessee after all. Black walnut hull tincture can be used to treat warts, snake bites, cold sores, ulcers, the list goes on and on. Good stuff to have on hand. And it is so easy to DIY. I went to a friends to collect the black walnut hulls that are green, lol! Then just cover them with 100 proof grain alcohol and let sit for 2-6 weeks. After you drain out the hulls, keep the brownish liquid in a dark bottle with a dropper for easy use. You can also make hair dye out of these hulls, which I may be inspired to try before too long!kombucha and tincture 015We’ve also been conconting a brew called kombucha. Kombu-what??? It is a fermented tea drink rich in probiotics and healthy bacteria. Awesome for gut health. I used to make it years ago and I just fell out of the habit. So now, back on the bandwagon and here we go!kombucha and tincture 001Brew green or black tea, very strong. Add white sugar. The caffeine in the tea and the sugar are what feeds your “scoby”..kombucha and tincture 004Your scoby is the colony of yeast which will eat the sugar and caffeine and impart all sorts of live, beneficial bacterias and yeasts to your drink. So, let this ferment on the counter in a glass jar or large crock kombucha and tincture 002for 7-10 days. Strain it and bottle it up for a delicious, fizzy, healthy drink. kombucha and tincture 005 kombucha and tincture 019Overheard…”beware the beverages at the Schultz’s house!”