Welcome to the journey,the tale and the saga of our

Monday, August 31, 2009

We are having, technical difficulties,computer issues,money and family stuff. Have a cocktail for me and I'll have one for you and all will work out in the end. I'll return soon.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Some thing new.

This evening I started a second blog, Like Running Horses I need a place to just write and that will be the place to find my rambling tales and ravings.I am still here at Hrafinstaad,I just wanted to try this out for mental health.

Not about Homesteading but kind of

I spent some time this morning cursing around online looking at stuff and randomness.It's what happens when I get up with Chance and it's too early to be doing much of any thing.
One of the things I found was this vinyl wall art that I am in love with but don't think Chance would be overly fond of.I'd like to see this little hen along the hallway wall that is in part of the kitchen.I am just window shopping tho'.
I like to look at the Sneak Peak section on Design*Sponge, it feeds my artistic side and I can snoop without any worries.One Sneak Peak that made me feel better about the amount of books we house is this one. We have that many books and have to weed through them a couple of times a year to save the floor from caving in.
My mission this morning was to peg down a blue for our living room,we will be repainting it this fall once all of the outside is put to bed for the winter.I think I found it here. I am super picky about color,I get one set in my minds eye and no other will do.Kind of tricky when there is no such color on the market or I can't find a sample of the color to take to the paint store. I have bookmarked the page to return to later.
So this posting has not much to do with Homesteading just me rambling about creative stuff.I want to prepare all of you dear readers for the days ahead when there will be other things going on that don't fall under the category of Homesteading.But making a nest is about home and what happens there too.But now that I think of it,it's still Homesteading isn't it? Hrafinstaad is not just a garden and chickens it is a home.At the begining of the word Homesteading there is the word Home maybe it dose work out in the end.
I love home and being there.Home is where I can let all of my love and talents freely show. Come late fall there will be more postings about Home and Creative happenings.The musings of a Raven heart-ed lady writing about the things that makes her soul alive.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Thai Sweet Hot Sauce

Thai Sweet Hot Sauce in the jars,drying chili's
basket of veggies to make dinner with.

This afternoon I made the Thai Sweet Hot Sauce from the Ball Canning site.You can find the how to here. I would experiment with the amount of Chili Flakes you use.I am happy with the sauce but if you don't like Thai hot it might be a bit much.I'd say it's close to 3 chili's hot like they show on some of the Thai restaurants menus.Also I was hoping for it to be more like the sauce we have been buying.The store stuff is sweeter and this recipe is more vinegar-ie almost tart.I like it for what it is.I am still searching for a sweeter one.
I was not able to take any photos because I was mostly working alone.I did have Sol's help with the peeling of the garlic.An extra pair of hands was helpful when you need 1/2 cup of chopped garlic.Sol loves cooking shows on TV ( I wonder where he got his love of cooking?) and remembered seeing something about using your knife back to speed up the peeling.We just placed the unpeeled garlic under the knife and smashed a bit.Just enough for the clove of garlic to pop out.I know there's a couple handy gadgets out there that do this but I don't have room in my kitchen for anything that only has one job.
I received a comment from my last posting about making Pear Honey out of my pears.(I did ask the boys about wither or not they like canned pears and there was no excitement from them.One of those "If I have to" looks.) Chance took this idea and is aiming for it.He Googled around for it and it looks like all you need is Pears,Pineapple juice and Sugar.From what we can tell from his reading it comes out like a syrup or honey type something,sounds good to us.The pears are not ripe enough yet so we have a few days to get to this.Thanks Lorri for the tip.
I am finally getting around to making pickles this weekend.I keep getting side tracked but I have to get in gear before the cucumbers are gone for the year.I also spied an ad for peaches at the farm where I picked my blueberries.I am going to give them a call in the morning to see what their price is.Then I will have to figure out how many I want.Your own peaches in the middle of winter is a bowl full of sunshine to help you through the gray Oregon winter.
We are looking for a trade for our hops.We grow Willamette's and Cascades both of which are Oregon varieties.We'd love to find someone to trade hops for home brew.We have also put the word out for two other trades.We have extra Bartlet Pears and Asian Pears, both are not sprayed.We don't like the Asian Pears and it's a bumper crop this year so there are plenty to trade for.
Tomorrow I have cleaning and cooking to do.We have company coming for the evening on Friday.Chance is going to hang some lights in the back yard so we can sit out.On my to make list are Marshmallows, party dessert and a bit of fun around the fire.
Lorri- I know you live in storm country and there has been a big one brewing,stay safe,I am thinking of you on the other side of this country wondering how close this storm named Bill is to you.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Back to Homesteading

I am back on task. I needed to step away from my home chores to take care of some other things.Yesterday I was busy getting a bit caught up.
While I was focused else where a zucchini grew in to a monster.I shredded it up for the freezer and ended up with 8 cups of zucchini for later on.8 cups! I had better stay on top of those puppies.
Our neighbor had brought us more yellow plums.She gave us a big bag full and we had eaten our fill of them.I had about 2 pounds left getting close to being chicken snacks but I found a way to use them up.I made some Plum Butter.I did not follow any recipe,I just used what I know about making Apple Butter.I put the plums in a pot with about 1/2 a cup of orange juice with cinnamon,nutmeg and cardamon.I'd say I used about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of each spice. I then simmered the plums until they were soft.Next I put the plums in small batches into the blender to puree it smooth.
Something to remember when putting a hot mixture in the blender is the steam from the liquid will make the top of the blender pop off .Giving you a nice mess and possibly some burns.To prevent this only fill the blender pitcher half full,put the lid on and then place a towel over the blender pitcher.The towel will keep anything from spraying all over and less liquid gives the steam room to dissipate.
Now I put the plum mixture back into the pot and added sugar to taste.I have no clue as to how much I used maybe 1 cup or 1 1/2 cups.I simmered the soon to be plum butter on medium for an hour and a half.I kept stirring it and skimming off the foam.Once the plumb butter cooked down and was looking thicker I did a test to see if it might be ready to be done. To do this test I poured a spoonful of the liquid onto a small plate and let it cool.I ended up doing this a couple of times before I found what I was looking for.I was wanting the butter to be fairly thick once it had cooled a bit.On the second try I put the plate in the fridge freezer to speed things up.
I ended up with about a pint of plum butter that I did not process to store.I put the jar in the fridge to be eaten now.Later I did read that when you do this the plum butter can be stored in the fridge for up to a month.
I liked the plum butter so much I called and asked the neighbor if she had any more plums."How many do you want? Hopefully a million" was her answer. Jack Pot! I worked out a trade of some our pears and eggs for more plums,it's only fair the neighbors get something out of my taking some of their bounty. This afternoon I will go over and pick more plums to make more Plum Butter and this time I will process it to be put away.
Yesterday I also picked most of our Bartlet Pears,they had started falling and being gobbled up by the hens.I must of picked 30 pounds,as you can see from the photo at the top of the page my basket was full.I laid an old cotton rug on the kitchen counter for a place for the pears to ripen.While I was stirring the plum butter I remembered that I don't think the boys are overly fond of canned pears which had been my plan for the pears sitting on my counter.The boys have been off with friends for the weekend and once we have gathered here at home this evening I am going to have to ask them if I can the pears will they eat them? There is no use in putting up a food no one likes. If they say no I think I have a couple of options, Pear Butter,dry them or make up some mixed fruit butter.And there is always trading for some thing we want.
Our hens have settled into the new coop.They have figured out where to roost and where to lay their eggs. Chance has also had other things to do and has yet to finish the finishing touches of the coop.The only issue we have come up with the new coop is the run needs to be made larger.Our girls are used to more room and they seem to be squabbling more.
Big Red is not a happy fellow these days.The hens pick on him with no mercy.The girls grab him by his comb and shake his head like they are going to rip it off.Then they chase him under the coop.None of the girls tolerate him and I am starting to wonder if they are letting him eat.If Big Red dose not figure out that A. he's bigger than the girls and B. in the world of animals he should be the boss soon he may need a new home.It would be for his own good.Chance says he could go into the freezer easily but I am so superstitious about killing that guy that I'd rather find him a home.
My Mother bought me a vintage cookbook. She knows me well,two of my favorite things in one,vintage and cookbooks. The title of the book is "The Cookbook for Brides" And it is a HOOT! Not only are there some odd sounding recipes ,Pickled Eggs (which I like ) with Curried Russian Dressing and Spam and Lima Beans(GAG!) but there's all of these bits of "useful information" and "tips" like this one. New Brides should wake up 15 minutes before their husbands,put on some make up and a breakfast coat.( Yeah,sure I have one of those,ah not.And as for putting on make up well no again,I am up so I am making coffee first and for most.) This is so your husband sees you looking cheery.And supposedly it will make your husbands morning better which leads to a happy marriage. There's lots more of these funny ideas and I plan to post more of them for you to laugh over.The next one is about place mats at lunch time to save your social standing.LOL!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Rambling along

It seems I have not had much to report along the lines of homesteading.There's food to put up and away but time has been a rare thing here.I feel as if the clock is ticking out a tattoo the goes like this, "Rois,the fruit is ripe,don't forget the pickles,tick tock" Somehow I have found a mental space that lets me just ignore the clock and keep on the other tasks at hand.School starts soon,getting the boys ready for that is the deadline I must reach for now.Pretty soon here the school bell will drown out the ticking clock. Then I can come back to life as an Urban Homesteader,to work like the busy ant preparing for winter.
Chance has been steadily working on the the finishing details of our coop.One little hint I will drop,a small one until the big reveal, hand cut wood shingles are going up on the roof.I went out to check in with him last night and Chance asked me this question, "What would your Grandfather think of my coop?" Ah shucks, now that man of mine has made me sentimental.....
My reply to Chance " He would have loved it" Grandpa has been long gone and I still miss him dearly.Grandpa would have adored Chance and the man he is.I told that last bit to Chance and he just chuckled."But it's so fancy and it's just for a bunch of hens"replied Chance.
I think Chance thought that just because my Grandpa was a farmer and had been a cowboy before he married that things just need to be serviceable. Chance never got to meet Grandpa so he dose not know that he was a tender man who was often mistaken for a rough and ready fellow, kind of like Chance himself, a gentle giant.(Grandpa was no giant tho' he was only 5'6" and shopped in the boys section.)
So today I find myself longing for my Grandpa.I would love to share a lunch of Green Onions dipped in mayo and just pulled baby carrots, a lunch we shared in the summer time.Or how about hours and hours playing that goofy game"Operation"? You know the one where you poke the tweezers into the cardboard man and if you bump the sides the whole game buzzed and rattled. A long ride through the country side bumping along in Grandpa's truck.I still think of Grandpa when I see a blue and white Ford truck.To hear Grandpa say to me "Well,I don't know about that" with his North Dakota softness to it; mixed with my Grandmother's Norwegian influence of long O's. Oh ja, sure you betcha, Grandpa I miss you today.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

I think I am in love with my freezer.

Our freezer is proving to be a good thing.I can walk right out and open the door and there it is full of the bounty I have stocked away.Veggies, fruits, meats and other dinner fixings already paid for, full of potential and easy.
I know I blogged about not liking the plastics it takes to use the freezer but I am kind of over it.I am still looking for other ways to store the food in the freezer.I am going to invest in some freezer containers because I look at it this way.
Chance and I received a Pyrex baking dish with a snap on plastic lid as a wedding gift,that was 17 years ago.Still use the pan and I still have its lid.That's putting plastics to good use and will continue to be put to use for longer.So if I can do the same with some freezer containers I think I can justify their use.I still don't like plastic and never will but what can a girl do sometimes?
As I was folding laundry this morning (folding clothes puts me in a zone and my brain starts churning and oops thinking) I decided to freeze the peaches I want to get.My friend Julie dose this,her thoughts are it makes the peaches more versatile for eating and you don't need to add sugar like when canning.It's also easy,peel,slice and dump them in a bag and you are done.I have already taken this approach with some yellow plumbs the neighbor gave us so the peaches will follow suit.
Fall is coming,you can feel it in the morning air.It has been cool when we get up and as of yesterday hot by afternoon.We have had a cool and damp spell here which made us wonder if summer was gone for the year.
The cooler weather made the laundry drying slow on the clothes line.I still love hanging out the wash.There is something pleasant about looking out the back window and seeing the wash there on the line swaying in the breeze.Now that it looks like the cooler weather is coming sooner than I may like,I am thinking about winter clothes drying. We don't have a laundry room or even a back porch here.Our laundry is in the kitchen, a handy spot in a small house but air drying in the winter makes for close quarters. I have a folding clothes rack I do use.It's not handy though,it dose not hold a full load,I have to move it from the kitchen, to the hall, to the dinning area as I go about my days.What about a line on a pulley in my studio/pantry?It could work.We could put the line up on the ceiling and have a pulley to bring it down with in reach.I'll have to think this through.Winter will come and I will once again have time to work in the studio more.Wet wash hanging over my work space my not be so good.
Chance is working away at finishing the chicken coop.Last night was the first night the girls spent in the coop fenced in.They would not go inside the coop to roost.I ended up climbing in the coop, grabbing a couple of the older sensible hens and sticking them on the roosts.My hopes were the others would see them there all comfy and follow.Nope, the young hens stayed out side roosting on the ramp.The older girls stayed put so maybe the idea will spread and all will be well.
This week is "Eat the pantry empty"week,it is time to rotate some things and stretch our budget a bit.Today I will make Chicken Soup using the left over bird from dinner last night.We had one of our own birds for dinner.That was tasty and tomorrows post will be about cooking and using a chicken till there is nothing left but the bones.(Holy Holy Chicken Bones! inside joke from long ago.)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A bedtime update

Well the hens are using the new coop, sort of.LOL!

A hard days work

We put in a hard days worth of work today.We built the new coop and got it finished enough that maybe the hens will sleep in it tonight.We still have the fenced in run area to build.I think once we can fence the girls in they will get the idea that they have a new home.We are still planning on building a second smaller coop for meat birds but the layers new abode comes first.
For the style of the coop we were inspired by early Norwegian buildings.Like this one and this one.
These buildings leave us room to add quiet a bit of artistic flare to our coop.Chance has plans that I am keeping hush about for now.everyone will just have to wait and see the big reveal when he's done.
The first 3 photos below show the wood we used to build the coop.The first is the pile from taking the old coop a part.The next two show the wood we were able to salvage by checking the free bin at a local wood working shop.Local business often have bins that they let people look through for freebies.We are always sure to ask first unless we know that it's ok or there is a sign giving permission.The pile of wood in the back of the car was many dollars worth of nice hard wood pieces.We also lucked out at another stop and found some larger pieces.The wood laying on the lawn is all hard woods too.

The rest of the photos are of Chance building in order of construction.He built a base using a larger sized pallet,plywood and some 4x4's for the legs.Then up came the frame work followed by the roof and sides.Chance made double doors for reaching in to clean and get the eggs.I laid a think layer of shavings on the coop floor to make it cozy for the birds.The photo showing the rod going across shows the roosts.We placed them up almost into where rafters would be.If you look at the photo above it the roost rod would be right above the doors.

A peek at Chance through the grape arbor/gate.

The ramp to get into the coop is already in place.Chance used a pair of his Blacksmithed handles for the coop doors.For now we are using a slice of wood to keep the doors secure.Later Chance will make something nicer.

Tomorrow we build the run and clean up.But tonight it is time to put our feet up,watch a movie and try not to fall asleep on the sofa.
Rois and Chance

Laughing while you work

When the boys are away (scout trip) these two mice don't play we work.Sometimes it is nice to get a big load of work done while it is just the two of us home.We can get into our rhythm and just go til dark.No stopping to run one boy here or there,no dinner to cook and no one calling on the phone to be picked up from the other side of town.
Once the boys were off we set to taking apart the chicken coop.I do mean take a part since we are re-using most of the wood and screws from the coop. We made on Holy Mess and for once I was glad the back garden did not work,the coop is along the garden edge and the garden would have made this project impossible.
I am not a big fan of squashing bugs just because they are there but when there are spiders the size of my thumb nail about to crawl closer that's something else. (Mr Pat,no comments if you happen to be reading today.)The spiders were inside the coop and I wondered why the girls had not snacked upon them?
Once we had the covered run taken down I started in on shoveling out the composted hay and poo.I did not even bother to take it to the compost bin but instead I threw it right on to the back garden.I was slinging shit LOL!At the back of the run area Chance came across an egg that had been there for who knows how long.We tried to be careful of it with no luck.I had my back turned to Chance as we worked and I heard a loud POP,like a car back firing, Chance had popped the egg.All we could do was laugh,who knew an old egg would pop so loud and then it was nervous laughter waiting for the stink.Chance had quickly covered the popped egg with straw, maybe that kept the stink away or maybe the egg was so far gone there was no stink left.Either way we felt lucky to miss out on that experience.
Chance did most of the deconstruction while I worked on the shoveling.We seem to do this often, working along side of each other on two things, but always willing to stop and help the other with their work.Actually here theres not really your work and mine,it is just work to be done by whomever has the time or that skill.
Once again I had my back to Chance and I heard him shout "OH SHIT!!RUN!!!" I ran.Growing up my Dad taught me to run when someone you trust says run, you can ask why later when its safe.I don't remeber dropping my shovel all I remember is sprinting up and over a hay bale and finding myself on the back porch.I hollard back to Chance "Why?" Under the tar paper on the coop roof he found a wasps nest that was 6 inches wide and 2 feet long.The wasps were not happy and I have one more bee sting until the doctor hands me an Epi Pen.We had some left over wasp spray and Chance put an end to our unwanted neighbors.In the end we were laughing all over, personally I had tears rolling down my cheeks.
I think we were drunk on life at this point.Enjoying what we were doing and each others company.Laughing together like two crazy old coots.
Today we will hopefully finish building the new coop.I am sure the hens will be happier with a roof over their heads once more.Last night the Chickens spent a good hour looking for the highest spots in the yard to roost.We watched as the Wynadotts and Big Red pushed and bumped until they each had the right spot.At one point one of the Wynadotts wanted Reds spot so badly she stood on top of him until he gave in.See,I told you he's a big dork.More laughing and more convections that Chickens are not always the smartest beasts but endearing none the less.
I had better close now there's only 5 more hours until the boys return and much work to be finished.I'll be sure to take some photos as we work today and post again soon.
Rois and Chance

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Chicken Butchering Day,5minute Ice Cream and more.

Top left: Veggies from the garden,cucumbers, green bell peppers and yellow crook necked squash.
Top middle:The chicken tea cozy my friend made me.
Top right: Chicken guts to be tossed.
Bottom right: Giblets from the chickens we butchered today.
Bottom left: Chicken feet for soup stock.Our apples on the counter.

I feel like this photo is a good summary of our life and the bounty we are growing.It also shows a good days worth of work.

Whew,it was busy here today.After getting my morning routine done it was time to butcher the Poulets once Chance was home from work.
But before we went to work we had lunch first,BLT's made with our own tomatoes and home cured bacon.(I love bacon and who dose not?) We were fairly happy with the bacon Chance cured and smoked,it was a bit salty for us and we'd like it to be a bit sweeter.Both of these are easy to fix,Chance will have to tinker the recipe next time.
Last night Chance and I had separated the meat birds from the layers. We don't feed them for the 24 hours before butchering to allow time for their Gizzard and intestines to empty,so you have to put them in a safe spot.We kept Big Red though,he has earned his life,is an endearing dork and maybe come spring we will have some of our own chicks.We butchered 5 hens,it took around 1 1/2 hours.I took a bunch of photos that just did not work.The one above worked best it summed the day up,food harvesting.

After this next paragraph there will be a photo with blood.

Below are a couple of photos showing the mess after.It seems that most people have this idea that Chicken Butchering is messy, it's not.Each bird only bleeds out about 1/2 cup of blood,if you leave your bird in one place after the neck is slit, the blood stays in one small puddle.We put a plastic tote with wood shavings in it under our Culling Cones to catch the blood.The photo is after all 5 birds were done.The other photo shows the feathers.See its not all that bad.

I am not going to show the rest of the process,I feel like it's one of those things you need to see and do as a hands on thing.And explaining the gutting photos,what a nightmare! Forget it!If you are wanting to learn we do teach others.
Young Sol came to me as I was plucking the Chickens and asked to make "5 Minute Ice Cream, all you need is....." Well he read me the list but I was a bit busy.Once we were done with the chickens I asked Sol about his ice cream idea.It was so simple I thought "well, why not?"Here is the recipe he found on Instructables.com,
All you need is Heavy Cream,Sugar,Vanilla, some Fruit, and a blender.I bought a pint of the heavy cream and we ended up being able to make 3 batches equaling maybe a little over a quart of ice cream.For the fruit we used some of our frozen blueberries.The bag of berries did not have quiet enough berries for the third batch,we made Vanilla for the third batch.We pored all 3 batches into a carton and mixed it all together with a handful of whole berries.I made the boys wait until after dinner to have some, by then the ice cream was kind of like soft serve.I added the recipe to my notebook.
I was just saying to Sol that he comes up with some of the best things to try out.Last fall we made Lollipops part home school science part Halloween goodies.We just made that excellent Coconut Milk Cream Pie and now 5 Minute Ice Cream.
Somewhere in my day I had Issac grate some Zucchini for the freezer.He was intrigued by the whole idea but thought it was clever.He also put some tomato sauce in the freezer for me.Once I can get Issac to stay home for a day,he actually likes working with me in the kitchen.
Oh,the boys and butchering.we gave them the choice,to help or not.Chance and I chose this life style and parts of it we don't push.Issac went away to run errands.Sol stayed indoors but did get interested once he saw that the gutting of the birds did not involve blood just some cool looking stuff.
We ended up not working at the Urban Farm Store yesterday,we were rained out.I guess most people are fair weathered farmers/gardeners and don't go to the feed and garden store when it rains.I did go into the store to shuffle around some chicks.I am still not totally clear on the whole story but I now have 10 chicks here but only until their owner picks them up on Sunday????? See I am a bit puzzled about this deal and will come back to it when I find the missing piece namely the owner of the chicks. I suppose I should be more firm and assertive.
We have pushed the Cobb Oven building farther out.We need to rebuild the chicken coop,it needs revamping and repairs.There's also some fall chores to do,like find,cut and stack more firewood, to do before the oven can become the latest feature here.The boys will return to school,even Sol is looking forward to returning to a new public school.Oh and I need to find work for pay outside of home some where in there.The To Do List just never ends, we get one job done and there's another to take the first's place.
It has been raining here,HOOPLA, I am loving it.I am not to sure if people who don't live here get it but the Oregonians who are born and raised here LOVE RAIN.My bones were starting to dry out and I was getting a bit cranky but now I am clam and full of spitfire.Ok so those two go against each other but that's where I am at.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Dear Bruce Lee

Dear Bruce Lee,
I know you are long dead and gone with a candle wax covered shrine dedicated to you in some far off city whos name I can not place. I will write to you any way,it will be my only hope of sharing my tale with you.You see growing up you were my hero,if I could have just grown up to be you....
Today my young hen would have made you proud of her Kung Fu style. It was a classic moment right out of a movie filmed on the outskirts of Hong Kong. That little hen was mad as all Hell I was late bringing her breakfast,and with classic style she let me know it.
That little bird spread her wings out like a ancient madien with flowing sleeves, shook her chook head and let her fury fly.Right up my back she ran just like those flying Kung Fu masters and grabbed me by the neck. I could feel her crazy claws dig in and just like her I was AS MAD AS HELL!
Now came the moment in a movie were time stands still,the star takes a moment to reflect their next move.Like a movie reel this thought passed through my minds eye.
I could return her Kung Fu fury right back,quickly grab her by the neck give her a flipped twist and she would be done.I could stand there with her at my feet,dust off my hands,swipe at my nose and put my hands on my hips.All with smugness written all over my face. Just like you.
Maybe just maybe I'd feel like my childhood hero for just a few beats victorious and smug.I'd hear cheesey 60's muzack playing as I walked away from that crazy bird.
That's not how it ended,I think the film broke on the reel and someone yelled "CUT!"All I did was swat that chicken off my neck.She glared at me and I glared at her, like some other corny film... tick... tick... tick.My scowl was better,I was bigger than she thought and really one should not pick fights with the hand that stands between you and the soup pot.She hung her head and went to eat her breakfast and that was that.
In the morning sun I brushed off my hands,swiped my nose,hrumphed and walked away just like you,my childhood hero Bruce Lee.
Your fan for ever and ever,

Coffe Cake,Urban Farm and other bits.

My days have been starting early here,I think my body knows that soon I will be getting Issac up at 6 AM for school.
I had set aside some of the blueberries to make something with when we were all home and that took a few days.Chance and I are parents of young teens who are hardly home these days.I told Chance that maybe the busy teen years are to prepare us for when we have an empty nest.This morning I had to settle for most of us being home to use the blueberries.I made a Blueberry Coffee Cake (I will post the recipe below).It was a nice breakfast for a slow moving Sunday morning.
Chance and I took a trip into Portland to Urban Farm to buy chicken food.While there Robert asked us to teach another Chicken Butchering Class at his store.This time around the class price of $30 will include a chicken.Robert has a few extras of the Poulets and thought this might be a good use for them.Chance and I are raising 6 of the birds here for Robert. This class will be held towards the beginning of November and you can contact us here if you are interested.
Robert and Chance will also co-teach a tool maintenance class sometime in the fall.This class will cover the cleaning of your tools,how to oil them,sharpening and general care.Robert also has a less back breaking way of using a Hoe which he will go over in the class as well.
If you live in the area,Chance and I will both be working at The Urban Farm Store this Weds 8/12 from 2Pm till closing if anyone would like to stop by and say hello.Pete the Chicken Guy will be there too.I thought I knew a fair bit about Chickens until I met Pete,if you have a question he can answer it.
The garden is feeding us well and no one is sick of Zucchini yet.Although my tomatoes seem to be taking their own sweet time ripening and not abundant enough to can very many of them.I have yet to make my pickles.I went to pick some up after berry picking and the bags the farm stand had were awful looking.The season is just getting going so I still have time.
Thursday is butchering day here,it is time to process the Poulets.I almost killed one this morning when I went out to feed the chickens.One of the Poulets actually jumped up my back and dug her claws into my neck,I was a bit ticked off by this.Dumb bird you don't pick a fight with the hand that feeds you. We are keeping the Poulet Rooster Big Red,I think he has earned the title of pet, a really dumb one but it seems to be his fate.Big Red is the most dimwitted rooster I have ever met,all of the girls boss him around like he's someones annoying little brother.His feet are as big as my hands and he just does not know how to use them and looks at them like "Wow,what are those?"He dose not even crow he honks like a goose.
Once we have our Poulets out of the way we are re doing the Coop.Since we are now fully rotating birds for meats we want to build 2 smaller coops with a divided run inbetween them.One coop will be for our layers and the other for what ever birds we have for meat.I think this set up will make our layers happier and not disrupt the pecking order everytime we get new meat birds.
Rhonda Jean who blogs over at Down to Earth has a great bit about using your chickens to do some of your compost work.Her article is worth looking at if you have chickens and garden as well.I will be scraping up what compost I can when the coop is deconstructed to use on our garden or to add to the big compost pile for later.

Here is the Blueberry Coffe Cake.

Preheat oven to 350
Bakes in a 9X 13 Pan.

Mix in order until there are no lumps in the batter:
2 Cups Flour
1 1/4 Cups Sugar
3 teaspoons Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1/2 Cup Oil
2 Eggs
1 Cup Milk.
Pour into a greased 9X13 pan.Set aside.

1 pint or 2 Cups Blueberries Sprinkle these over the batter.

1/2 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Flour
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
2 Tablespoons Butter.
Mix together creaming the butter into the dry.Sprinkle over the top of the Blueberries

Bake for 30 - 40 minutes.

Before I go did you know when you are baking with glass baking pans you should turn your oven down by 25 degrees? The glass pans hold the heat differently than metal ones.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Blueberries,Dahlia's and plastics in the freezer.

This morning my friend Alison and I went to pick Blueberries.Alison had found a local farm that dose not spray their berries and had a decent price per pound.We both picked right around 10 pounds each to fill our freezers with this filled 6 quart sized freezer bags here.Alison had her basket with her to pick into so I snapped it instead of my homely plastic bucket.

Along the fence line of the field were some beautiful Dahlia's in their prime.I took some photos so I could try and find out which variety they are.I'd like to add them to my garden next spring.If anyone has an idea of their names please let me know.

I really don't like using plastics and have been trying to get rid of the plastic in our house.I feel a bit guilty using the plastic freezer bags for my berries.I do re-use these bags but someday they will wear out and need to be gotten rid of.So what are the alternatives?

There are some glass containers but they have plastic lids.Also there are plastic freezer containers,nope no good either,they are still plastic, although be it re-usable.
I read up on how to freeze in canning jars.This might work out.You do have to be careful of how full you fill the jars.Freezing causes the food and its moisture to expand.One tip said if you are using the Ball brand of jars to fill the jar just to the top of the word Ball written on the jar,it will give you the space you need.I think the main draw back would be canning jars are space hogs.
One of the websites I was reading did say that some how the waste of the plastic bag is nullified by the amount of power a full freezer uses????What I did not get that one it was a bit over my head.Yes I get the idea that a full freezer is more energy efficient but how dose that make up for the waste of the plastic bag?Any clues?
Another tip I found was if the Cottage Cheese or Yogurt cartons are not recycleable in your area people do use those for freezing too.We can recycle those here but the darn things bug me.More plastic.
I also asked my Mom what was used before freezer bags.I think my Mom is a bit tickled I keep asking her these types of questions. She said she used the plastic freezer containers but "before her time" she remembers there being waxed paper cartons much like an ice cream container.I Googled for those and had no luck finding them.
I am going to keep looking this is the second time my Mom has brought up the waxed paper cartons for wet foods somewhere there has to be someone who has some.If not maybe that will be my fortune. Ok I am a bit side tracked here for a moment.Is waxed paper a better alternative? When we built our gardens beds,we laid down cardboard over the grass to choke it out.We knew not to use the waxed boxes because they would not break down or was that not break down as quickly.Note to self go re-read up on that. I guess I have a new quest.
I suppose a person could really drive themselves nuts trying to be perfectly green or sustainable.I just sometimes feel like what we are already doing here is so easy and habit now that I must be over looking something.The media makes this life style look like a huge effort and its not.
I would really like to know what others think about my plastics in the freezer dilemma.Any suggestions? Are there products available in other countries that are better? What is in your freezer?

Reply to comments

Hootchie Scooter Mama,The beloved book is (drum rolling.....)
Charcuterie by: Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn
ISBN-13: 978-0-393-05829
Check Powell's for it. Even though Chance is the one taking on the meat curing here after reading the book I am pretty sure anyone could do it.

Glenn, Funny you should mention Duck,we are raising two that are supposed to be for Christmas but I do love duck and smoked is even better.LOL.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Simple and good,Smoked Chicken,Salad and Melon.

Cooking up a Storm

Chance and I had a very productive day today. I made whole wheat crackers for the first time more on that in a moment.Chance put a chicken in the smoker for dinner and he started to cure some bacon.Lots of new skills used today and a few moments of frustration on my part.
I have never made crackers before and I found it to be a bit frustrating,I had to overcome the urge to throw the dough through the closed window.I think if I did not have the baking skills I do have, our kitchen window would be in shatters.The recipe was vague on how much flour and the baking time listed was WAY off.So I fiddled around added more flour and baked them longer.I rank baking crackers up there with making drop cookies time consuming and only sometimes worth it.The crackers were tasty but I am still out on wither I will make them again.I think I'd like to try Matzo crackers next time,they are like bar cookies (the main way I bake cookies) bigger sheets of dough make things go faster.

Chance is really enjoying his curing bookand putting it to good use.Last night he put a chicken in to soak in an herb and lemon brine.Then this afternoon when he got home he put it in the smoker, he kindly lifted the lid so I could get a photo to share with all of you,the bird had been in for around an hour.The second photo shows the bird just before he took it out of the smoker.Although the chicken has been cooking in the smoker Chance will finish the cooking in the oven for about 30 minutes.I think dinner will be awesome tonight.
Yesterday we took a field trip to my childhood neighborhood,the Culley Neighborhood for those of you who live here, to do some shopping at Gartner's Country Meat Market.
Gartner's has been in business since 1912 and was the market my Mom bought all of our meat from growing up.They feature their own smoke house and top quality meats.If you are in the neighborhood stop in and check it out.
There were two childhood memories that came to me while there,Sol got a free Pepperoni just like when I was a kid and the man behind the counter was the same guy (who was a teenager long ago) who used to wait on my Mom,now that's a sign of a good long time business.
While at the meat market Chance bought 5 pounds of Pork Belly to make our own bacon with. Although if you are not into making your own Gartner's is awesome,thick and smokie.They even have English Bacon,it's is round and made from Pork Butt. After the chicken was in the smoker Chance got busy starting the curing of the pork belly.Bacon takes a week to cure in the fridge before you can smoke it.Acorrding to Chance bacon is the simplest of the cured meats to make at home.The ingredients are easy to find and you don't have to have a smoker to finish the curing.After the meat is done setting in the fridge you can roast the bacon in the oven to finish it off.

Below are pictures of the Pork Belly.The bacon will be sliced after it has been smoked which is something I did not know until today.

Here is the pork covered in the curing mix.This mix is dry made from a couple kinds of salts,brown sugar and pepper.Good night Pork Belly have a nice nap in the fridge then it's hello BACON. I guess there are different cures for bacon depending on the flavor you want.Next week when the Bacon goes into the smoker I am going to ask Chance to be a guest blogger and write more about making bacon.

BREAKING NEWS,Chance just gave me a bite of the smoked chicken, OH MY GOODNESS SO VERY GOOD! Now I can't wait for dinner tonight.
Tomorrow morning I am going to pick Blueberries with my friend over at Acorn Cottage.Most of the berries will go into the freezer for winter and some will end up as dessert tomorrow night.I am also stopping to pick up the cucumbers for pickles.I'll be making pickles Saturday a task I enjoy very much.I don't know why but seeing rows of jars filled with pickles is satisfying to me.
Oh pickles, we tried the Refrigerator Pickles that we made and I say YUCK,they taste like vinegar and that was all I tasted. Well,we tried.If you copied the recipe from the blog and have not made them you may want to skip it.Or if you liked them good,I will feel better knowing not all was lost.
I must go,I need to think of something equally wonderful to have with Chance's smoked chicken.Salad and......?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Movie, being a Cook and a Cook Book.

I was reading the blog written by Micheal Ruhlman,who also wrote the curing book I bought Chance for Fathers Day.Mr Ruhlman's newest blog post is partly about the hype around the movie Julie and Julia and partly asks the question Foodie VS Cook and discussed the lack of cooking skills in our modern world. I wanted to pass the entry along for several reasons.The first being I had really wanted to go see said movie but now I am a bit sick of it. The straw the broke the camels back for me regarding the movie is a short tale and here I go,
Chance,Sol and I went to Powells Books to do two things bask in their A/C on a tripled digit evening and second drool over books. Now having grown up in the aisles of Powells there seems to me to be an unspoken thing,Powells is kind of like being at the library and library voices should be used,not total silence but kind of quiet.And here is where the straw was broken.We sat near the Cook Book section (of course) and down the aisle were a group of young college aged kids who were loudly calling out to each other "Hey maybe I could cook my way through this book and make a million by blogging about it" over and over and over.Ok I am done with wanting to see this movie rude kids killed it for me and frankly Julie and Julia has become trendy and I have a stubborn streak that just won't allow me to part take in any trendiness.I am a Gen X-er after all.
Ruhlman's discussion of the lack of cooking skills today and many are of the dump and stir clan rang true with me.I was amazed during our Chicken Butchering Class most did not know
how to roast a chicken a staple in our house dubbed "Chicken Again" ,how to cook the giblets or even make a stock from their bird.I was asked to teach a Bread Baking Class and there were many more cooking questions.I did not realize people don't cook.I have to ask then what do you eat?
Finally I must say Chance and I consider ourselves Cooks.We are passionate about cooking for the pleasure of it and for the pleasure of feeding others.As long as there is something in the cupboard,a sharp knife,a bowl or two and a few pots and a good frying pan we are good to go.No fancy gadgets in our kitchen just the two of us sharing our passion.( Wink wink).
I encourage you to read the blog posting I linked above it gave us both some food for thought and the comments left are insightful.
I have also been reflecting on Hrafinstaad, where we are, where we want to go and what to improve upon. The hay bales were a flop,you can not go against Mother Nature and not plant in the ground.With the tree gone from the front I need to re think what flowers and plants are on the porch and front walkway.The upside to that,I can now plant some flowers that are sun lovers that I have always wanted.Homemade cleaners work great but I am still buying my laundry soap I am stuck on that one.Now that the heat has passed we can get back to outdoor projects like the Cobb/Earth Oven and canning ( later this weeks project) .
As for the kicker for the winter months ahead,I am writing the boys a cook book.I am starting to compile my recipes, think about measurements and asking what the boys would like in their cook book.This book idea came up when the boys were arguing over who would get my cook books.Ah wait a minute,just because some day you will move out dose not mean I will be dead and not needing those books any more,look at Nana! So as a house warming gift they will each get a copy of the Westinghouse cook book I use and a book written by me.Yes, yes I know the boys are far from leaving the nest but I want to do this now so there is time to do it and work it all out.
I added to my sidebar awhile ago a fun little gadget called Lijit.Under the Lijit header of "Recent Readers" it will show where people who find or read my blog live.I have seen some far flung places listed which have given me a bit of a thrill.I am curious how are people finding me who don't stumble across us trough a search.Could you fill me in? What are folks on the other side of the Earth looking for in my blog?How do you do what I am talking about? I'd love to hear back because I am a curious person and would love to learn more about all of you.
No matter where you live or how you live your life have a great day.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A productive day,Refrigerator Pickles and Zucchini Bread.

Chance and I got some food projects done today all based on using up some of our surplus produce from the garden.
First of all I made a loaf of Zucchini Bread from my family recipe book,somehow it came out a bit off,not to sure how or why it just did not taste right.The boys are eating it so there's no loss. Until I figure out what is wrong with it I am not posting it.
Our neighbor had given me around 5 pounds of walnut sized yellow plumbs that needed to be used.Since I had already baked today I went ahead and pitted them and put them in the freezer.I make Plumb Kruchen,a coffee cake, when we want a treat for breakfasts now I will have plumbs already to go later on.
We also had several cucumbers in the fridge and more coming so Chance voted to try out Refrigerator Pickles,a new idea for us.These Pickles can be made in small batches and once left in the fridge for a few days they are ready to eat.We used a recipe from a book titled "Back to the Table,the reunion of food and family" by Art Smith.

Here's the recipe and how we went about it.

2 Cups Cider vinegar
2 teaspoons non-iodized or pickling salt
1/2 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 Kirby cucumbers ( We used what was growing here) scrubbed,not peeled and cut into 1/4-inch rounds or spears. (we did some of each)
1 small onion cut into thin half rounds
1 Cup yellow or red grape tomatoes (we used cherries) or a combo of the two
8 Garlic cloves peeled
1/4 Cup springs fresh dill. (we just put a "head" of dill in each jar)

Bring the vinegar,salt,coriander and peppercorns to a full boil in a medium sauce pan over high heat.Cool completely.
Sterilize a one quart canning jar by immersing it in a pot of boiling water for 10 minutes or by running it through a full cycle of the dishwasher.The jar should be hot when adding the vegetables.
Layer the cucumbers,onion,tomatoes,garlic,and dill in the hot jar.Pour enough of the vinegar to cover them completely.Screw on the lid.Refrigerate for at least 3 days before eating.Will store covered in the fridge for up to one month.

So easy! Chance and I tripled the recipe since we knew one jar would most likely not be enough around here.I am really hoping that the boys end up liking these pickles,they would come in handy when we run out of the other pickles I make. I also thought the veggies looked pretty together all layered in the jar.They might make a nice gift.
I wanted to share with all of you a handy tool I have in our kitchen.I don't only use it for canning but for many other things through out the year,it is a jar funnel.Mine is a beat up vintage one that I have had for a long time as you can see from the banged up rim.These funnels are handy when canning but also when ever you are pouring a liquid into a jar with a smaller mouth.

Below you can see Chance using the Jar Funnel when we did the Refrigerator Pickles today.

It was a good day here a bit cooler and productive.The busy day has really helped me get back into the swing of things.

Cooling down,finally

The weather here has been so darn hot that our world came to a grinding halt but it's looking like the weather is turning and we can get back to our daily lives once more.
Our garden has survived the heat but looks a little war torn.We've been living off the cucumbers which are a nice snack in the heat.The Zucchini are bumping,I think it's now cool enough in the mornings to bake up some Zucchini Bread.
Chance pulled and laid out to dry 30 Big Daddy Onions with more to pull soon.Once they are dried the onions will go into storage for the fall.Now we need to plan out what to put in the bed where the onions had been.
We did lose the seedlings that had sprouted,they just became fried,curled up and turned brown.I had planted a late crop of Swiss Chard but there's still time to try again in a few weeks.
Now that the weather is cooling down it's time to think about canning.Pickling Cucumbers are ready and I am hoping to put some Pickles up with in the next week or so.Chance and I had picked Black Berries just before the heat hit.We manged to pick enough for about 3 pints of Jam,not enough for a whole years worth but a good start.I would imagine the heat has sweetened up the next round of berries so more will be picked too.
A couple of days ago Sol and I made Coconut-Milk Cream Pie and boy was it fabulous.Sol had asked me awhile ago to make one and I realized I did not have a recipe that I really liked after some searching I found one on a blog I follow called Mennonite Girls Can Cook . One of the things I liked about this recipe is it calls for Coconut Milk as part of the milk in the filling,this added to the flavor of the pie.Most of the recipes I found started out with vanilla instant pudding,where's the coconut in that? And instant pudding ?Fine for some but not my style.The other up side to their pie was the author gave both stove top and microwave cooking directions.I usually do all of my cooking/baking on the stove top but with the heat so high the microwave directions had huge appeal to me.
Today would have been our second Chicken Butchering class but no one signed up.Oh well it's not everyone's cup of tea and there's always another time to try again.Our Poulets will be butchered soon,they have gotten nice and fat.
Today I feel as if I am getting back on track, will have more to report and share in the coming days.