Transitions

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Oh my goodness.  It has been a very long 6 days.  That is how long I have been working, non-stop, on the new computer system.  It has been a rather frustrating, stressful time, but I do believe I am on the downhill side of things.  That’s me over there with the glassy stare one gets from sitting in front of a computer screen too long (waaay too long).

I hope everyone likes the new ordering functions.  The new store gives customers many more choices.  I know, no one really likes change.  But getting rid of PayPal as the only payment option is definitely a good thing.  I believe I got everyone a little too well-trained to look for those confirmation emails, though.  Now that we don’t have or need them, everyone seems a bit lost.  “What do you mean all I do is place my order?!?!”

I think I’ve had more questions about not getting that confirmation email, and not having a place to “check out” than anything else.  Now you just enter a credit card number one time and then shop.  The store never truly closes, you can always edit future deliveries.  There is still a deadline for each delivery day, we have to package things up some time.

I still have back-end issues to iron out.  It is almost midnight and I am just finishing up with paperwork for tomorrow’s delivery, the first one we are making out of the new system.  I have a phone call scheduled with the owner of the software company first thing in the morning, so hopefully tomorrow will go better than today.

If you haven’t looked at it yet, please log in and check out the new store.  It will allow you to set up recurring orders that you can change any time.  That way you can always know your basic order is placed, whether you remember to order or not.  This seems to be especially important when Monday is a holiday and everyone’s routine gets disrupted.

And, please, bear with me as we go through this transition.  I think we will all be happy with what we have when we get to the other side.

On a definitely happy note, we did get about an inch of rain night before last.  Definitely doesn’t fix the drought situation, but it sure was nice and it is a good start.

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Kombucha

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Kombucha is a fermented drink with a zing.  It is a wonderful way to support gastrointestinal health.  Kelly is one of our Home Delivery Site Hosts, and has become a friend over the last few months (though we have yet to meet in person.)  She has introduced us to kombucha, and has shared her brew with us.  From the information she provided for this post, I intend to begin making my own.  Here is a guest post from Kelly regarding her experience with kombucha.  I hope you enjoy it.

Terra

So…I did the cancer thing a couple years ago…double mastectomy and 8 rounds of chemo. I was done with the bad stuff and ready to start over with the new me. Ready for reconstruction surgery…(a sort of a trophy for my hard work!) all I needed was a quick blood test to make sure my counts were good. I got a call from the plastic surgeon…had to postpone surgery at least a month and we’d check again. I was heart broken.

I decided I would eat/drink whatever it took to raise my counts. As that commercial used to say I read to the end of the internet. While I was reading I kept coming across the Weston A. Price foundation and Nourishing Traditions…an organization that goes WAY back in time and teaches how ancients and native societies from around the world prepared food for a healthier way of life. They place a lot of emphasis on raw, fermented and probiotic food sources. One of which is Kombucha.

Kombucha…a traditional, probiotic, and enzyme rich beverage consumed for centuries in China and Russia. Kombucha is helpful in cleansing and detoxifying the liver and other organs. So off I went…found it at the local health food store and started drinking. It was an odd taste at first but I found that the more I drank the more I wanted almost like my body was craving it and at 3.50 a bottle it was an expensive craving!

SCOBY

Again I went back to the internet and decided I’d start making my own. Kombucha Kamp became my obsession…followed the blogs, read all the info, and decided to take the plunge. I was going to grow a Kombucha SCOBY…Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. So it came in the mail, craziest thing I’ve ever seen. Knowing that it was a living culture I decided to give it a name. I call her Terra Madre. Terra is a continuous brewing system that keeps my Kombucha on tap at all times…there is also a single brew method. I set it up, tried very hard not to touch it for 7 days as instructed in the Kombucha Recipe, and then there it was…my first SCOBY baby was born. When it’s finished I am even able to bottle some of it with flavors like cranberry and blueberry. It’s easy and fun!

I had that surgery one month later and my counts remained normal from that point on. I don’t know if it was just the Kombucha that did the trick but I do know that when I go a day or two with out it my body let’s me know. If you’re looking to enhance your organic lifestyle I recommend you try a bottle too!

 

Farm Pictures

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Grasshopper Convention

 

These guys have pretty much taken over.  They helped do the garden in (along with the heat and squash bugs.)  They are absolutely everywhere.  I have been trying to get a picture of them on a fence post, they will line up like this, covering one side of a metal t-post.  I just have not had the camera with me when I’ve seen them and had time to stop.

 

Sunset at the Farm

Even as bad as the weather has been, and as dry as everything is, this place is still beautiful, and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.  This was the view from our front yard one evening last week.  We just don’t want to talk about how many of those trees have been killed by the drought and will not be standing after the first good wind comes along.

Daddy's Boots

Sky put these on herself, and actually walked part way across the living room before she fell down.  Stinker : )

Home Made Lard

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I finally got around to making some more lard last week.  I will tell you about my experience, direct you to more information on the web, and tell you about what I learned from this to do differently next time.

Fill the Slow Cooker with Fat

Here is my slow cooker full of fat.  Next time, I will grind the fat or at least cut it into very small chunks.  I will show you why in a moment. I know, some of you are wondering why in the world I would be making lard, aren’t you?  If you do a quick internet search, you will find many articles talking about the renewal in interest in and use of lard.  We have been told for years that animal fats are bad, we should cook with vegetable oils, right?  Well, as use of the vegetable oils has increased, so has the rate of heart disease.  Our ancestors ate large amounts of animal fats without the rate of heart disease, cancer and other health issues from which our society now suffers. Real foods are what kept them healthy, and real foods do not come in a box.  Real lard is made at home, it does not come from a shelf in the grocery store. Check out this post from Earthy Delights, or this post from Nourished Kitchen, and this one from Healthy Diets and Sciencefor more information.

Fat Heating

There are several methods of rendering lard.  Some people use a large, heavy stock pot in the oven or on the stovetop.  I was happy with the results I got from the slow cooker (set on low – this is important).   Some people don’t like the smell of the heating fat, but it did not bother me.  Our fat did not have a “gamey” odor in my opinion.

Solids Sink to the Bottom

As the fat cooked and the liquid came out, I found that my large pieces retained a lot of the liquid.  This is when I decided smaller pieces or grinding would have been a good idea.  I stirred the pieces and broke them up at this point to release more of the liquid, but it would have been easier and more effective to have done it to begin with. As the fat is released, the solids begin to sink to the bottom.  At this point it becomes easy to ladle off the liquid, and you can do so at any time.  I found that as long as I did not stir up the solids, I could ladle the golden liquid without needing to strain it.

Clear Golden Liquid Lard

You want your liquid lard to be clear,

Cooling Lard

then as it cools, it will turn white.  Overheating the lard will give a tan color. Here are three jars at various stages of cooling, from warm and clear, to cooling and cloudy, to cooled and white . It is important to remember that this is not the same product as store-bought, hydrogenated, shelf-stable lard.  This lard needs to be refrigerated.

Finished Product

It can also be frozen for long term storage. The final product, a white, solid lard, is wonderful to cook with.

We basically no longer cook with olive oil.  We use our lard, butter, and are trying to use more coconut oil (which makes great fried yellow squash, by the way.)

Butternut Squash Soup

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I do not even remember where the original recipe came from.  Somewhere in the internet, I am sure.  It is very rare that I follow a recipe exactly, quite often because of lack of advance planning.  Most things in our life end up being the wing-it variety.  We usually don’t know what our plans are until they’ve already happened.  Wait, I was talking about soup, wasn’t I?

Butternut Squash Soup with Sausage

Butternut Squash Soup.  It has become a favorite at our house.  The first time I made it, Kent was less than enthusiastic about soup for a meal.  It turned out to be one of his favorites, and he now lets me know when we have not had it in awhile.

One thing I remember about the original recipe is it called for nutmeg, and I don’t like nutmeg.  So I substitute ground cinnamon (because that is what I had).  Sometimes my substitutions work out, sometimes they don’t.  Eating my experiments is often quite an adventure at the very least.  Some of them are definitely inedible.  Not this soup, though.

I bake a butternut squash, sliced lengthwise and face down in a quarter inch of water, for 30-40 minutes until tender to a fork.  I’ve tried peeling them and boiling the chunks, but I like to keep the skin on my hands.  Peeling a butternut squash is a monumental task, I find baking them to be much easier.   Then I can just scoop out the cooked squash with a spoon.  I put it in the blender and puree it until smooth.

Soup bones cooking to make stock

Stock is jelly-like when cold (the good stuff is anyway).

Normally, I add an equal amount of home made chicken stock.  Tonight it was beef stock made from our soup bones.  I made beef stock for the first time yesterday.  For this soup, I think I prefer the chicken stock, but I will try other things with the beef stock.  I also got a large amount of tender meat out of the stock pot, which Sky has been eating.  There was enough for Kent and myself to have it for supper last night also, these are very meaty soup bones.

Browned Suasage

So, you have pureed squash and stock in the pot. This is when I sprinkle with ground cinnamon and add a bit of Redmond Real Salt and black pepper.  I heat over low heat to liquify the stock and simmer the two together to blend.  At the same time, I brown a package of sausage, usually venison sausage around here.  Whatever bulk sausage you like, our pork breakfast sausage would work great.  We just didn’t bring any of it home because we have so much venison in the freezer already.

I also sautee some onion in another skillet.  When the sausage and onions are done, add them to the pot.  Add water to get the consistency you like.  Simmer for a bit to let everything blend, then serve.

Sky Likes Butternut Squash Soup!

Tonight, we tried adding creme fraiche.  It gave a nice creamy taste and was pretty good.  We also added our cottage cheese.  This was hands down the favorite.  Kent, Sky and I ate about 3/4 of a 16oz. container of cottage cheese tonight.  In the soup, it got soft and then had a definite squeak when chewed.  If you don’t understand what squeak is, you’ll just have to try it.

This soup is a very flexible recipe.  I want to try it with sweet potato next time.  It stores well in the refrigerator, just reheat and add water as needed to get the texture you want.  We like it pretty thick , but you could thin it down to stretch it out.  It is quite filling (I am still stuffed as I write this at 11pm).

Another New Baby

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Summer is not the best time for babies to be born on a farm, but it seems to be happening quite often around here lately.  Next year we plan to separate the boars and the sows so we won’t be having piglets in the hottest months.  Giving birth and nursing babies is very hard in high heat.  We have not lost any mama pigs this year, but it could definitely happen.  We pull the bulls out from the cows so they calve from September through May for the same reason.  When they calve in this heat, they are under way too much stress and the cows can even die.  They also do not give as much milk because of the heat stress.

Come On, Prissy, Let's Go

I had one mare bred this year, and she should have been due in June, but she held out until today to give us a July 4th baby.  It is a little boy (a colt) and he looks like he will be black (or a dark chocolate brown like his mother).   Kent called me this morning when he left out to let me know she had finally decided to have the baby.  When Sky got up we headed out to check out the new addition.  Even one of the cats went with us.  Here’s Prissy as she accompanied us.

Let's Take a Break

Sky had do stop and rest in the shade.  Even at 9am it was already getting hot out there.  Of course the dogs had to go too.  That’s Ranger (my Standard Poodle who needs his haircut finished).

 

 

 

 

The colt was only a few hours old when we got out there.  Molly, his mother, just wanted to rest.

Tired Mama

She’s a great kid horse, very much the babysitter, and she loves Sky.  I can put Sky on her out in the pasture without even a halter and Molly will stand very still.  Of course it only takes a short time for Sky to be ready to get down.  I was able to get right up to Molly and the baby, even carrying Sky.  Molly was less thrilled with the dogs wanting to see what was going on, but she let us come up and pet the baby while he nursed.  It’s always good to get your hands on a new foal as soon as possible so it accepts people easily.

When we got closer, she got up and I got a better look at the new boy.  Last year’s filly out of Molly, with the same father had a beautiful blanket over her rump when she was born.

Vacera, Last Year's Baby

The father of these two is a beautiful, cream colored horse with beautiful Appaloosa markings.  He is registered as a Tiger Horse, a registry for gaited horses with Appaloosa markings.  Gaited horses have extra gears.  They may trot, but they also do some smoother gait or gaits between a walk and a canter.  If you are not a horse person, that probably doesn’t mean much.  If anyone is interested, contact me and I’ll be happy to elaborate.

This year’s colt shows signs of developing spots.  He has stipes on his hooves, and the sclera of his eyes are white (most horses have brown pigment around the “colored” part of the eye, the “whites” of their eyes are not truly white.)  It will be fun to watch this boy’s coat change color.  Some of them develop spots over several years, sometimes changing every year of their life.   Here he is up close.

I'm So Hungry!

Whoa! How Do These Legs Work, Again?

Where Are We Going, Mom? 

 

Walking Home

Happy Birthday, Grandpa!

Yesterday was Grandpa’s birthday.  Sky helped him blow out the candle on his cake.  Of course, she helped him eat it, too.

Pork Products: Chorizo Sausage, Sliced Ham, and Smoked Sausage Links

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Fresh Chorizo Sausage

Fresh Chorizo in Eggs

As we try the new pork products, I am attempting to take pictures so you can see them.  I will try to post here to tell you how they cooked up, what we did with them, and what we think about them.  So far I have pictures of the sliced ham and the fresh chorizo sausage.  For one thing, the chorizo said links in the store, but I have changed that.  It is not in links, it is bulk sausage.  I browned a package, then put half of it in the refrigerator (and have been snacking on it).  To what was left in the pan, I added some fresh tomato, fresh onion, and scrambled eggs into the mix.  Then I grated mild colby cheese and melted it in just before serving.  Here’s what it looked like.It may not look like much, but it packed a lot of flavor.  I am not a wimp when it comes to hot stuff, and this chorizo got my attention.  It is not a mild sausage.  Be careful when looking at recipes, this is a fresh paprika chorizo.  Many recipes call for a smoked version.  This would have been nice with some refried beans and rice, maybe some nice homemade tortillas.  No, I don’t make homemade tortillas, but we do have a local Mexican restaurant where I can buy some good ones.

Sliced Ham

Sliced Ham, Smoked, Uncured

This is not your deli sliced ham.  These are some planks of ham, and they fry up very nicely in the cast iron skillet.  They are over half an inch thick.  Smoked but not cured.  No nitrates or nitrites added.  Yum, yum, yum.

Smoked Sausage Links

These are nice big links of sausage.  Smoked, uncured, with no added nitrates or nitrites.  You can feel comfortable serving these to your children.  We have cooked them a few times.  The first time I overcooked them (not an uncommon occurrence.)  The next time, I turned the heat down lower and covered the skillet.  That worked better.  Next time I want to try slicing them in half lengthwise and see how they cook that way.  Or I might slice them crosswise, they should cook really fast like that.  Here’s what they look like in the package.  I haven’t remembered to take any pictures cooking these.

Smoked Sausage Links

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