Monday, October 31, 2011

Not a Good Start to the Week

This morning DD1 hit a deer on the way to school.  Not a good way to start the week. 

She called me immediately after it happened, once she had safely maneuvered the car to the side of the road.  After asking the three important questions:

1. Are you and your sister okay?
2. How badly damaged is the car?
3. Is the deer dead?

and getting 1. Yes, 2. not bad, I think, 3. I don't know, it ran off; I instructed her to call the sheriff to have someone out to make an accident report, and that I would be there asap.

I was very surprised and pleased to find a deputy at the scene when I arrived.  We are about 12 miles out from the county sheriff's station, and they no longer patrol the rural parts of the county.  So to have an officer on the scene within minutes, rather than closer to an hour for a car/deer accident with no injuries, was quite unusual.  The officer was also very nice and calming to DD1, telling her she did the right thing to not swerve, and that it wouldn't be the last deer she hits in her lifetime.  It's just one of those country living things, especially this time of the year.  That it was the deer's fault, and not her own.

Kudos to the county deputy.  I know DD1 will remember him and his words for a long, long time.

I'm happy to report that both of my daughters are fine, if a bit shaken by their unplanned contact with a flying deer.  Apparently it jumped up onto the road out of a low field on the passenger side, and then attempted to leap the car.  It landed on the hood, bounced onto the road, and kept running.  All of it happened in the blink of an eye.

The deer was not recovered.  It ran into a corn field, and, if it had any injuries, they left no evidence at the scene.  No blood, no hair, just a big dent in the hood of the car and deer slobber on the windshield.  Hope the deer lived, because it would be a shame for that meat to go to waste.

(Yes, we eat fresh roadkill.  Unless it gets busted up internally, car-harvested venison is perfectly tasty and safe to eat.  And it's only right to make use of it.)

The car seems to be fine too, minus the passenger side headlight and having a very large dent in the hood on the driver's side.  Nothing a little body work won't fix.

Sure hope the rest of the week goes better!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sunday Scenes

The meat birds, always happy to see me.
Little do they know my plans for them ;0)

Old Dog walks out to check on his flock.
He's been having a hard time getting around this fall, and he doesn't get out to the coop very often any more.

A welcome sight.
Soon production is going to drop dramatically because I don't heat or light my coop.

Deer hunters will know what this is.
(It's not just a picture of dirt and leaves and weeds)
10 point buck was seen here the evening before.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Frugal Food #8: Meal Planning

Oh, the dread of dinner time when you have no clue what you are going to cook.  The clock ticks, the pantry and refrigerator divulge no ideas, your kids are trying to snack on anything they see, you know your hubby will soon be home from work and hungry.  Hungry as a bear; growling like a bear.

Your pulse quickens in fear and you break out in a cold sweat.
 What will you make for dinner?????

Contrast this to you humming a catchy tune that is stuck in your head as you stir a pan of browning burger on one burner while a can of refried beans heats on another.  Lettuce is torn and washed, drip drying in a colander in the sink.  Cheese is shredded, tomatoes chopped, taco shells rest in orderly lines on a cookie sheet while the oven heats.  Dinner time is fifteen minutes away, the kids stay out of the kitchen and out from under your feet because they know they can wait just a tad longer to put something in their growling bellies.  Your hubby should be pulling into the drive in about ten minutes, and you are calm and happy, looking forward to his return from the work day.

Is it the super fancy gourmet meal (NOT!) of tacos that has life so much more bearable in the second scenario than in the first?  NO!  It's the fact that you are prepared for dinner, you have a plan, and you are carrying it out in a timely fashion.

Planning ahead makes all the difference.  Think about it.  When you have no idea what to make for dinner, what is your greatest urge?  To buckle down, get creative with the ingredients you can find, and get cooking?  No!  It's to throw in the towel, call the pizza man, or jump in the car and drive to the nearest burger joint.  And how much will that dinner of delivery pizza or burgers and fries cost your family?  $20?  More than $20?  When was the last time you made a home cooked meal that cost a hard earned $20?  It was probably something extravagant like porterhouse steaks for fourth of July, or large enough to feed a crowd, like Thanksgiving dinner.  Sure wasn't pizza or burgers.

Take thirty minutes, look at what you have on hand, and make up a menu for the next seven days.  I'm sure you can find thirty minutes.  That's the length of the average television show.  Surely you watch TV at least a few hours a week.  Take half of one of those hours and spend it prepping for a week's worth of meals.  You've got the time.  You can even do it in bits and pieces on commercial breaks if you just can't bring yourself to give up a TV show.  Do it.

If it's easier to get into this planning ahead habit by just focusing on dinners, do that.  If you want to go all out and plan breakfasts and lunches too, go ahead.  But do it.  Plan.  Then on those hectic, busy days, you can look at the menu and go on autopilot rather than stressing over what to feed your family.

Here are some sample menus from this little place here to give you some inspiration:

Monday: venison steak with baked sweet potatoes
Tuesday: chili
Wednesday: baked chicken, mashed potatoes, corn
Thursday: goulash
Friday: pizza (homemade, not ordered!)
Saturday: pasties
Sunday: meatloaf

Monday: B-fried eggs and toast, L-meatloaf sandwiches, D-stew
Tuesday: B-pancakes, L-leftover stew, D-spaghetti and garlic bread
Wednesday: B-oatmeal, L-pb&j or leftover spaghetti, D-tuna casserole
Thursday: B-scrambled eggs, L-tuna sandwiches or leftover casserole, D-pea soup
Friday: B-french toast, L-leftover soup or pb&j, D-stroganoff
Saturday: B-waffles, L-tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches, D-pot roast with mashed potatoes and gravy
Sunday: B-muffins, L-pot roast sandwiches, D-chicken soup

Note how leftovers are a prominent lunch time feature.  Easy to pack in lunches, or easy to reheat if you are home during lunch time.  No new expenditure for lunch fare, the expense was incurred when that entree appeared as dinner the first time around.

To not get stuck in a rut of eating the same old thing week after week, make a list of everything--yes everything!--your family likes to eat.  When making up your menus, look on the list for meals that you have the main ingredients for, and plug those into the schedule.  There's no need to eat goulash six times a month.  Unless your family really loves goulash.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Picture From College

I got a picture message on my phone from DS2.  He's the one in college 500 miles away.  It was another moment that makes a homesteading mother proud to know that what she 'dragged her children through' wasn't so torturous after all, and stuck with them in a positive way.

Here's the picture:

Here's the message:

"Don't you wish you had some apple butter?"

Here's the story:

DS2 and some of his fellow students had noticed an abundance of apple trees along the running/walking/hiking trails maintained by their college.  Apple trees with apples that were just falling off and going to waste.  So, a group of 10-12 students got together and picked a bunch of apples one day.  Then they took the apples back to the dorm.

Now, each floor of the dorm he's in has a kitchenette.  This group of students decided to make use of one of the kitchenettes in their endeavor to do something useful with their frugally procured apples.  So, they started coring and peeling the apples.   When they were done, they had made: two deep dish apple pies, an apple crisp, some applesauce, and a batch of apple butter large enough that each student in the group got to keep one jar.

DS2 says that their next task will be to bake some bread to use the apple butter on.

Homesteading goes to college!  :0)

(humorous note: notice the jar of apple butter is sitting on an open differential equations textbook.  Even future engineers like homemade goods!)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Ten Signs DH is Home From a Work Trip

1. The toilet in the master bathroom is clogged.

2. The toilet paper roll is empty and not replaced.

3. I'm tripping over carry-ons, especially the one full of dirty clothes conveniently left directly in front of the washing machine.

4. The empty beer glass next to the couch.

5. The TV played football approximately 10 hours in two days, then proceeded to play baseball for another 4.

6. Someone put the dog in the basement during the rain storm in the middle of the night, but didn't let him out this morning.

7. Dirty clothes on the bedroom floor instead of in the hamper.

8.  I woke up in the middle of the night, shivering, because someone had opened the window above the bed, then stole all my covers.

9. There are tools left on the kitchen counter, but the disposal now works!

10.  I'm smiling despite numbers 1-9  :0)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Hot Soup for a Cold Day

It's gloomy here today: cold, wet, windy, and gray all over.

So, even though it's barely past lunch time, dinner has been started.  A pot of navy beans is simmering on the stove.  They started soaking last night, and now they have been brought to a boil, covered, and turned down to simmer until soft.  Then they will become a batch of bean soup to warm our insides this evening.

Bean Soup
1 pound of navy beans (the dried kind)
7 cups cold water
1 tsp salt
1 pound smoked hock (or leftover ham bone)
1 large onion
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
3 cloves
2 bay leaves
pepper, to taste (I throw in about 1/2 tsp)
1 carrot, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 clove of garlic minced
1 (15oz) can of diced tomatoes--or about 2 cups of chopped tomatoes from the garden

First, the day before you want to eat the soup, sort and rinse the beans, then place in a large pot and cover with the 7 cups of water.  Let soak overnight, or at least 12 hours. 

The day you are going to eat the soup, add the 1 tsp salt to the beans and water, then turn on the burner.  (I always put the pot of soaking beans on the burner I intend to cook them on the next day, usually one of back ones.)  Notice you don't drain off the water, you keep it in the pot with the beans to become the soup.  Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to a simmer.  Simmer about 45 minutes until the beans are soft (I test by mushing a few against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon).

Then, add the smoked hock/ham bone, onion, parsley, and other seasonings.  Do not add more water. Cover and simmer some more, roughly an hour or so. 

Meanwhile, chop your onion, carrot, celery, garlic and tomatoes if using fresh tomatoes rather than canned ones.  When the hock has cooked through and all the veggies are prepped, remove hock from the pot.  Cut the meat off the bone, dice the meat, then add meat and  veggies into the soup pot.  Stir things around to mix well.  Cover again, and simmer on low about 60-90 minutes.  Remove bay leaves and cloves (unless your family members don't mind biting into whole cloves--mine do!) just before serving.

We always have zucchini muffins with our bean soup.  They have a great spicy fall flavor that seems to accent the soup.  We dunk them in the soup instead of using crackers.

Zucchini Muffins
3 cups shredded zucchini
1 2/3 cups sugar
2/3 cups veggie oil
2 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
3 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
(You can also add 1/2 cup chopped nuts and/or 1/2 cup raisins if you have them on hand and your family likes them.)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 24 muffin cups. 

Mix zucchini, sugar, oil, vanilla and eggs in a large bowl.  Stir in the remaining ingredients until just moistened, you don't want to over stir or your muffins won't have those nice domed tops. 

Fill each muffin cup about 3/4 full.  Bake 20-25 minutes or until tops spring back when touched lightly.

Serve hot with the soup.

Don't forget to give the bone from the hock/ham bone to your dog once it has cooled off.  It will be a much appreciated treat!

Friday, October 14, 2011

You Know You're A Homesteader When. . .

. . .your son in college calls to ask if you know what the dimensions of the smallest chest freezer made are.  Because he's getting sick of cafeteria food and thinks he can fit a small chest freezer in his dorm room (along with his little fridge).  There is a kitchen down the hall from his room, and he's seriously thinking of cooking his own food at least a few times a week.  (He also mentions that maybe next year he'll forego paying for the college meal plan and  just prepare all his food. . .)

Then he gives you the dimensions of the extremely tiny freezer in his fridge, and requests that you send enough miniature loaves of banana bread to fill it!

Yes, this lifestyle does rub off on your kids, even if they complain about it while growing up.  :0)

Thursday, October 13, 2011


That's pronounced "pass-tees", not "pay-stees", for those of you who have never eaten one before.  A sort of folded meat and vegetable pie.  Very popular in the U.P. (Michigan's Upper Peninsula, for you who are unfamiliar with both pasties and the U.P.).

We lived up there (the U.P.) for about two years while DH was finishing up his engineering degree at the very college that DS2 now attends.  It was during our time in the U.P. that I became acquainted with pasties.  Ironically, it wasn't until DH had graduated and we'd moved back down state that I ever made pasties myself.  In the U.P. it was my boss's wife who made the pasties.  So, when I began to cook them from scratch, I fashioned mine after her recipe.

1 lb burger (beef or venison)
1 lb ground pork or pork sausage (I prefer ground pork as the sausage is sometimes overpoweringly salty)
1 large onion, chopped
1 rutabaga
2-3 large potatoes
2-3 large carrots
1/2 cup ketchup
2 Tbsp mustard (the yellow kind in the bottle, not dry mustard)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

(If you've never had rutabaga before and don't think you want to eat one, just trust me on this.  It's not a pasty if you don't use rutabaga.)

Peel and dice the rutabaga, potatoes and carrots and steam until tender. (20-30  minutes after water comes to a boil).

veggies mixed together in the steamer and ready to cook

Meanwhile, brown the burger and pork, and the chopped onion, stirring them together well as they cook.

Make enough pie crust for 2 two-crust 9" pies.  That ought to be enough to make about a dozen pasties.

Here's my pie crust recipe for that:
4 cups flour
1 1/3 cups shortening (plus a little bit, maybe another couple of tbsp)
2 tsp salt
about 1/2 cup cold water

Cut flour, shortening & salt together until crumbly, then slowly add about 1/2 cup water, a few tbsp at a time, until dough forms roughly into a ball when stirred.  Cover until ready to use.

When the meat is done cooking, drain well and put in a large mixing bowl.  Add  cooked veggies.  Stir in the ketchup, mustard, cheese, salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Divide your pie crust dough into twelve pieces.  Roll one piece at a time into a circle about 7" or 8" in diameter.

don't worry if it's not perfectly round; it will still be edible :0)

  In the center of the dough, place 1/2 cup of pasty filling (the meat/veggie mixture). 

Fold dough over filling,

and crimp the edges shut either by pressing with a fork or by rolling the dough into a twist with your fingers.

Place on two large cookie sheets; six pasties per sheet.  You can beat an egg with a little water and brush on the tops of the pasties, and they will get a nice brown glaze when cooked.  Or, you can skip that step (I usually do), and your pasties will just be a little pasty (ha ha, as in pale: "pay-stee" "pass-tees", get it?  It's okay to groan at my pun, my family does).

Bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

It's okay if your pasties are less than symmetrical,
or if the crust tears a bit in the folding and crimping. 
As you can see, mine aren't exactly perfect.

mmm, mmm, good!

Leftover pasties can be individually wrapped in foil, and frozen.  They make a great, filling lunch if you, your spouse, or kids have access to a microwave at school or work.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Holding on to the Sunshine

I've been trying to run too hard lately; the to-do list is overflowing along with several unexpected hurdles appearing and needing to be jumped.  That, coupled with the shorter hours of daylight, recently pushed me into an emotional pit.  Dang stress, hormones, SAD, depression, whatever you want to call it; it was misery.

Thank goodness DH was understanding and supportive.  Otherwise I might still be in the pit instead of about halfway up the side of it, stretching my hand to the top and searching for a place to dig my fingertips in so I can hop out onto solid footing again.

I needed to back off the busyness.  Cut out the unimportant.  Tell a few people "No." Take a breather.  Recharge so that I could regroup.

So, I spent some time, off and on, over four days, and put together a 1000 piece puzzle.  I find puzzles relaxing.  I also, however, find them addictive and have to take care to not let my drive to complete the puzzle preclude necessary daily tasks.  So, for me, four days was a looooonnnnggg time to get all 1000 pieces in their proper places.

In between 30 to 60 minutes puzzle sessions, I worked on a few tasks I'd been putting off.  Suddenly they weren't so daunting any more.  Puzzle therapy!

Something else I've done is to allow myself time, in the middle of the day, when I'm done with my morning work, the DDs are at school, and DH is at work, to sunbathe. I've never been one for sunbathing, but I'm learning the benefits of absorbing some Vitamin D right from the source. To grab the last gasp of summer we've been having lately with temps in the 70s and even 80s, and just lay on the back deck in the sun for 1/2 hour to an hour.  Ahhh, solar energy becoming mental energy, becoming physical energy to tackle some more chores.  The brain feels less foggy, the body ready for activity.  The kitchen gets scrubbed, the basement tidied, hinges on the chicken coop door get repaired!

Today, I decided to bring some more sunshine into the house.  Our balmy forecast is about to end; clouds and cooler wetter weather are on their way in the next twenty-four hours.  To combat the funk returning with the lack of sun outside, I cut some calendula and dahlias and brought them inside.

I'm going to hold onto that sunshine as long as I can.  When my head starts to feel cloudy and gloomy, I'll look at those flowers and recharge from their stored sunshine.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Stove/Cooktop Cleaning

My cooktop was filthy.  Again.  Since around here we cook at least twice a day, every day, it tends to get nasty looking pretty quickly.

So, I removed the grates and burner control knobs in preparation for cleaning the cooktop.

ewww, gross!

Then, I hauled out my trusty rusty handy dandy all purpose cleaning supplies and tackled the job.

Baking Soda

Yep. That's it.  No secret chemical concoctions to make the cooktop clean and sparkly in no time.  Just plain old baking soda and vinegar.

First, I took a damp cloth over the whole thing to remove any crumbs or other loose solids (an elbow macaroni, a very dried up piece of summer squash, some garlic powder. . . ).  Then I sprinkled on the baking soda--light in the clean looking spots, heavy on anything crusty.

baking soda on anything that didn't belong on the cooktop

To that, I sprayed on vinegar.  Enough to wet the baking soda and start it fizzing.  Ah, the cleaning power of effervescence! 

fizzing baking soda and vinegar loosen up cooked on crud

After letting the baking soda and vinegar solution fizz for several minutes, I wiped it up with a damp cloth.  Some areas were a bit crusty yet, and needed a second application or a little scrubbing, but overall, in less than ten minutes, I had a much much cleaner cooktop.

much better!

The best part?  (other than having a clean shiny cooktop again. . .)

Everything I used to clean it was food grade.  Baking soda, the same baking soda I use in cookies, pumpkin bread, etc.  Vinegar, the same vinegar I use in pickles.  Completely edible, non harmful, always on hand, and cheap

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Irony of it All

When I was in sixth grade, I spent many lunch hours sitting in the math classroom with the teacher, re-doing my fraction based math assignments.  Fractions were one of those things that I just could not comprehend.  Halves and quarters were fine.  But one-sixth multiplied by 4 = what?!?  Multiplying and dividing fractions stymied me.  Same with adding or subtracting any fractions that did not have the same denominator.  Mixed numbers? Changing a decimal to a fraction?  Forget it.

Then, years later, I had kids.  I didn't stop at two, either.  No, I had to have four of them.  Which made recipes that 'serve 4' (as the vast majority of recipes do for some reason) 1/3 too small for feeding our family of six.  Oh blast!  There's a fraction!  Suddenly, I was multiplying recipes by 1 1/2 (Argh!  A mixed number!) in order to get the right number of servings at mealtimes.   Then the kids' appetites grew and sometimes six servings didn't seem to be quite enough, so I had to adjust the recipe up again.

Here was the practical application of those dang fractions that gave me so much grief in middle school.  But, for some reason, when I held a measuring cup in my hand, I could, in my head without even a piece of scratch paper, multiply fractions.  Not only could I multiply them, I could convert them too:
1/2 tsp x 3 = 1/2 tablespoon
4 tablespoons = 1/4 cup
3/4 cup x 3 = 2 1/4 cups
2 pounds of burger made into 8 hamburgers = 1/4 pound of meat per hamburger!!


In high school, I loved science classes.  However, I purposely avoided taking any class that required dissection.  I did not want to cut up dead things.  No way, no how.  Not gonna do it.

Fast forward three years after graduation to the first Thanksgiving I spent with DH (then 'just' my boyfriend) and his family.  Who all hunted.  Who had deer hanging in the garage Thanksgiving Day.  Who processed their own deer.  Who I willingly (if a bit surprised) helped to debone and cut up the venison. 

The next hunting season found me assisting in field dressing deer. ("Honey, come hold these hind legs apart and shine the flashlight here so I can see what I'm doing."  The one holding the legs with a front row view to all the gore--that was me.) 

Then I tried hunting, knowing full well the rule "You Kill It, You Gut It."  I have through the years, without DH doing any of the work, field dressed three deer of my own.

Not only have I dressed deer, I have chopped heads off of dozens of chickens and a dozen turkeys, and dressed those as well.  In fact, when we have chicken butchering day at this little place here, my spot on the dis-assembly line is 'gutter' because I have hands that are small enough to fit into the abdominal cavity of a 3 pound chicken.  I am also the person who parts the birds out when we don't want just a freezer full of roasters: six leg quarters in this bag, three breasts in that one, a few dozen wings in this one here to save for the Super Bowl. . .

And you know what?  It doesn't disgust me.  In fact, it's quite the opposite.  I find it to be scientifically fascinating, and a great study in anatomy.


From the time I was little, I loved reading stories about life in pioneer times, or about the Amish.  Secretly, I wanted to grow up to be Amish.  Well, almost.  I didn't plan to join the Amish church, being quite satisfied with my Lutheran beliefs and being rather fond of wearing blue jeans and tank tops.  But I did want to live simply like the Amish, have many children, live on a farm and raise my own food.

Then I fell in love with an engineer who, with his engineering mind, loves technology: bigger-faster-more powerful engines, the latest computer software, and machines that do the labor for you so you don't need to get dirty and sweaty.  He's not so into raising food, unless it means driving a tractor and using lots of implements.  Forget hand cultivating.

Oh, the irony of it all!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Planting Garlic

It's that time of year: time to plant the garlic!

Today was a windy but not wet day after a very rainy day yesterday.  Knowing that all that rain would have softened up the ground, I decided to plant my garlic today.  I had set aside several heads of the Inchelium Red that I harvested in July as this year's seed garlic.  I had also purchased a head of "some German kind" of hardneck garlic at the farmers market this summer with plans to plant it, and 2 heads each of Siberian and Georgian Fire ordered from Seed Savers Exchange.

Armed with three-pronged cultivator, I removed weeds from the terraced bed just behind the house.  After the weeds were gone and the soil loosened up, I lay down a piece of wire mesh framed with wood (a scavenge several years ago from the end of someone's driveway--there were 3 of these pieces, each one about 4' x 8', with 2" x 4" wire mesh, along with a sign that said "FREE").  The wire mesh was to be my planting grid, to keep the garlic spaced evenly apart.  With a very tiny trowel that looks more like a toy than a tool, I dug a small hole in every third opening of the mesh, then dropped in one clove of garlic into each hole. 

When I had filled up my grid, I removed the mesh, and covered over the holes with dirt as you can see here:

 then put down a good deep layer of old hay as mulch--roughly 6-7" deep.

 Then I lay the mesh piece down over it all to keep the chickens out of it!

Simple as that, next year's garlic crop has been planted.