Pie oh Pie!

 

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Some of you know that I worked in a pie shop many years ago, and that for a long, long (very long) time I wouldn’t touch a piece of pie if you paid me.  Face it, there is only so much of a thing you can eat every day before it is gross.  So it was a long time before I tried to bake pie again.  Then along came this guy I wanted to impress, so I baked for him.  I don’t remember what kind now, and he swears up and down that I have never baked him a pecan pie, which I don’t think sounds right, but you know what?  He married me, so I guess the attempt to impress him with my mad baking skills worked.  Or he liked me as a person, whatever.  Well this week I was feeling that little bit of chill in the air late at night and you know what that means; time to wreck those summer bodies with holiday goodies.  What better way to do this than to bake a bunch?  Pies, bread, I want to bake it all.  But I stayed calm and baked just a little bit.  So maybe I made four loaves of bread and a pie, but that is totally reasonable.

While I was digging around in the cabinets for spices, I found a container of shortening that I haven’t used in a hot minute.  I switched all my shortening needs over to lard, which ironically is healthier for you than the vegetable shortening.  But I got to thinking- there had to be a reason everybody started buying Crisco instead of lard for their pie crusts, maybe it’s better after all.  So I put it to the test.  Which is better, lard or shortening?  Here’s how they stacked up:

The lard has a higher moisture content right out of the gate; this means you can add less water when making your dough, but it also means that it is stickier and harder to work with at some points.  The shortening is easy to spread and mix into the little pea sized balls they want in the flour, but what they did to it to make it that way is part of the reason it isn’t good for us.  So the shortening was easier to work, but the lard didn’t crack as much when I rolled it out.  It did, however, fall apart when I went to put it in the pie pan.  Here’s where lard outshines shortening- if it falls apart, that’s ok, just squish it back together.  It tolerates that kind of treatment.  The shortening doesn’t like that as much, it’s drier.

So I got my doughs in the pan and my hybrid pumpkin filling into the crusts and then baked away.  Honestly, if it just came down to the taste, lard is the winner all the way, no question.  It’s flakier, richer and just down right delicious.  If you can tolerate a little more work and schmoozing your crust, lard is the hands down winner.  And it lets us use up even more of the pig in a sustainable way.  If you’re interested, the recipes are below.

Pie Filling:

2 cups cooked down pumpkin, pureed

2 eggs, whisked

2/3 cups packed brown sugar

1 can evaporated milk

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

pinch of nutmeg

Pie Crust:

1 cup AP flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup plus 1 Tablespoon lard (or shortening)

2-3 tablespoons cold water

  1.  Mix the flour and salt in medium bowl, cut in lard with a pastry blender or two forks.  Sprinkle with cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with a fork until flour is moistened.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  3. Gather pastry into a ball and shape into flattened round on a lightly floured surface.  You can wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes, this will ensure the water has time to absorb and helps the lard chill again, which will make it easier to work.
  4. Roll on lightly floured surface into a circle 2 inches longer than a regular pie plate.  Place in the pie plate and press gently but firmly against the sides.  This is also where lard excels- it handles being torn and smushed back together really well.
  5. Mix all the ingredients for the filling in a large bowl until smooth.  Pour into pie crust
  6. Add fancy doo-hickeys, if you prefer.
  7. Bake at 400 for about 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick poked in the filling comes out clean.
  8. Enjoy, and you really don’t have to share.
  9. Recipe for the filling was adapted from an AllRecipes post.  Recipe for pie crust adapted from Betty Crocker.
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Living Room Brooder

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I have just come home from a busy weekend at work and I am stretched out on the couch, enjoying some down time.  As I’m laying here, about to nod off, the feeling of being watched overwhelms me.  I open my eyes to five ducks staring at me, chins resting on the edges of their brooders.  This is an attempt to alert me to the fact that it has been 1 1/3 hours since they’ve eaten and they are fading away.  Probably not going to make it.  I can try rolling over with my back to them, or closing my eyes, but that will just elicit a cacophony of peeps, chirps, squeaks and whistles as they convey the urgency of their situation.  So I fill their food and water bowls for probably the 1,237th time today.  And since I’m awake now, I might as well make a cup of coffee.  The ducks are aware that the kitchen is where treats come from.  Hubby shook a bag of chocolate chips to prove a point, and they lost it.  He then rewarded this behavior with frozen peas, their favorite.  So why in the world do I have nearly grown ducks in my living room?  A couple of reasons.

First of all, we brood all of our babies in the house.  I’ve talked about this before; it makes them comfortable around us and helps us to handle them calmly.  And as we found out the other day when we had a duck escape out the back door on their way to the temporary yard, they will follow us when they are in new and scary scenarios.  Which makes catching the poor decision makers easier on us and them.

But we also haven’t gotten their duck yard done yet.  Every time we think we have a spare minute to accomplish this task, something comes up.  I have started precepting nurses at work, so I spent a lot of extra time in classes.  My husband currently has 16 knives he is working on, trying to keep up as the orders keep rolling in.  We had to spend a little money we didn’t plan on to purchase a band saw because one of the orders is super special and the chef wanted a saya (think wooden sheath almost).  The cat is almost bald due to licking all of his hair off so we had to take him to the vet.  There is always money being spent on feed and bedding.  So between a budget and time constraints, well, the duck yard has been put on the back burner.

This is not the best scenario, however, and we have this week to fix it.  Then insanity settles in again and the putting off would kick into high gear.  We need to get these ducks out of here.  They don’t have enough room and the house is full of feathers right now because one of them is molting.  Anybody need a down pillow?

I honestly can’t complain about the crazy that is our life right now, because we are up to our ears in projects and jobs and fun stuff that are of our choosing.  There are not a lot of people that can say that.  I am in the process of making my husband’s knife shop a little more organized, so we know what orders he has and what needs priority.  We are planning on pigs in the spring.  We want to set up a farmer’s market booth during the week next year.  My job is continuing to challenge me as a nurse, and now as a teacher to other nurses.  We are both growing and learning in our messy homesteading education.  And there are new and exciting projects that are on the horizon that I am not quite ready to talk about yet.

I’m going to go ahead and get the ducks some more peas, and maybe crash on the couch for 30 minutes while I have time.  We have so much to do, but the rest of our lives to perfect it.

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But Why Can’t I Do It All?

It’s foosball time again dear readers and I for one am super excited about the upcoming change in temperatures.  The summer weather just about kills me, and fall is my favorite season by far.  This is also the time of year that we start wrapping up our summer gardens and spend a lot of time in the kitchen canning and preserving.  And it should be the time when we are planning a fall garden.  Or have the silly thing started.  That’s what I’m working on today and tomorrow.  I have some really cool winter squash that I want to plant and see how they do.  This is also a time for me to be a little disappointed.  Our to-do list is the length of a Stephen King novel, and yet every fall I get in a little funk about not getting it done.  My husband is super human but even he can’t do everything in a matter of a couple of months.  And he has been really busy with his business, which has kept him hopping with orders lately.  I know, I know, we got chickens this year.  And we got ducks this year.  And our pear trees produced more pears than I have recipes for.  But I wanted more from the garden.  In all fairness, and what I have to make sure I remind myself of, is we didn’t have a tiller this year.  My parents are happy to loan us theirs but it can become somewhat of a logistical problem transporting to and from, etc.  So my hubby did what any sane, normal person would do- he tilled the garden by hand.  And he really worked his butt off, so I should clarify here and now- I’m not frustrated with him, he’s amazing (did I say that already?  Oh well, he is).  I’m frustrated that I am not home to do more.  I’m frustrated that the weather didn’t cooperate this year and my green beans are being whiny princesses that aren’t going to give me the bushels of beans I got last year.  And I’m frustrated that this year we will still have to buy produce from the store.  Am I being completely unrealistic and demanding?  Well, yes, but……  Ok, no but, I’m just being unrealistic.  That’s why I want to do a fall garden so badly, though.  So I can redeem myself and my garden a little, even if I’m the only person who is disappointed with it this year.  My husband does try to remind me that we are still learning and growing, that our farm has taken on new dimensions with the addition of livestock, and that both of our jobs are getting more hectic with more responsibility.  But that doesn’t mean that I always listen to him.  What kind of wife would I be if I calmy paid attention to my hubs’ words and was rational?  Exactly.  But I am going to try, because we have worked really hard this year, and we did check a lot of jobs off the master to-do list.  And we even did a bunch of stuff that wasn’t on the list.  I need to write them on the bottom of the list so I can check them off too.  And still to come, I have to learn how to cook with all the squash I’m planting.

Happy Fall (almost)!  It’s time to get ready for some amazing recipes, and cooler temps.

Until next time, dear readers.

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Oh, Duck!

Around here, some things are meticulously planned, and some things are, well, kind of spur of the moment.  For example, the tiller we bought tonight was planned.  We saved our money to buy a decent one, went with a model and company we like, and we have been in need of our own tiller for a couple of years now.  This spring, my Hubby “tilled” the garden by hand, using our heavy duty pitchfork to turn the soil.  That is why we have about a third of the produce growing that we did last year.  Now we can finish the garden and plant a bunch of food.

The ducks we bought last week, however, fit more into the spontaneous category.  We have talked about getting ducks and were in agreement that next year was the year for ducks.  That all fell apart during a trip to Rural King for chicken feed.  They had 5 Rouen ducks that were a little older than the brand new ducklings, and they were on sale.  We looked and talked, and walked over to the canning section so I could get lids, looked at gardening supplies, checked out cat food, put our chicken feed in the cart, made it almost out of the poultry section and stopped to look at the ducks again.  And we talked about getting ducks some more.  And looked at more chicken supplies, and finally, we grabbed a box (we quit letting the employees hand us our birds a long time ago), and picked out two ducks.  We headed to the check out lane and brought our new birds home.

We already have brooders, so we just set one up and the ducks adjusted very quickly.  We have to change their water about 10 times a day, so a vacation while these crazy birds are stuck in the house is not going to happen.  And we had to grab some duck feed, but since Purina makes a non-medicated multi species flock feed, we did that, and the chickens will be happy too.  When they are feathered out, our new ducks will spend their days chilling with the chickens, free ranging the yard eating bugs and swimming in their pond that is under construction.

What do you do with ducks?  Well, they lay eggs, which are buttery and taste mostly like a chicken egg.  And if we got really lucky, we have a male and a female (a drake and a duck if anyone’s interested) and they will give us sweet, adorable baby ducks.

Were they a spur of the moment decision?  Yes.  Will they be more work?  Of course.  But are they worth it?  Absolutely.  We knew we would be getting ducks at some point; duck egg production doesn’t slow down in the winter like chicken egg production does.  They are tasty (sorry babies, but it’s the truth).  And they are hilarious.  Don’t discount the entertainment value of livestock, it’s part of why we do what we do.

The tiller will be useful tomorrow.  The ducks will start paying their rent a few months from now.  But they are a part of our homestead now, and each piece that comes together makes our farm a little more complete.  Our dream farm and the farm that we eventually have might not be the same, but they will be pretty close, and one day I hope to be sitting on my porch with a cup of coffee watching our ducks play in the pond.

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Chicken Zen

I think every time I sit down to write, I start by exclaiming that I am so much busier than I was the last time I sat down to write.  And that will probably be the case for the next couple of months, since it is the season for growing, tending and harvesting food.  We have started to get a couple of tomatoes, and berries.  We also got our very first chicken egg last week.  I was so excited.  My sweeet hubs brought it in, thought about it, and took that egg back to the nest box.  Not because he thought the chickens might try to sit on it, but because he wanted me to be the one to find it.  Hey, if there was a bush that grew ammo or the expensive coffee we like so much, I would do the same thing for him.  Both of us have been pretty busy lately.  His shop has been blowing up with orders the last few weeks, and we routinely have 3-4 packages to ship out every week.  I couldn’t be prouder of him for sticking with this, even when it got frustrating and it seemed there was no progress being made.  I have been working the same amount, but I feel busier.  We may be busier at work, I may just not be sleeping enough.  That, and my bad shoulder hurts more lately.  You would think a nurse would know when to go see a doctor, but you would be wrong.  We are the last people on earth to go to a doctor.  All of this has led to being more tired, which is a common theme in modern society.  But this is the worst time to lose all my mojo!  We still have a chicken run to finish, and the garden to, well, garden.  And next year we are planning on having two pigs, so there’s a lot of work necessary to getting the yard done for them.  A pine tree to cut up, fruit trees to plant, and the endless mowing.  And that’s only outside.  I’m getting tired just thinking about it all.  When I find myself wearing out, or mentally shutting off, I just go sit with the chickens.  I would have never guessed that just the simple act of chilling with some feathered dinosaurs would lift so much weight right off my shoulders.  And you’ve never really gardened until you have gardened with a chicken.  Sure, they eat the bugs, but they also will knock down a tomato plant, crush two onions and snap off a green bean plant in the process.  Girls if we don’t have any produce, you’re going to have to up the egg production.  Plus, a couple of those birds eat our tomatoes.  Not even the pretty red ripe ones.  Heck no, those heifers go straight for the green tomatoes so we don’t even get half a durned tomato.  To be honest though, I wouldn’t trade our girls for the world.  And on a pretty evening, sitting in the shade in the backyard with my hubby and a cool glass of water, there’s nothing more soothing than a chicken on my leg, just chattering away about the day’s gossip.

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Real Food

For my birthday, my awesome hubby got me a copy of Michael Pollan’s book, In Defense of Food.  His entire point can be summed up in 7 words: eat food, not too much, mostly plants.  Michael Pollan, not my husband.  Well, it’s something my husband would say also.  The statement comes right from the book itself, and before I even knew who Michael Pollan was, and before we even started doing more digging into what it means to really be self sufficient and lead healthy lives, we pretty much felt this way.  Eat food; real food, food that your grandparents would recognize.  And eat it with gusto!  The entire concept of feeling guilty about eating is such an American thing.  We hate to admit that we love chocolate and cake and ice cream, or if we cop to it, we do so with a self deprecating grin on our faces.  As if loving food is the worst thing a person can do in a day.  The thing is, when you eat real food, not food like products, it changes the way you view food.  We are guilty of having quite a few food-like products in our pantry, but we are working to change that.  Any time a recipe for a dessert tells me to use shortnening, I whip out my trusty tub of lard.  That’s right, lard.  I said it, I’m not afraid to tell you that lard makes my pie crusts so golden and flaky, and makes my chocolate chip cookies so rich and delicious.  I am a proud user of lard.  Most people, and I was among their ranks not so long ago, would get the heck away from lard as fast as they could.  Thing is, when we start looking at what individual nutrients are doing to our health, we get into muddy water.  If you look across the globe at cultures that eat very closely to what their great grandparents ate, you will see a serious lack of health problems related to diet- cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancers, I could go on.  Numerous studies have shown that vitamins and dietary supplements have no effect on a person’s health.  Well, ok that’s not entirely true; sometimes when longterm or large amounts of vitamins and supplements are used, there is a deleterious effect on the person’s health.  For example, fat soluble vitamins, such as A, D, E and K are all filtered through the liver, but since they are fat soluble, they also accumulate.  Similar to the way heavy metals accumulate in your body.  What does that mean for our vitamin taker, or a person who has been consuming these new meal replacement smoothies which are basically a multi vitamin in a cup?  It can mean long term negative health, specifically to the liver and kidneys, your body’s filters.

What in the world does any of this have to do with homesteading?  I’m glad you asked.  The whole purpose of the life we lead here is self sufficiency and good long term health.  We aren’t as active as we should be, and we are far from eating all the right things.  But we also trashed our supply of multivitamins and dietary supplements.  Instead of reaching for an omega 3 capsule, we grill up some fish hubby caught.  Instead of downing a vitamin K replacement we grab some greens and some spinach and have a salad.  And anytime anyone ever tells you that vegetable oils are better for your health than real fat, don’t you trust that person.  Use real butter, use real lard, and eat real vegetables and fruits.  Oh and for the record, eat eggs, the whole egg.

The amount of money spent on designer shakes and wraps and pills and whatnot would be so much better spent in the produce aisle of the grocery store.  Or better yet, at the farmers market.  Get to know the people who grow and raise your food.  Grow some of your own!  And eat it with joy and pleasure.  Food should be enjoyed.  Good food should be relished and lingered over and talked about.  And you know what?  Have that slice of pie.  Have two, just maybe work an extra 30 minutes in the garden the next day.

The point is we have gotten so far away from eating a healthy diet that is real food, it doesn’t matter how many vitamins you take.  If everything else you consume is packaged and delivered up with the flashiest new slogan or jingle, those multivitamins aren’t going to be able to dilute the negative.  I guess that’s my soapbox for the day.  And if you’re looking for a  good piece of pie, we might just save you one.

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Happy Spring

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Spring is here.  The birds are singing, the flowers are blooming, and the cat seeds we planted are maturing in the pots nicely.  We have been super busy, as I’m sure you have.  The broccoli and cabbage seeds we started are at their awkward leggy stage, and I’m pretty sure we messed them up a little, but that’s part of it, right?  Regardless, we have a bunch of broccoli that needs a garden to live in.  We also just started a few hundred tomato and pepper seeds.  Hopefully most of those come up, since we can a lot of tomatoes and my hubby could eat some kind of pepper with any meal.  The chickens have all been moved out to the big coop, and three have been moved back into the brooders in the house.  We had a minor incident of cannibalism going on; basically one of the copper laced Wyandottes thought it would be a good idea to peck the other chickens bloody.  She has been separated from her former roomies, and the two hens that got it the worst are recuperating in the hospital wing.  We are treating their bloody injuries much like we did with the Rainbow Ranger whose bum was prolapsed a little- Neosporin and warm water washes.  It is important to get the Neosporin that does NOT have the pain reliever in it, as that is harmful to your chicks.  But they are doing really well in their living quarters for the time being.  And I am so tickled to have feather babies back in the house.

We have both been working a lot.  My hubby is working on a custom chef’s knife for a chef that works in GA.  I have been working all of the (what seems like anyway) nice days and home on the rainy days.  Don’t get me wrong, I love rain, but if Mother Nature decided to do me a teeny tiny favor, and have the rainy days on the work days I have to sleep, and the sunny nice days when I’m home in the garden, well, she would be my favorite.  The garden desperately needs to be tilled soon, and the compost turned.  The chicken yard needs to be finished and the inside of the coop needs a little work.  The office and the guest room both need new floors.  The old apple tree needs to be cleaned up.  The fruit bushes need some love and pruning.  The yard needs to be mowed (always).  And the list could go on it seems.  Tonight I am happy to sit in my old beat up recliner with the cats, and maybe a house rabbit later if he missed me enough, and relax.  Wallow in the bliss of comfy pants and fancy coffee.  And probably take a nap.  I think everything will probably be just as we left it tomorrow when the sun comes up; in need of work.  Happy spring all!

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Chicken Fever

I became a crazy social media mom last week.  But I think anyone who knows me should have seen that coming.  We ordered chicks from a hatchery but I have no patience.  I drove home from work Monday morning like I have been doing for the last 6 weeks.  I have too much time to sit and think on that drive.  I got home, took a nap and when I got up, over coffee, casually mentioned to my husband that the farm stores have their spring chicks in.  Just in case he wanted to go look at them.  I’m not smooth, he knew what I was up to.  Whether a momentary lapse in judging my ability to control myself or a similar need to have new chickens, he said, yeah, let’s go see what they’ve got.  When we walked in, we had already decided we would just take home a few.  We have birds coming, we don’t need a full flock today.  I asked the cashier to radio someone to meet us there, which she did, and we were off, gathering chicken things into our cart.  We had most of our improvised chick brooder ready to go, but we needed a couple of last minute supplies.  We got to the chicks and they had two breeds; the Rhode Island Reds were labeled, the blondies (as we have started calling them) were not.  We waited on our help to arrive, at least having the small amount of calm it takes not to just start picking them all up.  After we had been there a little while, I finally went in search of an associate.  The first guy I saw I asked to send some help to the chickens before I started stuffing them in my pockets.  He chuckled, but he could tell I was serious and, lo and behold, we got help very promptly.  This guy recognized a crazy chicken lady right away.  The young fella they sent to help us had little to no knowledge about the chickens.  I mean, he knew they were chickens, but that was close to all.  We didn’t expect him to be the chicken whisperer or anything, but he didn’t have any idea what breed the little yellow chicks were. We didn’t mind.  We decided on 3 of each.  The chicken wrangler handed me my first bird as he asked if we raise chickens.  When I saw that it was caked in poop and not very active, I politely said yep we do, and I would like to pick my own chicks please.  Then I climbed halfway in the box to start grabbing the crazy ones.  You know, the ones running full blast.  If this kid thought he could stop me, that moment came and passed very quickly.  He held the box while I picked out my feathered fuzz friends.  He gave me a sticker to take up front and we were off.  We got this brood home and while my wonderfully sweet hubby put their new brooder together, I snuggled 6 fuzzy birds in my fleece.  They slept, happy to be warm and tucked in.  We showed them the water and the food, which if you have ever met a chicken, is a big deal.  They eat constantly.

The online photos began immediately.  I became that person:  that mother who shares 8 pictures of almost the exact same pose, event, smile, whatever; except mine were these silly birds.  With delight I chuckled and photographed away while they did normal, every day chicken stuff.  But the people on my social media would not be spared.  Oh! Look!  This one has a new feather.  Yes, one new feather, oh isn’t that so sweet?  One new feather, you smart little chicken you.  I paused one day while I was in the kitchen doing some dishes and realized I had been talking to them like someone would talk to their toddler.  Am I crazy?  Meh, everybody talks to their chickens, right?  I figure, well, we talk to the cats and the rabbit, might as well keep the chicks informed about the state of things.

We don’t have our chicken coop done yet.  That’s mostly my fault.  We had more than enough time to work on it before the chicks arrived in the mail, but I got a solid case of chicken fever.  So we put the brooder in the house.  It is situated between the recliner and the couch in the living room, so they can hear us talking and going about our business.  I also have been feeding them age appropriate treats out of my hand and calling them.  They now come running over to the treat spot when I make my first little chicky call.

We have made a few modifications to the original brooder, and now they fall into the category of very spoiled chickens.  Next week we are going to put the second brooder together.  I will post some pics then of the process.  The chicks coming by mail need a place to stay and when they get here, they can’t be in with this first set of babies.  I would love to hear how you house your new chicks.

Imposter

It’s 10:30 at night, and my house is quiet.  That’s pretty unusual for this house.  The bunny is asleep under the table against my feet, my Hubby is snoozing on the couch, the cats are all passed out in different spots around the house.  Everybody is worn out; it’s been a busy couple of weeks for this household.  Last week, I had my week long orientation at my new job, the whole time my Hubs was trying to shift back to a day time schedule so he could talk to me and we could have dinner together.  This weekend I start back on night shift, so he may be more awake then.  This week we have been doing all kinds of stuff around here.  We have our shelf greenhouse chugging right along, and Husband has been babying those little sprouts.  They get a lot of attention.  The last few days, I have canned 10 1/2 jars of enchilada sauce that my husband made a few days ago, I learned how to make sauerkraut and started two jars, I have canned 11 jars of cream of mushroom soup base, baked bread, made dinner, done dishes, and today I learned how to process a whole chicken.  I have to admit that I had never done this before today.  In any sense.  When I was first on my own after college, I would buy boneless, skinless chicken breast and that was all I knew how to cook.  I couldn’t have successfully removed bones from a chicken if I had to.  And up to this point, Hubby has always boned and processed all the chicken.  He was tired today, having not slept much in two weeks, so I told him if he would just give me some pointers and instruction, I would do the work today.  So he guided me as I cut up a 7 pound chicken that mom and dad raised and gave to us.  It went better than we both expected.  I did the second and third birds with no instruction from him, and getting a little bit better with every knife stroke.  I finally feel like I am fully in this life.

I saw an article the other day that asked if many people out there that do what we do feel like imposters.  I know I do.  I feel like one of these days I’m going to make a post or write a blog, and someone who is a “real” homesteader is going to come along and shout and point, “fake!!  She’s a fake!  She doesn’t know what she’s doing!”  I’m sure a lot of people who didn’t grow up doing everything they are trying to do on their farm or homestead feel the same way.  But really, it doesn’t matter if you grow a tomato plant on your balcony or if you have the whole shebang- cows, pigs, chickens, gardens, orchard, fruit bushes, on and on, etc.  Either way, you are a homesteader if you think you are.  If you make any effort to improve the lives of yourself and your family, well, that’s the point.  You are now conferred the official title of Homesteader Extraordinaire, by the power vested in me by the state of confusion, cross my heart and hope to die.  So there, it’s official.

And today I finally felt it.  I am, no, sorry, WE are homesteaders.  We have a small, indoor hope-the-cats-don’t-eat-it greenhouse on a couple of shelves in our dining room.  But we are growing lettuce and beans.  In January.  I know how to make homemade sauerkraut now.  And I can cut up a chicken.  A whole dang chicken.  Which gets us another step closer to being able to have our own chickens in the backyard.  It might be a little more helpful if I learned how to be a carpenter, but sometimes, the skill you need the most is the one you learn right here and now.  And one of the most important parts of learning new skills- I can help my husband do more around the homestead.  If he isn’t feeling well, or he has a really busy week in the shop, I can jump in and do some of the jobs he has been doing for us this whole time.  I feel a little more like a “real” homesteader today.  And a little more helpful to my husband.

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January Seeds

Cheesecake

We are recovering from the holidays.  We ate too much and we certainly ate too many sweets.  But now the cheesecake is gone, even if the knowledge that I can make cheesecake remains in the mind of my husband.  The chocolates are gone, the Twizzlers are almost gone.  And it’s time to get back to normal.  Back to eating our vegetables and not overindulging.  I spent the day yesterday curled up in the recliner with a raging migraine and sour stomach; I think the bad eating caught up with me finally.  Today I felt better, but I think it’s going to be a long road to recovery.  And really the only thing that saved today was getting up and doing some stuff.  It wouldn’t have mattered what that stuff was as long as I was walking, talking and doing.  Mr. T&E worked on his knives some, drew out a new design he’s excited to work on; and he got into the kitchen and mixed up some seasonings.  This man is serious about his seasonings.  We have come to prefer grinding our own; the taste is much richer.  No matter the seasoning, really.  So he spent some time refilling his myriad of pepper mills that have different spices in them, adjusting the proportions of each variety of a spice to make the perfect blend.  Regular housework had to be done, so I knocked out the dishes and some laundry (it even got put away!)  and we did some cleaning.  I have started using a homemade scrub on my counters; it smells amazing, does a great job of lifting even caked on gunk, and it isn’t some harsh chemical.  I will drop you the recipe down below.  As the kitchen was getting a deep clean, I would sit and take breaks.  During the longest of those breaks, we inventoried our seeds and decided to try planting anything that was older than 2012.  If properly stored, as we see in the news, seeds can last hundreds of years and still grow.  Alas, we are not the best at storing seeds correctly, and we needed to find out if any of the old stuff would grow.  Heck, if we get 20% growth out of these poor beaten up old seeds, we will be tickled pink.  We decided to plant this early in the year because we are building cold frames and a small, portable greenhouses in the next couple of weeks, so anything that grows, will be transplanted out there.  So this is a grand old experiment.  My husband applied Murphy’s Law to the seed starting so early- he figures everything will grow and come spring we will have to increase the size of the garden by quite a bit to accommodate.  We can only hope, right?  We did plant 150 cells, which all have at least 3 seeds of some kind in them, some of them have as many as 10.  So if we do get most of it to grow, well let’s just say we will have more than we can plant.

Which brings us to the next topic of discussion:  we tossed around the idea of starting all of the seeds and anything we can’t plant, giving our little starts to folks that need some gardening in their lives.  We also have so much of some seeds that we will be packaging small amounts into packets and giving those to people that will use them as well.  They just need to plant them, that’s all we ask.

As with anything worth doing in this house, the seed planting was supervised by a cat.  He gave his (hopefully, anyway) seal of approval by sitting in the newly planted flats.  We are constructing some shelving tomorrow with lights so that we can put our flats on them securely (read wrapped in chicken wire) in the dining room, which has amazing light for this kind of thing.  We have a pomegranate tree in this space currently that loves the spot.  He will just have to budge over a little and share.

Yes, it’s January.  Yes, it’s a little bit cold.  But we both don’t function as well sitting around.  Whether we like to be busy remains to be seen, but we need to be busy.   We have ordered seeds for spring, including quite a few things we have never tried.  We are putting up shelves for our mini indoor greenhouses to start seeds in.  And we are about to start drawing up plans for and building moveable greenhouses outside.  I have found a way to keep my hands in soil year round.

I got this recipe for the scrub from Mighty Nest.  They are a company that has products meant to make your nest a little more sustainable and healthy.  Look them up on Google, they have awesome products!

Soft Scrub for Bathrooms (which I use in my kitchen, too)

3/4 cup baking soda

1/4 cup liquid castile soap

1 tablespoon water

10-15 drops of essential oil of your choice (we like eucalyptus oil)

Combine- I shake mine in a jelly jar.

 

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