Sunday, January 31, 2010

Homemade Granola Bars

Our family likes granola bars. A lot. The problem is, they can be pricey. The cheap ones might as well be candy bars because of the ingredients. I found a recipe online and decided to make some this weekend!

First, we added the oats and wheat germ.

Then came the nuts. Sunflower seeds, and crushed almonds, peanuts, and cashews. The recipe called for 1 cup of peanuts, so we did 1/2 cup peanuts, and 1/4 cup of each almonds and cashews. Ok, so I may have added more peanuts after that. I wanted them to be peanutty. I also added in some flax seed.

The recipe got split in half and roasted in the oven for about 10 minutes.

While the dry ingredients were roasting, I made the "glue", which is brown sugar, honey, and vanilla. The recipe calls for salt, but I left it out.

When the glue is done, mix in with the dry ingredients, and add any dried fruit or other stuff. I added craisins and gold raisins to "my" batch. Smoosh the mix down in a pan, and make sure there's a layer of waxed paper above and below.

I added craisins and semi-sweet chocolate chips to David's batch. Oops, what do you get when you add chocolate chips to hot granola mix? A chocolately mix! Next time, I'll wait for the glue to cool a bit then try adding the chips. Or maybe I'll press the chips in the top of the pan.

Let this cool for a while. You can put it in the fridge if you're impatient. Then, put the pan-sized bar on a cookie sheet and cut it into bars!

Waalaa. Bars.

Then wrap them in plastic wrap!

This is another easy recipe we'll be able to make every week (or when needed), and we'll actually be able to pronounce all the ingredients in the bars, unlike the ones from the store.

I have one more cooking post to add, but two posts in one day is enough for me! I'll try to post it tomorrow.

It's Like Buttah.

It's not like butter, it IS butter!

I bought some heavy cream this weekend, for use in another recipe. I had a good bit left over, so I decided to make some butter. It's so easy!

First, put the cream in the food processor (I think this is the easiest and quickest way to make it). Add a little salt if you want salted butter. You can also add herbs and other seasonings if you like.

Turn the processor on high and wait. Soon you'll have whipped cream.

Keep blending and the cream will "break." The solids are separating from the liquids.

Once it has broken, drain out the liquid (buttermilk).

I like to put the butter in a mason jar at this point, because it needs "washed." Add some cold water and shake shake shake. Drain the water, and repeat until the water is clear after shaking. It will take a few times.

After the water drains clear, I scoop out the butter and put it in whatever container I want to use. I then use a rubber scraper and press the butter firmly. This releases more water and helps keep the butter fresher longer.

That's it! Homemade fresh butter. David asked why we don't make butter all the time. I think we'll start doing that from now on. I want to try some different herbs and spices...sage, rosemary, cinnamon! Yum.

A Light Dusting?

The last weather report I heard on Friday was that we were just a little too far north to get much of anything from the storming coming. We were supposed to get a dusting or an inch.

Well, we got about 6". That's the perfect amount of snow, if you ask me.

The animals can still walk around, but it makes everything beautiful.

Except if you're a teeny bantam rooster. Especially a teeny bantam rooster that roosts in the sheep shelter instead of the chicken coop. Cogburn wasn't very happy with the snow this morning. He was all huddled up and let me walk right up to him and scoop him up. He stayed in my coat for a few minutes while I was feeding the sheep.

I think he liked it.

I put him back with the chickens, but I'm not sure he was happy with that either. The big rooster picks on him.

See that black rubber bowl? Those things are wonderful to have. They take all sorts of abuse. I am using it for the water now, because their last bowl was frozen solid. If the rubber water bowl freezes, all you have to do is turn them upside down and stomp on them. The rubber flexes and breaks the ice. Brilliant!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

She's Baa-aack!

Meet Horatio! He's a registered Border Leicester (pronounced Lester). He's a very handsome fellow, and *hopefully* the sire of Darla's future lambs. Darla went to stay with him last Wednesday, and came home today. That's her in the background.

Horatio wore a marking harness for a little while, but his owner took it off because he was playing "paint the wethers" who were in his pen with him. He still managed to mark Darla pretty darn well, though it's a little more faded than it would have been had he been wearing the actual harness. So her breeding date is officially January 26th, just like I expected from the date of her last suspected heat.

I'm not sure what the chest marks are from. I'm not sure I want to know. ;-)

Of course when Darla came home, the girls had to work out their status again. Looks like Darla is top dog!

June would get fed up with the drama and walk way.

They worked it out in no time though.

I'm glad Darla is back. I missed that plucky little ewe. I'll be able to send in another blood test in 20 days! Cross your fingers! And toes too!

Then There Was One.

Ok, well, that's not entirely true. There's more than one, but there's only one big one. Rooster, that is. A few weeks ago I gave away four roosters, two big ones and the two silkies. One of the big ones was really being rude to the little roosters, and the other one wasn't very pretty. Yes, I judge my roosters on their beauty. Hey, I'm the one who has to look at them every day. Don't judge. I still have 4 bantam roosters: Cogburn, Mr. Frizzle, and the two d'uccles. (You can see one of the d'uccles in this post, 5th picture.)

So this is the only standard size rooster left. Well, that's a lie too. There's another Americana rooster, but he's only half grown. You can see him in the first picture of this post, in the background.

So this is the only full grown standard size rooster left. He's an Americana as well. He was supposed to be a "she" when I got him, but apparently the guy wasn't the best chick-sexer.

Last night I forgot to close the door to the coop, so this morning when I went out to feed, I saw the rooster out with a hen. It was dark out, and I think the rooster was telling her it was not time to wake up yet. He harrassed her and chased her right back into the coop! A few minutes later I fed them, and he came out to the feeder and called the girls out to eat. He's a good protector and provider. Not that all females need a male to protect them and provide for them, but it's kinda nice sometimes. ;-)

Oh yeah, I haven't named this rooster. Any ideas?

Darla is coming home today! I'll post more about her later.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Dreaming and Scheming

When your garden looks like this, it's hard to get in the mood to order seeds for the coming year. I love looking through seed catalogs, but I'm having a hard time getting myself to actually place an order.

I've been spending the past week at least daydreaming.

***WARNING- The following post is long and there are not very many pictures. Read at your own risk! ***

I'm constantly thinking of what I'll do differently this year than last. I'd like to be much more productive this year, which won't be hard to do because last year was so busy! We moved in the first weekend in May, and got married on May 23rd, so needless to say we were a little busy when it was time to plant the garden. We also managed to build the chicken coop, put up a sheep fence, and do various other projects on the house and property. Our little place has really changed over the past 9 months!

David and I would really love to be able to buy more land, ideally around 30 acres probably, but since that's not possibly any time in the near future, we're working with what we have. Don't get me wrong, I love our house and our acre, I'd just love to expand.

We are hoping to be able to produce a good majority of our food right here on our acre. We're getting there, but this year I really hope to be more productive. Last year we had a relatively good sized garden, we raised layers for eggs, and we raised 25 meat chickens. This year, I hope to plan our garden so we get much more out of it. Last year things were planted hastily just so we'd have something growing. This year I want to select varieties of plants based on things we want, not just pick out whatever seeds the local feed store has. I want to cut out things we don't eat much of (like I don't need a whole long row of swiss chard if I'm the only one who eats it), and plant more of things we like. Last year I sold excess veggies on a little roadside self-serve stand. It was actually pretty successful, so this year I'd like to grow more of things that sold well last year.

I'd like to expand my layer flock and sell more eggs. I sell about 8 dozen eggs per month, but I'd like to increase that by a good bit. I'm almost at the point where the egg sales pay for the feed, but not quite there. I'll have to increase the flock, but I'm not sure what the best way to do that is right now. Chicks are cheap, but take 20 weeks to lay. I haven't been able to find any started pullets or hens for less than $10-$15. It would take a good while before I made my money back if I spent that much per hen. I will have at least 4-5 new layers in April thanks to the Thanksgiving chick hatch.

Since we don't have the space for a cow, we have to stick with smaller animals for our meat sources. I'm really hoping we can raise 200 broilers this year. I think we can do it if we stick to batches of 25 chicks at a time. I've been working out a rotation in my head. If we order 25 chicks, they'll be in the brooder for 4 weeks, then they'll go out on grass. When they go out, we can get another 25 chicks for the brooder. When the first batch is 8 weeks, they should be big enough to process. Then the second batch of chicks will be old enough to go out on grass and we can get a third batch for the brooder. I'm hoping thinking that this will work. It at least works on paper.

My sheep should provide lambs for the freezer, and the goat will provide milk for the family (and we can use the milk to make cheeses, yogurt, soap, etc). I'd love to be able to lease some land for more sheep/goats, but we haven't asked anyone to lease any land. The acre next to us is back on the market, so I'm not sure the owner will want animals on it. There's a large farm next to/behind us, so that's also a possibility.

I've really been thinking of what else we can raise for meat. I thought about pigs, but I'm just not sure we have the space available right now. I'd hate to get 2 pigs and have them stuck in a small muddy pen all summer, and I'm not sure I want to sacrifice what little space we have to be rutted up and muddied up by pigs. My new idea is meat rabbits. They're small so they don't need much space, their feed can be supplemented with garden "waste" like old/extra vegetables, they reproduce quickly, and their meat is supposed to be very good. I've never had it, which might be a problem, but it's all white meat and very good for you. Rabbit is higher in protein than any other meat, lower in cholesterol, and has the fewest calories per pound than any other domestic meat. I'm thinking we can start with one buck and two does and have a good amount of meat for us and possibly some to sell.

I have dreams of canning and freezing an abundance of produce from the garden, stocking the freezer with fresh lamb, chicken, and rabbit meat, having fresh eggs all year, plus raw goat milk to drink. Sounds nice, right? We'll be busy, but I really think it will be worth it. I hate that our money goes to big food corporations that don't really care about our health or safety. It is a shame that it costs more to eat healthy than it does to eat junk in this country. I won't go much more into it, but if you want to know more you can watch Food, Inc. or read books like Omnivore's Dilemma or In Defense of Food. It's really important to me that we try to be as self sufficient as possible, well, without giving up our modern conveniences that is.

Ok, enough rambling for one post. I went out to the garden yesterday and remembered I had turnips out there. I haven't stepped foot in the garden for at least a month. I noticed a difference in the turnip varieties.

These white salad type turnips had been eaten by rabbits. Almost every turnip had some nibbles on them.

The standard purple top turnips were un-eaten. Maybe they're more starchy and not as sweet? Not sure. I harvested these three big ones and made turnip fries out of them. They were so-so. Not my favorite. I need to find a better recipe, or maybe I'll mash them and mix them half and half with potatoes. Even though they're not my favorite veggie, it's still nice to have fresh produce when the ground is frozen and everything is dead and brown. These turnips haven't been at all harmed with the snow, ice, or frozen ground.

The kale is hanging in there. They've been eaten down, but it looks like there's some new growth on the plants. Hopefully I'll be able to harvest a little when it warms up a bit. The darn rabbits got to it this fall before I could even harvest one leaf!

So, what plans do you all have for the year?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Coop Clean-Out

Yesterday was fairly warm so I decided to take advantage of that and clean out the chicken coop. I did a partial clean out before the big snow storm in December, but it really needed a total clean out. It was starting to get stinky. I also had to clean up the pile of litter from the December clean out, because I didn't have a wheel barrow then, so I piled the litter next to the coop.

The chickens were irritated, because it was late in the afternoon and they were trying to roost. I was seriously messing up their routine!

Devin helped me out. He's at the stage where he loves to help and he can actually do stuff now!

I need a bigger wheel barrow!

Luckily we finished right before it started raining. Everyone got in and found their spot on the roost just before dark.

Sometime this summer I'm going to totally clean it out again, and this time I'll scrub the walls and paint them. The floor might also get another coat of paint while I'm at it.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Growing Bellies and Other Pictures

This morning was a good morning for pictures. After I was done feeding everyone, I took off my mittens (a Christmas present made by my sister) and the guineas had to inspect them! They weren't sure what the new things on the ground were, so they very cautiously checked them out. I tell ya, if you ever find yourself needing to laugh more, just get some guineas!

Purl is really growing lately.

Her belly is pretty saggy. Her udder is growing more every day. I don't have the date she was bred, but I know that she was exposed to the ram from August 31-November 7th. That means she could be due as early as January 25th (gestation is around 145-150 days). I think she's going to lamb sometime in February, possibly the second week or so. That's just my guess based on her udder.

Miss June is also developing an udder and quite the belly. She's due on or around March 3, so she still has a ways to go. Her little udder is looking so cute! Every now and then I'll goose her to check her udder. She really hates that.

No pictures of Darla. She's over at a neighbor's house hopefully being bred by their Border Leicester ram. Hopefully this time it'll take!

The chickens are doing well. This little guy is so cute. I have two of these guys. They're Mille Fleur d'Uccles, and they're for sale ($1 each) if anyone wants them. I just don't have a need for more roosters.

The girls have really increased laying lately! I think the slight increase in day length has really helped them! I think the two girls below are a little camera shy.

Remember the Thanksgiving babies? They're getting big and finally through their awkward teenage phase!

I thought I had two cockerels and 5 pullets, but I'm now thinking I have 3 cockerels and 4 pullets. The one that has me guessing is the pretty one in the middle- the white and grey spotted one. I thought she was a she but now I'm thinking maybe she's a he. Are you followin' me?

The two darker buff/red ones are the cockerels. I'm probably not going to keep them either. I don't need any more freeloaders!

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What a Weekend!

This weekend, my sister and I went to my Aunt Linda's house to have a weekend of knitting! My sister taught me how to knit when I was just out of high school, I think. For several years all I knitted were scarves, but the past two years I've been slowly learning to knit things other than long rectangles. :-)

We started the weekend by heading to Debbie's house. Debbie is a friend of Aunt Linda's. She's also incredibly generous! She had her whole dining room table covered with yarn to give to us! There was so much was amazing. She also had an awesome yarn room, with her stash neatly stacked and organized. I'd love to have a room like that some day...

After we left Debbie's house, we headed to Joanne's house. Joanne is another friend of Aunt Linda's. She gave us spinning lessons!! She's a great teacher. First, she showed us how to use a drop spindle. This was a little tricky at first, but I think I was starting to get the hang of it sort of. I'll definitely practice this at home!

Then she let us try her amazing wheel. Becky did a great job!

Then I tried. It was tricky at first, but for a few minutes I really "got it". Too bad it only lasted a few minutes. :-) Hopefully one day when I'm a pro on the drop spindle, I'll get a wheel and really spin!

Here we are! I think I'm trying to fix the yarn after about the 5th time it broke.

Thanks for teaching us to spin and letting us use your wheels, Joanne! We had a blast!
We went home and Becky and I got some soup started while Aunt Linda went to pick up Hanny the puppy at the sitter's house. We had Alton Brown's Christmas soup. It was delicious! I'll be adding that to my rotation of meals.

Aww. Me and my sister.

After dinner, we brought out the yarn Aunt Linda had set aside for us! We got more awesome yarn, and even some sweaters she'd knit as samples for the knitting store where she worked!!
Sunday morning we went to a knitting group at Aunt Linda's friend's house. It was a nice relaxing time knitting and chatting.

After we got back to Aunt Linda's house, we put on our sweats and Debbie came over for some more knitting time.

Monday morning came and it was time to leave. I snapped some pictures on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel. Talk about cool! Well, I don't have a fear of bridges, so I thought it was cool. I guess if you didn't like bridges, you would not use the word "cool" to describe it! The whole thing is 20 miles long, with 2 tunnel sections under the bay.

If you enlarge the picture below, you'll see where the bridge seems to disappear under the bay and reappear on the other side!

When I got home, I spread everything out on the table. Well I tried, but I didn't have enough room!

Some of the sweaters are draped over the chairs on the back. There is so much yarn it's overwhelming! I love the colors and textures. I can't wait to look through patterns and see what I'm going to knit!

More bags full of yarn!!

I think this is enough yarn to last me for years!!! I better start knitting and stop drooling over it!

Aunt Linda, thank you so much for hosting us this weekend and sharing your yarn and patterns with us!!! Joanne, thanks so much for teaching us how to spin, and you're welcome to come visit any time to see the sheep! Debbie, thanks so much for being so generous and sharing your wonderful stash with us!! And Maureen, thanks for having us at your knitting group!
I had such a great weekend! We'll have to get together again sometime soon!
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