Thursday, January 31, 2013

Nosy Little Piggies

Yesterday I tried to get some pictures of our 2 week old piglets. Do you know how hard that is? It is so much easier when they are little. When they are little they lay with their momma or under the heat lamp a lot. They aren't too sure about me, and the keep a save distance. That you can capture in a picture.

Fast forward a couple weeks, they are still adorably cute, but now they are very active, not to mention nosy. Sweet photos are hard to capture because they are checking out what that contraption is in my hand. I end up with photos like these:

They just don't hold still! I try to get back for a photo, and this is about the best I can do:

Would you please hold still! Poor momma pig with eight of these guys running around. They won't even wait until she is ready to feed them. They just help themselves while she is trying to eat her breakfast:

Darn little piglets! You are so cute! (for a few more weeks anyhow.)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Weeks Like This

It is one of those weeks. One of those weeks with precious little white space on the calendar. One of those weeks where commitments made weeks ago just happen to fall in the same calendar square as things I don't want to miss, or don't want my kids to miss. A week where activities and responsibilities are colliding. A week where Tim also has a busy schedule, and late work nights. One of those weeks where I sat at the computer Tuesday at 6:00 PM already tired from the week.

The weather yesterday was absolutely gorgeous. Unseasonable warm and sunny, it was a welcome change from the gray freezing weather we experienced last week. One of the things I didn't want to miss on my calendar this week was lunch with a friend of mine who I do not get to see as often as I once did. We enjoyed the wonderful food at one of my favorite local restaurants, and then took advantage of the beautiful weather by sitting out on the porch for awhile chatting, partially about weeks like this.

We have similar personalities, and she could completely empathize with my over booked calendar for the week. Being busy is good; to a point. I work best when there is a deadline, when I am busy, and have to be efficient to accomplish the tasks. When I don't have a lot to do, (or maybe I should say a lot of pressing things or things with a deadline) I tend to dawdle the day away, and find myself at the end of the day with nothing really done. But there is a fine line between that place, and weeks like this.

When I find myself with a week that is entirely too full, I tend to shut down. Seriously, looking at this week's calendar, this week's to do list, and the tasks that I didn't get checked off last week, makes me want to just sit here and do nothing. Well, maybe spend hours on Facebook or Pinterest or some other no brain required activity, but nothing that I need to do. I just shut down when there is too much.

This used to be a regularly occurring problem for me. As homeschoolers, our schedule is somewhat flexible. It is hard to say no to all the field trips, activities, and play dates offered by the different groups in the area. I've learned that I have to. I have to say no if we ever going to do any school work at home. I have to say no to adequately attend to my responsibilities at home and the farm. I have to say no to maintain my sanity.

I've learned that I have to put everything on the calendar. We have guitar every Thursday. I can remember this without my calendar, but putting it on the calendar provides a visual cue to how full that week will be. I put farm tasks on the calendar to remind me of what needs done, and to create a deadline for those tasks. I have even been know to put household tasks, such as "pay the bills," on the calendar so I don't forget.

Weeks like this are not as common as they once were, yet, here I find myself smack dab in the middle of one. I have to cope. I don't have time to shut down. So, this is what I'm doing. I'm writing. I suppose it seems counter productive. I really don't have the time to write this blog post, but writing is a release of tension for me. Writing a post like this helps me to organize my thoughts, and stop the swirling chaos in my brain. Writing helps me see the big picture.

I am enjoying the moment. I am trying hard to not constantly have my head in the next activity or task while I should be focusing on the moment at hand. I enjoyed a long and leisurely lunch with a friend. I took a few moments to enjoy our two week old piglets while feeding this morning. I walked past the computer to enjoy coffee and time with Tim this morning. I try to keep my focus on what is really important.

I am re-evaluating and prioritizing. This week's list looks pretty hard to trim, but quite a bit has already been checked off. I can only do what I can do. I can't make myself or my family crazy in the meantime.

I'm putting my head down and getting to work. Focusing on one task at time. Refusing to let myself shut down, or get distracted, I can get a lot done.

I am considering what went wrong. How did this week get so ridiculously full? How can I keep this from happening again? It seems like some weeks, including this one, it just happens. There are things that have to be done, and they just happen to fall in the same week. I don't know how to fix that.

One thing I am considering is just marking out whole days. Not necessarily to not do anything, but marking them out to not go anywhere. Needing to go somewhere every day messes up my week. It is hard to get things done when we are in the car half the day. Would I stick to it? I don't know.

Weeks like this are a hard. They are exhausting to me, but we will get through it, hopefully with minimal stress. Now, it is time to take a deep breath, grab a cup of coffee, and dig in.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Chicken Stock

Making your own stock is incredibly easy, and results in a healthier and tastier stock than what you'll ever buy in a can at a store.

The best part, to this frugal minded farmer, is that making chicken stock is practically free. You can make it almost entirely with things that you would otherwise be throwing out, composting, or feeding to your chickens.

For the most basic of  chicken stock you need chicken parts including the bones and water. You can boil a stew chicken as a start to your stock. You can use the carcass of a broiler, or you can use other parts of the chicken like I did here. This pot of chicken stock was made with the necks left from a processing day.

Adding vegetables and herbs adds more flavor and nutrition. You can even use vegetable scraps. In this pot, you'll see onion skins, celery leaves, and carrot peels. I also add a little salt and pepper, but generally keep the spices to a minimum. Seasoning can be added later according to what the stocked is used for.

Simply throw all the ingredients in a stock pot full of water. Bring to a boil, and let simmer for an hour or more. Strain out the chicken and vegetables, and you're left with an incredibly rich and delicious stock. The stock can be used immediately, kept in the fridge for awhile, frozen, or canned.

Skip the cans of chicken broth and the bullion cubes. Making your own stock is easy and economical!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Birthday

Saturday was Lydia's 11th birthday! She has grown up so much in the last year! My little girl looks like a young lady. When did this happen?

She celebrated by having a few girls over for a slumber party. They laughed and giggled well past midnight, and were right back at it by 8AM. They were so funny to listen to. Hard to believe how fast these kids are becoming young adults. It is a very bittersweet season for this momma!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Mustard -n- Maple Pork Loin

Pork loin is my favorite cut of pork, well besides bacon that is. The loin is tender, juicy and versatile. The flavor is best when the roast has a nice layer of fat on the top. The loin can be sliced and used as boneless chops, but in the winter we mostly use it as a roast.

I made this Mustard -n- Maple Pork Loin for dinner last week. It was delicious.

Mustard - n- Maple Pork Loin

Pork Loin 3-4 Pounds
1/4 C olive oil
1/4 C spicy mustard
2 TB maple syrup
1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped.
1 tsp garlic powder

Mix all the ingredients, except the meat, together. Put the loin in and turn several times to cover entirely. Allow to marinate for at least one hour, turning occasionally. Preheat oven to 375. Place loin in a pan, fat side up. Cover with the remaining marinade. Roast for about 1 hour, until meat thermometer reads 150 in the center of the roast. Let sit for 10 minutes. Slice and enjoy.

Monday, January 07, 2013

For the Farm 2013

The past few years have been about pulling back, finding our feet again, and regrouping. We are still in that process, but things are much more manageable than they once were. Our little farm is a lot different than it was a few years ago. I miss the variety of animals we once had, but the changes were necessary. Someday, we may add back animals, but at this time our focus is not there.

We have had beef cows from the beginning. Our cows are pastured in fields belonging to neighbors. Our hay is cut from the neighbor's property. Maintaining those fence lines, pastures, and fields, just doesn't make sense when we are having a hard time keeping our own property under control. The last two steers are about ready to go. That will be the end (for now) of us raising beef. 

The hogs do well in the woods, and I think they are my favorite farm animal. They are pretty self sufficient. They are hardy. Their fencing requirements are simple; two or three strands of electric. The breeding stock are relatively tame, and if they happen to get out of the fence, they follow me right back in. The feeder hogs aren't always so co-operative, but then they aren't around for long, and they are mighty tasty.

We are keeping a boar, and four sows. We need to get another sectioned fenced off so we can rotate our pastures more efficiently. Somehow, we need to get these sows to co-operate and farrow together. We'd like to have two farrow with in a day or two of each other. Even though they visit the boar at the same time, they never seem to farrow together. 

We started a new system for the laying hens. We are buying a different breed each year. Last year we bought Light Brahmas. The breed for 2013 has yet to be determined.  Nolan wants Buff Brahmas. He likes their feathered feet. The idea is if we get a different breed every year, we will have a steady supply of good layers, and I will know which hens are ready to become stew.

We have a good system for raising broilers. We are using smaller and mobile pens to keep them on pasture. We have plans to convert a goat shed for chicken use. This will allow us to raise more than last year. Predators are a constant concern, and I've been keeping my eyes open for the right working dog to help protect the flocks. I've also been dabbling with the idea of raising another poultry species for meat. Still thinking about that one. 

Another project in the beginnings of a plan has me very excited. We would like to clear off several acres of land. The land we are clearing is relatively flat, and will give us more room for vegetable crops, and dare I dream, an orchard! Our property is entirely forested. The only cleared spaces are areas that were cleared for houses or utilities. From those we've carved a couple small garden areas, and we borrow a good sized garden spot from the neighbor, but it really isn't enough. I am so excited to plan uses for that space. A high tunnel, an orchard, and lots of garden space are all in the plans. It will take some time, and likely a lot of deer fencing, but I can't wait to see this project move forward. I hope to be able to use some of that space this summer.

Other things in the realm of possibilities are growing mushrooms, and making maple syrup. Kellen marked off some maple trees last summer. So, now is the time, for us to gather the supplies and make this happen. Mushrooms are another project we can be ready for quickly.

The farm has changed. I do miss having the variety of animals, but we just can't make it work now. Our goals now involve keeping projects manageable and working with the resources of our property. I am looking forward to 2013!

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Scotch Pancakes

Kellen is a kid with many talents, but some of those talents he likes to keep hidden. One of his hidden talents is cooking. He almost never voluntarily helps with the cooking when I am home, but when I am gone it is a different story. He makes all kinds of things, from scratch, when I'm out running errands without kids. He has made bread sticks, cinnamon rolls, and more. His latest culinary adventure was Scotch Pancakes, and all the kids loved them so much, they asked me to make them again today for lunch.

I have used My Favorite Pancake recipe for years, but Kellen found this recipe in the same cookbook, a few pages over.

Scotch Pancakes
2 C Flour
3 TB sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
2 TB shortening (I used lard)
1 C sour milk (add 1 TB lemon juice to sour milk)
2 eggs lightly beaten

Mix dry ingredients. Cut in lard with a pastry blender. Add milk and beat well. Add eggs. Cook on a hot griddle, but only use a small amount of batter for each pancake.

The batter is extremely thick, and I was a little leery of how these would turn out. I worried for nothing. They  turned out light, but with a lot more flavor than the other recipe I've been using. They are a little tricky to cook though. They don't bubble up like most pancakes do. Watch the edges. Watch the top. When the edges look a bit set, and the top starts to look less glossy, they are ready to flip.

I made a quadruple batch for this crew (and they ate almost all of them,) served them up with sausage and real maple syrup. It made for a very delicious and satisfying Saturday lunch.

The only thing wrong with this meal is that I did the cooking! What was I thinking? Kellen found the recipe, and has made them before, why didn't he cook for all of us? ;)

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

2012 in Review

Life has moved at such an incredibly quick pace these last few years. I can hardly remember what happened last week, let alone last month. That is why I blog, you know.

This morning I took a few minutes to go back and look at my posts from 2012. This year my posts were full of stories about the kids, pictures of the farm doings, and my reflections on the busyness of life and the rapid maturing of my children. Pretty typical, yet 2012 contained a lot of catching up posts instead of individual stories; a reflection of our busy life I guess.

2012 brought us some crazy weather. We had the Derecho, and Hurricane Sandy. We had a great time showing llamas this summer with Annie. Kellen attended CTY summer camp, an experience that made a big impact on him. There are a disproportionate amount of stories on this blog about Nolan. He is such a character, and gives so many opportunities for a good story. Like this one where he claimed to be "African Starving." That phrase has stuck with us.  I love this story where Lydia has a creative solution to help her sister. And Vivian is firmly rooted in her place as the Baby of the Family.

Some of my posts were a little sappy in 2012. I resolved to Enjoy the Journey. I realized that my kids are growing up, and that I love the New Phase we are in. And on a lighter note, watching My Morning Entertainment, still brings a smile to my face.

Facebook has also compiled a Year in Review. I have to admit that Facebook has been detrimental to my blogging. Many stories are shared there, and don't make it to this format. Like this summer Lydia performing at a fundraiser for a friend. She had practiced this song for months, but she shocked us all with how comfortable she was on stage.

This one from Vivian in January of 2012 has to be recorded here.

This morning we were watching a video of jellyfish when Vivian pipes up, "I know how they see. They see with their testicles."
And then we had a lesson on pronouncing the word "tentacles."  

Happy New Year everyone!