living after the death of a baby, living with Autism, living as a family of six, living on our organic homestead, living miserably, hopefully, and with joy, and somedays just living

Archive for the ‘Homesteading’ Category

No Eggs and Ham

So it’s another food post.

Glazed with Alton Brown's Brown Sugar Mustard Glaze

I am crazy proud of what we have been able to accomplish on the farm this year, considering how little we knew about how to to do when we moved here. We figured we’d learn as we go, and boy have we ever. I’m going to have a gem of a garden this year with the knowledge I learned about planting from this year’s garden. We know how raise baby chicks into dinner size portions.  Plus keep hens (except the 4 we lost) to produce eggs of a much superior quality than supermarket ones. We buy our feed from a local organically certified farmer.  I couldn’t feel better about what we raise and eat.

Yesterday we smoked 3 slabs of bacon, rinsed a ham, baked, and glazed it it.  It looks less like a supermarket ham where they saw all the fronts and backs of the bones off, so it looks less like animal parts and more like magazine hams, and more like a part of a pig. We could have trimmed the bones too, but it cures and cooks the same regardless of whether you leave the ball joint and shank on, and it’s less work not too. It probably looks more like the farm hams my grandparents would have been accustomed too.  My grandfather’s (Gedo’s) family used to raise pigs I should ask him.

As it turns out it could have used a bit more time in the brine as it didn’t penetrate all the way through.  Around the bone was a ring of uncured meat that cooked up like a roast instead of a ham.   Maybe we have something going there?  A hybrid cut of meat to please everyone at the holiday table?  One for those who love a savory roast, and for those who love a salty spiced ham.   In the future we likely need a brine injector to get right to the center of the big hams, so the outer meat doesn’t become overbearingly salty.  Live and learn right?

Our ham does contain some nitrates. You can make it without, but I was too chicken to risk it.  Nitrates inhibit the growth of botulism spores, and while the risk of botulism is low, I wasn’t about to risk one of the lives of my children to do a nitrate free trial.  Because we aren’t making a commercial ham that needs a shelf life, we used the least amount of nitrate cure as possible.   The nitrates also give a ham that pink characteristic, something I didn’t know, but I always wondered why every other meat cooked up brown and ham stayed pink, now I know.    The pinker your ham the more nitrates it contains.

Our ham is a bit drier that a supermarket ham because it’s not plumped up with water injections to keep it moist and to inflate its weight, so you pay more for a cut of meat. It is yum none the less, and more hammy.  It was nothing like the boneless hams that are commercially available which are essentially whole processed deli style hams for you to bake at home. This is the type we used to buy. We’ve come a long way baby!

Since we left the shank on we have two sets of soup bones to make yummy winter soups.

We’ve fed some friends our home raised chickens, and eggs, now I can’t wait for our annual pig roast where we’ll be putting our own young pig on the spit and serving young vegetables from our garden to our friends.

It’s a new life for us next spring.  We plan on adding goats and turkeys, raising about 5 times as many meat chickens, and tripling our laying hens in order to start selling eggs.   Currently with the weather and light cycle we are getting zero to two eggs a day, usually zero.  We currently have none in our cold room, or in the fridge, and I’m out of mayo too, the next two are going to make mayonnaise, not breakfast.   Yup, we have no eggs and ham.

If you like my food/farming blogs I have a post in the works on why we do it all and why it’s worth it .  So stay tuned (maybe subscribed is the blog equivalent to radio tuned?) it should be soonish.

I’m off to enjoy some left overs, yum!

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Don’t Ever Do That…Unless I Tell You To.

So I’ve been trying to blog weekly.  So far I’m failing.  I have a couple of half written posts in my drafts, but instead of finishing one of them I’m going to tell you about our escapee pig.  Not the first time escapees, those ones are in our freezer now, but the Tuesday escapee.

Tuesdays are the worst days for being busy, we skipped art class because the kids had been sick the night before, but we still had Speech Therapy, Ballet, Grocery shopping, and I volunteer as a parent adviser for a group that counsels to parents who have recently received a diagnosis of an Autism Spectrum disorder, all back to back .

I can never seem to get us out the door without rushing despite my best efforts, I honestly think my kids think that HURRY UP , WE’RE LATE means: okay guys it’s time to go now. Now this Tuesday was unusual, we were running short on time as usual, but we were about to leave with enough time to get where we were going without the rushing. Yay!

I was putting winter outerwear on the kids (isn’t that the worst about Canadian winters?  Needing an extra 20 mins to get dressed to go out) and I had Micah on the floor.   Dash, our Jack Russel, was barking like mad to be let in, and I was annoyed by it as I had just let him out.  I tell Petra please let Dash in, and so she flings open the inner door and starts shouting “Oh no, Oh no, OH NO!” From where I was standing I look out the screened window of the outer door expecting to see a person standing out there perhaps, and see nothing.

He’s biting her!” Screams Petra, her being the new puppy Audrey.

Dash?,  I think, so I take a step forward and this is what I see, two dogs and our pig waiting to be let in.

 

After we let the dogs in she just stood there waiting for her turn

The pig is not a pet, she’s livestock.  Not being in her pen means we are no longer not late. I have to coax her back.

Pigs are Smart.  They don’t do much they don’t want to do.  She also weighs about 100-130 lbs: I can’t lift her.

Darn! I spend a lot of time trying to convince that pig to get in her pen.  All the while thinking about how we’re going to be late for speech therapy, where we pay 120$ an hour whether we’re there or not.  In the end she’s happy to follow me around like a puppy, but I can’t get her back in to the pen, even with the yummy slop bucket from the house.  So I start packing the kids up to go.

Well that pig hung out with us the whole time running towards us and away from us, and eventually as I’m trying to do Micah up in his car seat she tries to get in our van on the other side with the kids.  Ahh! What can I do! I’m on the wrong side and she’s halfway in already.  Crap!

I’m pausing here, to remind you of this: Gobsmacked at the effort of it all.  Remember Elijah kicking our animals?  Remember me all worried that he was mean and just didn’t get it?  Well that pig is halfway in the van, the kids are shrieking in the back that she’s going to get them and what do I say?

KICK HER ELIJAH! Kick her in the face, so she’ll get out!  Reluctantly he did, and she got out.

Yeah…….Nothing like telling your kid to do something you told him to never do, never EVER do!  I was so worked up about him and those animals, and in the end I’m shouting at him to kick her, in the face no less.  Just goes to show you never know what life is going to throw at you.

After buckling the baby in I went around the other side and tried to buckle the kids in and that pig tried a handful of times to get in that van.  She really wanted to be where we were.

Have you ever driven out of your driveway with a pig running her top speed, tromping through deep powder, snow spraying from her sides as she tries her best keep up with your vehicle, as you hit the gas hard, so as to leave her behind before you hit the road, all caught in the the frame of your side mirror?  I have.

I was sure we’d have no pig when we got home, but we live in Canada and that cozy hay-lined lean-to and full feed trough was too much to give up and go wandering.  When Kyle and the kids got home she was snuggled into the hay of her bed and I’d never know she had escaped if I hadn’t been there to see it.

Home(stead), Sweet, Home(stead)

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The last few days have been garden intensive.  Friday I dug up potatoes, and cut and processed swiss chard to freeze.   Saturday I dug up potatoes, pulled up onions, and weeded.  Today (Sunday) I braided onions for storage, collected the potatoes that were drying in the dirt, gathered the Zucchini and Summer squash that were getting big ( there’s always one under a leaf that has been secretly growing and is bigger that you’d like), picked and shelled peas, and did some trimming, weeding, and vine propping. Each day we feed and water the pigs and chickens and collect eggs.   What you see above was just today’s work.

 

Downstairs I have a 130lbs of Purple, Fingerling, Russet and Yukon Gold Potatoes combined, I have 5 bags of swiss chard in the freezer with more to come, 21 jars of peaches, 7 jars of various pickles, 3 bags of radishes, two dinners worth of peas (so far), three onion braids and a zip lock full of peeled onions and a lot of zucchini.  I love stockpiling my home grown wares but…

 

I cant wait for next year.  This year I planted most things way too late, so some things never made it, cucumbers and carrots ( though there’s still hope that there will be enough time to get small carrots at least).  Some things like my cabbage taught me that it needs to be covered by gardeners fleece if you want to get even a cabbage, because it’s ravaged by caterpillars, the lettuce was feild planted, and the grass hoppers and chickens got it, it goes in a box next year, other things succumb to the weather.  The corn and beans never germinated due to the cold spring, and my tomatoes got blight due to all our rain.  The beets never made it into the ground and neither did the spinach. 

 

I also planted all the squash all mixed up all together in the pumpkin patch deciding that it didn’t matter. I would know a butternut from a jack-o-lantern, but what i didn’t count on was wondering if that round squash is an eight ball (green when ripe) or a sugar pumpkin (orange when ripe).  And since the squash went in late were still hoping there’s enough frost free days to get some of those lovely overwintering veggies in the cellar.

 

Now that I know what I’m doing, I think, next years garden will be better planned and way more bountiful.  I can’t wait!  Ohh and my apple and plum tree should actually give me a yeild (this year I’ll get about 4-6 fruits from each tree).  I’m all a quiver all ready.

I can can

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Kyle with 30lbs of Finest peaches

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..I don't have to worry about war rations, but this way I know whats in my food, our modern battle

Last night’s blog post was neglected, as I was canning peaches.  Yes, the peaches from the farmers market from a few posts back.  I’ve made apple jelly before, but never whole fruit.  So after picking up 30 lbs of peaches (that seemed right, though I had no idea), some pickling cucumbers and some supplies 2 doz half liter jars and a doz 1 liter jars, I already had some 250ml jars from before, as well as a canning tool it, I got down to work.  I’m not going to give you a step by step how to can type post.  You have the internet and if you want to know how there are millions of sites to help you out, written by people far more qualified than me. Instead I’m going to tell you a bit of what I did, why, and how it turned out.

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My four burner set up

First I set up my giant pot to use as water bath, this is what seals the lids once the jars are full.  I use a pot with a trivet in the bottom, but there are fancy ones that have a lift out rack and all.  I’m cheap, and my pot doesn’t even have the original lid any longer.  If I do much more of this I’m gonna get me one of those fancy pots, maybe even a pressure canner to do tomatoes.  I’m not sure why tomatoes need a pressure canner, something to look up later, for now I’ll just want the fancy canner without really knowing why I need it.  I also set up a pot to boil the lids and sealing rings a pot to blanche the fruit and one to make syrup in.   All the while, as I was setting up, I couldn’t help but feel that my grandmother was in heaven watching this newbie go at it, and wondering why I never bothered to get her to teach me.  I wonder why I didn’t too, but I think she was smiling down on me.  Obviously she’s on my mind a great deal these days.

I wanted to do canned peaches so after blanching the peaches to slip the skins off, and slicing them.  I decide on what type of syrup.

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Hot packed vs. Cold packed

Ideally I’ll use fruit juice next year, but this year I thought I ought to play it safe and use sugar since it’s a natural preservative.  I chose a light syrup.  The whole idea is to create food with no artificial preservatives and control the amount of sugar.  The crazy in me is also delighted that since these peaches don’t come in a can there’s no worry of aluminum toxicity.  After making the syrup I realize I don’t have a pot big enough to boil the syrup and the peaches in.  So I decide to forgo cooking the peaches and cold pack them.  You see you have two choices when canning, one is to put the fruit or vegetables in the jar raw and the pour the hot syrup over them and then can them, cold packing ,or to cook the fruit in the syrup, fill the jars and then can them, hot packing.  The problem with cold packing is, when cooking the fruit you cook the air out of the fruit, since you’re not cooking it it gets cooked when you’re sealing the jars, then it shrinks down releasing the air and floats in the jar.   I did the first batch this way.  Tonight I hot packed, and I highly recommend this method for aesthetics, the jar stays nice and full.  In a few weeks when I’ve opened both methods I’ll tell you which tastes best.

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Not bad for two nights work

I also did pickles today, I planned to make my own brine, but in a rare lapse of judgment I didn’t read the pickling spice, and noticed it contained sulphites, I did however get a dill pickle mix that didn’t, so I went that route.  I had enough cucumbers to make 2.5 l of dill pickles, so to use up the rest of the brine I also made carrots (1l), zucchini (2 1l jars), a mixture of the three (1l) and radishes (250ml).  After finishing up the peaches (21 500ml jars total), I made a batch of peach rhubarb jam (2 500ml jars and 2 250ml jars).  In the end all that was left of that giant box of peaches are the six you see in the photo on the left.  Amazing, and here I thought I was going to need to freeze a bunch for lack of jars.

I feel this tremendous sense of accomplishment now that it’s all done.  It wasn’t difficult, though I would never attempt it while the kids are awake, too many boiling liquids, I’m too disorganized, and it’s too messy.   I’m already thinking about how to better plant next years garden, so I can can do some fancy canning.  This year I think I’ll do some more jams, hopefully I can get to a berry farm.  Truthfully I can’t wait to do some more.  It’s a good deal of fun.  I recommend getting a kitchen buddy, as it goes better with an extra set of hands and someone to visit with.  Besides who else is going to take your picture while you measure the correct amount of head space otherwise 😉

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Ask me to open a jar next time you're over!

The Little Black Pig Died

Today Lindsay came over.  She brought Lettuce from her garden that had gone bitter to feed to the pigs.  While we all were in the pig pen watching them trot around, and munch on her goodies she said, “That little black guy doesn’t look like he’s grown”

‘I don’t think he has much, and he might not grow very well.   He’s the runt, we think” I replied

“Oh, he does still seem small”  she added as she rubbed his little face.

Now I wasn’t supposed to care about these pigs, but somewhere this one got me a bit.  First off he’s tiny, and tiny pigs are cute, secondly he was shoved around, I never stepped in because animals have a certain order and I respect that, as the smallest he was last of the bunch, and thirdly we had to baby him a bit to keep him well.  You can read more about Kyle playing nurseman to a piglet here. When Kyle was nurturing the little guy I was out of town.  When I came back I paid him a bit more attention.  I told Kyle that I didn’t want a pig that needed nurturing.  I still have a level head about shooting and eating the others because I can see that they are healthy, happy, eating well, and rounding out.  Having a pig not thrive and paying more attention to it means you get soft for him a bit.  The truth is I care about all of them, it matters to me that they are well cared for, I don’t love them as pets though.

I went out to feed the pigs the leftovers from dinner tonight and only three were to be seen.  I browsed the fields and saw the little black guy in the grass laying down, as I walked up he didn’t move. Placing my hand on him he was cold.  Darn. Petra was with me so I told her the little black pig was dead, she said okay. I was worried that she was going to take it hard.  Petra can be surprisingly mature, she’s a realist.  Sometimes pigs die.  I told her to go get Kyle, because I wasn’t sure what to do with it.  The other pigs had started to nibble his ears and I didn’t want them to eat anymore of him in case he was sick.

Truthfully he likely died of a heart defect.  Which is also why he wasn’t growing either.  Petra was worried that some animal got through the fence and killed it. So we explained why we thought he died.  She asked if other animals sometimes had things wrong with them inside, so we explained that even some people are born with weak hearts. We told her that our friends baby Emily was born with a weak heart, so she lives with Katie.  If you give Petra the facts instead of some hazy fluffy kidsplanation she takes it in and accepts it.

All was good until we got back in the house and she asked what if Micah dies?  I had a moment of AHHHH what do I say.  We can’t just say ‘don’t worry he won’t’ because she already knows that sometimes babies just die even if they don’t have anything wrong.  Thankfully it just flowed out of my mouth that Micah is healthy, he is alert, playful, not sleepy, eats well and that if he had a heart problem he would be sickly. Happy with that she went to bed.

I feel bad he died, but I honestly think he would have died anywhere, and that it had nothing to do with our brand of care.  I think he had a good life here, he was feed more than just feed grain, he had a large grassy pen, two shelters, a mud wallow that was refreshed automatically 4 times a day by an automatic sprinkler, and fresh water at all times thanks to Kyle’s pressure valve waterer.

Down to three who seem to be thriving well.  In November we’ll keep one female for piglets next year and butcher the other two.  The way the big black one pushes me around I think I’ll have less issue seeing her go.
ETA:  Maybe not a heart condition according to Ky’s blog.

Finding my Passion

I’m a little of most things, and hardly all about one.

I’m a co sleeping, baby wearing, breast feeding ,natural birthing mama, but like Janine said “If people like that were an army Kim would be a general.”

I’ve been about eating clean, organic, less processed foods for some time, but I don’t have the fire that James has.  I am honored that he wrote such a nice piece about me, and I’m delighted that I inspired him in any way I may have. Though  I am certainly no hero.

Shaun is about the power of positive thinking and motivation.

Chad WOW

Tammy Simple Contentment

Cliff Gaming and Editoring

Liam authoring

Brad getting his wife and him as far away as possible from his vicious MIL.  (seriously dude you’ve got terrible in-laws)

Janine DIY and the weekend.

Kyle science, farming, and inventive projects that require some fancy tinkering.

But me?

I tried to help move the midwifery movement here in Saskatoon but I feel that even those fighting here are paying some form of lip service.

Autism services where I felt I should dedicate my time has little for me to do.  I’m not in a position to dump heaps of cash on them, but I’d love to find some volunteer option that would make a difference. My friend Angela is an Autism hero/warrior she knows more about it than I can ever hope to learn, and she is the most amazing Auti mom.  She’s fought with every weapon she could find and payed for it it from her own pocket at the expense a lifetime of credit card payments.

When Kate died I wanted to work as a grief counselor, or as a funeral director.  The first because I received, so much support from Parentcare, HEARTS, and Angel Whispers in Edmonton and the second because I had such a terrible funeral director.  I wanted to be in a place that was far enough from my grief that I could actually be a support and not need to be supported, and then I was moving and then moving again.

So I’m curious to know who am I too you. What peg do I fit in in your life?  Not that any of us are easily slotted into one characteristic?

30 days

Liam I’m in.

So it’s summer blogging challenge, so 30 posts in 30 days.  While trying to think about what to write about today there was so much to say. Seems there’s never anything new going on in my life, but when I thought about what to write there is plenty.

My Grandmother is dying (this week).  At points in my life it felt like she might be the only person who really loved me.  If I could be even a fraction of the person she is my life will have true purpose.

Anderson campout weekend was this past weekend, and I now know why people live in communes.

Anderson campout weekend ended, and the sadness and loneliness of saying goodbye is overwhelming considering I’ll see everyone again sometime soon.

We got pigs, baby chicks and the garden is growing.  The pigs ran away and we doubled our pig population because of it. It’s a funny story.   We are so close to self-sufficiency. One day soon we’ll eat a 0 mile diet meal.

Elijah Rocks!  He did so well with the flock of people who invaded his space, I’d even say he and Nick didn’t drive each other crazy every minute of the day.  (Nick rocks too, those two have both done some serious maturing in 330ish days)

I made my own mayonnaise from my own chicken eggs, and then made salad dressing with herbs straight from my garden, and other natural, jumping off “just get of get it at the grocery store” bandwagon successes

I’m on the fence about home schooling.

Micah is such a happy kid and about to start on solids.  Natalia just celebrated her thrid birthday, and thank God that the last year went a whole lot slower than her first two where we were constantly moving.

We might have to move again.

I want to have one more baby, but not if we move.

Blogging takes up time that I could be knitting.

So expect to see posts about some these topics, as well as all the others I have forgotten about, and those that my life is about to run into.

Looking forward to some spectacular reading this month.