Monday, January 27, 2014

Farmer In Training

So much stuff has happened over the last few days. I'm talkin' some pretty fantastic stuff. Our farm is in progress, and with each new adventure, we're getting closer and closer to reaching our farm goals - one beautiful step at a time.

Two weeks ago, I ordered a fresh batch of baby chicks. They arrived four days ago, and are absolutely perfect. The hatchery I went through requires a minimum order of fifteen chicks during the winter months, so I decided on a mix of Easter Eggers, Black Copper Marans, and Olive Eggers. Knowing that I'll be collecting a basket of eggs in a rainbow of colors in a mere six to seven months makes me wanna squeal with excitement. It's ridiculous. The number one goal on my first year list of farm goals is officially crossed off!

Luna loves her chickies.
In other insanely exciting news: WE HAVE GOATS! We visited a cute little goat farm earlier in the month, and picked out two beautiful baby girls. In the last two weeks, we've been getting everything ready for their much anticipated arrival on Saturday. Number four on my list of first year farm goals - check! Chickens are the gateway drug into farming, and goats are the next dangerous step. 
The owners of the goat farm are wonderful people, and were kind enough to deliver them to our house. Thankfully they only live ten minutes away from us, because I'm sure I'm gonna have a LOT of question in the future. They showed us how to trim hooves, how to check for worms, discussed feed with us, and taught us that the key to a goats heart is through animal crackers. Our girls were pretty suspicious of us until we gave them animal crackers, and pets - now they're glued to our legs. And to think, I was worried they wouldn't like us :P

Cupcake is a ten month old, blue eyed beauty that can't get enough of my behind-the-ear scratches, and pets.
Jellybean is a nine month old, petite, daddy's girl, and proclaimed animal cracker addict. 
 Everywhere her daddy went, the little goat would go 
Honey: "You mean you got MORE animals?! Wait... does that mean we can eat their food?
It was so beautiful out yesterday (high fifties) so my husband and I spent the entire day outside. We spent the majority of the afternoon in the goat pen, socializing with the girls. To stretch our legs, we decided to take a walk through the woods. On our way we passed these in-need-of-serious-repair, rustic raised beds. I decided they have a few more years left in them, and could be a great spot for herbs.
The view looking back, en route to the woods. I love my chickens.

Though we missed not having the dogs with us on this particular walk, it was nice to be able to take in the sights, and fresh air, rather than keeping track of five mischievous, and disaster prone doodles.
I. Can't. Wait. For. Grapes. OMG.
After a long day on the farm, at dusk we decided to unwind with a glass of wine, and a dip in the hot tub. And what to my wondering eyes did appear around the side of the house? Our orange short-hair stud muffin of a cat, O'Malley, and this GORGEOUS creature. I guess things were getting pretty serious with these two, as he decided it was finally time to bring his lady to meet the parents. She's beautiful, and a cuddler. We approve. So much so that she's welcome to live here should she choose. We love animals too much, and just can't turn away strays (if she is in fact a stray, and not a neighbors pet lioness). We shall call her Priscilla.

UPDATE: We ASSUMED the cat was a female. I've seen some beautiful male cats before, but c'mon! As fate would have it, this majestic feline turned out to be MALE - that makes four out of five male cats at our farm now. Nevertheless, we still proudly support the young love of our stud muffin, O'Malley, and his smokey quartz be-furred lover, Rupert.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Maple Oat Scones

A shipment came in from Amazon today: a foldaway dog playpen (aka my new chick brooder), two small dog crates, one wine making book, one cheese making book, and three preserving/cookbooks. I immediately sat down and started flipping through the preserving/cookbooks, making a list of all the things I wanted to can this coming summer. Then I came to this recipe. The picture made my mouth water like crazy, so I plopped the book down on the table, and set to work to create these tasty morsels. Right out of the oven, warm and crisp, I filled one with strawberry lavender jam.... and then I died.

Okay, obviously I didn't die, but my god was it amazing! Please make these scones. Make them now.

This recipe was adapted from Canning For A New Generation by Liana Krissoff. I halved everything in the original recipe except for the amount of eggs, because being a chicken keeper whose husband doesn't particularly like eggs, I have a ton to use up.

Maple Oat Scones
1 3/4 C. All Purpose Flour
1/2 C. Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 C. Old Fashioned Oats
1 Tbsp. Baking Powder
1 Tbsp. Sugar
1 tsp. Salt
1/2 C. Butter (2 sticks)
1/4 C. Yogurt
1/4 C. Pure Maple Syrup
5 Large Eggs

Preheat the oven to 400° F. In a large bowl, combine the flours, oats, baking powder, sugar and salt. Using your fingertips, two knives held together, or a pastry cutter, cut in the butter until the largest pieces are the size of peas.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the yogurt, maple syrup, and 4 of the eggs. Pour the mixture into the flour mixture and stir until just incorporated; do not over mix. The dough will be somewhat sticky.

Turn out the dough onto a well-floured surface. Flour your hands, then pat the dough out to ¾” to 1″ inch thick. Cut into 2 ½” inch rounds (I used a wide-mouth pint canning jar ring) and place on the greased baking sheets. Gather up leftover dough, handling it as little as possible, and pat it out to cut more rounds. If the kitchen is warm, put the baking sheets in the fridge for 30 minutes or so to firm up, so they don’t spread too much in the oven.

In a small bowl whisk the remaining egg and brush on top of the scones. Sprinkle with oats. Bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating and switching the pans halfway through, until deep golden brown. Remove to wire racks.

Serve warm, with a large dollop of jam in the center. Enjoy

Makes 10 scones.

Soft Garlic Basil Breadsticks

I love making bread, but with most basic bread recipes, I find that the bread gets pretty hard the next day. I made these two days ago, and they're still super soft. I'm having a leftover breadstick as I type. I whipped them up for dinner with a pot of pasta and tangy pasta sauce I canned last summer. The secret to super soft bread? Milk, egg, and plenty of butter. My experimentation turned out wonderful, and my husband devoured these babies. Crisp on the outside, and pillow soft on the inside.

Soft Garlic Basil Breadsticks

1 Packet Fast Rise Yeast
1/2 C. Warm Water
1/2 C. Warm Milk
2 tsp. Sugar
2 tsp. Salt
1/2 C. Butter, Room Temp
1 Egg
1 Tbsp. Garlic Powder
1 Tbsp. Crush Dried Basil
3 1/2 C Flour
Garlic Salt to Garnish

In a large bowl, or stand mixer bowl, combine yeast, sugar, warm milk, and warm water. Let sit for five minutes to allow yeast to activate (it will start to look foamy). Add in butter, egg, garlic powder, and basil. Then add in three cups of flour. From there add in flour as you need to get the dough smooth yet elastic - in the end, you may need to add exactly 3 1/2 C, or you may need to sprinkle in a little more to get the desired consistency. When the dough has the right amount of flour, it should no longer be super sticky, but also not tough. Transfer dough into a large bowl, oiled with olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise in a warm place for around an hour, or until doubled in size.

Once the dough has risen, punch down. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Divide dough in half, then divide each half into six, making a total of twelve small balls of dough. Form each ball into a long breadstick shape, and place onto a greased cookie sheet. Sprinkle unbaked breadsticks with garlic salt. Bake breadsticks for 10-12 minutes.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

DIY Seed Organization

I go a little nuts when it comes to buying seeds. I have a seed addiction. The only problem with that is before this afternoon, they were all shoved haphazardly into a large yellow envelope. When I needed to reference a particular seed packet for anything, I'd have to dig through the envelope for ten minutes. Rubber bands kept many varieties of the same vegetable together, like tomatoes, but that can damage the seeds - not to mention crinkle up, and even tear those beautiful seed packets!

You Will Need:
Square or Rectangle Basket
Card Stock
Seed Packets

Make a list (and a doodle of a tomato) of all the categories you'll want to categorize your seeds into.

Measure and cut dividers to fit your chosen basket. Then cut tabs into dividers, alternating between left tabs, center tabs, and right tabs.

Label dividers, and assemble your organized seed basket.

Store any extra garden supplies in the back if you have extra room - I had just enough space for some twine.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Farm Goals: Year One

If someone had told me earlier this year that we would be buying our first home in a different state, I definitely would have questioned their sanity. Had they said it would be the farm of our dreams, I would have thought they had gotten into some bath salts.

Here it is, January, and we've been on our little slice of heaven for just over two months, though it seems like forever. Its as if this place was made for us. We belong here.

Is it perfect? No, but its perfect for us.

Our farm came with a bunch of stuff that would have otherwise been on my to-do list:
Farm House (Check!)
Barn (Check!)
Chicken Coop (Check!)
Grape Vines (Check!)
Established Fruit Trees (Check!)
Pond (Check!)
Pasture, Partially Fence (Check!)

Even still, there are so many things I want to do. I have grand plans. Grand, I tell ya!

1. More Laying/Pet Chickens.
This goal is already partially accomplished. In mid-November, only two weeks after moving, I decided I wanted to raise chicks over the winter so I could collect beautiful eggs around June, as opposed to having to wait until September. That late in the year, the only thing available were hatching eggs. I've always wanted to hatch little chickies! So I ordered an incubator, and two dozen hatching eggs: one dozen French Copper Marans, and one dozen Easter Eggers. Unfortunately right after I placed my order, the hens at the farm I ordered the eggs from went on strike. "Hell nay, we won't lay!" The company offered to double my egg order for free if I could wait until Spring. It was a deal I couldn't pass up, French Copper Marans are certainly pricier than the average layer. So instead of raising chicks over winter, I'll have spring chicks after all. As long as I can have more chickens, I'm a happy girl.

2. Huge Heirloom Vegetable Garden.
I've been gardening for a few years now, but I definitely still consider myself a novice. With each gardening season, I learn a whole slew of new lessons in vegetable gardening. I've also graduated in size with each passing year. Last year with the biggest by far, was 600 square feet. I plan to far surpass that one with a 6,000 square foot garden this Spring. We'll can, freeze, and eat fresh, colorful heirlooms to our hearts content. 

3. Start All Garden Plants From Seed.
Last years attempt at starting all of our garden plants from seed was a total failure. I had good intentions, but a drafty window, and a cat made sure my seed babies didn't survive. I begrudgingly bought little seedlings from our local nursery. This year, I'm prepared. It's going to work, even if it somehow kills me. I've ordered over 100 packets of heirlooms seeds, my husband gave me a greenhouse for Christmas, and I have the starting dates all mapped out,(which reminds me, I need to start my kale, and onion seeds soon). I'm ready for this!

4. Dairy Goats.
To me, goats and chickens are the epitome of farm life. I've dreamed of having these two animals for years, but thought it would be decades before that dream would ever come true. My favorite blog made me long to have chickens and goats running around in my backyard.  They're cute, most are friendly, AND the best part (duh), fresh milk. I want fresh chèvre, goat milk soap, and raw milk in my refrigerator. This goal is close to being crossed off my list because... we're getting two Nigerian Dwarf doelings very soon! I'm so EXCITED!!

5. Dog Fencing.

We have five dogs, and they're all in the house... all the time. Suffice it to say, they stress me the heck out. The cats I can let out, and they'll stay on the property, or at least out of harms way. Our dogs are kinda helpless and three of them are very small. They would be an easy snack for an array of Ozark Mountain predators. So when they have to go out and potty (a thousand times a day) I have to go out with them. It's -10 degrees here today with over a foot of snow, I can't express how much fun all the potty breaks have been. It will be SO MUCH easier when we put a fence in where I can just let them out so they can go potty on their own, and I can have some time for my sanity. 

6. Honey Bees.

I love, love, love REAL honey. After having honest to goodness, local honey, the store bought clover honey just doesn't cut it. Also, honey bees will majorly benefit my vegetable garden. I plan to position the hives behind the garden, near the tree line so my garden will have ample pollination. While I want honey bees at some point, if we get them this year, great, but if they get pushed to the back burner, next year will be fine, too. At the very least, I'll be doing LOTS of research, and possibly taking a class on bee-keeping.

7. More Fruit Trees.

I know we have a few fruit trees behind our house, I'm just not sure what kind. Two apple for sure, but the rest are a mystery. As soon as I figure out what variety they are, we'll be planting more. Persimmon, Cherry, Plum, Peach - you name it. I want every kind of jam, and wine I can make! Is that greedy?

8. Butcher Our Own Meat Chickens

This one is pretty self explanatory. We love chicken, and we love fresh. I want to know where my meat comes from. Until their time comes, I want to give those meat chickens the best life I can; on our pretty little farm, foraging in picturesque pastures, and chasing terrified Chihuahuas. I've been reading up on it, talking to other farmers about it, I've dissected animals, and assisted in several surgeries while obtaining my degree in Veterinary Technology. I can do this! :P

9. Learn to Pressure Can.

I'm hooked on water bath canning. I figure once I get the hang of it, pressure canning will be no different. I'm actually planning on taking a half-day class on preserving and canning vegetables at our local college in March. I'm sure pressure canning will be in there somewhere.

10. Ducks. 
We have a cute little pond, we need cute little ducks, right?

There are still SO MANY things I want to accomplish, but all in due time. Having a farm is overwhelming, but the most amazing thing I've ever done. I can't wait to see what the future holds. Now if Spring would just GET HERE.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Canvas Print Upcycle

Have an old canvas print hanging up that you're getting so sick of looking at you could just puke? Well, maybe that's a stretch, but you get me. Its been hanging on the wall for so long, you don't really like the print anymore, but you don't have anything else to replace it.

Yeah, me too. So I created this! 

I don't really have any specific instructions on how to create this same picture; it all happened so fast! I roughly and haphazardly tore chunks of green/blue based scrapbook paper to make the 'changing seasons' background, accordion folded leaf colored paper to produce several tiny leaves with minimal cutting, and free-handed the tree out of several pieces of scrapbook paper. And of course, I used Mod Podge to piece everything together.

Be creative, and make something beautifully unique. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Plumping Cinnamon Lip Butter

Yay, more snow. NOT. We got yet another inch of snow last night. This is the most active winter I've seen in quite a while. I couldn't be less excited about it. With the intensely cold weather getting worse by the day, my lips are requiring more and more moisture. I have tubes of chapstick, nivea lip balm, and even Burts Bees, yet none of them seem to be cutting it here lately. Chapstick is no longer moisturizing, it just feels like a layer of wax over my lips. Nivea seems to dry them out worse in the long run. And the trusty 'ole Burts Bees leaves a white coloring to my lips, akin to a corpse. Hmm, what to do about this conundrum?

Make my own crazy moisturizing lip butter of course! Lately I've been making all kinds of stuff from scratch: soapcandles, etc. What the heck, might as well give lip butter a go. I'm on a roll, people!

When planning this lip butter out, I knew of three things I wanted in the end product: moisture, tint, and some plumping action. I chose cinnamon as the main essential oil because it acts as a natural lip plumper, and well, its smells lovely. Might as well pack as much of a punch as I can into these tiny tubes. And speaking of packing a punch, making your own lip balms can save you some serious dough in the long run. Especially if you're like me, and you tend to lose one per week.

It's a lot easier to make your own lip butter than you might think. Anyone can do this, I swear!

Plumping Cinnamon Lip Butter
0.9 oz or 26 grams Beeswax
1.6 oz or 47 grams Coconut Oil
0.7 oz or 20 grams Shea Butter
0.8 oz or 23 grams Cocoa Butter
4 drops Vitamin E Oil
Lip Tint Coloring (or an old tube of lipstick)
Cinnamon Bark (Cassia) Essential Oil
Peppermint Essential Oil
Lip Balm Tubes/Pots - this recipe made 18 tubes, and 7 pots
Clear Plastic Pipettes

Combine beeswax, cocoa butter, shea butter, coconut oil, and vitamin E oil in a double boiler, or a make-shift double boiler (canning rings in the bottom of a pot). If you use the method I did, make sure the glass measuring cup doesn't touch the sides of the pot. Melt over medium-low heat. Do not boil, you will ruin the butters/oils.

Once melted, turn off heat, add coloring to your liking. It may look dark, but it takes a LOT of color to be visible on the lips once applied. Then add 40 drops of Cinnamon Bark (Cassia) Oil, and 25 drops of Peppermint Oil. Stir.

Working quickly with the clear plastic pipette, fill tubes/pots. When the butter solidifies in the tube, the center will sink down a bit, top off with any leftover lip butter if desired. Let cool, and enjoy!

From Scratch Chicken Noodle Soup

The nasty flu bug has officially hit our household. My hubby started feeling bad yesterday morning, and it progressively worsened as the day went on. Yesterday evening he was hot, then he was freezing, he was cranky, then he was sweet. Men are kinda big babies when they're sick, am I right? (Love you, honey!) BUT he always takes good care of me when I'm sick, and since I love him dearly, I made sure to do the same for him.

The only thing that sounded good to him was a hot bowl of chicken noodle soup. Who doesn't want chicken noodle soup when they're sick? Its so comforting, warming, and soul-soothing. I set to work in the kitchen to make a big pot of our favorite chicken noodle soup, because lord knows I'll be sick soon, too.

Chicken Noodle Soup

6 Celery Stalks, diced
2 C. Sliced Carrots
1 Medium Onion
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
5 Quarts Chicken Broth
2 Chicken Breasts, thawed (Bone-In or Boneless, whatever you have)
1 Pkg Egg Noodles
3 Tbsp. Dried Parsley
2 Tbsp. Thyme
2 Bay Leaves
2 Tsp. Salt
1 Tsp. Ground Black Pepper
1 Tsp. Celery Seed

In a large stock pot, combine celery, carrots (mine were from last seasons garden and still frozen), onions, and olive oil. Saute on high for 10 minutes. If mixture gets too dry, add a dab more of olive oil.

Add chicken broth, chicken breasts, and all the spices. Simmer for 30 minutes or until chicken is thoroughly cooked and easily shredded. Remove chicken breasts, shred. Add shredded chicken back to the pot. Bring to a boil, add egg noodles. Boil soup for 10 minutes or until noodles are al dente.