Archive for January, 2012

Oh, man oh man! Can we say yumMEEE? I don’t think a piece of bread has ever tasted SO good!! There must be something about eating warm bread, made by your own hands, that transports you to the clouds. Maybe fresh butter, instead of store butter, or homemade jam, instead of the local honey, could have made it better, but I don’t think so.

And to top it off, it was so easy to make. The trickiest part was waiting the hours and hours for it to bubble and rise, but I didn’t have to do any kneading, so no complaints here =0}

If you haven’t tried this bread yet, you need to. The smell of flour, yeast, and water blending together, is enough to transport you. And then there is the smell of the dough baking, filling the house with an indescribable smell of warmth, the sound of the knife cracking through the crust, and the butter melting into all the cracks and crannies… I’ll leave the rest to your imagination ;0}

I just followed the directions for No-Knead Bread at steamykitchen.com. Be mindful that there is a difference between instant yeast and dry active yeast. You want the instant (rapid-rise) yeast. It’s what allows you to walk away and let it do its thing, instead of kneading and kneading.

Have fun!

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I’ve been on a new kick: seeking the kitchen tools of days gone by!

It’s quite fun, wandering through antique shops, and seeing what those that have gone before, have left behind. I’m not looking for the ordinary tools. I want the ones that are forgotten, or not often seen. And here is the tricky part, I want a bargain ;0}

Here are my latest finds:

I see egg beaters all the time. Most are pretty beaten up (no pun intended). When I saw this one, I had to keep myself from squealing with delight. Not only is the mechanism in great shape, doesn’t stick when you use the crank, but it comes with a cover/shield and a crock, with no cracks or chips. I think it’s pretty amazing.

This, believe it or not, is a mayonnaise maker, created by Wesson Oil. The recipe is right on the bottle. As far as I can figure, the egg, vinegar or lemon juice, and salt, go in the jar, and are mixed/whisked together. Then the oil is slowly added, through the lid, and everything is whisked together. Can you see the hole in the lid, and the cupping of the grooved lid, that allows the oil to be added slowly. I am going to have to play with this one, but then again, that is the point =0}

This one isn’t so unusual, except that it has the owner’s manual, and it’s in fantastic shape. I actually want to go out and buy some meat, just to try it… I suppose I could try it on carrots ;0} But first I need to prime it, as the directions recommend.

Now if only I could get additional parts, at the prices listed in the manual ;0}

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As you may remember, I unexpectedly lost a hen last week. That left the remaining hen all alone… which isn’t good for a flock creature. She wasn’t alone long. A friend knew of  a hen, being “pecked” on, that needed a new home… she came with a friend ;0}

Maggie (formerly known as Natasha) is the pecked on one, at least she was. She is a black Wyandotte with grey legs. Loshka (formerly known as China) is a light Brahma with some feathers on her feet. They arrived Sunday afternoon, in a cat carrier.

At first, we kept them in the cat carrier, inside the coop, to allow them to see each other. They talked for a bit, so we thought, we would let them out and see what happens. Those of you who are familiar with chickens, know what happened next. Yep, the pecking began. My Vandana was making it clear that this was her home. My friend was able to pick up Loshka and I picked up Vandana. I put her outside the coop and let her free range. Loshka and Maggie remained inside.

I came inside and checked in with some of my Facebook page followers. It had been a few years, since I had introduced new hens, to an existing flock. Granted, my flock existed of a sole member, but the flock mentality would still be present. I was seeking advice on the best way to do it. The responses were fast and confirmed that the method I had used in the past, was the method of choice.

I temporarily put Maggie and Loshka back in the cat carrier, and waited for Vandana to come in and get settled for the night. Once she was on her roost, and the sun was set, I placed Maggie and Loshka inside to roost. It is said, that whoever they wake with, they accept as existing flock members.

It has been proven true, again. They are not the best of friends, but they wander the backyard as a scattered flock. Vandana will, every once in a while, still peck at them. I should clarify, she fakes them out, as if she is going to peck them, and they get out of her way. There is definitely a divide between Vandana and the new additions, but it is only day three. I hope it will lessen over time. I’m just glad she has other hens to cluck with… and boy, have they been clucking =0}

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I am so glad this week is over! I knew it was going to be one for the record books… but I didn’t think it would be anything like it ended up being!

We are not used to snow around here. It rarely happens, and it certainly doesn’t last more than a day or two. Most of us were braced for the coming storm. We were warned, that we could break a 30 year record, of 14″ of snow, in a 24-hour period (missed it by an inch or so).

The snow came, as promised. It was beautiful… as it always is, when it first falls. And then it began…

Car Damage

I still don’t know where the car came from. I am a cautious driver (learned to drive in Michigan snow). I make sure to give plenty of room to the cars around me, knowing that they may slip/slide in the snow. So, when I was hit from behind, it was an utter surprise… as it seems to have been for the other driver… as will the $10K estimate for damages. Am I ever grateful that he is insured!

The next morning, I walked the 2 miles to work. It had been my plan, before the accident. The banged up car just made it easier to stick to the plan ;0} I wasn’t prepared for how long it would take me. The sidewalks were not cleared (few of us actually own a snow shovel), so every two steps forward, I slid one step back. I arrived exhausted, but ready to spend the day selling warm coats, snow boots, hats and gloves.

I was anxious to get back home. I had the next two days off… so I knew I would be able to spend time in the garden, with my camera…

there’s a garden under there somewhere

 

things iced over quickly

Tree Damage

While I was taking pictures, I could hear the branches, thick with ice, snap and shatter. Each time, my heart stood still… bracing myself for a branch to fall on my head…

There was good reason to be concerned! Luckily, all the damage happened to my ornamental trees (a lilac and a sumac) and not any of my fruit-bearing trees.

Chicken Damage

My girls weren’t thrilled with all the snow or noise. I shoveled them a path, so they could get to their favorite place… a spot under the eaves, along the house. They rewarded me with two eggs – haven’t had eggs since the end of November.

By morning, the path was covered again. Goldie took one look and turned back around, choosing to spend the day in the coop. It is in the coop, where her lifeless body was found, Friday night. I could find no signs of trauma. No cause for the death. I am hoping she was simply startled by a loud snap of a branch and her little heart just simply stopped.

Vandana (my black hen) is alone, surrounded by snow. She quietly clucks, waiting for a response…

In a few weeks, it will be as if the storm was never here… well almost. The car will be, as good as, new; the trees will be scarred, a fence board replaced and the cold frame repaired; and there will be two new hens, Natasha and China, in the place that was once Goldie’s.

It is a storm I wish to forget, but I don’t believe I will be able to… at least not anytime soon.

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I Did It

I did it – I made soap!!

I finally did it. I’ve been thinking about making soap, since December… longer, really. But December is when I started looking at recipes and collecting ingredients. Hubby even got me lye, for Christmas (never, in a million years, did I think I would ever write that and be excited about it ;0})

There are only pictures of the finished product. I was way too nervous about the whole lye-thing. I didn’t dare stop to take any pictures. I must say, I thought it was going to be far more dramatic, than it was. So much so, that I wonder if I didn’t do something wrong.

I relied heavily on Soap Making Essentials – she has some great recipes and tutorials. She also pointed me to SoapCalc… which, saved my butt, when I realized, that I only had about half the cocoa butter I needed, and the coconut oil was already in the crock pot, warming up.

I think I went a little overboard with the vinegar. I rinsed all the utensils/tools, I used in the lye mixing process, with vinegar, washed them with hot-soapy water, and then rinsed again, with vinegar. I wanted to be absolutely sure that the lye was neutralized. This coming from the woman who actually did the zap test… you know? When you put, what you hope to be, a fully processed product to your tongue, to see if it will zap you like a 9-volt battery. Luckily, the soap didn’t zap me =0}

This time I added Calendula flower petals and a Cascade Blend EO (think cedar and pine). The soap smells heavenly, and it seems to lather really well. The real test will be in the shower, tomorrow morning… will I feel clean after using it =0}

Next time (yes, I’m already thinking about next time), I want to try a soap with coconut milk and/or honey with oatmeal!! With the SoapCalc, the possibilities seem endless… at least for my lifetime ;0} And I want to try a shampoo bar…

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I started the year with Andrea’s 23 Day Frugal Living Challenge. I thought it would be a great way to jumpstart my year. I wanted to change the way I live… the way I spend… the way I consume. I wanted to be a “prosumer” (have you watched Radically Simple – it’s on Netflix-Instant).

So the adventure begins. I was looking for ways to cut my expenses and to use what I already have. I looked to my food scraps.

Stock:

I’ve made vegetable stock for years now… on those days, where I had more veggies than I knew what to do with, from my CSA. But I hadn’t been saving scraps and peels from the veggies I used in my day-to-day cooking. They had been going to my compost pile. I started saving them in a zip-lock bag in the freezer.

This time, the bag was filled with onion butts and peels, leek ends, and carrot butts and peels. I added peppercorns, 5 garlic cloves and some dried mushrooms. I fill my crock pot pretty full (ignoring the direction to only fill it 3/4 – I figure it cooks down). I added 16 cups of water to the crock pot. I leave it on HI for a few hours and then drop it to LOW overnight.

Half way trough, the following day, I add half a bunch of parsley, and let it cook a couple more hours. I want the flavor to be concentrated, so I put the lid on crooked, allowing for evaporation. At this point, it has been cooking for close to 24 hours. I have been known to let it go longer… I let my taste buds tell me when time is up ;0} When it tastes, the way I like it, I remove the veggies (now they can go to the compost pile) and start filling sterile quart jars.

This time, I filled two quart jars and two ice cube trays… remember I added 16 cups of water, so nicely concentrated flavor. I don’t have a pressure canner yet, so I store the jars in the freezer… leaving room for the stock to expand, as it freezes. The ice cubes I add to the cooking water for rice and pasta… adds a little something. I pop them out of the trays and keep them in a baggie. Keep in mind, you may want to have a dedicated ice cube tray, for savory things. You don’t want your lemon ice cubes tasting like vegetable stock ;0}

Enzyme Cleaner:

We have a lot of orange peels around our house. My husband loves to eat oranges… the chickens do not like the peels… and they stink up the compost pile. So imagine my delight, when I learned that I could make a cleaner out of the stinky waste =0} I found Happyhomemaker88’s Enzyme Cleaner Recipe (be sure to read all the way through her recipe – she made some adjustments, based on the experience of others). It only requires 3 ingredients: orange peels, brown sugar, and water… oh, and THREE MONTHS! Apparently I am also getting a lesson in patience ;0}

So far it has been brewing for a week. I plan to start another batch in a few more weeks… it has so many uses, that I think I will go trough one bottle, in a month. You can add it to laundry, as well as, use it to clean the bathroom… including the drains. I’ll post again, after I have actually used it.

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As I watched War Horse, the movie, this weekend, I found myself paying attention to the farms and homes. There were baskets hanging from the beams. Bottles, jars and jugs to be seen everywhere. Some were stacked, waiting to be filled, and others were filled with herbs, and others with jams. There were herbs hanging from hooks. I was in heaven, checking out all the details…

I was perplexed by the lack of chickens, goats, and cows. There was a goose, with quite a personality. Was it a choice in telling the story, or did they really not raise any kind of meat or have a source of dairy? The farm seemed so quiet without the chickens clucking in the background. Even my garden has chickens clucking ;0}. It got me to thinking about a picture I knew I had, of my Grandma Ruth working in the garden, as a child.

Pulsipher Farm in Cache Valley, Utah

As I searched for this one, I came across several others. It warmed my heart, to realize, that homesteading is in my blood – isn’t it in most of ours ;0} Now if only I could ask them how they lived their day-to-day life. I would love to be in the garden with them, working side by side, picking their brains, asking when and what to grow, and how much. Then step into the kitchen and learn to can and prepare a meal on a wood-stove… oh the list goes on… as does the list of skills I want to acquire this coming year. I’m excited for this source of inspiration!! Here are the other images I came across:

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