Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Our First Farm Baby is Three

For those of you who have followed our blog long enough, you'll probably be amazed that it's already been three years since Gloria was born. If you'd like to see the story, just click here.

So here it is three years later and she's still such a beautiful girl. It's funny how she thinks the world belongs to her and can get very possessive about things, but today, as she was getting presents, she mostly shared without fussing. I was amazed. For you David Crowder fans out there, you know the song, "Everything Glorious"? Well, she thinks it's "Everything Gloria's" and figures God made everything for her. Maybe now that she's older and wiser she is learning that isn't true. Or maybe it's just that since she had an earache she didn't want to fight. Poor kid was miserable today, but still happy that she got a cake with a horse on it. She's asked for one for almost a year.

Thanks go to Grace for making the cake and ice cream and Flo the cow for providing the cream for the ice cream and the whipped cream.

And now, just because it's a good video and an awesome song, go listen to this: Everything Glorious by the David Crowder Band.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

On Growing Up

I bet you think this is going to be about the kids, right? Nope. It's about me and my realization that I am growing up. I can't call this a mid-life crisis because I'm ONLY 41. I'm not half way yet.

I don't know about the rest of you, but Roger and I have talked about how we have a mental age that doesn't really necessarily match our actual age. When someone asks how old you are, you can give the right answer, but in your mind when you think about yourself, you think about yourself as a different age. When I was around 34 I realized I wasn't 22 anymore and had to make this leap in my mind. Now I'm 41 and my body is letting me know it. I am having to readjust that mental age again so it's been on my mind a lot lately.

I spent some time staring at myself in the mirror. I had to let myself know that it's okay that I am getting a few wrinkles and things are sagging now. I spend my days with young people. I've got a 13 year old and a 15 year old (okay, 31 days still of being 14, but she's close) in the house which seems to make this a little harder for me. There's this constant reminder that I used to wear that size and have that smooth skin, etc. Now there are spots and blotches bumps and rolls and things. It's kind of hard to adjust to.

I'm determined to not feel all the aches and pains that are considered normal as we age. I keep hearing that I have no choice, but I don't believe it. I've had a couple of episodes of arthritic pains in my joints, but I take my grapefruit seed extract or garlic or cut back on my sugar. It amazes me how well the body can heal itself.

I've been asked to share some of what I've learned and am learning about herbs and natural healing. I'll do that as I have time and think of something I want to share. There's actually tons of stuff I'd like to teach everyone about being healthy, but I don't want to sound like I know it all because I don't. But I'm usually willing to experiment with herbs more than I'd be willing to let doctors experiment on me or my children with their drugs. There are fewer side effects.

But back to aging. I got an email yesterday aimed at helping me feel better by showing me all these pictures of the beautiful Hollywood stars and how they are aging too. It didn't help because I realized that if they started out looking better than me and now they look that bad, it's just hopeless for me! But what is helping is realizing that I am 41 and I shouldn't expect to look 15 or 25 or even 35. And it's okay to grow up. And while I still want to take care of myself, I don't have to look like a Hollywood star. Even an old, saggy star. I just have to be healthy enough to continue to do what I need to do and enjoy my children and maybe someday some grandchildren.

I am enjoying the wisdom that comes with age. The reduced stress in realizing that not all of life is drama. The love and joy and memories that come with having lived a life and made lots of friends along the way. And this is a great time to also realize I have so much ahead of me. More memories and love and joy and things to do and people to meet . . .

I imagine this will just keep getting harder every time I have to readjust my mental age, but I thought I'd share in case there's anyone else out there who is feeling old. Maybe there is comfort in knowing you are not alone.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Better Butter

When we first got a cow, we started making our own butter. We put the cream in jars, about 1/3 full, and shook and shook and shook until we had butter. It takes about 20 minutes per jar. Then I would rinse it, salt it, press the water out, and we'd enjoy it. But no one liked all that work and I noticed our butter consumption dropped drastically. Soon, we were all tired of all the work and I started buying butter again. It just isn't that expensive compared to all that work.

Well, last week the "How to of the day" on my iGoogle page was "How to make butter with your electric mixer" or something like that. I'd tried that and it was just a mess. But I looked at the how to page and there was even a video. PLUS they had directions for how to rinse the butter in your blender.

So we tried it today. We're getting about a quart of cream per day and I need to do something with it. I've made sour cream, cream cheese, ice cream and still there's more cream than we know what to do with. So I figured I'd better try this.

It was great. Following are pictures of "batch 2" from today.

cream in jarStart with a quart of very cold cream. More than that and you end up with a big mess splashing out of the mixer. So less is more.

pouring cream
mixer with lid on
Next you dump the cream into the mixer. Notice our cream is very thick and not dumping. I had to use a spatula at first to get the thick cream off the top. Then put the lid on the mixer and turn it on on its highest setting.

whipped cream Within a couple of minutes I had whipped cream. Now I've tried this before when I wanted whipped cream and couldn't get it to whip this well. I think the fact that we had the cream very well chilled made the difference today.
lumpy whipped cream
After a couple more minutes the whipped cream gets kind of lumpy looking. Keep mixing.

It keeps getting lumpier and will begin to splash again as the buttermilk separates out from the butter. Don't quit too soon.
lumpier done
The top picture shows it getting lumpier, the one on the bottom is done. There are big lumps of butter rather than little blobs of it.

Now it's time to rinse the butter. I took the blobs of butter and put them in the blender while Claire prepared some ice water in a pitcher for me. I poured the buttermilk back into the jar I'd had cream in. Between the 2 quarts of cream that we made into butter, I had almost 1 quart of buttermilk. I added a couple spoons of sour cream that I'd made last week (this won't work with store bought sour cream), shook it up, and set it aside on the counter. Tomorrow I should have cultured buttermilk. It takes about 24 hours. This can be used for starter for sour cream or cream cheese, or it can be used in recipes requiring buttermilk. If you like buttermilk, you can drink it straight. I don't care for it though.

blending ice water and butter This is the butter in the blender on low speed with ice water added. The purpose of this is that the milk will cause the butter to spoil faster. So you wash the milk out of the butter. I did this by hand before and it was exhausting.
draining off the liquid You pour off the "dirty water" and add fresh water. Repeat this process until you drain off clear water.
adding more ice water

Then we dumped our clean butter onto a cutting board. You have to press that water out now and add salt while you're at it. I had a flat, wooden tool that I used, but today it broke and cut my hand. Grace took over and used a wooden spoon.

salt adding salt

And here's the finished butter.

But like I always tell the kids, no job is done in the kitchen until you wash all those dishes. Another thing we were doing by hand when we first made butter.

Thankfully we have a dishwasher now! Those are some greasy dishes! Claire washed the dishes. Faith took the pictures. Thanks for the help, girls! To me, this is the bestest part of making butter nowadays--helpers!!!


Two disappointing things this week.

1. There's almost nothing left of my garden. I still have potato plants that are growing from potatoes that sprouted in our house. They look great above ground, but no idea down below. Same thing with the carrots. Our broccoli has bolted from the heat now. And the mint is doing fine. Everything else has been devoured by those cute little roly poly bugs. I searched the net and found mostly that they don't eat live plants. That's a lie. If you have garden soil that is about 1/4 roly polies, they will eat your plants. I tried diatomaceous earth and it did nothing. I tried little traps. I caught a lot of them, but it was just a drop in the bucket.

I'm not giving up yet. I also read that they are at the largest numbers in the spring. Maybe I can get something to grow this summer while it's too hot for the roly polies? We'll see. But meanwhile, if there is anyone who can grow good garden fresh veggies and would like to trade for fresh cream or eggs, I'd love to hear from you.

2. Gloria got a hold of a pair of scissors and chopped her hair off. It was bad, but we could hide it a bit with a headband. But then she got a hold of scissors again. So we had to give her a haircut. I cried as I cut off the sparkly blond ringlets that were so beautiful. It was sort of a laugh/cry because I also knew I should just get over it. We saved them. I'm not kidding about sparkly. When the light hit her hair just right it looked like glitter. But no more. Now she is a light brown headed kid. Still beautiful. Just different.

As I finished the hair cut and realized she looked good, I said to her, "your mom is a good haircutter!" She didn't miss a beat and replied, "And I'm not!" We laughed and she promised she'll never cut her own hair again. We shall see.

Hmm. This is the best pic we managed to get of the new haircut. The older girls took pictures for me, but they took this one and then put her hair in pigtails so it's not quite the same. You can see though that she really chopped the side pretty short. I tapered it along the sides to try to make it look better, but in pigtails, you see that some of it is just too short to go back in the ponytail. Oh well. It will grow.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day and the lie of it's the thought that counts

I thought that this Mother's Day might be good to share with you the story of perhaps the worst Mother's Day gift ever. I was around eight or nine years old and Mother's Day was coming up. I got my money and rode my bike to Greenberg's Drug Store and started looking for something for Mom. I didn't have much money, I was eight or nine years old and my allowance was 25¢ a week. So, fancy boxes of chocolate candies were out of the picture. Expensive perfumes and jewelry were also out of my price range. There was a cheap perfume that I could afford and there were some pantie hose that came in an egg. My Mom was kind of skinny and tall and I had no idea what size she was, but I knew enough to not get here hose that were for fat women and get her all upset on Mother's Day because I thought she was fat. I also knew hose that were too small would get her all upset over how she wasn't smaller, so the egg got put back on the shelf and I bought the cheap perfume.

The perfume was wrapped with great care and Sunday came and it was time to give Mom her gifts. I remember my Mom's Mom was there, so Ronda, Dad, Mom, Grandma and me all gathered in the den and gifts were exchanged. Ronda made Mom some art thing since that was her deal and Mom was all gushy over it. It was just some dang rock or painting or some such thing. It was now time for Mom to open my gift and I knew it would be a hit. I knew it because I had to buy it and I didn't just make it. Mom opened it up, quickly shoved it under the cushion she was sitting on, mumbled thank you and started talking about other stuff. I was shocked at the lack of appreciation. The perfume was feminine enough, the can said it was feminine. It was a perfume, isn't deodorant a synonym for perfume? Isn't spraying on perfume the fancy way to put on perfume? Years later I would understand why a can of FDS was not the best of all Mother's Day gifts. But it was that day when I realized that it never really is the thought that counts.

Happy Mother's Day


Tuesday, May 05, 2009

20 Pie Crusts for the Freezer

I can't find this on the net, but it was there once. I've found some recipes that are very close though. Mine uses my Bosch which is way easier than the recipe using the exact same ingredients, but you cut the flour into the shortening by hand. That's fine for a crust or two, but 20? Yikes!

20 Pie Crusts in the Bosch

3 lbs Crisco (I've been using the butter flavor)
5 lbs all purpose flour
2 T salt
3 cups ice water (I fill a 4 cup measuring cup with ice, add water, then when I'm ready for it I scoop out the ice and adjust to get 3 cups)

Put the Crisco in the Bosch and mix on speed 1. Add the salt, then slowly begin adding the flour (too fast and you'll have a mess!). Pour in water as needed to keep it mixing well and alternate water and flour.

When all is mixed, begin dividing it into balls. If you have a scale, you want each ball to be between 7 and 8 ounces. Flatten slightly like a hamburger patty and place on waxed paper on a cookie sheet. Put in freezer. When they are frozen, like several hours later or the next day, move them to a couple of gallon ziploc bags.

When you are ready to use them, take out what you need and allow about 20-30 minutes to thaw. Roll out as usual and enjoy!

Not the healthiest ingredients, but at least there are no dyes!

Pie, Pie and More Pie

A couple of years ago I searched for and found a recipe to make pie crusts in bulk. Google can find anything. It's great. You can make 20 pie crusts with little more effort than one, put them in the freezer and pie becomes easier the next few times. I was going to post a link, but can't find one now. I'll post it soon.

So for Claire's birthday last week she wanted Chicken Pot Pie for dinner and Peanut Butter Pie for dessert. I figured it was time to make a new supply of pie crusts. It takes 2 to feed our family which still left me 16 crusts for the freezer (2 crusts for each pie--top and bottom. The peanut butter pie uses a graham cracker crust.).

This turned out better than any I've ever made before. I think it was the coconut oil with that very subtle coconut flavor. I used to use cream of chicken soup, but no more. I am putting my recipe here in case I can't remember next time. This makes 2 pies.

Chicken Pot Pie Filling (all measurements are approximate)

8 T coconut oil (butter is what I used to use)
8 T flour (theoretically--I needed quite a bit more to form the paste)
2 c milk
2 c water
4 tsp chicken base or bouillon
3 cans mixed veggies, drained
2 chicken breasts, cut up

Melt oil in a 2 or 3 qt pot. Mix in flour until you have a paste. Over medium heat, stir in milk, water, and chicken base. Cook and stir until thick and bubbly. Mix in veggies and chicken. Pour into two pie crusts, cover and cut slits. Bake at 350 for about an hour.

Well, after I made this, I still had 2 chicken breasts left. I'm sure I could have found something else to do with it, but we love chicken pot pie. So I made more only 5 days later. No one complained! Perhaps it was the power of positive thinking?

And then tonight, yet another pie for dinner: Quiche! The exciting thing about this is that we got the eggs from our farm and the broccoli from our garden! Apparently rolie polies don't like broccoli. It was delicious!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

The Porch

This is a bit late in being posted, but then again, who gave me a deadline? If I had a deadline, I'd have gotten it done on time. No deadline means do it whenever. In this case, a month after the fact.

In early April the concrete was poured for our porch. We had talked about a wood porch, but this is termite country and the cost of concrete went down enough it was worth it. There are several benefits to concrete and we're happy with it. The porch roof will come later. You can see there are places to add the supports for it, but one step at a time. One thing is for sure, when you build a house as you live in it, you learn patience and appreciation for each detail.

When we first chose the paint colors we chose colors from nature. The house was going to be the color of a wheat field, the trim was to be a green that we found on a rock in the lake, and the door was going to be burgundy because we like bright colors and had to have something brightish in there. Well, we started painting and realized we really like bright colors, so we're working on choosing new colors. Anyway, that's most of the reason we never finished painting. It's hard to motivate yourself to do a big job that isn't turning out satisfactorily.

For over a year we used some boards and rocks to create make-shift steps to get up into the house. This wasn't the safest set up but it worked better than the huge step down to the ground from the door. Ezra was never allowed to walk in and out the door although he often tried. He has loved being able to go in and out the door all by himself. The screen just swings, without a latch, so he can just push it open from inside and pull it open from outside. It's pretty much a childproofing nightmare. But we have a hook and eye that we use to lock it and it works to hold him in the house as long as no one wants to come in from outside. We're all learning to just use the other door which is so easy to do when you just walk around the house on a porch instead of around a ditch for earth tubes!!