Thursday, March 20, 2014

Thankful Thursday - Snow

It snowed last night.

And I'm thankful for the snow today. I'm also thankful for the snowpants that my sister just found in her room and gave to me yesterday. I planned to buy snowpants so that I could have fun with the boys this winter, but we never got around to it. 

Today, we built a snowman for the first time this year. Noah hugged a snowman. And we had fun throwing snow balls at each other.

The fresh snow was perfect and it was wonderful to enjoy this with the boys.

Noah willingly came in for hot chocolate, but Isaac would have rather stayed outside all day. Noah mixed hot cocoa for everyone and we had lunch with Auntie Lissa before she headed back to CT.

It was a sweet, snowy day.

What did you do on the first day of spring?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Homestead Schedule Progress Report, Jan-Mar

Well, as much as I have been avoiding this, I decided to look at my homesteading schedule to see how well we have done so far. I thought it would be discouraging, but it didn’t turn out to be. We really did accomplish quite a lot on our list and put some things to the side on purpose.

First, here’s what’s left from the first three months:


We haven’t ordered chicks. Sadly. But part of that is because I’m hoping to hatch some this year. I’m thinking that we’ll hatch some chicks for meat and purchase chicks to grow out and add to the layer flock. I’m really excited to add Australorpes, Blue Orpingtons, and Jersey Giants. I might even add a silkie or two for their broodiness if I don’t see our Buckeyes going broody.

We were also thinking of adding turkeys this year, but I’m thinking we’ll buy hatching eggs from our friend who just purchased a Bourban Red breeding pair.

We started estimating the cost of the homestead, and that’s why we haven’t made the chick purchases or the perennial fruit purchases. Even though we would very much prefer to start the berry trees this year, it’s the start up that’s hard. It is a worthwhile investment since it gives back each year, but we still need to make choices. Hopefully we’ll be able to make room for these soon.

We also didn’t join Small and Beginner Farmers yet. Gotta work on that.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Simple and Hearty Chili

We had a wonderful small group, family lunch again yesterday. I made a chili and bread, and the two other families brought plenty of desert! I never seem to make chili exactly the same, not on purpose, but because I never seem to prepare the beans the same was. I think this last way was the winner! I thought I'd share how it happened to come together.

Night before: Soak about 1 lb of dry beans overnight. I used a half gallon mason jar and put twice as much water as I put beans in.

Cooking day:

Place in large pot:
4+ cups pre-soaked beans (about 1 lb of dry beans)
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups tomato sauce (mine was watery and shy of 4 cups – it was whatever was in the 1 quart I canned)
4 cups diced/quartered tomatoes (mine was shy of 4 cups – whatever was in the 1 quart I canned)

Heat to boil and reduce to simmer.

At the same time, in a large skillet:
2 lb ground beef
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
a little tallow to start the onions (can use butter)
1-2 tsp of ground pepper
½ tsp salt
½ – 1 tsp ground cumin

Cook all of these together until the meat is fully cooked. When meat is fully cooked, add meat mixture to simmering pot of beans (I did not strain the fat out – probably helped the end product). Continue to simmer until beans are fully cooked. Adjust flavorings when finished.

Chili will be reduced to nearly 3/4. This took about 2 ½ hours to get the beans to the texture we liked (not mush, not hard). It was an extremely hearty chili! It fed 10 adult servings and 3 kids.

It was so yummy! Paired with the quick baked bread and homemade butter, it was very filling. The other cool thing was that the tomato ingredients were home canned, and the chicken broth was a wonderful homemade one that had a great gel.


Sorry I don't have a picture of the chili. I took a picture of this instead:

Have a great Monday!

I shared this at:
The Homestead Barn Hop
Meal Planning Monday Recipe Link-Up
The HomeAcre Blog Hop
From the Farm Blog Hop

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Thankful Thursday - New Life and Growth

Spring is close, but we are getting a head start on seeing new plant life indoors. I've also been witnessing my oldest son take a sudden leap in learning!

New plants:



My son nearly mastering his ABCs all of a sudden:

And learning colors by playing board games:

First board game for Noah was Candy Land today. He did awesome with his colors.

It's amazing. And I'm so thankful I get to witness it on a daily basis.

I shared this:
Simple Life Sunday
Homestead Barn Hop

Monday, March 10, 2014

Around the Homestead Update - March so far

The biggest topic of discussion on the homestead is Buttercup. And I’m sure it will be until she calves and we have a regular milking routine. But I don’t want to talk about it too much ahead of time. Seems presumptuous. We’re doing our best to be prepared.

Other things are still happening as usual.

The chickens are happy and healthy. We are finally getting a good amount of eggs again. Maybe 6 a day from 8 hens. Their nesting boxes are much cleaner than they were while our two old hens were still around. The old hens slept in the nesting boxes and made a mess!

I’ve been enjoying walking down to collect a basket full of eggs in the morning when we need something for breakfast. I use them as fast as I get them. Our favorite ways to use them are for pasta, frittatas or fried eggs.

So good.
Joel has been making amazing pasta.

We rendered some tallow the other night. It was nice to use something that would have otherwise been thrown away. When it was done, we immediately made some French fries. This was my first experience frying. The French fries were amazing! I used these two posts from the Prairie Homestead to make the tallow and then to make the French fries: How to Render Beef Tallow, and The Best French Fries. Ever. They give a little insight into the healthfulness of tallow too.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Today's Real Life

Wow. Someone just came to my house to pick something up and I had the weirdest responses to statements about our homestead. She was absolutely sweet and has been enjoying following along on the blog, and I sighed and said thank you and “it’s a challenge”, or something like that. And realizing that sounded negative, said something like, “it’s like being in school, but learning about what you want to”.

Still sounds negative.

I realized that I was just a flustered mess and had no idea what to say at any given moment.

Today is a day full of questions and thoughts – as it has been for a while. And I was responding with a brain full of swirling ideas. I’m learning animal husbandry more every day. But currently, what’s on my mind is Buttercup and her calf. I’m trying to prepare for the possible emergencies and monitor her health by staring at her, and seeing what she’s eating.

Chewing bark? Phosphorus might be low. Poop? That’s different than it’s been. Her condition looks great. Is it too great?

And then the decisions to make:

Should I give her that CMPK D3 Drench as she is calving as a preventative measure even thought I tend not to want to use synthetic medications that way? Since I wasn’t able to adjust her diet to reduce calcium, should I give her Epsom Salt as an alternative to the recommended anionic salt that you can give to your cow 2 weeks before calving? Looking at these three resources, (A, B, C) how should I devise my plan of action taking insight from each?

My comments were not negative in my mind – but I certainly wasn’t relating them with a chipper tone as they came from a very tired, deep in thought, and contemplative wife, mom, and homesteader.

How are they not negative to me?

Bring it on! These are the challenges I love and we’ve chosen. Not a negative to me and I wouldn’t want a life that didn’t keep me learning and growing in all useful areas.

It’s like school, but I’m learning about the subjects I want.
Yes. And I love that. I still have to tackle the undesirable aspects that go along with my preferred field of study, but they are still worth it! I think this is why I like the Montessori method of learning. I’m not sure if that is how we will choose to homeschool our children, but it might be something to explore as we try to observe our children’s learning style.

So I thought I’d give you a glimpse into today’s real life.

I’m loving all this homesteading, but if you came to visit, you would see someone who probably has bags under her eyes, and is very earnestly trying not to drift off into lala land. Today has definitely been a day where I’ve needed some rest, which we are taking, and where my spaghetti brain is going in full force. It’s not a good day for productive multi-tasking, or single-tasking.

I am genuinely so in love with our homesteading and sharing it with others. It is a joy, but it is also work and learning and real life is that there are ‘blah’ days.

Anyone else have those days?

I've share at:

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Our first half of grass fed beef

Good morning. I’ve got t-bone steak in my refrigerator. I have no idea how to cook it. But I am SO thankful for it. I'll probably be using this book a lot while I learn about all the cuts of beef.

Some in the main freezer.
More in the stand up freezer.
We got a half a cow’s worth of meat on Monday. We paid by the hanging weight (the most common way to buy a half). I had a moment of shock and panic as the finished, packaged meat was less weight than I expected. I thought for sure that we didn’t have it all – but alas, we do. It is still a ton of meat for us.

You never know how many pounds you’ll end up with. It will be from 50%-70% of the hanging weight. Although, I went into the purchase thinking the norm was 60-70% and basically expecting it – so 50% was the shock.

We cooked up some of the ground beef in our cast iron skillet and it was divine! The best meat I have ever tasted. I’ve heard there can be a learning curve cooking grass fed beef – so we’ll see how the steaks turn out.

You know what’s awesome? I would never have a fillet mignon/tenderloin in my freezer before buying the whole half a cow. We pretty much only bought ground beef, stew meat, and the occasional roast for making roast beef for the past 2-3 years. That was fine, but it is so nice to have this huge variety of beef in our freezer. It is really nice that we paid one price for all of it which means the average price/pound is much lower than what it would cost to purchase the grass fed beef otherwise (even with a lower percentage of packaged meat from the hanging weight).

But having this huge variety meant I didn’t know what I was looking at! I had to look up what all these cuts were. Here are a few shockers:



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