Monday, March 30, 2009

Raw Milk Enthusiasts

I think I may have shared on here about my love for raw milk. Yes, that's right - we drink unpasturized milk. I'm telling you, if you've never tried it, don't knock it. :)

My kids now prefer raw over pasturized (and so does hubby.) Me, I can go either way, but what I LOVE about it is the skimmed-off-the-top cream and it's lovely by-product, butter. Oh, the butter!! You can NOT get butter that's better than this. Days after we made some, it still spread so nicely, cold, from the fridge. Now, show me what store bought butter can spread across toast, and I'll eat it too. LOL

Today on Twitter, I got a message from @herdshare posting a link to MSN Green (okay, who knew HAD a green section?!)

Check out the milk article. I love the idea of a cow share - in some states, laws are causing folks to get creative about selling and buying milk. You own a cow, that lives with the farmer and you get the milk because it's your cow... farmer just takes care of it and harvests your milk. Pretty neat!!

Next up at the homestead is going to be making yogurt, cream cheese, mozzeralla cheese and ice cream. I'm glad my milk maiden has gotten another cow... now I need a pontoon to get to her place to collect the milk and I'm back in business (darn winter storms!)

How do you prefer your milk?

If I could live in a blog...

I found this blog by following bunny trails and I loved it...

Now, she's gone and upped the delishiousness of it all. I can almost SMELL those pies cooling on the window sill. And, the milk bottles and aprons, oh my!

You have to check out Sugar Pie Farmhouse.

It's not a homesteading blog, but it's a Farmhouse crossed with Martha Stewart, in a GOOD way (I know there's people who see no value in Martha, but sometimes pretty is nice!)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Snow Shots

The chickens don't seem to mind the snow... as long as they have a warm compost pile to sit on!

Peas, garlic & onions before and after snow.

We DID get snow!

This camera doesn't capture falling snow at all, but trust me, this looked so much more fierce than the pictures shows. LOL Jerry just can't stand to see snow pile up, so he prefers to shovel multiple times during snow storms. Luckily, there was 3+ inches of ice pellets underneath, so it was easy digging. We ended up with 6" of snow on top of the ice. On Friday evening, he had to run to the groccery store for junk food. I rarely buy it and he didn't think he would survive a blizzard without it. LOL He came home with 1 bag of chips, 1 package of oreos and 10 snack size candy bars plus a 2 litre of pop. Oh, and 6 cans of mandarin oranges. So much for the junk food run!

I don't like cold weather, so I was content to snap photos from my front door - this in my neighbors house across the street. The camera eliminated the blowing snow that I wanted to show. Oh well.

Every window on the north side of our house was encased in ice like this one. Once the sun came out, the whole house lit up! The ice has since melted from the windows, but we still have snow on the ground. It won't last long. Temps will be back above freezing today and tomorrow predictions are it'll get above 50. That's reason #847 of Why I LOVE Kansas - the snow does NOT hang around long. :)

How did you do? I was watching tornado warnings as well as flooding stories all weekend long for parts of the midwest. It looks like a wave of rain is going to deluge those areas again on Tuesday...

Friday, March 27, 2009

Batten Down the Hatches

This wind... this W I N D is driving me nuts!!

I'm noise sensitive - meaning, I have super sonic hearing. I can hear what people are saying 2 rooms away. And, don't even think about whispering because I'll still hear you. Being noise sensitive is interesting with 5 kids as I tend to crave solitude and silence. I rarely watch tv. I don't have a radio on in the car - when my kiddos were little, they were taught to be quiet in the car - and other carpool moms would comment on how well behaved they were unlike their own screamers. Well, I just can NOT handle loud noises or sustained noises.... like this wind that sounds like my roof is going to be airborne any second. It's blowing so bad I woke up in the middle of the night. I have an incredible headache from listening to the sustained winds.

Last weekend, the impending doom and gloom forecasted by the local weather gurus had us pegged for HAIL! LIGHTENING! THUNDER! TORNADOES! THE END OF TIME!! Just kidding, they'd never predict the end - the chance for drama would be over. Ironically, the only thing we got here was wind (and a lot of it) and some rain. That's it. No drama, no hail or tornado ~ not that I'd want any!!

Now, they are predicting that tonight into tomorrow we're going to be in a BLIZZARD! OF! EPIC! PROPORTIONS! Like nothing we've ever seen before! Anywhere from 1 to 12 inches! Blowing and drifting snows! White outs! Etc! ETC! ETC!!! Oh, and Sunday, it'll be above freezing and the GREAT MELT will begin!

Cole, the 10 year old, isn't a lover of winter. He prefers spring and summer and wishes we lived in New Mexico or at least Texas. Or heck, if we'd consider it, how about Hawaii?! So, this morning, he was grumbling about how ticked off he was that THEY were gonna cause us to have a blizzard RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF SPRING. Okay, that was too funny. We've had some spring-like weather, but it's not spring yet. I asked him who "they" are that he thinks makes the weather... he stared/glared for a while and then admitted that no people made the weather but he was tired of hearing doom and gloom weather reports.

I agree, I'm tired of it too. I say, let the chips fall where they may, we'll survive. All the news folks are saying to get to the stores to shop because you just don't know when you'll be able to get there with this blizzard bearing down on us. Ha! I don't have to run to the store to stock up for the 24 hour blizzard - heck we could eat like kings for about 3 months on our stockpiles.

But, in true Little House on the Prairie fashion, we'll be stringing a rope up from the back porch to the chicken coop, just in case, you know, it IS a blizzard and we gotta have eggs.

PS I just checked out the book Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz from the library. I'm interested in trying some of the great recipes in it. If you enjoy fermented/probiotic food, enter to win delish Salsa by visiting Drews site. (If you Twitter, I'm @mschnieders. )

Update: Okay, so it started off doing some spitting snow/rain with brief showers of hail. Mostly, it's just been ice spitting out of the sky. Makes for some slippery walking in the yard. I did go pick up the kids early - I prefer to beat the rush. :)

There is hardly any snow in any of this mess - just ice, ice pellets and sleet. This is our older dog Lilly, who doesn't mind the puppies as long as everything is done her way.

Oh, and my puppies are part kangaroo! LOLOL Whenever I move, they are hopping in front and all around me like little spring loaded cutie pies. Totally cracks me up - surprised I caught the image as they bounce like Tiggers. Currently, nothing is falling from the sky and the winds have thankfully calmed down!

Monday, March 23, 2009

To Do List is Shrinking

My office is just inside the sliding glass doors off our deck. It used to be the dining room, but whoever built this house must've thought nobody used dining rooms anymore. It was so small that when our family was at the table (every night for dinner) people were trapped until the first person was done. LOL So, we put the table in our family room (hearth room?) and made this into my office. The point being, I work from home and from my desk, I see the patio all day long. The patio is our junk drawer. We have several projects that are being worked on plus stuff being stored and it just becomes a mess. It's depressing to look at a junk heap everyday. This was near the top of the list to be tackled this week. I'm happy to report, the shed got cleaned out & painted, and became my potting shed. So, all the gardening equip is now in the shed! The chicken brooder is completed and awaiting meat birds. The horrid shrubs got pulled out and in their place will be the raspberry bushes. The smoker found a new home. All the other projects got relocated so now we can use our patio for meals and relaxation ~ as it was meant to be!

I've been collecting materials to make more square foot gardens. I like the look of the concrete block beds. You can grow flowers or herbs in the blocks and veggies in the bed. We got these free off Craigslist. Lined with cardboard to kill the grass, filled with top soil mixed with compost and leaves. I tucked in the rest of our seed potatoes and onions around the perimeter. I plan to grow tomatoes inside it and basil in the blocks. You just can't have too much basil!

Here are 4 more new SFG beds. One for green beans, one for carrots (the deeper one in front), one for spinach/lettuce/leeks and the 4th one for cabbace and broccoli. We have enough lumber to make 3 more beds. If we measured correctly, this side of our yard can hold 15 raised beds total.

Also found on CL - 3 water barrels! They appear to be soap barrels, maybe from a carwash? The concrete pad was here already. We found a shed on CL and took it apart, moved it home and put it back up again. It wasn't as big as the concrete pad, so there's about 4' of concrete on the backside of the shed. That's where Jerry is going to install the rain barrels - one for intake, 2 for overflow. These bushes have to go to. We've been slowly removing them and replacing with edible shrubs.

Oh, and can't forget the curb find. A perfectly good double sink with legs that Jerry is going to rig up to be our outdoor sink using rain barrel water. The drain will empty into the garden.
We got the yard picked up and the first mowing of the year done. It's always so nice to have the brown gone and green grass appear. Tonight, we are expecting severe weather - 1" hail, thunder, lightening and wind. Oh the wind! It's been gusting so much it's hard to get anything done outside. Tornadoes are also a possibility - so I'm off to prep our tornado kit. I learned from a good friend who survived her house being blown apart (she was under it at the time) to ALWAYS make sure to have tornado preps in place. Ah, spring in Kansas. Gotta love it.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Wah! Spring Break is almost over!

This year, Jerry took a week of vacation during spring break. It was SO nice to have him home to help wrangle the kids as well as put a major dent in the to-do list. I just wish every week was spring break ~ okay, maybe not, but it sure is nice to have a week off together.

Rhubarb plants have put on a nice new growth. The one on the lower left is in it's 3rd year. This may be the year we actually get to eat some! Neighbor's horses got it all last year. Sigh.

Peas, garlic and onions hanging out in a SFG. I stuck a trellis in that we got last year at the Hayes Company sale. The wire fencing was such an incredible bargain. TSC had it marked for 10 cents a package on clearance last fall. We bought 2 boxes ~ approx 50 packages. I doubt I'll ever be that lucky again! Fencing is a MUST with free rangers - they eat whatever they can find. The missing peas on the left side of the trellis were dug up by the chicks who hop over the fencing. We've got to work on their obediance training.

Potatoes are in - alas, I ran out of garden before I ran out of taters. So, I'm tucking the rest in wherever I can find a spot. The chicks are happy to patrol for bugs and worms... but I think we may have to fence them out once things get growing.

Here's the inside of the cold frame. Jerry re-inforced the top with wire before re-doing the plastic. I've got 3 flats of tomatoes, broccoli and cabbage hanging out. There is room for 30 trays which will be great as long as nothing is too tall.

The chicks have their own water dish that is cleaned and refilled daily. But, for whatever reason, they prefer the dog's water. There is at least 2 or 3 of them having a cluck and a drink whenever I look outside. I love my back patio - it's where I work on new seed flats and is the staging area for all gardening projects. However, I may have to ban the chicks because I found peck holes in several seed potatoes and they discovered a package of seeds and were attempting to peck it open. Helpful they are not, but oh they are so entertaining!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Independence Day Challenge

Honey & Molasses are growing! And, *ahem* bad doggies ~ get off the couch!

I read blogs that participate in the Independence Day Challenge and I find it inspiring. I went searching for the origination and found this blog: Casaubon's Book.

I think that I'll throw my hat into the ring and join in. Care to join me? Here's the scoop:
  1. Plant Something

  2. Harvest Something

  3. Preserve Something

  4. Prep Something

  5. Cook Something

  6. Manage Your Reserves

  7. Work on Local Food Systems

How often to do it? Some do it weekly, others do some parts daily and other monthly.

I know myself well enough to know that I won't be able to stick to a schedule - life around here happens and some days it's full tilt. I just like the idea of adding structure so that I can see results of my efforts.

Here's an idea of what I've been doing so far this week:

1. Planted: started hundreds of seeds as our frost date is April 15th. I plan on gardening in several locations this year plus having extra plants to sell.

2. Harvest: I've had tubs of lettuce and spinach growing all winter long in my living room and I do harvest from them weekly.

3. Preserve: I found organic veggies marked on clearance that I chopped up and either popped in the freezer or dehydrated.

4. Prep: Jerry has been bringing home various pots for our market plants so I've been busy prepping them (removing labels and cleaning them.)

5. Cook: See my last few posts - I've definitely been in cook mode. I'm so excited to have found a great recipe for homemade noodles ~ now I know how to make lasagne, ravioli, angel hair etc.

6. Manage: Cleaning the freezer and pantry this week to take inventory.

7. Food Systems: I registered myself at Urban Chickens and already had a fellow Wichitan contact me for info on establishing a flock. She and I both are trying to figure out all the ins and outs of the new restrictions our city council has recently imposed on animals including the fees to register your flock and where to place your coop.

Of course, this isn't all I'm doing. I still am decluttering like mad and we put our debt reduction plan into high gear. I'm doing research into alternative utilities like tankless water heaters and outdoor wood furnaces because I do not want another gas bill like the one I just got!!

What are you doing to be more Independent? I'd love to know.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Chicken & Homemade Noodles over Mashed Potatoes

One of this year's goals is that I want to cook more from scratch to
  • reduce the amount of manufactured food we consume
  • reduce the amount of packaging we throw away
  • make better tasting meals
  • prove to myself that I can

This is the result of today's attempt:
Chicken with homemade noodles served over mashed potatoes.

Okay, first I browned chicken breasts in olive oil. I put them in a bowl to cool. I sauteed chopped onions, garlic, celery and carrots. Added a splash of white wine to deglaze the pan. Then, poured in 3 quarts of homemade broth plus chicken seasoning, salt, pepper and 2 bay leaves. I brought it to a boil, then turned down to simmer for 2 hours. I would've used a whole chicken, but I only had breasts left. (Later this year, I'll be able to use our home-grown chicken and veggies. But, I did use our home grown eggs.)

If you read my last post, I had found a website that showed how to make egg noodles. I like the idea of a pasta roller, but I don't have one. Rolling pin worked just fine! And, I found a different recipe that I wanted to try instead. It's pretty simple.

2 1/2 cups of flour
2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup of milk
1 T olive oil

Mix the flour and salt together in a bowl. Make a well in the center. Add the eggs, milk and oil. Mix the wet ingredients together and slowly incorporate the dry ingredients. After it's mixed well, knead for a few minutes, adding flour as needed to reduce stickiness. Divide dough in half. Roll out. Then, cut noodles. I had read on another site to roll the dough into a log, cut a long noodle and then cut into shorter pieces. At this point, you can let them dry, freeze them or just use them.

I turned the chicken "soup" to high to get a good rolling boil. Then, just dropped in the noodles. After a few minutes, I realized it wasn't going to thicken on it's own so I stirred in some cornstarch paste (cornstarch mixed with cold water.) It did thicken, but next time, I'm using less water.

Meanwhile, my mini-chef was peeling potatoes and discovered a heart shaped potato. Aww.

Once the potatoes were cooked, Jerry mashed them with butter, garlic salt and some cream. Then, we scooped some potatoes into the bowl, topped with chicken and noodles.

If you've ever been to the Kansas State Fair and had the church ladies chicken and noodles, you know the taste I was going for. I think I achieved it.
Oh, and for dessert, made from scratch yellow cake with chocolate butter cream frosting. I don't eat chocolate (don't like the taste, I KNOW it's weird - I hear that all the time) but the family all went back for seconds (and thirds) so it must've been good.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Found a new blog today

I was hunting for an egg noodle recipe - yeah, I know, it's basic cooking but I've never made my own noodles before. Anyway, I stumbled on this blog: How To Cook Like Your Grandmother.

And, while poking around, I found this: Eat Real Food.

I think I may be cooking several recipes off his site this week. First up, egg noodles!

Delish Dish

I love to eat pasta ~ especially pasta in a creamy, garlic sauce. Toss in some chicken and broccoli and I'm over the moon!

Last year, Olive Garden had a dish called Chicken con Broccoli. It was incredible. I rarely eat out, but on occasion, I had the good fortune to eat there and both times, I got that dish. It was a specialty item, so it's gone from the menu ~ and, with our current Dave Ramsey budget, it wouldn't matter ~ I don't splurge on dinner out anymore.

But, I still wanted that dish! I tried to remake it - but I'm not super good at figuring out the hidden ingredients or the spice combo. Saturday, at the chess tournament (1 more to go!) Stacy was surfing the net via her phone and we happened to be talking recipes. I mentioned that I'd tried to find one for this dish, but hadn't been successful... a few clicks and voila! She had it!

So, here it is - and yes, it was over the moon time for me! Exactly how I remembered it!

Chicken w/ Broccoli
I doubled the recipe for my family size and we had enough leftover for lunch the next day.

1.5 pounds of chicken breast, thinly sliced
2 tsp Olive Oil
4 oz dried Orecchiette pasta (I used a full pound)
1 c heavy cream
1/2 c chicken broth
4 T salted butter
2 tsp garlic, sliced
1/2 c shredded green onions
1 c sour cream
1 1/3 c broccoli, fresh, cut into small pieces
1 c sliced mushrooms
2 T flour (I used cornstarch instead)
2 T water
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp Garlic Salt
Salt & Pepper to taste
Shredded Parmesan Cheese (I left it out as we didn't have any)
  1. Season chicken w/ Italian seasoning & garlic salt.
  2. Cook in olive oil & garlic until brown.
  3. Stir in mushrooms & green onions; cook 2-3 minutes.
  4. Stir in broth and broccoli. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer 3-4 minutes, stirring often.
  5. Mix flour into water. Make sure there are no lumps (this is why I used cornstarch.)
  6. Pour flour/water mixture into chicken, stirring until sauce thickens.
  7. Slowly add butter, cream and sour cream. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Cook on low heat while pasta cooks.
  9. Drain pasta; add to sauce. Remove from heat. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top.
  10. Serve and Enjoy!

It seems like there are a lot of steps involved, but it went together in under 3o minutes. Everyone gave it a "10" and it's going onto the must have rotation. Oh, and I did use low fat sour cream because I bet the calorie count on this one is incredible!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Wichita Garden Show

I love, love, LOVE the garden show.... except the price to get in. This year, it was $11. YIKES! I decide to go about every 3 years or so, and that seems to even it out a bit. Since I tend to be a veggie gardener and the show seems to favor grandiose landscapes and spic n span flower gardens, I don't feel like I'm missing much.

For whatever reason, I had the urge to go this year and I'll share some of my "finds" with you!

Okay, you know I have chickens and *ahem* chicken predators. Also, I'm a big fan of Polyface Farm and their rotational patured methods of raising livestock. I would love to have an Eggerator, but it's not exactly conducive to the urban backyard. We do have a home made chicken tractor, but it's not predator (or puppy) proof and anyway, our chicks free range. Okay, so much to my delight, there was a super duper high dollar ($1200) chicken tractor that is designed to rotate to fresh pasture every day and is predator proof. I present, The Egg Cart'n:

It can easily be moved by just one person - uses hydraulics and has several other nice features. But, yeah, the price is pretty steep. The sides are made of corrugated plastic, which doesn't seem to be very stable. The interior of the larger coop (says that it holds 12 hens) is pretty small. Overall, I'll pass - but it's AWESOME that it was there. Too bad there weren't any real chickens! Or a sign with the benefits of raising your own chickens/eggs.

Over at the Sedgwick County Master Gardeners booth, they had a complete veggie garden growing, in square foot frames, raised beds, pots and hanging baskets. They had a way to garden for anyone!! I loved it!! And, the luscious veggies were just begging to be picked, but I resisted. This mini-hoop house looked interesting. It's far sturdier than our pvc pipes wrapped in plastic.

Cole and Dalton were able to pot up their own Cherry Tomatoe plants, free. They made newspaper pots - seems the evaporated milk cans were perfect sizes. Master Gardener explained that the "soil" was actually 100% compost and the tomatoe plants were just 3 weeks old... and TALL. Over twice as big as mine - which are 6 weeks old. She said that the compost plus grow lights probably made the difference. I have plain shop lights - I didn't want to spring for the more expensive grow lights - and everybody said they weren't necessary. Hmmmm, may have to look into it for next year. Over at the Derby KS booth (combined with Arbor Day) we got a free Chikapin Oak seedling. I've got the perfect spot for it. Oh, and a free package of wildflower seeds.

Okay, this is a dream veggie garden. Hong's Landscape had recreated his grandfather's hut and veggie garden, complete with woven fencing. It was serene and gorgeous. And weed free. I dream of weed free gardens.
I couldn't figure out what the huge crowd was oogling - even when I got up close. Can you guess? Yes, those ARE candles. Filled with olive oil and fruits/veggies. They sure looked interesting -and it seemed to be a big hit, but I wasn't too sure about them. It would look really out of place in my non-frou frou house. LOL

This is another example of why I love to go to the show. Mark & Lalanea Moore of Scenic Landscapes (I'm biased ~ they're my favorite local garden shop to visit as I love ponds) took trees that had been uprooted and used them upside down all throughout their display. Some were left bareand some were used as giant planters. They were so beautiful and majestic. Cole thought they were creepy ~ ah, well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I'm a card carrying member of the tree hugger club.

This is a wheeled garden cart made of black walnut - so gorgeous! It has 3 pots growing lettuce, herbs and flowers. Perfect for someone who can't stoop to garden or it could be put it out on a patio. I loved the wood - it was left natural and I don't remember seeing black walnut in person before.

Who can resist this scene?! I didn't take photos of everything, but I did see several other things that show me more people are interested in my kind of gardening:

  • worm bins
  • rain barrels ($100 a pop ~ NOT cheap~ but the paint jobs were cool)
  • city of Wichita water dept had a rain barrel display, but the gal working the booth has no idea where to get the barrels :(
  • multi purpose benches that can convert to a picnic table
  • pasta (that I thought was locally produced only to read the fine print and see its from Colorado)
  • Farmer's market schedules
  • recipe sheet from a local herb farm
  • I met the Farmers Market basket weaving instructor
  • master food volunteer info (teaching others how to cook and preserve food)
  • and much more.

It was a delightful day spent with my boys - and the highlight for them? Riding in the Party Bus.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Help a Newbie Gardener

I twitter... or do I tweet? I'm not sure, but I do follow some interesting folks. I try to keep it local (why would I care what someone was eating for lunch on the other side of the world?) However, I do follow gardeners from all over. I find my passion for this hobby is just growing - pun intended. LOL

I enjoy feeding people - I love to cook and I volunteer to make meals for our church all the time. Having a baby? I'm on the way with 5 different casseroles. Put that together with my love for gardening (and helping new folks get started) and this tweet piqued my interest:

hyperlocavoreWe need seed angels! Do you have extra seeds - Get a newbie garden going! from web

Dang it if I only knew how to cut and paste so it'd look like a Tweet. (Karen, I need lessons!)

Anyway, head over to her website and check it out. If you don't feel like joining, maybe there's a newer gardener in your area/church/group of family or friends that would love some seeds. Share some and spread the gardening fever.