Monday, December 5, 2011

LIVING WITHOUT A FREEZER

December 5, 2011
I’m not sure why, but our freezers go out on a pretty regular basis. I don’t have trouble with any other appliances dying quickly, but it seems like every 18 months or so our freezer dies. It just did so again, we lost pretty much everything in it.

This time it was the last straw. The proverbial camel’s back was broken. I refuse to replace it. WHAT? You say. A person like me who is definitely into food storage refusing to purchase another free standing freezer? Unheard of, but that’s my decision.

Seriously I did the math and what little we saved on buying and freezing in bulk we lost in having to replace a freezer every time we turned around, dry ice costs to keep the foods safe until the new freezer was delivered and oh the work that went into maintaining that freezer.

So for the first time in my entire life, literally, I am without a free standing freezer. It’s definitely going to make a difference in how things are dealt with around here.

I’ve developed a game plan that hopefully will work out well for us and in the long run save us a lot in money and lost food all the way around.

I’ve gone back to shopping once a week, for just the foods I am going to need for the PLANNED MENU for the week. I’ve returned to couponing. However, I am still very big on food storage. Just not frozen food storage any more. So here’s how the first week went.

Last Sunday I sat down with the sale ads for the local groceries and discovered no one had any meats on as loss leaders. So I chose my main meat for the week to be a roast, knowing that I can often pick those up on Monday mornings at a discount at our local Wal-Mart.

I then made my dinner menus for the week. Here is week #1’s menu:

DINNER MENU PLAN 11/28-12/4/2011

MONDAY 11/28/11

Baked fish fillets (Gorton’s or Mrs. Paul’s)--coupon

Baked potato—from food storage

Green beans—from food storage

Leftover pies or cake for dessert

Tea

Crescent rolls—coupon and sale combo

TUESDAY 11/29/11

Roast with vegetables-large discounted chuck roast

Homemade bread

Leftover pies or cake for dessert

Tea

WEDNESDAY 11/30/11

Grilled Montreal Seasoning chicken breasts—food storage from fridge freezer

Chicken Rice a Roni—food storage

Asparagus—dried from food storage

Homemade Dinner Rolls

Homemade Brownies

Tea

THURSDAY 12/1/11

Stew made with leftover roast and vegetables

Cornbread( leftover from making stuffing for Thanksgiving) or crackers—food storage

Cookies—from fridge freezer

Milk or tea

FRIDAY 12/2/11

Pinto bean soup—food storage

Cornbread--leftover

Fried potatoes—food storage

Tea

Leftover desserts

SATURDAY 12/3/11

Beef and Bean Burritos using leftover beans and roast

Mexican rice with corn in it

Homemade Sopapillas

SUNDAY 12/4/11

Potato Soup or leftovers

Crackers—food storage

Homemade Gingerbread

Milk or tea

As you can see I purchased very little on that Monday morning trip. It’s a basic menu and what happened with the leftovers is what changes the system.

I started out the week, like most everyone in the nation with leftover turkey. This was deboned by Sean then sandwiches and turkey salad were eaten by all family members early in the week for lunches.

Then the leftover turkey went a few different directions. Some was pressure canned in turkey broth made from double boiling the carcass for future sandwiches, salads and casseroles. Some was dried for jerky treats for the dogs, some was fed to the cats, except Lizzie B. who doesn’t like turkey. The rest was made into a week’s worth of dog food for our three 50# dogs mixed with rice, vegetables and turkey broth.

As you can see we ate three dinners off that one $19 roast. What you don’t see on that menu is the lunches the next week made with the ground up leftover roast made into sandwich spread for Gary’s lunches.

Nor do you see that the vegetable beef soup/stew made such a large amount I canned up several jars of it in lunch size servings for the food storage.

The pinto bean soup was a LARGE pan full. The leftovers were divided up. Three cups went into making the refried beans for Saturday night’s dinner, which had leftovers that will go into bean burritos for lunches for next week. Two cups were placed in the refrigerator for Beef and Beans that are on next week’s menu using ground beef as the main meat for the week. The remaining beans were canned for food storage.

There was still room in the canner, so I dug packages of frankfurters out of the small refrigerator freezer (thus freeing up room) and made homemade Beans and Franks, which I canned for Gary’s lunches as well.

Two things came out of the refrigerator freezer and only one thing went in this week. That one thing was a single fish fillet patty that went in because we only needed three and the packages contained two each. My goal is to get away from using the two and ½ (camper) freezers for anything other than freezing items that cannot be safely canned or frozen, such as eggs.

While I used several things out of food storage I also added beef soup, canned beans, canned beans and franks and canned cooked turkey to the food storage. A total of 2 pints and 25 ½ pints of food went into the food storage.

On my grocery list now are replacements for the non-freezer food storage items I used. I will purchase two for every one I used to build the food storage system up. Because I’ve been doing that pattern for awhile I can afford to wait for those items to become loss leaders, have a good coupon, or grow in the 2012 garden.

I plan on running the canner and/or dehydrator 1-2 times a week to can/dry up leftovers. I will also run it full each time by canning things like dried beans, beans and franks and other “convenience” foods for those days I don’t have time to do a major cooking job. Or by drying things like rice, or dog treats to fill the dehydrator to max.

This next week, unless tomorrow’s ad has a great loss leader meat product, will be a ground beef week, I’ll purchase a 10# chub at Sam’s club, because it’s cheaper that way and then do similar to this week. Planning my leftovers for future meals or for canning or drying for food storage. Since we won’t eat anywhere near 10# of ground beef in one week I’ll also make up taco filler and can that as well as plain browned ground beef for the food storage.

It’s a system that I think will eventually get my food storage to a decent level and reduce food loss to a bare minimum.

Jan who thinks that living without a freezer is going to be just fine in OK

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A WINTER MORNING WAKE UP CALL

November 27,2011

As I rolled over in my warm bed trying to figure out what had wakened me I listened to the sounds outside my window. The cold late November air was pierced again with a sound I’ve became use to over the years.

“Aaaaaa” like rapid machine gun fire, something had the guinea fowl’s in an uproar, but it didn’t concern me. Anyone that has ever raised guinea fowl knows that all the guineas in the world share one brain cell and it is never your birds day to have it. Something as simple as a leaf blowing in the wind can set them in a tizzy.

As I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep the guineas continued sounding their alarm cry and soon Piper Peacock joined the chorus “Onk heee, Onk Hee” as the rooster crowed and the geese joined in honking their intruder alarm. The cacophony of startled bird cries was soon joined by Sir Oliver Inkwell sitting on the bedroom window sill meowing loudly.

Okay, so now the critters have my attention. Freeing myself from the bed covers I fumble for my eye glasses on the night stand and go to the window to see if I can see what is going on.

For several seconds I stood watching the birds to get a clue as to where the intruder was. The birds had the big cedar tree outside our bedroom window encircled. They definitely had something trapped under there, occasionally I could see rapid movement fleeing from one side to another under the skirts of the large tree’s ground touching branches.

Whatever it was it was fast, but moving as if possibly injured. Cat maybe? No I only saw two legs. Guinea after guinea would charge under the huge cedar at whatever it was and then dart back out as the quickly moving shadow would alternately run at the guineas and flee from them.

Piper Peacock paced nervously around the tree honking her dismay at the whole procedure. Piper doesn’t care for any changes in her world what so ever (well except for maybe wanting a male added to the flock). She honked and voiced her opinion loudly. The geese stood back watching the whole display cheering the guineas on honking their approval as each guinea charged under the tree. Repeat Rooster stood on the back porch railing crowing, but offering no real help as tiny Turk the Turken hid under the back deck.

I continued to watch as I reached for the clothing I had laid out the night before. Just then the shadow charged after another guinea foray and stepped out of the shadows of the tree.

A small young brown hawk ran limping from the tree to over by the house. The guineas soon cornered it near the compressor as it flapped its wings and charged back at them.

He was fully puffed out his speckled feathers standing on end and looking quite stressed. He made an effort to fly away from his tormentors, but hit the fence of the garden and landed in the flock of geese that had been watching the whole spectacle. The geese separated and looked at the small bird like “yeah right, You’re a chicken hawk, but we’re not chickens.” They didn’t even bother to run off because the bird was so small and obviously injured.

I turned and told Gary what was going on. He was quickly dressed and out the door. To see what needed to be done. While hawks aren’t welcome around here, we don’t want any animal suffering. The guineas were determined they were going to pay this young hawk back for every keet other hawks had ever carried off.

I kept an eye on the hawk from the window until I saw Gary going toward it. Then headed out to help him.

When I arrived in the side yard Gary was watching the sky. He said that the hawk had recovered from bouncing off the garden fence and in a panic when it saw him had gathered enough strength it had swooped skyward and flew off over the trees to the west of the house.

He said the flight was labored and it seemed to be dangling one foot a bit, but it had gone far enough the guineas couldn’t get to it and it had landed in a tree that he was pointing at. The tree was several acres away from our location, so we did not try to follow.

Of course the guineas strutted around for several minutes after that telling the world how they had beaten the mean old hawk, as the much wiser geese just looked at them indulgently.

Little Turk, who is the smallest of our free ranging birds finally came out from under the porch and snuggled up with Repeat as if to say “My hero.” Apparently the inexperienced young hawk had tried to get her not realizing he would not fit through the lattice of the porch like she would and had crashed into it injuring himself.

We surmised this by the hawk feathers near where Turk had been hiding. Earlier this week Turk had been running around with two chicks, they of course had disappeared. We figured this hawk is probably how they disappeared and he came back thinking he was a good enough hunter to get Momma bird too. Boy was he wrong.

I doubt that particular hawk will ever be back as long as the guinea crew is on duty.

Jan who is up for the day and ready to decorate for Christmas in OK

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

WHERE DO I BEGIN?

October 5, 2011


Once I finally decided I do this last week I started searching for information on modern couponing. The very first thing I did was set up an email address that would be used strictly for couponing, rebates, freebies and sweepstakes(yes I do sweepstakes too, and when I was doing them on a regular basis I won a lot of small prizes). Very little personal information was listed on this email and the subsequent facebook and other websites I signed up for.

I’ll write another time about the freebie lists and doing sweepstakes, for right now couponing and rebates are my main theme.

My reasoning for this was that this project had the potential to create a lot of junk mail. I did not want my personal email account to be flooded with such junk mail. But then I tend to have separate emails for all my different activities (genealogy, mystery shopping, chat groups, bill payment etc). I find keeping the different activities in separate emails with sub folders in each email address for automatic filtering makes my email reading a LOT easier. I can do a bulk delete on themes I’m not interested in very quickly that way. Gmail is great for creating various email accounts.

Once that email account was set up I started to do my research for help in getting into modern couponing.

First I went to the ever trusty yahoogroups looking for a “how to” group. For the first time yahoo failed me. Oh there were lots of groups, with 1-5 members and little to no activity. I joined one, posted my intro as requested and was never even acknowledged.

Next stop facebook. JACKPOT, the very first one I found was Couponingtodisney.com . Boy did this one strike a cord with me. After all part of my need to coupon is to get back to Walt Disney World as soon as possible. I signed up for this group and found their website to contain everything I needed to know to get started couponing.

Another great site I found was coupondivas.com . They too had a lot of great info. Between these two I found so much info I stopped my search right there and started studying all the steps to be a successful extreme couponer.

Before I had a chance to study both sites as much as I should it was time to purchase a Sunday paper and an All You magazine, which I did. I read later I should have purchased the paper in multiples of two and on my first trip saw why they said to. But last Sunday I only purchased one. It was a jackpot of a coupon mother lode. Between that single paper and the one magazine I acquired over $300 worth of coupons. I know from my past experiences that it won’t always be so, but for me it was the perfect Sunday to buy my first paper.

I spent much of Sunday on the sofa reading the newspaper and magazine so they could be cut up. The paper then went down for my “no-no” kitty who misses the litter box all too often, but always hits the paper or feed sack if we have a clean one down by the box. From what I saw in news content for the paper that was a very appropriate use for it.

The magazine, once butchered, went into the recycling sack. By the way this magazine was also an excellent source of how to information, complete with recommended websites and a $1 coupon for a truly how to magazine by them that I plan to pick up as soon as I locate a copy.

Then I filed the coupons I had cut from the two to familiarize myself with what ones I had.

Once that was done I started on reading the various sale ads and trying to decipher what would be my best purchases for my $100 budget allowance for the week.

I slowly made out a list of what I thought would be my best buys for the week, but I wasn’t pleased with how little I was going to save at first. Remember my long term goal is to have a decent, but not extreme, food storage system, paid for with as little money as possible and to be debt free in as short of time as possible. I am very impatient about those goals, I’m not getting any younger.

Back to the web and more studying. The girls on both of the afore mentioned websites had match ups listed and explained how certain stores allowed a stacking of coupons of sorts. This lead me to internet coupons, which I consider to be my most likely source since I cannot subscribe to just the Sunday paper in my area and I have no desire to have newspapers stacking up daily in my corner. That just might be too tempting to Amy Jo, the no-no kitty.

So next I went to my mypoints account to print coupons. This is a bonus place to print internet coupons. If you aren’t familiar with mypoints it basically is an online company that you get points for clicking on ads, doing internet searches, answering surveys, doing purchases on line, and printing and using internet coupons to get points to redeem for gift cards.

My personal favorite gift card is a $50 Wal-Mart gift card, which we in turn use to get $.03 off per gallon (sometimes up to $.05 off) to purchase fuel for my truck. Mypoints is free to use, if you would like more info please leave me a message and I’ll send you a referral (you really don’t need one to join, but I get bonus points if I refer you). I like saving $50 out of my fuel budget!

Back on facebook I have started “liking” various companies, restaurants, and product webpages of places we normally visit or items we normally use. These will often net you money off or free item coupons. Again I use the coupon only email address for all of this.

Not all the stores I was considering using had inserts in the Sunday paper. So using my mypoints tool bar I google searched for the webpages of the various stores I was considering for shopping. This helps get me toward my goal of x amount of searches per month for more points. The number of searches required for the varied amounts of bonus points vary from month to month.

I discovered some of the online ads had where you could click a box and create a grocery list of the items you wanted, then click “print” and a nice neat list prints out for you for that store. Talk about convenient. Wal-Mart was one such store, just make sure you have plenty of ink in your printer when you do it. I later got to a store and discovered I had ran out of ink in the middle of my list. LOL! I had to grab a sales ad at the store and wing it as a result.

As I read each sale ad online I also looked up that store’s coupon policy and printed a copy for my files. This can be an important step for everyone. I once had a store refuse my, really good one time one use only for an item I went there specifically to purchase with that internet coupon. I found out via their website the store was suppose to honor it. So now I will have the corporate policy with me in case there is ever another discussion.

I also found out that the 3 shoe boxes of “no expiration date” coupons I own may or may not be honored at various stores—ones with bar codes, no problem, ones with no bar code it is up to the individual store.

With all this basic research completed I felt I was ready to go on my maiden shopping trip.

Jan who says “next entry please” in OK

RETURN OF THE COUPON QUEEN

October 4, 2011


As fuel costs have soared the amount of mystery shopping I do has been curtailed severely. Since we live so far from town I need a minimum of $25 worth of payout to even leave the driveway to cover the cost of the fuel and to make it worth an hour or so of my time to do a mystery shop.

OR I need to combine it with already scheduled errands. So I’ve gone from several shops a week to maybe 4 or so a month. This has slowed down our gazelle for being totally debt free greatly too. This has bothered me hugely.

I want Gary retired as soon as possible. I do not want to end up like my parents, always waiting to do something some day. My parents always said they would “go to such and such and do such and such some day”, but they both died young, without ever doing it.

Gary and I have big travel plans and we don’t want to wait for some day. Right now if all goes according to schedule we should be totally debt free in 2 years 9 months and 3 weeks—that is too long to wait as far as I am concerned. So having extra “gazelle feed” to get debt free is very important to us. I needed a way to stretch more money out of our budget or make more money, but what?

I had been mulling that over for weeks.

For a while Gary was traveling for work, so I ended up watching a lot of late night tv. I guess I watched 20 “Extreme Couponing” shows before a light went on in my dim little head. I could go BACK to couponing.

Yes “back to”. You see in the late ‘70’s through the mid ‘90’s I was what was called back then a “Coupon Queen”, now called an “Extreme Couponer”. The best I ever did in a grocery store was $650 and they paid me around $9.50 to exit the store. I then went home and did rebates on almost everything I had purchased. For years we seldom paid for groceries, but it was a lot of work.

Our first trip to Walt Disney World was paid for by couponing in 1981. We really want to make another major trip to Walt Disney World within the next year, as well as speed up our getting debt free.

Then I closed down my baby sitting service, and both kids moved out. With just Gary and I and me being a scratch cook I slowly drifted away from couponing. When we moved I pretty much stopped completely.

Life got busy and I just never got back into it, until now.

It’s been 14 years since I was the coupon queen and things have changed tremendously. 14 years ago there were no internet coupons, rebates were the order of the day, and grocery stores had coupon/rebate boards readily available. Plus stores doubled and sometimes tripled my coupons.

Now there are store loyalty cards, register rewards, each store chain has a different set of rules, no doubling/tripling of coupons in our area and we no longer subscribe to a paper.

I had no idea where to start.

I do know from my past experience that doing this is a LOT of work. I also know it can get out of control very easily. I do not want or need to end up with storage closets full of items we never use, or could never use up. I want to continue to do scratch cooking for health reasons. Nor do I want to spend all my time clipping coupons and searching ads. Therefore, I need a happy balance.

The next few posts on my blog will be my journey back to being a coupon queen, but not an extreme queen. I’d like to invite you along for the ride.

Jan who hopes her following posts will help others get started into couponing as well in OK

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

WHO IS THE 9/11 CEREMONY FOR ANYWAY?

8/24/2011

On 9/11/01 terrorist attacks ended the lives of 2996 people. Many more might have died if it hadn’t been for the brave firemen and policemen that voluntarily went in to save them, many of those brave souls lost their lives doing so. Yet on the 10th anniversary of that tragedy first responders are told they are not invited to the ceremony and to NOT come because there is NO ROOM for them.

A steel cross that formed naturally in the rubble of the World Trade Center gave peace and hope to the survivors and the many of the nation. Now there are those who have decided there is no room for it, or a Star of David made from the beams, at the memorial. Yet plans move forward for a mosque and cultural center at the World Trade Center site.

Today it has been announced there will be no religious leaders of any faith included in the ceremony. Those who excluded those first responder heroes have now decided there will be no prayer service at the ceremony.

In a nation that has been built on the lives of our heroes and the faith of those heroes I for one find all of this appalling. In my opinion it is a slap in the face to everyone in the nation who was touched in any way by the tragedy that will forever be known as 9/11.

Monday, May 2, 2011

PLAYING CATCH-UP ON THE GARDEN AND HOUSE REPORT


May 2, 2011

All three of us have been working hard on the garden when it isn’t raining this last few weeks. It’s still not all planted, and in fact probably never will be completely planted—at least according to Sean.

Every day that we can work in the garden we do. Each of those days we take rest breaks and admire what all we’ve already accomplished in the building of our “ideal” garden. In our mind’s eye we see it lush and green and productive. Each day takes us closer to that vision. We also, every day, see one or more places we could plant, either in the ground or in flower pots and planters.

Our discussions as we work tend to be toward where we could put this trellis or that and what could go on them. After all we have unlimited air space, and if we stay in the garden cage we have limited ground space. So up is good.

Needless to say, we’ve also been looking at bird safe areas outside the garden cage as well. How does yard long cucumbers and green beans hanging from a balcony the birds don’t go sound? Picking might be interesting, but we are considering it.

I’ve been cruising the web again, a very informative thing to do. For inspiration on what all can be grown in a limited space I visit websites such as:

http://urbanhomestead.org/about

If you want to get inspired about what YOU can do even if you live in the heart of the city this is the website to visit. This family raises an average of 6,000 pounds of food a year on 1/5 an acre on their city lot in Pasadena, CA.

I’ve followed their progress over the years, yet I still go there to “steal” ideas for watering, trellising and much more. Their videos on utube, along with other homesteading videos are informative as well.

Speaking of those other videos another good website is:

http://www.gardengirltv.com/

While both of these websites are basically for urban dwellers and I have 90 acres I like the space saving ideas of both. Working a smaller area works well for us.

I’ve also, since I last wrote, ordered seeds from Baker’s Creek Heirloom Seeds http://rareseeds.com/

So far I’m very pleased with the order, it arrived within 3 days, the seeds are whole seeds, not broken ones as I have sometimes got in the past from other companies, and each packet has contained more than the minimum guaranteed number in it. Their shipping was very reasonable as well. They have a great variety of heirloom seeds from all over the world.

I can’t say enough about their paper catalog. Big beautiful worth framing photos of many of the plants. Another big plus with me, customer reviews of the different seeds and what they produce, I particularly like that they are in the same planting zone as I am, so their test farm will show basically the same results I could get.

We’ve just started planting those seeds, so I’ll let you know how the germination rate goes.

A dear friend has given me an abundance of produce she has obtained through her work. As a result my dehydrator, freezer and pressure canner have been getting a good work out. This makes me happy about the cooler weather we’ve been having, because I’ve been really heating the place up with all the work in the kitchen.

So far I’ve put up large amounts of bananas, yellow summer squash, jalapeno peppers, bell peppers, and many other things. It is reassuring to see my pantry slowly filling up again. We have been truly blessed.

Another thing I’ve been doing is making up a lot of bread and cookie doughs for the freezer. This I have reported on the various yahoogroups I am on and many have asked for the hamburger/hot dog buns recipe. So here it is:

I make the Master Mix—as posted previously in this blog :

Hot Roll Mix

5# or 20 C all purpose flour OR 9 C whole wheat/rye/other specialty grains + 8 C all purpose flour

1 1/4 c sugar ( you can substitute some honey if desired on baking day)OR 1 c packed brown sugar

4 tsp salt

1 cup powdered milk (or approx 1/2 c dry non milk substitute-rice, soy potato etc)



Mix all ingredients well together well, I use a wire whisk. Store in an airtight container, label and date. Best if used in 6-8 months. Makes 20-22 c mix.

Then I use it to make the hamburger/hot dog buns:

HAMBURGER/HOTDOG/SANDWICH BUNS

2 TBL (or 2 ¼ oz pkgs) dry active yeast

1 ½ c warm water

2 eggs, beaten

¼ oil

5-6 cups of the mix above

2 TBL melted butter



Dissolve the yeast in the water. Add oil and eggs, mix well. Add mix until you have a soft, pliable dough that is not sticky. Kneading well this should take 5-10 minutes. Grease a bowl, turn the dough over in the bowl to coat the side with the oil/butter you greased the bowl with. Cover with a damp cloth. Let rise until double in size approx. 1 hr maybe longer depending upon your current weather.

Punch down and let rest 10 minutes. In the meantime grease your baking sheets—2 of them. Now you shape your buns. You can either roll the dough out ½ inch thick with a rolling pin and use a 5 inch diameter can to cut perfect circles. Or like I do. Roll the dough into a ball and then flatten it to be ½ inch thick and 5 inches in diameter with your hand. OR if I’m making hot dog buns I roll it into a tube and flatten it.

Once all the buns are shaped you can either leave them to rise 10-15 minutes before baking or freeze them at this point. I generally take out enough for that night’s supper and set those to rise. The remaining ones are placed on the baking sheet and then immediately in the freezer.

Once they have frozen hard (generally overnight) I remove them from the baking sheet and put enough for a meal for the three of us in a vacuum seal bag, seal, label and date. Then when I need them I thaw them on a baking sheet until they are double in size. Then continue to bake as in the basic recipe.

To bake:

Preheat oven to 425 F. Bake for 10 minutes until golden brown. Remove from baking sheet to cooling rack. To keep the buns soft I brush them with the melted butter listed in the ingredients list and them cover them with a dry cloth.

YIELD: 12 5-inch buns

VARIATION:

Seeded buns; just before baking brush the tops with 1 beaten egg white and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds (or seed of your choice. )

Another thing we’ve been working on recently on the line of feeding our family is going back to cooping some of the birds. The same friend as the produce gave me three lovely Leghorn hens, two Barred Rock chicks and three Dorking/Brahma cross chicks to get back into the chicken egg production, just for our family. Hopefully within the next year we will have enough fresh eggs to provide for our family year round.

During the peak laying season we will freeze any excess eggs. To do this I do it a two egg serving at a time. A two egg serving around here is as follows:

3 guinea or banty eggs= 2 large

1 goose= 2 large

1.5 duck= 2 large

We don't eat the peacock eggs because when we had a male to fertilize we wanted all possible peachicks we could.



Except for the duck eggs I do this "two eggs" at a time, ducks I do three and then divide.



Beat your eggs with a fork or whisk like you were going to scramble them. I personally add a pinch of salt or sugar, others tell me they don't even do that, but I think it help preserve them and helps keep the yolk from getting grainy.



Then pour into a container you want to freeze them in. Some will say to use ice cube trays. I will say I've had NO LUCK in getting the egg to pop out of them without being a huge mess. I use a snack size Ziploc. The Ziplocs I lay flat on a cookie sheet to flash freeze. Once they are frozen good either pop them out of your ice cube tray and bag up or take your Ziplocs and put them in a freezer bag or vacuum sealed bag and return to the freezer.



To use: either thaw in the refrigerator or if in a hurry stick the bag in a bowl of cold water. It will thaw rather quickly. Use immediately after thawing.



I use them in omelets, scrambled eggs, meatloaves, meatballs, egg wash for batter frying anything you need beaten eggs in for meals or baking. I've also been known to add them to dog and cat food if I'm making those and need a little more protein for the critter chow.



You can also separate the yolks from the whites and freeze them separately. I do this often when I’m cooking and need either yolks or whites for the current recipe. The remaining half of the egg is put in a container in the freezer, with the number of the contents on the container written on it., Then when I have enough for Hollandaise sauce, or an Angel Food cake they get used.

ON THE HOUSE BUILDING FRONT: Sean has his plans pretty well finalized and has purchased the cement, cinder blocks and re-bar for the first two footings/pillars. We had hoped to already have those two in, but we’ve, like a big part of the nation, have been hit with rain storm, after rain storm, which while good for the garden slows the house building down.

When he’s trapped in doors he’s worked on tweaking the house plans, researching different appliances, pricing materials and much more. Progress is being made, just slower than we’d hoped.

So now you are all caught up with us.

Jan who is off to pickle more peppers and caramelize onions to can in OK

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

KATIE

Spring 1998

He looked down at her lifeless body. What how could this happen? Just minutes ago Katie had been walking with Eric and him to the mailbox. It had been a pleasant walk in the late fall morning. They loved living on this new piece of land.

Eric and Katie had ran ahead, he’d smiled watching their small forms full of curiosity and wonder. They had lived there nearly a year, so there was no fear in his mind as they ran ahead and disappeared in the trees around the pond.

Suddenly Eric had been running toward him, his small face full of silent terror. Before he could wonder what was wrong, he heard Katie’s terrified anguished screams, and THE DOGS.

Terror gripped his heart as he ran toward the sounds of a pack of dogs after Katie. Frantically looking into the dark shade of the trees he saw her and THEM.

There were four or five near grown hound mixed with chow type dogs, they had Katie on the ground, she was fighting the best she could her small compact frame useless against the starved animals who with foaming mouths tore at her legs and buttocks. Working as a team to pull her to the ground. She was their prey and they meant to have her. He could see their ribs showing through their fur. Judging by their size and physical shape he could tell they were litter mates. Unwanted puppies who had been dumped, and who had some how survived to adulthood, but now they were starving and vicious.

The fence between Katie and him was several strands of barbed wire, too tightly strung for him to duck through. He ran to the gate, LOCKED, as he climbed the barbed wire that formed the gate tore at his clothes, puncturing his skin. But he did not notice. “Katie, he had to save Katie.”

Shouting and waving his arms he ran at the dogs, all but one ran off. The Alpha male, bigger than the others, was still biting and tearing at her, she had gone silent. Stooping the man grabbed a softball size rock and threw. It landed just short of its’ target. But its’ message was clear and the wild dog tucked tail and ran.

Katie lay before him, not moving. No sound. “Katie”, softly he called her name, no response. “Katie, their gone. “ He knelt fear filled his heart. Then he saw a flutter of eyelids. Her beautiful brown eyes, full of pain looked back at him. She was alive!

Now he had another problem. He had to get her the two tenths of a mile back to the house and medical treatment. He wasn’t sure he could carry her that far, plus how could he get her over the fence? He couldn’t leave her to go get the car and help. The pack of wild dogs might return and kill her.

As if to answer his unspoken questions, Katie slowly, unsteadily rose to her feet. Together with Eric they started the slow painful walk back to the house, and help.

Examination of her wounds showed medical attention was definitely needed. It was a weekend, and the type of medical help she needed was forty-five minutes away. Together with his wife and Eric, he loaded Katie in the car and headed for the emergency medical facility.

By the time they arrived, she was going into shock. The doctor told them immediate surgery was needed. While luckily she seemed to have managed to protect her vital organs and face. There was muscle and tissue damage to her legs and buttocks. In agony the three waited while the surgery was performed on the little one they loved so much.



Eric, a normally vivacious blonde, was quiet and withdrawn, not making a sound. He sat with his head hanging down, forlorn and lost without Katie. The attack had definitely done emotional damage to him. What about Katie, what residual damage would she suffer?

What would they all suffer? They had no insurance to cover this, the surgery would be expensive. But there was nothing else to be done, she had to have it, if she was to survive.

Anger slowly swelled in the man and woman. This was through no fault of their’s or Katie’s. The blame laid in the selfish people who had dumped a litter of puppies because they were an inconvenience. People who would go to a fast food restaurant rather than pay the small fee to have a pet neutered or spayed. Then when the unwanted puppies appeared, who thought it too big an inconvenience to try and find suitable homes. Nor would they pay the small fee to place them with pet adoption services, again they would have to give up some minor luxury for themselves to do that. Or as a very last result, have the puppies humanely put down. No it was far easier and cheaper for THEM to just dump the puppies. After all they were cute, people in the country would take them in and adopted them. At least that’s what they tell themselves and their children.

But instead, of those who do manage to survive many turn into vicious feral dogs. They form packs with other dumped and stray animals and together they hunt. First living off of small game, and then family pets, poultry cattle and finally attacking small children and the elderly, becoming more aggressive and vicious with each attack. This was evidenced by the attack on Katie.

It was apparent from the condition of the dogs that had attacked Katie that they were starving, making them a very dangerous pack. Although they had not completed their attack on Katie, others were in danger. Now the farmers and ranchers would have to ban together and do a job they detested. Destroy the pack. Katie was suffering, and others would too, all because some irresponsible pet owner, dumped a litter of unwanted puppies. Never considering the domino affect of their actions. Because some pet owner hadn’t spent less then $50 to have that litter’s mother spayed they would be out hundreds of dollars for Katie’s medical treatment, not to mention the emotional stress and pain it had caused. Nor did that pet owner think about the burden it put on the families in the country that would now have to deal with vicious, possibly rabid feral dogs. It was easier to just dump that litter of puppies, go out to eat and tell themselves it was perfectly okay.

Suddenly the doctor was standing before them. The surgery was successful and the damage was far less than they had thought. As long as no infection set in she would be scarred, but healthy. She had been lucky the man had been with her. She would not have survived otherwise. Katie could go home and be with her family, but she must be watched closely for the next 24 hours.

The man and woman took turns monitoring her condition all night. In the light of the early dawn hours he went to check on her again. Eric was with her, his small body curled protectively against her. He looked up as the man entered, sad worried eyes. “She’s going to be okay, boy.” He told the three year old yellow dog.

Katie looked up with pain ridden eyes and he reached out and petted the soft ears of the blue heeler. Thankful once again that both animals were fully vaccinated. Katie would not get rabies, if the dogs had been rabid, because of their foresight in not only spaying and neutering the pets, but in keeping them fully vaccinated. If only he could undo the damage and pain his pets were suffering now, because of others.



Giving Katie her antibiotic and pain pill he thought to himself. “There are those who would say, ‘Why be so upset, Katie is only a dog?’ “. He knew that statement would anger him, she was more than a dog, she was family. In the same instant he knew what his response to such a remark would be. “But what if she had been a small child?”

April 19, 2011
I wrote the true story above in the Spring of 1998 after our beloved Jealous Katie Katrina Quit!  was viciously attacked with my husband just a few yards away.  I repost it in various places periodically and especially this time of year when the dumping of household pets becomes a major problem for those of us who live in the country. 

I had actually forgot about posting it this year until an event last night.  My husband and I had just gone to bed for the night when Sean called out from the living room asking if I could come help him.  Grabbing our robes we both ran, we could tell from his voice something was definitely wrong. 

There in his lap was our beautiful white Tufted Roman goose, Wendy.  Wendy and her mate Casper are some of my personal favorite geese.  The two of them have been with us for about six years.  She had finally gone broody on a large clutch of eggs and was desparate to hatch them.  She and Casper are obvious in their love of goslings and she's only successfully hatched one gosling in years past--Lumpy, who a stray dog got when he was a teenager.

Last night it was Wendy covered in blood.  Sean had heard her screams and rushed out to chase away a LARGE black stray that was trying to drag her to the woods from her nest right in the light from our living room windows!

Sean screamed and chased the animal off and rescued Wendy, but her long graceful neck was tucked under her main body, she was upside down on her back and she wasn't making a sound.  When he picked her up her neck hung loosely, but she struggled to get away, thinking he was the dog come back.

Once in the house we doctored her wounds--one is really bad on her cheek and she bled a lot.  Once I got the bleeding stopped I held her in my lap to keep her warm and hopefully from going into shock while Sean fixed the nursery up for her. As I spoke to her of how she had to live because her goslings needed her she raised her bloodied white head and peered at me with an understanding blue eye.  I reminded her that Mama Rose had suffered similarly and had gone on to hatch and raise Beauty.  While her head wobbled on her neck it was wonderful to see the neck was not broken.   She leaned against me for comfort as we waited on Sean.

He built her a deep nest of hay and carefully moved her eggs to the totally enclosed structure in the big coop that we normally use for either a nursery of parentless baby birds or wounded hens and their clutches of eggs, then he gently carried her to it.

As we passed her old nest she struggled to get down to go to her "babies"--she's only been broody for two days, but her need to protect her eggs was strong.  Sean held firm and talked softly to her, telling her the eggs were safe and he was taking her to them.  As we passed Casper and the main flock who honked softly to her she struggled again, but not near as hard as she struggled when she saw her "babies" safe in a cage with deep soft hay.

Once Sean set her down she washed the blood out of her mouth in the medicated water he'd fixed her, nibbled a bit of the food supplies and then wobbled to her "nest".  She carefully counted the eight eggs and tucked them under her bloodied wings.  We told her good night and left her in God's hands.

This morning she actually hissed and spread out protectively over her eggs when Sean tried to re-arrange the water bowl in the wire and wood enclosure that will now keep her safe.  This is a VERY good sign.  

I have to say we all went to bed angry last night, which is not a good thing.  Someone has dumped this starving dog and we are dealing with it.  We think it has already got Miss Pugsley and Butterfly, (we keep hoping they are hidden on a nest somewhere--but we are doubting that is so) and none of us wants to kill an animal.  But it's coming right to the front door and something will have to be done.

While no one I know would ever consider dumping of an animal, some of you might know someone who might.  Please tell them the stories of Katy and Wendy and how much harm their selfishness can cause.

Jan who is sad to see Wendy in so much pain and still being so protective of the goslings she wants to hatch so badly in OK

Sunday, April 17, 2011

THE THEORY OF ANYWAY

April 17, 2011

I’m currently reading a book called “Independence Days: A Guide to Sustainable Food Storage and Preservation” by Sharon Astyk. I’ve actually just started it, I saw a review of it online and decided it might be worth a read to gear me toward the food storage I hope to achieve.

Early in the book she speaks of the “Theory of Anyway.” From what I have read it is basically the reason we should be putting food by, become debt free, and be good stewards in life in and other aspects of our daily life in general. Simply because we should.

Not due to some coming crisis, a fear of the government controlling food, the end of the world or anything else, just simply because we should. I like this thought. It rings so much of the truth above and beyond anything else I have read.

So many books, articles, late night radio talk shows, disaster movies harp at the “impending doom” and how we must be “prepared” for it. The plain and simple truth is the things these media sources tell us to do we should do anyway.

The book got me to thinking, about all the times before I’ve needed food storage and was glad I had it. Over the years my husband has only been unemployed twice and both times we had ample food stored it was not a problem. We simply ate out of the food storage and we ate well.

A third time was when my father-in-law was in his last days. During that time we had up to 30 people staying at my home for one to three weeks. Due to food storage, my master mixes on hand and the co-operation of those involved we all ate 3 square meals a day and did so without having to spend a lot of time in the hospital cafeteria.

I had planned for none of those events to occur in my life, yet they did. Putting food by, just because I should anyway, showed to be a true blessing each time. This is why I need to build my depleted food storage back up now. I do not think the world will end in May as some say, or on 12/12/12 as others say. I do see food prices escalating in the stores and that may or may not be a meter of things to come. None of these are the reason for preparation. The reason is because I should “anyway.”

Not managing our finances as well as we should have put us in a bit of a bind during this most recent bout of unemployment. If we’d previously managed our finances as we should my husband would still be “retired”. I am striving to get him back to retirement. I miss him being home.

No matter what stage of your life you are in I suggest you cease using credit immediately and become debt free, not because it is the fad thing to do, or because major inflation is headed this way. But because it is something you should do “anyway.” As I have often said before we are following the Dave Ramsey “Total Money Makeover” book plan and it is working well for us. I know of hundreds of others it has done well for too. But you need to do it for yourself not because I said, but because you need to do so “anyway.”

Helping others is another thing we should do “anyway” not just because a disaster hit, but because it is who we should be as a nation. Oh it feels good to give to the Japanese Earthquake Fund or whatever the latest disaster is, but how about the elderly person down the road who has trouble just getting a ride to the grocery store? Or the newly widowed man who has never cooked a day in his life and now has no one to cook for him.

You don’t need to do something huge to brighten their day, sometimes just stopping by to say hello is all they need. Maybe the neighbor’s child is having a horrible time with math and you are good at it. Visit the parent around homework time and drop small “hints” about the easy way to do that math problem. Charity comes in all forms and it is something you should do anyway, not just when a disaster hits.

Back to the book Independence Days, the author touches on much deeper issues as she quotes her friend who developed the “Theory of Anyway,” Pat Meadows. Me I like to think that by simply bringing it up and adding it to my blog it will perhaps get a few more people thinking about the things they should do “anyway” without me pushing any political buttons. Because after all I do not agree with all of Ms. Astyk’s political statements, but I do believe in what we should be doing anyway.

Jan who is trying to read at least one non-fiction a week in OK

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

VALUABLE LESSONS LEARNED--A BLAST FROM THE PAST STORY

April 13, 2011--I've been posting on various yahoo lists my latest adventures with baby birds.  Those stories reminded me of this blast from the past one from 2004.

July 28, 2004




First of all let me say to those of you that don't know me personally that despite my towering height of 5'0" I am not a petite person, I am quite round, so scurrying quickly is not a thing I do. Nor is bending over, crawling around easily or any other such aerobic activity.



Today, so far, has had a series of valuable lessons that I thought I would share for those of you who may or may not be new to homesteading:



1. While leaning a board inside the coop for guineas to nest behind may sound like a good idea consider how you will retrieve eggs from behind said boards if they extend well behind the roosts for the birds. We didn't and today I had to. On hands and knees with my Gopher Grabber reaching tool and basket I crawled under the roosts it was not pleasant. The Muscovy duck, Lady Rachel, who had decided she liked the guinea accommodations better than her own small coop and thus had gone broody next to the nest of guinea eggs I was robbing was not amused at being disturbed. I became very thankful for the Gopher Grabber which kept my arms away from her hissing bill.



2. When you have a guinea hen broody in the coop on 66 eggs REMIND your dh that when he puts the birds up at night he should MAKE SURE Mama hen is on her nest and not locked out of the pen for the night. The eggs are in the 'bator now, but it was a very cool night for OK, we'll see. They were near their hatch date.



3. Day old baby Muscovy ducklings can march right through chick wire. This lesson was learned when I was preparing my lunch and heard baby ducks in distress. Running outside I saw 4 ducklings marching straight out to guinea hens who thought they were pecking material.



4. Day old baby ducklings are EXTREMELY fast!



5. All larger duck backsides look the same to baby ducklings.



6. Older sibling ducklings DO NOT want their younger brothers and sisters under their backsides and will peck the newly hatched ones HARD!



7. All older ducks will flog you if they think you are going to hurt a duckling.



8. Even the best trained dog will get excited when Mom is chasing a small tasty morsel and the bigger ducks are chasing Mom. While they didn't eat one they barked and snickered at it all a lot not great for Mom's ego or ears.



9. When blocking all the bottom wire one should remember the chick wire that runs BEHIND the feeder and ramps.





10. Once baby ducklings get under a coop that is surrounded with chick wire on all 4 sides you better figure out a way that you can get Mama duck out of the coop and away from the other 10 to call those other two. Because they are faster than you and you aren't going to get them out on your own.



11. The only way to put additional boards behind the feeder and ramps once the other two are back to Mama Duck is to do it from inside the very messy duck coop. ON HANDS AND KNEES. YECH!



12. Once you are certain you have blocked all exits for the baby birds one will climb a corner and go out above the boards just to prove it can, it too is extremely fast.



13. Once you are certain AGAIN you have all exits covered and you are now ready for a scrub down and have lunch another will escape just as you take your first long swallow of Pepsi.



14. The third time you are certain you have them all blocked safely in you thank God that it is a cool day and you can keep the windows open to listen for more escapee sounds.



15. You contemplate bird netting on the outside of the run wired up tight to the chick wire, all the way around and very high up.



16. You cancel a much needed shower until reenforcements arrive to help you untangle the bird netting and get it up for fear they will escape again.



17. You now know you MUST enlarge the duck housing facilities immediately . Those older siblings might hurt the younger ones when it comes time to settle down for the night in the too small coop.



18. You develop a headache when you realize that you have a broody duck in the guinea coop and you get to play this game all over in three weeks when she hatches her dozen out.



19. Cedar needles in the hair and under clothing hurt.



20. You better learn to laugh at yourself because everyone else is.



These are valuable lessons learned today, hope they save someone else my scurrying around trying to nab little and yellow and black ducks as they flee under the low lying cedar trees. Jan who is most certainly glad no one had a video camera going today in OK

WEEK TWO OF THE GARDEN AND HOUSE ADVENTURE

April 13, 2011
Since I last wrote we’ve all been very busy moving on with our plans for the spring and summer.

Gary worked a little overtime at his job this week so he couldn’t do much to help in either endeavor until Friday afternoon. Once home though he really pitched in and the gardening went a lot faster.

Monday Sean went to pay off his truck and while out he found some Canadice red grapes, Tuesday he planted those in the grape garden. I then planted Bloomsdale spinach between the grapes and the strawberry plants. I’ll probably add a few marigold to this garden as well since we have a lot of rabbits in the area.

Prior to Friday Sean worked on building another 24 foot row in the garden by himself as I worked on the potato garden. In this long and narrow bed I planted Russet white potatoes, and Norland red potatoes. Then I companion planted Copenhagen Early Market cabbage, Spring broccoli raab, and Green Sprouting broccoli.

Normally I wouldn’t plant three Brassica in the same garden, but I only want a few heads of cabbage because none of us like sauerkraut that much and the smell of cooking cabbage can run you out of the house—although I do love a good cabbage roll. So we decided we’d grow only a few head this spring (if the rabbits don’t get them) and then go for a bigger crop in the fall of a long keeping cabbage, with possibly trying to grow a few heads in the greenhouse.

I misplaced the broccoli seeds on Friday (found them that night) so the broccoli raab got planted in that row instead.

Once the broccolis and cabbage were planted two Victoria rhubard were planted at the opposite end of the bed from the already well established horseradish. This left a little space for a short row of something else. Got to check my companion planting chart to see what.

That leaves the area between the fence and this garden where we will add marigold seeds, if ever there was a garden that would need it this would probably be it. Last year we got very little lettuce and NO cabbage due to Peter Cottontail.

By the end of Friday Sean, Gary and I had finished building the second row in the big garden. In this we planted Adirondack blue potatoes. I will be adding a few other seeds to this garden as well this next week.

The three of us started building the third row in the big garden and have it nearly completed.

Along the same line, but different…while purchasing feed on Thursday I noticed they had a sign up they had freshly harvested asparagus up for sale. While my husband won’t eat asparagus Sean and I love it and my asparagus hadn’t started sprouting yet (first shoot appeared the next day). So I inquired about the price. I had to have them repeat it.

The last I had priced at Wal-Mart was nearly $7 a bunch and a bunch wasn’t quite a pound. I later called our local produce place where I buy a lot of bulk produce and was told their 1# bunches were $3.99 each or 3 for $9. The feed store price was $2 a pound for firsts and $1 a pound for seconds. I purchased a pound of each.

For those of you who don’t know a second where asparagus is concerned is usually those super skinny stalks that despite how they look are tough just past the tip. I had a plan.

The first night I fixed a nice mess of asparagus on the charcoal grill to go with our grilled chicken for dinner.

GRILLED ASPARAGUS

I make this vegetable numerous ways, but this is one of the simplest asparagus recipes. I used a small loaf pan and placed some of the tender spears of the firsts after I had cut off the tough ends and fed those tough bits to the greedy geese. Over the tender spears I poured a mixture of lemon juice, garlic salt and black pepper (all mixed to taste) then topped it with pats of butter. A foil lid was added to the loaf pan and then it was set on the edge of the grill where it would get heat, but not boil dry. Simple, simple and delicious!

If you are using an indoor grill, like a Foreman grill you can let the asparagus set in the liquid for a while then remove, drain and grill it until tender crisp on the indoor grill.

That left a LOT of leftover raw asparagus. As anyone who has dealt with this divine veggie knows it has a short fresh shelf life and I knew we wouldn’t eat it all before it went ugly.

The next morning I filled the dehydrator with the remaining asparagus. ALL of it, including the tough parts. No I’m not insane, I’m a tightwad that is gazelle intense about getting out of debt.

After following all the usual cleaning standards for the veggie I trimmed the tender parts separate from the tough parts. The tender parts were put on two trays of the incubator in about inch long pieces-give or take.

The tough parts were also trimmed to that length, but the thicker pieces I also sliced in half length wise. From the remaining bundles of that $3 investment I filled a cheap round five tray incubator to capacity with asparagus. It ended up being three trays of the tough parts and two of the tips and tender pieces.

The reason I separated them is once they are dry it’s really hard to tell the tender pieces of stem from the tough pieces. Like I said, I had a plan.

I learned years ago that you can dry the tough parts of things like broccoli, asparagus and similar plants (as well as the peels from fruits and vegetables) and then pulverize them using either a mortar and pestle, a blender or a food processor into a nice powder.

This powder can then be added to any number of things to get the vitamins, fiber and other nutrients of the produce to whatever you are cooking from what many people throw away.

The tough ends of the asparagus are destined to become part of soups, omelets, souffl├ęs, side dishes and many other things. I’ve added recipes for a few of these uses below.

As I cut up the beautiful CHEAP asparagus I thought about the BIG dehydrator I’ve saved the money for, but have not yet purchased. I decided it was time, but I was still leery of letting go of that much money. Gary, being the practical and loving husband he is, told me he thought I should order it that day.

He pointed out that even if the garden doesn’t make well there are always produce markets, u-pick farms and other places we could get a wealth of good healthy foods to dry. So I ordered it. I ordered the Styx Dehydra 800w with the bread/yogurt drawer from a gentleman on ebay. I also ordered some fruit leather sheets for it.

I much prefer dehydrating over freezing or canning of many fruits and vegetables for several reasons. The top ones being:

1. Ease of preparation, you seldom need to blanch, ice water dip or exact time.

2. Storage space is minimal for dried foods.

3. Shelf life is extremely long.

The unit is due to arrive here on Thursday. If the feed store still has good cheap asparagus on Thursday I will go get more asparagus. As long as it is that cheap and my asparagus bed isn’t up to producing enough for a year’s worth of mine and Sean’s need for that lovely green I’ll purchase and dry all I can comfortably afford. After all when it’s dried it will keep forever! (well almost).

BTW, drying foods is super easy. I’m self taught on doing it, canning and freezing were the way my mother and grandmother did things. Gary says he remembers his grandmother spreading clean sheets on the roof and drying apples up there when he was a kid, but that was the only experience he’d had with food drying as well.

I highly recommend two cookbooks on drying your own foods (and you can dry almost everything). They not only tell you how to dry the foods, they give you recipes to use the dried foods!

Those two books are:

Mary Bell’s Complete Dehydrating Cookbook by Mary T. Bell

Making and Using Dried Foods by Phylis Hobson

I also recently stumbled across some interesting websites

http://everydayfoodstorage.net/

http://www.countryconsultant.com/

http://cookmyfoodstorage.blogspot.com/



There are numerous ones available and I really suggest you cruise around on them.

ON THE HOUSE FRONT:

Sean’s tax refunds came in so he is now a debt free (except for Sallie Mae) man. So he was anxious to get started on his place this weekend. Right up to and including going to the home improvement center and figuring out exactly how much each of the 16 pillars was going to weigh in just the raw materials (cement, cinder blocks and rebar) and that we would have had to unload it the minute we got home because of rain in the forecast. When the weight topped 1,000 pounds it was more than he thought the three of us could handle that late on Friday night. So the purchase was put on hold.

Good thing it was, the next day I found two coupons mixed in some mail that will save him $35 on the first $300 of his purchase. Around here that’s a lot of money. So if the weather is good we’ll get started on the footing pillars next weekend.



THE PROMISED RECIPES—all serve 4

To simply cook as a veggie:

Pour 1 c boiling water over 1 c asparagus spears or pieces. Cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until tender. This will yield 1 ½ c cooked asparagus



Cream of Asparagus Soup—using dried/powdered asparagus

In a soup pot melt the butter and cook  the flour

4 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons flour

Season with:

Dash of nutmeg or mace (optional)

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

Dash of cayenne pepper

Stir in:

¼ cup asparagus powder

1 1/2 cup milk

2 cups chicken broth or stock

1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

1 teaspoon onion powder or a small chopped onion

Heat over a medium heat until heated through thoroughly.

Asparagus Souffle

2 tbl butter

2 heaping tbl flour

1 ¼ c milk

¾ grated cheddar cheese

¼ c asparagus powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Pinch of nutmeg

5 eggs, separated

Melt the butter in a saucepan and then sprinkle in the flour. Remove from heat and whisk together well. Stir in ½ c of the milk and mix well again. Add remaining milk, whisking all the time a little at a time.

Return the pan to a low heat and cook until the mixture thickens, whisking as you go. Remove from heat and add all remaining ingredients except eggs. Let cool. This is your base.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Heat a six inch souffle dish, or four ramekins, in the oven to heat as it preheats just long enough to warm it. Then butter the dish/ramekin.

In a bowl beat the egg yolks well and then add them to the cooled base using a whisk.

Beat the egg whites until the form stiff peaks. Pour half of the base mixture over the whites, fold in gently. Repeat with the second half. Do not overblend.

Pour either into the souffle dish or ramekins

Bake:

Souffle dish 30 minutes

Ramekins 25 minutes.


Marinated Dried Asparagus (basically a pickled asparagus)

Place in a jar and then shake together well:

½ c oil

4 tbl. Lemon juice

1 tbl minced dried celery

½ tsp minced dried chives

1 dried bay leaf

1 sprig dried thyme

½ tsp salt

½ tsp ground paprika

Pour over 12-18 dried split asparagus spears that have been placed in a serving dish. Refrigerate overnight. At serving time remove bay leaf and thyme sprig.

Monday, April 4, 2011

SIGNS OF SPRING AND SUMMER PLANS

April 4, 2011

As the wind blows heartily outside I think of how our spring has unfolded so far and our plans for the summer ahead.

We are determined to have a large, productive garden this year. Hopefully productive enough to fill our pantries and freezers for at least a year and to share heavily with family members and friends.

It has been slow going so far, but we are determined to do this. Just as the three of us worked so hard together to survive when both men were unemployed we are now working together on our spring and summer projects.

Yes, the “s” is suppose to be on the end of project. Because we have two BIG projects planned. The first is the garden of course. The second is the building of a small home for Sean to live in.

Some of you may remember how hard we worked three years ago clearing the land, putting in a drive way and utilities for a much bigger house than the one he is now planning. Then of course the big layoff and those plans had to be put on hold.

It is now three years later and he is still unemployed after working for a short while in the middle of those three years. Only there is a huge difference. By being VERY careful with his money, a la the Dave Ramsey plan he has paid off all his bills except his student loan, which is mortgage size.

So now he’s going to consider the student loan a mortgage and split his monthly snow ball between his loan payment and building a small house with cash only.

Since both men are excellent drafters and designers they have been designing the “tiny house” as it started out. Basically it will be a 24’ x 24’ two story structure. Quite similar to the portable buildings you see at many home improvement centers. At that size it will be on the upper end of the term “tiny house”, but it was the smallest he could work out and get all his basics in for his needs.

He is also designing it so he can add on to it easily in the future when he has a family.

So that’s our two projects. You can guess what a good lot of my posts will be about as the spring and summer go forward.

In fact here’s the first update on both.

IN THE GARDEN:

Here at the Rock ‘n Tree Ranch we garden organically via the “Lasagna Gardening” method. (ref: Lasagna Gardening: A New Layering System for Bountiful Gardens; No Digging, No Tilling, No Weeding, No Kidding by Patricia Lanza) and we plant intensively. This year we are planting in rows rather than doing square foot gardening (ref: All New Square Foot Gardening; Grow More in Less Space by Mel Bartholomew.) We also companion plant for natural pest control (ref: Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening by Louise Riotte.)

Because we didn’t get around to adding the layers to the garden this winter, or building the fourth garden, we are doing so as we go now.

Over the last two weeks we have built from the ground up a new grape and berry garden. This raised bed is three landscape timbers high and 24’ x 2’ in size. We used some old timbers we had on hand for most of the construction, but we did have to purchase spikes and some timbers to do it. It is located in the extra wide walkway we had between the other three gardens.

Once the structure was built we lined the bottom with paper feed sacks to block any possible weed growth. The bottom layer was pine straw/needles, this we topped with a thin layer of peat moss, followed by pond mud, then compost, peat moss, pond mud, poop coop, peat moss, and finally pond mud.

About that pond mud. My mother swore that the best garden soil came from the bottoms of rivers and ponds because all the good top soil washes into these watery holding spots. Our ponds are currently very low. So that’s where we’ve been digging trailer loads of mud from.

Not only do we get that top soil, but we get fish emulsion and we help keep our ponds from filling up with dirt doing this.

We finished up building the new garden and into it we planted the first two Thompson Seedless grape plants. Two Red Flame Grape plants will also be added to it as soon as we find some at a reasonable price. (I paid $2.50 each for the white grapes). We are after all on a budget and have to keep our garden costs down.

Around the base of grapes Sean planted nearly 50 Ozark Everbearing strawberry plants. Later this week we will add spinach and carrots to that bed, along with marigolds to help keep rabbits out of the garden.

Once we put in the grapes and strawberries we moved on to the first row in the 24’ x 24’. Again we built layers in the same method. This row we made four landscape timbers high, and about 12-18 wide and runs the full length of the garden. In this row we planted Laxton green peas, Triumphe de Farce bush green beans, mixed lettuces, Touchon carrots and marigolds. I’ll be adding a photo of the first row to this post shortly.

Next will be a lower walkway lined with paper feed sacks to block weeds. This is where we will start on our next part of the garden. It will be another raised row built in the same method. I’ve not decided what is going in this row yet.

I’ve not seen any asparagus growth in the big garden yet, I’m hoping it’s simply because it’s been too dry, but I think the gophers may have got most if not all of my asparagus crowns over the winter. The garlic bulbs we missed last fall have sprouted wonderfully and there are numerous garlic plants growing well there.

Over in the 24’x 8’ garden Sean discovered we hadn’t dug all of our potatoes properly last year and we have several volunteer potato plants with tops nearly a foot high already. We will probably finish filling this bed with potatoes and things that can be companion planted with it. The horseradish is of course growing well still in that garden.

This last weekend we planted two blueberry plants and two thornless blackberry bushes in huge flower pots as well.

ON THE HOUSING FRONT:

Sean and Gary have worked very hard on the house plans and nearly have them to the point construction could start soon. This weekend we went to the building site to get an idea on where to start construction and how much effort is going to be needed to make sure the house is level.

While we were at the site Gary mowed the area to give us an idea of how big Sean’s house will be. Not huge, but just perfect for a single man. As soon as the plans are firmed up all add floor plans and artist renderings of what the house will look like when completed to the blog as well.

So that’s what is going on in my world right now. Happy Spring everyone.

Jan who thought she was going to blow away in these high winds yesterday in OK

Thursday, February 10, 2011

MY LIFE ON 3 X 5 CARDS

Feb 10, 2011

Back in the late 1970’s I was striving to organize my home and life, much like now. While at the local bookstore I stumbled across a book titled SIDETRACKED HOME EXECUTIVES ™: from Pigpen to Paradise written by Pam Young and Peggy Jones. It’s been re-published since then, but the concept is still the same. S.H.E. was about to become part of my life.

I took this bright blue book home and read it cover to cover. Highlighting the ideas as I went. The entire concept made a lot of sense to me. Everyone has certain chores they need done daily, weekly, monthly and annually so why not be organized about them. But we all get sidetracked.

You know the old joke/story you probably live it at least occasionally in your life—me it tends to be a nearly everyday occurrence.

You get up in the morning fully planning to getting a certain chore done and at the end of the day, although you have worked hard all day it’s still not done. Some people call it the “but first” syndrome.

Here’s an example for you: Today is laundry day, I’m going to get all the laundry done. As I sort the laundry I see a button about to come off of a shirt. Granny taught me “a stitch in time, saves nine.” So I decide to sew the button on before it gets lost.

I go to the living room for my sewing kit to take care of it. Once in the living room I see bills that need to be mailed that day. It’s 9:30 am and my mail carrier runs at 10:30 am. The mailbox is 2/10 of a mile down the drive. It’s a pretty day and I need exercise.

So I decide to walk down to the mailbox to mail the bills. I grab the camera “just in case”. Whistling for the dogs I head for the mailbox. Stopping along the way to snap photos for the greeting card business and throw sticks for the dogs.

The mail carrier arrives just as I got to the mail box. We chat and exchange envelopes. On the way back I realize I’ve not fed the dogs and other animals yet.

As I feed the dogs the geese honk at me wanting “treats”, I know the garden needs some weeding and they love weeds. I find ripe produce in the garden and decide to pick it… and thus goes the day. By the time I remember the laundry it’s too late in the day to hang them on the line.

All were things that needed done, but the scheduled laundry didn’t happen. Then I felt guilty for not getting it done. Guilt does not look good on anyone.

The two ladies who wrote S.H.E. broke all these much needed chores down into 3 x 5 color coded cards. The system was quite easy. Certain chores on certain days, on easy to spot colored cards. There are days scheduled for relaxing, for bill paying and much more. Each day includes “me time.”

It also talked about how to get help doing those chores. After all why can’t your kids empty all the trash cans in the house? How to organize storage and much more.

The most important part was it was as flexible as you wanted it to be. Little Johnny comes in and needs three dozen cookies for in the morning and baking day isn’t for three days no problem. You simply move your 3 x 5’s around and work out what works best for you at the time. NOTHING is set in stone. You just rearrange the cards. The card is kept in the queue until it’s done and then it’s moved to its next scheduled time.

I’m not sure why we quit using the S.H.E. but as time went on we moved away from it. Over the years we tried other organizational systems and some worked, others didn’t.

I tried the flylady system, which works well for some people. For me it did not, too structured, too unflexible. Quite frankly, those dogs need me to throw sticks for them more than I need to make sure my sink is absolutely shiny every second of the day. Once a day is plenty if something important like LIFE comes up. Nor do I want all the emails that come in from the flylady group nagging me to do certain things at certain times each day. I never did well being nagged at.

Slowly I developed the Princess Plan for my complete decluttering of this ranch. You can read about the basics of it at: http://cjpattersonontheranch.blogspot.com/2009/12/princess-plan-basics.html

I had just got it going good when the two men lost their job and was making real progress. Then we hit the road. We’ve been home for several months now and I’m having trouble being sidetracked again.

As some of you have read I’ve been working on getting our menus and foodstuffs organized. I decided to do this on 3 x 5 cards. Doing this I remembered I still had that big 3 x 5 storage box in the closet upstairs. Imagine my surprise to find the complete S.H.E. system still inside it, all these years later.

As I looked through the cards I enjoyed memories of my kids school days because of the cards for different events in the box. Suddenly it dawned on me. Part of my problem around here is I have more irons in the fire than a blacksmith. I was tackling each section of my life in a separate way. Lack of organization was undermining my efforts to get organized.

Digging through that 3 x 5 box an idea started forming. Many of the cards were no longer appropriate for our lifestyle or home, but most were.

First step was to sort through those cards and get them set up for the proper days, weeks, months and year.

Next I worked on plans for the Walt Disney World trip this next winter. Because I’m having trouble finding an assortment of different colored cards I’ve been using 3 x 5 different colored cardstock cut to the right size. Luckily I have a greeting card business ( webfoottubdesigns.com) so cardstock is easy for me to find.

WDW is bright pink. On these cards I broke down all that needs to be done to be entirely ready for an easy getaway when the time is right, including fund raising ideas to make it a cash only trip. These cards were divided up between the months between now and then. Viola’ no last minute rushing to pack, make reservations and more importantly no sheer exhaustion that leaves me in tears on the day we leave.

Once I put the things that needed to be done before the trip on those simple 3 x 5 cards the planning didn’t seem so overwhelming.

Garden Planning on bright green cardstock came next. We want to go to a year round gardening system. Again I broke it down, divided it up, including daily and annual for these cards. Again, simplicity.

Menu planning, became white cards with divider cards for the main protein ingredients of my menu plans. Recipe cards in another section alphabetized for easy locating.

Working my way down through the Princess Plan on lavender cardstock I broke the year down exactly the way I had it on the Princess Plan, tying it to the original S.H.E. plan where it fit, adding cards in each time frame where needed.

Mystery shopping and merchandising schedules went on daily cards.

Continuing on through other aspects of our ranch life I added more and more cards. It’s a big card file. But the number of daily cards is not overwhelming, because it’s all broke down and simplified.

I’ve only been back to setting this up during the last month, but I am seeing progress already, of course I still get sidetracked, but when I move the current cards to the next day I don’t feel guilty. I know that all things will come together eventually. I keep finding more things to add to the 3 x 5 system, a few I’ve decided we don’t really need.

My husband smiled when he saw the big file box and realized what I was doing. He knows what’s coming is a return to an organized and clutter free home.

Combining systems is working well for me, maybe it will for you too.

Jan who says for further reading check out not only the book Sidetracked Home Executives but the following websites:

http://www.shesintouch.com/

http://www.thebratfactor.com/

http://www.flylady.net/

http://cjpattersonontheranch.blogspot.com/2009/12/princess-plan-basics.html

Sunday, January 2, 2011

More Muffin add ins

January 2, 2011

Back in October of 2009 I posted te Muffin Master Mix and add ins recipe I use.  This recipe can be viewed at: http://cjpattersonontheranch.blogspot.com/2009/10/productively-distracted.html.  Since then I have found other variations at other locations, plus dreamed up a few more myself.  So here are some suggestions to stretch your muffin variety even further:

Surprise centers. A great way to use up that little bit of jelly or jam that is leftover in the bottom  of the jar is to fill your muffin cup 1/2 way with batter, add a teaspoon of the jelly or jam and then finish filling the muffin tin with batter.

 Or add a bit of leftover cooked bacon and egg, scrambled sausage and egg or any other leftovers for a surprise.

OR add a bit of canned pie filling, nutella, or other similar foods.  The variety for surprise fillings is endless.
Carrot with currants or raisins.  Shred 1 cup of carrots and them along with 1/2 cup dried currants or raisins after you add the egg.  Want to go 1 step further for even more carrot flavor and value?  Substitute half the milk in the recipe for carrot juice.  Want more of a carrot cake recipe?  Add 1 tsp of cinnamon and perhaps throw in some chopped pecans.  Warning the more ingredients you add the more muffin tins you will need.
Seasame Muffins: Add 2 tablespoons of toasted sesame seeds with the dry ingredients.   Use oil when making and replace approximately 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil with sesame oil. 
Toasted Coconut and Chocolate Muffins: Toast 1 1/2 cups of shredded coconut. Grind 1/2 cup of the coconut in a food processor until the consistency of flour. Reduce flour to 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons. Fold both the shredded and ground coconut into the flour mixture. Add 1/8 teaspoon almond extract when adding vanilla. Fold in 1-cup mini chocolate chips at the end. before baking.

Vegan Apple-Walnut Muffins: Combine 1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds with 3 tablespoons of water and whip until well combined and gelatinous. Use this mix to replace the egg. Use walnut oil instead of melted butter. Fold one peeled and grated Granny Smith apple (about 8 ounces) into the wet mix. Fold 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts into the dry mix and bake.

Varieties for the Apple-Walnut Muffins substitute just about just about any fresh fruit and nut combo that suits your fancy for the apples and nuts.  adjust your oil accordingly too.

Chocolate-Cherry Chunk Muffins: Soak 1 cup dried cherries in milk until tender; drain reserving milk. Fold cherries, 3/4 cup chopped chocolate and 1/2 cup chopped cashews into mix at end.

change up the Chocolate-Cherry Chunk Muffins by using any dried fruit, nut and "chocolate" combo.  By "chocolate" I mean, white chocolate, butterscotch chips, peanut butter chips, cinnamon chips again the variety you can achieve here is endless.

Peanut Butter Muffins: Replace butter with 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter and 2 tablespoons peanut oil, whisking to combine. Increase sugar to 1/2 cup. Fold 3/4 cup of coarsely chopped lightly salted peanuts into the batter at the end.

Triple Berry Muffins: Prepare batter and fold in 1/2 cup dried cranberries and 3/4 cup each fresh raspberries and blueberries. Sprinkle tops with granulated sugar before baking.

Farmer's breakfast on the go: Add 3/4-1 c of any combo of breakfast meats and cheese you like to the dry batter.  If the meat is a little greasy cut your oil/butter slightly.  You can also saute onions, bell pepper or any other veggie to fold in as well. Remember to cut the oil/butter if you are using oil/butter when you sautee.

Leftover hot cereals?  Add that cold oatmeal or mush with the dry ingredients and cut the liquid just slightly.

Spicy cheese muffins: fold in a cup of shredded cheddar or jack cheese and your favorite chili powder/chipotle to taste (usually about 1/8 teaspoon to 1/4 tsp) with the dry ingredients.

As you can see the way you use the muffin mix is entirely up to you!

Jan who is off to make a big batch of muffin mix in OK