Thursday, August 29, 2013

Alice Waters Helps Me Sneak Veges!

 Chef Alice Waters is brilliant when it comes to vege recipes.  I've been turning to her book The Art of Simple Food for ideas on what to do with my garden bounty.

Tonight we are using fresh tomatoes and making her Simple Tomato Sauce: 2 lbs ripe tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and seasonings.  And I'm going to sneak in some roasted patty pan squash into it too! (Of course I will also put in some ground beef so that my meat loving son will be appeased.)  Served over pasta it will be simple and yummy.

She also has a recipe for raw tomato sauce.  Fresh tomatoes, basil and olive oil!

Last night I used some of my chard for her Chard Frittata.  Chard, olive oil, onion, garlic, seasonings and eggs (from our chickens) served on garlic toast. Yummy!  What I love about her recipes is that they really are simple yet cheffy and taste delicious!

If you are not the best "scratch" cook (like me) I recommend this cook book highly!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Eat This... NOT That!

Eat This!
Our tomatoes are finally coming ripe fast enough to warrant a bit of canning tomorrow.  I have already pulled out my trusted Ball Blue Book and will be canning a few quarts of tomato sauce.

 I no longer buy pre-made pasta sauces but in the past I have depended on plain tomato sauce for my sauce base.  What is so bad about that?  It's organic right?  Yep, however the acidic nature of tomatoes causes the lining of the can to leak BPA into the food.  Uncool!

Not That!

My budget is miniscule and I can not afford the premium sauce that comes in glass jars but I am able to make my own! I urge everyone to try canning tomatoes.  They're pretty easy and the taste is awesome! Not to mention kicking one more nasty chemical out of the house.  Hmmm... seems our great-grandparents had it good!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Fall must be on it's way!

Our first pumpkin (and probably our only).
We planted our corn, melons, winter squash and pumpkins in another area of our property then our other gardens.  It is amazing how the soil quality can be so different.  Since it was our first year planting we didn't amend the soil.  Most of our gardens did great but the corn, etc. did poorly.  I'm not surprised that the melons didn't do good as our summer was fairly cool and rainy but I'm very disappointed that I didn't get a lot of pie pumpkins. (My husband is sad not to get a lot of corn.)  We picked the beauty above before the chickens could get to it but I'm not seeing many more thriving.  Good thing for farmer's markets.  I will not partake in store canned pumpkin. Yuck!
One thing we were very surprised to get was Okra. I didn't think it would grow in Michigan.

We also got some broccoli (spelling?). We have never managed to get any before so small victories right?
Next year we will be laying on the manure and compost and making sure the soil is well amended so everything does well.
What victories and set backs did you all have this summer in your garden?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

God's Plan For Us

By wisdom the Lord laid the earth's foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge the deeps were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew.
Proverbs 3: 19-20

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Cow Monolith across the street...

You can't really tell from these pictures but the dairy farmer across the street is building a gargantuan barn.  It will house 300+ head of cattle.  I'm getting a little intimidated by the shear size of this thing.  I really hope they keep on top of the manure situation because I can only imagine how much poo will accumulate in this monolith.  We were relieved at first that it wasn't a manure lagoon but how different will this be?  I wonder if they will leave it silver or neutral like most of their other structures or if they'll paint it red?  If they do paint it red I have already decided to call it, "Clifford, The Big Red Barn". Why can't it be Joel Salatin who lives across the street?  Then I wouldn't have a worry in the world.

On a happier note... while traversing the yard to take these photos I found my barred rocks digging in the shredded leaf mulch on the fence line.  They were having a dandy time.

 Chicken butts all lined up!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday Read and Write: Baker Book House

Since I had some extra gas in my car today I went and took a trip to a local Christian book store.  I was specifically excited to go there because I had read online that they had an actual Teen/YA section in the store and I wanted to check it out.

I was a little disappointed upon arrival.  The YA (fiction) section was only 4 x 8.  But still it is a young adult section in a Christian book store.  Some of the titles did look good and it was refreshing not to have to look at a bunch of covers with Amish or Pioneer Women on them.  I haven't read a lot of Christian fiction as of late because nothing ever looked interesting... just the same ol', same ol'. But even the Adult fiction looked like it had some options. (Though Amish and 1800's romance abound.) Perhaps Christian publishing is finally maturing like the music scene has.

If I would have had the $$ to purchase a book, I would have chosen Aquifer by Jonathan Friesen. It is dystopian and I think I've mention that is my current reading trend.  The Lost Books series by Ted Dekker also sounded good as well as the River of Time series by Lisa T. Bergren.  It definitely pays to go to a Christian Books store for a bit more variety then the Christian section in Barnes and Noble.

Let's hope the Christian Publishing Industry (and typical reader) is finally branching out and wanting a bit more.

Curious what do you read?  What genres and do you read Christian, secular or a mix?  YA or adult?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Bad Surprises!

Yesterday I had good surprises.  Today... not so much.

Bad surprises:

1. All those lovely tomatoes I thought I might harvest?  1/2 of them have blossom rot.

2. My smallest daughter got stung by bees... 4 times.

3. A predatory bird (hawk, falcon, etc.) tried to sweep down and steal one of laying chickens this evening as we were putting them away.


1. At least the chickens get to eat well.  Lots of tomatoes went their way.

2. Taylor seems not to have had an allergic reaction any more serious than some nausea and slight swelling around the stings. We are keeping an eye on her.

3.  The bird did not get my hen.  She ran for cover as I ran at the bird.  The bird aborted and landed in a tree on the property line.

Lessons learned:

1. Blossom rot can be caused by lack of calcium in the soil.  High amounts of nitrogen can also cause it. I don't know about the calcium levels but we did have the chickens in that bed before we tilled it and planted.  It is possible that the chicken manure was too "hot" for the plants.

2. Keeping baking soda, topical benedryl and ibuprofen handy is a good thing.  Also learned that nausea is part of an allergic action.

3. Must keep an eye out for predatory birds.  If anyone is gonna eat chicken it's me! Also apparently I will run toward a predator to save a chicken.  Maybe I should start carrying a sling and a stone.

Wow! What will tomorrow bring?! Tomatoes with noses?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Surprise, Surprise!

City Daughter

Today was a day of pleasant surprises for me:

1. Six people to the dentist with not a one cavity! City daughter does need her wisdom teeth pulled though.

2. I was researching the YA market (Young Adult Books) and found out that the Christian publishing industry is really latching on to YA.  Yeah!  I'm not sure if I want to go Christian or Mainstream when I'm done with The Follower but it is good to know I have more options.

3. My tomatoes are really starting to ripen.  I may have enough ripe to start canning!

4. I remembered I had a Costco package of pork chops in the freezer.  Meat for dinner!

5. Farmer John made it home from Detroit meetings in time to eat dinner with us.

6. City daughter baked my favorite cookies for dessert... chocolate chip!

What a really good day!  Simple things make me happy :)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Starving Week...

We jokingly refer to every other week in our house as starving week.  I get money to purchase food every two weeks so right before pay day pickings are pretty slim.  Tonight I was fretting over what to make that would constitute an entire meal and was pleasantly surprised with the outcome:

Wonderful rolls made from scratch by the city daughter who loves to bake,

Salad with produce from our garden and from the farmer's market topped with...

Shredded cheese, nuts and bacon,

Water or Milk to drink

It always surprises me how something comes together from seemingly nothing.  God is good to us!

Tomorrow it will be a beans and rice meal!

I was laughing with my mom tonight that we are becoming vegetarians by budget!

I still have two chickens to make into coq au vin too.

What something do you make out of nothing?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Losing it Mondays!

200 lbs must go!

Hmmm... I have some fat showing too! I'd like to drop 20.

This is the start of my husband's journey to health.  He just entered a weight loss contest at work and weighed in today at 360 lbs. His ideal weight is in the 160's.  That is 200 lbs. to lose folks.  He has been able to lose weight before successfully, however some injuries happened that made working out too painful and he gained it all back.

With the start of this contest and a new shift beginning at work it is ideal for us to begin working out again. And I do mean us... the entire family.  We do it together from John on down to Taylor. I think we will start with walking.  It shouldn't be too hard on the joints and we'll take it slow and build up.  By the time winter comes round we should be in shape enough to start our work out videos and weight training. (This will be on top of any homestead work like chopping and stacking wood.)

We don't have too much of a change diet wise.  We've already cut out most junk food and eating out and I buy mostly whole foods. (I confess to having artificially colored corn on hand for children who immediately want food when they get up.)  We will need to increase our vege intake and watch portion sizes.  One thing John has to monitor on his own is sampling the Costco samples and not being tempted by the food court at work.  The frozen yogurt isn't too bad but calories add up.

I just want to state right now, we will not stop eating eggs from our free-ranging chickens or grass-fed meat, cream and butter.  These things are healthy for you!  I will not buy low-fat anything or diet anything- it's not natural people.  I will cook from scratch the things we like and take a meat on the side approach.  I will practice and perfect catching wild yeast at home and turning it into healthy bread. I also want to research "cleanses"- not the kind bought through a program or a store but made from scratch at home.

I think our biggest challenge is just getting moving and finding more energy. And of course for me... I keep hoping to catch a joy of cooking.  I love to bake and will make loaf after loaf of bread to perfect it but there is something about cooking that just doesn't do it for me.  But I really do need to transform into a chef.  That is unless some one knows Bobby Flay and he wants to just come live with us. We've got a great spot for him in the basement... as long as we aren't working out.

So join us every Monday and see how and what we are doing to make ourselves healthier.  I'll want to know what you are doing too!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Friday's Read & Write

So tired from yesterday's mondo weeding stint so this will be short. I'm still working through some books and mags that I already posted about because I've been writing more than reading.

My daughter also wants me to read Divergent by Veronica Roth so that is my new read for this week. I guess there is a movie based on the book coming out soon.  It was one of many books used for examples in Kidlit so I expect it to be good.  It is also Dystopian which is my favorite genre as of late.

Current favorite writing quotes:

Rick Riordan when asked via twitter, "How are you sure your ideas will come out good?"- "You accept that they won't on the first draft. That's okay. Revise, revise!

"Take out all the parts that suck and make the rest sound natural." - Laurie Halse Anderson

I love these quotes because they remind me that I don't have to be genius just tenacious! Writing well takes work.

Happy reading and writing!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Fighting The Curse!

In Genesis Chapter 3 God said to Adam, "Cursed is the ground because of you... It will produce thorns and thistles for you."

Yep!  Wonderful.

That is why we have this:

And this...

 And this...

But even in God's original plan we had work to do. In Genesis 2:15 it says, "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
...And so that is what we did today.  We worked hard fighting the curse of weeds and taking care of our little piece of blessing.  Not all aspects of homesteading are glamorous- actually very few are- but the rewards are bountiful when you see the finished product of all your hard work.
Nothing left but the mailbox, the day lilies and dirt. 
The plan is to chip fallen branches (from the backwoods of our property) and cover the dirt with chip mulch and then next spring put in some more plants.  I think lavender would be good.  What do you think?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Country Sundays are the best!

Spent a wonderful day of rest with my husband and my two youngest daughters on Sunday. The teens were off to Mid-Summer Lord's Day at Harbor Baptist Church in Holland so it was just parents and littles for the day.

The festivities started on the way home from church.  We were almost home and notice dust coming from the farm across from our house.  They are building a new barn to house their dairy herd but they don't usually work on it on Sundays.  As we drew closer we saw a cow out and about and then another... and another... and another.  They were running around the construction site, up and down dirt hills and out into the road having a marvelous time... at least 20 or 30 of them. (They have a dairy herd of 300'ish and a beef herd of around 100'ish.)

It isn't unusual for a calve to get out of its pen from time to time but this was the first time we had seen any bigs out.  We quickly put the car in reverse and went to go get the farmer.  He was just on his way out to catch them when we drove up and had his farm hands with him.  He thanked us and disappeared to corral cows.  They got them under control pretty quickly.

We found it all rather funny and I'm sure the farmer is glad we did.  Apparently the lady who we bought the house from was not amused by such happenings and was constantly complaining and making life hard for the farmer.  Now, he may be an industrial type farmer but I still respect what he does and appreciate the hard work it takes, not to mention I still buy my milk from the store so his service is vital to me. I don't understand why people don't treat farmers better.  Do they not like to eat?  This isn't Star Trek where replicators just make food appear.  Someone has to work hard to provide it! (I might add that this is a young farm family... second generation... we want to be an encouragement to them.)

After the cow excitement we spent the day relaxing outside.  (City daughter wasn't home to complain about the great outdoors.)  We had target practice, watched chickens, built a fire and roasted marshmallows and just in general had a marvelous technology free day!  I am so thankful for God and his wisdom to give us a day of rest.

 Daddy and daughters (Every girl needs a pink gun!)

 Reagan (Katniss Everdeen) Lewis

 Target Practice!

 Dancing in the great outdoors...
 Chickens on the move...
 The rare red-headed, blue clothed squirrel posing in her natural habitat! (There isn't a tree in our yard that she can't climb.)

Construction site across the street where the cows were playing.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Food From The Ground!

My "city daughter" wonders why we can't just buy our food from a store like normal people.  She did not get the "farmer" gene.  I however did and even though my gardens are messy (er, that means tons of weeds) there is just nothing like going out your back door and digging up dinner.  Here is a picture of the bounty we picked just the other day...

Zucchini, cabbage, carrots, jalapeno peppers, banana peppers, tomatoes, parsnips, beans, rutabagas, turnips, horseradish, dill, basil, patty pan squash and chard! Oh, and eggs from the chickens! So much more fun and rewarding to harvest your own rather then traverse the tiles of the grocery store under bad lighting!  I was going to say bad music too but then I remembered that the Musak playing now is from the 80's and were talkin' bout my generation!