A good day’s work

25 chickens butchered and in the fridge. (The husband of a sister of a friend got transfer orders to a base back east, and they sold us most of their flock, both pullets and old hens.)

Complete flock changeover, including rooster. All equipment cleaned up and bleached. One student who came to learn and went home with new knowledge and food for his fridge.

No pics, but definitely a sense of accomplishment.

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Homesteader Taco Soup

I got a hankering for taco soup, inspired by the Honey Aleppo Pepper Sauce from Trader Joe’s. Have you tried that sauce? I’m currently working my way through an instant addiction. I got inspired by the label, ordered seeds for the pepper, and made soup to try and capture the flavors. This meant a major trip to the pantry.

The 2-pound frozen brick of ground beef from last year’s heifer went into the instant pot for 55 minutes, along with a quart of homemade bone broth and a hefty sprinkling of sage, dried jalapeños, smoked Anaheims, dried rosemary, thyme, garlic, dried tomatoes and a teaspoon of salt.

Once that finished, I added about a quart of frozen corn (purchased fresh on the cob from a farm up the road), two cups each frozen onion, and bell peppers. I resealed the lid and gave it one minute at low pressure.

While that was heating back up, I briefly fried a few tablespoons of cumin, smoked and dried hot peppers (cayenne, Anaheim, jalapeño, and a random pepper assortment gifted me by a student this past summer), more rosemary, thyme, chives and garlic, ground all together in the blender and then fried in bacon grease from this year’s bacon.

Once the instant pot vented, I added a quart of homemade chicken broth, two quarts of (rinsed) Northern beans that I pressure canned awhile back, two cups frozen chopped kale and two pints of diced tomatoes from last year’s garden, the fried spices, a couple tablespoons of raw wildflower honey, and a bit more salt. Then it simmered on the sauté setting for 10 minutes or so.

I forgot to take pictures of the finished product. I’m pretty chuffed that it’s almost exclusively from ingredients grown here.

It’s vanishing pretty quickly…

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Family Snow Pics

Another blessing this year is a good friend of the family who is polishing up her photography chops, and took some fun pictures for us in the snow. We haven’t had a lot of snow this year, so we had to act fast when we had the opportunity!

Thank you, M!

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Delivery girl

Sometimes it’s just fun to deliver the goods and see people smile.

I took some homemade kefir across the mountains and introduced some friends to the joys of the homemade version.

I brought back goodies that they sent to a good friend, who promptly dug in and enjoyed them tremendously.

… and I got to hang out with everybody.

It was a good weekend!

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Return of the fizz

I’ve been struggling with getting my kombucha to carbonate; the flavor has been good, but the texture flat. I tried inoculating it with raw storebought brews; it would help for a week or so, then peter out. I tried adding champagne yeast, which did nothing. It didn’t seem to be too warm or too cold. I messed around with using different teas, which affected it not at all. I tried adding more sugar; I tried adding berries to the second ferment. Blueberries helped a little, strawberries didn’t do anything. I think I have finally hit on a solution that not only fixes the fizz, and it also creates a beautifully colored ‘buch as well.

I’ve been raising black raspberries for a few years, but this was the first year I had enough to freeze. I mashed up about a tablespoon of berries per 12 ounce bottle, and added about 1/4 teaspoon of mashed raw ginger.

The first bottle that I opened, cold from the refrigerator, bubbled all over the counter! The second wasn’t quite so energetic, but definitely carbonated and such a lovely color. The fizz is back!

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Dreary days call for desperate measures

It is dismal, dark, dreary and dripping outside today.

Time for hot chocolate with whip cream and sprinkles!

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New Year’s Eve Clam Chowder

Our family “tradition” – now in its third year or so – is to make clam chowder on New Year’s Eve. This helps at least provide some protein and other nutrition to counteract the sugar rush provided by our other traditional New Year’s Eve indulgences.

I don’t look at a recipe for chowder; it tends to be sort of “built” versus assembled. This year I unbent so far as to take pictures of the process, so a pseudo-recipe could be constructed from the various elements, if someone was so inclined.

I started with some of the shards of bacon that were left after we sliced this year’s bacon extravaganza.

While these were sizzling on low, I persuaded the horde to assist with some peeling and chopping. Among the victims were four Yukon gold potatoes that had been hiding in the fridge, some radishes – I would have used radishes exclusively and not included potatoes at all, if they hadn’t been lurking in crisper – a couple of carrots, and about a cup of onions that had been chopped and frozen from last year’s garden.

These were all added to pot to achieve a little browning in the bacon grease.

While we were achieving Diced Veggie Nirvana, I poured a mini bottle of dry white wine into a small pan to reduce and boil off some of the alcohol:

Once the wine was reduced and the vegetables softened, I added the main stars of the event: clams and clam juice:

Clams from Costco; Juice from Smart Foodservice, formerly known as Cash & Carry

This was all allowed to simmer for ten minutes or so. I stirred in a half teaspoon of salt and 1/4 t. pepper at this point.

In the meantime, I cheated. If I were doing it “properly”, I’d melt a couple tablespoons of butter, brown a couple tablespoons of flour in it, and slowly whisk in cup of milk till it was smooth and cooked. However, I hadn’t done it when I should’ve (i.e.: first), so I threw all those ingredients in the mini blender instead.

After blending to a fare-thee-well, this was then stirred into the chowder. As long as the flour is brought to a low boil in the chowder, it doesn’t leave a raw flavor, and there’s so much flavor in the rest of it that I didn’t miss the roux at all.

Once the chowder had just-barely boiled for a couple minutes, I stirred in a cup or two of heavy cream – and then declared it done.

We decided to experiment with white cheddar goldfish this year, and the kids unanimously preferred them to the more traditional oyster crackers.

I even brought out the china again, and nothing broke.

New Year’s Eve was declared a success.

And then we ate sugar.

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Food in jars

This time of year, we tend to eat a lot of food from jars. This was what I pulled from the pantry for meals today.

Breakfast was fruit smoothies, which utilized the kefir and the peaches. I’m marking up green beans with garlic and tarragon cream sauce, and a pie cherry compote. There will be some sort of Asian style soup made with the broth, which will also include frozen veggies from the garden as well as beef today we’ve raised.

We use (and reuse) a lot of jars!

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Blast from the past

I had a delightful interruption yesterday. I answered the door to find a young couple on my porch. The girl timidly introduced herself as the youngest daughter of the family that we purchased our home from; she was in town, and could she please see the house she’d grown up in one more time, and show her old stomping grounds to her boyfriend?

If you know me, you already know that this is absolutely my cup of tea. We had a blast; I took her all over the house and showed her the renovations that we’d made, and features we loved (turns out, the ones that we don’t like, they didn’t either!), and she told us awesome stories about the experiences she and her siblings had growing up here, and the trouble they got into… it was delightful!

She showed us the dent in the wall she’d made with her knee when she fell down the stairs, the misplaced tile in the basement that her sister had installed (we hadn’t noticed that it was rotated 90°), and told us that her dad still complains about the small size of the porch that the contractor didn’t make to his specifications. She loved the new floors (her description of the previous flooring to her boyfriend was hysterical!), and was gleeful about the new range and fridge.

We walked all over outside, too. She confessed she’d been worried that she’d discover that we’d let the land go to weeds, and not be utilizing it. I was tickled to show her my garden (I’ve tripled the size of the original), that their berry patch was still there, and had been radically expanded; the grape line was pruned and cherished; the trees were still standing and cared for. The rose bush her sister planted is cherished by Mr. Caffeinated; the waterfall her father created is my husband’s favorite feature. Her handprint (and her siblings’) are still frozen in the cement in the driveway. The backyard was her father’s pride and joy, and she said that they’d hosted numerous wedding receptions here.

We explored and talked for well over an hour! I invited her to come back when the plants are all in bloom, and enjoy it all over again. I’ve always been a bit trepidatious that members of the “original family” that saw what we’ve done would disapprove of our dispensing with the “way it was”, (not that it stopped us!) and it was incredibly heartwarming to receive such an enthusiastic endorsement direct from the source.

It was a beautiful way to start the new year!

Thank you, K!

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Berry patch: conquered!

I had a fantastic Sunday! First, I got invited to play at the Sunnyside Reformed Church, which not only has a fantastic piano, but their congregation actually sings. Speaking as a worship musician: we love it when a congregation joins in corporate worship, rather than viewing us as entertainment. Loved, loved, loved it. Rosebud led one of the songs and did a fine job, which also made me very proud and happy. I really love to play for worship, and it was a good one.

When we walked out of church, we discovered a sneak preview of Spring. It was sunny, 50°, and just beautiful. I wasn’t originally planning to work outside today, but it would have been a travesty to waste such gorgeous weather. So, after lunch, the boys and Mr. Caffeinated helped me tame the berry patch.

Before pics:

This summer’s raspberry transplants
5th year black raspberry row
2nd year black and red raspberry row
2nd year blackberry row

We actually picked enough black caps this last summer to satisfy everyone here, which took some doing. It really helped that we netted the whole patch. Much to my amazement, we were able to get the whole thing under control in one afternoon.

So much easier to harvest this way
Aren’t they beautiful?

I haven’t grown true blackberries before; we had just a few marionberry bushes on the farm growing up, so I’m training these like we trained those. If this doesn’t work, I’ll have to track down a blackberry expert and get some advice.

In the meantime, this concludes the annual pruning of all the edible perennials for the winter! Now – on nice days – I can focus on the ornamentals. If I can’t have snow… bring on the sunshine!

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