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Friday, December 30, 2011

I love to bake in winter when I have time

In summer I don't have time to spend in the kitchen baking, kinda lucky to just get meals cooked. But in winter I do have more free time to bake goodies. So when I was in the summer kitchen other day making stock I got out my old country cooking magazines and was flippin thru them and found some recipes that I had made a long time ago. One was a recipe for an orange layer cake that was so dang good. So I thought I would share the recipe with you. This make 2 layers 9 inches and the filling is more than enough and the frosting recipe will leave you enough to taste test..........a lot..



Orange Layer Cake

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup softened butter
1 tablespoon grated orange rind
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teas baking powder
1/4 teas baking soda
1/2 teas salt
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup orange juice
4 stiffly beaten egg whites

Prepare 2 - 9 inch cakes pans by buttering and lining with parchment paper and butter the paper and set aside.

Beat sugar, soft butter and orange rind till creamy. In separate bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Beat dry ingredients alternately with orange juice and water till smooth. In separate bowl whip egg whites stiff and gently fold into batter. Pour evenly into the prepared pans and bake in preheated 350 degree oven about 25 to 35 minutes till cake test done. Remove and cool on rack till completely cool

Orange Filling

In medium saucepan combine 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, 1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange rind, 1/2 teaspoons salt. Gradually blend in 3/4 cup orange juice and 1/4 cup water and 2 slightly beaten egg yolks. Cook over medium heat till simmering and thickened stirring constantly. Cool filling before filling the cake.

Orange Butter cream frosting

In mixer bowl cream 6 tablespoons soft butter, add 1 lb or 4 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon grated orange peel and a dash of salt then add in 4 tablespoons orange juice. Beat well with mixer till smooth adding more orange juice till frosting is smooth and creamy.

Put one layer of cake on desired serving platter and put filling on top of this layer only. Put other layer on top of filling and then frost the cake. Slice and serve. This is a very pretty and refreshing cake. You would have to work really hard to mess this recipe up.

This is just about all I have done today. But dang it the cake was so good and worth it. Not much else happening on the homestead this week as we have rain again. So till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.

Stella

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Keeping me occupied

In winter when there is not much going on with gardens and such, I try to tie up loose ends and do little things that I really didn't have time for in the busy season. Like on Monday, I got some chicken wings out of the freezer that I had froze due to time constraint and made some good chicken stock to can. I got it strained and then canned it next morning. I had also cook down the bones and dark meat from our Christmas turkey to make some turkey stock. All total I ended up canning up 9 quarts and 1 pint of stock for later use. I do use a lot of stock in cooking. And it is healthy for you. I cooked the turkey and chicken for about 2 hours each with a lil added vinegar and the bones could be mashed up with fingers. The left over bones were frozen for Luna and the cats for later. The bones and fat are good for the animals in winter.
Tomorrow is my birthday and seems like a good day to drag out all my saved garden seeds to go thru and see if there is anything I need to order. A friend told me that Baker Creek has already sold out of lots of their popular seed varieties. I know I have plenty of all the basics that I NEED, its just the lil things that I WANT that they may be out of. But I need to check my stock first before any order is placed. I do really want to find some Jacobs cattle beans to raise. I have eaten those and they are with out a doubt the best flavored beans I have ever eaten. Very mild in flavor, creamy smooth, nice brown color when cooked. And easy to grow from what I have read. So they will be on my want list this year. Then I just need to look at the catalog to see what else is available that I haven't raised yet and try at least one new thing this coming summer.
Tomorrow when I go out to get the eggs from the chicken house I think I will just divide the eggs between the 2 lil hens that are determined to set and raise babies. I know the last thing I need in cold weather is lil baby chicks but dang they just so cute and cuddly. But if the hens hatch em the hens can raise em. I will let you know how this works out for me.
Not much else happening here, so till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.

Stella

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas

Just thought I would post tonight just to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Hope you holiday is filled with goodness and blessings. No big plans here for Christmas tho. Rodger and I went to the city today for a few things. He actually was looking for some parts for our ancient corn planter that we use behind the tractor to plant corn. No luck tho, they haven't made the model we have in over 20 years so now he has to probably have the part fabricated. Today is Rodgers birthday so we did go out to eat while we were out of town. He had his usual steak and I had shrimp. Had to pick up a few things from Lowe's and Walmart too. I was surprised there were not too many people out shopping today. And the ones that were, were for the most part polite much to my surprise. Anyway we got our few things we needed and came back toward home. We did stop by Rodgers sisters house to drop off the sweet potatoes for his parents. We have had them since October and his parents just never find time to stop by and pick them up.
We got home and I decided to let my hens out for a bit. I usually gather the eggs when I let the hens out. I found 2 hens sitting in the nest boxes. Both of them wanting to set. Oh my, not this time of year. Don't know what brought this on but I sure don't need lil babies freezing to death in cold weather. So I will just let them sit on egg gourds and hope that makes em happy till they give up.

Not much else happening here, so till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.

Stella

Thursday, December 22, 2011

I like mastering new methods

I guess you could say I am a self taught cook of sorts. The things I learned to cook from scratch I learned after I left home and was married. I did watch my mom from a distance when she cooked but she always shuttled me out of the kitchen when I was young. So as far as cooking with her and actually cooking at home I did not. But anyway, in the kitchen, I think even the best of methods can be improved upon. One is cheese cake. I have made cheese cake in the past and I know it is basically a custard that is baked. And if you bake a custard it must be at low temps. To keep this temp in control it is easiest to do it in a water bath. So the method to my cheese cake making now includes setting the pan in another pan that contains water about half way up the sides of the pan in which the cake actually resides. So I will share with you the recipe that I use and if ya follow the method I guarantee a great creamy smooth perfect cheesecake.

First I pan prep. I do use a spring form pan. Butter the bottom of the pan and cut a piece of parchment paper to fit in the bottom and butter it as well. Now cut strips of parchment to cover the sides of the pan and butter those as well. If using a spring form pan, set pan on a large piece of aluminum foil and bring it up the sides of the pan to prevent water from the bath from soaking into the crust. Set aside while you make the crust.

Cheesecake

Crust:
33 graham crackers crushed and left chunky
1 stick of butter melted
1 tablespoon sugar

Mix crushed graham crackers, butter and sugar till mixed well and press this into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and lower oven temp to 250 degrees.

Cake:
20 ounces cream cheese softened
    1 ¼ cups sour cream
    1 cup sugar
    1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    2 eggs
    3 yolks
    1/3 cup heavy cream

In large bowl beat sour cream for 10 seconds, add in cream cheese and sugar and beat smooth. Mix together eggs , yolks and heavy cream and vanilla. Add about half of this mixture to cheese mixture and beat well, stop and scrape bowl. Continue beating and add remainder of egg mixture. Beat till very smooth and creamy. Pour into pan over crust. Set prepared pan inside a pan that is a lil larger and add hot water to come half way up the side of the cake pan. Put in the 250 degree oven for 1 hour. After it bakes for 1 hour, turn off oven and let cake sit in oven for another whole hour. At this point it should be set but a lil soft. Remove from oven and refrigerate for at least 6 hours. After it has cooled for 6 hours you can run a sharp knife around the sides and remove them. The cake should be firm enough to turn upside down on a plate and remove the bottom of the pan and parchment. Then cake can be turned right side up and it is ready to serve.
Cheese cake does not come out well if you use low fat ingredients as the fats are what give it the great smooth consistency. I think what makes this work so well is you are cooking the custard like filling in a water bath to prevent drying and cracking the top of the cake.

Well if ya haven't figured it out yet we are not having a traditional holiday of any kind at our house. But I will fix a nice meal this weekend that we can eat on all weekend and cheesecake will be our dessert. That is unless Rodger eats all the dang thing in 2 evenings. I still might make myself a Rum cake tomorrow. Just because I like those and I only make them once a year. Not much planned for us so we get to spend the holiday at home just chilling out and relaxing.
To each and everyone of you I wish a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and have a blessed holiday how ever you choose to celebrate the season. Just remember the reason for the season.

Stella

Sunday, December 18, 2011

I love winter and lazy days

Ya know, I might just be able to get used to this cold weather after all. It is nice to have all the garden and farm chores done for the season. Nice to spend weekends just lounging around doing nothing.  The only animals left to care for are the dogs, cats and laying hens and their 1 rooster. In winter Luna is allowed to sleep on the porch if she chooses because she will not under any circumstances get into an enclosed dog house. Although she comes in wet and the front porch looks pretty bad when its wet out. But ya know, shes my dog and its my porch. And I am not one to try to impress anyone. Even the cats will come up from who knows where and sleep on a couple of the chairs on the porch. And yep thas OK too. After all they do keep the mice and lil critters at bay and they are fed here so I think they earn their keep. The chickens get to run out in the afternoons after it warms up outside and they make their share of messes in the yard. They always run up to the porch when I go outside expecting to get treats. Its OK if they make some messes, they provide us with lots of eggs so they too earn their keep. So this time of year with no worries of mowing the yard and keeping the yard tidy the critters get  free run. Now in spring it will be my turn to fill in holes they make and straighten up what damage if any they do in the yard.
I had raised lots of parsley in my herb bed this summer and dried a good bit and froze some. I thought the heavy frost we have had would have killed the last of it. But it is still green and pretty and still growing. I cut a bit bowl full today and brought it in, washed and chopped it up and froze it for garish and flavor in lots of things we cook. Jason had brought his truck around here today to have Rodger help him find the leak in his brakes and they worked on it for a few hours. In the end they finally had to take it to the garage where we get tires so they can put all new brake line on it. It was getting up toward afternoon so I decided to fix a late breakfast. We had homemade biscuits, homemade sausage, homemade deer ham, homegrown eggs and gravy for breakfast/lunch/supper. Rodger likes the deer ham. This is the first time we have made it. When they harvested deer I put the same salt/sugar cure on the deer hind quarters that I use on country pork hams. It really tastes a lot like pork country ham except it is leaner.
Our country hams and bacon are curing out nicely in the meat house. Maybe during the Christmas holiday while the guys are off work we can slice one of the sides of bacon. My favorite is the jowl bacon. It just has more flavor than side bacon. We really don't want to cut up to much of the cured meat right now. If ya cut into it ya have to freeze it and we don't have freezer room right now. We have half a beef that will be here in early February that will more than refill the freezers. I think I may end up canning a bit of the beef too. I know I will make so good rich nourishing stock with the beef bones. It will be nice knowing the meat is from an animal that has been well cared for and is healthy. The more I think about it, I think we eat pretty much organic here. All are veggies are home raised. We if ya exclude a few times they had to be sprayed to save the crop. Our chickens are all raised without steroids. Are hogs were raised without steroids and such. The hens get corn and forage for most of their food. The feed they do get has no antibiotics or steroids in it. Oh well, for us its just a way of life.
Not much else happening here, so till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.

Stella

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Beautiful weather in mid December

Our weather today was more spring like than what we normally expect for the middle of December. Warm, sunny, really nice to be out. I went out to town today to the eye doc to order my contact lens. As it would be they did not have my prescription in stock for me to try so I go back next week to pick up a trial pair. Then I can order new ones. Maybe then I can see good. While I was out I went to check on mom at the nursing home. She ask me if I would go get her a pack of cookies to snack on so I did that. I actually got her a bunch of snacks and a new set of sheets for her bed and some other goodies. She actually liked them. I was surprised. She seems to be doing pretty good, a lil more pleasant these days than she normally is. She had fallen last week and got banged up a bit. I think they told her she had some stress fractures in her spine. Not sure if that was from the fall or osteoporosis.
I came home and went to check on the laying hens. I have one lil hen that will not lay in the nest box. She will hold it till I let them out in the evening and she makes a quick trip up the hill to the woods and a few minutes later announces she has laid an egg. She was standing at the door with her legs crossed nearly when I filled their feeders. But I didn't let them out so she has no choice but to use the next box. At least I hope!
Jason has been getting his gas heat hooked up the past few days. In the past the price of propane had prevented him from having a big tank set and filled. But we have a couple of the 100 lb cylinders so he is using them to run his heaters. Although the weather has not been too cold we think this will be a more economical way to heat.
Not much else happening on the farm. So till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.

Stella

Friday, December 9, 2011

Finally time to relax

I think I may have got caught up on my sleep and rested a bit. Pheww its been a long week tho. Our weather turned cold, well cooler, in the 40's during the day and 20's at night. I think my thermometer lies tho as it was saying 55 today. It was warm enough that I got some things done outside. I keep rain barrels set under the downspouts of the brooder house in summer to catch rain water for the chickens. I had 2 full barrels that I had to dip the water out of, drain and store. I had to use a small bucket because my elbow is still a good bit sore. but mission accomplished. Then I thought it might be a good time to clean up the summer kitchen and mop the floor out there. I cleaned the counters and stove real good and took up the rubber mats and mopped the floor. It does look and smell better in there. As you know I let the guys hang deer in there to cool during the season with the AC on. Well the last deer drained a bit and must have leaked thru the tarp they put on the floor. The blood and water had seeped under the rubber mats in there and left a rank odor. So when I took the mats up some of them were stuck to the floor and pulled up some of the paint off the concrete. But now its all clean and disinfected. It will stay that way till I come up with something else to can and make a mess.
This weekend I hope I can enlist Rodgers help with getting the freezers organized a lil better. I cant get to the chicken, it is under 2 frozen turkeys and 2 butt end hams and some various packs of pork. The deer meat is under more layers of packs of pork. And the big freezer is a whole different animal. By the way I did go in the cellar to have a look see at the jars of lard from the weekend. When we made the lard and it was strained but still very very hot we ladled it into clean but used half gallon pickle jars. Put the lids on and when the lard cooled the jars sealed up nicely. It will keep stored in this manner for more than a year or until I use it up.
Not much else happening here, so till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.

Stella

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The souse is done and so am I

On Monday I scrubbed the hogs head parts that had been soaking in salt water over night and got those all cooked to make souse. I left them in the pressure canner to cool over night so I could pick out the bones and chop the meat up. So on Tuesday that is what I did. I got an early start and got all the meat off the bones and into a pan to wait for seasoning. The bones I put in zip top bags and into the freezer for Luna and Delilah as they need em. Once the bones are out of the meat and the meat chopped. Add back to the meat some of the stock for the pot till the mixture is the thickness of mashed potatoes. Stir well and put into a heavy bottom kettle to cook. I used my enameled cast iron dutch oven.


 I did mine in batches. Add salt, black pepper, and sage to taste. It should have a slight hint of garlic from garlic powder and a notable taste of sage. Stir the seasoning into the meat.



In this 2 gallon kettle half full of meat I added about 1 cup of fine ground plain cornmeal. Stir in and turn on the heat and stir often and let it bubble for about 20 minutes.



I pour the souse into cake pans once it has cooked to let it set. The meat will get firm and can be sliced. Today I went to the summer kitchen and cut the souse into small blocks and wrapped it in plastic wrap and into the freezer. Once it freezes I will vacuum seal it to make it last longer. The fat content being very high and a cooked food it will get rancid fairly quick.
So now if some gives you a fresh hogs head you will know what to do with it. Although this is not something that everyone will eat. It is sometimes called head cheese or scrapple and to us in appalachia it is souse.

We have had drizzle all day today and it has been cold. Was kinda nice to work in the summer kitchen and not need heat or AC. I let the hens out while I was outside but they didnt seem to care much for the cooler weather either. The young pullets are laying pretty good. I get 5 or 6 eggs per day. So I have lots of nice eggs for baking. So maybe tomorrow I can stay in and bake something good.
Till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.

Stella

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A long weekend left me very tired

Gosh after all the hard work this past weekend butchering hogs. I had cut the hogs heads up to make souse and put them in a large container to soak in salt water overnight. I got up early cause I went to bed with the chickens last night and got the house cleaned up from the paddling in an out all weekend, laundry done and all. I headed to the summer kitchen to get the meat cooking to make the souse. I got the chunks of meat out of the salt water and washed it well and scrubbed it really good with a clean brush to get all the bone fragments off. Put all this in the pressure canner with about 4 quarts of water and set it to cook for about 3 hours. Got all the empty totes washed up and ready to store for winter. By then it was time to cook supper. After the fellers got home from work we ate supper and after I got all that mess cleaned up I went back outside to the summer kitchen and turned the pressure canner off so it could cool down over night. So tomorrow I get to stick my hands in the cooker and get out all the bones and chop all the meat up and finish the souse making. Souse is one of those  things you either love it or hate it. Well most of em here hate it, so guess what? More for me.  I do intend to make pickled pigs feet too as soon as I get done with the souse. And no one likes those either.
We are getting rain tonight and the temps are supposed to drop some and we are to get snow flurries tomorrow and later in the week. So I guess it is about time for me to hibernate. Or at least to take a break and try to get some rest. Yeah that sounds like a good plan. So till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.

Stella

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The last butchering is done

As I posted a few days ago this weekend was the end of the hogs. We got them both butchered on Saturday. The hams, shoulders, and middlings were all trimmed and had the cure on them before days end. We actually worked them up individually not killing them both and then doing all the trim work. So by dark-thirty we had the lard cut, tenderloin sliced, ribs cut, sausage meat ready to grind then loaded up an came back here to the summer kitchen. That is where we ground the sausage and got it packaged for the freezer. After we got all the stuff put in the freezer that needed to be except grinding the sausage we did get a lil break and had time to eat a sammich. It was not a long break and then we got after the sausage. Jason, Josh, Daniel and I finally got in the house for the night around midnight. That was a long day and we were worn out.
Just a few shots of the butchering process so look away if you have a weak stomach.

Saturday was a nice day to butcher, not hot but not freezing cold either. This is the first hog after we got him cleaned. They were a lot bigger than I thought they would be. The crane on the work truck was sure handy this weekend. 


I got the camera as the guys get started gutting the animal. But sometimes only one person can work at a time.


Of course when we were cutting the hogs head up to make souse meat the fellers thought it was a good time to play. Kinda gory looking at best. Actually Daniel took some photos to send to his young daughter Gracie that would have loved to have been here to do this stuff her self.
This looks like one of the characters from the movie Ice Age. Some parts of the hog head don't get put in the souse.



Ah ain't Jeremiah cute with his lil hog hair mustache?   I think we were all tired enough to be silly.

We made lard today. I had my jars ready and after straining out the cracklings I had Jason just ladle the hot lard into clean half gallon jars and we put the lids on em. As they cool they will seal and this keeps the lard fresh for much longer.
All this activity took place at Jason's house and I could not resist giving his dog Dehlia the pigs tail when we got it cut off. She was in her pen and after we gave her the pig tail she started whining. And when Jason went to check on her she had the tail in her mouth. He opened her pen and let her out and she made a beeline to the woods to bury the pigs tail. She didn't have a good place inside her pen to bury her goodies so she was begging to get out. She is a sweet girl.
As of now the meat is all taken care of except the souse making process. That might take place tomorrow if I can move once I get out of bed. All this hard work has been really hard on my body. Maybe a good nights rest will help some. Not much else happening around here right now, so till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.

Stella




Friday, December 2, 2011

Not quite time for hibernation yet, not long tho

We are almost done with the fall butchering and chores here and not too long I can finally hibernate for winter. I guess thas the one reason I like winter time so much is that there is not a lot to things to be done out side and I can stay in and do things I really want to do. Not having to rush around doing the things that need to be done. But in the meantime, this weekend is hog butchering time for us. We have 2 to do this year. One for us and one for Josh and his family. We are trading one for half a beef that we just found out we cant get slaughtered till sometime in February. But thas OK, it will just give us time to use some of the other meat used out of the freezers. I spent most of today getting my tools in shape and ready for tomorrow. I got the knives sharpened, all my tubs and totes cleaned up and ready, the salt cure mix is mixed and ready. The jars are ready to put the lard in the following day. I got the wrapping paper, and zip top bags ready for the meat that will go in the freezers. Rodger got us a nice meat grinder so we don't have to use the hand crank one to do prolly 50 lb or more of sausage. All the herbs and seasoning is ready to season the sausage tomorrow. The batteries are charging for the reciprocating saw that we use to cut the hog up or at least cut thru the bones that need cut. It takes a good bit of time to work up the meat from a big hog. All the lean trimmings will get cut into sausage meat and then ground, the lard will need to be cut, pork chops, tenderloin all cut up, and ribs cut and packaged for the freezer. Then it will take most of Sunday to render the lard. Monday is the day I will take to make the souse meat or head cheese or scrapple, depending on where ya from. Love the stuff but I am the only one.
Well Mom was finally released from the hospital last night and she got to come back to the nursing home here in town. She is doing better but still quite sore. She was in pretty good spirits today when I went to see her tho, which was good for a change. She still has some congestion and pneumonia and still has to take antibiotics for several more days but that is improving as well. Thanks for all the concern and prayers.

I got the nicest surprise in the mail today.


This is a handy tote bag made from burlap and lined with cotton fabric. Hand made by a blogger friend in Georgia. Thanks so much G, I love it. It will hold all my odds and ends when I travel. And I will take it with me when I travel. lol Merry Christmas to you and your mom, thanks so much for the lovely bag and a big hug for ya both. God bless.

As I was outside the other day plundering around I noticed these strange looking things growing at the base of the bird feeder post. Yeah I know I will try to grow most anything but I DID NOT plant crabs in an attempt to grow crab meat. These things feel much like softened rubber and are hollow. Anybody know what they are?

Strange looking specimens to say the least and I have never seen anything like them. Gremlins, aliens maybe?  So far the frost has not killed em. Not many exciting things happening around here on the farm. So till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.

Stella

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Too wet to plow and we cant dance

We have had rain today and its kinda cool out there. Sure does make the joints hurt a good bit. I think traveling in a vehicle makes me hurt more than standing or walking these days. Jason and I had to go to Lexington yesterday afternoon to check on mom. The nursing home here had failed to notify me that she had been sent out and admitted to the hospital with a gall bladder attack. Did I mention how pissed I am over that? They will hear from me in the morning and probably wont like it. Mom had surgery this morning and the doc said all went well with the surgery. I am sure it will be a rather long recovery for her with her being so uncooperative and all. Just pray she don't get pneumonia or other complications. I will be back down there tomorrow to check on her again.
As for things here on the farm. Rodger did get the rest of the corn picked yesterday while Jason and I were gone. We will have plenty of corn for cornmeal and what ever else we decide to do with it. We already have a good amount shelled for the chickens this winter so they will be happy when it gets cold. They eat more corn as the weather gets colder. The starch helps them produce body heat and they stay warmer and lay better too.
Yesterday while we were out of town and in the big city Jason bought me an enameled cast iron dutch oven that I had wanted for a long time. They are great for browning roasts and such and then can go straight to the oven with fear of unseasoned a regular cast iron dutch oven. I tried it out today and made a venison roast for a late lunch. It turned out great, moist, tender and tasty. I also made homemade rolls. Yeah I cheat and use the bread machine to knead the dough then I shape them and let them proof and bake. The 3 of us ate 18 large rolls.
Not much else happening here right now on the farm. So till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.

Stella

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Home at last!

After 2 weeks of cooking at the hunting lodge for deer hunters I am back home to the organized chaos here at home. I did enjoy cooking for the guys and they seemed to enjoy the homemade meals as well. But we didn't have hunters scheduled for the last weekend of the hunting season so I decided to head on home. I left my aunts on Wednesday morning and intended to stop off and see my friend Rosie and her family. I called several times and didn't get an answer so I had to assume they maybe were away for the day. So I will go back sometime in December and visit with them for a day or so. I made it to my house about 5:30 last evening. I was worn out from driving 350 miles straight. Long trips are really hard on my body with all this arthritis. It is nice to be home. I vaguely remember laying down in bed last night till I was out like a light.
We had Thanksgiving dinner with Rodgers family today. I took homemade rolls to dinner. I talked to Rob yesterday and he and Amoy were cooking a turkey today too. This evening he said it was great, the first one they had cooked at their house on their own. Sure would have been nice to have them here with us for the holiday. Miss my kids a bunch.
When I got home Rodger and Jason had already processed the deer they had and all the meat was in the freezer. So I didn't have to do that when I got here. Next weekend we are killing hogs and some of that meat goes in the freezer. Then I think in mid December we get half a beef for the freezer. So we should be pretty well set for meat for the year. When I was at deer camp a fellow from North Carolina gave me a nice big deer. He just wanted the horns and not the meat and gave it to me. I am salt curing the hams or hind quarters off the deer. It should end up very much like country ham. I just mixed equal parts Kosher salt and brown sugar and lots of black pepper, cayenne pepper and rubbed it liberally into the deer meat while it still had some body heat left. It looks like it is curing well. So will let you know how it tastes. I sliced the back strap and froze that for steaks for us.
Rodger is hoping to get our corn picked this weekend. He was planning on doing that last weekend but we got tons of rain here. But it should be dry enough by Saturday to get it in. I am hoping. Then after the hog killing next weekend I can hibernate for the winter.
Not much else happening here, so till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.

Stella

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Up to date and now out of town

I think maybe over the weekend I finally got some things caught up on the homestead and ready for the winter. Well with exception of the things that have not been killed back by frost. In our area down on the river we have not had a good killing frost yet this fall. My strawberry plants are still green and making runners like crazy. Really don't want to put mulch on those till they get killed back or they will freeze out when it gets cold because they try to keep living under the mulch and don't go dormant. Same with the asparagus bed. I did get the herb bed dead-headed and all the junk raked off it last weekend. It does look better and not so much like a jungle in the yard. It will get a layer of mulch as soon as we get a good frost.
I had an eye doctor appointment this morning and then left town to come to west Ky to help Aunt Ann with her hunting lodge and cook for the deer hunters. I will likely be here till after Thanksgiving.. Most likely leave the Monday after Thanksgiving and head over to central Ky to visit my friend Rosie and spend the night then on home the next day. I will only get a couple days to rest up then we butcher hogs. Maybe I can take a long break after the second week of December. All that kinda depends on whether or not Rodger gets our corn picked this week. If it is dry enough he is going to get the corn in and if not that will get put off till later. Deer season for modern fire arms opens this coming weekend here in Ky and every male I know is heading out somewhere to hunt. Rodger will be hunting with Josh the first weekend of season and then Jason will hunt with Josh the second weekend. Hopefully they will get a few deer for meat for the freezer. It cost a small amount to travel to hunt but is cheap as compared to buying the same amount of meat from the grocery and much more healthy for you. If they get more than a couple I know I will have to can some of the meat as we wont have freezer space. It will be close with some hog meat that needs to be frozen and then a half a beef in early December. But we will be set for the year. With that in mind, I may not get to rest when I get back home from working out here. I may be busy as a cat covering it up canning venison. But that's a good thing.
Will up date as the week progresses here and try to keep you all abreast of what is happening on the homestead too.
Till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead on the road.


Stella

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Butchering, canning cushaw, prepping for winter

Our weather turned colder this weekend after a couple days of rain. The rain is always needed but I could live without the cold weather. After the sun came out yesterday it wasn't too bad. Rodger and I got out and got the 2 deer skinned out and the meat processed for the freezer. I takes a while to skin, de-bone and cut up the meat and grind the burger. So now we have a good bit of meat in the freezer. The deer had been hanging for about 2 weeks in the summer kitchen with the air conditioner running to keep it cool. That method seemed to work well. I had some other projects that needed to be done. One of which was butcher off the 3 excess roosters we had. So the plan was we butcher them today. Last evening 2 of the buff roosters didn't come back to roost. I guess they went across the road and it got dark and they couldn't find their way back up here. Needless to say something made a meal of one of them. But we still got the other 2 butchered and I made the stock and got that canned up this after noon and Rodger cleaned the building and put down fresh straw for the pullets. He moved the nest box in the building for them as well. They all will need it soon hopefully. One hen is already laying. While I waited on the stock to cook down I figured I may as well make use of the time I had out in the summer kitchen. I cut up and peeled 2 of the big cushaws and got those ready to can. So they were all cubed up, I washed them, packed them into quart jars, covered with water, put the lids on and pressure canned them for 40 minutes. By time the chicken stock was done the cushaw only liked a few minutes. I still had time to chop the green tomatoes that I had picked last evening before they got frosted on. I had 8 bags of those to freeze for fried green tomatoes later on. We also chopped a quart zip top bag of bell peppers to freeze. I am sure my joints will hate me tomorrow for using my hands all day. But for now I think the preserving is caught up. At least till the first weekend in December when we butcher hogs. That will be a killer big job. That will be a lot of meat to process. The hogs will both be killed the same day, then the lard rendered the second day. But if the fellers get more deer during modern gun season we will have those to process as well. Plus the half of beef we are getting too. I may can some of the deer meat for sure this year. With the beef I really don't think I will have any freezer space. But that is a good thing. We just know we will have a good supply of meat on hand to do us till next fall.
It has been a long day for sure. So till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.

Stella

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Homesteaders convention, first egg

At the request of some friends I will share with you all some of the pictures from the homesteaders convention or meet-up last weekend.
 

Above left to right: Deb Todd, Tony (whtdrgn), Tonys wife Karen, Rick(KyHome), Randy(rwwoodcock).


 Deb and Mark in the chicken plucking competition. Great job to all participants. Now Rosie has some chickens in the freezer and hopefully some folks learned a few tips on butchering and cutting up birds.


Randy and I decapitating chickens getting ready for the chicken plucking competition.


Rosie and Sam plucking their chicken while I coach and Sheryl (dachsmom) looks on.


Rick holding a dead nekkid bird. Not sure if he is happy about this task or not. But he did a great job.


Not sure if Randy is going up or coming down. lol Actually he is demonstrating how to set snares for catching small game .


Above left to right: Sheryl (dachsmom), Don (12v), Mark and the back side of Rosie.


Above left to right: Mark Todd, Deb Todd (hippiechick), Sam and Rosie, the host for the homesteader get together. 


Randy, myself and Danny (dgr's hubby) looking for the handle to the iron skillet we had burned out in the bonfire the night before. One skillet cracked and lost a handle, the other 2 came out fine. They are in the process of being re seasoned.


 Back on the farm. Rodger took feed out to the chicken house for me this evening and found this in the chicken house. This is the first egg from my young pullets. So I know I have at least 1 Easter egger out there. The other pullets should follow suit shortly as they are all about the same age.

Not much else happening here on the farm. So till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.

Stella








Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Time to start putting things to bed

Its time for us to start putting some thing in the gardens to bed for winter. The weather was really nice today so I got out and got started weeding and cleaning out some of the beds here at the house.I had planted herbs in what used to be my strawberry pyramid and had 1 huge tomato plant in there as well. The chickens kept eating the tomatoes so I pulled the vine out. I had no idea that tomato plants had roots that large. I used my lil gardening fork to get out all the weeds and stir up the soil a bit. It looked much neater when I got finished. I secured the netting around the bed to keep the chickens from digging all the soil out or making a dust bath in there. Then I got the asparagus bed dead-headed. I still need to get the lil weeds out of there and get mulch put in for winter. But somehow I got sidetracked like I am known to do and moved on to the big herb bed out front. I had made the mistake of planting a couple castor bean plants out there and they were far too big to pull out. I had Rodger cut them down with a hatchet and disposed of them finally. I got the spent basil pulled out and off the compost. The seed from the basil had dried on the plants and fallen to the ground. So next year they will come up and hopefully I wont have to start basil plants. Basil is an annual but will reseed itself if left the mature in place. I found a couple tiny lil Mexican sour gherkin plants in the herb bed as well. I guess I missed a few lil cukes at harvest time and they sprouted and came back up. For the most part the new section of the herb bed is done and waiting mulch. I still need to get the mints deadheaded and ready to mulch in. Rodger was going to help me do that this evening but it started to rain right after he helped get the castor bean plants out. We are supposed to have rain for a couple days and the temps will drop to around 30 at night an high of 50 in the daytime. I have been really lazy this week when I should have gotten my chicken house cleaned out and fresh bedding put in for the pullets. They should start laying real soon. It will be nice to have my own eggs again. My friend Deb brought me enough to last us for a couple weeks till mine get busy.
Our plan for the weekend is to get the 2 deer skinned out and the meat processed this weekend. It will be nice to have extra meat in the freezer again. In the past year we may have purchased 20 lb of meat total. We raise all our own veggies and have our own meat here on the farm. I know it is healthier for us and we know how the meat was handled.
Not much else happening here on the farm right now. So till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.

Stella

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Visiting new friends, fall chores

This past weekend I went to central Ky to meet some new friends that I have talked to online for a couple years. All of them homesteaders like us. I really enjoyed meeting these nice folks and learned some things along the way. Don and Sheryl came down from Ohio, they live totally off-grid on solar power. Don is a genuis when it comes to all things solar. He brought along some solar panels and set those up to charge batteries so he could show a movie on Saturday evening. Really neat.  My friend Deb and her hubby Danny came up from Mississippi and brought their camper. I slept in their camper over the weekend and as usual Deb and I sat up late talking and visiting.  She brought a bunch of 2 and 5 gallon food grade buckets to share with folks that could use them. She gets them for free in her town. I was tickled pink to have buckets. They are great for storing dry goods in the cellar. Things such as flour, sugar, cornmeal, bags of pasta and such. We cant get buckets near us and if you do they cost $5 each. Randy came to the homesteaders convention. He only lives a short piece from Rosie. Randy demonstrated setting snares to catch small game for food.  My good friends Rosie and Sam hosted the event at their place. Tony and Karen came to visit and sit around the bon fire with us and make smores.  Rick lives about an hour from Rosie and he drove down on Saturday to spend the day with us. Deb and Mark live nearby and are good friends with Rosie and Sam. They both spent the weekend with us. I had met Deb before and it was nice to spend some time with her and get to know her. She brought her spinning wheel and demonstrated spinning wool. As for me, I got talked into butchering some chickens to demonstrate how to do it efficiently. So hopefully now every one can feel a lil more confident in their butchering skills. Deb did a video of the chicken butchering process. I think she is goin to upload it to youtube and when she does I will post the link here for you all to see if you wish.  There was plenty of good food all weekend. And lots of good times visiting with friends. Rosie made a primitive cooker to cook a stew in on Friday night. It was made by putting a large stock pot in a large box. Pack hay or straw around the cooker. Remove the cooker and cover the straw with a sheet leaving the empty spot for the cooker to go back in later. Start the stew of your choice in the pot and bring to a boil. Set the pot back in the space you made in the straw inside the box, put a lid on and cover that with a heavy blanket. Let cook for 5 to 6 hours or till ready to eat. They stew will continue to cook inside the pot with heat held by the straw. A really neat idea to conserve fuel in times of shortage. I think we all left on Sunday looking forward to the next get-together.
I came home from the weekend very tired. Although we had a great time, I was exhausted. I got home on Sunday and unloaded most of the stuff in my truck. Monday I think I slept most of the day. I had a bunch of buckets in my truck that needed to be thoroughly cleaned so I can use them to store my flour, sugar and such in the cellar. Now I need to get the 50 lbs of flour out on the freezer and let it come to room temperature and get it in those buckets. I did manage to get my pantry here in the kitchen organized a lil better today too. All my jars of home dried herbs had labels on the lid but to find what ya need you had to take all the jars out to read the label. Now I have labels on the sides as well so they are easier to see. Maybe that will save some time when I am baking or cooking. If it dont rain tomorrow I hope to get my herb bed cleaned up and ready for winter. The asparagus bed and onion/strawberry beds also need to be put to bed for winter. Our weather is supposed to turn colder and wet later this week. I am just not ready for winter. I love the pleasant mild weather of fall most of all. At least it comes around once a year to be enjoyed.
Till mext time ,blessings from the McGuire homestead.

Stella

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Photos of fall around here

Today as I was outside just walking around checking on the herb bed and different planting here I did take some photos. For this late time in fall lots of things are still green and growing. My friend Sheri sent me seeds for Red House Free Standing tomato. It amazes me at how green and healthy the plant is after all the others are gone.


I even had a couple of tomatoes on this plant that were ripe. In the background of this photo is the parsley I planted this year that has done great and still growing.
The Castor beans are huge. These plants make risin in the soil to deter moles. I cant say we have even had moles in the whole yard this summer.


I am thinking I will have plenty of Castor bean seeds for next year. Folks around here call them "dog ticks" as that is what the seeds look like. We have not had any moles in our yard or my herb bed all summer and had bunches of them last year when I didn't have Castor beans. So maybe they work.


The photo above is my stevia plants. They are supposed to get sweeter with cooler weather in fall so they are still out. Just have to make sure they don't get frost bit.
Not a lot happening here, so till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.

Stella

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Typical Fall Week

The weather has been great this week, just typical fall weather. Not too hot, not too cool. Most of my week has been spent trying to recover from jet lag. Today I went to visit Mom and got back home around noon. We had rain yesterday and again today. With the gentle rain lots of the leaves have come down as well. Still lots of color and beauty around tho. Ah, my favorite season. As fall approaches and winter is close it only means for me a short time of rest. But before that there is still lots to do. The fellows are gonna be deer hunting this weekend. They have all their stuff together to hunt this weekend and I guess my job is to provide the food to keep em happy. I made 2 loaves of bread and some chocolate chip cookies this evening for them. I guess tomorrow they will decide what else they want to eat. They will hunt Saturday and Sunday then back to work on Monday. Next weekend some friends from BHM forum are getting together in central Kentucky for the weekend. I am so looking forward to that meet up. Should be a busy fun weekend for all of us.
After that weekend outing I should be able to be home for almost 3 weeks then its off the cook for a bunch of deer hunters in west Kentucky. That should be fun. I helped my aunt with that project last year and it was nice. That should keep me busy till the Monday after Thanksgiving and then I will be home for good hopefully. I really need to get busy and do my part of planning the menu for the hunting camp or my aunt Ann might get a lil nervous not having a plan. And she surely don't need more stress in her world. With the fellows out of the house this weekend maybe I can sit still and think and get a plan together.
I still don't have my cushaws canned yet. Rodger did put them in the cellar for me while I was away so they are OK. I would just like to have them all canned and ready to use. I think I will be taking some of them with me to the BHM meet up and some butternut squash as well to share with some friends there. Good thing I started a list of thing I need to take with me to that event.
Not much else happening here. So till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.

Stella

Monday, October 10, 2011

Home on the homestead again

I am back home at last on the farm. I had a wonderful week visiting with my son Rob and daughter-in-law Amoy last week in Nevada. When I got there the weather was really nice and warm, then by mid week it got cold and snowed a bit. There weather changes more than Kentucky weather I do think. Good thing I had taken my long johns with me.
They picked me up on Friday night in Salt Lake City, we had a late dinner and then drove on the Elko and finally got the their house about 3 AM on Saturday morning. I think we all slept in on Saturday and then they took me for a drive to the mountains. It is hard to believe there was still snow on some of the higher mountains in Nevada after all the hot weather we all had this past summer. But here is proof.




You can still see the white snow on top of the mountains in the distance. And it was warm enough at this distance up the canyon for short sleeves. When we got to the end it was cold enough for a sweat shirt.


Somebody is pregnant! Guess who? Yes we are expecting our first grandchild in April. Cant wait to be a Grammy. But that don't mean the lil grand dog will get replaced tho.

It was a really nice drive and the weather was good that day. Later in the week, well not so much. This is the view from Rob and Amoy's back door. I was not ready for snow and winter weather on my vacation.
I am sure the yard will look different in spring after they get the landscaping done and have actual grass instead of tumble weeds. In the mean time its a nice sandbox for the dog. 
When I got home to the farm it was short sleeve weather here but we are to get some rain later in the week along with cooler temps. While I was away Rodger got our garden turned under and its ready to seed down. Jason had bought some hard red winter wheat to sow for a cover crop. The plan is to only plow under part of the wheat next spring for a garden spot and let the rest of the wheat mature and harvest it for grinding. Rodger also picked the last of the bell peppers before he plowed and I got those all sliced up and in the freezer today. They also got all our potatoes put in crates and in the cellar. The sweet potatoes are still in the barn curing before they get put away.Rodger also stored my butternut squash and cushaws in the cellar for me too.  Tomorrow I really need to spend some time cleaning up my herb bed and getting it ready for winter. And its time to sow onion seeds too. So that will be on my list for tomorrow as well before the rain comes on Wednesday or Thursday. 
Not much else happening here right now, so till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.

Stella

Monday, October 3, 2011

Blogging from across the country

It has been a while since I last posted here. Gosh I am so slacking. But just to update a little bit. Last Friday September 30th I flew out of Lexington headed to Nevada to see Rob and Amoy and spend some time with my kids. Should be back on the farm about October 9th. They picked me up in SLC airport on Friday night and we had a late dinner and drove on to their home in Elko Nevada. Kinda made for a long night for them not to mention me jumping time zones. But we arrived home late and went to bed. I vaguely remember laying down. We have had really nice weather so far. On Saturday we drove up to Lamoile canyon just sight seeing. It was a nice drive. It always amazes me to see snow still on some of the mountain tops after the hot summer we have had. It is a nice change of pace to see different places of beauty that God has created.
I am happy to know the kids have bought a really nice home in what seems to be a good quiet neighborhood. It is good that they have bought a home because now there is to be a lil one in April of next year. Might not be hard to figure out that I am gonna be a Grammy. Oh my!! I have the lil granddog Abby and now a real lil baby. I do feel so blessed.
Not much happening out here this week, this gram will just relax and enjoy my vacation. Till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead on the road.

Stella

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Butchering and canning

We have been busy this weekend. We did manage to get the fryers butchered off. So now we have about 12 pullets left and 1 rooster and meat in the freezer. I made stock of the boney part and canned that. I think I ended up with about 5 gallon in various size jars. The thigh meat was de-boned and cut in bite size pieces and canned as teriyaki chicken. Some really tasty stuff. I got the recipe from SheChef's blog here. It is simple to make as well for a quick meal.
Yesterday after we finished butchering for the day Jason left to go pick up feed for the hogs. The lady that runs the lil feed store where we all buy feed gave him about 3/4 of a bushel of nectarines. He came back and ask me if I liked em. Well heck yeah I do. So he brought in the box and no way we could eat that many fresh so I canned those while the chicken was cooking to make stock. I had 12 pints and 3 quarts of nectarines. They are really pretty as they make the liquid blush pink when they are cooked.
After we finished butchering today Rodger went to the garden and dug into the sweet potatoes to see how they might turn out. Oh my, they are big and there is several in each hill. I think we planted over 100 plants. I somehow think we are going to have too many sweet taters too. Hopefully we can sell the excess. We can use maybe 2 bushels in a year. It is the time of year we need to keep a check on the weather for frost. If it frost on the sweet potato vines it makes the taters rot in storage. Don't need that for sure as they have to be stored in the house.
Not much else happening around here for now. So till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.

Stella

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ooops!!

Yep I had a oops week. I did really good not smoking till we went to the grocery store on Saturday. Dang its hard to believe that grocery shopping could be that stressful. So I have had a few smokes. But NOTHING like I was doing. Rodger has done well too. He is only smoking a few a day instead of his usual 2 or 3 packs. He does have a rather stressful job. If I had his job I would probably be a drunk too. Anyway, back on the wagon now and feeling better.
Not much happening here on the homestead. I still have a bunch of chickens that need butchered. Most of those will meet their fate this coming weekend. So lots less for the fellers to feed an look after when I leave the 30th for Nevada to see Rob and Amoy for a week. Once I come back home the guys will be deer hunting after that cause by then deer season will be in full swing. Somewhere in all this we still need to dig sweet taters and get those in. We most likely will have frost before I get home from my trip and they don't need to get frost bit. We still have watermelons in the garden too. Not sure what the heck I can do with about 15 watermelons. Maybe freeze some for sorbet or something.
I got in the cellar over the weekend and straightened it up a lil to make room for all the crates that will hold our potatoes. I think we may try to get those in the cellar sometime this weekend as well. After they are in there I have no idea where I will store my cushaws and butternut squash. 
The tomato plants that I had planted around here in the beds near the house to save for seed are blooming again and have little tomatoes on them. I am gonna try to cobble up some kind of shelter of plastic to keep the frost off and maybe we can have a few more ripe tomatoes this fall. Before I leave for Nevada I would like to get some mustard and turnips sown and rutabagas as well. Then once I get home I guess it will be time to sow onion seed too. For this I will use the old flower bed near the driveway. I put black plastic over the bare soil to kill weeds and any remains of flowers that are in there. It is narrow enough that I can make a tunnel of PVC pipe and cover it over with plastic if I choose to.
Thas about it for an update on whats not happening here. So till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.

Stella

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I am gonna be a quitter

As of about 7 pm this evening it has been a whole 12 hours of not smoking. Yea I know that don't seem like much to most people. But when you have smoked for 30 years, anywhere from 1 to 3 packs a day, 12 hours with no cigarette is a big deal.  Rodger is quitting also and that makes it so much easier for me. But good grief, not sure how much of this chewing gum my jaws can stand.  I have cleaned some today and did some laundry to try to eliminate the smell of smoke in the house. Its hard to believe how much more sensitive my nose is after not smoking for 12 hours. I'm sure in a few days food will taste better too. AND that just might become another problem. Well the weather is still nice so I can get outside and not eat all the time.
Not much else happening here today, so till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.

Stella

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Squash and cushaw harvest

We got out this afternoon and went to the garden to get a ripe watermelon. I had already eaten the 2 we picked a couple weeks ago. We got 3 watermelons and I told Rodger we should probably go ahead and harvest the squash and cushaw. We pulled probably 30 winter squash and about 10 or so huge cushaws. We didn't load them in the truck because it would involve toting them a good bit so he said he would go back tomorrow with the tractor and bucket and get them. Will probably take most of the cushaws to Jason's house so he can feed them to the hogs. They sure do like those. I am hoping we can also get them to eat some of the winter squash as we have far more than we can use or give away. I had also ordered some sorghum seed to raise for the seed heads as chicken feed and we cut those while we were in the garden. A nice lil bunch to save seed and plant more next year as chicken feed.
I really miss not having fruit to can this year. I never did get any peaches to put up. But I do still have enough to last us till next summer. Our pear tree has very few pears this year so not sure about them yet. No one near us had apples this year so no apples to freeze for frying. I think I still have enough of those from last year as well. I guess thas why when we can get lots of fruits I do put up far too many and it can last us thru years when we don't have any. Harvesting is about finished here for this year. We still will need to pick corn but that will be another month or so. The sweet taters will need to be dug before frost and that's it for us.
I brought my herbs in from the summer kitchen that I had dried this year and I think we have more than enough of those to supply us and another family or 3. So I got to toss out last seasons dried herbs and replace them with fresh ones.
In our supplies I had made sure to stock plenty of bread flour for making homemade bread. My wrist don't cooperate enough now to allow me to knead bread by hand but I still have a bread machine. It only takes about 3 cups or so of bread flour to make a loaf of bread. I started with 25 lbs of flour and there is 3 1/2 cups of flour per lb. So from that one bag I can make about 25 loaves of bread.  Including yeast, powdered milk, sugar, butter and the flour I figure I can make a loaf of bread much cheaper. The 25 lb of flour sells for about $9 at Sam's club. So I dragged out the ole bread machine and have been making bread the past couple weeks. In our town we have a very limited selection of breads to choose from but if I make them myself I can make any kind I like. And the up-side is I don't make my joints hurt more. Nothing like a hot loaf of fresh bread after a long cool day of working outside.
So till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.

Stella

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

It feels like fall outside

Gosh I am slacking. I haven't posted in over a week now. But then again not much happening here right now. Last weekend we did butcher off our old laying flock and got the breast canned, stock made and the dark meat canned up. We only had 10 total to butcher so that didn't take long. Jason had to do all the cutting up of the birds as I have been having lots of problems with my wrist of late. It all started when I was working up all the tomatoes a couple weeks back. Not sure if its just arthritis or if I have carpal tunnel syndrome. Either way I know it hurts like hell. Rodger did pick up wrist splints for me and I use those all night and during the day if I don't have my hands in water or am cooking. I am sure this too will pass, just hope it hurries.
Over the weekend we discovered what may be stealing my chickens. I think we have a bobcat den down the hill from the house in the woods. It has grown up in weeds and there are some old fallen trees that are partially covered that we think it hides under. Then when I let the chickens out to run in the yard it lays waiting till one gets near the weeds, grabs it and takes off. Luna wont go in after it. As most dogs will not go to fight with a bobcat anyway. Although she patrols the yard and barks, I guess the cat is just hungry enough that it does not feel threatened by her. I am keeping the chickens in the building this week till the weekend and then we are going to bait the critter. Put a chicken in a cage near where it has got the others and see what kinda animal comes out. Then take appropriate action. Oh the hassles of raising critters on the farm.
This past week with our cooler temps and it seems like soup weather I had the big idea to make homemade bread. Well not with these hands will I be kneading tho. So I dragged out my bread machine that I have had for prolly 20 years and fired it up. It makes great bread too. Now I just have to make a point of having plenty of bread flour and yeast on hand.  As I type this I have a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread started and it should be done in time for a bedtime snack tonight. I love fall with soup weather and home made bread weather. We have had lots of rain here and our day time temps are staying in the 60's. Nice weather for just relaxing for me. This time of year is when I get inspired to make large meals. Just when we really don't need em cause we wont be getting out to work the calories off. Oh well we should be nice and fluffy come next spring.
Till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.

Stella

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Reflecting on planting methods

Well here I am with probably too much time on my hands and plenty of time to think. I was thinking today about how our garden did and things I learned and things to do a lil different. Maybe for simplicity sake I will just list them.
First- We planted tomatoes with no intention of staking them. It turned out just as well. We used 19-19-19 fertilizer on them when they were transplanted. Most folks say too much nitrogen will make all plant and no fruit. But with dense foliage on the plants it did prevent sun scald on the tomatoes. Thas a plus. If you are to have fruit you must first have a sturdy healthy plant. We transplanted as soon as we could get the ground dry enough to get in and for most people it was early and the plants made good deep strong roots to withstand dry spells. So I will do the same with tomatoes next time. Again we don't mulch or stake our plants. Might be a lil tough picking them sometimes but I had plenty of tomatoes. In fall in our area most tomatoes will produce more bloom and fruit, albeit small, once the weather starts to cool at night. So if you have a light crop, don't pull the plants. You might still get a few more later in fall.
Second-Potatoes need well drained soil that is slightly acidic. So wont be liming the area where taters are to be planted. We also used the 19-19-19 fertilizer on the taters. One section of the tater rows this year had all rotten taters. As we were digging I did notice that the soil had a different feel to it. It was heavier and had more moisture, thus the taters rotted. The best method for controlling Colorado potato beetles is the mash them with your fingers every 3 or 4 days till the plants are big enough they wont suffer damage. When our tater plants were too big to effectively be able to find the tater bugs then I sprayed with a bug poison. Success, we had a great tater crop for a change.
Third- Weed control is a must in a damp season. We let the weeds get ahead of us this year and with the rain we did have and all the weeds held too much moisture around the peppers and blight got those. Garden plants need air circulation or it does create a breeding ground for nasty disease.
Fourth- If you plant pole beans, stick the dang things. We planted some running beans and for some reason we never got the stakes put in for them to climb on and they crawled on the ground. Then add the morning glory and weed problem and the beans were losty in the all the mess. I prefer bush beans anyway. Personally prefer the Ky Wonder bush bean, good tender bean that fills out nicely and no strings to deal with.
Fifth- Watermelons need heat and light to ripen well and be sweet. It wont happen if they get over grown with morning glories and weeds either. I will be saving my coffee cans this next year. When I plant melons and they bloom and start making melons, I intend to fruit prune the plants and also cut the ends off the vines so each vine has no more than 2 melons. Each melon then will be elevated up on one of the empty coffee cans so it can do its thing. Our plan for melons, cushaws, and pumpkins next year is to put down black plastic and make a hole where ya want a plant so weeds cant take over and the melons will have the heat they need. Although in the weeds the cantaloupes did really well. We have eaten the last of those and now wait on the watermelons. Once the vines die back the cushaws will be ready to harvest and store. That is when the skins are mature on them and they will keep all winter in the cellar.Same with butternut squash.
Sixth- Cukes and peas must be trellised or ya never find them to harvest. Peas are really hard to see on the vines on a good day and add to that them laying on the ground. May as well not plant them. This we have learned. Cukes are the same way. You always miss a few and they turn yellow and ripen on the plant so the plant stops producing because it has accomplished its mission of making seeds and reproducing. That is the goal of all plants to reproduce and make seed, once that is done the plant is pretty much done too. So it is best to harvest ripe fruits as they are ready to keep the plants producing.
Seventh- If you raise heirloom varieties in your garden, by all means save your own seed. They will do better as time goes on as they will be acclimated to your soil conditions. As I was growing up we saved a lot of our own seeds and found this to be true. We have saved a lot of seeds this year from our garden so we wont need to buy seeds next year.
Hope this lil bit of info helps someone along the way. Just like to share things I have learned here at the school of hard knocks. So till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.

Stella

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Harvesting potatoes

The weather did cooperate here today with no rain. Beautiful weather here, not like the east coast with the hurricane. God bless those folks in the path of hurricane Irene. Much destruction from what the news is showing. But we got an early start and got our potatoes dug. I think we all here were pleasantly surprised with how well they did. We only planted 2 rows of Kennebecs about 150 ft long and 1 row about 75 ft of Red Pontiacs. I was very happy with the fact that they were all really big, in all total maybe a half bushel was considered small and would be a pain to peel if ya chose to. I plan to serve more taters with the peel on as that retains more of the nutrients that lay just under the skin.  We got 15 bushels total. About 12 of the Kennebecs and 3 of the Red Pontiacs. A bushel of potatoes weigh 60 lb per bushel so we had roughly 900 lb of taters and cash out lay was maybe $35. Not bad at all in my way of thinking. We have a special plow that goes on the tractor 3 point hitch to dig the taters with which beats all to hell the old way of using a tater fork and lots of back breaking work. The tractor drives up the row and IF the driver is watching his stuff the plow will be in the middle of the row and break it open and taters can be picked up behind the tractor. This is the way we did it. There are places in the one end of the garden where the taters were that I noticed the ground was very heavy clay like soil and ALL the taters in that lil section of the row had rotted. Maybe a 6 ft section. This is the place where my dad alas had his tater patch and raised a lot of taters. We did go back to the old original way of planting this year too. It was Jason's idea. For some reason we had got to putting in the fertilizer and mixing it in the bottom of the row by dragging a chain thru the row. Then drop the potato pieces and cover it all over with dirt. This year we dropped the taters about 1 ft apart in the trench we made with the tiller, I dropped about 3 tablespoons full of 19-19-19 fertilizer between each hill of taters and covered them over as usual.  This method seemed to have resulted in more good size taters for us. Some times the old ways are still the best. So from now on I think this is how we will plant taters. After we got them dug we took them to Jason's house and poured them out on the floor of an outbuilding to dry for a few weeks till the weather cools and then they will be put in our bins and stored in the cellar. I am so thankful we have enough taters to keep us supplied well till next summer. I couldn't help but make a big kettle of potato soup fer lunch today after we got them all dug. Really tasty with red taters, peel left on cubed up with lots of onion and garlic in there. Yummy!
My big plans were to get my old laying flock butchered off tomorrow but I really don't think that is going to happen. My arthritis is flaring really bad, especially in my wrist. I really don't think I could pluck a chicken if I was real hungry. Jason had agreed to do all the cutting up of the chickens if we could pluck em. Hopefully next weekend my joints will feel better. I think I will dig out my splint for my arm and just splint my right wrist (its the worst) and give em a rest for a few days and see if that will help some. I think maybe the past 6 weeks or so of all the prepping stuff and canning has caught up with my body.
I need to brag just a lil bit. My youngest son Rob is now a proud home owner. He bought his first house in Elko Nevada this past week and he and Amoy  are moving in this weekend. They are beyond excited. And we are so happy for them. We are really proud of his accomplishments this past year. After college he landed a good job, already got a promotion, and now at the age of 25 has a house of his own, all in less than a year. We sure do wish them lots of success and happiness in the years to come. Kinda makes me a proud momma.
So till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.

Stella

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Nice weather but fall is in the air

The past few days have been so nice, not really too hot, cools down nice in the evenings. Perfect weather for working outside and getting things in order for fall and winter. But dang it does seem early. None the less, we managed to get the plastic from around the green house and cleaned up down there and got my bench covered to protect it from wet weather. We took a huge trash bag to the trash bin after all that. Then Rodger got the tractor and bucket and hauled some dirt to fill in a low spot in the yard on top of the sewer drain lines. The dirt settled and we are just not getting to put more dirt in to level it up. If only the chickens don't find the fresh dirt and make a mess of it. He also hauled away all the dead plants and debris that I had pulled out of the herb bed and had scattered about. I hope tomorrow I can get more of the ground cherries picked up and husked out to dry. I had some that I put in the dehydrator this morning and they are drying nicely. They have a wonderful sweet flavor dried. They will look like lil golden raisins. A good addition to oatmeal or cold cereal.  If we don't get more rain this week and its dry this weekend we plan to dig our taters on Saturday and then if we have the energy left I want to butcher off the old laying flock on Sunday. That will give me all day Monday to can up the meat. They are older and will only be good for soups, dumplins and if I can the breast separate those can be used for salad or sandwiches. Not much else happening here for now. So till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.

Stella

Monday, August 22, 2011

The garden is all but done

This summer has seemed to be so short or maybe it is just me. Seems like only yesterday we were plowing and hoeing in the garden and now it is all but done. Not much left in there except the okra, melons, cushaws, and some winter squash. The potatoes will be dug this weekend if we don't get rain. The sweet potatoes will go till late September as well as the pepper plants. Today I spent in the summer kitchen slicing and loading the dehydrators for drying into onions flakes. I have about 2 quarts already done and both dryers loaded again. I have a few tomatoes to eat on for a few more days then they are all gone for the season.  The rest of the day I have been cleaning up and dead heading the plants in the herb bed. Still need to get in there with the weed eater and cut the mints back. As soon as the onions are dry in the dehydrators I want to dry more herbs. I also got the onion bed in back weeded as well as the asparagus and new strawberries. My leeks are in the bed with the new strawberry plants and they look great. I do need to take m friend Rosie's advice and mulch the leeks deep to make nice white stalks. I was so happy to see Rosie and her hubby Sam last Friday when they stopped by on their way home from visiting his mom in a neighboring county. We invited them to spend the night but they kinda wanted to get home as they had promised their daughter who was taking care of things on their farm while they got a couple days away. But was really nice to get to see them.
We had rain this past weekend so we didn't do much outside. Seems kinda odd to be able to just stay inside on weekends. Not much happening here to write about at this time. So till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.

Stella

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

It never ends, just slows down

Seems the to-do list never ends. On the farm there is always things that need attention, sometimes all at once. I had a break today from tomatoes and went to the doc for script refills. Got home in time to fix supper, eat and head to the garden. We picked another couple buckets of tomatoes, I cut some okra, Rodger dug some taters, we picked another ripe cantaloupe, pulled some squash off to feed to the hogs. While I was picking tomatoes I pulled some that had just blushed and were mostly green to chop and freeze to use as fried green tomatoes this winter. Got back to the house and got the green maters chopped and in the freezer. The okra is washed and ready to be sliced. The cantaloupe is perfectly ripe and so sweet.


When I finally got this melon cut up it filled a large lidded bowl and will keep us happy all week. More seeds saved too. When I am in the summer kitchen the chickens think they are due treats and peels from what ever I am doing at the time.So they hang out with me.


This is just a small part of the flock, the rest are occupied with something else. Soon or later chickens find all your hiding places that you have planted tasty plants in too. They have wondered as far as the other end of the house to the driveway where I had a tomato plant for seed. Lucky for me I had already gotten the ones off that I wanted to save seed from. They have discovered the corn crib at the far end of the drive too. They know that they can find treats there. For me chickens are so relaxing to watch. They stay so busy exploring and eating. Not to mention they do fertilize the grass as they go. Guess thas the downside to letting em run loose.
I think tomorrow my day will be filled with chopping and drying onions and slicing and drying tomatoes. I'm sure I will find other things to do to fill in my spare time.
Till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.

Stella

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Making it easy on myself for a while

I am getting a lil bored with doing tomato products now. I have been at it for near 2 weeks. Still got a ways to go tho. I went to the nursing home to visit mom for a while today and took her some fresh maters and cantaloupe that I had cut last night. Gosh it was so dang good. This is what it looked like before we cut it. Not to mention I have 3 more at the house just like it.


This thing was 12 inches long, really ripe and sweet. I think I will try freezing a few containers of cantaloupe again this year to enjoy this winter. Easy to do, just peel melon and pack in freezer box or container and cover with light sugar syrup. Freeze and when ready to serve allow to only partially thaw out. Really good.
I haven't done anything with tomatoes today. I worked a lil bit in my herb bed and got the sage cut again and in the dehydrator. Then cut the ground cherry plants back some so I could pick the ripe ones up off the ground. I got a 2 gallon bucket full of them in the husk. I finally got them husked out and ready to make ground cherry and orange jam. There are still thousands of them still on the ground that I may get later and try dehydrating some to see how they are. I'm sure they would be good in bread or muffins, or even in cereal.
When I went to visit mom I stopped by the dollar store to pick up some jar flats all to be told they didn't have any and would not be getting any more this season. Dang it! So I stopped at the grocery store and paid double for 3 dozen cause I need them badly. They also had Mrs Wages pizza sauce mix and I picked up 2 packs of that and one for salsa. I can make pizza sauce from scratch but with all the tomatoes I have to do this will save me a good deal of time and standing in the summer kitchen on my feet. The older I get the more I appreciate being able to cut corners anywhere I can. So pizza sauce and salsa will be my projects for tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow evening I can get the ground cherry and orange jam made. If I can remember to ask Rodger to bring home 3 oranges.
Last evening when we picked tomatoes we picked off all our sweet corn that we had left on the stalks to dry for seed. So those are neatly hanging in the outbuilding to dry real good and then get shelled off and put in the freezer. After we found the cayenne pepper plants I picked those off as well and have them in one of my drying boxes to dry and then grind em up to use as seasoning. It will take a good deal of hot pepper flakes to make all the sausage this fall when we butcher hogs.
Nothing else happening here so I need to go do laundry so we all got clean drawers this week again. Till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.

Stella

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Still up to my ears in tomatoes

I still have more tomatoes than I know what to do with. Monday was spaghetti sauce, Tuesday was 8 quarts of  barbecue sauce, Wednesday was 15 pints of  taco sauce, today I made 15 pints of diced tomatoes and canned those. And still have tomatoes waiting to be made into something and more tomatoes in the garden. I was so happy today when I went in the cellar and found a big crate of canning jars that I didn't know I had. So now I can can more mater stuff. This evening I have okra to slice and freeze to fry or use in gumbo or soup later. I think maybe tomorrow I will take some time off tomatoes and get some sage cut for drying and some other herbs that I am low on. With this arthritis my hands and wrist are giving me fits. I'm sure its not from over use or anything like that.
It is hard to believe how nice the weather has been today. The sun was shining and it was actually pleasant outside. Not too hot and its supposed to get down around 56 tonight. Now that I can handle. The weekend is going to be nice as well. So maybe I can get some things done that have been put off with all the canning. My herb bed is an overgrown mess right now. All the plants in there need to be dead headed and raked up. Some herbs are still producing and those I will be cutting to dry. My lil Mexican cukes are still producing and they need to be picked as well. So many things to do and seems so lil time. Still think I need to clone me.
Till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.

Stella

Monday, August 8, 2011

Life's lil ups and downs, making spaghetti sauce

And goodness knows I have my share of ups and downs this time of year. Woke up far too early this morning. Didn't sleep well last night. I cant drink coffee late like I used to. I guess that is because I haven't had Mt Dew in the house in nearly a month now. And I drink my 2 cups of coffee in the mornings and then drink water, Gatorade or lemonade the rest of the day till bedtime. I drank a cup of coffee last evening while we were working up the rest of those tomatoes and just was restless last night. Makes ya feel like crap the next day too. But none the less I got up early and had to get started in on the pasta sauce I had cooking down in the crock pot. Went out to check on that and it still seemed watery. I decided to take another approach in making sketti sauce. We had made 2 huge stock pots of tomato puree last evening and I was intending to drain the excess water off top the puree to make it quicker to cook down. But to my surprise there was not any on there. I did a lil experiment when we did the last tomatoes. I usually wash them well, core, cut in chunks then run thru the Squeezo strainer for juice or puree. Most of the clear liquid in homemade tomato juice come from the liquid in the seed pockets. So when I cut the tomatoes up last evening I squeezed them a lil after I cut off the tops and got most of the seeds out. This made for a much thicker juice and took a lot less time to cook down to a good consistency for sauce. This is my "recipe" for spaghetti sauce or more like method to my madness. Remove about 1 quart of puree from the container you are using to use later. I use the puree that is thick and add finely chopped onions to suit me, finely chopped bell peppers, garlic powder, salt, pepper, oregano and basil so the puree taste lightly seasoned. Note I say lightly seasoned because the herbs and such sometimes increase in potency when processed in a pressure canner. Let this mix simmer for a few minutes and taste. If it has a strong acid bite, add a lil brown sugar and taste as you add. Once the sauce taste like you want it too let it simmer while you make the thickening. At this point I added the sauce I had cooked in the crock pot to the kettle of puree and just mixed it in. I almost swear tomatoes vary from one season to the next depending on rainfall, heat and all kinds of things. So I cheat and add a lil cornstarch to the mix so it tightens the sauce up but not make it thick. Use the quart of puree you reserved (this depends on the size of kettle you are using)(I was making 20 plus quarts of sauce) and add cornstarch in the amount you think it would take to thicken you kettle of sauce and then slowly add a small amount of this slurry to the simmering puree. When the sauce has tightened up a good bit and is a consistency you like let it simmer while you brown your burger to add in. I used 5 lb of deer and beef burger for the 22 quarts of sauce I made today. Once the burger is brown add it to the puree. Now that you have the sauce made you can ladle it into jar, put lids on and process in pressure canner. (refer to the ball blue book for processing times for your area). I finally got done with all this about 3:30 this evening. Had a total of 21 quarts of canned spaghetti sauce and 1 quart for supper. It was really good.
This afternoon we got a good thunderstorm here. No damage , just plenty of rain. My poor Luna is so scared of storms. She was right beside me when I was outside before the rain came and when I opened the door to go in the summer kitchen she darted in beside me, which she never does, and went to the back corner and laid down. Her pitiful eyes begging me not to make her go out. Needless to say she stayed right there till the storm was over and then she willingly went out the door and on about her business.
It was far to muddy to pick tomatoes this evening so that is a task for tomorrow. Not much else happening here, so till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.

Stella