Friday, January 24, 2014

my lamb stew and whey bread

 I did not grow up eating lamb in fact, I didn't eat lamb until not that many years ago. It seems unheard of to some people because of how cute lambs are I guess..indeed they are cute. Like all animals are to me though. And if I'm not going to be vegetarian then I might as well face the facts that every piece of meat that goes into  my mouth was at one time, a cute animal. We primarily raise animals for milking but there are the few that need culling for one reason or the other and so instead of sending them off to a livestock market somewhere where their treatment and destiny is unknown, we choose to process them. So in a short amount of time, we've learned to not only appreciate our food and all the particulars of where it comes from - we have also grown to love lamb. In experimenting with different ways to cook it, this is one of our favorites.

Lamb Stew:

  • chopped onion (I used leaks today - I will add the green part of the chive when I add the potatoes)
  • 2 TBS of olive oil

  • 1lb of lamb stew meat or cut up lamb roast (you could also substitute with ground lamb)

*saute in your cast iron kettle until lamb is browned and then add:

  • 2 peeled/chopped carrots
  • 1 chopped celery stalk
  • 1/2 cup red wine (or your favorite wine - I used elderberry today. 1/4 cup of wine for your kettle and a 1/4 cup for you!)

*cook until wine is reduced and add:

  • 1 1/2 TBS dill (or more if you LOVE dill)
  • 2 tsp thyme
  • 2 tsp parsley (or other herbs of your choice - I add whatever I have fresh at the time too)
  • 1 gallon of water & beef stock combo

*simmer for about an hour. Then add:

  • 6 peeled/diced potatoes
  • 2 cups of lima beans (optional - I add them if I have them)
  • salt & pepper to taste

*simmer for another hour or 2, until potatoes are cooked well and the lamb is soft and shreddable.

bread rising while the stew is simmering

Then add:
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/3 cup flour
*mix your milk & flour together in a bowl, whip well until smooth and then add to your stew. Simmer stew until thick and bubbly. YUM!
lamb stew
And if the bread has you intrigued - the recipe that I used for this batch is from the More-With-Less cookbook. I'm a whey lover, so I always save whey from my cheesemaking to put into breads - if the recipe calls for milk or water, I simply substitute with whey. Besides the added health benefits of using whey and another way to reduce waste, it also adds a tarter bite to the bread and depending on the recipe a little firmer texture..and I actually like those differences. And did you know that if your whey gets mold growing on the top, you can simply scrape it off and use it just like you would when it was fresh! I've kept it months and months in the fridge without it spoiling. Me and whey are close friends.
the smell of bread baking should be bottled and sold..
 White Bread:
4 loaves

  • 2 pkg of dry in yeast in 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
Combine in large mixer bowl:
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 T salt
  • 1/4 cup lard
  • 3 cups water (I used whey here)
  • yeast mixture
  • 5 cups flour
(It says beat with electric mixer - which I do not own - I mix all my bread by hand)
  • Stir in by hand:
  • 5-6 cups flour
Turn onto floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. Place in greased bowl, turning once, cover and let rise 1/2 hour. Punch down, turn over and let rise again until double. Knead a few minutes, then shape into laves and place in greased 9x5 loaf pans. Cover loaves with damp cloth and let rise until doubled. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Brush tops with butter. (Recipe courtesy of Louetta Hurst, Lancaster PA)
my loaves are never perfectly shaped but thankfully that doesn't make a difference in how it tastes :)


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

the season of snow

sunrise before the storm
the farm is quiet as the storm moves in
Nothing has made me appreciate the weather more than it has since I have been a farmer. And the weather this winter has been so unpredictable for me - the day before this snow hit we were a pretty cozy 60 degrees. The drastic temperature changes are especially hard on the animals.

coming home from work that afternoon the snow has arrived. Reina is always waiting for me and making sure I get back home safe. Even in the snow, she runs to greet me.
it's Barbossa the lamb's first snow (and proof that apparently these ewes are having nightly flings with the rams that I know nothing about! Barbossa was a surprise.)
soaking up sunshine
a few of the chickens found a sunny spot next to a hay bale
time to thaw out another frozen watering bucket
Keeping the water thawed and the livestock warm, well and fed is the daily goal. And quite often, that takes all day. As beautiful as the snow in winter is, it's also exhausting. The nights are long and every ounce of sunshine is accounted for and not wasted. Winter here on the farm is not only the season of snow but it is also the season of accountability. What we planned and prepared for and what we did not, will show in one way or the other. There are plenty of winter weeks ahead of us but even with the extremely cold temps, the farm is peaceful and all is well. We are thankful.

tradition: when it snows, the guardians and the chickens get warm oatmeal

Willa Bee gets breakfast in bed

The winter tree is fast asleep, she dreams in reams of snow knee deep, of children climbing up her trunk, of white-tailed deer and gray chipmunk, of picnics, hammocks and short sleeves, and leaves and leaves and leaves and leaves.          Douglas Florian

 ~sending toasty warm thoughts to you all.

Monday, January 13, 2014

a year of farm wife ramblings

I'm guilty of rambling (imagine that)..and some days there is more rambling than others. Looking back on our farm facebook page I noticed just how much daily rambling I tend to do. I copied and pasted below, some of the highlights from last year. Good memories, sad ones, fun and silly ones. Never a dull moment being a farm wife!

January 12, 2014:  Riding shotgun on the way to get more plumbing supplies in my
favorite sweater while munching on warm out of the oven granola and
thinking it's a shame barn plumbing & homemade granola don't last as long
as my 22 yr old sweater.

January 3, 2014:  I listened to the wind howl all night and was reminded of an older lady out west who's hubby was a cowboy. I called her Miss Sally and used to help her clean which she called their ranch house. If you've ever been out west you already know the wind blows 99% of the time and we aren't talking about a soft breeze, it's an earth moving type of wind. One day while I was washing windows on the ranch house and I had to hold onto the window not to be blown off the ladder while miss Sally was inside watching me. She was a small woman but her voice was not and she yelled through the closed window, this is why ranch women were famous in the west for going slam crazy. It's the wind that's driving us! Whenever I hear the wind blowing, I think of miss Sally..she still makes smile and today I'm thankful that I don't have to wash her windows in the wind!

December 27, 2013: I rarely do any types of pampering for myself but this week my daughter cut my hair and my sister in law scheduled a facial and a massage for me and since she was driving, my options of seeing these appointments through weren't really optional Sitting in the waiting room, I'm filling out the necessary paperwork and reminded of another reason I tend to stay clear of this kind of pampering, when the questionnaire asks details about the skin products I use..I simply answered by writing homemade by all the questions - that seemed simpler than writing down the entire formula for each product, which I would've gladly done...but you know, I'm trying NOT to stand out. With the paper work done I head to the back to undress..for a farm girl who doesn't have snazzy undergarments and upscale manicuring this is AWKWARD. So in my ratty unmentionables I'm laying on a padded table covered with egyptian cotton sheets so soft I'm struggling to stay on them, by this point I'm literally shaking so an extra thick and toasty warm blanket was brought in to cover me and I'm looking up at a young very well dressed guy who starts speaking to me so kindly and softly that I thought maybe I had died and gone to heaven. The music playing in the background was of waves crashing on a far off beach and the island wildlife could be heard singing and dancing in the distance. My skin is now being prepped for pampering and it feels as if I'm drifting in and out of conscientiousness and then he says this, "You have beautiful skin - what product line do you use again?" Oh yes, heaven that's where I was at. If there is a moral to the rambling, I suppose it would be that sometimes simple and even homemade skin care is best and that dudes ROCK at massages! Go get yourself a massage farm chicks, no regrets here.

December 17, 2013:  Went on a quick drive with Tommy and on the way back we see a young deer laying down beside the road, it was obvious she had been hit by a car and was suffering. After Tommy stopped and was checking her out someone else came by too. Men seem to have a gift for assessing such a situation and then handling it quickly and efficiently. The doe is no longer suffering and is being prepped to feed a family for the winter..all this happened in about 3 minutes. It impressed me greatly.

December 15, 2013:  Winter moon you sure are beautiful tonight.

December 7, 2013:  So I've been thinking about getting a milk cow..seriously considering and am going over all the pros and cons. What do normal people do on a Saturday night?

December 2, 2013: Milk shares ended for the season but we have our own personal milk goat that keeps us in milk for awhile longer..well this last wk she has decided no more milking for her. Guess since the other girls were dried off, she wanted to be too. Can't even hardly squeeze a drop out of her. To a raw milk lover..this is tragic. I plan to sweet talk her and bring her extra treats and beg her to change her mind. After buying a gallon of store milk over the wknd..I may even offer her a room in the house.

November 28, 2013: At midnight the house was dimly lit and so quiet that I tip toed preparing some of our processed pork for the oven, when life is quiet isn't it incredible all that pops into our heads and hearts..I was overwhelmed with thankfulness and how thanksgiving is something to celebrate everyday..I am thankful for so much.

November 16, 2013: Since it's a dreary start to the weekend here, it looks like I will be working on the multiple boxes of apples that have been accumulating in the kitchen, cleaning and bottling a couple of 5 gallon buckets full of raw honey from an awesome trade and at least 8 roosters that need to go in the freezer. Winter is coming and I'm especially thankful today for opportunities to fill the pantry and freezer.

November 15, 2013:  I'm snuggled up to my percolator full of freshly ground and brewed coffee and looking out the frosty breakfast window that faces my ewe paddock. Thankful all is well out there and that I can sit and sip for awhile longer this morn.

November 2, 2013:  look who was out and about this eve with her whole brew of chitlins in tow.
October 4, 2013:  That exciting moment you spot a new to you push broom laying in the middle of the road..for anyone who's missing a push broom - thanks, it's a nice one!

October 14, 2013:  Feeding and milking was a group effort this eve since it's our boy Derek's 19th birthday, forgot how entertaining chores are when we do them together.

August 27, 2013:  Woke up to fight in the ram pen, no time to even get dressed, just threw on some boots and started running. I was still too late. Stupid boys. They will fight to their death and they did. Stupid stupid boys. Drenched in snot and tears, I wish going back to bed and starting this day over was an option. Mother nature is beautiful and also painfully harsh. Day #1,675 on the farm.

August 16, 2013:  Scouring the water trough in the ram paddock is risky business, especially this time of year..thankful for the eyes in the back of my head that motherhood provided!

August 7, 2013:  Finally located the source of the unbelievably horrible smell in the milk barn - a headless squirrel, 3 dehydrated mice and 1 decaying pigeon tucked behind the steps..and no way to get them out except to use my hands. The downside to barn cats but they looked very pleased with themselves as they watched me sprawled face first on the steps trying not to gag on the stench and retrieve piece by piece of their recent and not so recent kills. At least now I know where they keep their stash...

July 27, 2013:  We have a movable hoop house that our young hens stay in until they're old enough to free range. The hoop house is moved a couple times a week to keep things clean and give the youngsters fresh browse. This morn as the hoop house was being moved by Tommy, I see a young chicklet caught under the side and about ready to be smushed so naturally I panic and I'm told I let out the kind of blood curdling scream that would be coming out of someone who was getting a limb severed off. Today I was the cause of the heart holding, deep breathing kind of scare..I am a tough farm girl most of the time but still a girl I guess. The good news, both the chicklet and Tommy's heart are now ok.

 May 28, 2013: That time of the day where you can hear the sun setting..the birds are singing the day is done lullaby, the mother ewes are calling their lambs up from the field, the barn rafters are fluffy with hens, the clanking of the bells that the goat girls wear are now quiet, the evening breeze can be heard sweeping through the tops of the field grass..that time of the day that speaks without saying a word. Farm sweet farm..oh how I love this place.

April 25, 2013: The only thing on a bottle babies mind..who is that and does she have our milk?
 April 20, 2013:  I picked bouquets of dandelions for my goat girls this morn - they love to eat them and picking flowers is still pretty fun even when you're all grown up.

March 31, 2013: Growing up I wore homemade dresses and slept under handmade knotted quilts and comforters made by my much I took for granted. So now when my mom quilts me a darling little sheep picture for my birthday, it brings me to tears..just one of the many reasons I love and appreciate her.

 March 27, 2013: 1:30am triplet feeding. Check. Thankful they're all 3 starting to drink's been touch and go for 2 of them. Now to tuck my milk and baby goat pee covered self, back into bed..

March 12, 2013:  Sitting around the breakfast table listening to the rain on the metal roof, watching lambs play in the puddles and looking at our lamb stats this season..this is the most lambs we've had yet and a large portion of them are already reserved for their future farms. It's been a long winter but a good one for this sheep farm!

March 7, 2013:  Holy buckets of mud..we are now a mud farm!

March 1, 2013:  Lambs fed, pups fed, ewes and goats in waiting fed, rams fed, buck fed, guardians fed, pigs scratched, lots of heads rubbed..and ewes milked! Not enough milk for cheese just yet..but soon, in the mean time I will be whipping up some lovely sheep milk lotion. Yay for milk!

February 20, 2013:  A cold triplet was born this morn, she's getting warmed up inside with me and getting her belly full of warm colostrum too before rejoining her mom and siblings. 17 healthy, vibrant lambs on the farm so far - 12 ewes/5 rams.

February 1, 2013:  It's that kind of cold today that shakes your bones..burrr! I headed down this morn to check on Reina and her babes..she had them swaddled up like pigs in a mama on the farm!

January 25, 2013:  20 brand new little paws born on the farm today..mama and babies are doing great.

farm sweet farm at sunset

The Chicken Chick

Saturday, January 11, 2014

eczema & aloe

My 2 oldest children have struggled with sensitive skin and eczema since birth and I looked for home remedies and simple fixes for decades for them. In trying to find a solution, I first had to understand skin and the varying skin needs of my individual children. For our son, switching to unscented soaps - even for the laundry. Seemed to improve his overall skin health. And with the added benefit of mild, unscented milk soaps - he had fewer and fewer eczema onsets. For our daughter, keeping bathing at a minimum and lathering up as little as possible is what seemed to help hold off her onsets. But in my daughters teen years her eczema outbreaks have worsened, maybe because of how religiously she showers and exposes her skin to water and over lathers with soap or it could've been be the perfumes she loves to is likely a combination of things. But it's in the dry, cold winter months when she usually can expect a flare up. I've found that using mild homemade milk soaps and butters ease her flare ups but when a flare up isn't preventable, she applies a simple homemade cream. This Aloe Vera cream has been a skin saver for her and has completely taken the place of a steroid cream. If you are not a believer in Aloe's time you jumped over here and joined us Aloe lovers. I keep a couple healthy plants growing year around and we all grab a leaf whenever necessary. The hubby is highly allergic to bee stings and insect bites of any kind and rubbing aloe straight from the leaf will bring a swelling bite back down to normal - the sooner he gets aloe on the bite, the better. I have found dozens of uses for Aloe and if you're curious about the whys and whats of Aloe - here is one of many links out there with informative and detailed Aloe info Aloe Vera Facts.

If you don't have an Aloe plant around and you can't find one in the store, ask around..someone likely will. Borrow a leaf and try it for yourself - Aloe's a beautiful thing :) I am not a doctor or trained in any way to formulate herbal or medicinal remedies of any kind, I am simply a mom who has tried everything under the sun to give my children some relief. Through endless research, a little experimenting and lots of hands on do it yourself motivation, our eczema suffering kiddos have found that relief.

Here's my homemade Aloe Vera eczema cream:
2 ounce aloe butter (shea butter is a 2nd choice)
1 ounce of jojoba oil (or one of your preference)
1 tablespoon of aloe vera (scraped from the inside of the leaf)
30-40 drops of tea tree oil (promotes healing)
stick blending
*melt the oils & butters, then add your aloe. I use a stick blender at this point to really mix that aloe jelly in. Add your tea tree oil and if you plan on keeping this on hand for awhile, you can add a little vitamin E to help preserve those oils and add longer shelf life to the product (my daughter uses it up pretty fast so I rarely, if ever use vitamin E). Mix well and pour into container and refrigerate to cool. Store in a cool place out of sunlight and with a lid. You will likely see veins in the cooled product, these are from the aloe leaf and are expected. Makes approx 4ounces.
DIY eczema cream
Cheers to healthier skin and some do it yourself wisdom ~

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

slow growing

Well the animals have all been fed and I've had my oatmeal and coffee fix so I'm ready to sit and finish this post I've been attempting to write since the turn of the new year. Life sure is fickle isn't it. I've been thinking back over the past couple years and I hardly know where the time has gone and what I've accomplished. I always set hefty goals for myself, my family and the farm and don't take failing well and the last couple of years I have failed at more things than I can count. The roads I was traveling on not only hit some huge bumps but took some major detours too..and some closed altogether. Life changed, things failed and goals got diverted. I never thought I'd travel the roads I have been on and have struggled with not just maintaining grace but finding it through some of the hardest challenges I've faced so far in my life. Deaths, spiritual, marriage, health, financial - business and personal..there has not been one area that has not suffered and changed dramatically. Living a life in the spotlight as a business owner and sometimes in social media, there are not many places to hide. Sooner or later life spews an ugly head and there we are..smack in the middle, having a meltdown. I am guilty.
But today and this coming year I gratefully grasp to a few simple truths: a broken heart can heal, where there is a closed door there is an open window, when something good is taken away it's because something better is waiting up ahead, new beginnings are often disguised as painful endings and my all time favorites - faith is the courage to let God have control, meltdowns don't last forever and starting over is kinda beautiful. In a round about way I'm kind of starting over and not just a new year but a whole lot of new things..and it is kind of beautiful over here. I'm grateful for the new perspective and looking back I'm glad that's where it's all at..behind me. It's really not at all about where we are at the end of our lives but how we have lived the journey along the way. Gaining perspective is never cheap or free - we'll pay for the wisdom one way or the other. I've lost some and paid the cost but what I've gained in return can not be measured.

So instead of new goals this year, I'm choosing to just slow down. To sit and sit often among my slow growing farm, to watch slow sunrises and sunsets, to nurture slow growing friendships and eat some really tasty slow grown food. And I hope to share some of this slow growing goodness with all of you in new ways this year.
my WillaBee

Happy New Beginning friends!