Friday, 30 July 2010

Farm Update, End of July

I'm 24 weeks pregnant. That is hard to imagine for me. I am pretty huge and already getting the, "are you due any day now?" and, "is it twins?" questions/comments. Sigh. I should be used to it by now.

The baby is super active pretty much all day and all night long. That's neat. The girls are getting a kick out of cuddling with my belly and getting kicked by the baby.I feel healthier than I ever have in my entire life, not just while pregnant. It's neat. I am constantly moving, cleaning, canning, or walking (or eating). The sunshine is amazing and the breezes on the farm refreshing.

Speaking of refreshing:

Nothing has been more wonderful than the fresh spearmint sweet tea I brew up and then ice.

Chad's been hard at work on various exterior repairs. I hope we finish caulking this summer so we don't get cluster flies as bad as the past two winters. I think it will probably get done.

The flooding in our county finally affected the pond. Luckily it only lasted a day or so. Though rinse, lather, know? A lady I just bought 20 dozen canning jars from said her rain gage measured 40 inches of rain total in June and July. That's a lot of water. The playground in town is pretty destroyed, and that is unfortunate because it was a close by treat for Lil'Bug.

This little critter was found on the back door. Neat. We have had a full summer of finding or being ambushed by funny little bugs and frogs. Identifying them has been Lil'Bug's special job that she and Chad take very seriously. The second part of her task is to teach Blueberry Girl how to hold and release the bugs and frogs gently. That has resulted in Blueberry Girl becoming quite the toad hunter and catcher herself.

Such a summer we have had! We've been eating and canning and eating and jamming what seems like millions of peaches.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Some Simple Things I Do To Make Food More Nutritious

 Simple. I mean really simple. And the secret is chicken bone broth. Any time a savory recipe says add water, I add bone broth.

Wait...some of you may be asking, "What on earth is bone broth?" And once you find out some of you will be totally grossed out.

Chicken bone broth is like chicken stock, but simmered with veggies and a little vinegar acidity for 24 hours or more. The bones pretty much dissolve into the broth adding calcium and protein that is just so much more than just a 2 hour chicken stock. The nutrition is way different than plain stock too, as it has more minerals in it and if you use a lot of meat like I do, then there is more protein too, easily digestible protein at that.

Another thing I do is add vegetables when something calls for starch. Meatloaf needs crackers? Nah, how about pureed raw sweet potato? Throw in some steamed spinach to the tomato sauce, or even steamed Swiss chard.....I even add squash instead of flour to thicken pasta sauce sometimes. It's like taking the zucchini curse* in August to a whole new level.

Another thing we do is grow our own meat. We know what they eat. We don't raise beef yet but the beef we get is from someone I know and I know how their animals are cared for and fed. Simply choosing better fed animals to consume adds to the nutrition of our meals. Ah, maybe it is junk science, but the flavour is better and the meat cooks tender.....I feel awesome after eating it instead of sick. That's not junk science.

I can make quick work of smoothies from fresh milk and fruit from our own farm anytime my kiddos want a snack. Throw in some greens (even mint works here) and they get that extra bit of all the things that greens are good for.

I also make our own juice. Secret to making a natural wholesome kid juice that tastes JUST LIKE KOOLAID? Peach juice. I kid you not. The left over juice from canning peaches or even the syrup from the jar they are canned in, add some strawberries and BAM strawberry koolaid flavour. Weird. Sweeten with honey, cut with water and you have a juice that has no artificial dyes or unpronounceable preservatives that could even fool the neighbor kids. Makes great Popsicles too. Really. Peach juice.

These things are not hard to do. Way easier than driving to the store. Natural energy for the kids (both young and old).

*the zucchini curse where you have so many and can't give enough away and you might start adding it to everything from cake to soup to ice cream just to get in eaten and ease your it just me?


Tuesday, 20 July 2010

What to do when your broccoli flowers....

Make broccoli flower soup!

3 potatoes chopped into bite size
3 fresh cloves of garlic, just harvested not cured
4 -6 cups of home made chicken bone broth
a pot full of flowered broccoli
salt to taste, serve with French Bread

I also mixed Greek yogurt into my serving to make it creamy. Yum yum yum.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Farm Progress Report July!

This week we finally got the chimney lined and in a way that it can easily be cleaned every year. Dan at Chiminey Cricket is brilliant and honest. We have really liked working with him and his crew. Polite, tidy, and very honest. The stove is not yet hooked up yet though, we still have to build the hearth and firewall. THEN I will be able to bake bread using a wood fire. So excited to realize this part of our farm goal. It was also heat all 2200 square feet of our home. We won't have to worry about pipes freezing in power outages. In fact, we may not have to worry about pipes freezing ever. We'll have a new set of worries though, like teaching the children about the incredibly hot dangerous thing in the dining room. They are smart though, they'll learn.

We also got some tree limbs cut back, water and electricity was installed out at Paw Paw and Nana's end of the pond, sold some more pork, and then relaxed and celebrated our country's independence from the British with some awesome and talented folks. I made soooooo much food. Potluck fare made simple and easy, no processed ingredients. No one complained or noticed. I also accidentally made a new pasta salad which was divine. I'll post that over at Simply Food. For beverage I also provided farm fresh mint tea and it was totally gone by the end of the night. We (I) drink almost a gallon a day. We saw old and new friends, and just had a blast hanging out by our lovely pond. We are still feasting on leftovers. Tomorrow I am making steak stir fry for dinner, and broiling up some pork strips to go with breakfast.

It is raining here. Still. Flood warnings and the news has warned that the highways that we use are underwater. Our farm is high and dry but our friends in Chariton are not faring as well. Manhole covers have popped out and streets are flash flooding. That's in town, 4 miles from the river. And the rain rain rain came down down down. Not to mention the mess in Des Moines, so much water. It is events like these that make me glad I work from home and worry for my Dearest venturing out for his commute. On the plus side, rain= lots and lots of frogs and toads EVERYWHERE. I have a little girl who is in heaven.

Bees have transitioned to honey production, which means less choring for a little while.

Since I am in the mood for glowing reviews.....Chariton just got a new coffee house Get Mugged. YEAH! The lady baristas were so awesome with my kids, extremely attentive, and very talented with the brew and milk. Latte latte latte. And I had the Cuban Panini for lunch, yummmmmmmmmy and seriously packed with protein; I think I have found this pregnancies craving food.  The free wifi will make me a regular, especially during finals when I am overwhelmed with grading. Other bonuses: good lighting and a variety of seating styles. Those things can really vary from cafe to cafe, but this one scores high points.

Then I ventured over to the other quilt shop in town, The Sampler. It is the hidden one that I kept trying to go to and never found open. Well, open they were! It must have been customer service day because we had another great experience there and I left with confidence, sewing machine questions answered, and a pile of lovely threads. The girls have requests in for skirts. Must learn how to make skirts. Ha!

I had the monthly prenatal check, at 20.5 weeks. Once again Vbac2 was discussed and various issues reviewed. My blood pressure was up from my normal. That has never happened before. I also only gained not quite a pound. With both Blueberry and Lil'Bug I was a consistent 1 lb per week. So diet was discussed and I decided to start tracking protein again. Today and yesterday both fell in the high 70's. 100 g is the goal. So I need to do better. Breakfast must include meat. I got out of the habit when we ran out of bacon and the girls have wanted oatmeal and cereal lately. Back to eggs we go, with cheese and sausage and peanut butter toast. Salad with feta for me for lunch or a soup with bone broth base or egg rolls. Dinner is fine the way it is, meat and two vegetables. We just got so busy I let meal planning slip.

This week I have been surrounded by loveliness, compassion, and gentle reminders of peace. The world continues to spin and everyday has its own troubles, but the heart is what matters. I am blessed and grateful for the friends and family in my life. Everyday we begin our dinner as a family with a prayer of gratitude, I think perhaps we should also begin our day with a grateful heart. We live in a time and location that is clean and bountiful in food, we have access to health care and medicine, and we are safe from gunfire and war. That is not the reality for much of the world, or even everyone in our own communities. That has been on my mind this week. Is it enough to be thankful?

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Summer Fun at the Farm

Well, fun for us at least!

Later in the week, I got stung in the belly. I had swelling and then bruising, which is odd, but everything resolved itself with time.

Then we painted the kitchen and cleaned downstairs. We settled the girls down for a movie and......CRASH BOOM. This mess took up downstairs, well, the clean up of it, for 3 days, We had A LOT of stuff on that shelf. Luckily we had cleaned and taken out a sturdier shelf from the kitchen just hours before.

Blueberry gobbled her broccoli (from our garden!) by the fistful. Then mine and Lil'Bug's too.

Brewing mint tea concentrate; stock pot full of water, food processored Spearmint leaves, bring to a boil then cover and turn off, let sit for 2-3 hours, then add 1/2 cup of raw turbinado sugar for every 2 gallons. Then I put it in freezer safe pint jars and freeze. It is really strong, so when the time comes I take 1 frozen pint in a pitcher and pour over that cold water to fill...still strong so I serve over a glass full of ice. It is really not at all like "tea" but rather minty ice water. Very refreshing with the added nutritional bonus. I think that the Spearmint vs Peppermint makes the tea. I'm not sure I'd like it with Peppermint. I have not tried chocolate mint or lemon mint.

I dried the remaining mint from that harvest. The dried mint gets stuffed into mason jars with a few grains of rice and used all winter long for hot tea and seasoning. With the next harvest I plan on making mint extracts for cookies.

We are also curing garlic. Once cured they will be braided and hung in the kicthen for winter use.

We finally got a lift rented that 1)reaches our chimney and 2)isn't broken and 3)we could afford. Whoo! Next step, line teh chimney and install wood burning cooking stove that will heat the house and let me bake bread and fry boudin all at the same time with the same heat source. So excited.

I've been making popcicles. The kids gobble them and the good kind with no HFCS are expensive and not much selection at our local grocery. So I've been using frozen juices and better yet pure unsugared fruit purees. Watermelon in a blender= most yummy dripless stainless popcicle EVER. No extra sugar so the kids can eat as much as they want. I had to order more moulds because of the freeze time.

Chickens taking a dirt bath. I know they do this but I'd never seen it before.

And it is tree frog time. Chad caught this one, we let it go later that night but first he had to identify it. Sorry for the crappy focus. 15 or so days before I can replace my lens on the good camera. Trust me, I am X'ing off days on my calendar. Sigh.

This week we also cleaned out our storage room, sorted and culled toys, sorted and culled and folded and better marked kid's clothing, and next up is the laundry sewing room and the winter coat closet. Nesting anyone?

Oh and Blueberry has decided that poop in diaper=bad. Poop on potty=sugar beans. Poop on floor=scowling mama. Good timing kid. I am hoping to make serious progress on the potty training front soon. I am also thinking about selling my Bum Genius cloth diaper stash. A friend gave me a couple snapping Blueberri's and I really like the snaps better as far as laundering goes. The velcro tabs on the BG get yuck and useless after a few years. I could pay someone to replace the tabs I guess, but for the same $$ I could sell my stash and buy new. Using cloth paid for itself by month 4 of Blueberry's life, but I had hoped to get more use from the stash, you know?

What else......I'm not sure! It just has been crazy busy around here!