Sunday, February 26, 2012

Oh, So Many Things

Once again I find myself in the position of it having been months since my last post.  If you are still reading, you are my hero...and I promise (yet again) that I will try to do better this time.

It's been an eventful fall and winter here at Red Hog Farm, so I'll briefly fill you in.  This fall we had our third baby, a boy we named Ezekiel.  He is sweet and wonderful and we are really enjoying having him around.  His birth was interesting; after a whopping two and a half hours of labor, Baby Ezekiel was the car.  That's right!  We were half way to the birthing center and had to pull over on the side of the road because he was coming out and was not interested in waiting.

Jesse called our midwife and she listened on the phone while I pushed for two minutes, and he was born!  My hero-of-a-husband made sure that the baby was breathing and that I wasn't bleeding, wrapped us both in towels, and we continued on our way.  Once we got to the birth center I sat on a birthing stool to deliver the placenta, got snuggled up into bed, and Ezekiel was thoroughly checked over.  We were both pronounced healthy, and while for a couple of days I felt like I had been hit by a train, after that I recovered VERY fast.  That's apparently a pretty typical response to a super fast feel exhausted for a day or two, and then you are all back to normal.

Ezekiel is such an amazing baby; he's happy and smile-y and lovable and I am grateful for him every day.  Still, if I am blessed with another one, I think I will plan to stay home.

This time of year on the farm we are gearing up for spring!  I know it seems early, being only February  But we've had peas, carrots, parsnips and rutabagas in the ground for a week.  We have flats of broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and marigolds started in the house, which we'll start hardening off in the greenhouse next week.  If all goes well, we'll have our first big veggie harvest in mid-April, and if we plan properly we'll have bundles of fresh spring veggies every week through the fall.  This weekend we plan to start leeks, onions, more brassicas (cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, etc.) and a springtime salad bed with lots of arugula, spinach, and butter lettuce.

Spring planning also means goat's milk and cheese, which we haven't had for a while.  We bought three adorable little does last October that our firstborn promptly named Onion, Uggin, and Willow (after his first goat BFF).  They are all bred and we should have goat babies in March, and yummy milk soon after.  I cannot wait to have chevre again!

Today I'm experimenting with making my own corned beef, and this week I'm making parmesan and Swiss cheeses.  Check for recipes and tips on!

Also, if anyone finds themselves in need of a cat or kitten, please leave a comment!  We have several in the barn.  The kittens are very friendly...the cats not so much.  But they are all excellent mousers and are not afraid of dogs, other cats, geese or cows.

One last thing on this "catch up" post:  there is a brand new Facebook group called Citizens for Change in the Food Industry.  We've been busy, and there is a lot of info on there already about eating real food.  If you are not a member already, please join us!  It's an awesome opportunity to share your expertise and learn from others.

Have a wonderful rest of the week and weekend, friends!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Let's Just Be Kind, Shall We?

Recently I've been following some debates between homebirth advocates and others who are not fans.  I make no secret of the fact that I am in favor of homebirth under the right circumstances, and with a qualified midwife.  I'm pretty much "homebirth YAY!" and "midwife YAY!".

At the same time, I've been reading debates between people who LOVE raw milk and people who HATE raw milk.  Guess where I stand on that argument?

This post, however, is not about that.

While reading both the comments AND the original posts on these subjects, I have found myself kind of appalled...not by the content, but by the language.  People are AWFUL to each other.  The thing is, I know that these are not awful people.  They would never walk up to a stranger and call them names, even if having a heated discussion.  Never would these folks call another person "stupid," or "slow" to that person's face.

Worst of all, these comments and blogs are laced liberally with an incredibly toxic and cruel type of sarcasm.  I'm not going to repeat anything specific that I've read today, but I'm sure you all know what I'm talking about.  Comments like, "If doing the research wasn't obviously too much work for you..." and "Clearly you aren't interested in reality..." are just rude.  That kind of sarcasm tells someone, "I hate you, you are scum and I have no interest in anything you have to say."

Not only that, but once something is on the internet, it is OUT there.  You cannot take it back.  You can apologize, but you cannot un-say it.

I get that people are angry.  It's infuriating to hear people make accusations against you and your friends that are irrational, mean spirited and rude.  I understand the temptation to react with further irrationality and rudeness.  And for the most part, I am pleased to see that the nastiness has been pretty one sided.

BTW, if you have participated in some of these debates and think I'm accusing YOU...I'm not.  I promise.

But am I alone in asking for a return to civility?  For people not to say anything to one another on the internet that you would NOT say to someone in person?  If you would not call someone ignorant, naive or stupid to their faces, then please don't do it on your blog, or anyone else's.  It's mean, it cuts dialogue off at the knees, and it makes you look like a jerk when you are not.

For the sake of politeness and not making yourself look like a scoundrel, please please please...just be nice.

Thank you!

PS:  I realize that I am quite possibly the MOST inconsistent blogger on the planet.  I'll try to be better from now on, okay?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Monday Quick Recipe

We have been readying a rental house for new tenants, and dealing with a sick toddler, so I have had NO time to blog over the past week. However, here's a recipe for a really fabulous lamb stew that I made over the weekend. I credit my daughter's recovery to the fact that she ate about four bowls of it on Saturday night. Enjoy!

Red Hog Farm Lamb Stew
2 quarts lamb broth (preferably homemade)
8 ounces ground pork
8 ounces ground lamb
A few ribs of celery, diced
3-4 carrots, peeled and diced
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 large russet potatoes
1 7 oz. jar tomato paste
Butter or ghee (from grass fed cows, please)
Salt, pepper, garlic, fennel seed, oregano, and taste.

Melt butter in a large stock pot over low heat. Add onions and stir until soft.  Add meat. When the meat is fully cooked, add remaining veggies, seasoning and tomato paste. Stir until the tomato paste is slightly caramelized, but not burnt. Pour in the broth, bring to a boil and then simmer for at least an hour, but preferably two or three. Top with parmesan cheese and a splash of homemade sauerkraut juice, to keep your tummy happy.

That's it! This stew tastes even more amazing the next day, BTW.

Have a great night, friends!

Friday, January 28, 2011

How to Be a Ghee Whiz! (Get it?)

I know that I said that my next post would be about fermentation, but I'm busy making ghee today and thought I might as well write about it while I'm doing it.

Ghee is also known as clarified butter, or butter oil. Basically the idea is to get rid of all of the dairy solids in butter and end up with pure butterfat. You've probably had ghee at seafood's what you dip crab and lobster into. This stuff is wonderful. It's shelf stable for months, has an extremely high smoke point, and is super easy to make. It's also incredibly good for you, tastes amazing and can be eaten by almost everyone...even if you have a severe dairy allergy.

Now, naturally, if you do have a severe dairy allergy, you'll want to talk to your health care person before you start binging on ghee. But everyone else?  Dive on in!

The first step to making your own ghee is to fill a stockpot with butter and a few pinches of salt. (Forgive my poor photography skills and ancient, stained pot.) It looks something like this:
My butter is homemade, so it's not in cubes. But you can certainly make ghee with store bought butter as well. Just do me a favor and look for butter from grass fed cows, 'kay? Your taste buds and your health will thank you.

The next step is to melt it and bring it to a simmer. On my stove, with this particular pot, it's the number 3. Don't walk too far're going to be here for a while.
After your butter melts, you're going to start seeing white foamy stuff rise to the top. Get a big spoon and skim it off, a little bit at a time. I also stir each time I skim, to bring some of the solids off the bottom.
It's going to take a while (Just keep skimming, skimming, skimming,) but eventually you'll end up with a pot of clear ghee with visible solids down at the bottom. When these start to turn golden brown, your ghee is ready to strain and put in jars.
I use a second stock pot (this one happens to be really easy to pour out of) and a colander lined with several layers of cheesecloth. It's important to strain every last bit of solid stuff out, or the ghee will mold.
This is what you'll see in the bottom of your cheesecloth. It's not very pretty, but it's kind of cheesy tasting and some people put it on toast. Frankly, I think that sounds a little icky, so I give ours to the pigs.
And this is what you end up with! Beautiful, clear butter oil. Let it cool and keep it on a shelf away from the heat, and you should be able to use it for about six months. You can also freeze ghee or keep it in the fridge, so it's a good way to take advantage of sales on butter...if you can keep it around that long.

Oh, the joys of ghee! Deep fry with it. Saute vegetables with it. Drink it...or not.


PS:  Check out the Weston A. Price Foundation for some science on why you should be eating ghee.
PPS:  This is unrelated to ghee, but my dear friend Ann Marie Michaels, aka Cheeseslave, has a fantastic and heartwrenching post up today about the Estrella Family Creamery.  Please listen to the podcast and share it like crazy.  We need to support our small farmers!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Red Hog Food: Winter Edition Part I.

Okay, so I'm probably preaching to the choir here, but wintertime eating starts in the summer. Yes, that's right...if you want to eat seasonally, you're going to have to do some prep work while local produce is abundant and cheap.
Eggs, apricots, and raspberries.

I tend to compulsively freeze everything I can get my hands on during spring, summer and fall...which is why my family thinks I'm crazy. Why yes, I do have 22 quart sized bags of rhubarb in my freezer. And no, I have absolutely no idea what I'm going to do with it.

However, two summers ago we had a truly bumper crop of tomatoes. And since we were members of a CSA in our area, we also had bumper boxes of tomatoes.

I went nuts. I froze tomatoes daily (I don't can tomatoes.  We'll get to that later.) and by the end of the summer we had an entire upright freezer full of tomatoes.

Fast forward to the spring of 2010. It got to be about April, we were cleaning out freezers and my mother actually wanted to throw the remaining bags out.  She said,

"It's already April. We'll have more tomatoes in August. There's no way we're going to use this many tomatoes in four months! Let's just give them to the pigs."

Man, am I glad that I said no. Because August came and went. Then September came and went. No tomatoes. None of our neighbors had any either. I talked to some of my most trusted farmer friends (who, like, grow tomatoes professionally) and their crops were bad too. You could find tomatoes at some of the farmers' markets, but they were mushy, flavorless, and expensive. In other words, not a great year for preserving any tomatoes.

We were okay, though. In fact, it's now late January and we are just opening our last bag of 2009 tomatoes. We've enjoyed barbecue sauce, soups, and on Christmas Eve we had the yummiest meat sauce over pasta (well, the rest of the fam had it on pasta and I had it over broccoli).
Here it is.  The LAST bag.

Here's the moral of that story: you really can't freeze/can/preserve too much.  One of these days rhubarb is going to be dearer than diamonds and I will be all set.

So over the course of the next few posts, let's talk about the four basic methods that I use to preserve stuff here on Red Hog Farm: freezing, fermenting, drying and canning. Please keep in mind that I am not a professional, just a homemaker, and the opinions expressed here should be taken with a few grains of minimally processed sea salt.

Freezing comes first because it's my favorite. It is easy, you can keep fruits and veggies mostly raw, and the flavor is awesome. Plus it's beyond're not likely to give anyone botulism from improperly frozen cauliflower. But the main reason why I love freezing fruits and veggies? Because I would much rather hang out with my family and friends during the summer than be stuck in the kitchen making jam.
Sure, it's beautiful and delicious. But wouldn't you rather go on a hike?

Here are some of my favorite things to freeze, and how I do it:
Tomatoes/Peppers:  Freeze whole. When you cook them, just skim the skins off the top. No one will notice the seeds. I promise.
Broccoli/cauliflower/kale/cabbage:  Bring a pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Drop in veggies (chopped if you like, or not) and cook for no more than three minutes. Then shock them in a sink full of ice water. When all your veggies are done, dry them off and put them in containers.
Green beans/peas:  Treat like cruciferous veggies. I blanch mine for about a minute because I like my veggies crispy, but feel free to cook for a little longer.
Summer squash:  I know that this one is controversial (or as controversial as you can get when you're talking about a vegetable,) but I think summer squash freezes just fine. I don't saute them in the winter (save that for the fresh stuff in summer) but they make marvelous thickeners for soups and stews, and make a fantastic chowder with some frozen corn and a dollop of sour cream.
Berries:  Don't do anything to them...just freeze them. Small batches work best so you don't end up with a big block of frozen, useless goo. All berries flash freeze well, meaning that you spread them out in a single layer on a cookie sheet and freeze individually. Strawberries work whole or sliced.
Other veggies/fruits:  Use your imagination. I've frozen just about everything except apples, and lettuce doesn't work very well. Other than that, go crazy!  Walk on the wild side! Freeze everything!

The key to freezing seems to be to acknowledge that some things change in the freezer. Moisture rich fruits and veggies (strawberries, watermelon, cucumbers, spinach) will become a little mushy. Don't let that stop you! Just learn to work within the limitations of your product. If your strawberries are squishy, turn them into a smoothie. If your squash is chewy, use a stick blender to turn it into an amazing puree for gluten free soup.

I freeze wintertime produce as well. Too many lemons? Juice them and freeze the juice in 2 ounce paper cups. Your buying club got a stellar deal on winter squash? Peel, chop, freeze.
Can you really have too many of these?

You can also freeze dairy products like butter (although I like ghee better...we'll talk about that in another post) and cheese. Eggs, which are abundant in spring, freeze beautifully too. Make sure to crack them first.
Freeze me, Seymour!
There is a lot more to be said about freezing food, but I'll just leave you with this:  don't be intimidated. If you think something might freeze well, try it! If it doesn't, don't fret. There's always next year.

Next week:  fermentation!  I'm also not an expert in this area, but I'll walk you through what I'm doing in my kitchen right now, and recommend some amazing resources for anyone who wants to make their own sauerkraut, pickles and ketchup.  Yum!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Winter on the Farm

I love winter.  When I was a suburban girl I hated it...rain, mud, and seasonal affective disorder.  As a farm girl I love it.  It's still rain and mud, but the seasonal affective disorder disappeared as I learned to accept the dark, short days as part of the beautiful cycle of seasons that God created.
A pasture in progress.  In the spring, this will be green and in about two years it will be lush, thick and green.

Here's what goes on around here in the winter:

In late November or early December, we do one last clean up of our poultry.  Every bird that's left gets harvested.  This allows our pastures to rest, free from chicken, duck, turkey and goose manure (all very high in nitrogen, which is fine while grass is growing and not that great while grass is hibernating) for three or four months.

Then it's time for a big long rest. Praise the Lord and pass the bonbons.  Not really, but you get the idea. There are still cows to milk, gardens to tend, and pigs to move around, but overall the winter is a time of rest, family, and warm fires.
Pile o' piggies in their warm, snug winter barn.

Jesse and I use our evenings to catch up on all the movies and TV shows that we don't have time to watch during the other three seasons. I crochet like a madwoman.  The kids color and we all drool over seed catalogs and dream of the coming spring.
Joey with a silly flap-eared hat that I made.  I have to keep my hands busy so I don't plant things too early.

This winter, for the first time, Jesse and I took a vacation as well.  We spent four days in beautiful Cashmere, WA.  We explored Leavenworth (adorable and fun) and marveled at the amazing divinely-designed architecture of the Cascades.  Truly gorgeous and a sight to behold.

You'll have to forgive me for going off topic, but I would move to Central Washington in a heartbeat...just for the view and the fact that they get four seasons! Then there's the cheap land, affordable hay and perfect orchard growing climate! Frankly, though, the idea of packing up six people, 1600 square feet, three cows, two steers, fourteen pigs, five leftover goats, eight sheep and a 2000 square foot barn...well, it's enough to give me palpitations.  So I guess you're all stuck with me.

In a few days I'll do a post about wintertime eating...otherwise known as "How to Make Your Family Think You're Nuts in Five Easy Steps."
One last picture, just because I think my kids are cute.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Why I Quit Facebook

I quit Facebook today. Facebook doesn't really like it when you quit...they hold your account for two weeks before they'll actually delete it. I think they're hoping that you'll log in during those 14 days and change your mind.

A lot of people have asked why I quit, so these are my three reasons:

1.  For some time, I've been feeling that the Lord wants me to spend more time with Him and my family, and waste less time online. Since Facebook takes up a whole bunch of my time online and I don't believe in doing anything halfway (except for crochet projects, but we won't talk about those) I actually deleted my account instead of putting it "on hold".

2.  I love building relationships, and for a while Facebook was awesome for that. But after a time (and please understand that I am not judging anyone else here) Facebook became a shortcut to relationships. I could know a whole bunch of stuff about people, and feel like I knew them. Did I? Nope. I had 364 people on my "friends" list and, and with most of those, I knew their online persona, not them. The truth is that friendships take time, effort, and real life contact.  Facebook is relationship cotton candy when what my soul wanted was delicious, grass fed steak.

3.  The third and last reason that I quit Facebook is that internet privacy is increasingly becoming a thing of the past. Now, obviously I'm blogging, so I'm okay with some loss of privacy. But avoiding Facebook is one way that I can hold on to a little of my internet anonymity.

So that's it! Those are my reasons for quitting Facebook. I! If you are my friend, I love you. But I don't want to find out on Facebook that you are getting a new puppy. I want you to call me and tell me all about your puppy, or your trip to Costa Rica, or your marriage.

Now to figure out what to do with all of my free time......................