12/28/2009

The Story of the Bored Corgi





Spencer, the Corgi, was very bored. There had been so much snow and cold that his Dachshund friends did not want to come out and play. Not one to sit around feeling sorry for himself, Spencer decided to try to play a game called "pull the tarp off the round bale".

He pulled and pulled and pulled but that tarp just wouldn't budge!

Finally, Spencer had enough exercise and lay down to take a nap.

The End.

Chickens are on Strike



Thanks to the snow storm that forced all the hens to stay indoors (a change to their free range lifestyle), the dark days that we have been having (thank goodness we are gaining daylight now AND getting some sunshine), the fact that I waited too late to get a light on them (I thought they were laying well and didn't really need the light yet), and due to dietary changes (I have sold a cow, dried off a cow and added more share members so they have not had any clabbered milk which gives them lots of protein) my hens have officially gone on strike. Out of 60+ hens, I am getting between four and eight eggs a day.

Any type of change can cause hens to go into a molt (and when they molt they don't lay) and unfortunately some of my tempermental little ladies are also molting and look like naked little birds. Poor things!

It won't be long and the sun will shine more and longer and the warmer weather will come and the hens will get back unto the spirit of things. Until then, we just are not going to have a whole lot of eggs available.

12/27/2009

More Pictures the Snowstorm





Alissa, took these pictures of our snow storm last week. I thought it captured the depth of the snow much better than I was able to do with the rural pictures that I took.

12/23/2009

The Story of the Bored Heifer




Once upon a time there was a big snowstorm that dumped 24 inches of snow at the Cupp's house in Staunton, Virginia. Twenty-four inches is a lot of snow for cows (and people) who are not use to it.

The cattle had been "holed up" for five whole days. Even though they had access to the pasture, they simply decided it was not worth the effort to break through the drifted snow. After all these cows all came from further south in Alabama and Georgia (except for Maya who is a Virginia cow). They simply were not use to such winter weather!

Finally, one day, a brave heifer decided that she had simply had enough and cabin fever was just too much! So, she bravely set out to take a walk to the end of the pasture.

She stopped, looked around and decided there was nothing to see and nothing to eat and she would just head back to the barn yard where Mike had pushed pushed the snow back with the tractor.

The End.

12/22/2009

Oatmeal Cookies



Blogging has become a great way for me to keep track of my favorite recipes while at the same time share them with others.

Mike loves Oatmeal Cookies. I have a batch in the oven right now!

Oatmeal Cookies

3/4 cup butter softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup coconut (optional)

Beat butter, sugars, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Add eggs and vanilla and continue to beat. Beat in as much of the flour as possible with the mixer. Stir in the rest of flour, oats and coconut.

Drop by rounded teaspoons two inches apart on ungreased baking sheet.

Bake 8 minutes per batch at 375 degrees

(OK, I admit, I make my cookies bigger than the recipe suggests!)

Easy Fudge


Most of the time, making things the old fashioned way is the only way to go! I mean, things just taste better when extra time and special ingredients are used to produce a food item that tickles the taste buds!

However, I cheat when I make fudge. I make it in the microwave.

While I had one person tell me that it was good but "not as good as mom's" for the most part, folks never even know it's the "easy version" unless I tell them.

So, make some fudge using this easy recipe and just let your friends think that you spent hours in the kitchen with a secret recipe!

Easy Fudge

3 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
1 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup butter
1 cup walnuts or pecans

Place all ingredients, except nuts, in a large bowl. Microwave until chips are melted, 3-5 minutes, stirring once or twice during cooking. Stir in nuts. Pour into well buttered square baking dish, 8x8 inches. Refrigerate until set. Makes 16 (2 inch) pieces.

Note: Have fun with this recipe by trying different flavored chips. Try a mixture of peanut butter and chocolate. Try some butterscotch chips. Try making it with white chocolate. Try it with or without the nuts.

Enjoy!

12/20/2009

Peppermint Bark

A share member brought me some delicious candy and then shared with me the recipe!

I promise, you will love it!


16 oz. semi sweet chocolate chips
6T butter
2 1/2 cups rice krispies
18 oz. white chocolate chips
18 oz candy canes or similar peppermint candy


Krispy chocolate layer
Melt semi-sweet chocolate and butter in microwave. Stir in Krispies. Put mixture on cookie sheet. Place wax paper over entire mixture and roll it smooth with rolling pin. Remove wax paper and put in freezer for a few minutes to harden slightly.




White chocolate and peppermint layer
Melt white chocolate in mirowave. Pour over krispy chocolate layer, spreading to edges. Sprinkle with 1 1/2 cups of crushed peppermint.


Put cookie sheet in freezer until bark is hard. Slide off cookie sheet an cut on cutting board using large knife.

Still Digging Out!





12/19/2009

Banana Nut Muffins

When my brother asked me if I had a special recipe for banana bread, I immediately thought to look on line and see if it was posted there! Sure enough, it is!

My grandma, Neva Starnes, likes to joke that a recipe she got from me made her famous. She submitted the recipe to Taste of Home a few years back and they published the recipe along with a lovely picture of the muffins their chefs had made using the Banana Nut Muffin recipe.

If you want a full dozen muffins or a loaf of banana bread, just double the recipe. The magazine actually cut the recipe in half so that they could publish it in their "Cooking for Two" section.


A scattering of chopped walnuts adds crunch to these moist, taste-tempting muffins from Neva Starnes of Summerville, Georgia.


Ingredients
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup mashed ripe banana
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
Directions
In a small bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in the egg, banana and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda and cinnamon; add to creamed mixture just until moistened. Fold in walnuts.
Coat muffin cups with cooking spray or use paper liners; fill two-thirds full with batter. Bake at 350° for 23-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack. Serve warm. Yield: 6 muffins.


Nutrition Facts: 1 muffin equals 278 calories, 12 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 56 mg cholesterol, 263 mg sodium, 40 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 5 g protein.

Banana Nut Muffins published in Cooking for 2 Winter 2007, p23

A December Letter from Ben

Well, I know I haven’t written in a long time, but whadda ya expect. I’ll be six whole months old next Tuesday, and I’ve been very busy. There are so many new things to do and so many things to taste and smell and eat (when Larry’s not looking).



Today, though, and last night was just amazing. All this white stuff falling from the sky and piling up, and I mean really piling up. S’posed to be some kinda record. I was scared at first and cried a little bit when I had to go out. Today, I really got into it, running down the sidewalk and jumping over the little drifts. Larry was so slow, and I kept having to wait for him. He kept me walking until I did what I was out there to do, and I didn’t mind a bit. Best of all, there was this little girl being dragged along on a garbage can lid by her dad. I jumped right on and gave her lots of kisses. She loved it, and after lots of fun she carried me back to Larry. I wasn’t on a leash; there wasn’t any traffic and I could run anywhere I wanted, ‘cept where the snow was just too deep.



Week before last, we had a party at the house. Really fun people! I was so excited I kept getting into trouble. I jumped down from one chair right up onto another and into this lady’s lap, and I did it so fast I made her spill her wine. Oh well, it was white. After a bit, Larry told me it would be a good idea to get into my crate. I got in there just to shut him up, but one of the guests came and rescued me after a bit. I hope there’ll be more parties. More people mean more fun, and if one of ‘em gets tired, there’s always someone else to play with.



Oh yes, I almost forgot. On Thursday, at least I think it was Thursday. Larry got me a hedgehog over at the Old Town School for Dogs. It’s almost as big as I am. I wouldn’t have anything to do with it for a day or two, ‘cause it was a little scary. Yesterday morning, I barked at it for twenty minutes, and it didn’t do anything. So, after I figured out it wasn’t dangerous I started to play with it. It makes this really weird hedgehog kind of noise when you press it. Fun! This morning, after coming in out of the snow, I slept with it in front of the fireplace. What fun!



Well, I don’t wanna overdue it, or you’ll expect long letters all the time, so have a Merry Christmas and give a pet to every dog you meet.



Your little Ben

Cows in the Snow





More Snow Storm Pictures






The quality of these pictures is not the best but it will give you an idea of the conditions this morning when we went out to milk. Although they don't begin to compair to my Alaska days, it is quite a storm for Virginia! Josh always wanted to see a big snow storm here and complained that Virginia did not have enough of the white stuff! Since he was my Alaska baby (being born in Fairbanks) he naturally loved winter weather! I know he would have been thrilled to see the snow coming down and would have been giddy with excitement! In fact, I am not too sure he didn't ask Someone to send it just it time for Christmas this year!

Major Snowstorm Hits the Area!





12/16/2009

Not All Butter Churns are Created Equal



Although I don't have exhausted experience with butter churns, it has come to my attention that they just are not all created equal.

While the old fashioned hand crank butter churns are beautiful and nostalgic, I prefer to use an electric butter churn. When all the cows are in milk, it is not unheard of for me to churn as much as ten gallons of cream a week. I would spend a lot of time making butter if I had to do it all by hand!

When I first began looking for an electric churn I found reproductions available at Lehmans and at Hoeggers. However, I could not see spending $280+ for an electric churn if I could find another solution!

I began to look at antique stores and it was not long until I found a 1940-50's era electric churn. I paid $65 for it. The store owner was more than willing for me to plug it in and check it out to make sure that it ran. He was fascinated by the idea that someone would actually make butter from their own raw milk in today's society.

The original electric churn I bought was a Gem Dandy made by Alabama Manufacturing Company in Birmingham, Alabama. It will hold three gallons of cream, but because one
must allow for expansion of the cream (it first changes to whipped cream and then to butter), I only put in 2.5 gallons of cream. This churn served me well for about a year but due to a poor design with the cord, it eventually frayed and broke off. Thinking it was not that big a deal to replace the cord, my husband took it to the shop to repair it. However, he soon found out that due to the way the metal casing was made around the motor, it was not easy to get to the cord to repair it. He and a friend (who likes butter) got together and they still were not able to get the casing off. So, the friend took it to a manufacturing company where someone in the machine shop did us a favor and finally got the darn thing off. The cord was replaced but we knew it would be only a matter of time before we had trouble with it again.

The cord is not secured in any way on this design and the lid screws on to the jar meaning that the cord is twisted around and around every time that it is put on the jar. This particular motor/blade assembly is a Gem Dandy model that came with the jar.

Knowing that I did not want to be without an electric churn should something happen to my original, I began searching for another one in antique stores. We finally found one for $45. (There were always models available for much more, but I refuse to pay the price for them!) Upon closer inspection, it became apparent that it was actually the jar from a Gem Dandy model and the motor/blade assembly from Dixie Maid. The jar was a five gallon jar instead of a three gallon.

This past week the cord on my original churn again became frayed and broke off. Forced to bring out my back up, I soon realized that I like it much better.

The motor/blade assembly does not screw on. This means that the cord is not twisted around and around with each use. In addition, I can actually use it on any size jar or even on a crock if I desire. I also find the blade assembly much easier to clean. In addition, the cord is fitted in such a way that it is clamped and it has an on and off switch, a feature that the other one does not have.

I will get the original churn repaired and use it as a back-up just in case I ever have problems with this one, but for the record, I am much happier with the Dixie Maid churn assembly!

(Note: The churn in the first picture is the preferred churn. The motor assembly and blade just "set" on top of the jar. The second picture is of the freyed cord on the less desirable motor/blade assembly. Because the lid must be screwed on, the cord is twisted round and around every time, causing it to break.)

12/12/2009

Frontier Formulas


My friend Liz loaned me a recipe book so long ago that I am embarrassed to admit I still have it! (Please remind me to give it back to you the next time we meet, Liz!)

It is really a neat book. It is called Frontier Formulas by Bess A. Cleveland with a copy write date of 1952, Juneau, Alaska. Amazing to me that this book was printed before Alaska even achieved statehood in 1959!!!!

It is filled with good sounding recipes, including a section on preparing wild game such as bear, caribou, moose, reindeer, wild duck, grouse, ptarmigan, wild rabbit and squirrels.

In addition, there is a whole section devoted to "Frontier Formulas".

Having the convenience of a grocery store on every corner, we have lost many of the skills that pioneers and homesteaders used over the years. These things always interest me and I have an insatiable desire to learn how to do things the "old fashioned way". I don't always do things the old way, but I like to try them and at least have that information and knowledge should I ever need it.

Excerpts, examples, formulas and recipes from the book:

One pint of potato yeast, one cup of hop yeast, one dry yeast cake two inches square, two-thirds cup yeast crumbs, two teaspoons fast rising dry yeast granules, and one half ounce cake of compressed yeast are equal to each other in strength.

Baking Powder:
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp soda
1 tsp corn starch

To Keep Eggs:
Be sure to have strictly fresh eggs. Put a two-inch layer of salt in the bottom of a stoneware crock or jar, then a layer of eggs, placing the large end down; another layer of salt, then eggs. Repeat until eggs are all used or jar is full, having a layer of salt on top and no egg showing. Cover and put in place that is cold but not cold enough to freeze. This is a simple, inexpensive way which has been tested for many years. There is a difference of opinion as to whether the large end or the small end of the egg should be down. The air chamber is in the larger end and if this end is placed down the yolk will not break through and touch the shell.


Lacto Bacillus Buttermilk
1 cup milk
1 cup lukewarm water
1 tablet Bacillus Bulgaricus

Combine the milk and warm water, add the bacillus tablet and let stand in a warm place two days. Whip with an egg beater and chill. Salt may be added to taste. One tablespoon dried starter may be used instead of the tablet.

Buttermilk Starter
To make a starter that will keep indefinitely, pour a small amount of buttermilk on a glass platter. Allow it to dry at room temperature until it forms a crust. Scrape the crust form the platter and place the flakes in a jar with a tight cover. Use the flakes as a starter instead of a tablet Bacillus Bulgaricus.


Home Made Vinegar
14 pounds of coarse brown sugar
6 gallons water
1 cup yeast

Boil the sugar with four gallons of water and skim while boiling. When it has boiled ten minutes, remove from fire, add the remaining two gallons of cold water and strain into a keg. Spread the yeast, which should be lively and fresh, on small pieces of toast and toss into the liquid. Stir every day for eight days. On the ninth day stir well, tack a piece of gauze cloth over the bunghole, place the keg where the sun will sine on it and let stand six months. It is best to make vinegar in the spring of the year.

A dry yeast cake or brewers yeast may be used. It will shorten the time when the vinegar will be good for use if a "Mother" from a former keg of vinegar is put into the liquid just before placing the keg in the sun.



I will post a few more formulas and recipes in the days to come!

12/11/2009

(Almost) Zero Mile Chili


Making Chili for supper tonight and realized it's almost a zero mile meal. Unfortunately, the spices and salt that I used to season the chili are shipped. However, the rest of the ingredients we raised ourselves.

I used some of the October Beans, onions and peppers from the summer's bounty. I added a bit of garlic and salt and cooked for a couple hours. Then, I drained the beans and added tomate sauce,a jar of my garden fresh salsa, and some chili seasoning. Browned hamburger from our pastured beef added and chili simmered for several hours makes a delicious meal!

We will have some homemade Mozzarella cheese on the side!

Yummy!

Come to think of it...........most of our meals are pretty close to being zero mile!

12/10/2009

A Present from Ben!!!

What a surprise when I got the mail yesterday and there was a package from Ben! Ben is that adorable and smart miniature Dachshund puppy that started out life here on the farm but now lives on Capitol Hill!

It seems that not only is Ben exceptionally smart, but he is also exceptionally kind.

Thanks to Ben (and Larry his owner) I now I have a beautiful, commemorative 2009 White House Christmas Ornament! I will think of Ben and Larry every time I look at it hanging on my tree!

12/09/2009

Making Kefir

The Basics

A 500ml glass jar like a kilner jar
About 1 tablespoon of kefir culture
Fresh milk
Put the kefir culture in the glass jar, then fill it with fresh milk about 2/3 or so full. Cover the jar with a cloth or put the lid on the jar. (If you use a lid don't fill the jar above two thirds or use a jar with a rubber gasket that will let any pressure escape.)

Let the contents stand at room temperature for approx. 24 hours depending on your taste. 48 hours will make a thicker, sourer kefir, 12 hours a thinner, sweeter kefir. The temperature will effect how quickly the culture works. So during the warm summer months the kefir will ferment faster.

When it's ready strain the kefir into a clean jar. While it's fermenting the kefir grains will float to the top of the milk along with any cream. It's a good idea to stir it gently with a wooden spoon to mix up the solids and liquids to make it easier to strain. Or use a wooden spoon or clean hands to scoop out the culture from the kefir (the culture is easy to feel and separate from the liquids). The kefir culture produces a jelly like polysaccharide substance that develops around the grains as they grow, making it look 'gloopy'. It has unique properties and it's own name 'kefiran'. As you scoop out the grains you may find them coated with a gel like substance. This is the kefiran. Giving the kefir a good stir will distribute the kefiran in the kefir and it contributes to the thickness of the finished kefir. (This seems to be pretty variable, some strains producing a lot and others not much.)

After straining, the grains are placed straight back into a clean jar without washing them first. Fresh milk is added to the grains to make the next batch.

A Note on Cleanliness
Make sure everything is very clean when handling kefir. It's a living culture, a complex system of bacteria and yeasts and you don't want risk contaminating it. Use freshly cleaned hands, clean jars and clean non metallic implements.

Notes and variations
Making kefir is a pretty simple process, put the culture in the milk, leave it to ferment and there's your kefir. But there are a wide variety of styles and tastes when it comes to kefir making. For one thing, kefir is a living food and subject to a fair degree of natural variation and people have a range of tastes, so you'll find as many different ways of making kefir as there are people making it. Here are just a few.

Timing and Temperature
There is a wide variety in the length of time the kefir is left to ferment. In the end, how long to leave it depends on how sour you like it. The longer you leave it the sourer it gets. Some people like a lightly fermented kefir, they let it ferment for only 12 hours, others like it much stronger and more active and leave it for 2 or 3 days, past the point at which is separates into curds and whey.

Fridge Kefir
A cooler temperature slows the fermentation down and makes a thicker kefir too. Some people like to ferment their kefir in the fridge, leaving it for 5 days or more to compensate for the much slower fermentation process.

Double Fermentation
Or there's the double fermentation technique. First ferment in the usual way by adding the culture to the milk and leaving for a period of time, 12-24 hours is the norm. Then strain out the culture and leave the kefir out to ferment more slowly for another 12-24 hours before putting it in the fridge.

Continuous Fermentation
Then there's the traditional 'continuous fermentation' approach. You store your kefir in a large jar but don't put it in the fridge. As each new batch is ready it's added to the existing kefir in the main storage jar and then the lid goes on. The kefir will continue to ferment (it's a live food remember) and will get very sour and fizzy. If you feel inclined to try this you must always use a jar with a rubber seal that will allow excess pressure to escape, otherwise you run the risk of explosions!

Storing the Culture
Real kefir from live culture is an endlessly self propagating process. After each batch you'll have a few more grains as the culture grows. Eventually you'll have quite a large batch of grains and they'll speed up your fermentation time. Spare culture can be stored for a time in a jar in the fridge with some milk. The fermentation will slow right down and you can store them for a few weeks this way. It's a good idea to rotate them with the grains you're using for your regular kefir making so that they get a chance to warm up and restore vitality to their microflora. You could also pass spare culture on to a friend.

Storing the Kefir
Store the kefir in a glass jar in the fridge. The kefir will keep a long time in the fridge. Add new batches of kefir to the storage jar as they are made and give it a shake to mix them.

You can store it on the kitchen counter instead of the fridge but be aware that it will continue to ferment, although not as fast as it would with the kefir grains in it. If you want to do that you should always use jars with a rubber seal that will allow excess pressure to escape and prevent possible explosions! It can be a very vigorous culture and has caused jars to explode when stored out of a fridge over a period of time. A kilner jar is good. The beneficial bacteria and yeasts help to prevent the kefir from spoiling but it gets very sour and fizzy.
Not for the fainthearted!


Also check out What is Kefir?

Yogurt

Recipe taken from Cheese Making at Home for Yogurt.

Makes one gallon

You need yogurt as a starter culture to make more yogurt. Initially, use a thick store-bought yogurt that is labeled as containing active cultures. Some of the thinner brands of yogurt aren't as successful in making yogurt. Once you have made it, save a little of your own homemade yogurt for each new batch you make. You can use skim milk to make yogurt and save the cream to make butter or sour cream.

1 gallon whole or skim milk
1/2 cup cultured plain yogurt.


Heat milk to 115-120 degrees.

Pour 1/2 cup of yogurt into a wide-mouth glass jar

Pour the milk into the jar with the yogurt starter. Stir briefly with a wire whisk to mix the yogurt into the milk.

Screw on the lid. Wrap the jar with a bath towel. Set the jar in a warm spot for 4-6 hours. Don't disturb the jar during the incubation period. When the yogurt is thick, unwrap the jar and store it in the refrigerator. Let chill before using or it will separate. Be sure to save 1/2 cup for starting your next batch.

Notes:

The first two steps in this recipe tell you how to pasteurize the milk which, in my opinion, defeats the purpose of making yogurt from fresh, raw milk. I have omitted these steps.

I warm my oven for a couple of minutes on the lowest setting and then turn the oven off and place the towel wrapped yogurt in the oven overnight.

An insulated cooler can be used to keep yogurt warm.

12/07/2009

Emmy~Confirmed Pregnant by Biotracking


Our new heifer, Emmy, has been confirmed pregnant by the use of Biotracking. She is due to calve in March and was artificially inseminated using semen from the Standard Jersey bull SHF Centurion Sultan.

Apple~Confirmed Bred by Biotracking





Our new registered standard size heifer has been confirmed pregnant by biotracking. She was artificially inseminated on 9/29 with semen from standard Jersey bull Rapid Bay Glasgow. Pictured here is the bull as well as the bull's mother, named Gorgeous! I can see how she got that name! Just look at that udder! I am really hoping for a heifer calf with an udder that looks like that! There is a very good possibility that Apple will be the first to give birth in the US to a calf sired by this Canadian bull.

12/05/2009

Cocktail Sauce






I wanted to make some cocktail sauce to go along with our wonderful Louisiana shrimp that we had for supper last night. So I had Mike dig up some horseradish root. I took the smaller roots and trimmed the bark off of them, washed them and ran them through the food processor. (Clears the sinuses right out, by the way!)

I took the processed horseradish root and mixed it with ketchup and a dash of Worcestershire sauce. Better than anything you can buy in the store!