Monday, March 2, 2015

indoor fun, outdoor fun

 This past weekend Little Miss Farmgirl decided to share her princess crown with Roo.

He seemed to like it. Here he is smiling up at her:

Several minutes later I got a hearty laugh when I found this! Still in his princess crown, he's been joined by a baby dolly in her "crown"- a canning funnel. LOL!

Isn't this neat. Our water pump was left dripping overnight and this is how my teen son found it this morning. The water had dripped down and created a mini stalagmite!

Hmm. Remind me not to leave the bread out unattended. (Those are finger pokes made by a curious child)

A boy and his goofy dog who enjoys a good belly scratch.

I told Smiley and Monkey that I wanted to take a picture of them in the lovely sunshine. This is how they showed up- with sticks and rocks and silly faces. ;)

When not enjoying good old fashioned play with sticks and rocks, they had fun with a homemade see saw, balanced on a roll of barbed wire fencing and a stump used for chicken head chopping off.

Is this too gory for a family-friendly farming blog? I love this picture because you can see exactly how the boys feel about plucking goose for dinner: Artist (on the right) doesn't like getting his hands "messy", with feathers, mud, paper mache, you name it. That's his "ew." face. LOL Monkey (on the left) on the other hand, loves it very much! 

On a side note, I don't think there can be found a more attractive man than one with hay and goose feathers stuck in his beard and mud on his knees at the end of the day. I sure love my husband. ;)

Here's that goofy dog again. There might be endless comfy, clean countryside around but he'd rather smoosh his face into a heap of composting cow manure and straw for a morning nap.

I've never seen something like this before. I've just noticed that our 2 month old has this very interesting color strip in his eye! Can you see it in the pictures? His eyes are darkening, surely to become brown like his siblings (and dad), but there's a strip of whitish-blue there in his right eye. It wasn't there until recently. It seems to be forming there while the rest of his eye is darkening? Isn't that weird/neat?

I wonder if it will stay?

And that's the summary of our simple yet busy weekend. :) Oh, not including the turkey babies that have been exploding from the incubator these past few days! That's been super fun. I should get a post up about the babies showing up here lately... We've got 5 lambs so far! They are sooo cute!

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Trayer Wilderness

The Chicken Chick

Friday, February 20, 2015

Keeping the blog, and aliases for my children

As you may have noticed, I have decided to continue blogging. It's silly how much energy I spent on making that decision. I really do enjoy blogging! But am not always able to find the time. Anyway, I will keep it up the best I can. 

One thing I have been wanting to do differently is to give our children aliases for use in my blog. We don't post our children's names online. I've been using "mister 3 year old", "mister 7 year old" etc., but I'd rather each one had his own permanent blog name. It was a fun conversation I had with the kids, deciding what their names should be. We had lots of laughs. ;)

Here is what we decided on:

"Roo" for our youngest. He's 8 weeks old now.

"Busy" is the name we picked for our 22 month old. 

"Little Miss Farmgirl" will keep her current name. :) I snapped this picture of her today. She was just sitting around with one Darth Vadar and one furry foot slipper on. Farmgirl is 3 years old. 

Being silly with dad on her birthday:

"Smiley" for our 5 year old, because he is!

"Monkey" is fitting for our 7 year old because he is so wiggly, jumpy, active and busy at all times. He is also very stubborn and carnivorous but we figured "Monkey" was a nicer name than "wiggly-spastic-stubborn-meat-lover". ;)

Last year:

It was easy to come up with a name for our 9 year old: "Artist"!

On the day of his baptism:

"Ranger" is the name we decided on for my 16 year old. I knew it would have to be something outdoorsy or Scout related...

The picture below is one year old, but it will always be one of my favorites!

Attempting to weigh our dog, lol. Turned out to be 130 pounds.

And last but not least, the child that I have that fewest recent pictures of! It's dreadful, really. I will make it a goal the next few times we hang out to snap pictures of her. I met up with her at the mall just last week. It was great fun- I should've been snapping photos left & right. Partially because I just need more photos of my beloved eldest daughter, and partially because.. sniff... she is moving back to Oregon next month! :( 

Often called Eldest Daughter, her official blog name is "Paisley". Just because. 

She's in the center of this photo of me and all my children when I was pregnant with "Roo". 

And there you have it. 

interesting egg sizes

Recent eggs laid on our farm. The huge one is a goose egg. Clockwise from that one is a Bourbon Red turkey egg- they are always speckled with brown freckles, and are SO hard to crack open! Next is a Pekin duck egg- they often appear dirty because the ducks enjoy laying them in mud. Finally, a chicken egg. They come in a huge variety of colors from our very mixed breed flock we keep for that reason. 

Our goose eggs look just like the dinosaur eggs in the Jurassic Park movie.  

We don't keep guineas anymore. They were too loud. They also disappeared all the time-  left to go be a wild bird, or got eaten by coyotes. We couldn't find their eggs since we let them free range. They laid them in secret, hidden nests out in the countryside. So then we couldn't hatch out any in the incubator and the mother guineas never managed to to hatch any themselves. 
And finally, we found that they didn't taste much different from chicken, but you get much less meat per bird! You can read about how guinea meat is gourmet and fancy and whatnot. I guess we just have simple folk taste buds. They weren't anything special when we ate them. Shrug. I don't miss their noise!

PS. I forget what kind of geese we keep. They're white. :p

Thursday, February 19, 2015

pictures from the last couple days

Out the window I noticed 2 of the boys sitting down on the hill, just hanging out with the dog in the pasture. During the moments it took me to get the camera and poke my head out the door, the cow began walking straight toward them.  She just wanted to sniff their faces and blow her hot cow breath on them I'm sure, but they started running away. There they are, just left of the cow,  running off laughing and yelling across the land. 

I finally caught a smile on camera! On his 8 week birthday:

Just a pretty picture of freshly baked bread in the evening sunlight. The steaming pot on the stove is canning blackberry jam. Yes, I put the lid on the canner after snapping the picture.  The steam was just such a nice addition to my food photo. :) I'm goofy that way about food, always taking pictures of it. It's just so darn pretty. 

Husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary recently. My in-laws kindly came to watch all the children (except the youngest) so we could run into town for a dinner date. Being the sort of folks we are, instead of running out immediately for a fancy night on the town, we ran out to our big old disorganized shop. Since grandma and grandpa were watching the kids we were able to put in some much needed bulk foods organizing time. We emptied bags of beans and grains into air tight buckets, threw out old neglected stuff (fed it all to the chickens), and just generally took stock of our bulk foods. Just after Husband had dumped a bag of black beans into a bucket that happened to be sitting in the sunlight, I gasped and commented on "how pretty it is!"  To which my husband mumbled, "yes dear, that's why I buy it." Hahaha. 

Peanut butter and blackberry jam sandwiches for dinner.

The geese sure adore our pond/puddle! They're so entertaining to watch out there, swimming, dunking under the water and preening themselves. They splash loudly and get the whole pond sloshing around.

Lots of outdoor play makes for sleepy kids.

I decided to finally dye my hair again recently. I used copper colored henna. Henna is an all natural hair dye made from plants, totally non-toxic. But it does look, feel and smell like you're plastering your head with mud mixed with decomposing salad greens. 

Before on the left, after on the right. 

Today I have one more batch of turkey bone broth to can, and then I need to dive into my lesson planning. You can always tell when I suddenly post a lot that we are on a homeschool break. ;) This is a vacation week for us, next week we start up our next several weeks of lessons again. 

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Our lard rendering extravaganza

We finally managed to get our final 2 pigs butchered a couple weeks ago and picked up the meat last week. I say finally because the mobile butchers that had come out last fall and butchered the first 2 pigs, essentially disappeared. Phone calls to them went unreturned and they kept delaying coming out to do the next couple of pigs. Months went by, we kept buying more feed, the piggies kept gobbling it up, and they kept getting fatter! 

We have butchered our own pigs in the past, and could do it again if absolutely necessary. With my poor husband's heavy work hours lately, it would have been too big a hardship so we opted for the convenience of a mobile slaughtering unit. That's someone who comes right to your farm with the proper tools and truck to kill your livestock for you, then cart the carcass back to town to chop it up into tidy, labeled cuts that we then go pick up at a later date. Super convenient! Especially since we don't really know what we're doing and would end up just making sausage out of the whole hog if we had to do it ourselves. ;)

I love having a mobile unit come out for the other reason of it being so much less stressful on the animal. Every single one we've had the butchers take care of has just peacefully fallen where it was standing. There's no terrorizing trip in a truck to the scary, smelly slaughterhouse. 

So, anyway. We finally gave up on our previous butcher, called around and found another company willing to come out to the boonies here. He came out and took care of our pigs and 2 sheep (rams). We always ask for the bones and fat back along with the meat, for making soup stock (AKA bone broth) and lard (or tallow in the case of cattle). 

This was our life for 3 days this weekend- filling the oven with 6 pots of sliced pork fat, simmering it all day, draining out the lard as it melted down, then re-filling all the pots and starting again. Our house was hot and stinky for all 3 days, lemme tell ya!

We simmered the chunks of fat at 250 degrees. Once we'd drained the melted fat- the lard- out around 3 times, the fat chunks started looking all dry and crispy. Not much more lard melts off once they look that way so those would all get dumped into more pots and pans on the counter top. That would eventually all get carted out to our chickens, ducks and dog. Since they couldn't possibly consume all of it, as tasty as it is to them (!), the ravens and magpies have joyfully joined in the feast. :)

Here are some of the crispy, spent fat chunks that can now be found in the bellies of many northern Idaho wild birds:

The melted lard I poured directly from the oven into my giant pressure canner pot:

Once I had a good amount in the canner, I'd heat it all up again to a nice melty, boily temperature (I wasn't very scientific about it), and filter it into quart sized canning jars like this:

I put the canning lids on top (that had been simmered for 10 minutes and were still hot), added the jar ring, and let them cool. Here is how they look before cooling. My kids got excited and thought I was canning honey. ;)

 Lard doesn't get put in a canner in order to process it. You just pour the hot lard into your jars and they can themselves! As the hours went by I could hear the familiar popping sound of the lids sealing. Once the lids sealed and the lard cooled to white, I took the rings off the lids. 

All in all, over 3 days and using the fat from 4 pigs we ended up with 40 quarts of good old home raised lard!

And then I ran straight to my computer to order this book from Amazon:

Lard: The Lost Art of Cooking with Your Grandmother's Secret Ingredient

so that I will know what the heck to do with it all!! LOL

I did use it in place of shortening in a biscuit recipe last night. We had those, plus our own eggs fried in lard, plus our own bacon all for dinner last night. That was pretty delicious. 


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