Wednesday, November 21, 2012

From a Farmer's Perspective

In the Field:  I just finished reading a great article about farming by Blake Hurst: http://www.american.com/archive/2009/july/the-omnivore2019s-delusion-against-the-agri-intellectuals

This man, a farmer from Missouri, responds to some of consumers greatest concerns about agriculture.  Farmer or not, I urge you to read this article with an open heart and mind.

A few quotes that sum it up:

"Farming has always been messy and painful, and bloody and dirty. It still is. This is something the critics of industrial farming never seem to understand."

On Sustainable farming:

"To the farmer on the ground, though, a farmer blessed with free choice and hard won experience, the moral choices aren’t quite so easy. Biotech crops actually cut the use of chemicals, and increase food safety. Are people who refuse to use them my moral superiors? Herbicides cut the need for tillage, which decreases soil erosion by millions of tons. The biggest environmental harm I have done as a farmer is the topsoil (and nutrients) I used to send down the Missouri River to the Gulf of Mexico before we began to practice no-till farming, made possible only by the use of herbicides. The combination of herbicides and genetically modified seed has made my farm more sustainable, not less, and actually reduces the pollution I send down the river."

On raising livestock & poultry:

"We raised the hogs in a shed, or farrowing (birthing) house. On one side were eight crates of the kind that the good citizens of California have outlawed. On the other were the kind of wooden pens that our critics would have us use, where the sow could turn around, lie down, and presumably act in a natural way. Which included lying down on my 4-H project, killing several piglets, and forcing me to clean up the mess when I did my chores before school. The crates protect the piglets from their mothers. Farmers do not cage their hogs because of sadism, but because dead pigs are a drag on the profit margin, and because being crushed by your mother really is an awful way to go. As is being eaten by your mother, which I've seen sows do to newborn pigs as well."

"Lynn Niemann was a neighbor of my family’s, a farmer with a vision. He began raising turkeys on a field near his house around 1956. They were, I suppose, what we would now call “free range” turkeys. Turkeys raised in a natural manner, with no roof over their heads, just gamboling around in the pasture, as God surely intended. Free to eat grasshoppers, and grass, and scratch for grubs and worms. And also free to serve as prey for weasels, who kill turkeys by slitting their necks and practicing exsanguination. Weasels were a problem, but not as much a threat as one of our typically violent early summer thunderstorms. It seems that turkeys, at least young ones, are not smart enough to come in out of the rain, and will stand outside in a downpour, with beaks open and eyes skyward, until they drown. One night Niemann lost 4,000 turkeys to drowning, along with his dream, and his farm."

And please, feel free to ask me any questions you may have about how our crops or livestock are raised and why we raise them that way.

Much love,

Kendra

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Tomatoes have Taken Over!

In the Garden:  The tomatoes have taken over.  I'm not kidding.  I guess they're loving the cooler weather.  Here's a pic of what used to be 6 different tomato plants:

 
 
It has turned into a jungle.  And this is the time of the year that rattlesnakes are out and about.  Ugh.  BUT - the tomatoes are finally producing!  The Heinz tomatoes and yellow pears are going crazy. Even the tempermental Cherokee Purples are putting on.  I have to admit, I have crawled under that mess to pick!
 
The zucchini are about done.  The okra look pitiful, but I'm still getting enough to eat.  Here's a pic of my harvest yesterday:
 



The pecans are falling too!  I'm thankful for all the pecans we have - that hail storm in May really did some damage to our crop this year.  Between the reduced crop and the raccoons (we've killed 6 out of our pecans trees this last week alone), we're lucky to get enough to make pecan pie!

The temps are supposed to drop this weekend.  It may be the end of our garden...the good news is that cooler temps cause the pecans to drop - more for me and less for the raccoons!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Cleaning House

On the Bookshelf:  A few years ago, back in my single days, I went to a single's service at a local church. The pastor was amazing - gave a great sermon on "Cleaning House" that has stuck with me to this day.

Now, this is not your typical "cleaning house" I'm referring to.  I'm talking about tossing out all the "unclean" things of your life.  Take a look at your bookshelves, your magazine rack, your DVD shelf.  Is there anything on that shelf you don't want your children to see? 

For some reason, God has been laying this on my heart recently.  I often wonder if I should homeschool Baby Girl - should I protect her from the world as long as I can - hoping when she encounters the evil that exists, she'll be strong enough in her faith to overcome, or should I let her see it first-hand at a young age, then show her how to deal with it, hoping and praying it doesn't overtake her?

For instance, teenage sex and pregnancy is rampant in our part of the world.  Do I want her to be surrounded by people who accept these things as normal - even cool - praying that she doesn't succumb to the peer pressure?  Or do I protect her, teaching her that sex before marriage is not only NOT COOL, but a sin that can affect the rest of her life?  And then hoping and praying that these messages and her faith stay with her during her college and young adult years? 

As I ponder these things, I suddenly had my eyes opened to the fact that my home is currently not the "safe" place I thought it was (not referring to the rattlesnakes!!!).  My bookshelves are lined with mainstream fiction that idealizes sin - sex before marriage, theft, murder, etc.  Do I want Baby Girl to read these things, unconsciously believing these sins to be acceptable? 

A good friend and I were discussing Disney movies - also previously known as "safe" entertainment. Not so.  We started discussing "The Princess and the Frog."  Now, I bought this movie because I collect Disney movies - I love them!  Then I watched it.  I have to say, I was seriously scared!  There are certain parts of this movie that are steeped in voodoo - demons and witches.  Scary stuff!  She suggested that get rid of the movie - sell it on eBay.  I'm considering it.  But then I wonder...Do I allow Baby Girl to watch these kinds of things (when she gets older, of course), explaining to her that witchcraft does exist - demons do exist - and, as in the case of this movie - THEY DON'T WIN!  Or do I shield her from it?  Do I not allow even a hint of the evil that is out there?  Or do I watch very carefully, allowing small parts of it to surface from time to time - using those situations as teaching opportunities? 

I'm really looking for answers here.  Does anyone have suggestions?  Real-life examples?  I'd love to hear what you have to say.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

I Haven't Seen this on Pinterest

Lists - I live by them.  Without them, nothing gets done.  And I've even found that if I make a Honey-Do List for My Love, some of the things on it actually get done (not usually on my time frame though, I might add!) 

So I bought one of those small white boards with magnets to put on the fridge.  My advice - don't get one.  The sticky tape to hold the magnets doesn't work. The whole thing falls off the fridge in the middle of the night, clattering to the floor and scaring the daylights out of you.  You imagine a prowler in the house, tiptoe to the kitchen and flip on the lights, ready to scream...and find the darn thing on the tile floor.  UGH!  I finally got fed up and trashed it!

But what to do?  I keep an ongoing grocery list on those small notepads with magnets, but I need a To-Do List - LARGE-  so I can see it and remind myself of all the things I have yet to do.

Inspiration struck!  Why not use the refrigerator itself?  We have a sleek black fridge - why can't I use that as a "white board?" 

So to Amazon.com I went.  And found these:

 
Success!  It was love at first write!  Here's a peek at my list:
 
 
 
Maybe I'm behind the times and everyone else has been doing this for years???

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

How Did My Garden Grow?

In The Garden:  Well, it's that time of year, the days are getting cooler (High of 92, anyone?), the nights are getting longer, the garden is shutting down.  So how'd we do?

Overall, it was a good year.  A great year for some veggies (okra!), a bad year for others (tomatoes & peppers).

As always, zucchini and squash were great producers.  The peppers were a disappointment. I finally harvested our first bell peppers a week or two ago. That hail storm we got the end of May really hit them hard - it was difficult for them to bounce back. The heirloom tomatoes and tomatillos were a big disappointment - no harvestable tomatillos. The only great tomato producer was the yellow pear (those tiny, yummy tomatoes).  Baby Girl LOVES any tomatoes - but especially ones she can pick right off the vine and eat!

We only got about 4 Cherokee purple tomatoes.  So sad.  We even tried a hormone spray that is supposed to help set fruit.  No luck. I guess next year it's back to the ol' faithful "Celebrity."  Yes, it's a hybrid, but it produces.  My aunt gets tomatos by the dozens. She brought me a 5-gallon bucket full (1 day's pick from her 24 plants).  It inspired me to learn how to can.

My aunt has been canning for years and brought over her tools and we got to work. I'm not going to give specifics here because canning is something that needs to be done according to specific direction - I don't want to be responsible for giving you or your family botulism!

The fruit of our efforts:


 
Canned tomatoes for soups and homemade Rotel!
 
 
After she left, I attempted to can by myself (talk about scary!).  Total count:  7 pint jars of Rotel and 18 pint jars of tomatoes.  Success!  Without her 5-gallon bucket, we'd be tomato-less and I'd be stuck buying them from Sam's.

The okra was prolific!  This was our first year to plant okra.  My grandma loves it, so I thought I'd plant some for her.  Well, little did I know, okra will put on like CRAZY!  I don't see Granny much - about once every 3 weeks, so the majority of okra I had to put up.  My Love doesn't really care for okra unless it's fried.  So what did I do?  I made up 3 gallon bags FULL of pre-breaded okra.  Now, that's a LOT of okra!  When I got tired of putting up breaded okra, I decided to try my hand at canning. 

 
 
I love pickled okra, so thought I'd give that a try. I used the recipe in the Ball Canning book and so far, so good!  You have to wait 6 weeks before trying them to make sure the pickling has had time to work...I'll let you know how it goes!
 
As for sweet corn - we didn't try it this year.  It takes up a lot of room for a one-time crop.  We were able to harvest several tote bags full from a friend - the best way to "grow" it!  We spent days on end shucking, cutting and freezing sweet corn. But it's so worth it to have sweet corn in December!
 
We also have the opportunity to harvest peaches free from another friend - my mother-in-law harvested about 5 bushels of peaches this year.  The next week or so was spent putting up peaches before they ruined.  My Love and I also hit the road-side stands outside Fredricksburg each year on our way home from a Farm Bureau conference in San Marcos. We usually bring home about 1/2 bushel to put up.  We save these peaches for special occasion cobbler!
 
It was a busy year, but oh-so-worth it!  If you've never gardened - give it a try!  You don't need much room - try container gardening or even window boxes!
 
Total grocery count from our summer harvest: (not counting food already consumed!) 
 
15 quart bags of steamed squash & zucchini
3 loaves frozen zucchini bread
2 dozen frozen zucchini bread muffins (and rapidly dwindling!)
100 onions
6 pint jars pickled okra
3 gallon bags of frozen breaded okra
18 pint jars of tomatoes
7 pint jars of Rotel
36 pint bags of frozen sweet corn
15 quart bags of frozen peaches
1 (measley) quart bag of frozen sliced bell peppers
 
There's still a little life left in the garden - the tomatoes are putting on again (now that it's cooled down) and the zucchini and squash and okra are still producing. Last year our garden froze the first week in October, but I'm hoping for continued harvest until at least November. We're also considering some fall veggies like butternut squash and lettuce - some things we've never planted.  Maybe we'll give them a try!
 
 
 

 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Flour - Made the Old-Fashioned Way

In the Field:  My Love and I got the opportunity to go on a tour of San Antonio last weekend.  We saw some of the sights (backstage at Sea World!) and ate a LOT of Mexican food.  I also found out that my hubby has never been to the Alamo...how do you live in Texas for 33 years and have never been to the Alamo??? 

One of tours we did was at the Mission San Jose. It is one of the missions built along the San Antonio River. See here for more info: http://www.nps.gov/saan/historyculture/sanjosehistory1.htm

It was originally built in the early 1700s - about 300 years ago.  It was destroyed in war and what was left fell into disrepair.  The WPA  rebuilt the mission in the 1930s. 

The mission wasn't just the church - it was the community.  The Indians lived in what were essentially apartments built into the protective walls. The Indians were originally hunters and gatherers, but the Fransiscans (monks) taught the Indians how to farm.  They built miles of irrigation ditches (called acequias) to bring water from the San Antonio River to their farms.

But these irrigation ditches were used for something else as well.  When the WPA was rebuilding the Mission San Jose, they uncovered brick-lined pits and channels.  What they had found was the foundation of a grist-mill for grinding wheat!  They then rebuilt the grist-mill and it works today!

This is the exterior of the mill - water wheel below, mill above.

It was so interesting to see how a grist-mill worked - no electricity, no engines, no machines.  It doesn't get much more "green" than how it was done in the 1700s.

The water wheel at work.
 
The water from the irrigation ditches flows into a channel and then into a 9' deep pit.  This pit creates water pressure.  A gate is opened and the water flows down and into the water wheel.  (Yes, that is a horizontal water wheel!).  This turns the wheel which turns the shaft that is attached to the mill above.
 
The mill.
 
The mill wasn't very big - I was expecting something much larger.  The handle on the far left side is essentially the "on-off switch."  This lever opens and closes the gate that allows the water flow to operate the water wheel. The funnel on top of the mill holds the whole wheat kernels.  The round disc you see is a granite millstone.  Two stones are stacked on top of each other, with space between them.  The bottom stone is stationary and the top stone is turned by the shaft from the water wheel.  Wheat falls through the hole in the funnel to the hole in the millstone.  The wheat is then ground between the two stones.
 

A millstone (not from this grist-mill)
 
For more info on millstones - check out this site: http://www.angelfire.com/journal/millrestoration/millstones.html
 
As the top stone turns, the wheat is ground into a fine flour. The texture of the flour can be changed by altering the space between the two stones.
 
The flour is then pushed to the outside and down into a waiting bucket.
 
Wheat being milled into flour.
 
After explaining how the mill worked, the park ranger passed around a bowl of the flour for us to touch.  An older man, obviously from the city, commented "Can you eat this?"  My Love, with the bowl in his hand, took a pinch of the flour and put it in his mouth.  "Yep!" he said.  The man then said "I would be afraid it would have glass or something in it." (There was no glass anywhere...)
 
It has become more and more obvious that most people don't understand where their food comes from.  Yes, we saw that wheat actually being ground - but since it wasn't white, bleached, enriched, and in a paper bag on the grocery shelf, it must not be flour!
 
It's amazing how far removed we are from the source of our food.  As each generation depends more and more on others to produce the food they eat, that knowledge gets lost.  It is my job, and the job of every other farmer and rancher out there, to educate the nation about what we do and how we do it. 
 



Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Needed a little Mommy Boost this morning

In the Parent Trap:  One of my favorite blogs had a great pick-me-up this morning.  I needed this.  Maybe you do to - or you know someone who does.  Check out LiEr's blog, Ikat Bag.

http://www.ikatbag.com/2012/08/we-are-woman-hear-us-roar_28.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ikatbag+%28Ikat+Bag%29

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Why I Have 10 Cats

In The Yard:  No, not in the field today.  This was at the house.  Yes, I have 10 cats.  And I'll continue to have 10 cats, maybe even more.  This is why:


My Love had just gone outside (about 10 minutes ago) to start work on the door for my cellar.  He comes racing immediately back into the house, grabs the .410 and the shells and heads back out the door.  One of our outdoor kitties had a rattlesnake charmed. 


This is how close to the house it was.  Talk about dangerous.  Especially for a sweet Baby Girl who loves to play outside.


And here's My Love holding the wretched thing after he'd blown it's head off.  A little over 3 feet long. Ugh.  Just gives me the creeps.  Makes my stomach churn when I think what could have happened had Baby Girl found it and not My Love.  I HATE them!

We're not sure where it came from as we are surrounded by dormant wheat fields.  Maybe the barn? The garden? 

Just a few years ago, when we were remodeling the house, look what we found when we removed the floor vents:


Thankfully it was about 8 degrees that day, so they weren't moving much.  There are a total of 12 in this box.  We found a lovely man who pulled them out and took them away for us.  Personally, I'd have killed them all, but he could sell them to places that make anti-venin.  Unfortunately for him, he left them outside in this metal box overnight and they all died.  No loss there.  Overall, we found a total of 25 rattlers that year. 

We've killed just a few in the last 2 years.  I've killed 3 on my own (God Bless that little .410). 

As much as I love being a farmer's wife, this is one thing I'd gladly give up.  But I definitely won't be giving up my kitties.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Hay Bales and Harvest

In the Field: I promised you some pics from wheat harvest...just now getting around to looking at the pictures on my camera.  It's amazing what you'll find on there! 


Combining in the field behind our house.


Combining and the truck waiting to be filled (this is the truck I learned how to drive this year!)


Eating supper in the field.  This is the only time Baby Girl got to see My Love (the one with the plate on this lap) each day of harvest.


This was an exciting harvest for me.  I learned how to drive the truck (aka 18-wheeler for the non-farming folk) at wheat harvest.  I have to say, I really enjoyed it!  I only drove in the field since I'm not licensed, but it was still fun.  I didn't kill it once!  I'm so proud!  It's very similar to driving a standard, only with an extra set of gears.  Now, I'm no expert - you won't be seeing me on Ice Road Truckers!  I also got to drive it to help load hay.  My Love was driving the tractor and I drove the truck pulling the hay trailer.  It was killer on my thighs - that clutch is a bear!!!

And yesterday was another learning experience for me - I learned how to drive the tractor!  I have no idea which one it was except that it was green and it had air-conditioning!  It was a bit cramped as it had no "buddy seat" (passenger seat beside the driver).  My Love decided it was time for me to learn how to move hay.  He loaded me and Baby Girl up and we were off.  He drove for the first bit, showing me how everything worked.  (Side Note:  Baby Girl LOVES to ride in the tractor - she just chills out on Daddy's lap and watches the world go by).  After a while, I took over the reins. 

Now, tractor driving is much more difficult than driving an 18-wheeler.  There's no gas pedal, only an accelerator that you use by hand - meaning you can't just let off the gas to slow down - that was a difficult one to learn!  And there are 2 brake pedals - to stop, you mash them both.  Add onto all this, there is an A, B, C, D gear and in each gear are 1-4 gears - I was mainly in C-2 and R-1 (reverse).  Then there are all the hydraulics - forward and back, up and down, 3 different hydraulics.  It was mind-boggling.  And not much fun to learn with My Love and Baby Girl and I all crammed into a tractor cab. 

But I prevailed!  I even learned how to hitch and unhitch the gooseneck trailer (so much easier than a truck - no need to get out!).  My Love with with me as I loaded up each hay bale onto the trailer (I even double-deckered them!).  After I drove up to the house to unload the bales, he and Baby Girl climbed down and watched.  I ALMOST dumped one off the far side of the trailer, but I rescued it!  Here's a pic of my pretty row (mine is the last row on the left - and some of the bales at the front of the other rows).  I think I did pretty good!



Now, when I first got married several of the farm wives in our church cautioned me to never learn how to drive the tractor. They said once you learn, they'll have you doing it all the time!  One lady even told me that her first time to drive a tractor she drove it through the fence so she never had to drive it again!  LOL! 

I guess I'm just different.  Before My Love and I got married, my dream was to live on my family's ranch in the Texas Hill Country.  I wanted to raise cows and build a home out in the middle of nowhere.  Although I miss easy-access to great food and shopping, I don't miss the city at all.  I am living my dream life.  Except that I get a little stir-crazy every now and then.  I love being a homemaker, but sometimes Momma just wants to get out of the house!  I crave connection to the land.  I need the sunshine and the sweat.  I need to work with my hands and see what I've accomplished.  Farming isn't just my husband's job - it's OUR DREAM.  Not just his life - OUR life.  The life I want our daughter to love.  I want her to see us working together to make this dream a reality.  And if that means I "have to" drive a tractor and an 18-wheeler - bring it on!





Monday, August 13, 2012

A Necessary Reminder

I had several "fun" things I wanted to post about today, but something happened last night that has been on my mind all day.

About 11 pm last night, lightning started flashing as a thunderstorm rolled in.  The landscape around here can be described with 1 word - DRY.  We had a little rain earlier in the spring, causing grass to grow - grass that has now died and left abundant fuel for wildfires. My Love is a volunteer fireman so I reminded him to put his fire pager by the bed (which prevents the obnoxiously loud siren call from waking up the baby).  About 2:30 this morning, the pager went off.  We both expected the call to be for a wildfire.  We were wrong.

The call was for a structure fire - something we rarely have out here because our population density is very low.  Thankfully, Texas Forest Service had given our volunteer fire department a grant for structure fire gear (very different from fighting wildfires).  So My Love dressed in this new gear for the first time and headed out to the fire.

At this point, we had had some rainfall (Praise the Lord for that .35"!), so the fire trucks had to go the long way around to get to the fire (you just don't drive on caleche roads during a rain!).  Unfortunately, it took our guys over 30 minutes to get to the site.  The other fire departments were already on site, doing what they could to put out the fire.

But it was too late.  A historical ranch home built in the late 1800s burned to the ground. All that remains of the home and it's collection of family antiques, paintings, and irreplaceable memories is the rock walls.

That is not the worst, nor the reason it is on my mind.  The owner never made it out of the house.  One man escaped, burned and scraped with smoke inhalation damage, but she didn't.  We guess she must have run to save some personal momento and lost her life.

My Love dug through the rubble and helped pull what what left of her body from the ashes of her home. 

He and the other firemen were able to rescue some heirloom dishes, but not her. 

Please take this a reminder to check the batteries in your smoke detectors.  Perform fire escape practice.  And LEAVE everything behind.  Things can be replaced but your life cannot.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Zucchini, Zucchini, Zucchini

On The Stove:  It's that time of year - the time when the zucchini plants go WILD!  Every winter, I dream of fresh zucchini - can't wait to taste it, to savor it!  And by mid-July, August, I'm so sick of it, I can hardly stand the sight of them!

If you garden, you know what I'm talking about.  I'm having a hard time getting my tomatoes to set - but not the zucchini.  So each year, I try new recipes, try to find some other way to prepare zucchini.  So I thought I'd share a few of my favorite ways to cook (and eat) zucchini.  Most of these are really simple - I don't do "fancy" food.  Even if I did, My Love wouldn't eat it.

1) My absolute FAVORITE way to eat zucchini:


ZUCCHINI BREAD!  I haven't met a single person who doesn't love this stuff!  I make large batches of it - and like Blue Bell says - eat all we can and sell the rest - no really, I just freeze the rest - makes for a super-yummy treat when I'm craving zucchini in the winter.  Also, this is a great way to use that zucchini that got away from you and is now the size of a baseball bat...Here's the recipe I use:

(From the Harper Sesquicentennial Cookbook, recipe submitted by Darla Anderegg Boone (a relative of mine), originated by Jo (Mrs. Carlton Wright)).

3 eggs
1 C. oil (I use coconut oil)
2 C. sugar
2 C. grated zucchini (about 1 med. zucchini)
2 t. vanilla
3 C. flour
1 t. soda
1/4 t. salt
3 t. cinnamon
1 C. nuts (I use pecans)

Preheat oven to 325.  Beat eggs, add oil, sugar, grated zucchini and vanilla, beating well between each addition.  Sift together flour, soda, salt and cinnamon.  Add to first mixture.  Add nuts.  Bake in loaf pan (makes 2 small loaves) or, my favorite, in muffin tins.

Also, you can use this recipe to make a zucchini bread roll (like a pumpkin roll).  Here's my recipe for that:

(adapted from Tasty Kitchen Harvest Pumpkin Roll by LadyInRed)

Use above recipe for Zucchini bread.  Grease and flour jelly roll pan (I just use Baker's Joy spray).  Smooth mixture into jelly roll pan (cookie sheet with sides).  Bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Let cool for 10 minutes. Slide a knife gently around the edges to loosen.  Hold a clean dishtowel over the top of the pan and quickly invert the cake on top of the dishtowel (this is harder than it sounds).  Remove the pan, making sure the cake is completely removed from pan.  Dust the top of the cake with powdered sugar to prevent sticking.  Starting with the short end, gently roll the cake with the towel and let cool completely.

Cream Cheese Filling:

8 oz Cream Cheese, softened
4 Tbsp. Butter
1 C. powdered Sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Beat softened cream cheese, butter, sugar and vanilla until smooth.  Gently unroll cake and spread the filling. Re-roll cake (without the towel this time!).  Chill before serving!  (Note:  This cake also freezes well when properly wrapped to prevent frostbite!)

Note:  I love to use this Cream Cheese Filling recipe as a frosting for zucchini bread muffins as well - SUPER-yummy!


 2)  Freezing Zucchini

This is an easy way to preserve zucchini that you will eat as-is.  Last year I tried to grate the zucchini, then freeze for use in Zucchini bread later.  It didn't work...trust me on this. 

However, I did put up a LOT of zucchini as baby food last year as well.  I simply steamed it (either in a dish with some water in the microwave or in a steamer on the stove).  Then I pureed it, poured it in ice cube trays, and then froze it.  Popping out the cubes after freezing, then storing in a gallon ziploc bag.  (refer to my tutorial on making homemade baby food).  This was some of Baby Girl's first "real" food.

This year, however, I've found a new friend.  Ziploc brand Steamer Bags.  HEAVEN!  They are SO easy!  Just slice the zucchini, put it in the bag, and microwave according to the time on the bags (about 5 minutes).  They are SO great!  The zucchini is steamed, but not watery - it is still firm enough to stay together and not turn into mush!  Even though the bag says not to reuse - I do it anyway.  Give the bag a little wash, hang dry, and reuse!  These work great when you have a bunch to do because it takes so little time.  I let the zucchini cool, then put into a FoodSaver bag, vacuum and seal - and freeze!  I sometimes put onion in with them when I steam - makes for a yummy flavor!

3) Dehydrating Zucchini

This year is my first attempt at dehydrating zucchini.  It honestly never crossed my mind until I ran across the idea in a blog.  We love to dehydrate apples when I catch them on sale.  This works great for easy, compact storage (especially when you run out of room in the freezer).  Since mold occurs with moisture, removing the moisture means the zucchini will not go bad (or at least not nearly as fast).

First, wash your zucchini, then quarter it, lengthwise.

 
Chop into small pieces and layer (heavily) on your dehydrator.  They shrink up considerably.


My dehydrator has specific settings for meats, vegetables, etc.  Put your dehydrator on the correct setting and start!  I used two trays, both overfilled with zucchini.  Less than 8 hours later - it was ready.  Make sure the zucchini is COMPLETELY dry.  My Love turned it off and didn't tell me - the next morning the humidity had re-hydrated the zucchini so it was chewy.  I had to dehydrate again. 


Then simply put it in a jar in the pantry.  This is a pint jar - it holds about 5 zucchini.  Amazing huh?



I love to use zucchini in my spagetti sauce - so this will be perfect for use during the winter.  Just make sure you add the zucchini plenty early and add additional water to your sauce so the zucchini will plump back up.

4)  Grilling.  Probably the easiest way to prepare zucchini and it's Delicious!  Just wash and quarter your zucchini, lengthwise.  Coat with olive oil and season with seasoning salt and fresh-ground pepper.  Put directly on a hot grill until zucchini is softened (I like mine a little black around the edges).  And enjoy!  These take a little more time than, say, a steak, so if you're going to cook a meat, make sure these get on the grill about 5-10 minutes earlier (depending on the size of your zucchini).

Hope you enjoy these recipes. I'd love to hear from you if you have a different way to prepare/eat zucchini!



Sunday, June 24, 2012

You've Got to be Kidding!

In The Field:  Or in this case, In The Doctor's Office.  So as I was waiting for the doctor to come into the room to give Baby Girl her 1 year check-up, (Yes, She's a Year already??? Can you imagine???) I was scoping out the June issue of Redbook magazine.  Now, it is not something I typically read.  I got a free copy a while back to try to entice me to subscribe, but I just didn't find it worthy of the $20/year.  However, it was the ONLY thing to read while Baby Girl played with the blocks, so I thumbed through it.

And what should catch my eye?  An article entitled "Antibiotics are NOT Candy." Now, I happen to be a believer that you shouldn't take antibiotics for just anything.  I do however, give myself and my daughter antibiotics when it is justified - why suffer - and make her suffer - if we are sick?  So I started reading the article.  Great stuff at first - stories of people who had SUPERBUGS - bugs that no antibiotic can kill.  Wow.  Scary, right?  The author gives a low-down on how Americans tend to overuse or misuse antibiotics.  You've never not finished a dose because you're feeling better, right????  They give a great little chart on when you should or shouldn't use antibiotics.  Very interesting article so far.

Then, suddenly, they start bashing the farming industry....WHAT???  Where did that come from???  (You can check out the article here:  http://www.redbookmag.com/health-wellness/advice/how-antibiotics-cause-superbugs  The farmer-bashing begins on the last paragraph of the first page of the online article.)  They say that a major contributing factor in the Superbug Crisis is the overuse of antibiotics in the farming industry.  They state it is common practice to feed low doses of antibiotics to animals to make them grow and keep them from getting sick in crowded conditions.  Really?  First of all, I've never heard of ANYONE or ANYTHING taking an antibiotic to grow - steroids for Major League Baseball players, yes, but not Antibiotics...Secondly, we raise livestock and we only give our animals antibiotics when they're SICK!  Livestock have huge input costs - and doping them up on needless medications isn't something any farmer wants to shell out money for.  Now, imagine you live in a high-rise in NYC (or a college dorm for that matter).  The person across the hall from you is sick - and the person next door...and your roommate...do you run the risk of getting sick or do you take precautions?  You take precautions, of course!  Now, I'm a big believer in Airborne, but as far as I know it, they don't make that stuff for animals! 

But, oh, it gets even better - the author starts stretching the truth as far as they possibly can - then further...The adjoining article is entitled "The Other Major Antibiotic Issue: Farm Animals."  They do a 2-page article on this topic specifically - with a cute computer graph to show just how HORRIBLE farming is... http://www.redbookmag.com/recipes-home/blogs/cooking/how-farms-create-superbugs

You've Got to be Kidding?
Cute graphics, huh?  I particularly like the hunk of a farmer in his overalls and what looks to me like red flannel long-handle underwear (my hubby doesn't wear that stuff - does any farmer since 1900?)   And I have to say, I've NEVER seen smoke and bugs coming out of the top of a barn like that!!!   It states that farmers carry the bacteria away and exhaust blows it into the air...Wow.  So that means that farmers in general should be SO MUCH SICKER than anyone living in the city, right?  I live 200 feet from all the "bugs flying out of the top of my barn," so I should have some super-resistant bacteria in my body, right?  Ha!  When Baby Girl had some tummy troubles, we went to the doctor.  They were amazed that she had only been sick 1 TIME in her entire first year of life!  I have read that most babies are sick up to 8 TIMES in their first year...The doctor then commented on how "the clean farm air is growing a healthy baby."  Hmmm, so which will I believe?  The author who is, line-by-line, showing her ignorance, or the doctor that spent years healing people???

The graphic opposite the hunk-of-a-farmer states that bacteria from the animals guts gets onto the meat during slaughtering and processing.  Now, this might be true.  But how many of you eat your meat raw????  I particularly enjoy raw pork, don't you?  So if you cook your meat properly, all those nasty germs will die - and become harmless to you.  And as far as I can see, it's no farmers fault if you can't cook!!!

And that poor, poor person in the hospital bed...apparently they ate raw meat and contaminated produce, and breathed in some really nasty air (probably live in a city, is my guess), and then are in the hospital about to die...But according to my "research" - aka "common sense" - there is no "nasty air coming out of barns" and it's not the farmers fault if this person ate undercooked meat.  Looks like I just killed her pretty graphic...

The last page of the original article urges us to "Join The Fight Against Superbugs".  http://www.redbookmag.com/health-wellness/advice/how-to-prevent-superbugs?click=main_sr
Ok, well, how do I do that?  First, we are to use prescribed antibiotics correctly (gotta agree with them there).  The next 4 THINGS we are supposed to do are farm-related.  (Hmm, is it just me, or did this article deviate from it's original intent - using antibiotics correctly - then quickly diverted to it's MAIN PURPOSE of bashing farming - Note: thank you 3rd grade teacher who taught me how to pick out the main point of a story.)  Was this author paid by the Humane Society????

Now, #2 states to buy meat labeled "raised without antibiotics" or "organic".  This is totally hilarious to me...so this animal I am about to eat was raised without antibiotics...great, so when it got sick, it died and now it's on my plate?????  "Organic" is even better.  On the prior page, they gave a major reason people get sick is from manure-based fertilizer that taints crops (see the farmer graphic)...Um, quick question...how, exactly do you "organically" fertilize a crop?  MANURE!  LOL!  So essentially they are telling us to EAT the produce that on the page before they were telling us would kill us!  And they're telling us to write to our schools to serve only organic food to our kids...Did anyone with any sense read this article before they published it?  I'm guessing not.

However, #4 makes a great point.  We are to spread the message...but not the message they're sending.  The article states "Awareness is key: Most people have no idea which illnesses require antibiotics, nor do they know how much the drugs are used in food animals. 'Unless you grew up on a farm, why would you know that?' says (Gail) Hansen" a public health advocate with the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming.  She makes a valid point for all of us who are farmers...how would the rest of the world know?? Awareness IS Key!  So let's get the message out there!  Let's tell the world how farming works and how it does and DOES NOT affect them!

And I think a boycott of Redbook magazine might be something to consider as well...

K.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

It's been a while

Sorry it's been over a month since I've posted - it's been one h-e - double-hockey-sticks kind of a month around here.  I'll give you a quick low-down on life as I know it.  I've had about 10,000 ideas for blog posts, but just haven't found the time to get down to them yet.  So over the next month or so, I'll be posting about some of these more in-depth.

In the Field:  Harvest is DONE!  Hallelujah!  It was just getting started when I last posted - and it's been done for a few weeks now - even got some of our wheat sold.  Praise the Lord!  Overall, the drought of last year didn't affect us too bad - we had a decent crop - less than what we'd hoped, but definitely more than nothing!  The small hail storm we had that I posted about did some damage, but we were able to save more than we expected. (I'll be posting harvest pics soon - gotta find the time to get them all off the digital camera and uploaded.)  The rain stayed away long enough for us to get it done...Well, almost.  Do you remember my post about the hail??  Well, it came back...with a vengance. 

On May 30, we had some seriously creepy clouds come down from the Northwest.  Green and scary.  Rotation in the clouds - if you've ever seen a storm like this, you know what I'm talking about.  Right about then I was sure wishing My Love had cleaned out the storm shelter and put a door on it...I was starting to get really scared when he showed up.  The guys had been harvesting at the farthest field - about 30 minutes from home.  He came to the farm, closed up the grain bins and headed to our house.  He got home and less than 10 minutes later, all hell broke loose.  The rain came - only 1/2 an inch.  But with that rain came the biggest hail I've ever seen - we're talking baseball size hail.  Only it was also the strangest hail I've ever seen - it wasn't round - it was flat - like a hockey puck.

Imagine a tin roof and Ranger's Batting Practice!  It wasn't pretty.  My Love, Baby Girl, Buddy (the farm dog), and I hid in Tori's room (the SW side of the house) and watched it come down - from the Northeast.  Yes, I said Northeast.  The storm was coming from the NW, but the hail was from the NE - later the rain came down from the South - it was a huge rotating cloud right above our house!  We heard the hail breaking windows, so I ran to the kitchen (barefoot - that's how I roll when I'm home).  The moment I poked my head around the corner to look at the window, another HUGE hunk of hail came through the window - shattered glass everywhere - it got my legs and a small piece inbedded in my head.  That was enough for me - I ran back to Baby Girl's room as fast as I could.  Then we heard windows breaking in our bedroom, so I told My Love to run in there and get me a pair of shoes.  Then we waited - praying - listening to the hail beat the "hail" out of my home.  It was an experience I plan to never repeat - God Willing. 

I do have to give a shout out to our local Volunteer Fire Departments - mainly Lohn and Brady.  These guys (and gals) were there for us when we most needed them.  Did you know that Volunteer Fire Departments do more than just fight fires?  Most of them are also storm-watchers and emergency responders as well.  These men and women were storm-watching - heard about the destruction of our home - and were here in less than 15 minutes after the storm abated.  My Love is a Volunteer Fireman as well - he was radioing in as the storm was pounding our house.  They heard his reports and got here as fast as they could.  They brought wet-dry vacs, mops, brooms, tarps, etc.  They helped My Love board up the windows and sweep up the glass - it was amazing what they accomplished in a few hours. 

The hail was so bad it cut holes in our new tin roof.  Note:  we did a massive remodel of our farm house - it was built in the 40s after the original house burned down.  In 2010, My Love started the remodel and we moved in a few months later to an essentially new house.  We kept only the original hardwood floors, some interior and roof structure and that's all.  So this hail was pretty bad to cut holes in new tin, bust out 8 new windows and pound holes into Hardie concrete siding.  Thank God for Farm Bureau Insurance!  The appraiser was here the next day, but it still takes time to get estimates, get windows and roofing supplies ordered etc.  The work will probably commence in less than a month from now - and I'm ready for it to be done!  Nothing like having boarded up windows in your kitchen and bedroom! 

The garden was hit pretty bad, but it's come back - the squash and zucchini are producing again and the tomato plants are bigger than ever...

Praise the Lord that at the time this happened, our wheat fields were already harvested!  The family had a few fields left, but the bad hail missed them.  Unfortunately though, My Love's brother and his parents had fields of corn that got hit hard.  They'll lose 50-60% of their harvest potential.  That's a lot of money to lose.  But it's not enough for insurance to pay anything...so you just take the hit and pray it makes more than you think.  These were some tough times emotionally - for the entire family. A time of a lot of prayer and thankfulness that it wasn't worse.  Thankful that our wheat was already harvested - we didn't lose our finances for the next year.  Thankful that none of us were hurt - well, hurt badly anyway.  Thankful that everything that was destroyed can be replaced with only time and money.  Thankful that our Lord was watching out for us - He kept us safe.   It has really made me remember what is most important - our family and our health.

I hope to be updating every couple of days or so...there's a job possibility on the horizon for me - and if it comes to fruition, this may take a backseat for a month or two....I'll definitely keep you all posted! 

K.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How to Educate the Next Generation About Agriculture

In the Field:  In my last post, I discussed how far removed most children are from their agriculture roots.  What can we, as modern-day farmers, do to help these kiddos understand farm life?

I have noticed that kids LOVE farming - when they're tiny.  From about 2 years up to about 4 years, kids love anything to do with farming - the tractors, the animals - all of it!  And then the fasination fades...they get overrun with TV and video games - the love of farming gets replaced with Power Rangers.  So what can we do to foster that love of farming and outdoors?

Here's a few ideas you can put into place:

1) Invite "city" kids to your farming operation.  My sister-in-law often brings her class to the farm on a field trip.  I invite my "city" friends with kiddos to come visit. They stay with us, they play here, they climb tractors, they feed baby lambs. And they love it!



Who wouldn't, I tell you! My best friend, Bethany, brought her son out a few weeks ago.  He loved it!  The room to roam and play!  She told me that when he went back to class, he told everyone about feeding the baby lambs!  Now, that's excitement!  And this is exactly the boost agriculture needs - kids telling other kids about how much fun it is!

2) Get involved!  Volunteer!  Get involved with your local 4-H, FFA, Girl Scouts.  They're always looking for volunteers.  You can contact your local Agrilife Extension agent for more info regarding 4-H and other opportunities.  If you can't find the time to volunteer with an organization, check out 1-time opportunites.  Speak out at your public schools - talk about farming at Career Day!  Teach at the Ag in the Classroom days.  These are only 2-3 days out of the year -  but these few days make an impact on the next generation.

3) Promote MyAmericanFarm.org!  What a great website created by the American Farm Bureau!  What kid these days doesn't love online games?  I've played them myself - LOTS of fun - great graphics and fun farming facts!  Get your kids to play and tell their friends, show your grandkids - let's use their desire to play video games to promote agriculture!

4)  And this is the MOST important - Portray and positive vision of agriculture!  In Pioneer's "Growing Point" magazine, they asked kids from several different states questions about today's agriculture.  One of the most humorous questions was "What does a farmer look like?"  Some answers were funny  - "Old hat, old shirt, wriggly pants"  What ARE wriggly pants????  But the overwhelming majority were along these lines "Sweaty and dirty, sweaty and gross, tired"  or "hard-working".  Now, all of that is true - I know, I do my husband's laundry!!!  But does this vision inspire kids to want to be farmers?  I don't think so... Nor does the image of the "poor, broke farmer" help us promote agriculture.  There are farmers out there who are profitable.  I was talking to an acquaintance of mine who is single. She said her mother doesn't want her to date a farmer because they're always broke.  Ouch.  Who would want to pursue a career in agriculture if it is assumed that you'll always be just scraping by???  We need to change this mentality - and the only way that will happen is by being involved.

So I urge you - today - to start promoting agriculture!  Invite "city folks" to see your farm and participate in your daily activities, volunteer with children's organizations, promote MyAmericanFarm.org!  All of these will help change the way American views today's farmers!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Irony and Why the Next Generation is Clueless About Agriculture

In the Field:  Well, I went and did it.  I said that 4-letter word, H-A-I-L, and guess what we got today?  1.5" of rain and hail.  Pea sized to quarter size, but not much of it, Praise the Lord!  The wind was high, so the wheat that was standing so tall now looks like it needs a V-8.  Lots and lots of praying went on this afternoon.  The combines started yesterday and now it looks like they'll be on hold for the next few days while this El Nino system builds up.  Can't say I don't love the rain though!

Something has been bothering me for the last few months, something I wish I could change.  It seems as though this generation of children know NOTHING about agriculture.  I recently read an article in Pioneer's "Growing Point" magazine about what today's kids know about agriculture.  Most of the answers were right on (and some were flat hilarious!), but some really concerned me. 

Most kids these days grow up in an urban environment.  They are 2, 3, 4 generations removed from the farm.  Most kids have never seen a "real live" farm animal.  Is there any wonder why the American People have become so demanding and unpredictable regarding animal welfare and the origins of their grain?  People spend their days behind desks in air-conditioned buildings.  Long gone are the days when we all had to grow crops and butcher hand-raised animals just to survive.  Now we wonder why kids have so much time to get into trouble...it's because they aren't at home having to milk the cows and muck out stalls.

My aunt and uncle live on our family's ranch in the Hill Country of Texas.  They never had kids of their own, so they tend to "adopt" one trouble-making family member during the endless summers.  My brother was one of them.  As soon as school was out, the offending family member was driven to the ranch and left for the summer.  They lived with my aunt and uncle and learned what "work" really meant.  They were up with the sun, worked all day in the heat, took a small nap at the hottest time of the day, and then worked until sundown.  They were paid $10/day.  Not that there was anywhere to spend it...They learned manners (take your hat off at the supper table), they learned the value of a dollar and the sweet reward of a job well done.  And by the start of the next school year, the trouble-maker was replaced with a well-behaved and thankful child.  At least they were thankful that they'd never have to do THAT again!!!

So what do we do about it?  How do we educate these kids raised in apartment buildings about how farming really works?  Cramming it down their throats won't work.  Fighting about it won't do it either. I suppose it's a lot like Christianity.  The best way to win them over is to live your life right.  Show the world the farming life by having nothing to hide - telling our story as is really is - the good and the bad.  How we've changed - how we've improved.  And how the sweat of our brow puts food in their bellies and clothes on their backs.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Farming Wheat - Explained

In The Field:  Oh Lordy!  The Blogger format has changed in the few weeks since I've been on here - I'll have to learn it all over again!

Sorry it's been so long since I've written - as the days get longer, the time gets shorter.  Funny how that works.  Well, that's how it works in farming families.  When the days are short, My Love gets home earlier - the longer the days, the later he gets home.

Right now is particularly hectic.  It is the last few "free" weeks before harvest starts.  Which means EVERYTHING that must be done in the next 2 months must be done these last weeks.  Lambs must be weaned, marked, and cut, if necessary.  The machinery must be checked and oiled.  And the weather is watched like a hawk.  This is the season for thunderstorms - yes the rain would be lovely (our grass desperately needs it), but often with those thunderstorms comes something devastating. Something that could, and has, financially ruined many a farmer.  Hail.  Yes, it's a 4-letter word. 

For those of you who live in the city, or just don't have any experience with farming life, the worst hail can do is ruin your car.  For those of us whose livelihoods depend on the crop being harvested and sold, it can destroy us.  It can completely obliterate months and months of work and prayers. 

Back in the "old" days of my life, I worked and got a paycheck every 2 weeks.  That isn't the way it works for farmers.  We invest last year's "paycheck" on seed, diesel, fertilizer, and machinery.  We plant the seed.  We pray for rain. And then we pray more.  We wait, sometimes not so patiently, for the crop to spring from the ground. We watch it grow, we watch it mature.  And, as with right now, we watch it dry.  (Drying in the field is necessary for certain crops like wheat and corn - once harvested, it is stored.  If the moisture levels in the wheat or corn are too high, they will mold - hence it is imperative that the moisture levels be low enough to prevent mold and mildew).  Once the levels are low enough, the crop is harvested.  And then the prayers continue for good prices.  (See pic of this year's wheat below):



Some of you may "play the market" with your 401k or IRA.  We play the market with every dime we hope to make.  A few years ago, wheat was selling at less than $3/bushel (about 60 lbs) at harvest.  That is barely enough to cover expenses - and not enough to feed your family for the year.  Thankfully we have grain bins to store the wheat in - this enables us to hold the wheat until prices are better - we get a bigger bang for our buck. 

So you can understand why "HAIL" is a 4-letter word around here.  People laugh when we say we don't have to go to Vegas to gamble - we gamble every day! 

Good news in the family life - Baby Girl is WALKING!  Well, toddling really.  She turns 1 in a few weeks and she's already fast on her feet!  Crawling is SO last year!  LOL! 

Have a great one!  I'll post harvest pics soon!  Just a few more weeks!

K.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Success!

On the Crafting Table:  Success!  The kiddos LOVED the craft!  When I showed how Jesus "disappeared" to one child, his eyes got HUGE!  We didn't have enough time to really finish it the way I wanted, and we had more kids than we've had in a LONG time, but it was still a success.  I'd forgotten how much I enjoy working with the kids.  The insights they had into Jesus' death were amazing. 

I'm breaking the rules here, but I just have to show you Baby Girl's Easter outfit I made...

Is she not the cutest thing???  The pants were supposed to be capri's - not quite.  But she should be able to wear this all summer, so maybe by August or September they'll be capri's.  Ha!

Also, my hubby's grandma came for Easter.  She is a super-seamstress.  You know, those totally intimidating ones that can make ANYTHING...she's one of those.  And she told me "You've become quite the seamstress."  OMG.  That is high praise!  "Seamstress" is never something I set out to be - nothing I ever dreamed of being.  Not because I thought it was below me - quite the opposite.  I never thought I'd sew - I never thought I'd be able to master it - or even sew a straight line, for that matter.  And here I am - sewing Baby Girl the cutest outfits - even selling them online!  "Seamstress" - the word makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside!!!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Easter Sunday

On The Crafting Table:  So our church decided to have only "big" church for Easter - no Sunday School and this isn't the normal Sunday we have Children's Church. I thought we really needed something for the kiddos (we don't subscribe to the "Easter Egg Hunt" at church train of thought).  So I volunteered to teach Children's Church.  Now to find something to do...I had a few thoughts. 

I thought I'd explain what SIN is and have each kiddo write (or us write it for them) a sin on a sticky label.  Then have 1 child "be" Jesus at the front of the room (arms spread).  Then each kiddo would "give" their sin to Jesus - sticking their sin on Jesus (the "Jesus kid" should at this point be "covered" in sin).  We explain that when we give our lives to Jesus, he takes our sins - we no longer have to sin.  And that when he died, he took those sins with him.  Good visualization, I think.

But we need a craft - something to keep the kids occupied for about 15-20 minutes or so.  I looked online for a "resurrection" craft - something to do where Jesus "disappears".  Harder to find than I thought.  And beware typing that into a search engine - some really nasty links with horrible language pop up!!!!  Oriental Trading had a rather cheesy one.  I didn't like it. I really wanted him to "disappear" from the tomb...so I thought for a few days...

Today I did this craft.  Please excuse the shabbiness of the craft itself - there was a bit of a learning curve involved to make this work correctly.

The finished product:

See what I mean about shabby - the hole with the staple, the marker over the pen letters - I was learning as I went, folks!

After assembly - check behind the stone - Yep, Jesus is there!


Then "roll" the stone away - He is Risen!


Now to just cut all the pieces before hand.  I have all the Jesus' cut and the cross pieces cut.  Now onto the stone and tomb...Hope this works as well as I think it will...

Monday, April 2, 2012

So far behind...

I am so far behind.  On everything.  Last week my computer crashed. Lovely.  I took it in to get fixed, and thankfully nothing major was wrong.  Only $25 to fix.  Gotta love it!  If it's going to break, at least it was cheap to fix!

On The Stove:  I took these pics forever ago and have been meaning to post.  For all you mommas out there:  It is SO easy to make your own baby food!  When Baby Girl starting to eat "real" food, I had some organic baby food that a friend had given me. Some wasn't so bad.  Others, well, gross doesn't even come close.  I couldn't imagine eating that myself, so why in the world would I feed it to my child?????  Then I realized I could MAKE her food for super-cheap and it's WAY better for her! Baby Girl is 10 months now, so she's eating quite a lot - more than 1 jar per meal.  And 1 jar is about $.80 - $1.00 at the Wal-Mart here.  So we're talking about $1.50 per meal just for her!  That racks up over a month - especially when you're on a tight budget.  So when I was going through the frozen food section, I looked at the frozen veggies.  $.98/lb for frozen peas.  No preservatives, nothing added. Just peas.  Frozen.  Hmmmm.  I grabbed 4 bags (4 lbs total of $3.84 - no tax).  I cooked the peas, pureed, and poured into ice cube trays.  I ended up with 62.5 cubes out of those 4 bags.  For Baby Girl, that is a total of 12.5 servings (if your child is smaller, this will be more servings).  That equals $.307 per serving!  NOT bad!!!!  Gerber peas, for a 2 pack is $1.00. 
Tori would eat both packs in 1 sitting.  So $.30 versus $1 per serving....60% savings.  Just for a few minutes of work.  And no preservatives or other yucky stuff.  For those of you considering it - give it a try!

Here's how I do it:


1.  I bought 4 packs of frozen Great Value Sweet Peas.  There's no difference between the name brands and the store brands that I could see - except price.

2.  Prepare according to package directions. My directions said to add to boiling water - but I had defrosted these peas (I meant to cook them earlier), so I just added them to water and then brought it to a boil. Whatever works.  (You may prefer to steam your veggies - if so, skip the next step).


3. Here's where it gets a little tricky.  When you strain your veggies - reserve some of the water they were cooked in - that water has nutriets that leached out of the veggies.  You'll add this water back in when you puree.
4.  Add your peas (or other veggies) to your blender or food processor.  I have a Baby Bullet that my MIL gave me for a shower gift.  Don't waste your money...
5. Puree.  Add more water to make the mixture more runny for younger babies.  Baby Girl is eating pretty thick puree at this point.
6.  Then pour into ice cube trays. There's no need for the "fancy" baby food containers.  Ice cube trays work great and are cheap-o. Plus, you can use them after the baby is eating adult food. 

7. No pic for this - freeze until the cubes are solid - this will probably take longer than regular ice. I usually leave mine in for a couple of days.  Then I crack the trays into a large gallon ziploc bag and put in the freezer.  You can then take out however many cubes your bambino eats, microwave, and feed.  Super-easy and super-cheap - not to mention SO much healthier!

Another note - I have found that meat puree is just gross.  No matter how you prepare it.  So I grilled some chicken breast and put it in the food processor.  It chops the meat up very fine and I mix it in with the peas.  Full meal.  Also super-cheap.  $6.25 for about 5 lbs of breasts - I believe it was 7 breasts.  No seasoning, straight on the grill.  It makes a LOT of chopped chicken.  I spread this thin on a cookie sheet and freeze.  After freezing it made 2 quart bags FULL of chopped chicken. Then dole out whatever I need for each meal.  On the plus side, if you need to make some last-minute chicken salad - steal it from the baby food stash!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring Reading Thing 2012

On The Bookshelf:  So I was browsing a friend's blog and found this link to Spring Reading Thing (see my sidebar).  It is a challenge of sorts - you set your own goals - of what you want to read between March 20 and June 20 (Spring 2012). 

http://callapidderdays.com/2012/03/spring-reading-thing-2012-start-reading.html

Well, I am an avid reader - most of the time I have read several books between the ones I post about here.  I thought this would be an awesome challenge for all of us.  I want my daughter growing up seeing me read - I want her to have the same love of reading I do.  Her father never acquired that love of reading - he's one of those that think "If you have the time to read, you have the time to work."  I still love him though! 

So here we go - my challenge to myself!

1.  Finish Earth's Children Series by Jean Auel
Her newest in the series "The Land of Painted Caves" came out last year, I think.  I'm a big fan of re-reading the entire series before reading the newest addition.  Unfortunately, I didn't have much time to read when Baby Girl arrived, so I've been putting this off.  I am currently on "The Mammoth Hunters" Book 3.  I've got 3 left to go...

2.  "Charlie St. Cloud" by Ben Sherwood
I fell in love with the movie - and generally speaking, the book is nearly always WAY better than the movie.  Can't wait!!!

3.  "Amazing Grace" by Danielle Steel

This is one of those books I nabbed for a buck or two at the thrift store.  I have always enjoyed Danielle Steele books and this is one I haven't read. 

4. "Peachtree Road" by Anne Rivers Siddons
I have several of her books and thoroughly enjoy them all.  This is another one I nabbed at the Thrift Store - you just can't beat paying $1 for a book!

So, a total of 6 books.  That may be pushing it a bit since my sewing has picked up. There's only so much time in the day while Baby Girl naps.

I'll keep you posted and try to give reviews on these.  If you are a reading fan and aren't a member yet, check out Goodreads.com.  It is your own personal library online - you can have friends and read their reveiws and what they have on their virtual bookshelves.  Check it out!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Pink Slime

In The Field:  We've all read about it - that stuff they're feeding our school-kids - that stuff from a horror movie that neither Taco Bell nor McDonalds will take.  PINK SLIME!

So what is it, really? 

http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/03/whats-wrong-with-pink-slime/

Gene Hall, from Texas Farm Bureau, explains in his blog:  http://txagtalks.texasfarmbureau.org/pink-slime-isnt-from-a-horror-movie/

It is simply the trimmings left after the meat is cut from the bone and from the fatty tissue.  It is then treated with an antimicrobial inhibitor - keeping the meat safe.

Have you ever trimmed the fat off a steak - and left a bit of the tasty steak left clinging to the fat? 

That's what we're talking about - that little tasty morsel.  Why waste it?  So many are going hungry these days, and that tasty morsel is just as much "beef" as the succulent steak you just ate.  All that separated it from that steak was the angle of your knife.

Multiply that little morsel by the thousands of steaks eaten daily - that's a lot of meat going to waste!    Why shouldn't we process all those little morsels into something more edible?

As for those who still believe the lies (the media:  lie, twist the truth for a juicy story???? NEVER!), I have a solution for you - raise your own beef!  If you live in the city, you'll need to quit your job or relocate - buy a small plot of land.  Now, you'll need several hundred thousand dollars to buy this land - hope you had some savings put by!  And you'll need to buy a cow - another thousand dollars or so.  Then breed it to a bull - that'll cost you too.  And don't forget you'll need to feed this cow only grass - right?  Isn't that what everyone says - cows should be grass-fed only?  And when drought hits, you'll need to drive to Canada hauling a trailer to bring that grass home.  More thousands of dollars you've got invested now.  Let's wait several months until that cow has her calf.  Let's hope it all goes well, because God Forbid, you can't give that cow or calf any antibiotics!  Give the calf several months to grow before you butcher it.  And you need to do this yourself, because you can't trust the USDA, right?  You've got thousands upon thousands invested in this calf - and after butchering, you're left with a huge pile of trimmings.  And darn it, there's still a lot of meat left on that fatty part...Gosh, I've spent a lot of money, I'd hate to just throw that away...Hmmm, I bet I can cut it off there and make it into hamburger.  But I'd better treat this with something so we don't get sick...OMG - you've just done it yourself!  You turned your beef into PINK SLIME!

If you look at the situation from a factual standpoint - and not "blowing it all out of proportion" that the media is known for - this beef is safe.  It is healthy, it is "real beef".  There is absolutely no reason that we shouldn't eat it.  Unless, of course, you've got enough money to eat steak every day...

And concerning Taco Bell and McDonalds - the day I find them on Zagat's best places to eat is the day I start labelling their food as nutritious!