Wednesday, July 29, 2009

More About That Sheep... Update

This is a continuation of yesterday's post about a lamb we found dead. It might bore you but I thought some people might be interested in what we suspect to be the real cause of death, especially if you might raise sheep of your own someday.

We happen to have a relief vet at work this week so I shared my story of the dead lamb with her. She, of course, thought about it a little more logically than me. She pointed out that A)There is no way that all those intestines should have come out even if she had started a major coughing fit and B)Even if they did come out, that wouldn't have killed her. We hear about vaginal/uterine prolapses all the time and the cow or sheep simply lies there until the vet comes to put everything back in. The only way the prolapse itself would have killed that lamb is if there was a lot of blood loss or other trauma to those parts. I didn't see any blood or evidence of that when I found her.

So... what killed her? For that I called a nearby large animal vet that just loves these kind of stories. I gave him a brief history and told him how I found her. He agreed that she didn't die of the prolapse. The most common cause of these sudden deaths that he knows of is an internal abscess that suddenly ruptures. Say when she had her cough that there was infection in her lungs. Her body may have walled that off and build up a ton of white blood cells in the area. If she got to ramming around (excuse the pun) or kicking her feet up in the air the extra movement could have ruptured the abscess. Once all that infection was released in her body it would kill her quickly.

Then, when she died and her intestines quit pushing food through, the gas in her rumen (part of the stomach) built up and created a lot of pressure. Similar to how an animal on the side of the road bloats up. Since the muscles around her rectum were already weakened from when she was starting to prolapse before, that was the path of least resistance. Thus, the innards probably came out after she was already dead. We'll never know for sure what her actually cause of death was but I feel better knowing that I was right not to be concerned with the hint of a prolapse that she had before. The vet offered to open her up and look for an abscess somewhere. I think that would have been a great learning experience but I opted to go to the fair and cheer on our niece instead.

More on the fair later, just wanted to update on this first!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Disturbing Find and Thinking Like A Farmer

***This post contains unpleasant details and is not for the weak.***

I had a very unpleasant surprise this morning as I made my rounds doing chores. I found one of our lambs - dead. She was the first lamb born on the farm. The cause of death was pretty obvious. She had prolapsed rectally, which basically means quite a bit of her intestines had come out her rear end. She developed a cough when she was quite young and as a result she put a lot of strain on the muscles that hold everything in. She would show a small rim of pink flesh around the rear occasionally. After moving the lambs out to pasture a few weeks ago things seemed to be getting much better for her. I haven't seen her cough for a good 2 weeks and there was no sign of a prolapse beginning. Last night she ate very well right along with the other lambs and acted very normal.

On one hand, I totally blame myself. I should have taken quicker action and treated her with supplements or found some way to eliminate this problem. On the other hand, I had every indication that the problem had solved itself. The thing that really gets me is to think that she must have been in a great amount of pain. I did chores last night before 7 PM and didn't go out there again until this morning. I don't think there is much I could have done had I found her alive but putting her down would have been more humane.

I can see a big change in my thinking since even last year. I love animals and I want them to have the most comfortable, healthy life we can provide for however long that may be. Now I'm learning to balance that with practicality and economics. Rectal prolapse is a known problem in show lambs and it is certainly not something I would want to breed for. If I had fixed this problem and wanted to sell the lamb I would have felt dishonest and sneaky for passing her along to someone else. She probably would have been headed for the dinner table at that point, which is one of the purposes of our herd anyway.

So, while this is a really sad start to the morning, I'm not bawling or feeling like a failure, which is good enough for me!! :)

Any similar experiences to share? How do you deal with having farm animals, if you do?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Freezer Cooking: Twin Meat Loaves

Way back when I was looking for new post ideas the topic of freezer cooking came up. I think there was quite a bit of interest in that and yet I've never posted about it since, until now. I'll try to post some recipes from time to time under the heading and label "Freezer Cooking: ________". I thought I had already posted this recipe as a single loaf version but couldn't find it.

This recipe comes from Farm Journal's Country Cookbook. I got my copy from my Grandma's basement and I love it. It really is appropriate for the way we are trying to live and generally avoids "add in seasoning packet" or "3 cups Bisquick".

Twin Meat Loaves

2 eggs, beaten
3/4 c. milk
1 1/2 c. bread crumbs
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 c. chopped onion
1 c. chopped carrot
2 lbs. ground beef

Break two eggs in a bowl and until well broken. Add rest of ingredients and mix well. You'll have to use your hands to get this done in a reasonable amount of time, or I guess maybe a hand mixer would work. Pack into two greased 7 1/2x4x2" pans - I used my narrow bread pans that come close.
Pop the pans in the freezer for a few hours or overnight. Once frozen, tap the loaves out on a plate or cutting board. Wrap well with tin foil. You could also use the plastic out of a cereal box along with brown paper if you're trying to cut back on foil. Label with black permanent marker: BAKE @ 350 f FOR 1 HOUR.

When you go to cook these you can drop them in the pans frozen and thaw them in the fridge that way. I've cooked them straight out of the freezer and they were still done in just over an hour. I actually cooked one for 2 hours when something happened with the sheep and I forgot about it. It didn't dry out or burn even after all that time so it is pretty much foolproof. I don't eat ground meat at all but hubby says this is one of the better meat loaves he's had, he really likes it.

I usually thaw a bunch of hamburger and make 6 or 8 loaves at a time. It is a great back up for a day when I'm out of ideas. Happy freezer cooking!

Menu Plan Monday

This week is going to be a crazy one for me I think. We have a different vet filling in at work and although she is very good and friendly she takes a looooonnnggg time with each client so I'm prepared to stay late most nights. I also have Thursday off instead of Monday so that throws a wrench in things. We're taking the last of the colored rangers to be processed Tuesday night so Wednesday after work I'll be busy bagging and weighing them. I promise a full review on the birds once they are all done.

So here's what we're eating:

Monday: Brats (for Brian) and a little steak (for me) on the grill, chips, watermelon

Tuesday: Parmesan Baked Chicken, Baked seasoned potatoes

Wednesday: Chicken sandwiches and fries

Thursday: Homemade pizza and breadsticks

Friday: Hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill, chips, watermelon

Lunches will be mostly leftovers, yogurt with fresh, local berries, and sandwiches. For breakfast Brian likes eggs and I have muffins or toast. For dessert...well... we'll see if I get to that this week! :)

What are you eating? What is your week going to be like?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Free TV: Getting By Without Cable

We haven't had cable or satellite TV service since we moved to the farm almost 2 years ago. Brian had satellite at the old house and when we moved we called and "suspended" it. The company offered to install it at the farm for us but we moved in the midst of harvest season and knew we'd be way too busy to watch much TV. As we approach another fall we both agree that life without a TV bill is totally doable.

The Digital transition really threw a wrench in things. We used to get 5, 12, 19, 25, 28, 46, and 66. After the digital transition we get only half of those plus their "extra" channels (19 now has 19.1, 19.2, 19.3, 19.4, often all with separate programming). We can still get most channels but we have to adjust the antenna constantly depending on what we want.

We've developed a few strategies that help us deal with the "welfare TV only" lifestyle.

First, we subscribe to Netflix during the winter months when we aren't busy and are stuck in the house the most. We do the 2 at a time plan for $14.83 per month. Wayyy cheaper than cable. We keep a notebook in the living room and when we see previews that we like we jot down movies. That way we keep a good list going in Netflix and see all the "new releases" when they come out to rent. I've been very happy with Netflix service. If I put a DVD in the mail on Wednesday we have a new movie on Friday so we have new movies at least every weekend. Plus they have a lot of movies available instantly over the computer. They even offer a lot of hard to find, interesting documentaries. When farm work picked up again this spring I called and canceled our account. They will save our list so we can pick up where we left off as soon as I call them back.

The other lifesaver is our computer. We have a wireless router so the computer often sits here with me while I knit or can. Here are some of my favorite websites to watch "TV" on:

-The major television network websites are the most reliable and have most of the current shows available. I have had excellent luck with and they are very good about adding the newest episodes right away.

-Try some of the cable channel websites too. I've been playing around on lately. I really enjoy 18 Kids and Counting and Jon & Kate Plus 8 (does anyone else follow them, BTW? I'm a big fan and am so sad that their marriage is suffering!). The shows tend to take awhile to load and pause a lot but there is good content there if you can connect. They have a lot of educational type things too not just reality TV drama.

-Here's a new favorite: You can watch a ton of The Dave Ramsey Show on there. Right now I have that running in another tab since it is mostly a talk show anyway. I highly recommend it.

I'm not so much encouraging you to get high tech or spend all your time on the computer. However, if you spend as many hours as I do sitting or standing doing one continuous job it is sometimes nice to have something else going on.

Enjoy!! Just think - if you're spending $45 a month on TV you could pay a different bill with that or sock it to your debt...

Any other ideas for cutting bills or living without paid TV?

Monday, July 20, 2009

What I've Been Doing

I've been a little aloof lately and I apologize. It is one of those times where I want to post about everything but never get around to posting any of it.

I spent a lot of the weekend making invitations for my cousin's baby shower. I made the cutest ones to tie in with our frog theme. They are all done and mailed out - what a relief!

I also got the long garden almost completely weeded and mulched. All the is left are two empty spots where I didn't plant anything. I need to pull all the weeds and mulch those areas so they're ready for next year. Also, the corn is very weedy again and I think I need a hoe for it this time. It isn't growing very well (maybe due to weed pressure, maybe not enough rain) and I think I planted it a little later than my neighbors. Hopefully it will still produce enough corn to can and some popcorn for the winter.

I'm about berried out. Blueberries, cherries, mulberries, oh my!

I planted 50 strawberry plants awhile ago so maybe we'll have some of our own next year. So far they're doing good, just need to be mulched.

I've been knitting up a storm. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, I'm now on Ravelry as MarriedToTheFarm. If you're on there look me up! I didn't think it would be nearly as cool as it is. I've been starting new projects left and right since we've got 2 weddings coming up plus it seems like everyone we know is pregnant. Of course Christmas is coming too and like Dave Ramsey says: Christmas is a craft this year. Homemade canned goods and/or knitted stuff for everyone.

Brian has been spending all his evenings and weekends working on the semi. It apparently didn't come with wet lines which is the part that allows it to work with a dump trailer. We haven't bought a trailer yet but he made arrangements to borrow a set of doubles for the wheat harvest. Brian and our neighbor, Ken, might get in to wheat this week! Once that is done we're going to tear down our old garage (it is so ugly!) and put up the new building for cattle. Things are rolling right along around here.

I'll try to get some new pics up soon so you can see all of this activity! Hope things are going well for everyone else, I'd love to hear what you're up to.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Honeymoonin' (again, but where?)

So in honor of our fast approaching 1 year anniversary Brian and I have planned for a week off work in the fall. On our honeymoon we went down around Chicago to Moline, IL. We went for the John Deere tractors of course! While we did not get to tour the factory there were some good sights to see and we took a ride on the river (umm, the Mississippi? I don't know my geography...). Then we went through the bottom of Iowa and up to Wisconsin. We stayed in the Wisconsin Dells and visited some of the many water parks there. Then we rode the car ferry back across Lake Michigan and drove home. We got a late start and weren't gone the whole week but we had a great time.

I thought I'd share some pics since no one has ever seen most of them...

It is always hard to get away when there is so much to do on the farm. I'm tempted to just throw in the towel and say let's stay home instead. However, I know how we are and we WILL NOT relax and spend our time together if we're here, we'll find a project to work on, the cell phones will ring, and everyone will stop in wanting to buy hay or something. So we have to go somewhere.

Right now my only idea is to head out west a little and visit Mount Rushmore and the parks out that way. We want to drive so we have our own wheels and don't have to pay expensive airfare. We would absolutely love to incorporate some farm tours in to our vacation.

Does anyone have any ideas? What is good to do in the midwest or nearby? It doesn't have to be big or expensive. Last time I was hoping we'd find neat little stops along the way but we really didn't. I'd love your suggestions!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Good Day For A Ride

Today was a great day for a horseback ride! After not riding at all yet this summer I went for a ride yesterday and today. It always seems like there are a million other things that should be done and it is a lot of work to hook up the trailer, pack up the saddle, load the horse, etc. However, it is so worth it when I finally get to settle down on my horse. I love taking in the scenery and chit chatting my friends.

In case you've never ridden a horse, here's a taste of how things look from the saddle...

Menu Plan Monday

Monday: Lil' Smokies + Rice

Tuesday: Sirloin Steaks + Baked Potatoes (on the grill)

Wednesday: Buttermilk Baked Chicken + Mashed Potatoes

Thursday: Homemade Chicken Nuggets + Fried Garlic Potatoes

Friday: Breakfast for supper (homemade waffles, bacon, hashbrowns, eggs)

I've decided just to list suppers for awhile. Our breakfasts are usually something from the stash of frozen muffins and pancakes or eggs and toast for Brian. Lunches are usually leftoves, a sandwich for Brian, a PB&J or hot dogs for me.

Dessert: So far it has been storebought Oreos for me - I'm feeling weak. Brian finished the No-Bake Cheesecake today. If I whip something up I'll post it.

What are you eating this week?



"Hey Ken, it's Brian. We're up north and the person who was going to check the animals tonight can't do it now. Is there any chance you could run down? Everyone should be fine except the chickens might need more water."

"No problem, you got it."

"Thanks so much, we really appreciate it."

The above conversation is one that we had with our neighbor and good friend over the 4th of July weekend. I know we have great neighbors but I'm still amazed at how great. Ken and his family have been very supportive since we moved here. Brian helps him as much as possible during harvest and then Ken brings his equipment and harvests our fields. We would really struggle without his help.
When our barn was burning, he was one of the first people I called (after 911 of course). Looking back, it is kind of funny. Ken ran out of the restaurant where he was eating breakfast with his wife and his brother, leaving them there. He flew in to our driveway in record time. Later, his wife and I cried together, with her remembering the dreadful day when their own barn caught fire.

Speaking of the fire, there were many people who helped that day. I remember two complete strangers pulling in, with their families in the car, and running to hook up hay wagons so Brian could stay on the tractor. Even the first police officer who arrived, seeing the situation, allowed us to keep pulling things out as long as we didn't go under the burning roof. One good friend from our church slipped a fifty dollar bill in Brian's hand that day. My cousin, her husband, Ken,and his brother all stayed late that night helped us put up a big tarp to protect our hay. That's them in the above picture. You really do find out who your friends are at times like that.

We have another set of great neighbors right around the corner. They'll borrow something, we'll borrow something. He even picked up my peaches from the orchard for me since I couldn't get there during business hours. Plus, our horses just love all the treats that they get over the fence.

I can't forget the neighbors across the section who called yesterday to say that they had a big bucket of berries for me. They are soooo good too. We know those neighbors pretty well since Brian is over there at least once a week, visiting or exchanging tools (okay, I should say drinking a beer instead of visiting). We have 700 bales of hay stored in there barn, and they've been asking us to bring some sheep over to graze there pasture for about a year now.

The other neighbors are the ones who inspired this post. He pulled in our driveway this morning and announced that he has something I can pick if I'd like. I think he said some kind of onion, I couldn't hear for sure. Pick every other one, he said, there is about 200 there so help yourself. I have to confess, I was a bit taken aback by him and his wife last year. After hearing we had asparagus, they pulled in, dropped some frozen sausage in my lap, proclaimed that was "for the asparagus", and proceeded out to my garden with buckets and scissors. Not knowing what to do, I sat in the house and watched out the window as they took what they wanted.

Nowadays, I understand. That's just how things work between neighbors!! :)

Do you have a great neighbor or a story to share about one?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

They're chickens, not ducks!

So the chickens are drinking so much in this hot weather that we drug the hose right out there. Every few days we drag it back and fill the other animal's big tanks. Tonight I went out and watered the chickens... then I came back up and we worked on the fence for about 3 hours. We finished it and weaned the lambs by putting them out on pasture and leaving the ewes in the garage. I'm hoping their milk will dry up this week - they won't get any grain and will have only old hay this week. The babies are crying but the moms don't seem to mind much right now.

Once the hard work was all done Brian went up to grab a pail of water for the lambs. Guess what? I had left the hose water on. For. 3. hours. Brian suggested I go check and see if they needed a life raft. They didn't, since there shelter was there raft surrounded by 2 inches of water on all sides. I knew I put a floor in that thing for a reason!! Too bad the flooding wasn't Mother Nature's fault instead of mine. What a waste. The good part is that the water will absorb overnight and the chickens were enjoying running through it.

A lot of money could be made if someone would invent a buzzer that sounds after the hydrant is on for a certain amount of time. When I used to keep my horses at my Dad's he finally made me hang my truck keys on the hydrant when I turned it on so that I couldn't leave without checking it. Anyone have a similar idea for watering at home? Anyone else make this mistake or forget something else and cause waste in the process? C'mon - make me feel better, please!

Notes About Sheep

This is kind of long but I want to share some of the things I've learned about raising sheep since acquiring my first two lambs about 15 months ago. I've tried to break it up by topic so you can find what you're interested in.

Right now I can sum up my feelings about sheep pretty easily: I love sheep, but sometimes I don't. Why, you ask? Sheep are a better alarm system than any dog or machine. They are still in their pen in the old garage which is way too close to the house. They have hay and fresh water in front of them at all times but twice a day we give them grain. They expect us to grain them before we do anything else in the morning. We tiptop from our bedroom to the other end of the house in the dark to avoid waking them. If you let the dogs out at 5 or 6 AM you better be very quiet and hope the dogs stay in the front yard. At the first sign of life from us, including the dogs running by their pen, it starts.

Bah.............bah. Bah?
Bahhhhhhhh. Baahhhhrrrrrhhh.

And on, and on, and on again. First one or two, then all 10. They all have different voices and I can tell many of them by their special call. The will not stop until you feed. They are so loud even moving to the couch in the living room doesn't let you escape. You have to wander out there in your PJs and give them what they want. Now of course I hope this entertains you but please take note - I'm not exaggerating and I will keep this behavior in mind when I plan sheep housing in the future.

Moving on... we sheared the sheep for the first time last month. I helped a little but a couple of our friends were nice enough to bring their shearers and do the hard work. We laid each sheep on her side and sheared it before flipping her and doing the other side. Those professional shearers make it look so easy, especially the way they sit the sheep on their rumps, but unless you're way stronger than us I would say you need at least 3 or 4 people. Plus a good amount of cold beer if it happens to be a hot day. ;) The sheep were much more comfortable after having the wool removed. I also trimmed their feet and vaccinated everyone about the same time. They look a little funny now with their fancy haircuts!

My Mom dropped the wool off at Zeilinger Wool Co. in Frankenmuth for me. If you'd like an idea on how much wool processing costs it was $150 for the wool from 4 adult ewes. 2 ewes had been growing their wool for 14 months, and 2 were growing for about 7 months. That price is more the wool to go in dirty, fresh off the sheep, and come back cleaned and made in to roving. Roving is when the wool is pulled out in to a long continuous piece, like a soft rope, all ready to be spun in to yarn. My Mom has been learning that art and now she has a lot of yarn to practice on.

New Ewe
Did anyone catch that I said 10 sheep instead of 9? Remember, we had 4 moms and 5 babies. Brian's stepsister brought us another ewe last week. She is an oddball, being born in May of 2008, and the only one she had that was related to her ram. We'll just give her a lamb next year to trade. The new one has settled in very well already. Her name is Molly. She has not had her first lamb yet so we will breed her this fall.

I wish I could say we've done this. All the books I read said to band the ram lambs as soon as their testicles descended, around 10 days old. We decided to keep one of the ram lambs intact and hope that he makes a nice ram for us. The other ram lamb I just let grow for awhile. We don't band our calves' testicles until they are a few months old so we thought we had plenty of time. I tried to band the lamb when we sheared the moms and guess what... his testicles are WAY TOO BIG to fit through the band. I can't even get one through. They are bigger than calf testicles at twice that age. HUGE. I don't mean to dwell on it, but we were all just shocked by this! This was a tough lesson to learn because we want to butcher that lamb and he might have an odd taste now (hopefully not). We could probably still castrate him by other methods but I feel that would be very stressful for him (and us) and I'd rather see how he tastes without so we'll know for sure. So lesson learned - castrate at 10 days as recommended.

Aggressive Ewe
We experienced this with Angel, one of the ewes we bought already bred from the MSU sale. She was one of the last ewes to lamb. When the first ewes delivered we separated them in to small pens, called jugs, to bond with their babies. When we tried to reintroduce them to the flock Angel was very aggressive toward the lambs. I watched her for awhile and when she slammed the baby against the gate with her head I jumped in and pulled the baby back out. Eventually we put Angel in a jug by herself so the lambs and ewes could all be together. We were very relieved that when she had her own lamb she showed great mothering ability and acted normally. We reintroduced her to the flock with high hopes. She immediately tried to go after the other lambs. We were out there disassembling the jugs so we let her go for awhile to see if she would settle down. Gwyneth, the mom that had twins, stepped up and put a stop to Angel's behavior. She pinned her ears like a mad horse, scraped her foot like a bull, and charged Angel. I watched in amazement, since they weren't really hurting each other, I wanted to see if they could work it out on their own. Angel would sniff around at the lambs. Gwynny would watch her suspiciously, following her around. Angel would start to charge a lamb. Gwynny would charge her and Angel would run away. Angel was just starting to mind her own business when we got the last jug taken apart. With the jugs gone, the size of their pen was doubled. With a combination of more space and Gwyneth's defensive behavior, Angel relaxed and hasn't bothered anyone since. At least no one has shown any injures and I haven't seen that behavior. I was very relieved since keeping her separated would be very stressful on her and the logistics would be nearly impossible. Lesson learned: give new moms plenty of space and give them a chance to work it out.

What Next?
We'll be moving them to pasture sometime (I've been wanting to do that since April...) so hopefully I won't have any real exciting stories to share about sheep fencing. The plan is to wean the babies when we move them. One group will go to a neighbor's pasture and one group will stay on our farm.

Overall, the sheep are the one animal that Brian and I both really, really like. They are super easy to keep and watching them grow is very rewarding. I highly recommend you try it if you've been on the fence. If you have any questions or want advice on a topic I didn't cover here I'll try my best to help, just ask!

Check out all my other posts about sheep.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Blueberry Pie Filling

This is the way I made my filling. It was a lot less work than the Ball canning book called for. I'm not guaranteeing the shelf life since mine has only been on the shelf for a week so far but I expect it to keep as well as it would have with their method.

7 cups blueberries
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup ClearJel, cornstarch, or flour (as a thickener)
Blue & red food colorings
2 tbsp lemon juice

Combine sugar and your choice of thickeners in a large saucepan. Whisk in 2 cups of water. Add blue and red food coloring to get the purple color you like.

Note: I used flour because it was all I had and it worked just fine. It was certainly not as transparent as filling made with ClearJel or cornstarch. I would recommend the ClearJel if you have it and cornstarch if you don't, with flour being a last resort.

Bring mixture to a boil over medium high heat. Stir often as it won't take long to start to thicken. When it starts to thicken and bubble stir in the lemon juice.

Add the blueberries and keep over medium-low heat until berries are heated through.

Ladle into hot jars leaving just over 1 inch of headspace. Wipe rim, place lids, and process in a water bath for 30 minutes.

Yield: About 4 pints.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Trouble With A Menu Plan...

The trouble with a menu plan is that:

A) You have to make one before it works


B) When you have one you really come to rely on it and when you don't it makes for a miserable week!!

I thought about it on Monday but never quite made time since I had to work this Monday (my normal day off). I thought about it yesterday but made dinner and dessert and then it was 10 o'clock! Today is the day I guess. I know you're wondering if it is even worth it now? Yes, it is. Now that I know what it is like to plan ahead I HATE coming home and trying to figure out what to cook.

Here it is:

Monday: Tacos for Brian, I never really ate dinner.

Tuesday: Spaghetti (with herbs and butter for me, meat sauce for Brian) with Quick Cheese Bread (this recipe is a winner! We've had it twice now)

Wednesday: Parmesan Crusted Walleye with Roasted Herb Potatoes

Thurday: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Soup & Peas

Friday: Breakfast for Supper - French Toast, Hashbrowns, Bacon, and Eggs

Breakfasts this week consist of those blueberry waffles I made for me, I'm not sure what Brian's been eating. For dessert I made No-Bake Cheesecake. I had one jar of blueberry filling that didn't seal so I topped the cheesecake with that. It was good last night but it is even better now that is had been in the fridge for awhile. Try it, you'll like it.

Whew. Glad that's done!! :)

What's on your menu this week?

Monday, July 6, 2009

All In A Day's Work

I could hardly believe my eyes when we pulled up to my sister-in-law's house the other day. Across the road, bordering a field that my father-in-law owns, there were hundreds of cherries hanging from the trees. I held back my excitement long enough to ask if anyone picks those? All I got back was a funny look. They had never noticed the cherries!! That was last week and the cherries weren't quite ripe yet.

We did go up to the beach for the weekend but we came home first thing Sunday morning. I have a bad sunburn (stupid me!) so I certainly didn't want to lay on the beach anymore and we were both ready to go home. Brian went to cut hay and I headed over to pick cherries. The whopping total: 8 # 13 oz.!! That took me a good part of the morning. Back home I pitted them all. Since our 5 tv channels suck and I canceled Netflix I set up my labtop next to me and watched the first 4 weeks of Here Come The Newlyweds while I pitted. After experimenting with different methods, I liked using a drinking straw and popping the pits out the other side of the cherry. It still took forever.

When I finally had them all pitted I decided to make cherry pie filling. I used this recipe and expanded it to work with the 14 cups of berries I had. Then I canned it, processing pints for 35 minutes as the Ball canning book suggests.

Once the cherries were done I moved on to blueberries. What kind of idiot puts 18# of berries in one Foodsaver bag I don't know but that's what I had done a few years ago. I thawed the huge bag so that I could use some blueberries for my 4th of July pie. I expected them to taste bad after so long in the freezer but they were still quite good. Blueberry season is coming up again soon so I needed to use these up!

First project: 4 batches of blueberry muffins equaling just under 4 dozen muffins total. Those went on a rack to cool and then in to freezer bags for quick breakfasts. Next: 1 batch blueberry waffles, into the fridge for breakfasts this week.

Then I made two batches of blueberry pie filling. I used the recipe from the Ball canning book but altered it to be easier. I'll post my method in the next few days.

There were just enough blueberries to top off Brian's ice cream and keep a few in the fridge for desserts the rest of the week. I did the dishes and cleaned the kitchen while the last batch was processing so that by around 10 PM I was finally done. I was really tired and didn't relax much considering it was a Sunday but it feels great to have all this food put away

Total production for the day:
  • Just shy of 4 dozen blueberry muffins (frozen)
  • 9 pints blueberry pie filling
  • 5 blueberry waffles
  • 6 pints cherry pie filling

Umm... why does it feel like this list should be WAY longer?

What are you preserving right now? Have you every canned pie fillings? What berries are in season where you live?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sunday Stroll: A Drive Around

See who else is strolling over at The Quiet Country House.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Traditional 4th of July Pie

I've been making this pie almost every 4th of July now for several years. I think I missed last year so it better be extra good this year to make up for it.

Start with enough dough for a two crust pie. Roll out half of the dough and place it in a 9 inch pie pan. Roll the other half out in to a circle around 10 inches across. Cut 6 strips from that, about 3/4" wide each. You'll also need to cut out 6 stars from the dough that is left. I used a paring knife to cut my stars but you could use a small cookie cutter if you want them to be perfect.

Next, go ahead and get the filling ready. I normally use cherry and blueberry but this year I used strawberries instead of cherries. The strawberries are some that I froze last weekend, the blueberries I picked and Foodsavered a long time ago. If you're using frozen berries be sure to drain them well. Large berries should be sliced or cut in chunks.

Here's what you'll need.

Red Portion:
2 - 3 cups red berries (cherries or strawberries)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch

Blue Portion:
1 - 1 1/2 cups blueberries
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Mix all ingredients for each portion in separate bowls. You can use more red berries if you like. I only had a little over 2 cups of strawberries thawed today. That will work but it should be a little more full. Pour the red mixture into about 3/4 of the pie shell. Use a spatula or large spoon to hold it in place. Pour the blue mixture in to the remaining 1/4 of the shell. Adjust the filling with your spatula to make a nice line between the two colors. Sprinkle with some small pieces of butter.

Go ahead and place the strips across the filling. Put the longest strip right over the line between red and blue. Evenly space the rest of the strips above and below the first. Then place the stars over the blue portion.

Place the pie pan on a cookie sheet with edges to catch any juice that may bubble over. Bake on the bottom rack of the over at 400 degrees F for approximately 1 hour. Check the edges and cover with a pie shield or tin foil if they are starting to brown too much. Cool for at least an hour afterward, then serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

This is a great dish to take to a party or a potluck. It makes a great impression. I've taken in to some parties where I don't know many people and it has made for a nice icebreaker.

Enjoy, and have a great holiday!! If you make a special dish for the 4th I'd love to hear about it.

Fitness Friday: New Bathing Suit

In other words, I hope all this working out is working! I bought myself a new bathing suit since we're heading to the beach for the weekend. Eying myself up in the mirror I want to say that I can see a difference from 3 weeks ago. My abs have a hint of an indentation on each side of my belly button now (until I sit down). I think my thighs might be a little smaller too. Now I really wish I would have taken my measurements before starting so I would know if this is wishful thinking or not.

Oh well, the important part is that I feel good and working out is good for my body any way. I held at 132.4# at my weigh-in on Tuesday. Isn't week 2 usually the toughest on biggest loser? I think that is when they typically lose the least amount of pounds.

Level 2 is getting much easier. I am amazed at how well I can handle the strength moves now after just 1 week of trying. The cardio still gets me, it is really hard and I "feel like I'm going to die" like Jillian says. My muscles are not sore after working out at all this week. My abs do burn during double crunches and my legs almost give out after every static lunge.

On the downside, my left ankle has been bothering me some. It started during week 2 and I thought it was from slipping around and doing jumping jacks on my wood floor in socks. I found some New Balance shoes on clearance so I picked them up. New Balance makes the best running/workout shoes ever, IMHO. Any way, I can't tell if they are helping but I hope they will at least keep the problem from getting worse so it can get better. My ankle doesn't hurt during the workout at all but it hurts a lot afterward if I step wrong or stretch it a certain way. I don't want to quit so I'm going to give it a few more days to get better on it's own.

I've started to think about what I want to do after week 4 is done. I'd like to stick with the 30 Day Shred until I'm comfortable at Level 3. After that I might try some of the Biggest Loser workout DVDs are other Jillian Micheal's material. I feel good about pushing myself to do this every day and I don't think I'll be ready to quit after 1 more week. Any suggestions? I really need something where they talk you thru it, if I'm just supposed to listen to music and jump around I'll turn it off for sure.

For those who haven't been following along you can check out my other Fitness Friday posts to hear more about my journey through the 30 Day Shred.