Monday, August 31, 2009

We've Got Milk!

And no, Brian did not buy me a cow. The lovely folks at Hampshire Farms gave us a call awhile back and announced that they had A)finally started a very small cow share program and B)had a drop off location just down the road from us! I've looked in to other cow share programs and even beg Brian regularly for a little Jersey of our own. You can read about all of that in my Real Milk? post.
This cow share is truly the best setup possible for us at this time. We got a first gallon 2 weeks ago. I poured the cream off and made butter. Has anyone else tried the trick of making butter out of heavy cream by shaking it in a jar? You know how it takes forever? Well... real, fresh cream doesn't take forever. In fact, I barely had time to pull up a blog while shaking and I heard a thump. Holy cow, my butter was already done!
I'm just going to drink this gallon since we won't have much time to make anything with it before vacation. In the future I'd like to try yogurt and even cheese.
If you're local and you'd like to join the program I can put you in touch with Hampshire Farms.
Do you have any good recipes or creative ways to use raw milk?

A Weekend's Work

This is what I accomplished over Saturday and Sunday...

33 quarts of pears in all. They are chuck full of pears too since I hot packed them, the only one with much free space is that one there in the front since it was my last jar. Yesterday was my Grandma's birthday so I took 3 quarts back to her (they're from her tree!).

When pears were finally done I literally ran to my knitting...I was having withdrawals. I whipped up this little booty for my friend Maria. One more to go and I can seam them up and they'll be done.

I hope you had a great weekend. Back to work today for me. We'll be busy getting things done around here all week and then Friday morning we head out for vacation!! Wahoo!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Peaches, Pears, Beans, Oh My!

My Mom came last weekend and helped with the peaches, I think we got 19 quarts in all. That was from 1 1/2 bushels of "seconds" peaches and I would guess we lost about 1/2 bushel of them to rotten spots and bruises. I picked 2 bushels of pears at my grandma's on Sunday. The blueberries in our area are done already but there happened to be a blueberry farm near my grandma's that was still open so I stopped and picked almost 5 pounds of blueberries. Then I swung by our friends' house on the way home and picked a 5 gallon pail full of green and yellow beans. They said take all I wanted but that was plenty for me!!
Today is the day to catch up on all of this. I might renew our Netflix for the season so I can watch instant movies while I sit here peeling and slicing.

Have a great Saturday. Are you canning anything this weekend?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Thoughts on Marriage after One Year

Can you believe it has been a year already!? That's what Brian said to me this morning and he is right, this year just flew by. Lately, I've had a chance to take part in a lot of conversations with my friends about marriage. We all agree that we get so tired of everyone acting like things are perfect or, at the other end of the spectrum, of people getting divorced after only a few months or years. A lot of us younger couples never get to hear much about those who have struggled through things and managed to stay together. Of course, people say "marriage is so hard" but that doesn't help much. Without going in to a lot of detail, I'd like to share a few of the things Brian and I have learned in our first year of marriage.

Dealing with the hard times...
-Don't just think you'll never get divorced, you'll live happily ever after, and that's that. If you had asked me last year if divorce would ever cross my mind I would have said absolutely not unless there was cheating or abuse involved. Let me tell you, I had serious doubts this year that I never saw coming.
-Sure, some couples are "perfect". But I guarantee you, if you open up to your close friends about marriage issues you will find out that many, many couples go through more serious rough patches than you had ever guessed. Our issues paled in comparison to some of the things my friends had gone through, and I felt so much better knowing that a lot of other people have struggled too.
-Fight!! Please, please, just fight! Okay I don't mean scream and yell and definitely don't start slapping. If something is on your mind - tell your spouse. If a topic comes up in conversation and you feel uneasy - let him (or her) know. Don't just let it go and build and build. I used to think all the little spats we have were a sign of a poor relationship. Now I feel like that is all part of working things out. I've seen more than one friend keep everything bottled up and when they finally let it out it was much, much harder to deal with and recover from.
-Don't be afraid to ask for help or advice. It is hard to tell what is going on when you're so involved. Go to a pastor or an older couple and ask for their thoughts. We have avoided discussing our marriage too much with our own parents and friends who might judge just because their opinions might be too biased. ;)

Enjoying the good times...
-We started a new thing a few months ago that I really, really like. Almost every night we turn off the TV and computer, sit down the knitting or paper, and just talk to each other. It sounds silly but we really didn't give each other a lot of undivided attention until we made a point to. Even 5 minutes makes a difference. We just level with each other about how we're feeling and if things are going right or not.
-Do what the other likes. I've sat through a lot of tractor pulls (not that I don't enjoy them but they aren't my first choice for entertainment) and Brian has listened to me ramble on about my garden and my blog. Do what you both like too (for us it's relaxing on the front porch or going to the rodeo).
-Laugh together! I love it how we both try to impersonate a funny thing the cat did that the other person missed. We can't help but laugh when Brian is running around the house in his underwear and cowboy boots with a cookie sheet in hand trying to kill one of our many bat invaders.
-Ask each other's opinion. I am so in awe of Brian sometimes when I expect a smart remark and he gives me a serious, thoughtful response instead. At the same time it feels really good when he says, "What do you think we should do?" and values my feedback.


I think we're more in love than ever. We're truly best friends, and are very well matched. Last night we went out for our anniversary. Brian confessed, "Umm... I still haven't got you anything." Oh thank God!! I had spent the last hour on Google trying to figure out what I could make/buy/do for him since I hadn't thought of anything yet either. We went out to eat and drove past the movie theater on the way home. "I had halfway thought of asking if you wanted to see a movie..." I trailed off. "...yeah, there wasn't much on when I checked earlier and..." he said. "...and I'd really much rather go home and relax" we decided. :)

We have done so much this year besides get married that I think we came through it very well. We've dealt with the barn fire, a lot of family issues that come with buying the home farm, starting a business (farming), fixing up the place, and stretching our budget to the max in order to avoid taking on any debt this year. Oh yeah, and remember I'm trying to learn how to grow and preserve most of our food while Brian runs in five different directions catching runaway cattle and fixing the semi. Maybe the best recommendation would be to live in an apartment the first year (with maybe just a cat), work 1 job each, and go to the grocery store more. ;)

I hope you got something out of this, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on marriage.

P.S. Sorry no "new" wedding pics, I'm trying to dig some up but they're all copyrighted with the photographer so I'll have to ask about that.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

It Has Begun...(drumroll please)

What is IT? Canning season that is. And no, that's not why I've been missing. I've been missing because my blogging addiction has given way to a Ravelry addiction which has led me to begin knitting everyone's Christmas presents now, while I'm still motivated and sort of have the time.

I promise to post more soon. My order of peaches came in tonight which will lead directly in to apple and tomato seasons which might clash slightly with the vacation to who knows where that we're taking the week of Labor Day. That will all keep me busy but it will give me lots of blog worthy material too.

I leave you with this. Anyone who can tell what it is gets an imaginary pat on the back from me. :)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

Okay here goes:

Monday: Cornmeal waffles with bacon and fried zucchini

Tuesday: Sloppy Joes for Brian, hot dogs for me, with chips and watermelon

Wednesday: Baked Rotini with homemade garlic bread

Thursday: Steak on the grill with seasoned buttered noodles

Friday: Going to my cousin's wedding - no cooking for me! :)

What are you eating this week?

Today's To-Do List

Monday is my day off and I'm staying super busy! This is more for my purposes but in case you're interested, here's what is on my agenda:

-Can more green beans (they're on the stove now)
-Bake bread
-Call the builder
-Call the plumber
-Call on prices for an automatic cattle waterer
-Balance the checkbook/pay bills
-Find the title for a trailer we're selling
-Call the orchard to order peaches (Mmmm!)
-Scope out vacation destinations online (this is coming up fast!)
-Make the weekly menu plan
-Make granola bars if time allows
-Finish knitted baby shower gift and make progress on wedding gift

The bathroom needs to be painted and the landscape worked on but it is incredibly hot and humid/sticky so I won't be doing either of those things today. I'm hoping to bust through the rest of the list so I can just knit and work on the bread.

I'd love to hear what you're doing today! :)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Busy Day, We're tired

So I may not have mentioned it yet but both Brian and I's moms are moving or planning to move. Brian's Mom has to be out of her house by the end of August. It isn't as bad as it could be since she moved out of there and in with her husband quite a few years ago. It has been really tough for her though because Brian's Dad and brother have both passed away and a lot of there stuff was in the house and had to be sorted through. We also had a lot of stuff left in the house from when we lived there before moving to the farm. If you haven't heard, Michigan's economy bites and almost no houses are selling. Someone actually came to Brian's Mom and made her a really good offer on the house - it wasn't even for sale. I think this is meant to be and I'll be so glad when it is done.

My Mom is planning to move closer to us next spring. Right now her and my little sister live about 45-60 minutes away from us. My sister will be graduating from high school next year. So far we haven't found a house for them but we're really hoping one will open up very close to us. I grew up with my Aunt right next door and loved going to visit. I keep saying I don't want to have to drive, when we have kids and they wear me out I want to say, "Go see your Grandma!!" and mean it. They're aren't many houses around us so we'll see what happens.

So all of this means that we needed to get all of our stuff out of both houses. Today was the day. My Mom and sister brought what was left at their house. They met me at Brian's Mom's house and helped me get the rest of the little stuff. Now all that is left is some furniture and a few things for Brian, plus he has to get stuff out of the shop there.

We worked at our house ALL DAY to organize the upstairs, haul everyone's old crap out, and move our stuff in. Every one in Brian's family left stuff in our attic. We tried to save some of the important things but at this point I feel like they should have come and got their things by now. Our porch is packed full of junk to go out to the trash. I hate throwing it all away but who is going to want a box of old waders, shoes, and mouse poop? We set aside anything salvageable to donate.

We did find a lot of cool pictures and old letters - I'll share more about that as soon as we have time to look through them. I'm so glad we're one step closer to make this house our home, instead of free storage for everyone else.

After that Brian and I moved 75 bales of hay in to the neighbor's mow. I almost never have to move hay anymore and it is HARD when you haven't been using those muscles. Then I took a shower and made another batch of homemade oreos. Now I'm going to check some blogs and knit until I fall asleep.

Have a great night! What cool things have you found in your house? Did you work hard today or get to relax?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Pressure Canning Green Beans

I spent the day with my Mom yesterday and she taught me how to pressure can for the first time ever. I went in to this completely blind and was pleasantly surprised with how easy it was. Now I have a new skill to add to my list! Yay! Thanks Mom!

While this is in no way meant to be a guide to pressure canning I'll share a few pics and the basic process. That way if you find someone to teach you it won't be so mystifying.

The black pot has a strainer in it and boiling water. The silver one is the pressure canner with a few inches of water in the bottom. We snapped the beans in 2-3 inch pieces and removed the ends. Next, we rinsed them under cool water and put them in the black pot of boiling water. Once the water comes back to a boil they stay in for 5 minutes. At that point we pulled out the strainer, allowed the water to drain back in to the pot, and poured the beans in to the plastic strainer in the sink.

Then it is time to put the beans in the jars. I used the end of a wooden spoon to arrange them and filled them almost to the neck of the jar. The jars will get very HOT. Duh, but I'm a little slow.

You use the liquid from the black pot to fill the jars. Leave about 1 inch of headspace. Wipe the rim clean, then place the lids and rings on as usual.

Here's the fun part!! Put them in the pressure canner and secure the lid. We used the canner's owner's manual and the Ball canning book to figure out the specifics. For our canner we need moderate steam coming out of the little hole on top for 7-10 minutes. At that point we put the little weight on top of that hole. Stick with me here... each recipe calls for certain pounds of pressure. For our canner the piece with the black top equals 5 pounds and each silver ring is five additional pounds. So we put one ring on the black piece and set that over the steam hole. When the pressure reaches 10 pounds the steam comes out forcefully enough to rock the little weight back and forth. Once the weight starts rocking your processing time begins. I set the timer for 25 minutes.

When the time is up you just turn off the burner and wait. There is a little button thing on top of the canner that sticks up as long as it is holding pressure. When the button drops the pressure is gone. Then you can tip the weight sideways to check it. If no steam comes out it is safe to remove the lid. It took a very long time for the jars to cool, much longer than jam from what I remember. Therefore it also took a long time for them to seal.

By the way, 5# of grean beans from my garden = 4 full quarts. Not bad! :)

Do you pressure can? Isn't it fun!? What is your favorite food to pressure can?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

County Fair Fun!

These pictures aren't the greatest but I wanted to share all the fun things that happened last week at our county fair!

Our niece bracing her lamb.

Our other neice, Jill. Her sheep was being very stubborn and holding up the class but Jill handled it like a champ.

Jill setting her lamb's feet in the proper place. She ended up winning her class!
Our nephew showing in the Cloverbud class. The little ones are supervised by an older helper and no ribbons are awarded. It is a great way for them to learn.

The best part: my caramel apple!!

It is hard to tell in this picture but this steer weighs 1800 pounds!

Aren't the sheep cute in their pajamas!

We went up on Sunday night to see the animals and exhibits. Then we went back on Tuesday to watch our nieces show their sheep. They did great and I learned a lot from watching.

Do you attend your county's fair? What's your favorite thing to see or do?