down on the farm

Just thought I’d post a little glimpse of what’s going on around here.  I know much of the country is wondering if spring will ever come, here in Arizona, I’m trying to figure out what happened to winter.  Maybe it will come this weekend.  The weather guy said we were only going to have a high of 67 on Sunday.  Brrr.  Better pull out my thermals (actually, I just may). 

It’s hard to believe, but it’s time to say goodbye to our winter garden and start looking forward to spring and summer.  Greg and the boys have already planted our sunflowers.  It’s probably a little early, but we’re taking our chances.

This weekend we’ll be picking peas for sure. 

ImageOur super ugly tomato plants have some nice fruit on them.  Although, these are supposed to be a heinz tomato similar to roma tomatoes.  Uhh, call me crazy, but I’m not sure they were labeled correctly, oh well, they look good.

ImageSome of our lettuce has started to bolt, and I think I’m going to try to harvest some seeds. 

ImageSo far we have successfully harvested and planted peas, calendula, marigolds, sunflowers and corn.  Go us.

Our big news this week is that Joy had her babies.  Phew.  Last go around she only had one baby and it didn’t make it.  I’m happy to report this time she has seven very wiggly kits.

ImageOh and this is my favorite picture of the week.  Daisy on top of the chickens’ water — the lid is only about 12 inches in diameter.  I’m not quite sure how she managed it.  Boy, I love that goat.

ImageThere you have it.  Hope all is blissful wherever you are.

when mother nature says slow down

I had such big plans as 2014 started.  Oh, my list of projects was long.  Rather than being overwhelmed, I was excited to get started.  About halfway through the month, I started getting a little cold — you know the one — a few sniffles here and there, a scratchy throat, a cough or two.  Then I started getting tired.  Like super tired, I don’t want to do anything tired.  If I was a napper, I would have napped a lot.  Unfortunately, naps and I don’t mix even when I’m sick.  If I nap during the day, I can completely forget about sleeping at night.  Normally, I would fight the urge to do nothing, but this time, I embraced it.  I have to admit it was nice.

I kicked all my projects to the curb.  In fact, I kicked everything that wasn’t essential to the curb.  I tidied the house, did school and hung out with the boys, made dinner (sorta), and sat on my duff.   It’s actually quite amazing the things you can check off you to-do list while seemingly doing nothing.

School was a ton more fun without the nagging feeling that I had other stuff that I need to do cluttering up my time with the boys.  We actually did all of the fun science activities that went along with our lessons.  Friday, we made our own volcano complete with the destruction of the dinosaurs per Thomas’ request.

volcano 002Here’s the actual eruption.

Sorry for those that got sea sick.  I really need to work on keeping steady while recording.  Anyway, it was fun.  I also need to be better about just spending time with the boys doing things that they want to do rather than only doing things with them that I think they need to do.

While on my duff, I read.  I forgot how much I enjoy reading.  Life of Pi has been on my reading list for over a decade.  I kid you not.  I finally read it.  I’m still not sure if I liked it or not; however, it has certainly stuck with me.   I even checked out the movie from the library this weekend and made Greg watch it with me hoping that I could find some sort of closure to all my thoughts.  No such luck.  If you’re a deep thinker — you’ll love it.  If you like neat and tidy endings — this book is not for you.  If you’ve read it, I’d love to know your thoughts.

I also continued my quest to find a learning to read program for Muf.  I tried the Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading.  I liked it’s good solid style, but Muf lasted about five minutes.  Total no go for him.  Next, I tried doing a few things on my own.  Bad idea.  This last week, I checked out Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons from the library.  It’s not my ideal, but I think it will be a good fit for Muf.  We did our first lesson this morning.  When we got to the end, he wanted to do more.  I’m taking that as a good sign, and I ordered the book.  I’ll keep you posted.

I also picked up a copy of the FastDiet from the library.  My sister had just finished reading it and thought I might be interested.  Basically, you fast two days a week (not necessarily back to back and it’s not really a fast — women eat 500 calories and men eat 600 calories on fast days) and the other five days you eat normally.  The research presented in the book is really impressive.  You lose weight (nice) but there are a bunch of other health benefits linked to fasting including lowering your risks of cancer, diabetes, and even dementia.  I’m giving it a try — what the heck.  So I’m off to sip on some broth and sit on my duff.

Wait, I’m actually feeling better today.  Drat — even though I’m not technically sick anymore, a little downtime during the day is probably not such a bad thing.

i did it — homemade bread that actually worked

When I was growing up, all the cool kids had Wonderbread.  My family, not so much.  We had homemade wheat bread.  Ugh — how could my mom do that to us?  Didn’t she know the social ramifications?

Fast forward more years that I care to admit, and I’m sending my own kids off to school with their whole wheat bread.  Most of the time, I buy my bread from Alpine Valley Bakery.  Twice a week, all of their breads go on sale for a dollar a loaf.  I kid you not — even their organic bread.  Yeah, I don’t think I can make it for that price.  That being said, there is nothing like a piece of warm bread right out of the oven, and I’m pretty sure that bread is going to taste even better after the poop hits the fan and bread from a store is just a distant memory, but I digress, back to the bread.

One of the reasons I haven’t made bread more often is because I never seemed to get it quite right.  Everyone said it was good, but I wanted better than good.  I wanted super good.  Guess what?  I finally got it right thanks to The Well Floured Kitchen.  Oh how I love this blog.  I could go on and on, but I won’t.  Just visit, I promise you’ll love it.

It’s not exactly how she did it, but she’s way cooler than I am.  I couldn’t seem to get my loaves all nice and pretty like hers or have cool cuts across the tops.  I’m okay with that though.  Maybe one day, I’ll try again, but for now, here’s what I do.

a little bit of bread

Yummy Whole Wheat Bread

6 cups (1lb, 8 oz) white whole wheat flour (I grind my own, but King Arthur’s is good as well)

1 tablespoon yeast

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon organic sugar or honey

2 cups water

If you are using regular active dry yeast, you will need to start by proofing it.  Do this by adding the yeast and 1 teaspoon of your sugar to 1 cup of warm water.  Let it sit for five minutes.

While the sugar and yeast are getting all cozy, place the flour, the rest of the sugar, and salt in a heavy duty stand mixer (hopefully, we’ll still have electricity even though the grocery stores are empty).  Per the tips from the original recipe, I’ve been weighing my flour rather than using measuring cups.  I really think this has made a huge difference — not sure why, but there it is.  If you are using instant yeast, you can just throw everything into the mixer.

Once the yeast has been proofed add and the yeast mixture and the second cup of water to your mixer.  I use the paddle just to mix things around and then let it rest for about fifteen minutes.  Switch over to the dough hook and knead for five minutes.

Once it’s done kneading, I pull the dough out and do a quick wipe down of the mixing bowl with olive oil, just so the dough doesn’t stick as it’s rising.  Put the dough back in the bowl and cover it with a damp towel or plastic wrap, and let it rise for about an hour.  It should double in size.

Punch it down and form into two nice loaves.  I put mine in bread pans, but you can also do round loaves and make it look all fancy.

Cover, and let it rise again for about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Bake for 10 minutes and then lower the temperature to 375 degrees and bake for 20 more minutes, or until it has an internal temperature of 200 degrees.  This is another tip that I got from Well Floured Kitchen.

There you go.  Pretty easy and oh so good.  You can tell from the picture.  I gave one loaf away and before I knew it, this was all that was left, and I didn’t have time to bake some more.  Sorry.

a super yummy ranch dressing (that isn’t a total pain to make)

I’ve been meaning to post about this for a while, but I had to get my courage up.  You see I’m an Aggie — a Utah State Aggie to be precise.  Here’s the fam on top of the famous USU True Aggie A on our most recent trip to the motherland.  ImageAs an Aggie, I can’t like anything about Brigham Young University, but I have to say, BYU Creamery’s ranch dressing is pretty darn good.  Thanks to Jillee from One Good Thing, we can now make it at home (and no one will know our association with BYU). 

You mix the spices up ahead of time so you basically have a quick and easy alternative to the ranch in a bottle you get from the shelf which is kind of scary.

ImageRanch Dressing Mix

1/4 cup black pepper

1 1/2 cup parsley flakes

1/2 cup garlic salt

2 tablespoons salt (I like Real Salt, holy cow is it good)

1/4 cup granulated garlic

3/4 cup granulated onion

2 tablespoons dill weed

Combine and store in an airtight container.  It will make about 3 and 1/2 cups of mix.  It will last FOREVER.  Trust me, we eat a lot of salad and I’m still working on my first container.

Image

Ranch Dressing

1 and 1/2 cups mayonnaise (click here for a really good homemade recipe)

1 cup sour cream

1 cup buttermilk (Don’t keep buttermilk on hand, me either, put 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar in a measuring cup and fill to the cup line with milk.  Let it sit for 5 minutes and you’re good to go.)

1 teaspoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons ranch dressing mix

Wisk together and refrigerate for a couple of hours.  Makes a quart.

Play around with the amount of milk you use.  The original recipe calls for almost twice as much milk, but I found it just a tad too runny for me.  Hope you enjoy. 

looking ahead

For the last few months, I’ve had this feeling that it’s time to raise my personal bar.  Not in a self-defeating I’m a loser kind of way, but in a I’m ready to be a better person kind of way.  It all started a while ago when I was asked to teach a class on the importance of receiving an education to a group of young women in our congregation.  One of the resources listed was Proverbs 31:10-31, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head.  It occurred to me that this passage perfectly outlined the person that I want to be.  And so, this year I resolve to be a more virtuous woman, a woman of God.  I’m not going to tie myself down to any particular schedule.  I just plan on reading and rereading this passage frequently to help me set some realistic and obtainable goals that will hopefully bless my life and the lives of those around me.  Perhaps you’ll join me.  I’d love to hear what you’re doing.

down on the farm

I’m finally starting to come out of my Christmas sugar coma and thought it might be time to post something.  You think I’m exaggerating, but no, I think I ate more treats over the last three weeks than I have in the last three years.  Gross.  I’m hoping I’ve learned my lesson.  Good thing our garden is still producing treats of the healthier kind. 

ImageLook at the blossoms on our peas.  I’m so excited.  We have a few pods popping up here and there as well.

ImageOur slightly frozen tomato plants are hanging on — they don’t look very pretty, but who cares — we have fruit.  Hurray.  Even if we get three tomatoes, that will be more than last year. 

ImageOur lettuce and swiss chard continues to be our most productive crop.  We have huge salads several times a week and are still able to give bunches away. 

ImageThe animals are doing great.  The goats are as fun as fun can be, and we’re looking forward to babies this spring.  We were a little worried about how everyone would get along with our new set up, but it seems to be working.  We even managed to introduce the baby chicks into the adult chicken run without losing a single bird — in case you didn’t know, chickens are mean to each other.  Hen pecking is real — often to the death. 

ImageSo that’s about it.  I sure am looking forward to 2014.  We’ve had some pretty big projects hanging over our heads for the last several years, but it feels like things are finally settling down.  Here’s hoping that the economy can limp along for just a little bit longer.  It would be nice to have a little peace before the poop totally hits the fan.  How’s that for a Happy New Year wish.