Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Puppies For Sale!

We have six week old Livestock Guardian Dog puppies for sale! They come from working parents, were born and weaned in the barn, and have had their first set of shots. They live with cows, pigs, goats, turkeys, and chickens. They would be great to guard your animals or property. Although they have been raised to work outside and guard, they could easily become a house pet.
 We only have five left....

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Solar Panels

     We've been trying to come up with different ways to use less electricity. Especially where lighting is concerned. We tried using gas lamps when we had work to do outside and in many situations they worked fine. It wasn't too hard to milk at night and see what we were doing with the lamps, but sometimes we needed better light. If an animal was in one of the barn stalls and giving birth, the gas lamps didn't give us the best light to monitor progress. We tried flash lights, and still use them when going from place to place at night, but using them in the barn was a nightmare because we needed both our hands to work. We didn't want to use extension cords running to the barn and chicken house and running electric lines there was a definate no. So we looked into solar.
     The chickens need 16 hours of light to lay eggs properly. So, Pa got a light, attached it to a battery, attached that to a timer, and runs it all off a solar panel. It works great. The light comes on when the sun goes down and turns off at midnight. Happy chickens make yummy eggs.
     We also needed a reliable light source in the barn. Pa did close to the same thing. We have a light that has a switch so we only turn the light on when we need it. The light is very bright so it covers the whole barn. We use it when we milk at night. The lighting system is powered by a solar panel.
     We got both solar panels at Tractor Supply in the Clearance Section.
     Now I know I'm not being very specific about the type of panel and light, but I hope you get the gist of it. If you'd like specifics, let me know and I'll ask Pa. The point of this post was to give you a chance to see some of the innovations we are using and hopefully you will start thinking of ways you can make your life simpler as well. Sometimes it just takes a different way of looking at a problem. Here's a picture of Pa on the edge of the bucket of the tractor while putting the solar panel up. A big thanks to our neighbor, John, for not dropping him!

Homemade Butter

     Since we bought Brindle, our sweet dairy cow, we have stopped buying all dairy products at the store.  Since I like to bake so much, the greatest challenge has been not buying butter and making sure I have plenty on hand. I'm going to show you how I make butter, and I promise it is so easy you just won't believe. Even if you don't get your own milk from your backyard, you can still make your own butter. I hope you'll try it, at least once, the butter does taste better and cook better, and gives you plenty of bragging rights.
     Start with some cream. You cannot use store bought milk that has been homogenized. Buy just the cream. We use heavy cream because that's what Brindle gives us. Use what's cheaper either heavy or whipping cream. I don't think it will matter.
     What I do is use the milk from the day before. That way there has been plenty of time for the milk to separate and it is as fresh as possible. This is what it looks like after the first day in the fridge.
      The cream is the bright white at the top. The skim milk is at the bottom. I use a small ladle to scoop out the cream. Our cream is usually the consistency of yogurt to syrup. I keep scooping out the cream until I see the skim milk. Then I stir up the cream to get it all the same consistency and bring it to temperature.    
     The most important thing is to start with the cream at a temperature of 60 degrees. Get your food processor out and put in your metal blades. Pour in the cream to the maximum fill line. Put the lid on and start it on high for 4-5 minutes. If you watch the process, you'll notice that the cream will turn to whipping cream, then break down, and then turn to butter. Usually by 5 minutes it's ready, but it just depends on your machine, cream, and the temperature of the cream. This is what it will look like when done.
     Turn off the processor and grab a rubber scrapper. Mush the butter together into a clump. It should be a little stiff and want to stick together. The buttermilk left over should be milky and not have too much butter residue left. If you do still see butter in the milk and it doesn't stick to your butter clump, spin it in the processor some more. This is what it looks like when it's clumped together. Notice how the milk is just milk.
     Pour out the milk (I give it to the pigs), and dump the butter into a separate bowl. I use a pan with a handle because it is easier for me to hold and work with the butter. What you want to do is smash up the butter. You are trying to get all the buttermilk out.
     Add water to the milk and mush it up and smash out the water. Keep dumping out the water, adding water, smashing the butter with the water, and dumping it out. Keep going until the water runs clear. Then you will stop adding water and just smash the butter until no more liquid comes out. This is the hard part to me. I never am really able to get out all the liquid. If you have an older kid that has been driving you crazy, give them this job. They'll think twice about crossing you again.
     Once you think you've got it as drained as possible, get a cookie sheet, wax paper, and a tablespoon measure. Put a sheet of wax paper down on the cookie sheet and start scooping tablespoons of butter. Pack the butter into the spoon with your finger. This will help get more liquid out. Scrape the spoon against the edge of the bowl to get an exact tablespoon.
Then use your finger to scoop out all the butter. Put it in tablespoon piles on your wax paper.
     The reason I make tablespoon balls is because this is the most common measurement when you use butter. Many of my bread recipes call for a certain amount of tablespoons so it is very easy to grab the right amount. All the measuring has already been done. Even if I am making cookies and need a cup of butter, it is easy to count out the balls to equal a cup.
     After I have all the butter divided up, I place the cookie sheet in the fridge for about an hour. I want the balls to be hard and cold. Once they are very cold, I put all the balls into a plastic container and put them in the freezer. This helps the butter keep longer (especially since my milk is not pasteurized). Another plus to making the tablespoon balls is that the butter comes to room temperature much faster.
     I hope you'll give it a try and let me know how it goes. The perfect thing to make with your butter is grilled cheese sandwiches!

If you'd like to try your hand at making butter like we do, contact me to arrange for a visit. The milk is free if you bring a container. I do ask for a donation if you can afford it. I'll even teach you how to milk a cow.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

We Had A Baby!

     Farm life ain't easy. To prove it, I'll tell ya what I did before 8 A.M. I made a batch of blueberry donuts with a berry glaze (recipe coming as soon as I tweak it), washed a load of dishes, two loads of laundry, loaded a trailer with buckets, sent our trailer off with the neighbors so they could get us some feed when they went today, and had a baby.
     Well, I didn't personally give birth to the baby, I had a surrogate. 217 gave birth to a beautiful bull calf this morning. He's got a reddish white coat (sounds strange but check out the pics) and is soooo cute! We even heard him say his first word..."moo".
     I'm thinking maybe we should have a naming contest. Best name submitted by January 20th wins. I'll send you a certificate for having named the calf.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Kyndle Ray Burger By Roughnecks

     I'll admit, when I first heard about this burger, I thought it sounded awful. There is a great place to go if you ever find yourself in Rio Vista. This small town has one heck of a restaurant/bar that is fun for the whole family. Roughnecks looks like a tiny biker bar when you pass it on the street, but go inside and you'll be surprised at the space. Covering the walls are great decorations, pictures, animal skulls, and stuffed animals. They have a great collection of license plates and are offering rewards for certain states. When you think "country" this is what you think, all the way down to the old hard wood floors.
     I had been pestering Pa to take us there to eat for quite a while and he kept putting it off. It becomes an ordeal to take four kids out to eat, but it is a bigger ordeal to feed them. So finally he agreed after we had taken a pig to the butcher and it was late and we were exhausted. The boys freaked out at the decorations - they loved it and couldn't stop yelling and pointing. Luckily this was the kind of place that appreciates that kind of attention. Kylie was the one who ordered the Kyndle Ray burger and I made fun of it all night. Pa took a bite and announced we had to try and make this at home. He's such a traitor. But this time it was a good thing.
     Here's what you'll need to make your Kyndle Ray:

bacon, fried the way you like it
hamburger patty, grilled to suit your taste
fried egg (yep, you read it right)
Cheese - I liked cheddar better than American
Hamburger bun - you can use the recipe from last time or just do store bought if you want

     The first thing I did was get out a package of our bacon. We sell it in one pound packages and can make a bundle package for you if you want to include other cuts of pork or beef.
This is not in any way like the bacon you get at the store. This is thick cut and has amazing flavor. This should be on your bucket list. Fry the bacon to the crunchy level you like.

 Once you get all your bacon ready, put it to the side. Now you need to fry your egg. I use a small nonstick skillet that I bought just for making egg sandwiches. If you don't have something small like this then you can use a tuna can with both ends cut off and put it on your skillet then put the egg inside. The sides of the can will hold your egg together in the perfect shape. I use a little bit of the bacon grease in the skillet along with some salt and pepper when I fry each scrambled egg to give it the ultimate flavor.
For this meal I made monogrammed rolls. To do this, make your buns like I showed ya last time, but don't use all the dough. Depending on what you want to put on top (and keep it simple) you want to reserve one or two buns. Make your bun plain and then take some dough and roll out a thin rope. Shape the rope into the letter you prefer. I did each person's initials so they wouldn't fight over who got which bun. Brush on egg white over the bun and then place your letter. If you want the rope to touch as in making the letter "R" and you need it to stick in the middle to make the letter you must pinch the rope together. (Hope this made sense, if it doesn't let me know.) For letters with sharp edges, like a "z", pinch those edges. Sorry, I forgot to get pictures of this step.
This is how it will look after it is cooked. So now we assemble the burger! Open your bun and on the bottom half put down your burger, some cheese, the egg, some cheese (the cheese helps hold it all together), the bacon, and then the top bun. As strange as it might sound, and as much as I hated admitting it to Kylie, it tastes wonderful!

Here's "A" for Alicia. Yumm...

Yes, I know in the picture I stacked mine backwards. And after much research, we have discovered the best taste comes from the order given in the instructions. But you don't have to take my word for it, try it yourself!

Buns, bacon, and beef from this recipe are sold here on the farm. Monogrammed buns are a different recipe from the one I gave ya last time. Contact me to visit us and/or place orders. Eggs are normally for sale as well but my chickens are on strike right now and we are in negotiations. I am working towards selling our cheddar and will keep ya posted on when it will be available.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Homemade Hot Dog and Hamburger Buns

     A few years back, my nephew did a science project on bread and how long it took for bread to turn bad. So he bought different brands of bread and waited. And waited. Two weeks later and the night before the project was due, still no mold or any signs that his many loaves were not just bought. I can't wrap my head around all the preservatives and science that went into those loaves. That is certainly not something that I want in my body or my childrens'. Making homemade bread is more than something to brag about because you labored in a kitchen for hours, it's about making sure you present the healthiest options for your kids. (Especially when you serve french fries and ice cream!) Every little bit helps. That being said....
     If my oldest son could have his way, everything he eats would be on a hamburger bun. Everything. So I started some research on how to make hamburger buns and hot dog buns. I needed a recipe that could be for both and that I could do in a bread machine if I was running low on time. I love to make breads by hand, but I think that using a bread machine also serves an important purpose. We don't always have time to do it all, and a bread machine can give you the little time boost that you need sometimes. Bread machines can be found for under $5 at garage sales. Just make sure it has the paddle and the inside is not scratched up. If it has the manual - great, if no manual- not that big of a deal. So today, I threw all the ingredients in the bread machine and put it on the dough cycle so I could concentrate on laundry and cleaning up. So here is my best recipe for hamburger and hot dog buns:

Homemade Hamburger and Hot Dog Buns

4 1/2 c. all purpose flour
2 tbl. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/4 c. butter, cut up
1 c. milk
1/2 c. water
4 tsp. bread machine yeast

     If you have a bread machine, dump it all in according to the directions of your machine (I put all the dry ingredients in first, then the wet ones, and the yeast goes in the lid. Put it on the dough cycle and get some chores done.
     If you wanna do it by hand, warm up the milk, water, and butter to 120 degrees. Mix up half the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in a separate bowl.  Add the egg to the flour. Add the rest of the flour, a little at a time (about a 1/2 cup) and combine it after each addition. When the dough stays together, put it out on a floured surface and knead for about 8 minutes, until it is smooth and elastic.
     Once you have your dough ready, divide the dough into 16 pieces.
For hot dog buns, use a rolling pin to shape each ball into about a 6" x 4" rectangle. (My hot dogs were extra long, so I made longer buns.)

Roll it up like a jelly roll starting with the longer side.

Pinch the edges together and pinch the ends to seal.

Put on greased baking sheet with the pinched sides down. And let rise til doubled.

For hamburger buns, shape into smooth balls by pushing the middle of the dough out and the sides into the back, and pinch the back together. This is the back or bottom...
And this is the front or top...

Flatten the balls onto greased baking sheets. If you like, spray the balls with water or brush with egg whites and sprinkle on sesame seeds or cooked onions. Pa fried a jars worth of cut onions and I used those this time.

Press the onions in a bit to help them stick. Let them rise til doubled. It only takes about 30 minutes. Sometimes I'll put them in a warmed oven to get them going faster, especially during the brutal Texas winters. Here's what they look like before I bake 'em.

For both kinds of buns, bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

There's a great theory out there that you can cancel out the bad calories by combining it with something low cal - like eating ice cream is canceled out by drinking a Diet Coke. Now I know this theory is complete horse poop, but I have a selective memory and sometimes I like to ignore reality and science. So... to serve a balanced meal, I gave in to my kids. I figured that if I fed them chili dogs and french fries it'd be a wash if I used our homemade hot dog buns and hand cut the fries. Watcha think?

We all took our plates and headed outside to where Pa and the older kids had built a campfire. Not a bad way to spend a Wednesday night.


Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year's Resolution

     So it really is a cliche to come up with a resolution for the new year. We all do it and I can't think of ever really sticking with a resolution for more than a few weeks. Lose weight, exercise, drink less, blah, blah, blah. But every year we do it all over again. So here goes...
     I'd like to make this blog a priority for myself.  I am going to post often, try to give a glimpse into farm life, and inspire others to try something new. I've joined the Daring Bakers and will be showing you each Daring Bakers Challenge at the end of each month. So here goes my resolution...

     It's been a busy weekend here on the farm. We built a new fence in the middle of the main property by connecting a garden fence corner and the chicken fence. We still need to put up some field fence around half of this new pasture so we can put the goats back there without them going somewhere they aren't supposed to. Animals are a lot like children and will do whatever you don't want them to. But we did get all the cows moved from the cow pasture to the back of the main pasture. The goats will move back there too so we can give both pastures a break.
     We also went to Rendon to pick up an old truck from my childhood home. My dad is giving my daughter her great-grandfather's pickup truck. A 1967 Ford. So we first picked up a parts truck, and then went back and got an old van. And when I say old, I mean it. It's older than I am - ancient! It was one of my dad's from the good old Rick's Van Shop days. When we finally figure out the year, I'll let ya know. I'm guessing the 60s.We are picking up my daughter's truck next.
     In between that we also made a pound of butter from our sweet cow, Brindle's, milk. Then I made a loaf of bread and started smoking meat. I did a brisket, Pike's Peak roast, and a Boston Butt. We munched on them for dinner tonight along with the bread that was supposed to be for sandwiches tomorrow.
     It should go without saying that this is just a small amount of what goes on around here. Every day there are animals to feed and water, chicken nest boxes to check and clean out, a cow to milk twice a day, and animals to inspect to make sure they are staying healthy. If I am able to get old produce from the store, we cut it up and feed to the animals. The pigs get most of it, but the chickens love tomatoes and the goats love old lettuce. Also each day we clean out our slop buckets. In the house we have a bucket for the pigs that gets everything left over but meat. This includes banana peels and apple cores. Another bucket is for the dogs. They get all the leftover meat and bones (excluding chicken and turkey). My kitchen shop also has a slop bucket for pigs. The puppies are starting to wander around the barn, so today we started taking a few out to be with the goats. It was pretty funny as the goats aren't quite sure what to make of them. The puppies, of course, think they are hot stuff!
     The kids start back to school tomorrow, and that makes me a little sad. I've enjoyed turning my alarm clock off and being woken up by Wyatt because he's starving. It's been nice having the kids home to help around the house and help Pa build things. But it will also be nice to have a schedule again... I think.