Monday, August 5, 2013

Cooking Your Garden

Last week, a newspaper from Utah called 
published an article I wrote about slow cooked meals from your garden.
It featured a dish I made entirely from my home grown vegetables. 
All the veggies you see below we grew.


  
The onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, corn, and okra.
Don't they look beautiful? 
This okra variety is star shaped, and in my opinion not as slimy as the traditional. 
I used banana peppers and a few red jalapeños for heat.

It was so delicious, it has become a stable in my house with slight variations like
 chicken and chickpeas.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Sheep's Lawn Service--Rednecks or Environmentalists?


 Call us what you want, but yesterday Kevin had a brilliant idea! Let the sheep into the pool area, so they could mow the lawn!

Once we lured Bib, Bob, and Bab, into our pool area,  they went straight to work and started eating the luscious green St. Augustine grass. They edged, like it was nobody's business. They powered through the whole thing (plus or minus a few landscape plants, but thats beside the point), they rocked at mowing!

Only problem (besides the landscape plants), was that we forgot about them all night. When I woke up in the morning, the grass was nice and trimmed, but the pool deck was littered with poop pellets (not exactly what you want to see from your landscape crew).
Needless to say I fired them!
I shooed them off into their back grazing area and wished them luck finding something green back there.


So what did we learn from all this? What? Don't be a redneck? No... Let the sheep mow the front yard, not the pool area.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Crochetting Usless Things For Fun




For a few years now I've been harboring this secret desire to learn to crochet. Don't ask me why, it's one of those things that get in my head and I have to follow through. Just like learning to make tofu, or learning to make fluffy 100% whole wheat bread, or writing novels (Veiled & Living Soul) , or milking goats! I'm like that, curious. 

Last Christmas, while my mother was visiting, I decided to take a week off home school and take advantage of my mother's skills to learn to crochet. She's no expert, but knows the basics. Then with the aid of several YouTube instructional videos, I learned the first useless thing--a flower! 
I went to town making several different flowers:

 Poinsettias



Daffodils,

 Roses, and some other random flowers, many of which have ended up on Liv's hair.



One evening (I crochet at night while we sit on the couch watching T.V.) while I was trying to make a different type of flower, I made a mistake and ended up with a tube. This gave me the idea of making a doll, because the tube resembled an arm. 

Off I went with skin colored yarn to make two legs and two arms. I ended up doing the same thing, but larger for the body, then followed some patterns for the head. 
Let me tell you, there's a whole world out there of tiny crochet wigs and doll dresses! I, however, am lazy, so I took the easiest way out and double crocheted this little gal.


For my second doll, I decided to not be so lazy and I made it with a single stitch, which is tighter. I made one mistake though, I didn't make her crown the same color as her hear, so I ended up having to add a lot more hair, just to cover up her bald spots! Now her head is super heavy and suffers from perpetual whiplash.



Next, I decided to make a Lalaloopsy doll, but somehow ended up with a huge cranium! Rather than unraveling it and starting over, I decided to go for it, and make a bigger doll. Well...IT TOOK FOR EVER! It ate up tons of yarn and it was a pain in the *&%$^@#! Yet, it turned out very cute! So cute that I gave it to a very covetous girl for her 6th birthday. 


For the fourth doll, I decided to go back to the smaller size, and following a picture of all the Lalaloopy's I made this red-headed doll. Liv thinks she's cute, but Mack said she looks like Godzilla, and Kevin said that I should be careful not to prick her with any pins because she looks like a Voodoo doll and some poor red headed girl somewhere will start feeling the stabbings! 

Now I'm working on this one. I made sure her arms were as long as her legs, so that she doesn't look like Godzilla, and hopefully the bigger, dark (not blue) eyes, and better positioned bangs will not leave her looking like a Voodoo doll. 


For my next doll (the purple hair one) I will pay attention to how I do it, and write down the pattern so I can share it on another entry.  
In the mean time, if you'd like to know where I got some of my ideas feel free to go to my Pintrest board named "My New Obsession" and you'll find the pins I followed to get patterns and so forth. P.S. Re-pin my dolls while you're at it! 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Guinea Story Acording to Mack



O.K. so you probably heard about our Guinea hens from my parent’s blogs. Well, I’m going to tell you about them too. 

We first got them by mail. I know the mail! So we got 22 of them, and we put them in a big plastic box with some water and crushed up feed. As they grew up, we started preparing one of the rooms of the barn for them. Once we got the wiring done, and were able to put a heat lamp in there, we went out into the forest and got some branches and turned them into roosts for them.

After a few weeks we noticed that one of the Guinea hens had one foot growing the wrong way, so I brought it inside to my dad and he got some tape and wrapped it around the foot that was straight, then connected it to the foot that was bent, so that it was pointing straight. But what should have happened, didn’t  happen, because one night it got tangled into some string and went into a panic attack and died. Now we were down to only 21 Guineas.  

A month or two later, we decided to let them roam free in the back fenced area—a bad idea! As it started to get dimer out side, I suggested to my dad that we should bring them back inside the barn. But he said that they would be fine, that that was how they really lived. This was a mistake I will never forget, because that night an owl flew down and got them.

Over night we went from having 21 Guineas to only having 10 Guineas! And on top of all that, the next morning, the neighbors’ dogs, Hank and Stella, crept under the fence, and snacked on two Guineas! Then the next day, one mysteriously disappeared, so now we had seven.

One morning, a few weeks later, I let them out of the barn and when my dad came home, he told me that he couldn’t hear them. So I went to go look for them but they were nowhere to be found. After a few days of despair that we had no more Guineas, we received a call from our neighbor saying that one of her friends who lives across the forest from us, had seen seven Guineas who wandered into her yard. But here’s the thing: these people live 3 miles away! That’s a LONG ways away; especially when there’s nothing but forest! So my dad and I went over there, and what do you know? Its our Guinea hens! The first thing we did when we got, home was clip their wings. 
Areal picture of our house and where the hens were.

When spring came, while I was putting the animals inside the barn, I noticed only 6 Guineas, so I went looking for it. I found it sitting on a nest! I quickly ran inside and told my parents the good news. So my dad put a reminder on his phone to alert him when the eggs were supposed to hatch. When the day came, I went to the nest and 8 chicks were born. However 2 of them died right away, so we only had six.

My dad said it was up to me to decide what I wanted to do with them, and my decision was to take 3 for my own and leave three for the mom to take care of. Another BAD IDEA! Apparently Guinea hen mothers are horrible mothers, after the eggs hatch. Unfortunately, that night it rained really hard, and there were big puddles all over the back. So when I woke up I went to go look for the mother and her chicks, but I only found the mother. By the time I found the babies, they were already in a big puddle, for who knows how long, and they were barley moving. I quickly picked up all three of them, and brought them inside.




I put them all under the heat lamp along with the other Guineas, but sadly we could only revive 2 of them. When I looked outside, I saw the mother standing on a stump looking around with a confused look on her face. It was as if she was thinking,“Hmm… am I supposed to be doing something some thing right now? I think I lost something, but I can’t remember what?” 
I bet that if she could, she would have scratched her head too.

Well that’s my Guinea story. I will soon be writing another entry, about the Guinea chicks when they grow up! ;)

~Mack~

Thursday, June 6, 2013

PURPLE POTATOES?....!#&*%$@#*&


YEP! PURPLE POTATOES ARE AWESOME! 

Why you ask? Well, Im partial to highly colored vegetables. I always figured they must have some benefit over the blah colored vegetables...and they usually do!

Fresh purple potato from our garden
Our garden (one of them)


 Seven facts about purple potatoes:

1) They are from South America.

2) They have a creamy (especially when young) slightly more nutty taste than other potatoes. 



3) A half cup of purple potatoes contains 70 calories, 15 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 2 grams of protein and no fat. That's slightly more protein and more calories than the equivalent amount of Russet potatoes.

4) Purple potatoes contain 4 times as much antioxidants as Russet potatoes!

5) The chemical that makes purple potatoes purple is called Anthocyanin. Anthocyanin has been shown in studies to inhibit chemically induced cancer of a rat esophagus by 30-60% and of the colon by up to 80%...thats cool!

6) All potatoes are high in potassium, which can help regulate blood pressure. But purple potatoes have extra antioxidants that make them even more effective than other potato varieties.

7) You can make stamps out of them!
Purple potato stamp

So if it calls for potatoes, why not go purple?


Purple potatoes mixed with Yukon Gold potatoes-from our garden


 Be sure to keep an eye out for the upcoming Purple SWEET Potato Post...#%*&@$#!&




Follow our Blog for a Chance to Win a Head of Garlic! Yum!

So Kevin sets down a big hairy bulbous head of garlic right on my kitchen counter top, and smiles. "Dinner," he grunts like a cave man.  I look at the huge thing like it's possessed. What am I to make with a head of garlic that is the size of my opened hand with a long tuft of greenery that is big enough to feed a family of ten!

Elephant Garlic looks imposing, but here's a clear case of the bark being worse than the bite. I ended up stir-frying two of its huge cloves in my trusty wok along with some freshly picked tomatoes and about a pound of green beans, also freshly picked from our garden. The elephant garlic tasted mild and buttery with a slightly crunchy texture, similar to a watercress.

At this rate though I can see that it will take us several years to eat through our bountiful harvest. I lost count of how many heads we pulled! So I'll be making lots and lots of garlic power in an attempt at shrinking down the bulbous bulk that is currently drying in our barn.

Ever since my friend Michele (Mikel) invited me to lunch at her house--where she treated me and and a group of "Raw Food" enthusiasts to Rawco Tacos--I've been coveting a new kitchen gadget. The   TSM Products Stainless Steel Food Dehydrator with 5 Stainless Steel Shelves AKA: awesome dehydrator that works ten times better than my dinky one. (Yes that's my preliminary review)

With all this garlic, I'm gonna need this big guy to make a stock pile of Garlic Powder that will last us through dooms day!

So while I figure out how to get pounds and pounds of garlic dehydrated and ground into powder, I will offer you (dear reader) a chance to taste some of our bulbous beauties.

For every five new followers to our brand new blog, I will raffle off a dehydrated and granulated head of garlic. A process that I will no doubt document on this blog.  So in essence, a head for a head! Get it? :-)

All you'd have to do is click on the Join This Site button on the sidebar of the blog and for every five people we will choose one at random and mail you out a dehydrated head of your choosing. Leave us a message and let us know what type of garlic powder you'd like.
Ajo Rojo or Elephant.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

How to incubate poultry using a styrofoam style incubator

This is not supposed to be an exhaustive step-by-step explanation on how to incubate poultry eggs. You'll find there's A LOT of ideas out there. This is whats worked for me using one of the best inexpensive incubators out there-
Little Giant Deluxe Egg Incubator Combo Kit

For starters-below is how to correctly incubate eggs:

One of my guinea hens sitting on almost 30 eggs!


Short of that we can incubate eggs with a Little Giant Deluxe Egg Incubator Combo Kit! Like the one below...


 If your hatching chicken eggs-

1) Plug in the incubator and make sure the temperature is steady at 100 degrees. I know most say 99.5 degrees but in this incubator you want to be at 100 degrees, 100.5 degrees if you don't have a still air fan. I use 2 thermometers and a hygrometer. You want 50% humidity for day 1-18, then 75% for the last few days. You can add water to the tray on the bottom, spray the insides of the incubator (not the eggs), or put a damp paper towel inside the incubator to adjust humidity.

2)  Place the eggs in the incubator. Hopefully you have an auto egg turner-like below-if not mark one side of the egg with an X and the other with an O-and hand turn once in the morning and once in the evening...I suggest an auto turner like the one below. Stop turning the last 3 days of the incubation period.

3) After about a week you can candle the eggs by placing them on a bright flashlight in a dark room. You should be able to see veining and/or a small dark mass inside the egg-this means its fertile.



 41 chicken eggs fit in this turner.



 The motor turns the eggs one full turn every 2 hours-too slow to see.





 Here's the turner fit into the incubator.




 I use two thermometers in case one goes on the fritz. The thermometer on the right is also a hygrometer.



A piece of advise-once you find the sweet spot temperature, mark it with a small point permanent marker. It can be hard to find if you accidentally over-adjust.

You can purchase this set up on Amazon by clicking the link below.


Monday, June 3, 2013

GARLIC and ONIONS and SHALLOTS...OH MY!

GARLIC and ONIONS and SHALLOTS...OH MY!

We planted Elephant garlic, Ajo Rojo garlic, shallots, onions, and leeks last fall-around late Septemeber early October. Last weekend we harvested them, except for the leeks-we'll leave them a little longer. It was a bountiful harvest! Below are some pictures and descriptions.



 Here are the Ajo Rojo garlics ready for harvest. Ajo Rojo (Red Garlic in Spanish) Is considered a hardneck garlic. Its a great garlic to grow in mild winters-great garlic for the south. This is a spicy, high quality garlic! What do I mean by spicy? Well, when cooking with it 1 clove is equal to about 1 normal (Note: Im not the best to describe normal but in this case Ill define it as store bought) bulb!





 And heres the Elephant garlic! These are on the other end of flavor when compared to Ajo Rojo garlics. Elephant garlics are mild and sweet, they are related to leeks and they are HUGE! Be sure to check out the single CLOVE (not to be confused with a bulb) my daughter is holding in the pic below.



 Ajo Rojo garlics freshly harvested.




 Elephant garlics freshly harvested.


 Wheelbarrow full of garlics (and some shallots)!



 Same...

 Garlics and shallots curing in the barn. I have a fan on them as well, Ill leave them here for about 2 weeks before removing the leaves and roots and storing them.



 same...


1 (one, uno) Elephant garlic clove!

Be sure to check out my wife's post on Garlic Soup using our Elephant garlic!



Mashed purple potatoes from the garden.



And they say you cant grow Dahlias in North East Texas! ha!




Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Hatching Your Own Chicks

video


We bought our fertilized eggs on ebay. Yes, ebay! They arrived well packed and we placed them in an incubator in our laundry room with an "egg turner" that turns a row of eggs periodically so all sides can get equal warmth. It goes through a complete "turn" in 2 hours so it doesn't move at a speed the eye can pick up.

After several weeks of watching and monitoring temperatures, we started hearing peeping coming from the incubator. Nothing had hatched yet, but the chicks were in there, ready to start pecking their way out!

A few hours the first chick had pecked a little hole and we got to see how hour after hour it struggled to free itself from it's shell. Egg after egg, we got to see this amazing life cycle in our laundry room, amidst the hassle and bustle of daily life.

This was our last egg, and we could not resist filming it!

Kevin will tell you what you need to hatch your own batch at home.

-Kevin here, evidently we've been going about this the wrong way, turns out theres a real easy way to hatch your own chick...heres a video how to (go to 40 seconds into the video)-  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTbfkQox2uk&feature=player_embedded  

;)

OK-heres a link to a post on the basics (and a few secrets) when using a Styrofoam type incubator.


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Samoan Pig BBQ Mmmmmmm!


MMMMMMMMMM!!!!!!
Ok, heres the basic process as witnessed by me watching (and trying to help) a couple Samoan friends:

1) The fire is boxed out in newly cut green logs.

2)  Then we put a sheet of galvanized tin (it had been set on the fire earlier to burn the zinc off) in the box and put a layer or two of smaller rocks on the tin.

3) A fire built high with logs (maybe 24" tall-alot of wood!) is started and allowed to burn. As it burns the larger rocks (dry round river rocks are best) are put on top of the fire, they are being heated and are creating a surface between the ash/coals and where your going to set the pig (on top of the rocks).

4) At the right time the green perimeter logs are removed.

5) The pig is set on the rocks and then covered with a mound of soaked newspapers (banana leaves are better if you got em!). Its important that it is air tight, everywhere smoke comes out of the newspaper more wet newspaper must be added otherwise you will have charbroiled pig!



video

Joe adding some rock salt. You can see Greg busy soaking newspaper (why you ask?....scroll to the bottom and see the pics)

video

Look at that rock glow! Joe shows how hot the rocks need to be...and yes, they can be too hot. We put about 5 rocks in the cavity of each pig-careful to get an extra big one or two up by the most dense part of the pig-its head and rump.



video





video

Stuffed with hot rocks, sweet potatoes, cabbage (from our garden) the pig is then wrapped up with chicken wire-legs close to the body.

video


Here we see the fire burned to coals and the rocks sufficiently heated by being set on top of the fire early on. The box of green wood is being pulled away in preparation for receiving the pigs and building the wet newspaper mound.










Putting the pigs on. Cabbage adds humidity...it would be better with banana or mango leaves!





video

The pigs being set on the rocks and coals.



Sealing the pig, rock, coals, and tin underneath a mountain of soaked newspaper.





Looking for any spots smoke is finding its way out and sealing with more wet newspaper.



About 3-4 hours after burying the pig in newspaper they are done, and might I add...DELICIOUS!

“After all, what's a life, anyway? We're born, we live a little while, we die.”
E.B. White, Charlotte's Web