Thursday, December 26, 2013

Homemade Merry!

Part of our gifting this year included handmade gifts. There are 7 special young ones living near us who needed a warm snuggle all year long!

Each one was given the warmest hug we could think of in their favorite colors, or team, or treats!

Blankets! Each blanket was cut and trimmed and tied by the pair of us! We used two yards of material for each side. Football is a big hit right now so the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears, and Oregon Ducks were chosen from a list of favorites. While the girls also love football and have their favorite teams, they were given a variety of cupcakes! These make for especially sweet dreams!

And finally the warmest hug of them all! 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas From the Farm

~Wishing all of you Peace, Love, Family, Friends, and Abundant Joy~

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Stone Soup and Candy Cane Ice Cream Sandwiches

Gathering together is the best part of Christmas or anytime of year! After our Alaska Family made it to Southern Oregon, cousins and sisters and Aunties and Uncle gathered for an evening meal.

There was plenty of activity in every corner of the old farmhouse! Anna was showing her skills of jump roping with her handmade jump rope. She made it in her first grade class. Brother Tyler is trying to master and I.Q. peg game and Cousin Ada is busy with a book.

In the kitchen, Evelyn and Cousin Ryan were getting reacquainted with the help of beautiful Mama/Auntie Karyn. Evelyn Rose LOVES her cousins and delights with squeals of joy when she sees them.

A little one on one pal time! Only ten years apart and what fun to watch the cousins mingle.

Finally dinner is ready. We decided to eat in shifts as it would be easier on this night. Stone Soup, by request of Aiden was made for dinner.

Ada was very surprised to find a stone in her soup...she actually found an agate, even better! The soup is made with all of the garden goodies and any left overs that were found in the fridge. There was homegrown applesauce and some quinoa, corn, and vegie chip scoopers for fun.

Aiden loves the soup and always returns the stone so that we can make it again!

Evelyn enjoying dried pears in her Daddy's arms. Those dried pears are great teething rings! Her hair stands up at attention most of the time right now and it is so darling.

Cousins gathered together at the table for a simple meal.

And then the dessert!  Candy cane ice cream sandwiches! Homemade oatmeal cookies from Jojo's recipe filled with pink candy cane ice cream. Creamy, sweet fun!

Sweet Anna loves it all!

Then the grown ups got to eat and Nana and Papa played with the littlest one of all! So many special times gathering together on the farm ~

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Alaska Babes are Here!

They are here! After waking up at 2:45 am Alaska time, carrying luggage, carseats, babies, and gear to the airplane our precious Christmas girls have arrived...Daddy too!

You would think there would be some sleeping on the plane, but with all of the take off and landing, people everywhere and so many to greet, these little ones barely closed their eyes on the flights to Southern Oregon!

Such seasoned and good travelers at this tender young age. Who can resist those so very kissable cheeks?!!

Finally a little nap time slumber comes for sweet, sweet Mama and her babies. Just in time for Christmas! xo

Monday, November 11, 2013

Turkey Butchering Prep

There is a lot of behind the scene prep that goes into a turkey harvest! First things first: Raise some great birds! We raised ours on pasture grass with plenty of protection from wild predators. They were fed organic high protein turkey rations and organic cracked corn, garden vegies, plenty of greens, melons their favorite was cantaloupe, apples, and fresh water daily. Turkeys have a voracious appetite!!
This year we raised Bourbon Red heritage turkeys that originally gained popularity in the 1930's and 1940's from Bourbon County, Kentucky. They are striking red-brown with white stripes on the wing tips and tail feathers. The other turkeys we raised this year are Chocolate turkeys. These brown turkeys came to America from the France and were quite popular until the Civil War. They are the color of milk chocolate and the purest of the breed have no mottled coloring at all, just milky brown feathers. Both breed are are making a recovery in numbers and are also part of the Slow Food Movement: Know where your food comes from and understand the connection between food on the table and the field where it grows. The turkeys hatched on May 7, 2013. Typically heritage turkeys grow much slower than a grocery store turkey and 7 months would bring them closer to full maturity. But it is close to Thanksgiving, so we used this Veteran's Day Weekend to begin the harvest. The turkeys were about 6 months old.
Clean and sanitize the kitchen before you go out to harvest. This means counters are clear, sink is scrubbed cleaned, all dishes are washed, and then use your favorite sanitizer. We use a dilluted bleach solution in the sink and let it sit for 15 minutes, then rinse clear and vinegar wipe down on the counter tops. Remember to also clear shelves in the refrigerator for storing the turkeys after butchering.
The kitchen is left ready for the birds. Have clean pans usually a broiler pan or 11 x 14 will be large enough for a turkey and will fit on the shelf for the refrigerator resting.
Meanwhile, Tim was outside making our set up for the harvest in an easy to move, one station to the next, circle. Here he is testing the temperature of the water. We use a three burner camp stove with the long legs removed and set it up on bricks. The water can on top is a 20 gallon metal garbage can used only for this purpose. The water is heated to about 160 degrees F for scalding the birds to help making plucking easier. It takes about one and a half hours to heat this mighty tank! Be sure to have a pair of heavy duty rubber "dishwashing" gloves available. We picked up a pair of purple gloves because they were the cheapest! They were worth every purple penny! The gloves allow dipping of the birds without getting scalded or splashed. Also, squeeze a big drop of dish soap into the scalding tank. By displacing surface tension, the soap helps keep oils and feathers out of the way.
Here Tim is at the "kill cones". We mounted stainless steel cones on a sturdy post for this purpose. The turkeys are hung upside down in a calming position and then they bleed out.
You can never have too many knives on butchering day. We keep the knife sharpener handy and have several pre sharpened knives ready to handle the cleaning and evisceration. Other supplies on the table: Cutting board Pans Pot for organ meat and gizzard Wash tub with dishsoap and hot water Towels for drying hands Kitchen shears Pitcher for dipping in water Cleave Kill knife (Buckmaster knife from Brother Billy) Cooking spray, recommended to spray down cones to help with clean up Meat thermometer to test water temperature Kitchen clock Ball of twine Needle nose plyers Eye glasses Water proof apron is wonderful for all involved in the butchering
We used the kitchen clock to gauge the amount time being spent on each bird and to help monitor the propane for heating the water. The twine was handy but not necessary. Also not visible is a 5 gallon bucket lined with a tall kitchen garbage bags to catch the entrails.
Our plucking station was an extension and bendable ladder with a shackle wired to the top rung. A commercial sized garbage back lines the vessel to catch the feathers at plucking. A hose with spray attachment is just out of sight here. It was used to rinse the nearly plucked turkey clean from feathers.
Finally, back to where we started the circuit view and note a back up propane tank was ready. We needed it too! Don't forget the matches or lighting torch. This can help with removing hair on the turkey skin as well as keeping the fire burning.
The whole outside set up. The turkey food was removed the night before to help clear systems and the turkeys were kept inside the barn. It took both of us to catch the turkeys and hold them. Be sure to wear leather gloves as turkeys have long sharp nails needed for scratching for bugs. Be sure to send your gratitude to the turkey for its purposeful nourishment.
One of the Bourbon Red turkeys. When holding the turkey is it important to secure the bird with one hand around both feet and then support the body. The turkeys are quite calm in this position.
In the kitchen, the turkeys were cleaned and rinsed and stored in a pan in the refrigerator to allow them to rest. This is also called aging, but allows meat to relax. We stored the turkeys covered over night.
In the morning turkeys were inspected, removed from pan and wrapped in a heavy freezer bag. The bags were ordered from a meat processing supply house. We used 18" by 30" bags. Then they were wrapped in wax lined butcher paper. The turkeys will be stored one more day in the refrigerator before going into the deep freeze.
Finish with labeling the turkeys with pound and type for reference later. Thinking about enjoying a homegrown, slow food heritage turkey for your next family celebration? Get in touch with your local farmers or better yet, grow a few for yourself!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Walnuts and Leaves

Oh, the leaves and nuts are falling in full force these days. There are 21 crates of nuts drying in the front room and easily 100 times more waiting to be picked up! The rains are coming soon though and it makes for a mucky mess especially at the back door. Clean up and pick up is underway!
Raking and picking and raking and sifting through the leaves for more nuts! It was such a pleasant afternoon we enjoyed the work and our dogs enjoyed the nuts too!
Each pile was carefully inspected for more nuts! That seems like a lot of attention for the walnuts, but time is ticking and the longer they are on the ground the more the damp foggy mornings can affect them. So we are picking and cleaning and drying as quickly as possible at this time of year.
Aaahhh, now the serious raking begins! The tractor was used to scoop and move many loads of leaves to the back pasture.
Eagerly waiting, but keeping their distance from the tractor, our goats will really enjoy the leaves. Don't worry. Goats naturally pace themselves. They graze and eat when they are hungry. When there is a new treat, they gobble up and fight over the best spot to eat, but they don't overfill.
Many more trips to move the leaves and the husks from the walnuts and the area was nearly clear of the ground cover.
At last, the work is done...well, half of the tree and ground under it is finished enough to limit the amount of debris entering the house!
There are many more trees to clear and plenty of leaves on the ground, but many, many more left to fall. It is a gorgeous time of year in Southern Oregon!
Now, back to the walnuts!! Drying, curing, bagging, cracking, cleaning, baking, chopping, eating goodness!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Turkeys, Turkeys, Turkeys

Isn't he beautiful?! This is a Chocolate Turkey or a Chocolate Tom Turkey! He is very proud of his size and his feathers and he lets all of us know. Old Blue is also very curious and a little friendly. I call him Old Blue because he spends most of his time with his feathers on display and his head is blue.
The turkeys are roaming around the front pasture under the walnut trees. The sheep and the chickens are always wanting to visit, but the turkeys like to keep moving.
The photos are taken in late afternoon, and we still have not had a hard frost on this 24th day of October. That means we are still picking fresh produce in the garden like lemon cucumbers, zucchini, and peppers to name a few. The turkeys would love to get into the garden, but as long as the plants are living and we are harvesting, we will restrict the turkeys to only compost scraps.
The turkeys are eating plenty from the garden like giant sunflower heads, extra large zucchini, an eggplant now and then, wind fallen apples and pears, and of course lots of greens and a scoop of grain.
Turkeys love sunshine and when there is a harsh contrast between light and shadow, the turkeys will stay away from the shadows. They prefer to live out in the open air. We keep their pen fenced all around and over head so they can sleep outside of the barn.
Their natural curiosity led them to me as I was picking up walnuts. They were so interested in the walnuts they were trying to bob for walnuts in the bucket. The turkeys with the white band on the tail feathers and wings are called Bourbon Red Turkeys. I guess if we cross breed these turkeys we will end up with Chocolate Bourbon!
Turkeys will be harvested in about ten days. We will keep at least on e breeding pair to carry on for next year. They sure are fun to watch.