Tuesday, February 18, 2014

For now...

   Things aren't where I thought they'd be. Few, if any, see these pages and that is fine. I accept it. For the remainder of the month I am closing this space, taking time to consider it all. My life is going in a direction I never expected to find myself in. It's dark and ugly and I don't understand it. It's time to consider the path and find the right direction.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Wok-ing with Meat

    Once again, it seems, I find myself staring at the kitchen wishing the food would just make itself. Don't get me wrong, I love snipping and chopping, peeling and mixing but let's face it- sometimes there just isn't any time! With a job, a family, and a homestead dinner can be quite a test of my endurance. These are the days for wok-ing.

     My Method for Meat in the Wok

   *Prep before you start. When cooking meat in a wok, the meat needs to be thin sliced across the grain for optimal tenderness. Frozen or slightly frozen meat is easily sliced; we like chicken or beef in our stir fry dishes. Be sure to pat it dry- we want a good sear!  
   *Preheat the dry wok on high heat. I like to see a hint of smoke rise from the bowl, but an easy way to see if your wok is ready- a drop of water will quickly evaporate when the wok is just right.
    *Drizzle the oil. Peanut and canola oils have the highest smoke point and are generally recommended for wok cooking, but I use either a good olive oil or coconut oil. Give the oil a drizzle down the sides of the wok, then pick up the wok giving it a good swirl coating the surface.
    *Add the aromatics. A seasoned wok is an excellent tool. My faves are garlic, ginger, and red pepper- finely chopped. Quickly tossing aromatic spices around the wok not only gives flavor, but releases the fragrance stirring the senses.
     *A flash in the pan (or wok). I push the aromatics to the side and work my meat in batches- dropping enough to be evenly spaced, not crowded. It's time to let the meat set untouched a minute before tossing it around betting a good sear on all sides. Once meat is seared, I set it, and the aromatics on a dish to rest while finishing the remaining meat.  
      *Complete the dish. Once all my meat is seared and resting, I add the veggies and or greens, giving them a nice toss until they are crisp tender. Once the veggies are just right, the meat and aromatics are returned to the wok. 
      *Bring it together. The final touch is a sauce; a little sweet, a little spice, and a bit salty.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Herbs and Our Homestead Poultry

   No words can describe the feeling of picking up a box full of fluffy little chicks. Those puff balls with beady little eyes steal my heart year after year! The reality is, those little bundles of cuteness grow up to be hens and roosters with unique personalities all their own. In order to best love and care for our poultry flock, we adhere to natural practices as much as possible. Just as we nourish our own bodies as naturally as possible, we hold that same notion to our homestead flock.
    The study of herbalism has not only improved my family's health, but given us a fresh look at our animal's health as well. Keeping healthy practice is really quite simple: fresh air and sunshine, clean bedding and bowls, and keeping their nutrients/diet intake as natural as possible- and herbs fall right in line with this practice. Here on our homestead we have some longstanding favorite herbal poultry practices:   

Herbs for nutrition:
Raw Garlic—Have this available year long for your chickens.  You can also mash it in their drinking water for not only the nutritional benefits, but also the anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties to prevent and curtail infections.  Have raw garlic available for newly hatched chicks, so they will learn to eat it at an early age.
Nettle—Nettle is rich in calcium, protein, manganese, phosphorus and potassium.  A wonderful all around herb.
Alfalfa—Medicago sativa—Rich in protein, amino acids, minerals and chlorophyll.  Make a tea from dried alfalfa to keep hens healthy for breeding and producing eggs.
Lamb’s Quarters—Chenopodium album—Rich in protein, calcium, vitamins A and C, B-complex and iron.  An all around herb for the digestive system.
Dandelion—Taraxacum officinale—Rich in protein, vitamins A,C,K,D, B-complex, iron, manganese, phosphorus and trace minerals.  Dandelion is a complete food for building the immune system.  Give dandelions freely to your young chicks and hens.  You can even make a tea and offer that free choice as well.
Organic apple cider vinegar—Mix with their water for a superb digestive tonic.
Herbs for the nest: 
Birds in the wild use medicinal herbs to line their nests.  The aromatic volatile oils have anti-bacterial and anti-parasitic properties.  You can imitate this natural process by applying a few handfuls of the fresh herbs to the nest before a hen goes broody.  Adding the herbs periodically during the spring and summer can help keep parasites at bay.
Peppermint, spearmint, catnip, oregano, wild bergamot, lavender, rosemary, sage, basil, thyme and fennel are aromatic herbs that freshen the nesting box.
Want your hen to be relaxed and calm?  Lavender and peppermint will relieve her stress while brooding.
    Most of the herbs used for our poultry are grown right here on our property, dried seasonally, and used year round. Hens love fresh or dried bundles of herbs hanging in their home to nibble and freshen the air. Herbs are also a great supplement to their feed rations and fresh greens keeping our flock well fed and real healthy.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


   Hens sit guarding their nest while goats paw the ground; trees wait anxiously to unfurl fresh greenery- all in anticipation of spring. This winter has been quite unusual for us with several hard freezes and long strings of days holding frigid temperatures. Each day we wait, eyes to the skies, searching out coveted rays of sunlight that might warm the air.

    The garden holds cold weather crops eager for that last burst of growth before harvest. Tiny seedlings hide beneath row covers and within the shelter of the greenhouse. Soil holds it's breath eager to nurture hearty crops; the compost is ready for side dressing. Oh where is spring?
     Brooders sit empty just waiting for spring arrivals. Meat birds are set to arrive first followed by turkeys and some water fowl. As I ready feeders and lights Doc looms near the door- he loves greeting new arrivals. In his eagerness he mutters all manner of strange donkey utterings, bucking and frisking with anticipation of new things in spring.
    As for me, here I sit with coffee in hand piecing quilt blocks near the window. Spring will find all manner of new growth on the homestead: crops in the gardens, fruit on the trees, chicks and goats and maybe some bees. But there is another arrival we anticipate for spring- one that every living thing is eager to greet, slobber on and love....
...the arrival of the first grandbaby!
So here we sit, holding our breathe, in anticipation of spring.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Meet Them Where They Are

   Frustration hit me more than once as the reality of regular restaurant habits seemed to be hindering progress. Let's face it, some families exist on take out. Whether by 'necessity' or convenience, it has become a habit many homes live by. I have discovered there are children who base their geographical and their food preferences on which restaurant they have frequented lately. The constant conversation and comparison was driving me crazy. How on earth do our healthy recipes compete with drive thru routines?

To read the rest of this post, join me here.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Regarding Relationships

   These past few weeks found me on the listening side of the brokenhearted. Painful and struggling relationships are abundant, spanning all ages, cultures and social statuses. My heart aches for each one that crossed my path. As I pray for them, my own relationship struggles come to mind forcing  me to recall the tears and troubles throughout the years.
   Once misconception my husband and I often face is the accusation you're the perfect couple. No. We are not. No one is. We are a real couple with real problems struggling with our relationship just like everyone else- the only difference is, we are 'doing the work'. Let me share a bracing dose of reality- relationships- all relationships- are work. Listening to the brokenhearted, I shared a glimpse of my plan of work when relationships are in distress.
   I sit down in a peaceful place with a cup of coffee and a notebook. With a deep breath and a heartfelt prayer, I begin 'doing the work'.
    *Listen. What is the other person saying? Often there are recurring statements, or phrases, being said giving us a place to start. I have to stop myself and really listen and recall what the person is saying.
    *Realize. What the other person is saying is their perspective on the situation. I may not agree with it or even like it, but I cannot deny them their view or understanding. For me, this is a difficult and vital task that must be done before I can move forward.
    *Face the facts: I can only change me. It isn't my place or my job to change anyone. I don't have that authority; I don't have the power or the control. Understanding this truth helps me gain proper perspective before any action is taken.
    *Plan the progress. Once I have written what the other person is saying in my notebook, and realized their perspective, faced the fact I am the one I am responsible for.. then it is time to make a plan. What can I do to give them a new or better perspective of things? Writing it down helps me stay accountable and reminds me the priorities I need to address.
     *Do it. Once the plan is written, it's time to prayerfully proceed striving to change my part of the relationship for the better.
     One last thing I always consider- is this relationship worth the work? Sometimes relationships pass their season in our lives and need to be let go of in order to prevent destructive results. If a relationship is starting to feel destructive, or if it seems to be dragging me toward negative or hurtful habits it might be time to either set some healthy boundaries or let it fade.

      When brokenhearted souls cross my path they are first and foremost in my prayers. Having struggles of my own gives me deep compassion for those who are struggling. Sharing my story is never intended to be 'the way' to solve anything, but is offered as encouragement; a springboard for their own planning and seeking. Tonight, dear friends, you are in my prayers.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Late Night Special: Summer Sausage

Lately there seem to be plenty of stressful, sleepless nights here on my homestead. Nights like these make me long for home, and miss my late night comforts. 

   Nightfall can be an eerie time on the wide open prairie. A silvery moon quickly casts ghostly shadows brought to life by coyotes howling in the distance. Stillness creeps over you with not even the faintest breeze to calm you.
   There in my bed the silence is overwhelming. I strain to hear even a faint chirping cricket, but find none. Tonight even Buffy is restless. The heaviness of the day's burdens carries over into a restless night. Slipping from my covers I creep to the door and listen for signs of movement in the house. Ever so quietly my tip-toes take me down the dark hall.
   In the kitchen I find my grandfather sitting quietly at the table. The faint light of the oven reveals his face drawn and tired. Burdens of the day weight heavy on him tonight. With a ragged breath he spies me and gives his soft smile inviting me to join him.
   Her in the night we sit alone there in the big farm kitchen. Here on this sleepless night we share a late night treat; a favorite snack. Crunchy, salty crackers stacked with slices of hard cheese are topped with the best part of all- tangy summer sausage. Together here in the night there are no words, just him and me and our late night treat putting to rest the heaviness of the day and the restlessness of the night.

Grandpa's Summer Sausage

2 lbs. lean ground beef, uncooked
2 tablespoons canning salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons liquid smoke
1/2 teaspoon onion powder

Knead all ingredients well and shape into three small logs. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and refrigerate for twenty-four hours. 
Unwrap and bake one hour at 300 degrees. After baking, cool and drain the sausage on a wire rack.
Enjoy with salty crackers and sliced cheese! 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Preparing the Soil

      The morning started with a beautiful sprinkling of frost followed by some much needed sunshine; perfect day for prepping soil. Muck boots on, gloved hands, grungy clothes- time to grab the shovels and push a wheel barrow. Days like today draw me out of the house and through the gate.
         At the end of a garden season and some weeks before one starts, I muck out, rake around and spread out composted donkey/poultry manure, goat manure, and leaves. By layer the items are spread about the empty garden or, if some rows are occupied, then between the planted rows. No working it in or tilling it up, just cast about and left there to work in the sun. Rain will soak it into the earth nourishing as it goes while warmth from the sun's rays will break it down even further in preparation for upcoming plants.
         After my casting and dumping, the army of little gardeners hits the area for some down and dirty digging. My hearty flock of poultry are eager to get in there, working the soil and removing the unwanted parts. Unfortunately, they do tend to nibble the leafy greens (who knew hens loved, I mean LOVE Bok Choy?). Needless to say, enough is planted to share- so they aren't in too much trouble. Once satisfied with their work, I simply shut the little opening that lets them in (like a doggie door in a fence) keeping them out until next time. For now, door open- work away, ladies, work away.
          As for me, after all the raking and mucking it was time for a warm cup of creamy coffee and a sit in my messy house. You see, we are laying new floor so my house is a disaster area- perfect excuse to be in the garden, wouldn't you say? Right now it's time for chores!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


   Morning light streaks across the sky filtering through the trees as they sway. Glistening there in the early morning light the beautiful gift of frost on the farm. Crunching beneath our foot steps; cracking under hooves and feet- the icy sounds as the farm animals stir from their stalls. Hens rush forth in a flutter stirring the crunchy ground as Doc is wary of the unusual texture of the ground beneath him.
   The garden is painted in frosty wonder; white lace on deep green. Under the frost cloth greens still thrive, now tasting sweeter with the touch of icy air. Rare and unique, precious it seems- the patterns and pictures in the frost on the farm. Dustings of feather light sparkles grace the fences and cover the picnic table like spun sugar. The tractor sits in glistening light beside the greenhouse in the glittery field; patiently waiting for plowing to resume.
   The only winter we ever see; a striking sight- here in the deep south. Today we marvel at the lacy artwork drawn by the hand of God in the frost on the homestead.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Things I Cannot Un-See

Across my path every day are things I cannot un-see:
the desolation of poverty
the devastation of a broken heart
Such things sear my soul brining me to my knees.
Then there is:
the wonder of discovery
the beauty of compassion
pure joy
the light of imagination
There in lie the things that strengthen the journey.
Stop for a moment and ponder in your heart the things you cannot un-see.

Monday, February 3, 2014

A Time for Refocus

    Stopped in my tracks; forced to halt all activity. My daily frenzy replaced by dark quiet- a migraine hit me, and it hit me hard. Sometimes this is needed- I know how strange that must seem, but it's true. The only thing that ever stops my nonstop pace is a devastating migraine. This weekend one did.
    I have come to recognize these times as occasions for refocusing my priorities and my habits; often those very things have gotten me to this point. Poor nutrition choices, sleep deprivation, lack of exercise and even failure to take 'down time' send me straight to bed- lights out, heat pad on, bucket nearby. Aside from the obvious detox that occurs with these migraines, there has developed a rhythm or pattern to my coping and recovery.
    1. Getting my mind to stop. I have tendency to have rapid fire thoughts- my to-do list, creative ideas, teaching techniques, even recipe ideas. When a migraine hits my first challenge is getting my mind to stop the never ending idea wheel.
    2.  Turning my eyes toward Jesus. Recognizing my spiritual state allows me to detox from self and lay it all down. Failures and faults are very real when you can't eat ice chips without a nasty result, but aside from that I have a need to remember that I am quite small in the grand scheme of things. Others are in need, suffering, sick and grieving- herein is my time to pray for them. My darkest hour cannot compare to some.
    3.  Embrace the quiet. Dark quiet allows for deep, meditative breathing. In the quiet I can listen patiently for His voice- refocusing me in my choices, habits, and priorities. Stress leaves the body as every fiber of my being relaxes. As soon as I am able, a detox bath of Himalayan pink salt, Epsom salt and sodium bicarbonate allow me hydration and further relaxation.
    4.   Reconnect. Strolling through my herbal garden offers reconnection to my Creator, the Earth He gave me, and the beautiful hands that helped build this wonderful spot. Sitting with my family sharing quiet nourishment reconnects us as we face the reality we are weak and must take rest.

    While a migraine is unpleasant and never welcome, they are part of my life. This time to refocus my life has become a way of working through the process of recovery and strive to lengthen the distance between this one and the next.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Dough and Sauce

the eating started before we could snap a photo
   I can't remember how it all began or where it seems to have started, but my family has had a deep connection to pizza making gatherings as far back as I can remember. When I was a girl, still at home with my parents, pizza gatherings came regularly in the form of extended family gatherings at my grandparents' home just up the road from here.
   A weekend ritual; each had their place in the pizza making line up. My cousin and I (nearly the same age) always shaped the dough. We chatted and laughed as our hands worked the lump into every inch of the baking sheets; getting it ready for the toppings our mothers and grandmother would add to it. Hot, cheesy pizza was eaten over the chatter of family gathered around the big table covered with my grandmother's embroidered table cloth.
   My cousin and I would slip off to the creek after dinner to catch minnows and wade the cold waters before dark fell on the woods.Off alone, we shared our stories of interests, life and activities- we were close back then. Night would fall; games were pulled from the closet and played around that same big table with great rivalry- the competitive spirit running deep. Those days seem so long ago.

   Now, in my own home, pizza making nights are shared with many who come and go through our doors. Extended family, friends even our past foster children loved gathering around lumps of dough and pots of sauce sharing our lives as our hands worked together forming the meal. No special occasion is needed; no fancy recipes; just hands and hearts and a lump of dough.
   This past weekend, we revisited the pizza making gathering as my parents came to visit. All around the farm table.. dough and sauce, toppings and tasting...chatter about our projects and plans and days gone by- all in celebration of a special birthday. We made memories together- again.

   One day the torch will pass and it will be up to my farm kids to carry on the tradition. We will gather around their kitchen with dough and sauce; with their families and friends. Laughter and love will continue as we make memories with dough and sauce.