Saturday, August 10, 2013

Meat Filled Saturday

I hate to waste food.  So when we eat chicken, we save the bones.  I have gallon zip lock bags in the freezer for the them and it's pretty easy to just put the bones in there when we are cleaning up after a meal.  I also keep the ends and skins of vegetables (mainly onions, carrots, celery, and garlic) in a gallon zip lock bag in the freezer.  When the vegetable bag is full, I usually have two or more full chicken bone bags as well.

That's when I make stock.  I don't do anything fancy, I just put everything in a big stock pot, fill it with water, and simmer it for at least 4 hours, sometimes as long as 12 hours (if I am home that long to monitor it).  Then I let it cool.  After the pan isn't too hot to touch, is use the colander part of a pasta pot to drain off the bones and big pieces of vegetables. Then I put the stock pot in the refrigerator overnight.  In the morning I skim off the fat and put a few layers of cheese cloth in a colander and strain the stock through it.  Finally I have a clear stock.

Now, I have a lot of options.  I used to freeze it, sometimes in quart bags or ice cube trays, or mason jars.  But when I needed stock, I usually had forgotten to thaw it out.  Now I pressure can it.  I usually can it into pint and half pint jars.  If I am making a big soup, I might need two half pints (or a quart), but what I use broth most for is for deglazing a pan after making some sort of meat to make a pan sauce.  A half pint of stock is perfect for this job.  When I used to buy stock, I never needed that whole carton and ended up wasting at least some portion of it.  Now I have the amount that I need.

Saturday morning stock canning
 After spending the morning canning stock, it was time to go pick up our 1/4 cow!  We had ordered from a local farmer who raises grass fed beef.  She is not certified organic but does not spray the pasture and the cows are not fed antibiotics or hormones. It was a lot of money up front, but ended up costing around $4/pound which is a great price for grass fed beef. This is our first time buying meat in bulk and we weren't sure what to expect.  What does a 1/4 cow look like?  How much meat is that?  How much room will we need in our freezer? 

Our 1/4 cow with a pint jar for scale.
List of meat cuts

Well, our 1/4 cow took about 1/3 of our chest freezer and gave us lots of cuts of meat.  The hanging weight of the cow was 175 pounds.  The cut weight was 158.5 pounds plus 17 pounds in organ meats (I am not sure if we got other people's liver).  They put the meat in packages for 2 people.  The steaks were cut 3/4" thick and the ground beef was in 1 pound packages.  The meat broke down as follows:
  • 3 packages of suet (I want to make tallow for soap)
  • 32 packages of ground beef
  • 2 packages of T-bone steak
  • 5 packages of stew meat
  • 4 packages of sirloin tip steak
  • 3 packages of rib steak (anyone have ideas of how to cook this?)
  • 1 round bone roast
  • 1 blade pot roast
  • 2 packages of top sirloin steak
  • 4 packages of chuck steak (anyone have ideas of how to cook this?)
  • 4 packages of short ribs
  • 1 rump roast
  • 4 packages of top round steaks
  • 2 packages of porterhouse steaks
  • 3 packages of soup bones for beef stock
  • 1 package of tenderloin steak
  • 2 briskets (anyone have ideas of how to cook this?)
  • 1 package of flank steak (yay for jerky!)
  • 1 package of beef heart
  • 4 packages of cube steak (anyone have ideas of how to cook this?)
  • 8 packages of liver (that's a lot of liver)
I think that we are set with beef for quite a while!  We have half a pig coming in October.  We'll see how this buying meat in bulk stuff works out!

Have you ever done this?  Any good recipe ideas? 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Garden Update

We have kind of three garden areas in the new house.  There are lots of perennials planted in the retaining wall, many of the plants I still don't know what they are.  We also have the original garden (OG), a 15'X100' area planted by the orginal homeowners that has rhubard, raspberries, and strawberries.  And then we have our big garden space that we fenced in.  Here are some photos of the retaining wall garden.  If anyone knows what some of these flowers are, please comment!

Here's a photo of the whole garden.  You can see that it's overgrown, but I want to figure out what everything is before I start changing things.

Pretty yellow flower growing out of another plant.
The peonies are almost ready to bloom!
A different yellow flower growing amongst other things-are they weeds?  Should I be pulling them out?
Bleeding Hearts!
These aren't in the retaining wall, but they're spreading like crazy!

Next let me give you a photo tour of the OG!  Here's what the previous owners had already planted!

I think this is some kind of iris.  There are a ton of irises all around the property.

Crazy big rhubarb!

So many strawberries!  This winter I want to make it look like an E and make rows for easier picking.


And here is the garden that Jason and I built!  We still have a lot to do in it, but we've got a good start!

Tomatoes and Peppers in the raised Hugelkultur bed

Peppers and dill!

There's a butterfly drinking from the bird bath.  The solar fountain didn't survive the move.  :(

One of a bajillion hops plants!

Potato bed-the left side is red potatoes and the left are ozettes, a potato native to the Pacific Northwest!

Our row of 4 apple trees-Spizenburg, Cox Orange Pippen, Ashmead Kernal, and Arkansas Black

Our row of stone fruit-Craig Crimson Cherry, Red Globe Peach, Chinese Apricot, and Early Italian Plum

A friend gave us some golden raspberries, hopefully a few will survive.  These look really sad!

This will be an herb spiral soon



Our hugelkultur bed
Well, those are our gardens so far this spring.  We still need more vegetable gardens and to sheet mulch the grass away, but we're slowly getting there!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Loving Life

I am so happy that we moved to Kettle Falls!  We live in a beautiful place.  Everywhere I drive, I need to force myself to look at the road and not the mountains or rivers or lakes all around.  I love our house.  It's really starting to feel like a home.  We still have some renovating and decorating to finish, but it's getting there.  I love my kitchen, with my refrigerator that can fit a large pizza box and my gas range with electric oven and the fact that it's open so I can see Jason in the living room while I am cooking or look out the windows at the gardens and the mountains beyond.  I love our garden!  I can't wait until our trees and berries mature and start producing like mad!  I love the possibilities and the fact that we won't be able to finish putting in everything we want in the garden this year, it leaves more surprises for next year!  And I really love the community that we are building here.  I have met some really great people and already I feel like I know more people here than I did with four years in San Diego.  We're building a community, a home, and a life here and I couldn't be more happy!

I love our home!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Giving Up the Hot Tub

Neither Jason nor I ever really wanted a hot tub.  When we would go to a hotel with one, we might go in it.  I enjoy using my Aunt Polly's hot tub when I visit Minnesota, but we never would have bought one for ourselves. 

When we bought our house, it came with a hot tub.  There were some issues because we closed on our house in February and although we put antifreeze in the tub, there was ice in the tub and pipes in February.  When we filled it and turned it one, one of the diverter valves burst and sent geysers of water spurting up.  There is one hot tub repair place in Colville and they didn't have the part to fix it.  We called places in Spokane and they didn't have one.  Finally we ordered one from Seattle, it was on back order, and a week later it arrived.  While waiting for the part, we put a board and bricks to keep the geyser flow contained.  After fixing the diverter valve, we started taking stock of our new hot tub.  About half of the jets had either fallen out or didn't work.  The plastic from the jets was deteriorating and there were always little bits of plastic suspended in the water.  We bought a pool skimmer but some of the pieces were too small to catch.  Yet in the winter, even without the jets, nothing warmed me up faster than sitting in the hot tub.  I loved sitting in the hot tub and reading a book before bed.  We decided to wait to decide what to do about the tub.  Then last week I got into the tub and it was warm-not hot.  It was only 96 degrees.  I changed the filter and I checked the pipes and I couldn't figure out what was wrong.  I called our local hot tub place in Colville and they gave me their technician's phone number and despite leaving numerous messages, he never called us back.  I called Spokane repair places and they would charge $80 just to come up and give an estimate. 
The Hot Tub in question

All the parts that need to be replaced (I don't know why the photo is upside down)

That helped make the decision for me.  We had never really wanted a hot tub and I didn't want anything causing so much stress, so we gave the hot tub to one of Jason's co-workers in return for 2 cords of wood to burn this winter.  Now that it's warm out, I don't really miss it.  And if I want to warm up come winter, we always have a bathtub.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

On Spring and Broken Lawnmowers

I got back from an amazing trip to Sitka and a fun visit with Sarah in Kettle Falls and felt overwhelmed at the tasks that needed to get done at our homestead.  While I was in Alaska Spring sprang in Kettle Falls.  All the trees leafed out.  The daffodils gave way to colorful tulips and the grass grew about 6 inches.
Daffodils!  They were my wedding flower!  I'm so happy they're here in our garden!

Tulips mean spring, right?
Now since about March I told Jason that we should get a lawnmower and he kept insisting that we should just call our lawn area "The Meadow" and let the grass grow.  Even though we fenced in a 100' X 50' area for our garden, there is still a LOT of lawn left.  I have never really had a lawn before and felt strongly that we should have some area that would be called lawn and would not have tall plants on it.  So I started looking at lawn mowers.  I really believe in limiting fossil fuel consumption so my first thought was to buy a reel mower-powered just by my legs and arms.  We ended up buying THIS one and with a little help from my friend Sarah I used it to mow our lawn.  Now I thought that I was in decent shape, but pushing this lawn mower is a lot of hard work.  It also fell out of allignment pretty quickly (our lawn isn't flat) and not all of the blades would cut, which meant that I had to cut each row 2 or 3 times to get all of the grass cut.  It tooke me 3 days, working about 4 hours each day, to get the lawn mowed.  I thought that the next time would be easier because I wouldn't let the grass get so tall.  So a few days after finishing I took the lawn mower out again.  On my first pass I ran over a rock and bent one of the blades. It was barely working after that I got frustrated and decided to quit. 

A few days later Jason and I decided to rent a lawnmower from our local rental place in Colville.  At $10/hour, it would help us figure out what we liked and/or wanted.  And in the intervening days our grass was once again about 6 inches tall.  I got the lawnmower home and started mowing.  It was self propelled and I was LOVING it!  It cut the grass short; it wasn't hard to push; and, I didn't have to stop every 5 miunutes to catch my breath.  About 10 minutes into mowing, the machine just stopped.  I checked the grass bag and it was stuffed full.  I emptied the bag into our compost bin, turned the mower over to clean it out, and decided to leave off the bag and just let the grass collect where it was cut.  When I started the mower up again, it almost immediately turned off.  Without the bag, the grass didn't have anywhere to go and it was just getting caught in the machinery.  I cleaned up the bottom of the the mower again and reattached the bag.  Every 5-10 minutes I had to stop to empty the bag.  It was annoying but I was trying to think of all the good nitrogen for the compost.  About 1/3 done with the lawn, the mower died and refused to start again.  I called the rental company and tried to troubleshoot over the phone.  In the end when I brought the mower back, they told me that the grass had clogged the machinery and would need to be cleaned out.  After breaking two lawnmowers, I decided that maybe Jason is right, maybe we will just have a meadow and not a lawn. 
Can you see where the lawnmower quit working?

Another edge where the lawnmower stopped working
So I guess this is our "meadow," with the garden in the background.

Does anyone know how to turn bluegrass into something low growing that wouldn't need to be mowed?  Next year we plan on having chicken tractors, maybe I can plant some sort of low growing plant after the chickens have scratched up all the grass.  Any ideas? 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Hot Springs, Otters, and Whales

Yesterday we went out in a skiff (a Boston Whaler) to go find some hot springs. There were 7 of us-Camilla, her husband Captain Caven, their daughter Ivy, their friends Owen and Cassie, and Sarah and me. The ride was about an hour and again we had beautiful weather! The sun was shining, the sky was a deep blue and the clouds were fluffy. We packed the boat full with picnic supplies and all the accoutrements the baby needed and packed in like sardines, we took off. There were a bunch of sea otters floating on their backs, seeming to wave at us as we passed. Caven and Owen saw a whale spouting in the distance but it must have dove deep because when we sailed closer, we couldn't find it.

After about an hour of smooth seas, we got to the hot springs. There was only one other boat on the beach, so we were really lucky. There were little sheds over two different pools. There were people in the pools when we got there so we decided to make lunch before soaking.

True to their Wisconsin roots, we had a yummy lunch of beer and brats. I had a fair number of IPAs and enjoyed sitting on the beach, enjoying the sun. There were a pair of bald eagles who had a nest nearby. We watched them flying and gliding all around. They were pretty noisy. I had never heard the sounds of bald eagle calls before.

After lunch the other group got into their boat and left so we had the pools to ourselves. Ivy was pretty good, sitting in her bouncy chair while we all soaked in the steaming, slightly sulfur tinged water. We immersed ourselves until we were heated to our cores. Then we went on a short hike down the beach. It was fairly rocky and tough going for Camilla holding the baby, so Sarah, Camilla, and I sat on the rocks and chatted while the others hiked.

The ride back to Sitka was a little more choppy. I felt like I was on a trotting horse and wished there was a good way to post to avoid the jarring impacts and we sailed through the waves. This time all of us saw a humpback whale as it spouted and enjoyed the mountains all around. By the time we got home and ate some dinner, I was wiped out. I collapsed happily into bed. It was a great time!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Vacation in Sitka

I wrote my first long post using the blogger app, then had to change my privacy settings to allow photos, and when I came back to the app, the whole post was gone. Ugh! Instead if typing a lot, I'll just say I'm having a great time with great friends in a beautiful place. I'll sayi it with photos!