Protein Power!

I was just sitting down to write a post about our protein sources when I heard the chickens squawking and Sparky start barking.  When I looked out the door, I saw a huge red-tailed hawk fly out from behind our chicken coop.  I could see Flash, our rooster, making lots of noise by the coop door and three of the hens in the other corner of the enclosure.  When I looked inside the coop I found only 5 more hens.  I looked under the coop, where the chickens sometimes hang out during the day, and I thought I saw Nugget (our Plymouth Rock who is molting) in a very tight space under the shed.  I was not sure if there were any more hiding.  I thought we had lost 5-6 hens today at that point; one of our older Buff Orpingtons and possibly 5 Isa Browns.  It seemed like the next thing on our agenda would be figuring out how to protect the remaining chickens from the hawks.

Red-tailed Hawk

Back to what I’d planned on writing about…

We moved to our little farm less than two years ago and I just realized all the meat we are eating, we are either raising it ourselves (chicken, eggs) or buying from a local farmer (pork from Stephanie at Kauffman’s Keep and beef from Jacob Horst at Windmill Meadows Farm).  Both farms are within a 30 minute drive.  Last summer we purchased half of a cow and still have meat in the freezer.  Tonight we’re having filet mignon for our Valentine’s Day dinner!  At the beginning of this year we purchased half of a pig. Yay, bacon! Some of the meat I would commonly purchase from the grocery store was bacon, meatballs and breakfast sausage.  Now I make my own meatballs with the ground beef and breakfast sausage from the ground pork.

Before we moved here we joined a meat CSA so that we could start getting our meat  local with less food miles.  We didn’t know all the farmers raising the animals, but it was a start.  One of the goals we had when we moved to Boonsboro was to know exactly where our food was coming from and how it was raised. I’m pretty excited to say we’ve accomplished that goal with our meat!

Just checked on the chickens.  They must have been hiding really well!  I guess that space under the shed can protect them!  They are all safe and sound, what a relief!

Daily Dozen

Our rooster Flash and egg laying Isa Brown hens

We’ve had egg laying chickens for over a year now.  Most mornings, when I collect eggs, this is what I find! We usually get between 10 and 13 eggs every day.  I love that we’re slowly decreasing our dependence on the grocery store.  One step at a time.  I just told Scott yesterday, I think I’m going to have to buy some vegetables!  I’m including some pictures of our fall gardens.

There are about 15 cantaloupe hiding in those vines

Luckily, my kids love cantaloupe and could probably eat a whole one every day.  Two days ago I picked THREE of them!  I gave one to Scott’s sister, but we’ve been keeping up with what we’re growing.  At least for cantaloupes.  I did notice we haven’t really kept up with picking green beans.  We picked some when they first started, but later in the summer it just seemed like they got too big too fast and were not very good.  It will be interesting to see if we have too many butternut squash.  There must be 40 out there!  Luckily they should keep well.

The marigolds are so cheery to have interspersed in the gardens.  I’ve always heard to plant them with tomatoes, but I don’t think I’ve ever had them this big!

Cooking Our First Pasture Raised Chicken!

Our first pasture raised bird before cooking.

Look at this beautiful bird!  I am so grateful that we’ve been able to raise our own food, and not just fruits and vegetables.  The chickens we raised for meat ended up being larger than I expected; that was a nice surprise.  I searched for how to prepare the chicken and read about it here which led me to this recipe. I roasted the chicken with lemon, rosemary, garlic and coconut oil.  I didn’t end up making gravy because the kids wanted twice baked potatoes, which turned out to be a good decision.  My Mom tried this recipe and made gravy but she said the coconut oil gave it a weird taste.

The chicken was REALLY good!  I never used to cook whole chickens until we bought them as part of a meat CSA from Oakie Doke Farms. I would just buy bulk chicken breasts from Wegman’s and not even think about the rest of the chicken.  I now use all the parts of the chicken and the carcass is used for stock which will usually be used in soups.  I definitely moved out of my comfort zone (working with the bones and all!) but I learned a lot along the way. Not only do I not have to buy the grocery store meat, I also have homemade chicken broth.

 

Sourdough

For a while I stopped eating bread all together.  Gluten seemed to be the enemy in the nutrition world.  When I started reading about wheat and how it was processed originally, it was almost always fermented or soaked in some way.  So I decided to give it a try. At first I started buying sourdough bread from Wegman’s because it only had ingredients I would use at home; but at $5/loaf, it’s a lot cheaper to buy flour and make my own!  So I researched sourdough starters.  I was amazed that just flour and water in a jar could react with the “wild yeast” in the environment to create something that would make my bread rise!  It took a while to get used to feeding it and discarding part of it. Years later, I’m still using the same starter and I’ve come up with a system that I don’t usually throw starter away.  I make what I need.  I also use it for pancakes, waffles, biscuits, and cornbread.

I usually make the bread in a loaf pan or free form on a cookie sheet.  When I first started bread baking I wanted to use a covered dutch oven but I didn’t have one.  Scott bought me one last year and I finally used it to make a loaf of sourdough bread.  Yum!

Dutch Oven Sourdough Bread

 

Fun with Fermentation

I was really stuck on what to write about and would probably rather not spend time on the computer, but thought I should at least post something!  A friend of Scott’s said he’d be interested in what I’ve been fermenting, so that motivated me a bit. I’ve always been interested in nutrition and natural healing so, in 2011, when a neighbor asked me to go to a class called “Cooking for Well-being” at what used to be Tai Sophia Wellness in Columbia, MD, I jumped at the opportunity.  The class included lots of information about fermentation, we learned about the healthy bacteria and added nutrients in ferments as oppose to canning which kills the enzymes in food. We also made sauerkraut.

A couple years ago we had so many banana peppers I had to figure out something to do with them.  I remembered this class I’d taken and started looking up recipes for fermenting peppers. The last couple years I’ve fermented several quarts of banana peppers and jalapenos.  Sean and Scott love them on their sandwiches and we also use them on our pizza.  This past summer we didn’t have many pepper plants but a farm north of us in Smithsburg, Lewis Orchards, sold as many as would fit in a pint container for 50 cents!  So I was able to ferment banana peppers this year too.  I usually do lacto-fermentation which uses whey to encourage the growth of healthy bacteria, which give off lactic acid and inhibits the growth of unhealthy bacteria.

I made sauerkraut last year and have a cabbage in my fridge waiting to be made into sauerkraut.

My most recent fermentation was cranberry relish, which I started a day too late to have it ready on Thanksgiving but Sofia and I also made a cooked cranberry sauce. For the cranberry relish, I chopped cranberries up in a food processor with some orange peel, mixed it with honey and let it ferment for 3 days.  I stirred it every day.  The recipe was from a cook book called Can It and Ferment It.  They also had a recipe for whole cranberries fermented in honey which I’d like to try sometime.  Maybe when we have bees and LOTS of honey!  There’s also a fermented applesauce recipe in this book similar to one I found on a blog.  The first time I made it I used whey; I don’t remember if I did the second time.  It’s very simple and I really liked it.  Chop the apples in a food processor, add cinnamon, salt, optional whey and let ferment at room temperature for 3 days.  The kids didn’t like it as much as my regular cooked applesauce but I still made them take a bite for the probiotics!