Sunday, January 26, 2014

Where's the beef? Right here!

We ordered our beef, an entire cow this time.  It was a smallish one, and the price was right, so we got the entire thing.

A cow is huge.  Even a "smallish" one.

Especially when you ask for the organs, all the bones, the suet (which someone didn't arrive, I'll be on the search for it this week.)  Our freezers are packed.  We had to buy another one, and we still can't get all the beef inside.  Fortunately...and this is the only reason I say this....we are dealing with some Artic weather and it is cold enough in the garage to call it our "walk-in freezer."

The most valuable and perishable cuts are all safely in the freezers.  The steaks, roasts, organs, and the ground beef.  The bones are in boxes and a few are in a stock pot, simmering away, on the stove.

I had to cook supper on the woodstove tonight, and  I've never done that before.  I've warmed things up and I made a fantastic pizza in it once  and have roasted meat inside the stove, but the top is generally not hot enough.  Since my gas stove was out of commission temporarily and we were getting hungry, I made up part of our dinner.  I put some bacon bits in the cast iron frying pan and let them brown up, and put some cabbage in a covered sauce pan with some broth from the recent roast I cooked and put that on to simmer.

It took about an hour an a half to come to a simmer and for that dang bacon to brown.  But in about two hours, we had something hot and delicious to eat.

A very simple, and usually quick, supper of bacon and greens, this time it was fresh cabbage.

The reason my stove was out of commission was that I am canning up 80 lbs of stew beef.  I just upgraded my canners to All American and put 19 pints of beef in each, packed in jars while quite cold.  It took a LONG time for these canners to start to steam.   Especially the one on the right.  I'd forgotten to turn the burner on.  Sheesh.

These are some serious canners!  The pot behind them is four gallons of simmering beef bone broth, also to be canned, probably tomorrow night.
I like to can some of our meat so we will have something quick and easy for those rushed nights.  You know those nights....home from work late, chores to do, animals to feed, phone calls to return before 9, and it is too hot to spend much time in front of the stove (remember those days?  We called that time "summer.")  Canned meat is our answer to fast food.  I will have 80 lbs of jarred beef and 20 lbs of jarred pork by the time I'm done.  That is a year of quick meals, plus a few to share.
Buying our beef in bulk is a fantastic way to be able to afford very high quality and ethically raised meat.  It takes some planning.  In fact, I have to start all over now, saving up about $100 each month towards next year's beef.  But that $100 per month turns into a value of $300 per month in great beef, or more, depending on the cut.
Yes, it can be very daunting at first, but when all that glorious meat is packed away in the freezer, that fear and intimidation is quickly replaced by a sense of wealth and security.  If you haven't considered this before, consider it now.  The farmer who dropped our beef off told me his buddy, who works in the meat department of a local grocery store, told him the better cuts of beef were going up in price this week, by $2 per lb.
That is what we paid, $2 per lb, hanging weight.  For everything from shanks to filet mignon to brisket to T-bone steaks.  And because of the drought conditions last summer in the Midwest, the price of beef is going up.  Buying in bulk is truly price protection. 
Buying directly from the farmer is the best way to get food that is great for you AND your budget!
Don't know where to buy?  A great resource is your local chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation.  The leader of your local chapter will provide you with a list of farmers who raise animals on pasture, and will offer this information to you, free of charge, and you don't have to be a member!  But do consider it, as this organization works hard to fight for the small family farmers who provide great food for us. 
Meanwhile, pass me another medium-rare filet mignon, if you would....and some of that shiitake gravy, thank-you-very-much!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

I finally got my dream sewing machine!

Here it is, my "new" Singer!

Ain't she a beauty?
A few years ago I got it into my head that I wanted a sewing machine that was a treadle machine.  These are the very old machines, pre-electricity, that were run with a cast iron foot peddle.  I love the look and reputation of the Singer brand machines, so this is what I looked for online.
I answered an ad for a Singer in a treadle base, but by the time I could get to the ladies' house, she'd sold the one in the ad.  However, she had a Singer treadle base with a Necchi machine from the 50's that could be worked over to fit in it.  The belt to the motor could be removed and the belt to the treadle could run the Necchi.
I bought it.  It wasn't my dream, but it was a start, and I have no patience.  Just ask my husband.

This machine has a motor, but it may have been added later.
I sewed a lot of projects on this older Necchi, and it is a fine machine.  It even has zigzag capabilities, which the old machines don't have.  Buttonholes need to be worked by hand, and forget sewing modern stretch materials on the older machines.  But that is what my upstairs, electric, gear-driven Singer is for.  A machine that can, as I was told by a friend who used to work and teach for Singer and is now in her 80's, sew through plywood.  I'll remember that when we build our new buck house next summer.

It is the serial number that helps one determine the age of the machines.  Mine is from 1918.

Was Singer putting motors on machines in 1918?  Gotta do more research.

See the belt?  I'll take that off and put the long, leather treadle belt on instead.

Isn't this lovely?   I need to find out how to clean this.  A modern machine would have a plain metal plate here.  This one is gorgeous.
Now I have to open up this machine and clean it well, oil it, dig out the grease and re-pack it, then put it in the treadle base and start working on getting the tension adjusted.  Then I'll sew a few cloth napkins from old flannel sheets for our everyday use, and a few dairy rags for next season's milking chores.  This will give the machine time to release any oil or grease that I was too sloppy to notice and wipe up, before I start a more important project.  I have window treatments planned, can't wait!
This is how our great-great-great-grandmothers occupied themselves during the long, snowy winters and rested up for the frenzy of spring on the farm.  It is truly a satisfying and comforting hobby now, and makes me actually look forward to getting snowed in.  Bring on the snow!
Do you have a creative outlet?  Or a craft you'd like to learn?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Summer goat therapy

The girls enjoying some time in the woods last August:

Nutmeg, growing like a weed.

Plum, Nutmeg's birth mom, and my lovely silken Princess.

Lily finds the best bits deep in the forest.

She can run, but she can't hide!  Her color makes her the target of the other girls.  Poor Lil.

It doesn't take long for goats to clear all the easily reached good stuff.

Peach adopted Nutmeg and cares for her like a daughter.  She uses a tree to get some fine grape leaves.

I love the swirl on Nutmeg's side.  Very slimming, don't you think?

Patch of sunlight in a clearing?  Nope, its Lily!

Nutmeg has the kindest expression, all the time.  Every other goat here loves her, too.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

I'm baaaaaack...

Yup, I'm back.  It may be sporadic at first, no promises.  Technology and I have a rather adversarial relationship. 

We have a new computer and a new camera and I am slowly learning how to use both.  To kick off 2014, here is an update on sweet Nutmeg, the doeling I kept this past spring.

Nutmeg, just over 8 months old.  Still a cutie-pie!
Stay tuned for some winter projects and also for some backtracking as I find pictures from some of last summer's projects.  This computer has a different opinion than I do as to where picture files should end up.  As I find some of the images of cool projects, I'll post them.  I especially want to find the pictures I took of our wood chip gardening project, which was an outrageous success.
Meanwhile, gaze at the adorable youngster above.  Although she is old enough, officially, I will not breed her this winter.  She gets another year to grow up.  Unlike some of her previous sisters and cousins, she has a very "baby" look to her still, and has not yet developed the lanky, knobby appearance that a mature dairy doe gets.  She is still my little fatty and I just can't resist squeezing her and giving her a big ol' smooch.  Yes.  On the lips.  Her fuzzy little adorable smoochable lips.