Sunday, May 31, 2015

Camping. 5/28 (with recipes)

We love camping and fishing. It's one of those things all the kids are into and we don't even have to coax them.

 One of my favorite parts about it is testing my skills; cooking over a fire, having all the right stuff when plans change and being able to improvise when we have forgotten something. 
Cooking is my favorite part and it can be made simple by preparing some ahead of time. 

Breakfast burritos is a staple for us. Easy to make and they store well, quick for breakfast or a snack while fishing, and can be taken apart and served with potatoes to make a whole meal out of just one or two. For us a pound of sausage and a dozen eggs will make 8 8" burritos. Brown sausage and scramble eggs together in a pan.
         Scoop sausage egg mixture into burrito shell and top with a little cheese. Roll up borrito style.

Set up a little assembly line and they go together quickly. Toasting them a little in a skillet help keep them from getting soggy

Allow to cool completely before you pack them up to keep from sealing in steam that would also make them soggy. You can wrap these individually in aluminum foil to be reheated over a fire or just packed into a bag. They're good hot or cold and as long as they are kept in a fridge or on ice in a cooler they keep well for days.

Another great make ahead is marinated pork tenderloin. Sliced to about 3/4 of an inch (or however you like), too thick and I find it harder to judge when their done if I'm cooking in the dark and to thin they tend to overcook or burn.

Seal in a ziplock bag with your favorite marinade (I always add extra oil) and hold in the freezer until your ready to pack you cooler. They'll help keep everything else cold and keep longer. These cook quickly and can be served as a meat with sides or as sandwiches.

Stuffed cheeseburgers are fun. We eat them a lot at home and they make having a great burger while your camping simple. I mix up my favorite meatloaf recipe which basically consists of one egg per pound of meat, a splash of milk, salt and pepper, breadcrumbs and some seasoning depending on what mood I'm in. Take a handful of the burger mix and make an indention then fill with whatever cheese you like. You can get creative and add other toppings to the middle, crumbled bacon mixed into the meat is wonderful or even using taco seasoning and adding some jalapenos. Use a good lean burger for these. It will help them hold together and lessen flare ups. 

Smoosh the meat around the cheese making sure to seal in the cheese or it will ooze out, add more burger if your not sure. 

Using parchment or wax paper between makes them easier to get apart.

Pack into a ziplock bag and store these in freezer with tenderloin. Tada, super moist cheese burgers and you don't even have to pack cheese to take with you. While cooking don't be tempted to smash them or pick at them. They seem a bit crumbly at first but give them time and let them cook, they will come together and be well worth it.

Anything in a foil packet is fun and lightly seasoned potatoes can be a side with the tenderloin or (if we get lucky) fish. Chunk up potatoes and onion into a large bowl. Add salt and pepper, some garlic powder (I've found that fresh garlic tends to scorch against the foil), any herbs you like ( I added rosemary and thyme) and coat well in oil.

Pour onto foil and seal edges to make the packet.Using the heavy duty foil is a good idea, it'll stand up to different fire situations. You can cook these on a great or right on the coals.

The Boy Cave.           

Gma and Gpas' house.

Our home away from home.

This year my mom added a potty/shower tent.

We have multiple cooking options but when they're there I love these kind of fire pits. Burgers and brats for the first night because we got there a little late. 

Our nephew Keelin happened to be up from Texas where he is stationed. He brought his wife and two children and a friend and her two kids out to see us. It turned into a wonderful visit. The kids had fun and since I always cook big anyway there was plenty to go around.

 The fish were biting in the morning so by about 11:00 we enough for a big lunch. I built a fire and threw the potatoes on about 10 and seasoned my cast iron. The bigger fish we skinned and the little fellas just get cleaned and cooked, the skin just gets crisp or nearly disappears. A hot skillet and an inch or two of oil is all you need. Salt and pepper as you eat. You can fillet and coat in cornmeal or chunk up the fillets and make a quick batter of self-rising flour and beer salt and pepper. Sometimes the simplest is the best though....

The cardboard flats that stores have canned goods sitting on are a great camping trick. Uncovered they are great for letting the oil drain off fried foods and covered with foil they are great for serving off of. Another sheet of foil over the top will keep things warm until your ready.

A hand and dish washing station set up at the end of a picnic table or on a tailgate keeps everything handy and ready for the next use. A reused laundry soap jug is perfect as a small tap for hands and a bucket underneath catches the water so your not standing in mud and gives you extra to just rinse your hands or a first wash spot if you get into something really messy. I have another soap jug that is painted black that I forgot. Set in the sun and you can have fairly warm water.
We had a great trip even though it rained on us the second night. We got a warning sprinkle which gave us time to put up anything that shouldn't get wet. Down side, when the sky opened up we found that the boys had not put the tent up quit right and it was only a matter of minutes before the two of us and the three of them were all in our little house. 'Poor' boys were forced to sit in the cab of the truck and play on the phones and stuff while I cooked supper. Our camper turned out to have a little leak too, but a strategically placed placemat and a towel and bucket diverted the issue and now I know exactly where to fix. We have a very small hibachi that works well in these situations for cooking inside, but I cheated this time and used the little toaster over. (my Big Guy calls it my Easy Bake oven) Pork tenderloin was perfect in it. With my tray of sandwiches chips and dip and an umbrella I made rounds and delivered Rained like hell that night so the boys spread out among the truck seats. Next morning was nice but soggy so we had a bit of time for fishing and packing back up. As we drove away it started raining again....perfect timing!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Peaches and Honeysuckle

Planted Peaches and Cream Honeysuckle last fall for my humming birds and the bees. The color is so pretty and the smell is amazing, different than the yellow I'm used to, more like a rose.

As soon as I get out to dig some I'll plant some of the wild yellow on the other side of the tree.

Last year it frosted at the same time my Indian Red Peach bloomed so I didn't even get to see the pretty flowers. This year it was beautiful!

I'm excited to have my own peaches!

Bee update May 22

I tried to get a picture that you could actually see the bees. Between them being too busy to pose for me and my camera being to slow I'm afraid you'll just have to take my word for it. Today makes one week and they are still here so that feels like a success. I watched them for quit a while , it's almost hypnotizing. They are coming out the little door and going in the big door with their legs covered on pollen. I've mentioned before that patience is not something I was gifted with so it is taking all I've got to not open the top and see what they're doing in there. lol I don't see any going to the sugar water so they must be finding enough pollen. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Starting My Bee Adventure

 This post will be a little haphazard but I am soo excited and this is the easiest way for me to share in several places. I got my bees yesterday and had to wait till today to get help putting them in their new home. When they showed up there was only a couple on the outside of the box but this morning when I checked there were quit a few flying around and several on the outside of the box. I didn't see any place they could have gotten out and wonder if their newbees? (newbies) 


Just call me proud!

It's one thing to read about them and even know your not particularly nervous about "bugs", it's another to handle them. Yes we have all the gear but it's not really my style. I put them in the corner of my garden where I can feel they are the safest, so I figured we might as well go ahead and make friends.

Popping the top off was a little scary. It's kind of the "no turning back" moment.                             

I was so afraid I would squish somebody trying to get the can with their sugar water in it that my hands were shaking. But no casualties. 

Then we found that the Queen had come loose from the tie that is supposed to hold her to make it easy to pull her box out. You have to be very gentle with her, but with a little careful shifting I got a hold of her and set her out. 

I had really expected to get stung at least a time or two but didn't even once.

Please welcome Ed, ED and Eddie to the farm!
Thanks Mom for helping me!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Woman Homesteaders

I've seen the questions asked and responses given. "Can I homestead as a single woman?" , "Can I actually do this as a single mother with small children?" or "Is this a possibility for me since my husband is disabled or otherwise unable to help me?". My answer to you is simple. YES YOU CAN!

The responses to these are always varied from those who are supportive down to those who say "just don't try it, your not capable".  There is seldom much discussion beyond a point blank opinion, so I'm going to discuss with you my opinions on the question.

Dream your goal

What is it that you daydream about that has you considering this as an option for you.
Is your dream a cabin the woods and 3 trips a year to town? or maybe wide open pasture with cattle grazing? maybe your dream life is just a little outside of town with a handful of chickens and a big ol' garden. Now make it real. Sketch it on paper, print a picture that inspires you, take a picture of a painting. 

Start a notebook

Place your picture on the front of a notebook, file, folder or whatever works for you. I suggest actually going paper for this. This will be where you brainstorm, save articles out of magazines, tuck recipes and go back and scratch things out, that as you learn more about them, you decide are not in your dream. 

What is your skill level

On a scale of 1-5 how confident are you? Be overly realistic with yourself here. If you have a dog and 6 houseplants (like I did when I started) expect your scores to be low and be fine with that. This is only a way to focus your attention on where to put your energy. 

example, your list will be based on your goal (this was me)

Animals: 2 I had pet rabbits and other small animals as a child and spent my whole life around       horses. I had a working knowledge and  was comfortable handling them.
Plants: 1 I grew up in the 'country' and a rural town so I could recognize poison ivy and dandelions   and always had good luck with house plants. I had no gardening skills.
Strength: 5 I had always worked outside and had recently gone through basic training for the                                 military. I was physically very confident that I could handle any reasonable task, including fencing and hauling hay.
Food: 2 I was a good cook and comfortable cutting up a whole chicken and cooking fresh vegetables                but had never butchered a live animal (aside from fish) and had only just started to learn                      about canning. Preserving what you grow and raise is as or more important than what you                     grow or raise. 

Start small and build up

Pick a few things that you want to start with. In almost every situation it is easier to add then to take it back. Too many animals on a pasture can leave you with a field of dust and an extreme feed bill. A garden too big can become too much to handle and leave you with rotting veggies, thigh high weeds and that over whelmed feeling. Even if your confident in your skill, anytime you start in a new place there are going to be little (or large) things that you will have to deal with. 

Educate yourself

Start researching and start from the bottom up. If your gardening experience consists of house plants, look into container gardening, maybe start with your favorite herbs. Work with your strengths. If you have a dog and a gerbil, look into rabbits and other small animals. If you've gardened all you life pick the best producing for the least effort. Gather new ideas of how to preserve and use these. That way if an experiment with something new doesn't produce you shrug it off and say "that's why we have plenty of....not a big deal".  Research land prices in the area you would like to set your dream up on. If it's in a different planting zone you'll want to reference that against what you want to grow. Don't plan to plant a Lemon orchard in Michigan...

Determine your financial situation

Set a goal financially. Again, be overly realistic here too. As you set your mind to what you want and start practicing skills some of the cost of saving will actually become less of an issue. Put as much as you can into paying off things like credit cards and loans. Be hard on yourself here. So you really need the name brand.. whatever...or is there a generic brand that is perfectly fine. Try things out, look for sales. I'm not a motivated couponer but some people are. As you practice your skills you will be able to decide what is necessity and what is not. A 6 slice toaster may not be a have to have, your absolute favorite brand of hair conditioner may be on the never give up list. Let it float around in your mind as you do/use things, Do I really need to turn the light on to.....or since the sun is shining can I do without. While cooking make little notes of what you are using. Herbs grow fairly easily, some mixes (like taco seasoning or even ranch powder) can be made for pennies. Every little step that reduces your intake adds to your dream.

Have backup plans

Don't let anyone tell you that you are not a homesteader if you have a box of mac and cheese in the cabinet! Despite our best efforts, all the research in the world and access to all the answers you could ever ask for ( and some that you don't), sometimes it just doesn't work out. Sometimes the wood stove fills the house with smoke for some unknown reason in the middle of a snow storm. The power goes out, for who knows why, (solar or public utilities) just before dark and you really can't see to fix it. A sudden cold rain or lack of rain and your garden just does not produce like you planned. I don't say any of this to be discouraging, quit the opposite. It will happen. If you already have a plan in place to deal with it you can save yourself all the immediate stress, light a lamp, a kerosene heater or open a can of beef stew and shrug it off. "I'll deal with it in the daylight", the best phrase you can learn to say. If you have small children practice a "camp in" trip for the weekend. Turn everything off (light switches, tv, etc.) and pretend. Kids love pretend anyway, show them adults do to. This also goes with the section practice your skills. Pick an especially hot/cold weekend. You have the option of turning something on and fixing any issue that you did not think of in your original plan. 

Practice the skills that you will need

As you research ideas that you think will fit what you need to learn to be successful, practice what you can. A Farmers Market or even a sale at local grocery can be the perfect place to pick some veggies and get going! If your just learning to cook, cook them. If your just learning to can, can them. If you can can (hehe) and cook, maybe dehydrating or fermenting. Start a notebook for how you did it and what worked and didn't. Then add recipes that you like that uses what you did. Things like dehydrated vegetables take a little different cooking. All the dried zucchini in the world is useless if you don't have a way to make it into a meal. And days of drying (anything) is a waste of your time and energy if you try to use and find that you REALLY don't like it. Buy a whole chicken from the store and break it down yourself if you have never done this. Catch up with a friend that deer hunts and participate in processing it if you have never (and intend to) handled a full animal. 

Don't expect to make money

"If I buy 20 hens to raise I can sell the eggs". It takes more than you might expect to get to that point. Study up on local laws about selling eggs, meat, animals food products, etc. And then look into the area you are trying to sell to. I live in a rural community. Although are eggs are from pasture raise natural (organic certification is a whole other can of worms) no antibiotic chickens....this area is not good for  half what others pay for this kind of eggs. After investing in the egg soap, oils, washers and cartons, we came out on the negative side for a dozen eggs. There are special laws that affect animal, meat sales directly from the farm. Every state and county has their own. Take the time to see what you can and can't do. Animal testing, proper processing and even live sales. Again, this is not meant to be discouraging. You can do it. But you have to be realistic and not count points (ducks) that you can't use. If you just expect a loss and then are able to gain you are two steps ahead!

Train them, teach them and then let them lead you in the right direction!

Create your own social network

Anytime you start out on an adventure you should have the backup plan of the knowledge that someone has your back. Take this as a push to go meet your neighbors that are doing any part of what you want to learn. Borrow great-grandmas cook book. If it's an option go meet the people that you plan to live near. they will have the best information on what to expect.
They can give you an idea of weather pattern and predators.  Join fb groups, or whatever suits you. I am on Pinterest, Google+ and a member of several groups. There are so many ideas out there, and some of them are even good ones. Once you have built your own personal knowledge base

If you read my other blogs you can see what I'm doing and how I have made it work for.

Meet me on Facebook
Ask me questions, discuss or even criticize, I'm ok with that. I don't want to share anything that I'm not confident in because I have been there and if I can share better info that's what it's all about!