It has been incredibly busy summer so far. We have been set back by the rain and late spring but we are almost all caught up. We are still working on the pallet chicken coop and that is being fully funded by my earnings from the Farmer's Markets/online sales. It is 20X16 so I have LOTS of room for my little free-ranging hens and meat birds in the fall.
I have also been canning a lot. I made our family Sicilian Spaghetti and Marinara sauce last night and canned 24 jars. I will do another batch once this year's tomatoes become ripe. There is such an enormous difference in canning your own or buying from someone that cans versus buying in the store. Stores are production lines, they pick early and therefore can early not allowing the veggies/fruits to reach full ripeness. They also use varieties that produce tons, which most of the time sacrifices flavor. It's hard to come by a commercial line product that is the best in taste. I am stashing a few jars for myself and selling off the rest at the local markets (Buffalo, MN and Minnetonka, MN). I can't wait to share this with others.
I had some rhubarb (Canadian Red) ripe from my plants that I planted last year so I whipped up a batch of strawberry rhubarb jam - again, I'll keep a couple and sell the rest. What's the fun if you can't share a little country living :)
My chickens are driving me nuts. They are getting a little better about not coming in the front gardens now but they have discovered bugs like to live under the straw I JUST MULCHED WITH! Those stinkers. I laid out all the straw perfectly around my potato plants and I get inside to make dinner and they have already tore it up. Hmph. AND my berries are doing so well, just ask the chickens. Chickens: 134 Me: 1
The pigs were also winning this week. :/ They got out ... oh, about 10 tens. The grass had grown up around the electric fencing and it didn't phase the pigs to walk right through the line. After weed wacking the perimeter and getting them back in, I brought them their feed and garden goodies - watched the female come up and touch the fence, give out a big reeeeeee and run away. I have to say, it gave me great pleasure to know it worked and it was her that touched it....not me.
My garden is coming along so beautifully! Peas have 3" pods, tomatoes are green, onions have strong stalks, eggplant has beautiful large purple leaves, lettuces are being eaten, and kale is ready for harvest. I have an abundant supply of kale and beautiful lettuces so I will be selling those at the Farmer's Markets this week.
**New invention this week: skin soothing, muscle relaxing Lavender Rosemary BATH BOMBS! Made with olive oil, coconut oil - scented with lavender and rosemary from my herb garden :) Lovely.
Oh, and I must tell you... Minnetonka Farmer's Market starts THIS TUESDAY JULY 2nd!
Meet Ben. The deer I have taken in and am raising. I picked Ben up from a neighbor when they found him camping out in their garage. He must have been just a day or two old. He was put back into the woods in which his mother did not return. Being he was so young, he needed milk replacer quickly in order to live. My father was a game warden 34 years and is now retired. We as a family rehabilitated deer, weasels, fisher, raccoons, and any other random abandoned animal. In fact, the fisher at the Minnesota Zoo is the one my Dad raised- his name is Ollie. It is important to note that not anyone can raise wild animals. You must get permission from the game warden/conservation officer in your area and you must have experience with raising wild animals as well. It is very important not only for the deer's sake but also for the person raising them. Deer and other wild animals can become trouble makers around a house. At the same time, being able to see one so up close and personal is an experience unlike any other. If you get the chance to visit a
Ben is getting around great, frolicking with the kids in the yard and becoming very strong for such a little guy. There is a lot of work that goes into raising a baby 'wild' animal including night feedings, making them go to the bathroom, and getting them to walk around and get exercise (being babies they will just sleep and lay down otherwise). My intentions for Ben are to remain wild. He will not fear humans but he will be able to live among other deer and will be released to a large property in the fall that he will prosper at. I will post more pics and updates on the little guy as he grows to become a young adult.
Check this video out (you do not need to have Facebook- copy and paste into browser): it's Lola (my miniature English Bulldog) and Ben:
and this video is of Ben Lovin' on Me:
And lastly, this is him taking his bottle:
The BEST soaps are made from animals fats. They provide a hard, silky soap bar and a great suds. It is also the best way to not waste a butchered carcass. In order to render fats, you must have chunks of the fat from the carcass. Most people just buy their lard and tallow already rendered but it can be costly if you use it often. I use a reputable butcher in my local town. He charges .25 a lb for un-ground beef fat (tallow) and .35 a lb for ground beef fat. I get it ground because it saves me A LOT of time and the extra .10 is worth it. You do not necessarily need to grind the fats but you get more of the fats rendered if you do so. In this demo, I am rendering tallow, but the process is the same for pig fat or lard or any other animal fat for that matter.
What you need: wire mesh fine strainer, animal fat ground, 1-5 gallon bucket (depending on how much you plan to render), bowl to strain into.
This is what the beef fat looks like when I pick it up.
I take it out of the bags and place into a roasting pan/large stainless steel sauce pot and cook in the oven at 375 for 1 -1.5 hours. If there is still pink meat attached to the fats, let it go longer. If the meats start to get brown and crispy that's ok. You aren't keeping that part anyway. You will start to be able to see the fats become clear and separate from the meat that was still attached to it. That means it's done and ready to be strained.
Time to strain the pieces of remaining meat from the fat into the bowl. Do not wait too long to strain because tallow sets up at room temp.
Poured off into a 5 gallon bucket. You can skip putting it into the bowl and strain directly into your storage bucket but I like that my strainer fits perfectly on top of this bowl and working in smaller batches ensures a cleaner product.
After it cools, this is what is looks like.
Tallow set up harder than lard. Lard can be pretty soft so be sure to place in an airtight/leak proof container. Now it's ready to use! Soaps, baking, cooking you name it :) Oh, and recent studies have shown the benefits of animal fats in moderation is healthy for brain development and whole body health especially in children!
Roast all veggies/fruits except strawberries and kale. Combine in a blender the combinations you want and put into BPA free containers- freeze immediately. More information can be found under the recipe tab- scroll down to baby food recipes.
I wrote my plans to start a homestead this past January. I have wanted to do something self-reliant for quite some time now, but finally putting into play is really gratifying. I can finally say, It's up and running. Almost all my plans are complete. Due to weather- the Chicken Pallet Coop is still in the beginning building phase because of how late spring was and lately because of all the rain. We can't get it set right with a mushy ground. We did the excavation into part of a hill and have to wait for it to dry out. I think it should be there this week or the next. I, and my husband, cannot wait for it to be completed since the chickens are currently too close to me perennial garden I am making - sorry hostas- and it will just be nice to have them in their permanent home. I will also need that area to raise meat birds in the fall.
The bees are doing great! We have a lot of basswood trees on our property and come to find out, it is the most sought after type of honey there is. And I am making it, well not really but I'm a great cheerleader :) Obviously, with all the apple trees, cherry trees, and gardens they will have plenty of other wonderful places to get their goods.
The pigs are putting on healthy weight. They have almost tripled in size since I got them. I kinda wish I had gotten four of them. So many people are asking me about how I am raising them and are very interested. I could also use the excess lard throughout the winter months.
My vegetable garden is almost all in. I still need to plant my garden beans, melons and cucumbers. I am running out of space and it needs to be a fenced area therefore, I/hubs is making a new area for yet another garden. We are building it on a mound so the melons can vine down the sides. I sure hope our weather gets hot enough throughout the summer to produce good melons. Nothing like a homegrown melon.
The best part of starting my homestead is that next year I will have so much knowledge under my belt that I will be able to judge how much meat and lard one pig will create. I will also know how much honey my lovely bees make per hive and how much easier it will be than this year with all the building projects.
Funny story...my husband who is very supportive- most of the time- calls me from him work and tells me about this guy he works with, that I wanted sheep wool from to teach myself to spin (another story), has two runt lambs that he doesn't know what to do with. SO KRIS not ME, volunteered to know how much they were etc. I wasn't going to do butchering lambs until next year, but since I have the fencing and pasture complete - why not? So we are still waiting on a price. But I hope to get them. I mean, come on...I have LOTS of time on my hands ;)
Who Writes This Blog
It's me, Meg. Checkout 'My Story' for more about my mission.