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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My First Auction Experience

How many times have you read through the auction part of your local newspaper or on bulletin boards and thought to yourself..."wow...that would be cool" or you turn to your significant other and said "we should go check that out"? But you forget or you have other things going on or just plain too lazy? If your like me it happens quite frequently!


Usually they are just so far off that I forget about them. This particular auction was posted in the entry at work just a few days before it was to be held AND I walk past it several times a night; if it wasn't for those two things I totally would have blown it off, just like always. Plus   given the fact that I was severely hung over the morning of AND I would have to go alone....it is simply amazing I actually went.


I literally got out of bed a half hour before the start of it....and felt like crap! BUT....there was just some way too cool stuff that I couldn't miss! Soooo....I took care of the mutts and chickens (who clearly weren't happy), transferred money to my checking account and out the door I went. Let me tell you, I was nervous as hell! I don't go to these type of things all by my lonesome. Did I mention I felt like crap?


Apparently, this was the place to be Sunday at Noon sharp! If it wasn't for my fairly new interest in "prepping" I would have turned tail and run!! 


However, I put my big girl panties on and checked it out! 


First thing I was interested in was the brand new chicken plucker....they started the bid out higher than the amount of money I was prepared to spend for the whole day. They ended up bringing it down, so I got 1 bid in...but quickly went much higher. It ended up not selling. This is when I woke up....I have this smartphone in my pocket that I rarely put down. Turns out the $150 I was prepared to spend was a bit low...however, the $600 this dude paid for this thing one year ago and used once seriously overpaid! Either way, next up was an anvil that we have been kind of wanting for years. It went for $50, which is probably reasonable....but not for me! I am kind-of a cheap skate...


I spent the next few hours waiting for what I was there for...






Maurice has been looking for one of these grain grinders for quite some time, and if he can find one, it is outrageously expensive and don't offer shipping because of weight. I was instructed to get it, if at all possible! While I was waiting, I happen to stop and talk to a guy I knew....turns out the dude that was with him was also interested in the grinder, Crap! After finding this out I went and stood by it and felt like everybody in the building was going to bid on it! I was freaking myself out! Then I started thinking about all the auction shows I watch on TV and was trying to go figure out how to psych this guy out. By the time it came up, I was shaking like a leaf. Honestly, I am amazed I was even able to raise my hand at that point. I have NEVER  bid on anything in my life. 


SCORE!!! I Won!! It was a lot of money to me, but evidently they are pretty hard to come by. I can't wait to grind up the Red Floriani Flint Corn we are growing for the chickens this year.


 Next up...... A kick ass waffle iron!


Ok, this was literally 4 items away from the grinder I had just won! Wouldn't ya know...three items after the grinder they moved half way across the building. Now this was set to be the very last item up for bid. OMG...


I love pancakes....Maurice hates them...but he will eat a waffle occasionally! If we are at home I use the waffle iron my mother gave me, which can probably be considered an antique also. But when we go camping I like to make pancakes for breakfast...this is about the only time Maurice will reluctantly eat them. 


Several more hours later and after several very expensive items sold, the crowd was dwindling....the waffle iron is finally up! After all of this waiting and getting my very first bid ever out of the way..my nerves have calmed.


Score!! Now I can take our compromise with us!!


Now that I am 2 for 2, I have just one more item that I am super excited about...




That's right...it's a butter churn! 


Another hour later....it's mine!!


All in all, I was there for 6 hours....good thing I didn't really have any plans my day off. I won every bid that I really wanted...I am hooked!! 


Before I won all of these awesome items, my teenage neighbor girl laughed at me and asked if I was Amish! That was just because I have a garden and bake bread..


Now... I can grow my own corn and grain, grind it for feed or flour, cook pretty much anything over a fire AND churn my own butter for bread or waffles. 


I should go ask her if I can borrow her cows for the afternoon so I can plow my garden...hehe!





















Friday, March 9, 2012

My little herb garden.....

Several years ago we put new windows in our house. There was a little debate about putting in one of those garden windows in the kitchen. After we heard the price, the debate was quickly over! After all, I hadn't even successfully kept any plants alive in the house up to that point (with the exception of a plant I got from my grandma's funeral). Eight years later, this decision seems like a very poor one! I would give anything to have more window space for all of the herbs I have.

As I mentioned in my first blog post, Maurice drives truck; and it was after one of his first trips to California when he came home raving about the tacos on the taco trucks. He spent a week trying to re-create these mysterious tacos. When he finally got it right (hint: less is more), I'm not exaggerating when I say this is all we ate for months. I must say, I have no idea where "Americans" got their idea for tacos because real Mexican tacos are "da bomb."

You might be asking yourself what tacos off of a taco truck have to do with herbs....Well, quite simply...Cilantro, that's what! Before I elaborate, I want to point out that I just had an "aha' moment...not only did tacos from a far away place kick off our herb growing infatuation; but they also kick started our own little food revolution. Huh, that's cool! Okay, now that I am done patting myself on the back....back to Cilantro!

As I was saying, we ate nothing but tacos for months. Which means we were constantly at the store buying an ounce of Cilantro for $2.99. As you can imagine, that gets a bit spendy. So, hey...here's an idea...grow your own dummy (me, not you). Duh!! For $2.50 I can buy a packet of seeds and have an unlimited supply! Well, that is if you can get it to grow. After a couple of failures, we finally had a good amount of cilantro. Next came basil. Again, after a couple of failures I finally managed to get a very nice pot of basil going in the window above the sink. However, I also managed to kill it off last year after putting it outside. And much to my dismay, I planted another packet of cilantro and basil in the house with no success. Ugh....

Turns out I am much better at getting stuff to grow in the ground than in pots in the house. One (and I want to emphasis One) of our favorite spots in the garden is the herb section. Last year that included Chives, thyme, parsley, rosemary, dill, curry plant, marjoram, mint, oregano, basil, and of course cilantro. I think I can honestly say that there is nothing more satisfying than walking out to the garden and collecting a handful of herbs for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I mean, seriously....it's just right there!

Fast forward to harvest time and time to clean out the garden. Well, I can't just let all these scrumptious herbs die out here. So out comes the spade! Oh, wait....there is something more satisfying than walking out to the garden to gather herbs....walking 10 feet across the kitchen in the dead of winter to gather herbs! I am trying to upload a picture of our little herb garden, but it doesn't seem to be working (gotta love technology)!

Growing herbs is just half of it....the other half is what to do with them?

Cilantro is easy (if I had some)....pico de gallo or guacamole are two of my favs. Chives...well can any one say baked potato with chives? At the moment what I have the most of is parsley...I was uber excited to find out that I can make a pesto with parsley instead of the elusive basil (not having much luck with it). So, here is   my version of a classic pesto.....

2 cloves of garlic
3 tbsp pine nuts
1/4 tsp salt
3 cups parsley
sesame seeds
onion
oregano
thyme
curry plant
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesean

Process the first 3 ingredients in food processor for a few seconds, add the next 6 ingredients until well blended, then slowly add the olive oil...when that is incorporated add the cheese. Voila...pesto! The great thing about pesto is that there are many variations...as mine is. You can use walnuts in place of pine nuts, as pine nuts can be expensive. This pesto is absolutely fabulous tossed with pasta!

If you are growing your own herbs and are having a hard time figuring out how to actually use them, I strongly suggest "The Herb Farm Cookbook" by Jerry Traunfeld. It is a fantastic guide to growing, handling and cooking with herbs with over 200 recipes. I also like to use my Vegetarian cookbook...not because I am a vegetarian (I love my meat); but because vegetarian dishes add flavor using herbs and spices. I quite often take one of those recipes and just add whatever meat I want to it.

As planting season is quickly approaching, I will be adding a few new herbs this year.... lavender, stevia, and mojito mint are a couple. I am also going to try several different types of basil and our household favorite...Cilantro!

Happy planting....and stay tuned for more herb uses and hopefully a picture....grrrr!


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Bread.....

Bread is a staple in almost everyone's life! Me, I could live off of it....and often do survive on a diet of toast and peanut butter, or a sandwich of some sort. While bread has always been a part of every single meal I eat...my fascination with making it started many years ago and my disgust with store bought bread has been more recent.

My favorite part of any holiday meal at the in-laws was the homemade bread...she made roughly 6 loaves and 2 pans of buns. Always enough to send some home with us. One year I finally thought "If she can do it, so can I!" So, I finally asked for her recipe, which she was more than happy to give me. Much to my dismay, it wasn't quite the same.

Eventually, I bought a bread machine (which I know now is completely unnecessary and a waste of hard earned money). The ease of just dumping all the ingredients into the machine was fascinating at first. However, when it broke I took the plunge and made it the old fashion way!

It wasn't until I discovered Mother Earth News and their 5-minute a day Artisan Bread, that I got serious about bread making! http://www.motherearthnews.com/Real-Food/Artisan-Bread-In-Five-Minutes-A-Day.aspx. This recipe changed our lives! I went from making bread a couple of times a year to making a couple of times a week. It literally takes less time than to make a cup of coffee, really!! Before you go to bed mix 1 tsp. yeast, 1 tsp salt, 3 cups of unbleached flour and 1 1/3 cups water...when you wake up in the morning punch it down stretch it 3 times, let it rise for several hours....punch it down and stretch it 3 times again (this is where you want to shape it; i.e put in bread pan, make into buns, etc), let it rise again...when it is double in size - bake it! I promise you won't be disappointed! This bread was my best seller at the Farmer's Market!!

I have been making this recipe for 2 years now, but as we all do I get lazy occasionally (apparently really lazy, considering how effortless this recipe is) and attempt to buy bread at the store. In my attempt to buy the most healthy bread I can, I look at the ingredient list on each loaf. It is utterly disturbing and equally baffling as to why on god's green earth the ingredient list is a half mile long. I mean seriously....bread requires 4 ingredients, not over 20!! I was going to go through the work and list all of these ingredients in commercially sold bread but I found somebody else has already done this (duh, of course I am not the only person on the planet with these concerns). http://blog.fooducate.com/2010/11/04/the-top-20-ingredients-used-in-bread-miniseries-part-3/.
This is a fantastic source for learning about the ingredients,what they are for, and how bad some of them are!

I haven't even mentioned price...which always seems to be the reason for people not being able to eat more healthy. I honestly, have no clue what a loaf of bread in the store costs anymore (it has been 2 years since I have even looked in the bread isle)...Last year when I tried to figure out what to charge for my homemade bread at the farmers market I attempted to break it down...but the cost of each ingredient so minimal I think I gave up...but if I remember right it was under $1 per loaf (more like $.40) to make it yourself.

So C'mon people........Wake up and smell the bread!!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Starting out....

Welcome to my very first blog!

To be honest with y'all....I haven't even read very many blogs, but for some reason I feel an overwhelming need to start blogging about our little life here on the homestead. So, I guess the first place to start is to introduce the characters....

Jen - that's me! 
Maurice - the love of my life and Boyfriend of 19 years.
Deacon and Gimpy - the house cats; there are several random outdoor cats also.
Ned and Daisy - the dogs.
      and our chickens....

Now, that we got that out of the way I suppose you might want to know a little bit about us. 

Eleven years ago we got to the point that we were getting tired of renting. I said to Maurice, either we buy a house or lets move away. My family has lived in this sleepy little town there whole lives and I was ready to be the first to get the hell outta here! Well, we bought an acreage! It was the only place we looked at...but we fell in love! I had one requirement...a big kitchen! Maurice's one requirement....a shop! It had both! As a person who had lived in town my whole life..this was heaven. I can't look in my neighbors window (not without binoculars anyway). We could play music as loud as we wanted, we could walk outside and shoot a gun, there was a huge garden spot, there was a huge yard for our beloved white shepherd, Lord to run. What more could we ask for? 

When we moved out here, we both worked in manufacturing jobs. Maurice left his job and dabbled in construction for a year before he ended up becoming a truck driver. He worked for a couple of companies until just 2 months ago when he purchased his own tractor. I was one of the millions who lost there manufacturing job three years ago. Not all was lost though, I was able to go back to college after 20 years and am now working my dream job.....managing a kitchen. Ironically, (as I realized last year at my 20 year class reunion) it is the same kitchen I was working at when I graduated high school. There will probably be more on this subject in later blogs.

If someone would have asked me twenty years ago where I saw myself in twenty years....organic gardening, being a foodie, homesteading, prepping, being concerned about the environment, reading books, and learning how to be self sustaining are definitely not words or phrases that would have ever crossed my mind. Geeze, what a nerd!! The amazing thing about getting older is figuring out that being a nerd is cool! It's fun and exciting to learn new things (if that doesn't sound nerdy, idk what does). 

So, that is the jist of it!

As I said earlier, we are foodies so there will definitely be recipes and pictures as future subjects. Other subjects I have planned are must read books, chickens, my farmers market experiences, pet stories (inevitably), herbs, gardening, prepping, environmental concerns, solar and wind power, and whatever rants I need to get off my chest. I already know my first rant.....bread!! 

Please be patient with me as I get this blog going....as with everything....there is a learning curve, but I will eventually figure it out!!

Thanks for reading and I welcome to read comments, tips and advice!