Monday, December 31, 2012

First Time Making Lotion

Like you, I've tried different types of lotions. Over the last few years I've been testing lotions by companies who use mostly natural ingredients. A satisfactory rating has yet to be reached. They go on and my skin feels better but alas, the effect is short lived. On goes another coating and another and another. Somehow I think this is the plan of the scientist behind the formulas. How come the lists on these natural lotions is so long? Is it really necessary?

I realize that commercial companies have a major problem in the fact that natural lotions will eventually mold. They have to have lotions with a very long shelf life so completely natural isn't happening. Preservatives are necessary and natural ones don't keep the product for a long enough period.  I don't need preservatives for my lotion need not sint on the shelf for many months and even years. But still, why so many ingredients. I've now made lotion and am baffled.
Making lotion is something I've wanted to try for the last few years. So returning to making a home-made Christmas, I decided to buy a few ingredients and make some for our family as part of their presents. Let them be the guinea pigs or test group. Aren't I kind. LOL But who else can I count on to be brutally honest in their opinions which is exactly what I want. 

The first batch of lotion I made consisted of oil and butter only. Not your traditional oil and butter but some luxury items - almond oil, cocoa oil, and Shea butter.  No water involved in this particular batch. It was simply melt the different oils and butters, and melt in some bee's wax and mix, voila, lotion. Seriously, it was that easy. Not exactly a microwave project since that would kill the good guys in the oils and butters but simple, simple.

I measured out - 1/2 cup almond oil
                                         1/4 cup coconut oil
                           1/4 cup beeswax
                           1/4 cup cocoa butter
                           2 teaspoons Shea butter
into a wide mouth, pint canning jar.

Then put the jar into a pot with a couple inches of water and turned the stove on low. I didn't want to burn my oils and butter nor kill the good guys in the mixture.

When melted I stirred the mixture good with a spoon and took the jar out of the pot to cool a little. My small containers are plastic and I don't want hot liquid going inside to release the bad guys in the plastic.

The mixture started to cool enough to turn back yellowy white and at this time I stirred again and poured into the containers.

Yes, I did tweak the recipe a slight bit by adding shea butter instead of cocoa butter fur as long as I had the oil, butter, and wax ratios correct, switching isn't a big deal.

The lotion turned out INCREDIBLE! I love this. A tiny dab will do you and yes, you have to rub it in a bit longer than traditional lotions but hey, it works. You don't have to apply and apply and apply to get minimal results. A little dab does do you and you can feel a decided difference. I swear commercial lotions are designed to keep you coming back. Money does the talking, even for the more natural companies.

This lotion is a heavy hitter. It is meant for dry skin and areas with lots of friction like your heels. That is because the wax helps coat the skin and helps keeps friction from chapping. 

Our daughter tried this concoction on her face. Said she would like a slightly less greasy formula but wow, did it work. She loved it on her hands. I tried it on my dry heels of my feet and whoa..., much better. My husband had a thick coating rubbed in thoroughly on his back where it always itches in the winter and it was much better. I figure another dose tonight and he will be pretty good for a while.

There isn't a long list of ingredients to this lotion and ones in particular that you have no idea what they are. Yes, this lotion recipe makes only a small amount. You don't need much to do a lot. The shelf-life is shorter and the recipe states only 6 months depending on how you store it. Refrigeration being the way to help it last the longest.  But as easy as it is to make, short shelf-life isn't a problem.

If you are looking at stocking up on a sale, which is my preference so I don't have to spend so much time ordering things, then here are the facts. 

Shea Butter -  18 to 24 months shelf-life (do not refrigerate but keep in a cool environment)

Cocoa Butter - 2 - 5 years shelf life. Keep in a cool place or refrigerate.

Cocoa Oil -  1 year shelf- life, refrigerate.

Bee's wax - well forever and ever.

I'm beginning to be quite impressed with cocoa butter and oil. I've only begun to research them. My Naturopath doctor recommends the use of cocoa oil in eating. I'm going to take a deeper look at it. I found this to be quite interesting about cocoa butter.
Recent research indicates that massaging the skin with cocoa butter may help relieve stress, boost the immune system, and even prevent cancer. This is because cocoa butter, like chocolate, contains a lot of CMP. Researchers in Japan reported that CMP inhibits the growth of cancerous cells and tumors by reducing active oxygen levels in the body, and concluded that CMP inhibits the oxidation of LDL (good) cholesterol and the production of inflammatory cells; there is some evidence that the CMP in cocoa butter may also help prevent heart disease and ease arthritic symptoms.

Preliminary research indicates that CMP actually helps suppress excessive T-cell activity in the immune system, which could help treat conditions associated with overactive immune systems, such as psoriasis, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

I've made a new type of lotion supposedly a bit less greasy and more easily absorbed. It has a water base making it more prone to mold so need to be used more quickly and refrigerated for longer shelf life. I'm keeping some out by my bedside and the rest in the fridge. That is what I don't give away help test. I've yet to test it as I just whipped it up, literally, last night.  I also made a chap stick lip formula that I want to tweak a slight bit but MY did it do the job. LOVE IT! I have another recipe of it that I will try also.

Conclusion-  The science guys may have all there complicated formulas but they also have a hidden agenda. One being getting a customer to come back to buy and buy and buy. If the skin no longer needs nourishing frequently then there would be little demand for the product. So make the product work but not too well and not too long. I may need other applications of this lotions but I'm seeing significant results with far less product. I'm never ever going back to store lotions and lip chap sticks again.

Stay tuned, I'll let you know the recipes I used and some science behind it. There is a formula between oils, butters, water, etc, that needs to be adhered to. Also there is a oops involved that is a lesson for the future. Yes, I do learn best that which is learned the hard way. And as the brain whirls it has come up with some things to try and more research of course.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas With The Rexroats

Christmas spread over three days, what could be better? I've always thought opening presents was best done a little at a time where you could enjoy gifts more individually. Then again it would have been a long day if we hadn't of spread them out for people went over board on buying gifts. The volume for the kids was a bit overwhelming. I'm of the opinion less is more as far as Christmas presents go but then I'm a bit old fashioned.  
One tradition that never changes is that each person opens a gift in turn so that we can all see what it is and watch the expression on the openers face as they discover what's beneath the brightly colored paper.
All except joint presents that is.

For me, the expressions are the greatest gift, worth more than what lays inside each box.

Our six year old insisted on my taking a picture of each person as they opened each package. She'd stop the whole show calling to my attention that I wasn't ready if my camera wasn't raised and poised. Good thing things are digital now and not film. It would have cost a fortune.
All went well that is until she opened this gift. Look at that face. She was quite embarrassed and didn't want a picture of this but I insisted that every package be photographed in keeping with the bargain she struck. Besides this one is going to be a treasured photo for her book of remembrance. Well, maybe not until she is much older.   
The story behind this unusual gift is she loves the cushioned toilet seat in her mom and step-dad's bathroom and slips away to use that bathroom as much as possible. Hence, a cushioned toilet seat for the kid's bathroom.
Then there was this puppy on a leash. Our three year old opened it by mistake. It was suppose to be for the youngest grandchild but alas, by the time the comment was made she was petting it affectionately and replied, "But I love! It's mine!" Her nine month old sister wouldn't really know the difference so she gained another gift. She indeed loves it as she plays frequently with this puppy stroking it and trailing it along by its leash.
What did the youngest think about Christmas? Well, she just wanted to eat the paper.
We had a wonderful Christmas. I hope you did too.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Reindeer Noses

 Not too thrilled about my latest project, Kirk and Toni none the less set down at the table to draw, cut, and glue together packages of reindeer noses.for Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder, and Blitzen, plus Rudolf of course. Though the reindeer may want to eat them instead. We did with many of the spares. Who could resist malted milk balls and sour cherry candy.

The grand kids came in time to put the candy inside sandwich bags. Another bag of extra candies for families with children were packed in the box on the opposite side.

Then we drew up our plan for what ten families we wished to treat.  Instead of just handing out the treat, we decided to carol too, a long standing tradition that we did with our kids when they were all home. Not that we had great voices but we did have a sense of adventure. That meant we didn't carol in the traditional sense. We caroled reingoat style with a dairy goat dresses up as a reindeer and towing a small cart. 

Sunday night we were taking that tradition and working with circumstances available to us. No reingoat since we no longer have the cart but who knows, maybe we will have one in the future. I hope so. We did take an Energizer bunny with us. Our three year old bounced up and down boing, boing, staccato style like she was on a Pogo stick, her little tennies blinking as she sang at the top of her lungs, " We wish you a merry, Christmas we wish you a merry Christmas..." or we "Jingle bell, jingle bells," 

By the fifth house when we asked what shall we sing, she replied, " Robin egg!" You know, " Jingle bells, Batman smell, Robin laid an egg, the bat mobile lost its wheel and Joker got away." When we responded, "No." She came back with, " Scooby Do!" After four more houses with her not able to understand why we weren't singing her songs, we gave in at a friends we thought might get a bang out of it. His face when he opened the door to "Jingle bells, Batman smells" was priceless, first shock and then peels of laughter.

the next house I turned to our daughter, mother of the girls, and said, " Now this is Christmas!" and she replied with a huge grin on her face, "Yes, this is Christmas!"

Our grand daughters seemed to be getting caught up in what presents they would be receiving and I wanted to let them experience the sheer joy of giving. It was awesome, like Trick or Treat in reverse.

Tomorrow when they come to stay for the day, we will build nativity scenes with Popsicle sticks and act out the first Christmas story with figurines from a children's nativity set. Now that is what  Christmas means to me --giving and remembering Jesus Christ.      

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Christmas Spirit

I put up my favorite Christmas decoration, the Christmas village.  I've collected pieces for years and years and years. Each tree, figurine, and house carefully chosen with a place in mind in the old kitchen cupboard. There is a hunter on the hill beyond the barn with his bird dog. Representative of our son, Kalob and his bird dog of course.
Then there is Finley's forge, a must according to Kirk, with two men out front hammering on a hot piece of metal. I looked long and hard for those. There is a hay ride, which I've always loved to do,  children playing in the school yard, and kids climbing a tree after a cat which always makes me smile. Each piece including the deer eating the carrot nose of a snowman and the manger scene in the church yard are things I love.    
It isn't an expensive set for I have a maximum of $35 dollars I allow myself to spend each year on decorations for Christmas. $35 dollars doesn't go far. This year I didn't even spend that much nor did I put up all the decorations. I've not got a great many, most being tied up in the village.
And even when the tree went up and fell down and went up and fell down ---Yes, our good ole tree stand broke and we have a cheapo stand in. Led bricks work wonders. (Duck Dynasty would be proud. We can be red necks too.)
----it still didn't feel quite like Christmas.

But when we began smoking turkeys Saturday.

 And threw in some hard boiled eggs even though the heat for turkeys is way too high for eggs.---- (We've never done eggs before. )
 And put in some store cheese which we've never done before, though the temperature for turkeys is too high for cheese also....

Creating a melted goo that tasted smoking wonderful.  ----It began to feel a little like Christmas.
The adventure of doing something new with the warmth of tradition. Kirk's folks came for Sunday dinner and we served, of course, smoked turkey, and I could feel Christmas laughter ringing through the house. 
But it wasn't until that night that Christmas slammed the door wide open and came ho, ho, in. be continued.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Smoking Turkeys

Smoked turkeys yum, yum. That is what we prepared for this morning. I bought six turkey breasts and two small turkeys and thawed them last night. Some of them are part of our Christmas presents. We packed them into pressure canner bottoms because they are the largest containers we have and mixed the marinate.

It comes from this book. Not the marinate silly but the recipe. It is titled Cranapple Brine for Birds. We use Crancherry though instead and once we tried peach juice which was also good. I think you could switch out what juice you want, maybe using something you grow in your yard. Hmmm... wonder what current juice would taste like? It's kind of tart like cranberries. I might have to try some next year if we get a really good crop. Six half gallon jugs of juice isn't cheap even on sale and some home grown currant juice mixed in with the boughten would help drop the cost. That is what it takes for eight turkey breasts.

We don't usually do quite this many but some are for gifts for Christmas. I think we started smoking turkeys in December because the price is less expensive around Thanksgiving and Christmas.  

The recipe is simple, just put in a pot 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup pickling salt, 4 cups of cranapple juice, 1 teaspoon dried basil, and 1 teaspoon dried thyme.  I heat the mixture though the book doesn't say to do so in order to melt the sugar and salt so that all the ingredients blend but not so warm as to make the mixture hot. Then I pour it over the birds. We inject also, which is not in the book. That is what you see Kirk doing in the garage in the above photo. We then leave the birds in the pots with a lid on to keep out the dirt in the garage for about 24 hours.

No, the garage doesn't have magical powers but it is cool. And after all you don't want your birds getting all warm and comfy. They might just start playing a little hanky panky and populating. That's why we always do it in December because we don't have a super large refrigerator to hold two LARGE pots and outdoors becomes our refrigerator. Usually the first part December we smoke but everything is getting done late this year if at all. We have to watch the weather and gauge to see that the forecast isn't for too cold, or too warm, or too windy and of course Kirk is off because he is the prime smoker. Not that I can't do it also, I have but I'm busy readying other presents.  

While the turkeys sat marinating, I made lots and lots of jelly. And since I was stirring and stirring, I kept a batch of caramels bubbling on the back of the stove. Takes nigh on to an hour and a half to make the things but yum, yum. Caramels made with goat cream. It doesn't get much better.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Berries in December in Wyoming

Got back late Sunday night from the folks where I spent a few days helping them get ready to move. I brought home a passel of berries and cherries to make jelly. Where did I get berries in winter in Wyoming? In my folk's freezers of course. I emptied them as one went home with me and the other is sold. In one freezer was four gallons of chokecherries and another four bags of mystery berries along with lots of pie type cherries.

Note the chokecherries steaming in the juicer. Look how big the seeds are in this berries. Yup, means you need lots and lots and lots to make much of anything. Luckily, a chokecherry tree has lots and lots of berries on it. I'm thinking chokecherry syrup with whole wheat pancakes sounds pretty nice.
These are much better as the seeds are small. As for what they are, I had to wait until they thawed a bit to be sure but I didn't think my step-dad would of gone and picked buffalo berries.
He loves them but seldom picks on his own. Usually I initiate it. What are buffalo berries. Well, they grow wild in the West. They are little clustered berries on a tree that you'd swear was a Russian Olive. The leaves have the same look with the gray cast. There is a female tree and a male tree but no... you romantics, they don't mate for life. They do have a pretty good system worked out to discourage the gathering of their berries. They have sharp thorns.

We don't have any around our area but where Russian Olives are a plague, they grow plentiful. That's where my folks live in western Wyoming. Yeah, hard to believe for those in those areas where Russian Olives sprout up like the flu in the winter but her in eastern Wyoming, Russian Olives have to be planted. They don't propagate on their own. Trees in general don't. We have such lovely soil, NOT!

So my second guess was since there were four gallon bags of them is currants. A much much sweeter berry. The Buffalo berries are a bit bitter but make a pretty good jelly if a lot of sugar is added. They just aren't my favorite but my step-dad loves them. These were currants. 
Home came all the cherries and berries and jars and jars and jars of very old home canned goods dating back to 2000. Jars being as expensive as they are, I scarfed them up volunteering to empty them at home and put some jelly back in a few of them. Samples of course will find there way back to my folks. Monday being garbage day where the city comes and picks it up, I decided I'd better get all I could done and ready to go. It took four dishwasher loads to clean all the jars. The work spreading over into Tuesday since their was also laundry and various get back home chores needing done.

I still haven't finished unloading the truck yet from my trip. I didn't want to leave piles and piles around and have the grand kids going through them spreading them even further abroad.  

The juice has been flowing for two days while quarts and quarts of juice pile up in the fridge for a major jelly and syrup making project. I'm might leave some in juice form canning them to drink later. Would of started on it sooner but our tiny store didn't have the pink boxes of pectin that are low sugar. I've got an appointment in the next town over today so I'll pick up some then. Along with a few presents for Christmas. Can you believe I haven't a single present ready.

No money and no time being the culprits. Yup, I've got the skills and even some supplies to make wonderful gifts but no time to create. So between responsibilities of family this weekend, we are going to try and pinch in some gift making. That includes jelly and syrup. The adults are warned that their gifts could be late. Most likely will be. 

The dresses for the little girls, the fabric having been bought two months ago, well, not happening right now. I'm buying the kids a little something but the youngest, I'll add a little pair of crocheted boots, I hope. I'm on my second try. The last half made boot didn't fit. Check out The Calico Bush blog of mine and see what I'm up to with the boots but not right now, it isn't written yet, because I've got chores to do and get to the dentist. Ouch!

This weekend I'll let you peek in on what Kirk and I are scrambling to make for the count down to Christmas. Smoked turkey breast being one of the plans. Black cherry flavored oh yum!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Bullying In Our School

Thank you for all the comments on the last post. I laughed and laughed and I really needed that. It has been a tough year and this month is no different. Yesterday we learned that our oldest grand daughter is being bullied in school by a teacher. Her home room teacher is livid. This poor tyke is only seven years old and struggles in school because she takes after her grandma - me. This past month her mom and I have been filling out paperwork, meeting with councilors and school testing staff for disabilities to figure  the nature of malfunction in her brain in order to better help her. 

They have assessed that her IQ is far above her performance level. Uhhh yeah, howdy, this is the child who at three months old shocked us when she began saying Hi and Mum. I'm not talking just saying the words at an extremely early age but saying the words in context every single time. This is a very very bright child who doesn't think she is because she struggles with a major lack of short term memory and what else I don't know. But she has struggled to the point that she doesn't think she is smart. I've watched as her dear friends seek her out as she hangs back in activities and the surprise on her face that they would like her so much. I'm not surprised she is very precious.

Thankfully, this daughter does not have the extent of disabilities that I have. She hopefully won't have the extent of short term memory problems that I have either. If I have something in my hand I will forget it is there and drop it within  a few minutes. Therefore if I hold something, I have to continuously play with it to remind my brain it is there.

I have to repeat things over and over in my head to place them in long term memory which thankfully I have (my husband has no long term memory only short so we together make a whole) so I have a chance of remembering them. I don't have to say while walking down the hall to the bedroom, "I won't pee the bed. I won't pee the bed." like I taught our sweet three year old to do so she wouldn't have an accident while sleeping with Grandpa, which would have devastated her, but I'm close. I lack the ability to hold things in my brain. I'm particularly bad with numbers so adding them in my head, well, forget it. 

Some friends are coming over Friday and I had to repeat Friday at 6:30 over and over in my head and still I wrote down 6:00 on the calendar. I found out I was wrong when I double checked the time with them but at least I knew they were coming. That's a plus. Colored markers, calendars, and notes are my best friends if like in this instance I don't have my cheat sheet, I'm in trouble.

As our three year old says, " It worked Grandma" the power of repetition does make things happen. Just like her problems stem from emotions from being picked on, I'm sure some of our seven-year-old grand daughter's problems also stem from emotions. These poor grand daughters have not had an easy life. What is up with all this bullying?
They figure that this teacher that bullied our grand daughter did so because of her lack of short term memory. No wonder she always acts sick and doesn't want to go to school. No wonder she spends lots of time in the bathroom there. No wonder she has such a short attention span. She worries about her mother, her sisters, and her own life. This kids life isn't easy. School is tough, in fact it is brutal. I know, it was for me too since I have high functioning Autism and learning disabilities. High functioning Autism didn't exist in the professional world at that time. They just thought I was crazy. Just so you know, I am, and loving every minute of it. LOL

I didn't witness abuse but I saw my own oldest daughter struggle in school with disabilities and yet, she was smart enough to belong to the gifted and talented group which met separately, that is if only she could of read decent. I started home-schooling her in the evenings in third grade, then with such huge strides being made, we went full time with her teacher's blessings. Our other two children also have learning disabilities and some of the Autism spectrum issues. All three were home-schooled.

The middle child took a couple classes in high school and was bullied by students because of her disabilities. Her teachers were flustered and I was called in a few times to help teach. It was indeed a challenge to put things in a manner that she could learn. She too is very talented and yet has many disabilities. The Lord says there is opposition in all things. Well, if he chooses to send you disabled, he will also give you an equal amount of talents. Though not all may be revealed here on earth. I always felt it was my job to uncover as many of those talents as I could and find bridges over the disabilities so those talents could shine.  

But it doesn't stop with our three-year-old and our seven-year-old being bullied. Our six year old grand daughter is being bullied by classmates. Bullying amongst this class is a real problem the teacher has informed us and this problem is being addressed by the school counselor. This child is fairing pretty well with counseling. I'm thrilled since this is the child we spent months of intense work to try and help recover from major abuse suffered earlier in her little life. 

What is it with bullying? These are the most wonderful children. So well behaved when they are here. They pick up toys, take their plates to the sink, help me with chores, and we cuddle, laugh, and play. I can't keep Kirk working on his knives when they are here because he enjoys being with them so much. Last weekend they stayed with him and had pizza,  then popcorn, and a movie fest on the bed while watching something on Netflix while I was at my folks. Afterwards the two oldest snuggled in my bed, falling asleep and the three-year-old slept with Grandpa.
The weekend before they arrived before four in the evening and didn't have a single squabble until the next afternoon at three when the three-year-old grew tire and argued with her sister. Yet they are battered by adults and youth. No, not all but why at all? 

What has brought our society to such a place? If the shooting at the Sandy school shocked you, I ask why aren't there more. Not that I'm advocating it for my heart goes out to those families on both sides of the horrific tragedy. But I see so much abuse all around me and wonder why school killings haven't happened more.

Our daughter years ago witnessed the unmerciful bullying of more than one kid by teachers but one high school kid in particular committed suicide in part because of it. Why didn't he lash out using some object as a weapon and take out all the built up hatred on others, particularly the teacher?  He surely hated others but obviously he was tore down to the point he felt completely powerless, and he ended his life.

Maybe it is a testament to the goodness of people in general that physical violence at a school hasn't happened more. After all suicide is now the leading cause of death in youth. Youth in powerless positions abused by youth and adults. With the state of moral decay in this society, the violence we've seen more and more lately can not help but continue unless we turn this nation around.
When will this bullying quit being passed down from generation to generation? When will we quit teaching bullying to students in the schools? When as adults will we say ENOUGH? We choose who we ultimately will be, not our parents or those around us. So when I hear, "It's my parents fault." and in particular the person is sixty years old, I know they just want an sorry excuse to justify the fact that they haven't made more of themselves but instead harbored and nurtured the fault. 

There is a song our children learn at church. It ends with kindness begins with me. We can't control others but we can begin today to control ourselves. Remember, kindness begins with me. Person by person the tide can be turned back to a world where the Golden Rule is the standard of behavior.  

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Goat's Estreus

The lone hold out. She's the only kid I haven't caught coming into estreus. She is the smallest by a little bit. Yet the whole female Nubian raise in my pen has been hard to decipher heat cycles in general.
But then in comparison  to my Saanens, which is the breed I had for years and years, who would come screaming up to the gate, the whites of their eyes in a full panic mode, their tails flagging to beat the band, and they let me know that they needed a buck and they needed him RIGHT NOW! So anything else in comparison would be more difficult.  
 These Nubians are a bit more shy and reserved. One might sidle up to the fence with Touch, our buck, and flag their tail a little but that is about it. You have to be watching pretty carefully.
This year has been more difficult than any other. My Meagan, our yearling on the right, flagged and was a bit more friendly than normal but no panic mode. She was in estrus for only 12 hours not the usual 24.
Then when Daisy, the black doe on the far left born in April this last spring year came into to heat, she just did a little wagging of her tail but not with the usual enthusiastic response we are use to. So I marked the calendar and bred her three weeks later when her tail wagged again. She is very large for her age but I none the less I wanted another month on her. I had thought I would be kidding Chicory and Meagan and then the younger does but alas, no Chicory.
And Mercedes was even more subtle than that. She wasn't over by the buck but I happened to be by the feeder and was petting each goat in turn running my hand down their backs and across the top of their rumps to their tails. She flagged enthusiastically but that was all, no interest in the buck. This will be an interesting match as I bred her to her grandpa. It will either be really good or really bad match.
As for Madeline, she hasn't come into heat yet. I stroke her back on down to the tail each day but no response but a light, wag, wag. Since Meagan didn't cycle the same time as Daisy and Mercedes and usually all does penned together for an extended period of time  will cycle within a few days of each other, I'm not sure what is going on. Light, short cycles, and not in sync hm.... must be the goofy weather.
None the less, without Chicory I have only two does I can breed to Touch and alas, I must sell him this spring.
Have any of you had strange estrus cycles on your animals this year?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Corriente Steer

This is Cory, our Corriente steer when he arrived the end of September. Looks pretty rough doesn't he. He weighed in at 660 pounds.
This is Cory now. Yeah, a huge difference of at least a couple hundred pounds. I'm going another month to a month and a half feeding him before he goes in the freezer in white packages.
I pulled up a Corriente site and found this breed is indeed sold most often for steer roping. In part because of the horns. 
They are raised in areas where the countryside is tough and feed not as lush for they forage better than the standard beef cattle.
 I don't know exactly the figures since we have Gracie, our yak, in with him but it seems to take forever for him to put on any serious amount of weight but then maybe how skinny he was when he arrived had something to do with it.  My dad, an ex rancher, has it figured out cost wise. He now finishes off feeding a few cattle and when they go to butcher he and his neighbors share the meat.
They pay for the cattle and he pays for the feed and he provides the labor. A pretty good deal. That means he feeds everything from a Angus bull, to Corriente steer, and this year even a beefalo.
 What's a beefalo? Well, a part buffalo and part beef. He was huge. Probably about 1500 pounds when finished.
The Corriente meat is said to be more the color and texture of elk. It has less marbling and is therefore more healthy. I'm all for that but mostly price was the factor this year in our decision to buy this breed of cattle. Still I can't wait to taste this beef as it is reported to have a mildly different flavor. I love trying new things.
One caution I found in raising Corrientes is they do jump fence with the greatest of ease. They are more flighty also. That is why I spent time taming Cory right off and I keep a hay feeder full in front of him at all times.

Have any of you raised Corriente cattle?
A side note, after watching the neighbors raise a couple Holstein calves and two Angus beef calves side by side, my predjudice against dairy cattle for beef melted away. Those Holstein calves really grew. I guess you could say in the last few years my ideas of beef have greatly changed and I'm now looking for bargains not Angus beef alone. It is not only the experience alone but shear dollar signs that has swayed me away from being so singular in my selection.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cutting - Preparedness

One of the basic five tools of survial is cutting. If you remember my earlier conversation, I'm wanting to prepare on several levels so cutting for me is a broader subject.
* 1. Is knife or knives. I like a pocket knife and fixed blade for basic daily tasks and that includes livestock chores and such. But a very basic thing for me is a good set of kitchen knives. 
*2. Ax and hatchet.
* 3. Hair cutting supplies
We've talked about 1. and 3. but not 2. and I have two more to add but I'll save them for later.
The kitchen knives, daily task knives, and hair cutting supplies we have under control but the ax and hatchet area needs some work.
Our goals for my husband and for myself evolved as we evaluated our ax and hatchets. I drug out my Boy Scout hatchet my hubby bought me a couple years ago.  We decided that after Christmas he is going to teach me how to sharpen it and with his guidance I will make a leather cover for the blade. That will up my skills level. 
It was Ray Mears, the survivalist again that got us thinking though not quite along the lines he was instructing on u-tube. Kirk is an expert in sharpening knives and in building them but he uses a belt sander to do so. We don't have any sharpening stones to use on knives or hatchets.
This is one of those holes I was talking about in our basic preparedness.
With Kirk's skills, we realized that having an ax and hatchets is good but self-sufficiency means doing it yourself when ever possible. The most basic level of axes and hatchets is then being able to make the tools yourself. It then makes sense that Kirk being a bladesmith should take a little side venture into this area.
Last summer in South Dakota at the ABANA conference Havard Bergland, a renowned Norwegian expert in making knives and axes, suffered from  a heat stroke while giving a demonstration. It was decided that Kirk and his interpreter would continue on with his session while he was checke out at the local hospital. The next day they did the forging session once more under the watchful eye of Havard as he was still a little shaky. At the time, Kirk's interested in making axes was only slight but he had watched Harvard Bergland's u-tube video a couple times before this event. Since then we've thought it over and it might not be a bad idea to study forging and building axes and hatchets a bit further. 

If you've done self-sufficiency any, you know it is impossible to do it all. Skills equate to money saved and can often be turned into a way to generate cash or trade when outsourced to others. The more you can do the more choices you have to generate some extra buying power. In some situations it will be in addition to your regular job and sometimes it will be because you don't have one. Many, many tiimes our skills have saved money and generated a little cash to get us by bumps in or road.
Knowing from past experiences that if you want to be really good at something then you should study the best. With that thought, Kirk bought this beauty by Gransfors Bruks from Sweden. It is an awesome ax. When I picked it up, surprise must of crossed my face for I couldn't believe how light and well balance it is. Now this is an ax I could use. Not that I should. I have a tendency to beat the.... well, you know out of one. My aim isn't so good. I often miss and bang up the handle just below the ax head. I need practice I know but it isn't going to happen really soon since there is much on our to do list and all our logs at present are split.

What I do know is that a good quality tool makes a task so... much easier and I hope Kirk indeed learns much from this ax of Sweden. Coupled with studying this ax is Kirk's lessons from Havard Bergland on traditional Norwegian ax forging and I think Kirk has a pretty good leg up on successfully building axes of our own, to trade or maybe someday sell.

I'd encourage you to also evaluate how your preparedness fairs in the cutting area.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Home-made Lemon / Lime Sugar

Remember the conversation about lemon extract and how I wasn't too thrilled with the results. It just wasn't strong enough. Well, this last fall I studied lemon oil and how to make it home-made. You grate the lemon color off of lots and lots of lemons creating lemon zest and fill a bottle half full of this freshly grated, wonderfully smelling covering.
 After reading this I said, "Yeah, in my dreams." to my self of course or someone might hear me and think I'm crazy. Wait, you already know that. You've been reading my blogs. But it was a yeah, right, because to fill a bottle half full would equate to more lemons than I can afford since a lemon does not give you very much zest. Maybe e-how figures you have a lemon tree growing in your back yard. Like that would ever happen on the arid plains of Wyoming.
But anyway, you then fill the jar up with oil and set it in a warm window. I'd say on top my fridge since it is cold outside when lemons are the freshest and cheapest. Shake several times a day and in a few days, voila, lemon oil. Other sites say to heat on the stove but it doesn't matter, I can't imagine this being terribly strong either. Especially when I read that it takes over a hundred lemons to make one ounce of commercial lemon oil.  
 So what's a Wyomingite to do? Brain storm of course. I just happened to get some lemons and limes in a Bountiful Basket and already had a few that needed used up so I sliced them and dried them in the dehydrator on a fairly low temperature for fear of loosing the lemony and lime flavor with too high a heat.
The insides came out surprisingly easy.  I didn't use the outsides because of the white pith which is bitter tasting but I suppose next time I'll grate the outside, dry it and then dry the insides too removing the pith afterwards.
I then tried putting the mixture in the blender but there wasn't enough for the blades to get a hold of and chop. The mixture is too oily to put through the wheat grinder without messing it up and so the dried mixture of lemons and limes sat in my pantry waiting. So many of my projects are just like this. I get part way and am distracted by life's interferences. I've got some buckwheat I grew out in my garden the summer before last in just such a state. It needs dehulled but I've not gotten to trying dehulling without the mechanical dehuller. Not sure how well it will work. Anyone know?
I hear a company in Montana is making one for small home use and it should be out soon. I'll let you know when I've checked further into it.
So spurred by our little conversation, I got out my small sandwich bag a third full and put it into the blender. Still didn't want to chop by itself so I put in a cup of sugar instead of the flour I had intended on using. I decided on sugar because the fancy cooking magazines have flavored sugars. Why not go all fancy dancy myself and make my own. 
I turned the blender to chop.  It did so, so but there were lot of larger of lemon and lime. Then I tried pouring through the small opening in the lid and had much better results. In fact, I put the mixture through this way three times.
Still a few clumps a little too big but not bad. I now intend on tasting this concoction and adding it to a lemon pound cake I want to make and put in the freezer this weekend.
I'll let you know how it turns out. I'm also wondering if you used dried lemon zest if the lemon oil would be stronger. I'll probably never know since I don't have a lemon tree but a girl can wonder.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Garden Seeds Turned Flour

What's a girl to do with outdated seeds, eat them of course. Well, that is what I decided to do with a few old packages of seeds. Rather than throw them into the mulch heap or feed them to the chickens, I thought we'd eat them. I ground them into flour  Something I thought, why not since the seeds aren't treated and they are organically grown.

 I made waffles the other day with 3/4 cup of corn meal from my Painted Mountain corn crop from this year and 1 1/4 cups of Montana Flour, the unbromeated, unbleached kind of white flour and yum, yum. The corn flour added a nice sweet complex flavor.
 And though this package isn't corn, I ground it anyway and added it to the corn since there really wasn't very much in the sack. I want to add ground beans to my breads and crackers anyway. Some I think will be simply ground and some I should sprout, dry, and grind since they do have phylates in them that block the absorption of nutrients. And I'm thinking to add to my goal this year of learning to make thin, thin, tortilla shells that I want to make ones with dried ground beans, or dried tomatoes, or, or, or.You know this brain never slows down.
And as I had thought of this in August but didn't get to it until December, I had also planned another little project at the same time. I scoured throughout the bean and pea rows for anything left that had gone to seed last August. I didn't get much, just a little in the bottom of a sandwich bag. These will be ground in a few weeks and added to some food creation. 

If I were living  completely off my garden it would be especially important to glean to the very last thing. So just in case I take my brain down What If Lane to ruminate on the idea of what all I can do with the less than perfect seeds left in the garden after the initial harvest.
1. I could throw this into a soup.
2. I could grind it into flour and mix with wheat flour for why not grind dried peas or green bean seeds in to flour? I add beet and carrot powder to  my home-made noodles. The beets, zucchini and carrots I used were less than desirable being rather puny and small.
3. I could feed them to the chickens.
4. Last and least desirable, I could compost them.

Yup, I think shifting our brains sideways does them good and who knows when it will be necessary. Waste not, want not is a good practice any ole day.