Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Experiments Galore

Impressive, hardly, but none the less I'm off on an adventure to learn to make my own tortillia shells just like I like them, thin and very pliable. I've been searching recipes on the Internet. The science of the thing such as whether to develop the gluten or not or how much fat versus flour etc. remains elusive. You know the thing I really get in to that allows me to more skillfully play with recipes and add my own twist like dried powdered tomatoes, or a little potato flour.
Without science I forged ahead and tried a recipe with milk in it figuring it would add flavor but it is also adds a more tender crumb which isn't what you would want in a tortillia shell. Oh well, I tried it anyway for face it, tortillias can be very bland. It's why I buy the flavored ones.

These did turn out thinner than the ones I made years ago. But not what I had in mind. So I'm off on to a u-tube hunt. I've found one I want to try and the recipe calls for only 1/2 cup of flour and makes four shells. Granted in is something Indian but a tortillia is something made in many cultures it is just given a different name. If I fail, at least I haven't wasted much dough. Much better than this large batch which makes way too many for Kirk and I. Not that I'm not going to use these but I'd like to get to where I can make enough to freeze and they be just right.

Which leads me in to why I made this little, little loaf of bread. One of our daughters is single and the traditional no-knead artisan loaf, though it makes only one loaf, is still way too much bread for one person. So I experimented and sure enough, it can easily be halved for one.
This makes a nicer shape for sandwiches. With the larger loaf each slice has to be cut in half because each slice is too long. I may just pull apart my large loaf dough next time into two small loaves.

Why bother? Being single maybe making your own bread isn't such a money saver but the quality is of course far superior and no additives. I use Montana Wheat that is nonbromiated and not bleached. Plus, she is learning a skill that will be valuable in the future.

With this bread taking such a short amount of your time, it can easily fit into her busy schedule plus if she throws it in in the oven with sweet potato fries or something else that needs cooked at a high temperature, she's using her oven more efficiently.

If you missed my post on artisan bread just click on the colored link and read on. This is one bread everyone should try. Kids and adults alike have raved over the flavor of this easy recipe and it is so flexible that it will fit into almost anyone's schedule.

My next adventure with bread is about to begin as I've been studying and studying recipes for whole wheat bread in a no-knead style. I think I am ready to experiment. 

As for this lotion which has no oil versus

 this lotion that has water, well, the family has voted for the waterless lotion. We didn't feel the water lotion was significantly less greasy and since it has a shorter storage time, it isn't better. 

As for the chap stick, lip balm or whatever, it sets up much harder after a couple weeks and so I wouldn't add any more wax to the recipe. Just be patient.

As for my next subject,  I was looking up the knot requirements for the level of wolf in cub scouts, it mentioned tying one's shoes correctly.  I became curious since keeping mine tied is a real problem. Sure enough I was doing it wrong. I was creating a granny knot and not a square knot. It doesn't matter how many of the grannys I tie, one upon another, they still come undone. So though the bending exercise of continuously reaching for my toes is good for me, the frustration is not. I'd rather tie my shoes only once.

Since tying one's shoes and packages is the same thing, I thought I'd share just in case you too are in the dark about the correct manner. It won't be me teaching though because I happened to find this extraordinary video that not only told me I was doing it wrong but the simplest way to correct my mistake without having to completely reprogram my mind.    &view=detail&FORM=VIRE3 Now I need the weather to warm up a might so I can wear my tennis shoes instead of my insulated Muck chore boots and try out my new found shoe tying skills. Maybe my feet aren't such Houdini after all.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Thinking Sideways For The Future

I've spoken of thinking sideways and I want to elaborate on that fact. I listen to talk radio when I travel, I read articles on the Internet each day, and I listen to agricultural news now and then and I've got to tell you, I'm really worried about America.

 I'm not happy with this let's tell the people what they want to hear congress and Presidential administration. I don't like the let's skip congress and I don't care if it is unconstitutional just as long as I can get away with it attitude of Obama. 

The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government." - Patrick Henry

Hardly a one of our leaders has the gumption to make hard, unpopular decisions because the people don't want to hear it and elected officials want to get elected for another term. Let's instead forfeit our future for a comfortable today they say. I don't believe I'm a dooms dayer. I believe I'm a realist. If you know your history, you know what courses lead to what end. We are on a disastrous course
. The simple fact is. You can't keep functioning in the red and stay in business. You can't train up a nation of people who look to the government as their salvation and not elect a Hitler. Warning bells are going off that we are following in the footsteps of Greece and worst --but it is full steam ahead.

I was just reading about Obama Care and about the extra charges to an employer per family member covered on their insurance plan, $68 dollars per person. Five people in a family times 500 workers equals $170,000 dollars a year. That has to come from somewhere. I hear daily of more and more companies shifting full time workers to part time to come up with funds for in part this higher costs of doing business. Taxes are increasing. The new farm bill is scary, scary and very Russian style. The Ag news on the radio Friday said under this new proposed farm bill, one of the three fiscal cliff bills waiting on congress to act, will require farmers to submit a plan to the government. The government then can approve or disapprove of what the farmer will grow and do with HIS land. Large farms will pay around $30,000 a year for this so called privelage to be told what to do. You know who will have to pay that bill, yes, the consumer. Food prices will rise and rise and rise. You can bet that smaller farms will call it quits and fold. The economic facts being already very difficult for them and they are on the edge as it is.

"I think we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious." - Thomas Jefferson

Self-sufficiency is not going to be a choice but a survival have to.  On Jul 07, 2009 · Margaret Thatcher said that 'The trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money'?. I'd say this hits it right on the head. Redistribution leaves no incentive to produce extra because it is just taken away. That is what happened in Soviet Russian and where I see America headed today. Hourly wage workers already don't work lots of overtime if they've paid close attention to their pay checks because of the increased taxes on the extra income.  Who wants to do more if we are going to make less on that increased labor?

The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not." - Thomas Jefferson

A government gives what it has first taken. You want more from the US government. Somebody is first going to have less. That somebody is going to be your fellow neighbors to whom I doubt most people would have the guts to take from them themselves, yet vast amounts of citizens ask the government to do so by force. And we will all being paying bureaucracy to manage it. The proven worst mangers. The problem is Americans don't care as long it's them in the hand out line. We have become a very self-centered nation. What a contrast to many of our fore fathers who gave everything. Their fortunes, time, and talents to create this country. They knew tyranny. Will we have to know it again, to change? What are we willing to give to insure a better world for our posterity. From my view, nothing. There are few true patriots left. It is put off for tomorrow what you don't absolutely have to face today. Our government is a product of its people. It is NOT government that is the root of the problem but the people who voted them in because otherwise they wouldn't be there. There isn't many good canidates in a corrupt society. That means the cure has to start at home. At the root.

At home we can decide to form a self-sufficient center where we don't ask another for that which we can do ourselves. Don't give me the if we did that then people wouldn't be employed. People for centuries lived this way. Kirk and I with our ever increasing talents and skills still have many things we don't do. Things we can't do. For example, engines and I are not a good combination. It's hereditary. Seriously, my dad can talk his way all around an engine but don't ask him to actually do it. My brother doesn't do mechanics either. He is a good carpenter though. If it weren't for Kirk we'd have to have someone else do all the mechanical work. Yet, many times we choose to hire a mechanic. Some because the equipment required to do the job is just too expensive and therefore best to hire it out. Some things we don't have time to do. Somethings we don't have the knowledge to do and not enought time to gain it. Other times it is just nice to have a craftsman do the job far better than we could. People would have employment as they always have. The huge benefit to this self-sufficiency is people would be too busy taking care of themselves to meddle in others business. Thus greatly lowering regulation.  We as a nation would be producing more of our own products. We might just have greater employment opportunities looking inward instead of outward.

On a personal level, as we journey down this path of self-sufficiency I see a real need to be flexible. I know people who go to the store every time they don't have an ingredient in a recipe rather than substituting something else already in the cupboard. I understand that first you have to have something to choose from but you also have to have the knowledge to make a substitute work. You need to have experimented and learned to add more or less liquid maybe. As with honey versus granulated sugar, you use less honey than the recipe calls for white sugar.  

I once had a gentlemen write me furious because my pumpkin/ squash waffle recipe was all wrong.  He said how much he was looking forward to using this fresh ingredient from his garden to surprise his wife. He did not say what kind of squash he had used. Sugar pie or Rouge vif de tampe for example require very different handling in the same recipe. Don't make the changes and yes, it won't turn out. Fresh and store packaged items are different. The factory's goal is to come out with a fairly consistent product. Fresh opens up lots of possibilities. This year, I had a bad winter squash crop for lack of watering and care in part, drought being the other factor. The squash was fit only for chickens and the like because it was dry and flavorless. I still have a good supply from the year before in bottles and the freezer so I'm good. Had I had to use these poor quality squash, I'd need a bit of knowledge and changes to make them work in the same recipe the squash from the year before was used.

My daughter was very disappointed in the corn she froze from a neighboring farm. It was slightly older and she didn't know to add more sugar to compensate. She brought it home to feed to the chickens. It was by then old having sat in her freezer for a few years. I use this type of corn in different recipes than I use the premium quality.

I keep my hens through their second year and disposing of them because the meat is tough stewed or baked, I bottle them for chicken noodle soup and the like. I made some soup with bottle of their meat just yesterday. Knowledge and experience is a powerful ally.

As you know this year it is meat where we are thinking particuliarly sideways, exploring new avenues. Success comes with experience and experience gives you choices. In an ever increasingly difficult outlook, I want shocks on my vehicle to give me a smoother ride over the rocky terrain. People don't plan to fail, they just fail to plan. I'm making plans and learning as much as I can while I have the option of failure without disasterous results. Join me, and we'll ride along together.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Waltzing Matilada

Waltzing Matilda
Yup, that's what I named her, the newest arrival at our pen. Funny but I took one look at her and that's what popped into my head. 
"Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda, you'll come a waltzing with Matilda and me." Can't you hear this Australian song? It makes me smile and that is just what Matilda does to me. 

She has one back leg that is stiff and she's a beaut. Okay, she's not. In fact she's down right ugly but our four year old grand daughter likes her too. It must be a so ugly she's cute kind of thing.
She's not quite as ugly and funny looking as these pigs from the US research center but she is a Meishan pig from the University of South Dakota via a gal I know that raises pigs an hour from here. 
 What was I thinking when I brought Waltzing Matilda home? Yes, I know she has no hind end and it pinches harder than a clothespin and that means no hams when we butcher. 

Her back is short and that means she won't have nice bacons. I know, I know. And no, it wasn't an emotional decision either even if she is gentle and quiet, two traits I really appreciate. We bought her for a specific purpose and a bit of an experiment.

Let me tell you a little about Meishan hogs. They are from China and imported because they have some interesting genetics. These pigs have a litter size of 15 to 16 pigs because they ovulate more eggs per cycle and have a greater uterine capacity to deliver more live piglets. Wow! This equates to lots and lots of piglets. The gilts mature at two months and can be bred then. Whoa! 

Yet none of this is applicable though because Matilda did none of these. In other words, she failed as a representative of the Meishan breed, all her babies died from two litters. With pigs, three strikes and your out doesn't apply so she was sold for the chopping block, ours. We were looking for an economical deal to make sausage and a have a few steaks. We didn't want ham and bacon at this time and this Meishan with her tendency to create more fat fit the bill. I know today's breeds of animals are bred for leaness. But we wanted sausage. You've got to have fat for sausage. 

I've been saving little plastic containers to put lard in to freeze for making pies. Leaf lard specifically. You need lard for home made soap. All the new fangled oils and butters are a bit expensive and so I go for pig fat, beef fat, and sometimes a little olive oil thrown in. I'll save the fancy oils for making lotion. I haven't made soap in a years. I still have lots of soap in storage but I think I'll make a batch or two of castile with Cory's fat and experiment with a new variety of soap with Matilda's. A friend of mine is really getting into soap making so I'm going to touch base with her and determine that experiment.  

Every year I try a cazillion new things. This seems to be the year of experiments in meat. Cory, our Corriente steer is not what we are use to in beef, as we've always had Angus. Corriente I guess are leaner and have a slightly different flavor. We'll find out.
We've never had a Meishan so that will be a new experience. But if you've ever read Farmer Boy by Laura Engles Wilder, you know that in those days they had a lean hog and a fat hog. Candle, lard, and sausage all needed from the fat hog and from the lean just meat. I can see the wisdom in that.

But though I'm ready to learn, I still have misgivings every time I drive by this friends pen.  Now this is the type of hog I'm use to, long, with big hind quarters and I wonder if we've made a mistake buying Matilda. I'm sticking to the plan though and pushing my brain sideways. That means being more flexible. Buying livestock as adults instead of babies. Buying different breeds and learning the virtues of them. I believe in the days to come, we all will need to be flexible and inventive to fill our needs. The road ahead is looking more rocky by the day.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Prepareness - Knots

You may not have tied a knot all year but it doesn't mean it is not an essential need. Hence, our daughter and I are learning knots this year as part of our preparedness goals. After all cordage is one of the top five basics on a survival list.  And Cordage doesn't do any good if you can't tie knots. 

I assume all of you can tie your shoes but then again there are those with Velcro, so maybe not. I'm not dissing those who don't as I still tie mine with two bows looped over each other. Tying shoes being one of the common handicaps of a Autistic mind. I've moved on from that though and can tie shoes now in several ways. My son being the instigator of that. But my feet are Houdinis and can untie almost any knot if left to walk a quarter of a mile or more without my hands ever having touched them. 

 There are a few knots I use frequently but I also frequently am in position where I need a better knot and don't have one. I tie up livestock to fences when in a halter, I tie down tarps over hay and equipment. I tie open the tractor shed doors before I drive it out. And I have to tighten the clothes line every summer with a double half hitch to take out the sag. Maybe another knot would do a better job, I don't know because I know so very few. So when I was begged to take over cubscouts for a while on the contingency that if family needs consume more of my time than presently, I'm released from duty.  I began to teach knots and a few other things but what does one expect with a ADH mind. 

But earning badges is not going to be our main goal, instead learning will be. I want them to use the things they learn and teach them how it can enrich their lives.The boys won't remember the knots if they don't use them in practical ways. It is why so many knots have more than one name. For instance, a square knot is also a reef knot.

A square knot was the first knot I taught last night. Growing up I used this knot on the gate since for quite a period of time it had no latch. It is fast to tie and fast to untie. It is used to lash to ends or two ropes together. It is what they call a temporary knot. One meant to hold something for a short period of time, hence, fast to tie and fast to untie.
Two different colored ropes works best as you can see the path of each rope. A square knot is left over right and right over left. Or right over left and left over right.

 It doesn't matter but the rope that lays on top first and goes under is the say rope that lays on top once more and goes through the hole. So the first pass is just like when you are tying your shoes or a granny knot.
 Then voila - the knot is two loops and two tails. The next step for the boys was to take just the yellow or just the white rope and pull it around a pretend post. The tails of these two ends are tied in a square knot. Since only one colored rope is used, it tested the boys and they made a mistake their first round. Having succeeded before, they were quick to try again and some again, but success was the end result. I have to say out loud, left over right and right over left commanding my hands lest they wonder off in the wrong direction.  That is the way I latched the gate as a child and a good method to master a task.
 But I have another way of tying a square knot. It is the way I tie the large doors back on the tractor shed. I use old baling twine. This is two short pieces of cordage and not strong enough on their own with the wind trying to use the large doors as sails. So I fold the length of twine in  half creating a loop on one end. I do the same thing with another twine. I lay one over the other.
 Then I pull the tails of the loop on top through the loop on bottom. 
The same knot with another method of tying it. This gives me a longer rope and one that is two twine pieces thick giving it strength that is sufficient to tie back the doors in a high wind - for a short time. Left, it would not hold but it doesn't have to work for longer than a few hours. I then use a triple half hitch to tie the ends to the side of the building or the fence. Is there such a thing as a triple half hitch. Hmmm.... don't know. It is a half hitch, a half hitch, and one more half hitch.

This method does not work so well if you are joining two fifty foot long pieces of rope. Too much tail to drag through the loop. And a double thick rope is not always necessary. It might just use up too much rope leaving you short. 

Of course I would not have to tie the twine in this manner, I could just take two pieces of twine, tie them in a square knot and loop them back on each other creating a double thick rope. Choices, that is what I like about knowledge. It creates possibilities.

So if you want to learn to tie knots with me, I'd suggest buying some inexpensive rope in two different colors. Girls are not exempt from needing to tie knots for prepareness. Don't count on a guy being around to bale you out. He might be injured, he might be off on a work crew, one might not be around. Hence, the word self in self-sufficiency.

 Unless you live in the city and have others servicing most of your needs, you are going to need to know how to tie knots. Any ranch or farm girl has to know a few.  In a disaster or bug out situation, they become life saving. I realize that the few I know aren't going to be sufficient in an emergency. Tying a Bowline is definitely one I need to know. It is a standard basic. My dad has taught me how to tie one almost every year and every year I promtly forget it. This year I'm practicing off and on, using it in tasks around the place so it becomes ingrained in my mind like the square knot that latched the gate.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Potato Flour

With potatoes looking like the wrinkly knees of an elephant, I had to try something. Potato flour was the decision to try. 
I washed them, cut them into chunks, boiled them and slipped off the skins as best I could afterwards.
Crumbling the results onto a dehydrator rack I set it to high and let it dry. 


 I then put them into the blender and came out with hard little shard like pieces. Not sure whether to put them into a wheat grinder or not. I may, they are dry. Wheat grinders hating oily seeds.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mulitplier Onion or Potato Onion

 I'm perusing the garden seed catalogs on line and in paper form. I'm looking for a few things in particular, one being onions. I've been experimenting with onions for the past three or four years. First it was how to grow them since at one time I couldn't produce a decent sized onion to save my soul. I've moved on to producing seedThat requires either wintering over full grown onions in the garden or placing stored onions back in the garden the next spring.

Though sometimes when you buy bulbs from the store or catalog, weather conditions will prompt them to bolt straight to producing seed instead of a nice large onion. I had that happen with some of my red onion bulbs I bought super cheap at the grocery store last year.

My problem comes in when I try to start my onions from seed in the house. Three times I've produced spindly worthless transplants. 

 Last year I placed the seed directly in the garden and came up with some nice salad worthy shoots. I then took the greens and small bulbs, dried them, and produced a powder. Onion powder being a nice addition to cooking but it can't replace a hardy onion for frying with mushrooms on a home-grown T-bone steak.

So off I've gone to browsing through the catalogs and Internet for ideas how to solve my seed to onion problem and low and behold I made Columbus like discovery. No, won't change the entire world but it might just greatly alter ours. I found potato onions or multiplier onions as some call them. They bypass the seed to onion stage and go straight from onion to onions....  That I've got to tryThe concept from one onion to producing multiple onions in one plant blows me away. They promise that one small onion will create several larger onions and a larger size onion will produce numerous small onions. Something like what potatoes do, hence, the name.

The mature bulbs are small from a half inch in size to three inches but reportedly easy to peel the skins off. They keep extremely well, something that is becoming a big priority with me.

They are suppose to be planted in the fall but you can put them in in spring which will be what I'm going to do. I will then put a few in in fall to see if they can winter over in our area. Most I've seen are for zones 5 - 8. A bit above our temperature zone. I did see one variety listed in my favorite seed catalog and it was not under onions but under leeks. That is why I've missed it before and it doesn't have a whole lot to say about them. On the Internet not many sites tell about them either but those that do praise them greatly. 

Multiplier onions / potato onions are an old old breed once popular in home gardens. Then commercial production came along and they aren't what the mass production formula is looking for. That's okay, I'm not mass producing, I'm looking for self-sustaining and this onion looks like it will be right up my alley. I can see where those doing square foot gardening  and patio pot gardening could really use this space saving type of onion.  

This is a little of what one site had to say about potato onion or multiplier onions.

planting zone 5.
"Sources differ about planting depth, some saying shallow planting is appropriate and others calling for deeper planting. This onion does tend to grow very close to the surface and a planting hole perhaps an inch deeper than the diameter of the bulb seems to work well. The onions vary in size from half an inch to three inches in diameter (1 - 8cm).
Zones 5-8
Each bulb cluster of potato onions may contain many bulbs, averaging 2 to 2-1/2″ in diameter. When a small bulb (3/4″) is planted, it will usually produce one or two larger bulbs. When a large bulb (3 to 4″) is planted, it will produce approximately 10 to 12 bulbs per cluster.

Individual bulbs can be grown in flower pots to produce a steady supply of green onions during the winter."

I might just have to try the flower pot method too. And since I've traveled so far with fair success in growing onions, I'm going to venture off into trying garlic once more. It has hated me too but I'm going to figure out what I'm doing to offend it and make amends so I can finally get a successful crop. Yup, onions and garlic are one of my targeted projects for this summer's garden.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Making Potato Flour

Thought I had forgotten you. Well, hardly but I've a side kick that has decided that, "I'm living here forever and ever." or at least ten days she says. The last time she said such a thing I asked if she wouldn't miss her mommy she replied, while holding up three fingers, "At least three days." By George if she didn't stay three days, She's waning on the ten day thing though and has decided that seven might due.  That is until her mom came to pick her up and really all she wanted was a visit from mom and she was good to stay longer.

Though I've enjoyed her immensely, I do have a pile of work that needs doing and can't be done with her here, like livestock chores. It has been bitter cold here. Not the weather to take a tyke out in that's immune system has a tendency to be weak. She is so tiny for her age.

I've got the oldest grand daughters off to school today, there mom dropped them off early this morning, but the youngest, who's nine months old, and my side kick are here for part of the day. 

 I have been sewing up a storm since that I can do at the kitchen table while she plays around me. The sewing is for The Calico Bush. I'm building quite a stock pile of things to sell but still struggling mightily on the photographing. Once again the photographs turned out bad yesterday so I'll have to try again today after the kids leave. 

I've also been doing a great deal of research. The new Soviet like agricultural legislation that will be voted on in the next month or so has me really upset. The reporter's descriptive words not mine though I agree with the description of Soviet. That has set my mind a racing. If we had to produce even more than we presently are of what we consume, what would we do about flours for bread? 

Kirk can't survive without his bread or so he thinks and I'm not as knowledgeable about bread as I'd like. Being skilled at one bread just isn't going to do. I need to be able to use what is available for flour.  

We buy wheat but I have no idea how to grow it let alone enough space to do so. In that area we are definitely not self-sufficient. Grains are a basic staple for us and our livestock and are something we need to look into more. I'm thinking it would be smart to create a small patch of wheat in the garden this summer as an experiment, like I did buckwheat for a couple summers. I've still got that buckwheat to dehull and use as soon as I figure out where I put it. OOPS! The lesson therefore is not complete but I did learn a great deal about growing buckwheat. The biggest lesson being that it takes a lot of plants to get just a little grain.

Hands on learning is always better than book learning as anyone who has read about something and then done it can attest.  
I can 't grow an acre of wheat but some knowledge is always better than none. But what if?.... Can't you hear the gerbil cages whirling in my brain? What if we did some substituting with things we grow and could potentially grow? I've been throwing in my breads some dried corn ground into flour. We have dried sweet corn or dent corn as they call it and Painted Mountain flour corn.  Plus I've even thrown in a little dried beans ground into flour. Got that idea from one of my favorite kinds of chips.  
Potatoes are great in bread, what about potato flour said my brain one day? Sure enough, there are recipes for potato flour in breads, even sweet potatoe flour. Now that sounds good and we have some potatoes that are getting rather wrinkled or trying to sprout. Oh how I'd love a cellar. Best of all potato flour could stretch our wheat supplies if need be in the future.

 Wouldn't potato flour be great added to home-made pasta or tortillas shells too? Why not? The powdered beets, spinach, zucchini, and carrots that were puny in the garden and then dried and ground are great in pasta and I bet would be good in bread too. They would up the nutrition and add a complexity to the flavor. There isn't any gluten in those vegetables but none the less they could be added in smaller proportions to bread and in greater amounts in pasta and some tortillas where gluten isn't such a big factor.

This would help solve my waste not want not problem since I just don't like canned potatoes. I will bottle them when needed in the future but I have a tendency to waste them right now if bottled since they aren't a favorite. So the experimenting has begun.
I baked some sweet potatoes in the oven yesterday even though the recipes called for boiling them. 
 I'm such a rebel but it made more sense to me. Then I saved the skins for the chickens and mashed the potatoes on the drying trays. 
 I used the fruit roll up trays. It is drying now. It's taking a while. I think I'll spread them out thinner next time. I know I need to get them really dry, brittle in fact in order to turn to powder. I've then got to try the blender, the rolled oats grinder, and the small meat grinder to see what works best to turn them into flour.

Today I planned on boiling some small white potatoes from the garden but then I checked the sweet potatoes in the dehydrator and they aren't done. If I add white potatoes, the moisture from them will moisten up the sweet potatoes again. I'm going to have to boil the potatoes I have because they are too little to bake.  Sigh, baking is so much easier.  I am going to leave the skins on to boil and take them off afterwards. No sense trying to peel small potatoes.

Have any of you made potato flour and cooked with it?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Red Skies In Morning

"Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning”"
Red sky at night, sailors delight.
When we see a red sky at night, this means that the setting sun is sending its light through a high concentration of dust particles. This usually indicates high pressure and stable air coming in from the west. Basically good weather will follow.

Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning.
A red sunrise reflects the dust particles of a system that has just passed from the west. This indicates that a storm system may be moving to the east. If the morning sky is a deep fiery red, it means a high water content in the atmosphere. So, rain is on its way.  
Just a little did you know? Here in Eastern Wyoming we have frequent red skies in morning in the fall but not as much any other time of the year. Montana may be the Big Sky country but Wyoming is no slacker especially since most of the state is wide open plains. You can see for miles around and that means a big, beautiful sky. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Getting Out Of Debt Formula

Ever know exactly how to do something to get a wonderful result and get too caught up in other things and slack off in that one area creating a mess? Well, we got caught up in one crisis after another last year and neglected the tried and true methods to retain the financial securing level we had reached. 

December was a rude awakening and we had to step back and reevaluate our circumstances. We are tightening the belt and putting our financial house in order once more. It might take a few years to reach the ground we stood on at the beginning of last year, but we will. We know how. We've done it time and time again so why is it we don't stay there? Yes, circumstances beyond our control sometimes have pulled us off but last year it was service to others beyond what we should have offered. You can't lift if you are sliding down the hill too and we now understand that better. It isn't about caring. It is about allowing others to feel the consequences of their choices. We can help but need to find the fine line of enabling, not helping.

We need to exert a higher level of self-control. Not allow our emotions to help, to control our decisions. This self-control is the key to financial security. It is the key to everything. So we are going to turn more of our attention inward. Reevaluate just exactly where we are at and formulate a personal plan to move forward.  

The fact is the Rexroat's owe. Granted, not anywhere near the level of most Americans but we owe some and that is a very uncomfortable spot having been out of debt for quite a while with a little cash reserves. We know how we got to the debt free stage we are heading back starting now because this is nowhere to stay.

We haven't lost all self-control just some. We still wait at least six months before buying anything remotely expensive. You might be surprised what I consider expensive. It doesn't take much.  In that time we can decide whether ---
1. we really need it. or just want it 
2. we really need it now or buying it later would be a better idea,
3. we have the money to buy it
4. to buy it used or new
4. it is a good buy or the best product for what we want it for. (time for research)

There are only three good reasons for choosing debt, the experts say. 

Reasons to go into debt:
  • A mortgage on an affordable house.
  • Loans for college degrees or training that are accompanied by higher expected earning increases. 
  • Loans for some well thought out business plans.
Did you notice that vehicles are not on the list? Face it, most of the time debt is a choice. Sometimes we just pretend we don't have a choice so we can throw money at the problem so we can get what we want. We are one of those people to a degree because we always buy vehicles on a payment plan even though they are modest, used vehicles at a good price. The bright spot is that we are out of debt more years than in debt so we are progressing. 

Someday we will have learned and have our financial house in order. That is if the economy and Kirk's job holds out. But needless, if we are in good shape going into a crisis, we will weather it better. Mainly because we have financial money smarts.

There is one tried and true formula all the experts agree on for getting out of debt.

This is not a basic budget sheet. I'll cover some ideas in a later post on how to trim your budget as we work on ours. This is a debt sheet.

List loans: (This is a textbook example but we include medical debt on this sheet when we do it so tailor it to you.)
Debt                   Balance                    Payment    Rate /Interest
Family Loan       $ 0                            $ 0                     %
Credit Card (1)   $ 0                            $ 0                     %
Credit Card  (2)  $ 0                           $ 0                     %
Student Loan        $ 0                           $  0                     %
Auto Loan           $ 0                            $ 0                      %


I didn't show the six credit cards that are usually on the list but I can't imagine having more than one. Some of you will understand this better.

This is also where you discover why the auto salesman tries to sell you a vehicle by giving the payments per month, not the total cost including interest and why he tacks in the licensing costs etc. on to the loan. He makes more interest. The whole truth isn't pretty. But it isn't the real picture. This is reality so don't try and fudge it. Be honest with yourself. If it isn't a pay as you go bill, then it is credit.

This is the part that might surprise you but I promise you I have seen it over and over again by many experts. You do not pay the highest interest rate bill first. You pay the bill that you owe the least amount on off first by making increased payments. "Eliminating the smallest debts first increases motivation and has a 'snowball' effect that is highly successful." Whiling you are doing this, of course you are still making the regular payments on your other bills.  

If you think about it, it makes sense. If the highest interest rate was a large loan like a house or car, you would be a long time paying it off even with paying extra while carrying on with paying a number of smaller loans. I know because we always paid extra on our house loan dropping off five years off the loan but it was still twenty-five years. If we had waited on the smaller loans, they would have been paid years off by time alone. Extra money on payments saves you on interst you would have paid had the loan gone to full term. Time, means money, more of it or less of it.
You then take the increased payment amount you made on this now paid off bill and put it towards another bill. When it is paid off you take the increased payment amount of the first bill and the amount of the second bill and put it on a third bill. When loans are paid off, you then put the money into savings. That is where your future cars are paid from etc. That's the part we don't do so well on. "If you don't succeed then try, try again." Someday we'll have that part down too since we know that is our weak area to watch out for.

Where do you get the extra money from to make the increase in payment for the lowest amount debt? That is what the next financial blog will be about. First, I have to finish my paperwork and do some year end money paperwork to hopefully get some money back to help us climb financially back up the hill again. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Lotion #2 With a Water Base

Have you read the back of your lotion bottle? Most likely the first word in the ingredient list is water. Yes, what you are paying mainly for is water since the ingredient with the highest content is by law named first.
1/2 cup filtered or distilled water
1/2 cup almond oil
1 teaspoon Borax
This homemade lotion is half water and half oil. Water and oil don't mix and so there has to be a emulsifier. This recipe recommended borax. It is what I had on hand so I used it but my recent trip through the Internet led me to learn that Borax is toxic. Beware, as little as one teaspoon ingested by a child can kill them or make them very sick. 
So why is Borax used in many so called green cleaning products ?  I'm seriously wondering about people's research skills. I'm thinking Borax will be taken off my shelf unless I can come up with a just absolutely have to have it for something deal. The box I have is very dusty anyway so it isn't getting much use. But that leaves me with no emulsifier. What could I use? Off on another search around the Internet. Many of the others weren't safe either but I did light upon citric acid.
Citric acid is inexpensive, last forever in a powdered state, and is non toxic. I've also seen recipes in my cheese making books that state the need for citric acid. Double duty for one product, I'm in. I'm buying a supply in the near future. Now to learn how much to use while making lotion. See, for me the task is never done for my brain just won't quit. There is no shut down valve for it.
So off I go to find out how much citric acid to use in making lotion and well does it work? Don't know but I'm finding out. That is as soon as my family and I use up the lotion I've already made.
Since water is one of the big culprits for mold activity developing in lotion I learned about it's role. All I've found so far is mainly to make it less greasy. Living where the air is really, really, dry, greasy isn't so bad. 

 Now as far as absorbtion of different chemicals, including water, well, it gets a bit confusing as I learned that thinner skin such as under your arms and face absorb far more than for instance your hands-- which makes sense. I don't want my hands absorbing everything including the stuff I'm shoveling out of the goat shed.

But don't believe an eighth of what the Internet states about the skin absorbing huge amounts in general because it depends on what it is. One article pointed out that if your body absorbed water at 60 to 100 percent then when you went swimming you'd be a humungous sponge and gain a cazillion pounds before you got out. The truth is you might be wrinkled yes, which shows you've absorbed a fair amount but not 60 to 100 percent.

Chemicals on the other hand, some are quickly absorbed through the skin in greater amounts than water. It depends on how small the molecules are and their chemical interaction with the molecules in your skin. 

It takes looking into indepth articles about the different layers of skin and their role to uncover a bit more truth. Your outer layer being dead skin and the toughest layer to penetrate. Everything has to get by it first.

Then I learned that certain chemicals break down barriers in your skin and allow greater absorbtion which is what those medicine patches do. The size of the molecules in a product also depends on if your skin can absorb it. Too large and it can't be absorbed.

So you can add a wonderful oil in your lotion making but it has to get past the outer layer of skin first to do you any good.  Combination are also sometimes necessary for absorbtion so this skin science thing can get quite complicated.

It didn't take long for me to realize this was way more information than I wanted. Shocker huh? Yeah, well, I'm practical to a fault and I just wanted to make a few basic SAFE lotions, not get a job as a lotion formula maker for a big company.

So in actuality, I'm not upset about using Borax as it was an avenue to learning and a step in the right direction. But I've forgotten to tell you. This lotion is made a bit different than the first one. I admit, I didn't follow the directions except for the ingredient list. I mixed it up a bit different accordng to some information I found in my search around the Internet.

I placed the almond oil in a pint size canning jar - wide mouth is best. Then placed it in a pot that had a couple inches of water. This forms a double boiler method. Then I warmed the water in another pot and then added Borax. Take out the warmed oil and in a tiny stream very, very slowly pour the water into the oil while you have the whipping blades on your mixer turned on. Since this makes such a tiny batch, I did not use the blender or my larger mixer. Let it sit for 15 minutes or so and blend again. Do this again later. This helps to thoroughly emulsify the water and oil mixture.

Which lotion do we like best? The verdict is still out and I'll be asking my family next week to vote so stay tuned.
Don't miss my first lotion making experience and the information I learned.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Chap Stick

Chap stick, lip balm what do you call this stuff? If it comes in a tin or small jar is it called balm? I've a hunch that chap stick is probably a brand name that became a name know for all lip salves in a stick.
 I don't know the answer but does it really matter as long as it works great and this chapstick formula does.Though this salve, chapstick, balm or whatever works wonderful, I am going to try a few slight variations. I can't shut my brain down with what if I did this or that so this experiment isn't finished by any means. It has been put on hold though because I need to use up what I've made so far. I'm speeding up the process since I'm sharing it with family and in doing so, I'm asking that they give me imput. So far though, I'm pretty happy with the results. 
One thing I do know for sure is that the tins are going bye bye. I'm not using chapstick tubes either. Not that there is anything wrong with them but this cutey pie thinks 'yip sticks' or chapstick tubes are a great art form. Yup, she draws all over the television set, furniture, and windows with them like a big waxy, greasy, crayola.  That's why I ordered tins. To try and out smart her but the tins outsmarted me. The lid is hard to get off. Next time I'm going for the tiny jars with screw tops.
 Another great lesson I learned was that a fine Microplane grater might make great tiny whisps of bee's wax curls that melt really quickly but they also stick to the container you are grating them into really well.
Larger curls done by a bigger Microplane (That's a brand name but any grater will do. I just love how little space these graters take up and the versitile design despite loosing skin frequently to the thing because it is so.... sharp.) box  may melt slower but they don't make such a mess and the time difference isn't that great from small curls to large curls.

This lip salve was just as easy to make as the first lotion. In fact, it is very similar except you put in more wax. Simply put everything in a pint size canning jar set in a pot of two inches of water, heat on low, and stir occasionally. Then when it begins to cool, you pour into your containers. For chap sticks you use an eye dropper to add salve to your tubes.

1 Tablespoon beeswax
2 Tablespoons cocoa butter
Heat  in a pint jar set in a pot with two inches of water.

When melted and well stirred then turn off the heat under the pot and add:
2 Tablespoons coconut oil
20 drops of peppermint oil

Stir until well blended and your done. 

The peppermint oil is simply for taste. It doesn't have any important qualities so if you want to add cherry oil or orange oil or whatever other flavor you like, do it instead. 
This lip salve is a bit oilier than what you might be use to because it doesn't have as much wax in it but believe me, your lips will love you. It might just warrant a few extra kisses from that special someone just so he can feel those tender lips once more.  

Goat Carmels

What transforms caramels from plain to goaterific? Change the dairy aspect.
The recipe is simple:
1 cup butter
2 cups white Karo syrup
4 cups sugar
{2 cups large cans milk}
 I substitute 3 cups goat milk some years. If made in December our goats naturally have a higher cream ratio since it is in the later part of their lactation so the caramels are very very creamy especially if I use cream. Some years I use half and half or rather half goat cream and half goat milk. This year I used 3 cups of cream since our Meagan is a major cream producer. Next year I hope to remember to use half and half. The caramels are awesome but maybe a bit too rich. Then there is the years that I've used home bottled goats whole milk.
But one thing you can guarantee is that I never use evaporated milk to cook with. I aways use goat milk, cream, half and half as a substitute depending on what I'm making. If you would like to do likewise just remember that a standard can of milk is 1 1/2 cups milk or 12 fluid ounces and a small can is 2/3 a cup or 5 fluid ounces.
What ever type of milk you use, the ticket to making these caramels is to use a really thick pan to prevent burning. These caramels cook FOREVER and if you don't want to be stirring constantly after the mixture begins to boil, use a really thick pot. I have one made of aluminum. This is the only pan I have made with this material since my body absorbs this metal. But hey, caramels aren't exactly nutritious anyway.
When you wish to make this recipe then keep in mind it takes over an hour to cook. Plan to keep busy in the kitchen so you can stir frequently. These are definitely worth the effort. I made multiple batches of jam at the same time.
In a large kettle, melt butter. Add Karo and then sugar. Cook until it boils, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. (I don't need to when I use this heavy, heavy pan.) Add your goat substitute a little at a time so the candy doesn't stop boiling. Continue stirring and cook to firm ball stage (240 Fahrenheit) then pour into a buttered baking dish.  
Cooked for a shorter period of time this makes a great caramel for ice cream.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Years Resolution


I hate to say this but good riddance to 2012. We were sorely tried financially, emotionally, and physically right up to the last day of December. Not that some good things didn't happen such as the birth of our grand daughter, though that was amidst strife too. Not that we didn't learn tremendously, often what not to do. But over all, I'm ready to start anew.

I'm especially ready to slam the door on last year as another big blow came yesterday morning when we found my mare dead. She was in the prime of her life for age and looked the picture of health with her shiny, silky coat.  The ground was not disturbed anywhere in her pen, a hint that she might have had colic. There was nothing to tell us what happened. For all we know she could have had an aneurysm or a heart attack.

We do know it must of been quick because the loose dirt around her body showed she simply laid down. This was totally unexpected as the night before a horse whisperer friend of mine and I had just looked her over at chore time and all was well.

That makes the body count three, if you don't count the chicken the raccoon ate. Jasmine, the yak, died of EHD which is caused by a midge fly bite.

Chicory, the matron of our dairy goat herd, appeared to have a type of cancer, and now my mare, Bess. All I can say is, "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh, praise be the name of the Lord."  He must have something in mind for us, even if it is to simply refine our hearts. I'm just glad my name isn't Job. Now that man was tried unmercifully but having endured well, he was richly blessed.

Some of our trials last year that will spill over into this year are of our own making. We didn't establish balance in all things. We allowed the howling winds to buffet us off our foundation.

We will right that for I firmly believe that when "The going gets tough, the tough get going." I'm going to put my work boots and gloves on and take charge of my world. Last year we reacted to events. We allowed ourselves to be pulled down as we rushed to aid or fix this and fix that, depleting our resources.

We won't quit serving. It is an intrical part of our lives and makes us a better, more Christ like person. But - the pure love of Christ is charity. It is beyond love. It is doing what is best, not just doing good things. Doing good things sometimes enables evil to remain, therefore impedes growth. Think - feed a fish and feed a boy for the day making him dependent on you for life or teach him to fish and allow him to feed himself forever.

Doing the best thing is doing that which will bring about the greatest growth in yourself and others. Sometimes that is stepping back and not relieving suffering that other might learn, sometimes it is pitching in when it is most difficult for you, and sometimes it is resting from your labors, building reserves.

Determining what is Good and what is Best takes wisdom. We gained a bit of that last year. Much was about when to step in and when to hang back. Watching suffering and not relieving it is often the most difficult thing to do when all instincts scream GO HELP.

"My house is a house of order." says the Lord and that is where we are going to start this year. We are going to establish order putting ourselves on a firmer foundation.

I've begun to evaluate our finances, putting in place plans that, in the destructive winds of last year, were abandoned leaving us on a rocky cliff. We need to tread carefully. We are blessed to know what will put us on a surer foundation and I will share with you these tried and true formulas. The ones I abandoned as we rushed about.

I've got to return to making up menus so that we will eat better and use our food storage from the garden and livestock more efficiently.

 I need to restore an avid devotion to the scriptures and call upon the Lord more humbly.

If I want 2013 to be a better year then I've got to put my car in gear. You did know that the Lord can't steer a parked car didn't you?  I know not to wait for direction before making a move. I've got to ease out onto life's highway, establish a house of order, build a firm foundation that when the winds buffet, and guaranteed they will, Kirk and I won't be swept from our foundations. Then as we move forth, the Lord will whisper guidance, " Keep going." or "Turn back."

It is those sweet whisperings that give me peace in a turbulent world.