Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Surprise, They're Here!!

Whoo Hoo!!!, we have been born this little one is saying as it leaps into the air with joy. What a surprise Kirk had when he received a phone call by a corral neighbor early Saturday morning stating that one of our does had a kid by her side. I was at our oldest daughters visiting and he immediately called me. Was I expecting them, we...ll, not really or I wouldn't have left. You see I had bred Meagan and then three weeks later she came into estrus again and I put her in with Touch, (our buck) once more thinking she must not have taken the first time.

Just goes to show you that you should keep track of every time your does are exposed to the buck. It would have been very helpful if I had been home. Then when I saw the dramatic change in her udder, that Kirk later reported to me, I could have checked last year's calendar and thought yes, she could go. and that I had better check often for the tail head to loosen and her flanks to sink in.  

This is the first time I have had a doe breed and then come in cycle again and have taken the first time. (As long as you have livestock you will continue to experience something new.) It is seldom that I keep a doe that requires breeding more than once. But this was an unusual breeding year. All the does bred more than once. Since the three yearling, coming yearlings as they haven't actually had their birthdays yet, are so young their cycles are indeed rather messed up until they've gained a little age so I don't become too excited about first timers. It happens with all animals that it takes a little while for their cycles to settle in. Every had a female kitten turn six months.? They sometimes yowl like the world is coming to an end on their first cycle but not there after.

So I'm looking closely at my threee yearlings and thinking, since they haven't formed any perdictable patterns that Mercedes took the second time because she isn't showing signs that she will kids soon, tail head is low, udder small.

Madelyn on the otherhand is different. She is confusing. She is the brown one in the above photo.  She is the smallest and her udder isn't very big but her tail head is as loose as I have ever seen even in a doe in full labor. Definitely not one who is as far away as she is from her due date. She will be worthy of close scrutiny. This raising of the tail head, or for those of you not familiar with the term the ridge along the top of the hind quarters that runs to the tail, is displayed in all animals and I'm sure humans too. A raised tail head is evidence that the muscles have loosened and bones shifted to allow the passage of offspring. I have witnessed it on horses, sheep, cattle and goats of course plus I'm keeping an eye on Gracie our yak for just this. I can't remember about pigs but surely so. It has been quite a few years since I farrowed for a friend.
 Meagan had triplets. She had a single last year and if she continues like her grandmother she will from now on have triplets. From my observation I've noticed that it has more to do with the feed program than genetics as to multiple births. Keep in mind that the more kids a doe has then the more milk she will have also since her body gears up for the number of kids to be born. That is the rule of course and there are exceptions.  

Before we leave this picture, notice the udder on Meagan who is two. She produced more milk last year than any other yearling doe I've owned. I have great hopes for her this year.
At four days past kidding she has more milk than the kids need so I took some, a quart and a third. It will be so nice to have fresh milk. 
 I've made a goal of not buying any store milk while the does were dry. I've used home bottled goat's milk and frozen goat milk. The home canned more than the frozen and why I bought store milk at all before slays me. I will not ever again if I can help it. I've used this milk in everything. I have learned that separated milk cans more nicely than whole since the cream separates in the jar when canned. I also like separated frozen milk better too. Of course when I separate I do so twice running the separated cream back through once more to gain heavy cream. The lighter cream goes back into the milk.  

Now for the sad news. We lost the largest kid. Kirk is doing the if only I would have maybe we wouldn't haves. He has never been ahead of kidding and so this is his first experience. He's kicking himself for not doing some things and wondering if that was the cause. One never knows but he was blessed that it was on a set of triplet bucks. Bucks aren't as easy to get rid of. And the other blessing of the situation is that I'm having trouble getting Meagan to except the smallest kid as it is. She likes the middle kid. She didn't want a kid at all last year and it took a few weeks to get them to bond like they should. Two will be a stretch for her this year but I think we can get it done. It is just too far to the corrals to run back and forth to bottle feed. Can't wait to move someday and have the livestock close by.

It is especially hard to get Meagan and the littlest one, Rainbow Dash. (Yes, you heard me, Rainbow Dash) to bond since he wasn't strong enough to contend with his mom's shinanigans kicking her leg up and down.  That meant I have had to let the little buck nurse for a short time after scolding Meagan into standing still and since it took too long to nurse with him being a bit weak, I mainly bottle fed for three days.

As for the Rainbow Dash name, our four year old when her sisters were throwing around names for them insisted on Rainbow Dash. Her mom tried to get her to name the kid that was dying Rainbow Dash telling her it needed a name and a loving before it went back home to Heavenly Father. To this she replied, " Oh good, he gets to go home." Then she said with a very stern voice, " I don't want a dead Rainbow Dash, I want a lives one." Meaning such a wonderful name deserves a lives recipient. So though the registration papers will not say Rainbow Dash on them for purposes of keeping the peace we will call him that until he leave and his new owner can come up with something else. LOL

Now today he has nursed from the back so she doesn't see him. Still I have to go down four times a day and scold her to get her to stand still.  It would be so..... much easier if the goats were just behind the house here. If if weren't for the incredible udder she has she'd be down the road but since I lost my four year old Chicory to cancer, she is our main milker and who knows she might just take three next year after she takes two this year.  She had better take two, gr......

Anyone need a good buck or two. They are from excellent milking lines. You can take the one right away and continue bottle feeding.

Hopefully the other girls have does. Just one a piece would be nice. But if they could hold off a little it would be really nice. I'd like to get these three mothered up as they say and out of this shed into another pen. The problem with the other shed is there isn't a door on it so I can lock babies and mom up close to each other. So Madelyn if you are listening, cross your legs for a while.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Wool Dryer Balls

Don't know what is up but I've lost my post twice so this will be short for fear of typing a big one again and loosing it for the third time.
With posting less often I have a little time to browse on the Internet. I saw this post about wool dryer balls.


Since I've bought the plastic spiky balls twice and I'm down to one, I figured making my own sounded pretty good. Wool yarn is a renewable resource in my house. And all those little bits and pieces left over from knitting projects or samples I'd spun to see what the yarn would look like needed a home. This sounded like just the thing.

I wasn't prejudice, I used commercial and homespun alike in the same ball. We'll see how that works out. The one thing you have to be careful of is super wash wool. The scales have been scraped off and that is what allows the wool to felt. That is why super wash can be put through the washer and dryer without shrinking up to gorilla armed children's size.

Some of these balls have four colors as the center is one and then wrapped around it is another and another and well, you get the idea. I did leave two white on the outside for quite a few layers because these are my white clothes balls. Yes, I accidentally dyed a few whites pink thinking the pink top had been washed so many times surely it would leach color into the few whites I needed washed. WRONG!!! So I'm not taking any chances with these wool balls because I have a few hand spun socks and hats that for ever after seem to leach a bit of color.

I'm hoping with the hot/hot water and felting process this will be remedied. My problem is I don't have a washer set up like this lady does. Mine is front load with only a hot/cold setting as the most severe. I think I'll put these balls in boiling hot water in there nylon and boil for a while before subjecting them to the dryer. I will probably do a little hand felting also.

Anyone game to try this experiment with me? I'm curious to see if these wool balls work as well as the plastic ones for they did indeed lower the drying time of clothes significantly. That means dollars and time saved.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Sourdough on My MInd

Sourdough on my mind. Yes, I've been experimenting with the nature of it in a fashion not done before. I'm actually reining in my ADHD and staying with it. I have to admit I am ready to wander off so I think I'll do one more batch of tortillas and then put the start in the fridge for a week or so. I'm going off to visit my daughter for a few days next week and maybe when I get back I can refocus. Then I want to do some more bread and tortilla experiments with whole grains, bean flour, and dried vegetables like zucchini or spinach. We don't use tortillas for sandwiches and I want to start. 

Then I want to work on dried beans. All I ever do with them is bottle them for ham and beans and soups. Yes, now I grind a few to use in breads and such but I'm determined to start using them more fully as they are something that stores well and is a must in a self-sufficient lifestyle. Besides, I swear Bush's beans has gone down hill. Am I the only one who thinks so? We left Van Camp when Bush came along and now I'm fed up once more. To be honest, that is one of my true motivation for wanting to do some serious experimenting. I love a good baked bean and it is high time I made my own. No I'm not going to doctor up store products. It goes against my principles. Home-made is home-made, not factory remix which is what you do when you mix together store products. You still have a high load of chemicals.

Did you know that factory foods have a high level of salt because the food would have a bitter chemical taste without it.  It not only hides the chemicals but it enhances flavors and since the food is so inferior they need lots and lots of salt to be worth eating flavor wise at all. Good quality food doesn't need this but there I go again on a squirrel moment.

But back again, I'm serious, I'd really like your opinion about Bush's beans as I'm curious if they have changed or is it me? My taste buds once in a while take a snob hike. You know what I'm talking about. That casserole of broccoli, Campbell's potato soup, and rice which tasted great ten years ago now you wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole and leaves you in the bathroom half the night. Seriously, that is what happens to me with things such as that. I call it things because I no longer call it food. In my quest for a greater level of self-sufficiency and nutrition levels, my body no longer tolerates what it once did. For example, I had funeral potatoes at church the other day and was sick all night. Not eating there ever again and the sad thing is I knew better when I did it.

So has Bush's changed or have I? I have my suspicions that store foods are switching ingredients as the hike in prices for products hits them. I know the milk industry is trying to get the FDA to allow them to go to fake sugars without labeling. I'm sure others are trying to make financial cuts also. I figure it is a good time to make cuts of my own. Cutting out a few more store products that I use. No, I don't use very many, mainly condiments like mustard, worcheshire sauce, and spices. But I do have some things I really don't need to buy. Of course pineapple and such that I don't use often and can't grow in Wyoming is not one of them.

Wow, talk about squirrel. See my mind is really ADHD. I was suppose to be talking about sourdough experiments that I've done this past week. I've decided instead of working and working to get it right and then telling you what to do. I'm going to tell you of the process. I believe that great recipes are awesome but if you are just a collector of great recipes you really don't have very much. If you understand for instance the nature of sourdough then you are truly a cook and great possibilities are open to you.

My experimenting was limited this past week with a one year old toddling around just the height to hit her head on the bottom of the kitchen table and a four year old who has become more needy of late. What's up with that I'm not sure. But because of this I decided to skip trying to fit in grinding whole wheat while caring for them and also trying to move forward on my place for everything and everything in its place campaign which will be underway for sometime yet. Instead I took an easier route using unbromeated and unbleached creamy colored Montana Wheat flour.

I'll get to the whole wheat when I can use it more fully. You saw the sourdough English muffins and now I've made tortillas and pizza dough. I told you of my plain tortilla shells and how tickled I was with them well, these taste even better.  Of course they weren't sour, just more complex in taste. They were a bit thicker because I couldn't roll them out as thin due to the more delicate structure of the dough. That I think was my fault. I think I can change that a bit and will try on this next batch. I believe it was due to too much lard.

These sourdough version raised more than the first ones I made without sourdough. Kirk liked the thicker sourdough kind so that is a plus since nutritionally the sourdough is superior. The cool thing about sourdough is when I go and use it with whole wheat it will negate the anti nutrient - phytic acid and all those nutrients in whole wheat will be absorbable. Phytic is a good guy and a bad guy since it keeps you from absorbing certain nutrients like iron and yet is helps you flush some bad guys from your system too like cholesterol so you need a bit of whole grains with it and without it. I'm thinking since flax seed is high in it you should do sourdough whole grains so you get all their nutrients and throw in some flax seed for the phytic acid. If you have diabetes this acid can be a real help. Anyway off the course again.

With sourdough tortillas you have to mix up the dough eight to twelve hours before hand so it can sit as sourdough needs to. I kneaded the dough a bit more too as a little gluten has to be developed with sourdough shell. This is contrary to regular tortillas. I just put mine in a plastic tub with a lid and let it sit on the counter for the eight to twelve hours rest time. It worked best this particular day to do this in the early in the morning with plans to fry them at night for a late supper. Hubby doesn't get home until eight.
I adore granite because I don't have to use any flour on my counter top. I just rolled out the dough. See those thin edge spots. You need to take the insides of your hands and push them back into the dough circle because if fried in this manner they will be crispy and brittle. It helps make your circle more uniform anyway.

Don't push too far or your edges will be too thick and not cook as quickly as the center.
I used a cast iron fry pan that had been very lightly oiled. I found out that if my shells weren't the same size as the bottom, the edges had a time cooking as quickly as the center. So I'll stick to just right, not too large.

They raised more than the original tortillas I made too. After the dough sits for the ten to twelve hours, you simply roll it out and fry. You don't have to let each individual shell raise once more. It does it in the hot pan.
The texture was more flaky than the original no sourdough shells I'd made before. I'm wondering what would happen if I cooked them in the electric skillet with the glass lid like I do my English muffins. I have found they raise better in this oven like set up. That I'm guessing would change the texture a little too. I've got to try and see what happens.

See the not quite as done edges. I'm either going to have to use my larger skillet because they came up onto the edges of the pan or the electric skillet. I need larger shell size which is why the edges weren't quite as done. If you over cook your shells they will be brittle and it is a bit of a experiment to learn what just right is. The cool thing about sourdough shells is they soften after cooked. Yes, the too done one that came out a bit brittle soften up after it had sat and cooled. Still a little too done but the change was significant.

The recipe I took general directions from was for wheat flour. It called for half the fat I used. They used coconut oil. I remembered my cousin's recipe though and it called for the same amount of fat as this one though more flour. She had to use the press to flatten them.  Hence, I decided to use six Tablespoons of lard like in my Cook's recipe that calls for shortening. I hate shortening.

Don't know if it was because the recipe calls for a little less flour or what but I think six tablespoons is a bit much. The dough was heaven to handle though. I kid you not it was soft like a newborns babies bottom. It was unbelievable. I could of kneaded and played with it all day except it would have developed too much gluten and ruined the dough. I'm thinking I should cut the fat down a couple tablespoons and see what happens. It still would be one more than the wheat recipe calls for but not as much as my other recipe. In this recipe you don't use hot water either and I'm sure the sourdough makes the difference. I also don't know what will happen when wheat flour is added into the equation.

I can tell you this though. I made sourdough pizza crust. I simply put sourdough, a little flour, salt, a touch of sugar, and a little water, kneaded it a short time, and let it sit over night. The next day since hubby decided to go and see our son and wasn't going to be home for lunch as I'd planned, I simply folded the dough over on itself like you do artisan bread a couple times during the day. Two hours before supper I rolled out the dough on parchment paper into a pizza dough shape and threw a cotton towel over the top and let it set. It didn't raise much but when placed on a hot pizza stone in the oven, it did. The texture turned out a bit chewy and tough. Yes, oil softens dough. Next time my sourdough pizza crust will have some fat of some sort in it.

So I now know without a doubt what a change fat will do in sourdough recipes. As for a recipe for you, sorry, you will just have to wait. I'm still working on one.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Change Is In The Wind

I forgot to tell you. We named her Willow.
It has been snowing lately like you would think of as in winter not spring. Yet it is spring where we get our heaviest storms though not usually as many. We won't complain though because moisture in any form is a huge blessing. I take that back, not hail. That isn't moisture, it's simply damage.
Our area is in desperate straights. The antelope have eaten the sagebrush down to the nubbins and the ranchers have sold off all their bred heifers and much of their herds because there is so little grass. We depend fully on nature in this part of the country. There is no irrigation so if Mother Nature isn't nice, you loose your ranch. That is the spot many are in around us so these snows and promised rains in the future are much to give thanks to the Lord about. 
 I've been inside where it is warm while it snows and I've done a great deal of thinking. You may of noticed the frustration in my blogs.  Things have to change but just where can these be made is of course the question.

We have felt like we were spinning our wheels the last few years and we have been. It is time to move forward and forward means focusing more on our needs. In part that means putting some stock in the freezer. Yes, Matilda was strung up. While we were pushing snow with the tractor after the first snowstorm we decided that that was as good a day as any so the next three days were spent in the process. She was a huge disappointment because though she had gained a great deal in size, she was still lacking in the meat department. The fat that the previous owner assured us the Meishan were known for was missing too. I only rendered out two cottage cheese containers of Leaf Lard. 

And I had plans for that this next year. I was going to use a little more lard in cooking. In difficult days to come lard is more likely to be available than coconut oil in Wyoming so I thought I'd become for versed with it. What she had was thin and not much of it so I hurried and rendered it right away before it dried up as the carcass cooled.

And all that fat I was depending on for soap making wasn't there. I've always had plenty of fat in our Hampshire and other pigs for sausage and soap. Not this girl. We had lean sausage. Yes, 85 pounds of it because we did only four roast, no bacon, and no ham so that is where it came from. That was our experiment we decided on this year, different kinds of sausage and cooking with it more extensively. We'll never raise a Meishan again. The less expensive initial cost didn't end up being a bargain in the end.

As far as Cory here goes. We will see what difference raising a Corriente versus a Angus means. First we need a window of weather. He needs to hang for seven days and it not be so cold it freezes the meat and not so warm it decays. This needs done right away and so I'm watching closely the weather on the Internet. We don't have much time left.
 But for today, I'm going to work on the food storage room organizing it to a level it has never seen before. I have several freezers this week to also clean and arrange as the pig meat packages is simply strewn acrossed spreading it out to freeze more quickly.  
I've decided that I want to quit learning so many new things and instead spent time incorporate what I know into everyday living. In other words use my sourdough on a regular basis. Form a routine of making homemade bread. Make buttermilk and other dairy products consistently not just now and then. And get back to sewing quilts and clothes more often.
I've learned a vast amount of things in the last four years of blogging. The need to show and do has spurred me on to new heights. The problem is if I'm constantly doing new things, I have no time to do the same ole things. The same ole thing isn't of much interest to you my readers. But that is the place I'm at. I need to better incorporate what I know and form habits to grow. More and more new things means I never become really good that them. 
The other problem is that writing is a difficult thing for me as a Autistic person. You've noticed I'm sure. I'm constantly fighting to keep from putting my Adjetives in front of my nouns not behind them. My brain is so ADHD it forms fragmented sentences and skips from here to there without finishing the first part of a thought.  I can't spell worth a hoot and probably never will. Dealing with words is frustrating but write I did to improve.
 Three blogs a week was a release and a pleasure but it takes a minimum of twelve hours if they are light and without research. That means there has been twelve hours and more of other things not getting done. In a month that becomes a forty hour week or more. I need those hours to accomplish fixing up the house.
Change is hard. I don't think I can give up the blog cold turkey so I've decided to switch to once a week. Yes, I might slip in a few extras here and there as kids are born and of course I will show you Gracies's calf but I need those hours. So dear cherished friends, I hope you will understand. I need to change and in that change will be hours spent fixing up this house so we can move on.  

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Sourdough and Snowshoes

Sourdough English muffins yum, yum. It's what I made this past weekend and the grand kids gobbled up hungrily, a sure sign that my strain of sourdough is very mild and not at all sour tasting. It was one of the surprises that I found when I received my original starts. One was over a hundred years old and had a potato base. The other much more recent, as in the last 15 years, created from California grapes and given as a gift. Neither are sour.

What I grew up on was a sour tangy concoction used in pancakes only. It was my best friend's moms and it wasn't until a few years ago that I found out it was made from store yeast. It was good in pancakes but I much prefer the diversity of the milder variety I have.  My best friend's mom also stopped their culture at whim and started a new one. Something I'm not interested in doing though mine will sit in the refrigerator for three months before use especially in the summer. I need to be much better at using them.

I wish I was more faithful at using my own sourdough. When I received my own starts we had only one child left at home and life kicked into a high gear.

 Before you could count on my being in the kitchen for hours each day. It was where we home school for fifteen years. I use to spin, knit, cook and puttering nearby when my help wasn't needed to teach or grade a paper. And I thought about life when the kids left home and how much simpler it would be. Beware kids leave home, come back, leave home and come back, and sometimes bring kids too.  

Yesterday morning is a good example of how my life has changed and isnt' at all what I thought it would be when I sat at the kitchen table home schooling our kids. My day was thrown way out of kilter as it often is and the sourdough tortilla plans with it. I was going to take hubby to the bus stop for work because we had had and were having a bad snowstorm with 40 mph winds. He couldn't get there with the car and I needed the truck to do chores. We have only one so we sat waiting with semis surrounding us  who were waiting too. All the roads around us that were closed during the night had opened except the one south where my husband's work is. The roads seldom close because there are so many mines along them and never for long because of the pressure to keep them open. We expected the bus to show up any minute. It didn't. The road remained closed.
Kirk decided to remain at home monitoring the road closures on the Internet after he dropped me off at the corrals. Or rather in the vicinity of the corrals. For I knew how bad the none plowed roads were the day before and I expected much worse. It was. But I had formulated a plan. I was going to use those hand me down cheap plastic snowshoes that had sat in our garage for years. That and a saucer sled of the kids to get the stock fed.  
Usually when we have a heavy snow storm with 40mph winds, we have bare ground and drifts. We had the drifts but no bare ground. In fact our whole lane at the corrals was just one great big drift. Not so big a deal yesterday as the snow was light, powdery, and new the day before yesterday and the four wheel drive on our three-quarter ton truck sailed through. The problem with snow is it settles and crusts and forms a pretty formidable force to plow through with age. This storm  had the whole area socked in with high and much higher levels of snow though this photo doesn't depict it well. These were deep ruts. I've got to tell you the snowshoes were awesome. I haven't been snowshoeing since college and we rented some to go into Yellowstone Park. Needless to say that was a long time ago.

We had one area behind our pens with lighter snow and I blazed a trail going back and forth a couple times hauling hay to the yaks on the plastic sled. Worked great as long as the going was smooth. The slightest incline sent the hay sliding off faster than a kid on a slippy slide. I learned to hold the pitch fork in the hay and pull forward as I drug along the sled with the attached baling twine.  

Despite the challenge and it was challenging since the round hay bale was on its side and not tipped up. The one I had been taking hay from had fallen over and was buried in snow. I fell once in a big drift, my snowshoes askew, and had to waller about like a beached whale. I  panicked for a minute that I'd do a complete face plant and not be able to get right side up again. Finally able to get a snowshoe going in the right direction I leaned on it and with the pitchfork in hand I stood up on top the drift once more.  

My biggest problem yesterday morning was once more time restraints. Our daughter had arrived at our home with the kids and was going to be late for work as I struggled to complete my task. I hate the clock most times. Here I was, stillness broken only by the squeaking of the snowshoes on the snow, learning something new, and I had to leave this bit of heaven to head back home to a world of constant demands. Oh I love the kids but these moments of complete peace are so few and far between.  

I've got to see how much a proper pair of snowshoes cost. Surely sales will abound with spring. I think back at all the times these shoes would have come in handy and I kick myself for not using them. Besides, the fun I could of had just traipsing off in the snow. Why do I need a new pair? The plastic snapped today in one place. Not surprising since they are ancient.

 But wait a minute, I was suppose to be talking about sourdough. Since those days of my youth I've learned quite a bit more about sourdough and even stumbled upon an article where scientists were studying its properties as a fight against cancer. Sourdough does have lactobacilli which is a natural antibiotic which fights against unwanted bacteria in your sourdough. Not sure if that was the thing they were interested in or not but one can't help but wonder if a steady dose of this natural antibiotic wouldn't benefit us all against the round of flus and colds that plague our society. When I think of the many things lost to our modern culture, I worry about our survival morally and physically. How much have we gained and how much with the gain of convenience have we lost?
Each time I pull my sourdough starts from the refrigerator after neglecting them terribly, I'm thrilled once more to see them spring to life, there surfaces bubbling happily, with just a little nourishment of flour and water.
As for the English muffins, I found out by mistake that you can mix the whole recipe and let it sit for eight hours before cooking and it still works. I have a tendency to loose my mind with children rushing all about me. You are suppose to to a Biga kind of thing and in a hurry I didn't remember that. Children rushing about has a tendency to do that to me. I'm so easily over stimulated. 
Today, life willing, (I've wanted to do this for the past two days) I'm going to grind some wheat and start some sourdough tortillas. I saw a recipe I want to alter. You knew I'd say that didn't you. Well, my mind has been whirling as I've cared for the four kids yesterday. No school, they couldn't keep the snow plowed away from the doors and parking lot enough to get the kids in. I'm thinking about the conversation I had with my cousin. She said her tortilla recipe has four cups of flour, 3 Tablespoons of oil,  I think the amount is 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and hot water. Quite a contrast in proportions to the recipe I used which did not have any soda, less flour -2 3/4 cups, and far more fat - 6 tablespoons and 1/2 teaspoon. Scientifically I can see why the recipe I used rolls out far more easily, it has more oil to coat the flour tenderizing the crumb.
The sourdough recipe I liked was somewhat similar to my cousins and I'm thinking I will change it and add more fat. Maybe coconut oil Herdog. How did yours turn out or did you get them made yet? I did see a recipe on the Internet using coconut oil so someone else is doing it too.  I want to try ghee also. Both lard and ghee being self-sustaining oils. Coconut oil is very healthy but we don't grow coconuts in Wyoming and when times get more difficult I want something I can easily get my hands on.

Why sourdough tortillas, well, they make the tortillas store longer, up the nutrition level, and digestibility too. I really do need to build a larger sourdough recipe file.  


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Laundry and Linens, an Orgazinzing Technique.

 I'm in love. My daughter warned me I would be. This laundry set up is great. My husband made one for our oldest daughter at her request for Christmas and he finished mine this past weekend. She saw it on Pintrest. I took a peek after she commented about it. The  picture had two sets of these shelves. It is a rectangle box of plywood with wood or metal railings. Mine are metal being that is the preferred building material. Three baskets worth of clothes in the floor space of one basket. It's great! We used square baskets but I suppose you could use rectangular ones if you'd like.

Though I'm no architect, I have learned from them that when you are limited on space - go up. It is why sky scrapers were invented. With a basement full of stuff I knew though I went through every container and drawer, I'd still have to do more.  That is why we bought the shelves. We could stack the plastic storage container up higher and pull them out and put them back much easier insuring that this organizing method would stay that way. I see I'm going to have to buy one or two more shelves to get the task done.
The basement isn't the only area that needs cleaned. I need to tackle the upstairs too. What I've learned in this house the nearly thirty two years we've lived here is if you organize properly, it stays that way. My two linen closets for the most part do just that. I don't clean them out but every couple years. Mainly to go through things to throw out and wash the shelves.
This time I did a little rearranging between the two closets.
 The key to keeping things organized is the way you control your belongings. This holds true with sheets. Mine look like this every day of the week. The top sheet, bottom sheet and pillow cases are all together in one nice neat bundle to grab and go change the bed.This is particularly nice with children for if they have to pull out each component of the bed sheets, they will make a mess in a hurry.  

If you want to know how I do this, comment below and I'll do a quick post on it. I've tried rolling sheets, (this looks neater), and I've seen where some put theirs inside pillow cases, (this takes up less space and looks neater).  Keep in mind that how you fold your towels and sheets depends on how deep and wide the shelf is that it must fit on.
The other thing to keep linen cupboards and bathroom shelves nice is to have clear storage containers with lids that can be stacked. Remember up is the key to using as much space as possible. I love these old shoe storage containers. I've had them for years and you are seeing just part of those I have on the shelves. They hold all the smaller things like foam curlers for grand kids, extra razors and toothbrushes, shoe polish, hair cutting tools, and medical supplies.

Now after I get taxes done I've got the food storage room to do. I'm no expert but I've been working on creating a more controlled environment for year and I've learned a thing or two. I'd like to say I'm very organized but it is a process that you become better at but can always improve. The funny thing is that when life seems out of control. This is what I do. I organize cupboards. They are one of the few things I can control in life and looking at them just makes me feel better and more capable of handling the stressful worl around us.

What is your best organization method? I'm still struggling with paperwork and office supplies so if you've got some tips in tat area, it would be especially appreciated. .  

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Same But Different

My tomatoes are up and started. I'm a couple weeks behind getting them planted but hey, not bad since most every other project is three months behind.

My peppers haven't appeared yet but I'm pretty impressed with the Siberia tomatoes --again. They just do really well here and once again they excelled. I put lots of seed in this one container because the seed package said 2008. How viable the seed were after five years I questioned so I didn't think too many would sprout. Low and behold I think every seed came up. One more reason to love them.  
 Yes, lots is happening around here. I might have been rather quiet this week but I have been busy.  This week was warm and I spent one day at the corrals working all day fencing and cleaning up but the rest of the week I've been in the middle of twenty projects. Okay, I might be exaggerating just a bit but not much. I washed the large throw rugs with the hose and hung them on saw horses and the clothes line to dry. I continued going through things in the basement. I'm determined to search through every container and drawer to better organize and look for things to eliminate.

I have squeezed in a little wool spinning and plying of that which I've already spun when I needed to sit and rest. My adrenals only let me do so much before they need recovery time. There has been another reason I need to spin. My grand daughter discovered the roving and thinks it is just the greatest thing for we....ll everything and she keeps running off with it to tie this up or drape around her neck or... or... or...Yeah, if I don't hurry and make it into yarn, there won't be any left. She tries too leave it alone but after a few days she just can't resist. It is just too wonderfully soft. She is a girl after my own  heart and I understand. It IS pretty wonderful stuff so I'd just best  remove the temptation.

The other reason I've been doing some spinning is for stress relief.
Stress abounds as we just learned of the town's intentions for the new livestock facility they want to build. Despite four years of talking to various officials, they haven't changed the core plan. It is going to be like having our animals at county fair every day of the year with different species of animals scattered all over the place and hay in the most inconvenient location possible, with everyone elses hay. Hm... wonder how much worse the hay theft level will be? 

And healthy well, you know how healthy county fair is with lots of the same species housed right next to each other so disease can spread like wildfire. My goat's tests just came back CL and CAE free. How will I keep that up if I'm surrounding by other people's goats?  In our present set up it is a  McDonalds farm affair with  a set area per person, left to the leaser to house farm animals of their choosing. That means I have sheep, horses, and only one set of goats nearby.

Imagine how badly the spread of  something like pigeon disease, or strangles will spread with all the horses housed next to each other. Before it was a hit and miss affair. There is no vacinne for these diseases and tons more even if you could afford vacines for every disease and  not kill the animal with all of them. The reason we raise our own meat, eggs, and milk is in part to avoid all the drugs a large operation has to use to keep many diseases at bay. With fewer diseases transfered between species, than within a species, a McDonalds farm is a healthier set up.  

At this meeting this week we kept hearing how much the town was doing for us, things we repeatedly asked them not to do, and how the facility will be the praise of everyone that sees it for everything will look exactly alike as we won't be allowed to bring anything but our animals. Not set in stone yet but for sure our fees will at least quadruple to keep the few animals Kirk and I have. We have already seen our costs sky rocket with the drought sending hay and grain prices through the roof. 

We are doing some deep soul searching. Plus, some scrambling on the computer and in our brains trying to come up with options. What we know for sure is we have to get our house fixed up a bit so it has the possibility of being put on the market and sold. A market already full of houses for sale. The reason the town says it needs the property our corrals and many others now sits on is the lack of places to build houses. How about the housing development just to the north of us. The developer is trying to sell the land for he still has empty houses of the few he built over two years ago. Then there is the land all around the golf course which no one has bought a peice of or the land by the newer townhouses but hey, the town needs more empty land just in case. 

Not that there weren't problems where we were and the town didn't have cause to be unhappy. It is a bit of a dump. We tried to be neat but didn't want to put too much expense into a spot the town has been saying for over four years that they were going to move us from.  The club leaders tried to force members to take care of animals and pick up their areas but was thwarted on all sides. The bottom line is, the town does owns the land and they will do with it as they please. We have been blessed to have our stock there as long as we have.

The truth is we probably needed this shove to get us off our duffs and prioritize getting things done and hopefully move on. The task looks huge but the good Lord willing, all things are possible. No matter what we manage to work out, in the next six months BIG changes are afoot.
But enough whining,  in working a little on the basement and focus on the laundry/sewing room, I decided to finish some projects that were cluttering up the folding table. This is one of the little quilts I had partially done and determined to finish. Hopefully it will be big enough for our four year old. She still hasn't gotten her three year old nap quilt from Grandma. It was so... much easier to get things made for the grand kids when they weren't at my house three to seven days a week. In fact, they are snuggled in their beds right now after eating salad, and fresh sourdough English muffins but we'll talk about those muffins later.  

I still have another row to put on each side of this quilt as I've determined that it is a bit narrow for the length and of course I need to bind the edges. It did come in handy Friday for I had the two youngest grand daughters. I knew the baby was teething and I hoped having my machine at the table, I could sew some on the quilt while she played beside me on the floor. That happened a few times but mostly she sat on my lap punching buttons on her toy phone or playing with an empty thread spool. The sewing was slow but at least I got something done for being up and about just wasn't an option she was allowing me.  
The other thing I finally got done was making vanilla again. It wasn't until late tonight but I told myself  no matter how late, it was getting done. As Kirk walked by I commented to him that I was doing it a bit differently this time, he replied, with a laugh in his voice, "Of course you are." Am I that predictable? Probably, but I'd found a new method to try. Not much different but the recipe called for heating one cup of vodka to three split down the center and in half vanilla beans. My other recipe you don't heat the vodka. We'll see if it speeds up the process any. I'm am running low on vanilla and this needs to age at the very least two months. I prefer three. It is about time to make lotion again too. I've been cultivating aloe vera to add this time. Once again I'm doing things just a bit differently.
Talking about differently I've got to tell you what I accidentally did to the sourdough English muffins but that will have to be another post for my eyes are about to give out on me. It is rather late and I've had a full day, painting the new addition to the laundry room. (Bless my sweet husband, he whipped it up for me today.) (I'll show it to you after it dries), mixed English muffins not quite according to instructions by mistake, quilted a bit more, and yes, took care of grand kids.  

Monday, April 1, 2013

Flour Tortillas Recipe

Whoops, hit the wrong button and posted two blogs on one day instead of Monday and Wednesday so beware. It won't be until the end of the week before I post again.
I made Pollo Con Creme and of course Flour Tortillas. I am in love. I predict that I will rarely ever buy tortillas again. Why would I? These are soft, flexible, and not nearly as chewy as the ones from the store and easy to make taboot.
 What is hidden in store products that makes them so different than if you were to make it your own? You can use the same ingredients as that on a store product's label and yet the products turns out very different. But the clincher is, are you really using all the ingredients as the manufacturer? We are not getting the whole story. 
This might be a clue. For instance the dairy industry is working on eliminating the need to put aspartame on the label of their yogurts and flavored milks. My question being what else isn't on the label now? 

Got diet milk? The dairy industry for the past three years has been hoping to sell you some under the guise of just plain "milk," so that chocolate and strawberry varieties that contain artificial sweeteners would no longer need to carry a special label.
Our daughter gets a migraine instantly with just a drop of this artificial sweetener often labeled as Equal. She is very concerned that this will be approved.
But before I get on a whole tirade I'd better stop myself because I get really worked up. Let me suffice it to say that I'm trying hard to eliminate the need to buy as many store food products as possible.
Just so you know, I used some potato flour in my Easter bread rolls, yum, yum. Okay, that was a squirrel moment.
Anyway, with this second batch, I used lard. They turned out even better than the first batch done with canola oil. Not surprising because leaf lard is the best for pie crusts.
I've read lots of tortilla recipes of Hispanic base that had lard instead of shortening or oil so I thought why not? Though I haven't seen a hint of anyone using ghee in tortillas I'm tempted to try.  That would add a lovely buttery taste and wouldn't that be good mixed with powdered vegetables in the tortilla shell for a turkey or chicken sandwich wrap?
As for lard, I'm saving store cottage cheese containers to put particularly leaf lard in from our pig we will hopefully butcher this coming weekend. I am determined that I will cook more with lard this year. Any is more than I did last year so I'm not talking a lot, just more.
 A lot of butter or lard may not be a good thing but in moderation it is a whole lot better than shortening or margarine any day. Though I make some butter from our goats, I still buy the bulk of it and so I need to work more on transitioning from my dependence to using my own lard, butter, and ghee.
I promised to tell you the skinny. Here it is.
Easy Flour Tortillas
From the Cook's magazine
2 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
6 tablespoons vegetable shortening
cut into 6 pieces
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water, heated to 110 degrees
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
This is the base. I of course never once used shortening. But the thing that was crucial that Cook's disclosed was the methodology and reasoning behind it. It is why I love the magazine.
You mix in a bowl the flour, salt and fat of your choice. Then with clean fingers work the fat into the flour until it becomes fully incorporated. It will be a moist flour, freshly ground cornmeal in texture.
Stir in the water until combined. The hot water causes the fat to liquefy and coat the flour and does not allow the liquid to absorb as well. This keeps the gluten from forming and creates the tenderness.
Cook's recommends leaving the dough in the refrigerator for a short period of thirty minutes after rolling into individual balls but I just left my dough on the counter and rolled out after the resting time.  
You may need a little flour on your counter when rolling out. I love my granite counter tops for you can often get away with kneading bread or rolling out things without flour and so they are more moist.
I couldn't believe how easy it was to get the shells see through thin. As for cooking them. I used my cast iron skillet. Cook's said the tortilla puffs up and this causes flaky layering but mine when it did this burst and I didn't like the results. I turned down the pan a little and cooked at a slightly lower heat. Each to their own.

 Now on to corn tortillas. Cook's has a recipe for them too. I just happened to have a corn tortilla press I picked up at a second hand store a few years ago and have yet to use.

This is electric and is meant to press and cook but my cousin doesn't like the way it cooks. I don't know if she used hot water to make her shells or not and so that may have something to do with why this press works for her. I have not eaten her shells and so I can't compare hers to mine. We will have to do that one of these days.
This is photo of the inside. She understood that this press is not for corn tortillas. I'm just glad I don't need another cooking appliance. But who knows it might work great for you.

Kool-Aid Easter Eggs

We tried something different this year with our Easter Eggs. The colors were so... rich and earthy. I love them.
We died with Kool-Aid. I caught a snippet about this on the Internet but didn't really look in to it. I know, that is out of character for me but I have been swamped. With multiple dental appointments for our daughter's family and it being a holiday week, we had the kids every day this past week. To make things more interesting, two of them caught pink eye. Never a dull moment in the Rexroat household.  

So it was a good thing that over a week ago I had picked up some Kool-Aid. Exactly how to use it I wasn't sure. Not that I'm not familiar with Kool-Aid. Of course I am. I've died wool with it. A friend of mine use to dye her bum lambs with Kool-Aid. Yes, you read that right. Each of her bum lambs would sport a different color. Her grand kids loved it. Can you just imagine a yard full of lambs in pink, blue, orange and green bucking and frolicking. Admit it, your smiling. That is exactly why she did it.   

But though we use kool-Aid as a dye, we don't drink it. Doctors at the time of our son's birth said food dyes are hard on the kidneys and being that he was born with an enlarged kidney, we eliminated this product and others from our diet. 

Though it is banned from our insides what's it going to hurt the outside of eggs we will simply throw away? It was super simple. All you need is 2/3 cup of water and a package of Kool-Aid and voila, you have a beautiful, inexpensive mixture. I don't think we will ever go back to using a dye kit again.
One thing never changes with dyeing eggs, crayons. The youngest stays occupied chewing on one but he rest use them to keep areas of the egg from dyeing.
You draw your picture or words on a plain white boiled egg. I buy store eggs for this as we are just going to throw them away. Fresh eggs are used for Easter dessert such as angel food cake, and lemon pound cake with strawberries and whip cream on top.
Kirk being the master of crayon dye creations. Not that anyone of us takes it too seriously. One year for place settings he gave each member of the family their own egg and drew a likeness. It warmed up the conversation in a hurry with lots of laughter. The wax in the crayon keeps the drawing from being dyed and I suppose one could get really creative.
This year the kids decided that they wanted to paint on the dyed eggs. They had been with me when we had bought the paints a few weeks ago and wanted an excuse to use them.

After the eggs they started on the paper that we covered the table with and it was hard to get them shut down.
But there was more adventure to come. An Easter Egg hunt of course. This backyard has hosted one for the past thirty years. One in the dark with flashlights, some in the snow but no matter the weather or the age of our kids the hunt goes on.
Toni here I don't think has missed a year yet even though she is now taking a supportive role.
I hope you all had a wonderful Easter Weekend.