Monday, December 19, 2011


We finally got some snow!  It's been a strange winter so far, with just a dusting.  But this morning we woke up to find a good 6 inches in the open areas, and drifts of over a foot in spots.  It should be a white Solstice after all!
Cows were not as impressed with this change in the weather as I was though.  Poor things will have to walk all the way over
to the round bales to eat.  And that's at least 20 feet.  Knightmare and Oscar weren't too disappointed about everyone else hiding in the barn though.  They seemed to be rather enjoying their breakfast in peace.
We've gone through all of our square bales already, and bought two more loads as well.  It was time to bring in some round bales.  They aren't as nutritious as the square bales, but they certainly last longer.  It keeps all the critters from milling about around the gate first thing in the morning complaining that they're hungry, too.  So now we're feeding a mix of squares and round bales.  We haven't fed any grain yet this winter, and everyone seems to be maintaining their weight so far.

In other news, #2 has been working on snow removal with Grandpa.  He's learning the art of tractor driving and using the bucket.

We butchered two more roosters- weights are looking much better now.  I couldn't find my scale, so I don't have an exact measurement for these, but it was definitely worth the wait.  They're a nice meal size now.  Although, Husband dished out the meat for supper, giving the boys each just a tiny sliver.  He was confused by the single plate of meat.  Me thinks we've been spoiled by those huge turkeys!  The roosters are big enough now to feed my brood, but there wasn't much in the way of leftovers.  We'll get one skimpy chicken rice casserole, but that's all.  Which means I have to cook again tomorrow.  Ble...

The logging company has been working on the crown land behind our property this week.  So far we've seen lots of equipment go in, and two tractor trailer loads of logs come out.  Husband took a drive back to see where they were at.  It's way out there, past the creek at moose camp.  They've put a temporary bridge in.  Which means we won't have access to the scraps they leave behind in the spring.

We went to the Santa Claus Parade the other night.  It doesn't seem to matter how many of these things we attend, or where we watch from, my children are always on the opposite side of me.  That's #2's backside on the far left.  It was -13°C, so the marching band was reduced to drums.  He was disappointed he didn't get to play his baritone.  I was happy he didn't come home with it frozen to his face.
The Littles were happy to attend.  It was the first small town parade we've been to in years.  Every business in town seemed to be well represented with free gifts for the public- pens, construction paper, teddy bears, Santa hats, and candy.  Wow, I can not believe the candy.  #3 said it was better than Hallowe'en.  Just as much candy, and all he had to do was stand there.  It was pretty funny when a float with little ones was going by, and one little girl cried out 'We have to give the candy away!' as she tossed a bag towards us.  Too cute.

#2 made the basketball team at school.  They played in their first tournament last week, and won both games.  Their first home game is on Wednesday.  I'm hoping we get to go and watch.  Husband's been stealing my car to go to work (4 wheel drive), and we won't all fit in the truck.  Hopefully the weather will be good so he can take the truck to work.

We've got a new system in place this year to tell us when the buses are cancelled.  The radio stations around here don't seem to be aware that some of us are up at crazy hours to get ready for school.  The Bigs' bus comes at 7:03.  The radio stations announce cancellations at 7:15 or later.  Last year I'd go out and tell #1 to come back inside after he waited out in the cold all that time.  This year, #2 has made friends with the bus driver's son.  He comes downstairs in the morning and tells me whether the buses are cancelled or not.  Texting does have it's uses.

I've been spending many of these cold winter days curled up with a good...   kindle.  My other present arrived early, and Husband never makes me wait.  I don't think he likes to wrap, lol.  It's just the standard, original version.  No fancy Kindle fire available up here, north of the border.  But I love it.  Much more than I thought I would, actually.  In the past I haven't bought very many new books.  It's always cheaper to buy from thrift stores or used book stores, and there aren't a lot of books that I couldn't wait to find a used copy of. 

We bought the first kindle for #1 in September.  Finding large print books for him has always been a pain, and finding a copy to use at the same time as his class was even more so.  I read most of his books to him last year.  When he came home with Stephen King this year- well that was it.  I am NOT reading that.  (I read about 3/4 of The Shining when I was a teen and have avoided Stephen King ever since.  He terrifies me).    So we bought him the fancier kindle, with audio book and text to speech capabilities.  It's been working out really well for him.  I downloaded a couple hundred classics for him (free public domain titles), as well as the books he's needed for school.  And when he wasn't using it, I borrowed his kindle a few times.

So I kind of wanted one of my own, but I thought I wouldn't use it that much, because I'm unlikely to start selling off my kids to start paying for new books.  But present day was coming, and Husband likes his shopping made easy.  So he talked me into it.

The kindle arrived, and I set it up on the same account, which let me download all of #1's books for free.  Then I added a bunch more classics to my list.  I had just finished one of those when a friend from highschool mentioned that she was pleasantly surprised with her book club's choice.  I got the title from her and looked it up. 

30 Pieces of Silver by Carolyn McCray

The reviews sounded interesting, and the price was right, so I bought it.  And I really liked it.  It was very detailed, fast paced, hard to put down.  And it introduced me to the world of Indie publishing.  Or independent publishing.  Or self publishing.  Almost as good as public domain books, there are a ton of books available from new authors for as little as 99¢.

So, while I'm still unlikely to ever keep up with the New York Times best sellers list, I have a variety of reading material at great prices available at my finger tips at all times!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My First Full Canner

Turkey Noodle Soup

About 4 Cups leftover turkey, diced.
6 medium potatoes, cubed
4 large carrots, sliced
2 Cups broccoli, frozen
1 package fusili, 900g
Enough turkey stock to cover.

I heated it up to defrost the broccoli, then jarred it up.  10 pints, processing now, for 75 minutes, aiming for 10 PSI, but currently well above....

I made enough soup for another 5 or 6 jars, but that will be part of supper.  I know, I know, you're not supposed to can noodles.  But these are intended to be quick and easy lunches for Husband, so I have to give it a try.  He won't add his own noodles later.  He normally just opens a can, pours it in a bowl, and pops it in the microwave.  Gross.

It looks like I'll need to start force feeding people canned goods if I want to keep playing with my canner.  Either that, or buy more jars. 

Hard at School

The Littles amuse me. I couldn't help but snap a couple of pics of them this morning.  We've been having trouble getting started and organized this year, with extra chores and distractions.  We're not often all ready to work at the same time.

Time to change things up a bit.

As soon as they got up this morning, before they could hit the computers or tv,  I redirected them to get their school books out.  I was still having my morning tea and computer time.  Easier to give up than when I'm trying to bake, or cook, or headed to the feed store.  They were eager to get down to business too, so they could play before chores. 

#3 plopped himself in front of a stool.  Home made desk. 

#4 landed on the couch.  Notice the window?  It's still dark outside.

It took them less than an hour, and now they have the whole day to enjoy.

Right now #3 is working on Math Basics 5 (Walmart), Cars reading comprehension (Dollarama), and Learning Horizons Third Grade Language (Dollarama- but I haven't seen them there for a few years).  #4 is working on Singapore math, primary 1A (ordered online) and just finishing up Learning Horizons Kindergarten Language (Dollarama). 

#3 is reading  Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls.  He's been doing well with novels and reading in his spare time since early summer.  He also has an annoying habit of reading over my shoulder.  

#4 and I are working through Dick and Jane.  Again.  He's still having a hard time.  I think the issue is more with him NOT looking at the words than his abilities.  I sound them out and he says them, but he's often looking at the pictures, or what the dogs are doing, or his belly button.  And then he can't read on his own.  It might have a bit to do with him being the baby too.  "But I can't read!" has served him well over the years.  Without the Bigs at home, he gets more individual attention from mom, but he doesn't have so many people close by to just tell him what he wants to know RIGHT NOW.  We're working on it.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Beef and Turkey Stock

I found this processing times and pressures chart the other day.  Perfect. 

Turkey soup got put on hold, as I need to make a batch of turkey stock first.

I usually use chicken soup base powder or bouillon cubes when I make chicken or turkey soup.  I made a batch of chicken stock once, a few years ago, with the chicken feet.  It did not impress me.  It was very fatty, and not very flavourful.  I froze it, and then tried to figure out what to do with it.  I don't cook much with chicken stock.  I didn't like it in soup.  I think there might still be a jar at the back of the freezer above the fridge.  I should probably throw that out.

I had much better luck with my beef stock.  Did I post that?  Oops.  Doesn't look like it.

I made beef stock from Steaks' neck and leg bones.  I saved another batch of bones to do another batch of stock later.  Mostly following the instructions here, but I read over a few different methods before I started.  I think the big difference between my methods and most other peoples, is the quantity.  The instructions there said 3 hours minimum, 6 to 8 if you can do it.  I had my big stock pot (came with my propane cooker for roasting turkeys, bigger than a 5 gallon pail) over half full of bones, meat and veggies, with water to cover.  At 3 hours nothing seemed to be happening.  At 8 hours, the meat was just starting to fall off the bones.  I ended up letting it simmer for two days before I strained it and started reducing.  Then I froze it in ice cube trays.  2 cubes is plenty to flavor gravy or a big pot of stew.  I like it.

So today I am making turkey stock.  I'm using the big stock pot again, with the entire turkey carcass.  I didn't roast the bones, since I roasted the turkey yesterday.  All of the bones, skin, fat, cartilage, and a generous handful of meat.   Lots of carrots and onions, the last bit of celery ends I had in the freezer, half of a green tomato, sage, rosemary, thyme, a bay leaf, and 5 cloves of garlic.  The smell is already starting to make me hungry. 

Now I'm debating.  Should I pressure can the stock?  (less reducing)  Or freeze it in ice cube trays like the beef stock?  (less storage space)  Of course, I'll have to wait and see how much is left after I make turkey soup tomorrow.

Funny Looking Chickens

I took a bin of sprouted bird seed out to the chicken pen yesterday. The turkeys were happy to see me.
It seems that we managed to luck out and not butcher two toms and three hens.  We're still letting them out every day.  They seem to like the extra space and fresh air, despite the cold.  I'm leaning more toward keeping them to breed next year.  They've reached a formidable size.  I have plans to increase security in the turkey pen this spring.  With a little luck, it could work.
The geese are also fans of winter outdoors.  Goose always did like to have a snow bath.  Keeping clean is more important to them than a little bit of a chill.  The geese made short work of my  seed tray.  Unlike a chicken, which will cackle in delight when they find something tasty and attract a crowd, the geese were pretty quiet as they gulped down the greens.  They didn't want to share.
These guys, however, are quite intent to hide inside most of the day.  Not even fresh green bird feed would lure them out on this chilly day. 

The ducks wander in and out as well, but I didn't get a picture.

And since it was a lovely bright day when I took these pics, and they're still dark, the problem seems to be with my phone.  Crap.  I cleaned the lens cover, and changed the settings to night.  Hopefully that will help.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Beef Stew

I'm thinking I need to find my real camera for in the house winter pictures.  Or wait til noon.  Or something.  There's just not enough light in my kitchen right now.

Ok, so I read the manufacturer's instruction book and recipes, cover to cover.  I scoured the net again.  I read blogs and forums and cooking sites.

Near as I can figure, you just need to know the processing time for the 'longest' ingredient.  Any recipe will do.

So my second canning adventure, 6 pints of beef stew.  Processed at 13lbs (I haven't got the heat/pressure ratio figured out on my stove yet, so I'm erring on the side of more pressure than less) for 1 hour 15 minutes (based completely arbitrarily on a few different recipes, no idea what the processing time for my longest ingredient actually was).

I made a big pot of stew for supper, planning to can the leftovers.  Mixed everything in the roasting pan, set the oven for 250°F.  About 2 hours in, I'm reading this forum, where another first timer was also asking questions about beef stew, and the experienced canners told him he was going to have jars of mush.  Oops.  Apparently you can stuff raw.  Who knew?  lol.

Ok, so I checked out my stew.  Potatoes were still hard, and the meat wasn't too far past the defrosting stage.  What the heck.  I jarred it and started canning.

The end result- there is some mush in the jars.  The green beans are looking pretty soggy.  But the potatoes, carrots and meat look pretty good.  So I think It'll be ok.  It has the same orange coloured oily slime around the edges at the top as you see in store bought (one of the reasons I never eat that stuff).  We'll see what Husband has to say when he actually eats it.

The one thing that concerns me, is when I opened the canner, after it depressurized, the smell of the stew was REALLY strong.  I've never smelled my canned goods through the jars before.  Is that normal?  They all have good seals and no smell now.

Turkey for supper tonight.  Turkey soup to can tomorrow!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Pumpkin Treats and Butter

Pumpkin Treats.  Terrible picture.
Of course, the old standbys- Pumpkin Pie and pumpkin bread.  Of the new recipes that interested me, I tried the pumpkin pie squares (yuck.  Worse than pumpkin pie.  Mouthful of mush.  I swear kids and Husband will eat anything.  I can't believe they let me put that in my mouth.), pumpkin brownies (nice, but weird.  I think I'll add more cocoa in the future), and pumpkin sheet cake (this one I like, moist, fluffy cake, almost like carrot cake or spice loaf.  Yummy).

Another crappy picture
And since my Christmas present arrived, I thought I'd try it out by canning something you're not supposed to can...  Pumpkin butter.  7 half pints. 

I stuck my finger in the leftover pot, and as always, I figure it tastes like a bowl full of sugar.  All of my jams, jellies, syrops lately-  they all taste like sugar to me.  I think my sweet tooth is dieing off in my old age.  The kids cleaned the pot out though, so I don't think this stuff will be hanging out in the cold room too long. 

I spent a good chunk of the day yesterday scouring the web for canning recipes.  I found some interesting things to try, but not quite what I was looking for.  My first canning goal with my new pressure canner, is to replace all of those canned soups and stews that husband likes to eat for lunch.  I know I saw a blog not that long ago that had the types of recipes I was looking for, but no luck finding it yesterday.  I didn't bookmark it at the time, because I had no idea that I would be getting a pressure canner.  Crap.  Anybody got any good sites to recommend? 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Taste Test Two

Another taste test, after 16 days of corning.  The colour is better throughout, though batch one (the back of the plate) is definitely pinker than batch two.  It all tastes pretty much the same now.  The second batch might be a little milder, but not too noticeably.  A little saltier than store bought, but otherwise, definitely worth doing!

5 meals in the freezer, 2 we ate.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Cooler weather means more time inside, and less work to do.  I finally have time to deal with those 6 pumpkins I bought back in October.  Just in time too, it seems.  The one on the right had a couple of bad spots that I had to cut off.

Cleaned out and cut up into chunks in my roasting pan.  I baked it for about 5 hours at 250°F.
A nice bowl of seeds.  Washed, soaked in salt water, then baked below the pupkin for about 20 minutes.
I mashed the pumpkin as it was cooking.  I didn't skin it.  The skin is edible, so I decided to try it out and see what happens.  I run the mashed pumpkin through the magic bullet before using, so that should grind up any chunks that hand mashing missed.
 Now what to do with it?  Two large pumpkins yielded 11.5 2 Cup servings, stored in 500mL sour cream containers. 

I've frozen it this way in the past, but freezer space is still at a premium.  I'm afraid to even walk into a grocery store right now.  The only way those remaining roosters and turkeys are getting their heads knocked off any time soon is if they're going directly into the oven.

Of course there are pies to bake, and pumpkin bread, but this is a lot of pumpkin to use up, so I went in search of some new recipes to try.  The ones I thought looked interesting are linked below.

Pumpkin Bread

1/2 Cup butter
1 Cup pumpkin puree
2 eggs
1/2 Cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 3/4 Cup flour

Mix everything up to the salt.  Stir well.  Then add the baking soda, baking powder, and flour.  Mix well.  Pour into greased loaf pans.  Bake @ 350°F for 50 minutes.  I play with the flour somewhat, since home made pumpkin puree is not always the same consistency.

Recipes To Try:

Pumpkin Pie Squares

 Pumpkin Cookies

Pumpkin Butter

Pumpkin Lasagna

Beef and Pumpkin Stew

Pumpkin Chili

Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin Fritters

Pumpkin Pancakes

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Pumpkin Brownies

Pumpkin Sheet Cake

Chilly Nights

A little chilly last night.  -30°C.  Frost on the INSIDE of the door.  Still no snow to speak of.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Food Bank Drive

The Bigs' school runs a food bank drive every year in December. The first week of the drive is a competition between classrooms. The classroom that hauls in the most donations wins a pizza party.  It's a pretty stiff competition, too.  Some of the teachers encourage their students by matching the donations they bring in.  #1 took about three cans to school every day of the drive last year.  They were running out of room in the classroom, and his teacher was starting to worry about how much it was going to cost her to match it.  They ended up coming in second place!

The second week of the drive, students go door to door around town collecting donations.  Their gym looked like a small grocery store when they were done.  It was an amazing accomplishment!

This year it's an even stiffer competition.  #2 just happens to have the same teacher #1 had last year.  And #1 just happens to have the teacher whose class won last year.  The pressure is on.  Starting in my cold room.  lol.

Last year I suggested a few things that I wouldn't miss to #1.  After he took those items, he helped himself to a couple of cans of whatever he felt like.  He didn't make too much of a dent in our supplies, but it was noticeable.

This year, this morning, I went to the cold room with them and picked out a variety of items that I won't miss. 
Some things I planned for- like the evaporated milk and assorted coffee pouches.  They were offered free with coffee purchases earlier in the year, so I saved them for the food drive.  Some things were a bit of an excess here, like BBQ sauce and salad dressing.  The rest was just a can of this, a can of that.  We won't miss it. 

So I told the boys to take what they wanted out of this selection.  If they haul it all off to school before the end of the drive I'll have to pick out another box full of goodies.

I told the boys to ask when the food bank pick up would be, or if the school has any freezer room.  I have two store bought turkeys that I bought on sale, probably last Easter., that I'd be happy to donate.  I told them to ask if home canned goods would be accepted as well.

Please support your local food bank. 

A long, long, time ago, when #1 was just a baby, and #2 was on his way, we were in a car accident.  Husband suffered acute whiplash and was off work for several months.  We had no food storage.  We had no savings.  The food bank saved us.  It could happen to any of us.  Please give.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Feeding Time

With our wonky weather this year, and serious lack of snow, we are entering December and still mostly taking the hay bales out to the pasture. It's getting harder though, not being able to see rocks and stumps, and the ground's not frozen, so there are a lot of ruts.

We tried out the hay feeder a few times now. It works, mostly. Oscar can climb over the top. Billy goats are a pain, lol. But with all of the ruts around the barn, it makes it hard to walk carrying bales. We need some snow to fill in the pot holes.
Mindy & Dorie
And some way to convince these guys that the hay tastes just as good in the feeder as on the ground. So, please, get out of the way.
Toothless and Casper, butt to butt, Nelly behind, Tori watching Husband in the yard
Toothless is weaned now, and growing well. He needs to put on a few pounds to keep everyone else from pushing him around. He is sprouting some little horns though, so it shouldn't be too long before he gives them hell. He's still a big baby with us though.

Toothless and Nelly are serving double duty as the chicken coop heaters this year. It's easier to lead them in, and less likely to cause trouble. And this way I know that Toothless will get enough to eat without being pushed around too much. Nanner invited herself in one night, but then decided it wasn't cold enough outside yet to be trapped inside. If the two of them don't give off enough body heat to keep the pump from freezing, we'll have to start rounding up the goats. I don't think old faithful is going to work this year. Casper isn't quite weaned yet, and I don't think Dorie will be willing to not rip the building down if he calls to her in the middle of the night.  Unless I get desperate, I think she'll remain outside this winter.