Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Lacto Fermented Garden Salsa

(recipe after much rambling)

Hello all, my long lost blogging friends.  You might wonder where I have been, and it is a simple story.  Just about a year ago, we began putting into place a series of changes that moved us into a more simple, more homebound life.  We have tried to move off the grid wherever practical (and sometimes where it is not practical).  We purchased a milk cow named Bonnie.  We put in an extra-large garden and tried to grow some of our animal feed.

Now I don't want to shock anyone, but these type of changes are a lot of W-O-R-K.  Modern conveniences are named that for a reason.  Processed, industrialized food is inexpensive and easy.  Having a milk cow means someone has to be there to milk twice a day.... every day..... 7 days a week.... you get the picture.  Anyway, our time seems to have become redirected.

At this time we are drying the cow up.  This means just one milking a day, not on any schedule.  The garden is put to bed and I never did get a winter garden in, with the exception of our small cold frame.  It feels like we have redeemed an amazing amount of time and freedom.   I do not want to say this is good, I really miss the fresh produce and as soon as the cow is done, I know I will miss that wonderful milk.  But for the moment, it is less hectic..... somewhat.

For this winter I am planning to read a wonderful book called Deep Nutrition.  We just finished a movie on-line called Back to Eden.  I think we will implement some of these changes into our garden.  I would recommend it to anyone wanting to garden in a real way.  We also watched a movie called Burzynski.  It is a wonderfully revealing movie on the incestuous relationship between big Pharma and regulatory agencies.  It is worth watching, no matter what you think of Dr. Burzynski.  We are still in the research phase to see if his remedy is effective.  The same tactics are currently being used on our food supply (especially raw milk).  Protectionism is alive and well in the United States of America.

We mainly planted greens in the cold frame, but the boys made a cool "chicken tractor" which would fit in there.  The chickens keep the cold frame pretty warm.  We will also use it this winter for newly hatched chicks and a mama.  So, we continue to eat simple, wholesome, organic meals.  Soaked grains are a part of life.  Root vegetables are big in our diet, add a lot of greens whenever you can..... and now it is almost time to begin making candy for Christmas :)

My sister, the shopping queen, found us an amazing stove that is waiting to be installed when time permits this winter.  It is in the picture.  It is a Wedgewood stove from 1935 and is in almost pristine condition.  It has both wood and gas burners.  I am not even going to tell you what price she found it for.  No need to excite envy and jealousy. It is a beauty, isn't it.

I wanted to get the recipe for lacto-fermented salsa up, even though the garden is put to bed.  Next summer will probably roll around, and then it will be here.   This bunch of produce is one of the last batches we picked before the cold weather rolled in.  Enjoy


Lacto Fermented Salsa

Whey  (about 1 TBSP per quart of finished product)
(I prefer a variety of colors - they are all different acid levels and each brings something different to the party)
Hot peppers
Sweet peppers
(leave the skins on - I try to find some with bitterness to them - good balance)
Lime juice and lime zest
Fresh Cilantro
Sea Salt
Cayenne, if necessary

Directions:  I use a cast iron skillet to roast the peppers and tomatillos.  If your hands have hot pepper on them, a few drops of bleach will neutralize it and you don't have to worry about touching your eyes for the next 10 hours.  After roasting, I use a food processor to get it chunked up.  Just use blasts, don't blend it.  You want chunks.   After everything is blended, add the chopped Cilantro, lime juice, lime zest and spices.
Taste often.

You will notice that I do not have amounts.  Taste often.  Don't forget the whey.  If it lasts, you should leave it at room temperature for a couple of hours to allow the salt and whey time to innoculate your salsa.  Bottle and refrigerate.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Life on the Farm

Blessings to you all,

It has been so long since I have written ANYTHING on this blog, I have almost forgotten how.  There have been many, many changes around our place.  One of the biggest is our major steps to get off of the grid.  We have been trying to simplify, declutter and doing our best to live a different way.  It has been challenging, two steps forward, one step back, intermediate steps, rethinking........ Anyway, it has been fun.  A lot of work..... but fun.  Our life has changed to very quiet, simple homebound routines.   Some of our upcoming projects include a root cellar, ice house and spring house.

As part of that process, we have gotten more serious about our garden.  In the early spring, we dug trenches with the help of the backhoe and put manure in, then refilled.  It broke up some hardpan, stirred around our minerals and really improved our soil.

After reading several wonderful gardening books over the winter, we laid out the plants differently.  Every plant was put in carefully with consideration of "root room".  We wanted to give every plant plenty of room to thrive.  This meant that we placed the tomato plants 4' on center.  It was hard for me.  I was limited to 50 plants...... OK, I might have snuck a couple extra in.  I also gave room to the squash, cukes, melons, peppers - everything got enough root room.  They marked up a piece of pipe for me so I could easily plant.

My sweet hubby made new tomato cages for me this year.  We didn't have enough material for all of the tomatoes, but hopefully by next year we will.  I will use fencepost and wires for the rest of the plants.

We have been harvesting raspberries, beets (they are yummy just rinsed, rubbed with oil and salt and baked) greens of every type, tomatoes (from the coldframe) squash, kohlrabi, turnips, parsnips, radish, peas and we are just beginning to get cucumbers.  Our meals are simple and revolve around soaked grains, greens, eggs, milk, garden produce, our own chickens, grass fed beef and raw cheese.

The cow produces wonderful milk and the chickens are laying beautifully.  My sister continues to turn chicks out of her ever revolving incubator.  The roosters we butcher, the hens we either keep or move on to someone else.  We have lots of chickens.  We used the broody hens and chicks to keep the coldframe warm this winter.... that is why we have early tomatoes.  I'll be working a lot harder on the coldframe w/chicken heat this winter.

The Spring and Summer have been filled with hard work, family, new experiences, adjustments, and the Hand of the Lord always giving us guidance.  I can say again today that He has NEVER left us.... NEVER forsaken us.  We can depend on His mercy, His abundance and His grace.

Be blessed, healthy and well

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Time to think about gardening!

I know it is still winter, but spring is just around the corner.  There is quite a bit you can be doing to get ready for garden season.  I have already written about why I garden and you can find that post here.  If you intend to get a garden going this year, here are some things you can do now to make sure that happens.

Begin a garden journal/devotional.  Just having one place where you are jotting down your thoughts, scriptures, poems, recipes and ideas is helpful. It is good to get your thoughts in order.  This is also a great time to read a new (or old) book on gardening.  Try the thrift store :)

Plan your space.  Make this a family affair.  Figure out how much room you are committing to gardening, what needs to be done and where you intend to plant everything.  Planning is key to a productive garden.  We like to measure everything and lay it out on paper.

Decide what you intend to plant and order seeds.  I use Baker Creek Seeds - they have an awesome selection and test for GMO's.

If you intend to start seeds, this is the time to do it.  You do not have to have a perfect environment.  You need  a warm place, and after the seedlings have popped up, you need to haul them to some sunshine whenever possible.  Water them and let the water drain.  Add some kind of natural food to your water.  The seedlings burn through the available nutrients pretty quickly.  We usually begin tomato, sweet and hot pepper plants, broccoli, brussel sprouts and swiss chard inside.  The other stuff gets direct sowed when the soil is warm enough.

If you need to build boxes, fix fences or acquire pots to plant in, this is the time to work on it.  Often you can find someone who has changed their garden plan and will trade, barter, buy or give you old containers.  Use some of your soil and mix in something good - well rotted compost, some purchased topsoil.... something full of nutrients.  Make sure your pots will drain well and are big enough for the root systems of your plants.

Begin or plan a compost pile.  You don't have to be fancy.  Find a spot, mix equal parts brown, green and hot (leaves, sawdust, straw, kitchen scraps, manure, urine)  and mix occasionally.   You can build a round container out of old fencing or you can use old pallets or you can go with something that spins, turns and works your stuff.   The more you work it, the hotter it gets.  Here are some great links to Organic Gardening.... as far as I am concerned, they are the king of compost :)  You can probably find lots and lots of other articles on compost, these are just three random ones.

Plan to begin a spring garden as soon as you are able to work the soil.  Lettuce, spinach, onions, potatoes, swiss chard, broccoli, brussel sprouts and peas are part of our spring garden plan.  I can't wait!

Do you need to clean up your garden site from last year?  Take a couple of the nice days that always happen in the middle of winter and clean it up.  While you are at it, take a look at your tools and see if you need to replace, repair, sharpen or rethink them.  Make sure you have a somewhat organized place for your tools.  Always searching for a tool is a huge waste of time.

Talk over with your family the amount of resource you plan to use.  Include time, water, money, physical labor and space.  Reassess what you did last year.  Do you need to do something different?  Be open to suggestions from family members.  Step up the chores for the kids and move them up the chore ladder.  A garden is an amazing way to spend great family time.

I would love to hear your garden plans.  Ours are firmly in place and moving on.  It might seem odd to be full steam ahead on your garden when there is still a significant amount of snow on the ground, but if you do not have a plan, your odds of being successful are much smaller.  It is time to start.

Happy Gardening


Thursday, February 24, 2011

A simpler life

Anyone that follows the stock market, commodity prices, the dollar and news events is probably getting somewhat uneasy.  Commodity prices have been steadily rising for months and have really shot up recently.  This is for multiple reasons - manmade and natural disasters, unrest in the world, too many people living off of the "system" and not putting into it, too much borrowing and not enough saving, terrible political decisions in multiple countries... the list goes on and on.

It is not helpful to live in the spirit of fear that is permeating our world.  One of my favorite scriptures is in 2Timothy 1:7......   For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.   BE ADVISED  it is the better part of wisdom to look ahead and make wise decisions for your family..... not in a spirit of fear, but in a useful, responsible way.

No matter where you live or what you do, you can make your situation more stable.  Proverbs has a lot of wisdom concerning living in wisdom or in folly.  If you have not read through Proverbs lately, you should.  Just look at today's date and read that Proverb.  Here are a few samples.

A wise man fears and departs from evil,
      But a fool rages and is self-confident. 
Proverbs 14:16
Every prudent man acts with knowledge,
      But a fool lays open
his folly. 
Proverbs 13:16

No matter where you live, you should look around and see what local resources are at hand..... then learn to use them.  This is wisdom, not fear.  When you learn in a non-emergency situation it is a lot easier.  Add knowledge and skill one layer at a time so no one is overwhelmed.  If I had tried to feed my family sourdough bread baked on the wood stove 3-4 years ago no one would have eaten it..... including me.  I probably would never have attempted a full on farmer's breakfast on the stove, but now it is very possible.  We have changed over time.

I have already posted this video, but am posting it again with a caveat from my sister.  She said the pictures make everything look easier, cleaner and faster than it really happened.  We have just made one step after the other after the other.  Each person works within their strengths..... or develops new strengths.  For example, my hubby had a milk cow when he was younger.  Bonnie would much prefer him to milk her and gives the most milk to him.  This is not practical for us.  I have had to learn to milk, and my sister is next.  It doesn't matter what is the easiest, this is a new skill we must develop.

Ask yourself these questions....
  • Does my family produce more than they consume?
  • Is the bulk of my food local and sustainable?
  • If it is not, do I have an ample supply on hand for an emergency situation?
  • Can I slowly change the way my family eats, lives, cooks and plays to be more sustainable?
  • Do I know how to produce food and energy for my family?
  • Do I have a skill, knowledge or resource that I can barter with?
  • Can I convert grass into protein? 
  • Do you know how to garden?
  • If you have a garden.... do you use heirloom seeds?
  • Do you know how to properly save and reuse your seeds?
A side note.... Baker Creek Seeds is my favorite non GMO, heirloom seed company.  We plan to add a section of garden for the animals this year. 

Questions like these help you think ahead in a non-emergency situation.  When a power outage or other disruption occurs, use the opportunity to practice some of your skills.  Do you have to run to the store regularly?  Rethink that.  Then when the next disruption occurs, try again.  Instead of complaining, figure it out.  Do laws need to be changed so you can have a wood stove in an area RICH with firewood?  How about backyard chickens?  Do zoning laws need to change?  What has to happen so you can live more sustainably?

Living a simple life brings a peace that is beyond wonderful.  We are not quite there yet, but we persevere.  Stay close to God, eat local and fresh, be prepared, be a good neighbor, learn to function closer to where you live.  Be content.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Life on the farm

Slideshow of recent changes around here.

We have had a lot of changes around here since I last posted.  Our daughter and son in law moved back to the Bay Area.  It is bittersweet.  The sweet - he got a wonderful job.  The bitter, they moved away.  It involved a lot of change for all of us since our daughter had become the teacher for our youngest and they both helped so much around here.  Also, they had the nerve to take one of my grandbabies out of the county.  I thought there was a rule against that! 

The next big change came when our raw milk source dried up...... well, they sold out and we no longer had access.  This was so, so sad.  However, as a small community, we decided it was time to bite the bullet and purchase our own milk cow.  We would turn our own grass and clover into milk!  We purchased Bonnie the cow and Bessie her calf.  We got a good deal because she was difficult to milk and the calf was still on her at three months.  She is a beautiful 3/4 mini jersey and 1/4 dexter and they were not kidding about being difficult to milk :)

We pressed on.  At the beginning it took three adults, a kick bar and a lot of patience to get her milked.  Then down to two adults and someone on poop patrol (we have someone catch her poop in a snow shovel if she lifts her tail).  Now one person can milk her.  We still have the poop patrol, but she often does not poop while being milked.  We started out using Bag Balm on her teats, then read the label.  Petroleum based.  Bad bad bad bad.   We are trying out the Burt's Bees Farmer's Friend Hand Salve.  It appears to be working really well.  We are happy and blessed.

My sweet hubby and brother in law converted the Taj Mahal chicken coop into a milking barn.  It has a concrete floor, a washout, lights..... then my sister spotted an old sink at my aunt's house and talked her out of it.   Her hubby went and fetched it and installed it.  Then we traded a neighbor for some of their excess hay.  The three younger kids (from both families) picked up some extra daily chores.  Our oldest son came and cut down some unproductive fruit trees to begin the process of making a better pasture and we are good to go!   Everyone has worked together in their own strengths.  We are now being rewarded by about 3 quarts of milk at each milking.  It is only a little disheartening that the milking barn is cleaner than my kitchen.  This is thanks to Farmer Joe who sweeps, washes out with vinegar water and squeegees after each milking.

We have been hit by another brutal snowstorm and are out of power again.  We are wondering if we will break our previous record of 10 days.  I worked hard on baking sourdough bread on the stovetop.  It turned out great!  Also during that time we lost our water and the boys had to snowshoe up to fix it.  All in all, a very grand adventure.  (Note, the power is back on - we were only out 7 days - we're getting ready to be hit by another storm later this week).  I have to say the Ipad, Iphone, Itouch and Laptop were helpful.  The Kindle program loaded up with books was awesome.  You can sit in the dark and read for several hours.  When we turn the generator on, we recharge everything.  It worked really well.

Shortly after they got our water fixed a ditch that runs above a part of our road got pulled out by a big cedar tree.  A massive amount of water came down and wiped out a part of our road.  The guys  drove the backhoe out and helped the local water company do some repairs. Being a part of a community is good.

I have to say, I love simple farm life.  There have been big adjustments, but they are good.  While we were out of power it was even better.  It is wonderful to always have fresh milk. A simpler way of life makes power outages a little easier to handle.

I have a bunch of pictures from the past few weeks in this slideshow.  I hope you enjoy it.


Saturday, January 1, 2011


Happy New Year!  

The first week of the year, we love to plan out what we would LIKE to happen, begin trying to make it happen, and stay flexible.   Here is a simple list of things to consider to begin 2011.

Be blessed, happy and well this year.

Organize yourself:  I love to sit at the computer and make a list for myself and my family.  Not everything happens, but often more happens than you think.  I try to look it over at the first of each month and see how we are doing.  I have been looking over last year's list, and am happy.  My five categories:  Physical health, Spiritual health, Financial health, Household health, Garden (or Farm) Health.

Begin a daily Bible Reading program:  Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you.  This is critical.  Use your IPhone, IPad App, or Laptop.  One great online program is Bible Gateway Reading Plan. Use your BIBLE and some bookmarks, ask if your church or place of worship is beginning a program, something.  This is so important to get into your day.  Schedule it around something.  Spend time with the Lord every day.  It will cleanse you.

Begin a prayer journal:  Keep a list of people and situations.  Pray over the list daily.  Release these people and situations to the Lord.  He loves them more than you.   Allow the Holy Spirit to change others.  You cannot change anyone on your own.  Your most effective course of actions is to pray and bring God into it, and then take your hands off.   Write it down, it will be encouraging to you.

Dump the junk:  Take opportunity to get the junk out of your house.  It is NOT a sin to throw junk food, candy and energy robbing food away.  Look for words like SUGAR, hydrogenated, fractionated, soy, msg.... fill in your own list.  You cannot be healthy if these foods are there constantly tempting you.  Take a couple of hours, clean your fridge and cupboard and hidey holes, thrown them OUT, then take the trash OUT!  Christmas is over.  Let it be done.

Add good foods in:  In order to feed yourself healthy food, you have to plan ahead.  Either do a weekly menu, or a seasonal menu, something.  You have to have a plan.  This has been my biggest failing this year.  Last night my sister and I hashed over some kind of solution for me.  I think I will try a 6 week menu (for example, soaked hot oatmeal every Tuesday.... like that).

Make sure you have healthy snacks and foods available.  Adding good, healthy foods into your day to day life is easier than taking tasty, but dead foods out.  Just replace the junk with life giving foods.

Drink more water:  Flush the toxins out of your system.  Drink more water.  Add a splash of lemon, lime or apple cider vinegar to boost the effectiveness.

Began taking a good, food based vitamin:  Something that covers the bases and is high quality.  We like the All One Senior Formula mixed in ginger ale/juice with our breakfast, but there are a lot of good ones out there.

Began a modest exercise program..... or boost the one you are on:  Exercise is one of the best gifts you can give yourself and your family.  Please do not begin with an intense, unachievable program.  Begin with something you CAN do and set yourself up for success.  You do not need to spend a fortune.  A couple of DVD's, a few weights, 20-30 minutes, warm up, cool down.  That is all you need.  Try Wal Mart and $20.  Find something that appeals to you.

Don't try to go from NO exercise to a 1 hour, intense program.  You will be setting yourself up for failure.

Spend some time with your finances:  Make a budget.  Do you need to do Dave Ramsey again?  When you make a line item for money, you give it priority in your life.  This week, schedule your finances.  Do it as a family.  Talk over what you would like to see happen.  Plan, write down, budget, figure.  This is a good time to clean up last year and begin afresh.

Clean your house:  Go through room by room, if necessary.  Do you want it, love it, need it, use it?  If not, should it be donated, trashed, burned???  You cannot be healthy if your house is cluttered with stuff you are not using.  This is valuable real estate, and it is good to have a peaceful, useful space to live in.

This might be a good time to paint, clean, change a fixture, something.  Take some time and organize your household.  You will feel cleaner, more free and more effective.

Plan your garden:  We have a New Year's Eve tradition of drawing out next year's garden.  My sister is good with design and sketched out our plans last night.  We talked over success and failures and plans for next year with a lot of laughter and good memories.  Everyone chose their favorite tomato and we began our seed order - Baker Creek Seeds- be ready for our order :)

2011 is here, whether we are ready or not.   Take the opportunity to bring the gift of health to yourself and your family.