The Amazing Pressure Cooker (and a nice Nordic dish)

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My goodness, I have been missing this all of my adult life.  A pressure cooker!  How come y’all didn’t tell me about this lovely contraption?  It literally takes half the time to make supper!  And for a homesteading mama, this is important.

I love whole grains.  I am a huge advocate of the healing power, antioxidant content, anti-cancer ability of whole grains.  Natural fiber and mineral foods that take forever to cook.  The same reason I do not make beans as often as I’d like; I forget to put them in the slow cooker or I don’t have three hours to wait for them to be done!

The quick release on the pressure cookers is the coolest thing I have seen in awhile (I don’t get out much.) and I do wish that our pressure canners had this feature!  This supper took no time at all to prepare.  I’m still experimenting, but the cooker makes it easy for me.

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Here I soaked 1/2 cup of navy beans for the day in doubled the water.  Came home to a full measuring cup of them.  I sautéed red onion and garlic in olive oil in the pressure cooker first then added a few chopped carrots, a chopped parsnip, and one sliced stalk of celery.  I added the drained beans and 1/2 cup of rye.  Sprinkle all well with smoked salt (or regular) and pepper, dill, paprika, and a pinch of thyme.  I poured over 4 cups of my homemade rosemary broth (though you could use any broth), put the lid on and pressure cooked it for 30 minutes.  I quick released it (so cool) and added two big handfuls of chopped cabbage and two pieces of lovely coral colored salmon topped with spices.  Another 3 minutes in the pressure cooker and wallah, supper was served.

This fabulous contraption will serve me well this year with my expansive, and God willing prolific, gardens.  Whatever veggies, spices, grains, and proteins I have on hand will make delicious, healthy, and unique one pot meals.

Do you have a great pressure cooker recipe?

The Homesteading Bug…or in the Blood?

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There are some that are content with flowers in a pot.  There are those who are perfectly happy turning on a switch to make the fire come to life (the gas flame is rather pretty).  A package of this food or that blended with another to make “homemade” food.  Our society has a different view of homemaking these days.  But I, well I used to think I had the homesteading bug.  A bug that I wondered would pass once we entered the city.  Would I miss canning?  It is tedious work.  Would I miss hand washing dishes and clothes lines, and the smell of firewood setting aflame while a pot of beans is set on the wood stove to percolate?

I guess you know the answer.

City life can be rather easy.  My friend cleans my apartment once a week.  I leave for work with everyone else and work very, very hard all week long.  So does Doug.  We come home and fix supper or head out to eat.  We switch on the fire.  And a movie.  We feed the cats.  I do laundry.  It is quick, even though our clothes are a bit shrunk from the dryer…or the lifestyle.

We long for chores and the cool breeze as we run to the chicken coop to let the ladies out.  We miss the sight of dozens of jewel colored jars cooling on the counters waiting for the larder (I did get several dozen things put up, but we’ll be out by next month).  I miss the sound of the dehydrator and the smell of drying tomatoes.  The sound of crackling from the first log that catches in the wood stove.  I miss the extensive gardens to water and the music blaring from my earphones as I dance and water at the same time, entertaining the neighbors.  I miss pointing out what we grew on the plate (sometimes all of it).  I miss falling into bed exhausted with a huge smile of completion on my face.  Planning the winter rests of learning to knit and weave and spin and the books I’ll catch up on.  Only to be planning the next year’s gardens and pouring over seed catalogues instead.

We wondered if we would get over the homesteading bug when set into a life of a bit more ease.  But, no, it turns out, it was homesteading blood.  Not a bug.  We are a few of those folks that could go back to 1890 with ease.  Playing the fiddle or working as we please.  To step out of normal society is a plus.  Yes, on a mini-farm and homestead you will find us.

I look forward to donning my apron again.  The one that swaddled new born goats and chicks.  The one my granddaughter can hide under.  To wipe my hands on after chopping a zillion vegetables or to wipe my brow after crawling on my hands and knees to plant tiny seeds that will become life and infuse our life with…life.

Some of us just have homesteading in our blood.

Happy Birthday to the Farmer of My Dreams

There was a man who stole my heart

for awhile we were rarely apart.

He can easily milk goats

on the kittens he dotes

can catch a chicken in the road

chase sheep as the rooster crowed

chopped the wood and moved the hay

“Well have it again!” he likes to say.

Cuddled into his arms is Maryjane

after she is done jumping on him!

Playful and very young at heart

yet contemplative when the lights are dim

a loving father, grandfather, sweet husband too

a lot of things all in one,

but most all, he’s lots of fun!

Happy Birthday, Doug!  Thanks for coming along for the ride.  I hope you get everything you wish for!

How to Calm a Farmgirl

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Maryjane’s mama had to work late last night.  She was getting to that two year old too tired to stay awake hysteria.  So how do you calm a born farmgirl?  Hand her a farming magazine.

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There was a picture of a child milking a goat that she was enthralled with.  Photos of sheep.  Yesterday at the store she pretended she had sheep there.  She put them to bed, made them medicine, made them go outside, and loaded them into the truck when we left.  I need to get a farm again.  I am missing it so much I can hardly breathe, and I do not want the little farmgirl to forget.  Long live the farm dream.

The Discombobulated Farmer

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I can’t seem to wake up at dawn anymore.  I hear a rooster crowing from down the street.  I hear my goat, Isabelle, yelling for food at her new home two blocks away.  I try to push the pit out of my stomach.  The heaviness will not lift.  I turn over and fall into listless sleep.  I find myself falling asleep in the car, crying suddenly, and feeling hopeless.  I guess I am experiencing a bit of depression.  Without a to-do list I feel bored and useless.  For the first time in my life I do not have a job that helps people.  I do not have a job at all.  I wonder if I fell off the face of the earth would anyone notice.  I am not feeling suicidal, just struggling with who I am without a purpose, a to-do list, a goal, a dream, a busy life.

We used to dream of these days.  We would read and write and walk and be on a kind of vacation.  However I am struggling with my own identity and fate and rewriting the chapters has proven more difficult than I imagined.  To be fair, it hasn’t been that long.  Perhaps I will fall into a gentle wave of security.  The characters in the novel I am working on introduce themselves and create themselves in times of silence.

We need to finish up at the house that destroyed me.  Giving all of my possessions away has been an interesting venture.  Folks that were in the very same situations as ours gather replacements for things they lost to give homesteading another go.  Our goal with the farm and homesteading school was to encourage folks to be more self reliant and to try homesteading.  And in a twist of fate our final chapter was to give people what they needed to set up shop.

For years Doug and I have given things away.  Given gifts.  Given medicines.  Helped people out.  Helped wherever we were needed but now that the tables are turned, so to speak, I find that it was easier to give then to receive.   To receive a blessing is to be humbled and thankful.

Our friends have opened their home to us and our cats.  As cat people they know that giving away our felines would be the final knife to me.  To lose my cats is unthinkable.  I struggle with feeling awkward in their home, with being in the way, with being a nuisance.  Rodney and Pat took us on a trip.  Monte and Erik took us out to dinner.  Kat and Rod bought us lunch and helped us move.  Sara helped us move the cats.  Kim and her family came and cleaned out the dreaded refrigerator at the near empty house.  Thank you.  It is not easy to be in need.

At a particular low point we pulled into the library and to my surprise my girls happened to be there.  Those three smiles can brighten my day.  Friends out of nowhere showed up and invited us to an event.  We have been visiting.  Grandma broke her knee and is recovering well in a rehab.  Thompson had a heart attack and two strokes.  He, too, will be alright and it was nice to visit him.  We saw our son, Andy, and his girlfriend yesterday.  Our schedule is free to reconnect and visit with folks.  I must open my eyes and see the blessings before me.  To humbly accept.  To be grateful.  To embrace this new path into the unknown.  To free myself of this heaviness and enjoy the greatest blessing, LIFE.

Farmicure (the newest look in fashion)

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Back when I was a full time model I always had my nails done in a stylish and versatile French manicure.  My face was covered with foundation to even out my skin tone (freckles) and I always had my hair done.  That seems like a different life ago!

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It wasn’t that terribly long ago (okay it was a little while ago), I still look pretty close to the same, am the same size, but now I call myself a Grandma, spend time putzing around the farm instead of a runway, cut my nails short to play the guitar, and have a new manicure.  Dirt under my nails nine months of the year!  The occasional eye makeup put on should my diva side appear but mostly I am au natural.  This is my natural hair color.  Rather boring after all the years of red, but it is what it is.  Freckles, laugh lines, life has been good.  I like this new look.

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Ebb and Flow of Farm Life

The ebb and flow, the life and death, the frequency changes and seasons all so crisply clear when one lives on a farm.

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The ducklings do not fail to bring smiles.  Frolicking in their playpen in a casserole dish turned pond.

The farm dog lays under freshly mounded soil by the empty bee hive.  Bumble passed away in the night.  The quiet house without his tick-tick-ticking and the sight of him this morning haunts me still.  Dumping the pile of dead bees in the compost.  A weight pulls my heart.  The dead chicken with suspicious slobber on her feathers.  Death is real and constant.

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The monastery of frogs chant from the pond beneath the full moon.  The baby red winged black birds chirp madly in the greenhouse.  The kittens play.  The seedlings stretch to the sky, the sun on their limbs.  The breeze brings on it blossoms from trees and the scent of dampened soil.  Elsa’s side grows.  Twelve more days until she kids.  Bundles of fluff, lambs who think they are dogs, greet me with kisses and lean against my legs.

Relationships start.  Unexpected, journeys change.  Paths bring second thoughts, perhaps regrets.  Marriages strengthen.  Friends offer embraces.  Words of wisdom and love over the telephone far away.

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The Creator waits for our prayers of thanksgiving as we busy ourselves with endless internal chatter.

Wading through and finding peace in the respectfulness of death, the joy of birth and spring, and my spirit shall join the frogs in their meditation of all that is.  Take a breath.

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Spring is here and the journey continues.

The New Farm (starting from scratch)

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I always have good intentions.  I spent the winter learning everything I could about Permaculture and how to incorporate it into our new farm.  I was on fire about it!  The inner garden we did not dig.  We piled on six inches of straw.  To plant I opened up part of the straw along rows to fill in with organic garden soil and plant in that.  The beds will stay well mulched.  The new garden soil will be covered around the plants as soon as they are up and strong.  Eventually the whole garden will settle in and each year we will just add new layers of soiled straw and leaves and let the years work themselves into great soil.

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I saved boxes all winter and threw them into the garden.  Once they were all broken down they sure didn’t cover much space between the beds.  The weeds are peeking around it.  I would need a lot more boxes, and a box cutter to cut them to size, and a lot more patience.  More straw, I think, is the answer for the remaining paths (that is my answer to everything).

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Then I looked out upon the large pumpkin patch we are creating.  It will be a Three Sisters garden complete with five different kinds of pumpkins crawling along the ground and three different heirloom beans climbing organic sweet corn stalks.  The grass is now thick and I am sadly lacking in time or cardboard boxes.  I think we will have to rototill.

The thing about Permaculture is one starts slowly.  Creating one bed at a time.  We now farm for a living.  I have a half acre of vegetables, fruit, and herbs to finish getting in.  I don’t have time to build raised beds for ridiculously long rows of pumpkins or wait six months for a lasagna garden!

I won’t be able to do the whole farm in Permaculture this year.  Some lessons are best taught over time.  Long, windy initial rows will be rototilled into the never before planted area of the yard.  I will add aged horse manure and gardening soil and plant.  I will mulch well.  We will have a good comparison between the inner no-till garden and the traditional tilled rows this year.

Next year I hope not to have to till.  I will keep working up and adding layers of compost.  This year though, we will just do what we know, pray for Mother Nature’s blessing, light the candle for San Isidro (the patron saint of farming), and enjoy all the blessings that come from our humble patch of rented land.

Thank goodness it is spring.

Farm Days (goats, sheep, chickens, ducks, and trucks)

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Our little snow globe over here is thick with fog and freezing drizzle this morning.  Hopefully it will burn off soon.  We have a very large space of pasture that we are fencing in.  It has five rows of barbed wire around it, it just needs to be sectioned off from the rest of the ten acres but this goat and sheep mama is rather paranoid.  Coyotes!  Lambs and goat kids escaping!  It wouldn’t be hard.  My old greyhound will skirt under the wires if he feels the need to run five miles.  So pasture fencing will surround the space giving the adorable ruminants room to spread out and more grass to eat.

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feeding time

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This is the last week that the babies get bottles.  I am not sure who will be more devastated, the lambs or Maryjane!  She considers it her farm work.  As soon as we pull into the drive, scarcely awake from her groggy nap down fifty minutes of country roads, she jumps down and starts jabbering away about lambs and milk and bottles.  Nothing the untrained ear would understand, but I can see her excitement.  We may have a new baby next week from our friend’s farm, our own goats are due here in a few weeks and there will be plenty more bottle feeding opportunities for our mini-farmgirl!

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We are getting ducklings this week and today we pick up our farm truck.  Good thing since we need fencing!  This fog makes me want to join the cats though.

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Time to throw back another cup of joe and get to my farm chores.  I leave you with a lovely quote and a wish for a joyous day!

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How To Plant an Orchard (with adorable farmers)

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I had an adorable work crew yesterday on Pumpkin Hollow Farm.  Our mission was to plant trees.  Apple, plum, and apricot trees to be exact.

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“Can we climb the trees?” the younger ones asked.

“Maybe your kids will be able to climb the trees!” I responded.

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That certainly seemed a long time away for my young farm hands.

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We live on the property with our landlords, us in the little, old homestead that was built here one hundred and ten years ago.  They are sweet enough to let us farm this property.  We would like to stay here a very long time.  Trees will outlive me and give future generations something wonderful to eat.  These children have decided to eat all the fruit available in the meantime!

“When will there be apples?” they asked.

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The young man pictured above is Will, the son of our neighbors here.  His older sister and husband are here for spring break with their four darling boys.  They are full of fun and energy and a fair amount of humor.  “Hello Mr. Rogers!” they shout as Doug walks by.  “Sanders!” he corrects. “Hello Mrs. Sandra!” to me.  Shyanne and I couldn’t stop laughing at the kids calling Doug Mr. Rogers.  Thoughts of my favorite childhood show in mind.

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Maryjane was in heaven with this many little boys.  She generally stays very close to me, often wanting to be held, but yesterday she wanted to be near the boys.  She walked down our porch and boldly out the gate.  She tried to get them to come back with her.  At one point she was in a large dog kennel with them.  She was completely enamored with these older boys.

To plant trees:  This is a perfect time of year to plant trees.  They are still sleeping and when they wake up next month they will stretch their roots and begin to grow and thrive.

Dig a hole about 18 inches by 18 inches to start.  That very well may be big enough for the trees but you could always make it bigger.  Make sure there are no electrical lines beneath you!

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Then fill the hole half way with water.  This lets you see how fast the water drains.  One of the holes we dug didn’t drain even after two hours so we filled it back up and dug a hole four feet from it and it was perfect.  By watering the hole you are also putting in moisture for the new trees.

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Will and Doug took Maryjane back to Elizabeth when her mom got off work and headed to our favorite nursery to pick up the trees.  I love to support local business and families in the community and Holly Acres in Elizabeth is a great source for plants at a very fair price.

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Stand tree upright in the hole and fill hole half way with organic garden soil.  Then top with the soil that was initially removed from the hole. This allows the pile of dirt to nestle around the neck of the tree and adds a little extra nutrition for the roots.  Don’t put compost on yet as it will burn the sleeping tree.  We will put some compost on in June.

Draw a ring around the tree a foot away from the trunk and fill the little ravine with water.  Mulch with straw or wood chips.

Keep watered year round to ensure a healthy start!

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