Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Eighty Drumsticks in Two Days

    Beef is my least favorite thing to can, but chicken comes pretty close. For both chicken and beef i have to force myself into a "This is food" mindset rather than a "This was an animal" mindset. It works most of the time.

Don't be Deceived by the Cheesy Grins ... It smelled bad.
     One time, a couple years ago, we butchered all our own chickens (we bought them as chicks, hired someone to raise them, and helped with the butchering). That was an experience I'll not soon forget. It was extremely hard to force myself into the "This is food" mindset.
    This year we bought forty chickens freshly butchered this morning and whole (they did gut them for us ... thank goodness!). We froze some whole, froze some in pieces, froze the livers and hearts, canned white & dark meat, and canned the broth. It took two days!

Counting out Thighs and Wings

Our Meat in Seal-A-Meal Bags.
   We like to freeze our meat in seal-a-meal bags. Our sealer machine sucks the air out of the bag and leaves it air tight. The trick is not filling the bags too full and not letting the machine suck the juice out with the air.

Boiling the Chicken Down
    We canned the chicken we didn't freeze. First we boiled it for a good number of hours (iIcan't remember how many) and then let it cool n our huge canning bowls for another hour. Transferring it from pot to bowl is interesting. We use two spoons like Olive Garden salad tongs and scoop up the VERY tender chickens and heft them out of their broth. You have to wear an apron or else your shirt is doomed to eternal oil stains.

Cooling Chicken

    Then comes the super fun part (can you hear the sarcasm in my voice?). After the chicken is cooled then we separate it into dark meat, white meat, fit for dogs, and unfit for dogs/bones. The unfit for dogs/bones stuff gets thrown back into the chicken broth to simmer over night, the dog meat is kept in zip-lock bags in the freezer for extremely cold winter days where they need the fat, and the meat is canned. 

    The process is not one of my favorites, but it's worth it in the winter when you have the meat. I don't want to down any type of canning. I'm going to can chicken and beef as a mother someday.even though I'll never love it ... but that's okay. I love the feeling of self reliance and taking something from it's creation state and preserving it for future months.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Smells in the Amish Bakery

    Today was my first day working in the Amish bakery. I LOVED it! What more could you ask for? Good company, enjoyable work, and delicious smells. One thing I will say though, this job may become detrimental to my health :)

Sale Room
     I haven't learned how to work the cash register yet, though I'm looking forward to gaining that skill. I do talk to costomers, but just in greeting from the kitchen upstairs.
    The bakery sells every yummy thing imaginable (almost :). Woopie-pies, angel food cake, lots of bread, at least ten different kinds of cookies, the best carrot cake on the planet, half moon pies, and it's apple dumpling season (my favorite).

The Kitchen
    This is my home base. Under this counter in the left bottom corner there are rolling tubs labeled: Cake Flour, Bread Flour, Brown Sugar, White Sugar, Rolled Oats, etc... It's at this counter that all the dough and batter is mixed and where a lot of the food is packaged. 
    The shelf with all the hanging measuring cups is where we weigh our butter, shorting, etc...

    You might be asking yourself, "Well I see the sink, but where's the dishwasher?" The answer: You're talking to it. That's right. It's an Amish bakery which means no electric. Everything is gas powered: the stove, mixers, ovens, everything and I guess no one's invented a gas powered dishwasher yet.

The Happy Baker
     So here I am in my cross-string apron (a bear to get in and out of) and my hair pulled into a tight bun which is fun to brush out after I get home from work. I've always loved baking, and now I get paid for it. I ask again: What more could you ask for?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

One Year of Puppy Love!

    We went on vacation over Thanksgiving last year and while we were gone our dog had eight puppies (four female and four male). We got home from vacation and had the best welcoming comity ever. Our dog, Lady, was allowed to get pregnant in the first place because Mom thought it would be educational and memorable for us to watch a few puppies grow up. I doubt Mom was had the number EIGHT in mind.

Ten Days Old
    The pup's father, Bolto, was an drop off that we've had since I was Twelve. He's an old scrooge most of the time, but I equate it to arthritis and still love him best. Bolto is a mix breed, but he looks like a retriever, collie mix ... Who Knows?
    Lady, the pup's mother, was another mix breed we bought on Craig's List. We're pretty sure she's a hound, beagle mix. What does it make these Pups? Mutts! The best type of dog in the world!

Ten Days Old

Twenty Days Old
    They moved from a plastic tub (lined with old sleeping bag and straw) in the garage to a crate in the woodshed. But because the woodshed was so cold (It was December!) we often were allowed to play with them in the house. The first day we were only allowed in the laundry room on rag towels, but as the days progressed the puppies slowly wheedled their way into the kitchen, which became their favorite place because the heater kept it toasty.

One Month Old
One and a Half Months Old
    When they were a month and a half old we could tell all of them apart. Where, before, they had been helpless meatballs, they were now scampering fur-balls. It was about this time that they all got names. We knew we wouldn't be keeping all of them, but we had fun coming up with eight names anyway. The four females were Jules (Evolved from Jewel), Belle (Not after Twilight's Belle), Whitey, and Ruby. The four males were Shaska (It means a single handed, single edged sword), Chubbs (the most rolly-polly puppy you ever did see), Shadow, and Spencer.
    The two pictured above are Shaska and Ruby (right to left)

One and a Half Months Old
    They weren't only they fur-balls though, they were escape artists. When they became able to crawl out of the crate we put a semicircle of hog wire up to give them a little muddy yard. Jules was the first to discover that if she climbed two rungs she could wriggle through the bars. Because she was the smallest she was able to get through without any snags, but they others had to shove their fat little puppy bodies through the wire. It was hilarious to watch. All the puppies discovered the loophole, but only seven successfully ... all except Chubbs :)

Shaska ...One and a Half Months Old
Whitey ... One and a Half Months Old
    At six months we advertized them in our local Amish-run bulk food store just two minutes up the road. We found homes for three of the females, and the shelter found homes for three of the males. We were allowed to keep two and after some thought we decided to keep Shaska & Jules. 
    We kept Jules because she was gorgeous (the black marks on her eyes look like an Egyptian princess), faster than anything, and as smart as a whip. We decided to Keep Shaska because he seemed to be the most loyal. He seemed to know what we were feeling and would sympathize.  

Three Months Old
    Bolto was extraordinary with our cats, he never growled at or chased her (maybe I should equate that to the arthritis too :) ... But Stormy, our all black cat pictured above, had to learn how to deal with a bit of a beating. We thought she would leave us, but thankfully she is very tolerant and very motherly. One minute the two pups are dragging her by the scruff, and the next she's licking away their tears. 

Six Months Old
   All in all it's been a grand adventure. It was hard letting six of our babies go, but we loved it while it lasted ... and we're still having a grand adventure with our two new family members. This next month will mark a full year of Puppy Love ... and We're Still Lovin' It!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Canning Hearty Potato Soup


    We had quite a few potatoes from the garden this season, but unfortunately, as we dug them up, a couple got stabbed or sliced with the pitchforks and shovels. Potatoes like that won't last in the root cellar, so we decided to cann up a batch of hearty potato soup.
    Canning soup is really help once winter comes because that's when we crave soup and are often too tired to make any. with canns of it on the shelves all we have to do is heat it up on the stove and serve it steaming and scrumptious.

    This Bosch Mixer and its slicing attachment makes our lives infinitely easier. We used it to chuck the potatoes, dice the onions, shred the cabbage, and slice the carrots. I don't know how we would manage big batches of soup like this if we didn't have this machine.
    P.S. the ace bandage around my brother's waist isn't protecting a wound or burn or anything. I think he just decided to wear it for fun.

The onions are from our garden too!

We added some browned hamburger to the soup to make it heartier

    The garlic needed to be cut by hand because the Bosch Mixer doesn't dice things up that small. But cutting things by hand every once in a while makes one grateful for the appliances.

    And here it is, all raw and ready to be tossed into the pot: potatoes, onions, celery, garlic, carrots, and even some cabbage along with the hamburger. We don't measure at all as we add everything to the pot, we just eyeball it. 
    After the whole thing simmers for a while it ready to be laded into jars and pressure cooked. I don't have any pictures of the end product so you'll just have to take it on faith that it looked super yummy.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Yardwork At Its BEST!

     Yard Work! That's something that we have a lot of this time of year. Putting the yard to sleep before winter is not unlike putting a young child to sleep before seven o'clock... it seems to take longer than you had thought. Anyway, we got a lot done today, and had some fun too.

Fertilizing the Transplanted Strawberries With "Fall Blend"

Lots of Mowing (A favorite job) ... and More Fertilizing
Taming the Wild Rototiller
Transplanting Asparagus Uncovered More Than Just Roots
Friends at First Sight! (I didn't ask the Toad)
What an Exhausting Day!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Brothers Do Grow Up ...

 With every passing season, the years are stripped away. 
Give me riches give me fame no, I want yesterday. ~ Mormish

Spring 2007
 This little man used to try to mow the lawn. He would be out there for hours, pushing, hauling, and sweating until he was so worn out!

Autumn 2012
 Now he mows more than any of us. I, truthfully, haven't gotten to mow since we got the zero turn. The little man is probably much better at it then I'll ever be.

Winter 2008
 This little man used to bring in the wood every winter morning. Some of the logs were so big he couldn't lift them and the wagon got so heavy that it was so hard for him to pull.

Summer 2012
 Now the little man isn't so little anymore, and he doesn't just bring in the wood, he splits it too! He split half the wood his year, grew a foot, and twice as cute! 
You'll always be my little man Buck!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Field Trip to the Sorghum Molasses Farm

     Today the family got bundled up and drove the five minutes to the Sorghum farm. Of course they don't just harvest sorghum here, they build sheds, sell firewood, have a produce stand, an ENORMOUS garden, and also harvest maple syrup as well. They are quite the busy family if you ask me. And we were quite the fascinated family as we were introduced to the process.

My Sister Holding the Little Amish Boy.
Sorghum Cane Ready to be Pressed
Run by Horse Power
     The team of horses pull a long pole round and round a mechanism with two wheels that revolve into one another. The canes are shoved between the wheels, pressed dry, and comes out flat. The juice is then harvested, filtered, and sent through a hose to the boiling shed.

The Flattened De-juiced Cane
You Would Never Have Guessed That That Green Juice is Really Molasses
Steam the green away!
    Moil lasses is not as hard to boil down as maple syrups is. Where maple syrup is forty gallons of sap to one gallon of syrup, sorghum is seven gallons of juice to one gallon of molasses.    

The Roof of the Boiling Shed
Keeping the Fire Hot
    The fire has to be kept so hot that when you load it you have to wear a mask so your face isn't burned. Just standing by it when they open the door is a warming ordeal.

Sweet Goodness!
    When the molasses is the right consistency it weaves it's way through the channels and drips into the pot. When the pot is full it's replaced and poured into yet another strainer. Because the process is such a messy one the sorghum is strained seven times at nearly every stage.
    Then it is poured into jars and let to cool on the shelf. It is almost as thin as syrup when it's warm, but once it's cool it's the consistency of thick honey.

Pouring the Sorghum into the Strainer
From Green to Gold!
    What an educational and fun adventure. I know I learned a lot. Maybe, one of these days, our family will try our hand at sorghum pressing? Now wouldn't that be fun?