Sunday, October 31, 2010

Harvest Totals October 2010

Well, October has been much better, harvest wise, than July, August or September. The garden has consistently provided enough greens for a salad about 3 times a week, and I was even able to bring a salad to a family gathering for 11 and I only had to add a cucumber from the grocery store. I was pretty excited!! These greens include mesclun (looks to me like only red and green leaf lettuce), romaine lettuce, baby kale, parsley and occasionally baby swiss chard. It is so nice to have homegrown greens again.

This was taken early last week. The eggs are usually bigger, more like the size of the green one, and we usually have more than 7 as well.

The hens have really hit their stride egg production wise. Their eggs are getting bigger, averaging large size, though there are two who are laying the equivalent of jumbo eggs. They are also averaging 9 eggs per day now, up from about 6 last week. This month, they laid 186 eggs!! I am extremely pleased with this number. It comes out to an average of 6 per day for the entire month, and that includes days with only one egg and even one day with zero eggs. In fact, we have so many eggs, I'm not sure what we will do with them. We gave away 3 dozen this week, ate or baked with 2 dozen and have 4 dozen left in the refrigerator. I wish I knew where to find one or two customers. I don't think I could support more than two, just in case they don't lay well one week, but it would be nice to have an outlet for these eggs.

In the meantime, I guess we'll be eating lots of omelettes, like the one above, which is made with caramelized veggies and cheese. Yummy!!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Real Food Deals - Mambo Sprouts and Kroger

We love Real Food over here. As we define it, real food is "non-processed" food, for the most part, though there are some "processed" foods that my family does enjoy. One of those foods is Lifeway Kefir, which my husband loves (he drinks it for energy during workouts). So I was very excited to see it on sale for $2.99 per quart at our local Kroger (Delta Region). When we combine that with the printable coupon from Mambo Sprouts ($1.00/2 Lifeway Kefir), the price comes out to $2.49 (there was also a paper coupon from Mambo Sprouts that I received in the mail a fee weeks ago). The regular price for this product is $3.99, so between the coupon and sale we will save $1.50 per bottle. Hubby will be very pleased to find a few bottles of his favorite workout snack this week :)

This post is being linked to Real Food Deals at Premediated Leftovers.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

What's Happening Around the Little Cabin

Today was a pretty busy day at The Cabin. It has been raining most of this week, which meant we could not get much done outside, and there was lots to do outside. Today, we were blessed with cool weather and sunshine, so we got outside and got stuff done :)

First, we put wheat straw in the chicken run (they were so thrilled) because all that rain had turned things to mud. While we were in there working, we had the opportunity to see one of the hens lay an egg :) That was pretty exciting for the boys and for me, especially because she's my favorite hen (very friendly - she lets me pet her and she "talks" to us). It was also neat because now we know which eggs are hers ( the really jumbo sized army green colored ones - WTG girly).

Next, we put down some stepping stones to make a path between the house and the shed. We must walk that path a lot more than the previous owners. We had walked a dirt/ mud path through the grass and decided it would be better for the lawn and for our shoes if we had stepping stones.

We also put a temporary fence up around my garden, as all of the animals in our neighborhood seem to think of my garden as their own personal beds and they have been crushing my lettuce. Hopefully we can fortify it in the next day or two and make the fence more permanent.

Finally, we put compost in the new bed and then started some new compost with some leaves and chicken manure. Phew! I'm tired and so are the boys. Busy, busy day!!

What's happening at your place?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Garden/ Chicken Update - October 21, 2010

We finally got some rain, after 9 weeks with no measurable rainfall. The ground was so dusty that we could barely walk outside some days, with all the dust flying around. The ground, and my garden are enjoying the deep drink of rainwater provided earlier this week.

The little fall garden is really beginning to feed us more substantially (finally!!) and I could not be more happy. Our greens have reached the baby stage so we have been enjoying some nice "gourmet" salad mix with our meals and even as meals. I don't weigh the "harvests" but I have taken pictures of a few of them. Our mix includes mesclun (a few green and red leaf lettuces), romain, parsley and kale. The spinach is still too small - only about 4 true leaves and not many plants - so we are not harvesting it yet. The above photo is pretty representative of a harvest and we are able to pick this much a few times a week. This amount will make 3-4 side salads or two or so meals.

This week, I planted some more mesclun and spinach. The spinach plants that have been growing for several weeks are still so small, and most of the seeds did not germinate yet plus two of my chickens got out a few weeks ago and ate half of the mesclun seedlings. Having a staggered planting will be nice, so I guess things have worked out for the best, in that regard. I am hoping that we can keep all beasts from eating, squashing or digging up the garden so that we can continue to enjoy it in the coming months.

The hens are laying pretty well (except for today when they laid a grand total of ZERO eggs - weird). So far this month, they have laid 113 eggs and we have been able to use almost half for ourselves (we enjoy eggs, plus we bake a lot) and have been able to share the rest with our family and neighbors. I've really enjoyed that part of having laying hens. It is nice to have something our land has produced to be able to share with our "community".

We are getting ready to add compost to a new bed that we will use for herbs and tomatoes, plus probably a few caning berry plants (blackberries, maybe) in the spring. I'd like to get the parsley transferred there before it gets cold here. If I can get to that next week, then that will free up another 4 square feet of garden for more spinach. I also still need to plant the sprouted potatoes and garlic. We have a micro climate (where that new bed is going) that is significantly warmer than the rest of our place and gets lots of sunlight, too. The potatoes will be in containers in that area, so I think they will grow well into winter and produce a small harvest. Not a lot, but home grown potatoes are so worth the effort :)

I have a question for all my gardening friends. How often do you add compost or fertilizer to your garden? I've been adding compost (made with leaves, garden plants, grass clippings, kitchen waste, chicken and rabbit droppings, wood shavings and hay) about once every 2 months or so. Is this often enough or am I depleting the soil? Any advice?

Tell Me Thursday - Dancing

I took this picture a few weeks ago for my husband's birthday at a Cajun restaurant "back home". My oldest son asked my Mom (she has Alzheimer's) to dance. It seemed to be lots of fun for both (though neither are smiling in this picture - they were concentrating, lol) and will definitely be a special memory as well.

Tell Me Thursday

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Real Food Deals

My blogging friend Alea over at Premeditated Leftovers has started this wonderful blog carnival, Real Food Deals. Basically, its a place to share any ways we save on Real Food, either at the grocery store, local foods or even just general tips for saving on real food or healthier foods, as we define it for ourselves. I missed the first week, but am hoping to participate fairly regularly from now on. This week, I'm just going to share a little about how we save on pasture raised meat.

We chose to begin eating pasture raised meat a few years ago after reading Nourishing Traditions and The Omnivore's Dilemma. You can read some the reasons we believe pastured meat is right for our family here. As I mentioned in my earlier post, pasture raised chicken is EXPENSIVE. It can be up to four times more expensive than grocery store chicken when bought on sale, and depending upon the breed of chicken raised, may be much smaller than grocery store chickens, as well. We've had to get really creative with our chicken meals in order to keep their use within our budget.

We are raising some meat birds at this time, though definitely not enough to keep our family fed yet. Therefore, we are buying pasture raised, organic heritage breed chicken from a local farmer at this time. We pay between $6 and $8 per dressed bird, depending upon their size and most of them are about one pound smaller than grocery store chickens. What they lack in quantity of meat, they more than make up for in flavor and of course, we believe they are better for us as well.

One way we make the most of our chicken meals is that we do not usually eat chicken as a main course anymore - you know, meat and potatoes. Most of the time, we use the chicken as part of a main dish such as stir fry or enchiladas.

We get our birds whole from the farmer. I start out by seasoning a chicken with a dry rub (usually celtic sea sale, onion powder, garlic powder and cayenne pepper) and then putting it in the refrigerator over night to "marinate". The next morning, I usually roast the chicken in a 300 degree oven for about 2.5-3 hours or until a meat thermometer reads 180 degrees in the meatiest part of a thigh. Next I allow the chicken to cool a bit, and remove most of the meat from the bones, reserving the pan drippings. Some of the meat will then be used as part of a main dish like chicken enchiladas, tamales, chicken spaghetti or stir fry. The bones and pan drippings will then go into the slow cooker along with some onions carrots and celery, if I have it, to make chicken stock. I usually cook it on low for 6-8 hours. When the stock is rich and flavorful, I strain it and once cool, put it in the refrigerator (or freezer, if I won't be using it right away). The bones are then picked for more meat - usually enough for soup which we usually have at least once a week. We use the stock also to make rice and especially when we make beans and rice dishes, as the stock adds a depth of flavor and a richness that makes eating meatless dishes much more filling. The remaining chicken skin and bones are given to our dog who loves his special treat.

If we are careful, we can usually get about 3 meals from one chicken. A stir fry will usually cost us about $4.00 for the main course, assuming we paid $8.00 for the chicken ($2.50 for the chicken, $1.00 for the veggies and $.50 for rice and sauce - or we serve it on lettuce leaves if we are low carbing) and will serve 4-6 depending upon how hungry my family is that day so about $1.00 per serving, on average. Chicken Enchilladas will usually cost about $7.50 ($2.50 for chicken, $2.00 for tortillas, $2.00 for cheese, $.50 for veggies, $.50 for sauce) and this usually will serve 8-10 depending upon how hungry everyone is, so between $.75-$1.00 per serving. Soup is even more economical, costing only about $4.00 ($2.50 for chicken and stock, $1.00 or less for veggies and $.50 for a handful of rice or pasta and seasonings), and it will usually serve 10 for approximately $.50 per serving. From that same chicken, we might also make Cuban black beans and rice for approximately $2.00 ($.50 for beans (cooked from dry - about 2 cups), $.50 for stock, $.50 for rice and $.50 for chipotles, onions and spices). We can usually have this for supper with a side of veggies and it will serve 5 (supper for 4 plus I will have it for lunch the next day), so about $.40 per serving.

Our grocery budget has gone up over the last few years, especially since we began eating pastured meat, but by working at it, we can at least keep things more affordable. Some weeks this works better than others of course, but for the most part, if I can stay organized, we can stay within budget and enjoy pastured meat as well.

This post is being submitted to Real Food Deals at Premeditated Leftovers.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Menu Plan Monday (Oct 18th)

We had a nice long (3 day) weekend at home and for a the first two of those days, hubby and the boys were off in the woods leaving me with the house all to myself most of the time. I took the opportunity to get ahead on some of this week's cooking :) A great deal of this week's menu is either in the freezer or refrigerator, ready to heat and eat :)

Here is our menu plan for the week. As usual, all locally grown and homegrown items will be listed in bold.

Breakfast (with repeats):

and Grits
*Oatmeal with pecans , coconut oil and honey
*Egg and cheese biscuit sandwiches (these are handy for that one morning when we have an early obligation in town)
*Smoothies (blueberries, bananas, yogurt, peaches or strawberries)


*Peanut butter and honey sandwiches
*Sliced Turkey sandwiches (cooked a turkey breast and made gravy to go with it - too bad there is no cranberry sauce, lol)
*Green Salad (homegrown greens) with boiled eggs, pecans, carrots and cheese


*Yogurt (with maple syrup)
*muffins I made over the weekend
*Homemade bread with honey butter
*Sliced Apples
*Carrots and herb cheese dip


*Italian Crock Pot Black Eyed Pea Soup and homemade bread

*Roasted Turkey Breast, Homemade Mac & Cheese (feeling the need for warm weather comfort food, I guess ;), green salad

*Meatloaf (grass fed beef from the farmer's market), steamed broccoli, green salad

*Fiesta Chicken (pasture raised chicken from the farmer's market, mixed with salsa - I think we have ONE jar of homemade salsa left-, corn and black beans) served in tortillas, with a green salad

*Crustless quiche (to use up random leftovers), or this Egg Puff from Premeditated Leftovers, green salad and mashed sweet potatoes

*White Bean Chicken Chili (pastured chicken and stock from that chicken), with a green salad (our garden it putting out lots of lettuce and other greens now )

*BBQ burgers, potato salad (kids have been asking for this) roasted mixed veggies

Once a meal has been eaten, all leftovers will go into the freezer for later meals.

This post is part of the Menu Plan Monday Carnival at OrgJunkie

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Couple of Firsts this Fall

Yesterday I had the opportunity to make our first apple pie of the season (Paula, I always think of you and Heather when making apple pie). I think it must have been much anticipated, because the boys cut into it before I was even able to get a picture. With all of the moving, I misplaced my usual recipe, so instead, I used this crust recipe from All Recipes and this filling recipe with some adjustments (I used Gala apples, so I left out about half of the sugar in the recipe and I substituted butter for the shortening).

This morning we had temps in the low 40's and so we decided to get a fire going in the fireplace. So cozy. It was nice to be able to cuddle up and enjoy my morning coffee in front of the fireplace.

We are really going to enjoy this wood burning fireplace this fall and winter.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pumpkin Oatmeal Recipe

I cannot remember where I saw this (I read lots of food blogs and belong to lots of foodie yahoo groups), but we just had to try this really cute recipe for pumpkin oatmeal (please don't look at my dirty stove - keepin' it real here, lol).

It starts with a sugar pumpkin, top cut off and hollowed out (remove all the strings and seeds). Add to the pumpkin one cup of oats, one cup of milk and any sweetener you might like (we used about 1 tablespoon honey and a little brown sugar). In addition, put a pinch of salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon and I also used a couple of grates of nutmeg. We like a little crunch in our oatmeal, so we added pepitas (roasted and shelled pumpkin seeds). Once all of this is inside the pumpkin, put the lid back on and put it into a preheated 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes. Before serving, scrape some of the pumpkin off the sides and mix it in with the oats. We added a little butter and coconut oil right before eating.

This was a fun little recipe and got another orange veggie into my kids first thing in the morning. If anyone else saw this online and remembers where it came from, please let me know so that I can give proper credit.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Menu Plan (Oct 4) and Farmer's Market

I visited the farmer's market on Saturday and was pleasantly surprised at some of the wonderful things I found. There was a wonderful "no spray" lettuce farmer there with an amazing array of lettuces. Its been a long time since we've had lettuce from the farmer's market. We are enjoying the red leaf and green leaf lettuces so much. I also found some cooking pumpkins, some "no spray" butternut squash and some sweet potatoes in addition to our beef order (we are getting several this fall to carry us through until spring/ early summer when there will be more available).

Our beef order comes with each cut individually wrapped in butcher paper and the hamburger is wrapped up in one pound portions. Each time we get slightly different cuts and different amounts of hamburger. This order had a few t-bones, a few sirloins, two roasts, some ribs and lots of hamburger (what we use most). We also got soup bones.

This is the cooler I bring it home in. Each order is somewhere between 25 & 30 pounds. It takes us between three and four months to finish off one order.

We are going to use some of the local food we have in the freezer, as well as the farmer's market finds for our menu this week. As usual, I will put the local items in bold.

Breakfast (with repeats):

*Oatmeal with coconut oil, pecans, honey and blueberries
*Eggs and grits with cut up fruit
*Fruit smoothies made with homemade yogurt, blueberries, peaches and bananas
*Homemade granola with pecans, honey, butter, coconut oil, pepitas and dried bananas


*Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and applesauce
*Peanut butter sandwiches and cut up fruit
*Green Salad with feta cheese, walnuts, pecans, kalamata olives


*Pumpkin bread or muffins (eggs are from our hens)
*Smoothies (blueberries, peaches)
*Apple slices
*Cheese cubes
*Oatmeal cookies
*homemade bread and honey butter


*French Onion Soup (beef stock from soup bones - also will include small amount of beef; the dog was THRILLED with his jackpot when I gave him the bones earlier) with grilled cheese sandwiches and a green salad

*Roasted Chicken, sweet potatoes (probably just cooked in some butter - so yummy!!), green salad

*Dinner Salad with leftover roasted chicken, pecans, cheese, boiled eggs, cucumbers, carrots and some homemade bread

*Cheese Burgers with caramelized onions, green salad, mashed butternut squash

*Soup (not sure what kind, but I'm leaning towards Italian Black Eyed Pea Soup) and homemade biscuits

*Pizza with leftovers (some of which will be local) and maybe caramelized onions and black olives as toppings and a green salad

*Crustless Quiche (eggs) to use up any veggies that need to be eaten before they go bad and a green salad (if we still have lettuce or if ours is ready to begin using).

Our hens are consistently laying 7 eggs a day now (1 blue/ green, 1 dark brown and white speckled and 5 light brown). That means we are getting about 4 dozen a week - plenty for us to use and enough to share with our neighbors, too :) Earlier, when dh and I were out feeding/ watering the chickens and collecting the eggs, a katydid flew at me and I jumped/ screamed (eek!!) and dh laughed (because it was really funny). My response? To begin crying - so out of character for me. I am obviously experiencing some sort of pregnancy hormone thing. I am now entering my third trimester (time is flying for me this time) and I think we are having a really big boy - check out that profile:

To me, I look much farther along than just 6 months, lol. I think I better get to work with farm projects, Christmas shopping and freezer cooking!! It will be here before I know it.

I will be submitting this to Menu Plan Monday at OrgJunkie.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

September "Grow Our Own" Totals

We finally have something (though just a very little) harvested to count, so I'm going to try to keep track of what our little cabin/ farm is producing for us.

In September, we grew a lot of baby lettuce that we did not get to consume, but that the chickens did get to consume and that we will ultimately consume as eggs. The only green stuff we harvested in September was parsley and basil. The parsley was used in Taboulleh and most of the basil was dried (5 plants - dried to about a cup of crushed leaves). In addition to the small harvest, we planted lots of fall crops including Romaine lettuce and Mesclun, Kale, Beets, Swiss Chard, Broccoli, Snow Peas, and Spinach. We lost our bunching onions to something (I think it was our dog who dug them all up) and those will be replanted soon.

Not food, but we also harvested some hay (about 3 wheelbarrows full) and have some more to harvest. We also cut some trees (3) and made firewood.

The chickens began laying eggs on Sept. 19th and the total egg production for the month was 60 eggs. We used many of them ourselves and have also been able to share some with our wonderful neighbors. We also harvested a rooster who dressed out at about 3 or so pounds. He is still in the freezer.

All things considered, I am quite pleased with our very small harvest. I am hopeful that October will be even more productive.

How about you? Harvest anything in September?