December 29, 2010

Book Review- The Long Winter

Disclosure:  I bought this book because I was interested in it.  I am not getting paid to read it or review it.  I just like to read.

I recently read Laura Ingalls Wilders' The Long Winter, one of the books in the Little House series.  It was a fascinating account of the winter her family nearly starved to death because the trains carrying food and supplies could not reach them due to 7 months of back-to-back blizzards.  It made me so grateful to have electricity, an abundant supply of food, and all the other modern conveniences we take for granted. 

The character that amazed me most was Ma Ingalls.  In the face of boredom, starvation, and cold, Ma survived.  She got up in the morning, got dressed, lit the fire, made breakfast, cleaned the house, encouraged the girls to study, served her husband dinner, ground wheat, etc.  She hardly ever said anything "cross", and when she did tell her husband he couldn't go searching for wheat in the middle of the prairie, it was a really dramatic moment.  I think that moment plus the moment she learned the trains would not be coming until spring were the only times in the whole book she was ever really angry.  The rest of the time she was looking for nice things to say.  They had only potatoes and bread to eat, but she said things like, "It was good of you, Charles, to get some tea.  It is so nice to have tea".  She didn't complain, criticize, blame, or nag.  She was also very thrifty, and made a light out of a button, some cloth, and some axle grease.  It's funny to me to read when she said things like "Back when I was a girl, we always had a light.  We didn't depend on this newfangled kerosene".  I guess I've never thought about how people made lights before there was kerosene.

This book opened up a whole new world for me.  Since moving out to the prairie I've often wondered how the people that came here before I did survived.  The Long Winter provides a glimpse of that.  I'm interested to read the rest of the Little House series now, to learn more about life on the American frontier.

December 28, 2010

Crisp Cauliflower Salad

Here is a delicious way to serve cauliflower.  It is my uncle's recipe.  He created it after tasting something similar at Whole Foods.  It's an excellent side dish to bring to potlucks, since it doesn't need to be refrigerated.  Use as much or as little dressing as you like.  Be sure to use plenty of salt.  If you don't eat soy, just omit it and use more sea salt. 

Crisp Cauliflower Salad
serves 8

2 heads fresh cauliflower
1 bunch of dill, chopped
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped
12 oz frozen peas
crushed red peppers (optional)
4-8 TBSP Italian dressing
1 TBSP soy sauce (optional)
2 tsp sea salt or Tony Chachere's seasoning

1.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Place whole cauliflower heads in baking pan with 1 inch water.  Roast at 450 for 30 minutes. 

2.  Place frozen peas in small saucepan with 1 inch water.  Bring to a boil and shut off stove. 

3.  Once cauliflower is cool enough to handle, cut into bite-sized pieces.  It's best to leave a little core on each piece.

4.  Combine crushed red peppers (if using), dressing, soy sauce, and sea salt or Tony Chachere's seasoning. 

5.  In a large bowl combine vegetables and herbs.  Pour dressing mixture over all.  Toss to coat. 

6.  Chill and serve.

Linked to Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday and Ultimate Recipe Swap.

December 26, 2010

Meal Plan Dec 26- Jan 1

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas.  Another short week of cooking for me, since I'm taking the kids to town for the weekend.  Here's what we eating this week.

Dec 26- Beef Lasagna, fresh pears
Dec 27- Chicken Noodle Soup with Homemade Noodles, peas, carrots
Dec. 28- Pan- Fried Walleye, Fried Potatoes Sauteed Broccoli
Dec. 29- Pork Chops, Creamed Corn, Asparagus
Dec. 30- Chicken Parmesan, noodles, green salad
Dec. 31- dinner in town
Jan 1- Happy New Year!  Dinner in town

Be sure to check out I'm an Organizing Junkie for more meal plans.

December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas Ya'll!

Christmas Garlands- a Guest Post

Today's post is written by my mom.

When Dem came home from college in December of 2003, she decided that our home needed some Christmas garlands. She designed and fashioned four different, reusable fir garlands: one for the den with red berries and gold leaves; one for the kitchen with golden beads; one for the foyer with magnolias; and one for the dining room with gold ribbon and gold poinsettias.  Each year thereafter, Dem would hang the Christmas garlands again while I placed Santas, Nativities, and other decorations around the house.

When Dem married and moved to the ranch, I continued this tradition she had started. As I handled the garlands, I realized for the first time what a very thoughtful and creative gift she had given our family in 2003. I was struck by how lovely and individual each garland is, and by how much time she must have spent on them. I imagined her thinking about what to create, designing each to be different, finding and weaving together the materials, and hanging them herself for the first time.

Never again will I see those garlands as just another Christmas decoration. Each is a unique and lovely expression of Dem's joy, creativity, energy, and enthusiasm.

December 21, 2010

Gratituesday- A Little Buddy

This Tuesday I'm participating in Heavenly Homemakers' Gratituesday link-up.  I am grateful to have my little buddy to share the Christmas season with.  He "helped" decorate the tree, decorate Christmas cookies, set up his nativity, and hang stockings.  He also helped assemble our last-minute, exremely tacky Advent wreath:

All with Christmas music playing in the background and the two of us dancing around the house like a couple of dorks.  Okay, I guess it's acceptable for little kids to dance around.  I'm the one who is a dork! 

I have been extremely homesick for the past 3 years at Christmas.  My husband's family does things differently than my family.  It has taken some time to adjust.  This year the loneliness has not been so bad since I have someone who gets even more excited than I do about all the fuss. 

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!

December 18, 2010

Christmas Tree Hunting

We get our Christmas trees from a National Forest that's about 1.5 hours away from our house.  We purchase permits for $10 a pop, and by cutting our trees we're helping to thin the forest.  It's a family tradition my in-laws started many years ago. 

Here are scenes from our tree hunting expedition.  We got a tree for my in-laws and a tree for my house.  Since my husband wasn't able to join us, I cut our tree.  And then the chain fell off the chainsaw.  Oops.

If you haven't gotten your tree yet, happy tree hunting to you!

December 17, 2010

It's Here!

Want to know what you can get for a trailer-load of junk plus a little cash?

An Osh Kosh!

What is an Osh Kosh?

It is a monster truck used to plow snow off huge areas.  That's the plow in the bed of the truck:

 This is my husband's new toy.  He arranged the trade, and he can't wait until the next heavy snowfall.

It needs a little repair work. 

This baby has seen a lot of service.   

Why do we need an Osh Kosh, you might ask?  Well, we run a small cat litter business.  We need the road cleared for trucks to come and go.  We have 10 miles of private road to maintain, plus another 13 miles that the county is supposed to maintain, but does not.

And because the men out here like new toys!

December 14, 2010

Keeping up your Egg Supply During Winter

If you have laying hens, you know their egg production usually slows down during winter.  Less access to fresh food and water, combined with shorter days and colder weather all contribute to fewer eggs.  There are a few things you can do to encourage your chickens to keep laying.

First, make sure they have shelter.  We have a chicken house with a tiny door (just big enough for the chickens to go outside) and during the summer we train them to go inside at night.  The house should have a place for them to perch.  Ours has a ladder- type structure, with about 4 rungs for them to perch on, as well as some 3-sided boxes for them to sit in to lay their eggs.  We line the floor with straw, and stick straw in the boxes too. 

Second, put a light in their shelter.  This helps keep them warm and "cues" their bodies to lay more eggs.  You can leave it on all day, or only turn it on at night.  Just don't forget to turn it on!
Third, make sure they have warm water every single day.  If egg production has really slowed, you may need to water them twice a day for awhile to get them started again. 

Chickens need all three of these things in order to keep laying.  Follow these steps and you too can enjoy fresh eggs all winter long!

Cod Liver Oil Giveaway

Parenting For Less is giving away a bottle of fermented cod liver oil from Green Pastures.  Head on over there and check it out!

December 13, 2010

One Way to Occupy a 2-Year-Old

'Tis the season of presents, and you know what that means... lots of boxes!  I like to give my son an empty box, a couple of markers, and maybe some stickers if I'm feeling really wild.  Coloring a big box keeps him occupied longer than coloring a piece of paper- 15 minutes compared to 5.

I let him go crazy with this box while helping my mom put out her Christmas lights this year.  He was getting antsy and starting to wander away from the yard. 

I'm always looking for things my 2-year-old can do to entertain himself that keep him out of trouble, make minimal mess, and are quiet.  Any suggestions?

Food Safety Modernization Act

Please contact your US Senators and tell them to vote “NO” on cloture for H.R. 3082 and oppose the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.  This bill will grant the FDA way too much power.  I want to be able to feed my family raw milk fresh from the farm.  Raw dairy is a threat to big dairy corporations.  It is not a food-safety issue.  I do not trust the FDA.  They do not do a good job of protecting our food and drug supply as it is and I doubt giving them more power will make us safer.  It will just increase their power to bully small farmers.  More regulation is not the answer to the food safety issues.  Individual consumer responsibility is.

For more information, watch this video from The Healthy Home Economist- it shows the FDA illegally confiscating raw milk.  You can contact your senators by going to

Please act now!

Pear Cranberry Pie with Oatmeal Streusel

No meal plan for you this week.  I'm still trying to get back in my rhythm after our trip.  But here's a lovely seasonal pie that tastes as good as it looks.  I found this recipe in Cooking Light a few years ago.  It is easily adaptable to Real Food ingredients.  The streusel topping has no nuts, which I appreciate. 

Pear Cranberry Pie with Oatmeal Streusel
adapted from Cooking Light Magazine, November 2007

3/4 cup regular oats
1/2 cup sucanat or light brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinammon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
Dash of salt
2 TBSP chilled butter, cut into small pieces

3 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled pear (2-3 large)
2 cups fresh cranberries
2/3 cup sucanat or light brown sugar
2 1/2 TBSP arrowroot powder or cornstarch

Remaining Ingredient:
1 unbaked 9-inch deep-dish whole wheat pie crust

1.  Preheat oven to 350.

2.  To prepare streusel, combine first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl; cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal.

3.  To prepare filling, combine pear, cranberries, 2/3 cup sucanat, and arrowroot powder in a large bowl; toss well to combine.  Spoon pear mixture into pie crust; sprinkle streusel over pear mixture.  Bake at 350 for 1 hour or until bubbly and streusel is browned.  Cool at least 1 hour on a wire rack.  Serve alone or with ice cream.

December 10, 2010

Finer Things Friday- Vacation

I didn't fall off the face of the earth.  I was on vacation in Texas, visiting my parents.  I say I was 'on vacation' because my mom helped so much with the kids, but stay-at-home-moms are never really on vacation when the kids are around!  While I was down there, a lady asked if I work, and I said yes, seven days a week! 

My mom, a frequent traveler, always does a 'trip debrief' where she intereviews each member of the family and asks for the highlights of the trip.  These were my answers:

What was the best part?  Going to the aquarium (or the 'prairium' as my son called it).  Seeing old friends.  And my mom babysitting so I could go get a mani/pedi. 

What was the worst part?  Having a cold for most of the visit.  Nothing like being sick while traveling.

What surprised you?  How delicious my uncle's new cauliflower recipe is.  I can't wait to share it with you all!

What did you learn?  You can carry a 33 pound 2-year-old in an Ergo baby carrier through the airport when he's too tired to walk, with minimal back strain. 

How did you grow?  All that restaurant food grew my waistline!

Linked to Finer Things Friday.

December 1, 2010

The Deer Hunt

Warning:  This post contains a graphic description of an animal being killed.  Reader discretion is advised.

Ever since I learned that grass-fed meat is healthier, I've been anxious to get my hands on some.  I'm also interested in eating local.  So, I decided to hunt a deer on our ranch.  I am not a hunter.  I don't enjoy killing things.  I have butchered a few animals though, so I felt confident I could do it.  I dutifully purchased my game tag and paid the 'conservation tax', all of which came out to $50.  $50 to shoot an animal on my own land!  I enlisted the help of my brother-in-law (who does like to hunt and kill things) and his girlfriend.  We piled into the old ranch pickup and headed out.

My brother-in-law, Butch, spotted a group of deer pretty quickly.  The best shot I could get was still pretty far away, and I was sure it was a mama doe.  I thought it would be mean to kill a mama.  So we moved on.  Unexpectedly, I was kind of bored!  I guess since I wasn't sneaking around behind trees and crawling on my belly, I wasn't in "hunting mode".  We came on another group, but they were pretty smart.  They ran just out of shooting range, but we could still see them.  I was ready to quit, but I wanted to get my money's worth.

The first group we saw.  Can you spot the deer?   There are at least 3 in this picture.

Finally we spotted some on a side hill.  Butch parked the pickup in the road.  He and I got out and trudged through the snow towards them.  Then we got on our knees so as to go unnoticed.  We moved closer, stopping in some tall grass that provided a little cover for us.  We were about 100 yards away from them.  There were about 3 deer laying down, facing us, and a couple more standing and grazing.  I chose one of the deer laying down.  No antlers, and it looked a little smaller, so I figured it was a female fawn (which is what I wanted).  I pulled my knee up to rest the gun on it.  I concentrated on breathing steadily.  I looked into the scope of the gun at the deer on the hill.  I felt anxious, anticipating the innocent animal's death.  I hesitated.  The tag had only cost $50.  Was this innocent life worth $50?  Why was I doing this again?  What if I miss?  What if I only wound it?  I pointed the gun at the deer's head, held my breath, and pulled the trigger. 

It lunged forward and landed in a heap.  It took the deer about 5 seconds to die, instead of 1.  Butch took off running so he could slit its throat and let the blood drain out.  I followed him, awkwardly running/ stomping through the snow with the gun in my hand.  It was pretty unbelievable that this creature had just been alive a few minutes before.  It never saw me coming.  It was a male.  I felt better knowing I hadn't killed someone's mother.  I looked for the bullet hole. I had aimed for the head, but I had hit the lung, right behind the shoulder.  The entry wound was surprisingly small.  The exit wound was pretty bloody and gross.  I stared at the deer, thinking I should take a picture, but finding no desire within myself to do so.  Butch was excited for me.  He assured me this was probably a yearling buck since it was such a good size.  I felt no pride, no guilt, nothing really, which seemed strange.  We each grabbed a leg, and started the long hike back to the pickup.  We had to hike 1/4 mile up a hill in the snow, dragging the heavy deer.  It was a very long hike.  We stopped a few times to catch our breath before finally reaching the pickup.  On the drive back home, Butch tried to tease me a little, but I could barely respond.  My heart and lungs were still working hard from the hike, and I felt mentally tired.

My mother-in-law, Bertha, met us at the shop.  We chained the deer to the tractor bucket and lifted it up off the floor.  She helped me skin it and cut the meat off the bone. I was reminded once again why the food industry is in the state it is.  People don't really want to do it themselves.  They don't really want to know what goes into making food.  It's kind of gross.  At first the smell wasn't too bad, but near the end, when the guts were hanging out, I kept getting overwhelming whiffs of sage brush.  Now I understand why my husband always says deer stink. 

That's me, in the least graphic picture of the butchering process.
 We cut out the shoulders, backstraps, tenderloin, and hind quarters.  I was slightly concerned about the possiblity of Chronic Wasting Disease, which may present no obvious symptoms at first, so I was careful to leave the organs, spinal cord, and brains alone.  With my knowledgeable mother-in-law, in only took about a half hour to cut the meat out.  When we were finished, I finally felt pride and excitement.  I had accomplished my goal, and it only took about 3 hours. 

We threw the meat in my in-laws' walk-in cooler. A few days later we cut up 2 sides of pork.  We ground up most of the deer meat with some pork fat and saved one backstrap intact.  I also gave some meat to Butch and Bambi to make into jerky, as a way of thanking them for their help.  I would guess I ended up with about 25 pounds of meat.  That's a little over $2 a pound, if my time isn't worth anything.

And that was my first deer hunt!

The finished product (minus the jerky meat)

Linked to Fight Back Friday.