Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween and Delicious Pumpkin Seeds

Yesterday was pumpkin carving day.  Just in time for Halloween!

I apologize for the crummy quality of the pictures, but here are our scary creations.

One of the pumpkins, you'll notice, is green striped.  This is a really neat pumpkin that we grew this year named "Kakai" pumpkin.  I tried this variety from Johnny's Seeds because it's listed as having a hull-less seed.  

  From Johnny's seed catalog:  

(Cucurbita pepo)

Striped fruits, delicious "pumpkin nuts."

Eye-catching, medium-small, avg. 5-8 lb., black-striped pumpkins. After displaying the pumpkins next fall, you can scoop out the large, dark green, completely hull-less seeds, which are absolutely delicious roasted. Kakai is a variety of the Austrian type that yields the valuable green pumpkin seed oil that some European studies show promotes prostate health. Semi-bush, short-vine plants. Avg. yield: 2-3 fruits/plant. Order 2860T (Treated/film-coated), or 2860 (Untreated). Avg. 2,200 seeds/lb. Packet: 30 seeds.

  Days to Maturity or Bloom:   100

The pumpkin grows with a striking green and orange striped skin - lovely for carving. 

And the seeds truly are green.

They seeds are hull-less.  When roasted, the thin skin is crisp and easy to eat.  The flavor tastes deliciously pumpkin-y and the seeds seem to be meatier than other pumpkin seeds I've had.  I have a few more kakai pumpkins and plan to roast and save the seeds for future healthy snacks (and save some for next year's planting).  I haven't roasted the flesh yet, but I think the lovely orange color will yield a nice pumpkin puree.  

I will definitely grow this variety again and I'm already planning to include them in next year's CSA!     

Unfortunately, I think the kakai pumpkin may like to celebrate Halloween a bit too much!  This "drunken" one definitely overindulged!

Don't forget to hop over to Homestead Revival today!  You'll begin a lovely trip down the blogging rabbit hole!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Summer (and Autumn?) Ends

"The leaves fall, the wind blows, and the farm country slowly 
changes from the summer cottons into its winter wools."
-   Henry Beston, Northern Farm

The farm quickly changed into it's winter wools this year.  The forecast this week calls for a few days of above freezing temperatures and sun... a final opportunity to finish up the many outside tasks!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Bleechh! Snow!

The East Coast is getting hit with snow this week.  We had our first blast on Thursday, which just happened to be the day that I chose to finally finish up butchering the last of the meat chickens.  I wanted it cold so there wouldn't be flies, but not as cold as it got!  

You know it's probably too cold to butcher chickens when you find yourself looking forward to sticking your hand inside to gut them because it's warm in there!

With freezing hands and toes we did get the job done and it's a relief to have that batch of chickens safely put away in the freezer for a winter of delicious dinners.  It's interesting to note that the egg-laying chickens seem so much calmer and happier with the meat chickens gone.   

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent Recipe

I find myself buying a new jug of dishwasher soap fairly often and wasn't happy with the load of freaky petroleum-based chemicals I was putting into the ground.  I looked for a dishwasher detergent that was easy to make and used all natural ingredients.

I found this recipe at

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent (Soap) Recipe

1 cup Borax
1 cup washing soda
1/2 cup citric acid
1/2 cup kosher salt

Fill rinse agent compartment with white vinegar.

Use 1 TBS. per load.  Don't fill the cup because you'll get too many suds.

I used the citric acid because I read that without it you would get a cloudy residue left on your dishes.  The article says you can get it at a brewery or specialty beer store.  We don't have anything like that in this small town and I remembered that there's a pretty good amount of citric acid in Fruit Fresh or All Fresh (the stuff that keeps your fruit from getting brown when you cut it up).  That's something I can find at our little grocery store, so I went with it and it seems to work! 

This recipe gets your dishes really clean!  I didn't write down what it cost to buy all of the ingredients, but I calculate I spent about $12.00 for full packages of everything.  With what I have I can mix up about 18 cups of detergent .  At 1 tablespoon per load this is going to last a loooong time and be way cheaper than store bought dishwasher soap!  

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Food Day!

Today, October 24th, is Food Day!

America Celebrates Food Day with More than 2,000 Events in 50 States 
Observations Include an "Eat In" in Times Square; a Festival in Savannah, GA; an Open House at the National Archives; and Events in Schools, Churches, Campuses, and Homes
Monday, October 24, 2011, New York, NY- Today a diverse range of organizations, public officials, and Americans from all walks of life are celebrating Food Day-a nationwide grassroots mobilization that encourages Americans to eat healthy, delicious food grown in a sustainable and humane way and to advocate for smarter food policies. Spearheaded by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Food Day is being observed in all 50 states with more than 2,000 events from coast to coast.

My soul is dark with stormy riot, Directly traceable to diet. 
– Samuel Hoffenstein

Monday, October 24, 2011

One Ham - Four Meals

We finished the last ham before the next set of pig meat comes home.  We had most of the hams cut into ham steaks when we had last year's pigs butchered so each of our hams are pretty small - maybe 2-3 pounds with a big bone in them.  

One Ham - Four meals.

Meal number one:  Plain old baked ham with the usual sides
(after this I cut off as much meat from the bone as I easily could and cubed it)

Meal number two: Creamy Ham and Potato Soup

Meal number three: VanVoorst Ham Casserole

Meal number four: Basic Ham and Bean Soup


Here are the recipes! 
(My kids said they're all keepers)

Creamy Ham and Potato Soup

3-1/2 c. peeled and diced potatoes
1/3 c. diced celery
1/3 c. finely chopped onion
1/2 c. chopped carrot
1 c. diced cooked ham
3-1/4 c. chicken broth
1/2 tsp. salt or to taste
1 tsp pepper
5 Tbs. butter
5. Tbs. all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese

Combine the potatoes, celery, onion, carrot, ham, and chicken broth in a stockpot.  Bring to a boil and cook over medium heat until potatoes are tender, about 10-15 minutes.

In a separate saucepan, melt butter over medium low heat.  Whisk in flour, and cook, stirring constantly until thick, about 1 minute.  Slowly stir in milk so that lumps don't form and until all of the milk has been added.  Continue stirring over medium low heat until it starts to thicken, 4 -5 minutes.  Add cheese,  stirring constantly until melted. 

Stir the milk mixture into the stock pot and cook until soup is heated through. 

Top with cheddar cheese, chives, and bacon if desired.  Serve immediately.

6 Servings

I found and copied this recipe when I was going down the Internet blog rabbit hole and cannot find who wrote it.  If you come across this and it's yours, please let me know so that I can credit it to you. 

VanVoorst Ham Casserole

10 oz. cooked spiral pasta
2 c. cubed cooked ham
1 c. sour cream
1 (10 oz.) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1 Tbs. prepared yellow mustard
1 Tbs chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste

1/2 shredded mozzarella cheese
1 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.  Grease a 2 quart casserole dish.

Mix together the ham, sour cream, mushroom soup, 1/2 c. mozzarella cheese, mustard, and 1 Tbs. parsley in a bowl until well combined.  Fold in the cooked pasta, season to taste with salt and pepper.  Spoon the mixture into the prepared casserole dish and top with 1/2 c. mozzarella cheese and 1 Tbs. parsley.

Bake in preheated oven until hot and bubbly and the topping cheese has melted and started to brown, about 30 minutes.  Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.  

I found this recipe online at "".  They have a fantastic application where you plug in the ingredients you have and then the site searches for recipes.   

Basic Ham and Bean Soup

1 pound dry Great Northern Beans
8 c. water
1/2 tsp. salt
1 ham hock or bone
1 c. chopped carrots
1/2 stalk celery, chopped
1 c. chopped onion
 1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. mustard powder
2 bay leaves
2 cups chopped ham
1/2 tsp pepper

Rinse the beans, sorting out broken and discolored ones.  In a large pot over high heat, bring the water to a boil.  Add the salt and the beans and remove from heat.  Let beans sit in the hot water for at least 60 minutes.

After 60 minutes of soaking, return the pot to high heat and place the ham bone, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, mustard and bay leaves in the pot.  Stir well, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 60 more minutes.  

Remove ham bone and discard.  Stir in the chopped ham an simmer for 30 more minutes.  Season with pepper to taste.

- from  (Also on it's fun to look at the comments and see what modifications other people have made to the recipes.)

Here are my modifications to this recipe:  I regularly buy big bags of beans and cook them up for about 45 minutes, then drain and freeze them in quart bags (it's much cheaper, tastier, and you don't get the high amount of salt).  For this recipe I had a mix of great northern and pinto beans.  
I used my ham bone which still had on it the meat I could not easily get off.  
I cooked this soup in my crock pot!  I started it around noon and put it on high for an hour then on low for about five hours.  
When it was done cooking I pulled out the ham bone and picked off the meat.  It's a lot easier to get off after it's cooked for awhile.  Remove the bay leaves.    

I love cooking soups and casseroles because the recipes are not really set in stone.  For example, the Basic Ham and Bean Soup calls for 1 c. chopped onion.  I had a half of an onion in my 'fridge and didn't want to run out to get another onion.  I went with whatever half an onion gave me.  The soup was still yummy.
Also, I'm pretty sure I didn't pull 4 cups of meat off this ham (which is the total amount called for in the three recipes).  I just threw in as much as I thought would taste good in the recipe and split it three ways.  The Basic Ham and Bean Soup doesn't really need a ham bone and 2 cups of chopped ham.  The bone is going to flavor it up nicely and a little bit of added meat goes a long way!    


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Halloween Fun

Did you know that Halloween is the second most decorated holiday after Christmas?  

The blow up figures and harvest decorations are interesting and nice, but I really love when someone steps out of the box and does something very unique.  

I was taking my daughter to her orthodontist appointment in New York and we saw these huge round bales of hay on a person's front lawn.  Aren't they whimsical and fun!?!

Some corny Halloween jokes....

What did one ghost say to the other ghost?
"Do you believe in people?"

What's a vampire's favorite fast food?
A guy with very high blood pressure...

Why do mummies have trouble keeping friends?
They're so wrapped up in themselves...

and finally....

What does a vampire never order at a restaurant?
A stake sandwich...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cutting Corn

Last week, I sent my son, John, out to cut the last of the corn stalks for the pigs.  He suited himself up appropriately - right down to the corn stalk cutting machete! 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pig Hang Weights

The hang weights of the three pigs were:

185 pounds 
163 pounds
160 pounds.

We're happy with that.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Holy "Grapes of Wrath" Batman!

The circus came to town yesterday.  It wasn't your usual circus, but a circus of two people trying to get three pigs into a trailer and they absolutely did not want to go!  

At first two of the pigs walked right up the ramp and into the trailer with no problem.  But we just couldn't get the third pig to take that short walk.  Then the first two decided that the third pig had the right idea and they didn't want to be in there anymore.  We tried blocking one of the pigs in and getting the others to go after.  Did you know pigs can fly?  They are excellent jumpers!  

Our frustration level climbed and finally we called our friend, Jim, who had pigs while he was growing up and had experience with loading them.  After lots of messing around with blocking pigs and the pigs jumping through or over our blocks (screaming the whole time) and after hours of work, three people who were determined to get those darn pigs in the trailer - and three pigs who were equally determined to not go in the trailer - got the pigs loaded.  

We finished by putting a tarp over our homemade, redneck trailer to keep the pigs from getting too cold or wind scalded on our one hour trip to the butcher.  

Job finished.  

Thanks Jim!  

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Piggies Go To "Freezer Camp" Today

This afternoon we'll be loading up the pigs.  They grew really huge this year!

This is a couple of months ago. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Autumn Leaves

The weather here has been dismal and dreary - but I find that when I really look around I'm absolutely stunned by beauty.

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.  ~Albert Camus

Friday, October 14, 2011

Butchering Chickens

I butchered six chickens yesterday.  I still have 13 more to do.  I didn't take pictures because I didn't want to get nastiness on my camera!

I've butchered chickens before, but it's been awhile and here are some of the things I noticed.  Warning:  You may find some of it to be gory.

#1  Chickens STINK.  It doesn't matter how fluffy and white the feathers look, when you put them in a pot of hot water it's going to smell awful when you pull them out AND you can see the nasty bits of stuff stuck in their feathers.  

#2  It takes forever for a pot of hot water to get hot to about 170-degrees.  I use our propane turkey fryer outside to boil the water.  Why don't I do it inside?  See # 1  (smile).

#3  Be prepared to jump back when you cut the chickens throat.  They will flap their wings and spray blood everywhere.  I hang my chickens by the feet and it's supposed to lull them.  I don't have a killing cone, so they flap.  It's pretty gruesome.  

#4 It might freak you out when their toes move when you cut the tendons to remove the feet.  It's just the tendon releasing.  

#5  Having the chickens go without food for at least a day makes the process much cleaner.  It's nice to have an empty crop instead of a crop full of seeds.  I don't even need to mention the back end... much nicer.  

#6  Do not have a bag of grass seed within two feet of where you have the chickens caged.  They will get to it, rip a hole in it, and start eating it.  

#7 The videos and books make it look easier than it is.  There's membranes that hold everything inside the chicken in place that you'll have to cut or pull apart.  The membranes are not that strong and they're easy to pull apart, but they are there.    

#8  The guts come out fairly easily, but the lungs are a little harder to get out.  You have to kind of get your finger up under them and then they'll come out in one piece.  

#9 I see a Whiz Bang Chicken Plucker in my future.  


#10 Butchering chickens is not that difficult.  Once you work your way through the internal workings of the first chicken the process becomes easier and easier with each chicken you do.  

On butchering:  It's messy, it's time consuming, but it's a good feeling to provide good, wholesome food for your family.  I know that my chickens lived the type of very, very good life that a chicken should live.

In an interview with Joel Salatin, chemical-free farming pioneer,
by Gaby Wood, in "The Observer":

 I ask him if I were from Mars how he would explain why I should eat his meat. Salatin offers five reasons.
"The first thing is," he says, "it's safer from a bio-security standpoint. If you eat our stuff, it's gonna be only sold real close right here. There's a short chain between field and fork, and the shorter that chain is – the fresher, the more transparent that system is – the less chance there is of anything from bio-terrorism to pathogenicity to spoilage. You wanna get diarrhoea? Eat industrial food.
"Number two is what I would call your own personal immune system." The more antibiotics are given to the animals we eat, he explains, the less responsive we become to antibiotics when we need them for medical reasons. "You've been drugging yourself at dinner every day."
Thirdly, he goes on, they've had their meats checked, and they are unequalled in their nutritional density and power, however you want to measure it – "Omega 3, omega 6 ratios, riboflavin, polyunsaturated fats, vitamin A…"
Four: it tastes better.
"And the fifth reason," he concludes, "is: it's better for the environment. It's a very landscape-therapeutic production model."

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Chicken Butchering Day

The meat chickens have gone a day with water and no food to "cleanse their systems" and make the butchering process cleaner.  Wish me luck!  

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Making Apple Cider

After two years of almost no apple harvest due to a late frost one year and a caterpillar invasion the other, we have been blessed with an extravagance of apples this year.  Every bough of every domestic and wild apple tree weighs heavy with it's bounty.  The deer and bear will have an easier winter for it.  

From this bounty, we were lucky enough to be invited to participate in an annual apple cider pressing day.  An elderly couple with a camp passed on their cider press to a neighbor and told them, it was "for the community."  So each year the neighbor invites friends and their children to participate in pressing apple cider.  

We were told that the more varieties of apples that were put into the cider the better the cider would taste. 

We started by going out to different wild apple trees.  The children climbed up into the trees or grabbed the branches and jumped up and down to shake off the apples onto a drop cloth.  We didn't want to pick up the apples that were on the ground because the deer had come in to enjoy them and left droppings of their own!  

The children washed the apples.

You can see the apples being washed and
the cider being pressed out.  

And then put them in the chopper.  It's a rotating drum with steel blades that chop an apple to bits in seconds!  The lid keeps the apples from flying back out (and probably helps to keep little fingers out of the blades too!)

We spread out and push down the chopped apples a bit. (That's a hand in there smoothing out the apples.)

Then put a wooden cover over the chopped apples and cranked it down to squeeze out the cider.  

You can see a sack of leftover crushed apples (the "squeezings") in the background.  We took the squeezings home to the pigs and the blueberry bushes.  We were told that blueberry bushes love to have apple mulch around their base.

Maggie, the apple chasing dog, had an exciting day.

We pressed about 15 gallons of apple cider and everyone went home with the "fruits" of their labor!

I heard a sound as of scraping tripe, 
 And putting apples wondrous ripe, 
 Into a cider- press's gripe.

~ Robert Browning 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

"Buds" Hanging Out

This is our scruffy miniature schnauzer, Petey, and Boots, one of the three cats who showed up here, just hanging out and watching the morning go by.

I would love for my readers to send me caption ideas for these photos!