Thursday, December 27, 2012

Painted Antique Maple Bucket Gifts

Long ago, maple sap was collected in wooden buckets hung from a tree.  The farmers gathered the buckets and dumped the precious sap into a large tank on top of a horse drawn sled.  The buckets themselves were works of art, but so very heavy.  I can't imagine how strong the people who collected the sap must have been!  Then galvanized maple sap buckets were created.  They were lighter and I would guess more durable and less prone to leaks.  Still, each bucket had to be collected one by one and poured into a tank.  Now, we use food grade plastic tubing and run lines through the forest and down to a sap collecting tank.   

It's rare to find one of the old wooden sap buckets around.  They are truly collector's items.  The galvanized buckets, however, are much more readily found.  

I live in a maple syrup area.  Metal maple sap buckets can be found at auctions and stacks and stacks are tucked away in old barns.  I've collected a few hundred of them because they're beautiful and functional.  They make a lovely and unique palette for my painting and came up with a few designs that fits them.  One popular design I create is a winter scene.  Although the designs are similar, no two buckets are painted exactly alike.   

 I usually tuck tiny cardinals here and there throughout the evergreens.  This bucket was special ordered with a slightly larger cardinal than I usually paint.  The customer wanted her mother to be able to see them more readily.  

Then I fill them with local goodies - maple syrup, maple coated nuts, jams, local honey, etc. to create a gift bucket.  

This finished bucket cost $50.00.  

But what do you do with the painted buckets?  We keep ours beside the wood stove filled with kindling.  I saw one prettily filled with pine cones.  Put a plant (in it's own pot) inside one.  Use one as an ice bucket for wine, beer, and sodas.  Weight one with some rocks and then fill it with tall, interesting twigs and set it beside your front door.  Whatever your imagination can conjure.  Because I'm not sure of the integrity of the galvinization (is that a word?), and what was used to make the buckets (i.e. lead),  I would hesitate to have food come in direct contact with the interior of the bucket.

 I'll be posting pictures of my other designs and I hope to have a bunch of these and the other designs available for sale by the spring. 

Be sure to go over to the blog hop at Frugally Sustainable!


Woowee That's A Lot Of Snow!

We have been blessed with a mild winter.  I know that a lot of people like winter and snow.  When you're hauling hot water to the chickens and rabbits, shoveling poo, carrying sacks of feed, and doing the myriad of chores around the farmlet, then less snow certainly makes chores simpler!

But boy oh boy did we get dumped on last night!  Solomons Words For The Wise posted a picture which shows a measuring stick with 15 inches of snow by 9:40 last night - and it kept on coming!

Chores will be a lot harder, but the critters have to eat.  I'll shovel out an area where the chickens can lounge outside and have their breakfast  I'll make sure the bunnies have lots of extra hay and feed.  Last night, with the oncoming storm I filled their sleeping area with a big pile of hay so they could snuggle down into it and keep warm.  So now I guess its time to go use my knees as a cow catcher and bust a path down to the coop!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Homemade French Baguette Using The Sunbeam Breadmaker

A few months ago, when I noticed that bread was $4 and $5 a loaf for decent bread, I decided to get a bread maker.  I did a bunch of research and ended up getting the Sunbeam 5891 2-Pound Programable Breadmaker.  

Sunbeam 5891 Programmable Bread Maker

I.  Love.  It!

It's so very easy to throw ingredients into the breadmaker, turn it on, and in three hours have a fresh, delicious loaf of bread!  

Now I know what ingredients go into my bread.  There aren't any di-something or others.  I've been using honey, whole wheat flour, yeast, water, kosher salt, some ground flax, some wheat germ, and pumpkin seeds.  Mmmm.

One con.  The bread maker does make a sort of odd shaped loaf, but with some creative cutting I end up with average sized slices.  

Here are a few things I learned about making bread in a bread machine: 

1. Don't follow the order that the bread maker manufacturers tell you to put ingredients into the machine.  Start with very warm water.  Follow with yeast, then sweetener - I like to use honey or maple syrup.    Swirl it around.  My bread always rises beautifully!
2.  You don't have to buy special bread machine flour.  Just get some wheat gluten and add one teaspoon to each cup of flour that you use.  I put a teaspoon of gluten in my measuring cup then carefully scoop out my flour and level it off.  A small bag of gluten will last a long time.
3.  Don't buy special bread machine yeast.  Any yeast works just fine.
4.  Add salt last and don't use iodized salt when making bread.  I read somewhere that the iodine kills the yeast and it does seem to be true.  

I got pretty decent at making sandwich bread and wanted to expand my repertoire.  I looked at baguettes in the grocery store and they look sooo yummy.  Then I flip them over and see all the funky stuff they're made with.  Maybe not.  I decided to give a recipe for bread machine french baguettes a try.  You make the dough in the bread machine and then finish in the oven.    

My recipe comes from 

French Baguettes

Prep Time: 15 Minutes Ready In: 1 Hour 50 Minutes (probably longer)
Submitted By: Judy Taubert Cook Time: 25 Minutes Servings: 12
"Great eaten fresh from oven. Used to make sub sandwiches, etc."

1 cup water
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon water

1. Place 1 cup water, bread flour, sugar, salt and yeast into bread machine pan in the order recommended by manufacturer. Select Dough cycle, and press Start.
2. When the cycle has completed, place dough in a greased bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover, and let rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes, or until doubled in bulk. Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched.
3. Punch down dough. On a lightly floured surface, roll into a 16x12 inch rectangle. Cut dough in half, creating two 8x12 inch rectangles. Roll up each half of dough tightly, beginning at 12 inch side, pounding out any air bubbles as you go. Roll gently back and forth to taper end. Place 3 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Make deep diagonal slashes across loaves every 2 inches, or make one lengthwise slash on each loaf. Cover, and let rise in a warm place for 30 to 40 minutes, or until doubled in bulk.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Mix egg yolk with 1 tablespoon water; brush over tops of loaves.
5. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden brown.


Here's what I did different from the recipe above: 

- I used 1 tablespoon honey in place of the sugar (I just use a roughly tablespoon sized dollap)
- I used regular flour with gluten added.  The first loaves I made with unbleached flour and later loaves - I substituted wheat flour for 1/2 cup.
- I rolled out the baguettes on a piece of parchment paper. 
- I used the whole egg whipped up to brush all over the tops and sides of loaves.
 - I used scissors to snip the slashes.  
  - Most importantly, I preheated the oven with my pizza stone and a pan for water placed in the oven.
Using a cookie sheet I slid the baguettes, parchment paper and all, onto the hot stone and then poured about two cups of hot water into the pan for water and quickly closed the oven door. 

These are delicious with a crispy exterior and tender interior.  My son came home from school and ate a whole baguette with butter and honey all by himself!

And as an added bonus they are a fraction of the cost of store bought baguettes!

Be sure to hop over to Frugally Sustainable for their blog hop!

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Farmacy

I love this.  Sadly, its not my 'fridge (though I wish it was!).What's in your Farmacy?

Once upon a time I saw a blog that gave a recipe for a tonic that used honey and elderberry syrup.  You would take a teaspoon of it each day.  I would love to know if anyone knows where I might find a copy of it?  It really helps when I give my prone-to-allergies son a teaspoon of local honey each morning.  Since elderberries are antiviral I imagine the combination would give colds and flu a one-two punch! 

The art of medicine consists in amusing the patient while Nature 
affects the cure.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The 2-Minute Video Monsanto Does Not Want You To See

Nice huh?  No, not really.  And now they're trying to sneak it by again.  From the Center For Food Safety:  

"The biotech industry has quietly inserted a dangerous policy rider into the Agriculture Appropriations bill now being considered in Congress. Though wrapped in a “farmer-friendly” package, this “farmer assurance provision” is simply a biotech industry ploy to continue to plant GE crops even when a court of law has found they were approved illegally."  

Here's the link to send an email to your state representatives to tell them, "NO!"  

Don't forget to go over to Homestead Revival's Barn Hop!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Beautiful Foggy Day On The Farm


The unusually warm weather we're having is creating fall and spring-like weather conditions instead of normal snowy weather conditions.  Its a lot easier to get chores done without the snow but I'm worried about how this will affect spring maple season.

One of the white horses in the top photo is my horse, "Lady."  She is the culmination of many, many years of wanting a horse.  More to come about her later!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Baby Angora Bunnies Are Born

Five days ago I noticed that one of the angora rabbits was pulling hair off herself and any other rabbit that got close enough to her.  She ran around frantically with mouthfuls of hay.  I told my husband, "she's going to give birth."  I don't have a kindling box (kindling is what its called when a rabbit gives birth), so I found a wicker basket that fit the bill.  A few hours later we looked inside the rabbit's hutch and there lay eight tiny babies.  Not in the basket I provided, of course.  

"They'll freeze to death if we leave them out here," my husband said.  The temperature hovered near thirty degrees and it was rainy/snowy.  So we decided to bring them and mom inside.  I tucked the eight babies into the basket and put them and the mother into a small dog carrier to bring them up to the house.  I was fearful that the mother rabbit wouldn't accept the babies if I touched them, but I didn't have any other options.  Now I have eight adorable baby bunnies and a momma bunny living in a great big dog carrier in my den.  By the way, bunnies poop and pee a LOT and I'm cleaning the cage twice a day!   

Each day I distract momma rabbit with a carrot and check all eight babies to make sure they're alive and getting enough to eat.  There are six blacks and two grays.  The momma doesn't seem to mind me taking them out of their basket and giving them a quick check.    

A pile of baby angora bunnies.
Last night, I heard the momma get in the box with her little ones for a nursing session.  Rabbits aren't like cats.  They don't lie around in the crate with the babies.  They get in once a day for about five minutes and that's all the nursing the little ones get.  Its a survival tactic.  The mother rabbit doesn't want predators to know where her babies are hidden so she stays away from them.  

All of these babies will be for sale in about seven weeks.  I can take a picture of one particular bunny if someone would like to give one as a Christmas present.  Then you can put the picture in a card and then they'll get the baby when its ready to leave the mother.  In a week or so, when I take the pictures, they'll look much more like adorable little fuzz balls (vs. the naked mouse look they're sporting now!)  

Angora rabbits are more work than regular bunnies because they require more brushing to keep their hair clean and tangle free.  But you can harvest their fur about four times a year and the angora rabbits have a wonderfully calm temperament!  Many people keep them indoors.  I'm not fond of having rabbits in the house and my rabbits have an outdoor pen.  I've found with mine that they seem to be calmer as outdoor pets.  We put the pen in a shady area in the summer (to help the bunnies stay cool) and we put it in one of the high tunnels for the winter.  They are doing very well.   

“Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were--Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, and Peter. ” 
― Beatrix Potter

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