Thursday, December 31, 2009

beans, beans, the magical fruit...

Few things are more comforting than beans....

To begin this adventure into the wonderful world that is beans, cornbread, and of course chow chow...

I first made the beans.

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I started with 4 cups of dried Pinto beans. I did not soak them. Make sure all your beans are in good condition, pick out any bad ones. Run under cold water for a couple minutes to rinse them.

Then put them in a big pot, cover them a good 2 inches with water. Take 4 slices of bacon and just cut it or break it up into chunks and toss it in the pot with the beans and water. Bring to a boil, then cover and turn down the heat and let it simmer.

For 2, 3 hours.... until the beans have thickened with their gravy and are all nice and tender. I do add a little more water when needed throughout the cooking process - but don't add too much. Of course never, ever let them get dry. They need lots of sauce to keep their delightful goodness.

Then add salt and pepper - to taste. Add as much or as little as you'd like. Some people add other stuff, like chili powder, or whatever. I did not.

Next you make the cornbread. I use the same recipe everytime. It's my favorite recipe, it always turns out, and pretty much it's foolproof.

Because it's the end of the year and I am feeling generous, I will share the recipe with you.... :)

It's simple. You need:

1/2 cup softened butter
1/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup of milk
1 cup flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 tsp salt.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F, grease an 8 inch square baking pan.

Then mix your butter with your sugar and eggs. Then add everything else, mix it together (cornbread is not cornbread without lumps, no need for perfection here) then pour it in the prepared pan and toss it (gently) into the oven for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

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The Chow Chow recipe I cannot share. I am going to enjoy some of this delightful homemade chow chow John made in WV with my beans and cornbread. I've researched chow chow and it's quite a thing of time and love. I look forward to trying my hand at it next fall.

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Now... it's time to eat!

Christmas & New Years


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Hard to believe it's New Year's Eve.... another year is about to come to an end, a new one about to begin.

We had a nice quiet Christmas. We spent part of it with Kevin's cousins, Pete & Peg. At 1:30 in the morning, Kevin & I were exhausted and Pete was ready to stay up all night I think! We ate way too much salmon dip and pita chip, drank a little... laughed a lot.

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The dogs had fun opening presents Christmas Eve. On the 12th of December, we added a new member to our family, Douglas is now 8 weeks old and he is a Pug puppy. He just got his second set of shots two days ago and had a bad reaction to them, with some swelling, pain.... but he's doing great now and his little system is calming down from all the change of diet, worming, and excitment. He fits in very well and made himself at home right away. Norman the Chihuahua is slowly accepting him into the family, but it's going to take time.

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This afternoon I am going to put a big pot of dried beans on the stove to cook for a few hours... with some bacon. We'll eat that tonight with some homemade corn bread and some of the wonderful Chow Chow my friend Kevin in West Virgina was kind enough to send us. It's soooo good. I've never had Chow Chow before, but I think I might have to can some in the fall along with my other canning. It was a great Christmas present!

Happy New Year to all. I look forward to healthy lambs, healthy kids, milk in the spring, lots of veggies in the garden.... and good health for everyone.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Brownies to warm the soul

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Yesterday it was -20 C.... it was cold today but a little warmer and there was some sun. We went out in the argo and marked dead or fallen trees to harvest for our wood supply. After putting the animals in the warm barn for the night and cleaning up after dinner, few things say comfort as much as warm brownies to look forward to with tea in the evening beside the fire.


Easy Brownies made with cocoa
Yield: 12-15 servings

Ingredients¾ cup butter
1+½ cup sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 deg

Line a 13 x 9 in (33 x 23 cm) cake tin with grease proof or other non-stick paper and grease the tin.
Melt the butter.
Beat eggs with sugar, and add vanilla, flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt and melted butter.
Bake at 350 degrees until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, approximately 20-30 minutes.

Then it's time for the frosting. You can't have the brownies without the frosting. This is the quickest and most delish chocolate frosting recipe I've ever found. Be warned though, don't make it before the brownies are done because you will eat the entire bowl waiting for the brownies to bake. I'm not kidding, either, try it and see what happens.

Creamy chocolate frosting

Ingredients
2 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
6 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons evaporated milk (it also turns out just as well with 2% milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions
In a medium bowl, sift together the confectioners' sugar and cocoa, and set aside.
In a large bowl, cream butter until smooth, then gradually beat in sugar mixture alternately with evaporated milk. Blend in vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy. If necessary, adjust consistency with more milk or sugar.

Turns out everytime.

Now, it's time to get in my jammies, curl up by the fire with the dogs and Kevin and some warm brownies and watch a movie.

Happy eating!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

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We did manage to fit a 10 foot tree in here this year. Don't ask me how. I was beginning to think we wouldn't get a tree in here at all, let alone a big tree. We considered a small one, but with the way our front room is built, we just love having the big tree. So after moving everything around about a dozen times, we found a spot. I've still got some decorating left to do.

Saturday night completely unexpectedly, Chance, our llama passed away. He was about 15 years old but not sick, he showed no signs of even not feeling well. He was eating and drinking and everything was normal. It was very quick, so I am grateful he did not suffer. But we are all still in shock, since it was so sudden. Wrambler, our Haflinger was very close with Chance, so this has been hard on him and on Max. They were with him when he passed but they don't understand why he's gone now. Thankfully all our animals get along and no one is alone, so that helps with the grieving process, but it's still hard. Chance was a nice llama and I could trust him with all our animals. He loved the dogs, even the puppy, and the kids and lambs. He wouldn't hurt anyone. And even though he was not halter trained, he'd follow me anywhere for treats. He'll be missed by all of us.

When Kevin and I went to get him to bury him the following morning, Max had brought all his toys in and put them with Chance. The depth of feelings animals have is incredible. So many people think they don't feel, or think... they do. Maybe more than us. And they grieve just as we do.

We got snow finally, yesterday. About an inch or so, not a lot, but enough to cover the ground. it's the first real snowfall we've had this winter. It was Flav and Buckwheats first snow ever. Neither were sure what to think of it, but both adjusted quickly. Torn Ear has been hanging around a lot, actually all three of our bucks have.

I'm trying hard to get my Christmas cards done. Once that is finished and the decorations are out of my way, it will be time to start baking cookies for the guys at the feed store, and to bring goodies over to certain peoples houses to thank them for their help or kindness in the past year.

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Prairie dogs

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We are lucky enough to be able to share our lives with Prairie dogs. Sometimes I think in a past life, I was one. Since seeing them in Colorado in 2006 for the first time, I've fallen in love, we both have. Most people hate them, consider them varmits, pests..... yet they are smart, loving, family animals. They are so smart, not only do they have their own language, they can create NEW words for new or different things in their environment. This is an interesting link on their language: http://www.petroglyphsnm.org/wildsides/pdlanguage.html



Because of these creatures, I wish I lived in the West. Their safety and wellbeing and educating people about them is an important mission. The Prairie NEEDS Prairie dogs as much as they need the prairie. And preserving both the prairie and the dogs, should be something everyone in North America is concerned with.

This is a great website: http://www.prairiedogcoalition.org/



Our animals yahoo whenever we come home, whenever I yahoo, or if Kevin sneezes. It's an acutal "YAHOO" and they throw their hands up in the air. Talk about feeling loved when someone greets you like that. They would like to spend their entire lives being held and cuddled, that really is their only goal in life, getting cuddled. They know our moods, we know their moods. I would consider the bond with them similar to something you would have with a dog, but yet, different. Unique.



Prairie dogs were popular in the pet trade in Canada and the U.S. in the late 90's early 2000-2003.... when there was a ban put in place because of a monkeypox scare. Research has shown the real trouble was not caused by Prairie dogs, but by the African Pouched Rat. I have a love/hate relationship with the pet trade. We love having them in our lives and it's hard to imagine our lives without them.... but I hate to think of the large numbers of Prairie dogs captured from the wild, taken from their burrows, their families, and often sold into homes that knew nothing about them, gave them improper care, and insufficent attention. They need a lot of attention, more than one could imagine. I don't agree with it, just as I do not agree with the mass killing of them that goes on each and every year to rid the Prairies and ranches of them.



Our guys were all born in 2002-2003. So they are 8 and 9 years old now. All of our guys had to be rehomed from their origional owners for various reasons. We are grateful to be able to have them in our homes, our lives, our family. We've done large amounts of research on them and I always continue to do so... the more I learn about them, the more fascinated I become. They are amazing little animals.

4 more Prairie dogs joined our family this past Saturday. They are adjusting to their surroundings, new Pd neighbours, and family. They are doing well. We are thrilled to be able to welcome them into our home and family. Our house has finally turned into dog town!

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Thier enclosure... it's 8' long, 4' high, they also run around free in the house

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Torn Ear, and cold

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Torn Ear survived another year. Last week on my way home from the barn in the dark, Kevin yelled at me to hurry to the house. So I did. He quickly brought me out onto the back porch and flashed the spotlight - Torn Ear bolted from the yard. I yelled to him and he stopped in the open and looked at me. His eyes locked mine. My boy made it again. Seeing that big, beautiful animal stop because I asked him to, is something there are no words to describe. As we suspected the rut was delayed this year because of the warm weather. It's on now, and it was not on during gun season in early November.

He just stopped in to let us know he is OK. We have not seen him since and we likely won't until the snow flies. He does this every year. It's amazing he's been coming here in the winter for seven years now. He is 14 points, bigger this year than last. I hope to be able to get a picture of him this year. The picture above is from last December.

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We went back in the nursery late yesterday afternoon to look for a Christmas tree. With all the cages this year and the Christmas village up, we have a lot less space than usual for the usual huge tree we bring in.... so it will have to be smaller this year. We found a couple we liked. We'll only take a tree if we can use all of it or most, with little waste. Some tops were gorgeous, but we'd waste too much and that's not our goal. It was too late to cut it and drag it out so we left it and we'll go back maybe tomorrow. Today we had new family members arrive which I'll write about in a bit. Just behind the barn a coyote ran out in front of us... he stopped and locked eyes with us before going behind a rock face. This morning there was fresh scat right by the house.

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It has finally turned cold. This morning our pond was completely frozen as were my water troughs. They remained that way all day. We have a decent amount of wood in, a couple face cord split and more piled up by the splitter. We like working in the cold better, and I much prefer hiking in the cold. Last night it was perfect, you keep warm, you don't overheat yourself so quickly, it's much more comfortable. I look forward to long hikes now that things have frozen, and in a month or so, we'll start the search for antlers again when the bucks drop them.

Braveheart, our blind bottle ram, turned three years old today. It's hard to believe that three years ago today I was sitting by the woodstove trying desperately to get that cold little lamb to drink a bottle. That turned into three months of medication, Vet visits, injections, feeding him and checking him every two hours for weeks and weeks. But he made it, and he truly is our miracle child. We've had a lot of miracles on this farm, with animals, with people, but I think Lambie is still the biggest one.

I'm off to the barn just to check on everyone before bed. It's going to be an early night for us I think.
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