Thursday, December 30, 2010

Almost a new year

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I cannot believe it's almost a new year. This past year has gone by so fast. Most years I think we find ourselves saying that but this year especially feels like it. We had a lot of good things happen this past year and a lot of animal miracles with Sammy, Beatrice, and Izzie. It was a very busy year with traveling, animals, and our health. I am hoping more than anything for good health for both of us, our animals, and all of you this coming year.

We have a lot of projects planned for 2011, but first I need to recover, and I need to keep reminding myself that because I seem to forget about that once and a while.

We plan on making maple syrup again this year, rebuilding the chicken house and building a new yard so the chickens can be back near the garden and house. We need the space in the barn for more stalls. We'd like to raise some turkeys this year, and put in a good garden since last year we only had a small one because of our travels, and hopefully we'll get more of the house finished.

I checked our trail camera chip today, and there was 900 pictures on it. Yes. The camera was pointing to the left of our yard near the marsh. 900 pictures! Hard to believe. I guess this is a busy place! Almost all of them are deer, we caught a large bird flying over the marsh and the camera strap broke loose and caused a series of photos, but otherwise all the pictures were deer.
 
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Yesterday I got up and made some mini banana cranberry loaves and some barley soup to take to our cousins. When Kevin and Jim got a taste of the soup, they decided they wanted some too, so I made two pots. The soup couldn't be easier and it's really good, especially with a good crusty bread.

Vegetable Barley soup

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Ingredients:


2 Tbsp butter
1 large onion, cleaned and diced small
1 large parsnip, peeled and diced small
1 large carrot, peeled and diced small
1 cup pearl barley
6 cups vegetable stock

Directions:


In a heavy pot, heat up butter and oil on medium high. Add onions, parsnip and carrots. Sweat, stirring every couple of minutes, for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper half way through. Reduce heat if cooking too fast.
Add vegetable stock, bring to a boil. Add barley. Bring back to a boil, reduce to a simmer and simmer until barley is tender, about 20 minutes. Season to taste, adding water if needed.

When cooked through, serve with bread and garnish with freshly ground black pepper.

and the mini loaves are so good! and cute too.

Banana Cranberry Mini-Loaves

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1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
3 mashed, ripe bananas
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup dried cranberries or fresh
Pre-heat oven to 350f.

Cream butter and sugar together. Beat in eggs one at a time, beating until smooth. Add mashed banana and blend in.

In a second bowl, stir flour with baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add to banana mixture stirring only to moisten. Gently fold in cranberries. Transfer to greased mini loaf pans or muffin tins. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool on racks.

Both of these recipes came from a favorite blog, Living in the kitchen with puppies. My version of the vegetable barley soup is a little different than the original. She has tons of great recipes and I've got a list a mile long to try now.

I'm hoping to try a recipe for ginger chicken tomorrow to go with our roast duck and Basmati rice for our New Year's Eve dinner.

We got a new addition to the family yesterday, an 11 year old Angora rabbit named Yeti. I had agreed to take him back in Sepetember and his former owner and I just lost touch and then we went away for a month. We reconnected in November and planned for Yeti to come after Christmas. His family just couldn't keep him any longer, so we agreed he could retire here.

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I didn't manage to get a lot of pictures because last night was a rough one for me, so I was in bed. This morning Yeti is doing great, trying to figure out what the Prairie dogs are. He met the dogs last night and was quite taken with Norman, the rabbit loving Chihuahua, but a little freaked out by hyper crazy Doug the Pug, but once Douglas calmed down they had a good sniff and got to know each other. Douglas was pretty shocked himself because he didn't realize there was a new rabbit in the kitchen when he came tearing in there looking for me.

Well I'm off for a nap. There was a strange thumping noise under our porch last night, right outside the bedroom, under the sun porch. We still have no idea what it was even though Kevin got up to look, we figured there was a Raccoon under there which is probably what it was.

Kevin is busy working on his computer which isn't working because of AOL... again, this happened last year when we tried to update AOL. It's a nightmare. Hopefully he can get it fixed, otherwise we have to wait until Tuesday when someone can come out here to try and help fix it. He's been trying to fix it with the people from AOL for about 9 hours now. Oh joy!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Baby it's cold outside!


It's cold! The wind is blowing bitterly today. I had Jim leave the goats inside, we have run in sheds outside for them to get out of the wind and the sheep are out. Of course the goats and Izzie the Jersey would have been fine outside for a while but they are spoiled rotten as we all know by now.


Yesterday I ventured out for the first time, Kevin drove of course. We just popped over to see our cousins and drop off some of the Cornish pies I made. It wasn't so bad, the driving still is hard with the vibrations but on the way out the lane, Kevin was driving very slowly so the truck wouldn't bounce, and I looked up at our broken tree that split this fall and there was a Pileated woodpecker! He looked right at me and we locked eyes, I let a little squeal out of me and Kevin thought I was hurt, but I was so excited. I've never seen one that close, they are always in the bush on trees when I see them. They are just so awesome, and they are huge, way bigger than you would imagine.


We've been eating up leftovers since we had a tremendous amount of turkey leftover. Last night I quickly put together a pot pie. I didn't use a recipe but used some leftover turkey, about 2 cups of gravy leftover and 1 cup of vegetable stock. I cooked that up with some sweet potatoes, celery, and, peas. I seasoned with salt, pepper, and, lots of thyme. Just cover that with pastry and cook for about 45 minutes at 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

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and after the boys got a hold of it...

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Norman got a new coat from his Auntie Pat in Naniamo, B.C. It looks adorable on him and it's so warm. It's warm, easy for him to get around in and not too long.

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How stylin do I look?

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I know, I'm adorable...

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Really I couldn't be cuter...

We've been told the lake is frozen now. We haven't been down there since my surgery. We are really hoping to get out ice fishing this season, if I can make it down to the lake. I'm not sure if I'll be able to ride in the mule yet but hopefully in a couple weeks. If I can just get there, all I have to do is sit for a while. There is Walleye, Northern Pike, and small mouth Bass in the lake.

Since it's so cold tonight I'm thinking of making soup for dinner, we need a turkey break. I was thinking about doing roasted vegetable soup with parsnips, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, onions.... that sounds good. We'll see how much energy I have.

Brrr.... good night to stay inside and keep the fire burning!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!


Merry Christmas to all! We enjoyed a nice quiet Christmas here. We opened presents on Christmas Eve, as we often do. We spent much of today cooking, and watching the Westminster dog show. I'm not a dog show person, but I love seeing the breeds, especially my favorites.

At 7 PM a Victorian Farm marathon started so we are all planning a long night of watching that. It's on until 2 AM. It's a great series, we both really, really, enjoy it. It's about three modern people who live like Victorian farmers for a year, making cheese, raising livestock, cooking, building, learning trades.

I started baking a few days ago. I've realized this recovery thing is going to be slow going and I need a lot of help to get anything done, but no way were we not going to have a feast for Christmas. I finished the pie yesterday, a Pumpkin Chiffon pie, which was so good.


For Christmas Eve we had Cornish Pasties

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They are fairly easy to make, the most work is in the pastry.

Pastry crust

4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup lard
1 1/3 cups chilled water

In a large bowl sift together flour and salt. With a pastry blender or your hands cut lard into flour mixture until particles are the size of small peas. Sprinkle in water a little at a time, tossing with a fork until all flour is moistened and pastry dough almost cleans off sides of bowl. Form dough into a ball and chill for 20-30 minutes. Cut dough into 6 sections. On a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out each section into a 5" x 8" rectangle. Fill and bake as directed in recipe.

Pasty filling:
1 beef bouillon cube
1/2 cup hot water
5 1/3 cups diced potatoes
1 medium onion finely diced
1 pound lean ground beef
1 tsp, salt, pepper, and garlic powder

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, dissolve beef bouillon cube in hot water. Add all remaining ingredients and gently stir until mixture is combined. Place 1 cup of filling inside each rolled dough rectangle and bring short sides (6") together, and seal by crimping edges together. Make 3 small slits in the top of each pastry to allow steam to escape during cooking. Brush with egg whites. Place pasties onto a large ungreased baking sheet. Cook for 45-55 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven.

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I made a bunch of sugar cookies, bunnies, pigs, bears, and gingerbread men shapes.

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These Cinnamon almond cookies are really great and worth a try, the brown butter drizzle makes them even better...

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Somehow today with Kevin and Jim's help mind you, we managed to put together an entire Christmas meal. A 15 pound turkey, mashed potato and turnip, cranberry sauce, stuffing, green bean casserole, gravy.... It was a lot of work but we'll have leftovers for pot pie and for soup now.

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Sammy came to the house to visit me since I still cannot get up to the barn safely. It made my day.

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Everyone got extra or special treats last night and today. It's cold tonight and the fire is burning and the Christmas lights shining. I'm back to the world of Victorian farming for a while.

again, Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Back home

This isn't much of a post, but I wanted to post quickly to say I am home. I got home from the hospital on Friday afternoon. The surgery went really well but recovery has been way more difficult and painful than I ever imagined, but I'm so happy to be home and Kevin is taking good care of me. I had a lot of trouble in the hospital, but I'm doing much better since being home.

It's going to be difficult not being able to do anything, just getting up is a chore since the incision is on my stomach. But I'm getting better everyday. I want to make cookies, but so far haven't been able to stand up for that long and I cannot lift anything, I picked up a bowl today and it was heavy! Everyone who knows me is worried I'm going to head straight to the barn and start shoveling manure and lifting hay bales but for now I'll be good because my body won't let me do anything!

Kevin and Jim (our helper) are splitting some wood today and we are suppose to be getting a delivery of hay. This is going to be slow going but I am so happy to be home and so glad to have had this operation.

Hope to be able to be back blogging soon! Thank you all so much for your support!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The great tree operation 2010

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Yesterday we woke up and suddenly it was above zero and everything was melting. We never saw that coming. We loaded up the tractor with chains and ropes and headed out to try and get our tree home.

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Thankfully Kevin was able to drag it across the dam, because trying to rope it and winch it would have been a mess. Once it was on the same side of the creek as we were, it was easier.

However we still had to drag it uphill, through a pond that was now melting rapidly, and through some Juniper to get it to the tractor.

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Once we got it to the tractor, we lifted it onto the bucket, strapped it, and Kevin drove it through the Juniper bushes, a few fields, and, down the road to home.

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We could not get it through the front door, so we had to use the front loader of the tractor to lift it up to the porch, so we could bring it through our sliding doors. Then we measured inside where the tree would go, and cut two feet off the tree to make it fit.

So we have a 12 foot tree.

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Torn Ear wondered what we were up to

Then we brought it in the house. Because it got so wet during it's journey since it wasn't going through snow as usual but rather water and slush, it melted all over the living room floor. Many towels and an hour later, it stopped raining.

We are making memories, so it's OK. This is how it's suppose to go.

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It was all we could to get it set up and watered in one day, we were exhausted.

We decided to go visit our cousins and bring some pizza.

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This is backwoods pizza delivery, homemade, there is no take out here!

We had fun, they played with the laptop a little bit and played some games... and we looked at pictures and told stories as usual.

Their dog Scout passed out before the rest of us.

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This morning it was pouring rain, and making everything a horrible mess. It turned everything into deep slush, but as soon as the temperature drops it will all freeze and it will be so dangerous and difficult to get around.

We managed to get the tree decorated, it took about 4 hours. It looks really nice. We keep saying we'll get a smaller tree and next year we likely will, but this one is one of the nicest trees we've had. This is our 6th tree we've hauled out together.

Jim worked hard trying to string lights on the 12 foot tree. I think Kevin enjoyed getting a break from it!

I took a few pictures tonight but you cannot see the entire tree in one shot unless I move the couch, so I'll do that later to get better pictures.

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Most of our other decorations are still piled up and scattered around, waiting to be dealt with tomorrow. Our village isn't up either. If we have time tomorrow we'll put it together, it's another big project.

Tomorrow is my last day of freedom. I'm almost packed and ready to go, I've got some of my favorite magazines to keep me occupied and a few books for when I'm not sleeping and warm socks, I've learned there is nothing more important when in the hospital for surgery!

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I'm sure all the boys, human and fur will survive while I'm gone, but I cannot wait to come home and be in my own bed. My doctor says I should be able to come home Friday so I hope so.

For now I'm off to sit by the fire for a bit and just enjoy the lights of the Christmas tree that takes up most of the living room!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Tracks and trees


This past week has been a very busy one. We spent all day Wednesday in New York State at the VA hospital and then we did a months worth of grocery shopping, so you can imagine how much stuff that was. We've been hauling in people and animal food to stock up over Christmas.

 Tuesday Kevin cleaned the chimney again since it was really needed. We clean it about 4 or so times a year usually.

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It's been getting cold here, -20 Celsius was the coldest so far, which is about -4 Fahrenheit

It's suppose to go down to -30 C this week. Tonight it's blowing ice pellets and storming, we are suppose to get a big storm this weekend.

We went out Tuesday afternoon to scout for a Christmas tree. The one I had been eyeing up earlier turned out to be too small when measured, so we'll save him for another year. We only had a couple hours before dark so we checked the closer spots first.

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In an area we call our nursery we found one possible tree, and we found another tree in another spot. The second tree we have considered taking in past years but it's a perfect tree. Too perfect to take, we feel guilty about it. So we decided we would wait and check another spot that is more difficult to get to.

I did drag through the bush a small tree which we cut to let some of the larger trees have more room since they were way too crowded. I dragged the tree out almost to the mule, that's when I finally wore out and with the mule in sight, Kevin dragged it the rest of the way and loaded it. It was dark when I finished putting the animals in the barn for the night and went to my gate to bring the tree into the barn for the night. Wrambler, my Haflinger promptly ripped one of the branches off as I was carrying it through the barnyard. I told him he's going to get put on Santa's naughty list if he goes around doing things like that!

Yesterday I went out after the fresh snow to check on the tracks. I found out that a coyote walked right up to our bedroom window the night before. I was surprised he was that gutsy.

These are beaver tracks:

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and here is his trail down to his pond

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This was a mouse, notice the tail trail...

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I followed the coyote tracks all over the farm. He walked for miles in both directions looking for food. We even found trees that small animals live in that he checked. He was hungry.

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all those tracks going up our trail are coyote, nothing else walked there.

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It's possible they were wolf tracks, we found definate wolf tracks in another area we hiked. Wolf tracks are about the size of my Great Pyrenees tracks, Coyote is a bit smaller. Fox is close to Chihuahua size tracks!

Today we went out to go across the creek to check our other Christmas tree area. On the way out, by one of our apple trees we can see from our bedroom window, Deer Norman was lying there staring at us. He didn't get up, he never does.

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We hiked in the long way to this certain spot so we could see what kind of tracks were back there. We found lots of Porcupine sign, which is normal, this is a huge porcupine area.

We also found a ton of Fisher tracks.

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and lots of deer beds

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It was about 3:00 PM when we got to our spot and started looking at trees. There are lots of trees there but we can't take one too big because that's wasteful, and one too small isn't worth it. When you see the right tree, you just know it.

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Just as we were heading home and Kevin had started walking out of the area, I found the tree. I didn't even have to look twice, I just knew right then, that was it.

So Kevin came back and cut it down. It's a 14 foot tree.

Yes, 14 feet. We always go big. Or should I say, I always go big. One of the things Kevin has to put up with, dragging giant 14 foot Balsam's out of the bush for Christmas for me.

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We got it to the edge of the creek and had to leave it. It was almost 4 PM, and dark and the storm had started moving in so we left it there for the night. Tomorrow we'll take the tractor out. We can only get so close because of juniper bushes and rock, but we can pull the winch out and use ropes to get it across the porcupine creek and to this side, so we can drag it up and tow it home.

One the way home we checked a few other spots for tracks and found more wolf tracks, lots of deer, and a couple big buck trails.

The marshes looked pretty and sleepy.

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Torn Ear has been here, he comes and goes. His eye is healing slowly. He never stays very long lately. He is 8-9 years old now. His drop tine was beautiful earlier this year but it got broken during the fight that damaged his eye this fall.


Tomorrow we'll go out and bring home our Christmas tree. Tonight we are staying warm by the fire, the animals are all tucked in, and all is right with the world. Even with the pooch patrol, Norman and Douglas.


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