I know it has been a very long time since I've written.  Sometimes that happens in life.  Circumstances change in our lives that don't allow us to keep up with some things, this blog being one for me.

I thought I would just give you a quick "hi" and update from the homestead.  The biggest event for our family this summer has been the marriage of our son.  We have been so blessed with a wonderful daughter in law.  We spent a great week in Dallas, TX with family and new friends.

Spring chicks

Meanwhile on the homestead, early summer was marked by the arrival of our first batch of baby chicks.  These are our broilers at about two weeks old.  They were put out on grass and butchered at 12 weeks old.  Our new batch of hens arrived with these in April and this year are Buff Orpingtons.  The second batch of chicks arrived in early August after returning from the wedding.  This shipment included a second batch of Red Ranger broilers and our turkeys.

This is a year for raising pigs.  We only do it every two years because as I have mentioned before pigs do much better when there are two or more.  Since we can only consume about one per year we raise a couple every two years.  This year we have three we are raising.

 

Three not so little pigs

I did not have time to plant a full scale garden this year but did a few peppers and tomatoes in the greenhouse as well as some squash in a pot by the front porch. This is the first year we actually have fruit on one of our apple trees, we are so excited about this.  Our pear tree is doing amazing and I am going to have to thin the fruit in order to keep the branches from breaking.  The pigs will enjoy the thinned fruit as a treat.

 

Our first apples
Abundant pears

I can't wait to harvest and can these pears.  They sure taste good in the dead of winter along with apple sauce and pork chops!!

One other blessing on the homestead is that we discovered some Lady Slippers on the property.  We are now going to take much care around that area in hopes that they will return for us to enjoy again next year.

Lady Slipper

A funny site would have been seen if you would have arrived at our homestead on the day of the eclipse.  Because we are so far north we only has a little over 50% coverage so it was not really noticeable as far as it getting dark.  So out in our driveway was myself, my husband and my dear mother in law passing around the two welding helmets that we have watching the eclipse.  God's creation is absolutely amazing.

I hope this summer has been a blessing for you and your family as it has been for mine.  Enjoy the fall and I hope I can get back with you soon.

Blessings,

Merrie

 

French Toast Bake

I was looking in my bread box and realized that I had bits and pieces of different breads that would only be suitable as chicken food in a day or two.  What could I make to use them up?  I looked through a couple of my cookbooks and found a recipe for Baked French Toast in The Pioneer Woman Cooks A Year of Holidays.  As usual I adapted the recipe to what I had available.  So what I had was leftover heals, a couple of hamburger buns and I think even a little bit of corn bread I had made to go with some pea soup we had.  Every time you make this it will be a little bit different because of the breads you use and the additional things you decide to add.

Let me state that you need to make this ahead of time, preferably the night before. The bread needs time to soak up all the yummy egg and milk mixture before it is baked.  This is great if you are having company or need to get out of the house for some reason in the morning.  You just pull the bake out of the refrigerator and bake it while you are doing other things.

First you will tear all your leftover bread into bite size chunks.  If you want to be fancy you can cut them but I like the more rustic look of the torn bread.  Chose a baking dish that will hold all of the bread.  The recipe works best for a 13 x 9 inch dish so make sure you have enough bread to fill it.

Torn bread

As you can see from the picture I have added things to my bread but that is purely optional.  Here I have added dried cranberries and some chopped pecans.  Diced apples, raisins, chopped walnuts, or just about anything that your family likes work well as additions to this dish.

Next you will want to make the egg custard mixture.

Custard mixture

This is where I referred to Ree's recipe for the ratios on the milk and eggs.  As the note implies you are making a sort of custard mixture with eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla.  I have also added cinnamon and nutmeg to my mixture because that is the traditional french toast flavors for my family.

Soaking up

Once the custard mix is poured over the bread mix the whole thing needs to be refrigerated, as I said, preferably overnight.  Make sure to cover it for this part.

Here is the full recipe as I made it this time.  Like I said it is different every time I make it.  It is also really good with blueberries in the bread and blueberry syrup over the top to serve.

French Toast Bake

Ingredients

  • 1 Loaf or leftover pieces of bread (firmer varieties work better but any is good)
  • 8 Eggs (farm fresh are best)
  • 2 1/2 Cups whole milk
  • 1/2 Cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons vanilla
  • 1 Teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 Teaspoon nutmeg
  • Additional dried or fresh fruit and nuts to taste

Instructions

  1. Tear bread into chunks into a bowl. Add any additions of fruit, nuts etc to the bread. Gently fold together so you don't break up the bread pieces. Put pieces into well buttered 13 x 9 inch baking dish.
  2. In a bowl put the eggs, milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. Whisk very well until everything is incorporated. Gently pour over bread in baking dish.
  3. Cover baking dish and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours but better if overnight.
  4. When ready to bake remove baking dish from refrigerator and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes to one hour. The longer you bake it the crispier it will get.
  5. Serve with butter and warmed maple syrup. You might also like to serve with a fruit syrup if your family enjoys that. It is nice to have some sausage, ham or bacon as a side.

I hope you enjoy this little taste of heaven using some of your "going stale" bread. There is not a picture of this baked because the house smells so good when it is baking that I couldn't keep from diving into it.

Blessings,

Merrie

 

 

 

 

May 17, 1986
May 17, 1986

I know I haven't posted in a little while.  My husband and I were so blessed to be able to take a cruise to celebrate our 30th anniversary so we were away for awhile. I can't believe that we have been married for 30 years.  I cannot even tell you how wonderful those years have been.  There is nothing like being married to your best friend.  That is not to say that we haven't had our challenging times but with the Lord's help we have always come through them stronger as a couple and I am so grateful for that.  I cannot imagine my life without this wonderful man in it.

So now that you have had a little laugh at the "80s" wedding picture.  It was windy that day and my poor hubby was suffering something terrible from his allergies.  He really wan't crying about marrying me.

DSC_0072

My husband planned the entire trip just as he did for our 25th.  We visited the British Virgin Island of Tortola which was very rustic.  They are just beginning to welcome cruise ships there.  The people are wonderful and we got to ride to the top of their highest peak (1700') then hike for a mile around the top.

Then we spent a day at St Thomas and St John which are American Virgin Islands. Here are some fun facts.  In Tortola they drive on the left side of the road but the currency is the American dollar.  In St Thomas and St John they also drive on the left side of the road even though they are American territories.  There is only about a distance of 20 miles or so between Tortola and St Thomas/St John so they are more related to each other than the countries who they are territories of.

After we arrived at St Thomas we took a boat over to St John to explore there.  The island was known for it's sugar production.  We visit one of the old processing plants where slaves were used to cut and work the sugar cane.

The tall structure in the last picture was a windmill.  The top is gone now but when the wind blew it turned the crusher to get the juice out of the sugar cane.  If the wind wan't blowing they used donkeys.  There are now feral donkeys running around the island that have come from the days of using them for the sugar cane.

 

Feral Donkey
Feral Donkey

When we got back to St Thomas we had a couple of hours before we had to be back to the ship.  They have a sky tram so we decided it would be fun to ride that.  It gave us a great view from the top.  There were a few little shops so we bought a couple of "island" things to bring home.

Finally we stopped for the day at Disney's Private island, yes we took a Disney cruise, Castaway Cay.  We rented bicycles and peddled all over the island.  It is amazing how blue the water is in the Bahamas.

Castaway Cay
Castaway Cay

The great thing about Disney is that although you think of kids when you think of them they do a lot for adults as well.  There is a whole section of their ships that are for 18 and older so if you don't want to be where the kids are you don't have to be. The same thing applies to their island.  We were on the adult side where they have a beautiful beach and this is what came walking up the white sand.

DSC_0189

Yes, that is Jack Sparrow.  The guy in white had to keep him from getting too out of hand.  He was totally in character which was fun.  He teased people, pushed them in their hammocks and rolled an inner tube down the beach.  It was a really relaxing day.

When we got back to our stateroom our hostess had decorated for our celebration.

DSC_0149

Those are even real rose petals.

We were very blessed to have a young lady be able to stay at the homestead and take care of the chickens,dogs and cat so that we were able to take this memorable trip.

Homesteading takes a lot of time and effort but sometimes you just have to take a little time away.

Blessing,

Merrie

My wish for you and your family
My wish for you and your family

DSC_0014 (9)

Well, I don't see any better way to say it than with these pictures.  I just went around my house and took these pictures.  Until I started looking I didn't even realize how many Merry Christmases I had.  It is a wonderful way to feel.

I thought I would give you just a quick recipe for a treat that you can make for your family gathering, office party or even just to have with a nice cup of tea or coffee on a cool winter evening.

DSC_0012 (3)

There are many different versions depending on what type of Hersey Kisses you use but, in my opinion, any would be fantastic.

I started with the regular milk chocolate kisses and my fantastic husband unwrapped all of them one afternoon when he took a break from the work he was doing around the house.

Pretzel and M & M Kisses Christmas Style

You will find that it will take less time for the kisses to get soft if you are using a variety with white chocolate in it. Also these would be great for any time of the year using the regular colorful M & M candies. Use your imagination and have fun.

Ingredients

  • 1 bag Hersey Kisses any flavor without anything in the center
  • 1 bag Christmas M & Ms
  • 1 bag Snyder's pretzel snaps, the small regular pretzels work well too

Instructions

  1. Unwrap the Kisses and place in a bowl.
  2. Pour the M & Ms into a bowl
  3. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees
  4. Place the pretzels onto a baking sheet. Place parchment under if desired but I don't use it.
  5. Place a Kiss on top of each pretzel
  6. Put baking sheet into oven for 4-5 minutes. You want the kisses to be soft but not lose their shape. At four minutes I attempt to add a M & M to one of the corner pretzel/kiss to see if it can be gently pushed into the chocolate. Put the tray back in for one more minute if you feel hardness still in the middle of the kiss.
  7. When soft pull the tray out and working quickly place one M & M one each kiss and gently push it into the chocolate.
  8. After let the tray cool. I do that at room temperature but if you want to speed things up you can put the tray in the fridge. I just never have that much extra room in mine.
  9. After cool store in a air tight container.

 

DSC_0004 (10)

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSC_0008 (3)

DSC_0002 (10)

 

 

 

 

 

May this season of celebrating the birth of our Savior the Lord Jesus Christ be filled with blessings for you and your family.  Remember there is nothing more important in this world than to spend time with those that you love and love you.  It is not about what might be under the tree but about who you are sharing those gifts with.  Smile, sing, hug, eat and love.

I wish you all many Christmas Blessings.

Merrie

 

New Breed?
New Breed?

Our first try at Red Ranger chickens for meat has been a success.  We butchered our first group and of the 40 we ordered we had 36 go to butcher.  That is a loss of only 10% unlike last year when we had a terrible time with the Cornish Rock and a huge loss.  We also got two of the above with our chick order of Red Rangers.  They look like a cross between a Ranger and Cornish but I am not sure.  I'm going to send some pictures to the hatchery and see what they have to tell me.  These actually raised up very well.  Those are some of my new Americana laying hens in the back ground.  They are three months old now so hopefully they will begin laying eggs in October or so.

We took a week of vacation to take care of many things on the farm including the butchering.  Fun things like having the septic tank pumped, cutting wood, chipping wood for mulch and getting ready for the next round of poultry.  The baby turkeys and more Red Rangers arrived at the end of the week.

After a morning of butchering the chickens need to cool for 24 hours before being vacuum sealed and put in the freezer.  For the first time ever we kept one fresh for us to eat.  I found a recipe in Better Homes and Gardens for a brine and it was fantastic.  I don't normally read BH&G but it came in the mail to me because I purchased some other item.

Grilled Feta-Brined Chicken

  • 4 cups water
  • 4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (I used sea salt)
  • 2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
  • 2-3 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs (I used a whole cut up bone in chicken)
  • 1 large lemon, halved
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

In a blender combine water, feta, oregano, salt and cracked black pepper.  Cover and blend until smooth.  Place chicken in zipper plastic bag or container.  Pour feta mixture over chicken; seal or cover.  Chill 8 hours or overnight.

Remove chicken from brine; transfer to a towel-lined tray.  Discard brine.  Pat chicken dry.  Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.

Grill chicken on the rack over a covered grill over medium heat 12-15 minutes (longer if you use whole bone in chicken) until interior temperature reaches 170 degrees, turning once.

Transfer chicken to a platter.  Squeeze lemon over.  Drizzle with oil.  You can top with additional crumbled feta if desired but it was great without it.

Dinner was wonderful and it is so nice knowing where your meat comes from, what it has been eating and the fact that the chickens lead a happy life while they were with us.

So in 12 weeks or so we will do it all over again with our second batch of pastured meat birds.  This is the first year that we have done two batches but now that we have a separate building and the movable fencing we have the room.

Our next project will be getting a out door run for the turkeys built.  We are having some fill brought in to level out an area next to the barn that we can make a outside area for them.  I'm not sure it will get finished this year but oh well, there is only so much time in a day.