I’m sure many of you are wondering what happened to those two cute little pigs named Breakfast & Dinner. Come on, you knew this day would come folks.
*** Warning *************
There are a couple graphic butchery photos below, so just stop now if that bothers you or scroll really fast.
Breakfast & Dinner lived a very happy, albeit short, life at Spring Creek Acres. They rooted up acres of pasture and enjoyed a non-GMO diet. The sisters frolicked about and happily grunted when Farmer Shawn brought them treats every day and sprayed them down on hot days. They grew bigger and bigger and bigger, until one day Farmer Shawn decided they were ready to become bacon, sausage, and other tasty delights.
I’m the first to admit, the killing and processing part is not fun and I was not overly involved. Once everything was chilled and cut into less recognizable pieces, I joined the party.
Shawn sold two half pigs and invited the buyers to join in the processing. Talk about knowing where your food comes from!
As you can see, we like sausage. With some of our meat, we made Jalapeno breakfast sausage, Italian sausage, and German sausage. I grew up eating smoked Geman sausage at my grandparents’ house on Sundays, so I was trying to recreate that.
All in all, the processing of the two pigs took about a week and yielded over 300 pounds of meat. Shawn also cured bacon and smoked the hocks.
We now have a freezer full of pork and chicken for the coming year, plus a bit of elk from the neighbor. Raising and processing your own food takes a lot of time and effort, but it tastes so good. Cheers to Breakfast & Dinner!
We had mid to upper 90s in August, a week or so of 80s in September, then it dropped into the 60s mid-month. On October 3rd, we had our first freeze. That left us with a bunch of green tomatoes still on the vine, so we canned green tomato chutney. I was a little skeptical, but it’s tasty. Goes great with Indian food or over cream cheese with crackers.
We also harvested our onion crop. We got quite a few, but they were small this year. We will be better prepared next year and hope to get large onions like our neighbor’s.
Shawn grew some pumpkins, but like the onions, they came out small. However, the few small pumpkins we got made a great puree and pumpkin bread. He’s in the kitchen now whipping up a pumpkin pie!
We’ve also been doing more canning. Our next-door neighbor got an elk and gave us some ground meat, so Shawn canned that with potatoes, onions and carrots. While it tastes good, it was not pretty enough to warrant a picture. I’ve been buying dried beans in bulk and canning them. It’s very handy to have pinto, black, white, kidney and garbonzos readily available.
Soon it will be time to bottle our first experiments in fruit wine. We will have a couple gallons each of plum, peach, and apple.
Improvements continue to be made outdoors. We ordered seedling trees from the Pitkin Nursery at the University of Idaho in Moscow. Shawn planted 20 Tamarac trees on the south end of the property and then potted maples, chestnuts and others for planting in the spring. Most of our trees are evergreen, so it will be nice to have more fall colors in a few years. We are also working on the planting area around the house. We moved dirt to join to small hills. Shawn plans to put a pond behind it. I planted 120+ bulbs and divided and re-planted the existing peonies. I hope I didn’t kill them!
The kids and grandkids visited mid-October and the weather was picture perfect. We went to Green Bluff for pumpkins and apples; we played at McEuen Park in downtown Coeur d’Alene, and we hiked the Cougar Gulch trail. It was great having them visit!
Cooler temps also mean more time spent in my new sewing room. I made flannel jackets for the grandkids and started a new blue and white quilt.
While we are enjoying the changing of the seasons, we recently learned of another type of seasons in Northern Idaho. Bug Seasons. During the summer, we experienced yellowjacket season. Now we are in stink-bug season. There was also a brief two-week period of gnat season. I’m sure you’re thanking me for not posting photos.
After a couple of weeks with days in the 90’s (and two over 100), we are starting to see fruit and vegetables ripening in our garden. We’ve picked some cherry tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, Armenian cucumbers, onions, tomatillos, chilies, and plums. We’ve finally identified the mystery fruit trees: two are plum and two are pear. We’ll probably remove the pear trees because we aren’t big fans of pears and they are more dead than alive, but the plums get to stay. I tried one today and it was delicious.
Armenian cucumbers are popular in Fresno where I grew up, and they are my favorite cucumbers because the skin is soft and not bitter. My brother says I’m probably growing the first ever Armenian cucumbers in Idaho. I made a quick Japanese pickle salad with the first cucumber. The second one was added to tomatoes and onions.
Since our garden is not quite bountiful enough for canning yet, we took advantage of a sale at the local fruit stand. We purchased a box of Washington peaches, a box of Fuji apples, and a flat of California strawberries. From that we made:
4 quarts of unsweetened applesauce
4 pints of apple butter
4 pints of strawberry jam
The peaches are still a bit firm, so we will peel and can those later this week. The pigs and chickens are in heaven enjoying all the fruit and vegetable scraps.
The laying chickens have finally kicked it into gear and are laying 4-6 medium to large eggs daily. The yolks on the fresh eggs are a deep yellow-orange and very thick. They make great fried eggs. I’m getting experimental making frittatas. Last night’s frittata included eggs, milk, jack cheese, bacon, breadcrumbs, tomatillos, onions, chilies, and garlic. Shawn approved. We aren’t sure what kind of chilies we picked, but they weren’t very spicy.
Last night, Shawn processed the last of the meat chickens (a.k.a. Frankenchicks). He had to do the butchering at night because the bees and wasps are rampant during the day and very attracted to the meat and blood. We now have a freezer full of chemical/drug-free chicken that should last us through the fall and winter. Raising meat chickens was definitely a learning experience, but I think Shawn has it mastered now and next year should be a breeze. (Check out his videos on YouTube.)
Time to go see what the garden has to offer today…
I like cherries. In the past, I would buy a pound or so at a time when they are in season and enjoy eating them fresh. But now I have so many cherries I don’t know what to do with them. From our two trees, we have picked 12 lbs of sweet Bing cherries, 13.5 lbs of sweet Alberta cherries, and 21 lbs of sour cherries. And there are probably still another 15 lbs of sour cherries on the tree.
I’ve canned cherries, made two kinds of jam, made a cherry cobbler, made muffins, made cocktails from cherry syrup, dehydrated tons of cherries, and made a cherry-balsamic reduction to drizzle on a fresh cherry pizza. We have snacked on cherries by the handful and cut them up and eaten them over ice cream. I’m running out of ways to use and consume cherries.
I made one batch of sweet cherry jam with the Albertas and one batch with the sour cherries. I’m not a big fan of high sugar jam, but I found Pomona’s Pectin for low sugar jam and it worked well. I used honey with the Albertas and it is a nice compliment.
The mini-cherry muffins were a hit with my little helper. The tart cherries nicely balanced with the sweet muffin.
After all that cherry picking and pitting, a cocktail was in order. Shawn and I experimented with ingredients, even going so far as adding some Kombucha for fizz. Our favorite is one part cherry syrup to 3 parts Maker’s Mark over ice with a handful of fresh cherries. The best part is eating the bourbon soaked cherries at the bottom of the glass.
While our son, Connor, was visiting we experimented with cherries on pizza. We’ve had a heat wave, so we gilled the pizza crust outside on the barbecue. We cooked fresh cherries in balsamic vinegar and then pureed and reduced the sauce. We topped the pizzas with goat cheese, fresh cherries, bacon, and herb salad mix drizzled with the cherry-balsamic reduction. Super tasty on a hot night!
The rest of the cherries were thrown into the dehydrator. They will be good for cooking and baking throughout the year, or just to eat by the handful as Shawn prefers.
We are lucky to have two producing cherry trees on our new property. We have been tasting the cherries daily to determine when they are ripe for picking. One of the trees actually has two different types of cherries: Bing and Alberta (according to our electrician Al). We picked 15 1/2 pounds of cherries in one day. They are mostly the darker Bings.
Knowing we would have a bountiful cherry harvest, we ordered cherry pitters and an Excalibur 9-tray dehydrator (made in Sacramento, California). We were skeptical about the 6-cherry pitter, but it works great. Shawn and Malcolm pitted the cherries while I sliced them and put them on the dehydrator trays.
The Bing cherries are very sweet, so a few pounds went into the mouths of the workforce instead of the dehydrator. The Alberta cherries are more reddish orange and not quite as sweet. After dehydration, the Albertas have a slight rose aroma and flavor. We still need to pick the rest of the Albertas because they weren’t all ripe.
I also canned some of the cherries in a light syrup. I added brandy to some and Amaretto to the rest.
This week, we will pick the cherries on the second tree. They are a bit sour. Al says the second tree is a Pie tree because you make pies with that type of cherry but you need to add sugar.
Funny story about the dehydrator. We had picked all the cherries knowing the dehydrator would arrive that day. I had the cherries all sorted and washed and ready to go. I met the UPS man in the driveway and had the dehydrator unpacked within 5 minutes of delivery. That’s when I noticed a plastic corner was broken off on the front. It wasn’t something that would affect the performance of the dehydrator so I contemplated gluing it back together, but that just didn’t sit right with me. Something that expensive should not be broken. So I called Amazon to get it replaced. After the call agent took all my information and promised a new dehydrator would be delivered in 2 days, I asked her how to return the broken one. She told me to just dispose of it. What??? That corner is getting glued back on, and I will be running two dehydrators at a time once the tomatoes and zucchini come in!
Why yes, you can make English muffins. I thought they came in a stack of six from Thompson’s, but then I saw a recipe for homemade sourdough English muffins and had to give it a try. I used Shawn’s wholewheat sourdough starter. I was a little concerned at first because it is super stinky, but the muffins came out with a nice subtle sourdough tang.
I’m learning to use my new pressure canner. I canned a batch of pinto beans to practice. I need to be ready when the garden explodes with more goodness than we can consume daily. I’m counting on an overabundance of tomatoes.
Speaking of the garden, we are starting to see fruit on our trees. We’ve identified the two cherry trees, but we’re still not positive what some of our other trees are. Happily, the grapevines are alive and they are showing signs of grapes.
Shawn plowed a new plot for black oil sunflowers and oats. He was busy all day discing with the tractor and raking and pulling out rocks by hand. The chickens supervised from their current home under the pine trees.
A busy day on the homestead. I was also excited to learn that when my big brother comes to visit in a few days that he will be bringing my dad with him. Time to get cracking on a few indoor projects to make our guests comfortable!
When I was working, I usually got home after 6:00 so I saved any time-intensive cooking for weekends. Now I have time to cook any day of the week. I’ve had an Instant Pot for about six months, so I’ve been trying to figure out what it makes best. Here are a few things I’ve tried.
Connor sent me this recipe for Italian Chickpea Soup. My local Safeway didn’t have dried chickpeas, so I used two cans and reduced the cooking time to 5 minutes. Connor mentioned the soup was a bit watery, so I mashed the chickpeas a bit. We don’t have fresh basil yet, so I used pesto from Costo. The soup is very good in its vegetarian form, but we made the leftovers even better a few days later by adding some of the Italian sausage that Shawn made in his butchery class.
On one of our colder Spring evenings, I made this pot of split pea soup in an hour. Shawn had smoked a pork shoulder the day before, so I used the leftovers in the soup. I looked online for recipes to figure out how long to cook in the Instant Pot. The recipes ranged from 8-20 minutes. I went for 15 and I felt it was overcooked and a little mushy, but very tasty.
For the first meal with our homegrown, non-GMO, antibiotic-free chicken, I made Chicken Adobo in the Instant Pot. I used these recipes as guidelines.
I used the thighs and drumsticks and it was very good.
We’ve been eating a lot of granola for breakfast. It goes very well with the raw milk from our local dairy. I decided to try making my own granola and I found this article on Epicurious that gives you the ratio of wet to dry ingredients (6:1) and cooking time. I like using a formula where I get to pick the ingredients. I’ve made a couple batches trying out different nuts, seeds, and sweeteners.
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup pecans (or almonds)
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
2 T sunflower seeds
2T flax seeds
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup maple syrup (or agave)
1 egg white (optional)
The egg white was supposed to make it shinier and clump more, but the second batch I made without was better so I will leave it out in the future.
The weather has been beautiful the last two weeks, so I had to get a BBQ. Shawn was nice enough to put it together for me the day it arrived even though he had already spent a full day working in the yard. After some research, I decided to get a Lion BBQ, and I like it better than the Flame BBQ I had in California. The Lion gets hotter than the Flame and it made some nice burgers on its inaugural cook.
To satisfy our sweet tooth, I’ve made bread pudding (got a free loaf of French bread from Safeway) and banana bread.
Shawn has been doing some cooking and baking too. He has a sourdough starter, so he’s made bread and pancakes a few times.
He has also prepared pork jowls and cheeks and pork belly from the meat he brought home from his butchery class. They were fantastic, but I’m trying to only eat these delicacies in moderation.
I guess I’ll never make a career as a food blogger because I don’t take multiple photos of the same dish and I don’t style my food.
It’s been a month since we retired and moved, and I can’t say we have found ourselves sitting around saying we’re bored. Tired yes, but bored no.
Last week, I started painting the interior of the house. Fresh paint makes me feel like everything is clean and relatively new. We wanted to use a similar color scheme from our previous house. Gray walls with white trim, but we were concerned the gray might be too dark. I got paint samples in 6 shades of gray and we ended up selecting the lightest shade. All our doors and windows are trimmed in stained wood, and I plan to paint that all white. I counted and we have 27 doors and 21 windows. If each door takes one coat of primer and two coats of paint, that is a lot of painting. Time to research paint sprayers…
Shawn was busy finishing up the Chickshaw. It now has wheels so it can be mobile as soon as the temperature outside is warm enough for the chicks. As you can see, the Frankenchicks are still growing at an alarming rate and still ugly.
When we bought the house, the previous owners threw in their tractor in lieu of making some minor repairs. There were some cryptic instructions on how to start the tractor involving a jury-rigged wire and button. Shawn got the tractor to start once, then it began smoking and would not start again. So how do you get your tractor that won’t start to the tractor mechanic? Rent a trailer, winch the dead tractor onto the trailer (preferably when it is snowing), and then haul it into town. Hopefully, the tractor will be back in a few days and ready to push, pull, lift, dig, gather, move and whatever else tractors are supposed to do.
We’ve had a few days of sunny weather, so we’ve spent some time outdoors clearing dead and unwanted trees and shrubbery. While this is satisfying work, it makes more work because then we have to get rid of the debris. Shawn has been working on the garden area the last couple days, and he’s using the chipped wood to make walkways between the beds.
One fun thing about moving into a new house in the winter is discovering what is growing in your yard. As the days get warmer, new plants are popping up and beginning to flower while the trees are waking up.
The cats have settled into life in Idaho. There are lots of windows to look out of and plenty of sunny spots for sleeping. So far they don’t seem to mind that they aren’t going outside. Maybe they can smell the larger predators when the windows are open.
Shawn and I are both enjoying the time we now have to cook. Shawn made a sourdough starter, and I have been on the receiving end of some wonderful sourdough pancakes and bread. I’m still trying to perfect the whole chicken in the Instant Pot. I also bought a $1.99 Kindle cast iron skillet cookbook and have tried a few recipes from it.
We have even taken a little time to explore Coeur d’Alene. We went into town for dinner at the infamous Hudson’s Hamburgers, est. 1907. They only serve hamburgers, ham sandwichs, egg sandwiches, and pie. The hamburgers have the options of single, double, cheese, onions and pickles. No lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, fries, etc. A patron sitting at the counter asked if he could get another burger with extra cheese and the owner/fry cook said no. The burgers and pie were tasty and cheap.
The sun had come out that day, so everyone flocked to the park in shorts and the restaurants had outdoor seating set up, but by 6 PM the clouds had rolled back in and it was getting cold.
In an attempt to stay in touch with our technology roots, we attended a Fireside Chat put on by the local technology incubator Innovation Collective. They interviewed a local restaurant owner on his career journey through dairy farmer, hospitality, health technology, and food service. We met a nice couple from CDA that have some farm property in Washington. They are avid growers of garlic, and Shawn looks forward to planting some cloves.
So as you can see, not a lot of time to sit around and get bored.
Remember those cute little chicks I showed you a couple of weeks ago? They are super ugly now, and let’s not even talk about the stink. The Frankenchicks outgrew their half of the brooder in the basement, so Shawn moved them to the Chickshaw in the garage today. Even though the Chickshaw is meant for the smaller, cuter, egg-layers, the meat birds will hang out there until Shawn builds their chicken tractor.
Yesterday, Shawn the lumberjack did a bit of tree pruning around the workshop. He eventually plans to remove two of the three trees that infringe on the building’s roof, but for now, he just did some trimming. Under the trees, there is a wild rose bush that has sent runners about 16′ up into the branches. Is it unreasonable to think about taking out a large life insurance policy on your husband when he goes all mountain man and starts one-handed chainsawing while on an extension ladder? I think not.
I tried a little experimental baking with new ingredients. Katie, from Millhorn Farmstead Creamery, had a recipe for Paleo Molasses Cookies on her blog so I thought I’d give it a try since molasses cookies are a favorite of ours. I have not baked with almond and coconut flours before. The coconut oil was interesting too. It is hard and crumbly in the jar and had to be slightly warmed in the microwave (20 seconds) to soften it to a consistency of shortening. The recipe said to chill the dough for 30 minutes before baking, but I don’t think that was long enough. My first tray came out as one giant, flat mess. The taste was OK, but you could definitely get a hint of coconut and the mealy feel of the almond flour. The second batch burned, and the third batch, while not as runny, still did not look like the thick cookies pictured on the blog. Not sure if I will try this again.
This might sound trite, but Idaho potatoes taste really good. We’ve had them baked, and they are fluffy and sweet. Tonight I tried a recipe for garlic mashed potatoes in the Instant Pot. They turned out great and were a good accompaniment to Shawn’s smoked ribs. I may have used 8 cloves of garlic instead of the two the recipe called for.
On our last trip into town (the vast metropolis of Coeur d’Alene, population 44k), we learned that you can’t buy hard alcohol at the grocery store. It is only sold by the Idaho State Liquor Division in their stores. So much for competitive pricing, but the salesperson did tell us that it is cheaper than liquor in Washington. I think this may be the first thing we’ve found that is cheaper in California.
When I look out our big picture windows, I can see a farm in the distance. I told Shawn I need binoculars so I can see what’s going on over there. So nosy!
Yesterday, Shawn made contact with a local farm via his Northern Idaho Facebook group. He found a local dairy that sells raw, fresh, A2A2 milk which is not known to cause lactose intolerance. The owner, Katie Millhorn, said she would give us a tour of their operation, so today we headed to the farm which turns out to be the farm I’ve been looking at out my windows. Small world…or valley.
Katie showed us her barn where she hand milks 3 cows daily. She also has sheep, chickens, and rabbits. All are free range. Milk is $6/gallon and cream is $7/quart. We bought a gallon of milk, and Shawn enjoyed it with his AB&J sandwich for lunch. I will try making yogurt with it in the Instant Pot.
So we are raising meat chickens. We have 20+ Cornish Cross chicks growing at a rapid rate in our basement. Katie referred to them as Franken-chicks because they grow so fast. Shawn is busily working on their outdoor home, but it has come to my attention that one day we will need to process and package these beasts. Gone will be the days of picking up a tray of boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs at Safeway. I need to figure out what to do with whole chickens.
Tonight, I am making a milk braised chicken in the Instant Pot. Any recipe that calls for 10 cloves of garlic should be tasty. Unfortunately, I did not have the lemon zest the recipe called for, so I zested a couple Cuties. Tangerine garlic chicken?
A new addition to the kitchen is a stainless steel composting pot. Since we are on septic and don’t have a garbage disposal, all the table scraps will go into the pot and Shawn will add them to his ever-growing compost pile. Last night, Shawn asked if paper towels can be composted. I looked it up online and it turns out that Bounty has an FAQ for that.
“Our paper towels and napkins are biodegradable. We measure the biodegradability of our products using a composting test developed by the US Composting Council. Under these conditions, Bounty will biodegrade in 60 days or less.”