Cherries, Cherries, Cherries!

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.

Our child laborer Malcolm
This bowl is about 5 pounds of cherries

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.

Cherries are the pits!
Bing cherries ready for 15 hours in the dehydrator

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.

Dehydrated Bings
Dehydrated Albertas
Ready for consumption and use in recipes

I also canned some of the cherries in a light syrup.  I added brandy to some and Amaretto to the rest.

These will be tasty over ice cream

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.

The Magpies are not thrilled that we have taken their tasty treats

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!

The Pig Farmer’s Wife

Well, it’s official.  I’m the wife of a pig farmer.  This morning we drove to Cheney, Washington to pick up our two piglets.  We borrowed a crate from our neighbor Katie, and then Shawn and Malcolm filled it with straw for the piglets’ comfort.

Malcolm fluffing the straw (we did not cage the boy)

At Adam’s farm (The Backyard Butchery), we selected two females from the drove.  First, the guys lured them to the fence with apples, and then they picked them up by the hind legs and put them in the crate.  There was much squealing.

Back home, the process was reversed with more squealing.

The two sisters, Breakfast and Dinner, share a 16×16 enclosure behind the house with a plastic water tote for their shelter.  After they calmed down from all the activity in their day, they started eating the grass and rooting around in the dirt.

Breakfast
Dinner

Shawn and Malcolm finished off the pen with a gate.

I don’t think the cuteness will last too long as their mom was rather ugly; however, we should have some tasty bacon in November.

You Can Make English Muffins?

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 made the dough last night and rolled and cut the muffins today
I learned that English muffins are cooked on the stove, not in the oven
They look like real English muffins!
Some are a little wonky, but you know they’re homemade
Tastes great warm off the skillet with a bit of butter

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.

The daunting pressure canner

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.

The green row in the center is wheat
Cherries of unknown variety
We think these are Asian pears
Grapes! I hope the deer leave a few for me.
The ever-expanding potted herb garden. All but one of the pots was left by the previous owner.

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.

They’re getting bigger…time to start laying some eggs!

Shawn left most of the dirt outside, but a bit made it in on his face

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!

Planting Herbs with a Chainsaw

Friday, while at Lowe’s to pickup rebar for the new garden fence, I noticed they had herbs on sale: 5 for $15.  I grabbed some rosemary, chives, peppermint, and lemon balm.  The previous homeowner left some pots, so I thought I’d use them for the herbs so I can keep them close to the kitchen door.

Next thing you know, we have the chainsaw out and trees are coming down.  Then the weedeater comes out and grasses are felled at an alarming rate.  All this for five little 3″ pots of herbs.  We have a corkscrew willow and a mystery tree/bush that were planted too close to the house.  I leveled the mystery bush with the chainsaw, and Shawn thinned the willow.  We had to be careful with the willow because a pair of robins have built a nest in it, and we did not want to disturb that.  They stayed away while we were working, but they came back so I assume they are OK with their new open-plan housing.

Pre-chainsaw
Post-chainsaw. Look at that nice bench of herbs!
This butterfly had no concerns and stayed throughout the demolition

Since there is no end of projects to be done around the homestead, it has become common for us to start a simple task and have it morph into a project that requires power tools.

Other Happenings Around the Homestead

The fence for the new garden plot is almost complete. Just needs a gate.
WTH? There’s a hole in our house that wasn’t there before. This requires further exploration…stay tuned.
We almost bought a peony at the farmers’ market last week. It turns out we already had some!
Waiting for the red peonies to bloom.
I had to let this weed flower before I pulled it out
Another surprise in the bulb patch
This little bird has built a nest in Tito the t-rex’s mouth and is anxiously awaiting a love match
Hey, we have a cherry tree!

 

Honey-Nut Granola

I’ve made a few batches of granola now.  I read an article on Epicurious, How to Make Granola Without a Recipe, and I have experimented with ingredients.   For sweeteners, I’ve used maple syrup, agave, and honey.  I like the honey best because of the flavor, and it seems to make the granola clump more.  We went to the farmers’ market and we bought a bottle of Camelina oil.  It is made from camelina seeds.  I tried that instead of canola oil, and it left a bitter taste so I won’t be using that again.  In my first couple batches, I used pecans which are good but more prone to burning.  The sliced almonds go well with the honey.  (The pecans were good with the maple syrup.)

Honey Nut Granola
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
45 mins
Total Time
50 mins
 

Granola is quick and easy to make at home.  Take control of your ingredients and make it your own!

Course: Breakfast
Keyword: granola
Servings: 12 1/2 cup servings
Calories: 313 kcal
Author: Kristin Echols
Ingredients
Dry ingredients (6 cups total)
  • 4 cups rolled oats (do not use quick oats)
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 2 T flax seeds
  • 2 T chia seeds
  • pinch salt (optional)
Wet ingredients (1 cup total)
  • 1/3 cup safflower oil
  • 2/3 cup raw honey
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 300 F

  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients.

  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients.

  4. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until combined.

  5. Line two large baking pans with parchment paper and spread half the mixture on each pan in a thin layer.

  6. Place the pans in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.

  7. After 15 minutes, stir the granola and re-spread in a thin layer.  Bake for another 15 minutes.

  8. Stir again and swap the pans on the oven racks.  Bake for another 15 minutes.

  9. Take pans out of the oven and let cool.

  10. Once cool, transfer the granola to an air-tight container.

Recipe Notes

You can swap ingredients as desired, as long as you keep the ratio of 6:1 dry ingredients to wet ingredients.   For my dry ingredients, I like using 4 cups oats, 1 cup nuts, and 1 cup seeds.  For my wet ingredients, I use 2/3 cup sweetener and 1/3 cup oil.

Shopping

My shopping habits have changed since moving to the country.  First of all, shopping requires planning because it involves a trip to town.  Sure it’s only 20 miles to Coeur d’Alene, but it’s not a trip we like to make more than once a day or even a few times a week, so we cram in as many errands as possible.  Last week, one trip included Lowe’s, the credit union, North Idaho Post & Pole, dinner, and voting.

I used to shop at places like Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, Staples, and Macy’s.  Now, I shop at Tractor Supply, North 40, Lowe’s, Home Depot, and North Idaho Post & Pole.  We are building a new 30x30  garden area, so we needed fencing.  Who knew there are so many options for fencing?  What diameter, length, wood type and treatment should the poles be? (We went with 4″ diameter, 12′ pine, untreated poles.)  What material should the fencing be?  Do you need a scoop of pine shavings with that?  Why yes, we do.

Most Idaho businesses fly the American flag, and many also fly the state flag. These specimens are on the small side.
Getting a side of pine shavings
The corner poles are set in the new garden plot

Voting in Idaho was a new experience.  I’ve only gone to a polling place once to vote; after that, I voted permanent absentee in California.  I assumed I would get a sample ballot in the mail, but that was not the case.  So the day before the election I was scouring the internet trying to figure out what I was voting on.  It was not easy.  Once I found the sample ballots, I had to figure out which one applied to me by party and precinct.  On election day, Shawn and I headed over to our polling place 20 minutes prior to closing.  Our town of Worley has a population of 257, and we were voters numbers 215 and 217 (Shawn got chatty with the senior ladies and someone slipped in between us).  The volunteer asked for my name, party affiliation and ID then handed me a color-coded card with my party designation.  I took two steps to the right and gave my card to another volunteer to receive my ballot.

We voted at the Worley Community Center which also does double duty as the library, senior center, and city offices
Our vast Worley government complex

Last week, we went to The Backyard Butchery in Cheney, Washington to pick up the rest of the pig that Shawn had learned to butcher.  Shawn’s instructor, Adam, had a litter of week-old piglets (also known as a drift or drove, I just Googled that).   We will be getting two when they are weaned at the beginning of July.

The drive from Cheney to Worley was beautiful.  The rolling hills were covered in short, green wheat fields and wildflowers were blooming along the side of the road.  We stopped for dinner at the Harvester Family Restaurant in Spangle, Washington.  I had the epitome of comfort food: chicken fried steak with garlic mashed potatoes.

The only restaurant for miles

Happenings around the farm

The grapevines are alive! I wasn’t so sure when I pruned them in March.
Two tiny birds are making a nest in Tito’s mouth
Waiting in the rain for the chickens to go to bed

Making chicken stock after processing the last of the Frankenchicks
What your husband comes home with from the farmers’ market when you let him go shopping by himself
Chickens being chickens
Unloading the pine shavings and making walkways between the garden beds
Getting the propane tank leveled and filled
Mowing the grass in the sudden downpour
The weather went from 74 and sunny to 60 and pouring in minutes
First dish made from our homegrown non-GMO, antibiotic-free Frankenchicks. Sliced chicken breast over parmesan risotto with pesto and fresh tomato.

Life is good…

Time for Cooking

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.

https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchen/instant-pot-chicken-adobo-3649636

https://www.manilaspoon.com/2017/04/instant-pot-chicken-adobo.html

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.

First batch of granola with pecans and maple syrup

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.

Sourdough wheat loaf, we tore into before taking a picture

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.

Asian braised pork belly over rice

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.

We Knew This Day Would Come

Yes, it is chicken processing day.  All of Shawn’s chicken dispatch equipment has arrived from around the world (Texas and China), and he has consumed every homesteading chicken video YouTube has to offer.  Some of the Frankenchicks have gorged themselves to optimum plumpness, and today the number came up for seven unlucky fatties.

The setup consists of a pen for the chickens, two cones to hang the birds to “drip,” a chicken plucker, a pot of water for scalding prior to plucking, a table for evisceration, a water bath, and an ice bath for cooling.

I thought I was ready for this, but it turns out I wasn’t.  The first chicken did not go as smoothly as planned, and I was done after that.  Shawn figured it out, and the rest were OK, but I had lost the nerve for it.

Can I wear more colors? Outfit of the day #OOTD

The chicken is placed into the cone head first.  Needless to say, they did not think that was a great idea and did not willingly put their head down.  For chickens that are supposedly dead,  they move around too much for my liking.  I will spare you the bloody details and move on to the next steps.

In search of the head
Hanging upside down is supposed to calm them

The chicken is scalded in hot water for a minute to loosen the feathers, and then it is into the plucker.  Shawn found this plucker on the Internet.  One of the vlogs he follows sells an expensive plucker, which is the same plucker Shawn ordered directly from China for a lot less.  The scalded bird is placed in the spinning bucket, and rubber tipped fingers take off the feathers in seconds while Shawn sprays in water.  It is rather amazing.  I’m sure my grandmother would have liked a plucker.

The scald
The plucker
The feathers fly
Voila, no feathers

Next step: evisceration, but I’ll let Shawn make a video about that.  After the chickens were cleaned, cooled and dried, we put them in special poultry shrinkwrap bags (from Texas).  We put the chicken in the bag, put a straw in, attached a zip tie, and then dipped the bag in boiling water for 5 seconds.  As the bag cools, it shrinks around the bird and the air comes out the straw.

Reminds me of a particular 80’s music video…
Bagged and ready for the freezer

We have four whole chickens ready for the freezer.  I will cut the remaining three chickens into parts before freezing.  The remaining Frankenchicks will be processed next week after gaining a bit more weight.

Guess what’s for dinner tonight?  Not chicken.

Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer Video – they just don’t make music videos like that anymore.

 

There is So Much to Watch

Shawn and I were just sitting out on the deck.  It was 79 degrees, overcast and still.  We were chatting about his day at pig butchery class and watching the chickens.  Chickens are almost as soothing to watch as fish in an aquarium.  We have a chickquarium.  A couple of male turkeys wandered into the yard and started puffing up because there was a female nearby.  A few minutes later, she walked into the yard and started eating the leftover chicken food.

Across the valley, we could see the clouds and rain rolling in.  The lightning started and the thunder indicated it was about 10 miles away.  Within a few minutes, the wind picked up, the trees were whistling, and the temperature dropped so we headed in.

Rapidly changing weather conditions

The weather station indicated the wind gust was 25 mph and the temperature had dropped to 60.  Inside, I heard a loud crash.  Remember that scenic picture a few posts ago with the picnic table and umbrella on the deck?  We had cranked the umbrella down, but obviously, that was not enough.  It snapped in two and went over the deck.  A leg broke off the picnic table.

Last week, Shawn started mowing the lawn.  Well, it’s not really the lawn.  It is the lower section of the parcel that is covered with knapweed.  It looks like the previous owner had let that section go for at least a year.  As Shawn mowed with the bush-hog, the land turned from grayish to green.

I found more flowers to take pictures of.  Sure, some of them are weeds, but they are still pretty.

I read that if you pick enough dandelions you can make wine
I think this may be a volunteer apple tree
Ornamental weeping cherry blossoms

One morning I was standing on the deck when a large bug flew in and landed on the railing.  Before my eyes, it shed its wings.  It was a huge flying black ant.  They are all over this week.  I hope they are gone soon or at least quit flying.

I’ve been busy painting.  The office and guest room are now a lovely shade of gray with white trim.  We also floored the office.  We have gone through almost 2,000 square feet of flooring and 4 gallons of paint and primer.  I did a bit of research and selected a Graco variable speed paint sprayer.  Shawn built a spray booth in the garage, and I can put two coats of paint on a couple doors each day.  Much easier than painting with a brush!

Guest room
Office
New paint sprayer…if it’s not nailed down, I may paint it
Spray booth
Outfit of the day #OOTD
High tech protective cover for the iPad (my boombox while working on projects)
This edge painter is awesome! No taping!!!

Saturday we ventured into town for a flyfishing lesson at Cabela’s in Post Falls.  There were four men and five women in the class, ages 8-70ish.  This is a sport for everyone.  I’m just looking for excuses to stand around in scenic rivers.

Cabela’s parking lot, not a scenic river

Going to town is a big deal for us.  CDA is only 20 miles away, but we try to cram as much into one trip as possible.  We left the house at 8:15 AM, had our flyfishing lesson until noon, went to the Post Falls brewery for a beer, went to the White House Grill for lunch, got a car wash, went to the bank, bought a chest freezer at Lowe’s for all the pork and chicken Shawn is processing, and went grocery shopping at Safeway.  We got home about 6:00 PM.

Black IPA
Spiced lamb patties with garlic green beans, the best thing I’ve eaten in Idaho

Shawn set up a temporary rig for the HDTV antenna, and I watched the news for the first time in 7 weeks.   The local weatherman told me what I was watching out my windows.  Thunder, lightning, and rain.

Chuck was not concerned with the wild weather conditions

 

Welcome to May

I woke up Monday and finally felt better.  I wasted a third of my retirement (thus far) being sick and missed out on the best weather (thus far).  So back to projects.  We finished the flooring in the living room.  We had been holding off because we wanted to remove the gargantuan gas fireplace, but we decided we’d just keep it for now and put the TV on top of it.  Our sectional is no longer in sections and it’s beginning to look like a regular house.

The humongous fireplace, we still need to trim around the bottom
Not necessarily the final furniture placement, but so nice to have a sitting area

Feeling better, I ventured into town to get my car registered and do a little shopping.  The DMV waiting room was packed (about 30 people in line for 7 windows).  It seems they have recently installed a computer kiosk for sign in and opinions are very divided on its functionality.  I was standing next to the kiosk waiting for my number to be called and everyone that used it felt compelled to vocalize their feelings about it.  The younger patrons thought it was pretty convenient to enter a cell phone number and get automated text updates on the wait time.  The more mature crowd was not so convinced and wished for the days of paper tickets which it still produced if you did not enter a phone number, but most of them got frustrated and walked away before getting their ticket.  People were very nice about helping each other, and the DMV clerks were extremely friendly and helpful.  The coolest part is that after you finish your paperwork and pay, they just hand you a set of plates.  No wait, the coolest part is the price.  I paid $190 for two years registration and a state parks pass!

Rocking my “Famous Potatoes” plates, and look how clean my side of the garage is!

Shawn got his tractor back from the shop and finally got to play, I mean work,  with it while the sun was shining.  Monday it rained, and I came home to find him stuck in the mud.  Lucky for him my phone was dead, so no incriminating pictures.  With a bit of work, he managed to pull the tractor out of the muck by winching it to a tree.

The vastness of our land
Trying out the rake attachment
Discing more garden space

The chickens all moved into their outdoor homes.  Shawn moved the Frankenchicks into the chicken tractor and the egg-layers into the Chickshaw.  The layers get to run around the pen during the day, but the Frankedchicks just stay in their tractor eating and growing fatter.  It was pretty funny watching Shawn try to get the layers back in their house for the night.

Setting up for the big chicken move
Frankenchicks gorging themselves on feed
Hens and roosters
Captured!
Barred Rocks and Golden Comets for egg laying
Roosting
Freedom…sort of

The daffodils and grape hyacinth are in full bloom.  I think there are at least four different varieties of daffodils.  There are also a few red flowers that we have not identified.

Unidentified red flower…hope it’s not poisonous Shawn

It’s so pretty it makes you want to come visit, right?  Tom and Bambi are frequent visitors.

Tom
Bambi

Check out Shawn’s YouTube channel, Spring Creek Acres,  for his latest videos.