A Little Farm First Aid Lesson

Lucy in the pasture
Lucy in the pasture

I am once again in need of yet another bookshelf… and a place to put it. I don’t know if I could convince Mike to build me a mouse proof room in the barn for a library. I’m sure he’ll figure something out for me. He’s good at that.

For now, I’ve started reading “Veterinary Guide for Farmers, New and Revised Edition” by G.W. Stamm copyright 1975. I’m learning all sorts of things; shots, sutures, temperatures, diseases, viruses, blood, puss and stool samples. No one is sick or injured but it never hurts to know that you read something about that and now what was it… That’s how this will go. Someday one of the cows will be sick and I will be standing there thinking “I know I read about what’s going on here, hmm.” I’ve never been super interested in surgery and such. M*A*S*H* is pretty much the extent of it (and of the military movies too). I can stomach it but ‘eh I can do without though too.

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Tales of the Pregnant Farmer: Nesting Theory

When asked when I’m due my usual response is “sometime between now and the county fair.” This is sometimes taken as sarcasm, unfortunately I’m serious. This time around I was given four due dates depending on who I talked to. An average “safe delivery” time can be two weeks before or after the due date, which means I have/had about eight weeks of “any day now”. So the no “real” due date answer seems to shock and/or annoy the person asking when. Hmm. How about Mama? Think about how annoying it is to politely answer that for eight weeks or longer?! Not to mention the weeks of comments of “how big you’re getting!” (that’s not a compliment no matter how you try.) The only acceptable thing to say about a pregnant ladies size is “you look great!” FYI.

All that complaining aside, life doesn’t stop because of it. I still mow the lawn each week and do what I can to help with yard work, gardening and so on. It takes a lot longer to get anything done, but it does get done. In an attempt to get this baby out I thought I’d give “nesting” a try. Pretty sure I didn’t do much for nesting with the other two. I didn’t really have time, nor did I slow down as much as I have this time. I washed the baby clothes the last time I had everything dug out of the kid’s closet to put away the out grown and get the next box of hand-me-downs. The house is picked up… I wouldn’t say clean, but picked up. Wash the floors during nap and by the next snack time they’re sticky.

Nesting it is. It was worth a try anyways.

The ducks really only need enough water to dunk their heads but they make such a mess splashing and end up wasting all their drinking water doing so. I had put a rubber feed dish in the run to give them something a little more to splash in. It worked… kinda. They emptied that and the drinking water. The days are warming up considerably and if I want this year’s chicks (who live with the ducks right now) to have water the ducks needed something more again. I think.

When they were in the house we had them in a small kiddie pool. The kids loved it. It was fun but it didn’t take long for them to outgrow the space and make the house smell like a chicken coop. It was time for them to move out. After the flock was in the coop the pool went outside to be stored until the next batch of chicks would grace the kitchen.

Well, my “nesting mother duck” came out and those ducks needed a pond of sorts. I dug out the pool, hauled it to the outside run and scrubbed it out quite nicely… I’m not sure why. It stayed clean about as long as a freshly washed kitchen floor. A short piece of fence post scrap was set by the edge in case someone needed a step in and I began filling the “pond”. While I was watching my handy work fill, Mike brought over the four-wheeler and wagon so I could get the coop cleaned too. I’m not sure what he thought when he saw my project but he didn’t object at least.

Happy Ducks
Happy Ducks

“I’m going to go up to Erica Lane and meet Uncle Greg in a bit. I’ll be back in after while.” Mike headed out of the run. By that time I had just about finished cleaning the mud out of the waterer. As I went to leave the pen and shut off the water I had a little bit of an issue… He locked me in.

Yep.

Stuck.

The hook and eye lock on the outside was too low for me to reach over and unhook. I’d like to think I could still fit through the turkey door in the other pen but once again that wouldn’t do much good because their door was closed with a hook and eye inside the feed room. The idea of trying to climb over the fence…well even I knew that wasn’t going to happen today. The landing might have knocked the baby loose which would’ve been helpful I guess. Luck was on my side this time. I remembered I had my phone with me because I didn’t want to miss my Uncle’s call.

“Hello?”

“Hi. I promise I won’t leave the yard if you let me out of the duck pen!”

“What?”

“Please? You locked me in when you left.”

(Short silence. Then laughter.) “I’ll be right over.”

Only on our farm would mama get locked in the duck pen on the 4th of July.

Once allowed out, I got the whole coop cleaned quite nicely. The ducks were swimming in the new pond. The Ladies were happy with their fresh bedding and watermelon rinds. The nesting boxes are all cleaned and ready for fresh eggs. Baby’s still not here… So much for the “nesting” theory.

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Good but not Great Pi

Since the last Pi day (3.14) my math skills have not improved, in fact they have probably gotten a little worse. I know my fractions well enough to convert my baking recipes and I can balance the checkbook. Any more than that and I need a calculator at the very least. I still only know pi is 3.14 and a whole never ending list of numbers to follow. Not once have I ever knowingly applied the numbers in any life situation, but I don’t pass up an opportunity to make pie either!

This year I tried a new recipe. It was ok, not what I had hoped, but edible. I made a cherry almond pie with a heavier frangipane and frozen cherries in the crust from the Croatian Turnip Green Tarte. My biggest complaint is it needed more cherries and less frangipane. I really like both, but I was really hoping for a heavier cherry presence in the pie. A little more cherry “goop”. Instead it was almost a cake-like filling in a pie crust. Good, edible, but not what I had hoped.

All was not a complete disappointment with the pie though. It was the first pie I baked in the “new” wood stove. We (Mike is very excited to use the stove too) kept a steady temperature of 375 degrees. The pie baked for a little over an hour before we let the fire go out and the pie cool with the oven. It came out with a perfect golden crust, the filling was cooked through. It could not have turned out any better especially considering it was the second thing we have baked in the oven so far and the first pie.

While the pie was baking we set the percolator on the stove and made the best pot of coffee. Piping hot and delicious! I don’t know what it is but percolators but they make the best coffee and when it’s over a campfire or wood fire cook stove it has an even better flavor.

Cherry Almond Pie
Cherry Almond Pie
Hot out of the wood cook stove.
Hot out of the wood cook stove.
Too much cake not enough cherry "goop".
Too much cake not enough cherry “goop”.
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I’ve Started Hooking in My Spare Time

Before you dig out your soapbox and bible, it’s not nearly as horrible as you might think. Apparently that’s what the cool moms are calling it these days.

It all started late this fall. I use doilies in a lot of my decorating and began to look closer at them as I was changing colors and sizes to correspond with the season (add it to the list of “Granny” habits I have) and started to think I should really know how to make these. I’ve got time to pick up another hobby; I like to lie to myself too. But why not get a little crazy?!

I found out at Christmas that my Great Grandma made doilies until she lost her vision. I remember a basket of colorful thread in her living room but was too young to notice much more than the colors. Before she passed, she told my Grandma to give each of us girls a doily she made in remembrance of her. This Christmas, Grandma had the designated doilies, matted, framed and wrapped. They were lovely! I hung mine in my bedroom and it didn’t take until New Years for me to decide I really was going to give it a try.

Great Grandma's Doily
Great Grandma’s Doily

I needed a baby gift, which meant a trip to Hobby Lobby for yarn, and because I just happened to be there, I picked up a tiny crochet hook and spool of thread. The only crochet attempt I have had any success with is rag rugs. If it’s not a rug it’s a tiny balled up mess. I have never understood crochet patterns. Knitting is no problem, I’ve got that, sweaters, hats, mittens, cables, no problem! I was determined to “hook” too.

I printed off a few free patterns and went cross-eyed trying to figure out the diagrams explaining what to do with this tiny hook and thread. It wasn’t too long and I had the general idea of what was going on. Like anything new there is a lot to learn.

Lesson no. 1- Don’t start with a pattern, which states “this is my first attempt at writing a pattern.” There’s a 50/50 chance of it ending well. – I quit a few rounds early, while things were still lining up… it’s a large coaster size; perfect for my coffee up.

Lesson no. 2- No pattern looks like an easy one when you are first starting. –I searched for one that had a instructions that looked to be in English and finally picked one the same way I pick wine: Find a pretty picture (or a neat label).

Lesson no. 3- As long as your hook size and thread size correspond you don’t have to have what the pattern calls for. There will be lots of arguments with this one, but just starting out I’m learning to read patterns and master a technique, not make a sweater that fits. I have been using a 1.5mm (7) hook and classic 10 lace thread. It seems to be a good middle of the road size for learning.

Lesson no. 5- Being able to count correctly is very helpful. – The first larger doily I attempted was written wrong, at least to how I would read it. Between the typos and my not being able to consistently count to five, things were a bit off. (The second attempt went much better.)

A handful of doilies later, I have a stack of patterns to try! I’m hooked!

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Let the Baking Begin Again!

Long before my flour mill died I had picked out a new one. It could do everything from cracked corn all the way down to cake flour. It had a hand crank with the option to add a motor. Made in the USA, cast iron beauty! My current mill was older than me and worked well. There was only one setting-flour but it made nice bread. There was no need to get a new one with the current one still working. It finally had it’s last day (story found here) and I no longer had a mill, nor the money to spend on a new one. My baking dropped off pretty quickly after that. Not that I couldn’t buy flour, I did buy some even when I had the mill, but there is something about taking the whole grains, grinding them and then turning them into something delightful.

This year for Christmas my husband decided I needed a new mill, not only a new mill but the one I picked out! I swear he works just as hard as I do to make my dreams come true! What a great guy! He ordered the mill and it arrived just in time for Christmas. The next surprise was he already had a motor for it; one of better quality than what could have been purchased as a mill package. He has a much better understanding of pulleys and belts than I do and was able to figure out what he needed to do to get the mill running at the correct RPMs. If the mill were to run too fast the flour would easily heat up and taste burnt or cause problems with the mill itself. Also flour dust is highly flammable to the point of possible explosion! Personally I prefer to avoid kitchen explosions whenever possible.

Flour Mill
Flour Mill

It wasn’t too long after and right there on my kitchen island was a flour mill ready for grain!

The plan was to put it in the basement until we remodel the kitchen (ten years from now). We are currently in the middle of a smaller remodel project that has left us with a couple file cabinets temporarily in the kitchen. I moved the mill to one of the file cabinets and decided that was to be its permanent home. My uncle suggested we could use a set of upper cabinets on legs as a base, topped with a countertop. That’s the new plan. One cupboard (maybe two) will be a grain bin and the other can hold specialty grains and flours.

I’ve been grinding flour like crazy and began baking on the weekends again. Grinding my own flour, even when I am buying the grains, is so much cheaper than buying it ground already; assuming you don’t figure in the cost of the mill. There is just nothing like baking with fresh ground flour. There is also nothing like the Little Boy wanting to make pancakes in the morning and seeing him stand in front of the mill waiting for his flour. If nothing else I will have taught my little man to feed himself and others. He’s getting to be quite the little baker!

I really like to use semolina for making pasta and am now searching that out as well as some other whole grains to grind and bake. The other day I thought for sure there were oats in the barn. I grabbed a bucket and headed out there planning to make a mill version of steel cut oats. I prefer the steel cut over the old fashioned. They take longer to cook but have more texture when done. A wonderful winter breakfast comfort food. I was wrong though, we were out of oats so there was no experimenting with that as of yet. Yes, for those wondering, I had planned to take a bucket of oats from the animal feed bin and turn them into my breakfast. They’ve been cleaned just the same as the wheat I you would grind.

Flour Mill
Flour Mill
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