The Book Shelf

One of my hap-hazard book shelves.
One of my hap-hazard book shelves.

I have a ever so slight book problem. I made mention of my cookbook collection a while back, but the book collecting isn’t limited to those. Every time I take up a new interest or just have a question about something I feel the need to get a book. I may do a quick web search to tide me over but eventually the question will end up in a book.

I like to read, but if I sit down to read I need to be able to feel like I am not wasting time. By reading something non-fiction, instructional, reference or something where I am learning something, the guilty feeling of “doing nothing” goes away. I am learning. Not every book I own I buy into the full truth of it, but I usually find some bit of information that is useful. I like to read different views on the same topic at times as well. Looking up the references a book uses can lead to more interesting reading also.

Someday the we are planning a built-in bookshelf that is floor to 12 foot ceiling. When that happens our books are going to be so organized even the library will be jealous! I can hardly wait for that day to come. As of now, we have a few bookshelves that I try to keep somewhat categorized at least but that just doesn’t always work either.

I started a “short” list of some of what’s on my shelf as of now. The cookbooks, I am not ready to admit just how many are actually there; a five shelf case dedicated to cookbooks that is overflowing is where we will leave that. As time goes on and I continue to collect, you can find the running list of my “reference” books here.

The Book Shelf
Some of these fall into multiple categories, in which case I just picked one.

Animals
The Back Yard Cow, Sue Weaver
Storey’s Guide to Raising Beef Cattle, Heather Smith Thomas
Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, Gail Damerow
Storey’s Guide to Raising Horses, Heather Smith Thomas
Storey’s Guide to Raising Pigs, Kelly Klober
Storey’s Guide to Raising Poultry, Glenn Drowns
Storey’s Guide to Training Horses, Heather Smith Thomas

Babies and Family
A Christian Guide to Childbirth Handbook, Jennifer Vanderlaan
Beautiful Babies. Kristen Michaelis
Ina May’s Guide to Child Birth, Ina May Gaskin
Smart Martha’s Catholic Guide for Busy Moms, Tami Kiser
Special Delivery, Rahima, Baldwin
What to Expect When You are Expecting, Heidi Murkoff

Food
Artisan Cheese Making at Home, Mary Karlin
Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, Michael Pollan
Fields of Plenty, Michael Ableman
Home Cheese Making, Ricki Carroll
Natural Wonder Foods,
Wild Fermentation, Sandor Ellix Katz
Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan

Gardening and Farming
Carrots Love Tomatoes, Louise Riotte
Complete Guide to Gardening, Better Homes and Gardens
Garden Wisdom and Know-How, from the Editors of Rodale Gardening Books
The Heirloom Life Gardener, Jere and Emilee Gettle
Home Grown Whole Grains, Sara Pitzer
New Garden Book, Better Homes and Gardens
Seed to Seed, Susanne Ashworth
Folks, This ain’t normal, Joel Salatin

General “How to” and Homesteading
These are good starting points for some fun projects and ideas.
Country Wisdom and Know-How, from the Editors of Storey Books
Encyclopedia of Country Living, Carla Emery
Little House in the Suburbs, Deanna Caswell and Daisy Siskins
The Ultimate Guide to Homesteading, Nicole Faires

Health and Nutrition
Breaking the Vicious Cycle; Intestinal Health Through Diet, Elaine Gloria Gottschall
The Gerson Therapy, Charlotte Gerson and Morton Walker D.P.M.
Natural Relief for Anxiety, Edmond J. Bourne Ph.D
Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon
Nourishing Traditions; Book of Baby and Child Care, Sally Fallon

Leather Working
The Stohlman’s Encyclopedia of Saddle Making 1, Al and Ann Stohlman
The Stohlman’s Encyclopedia of Saddle Making 2, Al and Ann Stohlman
The Stohlman’s Encyclopedia of Saddle Making 3, Al and Ann Stohlman
To be continued…There’s more on the shelf.

Other Reading (non-fiction)
The Bible
Montana Women Homesteaders: A field of ones own, Sarah Carter

 

 

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A Table to Share

TableThe last dining room table we had was 100 years old. Over the years the extra leaves were lost and to top finally glued together. All but 4 of the chairs had disappeared along the way as well. So many meals were share at that table over the last century, countless stories told, some filled with roaring laughter and others tears. That is the beauty of a table and a meal. Our table sat 4 comfortably, there were times that we had at least double that squished around there. A rouge elbow may have ended up in someone’s mashed potatoes every now and then, but we were together.

It never mattered who showed up at the door, hungry or not a place was set and they ate.

Two years ago I received a chop saw for my birthday, with it I proceeded to build a book shelf in the living room. I admit it wasn’t the smartest place for a construction project but it turned out nice. Kind of a crate/pallet style shelf you could say. After that I was on a roll.

It was time for a new dining room table. I had always envisioned a long farmhouse style table with benches (it’s easier to squeeze more people at the table on a bench than with chairs). I searched online for plans that were simple enough for my amazing carpentry skills. I found the perfect ones and it was complete an extension on each end in case extra space is needed. I measured the floor and “Yep, it will fit perfect”.

I showed the plans to my husband and he reluctantly said “ok”. As he looked over the plans and questioned whether or not it would fit, I brought him the tape measure and told him he could check but I’m pretty sure it will fit.

“I think we should shorten these plans, by about 2 feet and we can think about the extensions when the time comes. I will give you a hand with this.”

Knowing how my impressive carpentry skills are I decided to follow his advice. The next day he left me the truck and to the lumber yard I went. Picked up all the wood for the project.

When Mike got home he checked over my purchase and gave it a rather… um… disapproving and funny look.

“What?”

“You bought stud grade lumber. Some of this has holes and deep knots. This one even has a slight twist.”

“And?”

“Nothing.” as he shook his head and sighed.

We started cutting pieces and screwing them together. Each piece he let me inspect to see which had “prettier” knots and which end they should go on. Slowly we got the table and benches assembled.

table

I sanded off the “stud grade” stamps and smoothed out the rough spots. On two sides I burned “Give us this day our daily bread”. A simple reminder that today we only need enough for today. Tomorrow we can again ask for enough to get us through the day. I should have put a “fishes and loaves” inscription on there. The amount of times I have prayed for one of those miracles is… well… plenty.

Let me explain. There is a story in the bible where Jesus feeds a thousand people with a few fish and a couple loaves of bread. I would think they had to be small whales and huge loaves of bread but the little sketches only show tiny little fish. So now when we keep adding a place at the table and I’m not sure if we will have enough to fill everyone I ask for a “fishes and loaves” miracle. Every time, everyone goes away full.

The table was stained, sealed and moved into the dining room. Good thing we went with Mike’s measurements rather than mine. It fit perfect, any bigger and we would have been sitting in the living room too.

Bench

When we bought the farm, we were worried that the table wouldn’t fit in the dining room again. There was talk of taking it apart and shortening it. Considering I had planned to make it two feet longer and with extensions I wasn’t too fond of the shortening idea. But I would rather that, than the scrap the table all together. It was only a few months old. Again, it fit. It’s a little tighter fit than the last house; any longer and one end would be eating in the bathroom and the other in the living room.

“Can I get the mashed potatoes down here?”

“What do you need toilet paper for?”

“Mashed Potatoes not chicken!”

“Will tissue work?”

So the room isn’t that big but you can see the problems that could occur.

It doesn’t seem to matter what size table we have, it always gets filled. There is somehow always enough food to go around and enough people to squish onto the benches and leave me searching for more chairs. I find great joy in setting a meal of any sort on the table surrounded by friends and family. Some nights the stories start flowing and laughter rolling. Other nights it’s a smaller crowd with a quiet meal after an exhausting day of setting fence posts or baling hay. We have already had so many great memories sitting at the table and I know there are many more to come. It really is a wonderful blessing to have and share a spot at the table.

Table

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Pregnant and Waiting…Impatiently Waiting…

Lucy and Elvis
Lucy and Elvis

Elvis is here. Lucy is producing milk. I could be milking her. I have been dying to have fresh milk on the farm since Lucy first arrived. Actually since before she arrived, but once she got here there was a real possibility of having milk. I got her all halter broke again and she is very used to me handling her and being around her. Yet here I sit, next to Lola the chicken in the kitchen, during the early morning hours before chores when I could be milking a cow.

I have been told by multiple people- Husband, Dad, Mom, friends… that I should/need to wait until after I have the baby to begin the cow milking. I know they are just trying to keep us safe. I am trying to be an obedient wife, daughter and friend, but that doesn’t mean I am any less impatient when it comes to something as exciting as milking a cow.

Waiting is not an ability I am very good at when it comes an activity that I am so excited about. However, they all know that unless I lock the cow or calf outside the barn for the night, I have no way of keeping them separate for a morning milking. They also know that for how cold it has been there is no way I would be able to put one or the other out for the night. I have thought about putting the calf in the meat bird side of the chicken coop. He would stay plenty warm and safe and it won’t be in use until spring again.

You see the problem is I have saved up the money to get the panels for the calf pen and what I will need to put together a make-shift milking stall but I can’t go get them. Well, I could go get them hope that the nice gentlemen working would load them for me but then there they will sit; in the trailer or truck bed. A load of water to the barn and tossing down a few hay bales has already made me wonder if the baby was going to come while I’m mid-chores in the barn. As much as I want to start milking the cow I don’t want the baby to come too early either. Seeing as though my panel unloading help thinks I should be waiting to get kicked milking the cow for a few more weeks, there the panels would sit, just tormenting me.

In the mean time I’ve been trying to think of different indoor projects to work on. Winter is usually the season I’m creating all sorts for things in the comfort of the house. At this point they idea list I have came up with looks like this:

1. Work on the next cookbook(s).
2.Make hard cheese.
3. Carve a butter press.
4. Make cottage cheese.
5. Mend jeans that should have been done months ago.
6. Organize the basement.
7. Make butter.
8. Start a new sewing project.
9. Finish knitting the sweater.

So far the most appealing things on the list require me to milk the cow first. I have been doing some work on the cookbooks, but still. Mending jeans, although it needs to be done is not something I am interested in at the moment. I could plan the 2016 garden because I don’t know how much we are actually going to plant this year. I have been doing my pig and peacock research so this spring I will be all set to get started on those projects. For now everything just seems to revolve around the cows and dealing with the little chicken issues that have been arising.

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Keeping Records on the Farm

Downloadable Record Keeping Sheets
Free Printable Record Keeping Sheets

I have a touch of OCD every now and then and record keeping is one of my issues I suppose. It’s important to keep certain records especially when dealing with livestock. Knowing breed, birthdays, registration numbers, breeding records, any veterinary work that was done and so on. I go the extra few miles and like to record the amount of eggs laid each day, the amount of milk collected each day, birds hatched or purchased from who and when, what feed was bought from who for what, what was planted in the garden, how many plants, started indoors or not, season notes, harvest yields, how many jars of beans I canned. The recording goes on and on. I admit not all of it is necessary but I still like to be able to look at years past and see what was done.

I find spring to be the start of the year on the farm rather than January. It is typically when all the new life begins; babies born, chicks hatched, plants sprouting. But for the sake of my need to record I tend to start new sheets in January. This year was the first year with new land and I was quite unorganized. I had record sheets here and there, online and in notebooks, tucked in seed catalogues and on the fridge. It was a mess; almost enough to give me a permanent twitch. I have since “cleaned up” the records. I scraped a few and added a bunch. The super exciting part is that I now have everything in one well labeled binder.

I didn’t go back and organize this years garden records. Most of them would say “Sprouted. Drowned. No Harvest”. Last winter I put together a Vegetable Gardening 101 series. In it I made mention that records should be kept. It’s true. To keep your soil healthy it is good to know what was planted where in the last couple years so that crops, even small garden crops, can be rotated properly. It is also nice to know if you added compost to any garden plot, what type and when. The same goes for field management it’s just a larger plot. Next year I will be ready, I have my sheets printed and in the binder.

Record Keeping Binder

I have already received the first few seeds catalogues for the season and at this point I would usually have started making my lists of what I have and what I need to order so I can start drawing my garden plan for the year. This season we are not going to plant a full garden (or even half as of now). I didn’t take the time last year to properly prepare the garden plot. Between my impatience and the cold, wet weather, the garden was a huge waste last year. So this year we are going to do things right. Condition the soil with manure and work it a few times through out the summer. Just liven it back up. Which is exciting and disappointing all at the same time. I can’t wait for the following summer when I can get back to planting as usual. It’s just a whole growing season away and that’s a long time!

I did go back to last spring and record all the birds that were brought home, price, number, breed etc. Then the cows. Everybody has a sheet so I can keep track of what goes on with who. I put the egg records that I had on the fridge onto a nice sheet in the binder and am all caught up.

Below you can find a link to each of my record sheets and they are Free!
They are all pretty basic, easy to use and not calendar specific so you can start recording during any month with wasting pages! If there is a page that I don’t have but would be useful please let me know!

FREE RECORDS SHEET DOWNLOAD includes:
Animal Records- I use these for the 4 legged animals
Breeding Records – Again 4 legged animals
Poultry Record- Breed, amount, layer, butcher etc.
Egg Production- Number of eggs collected each day
Milk Production- Amount of Milk collected each day
Feed Purchase Records- From, For, Amount, Cost
Standing Egg Orders – Here I can keep track of people that have set up regular egg orders
Butcher Bird Orders- Keeps track of who purchased butcher poultry
Big Project To Do List – For projects like dig a well by the barn and such
Wish List – So I’ve got a list of things to save for besides the Big Projects
Next Year Don’t Forget To…
Field Records – Harvest Yield, Crop, Amendments and so on
Garden Records- What was planted, how much, harvest date
Seed Records- Seeds saved, Seeds to order, Amount
Canning Records- What was harvested, how much and how was it preserved
Season Notes – For things that seem to need to be recorded about the growing season
Notes- I have one of these after almost every category there is always some extra I need to record

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Apron Strings and Rolling Pins

I am not a food blogger. I do post recipes that I make on occasion. I should be a food blogger, from what I have seen they can make some good money just by tweeking other peoples work and some fancy pictures. I am not a photographer either. I do have a passion for the kitchen and the résumé  to show I have a good idea of what I’m doing.

Wildflowerfarm.org

I grew up in the kitchen, helping mom with whatever was to be made for the day. I learned a lot watching her and grandma over the years. I served my time waiting tables; something I think everyone should have to do. It will give some perspective as to why things are not always as perfect as one would expect and just how greedy people can be. After graduation I went off to culinary school. Received my degree and started cooking in a couple small bars. From there I started in a bakery. At first it was my job to do the packaging, I then moved to cake decorator and soon after started a pastry chef apprenticeship. During this time I continued to further my education by taking pastry classes and attending conventions in Minneapolis, MN. When it was all said and done I earned my Journeyman Pastry Chef title (which means nothing in most smaller towns in Minnesota and North Dakota). I grew tired of the mandatory changes that were being imposed- the use of premade cakes and cookies, box mix cakes and bars, buckets of processed icing. I knew it was time to go. From there I started my own bakery, The Patisserie On Fourth, in downtown Bismarck, ND.

patisserie

At the age of 21 I was a business owner. It was a wonderful, humbling, trying and educational experience. We can get into that later if you’re really interested. I worked an average of 60 hours a week, baking, cleaning, accounting, the whole nine yards (even had a cot set up in the office over the Christmas season and for Downtown Street Fair)When the time felt right I decided to move on again. I sold the equipment and became a cook at The Toasted Frog of Bismarck, ND. It is great fine dining, martini bar and grill. During which I continued to bake and sell at the local farmers market. As time moves us, it was again time for me to move. The last move was back to northern Minnesota with my family, to our little farm where we are today. (and began working at the local telephone company, bet ya’ didn’t see that one coming. I didn’t either, but I’m thankful for the job.)

I continue to bake for the occasional wedding cake order and things of the sort. It’s a good way to “stay in shape”. Years ago I had dreamed of writing a cookbook and just never seemed to have the time or know where to start. At the bakery the recipes were made in too large of batches to try to put those into use. Finally on the farm I have been able to do some baking. Let’s be honest I’ve been doing more baking than any one household would ever find necessary. My husband has been a good support over the years and continues to be. I set my goal of the first cookbook done in one year.

ASRP Cover

It is finally finished! One year’s worth of baking like crazy all wrapped up into one nicely bound book (or ebook if you desire). It was a long process, I learned a few things and the finished product has turned out very nice. Over 70 recipes, a combination of breads, cakes, cookies, pies and more.

In writing a cookbook, one can not simply throw some recipes on a page and call it good. Each recipe must be tried multiple times, fixed when they don’t work and tried again. Then a picture should be taken because people like pictures these days. If you forget to take a picture and the cake gets eaten, the recipe must be made yet again. Unlike a lot of recipes found on-line, the recipes you set to print should be your own, not a copy and paste job, or copy and change a couple ingredients. I understand there are only so many ways to make something like Angel Food Cake, but for the majority it should be an original. If it’s not than should be made clear too. I did put a couple in my book that were versions of something old and something borrowed, I made sure to let you know which they were. (One was an amazing cookie recipe from http://Loneprairie.net. She also turned my sketch into the graphic design for the Patisserie’s logo years earlier.)

As for what I learned through this process, well here goes…

Measuring ALL the ingredients (including vanilla extract) can be hard to remember when the habit is “just add until it looks right”.

Remembering to use a timer is another challenge. I know it’s done when I can smell it or when it looks done. That is not an acceptable form of time for some people I guess.

Disposing of the multitude of  baked goods is a job all in itself. Thank God we have family, friends and coworkers that like to eat. (I still have a couple cakes and some cookies in the freezer if anyone is interested.)

I have a very hard time leaving recipes out (book two on the horizon) and not giving the endless variations. There are so many possibilities to one recipe I could very easily overwhelm the reader with them.

I am very thankful for a long napping little boy and that he was still up for taking 2 a day. (One for mama to bake, the other for mama to nap in the later months.)

If you don’t watch little boys closely while baking the kitchen can look like this… or worse.

Wildflowerfarm.org

I now wash plasticware before and after I use it. On the other hand, by age one he knew exactly what to do with a rolling pin. (and proceeded to roll cheerios into the rugs. Yay!)

I make a valiant effort to add cinnamon and vanilla to almost everything. Sometimes it stays, others… I don’t know what I was thinking.

The simple “drag and drop” software to put a book together is a whole new challenge. It also comes with reformatting everything as you go.

Self-publishing is not a very profitable way to go about book selling; after print cost, commissions and shipping, you can break just above even if your lucky. Hey, it could be a stepping stone to something bigger. I’m just thrilled to have written one of my own.

After all that I am so glad I accomplished such a feat and began book 2 while I was waiting to get this one back from printing to proof!

Versions available to date are: Softcover, Hardcover, ebook in ipad format and pfd. Click the picture above or the link below to get your copy!

 http://blur.by/1ufkNRq

Do check out http://Loneprairie.net. She really has some amazing talent to share and hire! The Lone Prairie Magazine is always a good read, her paintings are wonderful, and she does free-lance writing if your in need.

 

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