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Carmella

Farm Life

Garden 2018

September 2, 2018
Tomato Seedlings

Spring in North Carolina this year was not a pleasant one for us. We spent a considerable amount of time growing tomatoes and peppers from seeds just to have a late cold snap killed all my tomatoe plants.   We had to start over, Ugh!

soil

This year we also ordered soil from a mulch place.  That didn’t go well either, whatever they sent us was not meant to be planted in since it stunted the growth of all my plants and only 5 pepper plants survived.  Since I am not a gardener I didn’t really know what I was looking at but as time went on I realized that this was meant to amend the soil not be the soil!   That really sucked since we bought a dumptruck load! 

Second thing is the isles are being over taken AGAIN by grass and weeds.  I am done with raised 30inch row like all the market gardeners use, because obviously I am not going to be one!  Later this year we are going to setup beds with wood sides so we can run the weed eater or just get in there easier to clear things out.

Heirloom Tomatoes

By the time the summer was in full force, the tomatoes and peppers started to grow and I got to eat plates full of caprese salads!

Caprese Salad
Farm Life Guinea Hen

The fox and the guinea

February 5, 2018
Guinea Hen

After a long work week, I got home and of course the Guinea hens weren’t sure who they wanted to roost with.  I had planned to go back out after they figured it out.  It takes them longer to decide, it’s usually dark at this point.  Jason made us dinner and I totally forgot to lock them up.  At 3:00 am the dog ran into the kitchen barking.  I got up to make sure the turkeys were okay and when I looked out the window.  I saw Jack he was awake but looked like he was going to go back to sleep.  I just assumed the dog woke him up.  I headed back to bed and said to Rusty the dog, be quiet you woke up Jack.  Jason was not far behind when he heard the guinea make a loud sound.  He says to we forgot to lock up the guineas!  I was like O no, I hope nothing is out there.  I got dressed as fast as I could and threw on my boots and coat.  Jason was trying to find the flashlight.  As I opened the garage door, I see “The King” squawking and I the tree line, I noticed an animal.  I said to Jason, “There is something in the woods, I just saw it run behind the propane tank.  He flashed the light around in the woods and say, I see it, it’s a fox.  That freaked me out, that fox wasn’t even 15 feet away from my male guinea.  I ran down to the Guinea house to check to see if “The Queen” was in there and luckily she was!  I was so happy!  What a close call, good thing the dog is earning his keep!   

After that  close call I have been extra vigil about anything we hear outside. Jason said to me the turkeys are standing on their roost when they are normally sleeping.  I put on my coat and we went outside to check things out.  We are walking around shining the light and we hear this weird sound in the trees, to me it sounded like a hawk.  Diane started making her chirping sound as a warning there is something out there.  We never saw anything but did hear it a few times.  I said lets go down to the pond and check on the ducks.  As we made are way down there, Jason shines the light in the trees.  O look there is a opossum in the tree right there.  It sat there frozen with one paw up, it was really cute.  We took a few pictures of it.  We did not see anything down there to be worried about so back to the house we went.

 

Opossum
Farm Life Food

Gyro Recipe

December 30, 2017
Gyro

Since I plan on raising sheep soon.  I have been practicing making recipes with grass fed lamb.  One of my favorite dishes is Gyro sandwich.  When I lived in Atlanta I could buy it at Sprouts Market, it was deliciouses and I never thought of making it myself. 

I have recently visited a Rising Meadow Farm. They raise sheep for wool and meat, it was a really lovely place.   I bought some ground lamb from them and was trying to decide what to make with it.  Gyro came to mind and thought how awesome would that be to make my own Gyro loaf.  Most recipes call for half beef and half lamb.  I already had some ground beef I bought from Franchesca’s Dawn Farm and thought this will be perfect!  Can’t wait to get started!  

I have to tell you what I came up with was so good, I couldn’t believe it!  I ended up eating two for dinner and than I was crazy full!  I still have some left over to take to lunch the next day.

 

Ingredients

 

1 lb grass fed beef

1 lb grass fed lamb

1 medium onion finely chopped or grated

3 garlic cloves grated

 

1 tbsp marjoram

1 tbsp cumin

1 tbsp smoked paprika

1 tbsp oregano

1 tsp season salt

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp pepper

You can also use pre-made Greek Seasoning.

 

Directions

Mix beef and lamb until it looks over mixed almost pate looking.  Add all the other ingredients mix until well incorporated.

Gyro Meat in loaf pan

 

 

Press meat mixture into loaf pan cook in a water bath at 350 until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.  

 

 

Gyro Meat Sliced

Let the loaf cool and place in the fridge until cold.

Slice the loaf and brown in a fry pan.  

Add Gyro slices to some flat bread garnish with tzatziki sauce, lettuce and tomato slices.

Food

Bone Broth

December 10, 2017
Bone Broth

I recently started making bone broth with my pressure cooker and I found the results to be Amazing!  I will never go back to the slow cooker again!

Disclosure & Privacy Policy: There are some affiliate links below, but these are all products I highly recommend. I won’t put anything on this page that I haven’t verified and/or personally used.

Ingredients

  • 2-3 lbs of chicken bones
  • 3-4 chicken feet
  • 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with mothers
  • 1 tsp of mild salt (sea, kosher or pink salt)
  • 1 carrot
  • 3 celery sticks
  • ½ or small white onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 tablespoon of peppercorns

Directions

 

Chicken Bone Broth

Bones, Feet, and Water

Place bones and feet in the pressure cooker, your amount will vary as you will need to cover the bones and feet with water up to 2 inches above your bones.

Lock your pressure cooker and pressure cook the bones until soft.  

1 hr and 15 minutes with a natural release. Check to see if bones are soft.  I pull one out and press it to see how it feels.  If I need more time I will add another 20 minutes.  

Bone Broth Veggies

Bone Broth Veggies

Next, add veggies to the pressure cooker and simmer for an hour.

My pressure cooker the simmer option is called brown.  So I set it to brown for an hour.

Strain, cool and place in refrigerator.  After the broth cools all the fat will rise to the top.  Remove the fat cap and store.  Broth will keep a 2 weeks in the coldest part of your refrigerator or freeze for up to 6 months.

Bone Broth with fat cap
Finished Bone Broth with Fat Cap
Silicone Muffin Container
Freeze Broth in Silicone Mold
Fine Mesh Strainer
Fine Mesh Strainer
Ice
Ice to cool the broth

 

Note: You need to cool this down as fast as possible so you don’t get any bacteria growth. I fill the sink with ice and cold water and place my pot in there and stir to get it to cool down.  If all the ice melts you made need to replace the water with fresh cold water a few times.

Optional

After my broth has cooled and gelled.  I fill up my silicon muffin tray and I freeze my bone broth and place the little broth muffins in a freezer bag. I do this as a separate step since I only have one muffin tray.

Let’ Talk Tools!

I am using a large 9qt  pressure cooker that I bought for canning.  If you are new to pressure cooking there is a full line.  If you go to that full or max line with your liquid your pressure cooker could start to spill out.  I found this out when I put too much water in canning some vegetables.  I keep mine below that mark, which is 2 inches today.

Let’s Talk Bones!

I weighed my bones and feet, it was just shy of 2lbs.  Since my new farmstead doesn’t have a supply of chicken bones as we are just starting out.  I get bones from the grocery store, I am sure free-range chicken bones would make a better product but this is what I have available to me so I use what I got. My bones come from any chicken I cook or get via the rotisserie.  When I am picking the bones clean I take that meat and put it in a freezer bag for an easy weeknight meal.  You can just take the frozen chicken and stick it straight in a pan.  I make chicken alfredo, add it to soups.  Make chicken barbeque sandwiches whatever you can think of.  

Let’s Talk Veggies!

This recipe is just using a basic trinity of carrots, onions, celery with some garlic and peppercorns added.  You can add whatever you want.  I keep this simple so I can add other flavors later if I want to. Like spices or herbs.  Some that come to mind are rosemary and garlic or turmeric and ginger.   

What to Use this broth for?

One of my favorite things to do with it is just drinking it straight out of my coffee mug!  I take two frozen broths that came out of my muffin tin to work with me.  It fills my coffee mug halfway or more.  That is a nice warm snack for me when the office is cold.  It also staves off any bad sugar cravings I might get.

I use it for weeknight meals to give my dishes some extra flavor.

One important note about any broth is you should bring it to a boil before consuming it.  This will kill off any bacteria that could have started to grow.  This goes for any broth you use from the grocery store too!  

Farm Life

Daylight Savings

November 5, 2017

This weekend is one of dread, but it also brings a new set of hobbies.  My mornings will be back to normal since it will be light out earlier. I will be able to take care of all the animals and then get ready for work.  The past few weeks were quite the juggle as I don’t like to open the chicken coop up in the dark.  There are just too many predators still roaming around. On the flip side of that, when I get home it will be dark that is a big bummer. I only get to see my animals for a little bit in the morning and on weekends.  

The dark evenings bring out more time to learn something new and this fall I will be learning how to knit on a loom.  I started my first scarf but have not had enough time to finish it. This weekend is a bit drizzly and started to feel like fall.  I can’t believe it’s November and the past week we had 80-degree temperatures.  

Yesterday, I just wanted to go out and take a walk in the woods.  The air was crisp and the sky was a covered in bright grey clouds.  The trees colors around the pond are a bright yellow, orange, and a garnet red. They really pop against the grey clouds.  One thing about having some land with woods is you can go hiking anytime you want and even take that cat with you!

The dog and the cat went with me on this little adventure to see what the forest brings.  As we headed across the dam all the ducks were hanging out on the bank and sitting on the fallen trees.  A few were upside down finding things to eat on the bottom.  I am not really sure what they find, but they seem to enjoy it!

As we started to go up the hill, Marty the cat wanted to run ahead of us and climb every tree he could find. Rusty would try to pull him down once he could reach him.  

Lichen

Lichen

At the top of the hill it’s quite grassy and there are some dead locust trees that have made a nice habitat for lichen.  Lichen are very interesting as it’s fungus and algae. They have this relationship where they need each other to survive.

We meander across the top and start to head back down, the trail is block by a large fallen tree.  I use to be able to go under but last winter it collapsed more.  This tree has made a nice home for some other type of fungus.  It was quite pretty with rings of green and brown.  On our way out of the woods, I found a mushroom that looked edible but I don’t eat mushrooms.  So no temptation there.

As we leave the woods we ended up at the large Locust tree in the field.  All the leaves have fallen off and only the twisted seed pods are left.  We walk past our young Paw Paw trees and as we head back to the house the turkeys spot us and decide they want to join us.  


To see all the pictures from my walk you can visit my Google+ album Daylight Savings

Food

Japanese Curry

October 30, 2017
Japanese Curry

If you haven’t tried Japanese Curry, it’s is extremely flavorful and super easy to make in your trusty pressure cooker.  This is the first time I have ever had Japanese Curry.  It is slightly different then your Indian or Thai curry’s as it’s not a hot spice.  Typically you make this with a tougher cut of beef.  I am using a beef shoulder pot roast that I purchased from a local farmer. She raises grass-fed grass finished Devon Cows, which Is a heritage breed. 

 

Onion Puree

Onion Ingredients
Onion Puree

Ingredients:

  • 2 Medium to Large Yellow Onions
  • 3 Tablespoons of Butter
  • 1/3 Teaspoon of Baking Soda

First you start off by making the onion puree.  Slice up two medium to large yellow onions and 3 tablespoons of butter 1/3 teaspoon of baking soda.  You can use either salted or unsalted, I used salted because that is what I had on hand at the time. Put the butter ,onions and baking soda in the pressure cooker. Stir it up a bit and cook for 20 mins.  When that is finished cooking there will still be a lot of water in the onions and you will need to reduce that until you get a puree consistency.  My pressure cooker only browns and I found it to be do hot so I transferred it to a pan on the stove to finish the process.  Once it’s done add salt and pepper to taste. Set this puree aside.

 

Beef and Curry Roux

Grass Fed Beef
Chopped Garlic

Ingredients:

Take your roast out and season it with kosher salt and black pepper on both sides.  Brown your beef in the pressure cooker or in a cast iron skillet for 6-8 minutes per side. You want to have a nice brown crust on it as this is where a lot of your beef flavor comes from.  Once brown remove the beef and add in chopped garlic and some of the chicken stock to deglaze the pan. Cook this for a few minutes to get all the brown bits off the bottom and cook the garlic slightly.  Once completed turn off the pressure cooker.  Take your beef and cut it up into 1 ½ in chunks and add that back into the pressure cooker with any juices that ran out.  Add the garlic puree, the rest of the chicken stock stir and pressure cook it for 40 minutes.  Once it’s completed test for tenderness.

Golden Curry

Next, add in the box of curry roux.  Add more liquid if you need to either chicken stock or water.  I always like potatoes with my beef so I also cut in half a few red potatoes and put them in.  Pressure cooked for additional 15 minutes.  I removed the potatoes first and stirred up my beef curry.   You can serve this with rice, mashed potatoes or just some naan bread. 

Farm Life Food

Farm to Table

August 31, 2017

Relaxing…

My sister came to visit this past weekend.  She lives in the big busy city of Atlanta, Georgia.  I had a few things planned for us, but she just wanted to chill at the farm house.  Which is fine with me, because once I get home from being in town, I typically don’t leave.  Atlanta is nice if you like to eat great food and shop or if you like to people watch.  There are a lot of people there, and it takes a good few hours to get far enough away to feel like you’re doing something on the down low.  Staycation with my sister was just fine for me!  I needed some relaxation too!  My day job is very demanding, and it wears me out.  Jason and I had everything mowed and mostly cleaned up for our guest.  Of course, there is always something to work on, but we chose to do nothing but porch sitting with adult beverages!

 

Our little place out in the country does not have easy access to five-star restaurants.  That does not stop us from eating superior food.  We are close to other neighboring farms where they raise small batch pasture pork , grass fed and finished beef.  I made sure we were going to reap the benefits of living rurally.   Most of the farms around me either sell off their farm or at the local farmers market.  That brings me to a topic I have only talked about mainly to my co-workers.  Someone always asks how far away is the nearest grocery store? How hard is it to get dinner somewhere?  I always say the grocery store trip is not that bad, but we have to cook dinner every night.  We are too far for any convenience of fast food or take out restaurants.  People always pause, you can tell they are thinking about themselves and could they cook dinner every night?  That leads me to tell them well; I am close to other farmers.

 

So, while Mary Ann was in town, we made her a nice off the farm country breakfast. Fresh eggs from our chickens and hand cut smoked pastured pork bacon.  This was not just any bacon; this was a heritage breed the Gloucestershire Old Spot pig that I have been wanting to try since I moved out here.  I finally found a farm that raised them, Franchesca’s Dawn Farm.   Gloucestershire Old Spot is an English breed and has been prized for a flavor that we do not experience in our standard grocery stores today.   I can attest it was everything I imagined and I hoped Mary Ann would like it.  I know she isn’t a big fan of smoked foods.  After she tried it, she actually loved it and I sent her home with a slab of it to cook for her soon to be husband.   This brings me to another point when you are out shopping for meats from at your local farmers market.  Talk to them and ask them who processes their meat.  Processors have their own recipes for smoking and curing meats.  I have had bacon from another processor that had made it so salty I couldn’t eat it.  If I did not know this, I would of thought eww, I am just going to stick with my commercial grocery store bacon.   I also ask about the breed; you will get more flavor from your heritage breeds than your commercial cross breeds.  To find out more about heritage breeds, you can read about them at The Livestock Conservancy

 

For dinner, we grilled up skirt steak and veggies from our garden.  The skirt steak came from another local farmer, this time it was Charolais beef cattle originating from eastern France. Another breed of cattle I find that tastes superior to the Charolais are the Devon Cattle.  This is a heritage breed recognized by the livestock conservancy.   If you don’t know what skirt steak is, it’s the cut you would typically get when you order a fajita at a Mexican restaurant.  I love this cut; it grills up with a lot of flavors since it has nice marbling of fat on it.  If you are buying it for the first time, don’t let that fat bother you.  It will render down, and you will have a nice tender steak.

 

I hope you go out and find a local heritage farmer to purchase from.  I promise you will not be disappointed!

This is Biscuit – Gloucestershire Old Spot

canning Farm Life Food

Canning Tomatoes

August 29, 2017

A week or so ago we canned spicy green beans so I thought it would be appropriate to make some tomato juice to go with it.    We only grew a few tomato plants this year and I they did not produce enough to make juice out of them.  I headed to the local scene to find some tomatoes.  First I hit the Caswell Farmers Market and got 6 pounds there.  This is a newly formed market, so there are not many vendors yet.  I stopped by a local market garden that has a self-serve honor system.  They had quite a few, so I got seven more pounds there. It’s always good to support local growers plus they use little to no herbicides.  My neighbor gave me her not so great tomatoes from her garden.  Which I love because they are all heirloom and deep in color.  I almost had enough to make a decent batch but wanted to get just a few more from the grocery store. They had some really ripe Roma tomatoes, so I grab three more pounds.

 

Jason had started cutting up all the tomatoes and throwing them into the pot to cook down. He already had all the jars and lids in hot water before I even returned with the rest of the tomatoes.  I helped smoosh them down while he continued to cut up the rest.  After they cooked down, we strained them thru a food mill and got out as much liquid as possible.  After the juice heated back up, I prepared the hot jars.  We were using quart jars from Ball.  Each jar needed two tablespoons of lemon juice and one tsp of canning salt. Canning salt is just salt the has a very fine texture.  There were seven full quart jars, and they will need to be boiled for 40 minutes.  The house is already starting to get warm from all the cooking.  We decided to put them in our setup that is mainly used for Crawfish boils. It’s a 60-quart pot with a strainer that heats up on a propane burner.  The strainer made it nice, since it lifts right out and we could carry them back into the house.  As the jars started to cool you could hear all the lids starting to pop.  The pop sounds means they have completely sealed.  If any of them do not seal they need to go in the refrigerate to be consumed first.

 

 

Bloody Mary

Chickens Farm Life Food

Rooster Soup

August 9, 2017

I had a previous post about my mental journey on being able to process our first roosters.  I would like to tell you all about what we did with them.  After they were cleaned we put them in a pot with cold water and let them rest.  We did this on a Sunday, and we didn’t check them until Wednesday morning, they were not ready yet.  We opened the pot and their legs almost straight up in the air, and they were stiff as a board!  I was like “OMG,” they are like road kill, we can’t eat them yet.  We cleaned out the water and put fresh cold water in the pot and let them sit. This brought back some childhood memories of my dad having rabbits and squirrels resting in the fridge.  I had to give him a call and tell him all about my Rooster Soup I was planning to make.

 

If you don’t plan to consume them immediately, then you will have to let them rest until the body has passed the rigor mortis phase.  This can be different for each animal.  The two roosters took exactly three days. On the third day, I could bend the legs without any problems.  I was excited and texted Jason, “They are ready!”  Since I had never eaten a rooster and most people said they are tough, stringy and chewy, I was not taking any chances.  I was making soup with them.  I made them the traditional chicken soup way with carrots, onions, and celery.  I threw in a few bay leaves and a bundle of herbs from the garden.  I cooked them until tender.  I took the meat off the bone and separated the broth into two pots one for soup and one for stock.  For the stock, I just put the bones back in, added new vegetables and let that cook down to a nice rich stock.  That made 2 quarts of stock that I put in the freezer to use when the temperature starts to drop.  The soup I put the liquid in a fine strainer and got out any undesirable pieces.  Added new veggies, egg noodles once they were almost cooked the chopped up meat went back in the pot.

 

It actually couldn’t have come at a better time as I was coming down with a cold.  The soup was very welcoming to my sore throat.  Unfortunately, because I was not feeling well, I did not take any pictures of the finished product.  I do have to mention the roosters were seven months old and they were not stringy or chewy at all. I think I could have easily roasted them.  I am sure I will have another chance next year when I breed my Barnvelders.

Chickens Farm Life

Processed My First Chickens

August 9, 2017

I did not grow up on a farm, but I did grow up in a family that hunted wildlife.  My family, including my aunts and uncles family, owned a hunting cabin and everyone that was part of it shared the deer that they killed with all the family members. There were many years that wildlife provided the meat for our family or we would have very little.    My dad hunted other wildlife and taught me how to hunt when I was young. Hunting and processing are a good skill to learn.  As I grew up and moved away, that part of my life went away too.  I bought all my food from the store.

 

Now that we decided to live this farm lifestyle things that tend to come with it is processing your animals.  When It first started to really hit home was, I had ordered some chicks from the local farm store, and two of them ended up being roosters. They were starting to get mean, and I just wanted to eat them. I was thinking; I raised them why not.  I couldn’t do it, and I found all kinds of excuses of why I couldn’t.  I didn’t have a big enough pot, sharp enough knife and I didn’t have a plucker.  In reality thou, I knew I was making excuses but why? I have killed animals before why is this so different.  The more I thought about, the more I realized that it’s the act of killing an animal with my bare hands.  Shooting something with a gun is completely different.  The only qualms I had of hunting was I didn’t want to maim an animal I wanted a clean kill or I wouldn’t take the shot.  When I use to do that, I practiced a lot, and I was good. My favorite thing to hunt was squirrels, and I would go out on my own to get my limit. I liked eating them; they tasted like quail to me.  I could have shot my young roosters but I am not a good shot anymore, and I need to practice.  Luckily I found someone looking for the breed of roosters I had, and they went to a good home.

 

Now we are on our second batch of chickens, and we incubated some eggs I got from a breeder. This time we ended up with too many roosters, and I knew I would have to do the deed this time.  Over the course of the year, I was mentally preparing myself for this, I read and watched everything I could find on butchering poultry.  Off and on I discussed it with my sister on my findings.  She was grossed out when I would talk about the different things I read and watched as I researched this.   After all this research the thing that was the most humane other than breaking their neck was slitting the throat.  That was really hard for me to come to grips with doing this, as I watched a youtube video where they missed and cut the windpipe.  At the time I did not know they messed up.  I was like, OMG I’m not sure if I can do this. That was a big setback for me, and it took a while before I found some other people that had described things in a clear, concise way that lead me to look into the biology of the chicken’s neck.  I felt better now, but still, I was not confident in this process.  I started to order the things I needed for the day I would do this.  In the meantime, I was looking on YouTube for someone to show me exactly what I needed to do.  I found two videos, one was on processing chickens, and the other was a turkey.  The turkey video was very clear and now I am certain I know what to do.  I am feeling better about this, and I order the last piece a sharp knife.  I chose one that most people use.  It was sharp, but I felt like it could have been sharper.  I am going to research more and try out some other knives.

 

The morning came, and I went out very early and got the roosters and put them in a cage.  I did not want to let the chickens out until this was over.  I just didn’t want them to see or hear anything.  I took them to the area and kept them covered with a blanket it until I was ready for each one.  I used a killing cone, and I put the first rooster in the cone.  I felt uneasy as I got him in the position he needed to be. It took me a few big sighs as I tried to make sure I was in the right area of the neck and no feathers were in my way.  He went quietly without any struggle as I held his head until he passed.  Once he was ready to be plucked, we put him in the scalder and plucked him.  Now it’s time to remove his internals.  I kept reading and watching video’s don’t puncture the crop, and most people know not to puncture the intestines.  When I first started I reached in there it felt foreign to me, and I said “I don’t know what I am doing” I just couldn’t pull things out like I saw other people do.  I tried again and managed to get everything.  It was all such a blur as I was thinking, did I see the crop?  I didn’t remember seeing, but it wasn’t there when I looked inside after I was done.  One rooster down, one more to go.  The second one was similar, except he jumped a little more and bruised a wing, but it was a clean kill, and it was also quiet without a struggle.   This time, when I had to gut him, it went much faster.  I pulled things out and named them; there is one lung, there is the other lung.  I saw the crop this time and pointed it out.   We did not eat them right away, as we put them in cold water and will eat them later on once they recover from rigor mortis.

 

I hope by telling my story that I can help someone else find the confidence to process their poultry.