Projects on the Prairie – Part 1

The Food Pantry

We have two families under one roof with 9 people. Sarah’s older son is visiting for the summer.  Since the Covid 19 pandemic we’ve been eating together.  I was cooking separately for John and I  because we have some dietary restrictions and we eat earlier in the day. That was just too complicated and too many cooks in the kitchen!

I’m fortunate to have a lot of cabinet space and a separate laundry room/food pantry.  But over the years the cabinets and laundry room have become a place for extra storage.  I have a reputation in the family for being a “tightwad”.  I call it frugal.  The thought of renting a storage unit to store extra junk would never cross my mind .  However, I’ve resorted to buying a pantry for extra food storage when I could sort through all the cabinets to make room for the extra food that is coming into our house.  Right now with gardening, raising chickens, and canning I just didn’t have the energy.  This unit I bought can always be used for my quilting and sewing supplies if it’s no longer needed for food in the future.  Plus, I got a great buy.

I purchased this direct from Sauder online.  Years ago I purchased a Sauder office desk when I was working from home as a Mortgage Broker and it’s still holding up very well. I love the built in shelves on the side door.  Shipping was free also.  This is not a paid commercial!  The only downside is that it came in many pieces.  John is quite mechanical but he really wasn’t in the mood to be putting this together.  After he laid out the pieces it went together pretty fast. 

wp-15911198552731097472227.jpg

Retrofit, Recycle, Reuse

Back in The Three R’s – Reuse, Restore, Recycle The Three R’s – Reuse, Restore, Recycle I told how I took a old rusty swing set that had been passed along to my grandchildren and extended the looks and life with some metal paint.  Four years later and the set has not only lost it’s looks but had become dangerous.  One of my granddaughter’s fell from a swing and hurt her back when a chain broke.  The swings and slide were promptly removed. Our newly expanded garden would be needing trellises for green beans, squash and cucumbers.  My daughter-in-law had the wonderful idea to use the swing set frame for one of the trellises.

A neighbor who has a tire shop was happy to give us some tractor tires. The tires are a smaller tractor tire but larger than pickup tires. These will be used to grow potatoes.  As the leaves grow up another tire is stacked up, dirt added and more potatoes are added. This method not only saves space (which isn’t our problem) but saves labor (which is our problem).

Another reuse project is converting a well used sand box that had lost most of it’s sand, actually small river rocks, to a kitchen garden.

Farmers, ranchers and homesteaders have always had to make do and reuse what they had on hand.  Funds, time and shopping options are limited.  We’re carrying on that tradition.

 

 

Tired but Thankful

It’s been a busy, hectic and stressful week on the Prairie. In many ways, this is a good thing. I’m thankful for grandkids that need to be fed 3 times a day, dishes that need to be cleaned 3 times a day, chickens and pets that need to be fed and watered, and gardening activities. It takes our mind off the worry about this strange silent killer that has taken every one hostage. I’m thankful that we are all together and working together as a family. Right now the children are outside enjoying the warmer weather, laughing and enjoying a Spring day. It’s moments like these that bring hope.

Our little flock of 8 chickens that are close to retirement have decided to step up production to 6 eggs a day.  They are Novagens.  When I decided I wanted to try pastured egg layers, I wanted to have a flock that were already laying.  I found these on Facebook Marketplace.  Novagens are commercial layers that are a cross between Rhode Island Reds and White Leghorns.  They do well on the pasture and  lay  beautiful brown eggs.  Their prime egg laying is up to 18 months so that’s why we went ahead and bought the chicks as their laying numbers have declined.

We bought a mixture of breeds at Atwoods, Rhode Island Reds, some black chicks that may be Barred Plymouth Rock (not sure yet) and some white chicks that have grown at a much faster rate than the others.  It’s possible they are Cornish Cross.  I used to raise the Cornish Cross for meat  with the movable pens and they were ready to butcher in 8 weeks. Today I noticed that the white ones had some sores on them and then the little Rhode Island Reds were picking at them and pulling out their feathers so we had to separate them.  I was surprised the little guys were picking on the much bigger chickens.

The indoor plants are coming along very nice but they need to go outside quick.  Our last frost date is April 15th and I usually try to stick to that date.  Oklahoma can have such nice weather in March that you really want to get those tomato plants out in the garden but along comes a hail storm and it’s all for loss.  We’re so close to that date and the weather report is showing warmer weather, I think we’ll risk it this week.

Like everyone else our world is getting smaller.  I’m so used to many friends of ours and our kids coming by on a daily basis, but that’s all changed.  Our front gates have been closed and we’ve set out a little table for packages to be left by the post office or FedEx.

I miss attending our local church. I’ve been watching online.  It’s Palm Sunday today. This virus has stripped us (me) down to the bare essentials; Health, home,  food, family and faith.  

17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. 1 Timothy 6:17-19 NIV

 

 

 

 

The Virus Has Not Stopped Spring!

This has been a busy week.  A friend, whose Mother is in a local nursing home, sent out a call for seamstresses to make face masks for the staff.  I have leftover fabric from quilt making and the blessings of You Tube provided the instructions so I’ve been called into action.  I’ll go into more detail later.  Sliced bread is sold out as quick as toilet paper here so we’ve been making our own.  Yesterday I made a recipe for sandwich bread but it was too crumbly for my liking so I’ll need to research what went wrong and try again.

John has been getting out of confinement to check for fish at the creek which runs behind our property.  While I was planning to start breadmaking, he rushes in and tells me to buy a fishing license online because the fish are biting in a big way.  Every cast is a sand bass on the line.  So off we went.  There is no limit on sand bass because they are so plentiful.  What a blessed way to fill our freezer!  We cut up 13 quarts of wonderful white fish.  I would rather eat fish than steak any day!  Like the Southern girl I am, it has to be fried in a half and half mixture of flour and cornmeal topped off with Lowry’s Seasoning salt.  I always make my own tartar sauce by dicing onions, pickles and mixing with Miracle Whip and again a little Lowry’s.

Later in the day, my sweetheart brought me this wildflower bouquet.  Wildflowers have a season here.  The first to arrive are what we call Sweet Williams and such a heavenly aroma they have.

We have a spot (secret) on our property where the Morel Mushrooms appear to let us know it’s Schroom Time Today two magically appeared.  My son and family are off to the woods right now to hunt for more.

The world is in chaos right now, but fish, Sweet Williams and Morels are a reminder from God that He is still in control.

 

Best Laid Plans

In a recent post, Life Has Changed On The Prairie I told how my son and daughter-in-law brought their rabbits when they had to move. The rabbit family has kept on growing and it was time to harvest and process. This time Sarah asked me if I would can them. I’ve canned chicken and the process is basically the same. I always rely on USDA guidelines for processing which can be found online. Please do not use blog sites or family as the final authority on instructions or processing times. It’s not worth the risk!

Sarah did the hard work of harvesting and deboning. She decided to can without the bone. I just got together all the equipment needed:

  1. Mirro Pressure Canner with weight, rubber gasket and canning rack
  2. Canning jars (no mayonnaise jars)
  3. Lids and rings
  4. Jar lifter
  5. Towel and wire grates to set hot jars after processing
  6. Large Deep pan

After reading the instructions, I determined the processing time was 90 minutes with a 10 pound pressure for our altitude. When Sarah started harvesting, I placed the jars in the dishwasher for washing and kept the jars in the heat cycle until we were ready to pack. The rabbit was put into the large pan filed with water and a brine ratio of 1 tablespoon canning salt per quart. This helps draw out the blood. If the rabbits were wild it would help remove the gamey taste.

I put about two inches of water in the pressure canner on low heat when the deboning began. Working with a pressure canner is really much easier than a water bath because you’re not working with a heavy canner filled with hot water.

Once the jars were loosely packed and lids and rings added they went into the canner. It’s important that the warm jars go into water that’s also warm to prevent glass breakage. After putting in 6 quart jars, we closed the lid and started the process known as venting. This is bringing up the heat to the point that a full head of steam is coming out the top vent for a period of 10 minutes. This helps remove all of the the air from the canner to get the correct temperature and pressure. The pressure “jiggler” is then put on the top of the canner.  The countdown begins.

Once I hear that “rockin and rollin” noise with the “jiggler”, I can start my 90 minute countdown.  Each pressure canner is different.  My instructions says it should jiggle 1 to 3 times per minute.  It’s important to go by your instructions so you can maintain proper pressure.  If you have a dial type canner, then the pressure is shown on the dial.  After 90 minutes, the fire is turned off and I wait 45 minutes before attempting to open the canner.  This allows the pressure to drop and it’s safe to open.

So far everything went as planned.  When I opened the canner, I was very saddened to see that one of the jars had broke!  I did inspect my jars but it’s possible there was a hairline crack.  I put the other jars on the counter to cool and seal until the next morning. I did check the lids before I went to bed and all had sealed.

The next morning, on closer inspection, I noticed one of the jars had a thin black line inside of the jar! I’ve never had that happen before so I immediately started checking online and couldn’t find any similar situation.  Even during the Coronavirus Pandemic, the local county Extension Agents were available, but working from home. A picture sent (see bottom middle picture) to the agent and I had my response the next day.  Because my seal was intact, she felt the line is a reflection of where the liquid level was either when the jars went into the canner or at some point during processing.  It was possible that it could be a combination of denatured proteins (a change in the structure of the protein). She felt the food was safe but recommended boiling for 11 minutes prior to tasting as an extra precaution.  If there was an off odor at any time, to discard the food.  I felt relieved with this information.  After losing one jar (one rabbit) to a broken jar, it’s tough to throw out another.  But better safe than sorry!

One might ask if all the work of canning and possible losses is worth it.  I still enjoy freezing food but when you’re busy it’s a blessing to have a healthy dinner in a jar.

 

Slow Down

Church services in our building have been cancelled today but I was able to watch online.  Our church has gone live on Facebook for quite a while.  There was quite a “crowd” today.

A friend of mine posted a call to a World Day of Prayer today from Noon to 1PM.  I believe in the power of prayer.  If you’re so led, please join.

Every generation has had it’s test.  My parents now known as “The Greatest Generation” lived thru the Great Depression and World War II. My generation, the Boomers have benefited from their great sacrifice.  It’s our turn to step up and be the example to our children and grandchildren.  Not panic, but faith and a can do spirit.

A couple of sayings have been coming out of my mouth this week that I heard from my Mother when I was growing up.  “Waste not, want not”, “If you can’t eat it or wear it, don’t buy it”, “Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do or Do Without.” This could be the new mantra for our generation.

Praying for peace and health for my family and yours.

A New Twist on an Old Way

This paradigm shift we’re experiencing right now is forcing our family to think in new or rather old ways.  A few years back I purchased Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois for myself, my daughter-in-law and my best friend for Christmas.

Frugal person that I am, I purchased it from https://www.thriftbooks.com/share/?code=NeichQeK9l6gc0ie11qkdw%253d%253d  Ok, this is a shameless plug that will give you a 15% discount off their wonderful selection of books and give me a discount off my future orders.  Most of their books are under $4.00 and there is free shipping for orders $10 or more.  These are used books and you can pick the condition.  Most are in good condition.

When I purchased the book, I was very excited about having home baked bread that was not labor intensive and didn’t require an expensive bread machine.  Recipes include The Master Recipe, which is for enjoying an artisan loaf  every day and  so simple to make.  If you want to step it up a notch, there are recipes for pizza, flatbreads and pastries.

My daughter-in-law decided now was the time to dust off the book and start making daily fresh bread.  Yeah!  The less trips to the grocery store, the better. We had our first slice yesterday for lunch.  It’s slightly heavier than  store bought bread,  but still light enough that your family who only eats white Wonder Bread will love.  It’s also a healthy addition to your meal that is actually quite filling.

Our prayers are constantly with our country, our leaders and for those families who are  experiencing loss and sickness.  We’re trying to redeem the time.

redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:16