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. 

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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.

 

 

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.

 

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

 

 

 

Life Has Changed On The Prairie

Like everyone right now, we are faced with uncertainty mixed in with fear.  Taking action has added excitement and has helped to get our minds off dread of the virus and the future.

Our household now includes myself, my husband, my son and his wife and their 4 children, ages 12, 10, 7 and 5.  We have 3 bedrooms, 1 bath and a large room additionSacred Spaces that was a back porch that we enclosed.  My son and his family were renting a two story, 4 bedroom, 2 bath home on 10 acres that was perfect for their large family.  Their family included 2 cats and a growing rabbit family.  Then one day all that changed in an instant.  During a repair of a plumbing leak under the kitchen sink, the repairman thought he saw black mold which extended into the upstairs bathroom.  Before long, they had to move out.  School had started and because we live in a very rural area, there is a shortage of rental homes, especially for large families.  So we adjusted.  Our back porch is now their living area and we have 4 small children in one bedroom, ala “The Waltons”.  Its been exciting, challenging and a blessing to be a part of their lives every day.

Our life has always included a bit of “prepping”.  That’s part of country life.  In Oklahoma we need to be prepared for tornadoes and for winter ice storms.  A few years back our electric was out for 14 days due to an ice storm.  Fortunately our generator saw us through.  When the news begin to cover the Covid-19 and it’s possible spread to us, I began to inventory what we may need.

  1.  Prescriptions- I ordered a 90 day supply for John and I.
  2.  Over the Counter meds-Everything from headache, stomach, first aid to allergy relief.
  3.  Canned goods.
  4.  Meats- this year we are fortunate to have more than usual.  We have a deer that was harvested last November, part of a beef from the year before and a pig that was purchased from a lady who attends our church.
  5.  Gardening seeds and supplies.  In recent years our vegetable garden has got smaller each year.  This year my son and daughter-in-law has suggested we have a real garden, one that will support us.
  6.   Baking supplies – Flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder, salt
  7.  Cleaning supplies – Lysol spray, disinfectant wipes, bleach, hydrogen peroxide
  8.   Paper goods – We don’t hoard toilet paper but with a family of 8 we keep a pretty good supply on hand.  My D-I-L purchased flannel to make “family cloth” if needed when the tp supply runs out.
  9.  Fuel and oil for cars, tractor and generator.
  10.  Get the cellar cleaned and stocked for tornado season.

I have a small flock of egg laying chickens that we keep in a movable pen.  They are aging and egg production has slowed down.  Yesterday, my Daughter-in-law and I went to Atwoods, our local farm goods store,  to purchase chicks, starter feed, and feeding equipment.  My plan was to only buy about 12 but my son suggested we get about 20.  They are straight run so we probably will have extra roosters that can be used for chicken and dumplings.

School has let out until April 6th here.  My grandchildren’s school year ends the first week of May so we expect school will not start back until the fall.  D-I-L is planning to homeschool the remainder of the year and possibly next year.

I’m sure there are holes in our planning.  We just do what we can and trust God for everything.  This is uncharted times for our generation but I feel as a family and a nation we’ll be much stronger having gone through this together.  How has your family prepared and what are you doing to keep up your spirits?

 

 

 

Slowdown on the Prairie

 

We awoke this morning with an unexpected blanket of snow on the ground. Once again Oklahoma and God has provided an unexpected weather change. Yes, it has been very cold the last couple of days (for Oklahoma) but the weather man predicted just a dusting.

When the ground is covered in snow, everything seems to come to a stall and there is a quiet reverance on the prairie. John says it’s God’s way of saying, “time to slow down”. Cows still have to be fed and ice on the ponds must be broke for watering. But, once that’s done life goes at a much slower pace. A hearty soup can be put in the crock pot and with a pot of steaming coffee one can relax with a good book or just enjoy the view.

 

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View from our West Windows

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Winter Playground

 

Man Week Has Arrived, a.k.a. Thanksgiving!

When I met my husband I soon learned that Thanksgiving doesn’t revolve around the turkey,  but the deer.  It’s rifle season week in Oklahoma.  Before we bought our home, we would make the trip to his sister’s home in the country so he could deer hunt.  I was very happy when we bought our home in the country so I could have our Thanksgiving dinner at home.

For many years now, I have called the beginning of deer season, “Man Week”. This was due to the invasion of men at our home.  Man Week has now become Man Season as duck hunting has become a popular past time as well.  Deer season has 3 phases: bow, primitive arms and rifle.  John does not bow hunt but we do have friends arriving who do.

A tradition on the first day of rifle season, which is tomorrow, is that John will get up way before day break and cook breakfast and have coffee ready for the men who will be hunting.  This year man week will include our granddaughter who took her first deer last year and is very excited to go out again.

I am a little tired (exhausted) by the time Thanksgiving is over, but it’s a wonderful feeling to have a family and friends tradition  that all look forward to coming back for the next year.

What traditions does your family enjoy around the holidays?