Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Keeping Busy

Yesterday the weather was glorious! There was a warm sun with a cool breeze - my favorite kind of weather. My kids and I went blueberry and plum picking at Larriland Farms which is now only 4 miles down the road! I almost went crazy and wanted to pick raspberries, but it was nearly lunch time and my daughter needed her nap, so I gave up that idea. It's hard work picking fruit! (and supervising children picking fruit. haha!)

The rest of the day was pretty much spent outside. We had a couple TV breaks for a rest, (My kids are only allowed to watch stuff on Tuesday or Thursday.) but for the most part my son busily dug up bricks, and I moved the compost pile, dug up more iris roots, weeded, and in general spiffed up the place. It was awesome to work outside all day! That's my kind of exercise. Yeah!

About a week or so ago, our family picked out a spot and dug a fire pit. We've had a few marshmallow roasting events already and there's another one scheduled tonight with a bunch of gals from church for a "girl's night out". I'm really excited! What I'm most excited about is that we were able to pick out the spot for our fire pit and just start digging! No permission necessary from anyone. I LOVE that about owning our own home.

Oh, you know what I discovered the other day? Our neighbor has the biggest, most beautiful OAK tree! Man, I've got the Knotty Oak Homestead, but we have no oak trees at all. Just pines and maples and a walnut tree. Even the giant fallen oak in our woods came from our neighbor's property and crushed our fence. But I took a picture of our neighbor's tree just to pacify myself. It really is very magnificent to look at.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Grass-Fed Beef?

We have a local Angus beef cattle farm down the road from us. Initially, I was really excited about this, especially as they advertise that their beef is grass-fed. Now, I've seen their cattle out in the pasture munching away on grass, but I wanted to know if they fed their cows corn at any point in their life. So, I drove over there and asked. 

Why did I want to know this? Because cows are ruminating animals, are only meant to eat grass, and I find it really sad that most cows are fed a diet of corn because it's cheaper (Seen a corn field lately? There's a lot of them around here.), and they fatten up faster on corn. Do the cattle-raisers care about the health of the cows and what corn does to their digestive track? How about the nutritional value of their beef? NOPE.

Anyway, I went and asked the local farm if they fed their cows corn at all, and I found out something very interesting. I was told that while the cattle are raised on grass, they are finished on a combination of corn, grain, hay, and minerals. So, while they live a grass-fed life, they are not true grass fed cows because they're fattened up or "finished" on corn and grain. 

Currently, there are no USDA regulations on the definition of "grass-fed beef", so beef producers can get away with a lot and mislead consumers on whether or not they're really getting true grass-fed beef. Considering that grass-fed beef is significantly more expensive that corn-fed beef, it's no wonder! And what do you think of when you think of a grass-fed cow? A happy cow in a beautiful green pasture? Well, technically a farmer could confine his cow and feed it grass its whole life and still call it a grass-fed cow. I know government food regulations get a bad wrap a lot of the time, but there are times when its necessary, so that consumers know exactly what they're getting when they buy a food.

I found this very informative article on the true definition of grass-fed beef according to

If you have thought about switching to grass-fed beef or currently buy it and aren't sure if it's up to scratch, then this article will prove very helpful!

Eat Wild is also a fantastic resource for finding locally raised foods. They have a strict criteria for farms in order to be listed on their site.

In the meantime, my search is on for grass-fed, grass-finished beef!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Homemade Pantry

When I saw this book, I knew it was written just for me! It really pacifies the "made from scratch" side of me and answers all sorts of curiosities about what we can stop buying and start making ourselves. I also like that  the author is not afraid to say she buys her butter because it is cheaper to buy it than to make it, especially if you don't have a milk cow. (Finally, someone admits it!) I haven't read the entire book, just skimmed the preview on Amazon, but it's at the top of my priority list! Why can't I stop buying cookbooks?!?!? Aaaaack! I think this one is worth it though.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


Okay, so I don't even have my chickens yet. I think we're waiting until the spring. (It's so hard taking one step at a time when you finally have your house and land!) Anyway, today I was talking with my husband about how I wanted to use our 1/2 acre woods to keep a couple pigs. After we chatted about it, he was totally on board! Whoa! I wasn't expecting that, but I am so excited that he is so supportive. We talked about fencing we'd need and where we'd put the fence. Ever since reading this article in Mother Earth News about raising pastured pigs and how amazing their meat tastes, I have dreamed of raising my own pigs. I'd like to raise a heritage breed like Tamworth, but I have no clue what's available out here or if I'd be able to find many heritage breeds. That means there's more research to do! We're not getting pigs any time soon; maybe within the next couple years, but it's exciting to plan out the use of our land. My husband doesn't know it yet, but there are also bees in the future.... mwahahahaha! But still. It's one step at a time. There's so much to do!

Mmmm! Bacon!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Food Saving

Do you ever overestimate how much food to make for dinner and make too much? Can you only handle leftovers of the same meal so many days in a row? Has anyone given you leftovers - like a lot - and you didn't know what to do with it? Well, this is something you need, yes NEED to have:

It's a vacuum sealer.

I love my vacuum sealer. I can seal stuff up, stick it in the freezer and it lasts soooo much longer than if you chucked the same food in a "freezer safe" ziploc bag and left it for the freezer minions to make frostbittten mincemeat out of it.

I personally have a Food Saver brand vacuum sealer and I love it. I also have the regular and wide-mouthed jar sealer attachments so that I can vacuum seal dry goods, like beans or rice in my canning jars. (Note: Vacuum sealing is not a replacement for properly canning foods.)

I have an example. Our awesome new neighbor just made a boatload of pulled pork he lovingly rubbed and smoked himself for a fund raiser. Sunday morning he brought us an entire pan. Oh. my. goodness. I have never had such amazing pulled pork! And he had his own secret recipe BBQ sauces to go with it. Even our uber picky, practically vegetarian daughter asked for "oink oink" and devoured it to our utter amazement!

Well, we've been eating pulled pork since Sunday, and I don't want my love of this delicious stuff to wear thin, so I shoveled the rest of it into a food sealer bag, pulled out my sealer and vacuumed away. Now it is happily chilling in our freezer ready for a meal sometime in the future. Along with that I had made a lot of oven fried potato wedges because the bag of potatoes was going bad. So, I also shoveled the large container left into a food sealer bag, vacuumed & sealed it and it's also sitting happily in the freezer. Two-thirds of a meal is ready to go at a moment's notice!

Right before vacuum sealing my potatoes for the freezer.

Potatoes vacuum sealed and ready to go into the frozen depths!

I hope you'll consider looking into one of these. If only to save you money in the long run from keeping foods from getting freezer burn. Also, keep in mind that not everything freezes or vacuums well. Imagine trying to vacuum pack all that leftover watermelon from yesterday's picnic... it would be a very sticky, watery mess. Yikes!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Antiquing Delivers!

I was on the hunt for a kitchen scrap bucket. I've started my compost heap in the far corner of the yard by the treeline, but I didn't want to have to hike it out there every time I cut up an apple or peeled a cucumber. And I didn't want to spend a stinkin' $30 for Rachel Ray's designer kitchen scrap compost bucket whatever. So, I headed to my favorite antique mall in Ellicott City and, as always, that place delivered!

 I found this sweet, vintage pea green and chrome ice bucket with a cool knob and funky handle. I couldn't have been more happy! And you know what was even better? It was on SALE, baby!

Here it is in all it's pea green glory!

LOVE the knob

Don't you just adore the curve of that handle?

Is it possible to love a kitchen scrap bucket?

Oh yes.
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