Monday, November 28, 2016

Bi-Annual Refrigerator Cleaning

I almost missed it!
I was finally home for a day so I could perform my odd little ritual.
Twice per year, I clean the refrigerator.
And I mean clean the refrigerator!
April and November are my fridge cleaning months.
I know it's not 6 months apart, but I have done this for so many years,
it just seems to be what works for me.
There are homes that always seem to look absolutely pristine.
Mine will probably never be one of those.
At any given time, we have this project or that here and there.
I do however try to keep it manageable and
 keep it from becoming a health hazard.
I should have done this before Thanksgiving - oh well.

First, open up the fridge and turn it off.
I bring an ice chest into the kitchen and place all the food from the refrigerator into it to keep it cool while I work.
I start with the main shelves.  
Once all the food is out, remove them and wash the 'box' of the fridge.
Then wash the shelves and replace them.
By shelves, I mean the crisper drawers too:)
You thought I would forget didn't you?
Once those are done, move on to the items on the door.
Remove it all in order to thoroughly wash each little shelf.
While doing this of course,
toss the hot mustard that expired 3 years ago,
the shriveled little carrot in the bottom of the crisper, and 
the mystery left-overs in the opaque plastic,
and any other items that might cause DEQ to come knocking on your door.
Before putting the food back in, I like to spritz it and wipe it all down
with vinegar water - just for good measure.
Then put food back in making sure jars aren't sticky and bottoms are clean.
Next, move on over to the freezer.  Do the same thing all over again.
While everything is out, look and wipe around the edges of the doors,
under the shelves, and in the seals. 
Again replace all the food tossing anything in question.
Turn the refrigerator back on and proceed to the outside.
I like to pull it away from the wall.
Vacuum the coils and the floor.
I know it doesn't look like it, but I just did this in April.
We are not complete slobs, it's just what accumulates under there.
I wash the outside of the fridge, the wall behind the fridge, 
and the floor under the fridge.
I then scoot the refrigerator back into place.
Lastly, I do the front and the handles.
Our refrigerator is old and has scratches and stains, but it works fine.
I dread the day it konks out.
By doing my part to keep it in good repair and operating properly,
I hope I can put that day off for as long as possible. 

This is actually a good time to do this since it makes that much more room
for all the holiday goodies yet to come.
Also, this weeks meal plan entails using up the items frozen in the freezer.
This freezer is for ice, chocolate, deserts, and left-overs.
Our meat and frozen veggies are in an upright out in the shop.
It's easy to forget the big tub of chili or stew in the freezer
so this is the perfect opportunity to clean the slate.

It might seem silly, but it makes me feel like the house is cleaner
after tackling projects like this.
Also, this is our food we're talking about.
I certainly want to keep it safe and healthy.

Hope everyone had a fabulous Thanksgiving.

                                                                     
This just might be the most thorough housekeeping book ever.
I've become picky about which books I keep (due to space.)
This is one I keep.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Hunting Elk, Finding Grace, Giving Thanks

Hello All,
The past week and a half - two weeks(ish) have been elk season around here.
Many vertical miles have been covered.
It has been unseasonably warm so the elk haven't bee pushed down by the snow yet.
That translates into us having to go find them in Tim-buk-tu.
I had a spike tag since we are just after the meat.
We did see some but nothing where we could actually get to them.
So once again, we are elkless.
I do feel blessed in that I got a bear and a buck.
Elk are just a little more elusive.
One nice thing was that it was 'away'.
Not away as in far from home.
We just drive up the road a ways, get out, and start climbing.
But away from the 'outside' world, the anger, the bashing, and the filth.
One of the days, I hunted alone since Mr. LB had to work.
It was the best therapy.
As I was hiking along, the song "How Great Thou Art" found its way to my head.
Why is it that when a song gets in my head, I know only the chorus 
and a partial line here and there?  Poor little brain.
Regardless, for the past week or so I've spent a lot of time conversing with God,
and this (partial) song has continued to pop into my head.
I kept thinking of looking up the lyrics but haven't had much of a chance.
Finally, a couple nights ago after supper, Mr. LB and I sat in where it was a little softer and where the fire is.
I finally got to pick up my stitching, and he browsed facebook on his phone.
He was laughing at something a friend posted.
Then he brought up something another friend had posted.  
It was a song.
Can you guess which song?
Oh yes, "How Great Thou Art" by HomeFree.
It's an amazing rendition.
I had never heard of them.  They won a TV contest at one point so I might be the only one who hadn't heard of them.
Here is "Ring of Fire" also - just because, well, Wow!
Needless to say, I'm thinking God is working on me.
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of year.
I love that families get together and give thanks, no gifts or gimmicks, 
just thanks.
Honestly, I was struggling a little with the tension of society this year.
We will be traveling to see family we haven't seen in many years
including my 93 year old grandmother.
(My last surviving grand-parent.)
I am so anxious and excited to see them but had some sort of reserve or trepidation about traveling.
When that song played on Mr. LB's phone, it all began to dissipate.
I know we will be fine on our travels,
and it's okay to enjoy the season and appreciate all the gifts we're given
with each dawning light.
He does work in mysterious ways.

I'd like to wish each of you a very happy and safe Thanksgiving.

PS: The next day, I did something I haven't done in at least a year or two.
I went and splurged on the CD.
I have listened to that song numerous times in the last couple days.

                                                                     

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Long Term Food Storage

Just in case some folks have not heard of it
or have been hesitant to try,
I would like to share a method we use to store food for long periods of time.
It is hot oven canning.
It really is a simple process.
I have oven-canned many things: 
beans, rice, flour, dehydrated veggies such as corn, green beans, celery, peas, carrots, onions, mushrooms, (the list could go on.)
From the information I have gathered, this method preserves dry foods
for 2 to 12 years.
It depends upon the source.
I have a friend who found a jar of dehydrated green beans that had evidently missed rotation and happened to be 7-8 years old.
She thought "Well, the worst that will happen is they will end up in compost."
She said they were fine.
As with any food storage, we use and rotate our stock.
If you've followed here for some time,
you are probably aware that we don't eat a lot of grains.
We do eat some though, and when we do, we don't want it to be stale.
So one of the items I oven can is rice.
I can put it in 1 meal size jars so we are not opening 
more than what we will use.

The process is quite easy.
Just gather clean dry jars and lids/rims of appropriate size and add the dry food.
Here I am showing rice.

Preheat the oven to "warm."
For my oven, this is about 175 degrees.
Place the uncovered filled jars on a baking sheet into the oven 
until the contents are an even temperature.
This is where there is some variance.
For these small jars of rice, it took about 40 min. since it is dense.
If I were doing small jars of green beans, it might only take 15-20 min.
The food item needs to reach the same temperature as the jar.
Also, the larger the jar, the longer it will take.
I have quart jars of dried beans.  I think they took just over an hour.

When the food item reaches the desired temperature,
remove only one jar at a time.
Lid each jar as you remove it from the oven - one at a time.
This is not difficult, but is important.
If  the whole tray is taken out of the oven, by the time the last jar is lidded,
the contents may be cool enough that the jar won't seal.
Allow the jars to completely cool before storing them.
As with canning any item, the lids will "ploink" indicating a proper seal.

Using this process, I am able to purchase a larger quantity and not have to purchase that item for a long time.
These small bags of rice were on a very good sale so small bags it was.


                                                                      




Disclaimer: I am sharing something we practice.  I am in no way responsible for the decisions you make.  Please, do your own research and make decisions you are comfortable with based on what you discover.

Monday, October 31, 2016

"Harvesting" the Lambs

You might recall this past spring, we got a couple lambs to raise for butcher.
We wanted them to be grass fed so knew we were in for a chore.
My mom commented how she always enjoyed fattening out critters.
I explained that we weren't graining them so they weren't just kept nice and tidy in one little spot.
We began saving our grass clippings for haylage before we even got the lambs.  Since sugars are what gets stored as fat (marbling in the meat,) we wanted a natural way for them to have those sugars without grains.
Making the haylage was easy enough.
We put grass clippings of moderate moisture content in a black garbage bag and sat on it to get as much air out as possible.
(Sorry, no pix of that:)
Then we wrapped it in 2 more bags making it triple wrapped.
And yes, it is necessary to triple wrap them.
Then let it sit to ferment for 6-8 weeks.
Doing this does require one to plan ahead.
The lambs started out in a 12 X 12 pen that we shuffled around the yard twice per day.
Once they began eating well, the area of the pen was not enough to feed them.  We began tethering them while we were home.
We used a cork-screw anchor so they would be less likely to get hung up on anything.
We just had to make sure we sank it far enough away from anything they weren't supposed to eat.
At night we put them up in their pen which we had expanded.
We tied the dog near them at night for protection - 
or at least as an alarm system since we have bear, mountain lions, wolves, etc. in our neck of the woods.
They got loose only twice:
once during our ice-cream social (they wanted to join the party) and 
once when we were gone and they proceeded to completely destroy our garden.
By the last month, they were eating the haylage heartily and enjoyed our abundance of apples as well (more natural sugars.)
When it was nearing time to butcher, Mr. LB began asking me if I was going to  miss them (nope,) asking if I would be okay when we butchered (yep,) if I would be able to eat them (double yep,) etc.
I finally asked him if he was just trying to make me feel bad.
He said I just didn't scratch them under their chins enough.
I asked him if he would be okay.  He assured me he would be.
(He's a big softy, but don't tell him I told you;)
My folks came up to help butcher.
Mom picked plums for making jelly.  I got hanging bags, vinegar water, and towels, etc. ready.  I also set up the wringer washer out in the yard. 
I kept the fleeces to tan, but first ran each one through a couple of rinses to clean them and to cool them faster.
I then spread them on a tarp, salted and rolled each one.
Those are now in the freezer awaiting further processing.
Dad and Mr. LB got their part done, cleaned, and bagged.
Then, later that week, we began cutting and wrapping.
The great thing about doing our own cutting and wrapping is that we can be picky and package it according to how we will be cooking it rather than how it fits in a box.
The remaining bones and scraps went to the dog and the chickens (chickens are meat-eaters too) so there was very little overall waste.

Conclusions
(both good and bad)

Haylage: This is fabulous though does require planning ahead.  The only change I would make is to do it in large zip-locks then in the 2 extra bags.  Once the large bags were opened, it only took a couple days to begin to mold.  Feeding only 2 lambs, a large part of each bag was wasted (well composted.)

Yard: We did not mow this summer.  The lambs fed.  They do not mow evenly so overall appearance of the place was sub-par.  We have an acre and they ate it all!  So figure about 1/2 acre per lamb.  (They also ate garden, flowers in pots, any landscaping they could get to. . . )

Time: This was time consuming!  We moved them at least twice per day.  We did not take any vacations together.  We made sure one of us was home.  Though they tethered well, they weren't really "leash trained" so moving them could be a challenge.  Each move involved re-sinking the anchor and toting their water bucket. 

Meat: We have 2 grass fed lambs in the freezer (minus one tasty leg o' lamb) for relatively little monetary cost per pound.  I am one of those who likes having the peace of mind that if something happens, we can still eat, so it's a bonus in that department.

Fleeces: We will also have two lamb skin "rugs" whenever I get around to pelting them.  They will be a lot! of work so hope they turn out nicely.

Do it Again?: Probably not next summer.  We have the trailer restored so will be taking a couple trips and wouldn't dream of asking someone else to take on such a chore.  After that, we'll see.