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Archive for July, 2012

Extra work today

July 26th, 2012 at 09:57 pm

I worked at home today, and after work, I was planning on going to see my cousin. She is not doing well, and we are afraid we will lose her soon with cancer. :'( I was going to go on Tuesday, but her mom said she was too nauseous, and so I called today before going, and her mom said she was going to have everything pumped out of her stomach to maybe help with the nausea? She has a blockage and her stomach/lower abdomen is very uncomfortable for her. My aunt sounded frazzled, but actually apologized to me for not calling to ask me not to come. Wow, Aunt Karen. I think you have plenty on your mind other than remembering to call me.

So, instead, I called DH to see if he could use any help. He said "sure, you can come run the swather." Yippee!!! I LOVE running the swather! So, I went down to DH's Grandma's place, who takes care of DS, nursed him, then headed out to the farm.

The drought is causing many people to think they won't have enough hay for the winter. The USDA opened up some of the CRP for haying, but you have to leave 1/2 of it uncut, 5" of stubble on the rest of it, some of the CRP is still closed to cutting, and it all has to be done by Aug 15. DH has gotten 5 new customers since CRP was opened.

The problem with the 5" cut is that our swather has a floating header on it, if you push the button down all the way. If you bump the button up to bring it up more, it doesn't float anymore. Fine if you are in a field, but in a CRP field, there are most likely bumps, gulleys, other crap you don't want to hit...if you do hit something with the rotating blades, it could cause major damage. The front does tilt up and down, so he is going to try to tilt it up as far as it will go and see how much stubble it leaves. It might be close enough for government work.

This one I was working on today is actually ours, old CRP that we didn't sign up for the program again. The slight rain we had yesterday (< .5") made things tough, so it took way longer than it should have. Didn't get home until 10:00. DS was more than ready for some momma time.

Got home, made some sandwiches, going to bed. No money out the door for me today.

It is payday today, too. Saving up to put a roof on the garage...almost there!

Cooking effort

July 25th, 2012 at 09:49 pm

I have no confidence in the kitchen. I don't know why. Most things I cook turn out ok to good.

Well, I do know why. Growing up, the only things I cooked were things to take to the fair. I always helped dad, and when you help dad outside, you don't have to do inside work when you get home. Sisters who have not been on the cabless tractor or chasing cows can do dishes and cook supper while you finally relax for the day.

Then, in college, I had a meal plan and the basketball team would stop for supper after games. So, no cooking for almost 4 years there.

Then, in grad school, well, I got in the bad habit of eating out alot.

Being single until I was 30 didn't help either. My social activities while single included playing sand volleyball at a very cool bar (so I would eat out/drink those nights), playing volleyball at the church (and going to Applebees after that), going out to eat and going to the bar. Hmmmm, sounds kinda one dimensional, doesn't it? I finally had to suggest to my friends that they come over, we would watch movies and I would cook supper on one night a week so we didn't go out every damn night.

Once, I gave up for Lent "eating out because I was lazy". That was a tough one. (Seriously! It was tough!) I allowed myself social eating out, because living by yourself is hard with no social interaction.

Then, I met my now husband, and moved to within 2 1/2 hours of him while we were still dating. Driving that far sucked, and I was always tired. When we got married, I still had that job. We sold that house, and I moved in for 3 nights a week with a lady who had an extra bedroom. She allowed me use of her kitchen, but I didn't feel very comfortable using it (Totally not her fault. She was very very very nice. Just me and my situation was weird.) I would come home on weekends and just be exhausted after working 10 hour days and a 2.5 hour drive every Monday morning and Thursday night.

Skip forward to today, now that all the excuses are out of the way. I work 2 days a week at home, 3 days at work, which is an hour drive each direction. I struggle with my weight, which has stayed steady for the past 2 months after losing all the baby weight (36 lbs), but could stand to lose 30 more. I tend not to plan ahead and take lunch with me, and for a time was even going to get a sub type sandwich at the local gas station when I worked at home. I was also going over to the quick shop at work for BREAKFAST.

I am an idiot, I guess.

I planted a pretty big garden this year, the biggest I've ever had. I'd say 15x40. (I went through all the produce I've gotten out of it so far in a previous post.) I got squash bugs about a week ago, so I had to spray them, but up to that point, I was overflowing with zucchini, yellow squash, cucumbers, etc.

It is pretty stupid to have all these great fresh vegetables and eat out.

Also, well, we aren't rolling in money, to say the least. We have lots of debt, up to the point where it is almost overwhelming. Sometimes it seems saving $1 on sour cream, for example, seems pretty stupid to be excited about.

We started getting stuff out of the garden at the end of June, so on July 1 or thereabouts, I said to my husband "let's make it a goal to not eat out at all in July". He was not excited. He said he couldn't tell where he will be when he is working, and he might not be able to make it home for lunch. Which is true. He doesn't have a microwave at the farm, and sometimes, he is bouncing around from waterway to waterway, field to field in the tractor/baler or swather, so driving to where he last left the pickup so he can some in for lunch won't work.

Ok, fine, I'll try it for myself.

I stumbled across a good recipe for chicken pot pie. Pretty easy, and a very good pie crust. DH was very excited about it, even asking for seconds, and for lunch the next day! So, I figured, that is one to keep in my hat. That next weekend, I made chicken pot pie pockets, and since I had a bit more pie crust than chicken pot pie filling, I also made ham and cheese pockets. My oven is small, and so I could only cook 4 at a time (I made 18), so that was a long, exhausting day in a house with a bad air conditioner. But, when all done, after eating 2 for dinner that night, I had 16 in the freezer.

You know what, DH started coming home more for lunch, because he could pull them out of the freezer and put them in the microwave and have a good meal. I also took them to lunch, along with at least 2 cucumbers and a zucchini to snack on.

When I made the chicken pot pie, I had filled the crock pot with some cheap chicken (I think $.98 a pound for bone in breast/rib meat), onion, carrots, celery and a bay leaf. Fill with water, cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8. Just until the meat falls off the bone. I used about half for the chicken pot pie and shredded the other half and put in the freezer.

Another thing I did was make my own yogurt and start eating that for breakfast. I make it in the crockpot, and put it in canning jars, but I don't actually can it. I just keep it in the fridge. I've been making that for a couple months now, but just yesterday, I started straining it through some coffee filters, and YUMMMMMMY I will never make yogurt and not strain it again!

When I wasn't straining it, it was a little too sour, so I needed to put something in it. Our apple tree in the front yard had non-ripe apples on it, but in the past, it has always dropped all the apples or had bugs eat all of them before we could harvest them, so I started pulling a buckets worth off here and there, so at least we could have something. I made apple butter with most of these, so now I can mix the apple butter with the yogurt and have a great breakfast. There are still bunches of apples on the trees, and though I do have some with chunks eaten out of them, I can cut around that and still get a crock pot full.

The first batch I made, I peeled each one before putting it in the crockpot. Wow, that took a long time. My MIL let me use her manual strainer thingy that you rotate the handle and push the pulp through, and leave the peels, and that took a lot less time. Add some spices, leave in the crockpot until as thick as you want, and that is all there is to it.

Final thing we have been doing is getting good deli meat from the local grocery store. I've been using ham and turkey, cheese, and slices of zucchini on tortillas, and that has been very filling. Better than DQ.

The crockpot chicken thing has been the best thing I've been doing this summer. I've found chicken for $.98 a pound and for $.88 a pound today. I stuff the crockpot full, put in the spice, and just let it cook. Once I separate the meat from everything else, I put the bones, etc., back in, and cook it some more. I strain that, keeping the broth. That goes in the fridge, and in the morning I scrape off the fat that is congealed on the top, then pour into canning jars. Once again, these go in the freezer or fridge, but once I get my cooktop back, I'll can them.

Oh yeah, the last burner on the cooktop broke a few months ago, and I didn't want to spend $250 for a new one. I finally picked up a used one today from our local Craigslist-type website for $50. This joins my $100 washer I found on Sunday, which had also broke sometime in the past few months. I've been cooking with an electric skillet or a crockpot or the grill. And other than once when we went to the Dr. in Salina and planned to eat out, I haven't broken my goal for this entire month.

It's a start.

Can't comment?

July 17th, 2012 at 09:29 pm

I've been trying to respond to the previous questions on my blog post for yesterday, but it won't accept it. Weird.

Anyway, I've made okra two ways so far. First, I wash it and cut the caps off. Then I cut it lengthwise in half. I put some olive oil in a bowl, add the okra and coat it, then add flour, cumin and salt and coat. The oil helps it to stick. Then I fry it in oil. Yummy!

But, this recipe is really awesome:
http://cptacek.savingadvice.com/okra-tomatoes-and-chicken.html

What does it taste like. Hmm, it has a mild, musky flavor. More earthy than cucumbers or squash. It has mucilaginous properties, which you might call slime. I didn't notice it in the finished products in the two recipes I use it in, but it does get on your knife, cutting board, etc.

Garden and other sundry info

July 16th, 2012 at 09:56 pm

I've been gone. Now I'm back.

I decided this year I wanted a garden. I've tried to garden in the past. The first I did, it was too close to the house, I just scratched it into the dirt, and got bored with it after a while.

2 years ago I started another garden, in a better position, put some effort into it, but then had to go to a training class for a week, and DH didn't water it. So, I thought it died, and I gave up on it. It didn't end up dieing, but by then the weeds had overtaken everything. It was a huge mess.

1 year ago, I was pregnant, so no garden.

This year, I was tired of coming home from work, feeding DS, and staying in the chair watching TV until late. Boring! I decided to start gardening.

I borrowed a tiller from a friend at work, had DH bring in a truckload of year old poop from the pasture, and tilled it in. Laid it out, bought mostly seeds, some plants, and have really made an effort to do my best out there.

I am very happy with my garden so far. I've been recording everything I've brought in so far:
Radishes for 5 meals
30 baby onions,
2 kohlrabi
‎89 okra and
2 head loose leaf lettuce,
7 eggplant,
29 zucchini,
11 yellow squash,
4 bucket apples
‎6 zuquash,
53 cucumber
‎4 banana peppers,
3 green peppers, and
1 mini still green jalapeno.


I'm not so good with onions. I didn't keep it weeded, then when I tried to weed them, the onions popped out. The okra is going gangbusters, and I shared some of these with the friend I borrowed the tiller from. I planted carrots, and those were a disaster. The radishes came up good, but I forgot to thin them, then the heat made them so hot, they didn't turn out very good.

The apples are from a tree the previous owner's daughter had brought home from school. I have never harvested them, but so far, I've gotten 4 buckets from them. I know it is early for apples, and the first bunch I picked were pretty hard, but I cooked them up into apple butter and have been mixing that up with homemade yogurt for breakfast. Yummy! The latest batch are better, and I think I need to harvest the rest of them because they are starting to get brown spots on them.

The "zuquash" must be some kind of hybrid between the zucchini and the yellow squash, since it is a very pale skinned squash, but when you cut into it, there is a layer of darker green, then the flesh. Tastes like a zucchini.

I figure that I would buy zucchini/squash for $1 a piece at the store, and about the same for cucumbers. Just with that, I have about $100 worth of vegetables out of the garden so far. The okra is doing so much better than I ever thought, and I've made some pretty good meals so far with it.

The lettuce was put in too late to get more than a few of them. I think I'll try a fall garden and put that lettuce back in, since the few I got tasted very good.

I just love going outside, picking something and coming in and cooking it. It is just awesome! But now, since I got 11 zucchini just today, I have to do something with it, so I am trying dehydrating it for the first time. I started it tonight, and since I work at home tomorrow, I'll check it through out the morning. Hopefully, it will taste good with the seasoning I put on it, and it can replace chips for DH...and for me, I guess. I went on a diet and lost 36 pounds to get me back to pre-baby weight from Jan - May 25 (DS's 1 year birthday!), but then I fell of the wagon. I've gained back about 3 pounds because I've been cheating. Time to step it up again!

Glad to be back. I'll fill you in more as the days go along.

Sun Dried Tomatoes

July 6th, 2012 at 05:52 pm

I haven't tried these, but want to note the directions and the post I found this at...

http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/harvest/msg0821543123572.html?35

Posted by brokenbar Z4 N. Wyoming (brokenbar@tctwest.net) on
Wed, Aug 20, 08 at 21:54

I raise tomatoes for sun drying. I do about 1000 to 2000 lbs a year which I sell to the upscale restaurants in Cody Wyoming & Billings Montana. I wanted to pass on my favorites for you considering doing some drying. Any tomato can be used for drying but some varieties are better than others.

I grow 15 mainstay varieties that I have kept as I culled others that did not meet my criteria.
I also try at least 5 new varieties of paste types each year and am lucky if one makes it into my herd. I am looking for specific things:

Meaty with a low moisture content
Few seeds
A rich and tangy flavor
Size-Small tomatoes are just more work for me.
Not fussy-Take heat and cold and wind. No primadonnas!
Bloom well and set lots and lots of fruit
Indeterminate
Dry to a nice pliable consistency

These are my Top Five
Chinese Giant
Carol Chyko
Cuoro D Toro
Opalka
San Marzano Redorta

I wanted to add that were I to be stranded on a desert Island with only one tomato it would be Russo Sicilian Togeta. This is my gallstarh that sets fruit first, ripens the earliest, bears heavy crops in any weather and is producing right up until hard frost. It is not a true paste but rather a stuffing tomato. None-the-less, the flavor of these dried is as good as it gets. It is also wonderful for just eating or slicing and the fruit is extra large.

For those wanting to know my Secret Recipe for drying, here you go:

Wash, stem and slice each tomato into 1/4" thick slices. Place in a very large bowl or clean bucket and cover with cheap red wine. I use Merlot but if you prefer something else, knock yourself out. I have a friend that swears by cheap Chianti! Soak tomato slices 24 hours in the wine. Drain well. Lay tomatoes just touching on dehydrator shelves or on screen in your sun-drying apparatus. Sprinkle each slice with a mixture containing equal parts of dried basil-oregano-parsley and then sprinkle each slice with Kosher Salt. You may choose to forego the salt if you wish but tomatoes will take longer to dry. Dry tomatoes until they are firm and leatherlike with no moisture pockets, but NOT brittle. (If you get them too dry, soak them in lemon juice for a few minutes.) To store, place in vacuum bags or ziplock bags and freeze.

IMPORTANT!!! If you will be storing sun-dried tomatoes in Olive oil you !!!MUST!!! dip each slice in vinegar before adding to oil.

To pack in oil:
Dip each tomato into a small dish of white wine vinegar. Shake off theexcess vinegar and pack them in olive oil adding 1/4 cup red wine. For tomatoes in oil I am selling, I put the tomatoes into the oil two weeks ahead of time and store in the refrigerator. Make sure they are completely immersed in the oil. When the jar is full, cap it tightly. I use my vacuum sealer to seal the canning lids on. Store at *cool* room temperature for at least a month before using. They may be stored in the refrigerator, but the oil will solidify at
refrigerator temperatures (it quickly reliquifies at room temperature however). As tomatoes are removed from the jar, add more olive oil as necessary to keep the remaining tomatoes covered. I have stored oil-packed tomatoes in m root cellar for over a year. . I have tried a number of methods to pack the tomatoes in oil, but the vinegar treatment is the difference between a good dried tomato and a great one. It is also important from a food safety standpoint, as it acidifies the oil and discourages growth of bacteria and mold. Soaking in the wine also acidifies them.

****** WARNING ********

Do *NOT* add fresh garlic cloves or fresh herbs of any kind to oil-packed dried tomatoes, UNLESS you store them in the refrigerator and plan on using them within 7 days. Garlic is a low-acid food which, when placed in oil, creates a low-acid anaerobic environment just
perfect growth medium for botulinum bacteria if the mixture is not refrigerated. Be safe and add your garlic to the dried tomatoes as part of the recipe for them *after* they come out of the oil.