Using the Past to Plan the Future

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A bit too much snow still…..

I have finally added up last year’s garden totals. Spring is officially here- not that it looks or feels like Spring- and it’s time to start planning next year’s garden in earnest. Last year was the first time I kept track of the weight of (almost) everything that came out of the garden. As you may recall, we had to replant the garden last year because we lost some things (like the majority of the potatoes) to, mainly, the chickens. This year, all the fences are in place (and we have no goats) so hopefully losses will be kept to a minimum! Nonetheless, we didn’t do too bad and a few things did phenomenally. Still, I hope to plant more of most of the following things this year.

*to keep it simple I’ll just add a * to signify that at least a pound of this item was not weighed before we ate or gave away it – not counting snacking in the garden.

Radish- 1.5lb

Kale- 13lb*

Lettuce- 7.5lb

Spinach/Swiss Chard – 3.5lb*

Beet- thinnings only -1.25lb

Peas (sugar snap)- 2.25lb

Peas (shell peas in pod)- 6.87lb

Parsley- 1.68lb*

Basil- .5lb+

Onion- thinnings only- 1.25lb

Red Onions- 6

Pac Choy- 10oz*

Carrots-30lbs

Beets- 7 bunches

Broccoli- 1lb 10oz*

Arugula- 9oz*

Thyme- lots

Turnip- 5lb

Green Beans- 3lb

Patty Pan Squash-2lb

Cucumber- 5-6

Tomatoes- 2- 5 gal. pails

Potatoes- milk crate sized box full

Pumpkins- 50+

Celeriac- 4 large & 2- gal ziplock bags of small ones

Cauliflower- 7 heads

Cabbage- 3 or 4 medium heads

It would be interesting to figure out how much it would actually cost to buy all that!

Changes for next year:

Cucumbers just didn’t have enough time so starting some indoors this year, along with cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli, if I can find the room for them.

Do an earlier 2nd planting of broccoli, green beans, peas, and pac choy.

Carrots got us through half the year so double on those. More potatoes, onions and winter squash. Fall turnips, pac choy.

Try growing sweet potatoes. Finally get asparagus crowns, maybe raspberry canes?

Had trouble with flea beetles last year so planning on planting some mustard as a decoy crop.

 

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Birds, and a few of Ezra’s Projects

As you can see the older boys are exploring birds. I never knew you could create Lego birds but, as you can see, you can! Etty bitty pieces, of all colors, are being collected for bills, crests, wings, bodies, tails etc., from these pieces Noah and Ezra build their birds. They take care to be accurate in their portrayals paying special attention to what color the crests are in comparison to the body and wings. We have quite the range of species represented: a cardinal, a pigeon, a crow, a duck, a penguin, just to name a few. They have made a few other types of animals too, like the dog, also pictured, but birds are where it’s at right now. You can even snip them on to branches!

Ezra has been getting into carving. I got him started on a few bars of soap but he’s moved onto wood. You can see the start to a few of his skewers (next to the crochet hook I made). I was lucky enough to be gifted one and it works great to check baked goods coming out of the oven. He’s currently working on a wooden duck and a barn. Up next, campfire sticks?!

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Venison Tacos {Neck Roast} 

 What to do with a venison neck roast?

We found ourselves asking just that recently. Since roasts are always best fork tender I decided to use the pressure cooker to cook the venison; then shred and season the meat for tacos. Neck roasts are a great choice for shredding because the grain of the meat naturally runs through the thickness of the roast (as does beef tongue, if you’re looking to be a bit more adventurous). An oven or slow cooker will work just as well, but it will take far longer.

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This roast was still a little frozen but the pressure cooker can handle that.  After browning I added a sliced onion and, for this recipe, I added beer to flavor the roast as it cooks. Normally I use broth and you can, with equally delicious results, if you’d prefer not to use beer.

IMG_0422IMG_0430Now here’s the most important bit- cook until fork tender (in other words cook until you can easily push a fork into the roast. Even in the pressure cooker this took over an hour, if you opt for the slow-cooker or oven it will take all day.

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Let the roast cool enough to handle. Then using two forks shred the venison, pulled pork style. Once shredded add taco seasoning to taste. If your roast is large enough remove  a portion of the shredded meat before seasoning and add barbecue sauce to that bit. It freezes well too.

Now make your self some tacos!

(Leaf lettuce works great for rolling up grain free tacos too).

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Megan loves tacos too!

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Praise the Lard

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Actually this is suet, but I love how pumped Ezra is about cutting up fat and rendering it. He is quite the helper in the kitchen these days. In fact, he is known for making the best scrambled eggs; just ask and he’ll whip you up a batch! He’s pretty good at pancakes too.

We also rendered lard when we butchered the pig. Lard and suet are wonderful healthy fats and make the best roasted veggies (they don’t get soggy like they can in oil). Plus, I feel we must be as respectful as possible when butchering an animal, to me that means using as much of the animal as possible. While there are a few edible parts I have not yet tried we do keep the majority of the organs, the bones (for bone broth), the fat and, of course, the muscle. That doesn’t leave much behind!

 

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The key to rendering: low and slow.

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The Cuteness Factor

I often share a new project each week, and I have started on a new project but, as it’s a gift, it will have to stay a secret for now. Instead, here is Molly wearing her On-the-goveralls.  Yes, these were suppose to be sized 0-6 months (turns out more like 12 months). One of the down sides of making clothes for your little ones to grow into is that it can be hard to catch them in the right size. They grow so quickly and soon those too big outfits have become too small! Not this time!

Here’s the upside: cuteness x 10!

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Yep, worth it!

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Sheep

Sheep!

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I’m counting down the days ’till we bring home our flock. We have found a  breeder of Coopworth sheep, conveniently near us. Shearing day is soon, followed by lambing, and then, after the lambs are old enough to wean (around 60 days) we’ll be bringing our small flock home.

The farm was kind enough to have us all over to meet their sheep and answer our (many) questions.  Struggling_along managed to snap some photos and carry Molly around while I got a bit more hands on with the ewes, and Ezra made fast friends with their dog.

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Rugs

Somehow I find myself working on not just one rug, but two! Maybe the cold, which seeps in through any crack it can find, is inspiring me to add layers to the floors. It has been extremely cold this year; I can’t remember the last time is was above freezing!

The first rug you might recognize. I began crocheting this rug a while back but I decided to pull it out and restart it in more of an oval shape than a circle using the new crotch hook I carved a few months back. When I get a little further along I’ll be sure to update the photo, here’s how it was…look at all that green grass!

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The second rug is a pom-pom rug. Consisting of a ton of pom-poms, sewn to a rug backing, it looks rather like a shag rug. I have a LOT of pom-poms to go but they are easy to make.

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A handful of pom-poms.

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Molly’s Poncho Continues

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It’s more purple than it looks here.

 This is just one of those projects that stretches on and on. Four months, it’s been! I was thinking I’d be done in a month but life has been full of activity; it’s hard to knit when your hands are full. I’m onto the back now. Once the front and back are the same length I’ll pick up stitches around the edge and add-on a trim and then the hood is picked up and knit around the neckline. Add a few buttons under the arms and…voilà, it’ll be done.
I do like the visual effect of the pattern. It’s a 24 row repeat and now that I’m “in the pattern” it’s easy enough to figure out where I am and which row I’m on. This is actually speeding things up a bit since I don’t have to spend 5 minutes just figuring out where I am when all I have is 5 minutes. Good thing I started it with spring in mind!

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