Wednesday, January 28, 2015

RIP Houdini AKA Deenis

As our Twitter Followers and Facebook Friends are already aware, our friend Houdini AKA Deenis the Goat passed away Sunday night. We'd like to thank our friends for the outpouring of sympathy and support during this rough time.

Anyone who's owned a friendly goat knows they are much like a big, goofy, mischevious dog. He was a Boer/Pygmy cross, estimated at almost 200lbs when he passed, saved from the meat market by the farm he was born at thanks to his extremely friendly personality. We had many good times with him laying out in the sunshine, going for walks, and hanging out by the campfire on summer evenings. He was a great helper in the garden, turning unwanted piles of weeds into fertilizer! He was also a prankster, and loved to attempt to take off with and eat non-food items such as plastic bags, duct tape, tarps, and even a lit cigar when he thought you weren't looking!!!

He came down sick Thursday afternoon, with what we initially thought was just a bad case of bloat. We were able to treat the bloat, but it turned out that he was also suffering from Urinary Calculi, a total blockage of the urinary tract. It is most common in wethers that are castrated too early, and in the winter months when a variety of forage is scarce whether your rations include Ammonium Chloride or not. He was just 3 1/2 years old...

Deenis was certainly one of a kind, and is sorely missed by all of us...

Thursday, January 15, 2015


Broccoli is used in a variety of foods, and is especially popular in soups, casseroles and noodle dishes, many of which can even be modified into dry mix camp meals for a day in the great outdoors! 

I like to have dried broccoli on hand to throw in rice and pasta dishes. The last batch I made was purchased frozen, and therefore only had to be cut into 1" floret pieces. Broccoli only take about 6-8 hours in a 135 degree dehydrator to dry completely, making it one of the fastest drying vegetables.

If you wish to dry fresh broccoli, it must be blanched after chopping into 1" floret pieces. You can dehydrate the stems, but they tend to be woody after re-hydration and isn't recommended. To blanch, simply bring a pot of water to a boil and submerge chopped florets for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes, quickly strain the broccoli and plunge it into ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain it well on paper towels and place them in the dehydrator in a single layer on 135 degrees for 6-8 hours as you would frozen broccoli.

When they are completely dry, they will be crispy and the individual floret tops will easily crumble from the stem. As with other vegetables we've dehydrated, store your dried broccoli in a glass jar in a cool, dry, dark place. Sealing with a Food Saver, or placing an oxygen absorber in the jar will extend shelf life. It will be good for at least one year without sealing if stored properly.

Monday, January 12, 2015


Fresh mushrooms can tend to be expensive. Take advantage of fresh mushroom sales by preserving them through dehydration!

Dehydrating mushrooms is extremely easy. Even more so if you buy the mushrooms already sliced! If you purchase whole mushrooms, depending on type, an egg slicer does a great job. Slices should be 1/4" in thickness. Simply rinse the sliced mushrooms and place a single layer of slices per tray and place in the dehydrator at 135 degrees for about 6-8 hours! That's it!

The mushrooms will darken in color, and will crumble easily when completely dry. Store them in an airtight glass jar, use an oxygen absorber or seal with a vacuum sealer for long-term storage. They should last at least a year in a cool, dry, dark place without an absorber/sealing.

Dried mushrooms are great for adding to soups, sauces and pasta dishes!

Friday, January 9, 2015

RECIPE: Chocolate Covered Pretzels

These versatile treats make a great snack for any occasion or holiday! 

Example pretzels provided by Brittney
By simply using different colored chocolate and sprinkles, you can create a themed treat for any holiday or occasion- White chocolate dyed orange and purple with yellow and green sprinkles for Halloween, white chocolate with red and green sprinkles for Christmas... The possibilities are endless. They're also a hit with the kids!


1 bag White Chocolate Chips
1 bag Pretzel Twists
Garnish Candies: Colored Sugar, Sprinkles etc.
Food Coloring (if desired)
Wax Paper

Lay sheets of wax paper on your work surface. Melt chocolate in a large glass mixing bowl in the microwave- Heat for 2 minutes, stir, heat and additional 2 minutes. Chocolate should be easy to stir and all chips completely melted. Add food coloring at this time, mix thoroughly.

Use tongs to dip pretzels into chocolate, lightly tapping the tongs on the edge of the bowl to remove excess chocolate. Lay pretzels on wax paper and lightly sprinkle with garnish candies.

Let pretzels completely cool before storing in an airtight container. 1 bag of chocolates makes appx. 4 doz pretzels.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

RECIPE: Shrimp Cocktail Cheese Ball

This tangy, spicy cream cheese based cheese ball is simple to prepare, and can be made a day ahead. 

I made this cheese ball as a dish to pass for our 4H Holiday Party tonight, which has been cancelled due to arctic wind chills and impending snow storm. While we're pretty bummed our first meeting was cancelled, we get to enjoy this tasty snack ourselves by the fire tonight!


2 8 oz pkg Cream Cheese, softened
2 Tbsp. Mayonnaise
1/2 c. Cocktail Sauce, divided
2 Tbsp. Franks Red Hot
1/3 c. Shrimp, minced
2 green onion, minced

Blend cream cheese, mayo, 1/4 c cocktail sauce and Red Hot. thoroughly. Add shrimp and onions, mix thoroughly. Form mixture into a ball or desired shape and chill for at least 2 hours before serving. Pour remaining 1/4 c. cocktail sauce over cheese ball before serving. Garnish with lettuce leaves and a whole shrimp if desired. Serve with your favorite crackers. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

DEHYDRATING: Frozen Fruits and Veggies

Dehydrating frozen produce is an extremely simple way to take advantage of sales, or to make room in your freezer. Very handy for soups and stews.

I posted a photo of some frozen mixed vege with a brief explanation of how easy it is to dehydrate frozen produce yesterday, but I wanted to expand on that a little more. Today, I'm doing the rest of the mixed vege, a bag of corn, and a bag of broccoli florets!

What makes frozen produce so convenient for dehydrating is that items needing to be blanched before dehydration have already been done so before freezing. Also, in some cases, like the mixed vege or potatoes, the produce has already been peeled and diced into small pieces. Depending on the size of your batch, you could be saving hours of prep time!

Small items like corn, peas, blueberries, potato dices or chopped mixed fruits and vege can be put into the dehydrator as is in a single layer. However, rough chopped things like broccoli and cauliflower florets or halved strawberries should be cut into smaller bite sized pieces for shorter and  more even drying.

In general, frozen fruits and vegetables take about 10-12 hours to dry in a 135 degree dehydrator. Some a little shorter, some a little longer, depending on the wattage of your machine and what temperature you have them set on. Around the 8 hour mark, start checking for doneness. They will be "crispy". Small dices will be hard like plastic beads.

Store your dehydrated goods in a clean, completely dry glass jar in a cool, dry, dark place. If you wish to store them long-term, put an oxygen absorber in the jar, or vacuum seal it. Without an oxygen absorber or seal they should last a minimum of one year. I've got green peppers, jalapenos and mixed vege over a year old now that are still good,

Well, that's all I have for now. With these subzero temps, I've been busy running outside to change out frozen waterers several times a day. Spring can't come fast enough!!!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Planning the 2015 Garden

Some of last year's seed starts.
Sitting here working on the 2015 Garden Plan... Turning out to be a little more challenging than I thought! So many great new varieties I'd love to try... That and Brian has only gotten halfway through the catalog with the holidays and long work hours the past couple weeks.

Each of us takes a turn going through the catalogs and highlighting anything that sounds of interest. If we both highlight the same ones, good to go. If we chose different varieties, we will look for more info online and make a compromise of some sort.

Part of the problem is knowing exactly how big of an area we will have to plant in this year! We got an ATV, but don't have a disc/tiller just yet. That's a whole other issue in itself- can we get away with just the pull behind disc, or do we really need to invest in the powered pull behind tiller? There is about a $900 difference in price there! (If anyone reading this has advice, please comment below. We're tearing up horse pasture.)

We're definitely giving a few grains a try this year, and I'm finally getting around to giving those "Mexican Sour Gherkins" I've been eyeing for 3 years now a try! Also going with smaller carrot varieties, hoping to have some better luck than we have had in the past with Nantes and Danvers. I'll post the list of seeds we ordered when it's finalized. If we wait too long, popular varieties and rares will be sold out!

If you haven't ordered your seed catalogs yet, you can order your free copies online. Vast majority of our seeds are ordered from Baker Creek, however I do order herb seed from Richters. The others carry heirloom, organic and rare varieties:

Baker Creek - Open pollinated, heirloom variety seed. Huge variety, great quality.
Seed Saver's Exchange - Organic, Heirloom seeds. Carries organic Seed Potatoes.
Richters Herbs - Huge selection of medicinal and culinary herbs. Great quality.
Kitazawa Seed Co. - Asian vegetables and greens, some difficult to find in USA. Non-GMO.