Friday, October 29, 2010

Woo Hoo!

The wood stoves are in! So exciting for us to have this step done. We have had one wood stove (Heritage) in the "cabin room" that we have lived in for 3 years. That was put in right after we bought the farm. It is now moved to it's new home in the new living space. The one we bought on Craigslist (Phoenix) is set up in the cabin room now. Thad & Tim from Center Stove & Fireplace were here at 10am and got busy setting up the Phoenix.
Thad putting on the heat shield.
The Phoenix

That was the easier of the installations. The existing pipe fit right into the back of the stove with no adjustments. The Heritage was a new install so they had to go in the attic to cut a hole in the roof and a hole in the ceiling, etc., etc.
Tim cutting the hole in the ceiling. (Mia is supervising :-)
While they were here, I baked up a storm. First chocolate chip cookies. Then zucchini apple bread. Next I chopped up veggies & threw them in the crock pot for dinner and then a pumpkin pie. Of course I shared the cookies along with coffee with Thad & Tim. They were so nice about explaining what they were doing & went over & above what they had to do. We had a little rust around the pipe on the Heritage & Thad painted that. They also re-attached a piece of metal (a patch from the wood stove pipe that was here before we moved in) on the roof that came loose with the winds the other night. No more clanging noise, yea!
They also put on a new stove pipe cap to replace the one that blew off in the tornado in August. We should be all set now.
Steve will be here in an hour. I will have both wood stoves going when he gets here :-). Can't wait to see his face when he sees how great the wood stove looks with the river rock walls.
Ready for a fire.

Elderberry Liquor & Elderberry Syrup

*This summer, I froze the elderberries that I picked from the bushes out back by the woods. I didn't have time to do anything with them then. This week, since it was too windy to do anything outside, I finally had the time to go through the freezer and use some of the things I froze. I started looking for ways to use the elderberries besides the syrup I have made in the past. I'm trying out a recipe for elderberry liquor.It's supposed to be like port.  I'm not much of a drinker, but this sounds like "a sip in front of the fire" drink. You know, when the snow is falling outside, the cat (or dog) is curled up next to you, someone you love is sitting on the other side, and you don't have to go to work the next day. That's a lot to ask for..I hope it tastes that good :-). Here it is. It is super easy.

Elderberry Liquor
1pint of fresh or thawed elderberries
1 quart vodka
2 to 3 one inch pieces of lemon rind

Put elderberries in a quart (or larger) mason jar and pour the vodka over them. Add the lemon rind (no white pith). Seal and put in a dark place for at least a month, or up to six months.
The longer you let it sit, the more flavor will be extracted.
When you decide it has been long enough, pour it through a strainer lined with cheesecloth into another jar and add the sugar. Add anywhere from 1/4 to whatever your taste buds prefer. Shake to combine & put back in the cupboard.
After a few days or weeks, the sugar should be completely dissolved the the liquor is ready to drink.
It should keep forever.

I had some left over elderberries so I made the rest into syrup. The syrup is sold in stores as Sambucol.  Here are some facts about the black elderberry...
  • Black elderberry extract has been found to be effective against the H5N1 strain of Avian Flu  (Zakay-Rones et al 1995)
  • Black elderberry extract contains a unique compound called Antivirin® that can help protect healthy cells and inactivate  infectious viruses
  • When given to patients, scientists have found the black elderberry extract, has the ability to ward off flu infections quickly  (Zakay-Rones 2004)
  • Black Elderberries are rich in anthocyanins which are a type of flavonoid –  anthocyanins are antioxidants that may protect cells from free radicals and support your body’s immune system.
  • Black Elderberries have almost 5 times as many anthocyanins as Blueberries and twice the overall antioxidant capability of cranberries 
  • Black Elderberry has a more potent antiviral effect than Echinacea
What's not to like? I made enough so we can take it everyday during the flu season if we want to. The recipe uses honey, so it is not recommended for infants. It is from Rosemary Gladstar's Family Herbal book.

1 cup fresh, frozen or 1/2 cup dried elderberries
3 cups water
1 cup raw local honey
Glass jar with lid

1. Heat the berries and water to a boil, then reduce to simmer for 30-45 minutes.
2. Mash the berries, strain, and add 1 cup of honey. Then stir to mix well. 
3. Bottle and store. Keeps in the refrigerator for 2-3 months.
4. Enjoy a tablespoon daily to keep the immune system strong.
*Make sure you research elderberrries & use the correct berries before you make these recipes.

Today was laundry day. Pretty boring stuff. When I got home I cleaned the workshop area, unburied the wood stove for the installation tomorrow & worked on cleaning some of the river rock stones. No baking or preserving today :-(. Tomorrow the installation should take most of the day so I can bake then.  Hope you all have a great Friday!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Almond Milk Recipe

This is the recipe I use for fresh almond milk. It is so good. I'm not much for consuming dairy in it's pasteurized state, which is about the only way you can get it in stores in most states. Dairy has contributed to my asthma symptoms for a huge part of my life. When I quit dairy cold turkey, my asthma went away. I also started eating a raw food diet then with no preservatives or cooked foods. I gradually started to eat some cheese with the result of being wheezy the next morning.  Raw goat cheese doesn't cause that, neither does, Kefir made with raw milk. Pasteurization destroys the good bacteria in dairy. So if you know someone with asthma (and most of us do), please consider mentioning eliminating dairy from their diet. Anyway, here is the recipe...

Almond Milk

One cup (before soaking) raw, organic almonds
soaked 8-12 hours, rinsed and drained (about 1 1/2 cups after soaking)
3 cups water
4 pitted dates

Blend all ingredients until smooth and creamy. To separate the "milk" from the almond skins & pulp, squeeze through cheesecloth or a sprout bag. Serve at room temperature or chill. Keeps in the fridge for a couple days.
Instead of dates you could use maple syrup, carob or cinnamon for flavoring.
You can also use sesame, sunflower or Brazil nuts instead of the almonds if you want.
If you would like Almond Cream, use 2 cups of water.

I am planning on using the pulp (after I dehydrate it an put it through the food processor) as flour in zucchini bread. I'll let you know how that turns out.
Almonds, almond milk and pulp

On the home front, it is still windy, but has died down a lot since the 67 mph gusts this afternoon. So I spent another day indoors, in the kitchen. Today I made Nanking Cherry Jelly and Peach Raspberry Jam. I also cut up onions to dehydrate and made Elderberry syrup, a great cold & flu preventative. Tomorrow is a busy day. Laundry, baking & cleaning up the workshop area. Friday is the wood stove installation. Can't wait to see the wood stove sitting there in front of the river rock walls.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Never Ending Wind

As I sit here writing this, the wind is still blowing hard. Last time I looked, there were gusts of 57 mph. Earlier in the day, it was 69 mph. If you read the last post, you probably realized how scared I was staying here with another storm brewing. I decided about midnight that I would stay up all night in case it got really bad & I needed to grab Mia &  run to the basement . I made it until 2am & fell asleep with the lights on. I'm not sure what time I woke up & turned out the light. The barn was making all kinds of strange noises that comes with high winds howling through the attic. The project of insulating the attic is on our list, but not a top priority yet. Other noises heard were the downspout on the south side of the barn rattling in the wind (it became loose with the August storm, along with the old garage doors that are pushed to the middle of the building as seen here. . We have them staked toward the building, but that was no match for the wind. I woke up at 6am, wondering if the neighbors across the road who are building a barn still had one....they do.
This was taken Monday afternoon...before the storm.
 Eli & Lizzie's barn is okay too. You can see it behind the house in this pic...
Shetlers house. Porch is back on & barn is a work in progress.
When I went to visit Lizzie on Monday afternoon, she was quilting with one of twins. It is a beautiful quilt, black background with purple accents. Very detailed stitching. She said that the day everyone came over to put up the barn, the women stayed in & worked on the quilt (and cooked meals) while the men were outside working. They had a quilting bee. The men had a "frolic" she called it. They say that rather than a barn raising. She says it sounds more fun that way.. :-) There is also other "family" news. A new little one is due in the spring. This will make an even dozen. Eli told us on Sunday after church.  We were talking about Lizzie's father & how many kids he has (eleven) and how many grandchildren he has, ( around one-hundred!) when he told us the news. We are worried about Lizzie's health, considering what happened when she had Fannie (who is a year & a half now). She was in the hospital for a couple weeks due to placenta previa. I can tell Eli is worried too. Here's hoping she has a safe, healthy pregnancy.
Today I have been very productive considering the lack of sleep. It has been a "kitchen" day which I have been looking forward to. Before it started to rain yesterday, I dug up quite a large number of leeks. They are now in the dehydrator set on 100 degrees. I'll be checking them before I head to bed & see if they are totally dry.

I also got some fresh milk yesterday to make Kefir (a fermented drink). I picked up some Kefir starter at the co-op, mixed it with the milk & a quarter cup of cream, then left it out with a cloth covering the top (it needs to breathe) and made sure the room stayed 65-70 degrees. A couple hours ago it was ready after sitting out all last night & most of today
 I made a smoothie with Kefir, frozen blueberries from the garden & a banana. It is thick, creamy & I already want to make more.

I also made jam, applesauce, almond milk and an elderberry liquor. I'll share those recipes with you in the next few days.
 Center Stove & Fireplace called today to reschedule our Wednesday appointment. It is just too windy to take a chance on our high roof. They will be here Friday.
Hoping to get a good nights sleep tonight...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Two Eight Hour Days...

We did it... finished the river rock walls this weekend! It was a lot of work, but well worth it. Got up early on Saturday, and dug right in. Steve mixed the mortar (not a fun job lifting those 80 pound bags), trying to get all the lumps out. Then deciding where to place the rocks. We used a small pointed trowel, spread the mortar on the back & pressed them on the wall with a little "wiggle" to help them adhere better. Then we held & pressed for 10-20 seconds or so. (Make sure you wear rubber gloves while working with the mortar) At first, we talked over each rock & placement, getting a mutual agreement on all of them. After a couple hours of that, we just started to decide ourselves. You just have to make sure that the colors are distributed fairly evenly throughout, and that you don't put all the same size stone next to each other. We did have three rocks fall back off right after we took out hand away. They didn't want to stick back up on the wall even though we scraped off the mortar & tried again. Oh well...we had plenty to work with. Six pm we quit with both walls filled with rocks. We walked up to Eli & Lizzie's to see the progress on the new barn before it got dark. (More about that in my next post). We also had a visit from our neighbor Jim while we were working. He just found out he has Lyme's Disease. He had been feeling exhausted lately & decided to get tested at the hospital. Hope he bounces back quickly.
Mixing up the mortar.
Steve holding one of the stones to attach it to the wall. We used boards & plastic to protect the stone base.

See how it looks lumpy? This is before smoothing)
Sunday morning we started the day by going to town for more mortar. (Oh yeah...and the bakery for donuts :-) We had one bag left. We weren't sure if the hardware store had the same kind as we did & we wanted to make sure it all matched when we started grouting the stone. More mixing of mortar, crushing (pounding) the lumps. A very important step since you have to squeeze the mortar out a half inch hole at the end of the mortar bag. For some reason, the first bag of mortar was very lumpy. The next bag mixed up fine. The consistency is very important, too. Like pudding or frosting said the directions on the Internet. Steve did great with that. There is definitely a learning curve involved with grouting. Not too bad though. The first stones we did though looked like birds were flying over, if you know what I mean. We both got the hang of it and it turned out to be fun. After you squirt the grout on the wall around the stone, you let it set up for a while (20-30 minutes for our mixture) and then go back over the grout with a narrow hardwood stick (Steve) or your gloved finger (me), to smooth.  We looked for any spots we missed during this step & re-applied more mortar to those areas. The last step is taking a brush & lightly brushing off the stone.
After finishing the walls, we moved on to the base. This was pretty easy. We just needed to fill the gaps between the square stones and do the bottom of the walls where the board was.
And here it is...
Steve will be adding wood trim to the base soon and different wood trim on the walls. The mortar will still lighten up more in the next few days as it dries.

Wednesday, the guys from Center Steve & Fireplace will be here moving the Heritage wood stove that is in the "cabin room" now over to this area. A Phoenix wood stove that we bought on Craigslist will take the place of the Heritage. That is, I hope they will be here. There is a powerful storm that is starting to hit us as I type. It's supposed to be windy (60 mph gusts) through Wednesday. Scary to be up on this roof in that kind of wind. Actually, it is scary for me to be here during a storm after going through the tornado in August. There is a tornado watch now & the wind is blowing in pretty hard gusts. I am trying to be brave...but the urge to go to the basement hits me with every strong gust. I'll have to let you know if I stayed upstairs all night. :-). My kids are great. They have both texted me to make sure I am all right. And Steve is sleeping with his cell phone by his side in case I call in a panic from the basement. I sure know how to pick when to stay up here...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Potato Leek a Crock Pot

So many many leeks. I truly needed to find a easy recipe for using them & here it is.
Potato leek soup in a crock pot. This is so easy & so good! I found the recipe here on the A Year of Slow Cooking blog. I will be investigating more of her recipes soon.

3 large leeks, cleaned and diced , using the white part only
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 pound brown potatoes
5 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 cup heavy cream (optional)

Peel the potatoes and chop everything up and toss it in with the broth and the spices.
If using the heavy cream,  don't add that until cooking is complete.
Cover and cook on low for 7-9 hours, or on high for about 4.
When the potatoes and onion are fully cooked and soft, use an immersible blender to soupify.
If you don't have an immersible blender, blend in small batches carefully in your traditional blender.
Stir in heavy cream, if desired.

I did add the cream. Steve & I each ate two bowls full with some fresh crusty bread. A great fall meal.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Working Toward the Wood Stove Installation

Last weekend we worked on the base & walls for the wood stove. We also went to a great party, but more about that later.  When we bought the river rock for the walls, we also purchased the stone for the base. Our inside project list for Saturday & Sunday was to set the base stones & finish the first three steps of wall preparation. Here are pics of what we did...
A couple weeks ago, Steve built the base in the corner of the new living area.
Saturday morning, we stapled tar paper on the walls...

The next step was to nail mesh screening to the tar paper. This helps the mortar stick to the wall, which is the next step.

Almost finished with the left wall.

Setting the bottom stone before mixing the mortar. As you can see, we had one more little spot on the wall to finish, too.
We put down tar paper under the stone, but we don't think it was really necessary.

The stone is set in mortar. This weekend we will fill in the joints with more mortar & start putting the river rock on the walls. (The dark spot on the wall is the mortar drying) Steve will be making a wood trim around the base to finish it off.

It was fun putting the mortar on the walls. Fun in a sloppy, messy way. Kind of like playing in the mud. Not as much  fun was lifting the heavy stones & bags of mortar.
I started laying out all the river rock by color (tan, brown, reddish,  light gray, dark gray & black) so we can decide how we want to place them. We have a piece of Styrofoam on the floor the size of the wall & thought we might place them there first to see how we like it. I think it will be fun once we get a few up. After the rock is in place, we will use a large pastry bag to fill in between the rock. The guys at Center Stove & Fireplace will be coming the week after this to install the stove. Hope we get it all done. If not, we can always fill in between the rock when the wood stove is in. Just won't be as easy to work around it.
We have been talking about getting this done for three years. It is so fulfilling (and exciting!) to be getting to this point.

Moving to the outside...I finished (I hope) digging the rest of the potatoes. I'll still go out once more & dig around to make sure, but we have plenty stored for this winter now. I also dug a dozen or so more leeks & am making potato leek soup in the crock pot as I write. It smells really good too :-).

On Saturday, Steve's brother Joe & wife Linda stopped in to see us & the progress we've made. It was two years ago that they were there last & things have changed a lot! Going from having a sawdust toilet to having a fully equipped bathroom is the biggest thing. We gave them the tour & sat around & talked until it was time for them to go out to eat for Sweetest Day. I didn't even know it was Sweetest Day. Guess that comes from not watching tv anymore. We did go out though. The new radio station in town had a fund raising party that was great! WDRT in Viroqua. The only non-commercial, independant radio station in Wisconsin's Driftless region, seven years in the making. They had two bands, food & beer. The first band was bluegrass. The second was a disco band. I have never been to a party where almost everyone was dancing, but now I have! Young, old, middle-aged...all to disco music. Here are some pics...
Evergreen Grass Band

John from The Driftless Cafe helping serve food from his restaurant.

The VO5  Disco Band from Madison
We are already looking forward to next years' party. Thanks WRDT!

I'll leave you with a new picture of granddaughter Jaelyn waking up from her nap. I was lucky enough to go there for a visit last week. She is crawling now & is a cuddly little sweetheart.
Have a great week!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Garage Doors Are In!

I just came in from looking at the stars. It is a clear, moonless night here is Wisconsin. We have very little artificial light sources around, so we usually get a great show. It is 9pm and I am tired. I was in the garden at 10am & except for a half hour lunch break, I worked until 6pm. All the garlic is planted, watered & straw on top. This has been a three day project. Way more time than I thought it would take. Today was the most intense day as far as planting though. Thirty different kinds. One-thousand, three-hundred eighty cloves. Planted 6 to 8 inches apart. People will start to call me the crazy garlic lady pretty soon. :-) I really hope to make a business out out of selling garlic, both to eat and to plant. Every year, the amount I plant gets bigger & I add more varieties. You figure each clove makes a bulb, which has anywhere from 5-10 cloves per bulb. I could have 5 to 10 thousand cloves next year to plant. Now that is crazy! No really...I have to start working on a business plan for selling the garlic. I do sell some now, but not near enough to make serious money.
Garlic after planting before straw covering
Isn't this the cutest baby mouse? I was loading the straw into wagon, I uncovered this nest of mouse babies. No mama around, just babies. After taking a few pics, I covered them back up. Yes, I know they will end up in the house. A killer I am not.
On Tuesday our garage doors were installed. Wow, so nice. We still have to take down the old metal sliding barn doors (good to use for an alpaca structure :-). We got the cross buck style that goes well with the barn.
We still need to finish the trim on top.
Once the steel doors are removed & the new "people door is installed, the front will be done.
Let's see, what else have I done this week...
We've had a frost but the garden hasn't been affected. I cut some more Chocolate Mint, brought in a pumpkin & a Long Island Cheese Squash. Picked some rose hips. That's about it. No more tomatoes or peppers. 
Tomorrow I hope to plant winter rye behind the garlic bed and off to one side of it, dig more potatoes & leeks. I also have onions to dice for dehydrating & maybe some leeks.
Next week there might be a barn raising at Eli & Lizzie's. Wish I could be here for that. 
In a few weeks, the wood stove will be moved into the new living area & the used one we bought on Craigslist will take it's place in the "cabin room". Have to get busy with the river rock install in the new living area. A lot of changes this fall!
Work is still busy & stressful. We also have a non-paying customer we are dealing with. He owes us a lot of money. He isn't paying the contractor or designer either. This is very stressful. We don't want to use a collection agency, but might have to go that route. Half is better than none. Hmmm. I hate when real life interferes with our idyllic farm life.
Hope everyone is having a great week!