Walk The Agrarian Path With Us

Monday, December 10, 2012

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Oven Rendering

                                     Beef fat baking.
                                           Strained fat.
                                        Hardened tallow.

I decided to render beef fat in the oven this time. When doing a large quantity last time, we cooked it in a large cast iron pot over a fire.
I cut the fat into small pieces instead of grinding it and was careful to keep any meat scraps out. After putting it in a roasting pan, the fat was heated at 225 degrees in the oven and stirred  around ever so often. When it looked like all of the fat had cooked out it was strained through a piece of muslin into a jar. Be careful to allow enough length in the cloth to be able to pick up the edges and squeeze all of the fat out without any bits spilling over into your jar. There is a lot of fat in the cracklin's! Get every drop you can out of there.
I originally planned to make soap with the tallow but used another soap recipe instead. After my neighbor said that she had heard McDonald's used to use tallow to fry their french fries years ago I thought I'd give it a try. Yep. You guessed it! Back to the potatoes.
I was a little skeptical because beef fat doesn't taste that good, but wanted to find out if it would be another use for something that you could produce on your own farm. I'm always up for that! I cut the potato into fries while a little tallow was heating in a saucepan and readied myself for the taste test. They were good! One more thing that you wouldn't have to buy.
Not only is tallow good for cooking and soapmaking, but you can use it for candles. I prefer beeswax for candles because it doesn't smoke and it smells great, but tallow is something you could use if need be. The easiest way would be a fat lamp.
And whereas, I might have used the cracklin's in cornbread or something if they were pork, because they were beef we fed them to some of the animals. And, oh, were those animals HAPPY!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What Are These?

                                                                  Finished product.
                                                                       The tool.
I had a craving for potato chips and  also had a bunch of fresh potatoes so I decided to fry some up. I've got to tell you. That big chip maker's chips had nothing on these. Wish I could show you the whole pan full but they were going as fast as I could make them! Three different flavors were made including RealSalt, Tony's creole seasonong, and Simply Organic all-seasons salt. I enjoyed the RealSalt ones the most, but they were all good.
This manual food processor is a blessing. It came with 5 cones for slicing and grating and I found it at an antique mall several years ago. You can purchase them new at places like Lehman's hardware but I have found three of them at antique malls and auctions. My daughter opted for buying a new one when she was visiting Lehman's a few years ago.
You'd be surprised at what you can do at home sometimes. Keeps you from spending money and from having to go somewhere. And you get the satisfaction of having done it yourself; not to mention: things are always tastier and better when made at home.
Hope your days at home are profitable and enjoyable.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Here is Samuel, our latest Jersey steer.
Aren't Jersey calves cute?!
Here's his mother, Bluebell, in a funny pose.
We have raised some of the Jersey steers for meat but sold this little guy to a happy neighbor. In case you are wondering, Jersey meat is good. If you are wanting to breed your cows and heifers with a Jersey bull (or have them inseminated) in hopes that you will have more heifers, you will be happy with the meat when you have bull calves. The meat is more like veal and is very tasty. We've noticed that it takes a little more time to get them to size (for butchering) and they don't have as much meat as the beef breeds, but it will work out fine for those of you that are wanting to increase the number of milkers that you have.

Deut. 28:4 "Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep."

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Heritage Festival

How about this little fellow grinding corn with his mule? Too cute.
Something of interest.
Spinning wool.
These guys are BIG!
Wares for sale.
More wares.
Stone masons.
                         Playing beautiful music on a flute.

It was a blessing to talk to so many very-talented people and watch them at work.

Exodus 35:31 "And he hath filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in  knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship..."

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Fun on the Farm

The before picture....
Years ago we started carving apple-head dolls in the fall. We lived in the suburbs at that time and would get apples from an older man that had an orchard. We would pick them ourselves and fill huge tubs of them for $5. This is how we were introduced to my favorite cooking apple: Wealthy. This apple used to be widely grown and was Minnesota's state apple. This type of apple makes the best pies and applesauce that you will ever taste, hands down. It's a little tart and is good for fresh eating, also.
Peel your apples (it's fun to try to peel them in one long strip without breaking it) and then carve. You can see that we even carve ears
:-) Dip them in water with lemon juice added to prevent  over-browning, and hold for thirty seconds or so. (I don't have an exact measure. This time I added the juice of two large lemons to 2 cups of water.) You can hang them to dry, put them on a rack, or place them on the windowsill of a north- or east-facing window.
When they are dry they will have formed very funny features. You can put them on a stick and make clothes or just enjoy them as they are. One year we varnished them to preserve them.
I'll post an after picture later so you can see how they turn out.
Hope you'll try this homestead fun!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Virtue and Security of the Lost Arts

I was very fortunate to have picked up a copy of the book "Home Life In Colonial Days" at a garage sale that was given by a couple that does reenactments. What a wonderful find!
This book was originally published in 1898, was written by Alice Morse Earle, and is full of useful information and helpful illustrations. There was so much in just the chapter on Flax Culture and Spinning alone that I was amazed. After listing the various influences that helped the Americans in their success in the War for Independence she makes this incredible statement: "we must never forget to add their independence in their own homes of any outside help to give them every necessity of life. No farmer or his wife need fear any king when on every home farm was found food, drink, medicine, fuel, lighting, clothing, shelter." This statement gives much food for thought.
She gives a thorough explanation on planting, preparing, and spinning flax for weaving into linen and says, "Few persons are now living who have ever seen carried on in a country home in America any of these old-time processes which have been recounted." This was 1898.
She records this quote from someone else: "Few have ever seen a woman hatchel flax or card tow, or heard the buzzing of the foot-wheel, or seen bunches of flaxen yarn hanging in the kitchen, or linen cloth whitening on the grass. The flax-dresser with the shives, fibres, and dirt of flax covering his garments, and his face begrimed with flax-dirt has disappeared; the noise of his brake and swingling knife has ended, and the boys no longer make bonfires of his swingling tow. The sound of the spinning-wheel, the song of the spinster, and the snapping of the clock-reel all have ceased; the warping bars and quill wheel are gone, and the thwack of the loom is heard only in the factory. The spinning woman of King Lemuel cannot be found."
What price (prices) have we paid for ease, speed, and convenience? I'm afraid many.
I've enjoyed this quote from Benjamin Franklin in his Poor Richard's Almanac and you may have, too:    "Many estates are spent in the getting,
           Since women for tea forsook spinning and knitting." :-)
In the revolt of feeling caused by the Stamp Act, the women of the colonies banded together in patriotic societies, agreeing to wear only garments made of homespun manufacture. I wonder how willing and able we are today? In many towns they gathered together to spin, and at the same time always had an appropriate sermon. A favorite text was:
Exodus 35:25 "And all the women that were wisehearted did spin with their hands."

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Bits and Pieces

The drought has caused me to look at things in a different light. It's not that I haven't thought of these things before and not that in the back of my mind I always knew the possibility was there. But it has drawn everything into focus and its time to use the knowledge. Its also time to gain new knowledge, and instead of storing it away for future reference, put it to use now.
After having fed hay all of these years as routine, hay is hard to come by. And if you do find it, many people have raised the price to where you can't afford it. That's unfortunate for many reasons, but one we know is that things won't always be good where you're at.
Last year when Texas and Oklahoma were suffering so with the drought, and while some states were sending them hay for free or for a decent price, we heard that some people in a certain state were selling it to them for a much escalated price. Not only was I very disappointed to hear that they had done such a thing to people in need, but I thought about what a big mistake it was because you don't always find yourself on top. There are good times and there are bad. Sure enough, this state is having a severe drought this year and is dependent on other states for their hay. Maybe we are all learning to pull together for whatever is to come.
I have begun to look at our food and think about using every bit of it somehow. Did you know that in addition to using egg shells in your compost you can wash them and add them to soup for added calcium? Or that you can make a calcium supplement by letting those clean shells dry at room temperature then powdering them in a blender, food processor, or with a rolling pin and then adding apple cider vinegar to them? (This will foam so have it in a big enough container. Use 1 pint of vinegar to the shells of a dozen eggs.) Don't pour that potato water down the drain after boiling potatoes but use it for liquid when making your bread and you won't believe how it improves the texture. Use those broccoli stems to make broccoli soup and either eat the leaves or feed them to your animals. We don't care for the flavor of beets so we use the greens in smoothies ( the greens are loaded with so much good stuff that you only use a couple at a time) and use the beets to make beet kvaas. Beet kvaas is a fermented drink so not only are we getting the great nutrients but also the healthy bacteria. It does taste like beets so we put it in a small glass (you don't need much) and slam it down.
I have also become more deliberate in water usage. Things like using the wringer washer because not only do you only fill the washer with water one time for several loads, but you can let the water run out of the hose on plants or things that you want to water or catch it and use it wherever you need to. Another idea is to fill a sink or dishpan with water for rinsing your dishes instead of turning on the faucet each time. If you have used a dishpan (or other container) you can take the water outside and use it to water something. When using homemade soap, made with animal fats or healthy oils and no synthetic fragrances, to do your dishes you can add the used dishwater to the hogs' feed. The lye in the soap helps get rid of parasites.
It's interesting that these ideas used to be the norm for the way people did them. I guess things are coming full circle.

"He that withholdeth corn, the people shall curse him: but blessings shall be upon the head of him that selleth it." Prov. 11:26

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Bits and Pieces

This has been one challenging growing year! We have been in a severe drought here this summer which means feeding hay since early June, using all of our hay, and trying to buy hay to feed when noone has any. The pastures were used up long ago. BUT! We were very blessed with a little under an inch of rain last night. What hope that brought! It also wasn't as hot today. We have been in the hundreds so many days this summer I've lost count. About a week ago I put a piece of gutter that had been given to us on the side of the big chicken coop to catch the runoff. It has a metal roof so the water is safer to use than it would be if it came off the shingled house roof. I put rain barrels at each end. I hurried out to look this morning and there was water in them! I know that God is very good and kind so the rain would come sometime. I  feel that we need to be deliberate about everything we do and not be wasteful or take things for granted.
Everything seems to be running a month or two ahead this year. Strawberries and peaches picked much earlier than usual and a couple of weeks ago I noticed that the insects were acting like they do in the Fall. I guess the most surprising thing has been that asparagus started coming up again the other day. That's something I've never heard of. We got more than ever this Spring due to the early warm weather but we've never had it come up again in the same year. I'm going to go ahead and plant Fall seeds now anticipating an earlier than normal one.
A lady that was visiting the other day is a geophysicist and said the earth was thrown off 4 inches by the earthquake in Japan. I could tell that this Spring because the sun was taking a different path. When you're outside a lot of the time you notice these things. We have very little shade now, even on the north side of the house. It worked out better for the neighbor because of the way their house is situated and they have had more shade, which was nice in this hotter than usual weather.
I want to share a recipe for a scrubbing cleanser that my daughter-in-love gave me. It works very well and is safe to use. Smells great, also. Mix baking soda and dishwashing liquid (I like a clear unscented one, but use what you have) to make a paste. Add grapefruit seed extract to kill germs, if desired. I then add orange essential oil, which also kills germs, and makes it smell wonderful. It's nice to use something scented with real oils and enjoy that smell while you clean.
Boots was in town and spoke with an older gentleman  who was selling bushels of his homegrown tomatoes. I was not only excited that someone was selling tomatoes in town but that he was selling them by the bushel! That's almost unheard of now.
Things are out of whack in every area now in our world, but this is  good opportunity for things to get back where they should be.

Psalm 82:5 "They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course." 

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Thread

I was speaking to a young mom this morning and she told me of her and her husband's desire to move to the farm. It caused me to think back to when we made the decision to move our family there. I told her that it was the best time of my life. And our goals were accomplished in our children. There were obstacles and difficulties but the good times far outweighed the bad. And they still do. If you know why you do what you do it will get you through the tough times. Ponder it often and search the Word and other writings for answers. She said that so far when they have made an offer on a place it hasn't gone through. So, as we all do, she wonders if they are on the right track. I told her it sounds like it just isn't time yet. But, if you put it in the Lord's hands it will be just the right timing when it all comes together. And when you are having those doubts that come when you are doing anything worthwhile, you will know that the Lord has taken you there.
There is a thread that runs through our lives that connects everything. Sometimes it is hard to see. It looks more like the broken scattered pieces of a mosaic to us. We see the mistakes and wrong turns and forget that our lives are in the hands of a loving God. He is working everything for our good. And one day we begin to see the pieces come together to form a beautiful picture and realize that God saw it that way all along.
This is a journey that we are on. But, a wonderful journey it is. A woman called the other day taking a Gallup poll and wanted to know how I would rate that day on a scale of one to ten with ten being the best. I told her any day that we are alive has to be a ten.
When you start to think about all of those things that you wish you had done differently step back and see the whole picture. See the thread that runs through it. See the mosaic.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Processing Pastured Poultry

  I want to give you some tips that we use that will make processing your poultry easier. But first I want to give you a great quote that Boots gave me last night when I was wondering about all of the hurdles, obstacles, and opposition that we have encountered over the years since we made the decision to leave the city and move to the farm. I wondered out loud when it would end. And he said,
  "If you go against the flow it won't end until you conform or die."
  Then he gave me a long and remarkable allegory using our recent canoe trips as an example. I hope to record it all one day and share it with you. But for now I want to encourage you to keep on. Stay the course. You are not alone.
  We use a mechanical tub-style plucker and it makes all the difference in the world. We started without one and plucked by hand but when you are doing several birds it saves a lot of time and effort. You can put a couple of chickens in at a time or a single turkey and they come out clean as a whistle. Make sure that your water temperature is right and that you have added some detergent to the scalding water. O.k. here we go:
  Place the bird upside-down with its head put through a traffic cone (for chickens) or a five gallon bucket with a hole cut in the bottom (for turkeys) and slit the neck, cutting the side arteries. Make sure to have a bucket underneath to catch the blood. Let the bird "bleed" for several minutes.
  Meanwhile, you will have heated your water for scalding to 145 degrees. If cooler than that it will not loosen the feathers. Hotter than that and you will cook the bird. Add a little non-toxic detergent to the water. We use Basic-H. (The original.) This really does make a difference in loosening those feathers. Hold the bird upside down by the feet and dip in the hot water. Hold there for a minute or two and check to see if the feathers are loose. If not, dip in the water again. When it's ready put into your plucker or pluck by hand. Then proceed with removing the head and cleaning the inside. If you need help with that part let us know. We would be glad to help.
  Sticking your thermometer through a styrofoam cup or cork and letting it float in the scalding water is a big help in keeping the temperature right. Curved end needle-nosed pliers are great for removing stubborn pin feathers. A pair of hog ring pliers and the rings are very handy for sealing the bags. Make sure to cool the birds and innards (separately) in ice water until all of the heat is out of them and refrigerate for 24 hours before freezing so that the meat will be tender.
  As with anything, you will find your own way of doing things, but we hope these tips will help you with your own home-grown, healthy, delicious, raised-by-you poultry. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Milk Cooling

If you are looking for a way to cool your fresh milk this night help. Cooling the milk down quickly gives it a better taste and it stays fresh longer.
After filtering the milk into jars we put it into rinse tubs with water in them and add ice. (The freezer above the fridge is a funny sight because it is filled with ice trays.) If you only have a jar or two you can do this in the sink. If you have a smaller jar, such as with goat's milk, you can do this in a bowl.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Farm Sale

We got word last night that the farm we have lived on for the last five years is being listed for sale.
Needless to say, there wasn't much sleeping going on around here.
We would very much appreciate your prayers.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

After Work

                                                          After work there's play!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Bits and Pieces

Normally when I make our homemade bathroom cleaner I use white vinegar, water, a little natural cleaner such as the original Basic H, and add sweet orange essential oil. It smells great and citrus oils kill germs and stuff. My daughter-in-love gave me a great tip a while back. Put your orange peels in a jar and fill it with vinegar. Let it sit a few weeks and strain. Use it as you would the vinegar and now you don't have to add the oil. When I make the cleaner I just fill the spray bottle half way with the vinegar, the rest of the way with water, add a little natural liquid soap, and if you need extra germ-killing power add some grapefruit seed extract.
Unfortunately, you can only buy the original Basic H in five gallon buckets now. We use it for several things around the farm so that works o.k. for us. We have a book, Home Remedies II, that lists over 100 uses for Basic H. We don't use all of them but we do use some of the ideas. We know a lady that is able to order the cleaner for us.
The strawberries came on early this year and we have been harvesting lots of them. This is such a blessing! We have been eating them fresh right out of the strawberry patch (you can't walk by and smell that smell without picking some and eating them and, of course, you have to eat lots as you pick), having them for dessert with fresh whipped cream (out of this world!), and making lots of jam.
We've been harvesting sheep sorrel, as well as continuing to harvest plantain, comfrey, and red clover. Sheep sorrel is a plant that is easy to identify and has very tasty sour leaves. We have been picking the leaves of lambsquarter, also, which is mild tasting like raw spinach. It is good raw and we also like to make wilted greens with it by sauteeing sliced onions in bacon grease, olive oil, or butter and adding the greens and stirring just until they are wilted. So good!
Today as I was very seriously talking about how there was so much to do and so little time to do it in, our attention was drawn to a vehicle slowing in front of our place. The person driving it was looking at the nine cows in our front yard. No kidding. Let the round-up begin....
Quite a while later, as we were visiting with the neighbor who helped get the cows back where they belonged, I realized, once again, that it is not by our strength or power that it will all get done, but by His. (And that we can, and we really need to remember to, enjoy the journey.) I'm so glad those crazy cows got out.

Mark 10:27 " .....for with God all things are possible."  

Thursday, May 10, 2012


Persevere. I'd heard that word before when I was treating our goat Emily's eye after it had been injured by another goat's horn. I was nervous about whether what I was doing was going to work and I heard: Persevere.
I heard that word again recently when we were plowing with our workhorse and everything seemed to be going wrong. Persevere.
We had to persevere through some very difficult things this last winter. Some things are over and others are not. Did they work out well? Not always.  Is it worth it to keep going? Yes.

Ephesians 6:13 " ...... and having done all, to stand."

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Farm Humor

                                         I looked out one morning to see this.
                                         Is this a stick-up?
                                         I can tell it's you, Emily.

Proverbs 27:27  "And thou shalt have goats' milk enough for thy food, for the food of thy household, and for the maintenance for thy maidens."

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Wildcrafting Herbs

  The early summer-like weather brought up a lot of wild herbs in the garden area. It was too early to plant anything so we got to see all of the useful plants that showed up. I've been able to harvest shepherd's purse, plantain, dandelion, and chickweed. There is also yellow dock, but I will let it grow for a while so the roots are bigger. I love finding the herbs in the garden area because it is fenced off from the animals and, of course, chemical-free. The comfrey is doing very well and already has flowers ready to bloom. I've been able to give starts of lemon balm, peppermint, tansy, and oregano. When looking in the woods the other day I spotted what appears to be wild yam. I will be checking that out again and positively identifying the plant before digging up some of the root.
"He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man...." Psalm104:14

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Future of Farming

.....and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks.....Isaiah 2:4.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Worthy Goal

When looking up a few words in Webster's 1828 Dictionary, I came across this:
HUSBANDMAN, n. A farmer; a cultivator or tiller of the ground; one who labors in tillage. In America, where men generally own the land on which they labor, the proprietor of a farm is also a laborer or husbandman; but the word includes the lessee and the owner.
FARMER, n. In Great Britain, a tenant; a lessee; one who hires and cultivates a farm; a cultivator of leased ground.
3. One who cultivates a farm; a husbandman; whether a tenant or the proprietor. United States.

One of the things that our country was founded on was the independent family farm. Certain things are the very FOUNDATIONS and this is one of them. In order to bring back our country we have to bring back this foundation. It is a must.
After reading these definitions I am aware more than ever of the precious gift that was given to us here in America. To own the land that you work. To be independent. To be free.
Bringing this back to our country is a most worthy goal.

"but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather." I Cor.7:21

Friday, March 16, 2012

Drop Spindle

Here is a homemade drop spindle for handspinning. It is nice and light so a thinner yarn can be spun.
This couldn't have been easier to make! Take a wooden toy wheel, cut a foot long piece of dowel to fit in the hole of the wheel, push the wheel onto the dowel leaving about two inches from the top, screw a small cup hook into the top, and it is ready to go! (Will round off the long end with sand paper but was too excited to wait to try it out.)
"She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff." Prov. 31:19.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Quote For The Day

   "Yeah, well I'd rather live poor in the country than rich in the city any day." (Made by a friend of a friend.)
     And, I agree one hundred percent.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Money-Saving Ideas

   The more you buy; the more money you have to earn. This takes you away from your children and your land.
   "And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands as we commanded you;
   That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing." IThess. 4:11&12 
   Some things that you can do are big: like growing your own fruits and vegetables and keeping your own animals for milk, meat, and fiber. (There are many other blessings to keeping animals and growing food,  but today we'll stick to money saving ideas).
   Then there are the not-so-big things that you can do; and many of you can start right now; right where you're at; while waiting for your land. Some suggestions are: make your own toothpaste and deoderant, make cloth napkins to use instead of buying paper ones, handkerchiefs instead of tissue, use rags instead of paper towels, sew your own clothes, make soap, make your own laundry detergent and household cleaners, create your own facial moisturizers and bath salts, etc., learn to spin fibers to knit, crochet, weave, and felt, learn how to and make your own home health remedies, grind your own grains for flour, and bake your own bread.
   Toothpaste can be made as simply as combining baking soda, coconut oil, stevia or honey for sweetening, and essential oils for flavor and breath freshening. Or you can remove the outer hulls from black walnuts, dry them, powder them, and dip your damp toothbrush in it for brushing.
   When you start sewing your own clothes you will have scraps of fabric left to use for making napkins. If you have a serger you can make a lot of napkins right away by cutting out the squares and serging around the edges. If you don't, just fold the edges over a little, press, fold again, and sew. You will also want to use some of those scraps to make quilts. There is nothing like a homemade quilt for warmth and comfort.
   If you use fabric that frays (the sides unravel) make your handkerchiefs like the cloth napkins. Flannel makes very soft handkerchiefs. If you use something that doesn't fray, like a cotton knit that you got when you took an old shirt apart, just cut out the squares and you are ready to go.
   You will save a lot of money when you make your own laundry detergent, household cleaners, and personal care items, and you will be able to make them non-toxic.
   Hope these things will help you get started.
   Recipes, more ideas, and how-to information will be coming up....

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Old Paths

   We knew something was wrong from the way we were raised and were sure that we wanted to do things differently with our children. We loved them and wanted to spend time with them and be a family. And we wanted our home to be a HOME. It was a process, this learning how to be different, and it still is.
   "And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in." Isaiah 58:12. This is what we wanted to do. Repair the breach and restore the paths to dwell in.
  A friend and I used to say "The buck stops here." We were where the broken family places that we came from were going to stop.
   So against all odds, and through lots of trials, off we went on the journey.....

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Why This Agrarian Life?

The journey began many years ago. While we may not have been able to put it into words back then, the vision has been clarified over time. And the reasons for pursuing it have been very strong. That's a good thing, because the obstacles have been large. But, here we are.
We hope that by sharing our journey it will help others in living the agrarian lifestyle no matter where you're at or how large or small your farms are.