I am sure this is like an old broken record, but winter is a time to reflect and a time to plan and a time to skill-build.
Summertime we are outside a majority of our day – whether it be at a park, in the garden or just soaking up the sun. It is not very often we sit inside for periods of time. If we do, it is usually to rest from our crazy life.
Now that we are indoors most of the time, much of that time is spent cooking.
Our house often smells either like a bakery or an herb-y bone broth lately. We have been really trying to eat more plants lately. We are not yet delving into processing our own meat, and still buy our weekly chicken along with our farm-purchased beef. However, lately beef has been making my stomach HURT. Like for a few days…
Plus, we are able to grow a lot of our own vegetables, so learning to incorporate them more into our diet now will help to gauge what we need to grow in the future.
Our overall goal is to lessen our grocery bill, grow as much of our own food as we can, and get to the least preservatives as we can.
You know when someone asks if you want the good news or bad news first? Most people pick bad news to end on a high note.
Thats what I am going to do here. Deliver the bad news so we can end on a high note.
Here we go.
Our sweet Footless Phoebe has passed.
If you do not recall, Phoebe lost her feet last winter due to frostbite. She was kicked out of the coop and found safety on a concrete brick. Not the best decision. As a result her feet were frost bitten and eventually fell off.
She lived in our home for about eight months.
The birds in the chicken coop were mean to her and pecked her. She was spoiled inside with chicken scraps and snuggles. She got a daily bath and blow dry, loving every minute.
Eventually I realized that poor Phoebe was longing for attention. Chicken attention. Chickens ARE flocking animals and thrive in a flock.
There was an opportunity to hatch a few chicks and I had the idea that chicks that grew up with her would respect her. Chickens have a pecking order that is established really early and that order is rarely disturbed.
Once the chicks were one week old I placed them with Phoebe and she looked SO happy. They all lived in a stock tank in our house. Not ideal, but also not an issue.
Eventually the chicks grew up and became more active. They were escaping the tank and flapping around causing dust everywhere. Daily layers of dust was exhausting and probably not healthy for us to breathe.
The five birds found themselves in the barn with the sheep and our lone roosters.
I had noticed that Phoebe’s foot was swelling. It was acting like a pad for her to balance so I wasn’t thinking much of it. She also got sad again because her hen friends eventually began roosting higher and exploring the barn leaving her alone. They visited every once in awhile, but not much.
Our lambs are due in about a month so I was going to have our vet take a peek at her foot at that time.
Maybe her foot was infected. Maybe she was sad. We will never know. But we did as much as we could to keep her alive and happy. No use living if you’re just stuck in a bucket your whole life.
It was a sad day here at The Sheep Shed. Every accidental loss is hard, but this one was different.
To Trap or Not to Trap?
One thing we are not good at here is killing animals. We are by no means vegetarian, but taking the life of an animal because it is an inconvenience to us just does not sit well.
This summer you may recall we had a Beaver problem. Beavers were cutting down many of our trees.
The knee-jerk reaction was to get a trap and stop it! A beaver cannot eat our maple trees down!! We set up a deer camera and a beaver trap and waited. We also did research on beavers.
The beaver was only eating the trees we do not use – Popple Trees. None of the Maple Trees were touched.
Did you know beavers help nature by removing large trees and helping smaller trees to thrive?
Not only that but Popple Trees make great firewood and also can be turned on a lathe.
Since the beaver was eating only the trees that were not of much use to us, but making room for the small Maples to grow, we decided to let him live.
We do not have interest in pelting animals right now, nor will the beaver meat be of any use to us. He is not harming our woods much more than we expected. Plus it is kind of cool to catch him on the camera.
So, for now, we are coexisting with our beaver friend.
Aaron cut up a bunch of the trees into logs and was going to pick them up later with the tractor. When he returned the next day, his pile of logs were gone! The beaver was thankful Aaron got the trees down and cut them to usable pieces for him. 😆
Please Note: In our state it is legal to hunt/trap a beaver without a permit if damage is being done to the property and we notify the DNR within 24 hours of removal. We did not end up keeping the trap and did not successfully trap a beaver in the time it was up.
Fruits and Flowers and Vegetables, OH MY!
Is anyone else itching for spring?
Because I am.
i-t-c-h-i-n-g to garden.
Don’t get me wrong, I am soaking up the last of this winter weather. Cooking, baking, planning and creating.
Every year I have EXTRA LARGE plans for the garden. Plans to move, renovate, explore and expand.
Every year these plans end in ‘next year my garden will be pretty because it will be established’. This is followed by another year of moving stuff. 🤔
I get down on myself because the flowers are never fully established and areas are torn up because of a new flower area. But nonetheless, progress over perfection.
I try to spend as little money as possible on the garden – starting with seeds or clearance plants. These take a few years to fill out.
Out plans for this year are not only for flowers, but edible gardening too. Fruits, veggies, nuts, and syrup.
Each year we get a bit more knowledgeable and experienced. Someday all of our years of work will show off, and each year we get a bit closer.
How do people put this much effort into a yard and then move?! I could never imagine moving away from all of our literal roots we have planted here.
One of the projects I am working on while living indoors for these winter months is converting our food from processed to as whole as possible. Albeit much of our food being purchased from a grocery store right now, we are learning to eat foods we can grow and harvest on our own. Not only that, but learning to eat less processed foods.
We replaced our crackers with popcorn. Not microwave popcorn, but pop-it-yourself kernels.
This is healthy, easy, and versatile. Once a week we pop popcorn and flavor it. If you let popcorn cool off before storing it, it will not get that stale popcorn taste. Plus since it has less oil used, it will not become soggy.
Cinnamon and sugar popcorn is great for a sweet treat.
Salt and butter is a great basic combination.
A little garlic powder helps add a savory punch.
The spice cabinet is your friend.
Gluten-free, high in fiber, and lacking preservatives makes this a healthy option for snacking!
Instead of growing the food and learning to work it into our diet, it is sometimes beneficial to do the opposite: work it into our diet and THEN grow it.
This year we will attempt to grow our own popcorn and I am excited to try the variety that we discovered. I will share more later based on success. Homegrown popcorn varieties can have less kernels once they are popped meaning less hulls in your teeth. I hope that we can successfully add popcorn to our repertoire of food grown this year.
I had no idea how to grow your own popcorn, and I have no idea how to preserve it, but… here we are. We can grow sweet corn, and we know how to use it, so hopefully we just need to learn how to preserve it!
What snacks do you and your family make that are easy and healthy?
Smooth Like Butta.
What goes better with popcorn than butter?
What is better than spray butter, or even store-bought better?
Homemade butter! Yasssss honeyyy.
I am always on the hunt to lower my grocery bill, and in turn get one step closer to a healthier and more ‘wholesome’ lifestyle. After all, that is what motivates me — getting our food as whole as possible in the most lucrative way possible.
We can go and buy raw milk, but that is astronomically higher than grocery store milk. Some say the good outweighs the bill, but we each have our own goals. I prefer to do the best I have with what I have. I am not looking to break the bank to become healthier. That is why we grow our own food vs. buying organic. We are getting one more step away from store-bough butter by making our own from cream.
A carton of cream ends in just about a pound of butter and two cups of buttermilk. We make about a batch a week on an average week. The buttermilk is used to make biscuits or pancakes right now, but we are always looking for new recipes!
32 oz of whipping cream is whipped with a bit of salt and just like magic, the mixture goes from whipped cream to stiff cream to curdles and in the blink of an eye the butter separates from the buttermilk. With a KitchenAid it takes about ten minutes, but it can be a family affair by processing in a mason jar instead.
From bakery items, snacks, and dairy items, to canning our own vegetables we sure are building a lot of skills.
Plus, envisioning what our gardens will look like and what we will grow is building the excitement of summer. Soon we will be able to begin our seeds, and thus discover what WILL grow for us and what will fail.
Just one short month from now (give or take) we will be outside every single day – harvesting and boiling Maple Sap annnnnnnnnnd…. hopefully be snuggling baby lambs!!
One more month of the stale indoors and then we will be able to get our daily dose of sunshine and fresh air!
Time to start freezing as many biscuits, bread, beans and broth as possible. Fall is for harvesting and preserving the garden throughout winter whereas Spring is for preserving all of the winter comforts for summer.
If you ever have any questions, or ideas for future blogs, comment below or shoot me an email!
From the farm,