Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Pumpkin Puree

The second, and long awaited, installment of my Pumpkins Aplenty series...

One of the easiest things to do with a Sugar Pumpkin (The little ones used for pies) is to puree.  A fresh, whole pumpkin will last for about 6 months in a cool dry place.  But if you are like me, a cool dry place is still on the wish list.  Frozen pumpkin puree will be good for much longer and you can enjoy the flavors of home grown pumpkin year round!

My first attempt at pumpkin puree did not go as planned.  I was hoping to cut the pumpkin into chunks so they would roast faster.  Trying to cut a raw pumpkin proved too much for me and my little knives.  Instead, I found that roasting the whole pumpkin was much easier.  

Preheat the oven to 350

Place whole pumpkins on parchment lined cookie sheets (In case of leakage which is unlikely but its good to be prepared)

Roast for 1-2 hours depending on size (The pumpkins will be ready when you can easily insert and remove a knife from the skin)

Let cool until they are easy to handle

Cut in half, remove seeds and set aside for roasting later

At this point, the meat should easily scoop away from the skin. 

Remove all the meat and puree in a food processor or blender.
Refrigerate for use in the very near future or freeze for year round enjoyment!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Holidays without Hubby

Or wifey…or whichever loved one happens to be out of town at the holidays.

Being part of a military family means that, inevitably, your soldier/sailor/marine/airman will miss holidays and you may not be able to spend them with the people you traditionally get to see.  This does not mean that the holidays have to be a sad, lonely time of year. 

You may not be able to carry on every tradition your family is used to, but it is important to keep up with as many as possible especially if you have young children.  When mom or dad is away, little ones need familiarity to stay strong.  Trim the tree on the same day each year.  When we were kids we always trimmed the tree on my father’s birthday no matter what.  It was a big deal for my sisters and me.  Use the same decorations if you can.  It brings a bit of *home* with you on each move.  In the military, we are always moving so it’s hard to establish a *home*.  But with little things like common decorations, you can add some much needed nostalgia to the holidays.  My son and I always go to my mother’s for the holidays, we are lucky enough to be able to stay close to family, but I still set up daddy’s little Christmas tree every year and we cover it in tiny little ornaments (it’s only about 2 feet tall and sits on the kitchen counter).  This way, even when my husband isn’t home for the holidays, we have a little bit of him shining through the house every night. 

This time of year is perfect for Skype, Facetime, or any other live video chat.  Have your loved one there when you carve the turkey, light the tree/menorah, or sing Christmas carols.  This day in age, it is so easy to spend time together even when you can’t physically be together.  Phone calls are great but seeing their faces when gifts are opened or when daddy sings their favorite song is priceless.

If you are being left to your own devices this year (no kids, no parents) make sure you don’t spend them alone.  I spent one Easter pregnant and alone in NC and I bought myself dinner at IHOP.  I do not suggest that for anyone…it was not an enjoyable evening.  Hopefully you have been at your current duty station long enough to make at least one friend but even if you haven’t, the military community is extremely friendly.  One of the other families may invite you over for dinner, there may be a command sponsored event, or even a local community dinner.  Heck, invite everyone over to your place if you are feeling spunky!  Just don’t sit at home with your frozen turkey dinner and boxed wine (not that there is anything wrong with boxed wine on any other occasion). 

I hope everyone has a lovely holiday season and that you all get to spend as much time with your friends and family as possible!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Pumpkins Aplenty

I just finished my series on Apples and various recipes using them.  Now I will start on a short Pumpkin series.  Many people forget about pumpkins outside of carving fun faces into them for display on the front porch.  Even those large pumpkins used for carving can add a little to your pantry.  This first installment in my Pumpkins Aplenty series will be a handful of ideas on how to spice up those seeds scooped out of that great jack-o-lantern shell.  I will follow up with the best way I have found to make pumpkin puree, and then a few great ways to use that yummy ingredient.  Enjoy!!

Pumpkin Seeds:

After you scoop all the *guts* out of your jack-o-lantern shell you will have a gooey, orange pile of string and seeds.  With a little patience, that pile can turn into a yummy snack for the whole family!  Separate the seeds from the string and place them in a colander.  Be sure to rinse them extremely well to get the seeds as clean as you can. 

I have found that for the crunchiest seeds without burning, it is best to boil the seeds for 10 minutes in water with a teaspoon of salt.  Drain the seeds and let them dry.  (You can pat the seeds dry with a paper towel but they will stick so make sure you brush them off the paper towel so as not to accidently throw any seeds in the garbage)

Spread your seeds, in a thin layer, on a baking sheet.  Make sure none are overlapping.

Drizzle with olive oil.

Sprinkle with sea salt (For basic roasted pumpkin seeds.  If you are seasoning them with other spices, you will do that here)

Bake at 325 for 10 minutes.  Stir, and bake for another 10 minutes.  (Be sure to keep an eye on your seeds because they can burn very easily)

As much as I love a basic roasted pumpkin seed, sometimes it’s fun to add other flavors.  Here are a few of my favorites… 

(Sprinkle spices on after Olive Oil and befor roasting)  Measurements are for one cookie sheet of pumpkin seeds. 

~ 1tsp Cinnamon,  ¼ tsp Nutmeg, 2tbs Maple Syrup.  These seeds end up with a fantastic Autumn flavor!

~ ½cup Sugar, ½ tsp Cayenne Pepper, ½ tsp Sea Salt.  This is a great Sweet and Spicy treat.

~ 2tsp Curry Powder, ½ tsp Sea Salt.  If you like spicy snacks, this is the treat for you.

~ ½ tsp Chili Powder, ½ tsp Ground Cumin, ¼ tsp Cayenne Pepper.  After roasting, drizzle with the juice of half a lime.  The lime adds great flavor and cuts a bit of the heat from all those spices.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Apple Butter

In this final (for now) installment of my Apples Everywhere series, I will be sharing my Apple Butter recipe.  It took me a while to finaly get this one cooking since I have been busy nursing my Quarter Horse back to health after she scratched herself in the eye.  Anywho, this recipe is very similar to the Apple Sauce but you have to simmer much longer to get a good consistency.  I hope you enjoy!

((I will add a photo tomorrow.
I forgot to take one last night and didn't realize until I was already on my way to the library))

Core and cut about 4 pounds of apples.  Using different varieties in one batch will add flavor.

Combine apples and 3 cups cider or juice in a large pot.  Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

If you did not peel your apples, at this point you will want to run everything through a food mill or sieve.  If you peeled your apples (I always peel mine) mash them into a smooth pulp.  I like to use my immersion blender for this to make sure I get all the big chunks out.

Stir in honey, lemon juice, and cinnamon. 

Bring to a boil and simmer, uncovered, for 1.5-2 hours.  Continue to cook until the butter is at your desired consistency.  A good reference is to cook until the mixture is thick and mound on the back of a spoon.

Ladle into hot, sterilized jars, place lids and rings, and process in a boiling water canner for 5 minutes (for half pints).  Larger jars will need a longer processing time.  

Friday, October 4, 2013

Spiced Apple Rings

If you have been following my blog recently you will know that I am in the midst of an Apples Everywhere collection of recipes.  In this third installment I will be sharing with you Spiced Apple Rings. 

Spiced Apple Rings are a bit more complicated than the previous two recipes but it’s well worth the extra effort.  I spent a decent 30 minutes sitting on my kitchen floor going through 2 large paper bags full of apples just to find the prettiest ones.  With the apple sauce and the pie filling, it didn’t realy matter what the apples looked like.  But for this recipe it’s best to have nice, round, uniform apples so you get the perfect slices. 

Fill a large bowl with cold water and the juice of half a lemon.
Again I needed two bowls so be prepared.

Make a spice bag by placing stick cinnamon, whole cloves, and sliced fresh ginger onto a 7inch double thick cheese cloth.  Tie corners together with clean kitchen twine.  The amount of spices you use depends on how much flavor you want in your apples.

With a total of 8 pounds of apples, peel, core, and slice apples into ½ inch thick rings one at a time.

Immediately place rings into lemon water.  The lemon juice keeps the apples looking fresh rather than browning as they are sliced.  I know some people use Ascorbic Acid Color Keeper but I prefer to keep it as simple and natural as possible and the lemon water works perfectly for me.

In a large pot combine 6 cups brown sugar, 6 cups water, and 1 cup apple cider vinegar.  Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. 

Reduce heat, add spice bag, and simmer covered for 10 minutes.

Drain apples and add to hot liquid.  At this point I had to do two batches since I could not fit all my apple rings into the pot at once. 

Simmer apples for about 5 minutes or until tender. 

Using a slotted spoon, pack apples into hot, sterile canning jars leaving a ½ inch headspace.

Ladle hot liquid into jars (leaving a ½ inch headspace), apply lids and rings and process in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes.

After packing all my apple slices into 4 quart jars and 1 pint, I had a lot of liquid left.  I hate to let anything go to waste so I ladled the extra liquid into 4 pint jars and processed them with the apple slices.  I labeled them Spiced Apple Broth and plan to use them in cooking chicken, turkey, pork, or other meats.  I firmly believe the apple broth will make for a deliciously tender meal and I cannot wait to try it out. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Apple Pie Filling

This is the second installment of my Apple’s Everywhere collection.  Last time I shared an easy recipe for Apple Sauce and some great alternatives for sweetening without using sugar.  In this post I will share an easy apple pie filling that will give you delicious pie all through the winter, even after fresh local apples are long gone.

Apple Pie Filling is also quite easy:

 Fill a large bowl with cold water and the juice of half a lemon.  I ended up needing two bowls so be aware you may not fit all your apples in one. 

With a total of 10-12 pounds of apples, peel core and slice each apple and immediately place them into the lemon water mixture.  The lemon juice keeps the apples looking fresh rather than browning as they are sliced.  I know some people use Ascorbic Acid Color Keeper but I prefer to keep it as simple and natural as possible and the lemon water works perfectly for me.

 In a large pot bring water to a boil.

 In small batches, cook apples in water for about 30 seconds.  Transfer the apples to a large bowl and cover to keep warm.

 In a large pot combine 5 cups of sugar (Here you can also use the honey or maple syrup instead of sugar), 1 ½ cups ClearJel or pectin (a thickening agent), 1tbs ground cinnamon, ½ tsp ground nutmeg, 1/8 tsp fround cloves, 5 cups apple juice (I used apple cider), and2 ½ cups cold water. 
Cook to boiling and simmer until the mixture starts to thicken. 

Add ¾ cup lemon juice and boil for another minute.
 Stir in apples. 

Pack into hot, sterile canning jars (leaving 1 inch headspace), apply lids and rings and process in a boiling water canner for 25 minutes. 

This recipe makes 7 quarts, enough for 7 pies.  The apples are softer than if you make the pie with fresh apples but it is just as delicious and you won’t have to search for apples when you want pie in February.

**This post is shared in The Prairie Homestead's Barn Hop #129**

Monday, September 23, 2013

Apples Everywhere

It’s that time of year folks!!  The official start of Autumn is upon us and here in the north east the leaves are already starting to turn.  With this change in seasons comes a whole new crop of fruits and veggies.  I just planted my apple trees in the yard earlier this year and the large trees around the property have not been maintained so none of my apples are viable.  But my neighbor has a huge tree that seemed to produce an abundance of apples this year.  My son was so excited about picking apples that we pulled the wagon over for two days straight and just started picking.  Befor I knew it we had close to 100 pounds of apples sitting in our kitchen. 

What the heck does one person do with over 100 pounds of apples?!?!  Lots and lots of recipe research ensued as soon as I got these apples home.  I decided on 4 different recipes; Apple Sauce, Apple Pie Filling, Spiced Apple Rings, and Apple Butter.  I will share these recipes over the next two weeks so as not to overwhelm you with one huge post.  I will start with the apple sauce.

Maple, Cinnamon, and Honey Apple Sauces

Apple Sauce is rather straight forward:

 Core and slice about 8 pounds of apples.

 In a large pot with 2 cups of water cook the apples for 25-30 minutes.

 If you peeled the apples, at this point mash them to the desired consistency.  If you did not peel your apples, run them through a food mill.

 Ladle into hot, sterile canning jars (leaving a ½ inch headspace), apply lids and rings and process in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes.

 Most recipes you find online or in books will say to add a cup of sugar to sweeten your sauce.  I made one batch with sugar and cinnamon sticks but did not want to have 12 quarts of sugary apple sauce so I needed other options.  I made a second batch with pure maple syrup from a local farmer and the third with raw honey, also from a local farmer.  The syrup and honey add a bit of sweetness as well as other natural flavors that bring a little twist to traditional apple sauce.  I plan to make a fourth batch of Maple Honey Cinnamon Apple Sauce and I will be sure to tell you how it turns out.

This post is shared on The Prairie Homestead's Homestead Barn Hop #128

Friday, September 20, 2013

Technical Difficulties

Howdy Y'all.  It seems that the internet at my house no longer wishes to cooperate with me.  Because of this, I am unable to post from the comfort of my own home.  This in no way means I will let this blog fall apart.  It does however mean that I have to get myself to the local library on a regular basis.  What this means for my readers is quite simple.  There may be an extended period of time between posts (but I will do my best to not let this happen.  I have already started the epic search for a flash drive.  I know there must be dozens in my house courtesy of my beloved husband, but I have absolutly no clue where they are) and it may take longer to moderate comments. 

I will try my best to rectify this issue as soon as possible but computer/internet problems are my husbands area of expertise.  I can put up an entire pasture on my own in a matter of days but I have no idea what I am doing when it comes to electronics.  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Home Made Wheat Bread

Recently I decided to venture into home made bread.  My husband gave me the final push I needed while he was home recently.  I searched for recipes and ideas that would work for me and ended up taking a recipe and tweaking it to fit what I preferred.

6 ¼ cups of flour (I use whole wheat or unbleached flour.  At some point I will try this with fresh milled flour but I do not currently have a grain mill)
¼ cup of honey (I use local raw honey)
2 packages instant yeast
2 tsp salt
1 ½ cups hot water
½ cup milk
2 tbs butter

Combine 2 ½ cups of flour, yeast and salt.  Heat water, milk and butter to 120 degrees (just befor boiling).  Gradually add hot liquid to dry mixture.  Add Honey.  Slowly continue to add flour to make a soft dough (At this point you may or may not use all the flour you set aside or you may use more.  Keep adding flour until the dough is soft and malleable but not sticky).  Knead dough for 6 minutes.  Cover with a damp cloth and let rise for 20 minutes.

Split dough into two even balls.  Roll one ball out to a 12 inch x 7 inch rectangle.  Roll tightly into a log, pinch ends to seal.  Place in prepared loaf pan (a thin layer of butter and a powdering of flour) seam side down.  Cover and let rise for 25 minutes.  Bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees. 

This is what happens if you fail to bake your bread seam side down.  This loaf was just as delicious but a bit difficult to slice.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Homesteading On The Go

When we hear the term *Homesteading*, many people picture a cute little farm in the middle of nowhere on huge acreage.  This does not have to be the case.  Yes we all dream of a perfect farm house, white picket fence, big red barn, rolling pastures and a garden without a single weed.  But we have to work within our means and that often does not include any of the things we dream of.  The great thing about homesteading is that you can have aspects of it in any location.

 Being a Military spouse often means you don’t get to stay in one place long enough to realy settle down.  This does not mean that you can’t have a little bit of the homesteading lifestyle.  Many posts allow you to plant a small garden in your back yard or offer a community garden plot.  I urge you to speak to the housing office befor planting tho, just in case.  But even if your post doesn't allow for planting a full garden, you can still get those home grown veggies.  Enter the container garden!  Container gardening is easy, space saving, and moves right along with you as you  travel around the country.  One of the easiest aspects of a container garden is that you can use almost anything as a planter.  I am a huge fan of Behrens steel products.  The *31 Gallon Trash Can* is perfect for potatoes and the *16 Gallon Oval Tub* can fit multiple plants for a mini portable garden.  Bonus points, most of Behrens products are made in the USA!  If you are anything like me you have an abundance of wooden boxes, plastic bins, and various planters around the house.   These can all be used for container gardening, or you can purchase various usable containers at garage sales and flea markets.  *This Book* offers a variety of DIY projects to help you get started including some container gardening and a Strawberry Barrel.

Living off post brings with it many more options for a portable homestead.  You are still able to plant a container garden but may also have the option of digging out a plot in the yard.  If your house allows pets, you may have the option of keeping chickens.  Now y’all think I have gone crazy.  How can we keep chickens if we move every three years or more.  Chickens are surprisingly portable.  Moving a large coop or chicken tractor may be difficult and expensive but there are other options.  Nesting boxes can be 1footX1foot and can be made to stack inside each other or used for packing while you move.  Chicken coops can be made out of many materials and don’t need to be any larger than a dog crate.  One of the easy parts of chicken keeping is that they don’t need a lavish or even large home.  They are happy to be out of the elements and tucked into any warm, draft free corner. 

There are a few other great things you can do to help get you a little closer to that homesteading lifestyle while on the go.  Preserving your own food is on the top of that list.  Buying a small dehydrator like *This One* is a great investment, or you can build the one mentioned in the book above.  Home canning is something that has been around for generations and it is making a huge comeback.  A few *Ball Canning Jars* and a *Water BathCanner* are all you need to get started.  Purchasing a good recipe book is never a bad idea either.  I personally love the *Better Homes and Gardens* beginner canning books. 

I realize that now is not the greatest time to start homesteading with winter coming on and all.  But it is the perfect time to start composting with a *CompostTumbler*.  And with this off season right around the corner, you can get started planning what you want to plant in the Spring and where.  So, while you are on the move with the military, bring a little bit of homesteading along with you and enjoy your fresh veggies wherever and whenever you are!  

**Disclaimer, I am an Amazon Associate so any purchases from the links in this post help give me a little financial kick**

This Post is shared on homestead-barn-hop-127 at The Prairie Homestead

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Back To School

For our little town, school starts in just a few days.  For many this is a bitter sweet time of year.  The summer is finaly coming to a close and the kids are going to be out of the house for hours every day.  I am excited for my son to be back to formal education (we are always learning but there are many things he learns better from a teacher than from me)but I am not sure what I am going to do with all this newly found free time.

I am always working on a few projects around the house and I am a firm believer that everyone should have something in the works at all times.  This can be anything from a huge renovation to simply reading a book, and everything in between.  Having kids around can lead to taking a lot of breaks.  Fixing snacks, cleaning messes, or refereeing sibling smackdowns make finishing one chapter seem like an impossible task. 

Now that my son will be out of the house for a few hours every day, I will be able to dedicate myself wholly to finishing some of my many projects around the homestead.   I am currently working on a quilt and already have 2 more being prepared in my head.  Not to mention all the task that need to be completed around the farm.  During the summer months I do get a lot of work done outside but never as much as I would like.  The weeds we pulled from the front landscaping have been laying in the yard awaiting the rake for almost a week and the shed we are tearing down has been suspended in a state of half down for much too long.  I look forward to finally getting some things finished around here befor the snow falls.  With the weather around here, that snow could come any day now.

This is the perfect time for y’all to put some serious effort into all those projects you started in the past few months as well.  Get outside and pull those last few weeds from the garden, finally paint the shed you have been staring at since the Spring thaw, finish that book you picked up in July but still haven't read past chapter 2.  I know we will all love to take a personal day or two as soon as the school year starts but you will feel so much more accomplished when those projects finally get wrapped up.  I have yet to find something that brings the feelings of joy and satisfaction as much as completing a task all on your own (or with the help of some close friends).  So, now that we have all this free time on our hands, get out and get busy!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Hubby's visit home

Being a military spouse, people assume I will follow my husband all over the world.  That is not the case with us.  Yes, I want to spend as much time with my husband as possible, but I also want to give our children the best life I can.  For my husband and I, that means living 1700 miles apart (at least for now).  My reasons for staying put while my husband gets stationed all over creation are vast.  Many wives don’t understand why I would choose to separate my family, many people in general don’t understand the choice I have made, but it is my choice and it works for us. 

What little time we do get to spend together is packed full of family activities and quality time.  We never seem to accomplish everything on our to-do list but that is probably because we always seem to spend an extra day vegging on the couch watching movies.
My boys always working hard to keep the farm functioning.

My husband was home from the 9th of August to the 25th.  Two weeks does not seem very long but it was the longest we have been together in all of 2013.  As soon as he got off the plane I bombarded him with a honey-do list to include weeding the front landscaping and taking down an old shed.  We actually accomplished a ton in those two weeks but did not finish the weeding or dismantling of the shed.  We did however get 6 cavalettis built, most of the weeding and dismantling  and we cleaned the house.   Even if I had the house spotless, in my opinion  he would have found something to clean.  It is just what he does.  He even set up my sewing area and rearranged/organized a new desk for my computer.

When we weren't busy with chores, we spent a lot of time just being together as a family.  For our son’s birthday we went up north for a Pirate festival and boat tour around the islands.  We spent a few days simply lazing around the house watching movies.  It took us two days to go through the toy room and our son’s bedroom (I know those sound like chores but doing them together made them much more tolerable).  And finally,his last day home, we drove south to a friends wedding.

As much as I love having my husband home, I know that when the time comes I will have to put him on a plane back to wherever the military has him living at that time.  He is happy with his career and plans to make big advances in the near future.  I love having a place to call home and somewhere settled to raise our children.  We speak on the phone as often as possible and we cherish every moment we get to spend together.  Someday he will be settled back on our little homestead, but until then we will enjoy our life as a long distance family.  

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Beef Stew

This is not your typical beef stew!  What I love about this particular recipe is the addition of apples.  I absolutly love almost anything with apples included.  This stew uses apple juice in the broth as well as applesauce in the dumplings.  It is the perfect dish for a crisp Autumn evening.  

5 pounds stew beef cut into 1 1/2" cubes
1/2 cup flour
3 beef bouillon cubes, crushed
1/2 tsp pepper
2 cups onions -- sliced
2 garlic cloves -- minced
1/2 cup beef broth
3/4 cup apple juice
2 Tbs vinegar
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp curry

Apple Dumplings
1 cup applesauce
2 eggs, well beaten
2 tsp parsley, chopped
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

To make dumpling batter, blend applesauce with eggs and parsley; add flour, baking powder and salt and beat into egg mixture.

Coat meat with mixture of flour, salt and pepper. Combine meat, onion, garlic, beef broth, apple juice, vinegar, thyme and curry in crockpot. Cover and cook on high 4 to 5 hours or low 8 to 10 hours. 
Remove cover and place tablespoons of dumpling batter on top of stew. Cover and cook on high for 20 minutes.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Bringing Home Baby

OK, this post isn’t exactly about babies (not human ones at least) but I couldn’t resist the title.  It does hold some bearing tho.  Befor bringing home your first child, you have to be prepared.  You make sure you have a crib, clothing, food, first aid items…the basics for raising a child.  The same thing applies to bringing home new pets or livestock.  Befor you bring them home, you have to be prepared.  Animals don’t have nearly as many needs as children but there are some basics that must be seen too.

Most farm animals are happy with the simplest of shelters (just take a look at my duck shelter) so this doesn’t need to be a huge expense.  2x4’s and plywood are invaluable resources to keep around the homestead.  Sheet metal is a bit more expensive but I promise you will find a use for even the smallest pieces.  The most important things to remember with building a shelter are to make sure it is tall enough to accommodate your largest animal, and that it is wide/deep enough to comfortably fit the entire herd/flock.  It is tough to say what size, specifically, is needed for each type of animal.  For horses, they say each animal needs at least an 8 foot by 8 foot space for themselves.  I have three horses that happily squeeze themselves into a 12x8 area.  They have more space to spread out but they choose to squish themselves together.  So, the size of your shelter will be determined by the animals using it.  So long as everyone can get out of the elements and no one is fighting, it is big enough.  When in doubt, err on the side of caution and go big!  Orientation is also important.  The purpose of this shelter is to protect your animals from the elements.  Take into account the position of the sun throughout the day and attempt to avoid building your shelter in an area that would allow the sun to shine directly into it at any point in the day.  Also determine which way the wind blows.  You don’t want the wind to blow into your shelter any more than you want the sun shining into it.  For air flow, you can put in windows or eave vents.  And finally, along with orientation, you need to determine where to place the shelter on your property.  Choose a location that is on higher ground to avoid creating a mud hole.  You also want to choose somewhere that is easily accessible for cleaning and emergencies.  

As much as animals like a nice cozy home to tuck into at night, they absolutely love being able to stretch and run whenever possible.  Most cattle and horses are happy in a field enclosed with t-posts and wire.  Cattle can be in barbed wire but I strongly suggest you do not put horses in barbed wire pastures.  If a horse should run through the fence or even just lean on it, barbed wire could cause serious injuries that could end the useful life of your horse.  Sheep do well in similar fencing but the spacing between strands will need to be much closer together.  Goats, on the other hand, will need rather sturdy fencing.  What I have found works well is a combination of mesh fencing and wood.  Goats have a knack for finding ways out of pastures.  Make sure the fencing is built tall and sturdy to deter the goats from climbing over or pushing their way out.  Pigs will need the sturdiest of fences if they are kept in a smaller pen.  Livestock panels are a great way to enclose small areas and are easy to move around.  For any animal, the smaller the pen the stronger the fence will need to be.  If you are fencing in a huge field, you have more liberties with fencing.  Poultry of any kind (many people like to bring their birds in at night to keep them safe from predators) will need tight mesh fencing.  I chose to use pallets, to keep predators out, with mesh along the inside, to keep the ducks in at night.  Some people choose to put aviary netting over their poultry enclosure to keep their birds from flying out and to help keep predators out.  

Many animals can survive on what they forage for in the fields.  In most areas tho, it is smart to supply hay regardless of the animal or its purpose.  Hay for ruminants does not need to be as high quality as that needed for horses.  Check the common weeds in your area and talk to your hay provider (or check your fields if you do your own hay) about anything that may be in the hay that will be toxic to your animals.  Grain is a supplement and in no way NEEDS to be fed to any animal.  Many owners choose to grain their animals for various reasons but I repeat it is NOT necessary.  Determine what your animals need for nutrients and decide for yourself (possibly with the help of a veterinarian) what your animals need as far as supplements.  A clean fresh supply of water is absolutely essential to the survival of any animal.  If you are lucky enough to have a stream or creek running through your pasture, you are all set!  Those of us that are not that luck have to supply water every day.  Any container can become a water trough.  I have seen everything from old bathtubs and plastic barrels to brand new galvanized tubs.  Check the water every day to make sure it is clean and clear and to top off any container.  In the winter you will need to make sure your animals can get to their water by either using an electric deicer or smashing the ice.  A clean fresh supply of water and hay and your animals will be fat and happy.

First Aid:
Halters and leads are important to have on hand in case you ever need to catch or move an animal.  You should have a few rolls of cotton and a bottle of surgical scrub to clean cuts and scrapes, gauze and vet wrap to cover wounds.  It is a good idea to keep some antibiotics on hand just in case, and always have your veterinarian’s number close to the phone in case of an emergency.

Once you have all those bases covered, you are ready to bring home your first animal.  Livestock can bring numerous things to any homestead.  Food in the form of meat, dairy, and eggs is the biggest reason many people keep animals.  Horses are used for work and pleasure.  And any animal brings with it an immeasurable amount of entertainment (sometimes good and sometimes bad).  Whether for work, entertainment or consumption, animals are an important part of any homestead.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Apple Crisp Cheesecake

I love any and all types of cheesecake!  This particular recipe brings together my two favorite desserts...Apple Crisp, and Cheesecake.  I plan on making it again this fall and hopefully it will become a staple of my family Thanksgiving feast along with my delicious Maple Cheesecake (I will share that recipe later).  

Apple Crisp Cheesecake
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup quick-cooking oats
4 teaspoons brown sugar 3 tablespoons butter, melted FILLING: 2 packages (3 ounces each) cream cheese, softened 1/4 cup packed brown sugar 1 egg, lightly beaten 3 tablespoons sour cream 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger 2/3 cup sliced peeled apple TOPPING: 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour 1 tablespoon quick-cooking oats 1 tablespoon brown sugar 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 2 teaspoons cold butter
  Directions: In a small bowl, combine the cracker crumbs, oats and brown sugar; stir in butter. Press onto the bottom of a 6-in. springform pan coated with cooking spray; set aside. For filling, in a small bowl, beat cream cheese and brown sugar until smooth. Add egg; beat on low speed just until combined. Stir in the sour cream, cinnamon and ginger. Pour over crust. Arrange apple slices over filling. For topping, combine the flour, oats, brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over apple.
  Bake at 350° for 40-45 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen; cool 1 hour longer. Refrigerate overnight. Just before serving, remove sides of pan. Refrigerate leftovers. Yield: 4 servings.