Sunday, November 30, 2008

Dairy Farm Field Trip


The Thursday before Thanksgiving we went on a field trip to a local raw milk dairy farm and a local general store. Three other families from our homeschool group joined us. Superman took the morning off as well as his dad Papa-rotzzi (our photographer). What a great time we had! Our first stop was the dairy farm. The setting was picture perfect. We had to cross over a brook by way of covered bridge, then up a little hill to the most beautiful pastures and the happiest looking cows I've ever seen. The Jersey cows seemed glad to see us as we gathered our group (bundled up for winter) in front of the owners house - Mavis. Before the farm tour, Mavis took us to a small building with a kitchen in it. This is where the milk is cooled and stored.Butter making was on the agenda after an informative lesson on the benefits of raw milk.
Mavis explained that the cream is skimmed from the milk and then cooled to 60 degrees. She used an antique electronic butter maker while the children were handed baby food jars of cream to shake and make butter by hand. It didn't take long for either method to get the cream to start to clot together. The clotted cream is then gathered together by hand leaving the buttermilk behind for use in baking. Now is when it starts to resemble butter. The butter gets rinsed off under a faucet and then its done. Superman looked at the big ball of butter and said "It can't be butter, it's the wrong shape"! A country boy he is not. We all got to sample the butter and it was soooo yummy!

The next stop for us was the milking room where the milking procedure was explained. Cows are really smart. Mavis told us that each cow knows where their station is to be milked and she will stand there and wait for her turn. The equipment is washed and disinfected each time as well as the cows utters before and after the milking process. They go way beyond what conventional farms do as far as cleanliness. I was very impressed.

After we said goodbye to the cows, Superman and Papa-rotzzi had to go to work but the rest of us piled into the vehicles and headed to the local general store not far from the farm. Julie and Rob are the owners. I had no idea the kids were in for such a treat. There is also a small farm at the store, and Rob had a hay ride set up for the kids that took them up to the animals. He broke the kids down into groups and had farm chores for them to do. He is...very energetic....the kids ATE IT UP! He was giving orders and they were doing what they were told (where is he during school hours?). There were buckets of eggs being collected, hay bales being tossed and animals being fed - WOW. Then the real show began. You may have heard of 'the horse whisperer' or the 'dog whisperer', but they've got nothing against this guy. The llama - Nina was a little alarmed by the kids coming at her. Rob taught them about Nina and what her job is on the farm. Then he took Einstein - a nubian goat out of the pen. This demonstration of a relationship between man and beast was amazing. He's taught the goat to do what goats do - rear up and ram things - however...the goat aims right for Rob who catches the horns in his hands, but the goat (who we were told moved the side of the barn by ramming it) seems to know not to hurt Rob. My description of this act can't really do it justice.

The candy counter in the store was the last stop. Julie has the store stocked beautifully with foods as well as gifty kinds of things. We purchased some cider and snacks for the road and said our goodbyes.



A special 'thank you' to the familes that joined us. It was a pleasure spending time with you! I encourage others from our homeschool group to contact me for information on scheduling your own field trip to these farms.
- Wonderwoman

Monday, November 24, 2008

Meal Plan Monday 11-24-08

It's the beginning of the week (ok-by the time I actually post this it will be Tuesday!)that I thought I'd be more prepared for than I am....Thanksgiving is upon us. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because there is minimal marketing involved and the focus is more on family and of course - the food. Our guest list has totalled out at 20, but I wish we could invite more. I'm going to do a little figuring today in our sunroom which doubles as the dining room for these occasions and see if I can't get a little more seating in there. I refuse to have the children in a separate room. When I was a child, the children were always separate and I just wanted to be with my mom. I still do, but she won't be joining us this year because my sister stole her away! My brother and his family will be joining us for the first time, I can't even begin to tell you how much that means to me. To say the least, the part of school that involves the desk will be cancelled this week and instead Little T. will be practicing the kinds of things that every woman should learn - this week she will be a Keeper of the Home in training.

Every year I make favors to give all our guests. This year it's a little simpler with the acorn napkin holders that double as ornaments for Christmas. We decided on this last minute and had to fight the squirrels for the last of the acorns!

I'm not really happy with the whole napkin folding thing...I think I'll look for web sites that have other ideas.

Our menu this week will be on the simpler side except of course for Thursday. The rest of the meals will also have to be very frugal - things on hand - because I still have to pick up some things for Thursday. Breakfasts for the week will be eggs. The chickens are laying good and the eggs are available at no cost (well, we've already paid for them). Lunches are going to have to be soup or sandwiches or leftovers because the fridge has to be cleaned out. So that leaves us with dinner:

Sunday
Egg Salad Sandwiches & Tossed Salad

Monday

Tuesday
Crock Pot Unstuffed Cabbage like this one.

Wednesday
Crock Pot Unstuffed Cabbage - Leftovers!

Make bread to have turkey sandwiches later in week.

Thursday
Traditional Thanksgiving

Friday
Leftovers

Saturday
Pizza - (again?) our pizza is very healthy and everyone loves it.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! - Wonderwoman

Monday, November 17, 2008

Meal Plan Monday 11-17-08


Squirrels with no fear. That's what we have. We used to have a Vizsla named Copper who took pride in the fact that no squirrel would enter his territory. In fact it has taken a couple of years for them to get the nerve to move back in since his departure so I guess he had a reputation in the squirrel world! These squirrels eat all (and I do mean all) the food out of the bird feeders, so I've stopped putting the food out.


The weekend past was one of celebration. Saturday I spent getting ready by baking a coconut cake. I used 2 parts coconut flour and 1 part spelt flour and of course we used agave nectar instead of sugar to keep it low glycemic. It came out wonderful and very moist! Sunday the house was full of activity with friends from church. Busy weekends always make me late starting the week off, so here it is Monday night and I'm just now posting our weekly menu.


For more great menu ideas check out http://www.orgjunkie.com/ Here's our menu for this week:


Sunday
Breakfast
Toast w/ Peanut Butter and Smoothies
Lunch
Leftover Pizza
Dinner
Tuna Sandwiches and Salad

Monday
Breakfast
Egg on Toast
Lunch
Egg Salad Sandwiches
Dinner
Roast Chicken and Acorn Squash Feta Casserole like here but different. I'll share my revised recipe sometime soon.

Tuesday
Breakfast
Smoothies
Lunch
Tuna Sandwiches
Dinner
Pizza Beans w/ Sausage - Crockpot

Wednesday
Breakfast
Baked Oatmeal
Lunch
T. B. D. (to be determined-usually leftovers)
Dinner
Salad Night

Thursday
Breakfast
Egg on Toast
Lunch
T. B. D.
Dinner
Chicken and Broccoli Fettucini Alfredo

Friday
Breakfast
Omelets
Lunch
T. B. D.
Dinner
Pizza Night!

Saturday
Breakfast
Baked French Toast Casserole - substitute agave nectar
Lunch
Mom is home alone - peanut butter on a spoon!
Dinner
Burgers and Sweet Potato Fries

This week we will be going on a homeschool field trip to a local dairy called Balwin Brook Farm. So far we have about 17 children signed up. The children will get a tour and be able to help make butter. We're excited because this is the place we buy our raw milk from, I can't wait to meet the cows. I can't say that I've ever been close enough to a cow to pet it. The owner of the farm said the cows are so friendly that they will come running to us to be petted. I'll post photos from the field trip when we get back.

Have a wonderful week -Wonderwoman



Thursday, November 13, 2008

Madder than a Wet Hen?

A saying my mom uses when describing someone who's really mad: madder than an old wet hen. I don't know exactly how mad a wet hen can get, actually when our hens are wet they're just pathetic and sad looking! But I NOW know what the term 'broody' means. Broody is when a hen decides that she wants to sit on her eggs and hatch them. That's the technical meaning, I'll share my own interpretation in just a moment.

First it's important to remember that we're kind of new to this and I'm known as my mother's girlie girl. I get dressed complete with hair and make up everyday even if I don't leave the house, even when I'm going to clean the chicken coop or work in the garden - it's just what I do. I am really my grandmother's daughter. My grandmother was brought up to be proper. To this day, when my grandmother goes to church and people are wearing jeans - she will gasp! As she is getting older, she is also forgetting where her edit button is and she tends to comment OUT LOUD, and loudly when she sees something she finds unacceptable. I'm not like her in that respect at all! Everybody gets to choose how they are in my book, I'll be me - you can be you. I am so far off track of the subject of 'broody' that it's not even funny - my point is...(what is the point?) that chicken rearing is all new for me and slightly out of character! I tend to find chicken habits very interesting and funny as well. I also tend to 'narrate' what they're thinking.


On to our poor white Brahma, Roxanne, I thought she was dying because she wouldn't eat or drink or come out of her nesting box. I thought this until a friend told me, "she's just being broody". I still tried to push the food and water on her but she would turn her head and refuse. Each day I have taken her eggs out from under her while she clucks madly at me like she's telling me off.


Yesterday, in my wisdom...I decided to take her physically out of the box and make her walk around and try to snap out of it. It was hysterical! She ran through the chicken yard with exaggerated movements clucking and pecking at everyone like she was saying "Don't look at me, don't talk to me, leave me alone"! It was then I realized that broody means: in a really bad mood with a side of crazy. I also realized that I could relate to Roxanne - sometimes I get a little broody myself!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Meal Plan Monday 11-10-08

It's like I asked the swan to pose for me! What a great shot! This picture was taken on a pretty cold morning last week. You know that it's cold when the swans lie in the morning sunny spot with the Canada Geese, otherwise they are enemies on this lake. You'd think there would be plenty of room in the water for them all, but there is much commotion on a daily basis over territory. Usually at this time of year the baby swans (I know there's a name for baby swans, I just can't think of it) are long gone because the big Daddy swan says it's time for them to move to another pond, but he died this year and it looks like the babies are now a permanent fixture. I'm not sure exactly how long swans live, we've been here seven years and they were here long before us.


Here are some close up photos we took last winter when the lake froze over. Little T. and I would ice skate over to their 'territory' to give them some cracked corn when their food supply was scarce. The whole time we fed them they would wag their tails and hiss at us at the same time.


The weekend is nearly over, it went by so fast! I made apple butter and yogurt from a blog I read -
The Slow Cook. He's always cooking up something good, I'd like to be his neighbor! I can't believe how simple it was to make the yogurt, it's like some kind of miracle.....first it's milk and then later the same day it was yogurt...rich, creamy yogurt! I didn't have the half and half as the recipe calls for, I just used raw milk. I live in a state where we still have the right to choose raw un-pasteurized, un-homogenized milk. There are many states that it's against the law. Can you imagine...I don't need to be protected from my raw milk, there are far worse things in this fallen world.

Ok, enough of me ranting...I was just about to get all political.....back to weekend cooking....I didn't use any sugar in the apple butter (I'm always tweaking), I used agave nectar instead and it still came out great!
Here's our menu for this week, if you want more great menu ideas visit Laura at www.orgjunkie.com.

Sunday
Breakfast
Baked Oatmeal
Lunch
Dinner
Turkey Meatloaf, Sweet Potatoes and Salad

Monday

Breakfast
Omelets w/ Sausage
Lunch
Left Over Pizza
Dinner
Coconut Chicken Fingers

Tuesday
Breakfast
Left Over Baked Oatmeal
Lunch
T.B.D. (to be determined - usually left overs)
Dinner
Beef and Barley Soup w/ Sourdough Biscuits

Wednesday
Breakfast
Baked Eggs & Smoothies
Lunch
T.B.D.

Thursday
Breakfast
Chicken in a Basket
Lunch
T.B.D.
Dinner
Cabbage Roll Casserole - didn't get to it last week

Friday

Breakfast
Eggs on Toast
Lunch
T.B.D.
Dinner
Pizza Night! This week Italian Sausage/Mushroom and Artichoke Hearts/Onion

Saturday

Breakfast
French Toast and Bacon
Lunch
Carrot Tart
Dinner
Some kind of pasta dish - still looking - suggestions? I'll be checking out all the other great menu plans looking for ideas.

Have a fabulous week - Wonderwoman

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Salad Night

Meal planning not only helps with the household budget and time management, but it also helps to keep our meals balanced so we're getting a variety of foods that are good for our bodies. One of my favorite nights of the week is Salad Night and it's not because it's a 'quick and easy' night. This dinner actually requires a little more preparation than other meals because these are not ordinary salads.
Here are some things we put in our salads:

Avocado
Wheat Berries
Boiled Eggs
Pumpkin Seeds
Sunflower Seeds
Slices Apples
Black Olives
Black Beans
Homemade Sourdough Croutons
Feta or Gorgonzola Cheese
Chickpeas
Real Bacon Bits
Al Dente Pasta

Salad dressings also need to vary to keep salads from becoming boring. It's easy to just put out the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sometimes I make an Apple Cider Vinegar Dressing from http://www.thenourishinggourmet.com/, or a sweet Garlic Mustard Dressing, and on occasion I make what we call Friday Blue Cheese Dressing.
What do you put in your salads?

Fall Flowers and Butterflies

Here in New England where we live, most of the leaves are now on the ground. There is still much to do outside but it is mostly raking and cutting back perennials. How I miss the vegetable garden already! There are still some herbs going strong that I can snip and use in my recipes, but I really miss the cherry tomatoes that have been part of every meal since July. For a gardener, this time of year brings mixed feelings. On the one hand it is an opportunity to clean out and start the next growing season with a clean slate. On the other hand, seeing no green or growing plants can be a little depressing.


There is a bright spot still in the garden more glorious than any chrysanthemum or aster could be and that's the fall blooming Anemone. This is one of my favorite plants and seems to be overlooked by many due to the fact that this is a plant that you have to seek out. Check out this great article on the Anemone.


Although the blooming plants and even the Anemone are just about done for this year, I did see the most beautiful butterfly the other day.
Enjoy the day and the pictures of our butterfly - Wonderwoman




Sunday, November 2, 2008

Meal Plan Monday 11-2-08

Happy Monday! I thought it would be great to start the week out with a great big smile. This is Evelyn Lucia. That's what we call her when she's naughty. The rest of the time we call her Evie. When she was a little puppy we would smile at her and tell her what a pretty puppy she was and one day she smiled back. Sometimes she smiles when she's nervous, but mostly she smiles when she's smiled at. I don't know if these pictures capture her grin, but she was cracking us up because Superman's mom was smiling just like her across the table and the more she smiled - the more Eve smilied. It was like she was cracking up too!


Last night we sampled a low glycemic chocolate cream pie that Superman's mom brought over. It was soooo rich and chocolately. We do not use any artificial sweeteners at all. We keep things as natural as possible so sometimes it can be a challenge with baking but we like a challenge.


This week is going to be a pleasant one. There's not too much going on - yet. That's good because we can focus on school and start our planning for Thanksgiving.



Here's our menu for this week. For more great menu ideas check out http://www.orgjunkie.com/.

Sunday
Breakfast
Baked Oatmeal
Lunch
Salad and Chicken Sausage
Dinner
Roast Chicken (the Wonderwoman Way), Acorn Squash, and Sourdough Biscuits

Monday
Breakfast
Leftover Baked Oatmeal
Lunch
Pizza
Dinner

Tuesday

Breakfast
T.B.D. (to be determined - usually leftovers)
Dinner
Black Bean Burgers like here but I need to tweak this recipe. I'll post the recipe.

Wednesday

Breakfast
Smoothies and Toast w/ Peanut Butter
Lunch
T.B.D.
Dinner
Salad Night

Thursday

Breakfast
Chicken in a Basket
Lunch
T.B.D.
Dinner

Friday
Breakfast
Omelets
Lunch
T.B.D.
Dinner

Saturday
Breakfast
French Toast
Lunch


Enjoy your week - Wondewoman

Fall Clean Up and a Hearty Meal

Most people will tell you that they love autumn - but hate to clean up the leaves. I enjoy watching my husband clean up the leaves....you see....he's one of those guys who is always trying to think of a more efficient way of doing things. And of course those more efficient ways mean POWER TOOLS. We have two leaf blowers. One is gas powered so there's no cord to tie him down. The other does have a cord and is used when he's standing in one place to suck the leaves into the leaf blower thingy and shred them. I come from people who would tackle this problem using merely a rake. But if Superman is going to take care of this job then I'll stand back and let him do it his way.

His lovely assistant - Little T. helped him with the job because he said if she did, then she could jump in the leaf pile. In fact, he took turns throwing her and our little dogs Zoe and Evie in the pile. They ALL loved it and kept coming back for more.



Little T. built a fire in our fire pit and roasted marshmallows. We kept the chickens in for the day because they usually scratch in the fire pit and I wasn't sure if they were smart enough to NOT scratch in the fire pit when there's a fire in it. I have spent more time keeping those animals alive this year! I did want to make a big batch of chicken pot pies on Friday....there was a breech in the chicken pen, and as Little T. and I were leaving for our Friday landscaping job we were running out the door to jump in the car when we saw half of our chickens were loose and having a grand ole' time. We had to stay home and fix the situation because when it comes down to me earning $60 to landscape or my chickens ruining my neighbors $30,000 landscaping....well it's just common sense to not leave them to party. I didn't wait for Superman to fix the fence because that would have meant more POWER TOOLS - somehow. My Dad; Captain America taught us that we could pretty much fix anything with nothing, so I did. I piled up a bunch of wood over the hole in the fence - problem solved.

While raking the leaves out of the vegetable garden I found a nice clump of flat leaf parsley that had grown since the harvest. I had planned on making Garlic Pasta for dinner so this was a nice addition to the meal. The garlic pasta is something I saw on Martha a few years ago, but I've simplified it. It's a super quick meal so you have to have everything ready before you get started. I roasted 2 whole heads of garlic in olive oil earlier in the day and let them cool. The pasta has to be boiling when you start sauteing 2 more cloves of garlic in a saucepan with olive oil, add some white wine to slow it down, some basil (I froze a bunch), the roasted garlic, the flat leaf parsley and some more white wine if it starts to get too thick. Put the pasta in individual bowls, pour sauce over it and toss. Top it with some parmesan cheese and coarse salt. We also had sourdough biscuits and chicken sausage with the pasta. It was a hearty meal after a good day working in the yard. The day ended with a DVD and a slice of Butternut Squash pie with some whip cream! We've still got lots more leaves to go - but that's ok - we've got POWER TOOLS!