Thursday, October 29, 2015

Making Chicken Treats

Oh, um, "chicken treats" as in treats for the chickens, not treats made from the chickens.


Moving on.

Yesterday I finally dove in to rendering the big box full of beef fat we got along with our forequarter. I was actually kinda disappointed in the quality of it- the last time I got beef fat from this particular butcher, they gave me the leaf fat. This year I got odd scraps and bits of back fat, and it not only complicated the prepping process, it rendered only two and a half quarts of tallow from the whole shebang.

There was a lot of waste from having to trim every piece. There was a much stronger smell (despite all my crock pots being outside). And after it was all said and done, there were even more leftover bits that needed to be dealt with.

Since the beginning of the packing and processing of our beef, our dog has gotten about as many bones and scraps as I think she can handle. Seriously, we didn't even need to decorate for Halloween this year because after running out of places to bury all the spent soup bones, she just started leaving them lying around. It's looking a little creepy.

So what to do with the blubbery back fat leftovers from this tallow project? Eureka. Make "suet" treats to fuel the girls' little furnaces when the real cold temps are upon us!

What we did:

In a giant bowl, we mixed about 5 cups of wild bird seed with the tallow leftovers, then added about 1/2 cup blackstrap molasses, about 3 cups coarsely-ground corn meal, and about a cup of wheat germ. We mixed it all together, let it cool, then filled up two gallon-size freezer bags, pressed 'em flat, and stuck 'em in the freezer for chilly days and colder nights.

We saved out about two cups of the mixture to let the chickies have a "taste test," and they gobbled it up so fast I didn't even get a pic of them eating it. I guess that means this recipe gets five stars, right?

I'm feeling good about using up all the scraps and- at least this far- not wasting any part of the beef we have. I'll feel even better about the trouble, mess, and smell that this little project added to the process when I pull a chunk of this stuff out of the freezer and offer it to my girls to warm them and thank them for the eggs they give us in return.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Carvin' Time!

Visit to pumpkin patch: check.

Cooler weather: check.

Week of Halloween: check.

It's carvin' time!

I love having pumpkins sitting around in artsy little piles around my house. Don't get me wrong, though- those pumpkins are destined for more than decor. Pies. Jack-O-Lanterns. Chicken feed. You get the idea. This past weekend it was time for a few of them to realize their destiny.

Last year I discovered the merit of incorporating power tools into our carving process. This year I started with the RotoZip. Oh yes, it will forevermore be a pumpkin carving thing for us. Love.

From left to right: Audrey's, Gramps's, and Henry's (who didn't want to give up his marker and thus waaaaay over-designed his pumpkin).

Audrey's Jack-O-Lantern 

Gramps's Jack-O-Lantern 

Henry's Jack-O-Lantern

Halloween was never my fav holiday... it might have ranked around 4th or 5th for most of my youth really... but these days it's working it's way up. I think having kids has had something to do with it's promotion........


Monday, October 26, 2015

Right Now

Right now, I'm loving a weekend that saw...

...rain, rain, and more rain! We got over 7 inches between Thursday night and Saturday! You can walk outside and feel the relief of the plants and trees.
...a cold front and the first appearance of long sleeved t-shirts this season!
...a visit from Gramps, a few more to-do projects crossed off the list, and some excellent kid entertainment.
...a trip to the pumpkin patch, ankle-deep mud, lunch out, pumpkin carving, and a birthday dinner with a little chocolate in almost every dish.
...baked apples, apple cider hot toddies, apple cider kombucha, apple salad, apple and cinnamon oatmeal, and snacks of apples with peanut butter all weekend long!

Right now I'm loving having the first through-and-through real fall weekend in the books. The weather, the temps, the feels, the threads... we're in it now.

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

There is Plenty.

As I've lamented before, I'm missing my fall garden right now. If this was a 'normal' fall, I'd be dehydrating greens to make super green veggie powder, I'd be pickling another round of beets, I'd be cutting and hanging herbs, and maybe I'd be planning a batch of sauerkraut made from my first-ever homegrown cabbages.

Buuuuuuuuuuuuut I'm not. However, fall is still a time of harvest, even if there's no garden for the harvest to come from around here.

With all the apple pie we've been eating, we have been able to make a good stash of apple scrap jelly. Some day those apple peels will come from our own orchard... but until then we'll make it from the peels of farmers' market apples.

We've also recently picked up our semi-annual forequarter of grass-fed beef, and as part of a different kind of harvest I've been putting up quarts of beef bone broth. Next week the temps are supposed to be nice and cool, and if the weather does what it's supposed to do I'll be out on the back porch with crock pots, rendering tallow.

I've also got two quarts of "limecello" aging in a dark corner of the laundry room (thanks to the need to do something with 32 limes I had on hand, long story...), and making booze to fill the freezer always soothes my angst over not having garden produce to put up right now.

There is plenty all around me, even if it's not coming out of my soil.