Buying locally, blogging globally

Special offer from Palouse Brand products:

Working full time and trying to get everything around here done doesn’t leave us a lot of free time. Because of this, we find ourselves doing more and more of our shopping online. Something we found recently on Amazon.com was Palouse Brand lentils. We were especially attracted to them because they are local,  Non-GMO project verified and looked like a small business we would like to support (yes, we realize the irony in using the internet to find local businesses to support). We ordered a five pound bag of Spanish lentils, and have been delighted with them! Here is a recipe for one of the first dishes we cooked with them.

Bacon and lentils-

Cook ½ to 1 pound of bacon in the oven at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes, depending on how crisp you like your bacon. We cook ours on a cookie sheet with a cooling rack for all the fat drippings. After the bacon cools, coarsely chop.

Boil 2 cups of lentils with a heavy pinch of salt. Drain.

Prepare a mirepoix (carrots, celery and onions sweated in a frying pan), add in the chopped up bacon towards the end of sweating.  Add a can (hopefully home canned) of crushed tomatoes, and then add the lentils.

We also love lentil soups. There are a lot of really good recipes on Pinterest. We usually make ours on a chicken broth base. Simply add lentils, potatoes, carrots, celery and season it with thyme, salt and pepper.  The amount of each of these to use depends on how chucky or “hearty” you want the soup to be. We have read rosemary is also good in this soup.

Another really cool part about this farm is that you can order a “trial pack” of all of their products.  It includes 1.5 pound of each: garbanzo beans, hard white wheat berries, hard red wheat berries, soft white wheat berries, lentils and green split peas.

We are running low on our winter stores of dried grains and legumes. I am looking forward to restocking our larder for next year with a local, GMO-free source. It has been a challenge to find a grain supplier of this quality at this price anywhere. Here is a statement from the farm…

  • Our food products are NOT Irradiated (an accepted practice that exposes your food to radiation for sterilization).
  • Identity Preserved – each bag comes with a code you can scan to identify the field we grew it in and harvest date.
  • Certified Kosher Parve and Non-GMO Project Verified
  • All Palouse Brand products will sprout!
  • We grow it, harvest it, truck it, process it, bag it and get it to you – it never touches a middleman.

If you are intimidated by the sizes of some of their offerings, rest assured five pounds is less than it seems. If you are trying to increase you self reliance, the larger bags are a really good deal too. These kinds of products will store indefinitely if kept properly, and even a family of four will go through a lot of lentils or wheat in less than a few months, especially if you are making bread with it, which is not hard to do, and makes the best bread you have ever had.

Another option is to buy as a group, splitting the larger bags up amongst multiple families or people. If you are trying to maximize savings, you may want to explore this option.

If you choose to buy in bulk, there are many ways to keep your food for a very long time. The reason these kinds of food have become staples is because they keep so well. If you keep them dry, out of light, and airtight, they will probably last as long as you could ever wish them to. When kept in whole grain form, especially with wheat, these items will keep exceptionally well. If you want to guarantee freshness, you may want to look in to some of the many resources online for prepping.

We really like this farm, and hope you do too. Here is a little bit about them from their website:

Five generations ago the Mader Family started farming. Our farm operations span across the southeast part of Washington State and are headquartered in Pullman, Washington. In 2001 we acted on an opportunity to add a cleaning facility to our operation. Our cleaning plant, Palouse Trading, is located in Palouse, Washington, just north of Pullman. Originally named Wallace Grain and Pea Company in the 1930s, Palouse Trading was designed for quality instead of quantity. We take raw food product and clean it into food grade edible product, which our customers find appealing because of the nutritional and aesthetic values.

The farm operation has been using the latest in sustainable agricultural practices. We have been using Direct Seeding and NO-Till practices since 1982. These changes have greatly reduced soil erosion, have increased soil health and helped us control our cost in an ever-rising input cost environment. In 2006 we became “Food Alliance” certified.

 

We are pleased to announce that Palouse Brand has been generous enough to offer our readers a chance to win two five pound bags of their product, of your choice. To enter to win, sign up for our email list, found on the right of the screen. We will pick the winner at random from the list of our subscribers on May 9th. Also, feel free to visit Palouse Brand on Facebook. The opinion of these products are our own, and we have not received any financial or product incentive associated with this giveaway.

Palouse Brand has also offered our readers a coupon code for 15% off their products on Amazon.com from now until the end of June. Enter promo code “HOMEST20” during checkout to redeem your discount.

 

Thanks for reading!

New features!

We have just added a new feature to the blog. Please swing by our Library, at the top of the page. There are reviews of some of the books we have, and some of the books we are looking forward to getting.

Also, by popular demand (ok, a couple of people) we will be adding a Recipes tab to the page. Look for it in the next couple of weeks.

And last but not least, we are actively working on getting our Shop going. We will start with some offerings from Crafty Sisters jewelry and cards. We are also working on some fun stuff for the kitchen.

Happy Easter!

Easter 2014 1

 

Getting it done! Trying to stay on schedule and have fun!!

There are so many things going on here on the homestead, it is hard to remember it all.

Our Jerusalem artichokes have peeked through the soil…looking at the young green leaves really made my heart smile—the fruit (or tuber) of our efforts. I am very interested to see what this perennial plant will have to offer to us. If anyone has had any experience growing and or cooking these tubers, please message us or post a recipe.

Last Saturday, Paul went to pick up some blueberry bushes we found in a craigslist ad. He came home with twenty good looking bushes of blueberries of all sorts—big, small, blue, pink, and early, mid and late season varieties. The nursery was a regular residence in a suburban development. The owner had well over one thousand potted plants, mostly berries and fruit trees. It was amazing to see what you can do with what would otherwise be wasted space that soaks up resources, in the form of money, fertilizer, time, etc. While picking up the plants, Paul said the owner received 2 phone calls from customers, and another customer showed up as he was leaving. He was impressed with how good business was for such a small operation, and also brought home all kinds of ideas about how we could repeat the model at our home.

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Paul brought home two plants each of four varieties of grapes. Once we build our fence, there will be a trellis that will support the grapes, and maybe some kiwi. Hopefully we won’t have to wait more than a couple of years to enjoy their sugary fruit. I know the children will definitely approve!

While getting the berries the long awaited arborist came to our neighbor’s house to take down a huge fir tree. I say long awaited because we have been at our house for almost four years. In that time I have lost countless hours of sleep watching that tree and worrying about our safety during every windstorm. We kept all the wood and wood chips. The aroma from the wood chips still makes me stop and soak it all in every morning. We use the wood chips as mulch and to keep the weeds under control. As for the wood, we don’t have an exact use for it yet, but if we can’t come up with anything, we can always burn it.

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The next item on our Saturday agenda was to pick up some raspberry and strawberry plants we also found on craigslist, with a quick pit stop at Reber Ranch to order some hog panels for the soon to be chicken run. The strawberries were at a farm in Enumclaw. Paul picked out twenty raspberry plants, ten each of two varieties and two flats of strawberry plants. Feeling giddy about our future edible garden, we set out to another destination to pick up some chicks—our first meat birds.

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After spending endless hours looking for a source for free range organic chickens for us to eat, Paul and I came to the conclusion that if we are going to eat chicken, we should be raising them ourselves. The decision was bitter sweet because Paul and I are both animal lovers. When we first got chickens we decided that we would keep them only for eggs, and let them roam our property in peace after “retirement.”  But recently we have been reconsidering this decision.

We are killing a chicken every time we eat one. A no brainer, but easy to forget when they come bled, plucked, gutted, sectioned and packaged in plastic, ready to cook. Also, how those chickens were killed and treated prior to their death has been really haunting me. We considered buying chicken meat from a local CSA program we trusted. The farm looks amazing, and undoubtedly their chickens live a wonderful life. However, the price of raising chickens like that makes them cost prohibitive for our family. Especially when it’s something we feel like we could do ourselves; self-reliance!

We have been really careful about the meat we eat and most is organic. But what does that really mean? As I mentioned in a previous post, animals raised for mass market are never going to have the quality of life that we feel they deserve. In our experience with our flock of chickens there is a never ending amount of work keeping them happy. By cleaning their coop, providing them with greens and treats, and constantly being concerned with bacterial and parasitic infections, we find it difficult to provide a safe and happy environment in our own backyard. How can a factory with literally hundreds of thousands of birds

http://www.seattleweekly.com/home/948629-129/eggs-chickens-singel-farm-local-produce

come close to the level of care that a small farm or backyard flock experience? With that said, organic chicken from a chain store is still hands down a gazillion times better than non-organic ones but still not satisfactory for us. On our homestead, the chickens provide for us, and we provide for them. It only seems fair!

We both have read numerous books about chicken husbandry and “humane” killing. Paul plans on taking a culling class. No matter what factory your chicken comes from (organic or not), the culling protocols are mechanized and impersonal and no one truly cares for the welfare of the chicken. Now don’t get me wrong, we are planning to kill our birds for food. But before we do, these creatures will have a whole yard to forage on, a garden full of lettuces and herbs devoted to them, a chicken coop where every bird will have more room than they know what to do with, socialization and most of all, the love and respect they deserve. Proper handling of the chicken before culling makes all the difference. Not to mention, when you cull a chicken at home, you would not allow the other chickens to watch. Imagine being the next one in line for death, watching others die and knowing there is nothing you can do about it. Some may think I am crazy for worrying about the welfare of chickens this much. But the way I see it these birds will give their lives to nourish my family. Giving them my best and the respect they deserve is the least I can do.

The breed we chose for meat birds is Jersey Giants. They were bread to replace/compare to turkeys. The papa of our chicks was huge! They are the most docile of all chickens and it really shows even in the chick stage how relaxed they are. Besides the meat, their best quality is that they are so large, they can’t fly meaning my chicken herding days are over—I hope. These guys (and gals) will be with us for 4-6 months, hopefully just in time for us to stock our freezer for the winter. Bringing the new chicks home concluded our very long Saturday.

We have much more to come. Thanks for reading!

Spring Update…we got some stuff done

The tomatoes are out the tomatoes are out!!! After we brought the planters in last Sunday, they started slowly but surely to pop out one by one.  Once we noticed the little plants we moved them back under the fish tank into the garden hoping to get them nice and hardy and fully exposed to the sun.  It’s amazing how well the planters with the piece of yarn work.  The soil is perfectly moist! The best part is that we repurposed 2 litter water bottles for such cool planters and we did not have to buy anything additional in supplies. The tomatoes are looking good but still quite pitiful, especially comparing to the starts we saw at Carpenito’s. We are a month behind but we have hope for these guys. If all fails, we will just buy the starts but there would be so much more satisfaction knowing that the tomatoes we will eat came from our sprouted plants…we are keeping our fingers crossed!

Our other major production this weekend was to put our potatoes in their cages.  In previous years, we grew our potatoes in the main garden bed. Potatoes take a lot of room and we are limited on our space so this year we decided to go vertical gardening instead. Paul made cages out of wire fencing and filled them with straw, compost and soil and planted the potatoes.  As the potatoes start to come out, we will keep adding soil on top to encourage more potato production.  All the reading I have done promises great things from growing potatoes in cages, emphasizing the space issue and promising a ridiculous amount of potatoes per cage (30-40lbs). We will chronicle our journey and of course weigh the outcomes in late August when we harvest our crops.

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I am super excited about the cages because not only will we get potatoes out of the cages but we also planted our peas around the potatoes. The peas will use the cage to climb and spread while fixing nitrogen for the potatoes. We wanted to make sure that peas and potatoes are good companion growers and after a literature search we concluded that as long they are early season potatoes, there should be no problem in cohabiting the two veggies together. Further literature search confirmed my definition of “early season potatoes” as potatoes you grow during the early season of vegetable gardening. Hopefully we will have plenty of peas for our eldest daughter and hopefully the little one to devour.

One other potted tuber we planted this year is the Jerusalem artichokes. The name has no relation to Jerusalem nor is it an artichoke, I am not sure how the name came about and here is a link to the Wikipedia article. We got the tubers from my sister and planted them in a large pot. If allowed, it can and would take over the garden. The plants grow very tall and resemble sunflowers. I have personally not eaten this tuber but I am curious to try them. I guess you treat them as potatoes even though they are not starchy. Paul says that since they contain lots of inulin, many permies have dubbed them “fartichokes”. Be careful if you are especially sensitive to inulin, as they may cause discomfort.

So, remember how we talked about building a new chicken coop in the front yard?  Yeah, scratch that! While discussing the design of the new coop–I had what I consider, a brilliant idea! Let’s keep the coop the way it is, tear down one section of the fence down and build a run that would go from the coop to the front yard.  This will allow us to save around $500 plus Paul’s time, allow us to focus on the fence and of course, get the garden planted before baby boy comes.

Through the week, we hope to have a quote for wood and materials for the chicken run. The chickens have no shame and have been roaming the streets, even more! So, their safety and our desire to keep the neighbors happy are on high priority right now. On the happier note, with the gals being “free range” even more, their yolks are getting more deep orange from all the weeds and bugs they consume! We will also be yanking our two hydrangeas out and giving them to our sister and prepping a strawberry patch in our front yard. Our kids are obsessed with berries off the vine/bush.

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Success in the kitchen last Saturday…awesome hash browns! As I have mentioned in the previous posts, I suck at making hash browns, so after trying a gazillion recipes, I finally lumped them all together and made my personal best hash browns. I first brought the potatoes to a slight boil, taking them off the heat as soon as I saw the first bubble form, then I shredded them and squeezed the heck out of them to get as much water out as I could and finally, cooking them on a griddle (spread out as thin as possible) with browned butter (not oil). Four and a half years into our marriage, I think Paul genuinely enjoyed the starchy part of his breakfast and boy did it go well with a few fresh fried eggs. Let’s just say my breakfast got me the superstar status from the family that that day, even for just a day, I’ll take it.

One additional note, in regards our pantry of stored foods, we have depleted our last can of canned tomatoes and have only one more can of beans to go. It’s kind of bitter sweet really. I’m proud to say that our efforts paid off and we have been eating our tomatoes and beans since August until last week, so about eight months, but I am saddened that we are all out and will have to wait on the tomatoes and resort to our frozen and dry beans for the tacos that we love oh so much. The plan for this year is to double if not triple our canned tomato products. More salsa, more pasta/pizza sauce and tomato juice! As for the beans, we will can as much as we can, but I think we can also dry them, which is less effort, and later can them when time becomes more available. One other depleted source for us was our last onion. We got our storage share of onions last year from our CSA (10lbs) and used pantyhose to preserve them. It worked great!!! I only partially lost one red onion. Basically, I put a single onion at a time and knotted the hose until both legs were full of onions.

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I went through two pairs for 10lbs. We hung the onion legs in our garage, the coolest part of the house. They have lasted us since late September until now. We don’t however use a lot of onion. If it was for my Mom, we would have to preserve about 50 pounds. We hope to repeat this method with our own onions and the CSA onions this year.

We will keep you updated on our journey—thanks for reading! Stay tuned, exciting things are coming soon!