Halloween Prep

We spent the calm after the storm getting ready for a very much anticipated holiday.  Halloween is a big deal around here.

This year was a little less festive than previous years – we’ve been very farm focused (and HEY!  All of our fencing posts are in the ground as of today!) and also my friend Elizabeth did not host her annual party, as her husband has a broken leg.

But no matter!  Some traditions carry on.

Today we watched:

The Nightmare Before Christmas, Scary Godmother, Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow, and The Village.

School work for today was fun Halloween coloring and making our pumpkins.

 

Everyone chose their patterns and spent several hours cleaning out and carving their pumpkins.

Gulliver pitched in as well.

All of the pumpkin guts went out to the chickens, who greedily ate up their fall treat.

For dinner I whipped up a Tomato – Cheese Soup and some lovely little witch – hat – shaped parmesan and dijon in puff pastry.

Left to right: Neve’s Kitty in a Tree, Oona’s Kitty, Emily’s Jack Skellington, and Maddie’s Doctor Who.

Tomorrow night it’s Halloween craft and movie marathon day for school and then it’s off to my friend Jessie’s for trick or treating.

Happy Haunting!

For the Parmesan Puffs I bought some frozen puff pastry and rolled it out a bit once it softened up.  I spread some Dijon mustard and some paprika on the bottom layer and then covered that with parmesan cheese (FRESH!!).  I placed the second piece of puff pastry on top, brushed it with melted butter and popped it in the oven at 375 for about 15 minutes.

The Calm Before The Storm

If you live on the east coast, chances are you are waiting for “Frankenstorm” to hit.

We made sure all of our vehicles had gas, went grocery shopping and did all of our dishes and laundry.

Fortunately (for us) it looks like the storm will be hitting a bit north of us, so we likely won’t have to worry about much weather, but better safe than sorry, right?

We spent some time putting posts in the ground and plotting out the fence line yesterday, making sure that whatever tree trunks and brush that is still out there won’t interfere.

Today is pretty grey and windy, but so far no rain.  Paul is working on more posts while he can, and I am enjoying some rare quiet time in the house.

Oona has been sick with some sort of virus that makes her tired and irritable, and she has spent a large portion of the day asleep on the couch with Gully.

 

So really we are in a state of “Watch and wait” to see what will happen with the storm.  I made pumpkin bread from a Trader Joe’s mix that Susan gave me (I added pumpkin seeds to the top – delicious!).

I worked on Emily’s Haloween costume a bit (sneak peak of her wig….)

And I have been working on the second sock of my Halloween pumpkin socks.

 

Hopefully we won’t lose power, but if we do, there’s plenty of candles and fuel for the fireplace.  Either way, we’re all cozy and toasty and enjoying a lazy fall SUnday.

Happy weekend!

 

 

 

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

It took me awhile to work up to this post.  I had planned on blogging the same day we processed our meat chickens, but have been having trouble wanting to do it.  Now that it is said and done I didn’t want to think about it anymore, and we definitely won’t be doing it again.

You see, originally there were 2 other people involved with this whole venture.  I agreed to buy and feed the chickens and keep them healthy until slaughter.  The other 2 people would take care of building a plucker and help with processing, since they had experience.

They backed out in September.  Paul and I were left with 45 birds that were going to need to be killed, plucked and processed.  On top of all the other stuff we have going on.

Paul gamely built a tabletop plucker.  It took a few weeks of work, but it’s a beauty and it works like a dream.  I found a whole TWO volunteers to help out (my mother and my friend Theresa saved our bacon that day!).

I had trouble dispatching bird number one.  The kill didn’t go as neatly or quickly as I remembered from the class I took.  I ended up nearly in tears and Paul had to finish it.  After that, he had to take care of that part. (and was very sweet about it – he stroked them to calm them and told them he promised to make it quick.  He even asked each one of it was “ready”)

Then there was trial and error finding a rhythm that worked for us.  I had to show how the birds were to be  eviscerated.  It was slow going, and we had issues with the differing temps required to scald the birds and then package them in shrink bags.  My OCD and anxiety about contamination were working overtime, and I was terribly relieved that everyone else was as mindful of it as well.  I think we did a spectacular job of keeping it all clean.

By the time dusk was settling in we had finally managed to get our groove going (not without the help of Theresa’s famous margaritas I should add) but we had only processed 19 birds when it was all said and done.

We had a huge mess to clean up (feathers and small blood droplets went EVERYWHERE from the plucker) and we were tired, both physically and mentally.

I took to calling each bird I grabbed a “tribute” (have y’all read The Hunger Games?) and I am now the owner of a bloody shirt I will forever call the “murder shirt”.

We sold 6 birds to the people that showed up, gave some away to our lovely volunteers and have a few left for our freezer.  Not what we expected, but better than nothing.

Clean-up actually went quite well – and quick.

But we still had about 2 dozen live birds left, and no one wanted to repeat the process a second time.

Even though it ended up being a massive money loss, we posted the remaining birds on craigslist for free.  A gentleman who raises meat birds down the road a ways responded and said he’d take them off our hands.

Turns out he usually sets aside a dozen or so to give to needy families, and ours would bolster that number.  That sounded perfect to me.  A loss of that kind of money doesn’t hurt so much if it went to a worthy cause.  ($50 a week in feed for 14 weeks, not counting the cost to make the plucker and buy packaging supplies).

We learned a lot about the process and about ourselves (we will survive the zombie apocalypse, for example) but it was a lot of work and a lot of expense and we aren’t sure we want to take that energy and time in that way again.  We’d rather focus on other things (like perfecting our vegetable growing? )

From now on we will just buy our chickens from the farmer’s market from a local farmer and be happy we don’t have to do it ourselves.

The upside to all of this is that we do have some lovely chickens in our freezer right now.

I roasted one for dinner last night and it was outstanding.  The carcass is simmering away to make stock.

And we are all reminded where our food comes from, and are much more grateful to have it.

 

Roasted Applesauce

What DOES one do with 76 pounds of apples?

A lot.

There’s my Butternut Squash and Apple Soup.  Apple Pie.  There’s Martha’s German Sausages with Apples and Saurkraut.    Fried Apple Rings Brie and Apple Tarts.

You can chop up or slice apples and put them in pancake batter, on waffles, in crepes. You can eat them sliced with a good quality cheddar or other cheese.  Throw some on a sandwich with some ham and goat cheese.

Apples are ridiculously versatile.  They go equally well with sweet and savory foods which is why you will find them in everything from pies to curries.

Around here, though, we use an awful lot to stock our larder withe the grandmother of all comfort foods: applesauce.

I try to fill the freezer each fall and it usually lasts until around the end of January.  This year we may get a few moths more, with all these apples!

We like the deeper and smokier, more complex flavor that comes from roasting the apples before pureeing.

Chop up as many apples as will fit in your baking dish.  I usually do one 9 x 13 pan at a time so I am not enslaved to the applesauce all day.

You can leave the chunks fairly large.

For this size pan I add about 1/3 packed cup dark brown sugar, about 3 to 4 TBS cinnamon, 1 tsp cloves and a dash of nutmeg plus half a stick of butter, sliced into TBS – sized chunks (so about 4 TBS).

Mix everything just enough to incorporate the sugars and spices in with the apples.

Then put in a 375 degree oven for about 45 minutes to an hour – checking every 15 minutes or so to turn over apples and prevent the top from burning.

Once the apples look nice and soft and juicy and brown you can remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool enough to puree.

I use a stick blender to puree the apples – you can use a food processor or blender if you like.

I store about a jar at a time in the fridge – it never lasts more than a few days with these apple-vores around here.  The rest I freeze in large mason jars and defrost as needed.

YUM!

Autumn 2012 Shearing!

Saturday was Juniper Moon Farm’s Fall Shearing and Magazine Launch party.

There was locally – raised pork barbecue courtesy of our friends Will and Lisa, pies, hot apple cider, bluegrass music, and the Shearer Extraordinaire, Emily Chamelin.

I recently got my hot little hands on a copy of the very first issue, so I was thrilled to help Susan celebrate the premier of  her By Hand Magazine.

If you are at all interested in DIY  (cooking, crafting, building, gardening….) and haven’t had a chance to check out By Hand yet, what are you waiting for?

Taking pictures of the animals never gets old, either.  These three have a bit of attitude.  In fact, I agreed to take them off Susan’s hands once we are ready.  They have been getting a bit too aggressive with the sheep and goats lately, and I could use them for patrolling for snakes.

Sweet Mr. Orzo.  He is such a love.  But he’s very much a puppy also.  I’ll be making time to do some serious training with him before long.

Check out this little cutie’s Hunter Boots!  Her mother is our awesome friend (and JMF’s web designer), Michelle.

The always lovely Shirra!

Peggy and George started off the square dance after dinner.

My friends Diana and Keith enjoying the shearing and some cider.

Lucy, the self – appointed farm ambassador.

Cookie tree!

You won’t see many pictures of Susan and I together; neither one of us particularly likes getting our picture taken.

Our adorable and very pregnant friend Lisa.

Fall Shearings are always my favorite, and this was exceptional.  We stayed late under the lights and banners and stars, enjoying the brisk air, the smell of cider and the warmth and company of good friends.

76

Today we took a school field trip out to the local orchard for apple picking.

The kids have been waiting not – so – patiently for this for a few months now, but I wanted to wait until the orchard had a wider selection of apples than just Jonagold and Golden Delicious.

Today we were in luck and nabbed ourselves some Fuji, Winesap and Jonagolds.

 

It wasn’t the best day for picture – taking, unfortunately.  It was very, very bright and very windy.

 

It didn’t take long to fill up our bags and trudge back up to the apple barn to pay.

And pay we did.  We picked SEVENTY SIX POUNDS OF APPLES.

That’s a lot of apples to carry.  And we made sure we got some fresh apple cider donuts and apple cider slushies.

It was a very sugary morning, and now I have SEVENTY SIX POUNDS of apples in my kitchen.

There’s going to be a lot of apple sauce happening this week.