Simple Meals

We have found our meals getting smaller and simpler as time goes by. Part of that is age, we just can’t eat as much as we used to and we don’t need to because we burn fewer calories, otherwise it is a matter of choice. I have found myself using fewer ingredients and trying to incorporate what we grow or store in almost all of our meals. We buy some things – olive oil, apples, carrots, onions, cabbage, occasional eggs, milk when the goats are dry. We buy wheat, oats and flax in bulk buckets. But there’s not really much else we buy. Coffee, we definitely buy coffee, for we are daily coffee drinkers. 

After I thought about it a while I realized that if we do experience a collapse, everyone will be eating much simpler meals made out of what is on hand. So our advice is to have on hand what you want to and can eat. Some folks have dietary restrictions because of their health, that is something to plan ahead for. Part of what we eat is to keep our bodies regular and provide adequate energy and nutrition. We have found that most people find our meals lacking enough items, ingredients or flavor, and that’s okay. We truly believe everyone should have the freedom to choose, whether it is meals, location, weapons, vehicles or religion. This is the way we choose.

Here are a few of the meals we eat regularly. Sometimes they are like this, sometimes there are variations of the same theme. I didn’t take a picture, but the other day we had a quarter pound ground pork burger on one of our sourdough buns with a slice of onion. Frank has mayonnaise and I have mustard. The side dish was a bowl of turnip greens. Different? Probably. Good? We like it.

 
Ground pork from the pigs that are no longer with us, eggs and salsa we canned last summer.

 

Okra we grew last summer and froze whole after washing. We slice and saute it in olive oil with salt and pepper. The purple hull peas were grown and canned in 2017.

 
Spam and cabbage, both store bought. Yes, Spam. We consider it part of our meat food storage and keep a good quantity on the shelf. We buy a head of cabbage about once a month and eat on it until it’s gone, usually over three or four meals.

We eat greens regularly and keep a good stock on the shelf. We prefer our own turnip greens, but have others just in case we need or want them. We had quite a few comments and questions about turnip greens recently, so I was going to do an article about the nutritional benefits until I realized I had already done one. You can find it here, The Nutrition of Turnips & Turnip Greens. What we do differently now than when we wrote the previous article, is a serving of greens is simply water, salt and greens. We drink the water after eating the greens for the nutrients it contains.

Soup. Frozen tomatoes, cowpeas, cabbage and peppers. Canned green beans and squash. Ground pork, carrots, onions.

We are slowly using up some of the things we froze last summer. This batch of soup provides us four meals, some we eat fresh and some we freeze for later.
 

We have made a number of variations of the meat pie.

This version is made with our canned chicken, salsa, frozen peppers, cheddar, sourdough starter and store bought onions. It’s okay, but we like it better with ground pork instead of chicken.


This meals takes little effort at this point. Turnip greens and Jacob’s cattle beans. The tape measure was part of Frank’s meal, um….. humor…. for this picture. Does this food taste wonderful? No, not really. We eat it for the nutrition and the taste is okay, but nothing great.

 

 

Think about simple. Think about how your meals would change if the SHTF. How would your diet change? What choices would you have? Are you used to eating what you would then be forced to eat? Would it make you sick? Can you afford to be sick in that situation?

Our diet is the way it is by choice. We like it that way. It’s interesting to think it may benefit us if the world continues to spiral down into the abyss we seem to be forced to march a little closer to everyday. Eat what you store. Store what you eat.

Until next time – Fern

Fern’s Farmhouse Special

This is one of those meals that needed a name, so we just made it up. Most people would think ‘Food’ was a strange title to a blog article, so Frank named this dish for us.

There is really not much special about this dish, it’s just something I came up with since we have limited our carbohydrate intake. It’s healthy, tasty and I make plenty of it. It’s not particularly attractive, as in a pretty dish, but we don’t care. What’s neat about it is that almost all of the ingredients came from our farm or homestead. We know how the meat was raised, the milk produced, the cheese made, the vegetables grown and how all of it was processed. This is what makes this meal a ‘Special’. We’ve almost come to take our homegrown food for granted, but not quite. Anytime the food on our table constitutes a homegrown meal in it’s entirety, we take note, and enjoy every bite that much more.

Okay, on with the meal. The first ingredient is ground goat meat or chevon. About half the time I think I spell it wrong and put chevron, so if you run across that somewhere in this blog, sorry about that. I season the meat with sea salt and fresh ground peppercorns, then brown it with about half of a large onion (store bought) and any sweet peppers we have on hand. I just picked these peppers from the plant I transplanted into the greenhouse.

When the onions and peppers are starting to brown, I add two heaping spoonfuls of our canned garlic and a pint jar of our canned

yellow squash and let it heat up and blend in with the other flavors. By the way, I strain the liquid off of the squash into the pig bucket. I do this with any liquid we aren’t planning on using in cooking. I even rinse out milk and kefir jars and put this milky water in the pig bucket. I really like using these liquids to increase our meat supply instead of pouring it down the drain like I used to.

While the squash is heating, I grated a little cheddar cheese and got out the salsa and fermented jalapenos. I haven’t told you about the jalapenos yet. I fermented two quarts of jalapenos in the same kind of crock we use for sauerkraut. I inoculated the peppers with kraut juice when I started them, then left them in the crock for about three weeks. They taste great, still very tangy and stayed crunchy. Thanks to the reader that recommended we try them. I have four pint jars of peppers stored in the refrigerator now along with the usual four quarts of sauerkraut.

Now that the meat and vegetables are ready I dish them up, add some salsa, peppers and cheese. 

This type of meal has the possibility of endless variations, the only limitation is your imagination. So go create your own ‘House Special’ with whatever ingredients your family enjoys. After you do, see how many of those ingredients you can produce or store for the long term. The uncertain, difficult days ahead of us, will require good, healthy, home cooked meals for comfort and much needed nutrition. Practice now while you can.

Until next time – Fern
 

Homestead News, Volume 8

Sometimes it seems as if there is not much going on here to report, but once I really stop and think about it, I can usually come up with something. This time the news is full of a number of small things. Take the goats for instance.

Last night I started penning up our two youngest kids again. They are both four months old, but are still nursing. We had separated them into the old weaning a pasture for about a month, but then the pigs came and took over that pasture. Then for a while, the kids just nursed through the fence after we put them in with the buck and wethers. As the young doe approached four months we didn’t want to leave her in the buck pasture, so we brought her back out with the does and hoped in vain that her mom wouldn’t let her nurse. She did. Now the young buck comes through the gate to be with his mom and nurse. We haven’t been able to block off the gate yet, and even

Lady Bug has a nice udder for a first freshener

if we did, he would still nurse through the fence. Both of these moms are first fresheners and we still want to develop their udders as much as possible this first season, so last night I started penning up these two kids again. This morning I got over three quarts of milk instead of one. 

That’s good since we are eating our cheddar cheese a little faster than we have in the past. It’s a great part of our low carb diet. So with this increase in milk, we will make more cheddar to replace the six wheels we have already consumed. The wheel I opened yesterday was waxed the end of April and is quite good. Did you know that room temperature cheese is better than refrigerated? Quite by accident we discovered we like warm cheese better, and it doesn’t taste the same as cold cheese. When we open a new wheel of cheddar, I leave it out on the counter in a bowl. The rind will dry out more and harden, then eventually the oils in the cheese will begin to coat the outside of the wheel. In times gone by, cheese was stored at room temperature, maybe covered by a towel or cloth. In a strange way it seems this is yet another small step we’ve discovered that will be one less thing to change when the power goes out and stays out.

The temperatures here continue to be at or over 100* with dangerously high heat indexes. Any outside work is accomplished early in the day, with very few exceptions. I have been having some serious sinus issues for about a month or more which have greatly impacted the work I do in the garden. The heat and humidity, not to mention bending over, many days make the headaches I’ve been having intolerable. Has anyone out there had a sinus balloon dilation procedure? I am scheduled to have this performed in a week or so. At this point, with the headaches I have been having, I am ready for some relief. The headaches have definitely impacted accomplishing things around the homestead as well as writing here on the blog.

In the last few days we have canned the last of the winter squashes. The bugs have killed all of our squash plants and it’s too late to grow any more winter varieties, so we won’t have any fresh to store for winter, but we’ve ended up with 41 quarts, which we are happy with. I have replanted yellow summer squash which should be able to produce before frost if I can keep them alive and win the war with the bugs.

We also made 11 quarts of salsa yesterday. It’s our favorite way to eat canned tomatoes, and I hope we can make another batch. Even with all of this heat, the tomatoes are still producing very well. Frank just walked by the thermometer and told me it’s 104* outside. We closed down some of the blinds to help the AC try to keep up. Now Frank just told me it’s been 106*!

It’s nice to have a few fresh things from the garden in the crisper. I started chopping and freezing fresh peppers today. We really enjoyed using them through the winter last year and I hope to freeze a number of quarts. I’m also doing an experiment with fermenting a few jalapeno peppers. I took the last batch of sauerkraut out of the crock today and put it in the frig. We started this batch on June 20th. It smells and looks great. When we first started eating kraut, Frank wasn’t very fond of it, but like many people predicted, we now really enjoy our daily portion. He even asks for larger servings of it now. 

We got this plastic strainer spoon to use with the crock to prevent scraping the ceramic finish. It works very well.

After I emptied the crock, I strained off a bit of the juice to use with a few jalapeno peppers. I read somewhere, sorry I don’t remember where, it could have been a comment here, that fermented peppers were crunchy and very good, so I’m going to try it. I added a few peppers to the kraut juice then covered them with salt water. I discovered this small jar fit just right into the pint jar, so I’m using it to keep the peppers submerged. For now, it will reside on the cabinet on a plate. I will be very interested in how this turns out since we prefer crunchy to soft peppers.

I used a half gallon of milk. This bowl wasn’t big enough.

I’ve also decided to take the plunge and try the cottage cheese ‘recipe’ from The Organic Prepper several people suggested. Even my aunt wrote and told me what she remembered about how my grandmother made cottage cheese. Thank you for that email, Aunt A.N. The only ingredient is milk, and all you do is leave it in a covered bowl on the cabinet for two or three days. When the cream rises and sours, it is skimmed off and eaten. That’s it. It’s almost too easy, so we will see how it turns out. I will let you know.

 

Our chickens are doing well. The young hens are blending in with the main flock just fine. The young roosters will be ready to put in the freezer soon which is good since we are ready for some fresh fried chicken. The youngest batch of birds are growing well and will soon need to take over the young rooster pen for more space.

They all like the tomato skins from the salsa.

Young roosters

Youngest flock

I made a new batch of lotion this morning since the last one was starting to turn brown in places. Tewshooz left a comment for us early on about using a preservative to prevent this problem. When I made the last batch I forgot to add the vitamin E, so it didn’t last as long as it could have. This time I wrote vitamin E on the recipe I got from Leigh at 5 Acres & A Dream, so I won’t

forget it next time. Since this lotion is made from olive oil, herbal tea and beeswax, I fed this old portion to the pigs. It’s nice it didn’t totally go to waste. The other thing Tewshooz taught me with a comment was to keep working the lotion until it emulsifies, that way the oil and water won’t separate. To do that now, I place the pan of warm oil, wax and tea into a sink of cold water while I stir it briskly with a small whip. It works great. Thanks for the tips, Tewshooz, they have really paid off.

 

Peppermint and lemon balm for the herbal tea ingredients


 

Takes about 20 minutes

Cooling in cold water

For lunch today we had a no taco, taco salad. It has most of the normal ingredients a taco salad would, just no corn chips or shell. A serving of kraut goes well with this meal. We used some of our canned jalapenos from last year, the salsa we made yesterday, a fresh sweet pepper from the garden, some lettuce, spinach, onion, olives, and room temperature, grated, cheddar. It was great! 

Tonight some of the members of Frank’s radio class are taking tests for their ham licenses. We are excited for them and hope everyone does well. We’ll let you know how it turns out and give you an update on how the class went in general. Now that it is over, we’ll see if our hopes of a local communications network materializes. 

By the way. Has anyone been having trouble with their internet service? Our internet service with Verizon over the past few months has gone from good, to a few glitches, to terrible. We get disconnected or ‘frozen’ numerous times a day now. Then we had someone tell us that Verizon and AT&T are having issues nationwide. Then we found out some other folks in this are are having connectivity issues with Verizon. Then we found out a medical clinic in Fort Smith, Arkansas has been having issues for a month. It would be interesting to hear if anyone else knows anything about this or is experiencing any difficulties.

We have taken to carrying a small bat with us into the pig pen for training purposes. The pigs have responded well and no longer crowd around right behind me when I am walking to the feed pan. We will continue to be very consistent in shaping their behavior. So far, so good.

Life on the homestead is good, very good. We continue to keep tabs on the world with a growing certainty that things will not remain as they are for much longer. The stock markets continue to exhibit the roller coaster pattern that many leading economists have been predicting. The media continues to distract the populace with the same mindless drivel they

have served up for years now. Every so often they intersperse their drivel with small tidbits of real news, news of increased violence, intolerance and suppression of the freedoms we once took for granted. Maybe that’s part of the problem. We have taken too much for granted for too long. Now the pursuit of pleasure and recreation is the end goal and the means justifies the end for a large portion of our world’s population. When this pursuit is no longer an option, what knowledge or skills will exist that can be utilized for survival? I’m afraid it will be like looking into the bottom of an empty barrel. There will be nothing there.

You’ve heard this many times before and here it is again. Learn all you can. Experience what you can now when failure is still and option and you can go to the store and obtain whatever it is you will need. Every single thing you can learn now will increase your possibility of making it yet another day when everything around you has changed. If some of the things we read and hear are anywhere near accurate, the beginnings of major upheaval or change may not be far away, not far at all. Do everything you can. Prepare yourself mentally to see and experience the unthinkable.

Until next time – Fern

Frozen Tomato Salsa Experiment

Last summer in the midst of Frank’s recovery from back surgery and my gallbladder going out, I did not can one tomato. Not one. Instead, I froze about 12 to 15 gallons of whole tomatoes in freezer bags. That’s about all I could manage. Pick them, wash them off, pack them in a freezer bag, and put them in the freezer. About a month or so ago, we ran out of the previous year’s salsa we had canned, and we really like salsa. So I tried the frozen tomatoes to see how they would work in a fresh salsa.

As the tomatoes thawed, there was quite a bit of watery liquid. I thought about pouring some of it off, but decided to keep it this time. This gallon of tomatoes yielded six cups of tomato product. 

I got out my frozen jalapeno peppers. I didn’t get any peppers canned last summer either, but I did freeze up a quart of chopped peppers just for this possibility. Following my regular salsa recipe, which is scribbled on a piece of paper, with these frozen vegetables was all guess work. 

I splurged and bought some fresh cilantro for this batch of salsa, just because we really like it. My regular recipe calls for 5 onions, so I dutifully chopped up 5 onions. This was a mistake. 
 

The salsa looks great, but it turned out to be onion salsa instead of tomato salsa. The onion flavor was VERY strong. Luckily we like onions, but I found this salsa was better cooked into something than used as is.

We ran out of the onion salsa last week, so this week I got out another gallon of tomatoes. Thus begins experiment #2.

This time I poured off most of the watery liquid after the tomatoes thawed, and I only got 3 cups after I removed the skins and cores.

I used a few more frozen jalapenos, since the last batch was very mild aside from the over powering presence of onions.

Initially, I only used one onion, but there weren’t quite enough, or so I guessed. So I added another half of an onion I had in the frig. The reusable wraps are great.

I had fun taking a picture of adding the salt. Just because.

 

 This time I used some of the cilantro I dried last spring from the herb bed. I have read that dried isn’t near as strong as fresh, so I doubled the amount. I have also heard that dried isn’t worth using, so we will see after this has had a couple of days to sit and blend flavors.

 

I have my fingers crossed that this batch will taste much better. We seldom cook with tomatoes of any kind anymore, so I will keep using our frozen tomatoes for salsa until we can make some fresh next summer.

I really enjoy experiments like this. It gives us yet another opportunity to learn something new. I hope you’re planning for your garden, we certainly are. We’re going to leave potatoes out of our garden this year. Frank and I have introduced a low carbohydrate regimen into our diet. We plan this to be a life long change for the better. So our garden plans are changing somewhat to provide the new things we are eating. 

Until next time – Fern

Taco Salad

I was trying to dream up something good for supper the other day. You know what that is like, right? I had a few ingredients on hand, so I set about thinking, “Hmmm….what would be good and healthy? Or even just good!”

Many years ago they came out with a taco salad shell that you could bake and fill. It was a very light, crusty shell that tasted very good. I haven’t bought them in many years. While we were in Alaska I tried making taco salad shells from store bought flour tortillas. It was okay, but not that great. Well, I decided to try making my own flour tortillas, then baking them into the salad shell. And, you know what? They were really good. Frank really liked them which gives them a place in the, “Let’s remember that and make them again.” category.

First I made up a regular batch of flour tortillas using one cup of flour. If I were going to make tortillas to fill and roll up, I would split this recipe into four pieces of dough. But since I wanted to make taco salad shells big enough to hold a decent amount of ingredients, I only split it into two pieces.

I got out a cookie sheet and two regular cereal bowls, coated the outside of the bowls with shortening and rolled out the first shell. I put it directly on the bowl, then realized that just wouldn’t work. So I took it off of the bowl and cooked it in the skillet just long enough to give it some shape, but not as long as if we were going to eat it.

Then I put it back on the bowl and gave it a little shape. After doing the same thing for the second bowl, I baked them at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.

In the meantime, I browned up a bit of sausage, and cut up some lettuce and onions. To the table I added some of our jalapeno peppers, salsa and a bottle of ranch dressing. Frank and I tend to build our salads in different orders, but they both taste great.

Good to the last bite.

Until next time – Fern

Dream Big, Be Patient

As I brought some of our salsa, jalapenos and pears into the kitchen from the pantry this afternoon, I mentioned to Frank how great and unbelievable it is that we have finally reached this point in our lives. It is very humbling and brings great peace to our hearts to have some of our dreams come true. Let me explain.

This morning (Saturday) I made our usual homemade biscuits for breakfast. Then I fed the cats, opened up the chicken house and fed the chickens. This led me to the barn where I fed Pearl, our Pyrenees, milked One Stripe and fed the rest of the does. Enjoying the beautiful sunshine, I made my way back to the house and strained the milk. This time I didn’t cool the milk because we needed to make yogurt

After the yogurt was started, it was time to make bread out of the sourdough sponge I had left out overnight to ferment. 

We had set out a bag of Cushaw squash to thaw for a pie a day or two ago, so it was time to get the pie going. This would also warm up the kitchen so the bread would rise more quickly.

By now it was time for lunch, which brings me back to the beginning of this post. It has taken many, many years of dreams, planning, postponing, and planning again to make it to this point. When we were newly married, our big date was to walk around downtown and window shop. We couldn’t afford to buy anything. We just spent time together, walking, holding hands, and dreaming. Dreaming that someday we would live in the country and be as self reliant as possible. Now, thirty-something years later, we still have not achieved all of our dreams and goals, but many of them seem to be coming together.

Five years ago, we had not learned how to can vegetables. At that point the only thing we had canned was salmon when we lived in Alaska. 

Five years ago, we barely knew how to garden. We had a lot of book learning, but no practical experience. We grew one fairly successful garden about 20 years ago, then about five years ago we began to garden again.
  
 

Three years ago, I had never made cheese

Two years ago, I had never tried growing herbs.

A year and a half ago, we had just started to get into ham radio.

One year ago, I had not canned any fruit on my own. 

Six months ago, I had never used a dehydrator

  

Two months ago, I knew little to nothing about kefir and had never tried it. 

One month ago, I had never made sourdough bread. I have made a lot of bread, but now I have the self-sustaining means of continuing to do so indefinitely without yeast. As long as the wheat and flour hold out, that is. 

Two weeks ago, we had never tried any herbal, medicinal teas. Today we added some celery seed/chamomile tea to our daily repertoire.

And I almost forgot to mention.  234 days ago we had never had anything to do with a blog. We had been reading a few, but never written anything like this. And, believe it or not, we used to seldom take pictures of anything. Now somedays we are doing something and one of us will say, “Hmm, we should have taken some pictures for the blog.” It is interesting how things turn out while you are pursuing your dreams.

You may not live on your own little piece of dirt yet. You may not have all of the livestock or garden space you want. You may not have the money to do some of the things you really feel are important to be prepared. But you do have the opportunity to learn all you can wherever you are. Dream big. Really big. Be patient and frugal and determined and diligent and vigilant. Then dream big again. When Frank and I first got married he had a saying that has been a motto of ours ever since. “Postpone gratification for long-term gains.” Think about that. There are so many things we can do without. Sometimes there are things that are nice to have or that we just want. And sometimes it is really hard to put some things off. And then sometimes things happen that cause our goals and dreams to be postponed or changed. But that is not the end of them. Keep them close to your heart, discipline yourself that you might always keep them in focus, and don’t allow yourself to be distracted by the things of the world.

Know that most dreams don’t come true over night, at least not in my experience. And most days, I think that if they did come true overnight, I wouldn’t appreciate them near as much. So, today, my heart is full of gratitude. Gratitude that God has seen fit to bless us with this little spot of land upon which we can achieve the things of our dreams by the sweat of our brow and the touch of His hand. Since we have been here, we have learned much, and I feel we have just begun. Hold fast to your dreams. They may come true in the most unexpected ways.

Until next time – Fern

 

Flour Tortillas

One of the simple, basic things I learned to fix when we lived in bush Alaska was flour tortillas. It took me a while before they were edible, but now I am pretty consistent. We have tried them with whole wheat flour and a mixture of white and wheat flour. When the time comes that we are dependent upon whole wheat flour, that is what I will use. But for now, we prefer them made from white flour. So here they are.

I make them fresh for a meal without making any extras. I have tried making extras and keeping them in the frig, which is okay. But, we prefer them fresh and they are quick to make. I only make four at a time and they aren’t very big, so if your family requires more, you will have to increase the recipe accordingly.

Start off with 1 cup of flour.

Add 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. baking powder.

For the liquid add 2 tbsp. 
olive oil and 1/3 c. water.

Mix well. The dough will be rather moist.

Turn it out onto a floured surface, knead and add flour as needed until it is just barely not sticky. That sounds odd, but I have added too much flour before and the tortillas turn out rather stiff. 

So just get the dough to where it won’t stick to the counter or rolling pin. Still put a little flour on the counter when you roll them out to help prevent sticking.

Now to cook them. The problem I initially had was not keeping the skillet hot enough and cooking them too long. So, put a little oil in the skillet, get it good and hot, then put in a tortilla. They don’t need long to cook on each side, maybe 45 seconds to a minute. Flip them over, cook the other side, then place them in a towel or tortilla bowl to retain the remaining moisture and keep them warm while you cook the rest.

We like to have one with only butter and salt. They are great. This is one of the ways Frank ate them as a child.

Then I put together a variety of things to eat with them. It just depends on what we have on hand. Sometimes I just scramble up a few eggs. The possibilities are endless. This time I browned up some sausage, used some of the lettuce and green onions left from the layered salad, then got out some salsa. It was great!

This is one of those simple things that I definitely didn’t succeed at when I first (and second and third and fourth) tried it. What’s the old saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”? Well, I finally got it right and can have everything ready at once, most of the time. Try something new for your family. Make something from scratch instead of buying it ready made. The more you teach yourself, the better off you will be, the more confident you will be, when all you can depend upon is yourself. It’s coming. Practice everyday, either mentally or physically, or both. You’re in my prayers.

Until next time – Fern