Pigs 2016| their first few days at home…

  
They’re here!!!

It’s funny how things just seem to work out sometimes. Just as I was telling my friends and family that I’m hoarding my last 2lbs of bacon from this past fall (we started with 17lbs), I got the call over the weekend that our piggies were weaned and ready to come home with us! 

Not only was I feeling stingy with the bacon and ham, my husband, James had just reminded me that he was hoping to get the pigs earlier in the season as they will yield a larger pig come November. 

We got last years batch mid to late April.

The stars must have been aligned because we got our pigs exactly when we had hoped we would! 

It’s been a busy month on the homestead. The ground is thawing, the snow is gone. Chores that had been put to a winters rest are awake and smelly and need tending to. 

That might have sounded weird, but I’m not kidding. Have you ever had the task of cleaning the chicken coop after a long winter? 

Chicken poop becomes almost, cement like over time. When it all starts to thaw, it is one smelly, heavy, awful job!! Make sure you wear a mask! Not only because of the stench! That stuff is toxic! 

    
 
We’ve also been hard at work maple sugaring! We are so fortunate on our small three acre homestead to have several mature maple trees! We don’t run a huge operation but we have consistently been blessed with about 40 gallons of sap each year! 

After all is said and done, we have a gallon of dark, rich, New Hampshire maple syrup! 

Plenty to keep for our family and give to our friends and family that help us on boil day! 

    
 
Back to my pigs! This weekend was truly lovely outside. Warm for March in New Hampshire, sunny and beautiful. I got the message that our first 6 piglets were ready mid morning. With Easter being the next day and house full coming for Sunday dinner I wasn’t sure we could take them right away. 

James and I discussed and agreed that housework and cooking could wait. You never want to get last pick when choosing your pigs or any animal. You run the chance of buying runts. That might sound bad, but you need to try and get what you pay for. Especially when people are paying you in the long run. We want the best possible product for our buyers and our family. Livestock can be so unpredictable. With that in mind try and control the things you can. Pick sturdy, healthy looking animals. After that, it’s in fates hands.

Even if you feed them the best grains or produce out there, you never know what could happen when it comes to livestock. We try the best we can… In reality things happen and sometimes you need thick skin on a farm or homestead. 

So game time decision–James and I were off! We cleaned the extra large dog crate and filled it with hay for transport.  

 I went to our local grain store and picked up more hay for bedding, pig and sow grain and checked on our chicken order! 30 more babies coming in two weeks!!

James worked diligently to repair and rerun parts of the electric fence. We opt to keep the piglets in the pen with a wooden barrier and a well marked electric line, labeled with orange tape to hold the pigs in the pen till they learn the electric fence is their true boundary.  

 
When they’re older, we remove those “learner lines” and they are free to roam!

These guys are a bit younger than the pigs we got last April. 7 weeks to be exact. Their mother is an older sow and gave everything she’s got to her babies. It was more healthy for the sow to wean the piglets early and let her regain the weight and nutrients she’s lost in the nursing process.

   

These guys and girl (yup only one girl for now) are seriously so cute!!

So, being the pig mommy that I am, I have to admit I’m a little worried about our falling temperatures outdoors…we may have had a nice weekend but man!!! It is cold and rainy today. 

In general, I know that they have a good sturdy roof over their heads… 3 walls and I covered the main opening with burlap to shield them from rain and wind… 

 
They just lay there all cuddled tight and nesteled in the hay… They’re fine. This is what they do. 

Yet I’m still in the kitchen standing in my raincoat cooking them brown rice for a meal to keep them warm. 

 This post is to reassure any of you out there with livestock to trust your instincts. 

Raising pigs or chickens is not hard. But it will challenge you to trust yourself and trust that nature is simply nature. 

What a rewarding experience this will be! I’m so excited for our round two piggies!!! 

Hopefully they learn that I’m a nice human soon!  

 
Although the piggy conga line is pretty darn cute!

Buffalo Chicken Meatloaf with Mozzerella, Ranch Dipping Sauce

  
Well! my girls are back to laying in full force! 

This photo is just this weeks supply so far!!! 

I get so excited when winter slows down and I notice an egg or two pop up (or should I say, out) each morning. The lull always seems to take too long. 

Hens–especially fully matured hens don’t like to lay eggs during the cold winter months!

It was 72 and sunny yesterday! Crazy warm for a March afternoon in New Hampshire. 

My chickens were so happy about the temps and sang the day away. I like to call it the “the egg making song”.  

 Low and behold, I awoke this morning to a whole coop full of fresh eggs!

I was grateful and of course spoiled them with a delightful lunch of blueberries, lettuce and sweet potato.  

 Being a chicken mother is very important work you know? (I’m such a dork)

Anyway… With all the eggs in our basket, I’ve been trying to incorporate them in as many dishes and treats as I can. 

As much as I like breakfast for dinner, breads and cookies… I got a little sick of the same ol’ routine this week. 

I saw a recipe for meatloaf a few days prior and thought… Meatloaf!! That needs eggs! I’ll make meatloaf. 

Then I thought….more ketchup? Ugh!

More beef and bread? Ugh!

And so I went with something that applies to my fussy palette… Buffalo Chicken!!! 

Mmm one of my favorites!

This meatloaf absolutely has that yummy buffalo sauce flavor but isn’t too spicy. My kids will eat it and love it! I’m sure yours will too. That is… If you have kids?

Anyway! Here we go:

Buffalo Chicken Meatloaf with Mozzerella, Ranch Dipping Sauce|

1 hour + 30 minutes, serves 4-6

  • 1-1.5 lbs of ground chicken
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 c Panko bread crumbs 
  • 3/4 c herbed stuffing mix (I use PF)
  • 3/4 c white cheddar cheese
  • 1 packet of ranch dressing mix, divided–3tbsp and 1tbsp
  • 2tsp Olive oil
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped fine
  • 1/2 a sweet onion, chopped fine
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced or grated
  • 4 tbsp buffalo hot sauce, divided–3tbsp and 1tbsp
  • 3 tbsp ketchup 
  • 2/3 c sour cream
  • 2 tbsp freshly grated mozzerella (or bagged if that’s what you have)
  • Salt and pepper

First, let me say that my kids don’t love the idea of blue cheese. The traditional buffalo dipping sauce doesn’t always bode well here.

Hence, the mozzerella ranch. I only add the cheese for texture similar to a blue cheese dressing, however it really just tastes like ranch with an extra kick! 

Mix 3tbsp of the ranch seasoning, with the sour cream and mozzerella. Chill and use when ready.  

 Next- cook your celery and onions over medium heat, in a good glug of olive oil. 

Season with salt and pepper.

Grate in your garlic once the onions are starting to become translucent.  

 Once the garlic is in, only cook for about 30 more seconds. 

In a large bowl… Add your ground chicken, bread crumbs and stuffing, 1tbsp of ranch seasoning, 2 eggs, the cooked veggies, 3tbsp of hot sauce, cheese, salt and pepper. 

 Mix completely and shape into a free form loaf. 

Turn the loaf onto a sheet tray lined with parchment paper and sprayed with non stick cooking spray.  

 
Next, mix your ketchup and the 1 remaining tbsp of hot sauce.

Spread it all over the top of your meatloaf.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 50 minutes and allow to cool for 5 more minutes when done, before cutting. 

  This meatloaf is so flavorful and has a kick that will satisfy grown up tastebuds and kids alike! 
Here on the homestead, we raise broiler chickens and laying hens. We grow our veggies and bake breads…. This is a perfect example of the many many yard to table meals I prepare for my family! 

Minus the hot sauce!! (I don’t know Franks secret)

Please give this a try! I just know your family will love it!! 

    
 

Garden Tips and Tricks! This one is such a great find!!!

  
Hats off to these people! 

I came across this YouTube video upon researching different weed control methods and the most effective and efficient ways to use them. 

When your a homesteader, you spend almost all day on your feet. Everyday tasks are rewarding yet sometimes overwhelming as there is just so much to do.

Everyone has a task or two that they just can’t stand doing. Maybe you hate washing the dishes. Maybe laundry isn’t your thing.

If you’re a fellow farmer or homesteader maybe you procrastinate when it comes to cleaning the coop.

For me… I can’t stand weeding the gardens.

I really can’t. I’d rather push mow all three acres 5 times over than weed the gardens.

I’ve tried so many different ways to keep the weeds out. Mulching. Mulching with straw. Buying different tools to take some of the strain off.

Whining like baby and just suffering through it….

Yep. That’s usually the method I go with.

So. I’ve decided to work smarter and not harder this year.

With the hens, the broilers, the pigs and the goats that will soon, all find their home here at the stead, I know that my time will be spread thin.

Luckily thanks to these wonderful people, I’ve found my solution!!  

Landscape fabric! At first glance this stuff seemed intimidating. Cutting holes to plant each seeding and figuring out proper irrigation seemed too daunting to deal with.

Their method takes this whole garden thing to the next level!

I can’t wait to test it out!

Watch their video here and get planning!!!  

    
  

Rich and Creamy Ham and Corn Chowder

 

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This chowder was the perfect fix this week! I’ve been fighting a nasty cold and of course when one person in the house is sick…everyone gets sick.

A warm, rich and comforting meal is exactly what we needed last night. 

Being that my girls stayed home from school, I had the whole day to tend to them, and scheme up some sort of warm reward for all of us sickies before heading to bed. 

I went to the freezer and pulled out a smoked ham. 

When we first picked up our meat from the smoker late fall we were excited to cook up a big ham dinner. 

To our surprise, the ham seemed overly salty and while we were grateful for our home grown ham we were slightly disappointed with the over powering salty flavor. 
We only opted to smoke the bacon (which is AMAZING) and a few picnic hams.

After one disappointing attempt I decided to rinse and then boil the ham this time around.

Once the ham was fully cooked, I sliced it up, using half for this recipe and saving the other half for ham salad to keep for lunches throughout the week. 

This chowder can easily be done with a simple ham steak, cubed, as well. 

I was so pleasantly surprised how rinsing and boiling the smoked ham  took away the overpowering salty bite… Leaving our farm fresh, yard to table ham tasting succulent and perfect in this creamy corn chowder!

Rich and Creamy Ham and Corn Chowder|

40 minutes, serves 6

  • 2 c cooked ham, cubed
  • 1/4 lb bacon, or pork belly, diced
  • 1 sweet onion, diced
  • 2 c red potato, diced
  • 1 c carrots, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic chopped
  • 1/2 all purpose flour
  • 3 c milk
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube 
  • 2 c water
  • 1 c grated cheddar cheese 
  • 1/4 c grated Parmesan 
  • 1 can of whole kernel corn, or two ear cooked with corn cut from the cob
  • A pinch of salt and white pepper

This chowder is the perfect prep ahead meal! It was so nice and sunny yesterday… The windows were open, it was a balmy 38 outside after all, and I figured… Crank up the woods stoves, open up the hatches and get those germs out!  

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Dice up all your potatoes, onions carrots and garlic. 

In a heavy ceramic dutch oven, or whatever soup pot you prefer, fry up your bacon or pork belly over medium high heat. 

Once all that glorius fat has been rendered, spoon the the bacon bits out and save for another time…

Add your onions and carrots to the bacon grease and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. 

Once translucent, add in the garlic. Cook for another minute or two.

Next add the flour. Toss to coat and cook the raw flour, stirring constantly for 1 to 2 minutes. 

Next add the milk, water and bouillon cube. 

Add your ham and potatoes…bring the chowder to a simmering boil.

Add your cheeses and stir until melted. Add the corn, stir and then cover.

Simmer on low for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

Stir every so often to be sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of your pot. 

This is a startchy dish after all. 

After the potatoes are tender, the broth should be thick and creamy.

Serve it up and enjoy!!! This is a soul satisfying meal! 

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Pan Fried Bone in Pork Chops with Fire Roasted Corn and Green Chilies

 

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Holy pork chops! These are divine! 

This is one of the simplest meals to make too! Another one of my pantry staples because, aside from the chops themselves, all you need is flour, oil, a couple of seasonings, canned corn and canned green chilies. All of which I keep on hand at all times.

I love meals like this. The pork comes out crispy on the outside and dripping with juiciness on the inside! They are so tender and flavorful.

The corn and chilies give it an extra pop of color and flavor. You really can’t go wrong with this one. 

Best part, it’s done in 15 minutes or less!!!

Pan Fried Bone in Pork Chops with Fire Roasted Corn and Green Chilies|

15 minutes, serves 4

  • 4, farm fresh, bone in pork chops, about 2lbs
  • 1 c flour
  • 2 tbsp kosher salt, divided
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp seasoned salt
  • 1/2 c – 1 c canola oil 
  • 1 can of fire roasted corn, drained 
  • 1 4.5 oz can chopped green chilies 

Season both sides of your chops with a sprinkle of salt, pepper and 1/2 of your seasoned salt. 

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For all 4 chops, heat your canola oil over medium high heat in a large cast iron skillet (or whatever you have on hand, I prefer cast iron).

Next mix your flour with a tbsp of your salt, more black pepper and the remaining seasoned salt. 

Dredge both sides of the pork chops. 

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 Place the chops in the thin layer of hot oil and fry for 4 minutes per side. 

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Meanwhile in a separate pan heat your corn and chilies together until hot and bubbly.

Plate your pork chops and let rest for one minute so the juices start to redistribute throughout the meat. Top with your corn and chilies and dig in!!!  

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These chops are seriously finger lickin’ good! 

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Homestead Essentials 

 

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This is our barn. 

The barn that houses so many of the essential tools we need to build our homestead and maintain what we’ve started.
Haste makes waste… This is one of the many lessons my grandfather has taught my husband and I. 

We find ourselves repeating this mantra often on the homestead. With so much to do day in and day out, it would seem easier to take a short cut every once and a while. 

You can’t rush things on a homestead. It’s important to do it right the first time so whatever project you may be working on is sure to last and last and in the end save you time. 

You can’t be hasty on the homestead. Things have a way of coming back to bite you when you rush.

There’s some beauty in that too…The time you take can not only teach you a lesson in patience but will teach you an appreciation for every mundane task you have as well.

For example… I can’t tell you how many times I would wake James up in the middle of the night saying “hunny I forgot to close the chicken coop!!!” 

 
I would rush rush rush to get all of my afternoon chores done so I could cook my family a meal and perhaps enjoy that rewarding glass of wine at the end of my day. 

James got sick of the haste and sick of getting out of bed at midnight to go close the dang coop. Trust me, don’t poke the bear is another manta in this house… He does whatever we need without hesitation but he does it, well…grumpily?

Is grumpily a word? My computer is not auto correcting me so I’m assuming it’s a suitable word here. And certainly is fitting for the bear protecting my hens at midnight. 

So when he finally had enough, he took his time and built this pulley system. 

 Brilliant! With just a few things we had around the stead, he made it so we can easily open and close the coop from inside our barn. 

No more going outdoors at midnight and the pulley is so easy it’s become a natural part of my evening routine. I rarely forget it now! 

There are so many wonderful, essential tools to have on your homestead. I’ve listed just a few of my favorites that have helped us out tremendously and has given us more time to conquer the next chore on the list!

1. The Kindling Cracker 

 This tool has been a life saver for me! 

Although we work to build a self sufficient lifestyle, James still travels quite a bit for his career away from the homestead, leaving me to do much of the farm work by myself. 

Funny enough, I actually bought this as one of his Christmas gifts this past year but it has served me most well because of the ease and safety it provides.

Chopping wood and kindling is not an easy task. We heat the majority of our house with 2 wood stoves. We actually have 4 fireplaces in this old house but I’m pretty sure it would be a full time job to run them all at once! 

The Kindling Cracker is so easy to use and takes the danger out of chopping wood. Check out a demonstration video here, just don’t mind the intense music in the background… Makes me giggle! 
 
2. The 5 Gallon Bucket 

 It may sound simple but having a good supply of 5 gallon buckets on the stead is absolutely essential!

I use them to bring extra water to the pigs and chickens. 

I plant herbs like mint, or other invasive plants, in the buckets to separate them from the rest of the garden.

They are helpful for storing different grains or shells the chickens will need for extra calcium. 

We use them during the slaughter process for any “extra parts” that will need to be taken away and disposed of. 

We use them to carry kindling to the indoor wood box.

They are perfect when the fruit trees are ready to harvest, and even great when collecting sap during maple sugaring season.

I could probably go on but you get the idea…These are a huge must have on any homestead.

3. Zip Ties 

 Anotjer simple yet essential tool.

We use these things more often than you can imagine… They are perfect for holding together a simple garden border to keep foragers away… 

 OR perfect for when a fence or protective netting may fall because of the weather or playful animals having a little too much fun.  

 They really are a smart thing to have on hand!
 
4. Good Boots 
 Proper foot wear may sound like a reach for this list but it is hands down one of my top essentials on any farm or homestead. 

We spend all day on our feet. Whether we are slopping pigs, weeding the garden or cleaning the coop- a bad shoe can ruin your day in an instant. Investing in good boots that will stand up to weather and wear is so important. 

   
5. Mason Jars 

 My ‘all things canning’ post will come at a later date but any homesteader should have a surplus of these jars on hand at all times!

I use them day in and day out. 

Aside from the typical canning process, we use them to store bacon grease, homemade vinegars, soaps, even refrigerator pickles and dilly beans.

They are so versatile and something I use almost everyday! Even all our drinking glasses are old Mason jars that I never bothered to buy new lids for! 

 Stock up! You won’t be sorry! 

 
6. Egg Cartons 

 This is pretty specific to those who raise chickens but I just can’t get enough. 

I never refuse old egg cartons from family and friends, and trust me… I end up using every last one!

If you have laying hens, don’t be scared to ask people to save their empties for you! Just be a good homesteader and give them back a full one to say thank you! 

7. The Food Saver 

 I know this may be a more hefty investment, but it is well worth it! We were able to process a large amount of our own meat and vacuum seal veggies that aren’t always can worthy.

There’s nothing better than fresh summer veggies in the dead of winter!  

 
8. 10 Gallon Drums 

   Similar to the 5 gallon bucket- perfect for grain storage and collecting rain water!

Research getting food safe drums to be sure no harmful chemicals within the drums will get into your feed or water supply. 

9. Food Scale

 
Lastly, and certainly not least is our food scale. This is such an important tool when canning and packaging meat. Even if we aren’t selling our product, it helps us to ration and label all that we preserve. 

It’s much easier to reach into the freezer and quickly read a tag that says 1lb ground venison, or 3lb pork roast, rather than guess the weight and have a recipe that’s too heavy or rather lacking what we should have thawed. 

I would reccomend a food scale to every homesteader out there. It truly eliminates waste and makes for a cleaner and more accurate product. 

So that’s my list of essentials for now! 

Make some of these investments- they will save you time and money in the end….

Bacon Stuffed Deviled Eggs

  You know it’s funny… Not too many years ago I can remember going to a party and saying to my husband…”Ugh, who brings deviled eggs to a party?! I mean, they just look so bland… And watery… And EW!!”
Ha! Then I became a farmer… Hens lay eggs man. And we have to figure out ways to use them up! 

Don’t get me wrong, I REALLY appreciate the summer abundance of eggs. Over the winter my hens barely produce at all. They hate the cold and I’m happily surprised when I find an egg or two each week. 

But summer time… I can’t give away enough! 

Anyway, my prejudice against deviled eggs quickly went away when I started experimenting with different recipes to use all our eggs and when I came up with this one!!

These days people put just about anything in a deviled egg. I’ve seen guacamole deviled eggs, buffalo chicken deviled eggs, even curry chicken deviled eggs !! I can’t lie…. Those all sound pretty delicious but when I think eggs… My next thought is ALWAYS bacon!! 

This is totally one of those keep it simple stupid type of recipes. 4 ingredients, boom done!!! However, as simple as they are, they are flavor packed!!! They have become a family favorite! You can’t eat just one… These deviled eggs totally win the Pringles award- once you pop the fun don’t stop!! 

Yeah… I just said that.

Anyway, start with your hard boiled eggs. Cut them in half and plop all their beautiful yellow yolks into a mixing bowl. 

 
Slice up 1/2 a lb of bacon. I find this is easier if you put the bacon in the freezer for a half an hour or so first… Makes for easy slicing! 

 Fry it up!!!! Make it all crispy and AMAZING! 

Move the bacon bits to a paper towel covered plate. 

Don’t forget to save all that glorious bacon fat!!! (That post will come on  another day) 

 Now things get even yummier!

Mix the yolks with 1 HEAPING tbsp of Dijon mustard, 2 HEAPING tbsp’s of mayonnaise and a pinch of black pepper. 

 then…. Add the bacon!! 

 Put all that super tasty filling into a piping bag or large zip lock bag.  

 Pipe the filling back into those eggs and garnish with a little paprika for added color! 

   A-Mazing!!!!!
Give these a try…Betcha can’t eat just one!!!

Bacon Stuffed Deviled Eggs|

30 minutes, serves 8, 2 per person

  • 8 eggs, hard boiled and peeled 
  • 2 heaping tbsp’s mayonnaise 
  • 1 heaping tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 lb bacon, chopped and fried into bacon bits
  • Black pepper and paprika to taste 

Cut hard boiled eggs in half. Remove yolks and mix with remaining ingredients till smooth. 

Place the filling into a piping bag and fill the eggs. Garnish with a pinch of paprika for color. 

Refrigerate until ready to serve. 

Enjoy!!

The Best Way to Peel an Egg

  
Isn’t it annoying when you go to peel a hard boiled egg for a Cobb salad or deviled eggs and half of the white sticks to the shell? Then you have ugly eggs. No one wants to serve ugly eggs! 

I’ve tried so many different methods to prevent this from happening- The muffin tin method, the needle poking method (don’t bother with this one…just don’t) But then finally!! And rather recently, I figured it out! The ice bath method! It’s worked perfectly every time-winning!!!! No more ugly eggs!

It’s important to bring your eggs to temperature along with your water.  

 Photo credit about.com

Start them off all by their onesies in an empty pot.

Fill the pot with just enough water to cover the eggs completely. 

Once the water begins to boil turn your burner down to medium and allow the water to simmer. You don’t want a rolling boil. 

Set your timer immediately for 13 minutes!

Watch it! If at 11 minutes one egg begins to crack. They’re done. 

Using a strainer or slotted spoon take your eggs out one by one and place directly into an ice bath. 

 Photo credit saucy-spatula.com

Allow the eggs to cool for 5 minutes or so. 

Tap tap tap!!! Crack those eggs all over and prepare yourself for the easiest peel ever! 

The shell will come off in big pieces, easy peasy!  

   
The yolks will be perfectly yellow too! No yucky gray ring hiding their beautiful color… 

 
And there you have it! Beautiful hard boiled eggs. No muss no fuss. My hens would be proud to see their eggs all unscathed and camera ready! 

They love getting their shells back too! If you have chickens on your homestead, feed your hens their egg shells. It might sound weird but it’s really not. The calcium is sooooo good for them and will increase egg production. Yay!! More hard boiled eggs!