Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

And then it snowed...

Today we were expecting mild temperatures and our big idea was to go on down and get a load of gravel to fill the big hole developing at the end of our driveway. But then this happened....

So much for that big winter storm missing us. 

Looks like today is going to be about sloth and fire.

Happy Saturday everyone! Are you hanging out by the fire today?


Friday, January 23, 2015

Prepping for pigs

It seemed like just yesterday we were prepping for hog harvest day and how we are about to start getting ready for having pigz in the spring. Well, things move pretty fast around here.

 Pigz. Not horrible when they are kind of small. Then stuff like this happens.

The dogs and I have been out scouting the property for where we will put the next pigz. The last pigz did such a great job of clearing that I want to be able to use those lots for production. As the spring progresses we'll be doing burning, clearing, tilling, and planting cover crops.

They end up being big. Real big. So much bacon.....

When finding a good location for pigz I need to keep a few things in mind:

1. Have them as far away from the house as possible. Pigz stink. They just do. For everyone who is about to say, "Well's all's you gotta do to keep them from stinkin' is..... " Just stop. I do not like the smell of pigz. At all. In any form. I can smell them a long way off and they stink. Bad.

2. But they can't be so far away that the hose doesn't reach. They need a lot of water and hauling it by the bucket is difficult and annoying.

3. We need to make sure they are well fenced in. You know us, we can whack up fencing anywhere but we need to make sure the lay of the land is fenceable.

4. They need cover - specifically they need to be in the woods. It's cooler and they like the shade - the woods also provide protecting from wind and rain.

5. I need to build a new Hog Hut. The indomitable Hog Hut 2008 finally fell to shambles. That structure was entirely free and included roofing tiles I literally dug out of the ground. It was subject to much mocking but it kept all those pigs bone dry all of those years.

Pigz are best on pasture where they can get out there and pig around. 

We don't need many supplies but I do need to go around and find all those feeders and waterers. We'll use the big tub for the waterfowl until the next pigz are big enough to use it. 

I won't need to think about feeding and chow until the pigz arrive but we'll use the strategy that has always worked for us. Of course, one of my goals is to plant even more crops for them including beets, turnips, beans, and whatever else I can get going. I'll be working on my planting strategy as we go along.

One thing that we will do better this year is to manage all the "spring rush" eggs... our hennies will start laying up a storm soon. I need to make sure I stay on top of taking them up, hard cooking them, and putting them into the freezer for the pigz this summer. Last year I could have done a better job at that.

Let's face it. The only reason I put up with them is because of the chops. Yes. That is a dinner plate.

I'll also put in a call to the guy we got the pigz from last year. Maybe we'll get lucky and find a new source for Tamworths. The problem is that this heritage breed are now so popular that they are expensive. So we'll see what we can work out.

You can check out more about raising pigz here - on my What I Know About Pigs page.

Happy Friday everyone! Are you prepping for pigz?


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Fixing up the greenhouse

Even tho there was some damage, I was surprised at how well my greenhouse did over the winter. We had a couple really windy storms that ripped one of the plastic sections.

The first section of plastic had entirely ripped off. I stored a lot of stuff in there and needed to get it covered back up. Mostly it was tools but I had a lot of potted up plants I wanted to protect also.

While we were in the worst of the weather we just took some used plastic we had laying around and tacked it into place...but then one more storm came along and that got ripped off also. Yesterday I went and got some new plastic and fixed it for good (you can see the more detailed 'how to' here).

When I say "for good" I mean... for now. I still want to get some commercial growers quality "greenhouse film" but that will take a while to get here and it's pretty expensive. My $25 fix was fine for now.

You can see how there is not a lot of area on the top to secure the plastic.

All I needed to do was to remove the ripped plastic and replace it with the new stuff. It only took a few minutes and most of that time was me wandering around trying to find my tools.

I loosely fitted the plastic before stapling into place. Hey look! There's me!

It's actually an easy project even for one person. I unrolled the plastic a little and ally-ooped the rest of the roll over the top of the greenhouse, cut to fit (generously), and stapled it all into place.

Probably not the most elegant job but it worked! And the door is back on it's hinges too.

The only difficult part was folding the plastic to fit around the door-end of the greenhouse. I pleated it the best I could and tacked it into place. I also had to put the door back on it's hinges - the wind ripped it right off.

So now I'm ready for action. We keep wondering if that was it for winter and now we are just going to have a mild stretch until the real spring shows up. Yesterday was glorious. I was outside with the dogs working on some clearing in the upper garden.  I was also trying to kill "Cousin It" which is a wisteria that is completely out of control. I have a feeling that fight will be ongoing.

I'm glad I got the greenhouse fixed up because we had some rain earlier and we'll have some again over the next couple of days. But for now it's (mostly) dry so I'm going to see what I can get done outside. Mostly just clearing but I'll take it.

Happy Wednesday everyone! Are you fixing your greenhouse or working outside?


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Cuban coffee at the Red Velvet Cafe - my new thing

Yesterday I zipped right into civilization. I got my errands done and I made a fantastic find. Immediately stop what you are doing and plot a GPS course for Red Velvet Café in Pickerington. Not in central Ohio? Doesn't matter - make the drive. I was there for the cupcakes but what I found instead made me absolutely swoon.

Seriously. Check out these lovelies. 

These guys are really terrific. I was warmly greeted by the owner and immediately I could tell that they specialize in excellent service. He knew every one of his customers - by name and their orders. How great is that? I tried to find out a bit more about their business and found this article. What a great story!

The cupcakes were given to me in this beautiful box. Thanks! 

Here is where the real love started.... I asked for a cappuccino but, he asked, would I like a cuban style coffee instead?

Be still my heart.

I had to catch myself on the edge of the counter lest I actually swoon and fall to my knees. I've been wanting to try a real cuban coffee for months. Years. Let's face it. I've been waiting all my life for this. I even was hatching a plot to fly to Miami for the day just to try one of these coffees. Seriously.

I've heard about cuban coffee but, aside from a TV segment on one of those morning shows, I didn't really know what it was about. It's about perfection. 

What is cuban coffee? Well. It's kinda hard to properly explain. It's a very small "demitasse" serving of extremely strong and very sweet coffee like nothing else you've had before. If you have the chance you have to try it. 

I found a great explanation of "how to here" - plus check out how fun these folks are. See that the key is to use the "crema" - which is the very first part of the espresso - to make a sugary caramel mix that is then blended with the rest of the coffee. It's kind of amazing. It makes the coffee very sweet, creamy, and lucious. Add milk? Cream? Or anything else? Nope. Just one small cup of delight. 

The Red Velvet Café serves all kinds of incredible drinks including smoothies (I got a sample of a taro root smoothie) and the amazing sounding Hawaiian salted caramel almond latte. Wow! And Thai iced teas and so much more but I can only think about that cuban coffee.

I don't usually get to that part of the world but you can bet when I do I'll be stopping at the Red Velvet Café. THANKS for your terrific service, beautiful cupcakes, and excellent coffee!



Editors note: What's with the shoutout to a local biz? What did I get out of this? Did they bribe me with booze or money or free stuff to write this? Nope. They had no idea I was an undercover farm blogger on the prowl for extraordinary coffee. To them I was just the next customer to walk in the door. They probably won't even see this. Maybe they will - I'll thank them again on 'the facebook.' My point is... this is a great business that I will drive the extra mile to visit the next time I go that way. Plus hey! Cuban coffee is a fun new thing. I may try to make this at home. I already have the coffee maker it's this one - the stovetop espresso maker - the 3 cup version. And I saw in the video that this is the coffee that they used. Now see? Those are affiliate links. So if you click on those and order something from Amazon then I will get a small percentage of the sale. But as for cupcakes and stuff? Nope. I just got amazing coffee and incredible cupcakes


Saturday, January 17, 2015

How to make pudding

Last nite on 'the facebook' we had a hoot making pudding for dinner. I couldn't come up with anything else to have... so I figured pudding was a fine choice. When I put it out to my pals they decided that butterscotch was the way to go.

Butterscotch pudding. It's just terrific!

I learned two things about making butterscotch pudding:
1. There is danger involved. I did not burn down the house making the caramel sauce.
2. It actually has booze it in - they weren't kidding about the "scotch" part.

This is a great recipe and I'm glad I tried making it. I usually only make vanilla or chocolate but this was a really fun project. Normally I can't make a caramel sauce but this worked out - and I did not burn the house down. The only adjustments I made to the recipe were that I only made a half batch...and they had grievously underused the booze in this.... so I added a bit more. We ended up not being able to eat this butterSCOTCH pudding by an open flame and this one of the few treats that is not a breakfast food. Wow!

One of my pals asked about tempering the eggs (I was giving a play by play of this project). Basically that means to gently heat the eggs or you will end up with scrambled eggs and not a soft, silky, luscious custard. Someone else (thanks L!) provided a great 'how to' link to the tempering process.

I've been making custard for so long that I kind of forget that "pudding" to a lot of folks involves a little plastic cup or a box of mix. So I thought I'd share my how-to which is based on my Grandma Minnie's custard recipe. I believe the technical difference between custard and pudding is eggs. This is a custard due to the eggs... but I just call it pudding.

My Grandma Minnie's handwritten recipe.

We'll put a disclaimer here that some folks will burst into flames over the "uncooked" eggs part of this...but my eggs were still warm from the hen so I'm pretty sure they were extremely fresh. Don't die of salmonella or whatnot. If this makes you nervous then be sure you cook your custard or just make pudding instead. How's that?


Ingredients:

1/2 cup sugar
2 heaping Tablespoons  cornstarch
3 egg yolks
2 cups of milk - you will divide this in the course of the steps
vanilla - big splash
salt - just a dash
chocolate - 3 Tablespoons of cocoa plus some chocolate chips or good chocolate broken into pieces.

Before you do anything get a nice glass bowl and put in a big splash of vanilla. If you are making chocolate pudding then also put in some chocolate chips (1/3 or 1/2 cup?) or some really good chocolate broken into pieces. Have this standing at the ready by your stove.

Put some chocolate chips and some vanilla into a bowl. You'll need this later.

Get a heavy pan and whisk together the salt, sugar, cornstarch, and egg yolks. Add the cocoa if you want chocolate pudding. Add a little cold milk from the "2 cups of milk." How much? I dunno...some. Enough to dissolve the dry ingredients. Let's call it about 1/4 cup.

Put the rest of the milk in the microwave until it's hot. For my microwave that means about 1:30 minutes. Don't scald it.

The sugar, cornstarch, salt, and cocoa.. mixed with a little cold milk.


Start to cook your egg mixture over very low heat...like a 3 or a 4 on your burner dial. Just until the sugar dissolves and the mix starts to come together. By now your milk should be hot.

Start with just a little hot milk - like a tablespoon. Add a little at a time. Keep stirring!

Now we are going to temper the eggs. Pour about a tablespoon or so of the hot milk into the warming egg mixture. Stir with your whisk. Stir like you mean it. Then add a little more hot milk... just a bit. Keep on stirring. Then add a bit more.. a little more - maybe about a 1/4 of a cup. Still stirring? Keep it up. Add another 1/4 of a cup. Don't stop stirring! Are you crazy!?! Keep stirring! 

Now your egg mixture and your milk should be about the same temperature in the pan... a couple more "add more milks" and all the milk should be mixed in.

It's OK if it's frothy. Note how there are bubbles all over the top of the mixture.

Don't freak out of it's frothy. In fact, that is awesome. Watch the bubbles - this will help you see the custard cooking and will let you know when it's done.

When you first start out the mixture will be foamy.

Now stand there and stir that custard - not in a frenzy - but keep it moving. Don't walk away from the stove. Don't talk on the phone. Just stand there and stir. You might be there for about 7 minutes. What else are you going to do? You can turn the heat up a bit, but not more than half way.

Then, miraculously, you will see that the mixture is starting to thicken up. The bubbles will kind of disappear and you'll see lines in the mixtures from our whisk. This is it! You are getting close!

Then it will become pudding.

That moment when your mixture becomes custard is nothing short of magical. Yay! How do you know it's done? When it's nice and thick and starts to hold it's shape. It will thicken up some more when it's refrigerated.

See how the custard holds it's shape? The lines from the whisk stay visible?

Keep stirring and take your pan off the heat. Carefully pour the hot custard into the bowl. If you are making chocolate you will need to stir in the chocolate chips or good chocolate until they are melted. Mix to incorporate the vanilla.

Pour the hot custard into your prepared bowl. Mix until the chocolate is melted.

Voila! Pudding. I like to eat the hot custard but that freaks some people out. So cover the bowl and let it chill in the fridge.

See? That wasn't so tough, was it?

Happy pudding making everyone!


Friday, January 16, 2015

10 things to do now while you are waiting for summer

If you are like me then you are starting to stalk around like a caged tiger and cursing the cold weather. But we are starting to see a light at the end of this bleak tunnel.... this week our weather will moderate and we might even get up into the 40*'s this weekend. Unlike what Stringer Bell thinks (see note), I have a lot to say about a 40* day right now. All of it glorious because I just want to get outside.  40* sounds like a dream.

Remember when it was summer and everyone was happy?

It's time to start getting ready for the growing season. Here are 10 things to do now while we are all waiting for summer:

1. Start planning your garden. Now is a great time to read up on how to get your garden going - grab some books and start envisioning your growing space. There are a lot of online tools out there but garden planning is a great excuse to get out there and walk around.

2. If you can, start working on hardscaping. Meaning.. do you need to start building pathways? Can you get a load of gravel or start shoveling wood chips? Maybe stake out some fencing?

3. We can't start seeds inside due to cats *points at the Insane Cat Posse* but I'll be able to start working in my greenhouse soon. You too can build a hoop house: Step One. Step Two. Step Three. Step Four.

4.  Start dreaming of your potato empire.... this is one of my popular posts and includes a link to one of my favorite gardening books.

5. Get your jars organized. My canning jars are everywhere. How are your canned goods? Have you taken an inventory to see what is left? We are just about at the half way point... so get those jars cleaned up, in boxes, and ready for action. You can also do canning projects like canning dried beans. Do you need canning tools? Keep an eye on the prices and look for sales.

6. Get your tools in order and get what you need.. especially some good gardening gloves.

7. Work on learning a new skill. I'm really enjoying trying out Thai food recipes. I'm on a mission to make the perfect pad see ew... I'm getting closer. The other day I made it back into town and got more sauces and such - and Thai take out... you know.. for science. What do you need to learn to do? Make a quiche? Lean to knit? Carpentry? Get up off the couch and start working on it.

8. Start trimming your fruit trees. I'll be working on this in the next couple of weeks.

9. Are you going to get started with livestock? Start reading up on how others are doing it like this great series by Farmer Liz on how to get started with chickens.

10. Don't forget to rest up. I have a feeling this is going to be a fantastic summer - so there is nothing wrong with getting a little R & R now.... it will be nothing but action and adventure when that first perfect day hits. Come on, summer!!!

Happy Friday everyone - are you getting ready for summer?

Note: Are you a fan of The Wire? Then you know about 40* days... if not, don't even think about clicking on this link if you are at work or around kids. Warning: language..I am not kidding.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Frosty

You know, it's pretty bad when you can tell the temperature by how frozen the water buckets are in the morning.  This is what low 20*'s looks like...

But hey there is some great art here!

Our cold weather should moderate in a few days... come on, 40*'s!!!

Happy Wednesday everyone! How frozen are your buckets?


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