Wild Things Farm

  (Crab Orchard, Tennessee)
Farm life adventures of the Happy Hoer
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Homemade granola

Today's one of those days that one needs a boat to navigate around outdoors.  It's pouring rain but the chickens are out wandering around in the rain--go figure.....

While I'm hold up in the house I decided to replenish my homemade granola supply.  My go-to breakfast every morning is yogurt with fruit and granola on top.  I've made my own a few times in an attempt to reduce the amount of crap I can't pronounce going into my mouth, and it's not hard to make.  The hardest part is finding all the ingredients in Small Town USA.  We do have a couple of health food stores that are proving to be a good source for hard-to-find "healthy" food items.

Every time I make this recipe I tweek it just a little bit, but it always turns out yummy....that is unless I get distracted while baking it and it ummm, gets a little dark :-)

Here's the basic recipe:  (from Allrecipes.com)

4 cups rolled oats
1 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup flax seed meal (I used 1-1/2 cups wheat germ because I didn't have any flax
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans (I used walnuts)
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 tsp ground cinnamon (I omit this)
1-1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup canola oil (I used grapeseed oil--why?  because I didn't have any canola oil)
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup water

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  Mix all the wet stuff together in a separate bowl, using a fork or a whisk.  Pour the wet onto the dry and toss to coat all the dry ingredients.  Place in a greased 9x13 or 11x7 inch baking pan.  (I used a large jelly roll pan) that is greased well (sprayed with non-stick spray).  Set the timer for 15 minutes and every 15 minutes stir everything around really well.  Mine usually cooks in about 45 minutes but the recipe calls for an hour or until it's golden brown.  Let it cool completely then store in an airtight container.  I keep mine in a big glass gallon jar......yummy!

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Useful Wild Things on the farm

Back in July a "flock" of worms was added to the Wild Things' menagerie.  I'm not sure what you call a bunch of worms, "flock", "wad", "glob".....they do make wonderful poop to add to the seed starting mix AND it's getting really close to seed-starting time.  As a matter of fact, there are teeny tiny tomato plants that were started on the 16th in the little greenhouse at this very moment.

When I got the worms I wrapped the white joint compound buckets with black nursery plastic to keep the light out.  A couple of weeks later I spied the quart of blackboard paint that I only needed a 1/2 cup to paint farmer's market signs.  I painted the exterior of the buckets with the paint--it wouldn't be durable enough for a bucket that was going to be used a lot, but for a worm house, it's perfect.  I can take chalk and write directly on the bucket what date I harvested the poop and eggs.

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In case you're wondering what a wormlette is, it's a teeny-tiny just hatched baby worm.  This bucket has the stuff that wouldn't sift through the sifter I use to harvest poop.  Poop is about the size of coffee grounds, and the eggs are just a little bigger.  Technically they need an 80 degree environment to hatch in like 3 weeks or so, but they will still hatch at lower temps, it just takes longer.  I just check in on them occasionally and pick out the hatchlings.

I added some rotten onions and delicata squash scraps to the worm buckets this morning....they said "thank you" :-)

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Completing the beehives

So I'm a compulsive list maker......checking tasks off of my lists gives me a feeling of accomplishment and it helps me to not forget things I really want to get done.  One of the wintertime items on the list was to get the hives ready for the bees' arrival in the spring.

The last post was about building the boxes and assembling the frames.  The hives have been sitting on the back porch (in the way, I might add) waiting for me to get back to them.  With the holidays over and the upstairs floor at least nailed down (not finished yet) I was able to get back to the hives.  The quilt is nothing more than a rectangular frame, just slightly (like 1/8";) smaller than the supers.  This facilitates the burlap being stapled to the outside of the quilt and still maintain airflow to the roof cavity.

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First off I used a piece of burlap that's about 3 inches larger than the bottom dimension of the quilt.  There just so happened to be a piece of burlap in my fabric stash, so I stapled the selvage edge first along one long side of the quilt.  Then it got stretched really tight and I stapled the other side in a few spots just to hold the fabric tight, then the excess was trimmed and the edge turned under to keep it from raveling.

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One of the quilts was fabricated from some scrap oak that was laying around and it was really difficult to get the staples to go all the way in.  It's also quite a bit heavier than the other one, which is made from pine--but---it was scrap.

Here is the hive with the quilt in its proper position--wood shavings go in when the hive gets set up in the apiary.   Bees keep their hives really warm during the winter--I think around 95 degrees or so.  When the warm air hits a cold roof cover the moisture in the air condenses and drips back down onto the bees, which could chill them and kill them.  The quilt absorbs the heat and humidity so condensation doesn't occur, plus it provides insulation from the cold and heat in the summer.  I've read that some people treat the burlap with a flour paste to keep the bees from shredding it.  That will get done closer to "bee-arrival" time.

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You can see the burlap stapled to the outer edge of the quilt.  Don't worry, the roof will cover that.....

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In fact, the roof covers the entire quilt and part of the top box.

Here is the first completed beehive.  Rough sawmill lumber was used for the roof gable ends because the lumber  purchased from the sawmill wasn't wide enough for the peak of the roof.  There was a board left over from the house siding (hemlock) so I used that.  It soaked up a lot more of the wood sealer than the finished boards.  The roof has a flat board inside that rests on top of the quilt so mice can't get into the nice nest of shavings.  A screened bottom board will allow for ventilation through the hive, and the little ramp at the bottom is for when the bees are tired and they can stumble into the hive (that's what I've read, anyway).  An entrance reducer will be added to keep the opening smaller when necessary or opened up all the way.  I'm not sure about all that yet, but I'm still learning.

I decided to name my hives after the signs of the zodiac--not that I believe any of that--but it made a convenient way to keep the first twelve hives separate for recordkeeping purposes.  A woodburning tool made the name permanent, rather than paint.  The Happy Hoer was born in the sign of Virgo :-)

 
 

An Adventure with Spring Roll Wrappers

Yesterday morning I laid out some frozen chicken to prepare for supper.  I didn't know what to fix yet, but there it  was, at 7:00 pm, thawed, on the counter.  This wasn't ordinary grocery-store chicken, but one of the unlucky roosters that were a product of my "I-want-to-incubate-eggs" experiment.  That experiment yielded more roosters than laying hens, so from now on I'll leave the incubating to the professionals and just purchase newly hatched girls.

So far my experience with these roosters is that they are TOUGH and the last couple of times I cooked one it was an all day thing in the crock pot and they turned out to be chicken and dumplings.  Even after cooking it all day long the breast meat just got bigger and bigger the more it was chewed!  So, my mind got out of the chicken-and-dumpling pot and spied the handy-dandy grinder attachment for my Kitchen Aid stand mixer.  There was some Chinese cabbage from the garden in the crisper, along with carrots harvested several weeks ago.  I'll share the recipe(s) I prepared, but the story is more about the wrappers themselves.

I don't eat out often, but when I do I like to eat things that I don't normally prepare at home.  Vietnamese food isn't something I make very often, but I had a dish once with the rice noodles and spring rolls that was delicious, so that's my inspiration for supper.  I bought a package of spring roll wrappers a while back and have been wanting to use them--here's my chance!

At 7:00 pm I ground the chicken and put it in a skillet with diced onion and some minced garlic (yes, I use the stuff in the jar), soy sauce and pepper.  I cut shreds of the cabbage and put it in the pan long enough to wilt,  then I took out enough of this mixture to make a few spring rolls.  I added chunks of onion, celery, carrot sticks and bigger slices of the Chinese cabbage to the pan of chicken.

I started a pot of water boiling to cook the rice noodles and pulled the spring roll wrappers out of the pantry.  Nice package.....

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Once I got it open I couldn't decide what was packaging and what was the actual wrapper.  They were stiff and had embossed marks on them like an inner cover in a can or something.  See what I mean?

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Okay, no instructions on the package so I go to the computer.  "Immerse in warm water for up to 30 seconds to soften" and then wrap your ingredients.  I've got the pot of hot water ready for rice noodles, so that seems easy enough.  I carefully dip the stiff wrapper into hot water so I don't burn myself and Voila!  It turns into something similar to wet plastic wrap and is folded up into a wad.  Okay, maybe the water is too hot.  I took a dinner plate and ran warm water from the faucet into a thin layer and laid a wrapper in the water for about 30 seconds and it softened up miraculously so I could roll up the ground chicken mixture and make a spring roll.  I fried them in a little oil and ate the rice noodles with the chunky mixture left in the pan.    At 8:15 I was cleaning up the dishes--see, it doesn't take that long to prepare fresh food INCLUDING grinding your own meat!

Of course this wasn't quite as tasty as the Vietnamese dish I had in a restaurant with my best friend, but I was in my jammies in my house ......that means a lot on a cold wintry night!

 

 
 

WHAT are you putting in your MOUTH!

OK, it's that time of year, when a lot of us make new year's resolutions and attempt to improve something about our lives.  The way I look at it is that we have "tomorrow" to improve, or "next week" to start something new--maybe "first of next month"--oh what the heck--new year's-----"I'll start taking control of what goes in my mouth".

 It's a real comfort knowing where your food comes from.  I was with my best friend at the grocery store the other day and I couldn't believe how stressful it was trying to decide which of the produce to encourage her to buy....the conventional spinach was--well, YUK!  not fresh...the organic wasn't much better and I thanked my lucky stars that I don't have to worry about where my produce comes from.  (If I had known she needed spinach I would have brought her some <img src=)" title=":))" />

Now's the time to decide how you want to nourish your body this year--join a local CSA and know where your food comes from, go to the farmer's market and get local produce (ask if it's organic) or continue to paddle along with convenience foods whether frozen or canned.  It's your choice.  Our bodies are using what we put in them to build new cells every day.  Junk in--junk out, as the old saying goes.  

I went to an "open house" yesterday at the home of one of the farm members.  They had prepared salad using greens from the high tunnel and they were really excited to share that information with the guests at their party.  It was exciting to me to be eating veggies that were grown on my farm but prepared by someone else--I knew where those veggies came from.   I know everyone isn't to that point in their consumption of food, but it's a really good feeling, and if you can't grow your own veggies, belonging to a CSA is a good foundation to taking control of your diet.

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