Farming in winter is tough! Some days it seems like it’s just not worth it. Can the animals just find their own food so I don’t have to brave the cold today?
Fried chicken is delicious. Seriously, can you name anyone who doesn’t like fried chicken? Its a comfort food that is great hot or cold. Put it with a side of mashed potatoes and corn and you’ve really got something. But have you ever tried fried rabbit?
Fried rabbit is truly delightful! You can go ahead and cut up the whole rabbit into pieces like you do a chicken, or what we do is just take the front and back legs off of multiple rabbits and cook them up together.
On butchering day, the rabbits either get used right away or frozen. We process them to where we package some of the legs together and then just freeze the remaining rabbit without its legs. The legs are the perfect portion size and doing it this way requires less work than if you were to cut up the whole rabbit into “fryable” sized pieces.
After thawing the meat and letting it rest in a marinade of coke, Worcestershire sauce and garlic for a few hours, batter coat the meat one piece at a time in a flour mixture. We use flour mixed with seasoned salt and garlic salt. Once thoroughly coated, we place it into the fryer.
Our current fryer is an old pot on the stove. You can use any oil or lard you choose. Heat up the oil prior to coating the rabbit and have it nice and hot ready to fry. Place the rabbit legs a few at a time into the fryer and keep an eye on them that they don’t burn. If the oil seems too hot, turn it down. You don’t want your meat burning on the outside but still under-cooked inside.
Cook on each side, turning once. When you pull it out be sure to test a piece to be sure the inside is done. When its ready and your kitchen smells amazing, pull the meat out of the fryer and let it cool until it is at a consumable temperature. Once the meat has cooled enough that the rabbit can be handled with bare hands, devour that deliciousness, but savor each bite!
We brought home our first cow in the beginning of May. Neither Dave nor I have ever owned a cow before. Honestly, except for running into cows grazing out on public lands and seeing them on farms, I have never really been around cows. Its been a bit of a learning curve… this seems to be a theme with our little farm. Lots to learn about everything!
After reading about different kinds of cows, Dave really got to liking the idea of raising Dexter cows. Dexter cows are considered a miniature cow. They are smaller than most breeds but are not always as small as you would expect.
We found our cow, Sequoia, on a local classified add online and decided she would make a nice start for our future herd. She had been in with a bull in March, so she is supposedly pregnant.
When we went to get her I was very surprised at her size. For a Dexter she was very big, and oh so fat! It was very apparent that you can overfeed a cow on hay cubes! She looks a lot like an Angus cow that has been sawed off at the knees.
After a short rodeo, we got her loaded into our stock trailer and we drove home. She seemed to handle the 45 minute drive without a problem, but after we unloaded her into our pasture, she started hollering! She bellowed for 3 days! She liked to go to the corner of the pasture and stare at the neighbor’s horse and bellow. Mooooooo!!!!! as loud as possible.
That first night we were certain the neighbors were going to be pounding down our door with torches and pitchforks! She was so loud and would not give it up! The next morning I was awoke by a text from a neighbor who lived two streets away. Her little boys had heard our cow and had to go on a hunt to find it! They were so excited to see that the neighbors had gotten a cow!
At church that afternoon some of the neighborhood was chatting about the new sound they had been hearing. I overheard a conversation between two ladies, “Did you hear all of that noise this morning? What was that?! Did someone inherit a dragon?!”
Luckily no one confronted us about our noise-ordinance defiling bovine. And a few days later she settled down. She began to make friends with the goats and even began to get comfortable with us.
Each day I would give her a feed pan with a scoop of sweet mix in it. After a day or two she would come up to me when she saw that I had the pan. After about a week I could pet her head and down her neck.
By the end of two weeks she would allow me to touch her just about anywhere, her feet her rear and under her belly. But she would only let me touch her so long as her face was still in the feed pan. As soon as she was finished with her treat, she wouldn’t let me near her. Not to sure she will make for a good milk cow.
Also, by the end of two weeks, she had already eaten down our 1/4 acre pasture to the point that we needed to move her off of it. We knew she would eat a lot, but seeing how fast 1 small cow could eat down that amount of space was a real eye opener.
Since that time she has been the travelling cow. We have moved her between our pasture and friend’s and relatives pastures to mow down their extra grass and to allow ours to grow back. Currently she is enjoying a lush pasture on my uncle’s farm in Beaver, UT. We plan to bring her home later this fall so she can calve out on our little homestead.
If your kids are like my kids, they can run through a quart of applesauce in nothing flat. I know applesauce is cheap, and although it won’t break your budget, but home bottled applesauce is where its at!
Bottling anything can be time consuming. And it is a lot of work, but applesauce is a great addition to your food storage and can be bottled sweetened or unsweetened depending on your preferences.
I first started bottling applesauce right before my oldest child was born. I had just gotten laid off from my seasonal ranger position at Zion National Park and was making the transition to being a stay at home mom. I have 3 weeks to get the house ready for the baby and was done with that in like 2 days.
My neighbor ended up getting a bunch of apples for free and asked me if I wanted some. I said yes, because really I just needed something to occupy my time and my mind. I bottled quart after quart of applesauce that week. I made it without any sugar or cinnamon thinking this would be a great start to making all of my own baby food. But lets be real, I never did make all my own baby food. Yet another ambition that got hit with a reality check.
So after ending up with tons of the most bland applesauce ever, (I used most of it for baking, check out my zucchini bread recipe) the next year I bottled applesauce with added sugar and cinnamon. Much better!
So here it is! My applesauce recipe and how to bottle it!
Any apple can be made into applesauce, but I recommend finding a flavorful eating apple for best results. I usually just end up with whatever apples are available off my neighbor’s trees, but I try to use the sweeter varieties for applesauce and the more tart or less flavorful ones for making apple pie filling! (blog post on this to come!)
Now that you have a bunch of flavorful apples, slice, core and skin each one. Trust me on the skinned apples. applesauce made with the skin on is far less enjoyable. I made that mistake one year too. I figured it would be more nutritious and less work to leave the skins on. I decided afterward it was worth the extra work and lessened nutrition to actually enjoy my applesauce. I skin my apples by hand but I like to use an apple corer and slicer to speed up this process.
Next take all of the skinned apple slices and bring them to a boil on the stove. I use a huge stockpot and fill it about half full of apple and then fill it on up with water. I cover it and let it boil until the apples are soft.
Then I drain off the water throw the apple slices into my blender. I blend the apples until smooth and then pour them out in another large pot or container.
When I have all the apples pureed I then add sugar and cinnamon to the apple puree in small amounts tasting it often to get just the right amount of sweetness to it. The applesauce is now made and ready for serving or bottling.
To bottle the applesauce I take washed and sanitized bottles that have been left to sit in hot water so that they won’t crack when the hot applesauce is ladled into them, and using a funnel, I fill them with applesauce leaving a half an inch of headspace.
Then place the lids on and tighten the rings just hand tight. Put them into the water bath canner and process (boil) them for 20 minutes for both quarts and pints.
When the 20 minutes is up, remove them from the canner and place them on a towel to cool. As they cool, a vacuum effect will suck the lid down and seal the rubber ring onto the jar.
And that’s it! Simple easy and so delicious! It can now be used or stored til next year when you will need to make some more because it is so tasty it will all be eaten before next years apple crop is ready!
Today we woke up to a white Christmas. It was beautiful. It was exactly what our oldest son had been hoping for, our animals? Not so much.
We had a great morning watching the magic of Christmas unfold for our 3 crazy monkeys (our children), but then had to brave the cold and the snow to go out and take care of the morning animal chores. One thing about this lifestyle is you don’t get a day off just because it’s a holiday. In fact the holidays often add extra responsibilities if you are also taking care of others’ homesteads while they are away for the holidays. Right now our 7 year old is being tasked with caring for our neighbors’ animals in trade for his piano lessons he takes from her.
Chores aside, there are some special things on Christmas that come from this lifestyle. Here are a few we enjoyed this year.
Home made gifts! The favorite gift found under the tree this morning for each of our children was a hand crafted treasure box Dave and I made for each of them in the wood shop.
We have also been enjoying our early Christmas present! We got a new arrival last week with the birth of our first calf. Our Dexter cow, Sequoia gave birth to a beautiful bull. Since he is red the boys have taken to calling him “Mario.”
Lastly we have been enjoying a favorite Christmas treat, Reindeer Jerky! And now we share the recipe with you!
To begin take a nice roast of whatever meat you prefer. This year I used a few elk roasts from last year’s harvest and defrosted them.
Cut the meat into strips approximately a quarter inch thick. Using a mixing bowl or baking pan layer the strips of meat and coat well with salt, pepper and any other seasoning you choose. For us this year we used Lawry’s Season All salt.
When covering each layer with salt it is best to use non iodized salt and shake enough on the meat that you can just begin to see the salt. It is important to get enough salt in the brine to cure the meat, but at the same time don’t add so much that it becomes too salty!
When your layering is complete, cover the container with plastic wrap and allow it to cure in the fridge for 4 or 5 days.
At this point you have two options for drying. You can string up the jerky to air dry for a week or so, or use a dehydrator and leave it to dry for approximately 18 hours.
Growing up we used to string the meat on bailing wire and hang it in the basement. Last year I received a Presto dehydrator for Christmas and we enjoy using it to have jerky without the wait time.
The kids love the “reindeer” jerky! It also makes for a great gag gift for white elephant parties and a great gift for someone who already has everything!
Merry Christmas from the Riggs and all the animals on the farm!
Our whole farming enterprise all began with bringing home 8 chicks. Chickens that is. We brooded them in the garage and built them a coop and kept 6 hens on our 1/8 of an acre. A small flock was perfect for what we had back…
Raising baby ducks is not for the faint of heart, or gag reflex! Unless it is summer time and you can keep those cute fluffy quackers outside from day one, don’t try to brood ducks.
We had inherited 6 ducks when we moved out to our farm. We had such fun playing with them and lets face it, chasing them. They quacked and waddled and I was in love from the start! When we found out they were laying eggs I was even more thrilled.
That winter we lost two of our ducks. Over new years something got into the pasture and attacked two of them. Lucky was not so lucky. Nor was Rainbow. The kids were sad about it and so was I . I didn’t know how much I liked ducks until we had some.
That spring, (well still winter actually, it was February) we decided to raise some more chickens. My husband decided to surprise me, and brought home 4 ducklings a week later! It was like Christmas!! Those ducklings were so cute and fluffy! I was in love! We put them in a brooder box with some of the chickens, only to find within only a couple of days that the ducks were already outgrowing the chickens. They were at least a week younger and already bigger than the chicks.
They were getting bigger fast but still so cute. Its a good thing they were cute, because that may have been the only thing that saved their lives! They were SOOOOO messy! We learned that ducks have to drink to be able to swallow their food. They would eat and then get to guzzling water, and as they did so water would slosh everywhere and out of the sides of their bills. Their poop was really big and so messy. It would make a nasty squirting noise as they pooped too! .
The mess they were making would make such a stink! I was changing their wood shavings daily if not twice per day because it smelled so strong. I would run warm bath for them and let them play in the bath tub as a way of cleaning them up while I took care of changing their bedding. Not going to lie, watching them play in the tub was often the highlight of my day. It was so fun! But it didn’t outweigh all the work these 4 little tykes were!
Because they were growing so fast, they ate so much food. I was filling their food every few hours all day and ALL NIGHT! Ok ducks are smart! These cute yellow critters didn’t yet quack, but could peep very loud! They would start out quietly and get progressively louder until I would get up and get them food and water. Dave said I was crazy for getting up with the ducks, but if I didn’t, they would get so loud they would wake my baby! So I would be up anyway!
Once they were fully feathered at about 8 weeks, it was such a relief! They were big enough to go outside! Sadly April is still very cold at night here in Utah, so we would let them be outside during the day but bring them in at night for another week or two. They were fun, but I would not do it again! Never again will I brood ducks inside! On this farm, ducks are outside only from the day they hatch!
Sometimes winter hits unannounced. That’s what happened here last week. Saturday was a beautiful T-shirt weather day, and by afternoon on Sunday old man Winter was rearing his ugly head. Don’t get me wrong, I love winter… snowball fights, hot cocoa, sledding and cozying up…