Our Mission

To live a self-sufficient and organic lifestyle for the next half century. With the Grace of God and the power of prayer, we will succeed. Nothing is impossible with His help. It wouldn't be us without laughter and joy at the Cockeyed Homestead.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Cooking with Chef Jo: Easy, But Oh so Good Éclair Cake

 Of all the desserts I prepared for my beloved in 25 years of marriage, this Éclair cake was one he requested over and over again. It even beat out my apple pie with sharp cheddar cheese. He loved it so much that he even requested it the week before he died. At the time, he was eating only a tablespoon of real food at a time because it took too much energy to eat. I can't even remember where I got the recipe from it's been so long ago. 

For its fancy name, you'd think it would be hard to make. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Simple ingredients that can be store bought and layered. Of course originally, I made the components from scratch, but after my strokes. I went back to the simplified version. I'll give you the simplified version and you can substitute the from scratch version as your heart desires. It's only five or six ingredients that you may have in your cupboard and refrigerator already.

Éclair Cake
Serves 9
What you'll need
1 box Honey Graham crackers
1 small box of instant vanilla pudding, made according to directions
1 8oz tub of whipped topping
3 oz chocolate syrup
1 small container chocolate frosting, I used dark fudge

Putting it together
  • Line 8x8 pan with parchment or waxed paper.
  • Fold whipped topping into the prepared vanilla pudding. Fold in completely.
  • Place a single layer of graham crackers in the bottom of the pan.
  • Top with half the pudding mixture and spread smooth.
  • Add a single layer of graham crackers.
  • Spread chocolate syrup to cover the graham crackers.
  • Add remaining pudding mixture.
  • Top with final single layer of graham crackers.
  • Spread this layer with chocolate frosting.
  • Cover with plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate for four hours. Or, freeze for two hours and allow to thaw for 20 minutes on the counter before serving.
Now when I first made this, everything was made from scratch: graham cracker squares were baked, vanilla pudding was cooked then chilled, real heavy cream was sweetened then whipped, chocolate syrup was made in advance and canned for a rainy day, and the fudgy, chocolate frosting was beaten within an inch of its life to be light and fluffy. But those days are gone with my strokes or so I thought.

At times I wonder if my beloved noticed the changes in taste of his last two batches of his favorite dessert. All the preservatives and chemicals wouldn't hurt him now, but I did the best I could at the time. 

This week I made this dessert from scratch for the first time since his death eight years ago. Partly in remembrance and to ease my sorrow. But, the main reason...it's just that yummy for my tummy!

Y'all have a blessed day!
Chef Jo
.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Here We Go with the Ruth Stout/Market Garden Makeover

Today would have been my beloved's 72 birthday. Plus it would have been our 29th wedding anniversary. So I'm sort of discombobulated this week. This week actually hits me harder than the anniversary of his death day. Gone but never forgotten.

This week I was arranging for three rolls of hay to be delivered. When the hay will be delivered depends on the guy up the road fixing his portion of the access road. As much as I swore I wouldn't buy this again, it was more cost effective. Square bales are running between $4- $7 a bale while the 4x5 rounds are $25. One square bale will cover a 2'x3' section of the garden at the depth required. It would take a humungous amount of bales to do it that way in the 16'x 32' vegetable patch in front of the house. Cash wins when you're homesteading on a limited resources budget, or having a homestead on a shoestring budget like we do.

Unlike the way we did the orchard area where we manhandled the rolls, we'll be pulling it apart by the cart load. A cart load when dumped is the perfect depth and width for row in this garden. We are still thinking smarter not harder even though it will take multiple trips with the cart. Opposed to rolling out the big bale like we did in the orchard. It only weighs 500-600 lbs to start with between two people. We didn't get more energetic, stronger, or younger in the last two and a half years. It's a trade off in labor, but more doable in the long run. Both of us groaned at the thought of going out to the orchard to complete the task after the first day. Every muscle and bone in our bodies hurt but we finally finished all five tiers done in about two weeks.

We started the Ruth Stout Method this week by weed whacking the entire garden area to where just stubble was left. The weeds had gotten taller than my five-foot frame left to their own devises. So it was impossible to mow. We left the weeds to decompose in place.

Next, we broke out the stakes, scraps of 2x4 pressure treated lumber split in half, crochet thread, and tape measure. The thread is 100% cotton so it will decompose over time and at 1000 yards per ball for $6, it was cheaper than the garden alternative. We placed a stake alternating 3' and 2'  across the width of the garden. Three feet for planting areas and two feet for walkways between the planting rows. We ran it down the 32' length for the rows. We measured out a 3' border around the garden area and staked it.

OOPSY DAISY!
As we talked about the layout later, we realized we made a huge mistake. This was where the tiny houses would be started the beginning of summer. Plans came to a screeching halt. I'd have to reconfigure the garden down in the orchard divided among the fruit and nut trees, and chicken runs. It's getting mighty crowded down there. 

The only problem with the orchard is that it's on the northwest side of the property. It is at least devoid of trees except the ones we've planted but surrounded by old growth trees. We laid out the tiers in  southeastern rows, but sunlight is hampered. While good for the trees, vegetables might be another story. I do grow some vegetables like corn, daikon, carrots, onions, and garlic in the orchard area. They do okay, but other vegetables may not do so well. All those sun loving veg like okra, tomatoes, and eggplants are questionable.  They may not get their minimum sunlight hours even with it being terraced.

I'm just glad we thought about it before we laid all that hay! That would have been a huge mess to move. So tomorrow, we'll be heading down to the orchard to measure and stake off the new Ruth Stout/Market garden. Don't you just love the aspects of homesteading when you have to turn on a dime, and fall back and regroup? One step forward, two back.

Y'all have a blessed day!
Cockeyed Jo



Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Canning with Chef Jo: Meatballs!

Who doesn't like meatballs? I use home canned meatballs a labor saving device. Well maybe not labor saving, but definitely a time savers in the long run. Mel and I don't like the flavor or texture of canned ground meats. To get around this, I'll can meatballs, some spaghetti and pizza sauce with ground beef and turkey, and other things like ground meat soups to have ready to eat in jars for those nights I really don't feel like cooking. Even I have those nights too.

So what can you do with canned meatballs? Well for starters, how does spaghetti with meatballs, or meatball subs sound? Or, Swedish meatballs. Want chopped meatballs on your pizza? How about meatballs and gravy to serve over rice or noodles? A last minute get together and you need appetizers? No problem when you've got the meatballs already prepared, canned in a jar and ready to go. The only limit is your imagination.

While some people can their meatballs in water, I don't. I use beef broth for a prolonged flavor enhancer. Plus, if you want gravy, all you have to add is a roux to thicken the broth. Now when canning meatballs you don't add fillers like bread crumbs and eggs because the meatballs will crumble during processing. Some folks worry about fat in their jars, I don't. So long as the jars seal and stay sealed, fat is not a problem.

Jo's Canned Meatballs
around 20 pints 10 quarts
What you'll need
5 lbs ground beef, 90/10 if you can get it
5 lbs ground turkey 
1 large onion, finely minced or 1/4 cup dried onion flakes
4 ribs celery, finely minced or 1/8 cup dried celery flakes
3 cloves garlic, minced or 2 TBS garlic powder
1/4 cup dried parsley
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp cayenne pepper, ground
1 TBS salt
1/2 TBS black pepper
4-6 qts beef broth*

NOTES*- You can use your homemade beef broth, Better Than Bouillon roast beef (my choice), or purchased beef broth. Do Not Add Salt!!! It's already in the broth and will intensify over the storage time if held over six months. Depending on the fat content of the meat, you may need more than 6 qts of broth.

Putting it all together
  •  Mix all ingredients except the beef broth in a large bowl.
  • Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Chilled meat is easier to form into meatballs.
  • Scoop about a tsp and a half of meat mixture and form a ball. I used a 1/2 oz scoop. Scoops sold for cookies comes in two sizes usually. You want the smaller one. If all you have is a regular sized ice cream scoop it will make 3-4 meatballs.
  • Roll each meatball in flour and shake off the excess.
  • Place meatballs on a foil or parchment lined baking sheets.
  • I would suggest placing about half the mixture in a smaller bowl. Cover and return the remaining mixture in the refrigerator.
  • Once you have all the meatballs rolled, bake 400 degrees for 15-17 minutes.
  • Place meatballs in the clean jars.
  • Pour heated broth in each jar leaving 1" headspace.
  • Wipe the rims with vinegar, lid and ring, and place in warm pressure canner.
  • Vent steady stream for 10 minutes, weight and build pressure for your altitude.
  • Process 75 minutes for pints or 90 minutes for quarts.
 
This is a flavor filled alternative to the chemical laden frozen version of meatballs. I always can two cases of these to have one hand. It's a quick and easy dinner. Whether you don't want to cook or just want something yummy for your tummy. Let everyone think you took the time to make these special for them. Only you and I will know that you just popped open a jar to make it for them tonight. 😁 

I use half and half beef/turkey because it's heathier. alternative but feel free to substitute any meat you like. In the past I've made these with ground pork, chicken, venison, elk, and even bear meat.

Y'all have a blessed day!
Chef Jo

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Yet Another Chick Update... A Chicken Tractor in the Future?

 The chicks are four weeks  now. I  had to look back at my posts to be sure since the chicks hatched. They are almost fully feathered out...just a little tuft of fluff on their heads and chests now. They are huge compared to when they were born, but too small to go into general population. But they need to go somewhere. They have stayed away from the heat lamp for a week now. In fact, I've turned it off. They're ready to go somewhere else.

I had thought to move them into the "hospital/quarantine" pen, but they'd quickly outgrow it. I decided to keep these birds separate from Mel's flock. I think I've got four hens. It's still too early to tell. While the blurb on the chicken enclosure says four to six chickens, from experience it's more like two and even then, the birds are crowded than we like. I'll use the eggs from these girls for homestead use. 

Mel calls them "mutt" chickens because they are Rhode Island crosses. Personally,  I think they are unique and beautiful. The variation of the colors of the Barred/RIR, and the laced feathered Americana/RIR are striking plus the ones I haven't figured out yet. Their coloring awakens the artistic gene in my soul. I wish I could show them to you. I wonder how much an effect the RIR genes will play with the egg colors and sizes, but that's four to five months away. 

I do have a line on a used computer that I'll be checking out this week though if not, I'll be buying another thumb drive. Thumb drives are really cheap these days. I remember when they first came out and how expensive they were. Computers too, but even the cheap ones are beyond my reach right now. I miss my pics on my posts, don't you? It's hard to replace or buy anything when you're broke all the time. Sigh! But I digress.

I was thinking of a way to house my new chickie babies and keep them separate. I could just let them free range throughout the yard, but they'd have no protection from predators. I could build them a small coop and run. I started looking online for designs that I could build. Mel is too busy with her own flocks. All the authorities say 1 1/2 to 2 square feet per bird, I'd rather have 3 square feet per bird in their run. A 3x8 run was doable, but I'd need a 8' square coop at a minimum. What if it were mobile? That way my chickie babies would have the luxury of being free range, but have the protection from predators. Now there's an idea...a chicken tractor.

THE PROBLEMS

It would have to be lightweight enough for me to pull. There in poses a problem. I have a hard enough time walking with one bum leg. I can push or pull the garden cart with no issues. I can lift 45-50 lbs of feed with one working hand and arm. but dragging the same amount of weight is problematic. Whatever mechanism I build to pull with, it's got to be waist high, 3' for me. So a solid wood contraption is out. It would be too heavy. The coop alone could almost be that heavy.

I've got another issue too. I found another broody hen! I thought I was missing one the black Australorps. 😏She's sitting on three eggs in the barn/workshop. When I went to check the eggs, they are full, heavy, and one even was chirping. So it looks like three more chickie babies are about to be born. This will make eight babies. So I'm revising my estimates. Sigh! 

In revising my estimates, I've got to know how many hens I have, but need to house them somewhere between 4 weeks to 13 weeks old to allow them to grow out. Hmmm, I could use the old chicken coop. Of course I'd have to rebuild it. The constant rains and winds have pretty much destroyed the seven-year old coop anyhow. Half the roof caved in while we went through the storms spawned by Hurricane Sue when it hit us. It's been a bad year for rains and hurricanes coming from the Gulf where we are. It has either smacked us from the Gulf or sideswiped us from the Atlantic. Not to mention other rain storms.

I think we'll do another pallet coop, but smaller. Yes, I'll have to involve Mel. If we turn the pallets longwise up, we just need to break apart a few pallets to have board and batten side walls so we wouldn't need additional plywood. I can fashion a new roof from the old sides. Two pallets for each wall, four pallets covered with reused plywood for the floor to keep the varmints out. Plus the wood frame of the current structure to do the roof. We also have the tin from the outdoor rabbit hutches to do the roof. Unlike the previous coop, I'll paint this one. The new 6x6x4' hen house should be big enough to last for a while. I can even reuse the branch roost and laying boxes from the old coop on the new one.

Pre bunny barn and chicken coop n run

If the law of averages holds up, of the eight chicks, 50% or four will be roosters. These will go to freezer or canner jar camp. For our homestead of two adults, four hen would supply our needs perfectly. It will allow me to bake goodies to my heart's content and have an egg breakfast once a week not counting other egg use breakfasts. Any more than four hens would be too many. So if I use the number of four hens and possibly a rooster, for protection, I'd only need a tractor for five chickens at most, right?

So, I'm right back where I started from in number of birds. I've got pressure treated 2x4 pieces from another project on the homestead. If I split them that's half the weight. Or, I could use PVC or electrical conduit to build a tractor. Now the shape could be either hooped or squared. I'm thinking rectangular so everything will square up and be more sturdy.

You may ask why not just use the refurbished coop and run for the chicks on a permanent basis? Well, I look at it this way. I had five hens of Mel's flock go broody this year and they were less than a year old. Usually, once a broody chicken, they'll always be broody trying to hatch out more chicks. I'll need that grow out area each year whether they are the colorful egg layers or not. I can see them hatching out the purebred flocks too for the types of chickens that do not go broody. We'll just swap out eggs. It will keep Mel from having to buy new chicks as they age out of laying prolifically about 2-3 year old. We'll have a built in incubators as nature intended them to be. I don't intend on having anymore "mutt" chickens. 

That also means that Mel will have to decide on the purebreds she intends on raising for breeding and raising for her farm this winter. Though there's always the Rhode Island Reds and readily available, she's also got her heart set on Barnevelders. Although Sussexes wouldn't be a bad choice either. both of the latter are dual purpose breeds and vary in rarity. So chicks and pullet/cockerel sales would be more desirable. Who knows, she might choose both. The egg sales enable us to buy a month's worth of feed for the birds, we have and build a new coop and run every two months towards progress towards the future. So the first batch of chickens are now self sustaining. Wohoo!

So the chicken tractor for my new chickie babies will be a split level 3'x8' there will be space underneath the coop for an automatic chicken feeder and waterer. While Mel prefers the nipple waterers, I prefer the cups like I use for the quail. I'll be making it out of the leftover tin from the rabbit hutches for roof screwed into the PVC frame. The sides will be made of leftover political (vote for me) signs. Total weight is about thirty pounds. I'm recycling all the previous rabbit cages' cage wire to protect their free range area. Why not make it 4x8? Because I want it to fit over my rows in the garden each fall after the last harvest. The chickens will pick over what's left and fertilize it for the next spring. A hefty layer of compost and hay will follow the the chickens, and then the garden will be put to bed for 6 months. The walkways between the rows will get their pass of the chickens to gobble up the weeds/ leftover plants before new wood chips are added in the spring. There will be a slight overlap of the garden beds but no worries, I usually don't plant within 6" of the walkways unless it's flowers later in the season.

Will I put wheels on the chicken tractor? I dunno yet. If it proves too heavy for me to move safely, I will. I'm thinking big wheels like the front wheels of a tricycle rather than small ones. We've got some pretty uneven terrain on this homestead. I've even considered an adult bicycle wheels. Considering these are large birds apposed to bantams, the lift shouldn't be an issue. 

There is minimal chance for them to escape. But these birds will be trained to the sound of my voice and come when I call them too (just like the others) if they do. The other chickie babies we raised were no problem getting into their area. All it took was me walking into the run and they followed me. They were clambering all over themselves to see who could be the closest to me. All except Big Red, the rooster, that is. He still gives me a shovel handle distance just in case I've got a shovel or stick handy. It was just a question of me getting out before they did, but I did have a can of scratch grains for that eventuality.  Ya gotta love well trained chickens.😜

Hopefully, I'll either have a new (to me) computer or a new flash drive for pictures of the mobile coop and run with the chickie babies in it soon.

Y'all have a blessed day!

Cockeyed Jo


Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Canning with Chef Jo: Stews!

 I went shopping this week and was perusing what Mel calls "the dead meat" section. This is the marked down for quick sale items. I found 3 packages of two lamb shoulder steaks. A quick look at the calendar on my phone said today was the sell by date. Did you know that meat is good for an additional 5 days? Oh yummy, right? They were roughly half price. Can we say, snatch them up like lightning? I wished there was a leg in the dead meat section, but no such luck. 

Next there were some chuck steaks and a roast green tinged from the florescent lights. A quick grab and they were in my cart also. Did you know that the green meat isn't bad meat? It's just not pleasing to sell so vendors mark it down. There was roughly six lbs of meat of each. Remember Sunday when I said my food storage building was bare of meat products? I was about to remedy that.

I took my wheelie cart over to the fresh vegetables. I grabbed two sleeves of celery. This one was crisp with lots of green leaves. Next, I turned and hefted a 9 lb bag of organic carrots into my cart followed by a 10 lb bag of russet potatoes on sale for about $4. I grabbed two 3-lb bags of onions and noticed the mushrooms were marked down. I dumped all 10-8oz packages of mushrooms into my cart. as I wheeled on of the section. 

In the freezer section, I grabbed 10 lbs each of green peas and mixed vegetables. They were also on sale for 5 for $5. My mind was going through the recipes as I caught my breath. I returned to the meat section to grabbed two 30 count boxes of sausage patties and 4 ends and pieces packages of bacon, they were BOGO!

As a last resort, I picked up 2 jars of vegetable Better Than Bouillon. I really could make my own after I cleaned and peeled all these vegetables, but I wanted to do this quick. I would be making vegetable broth later. I was just starting to can my soups for the winter after all.

With bargains galore in my cart, I wheeled towards the cash register. When you have everything you need already purchased for the month, This kind of 'heyday spending' is often frowned upon. As is my habit, I let the cashier ring everything up. The total was well over $200. Mel almost had a heart attack, but I wasn't worried. "Watch," I told her with a wink. I whipped out my store card and coupons and watched the total fall. I love this part...by the time the register took everything off, my total was less than $95. Mel began to breathe again. With totals like that, I'll never make it on the TV show "Extreme Couponers," but I like my savings. But, the real savings is yet to come. By making stew, soups, and canning them myself, the real cost savings and health benefits add up. I can buy $12 a lb lamb for $5 a lb and not blink. It's a way to get the best for my household within our budget. Oh and the splurge buy of Better Than Bouillon, I had a two coupons making them a little over half price. I go into more details in my "Are You a Survivalist or a Prepper?" book.

Now not everything I got will go into the stews I'm canning, but at the price they were I can dehydrate or can them by themselves for my food storage building. After all, frozen vegetables are picked and flash frozen at the peak of freshness. By canning frozen vegetables, there's no prep work too. Talk about a time saver. On to the recipes.

I put the meat in the freezer for and hour. Partially frozen meat is easier to trim the fat off of and cube while I prepped my vegetables. For my stews I rarely chop my vegetables bigger than 1/2" to 3/4" cubes. I can get more meat and vegetables into the jars too. Not really, it's an optical illusion. For every 2" cubed piece of meat and vegetable, you actually get 7 or 8 pieces my way. You only think you are getting more. I'm making these in pint jars because we always serve stews with grits, polenta, over cornbread or biscuits, or rice. We get two hefty, tummy filling servings out of a jar.

Lamb Stew

12 pint jars

What you'll need

5 lbs lamb, trimmed of excess fat and bone cut into 1/2" pieces

5 cups onions, diced 1/2"

5 cups celery, leaves and stalk diced 1/2"

5 cups carrots, diced 1/2"

5 cups frozen green peas, rinsed

5 TBS coarse ground rosemary, either fresh or dried

5 TBS garlic minced

5 TBS salt, noniodinized

5 TBS black pepper

a handful of bay leaves

6 qts vegetable stock

3 TBS butter or olive oil

1 cup all purpose flour


Putting it all together 

  • Place flour in plastic bag.
  • Season it with 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper.
  • Shake to coat all meat pieces with flour shaking off any excess.
  • In large skillet heat the butter/oil. Add meat pieces and cook until brown. The meat will not be fully cooked. Work in small batches until all the meat is brown. Drain and set aside.
  • Form an assembly line with your vegetables and jars. Only put 4-8 jars to work on at a time.
  • In the following order fill each jar: 
  • 1/8 tsp rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 bay leaf
  • 6-8 pieces of meat
  • 1/4 cup onions
  • 1/4 cup celery
  • 1/4 cup carrots
  • 1/4 cup potatoes
  • 1/8 to 1/4 cup green peas
  • Pour vegetable broth leaving 1" head space.
  • Wipe rims, lid, ring finger tip tight, and place in a pressure canner.
  • Process 75 minutes.

I also made beef stew using the same vegetables, beef, and the same method. I also added 1-12 oz can of tomato paste diluted with 1 can of water. I placed 1 TBS in each jar when I added the spices. 

Feel free to experiment and substitute vegetables in your stews. Don't like potatoes? Try rutabaga or daikon radishes. Don't like carrots? Try parsnips, or beets. Use any combination of vegetables, meats or legumes. Make your stew your own! Enjoy!

Now about all those carrots...you'll just have to tune in again to see. "What's Up, Doc?"

Y'all have a blessed day!

Chef Jo



Sunday, October 4, 2020

Ruth Stout Gardening

 I've tried just about every type of gardening in the past forty years. Back to Eden, Square Foot, Lasagna, and the old, tried and plow it up and plant plus a few more. I even tried out planting in the weeds only to end up failing. They all have one thing in common they build up the soil except the tiller option. It's different strokes for different folks. But it's beside me on getting a decent harvest on this new homestead. It's a constant battle with varmints and weeds.

I watched an interesting documentary on Netflix this week entitled, "Kiss the Ground." I found it interesting because it reinforced my beliefs in the way I've gardened all my life. The whole gist of the show was to reduce the carbon footprint of the Earth by building soil not dirt. I've always gardened organically, only tearing up the dirt to add amendments but only the top six inches. As of 8 years ago, I stopped tilling with a cultivator altogether in favor of building up the beds as they stood. I've looked for other ways to combat the weeds. I am selective in my weed control also. Not every weed is a bad weed. My newest choice is the Ruth Stout Method. Although I've been doing a variation of this all along, I'm going to try it just as it was written up by the lady herself.  

This spring, I was hopeful and praying that our vegetable garden would produce a good harvest. But the cockeyed weather cycle beat me down. Constant rains, cooler than normal weather, and blistering hot and humid weeks just ruined all my efforts.

We've got some major changes happening on the homestead over the next two to three years. It's something that has been in the plan all these years since I moved up to these northeast GA mountains, but couldn't implement it. But more on that later.

This year was a bad year for vegetables, but a great year for fruits as you can tell from my posts. For the past two weeks it's all been about apples. Applesauce, apple cider, mincemeat, diced and sliced, pie filling, apple butter, and on and on, ending with pectin and apple cider vinegar. The apple harvest like all my plants were delayed by a month because of the weather. It's actually been a good enough year for fruits that I've put up at least two years worth. 

But as yucky as my vegetable harvest was, I was able to shop locally (friends and neighbors) and the wholesale house for vegetables to put by. I actually put up 18 months worth of vegetables. All that is left to can is meats, but I can locally source that too as needed. I put my meager stimulus check to good use in restocking my pantry out building. Did I tell you we found a rat proof insulation...corrugated foil wrap. It set us back almost $200 but it's worth it. The stores building stayed about 60 degrees even on the hottest days of summer.

Back to the topic at hand. With the changes upcoming in fall 2021, I've got spring and summer to make the garden produce even more food stuff. After that I won't have an easily access garden in front of our trailer for at least a year. I'll have to garden in the orchard area. It will be competing with the wheat and oats, and orchard grass that's usually grown down there. Now, there's the new chicken coops and runs as well as the fruit trees. It's getting to be a crowded 1/4 acre. But it's only a short-term situation.

With my eyes on higher production, I read about the Ruth Stout Method of gardening. I was intrigued. Basically, you grow your vegetables in 2'-3' mounds of hay and compost. With our chickens, we've got plenty of compost. Getting that much hay is problematic but doable. We still have enough wood chips from the tree service delivery to make the walkways. I'll still be doing the weed blocker fabric for my tomatoes and peppers. My tomatoes might have died, but it held the weeds down to a manageable chore.

Now that there's a lull in food preservation or at least slowing down a bit, I can split my focus on preparing beds for next year. This experiment will be for my carrots, onions, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. Later on in the season, there'll be other crops planted. I'm thinking green beans, cucumbers,  and maybe squashes in the hay rows. It will definitely be easier on my back harvesting them.

If this works, I'll have a jump start in 2023 with a new 50' x 120' homestead/market garden.  Yes, I'll mostly be starting from scratch again...sigh!, but at least it will be a regular type garden instead of plant where you can around the landscaping. I'll have to bring in truck loads of wood chips and compost for that first year, but after that, our homestead should produce enough to maintain the new garden. Also in the works is a high tunnel greenhouse (20'x 50') and a small seed starting greenhouse (10'x10') made of repurposed windows and pallet lumber. It'll be this homesteader's dream fulfilled when finished...or at least these homesteaders.

Y'all have a blessed day!
Cockeyed Jo



Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Cooking with Chef Jo: Cheeseburger Stew

EEK! My tech guy says my motherboard was fried so pics on this blog will be limited until I can buy another one!

As if the falling leaves weren't an indicator that fall is coming, the temperatures drop a sure reminder. There was a chilly nip in the air following the deluge of rain over the past week from tropical storm Sally. Yes, it was still tropical storm strength when it got to us here in the northeast Georgia mountains You know what that that means...soup's on.

Mel likes her ingredients small mouth sized and I like having multiple ingredients on my spoon so I used the small grate on my Vidalia Onion chopper. If you like your veggies bigger go ahead and chop yours bigger.

Jo's Cheeseburger Stew
Serves 4

 
What you'll need
1/4 ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
2 rubs celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, grated
3 medium russet potatoes, cubed 
1 cup green peas
1 cup sliced mushrooms
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
1/4 lb sharp cheddar cheese,  small cubes
6 slices of bacon, fried crisp and crumbled
3 TBS dried parsley flakes
3 heaping TBS plain yogurt
2 TBS butter
1/3 cup Clear-Jel, corn starch, or flour
1 TBS Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp dried basil
2 TBS sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp dill weed
1/4 tsp ground mustard
1/4 tsp ground coriander seed
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes, crushed
1/8 tsp ground fennel seed

*The last ten ingredients coarse ground together with 2 drops of oil makes My version of the McCormick's brand of Montreal Steak seasoning.

Putting it all together
  • Melt butter in large saucepan (3 qt or larger) over medium heat.
  • Add onions, celery, and carrots. Stir to coat all vegetables in butter.
  • Cook for 3 minutes. 
  • Add ground beef. Break apart.
  • Continue cooking and break meat apart until the meat is browned.
  • Add flour/Clear-Jel/corn starch to the pan stir well until all the meat and vegetables are coated.
  • Add mushrooms, broth, and potatoes.
  • Add herbs and spices. 
  • Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender and the soup base is thickened.
  • Add green peas.
  • Add milk and cheese. Stir well.
  • Continue cooking 3 minutes.
  • Add yogurt and stir well.

Service-Ladle into bowls. Top with additional grated cheese and bacon. Serve with a nice tossed salad and crusty bread make this hearty, stick to your ribs soup makes this a well balanced meal.

Y'all have blessed day!
Chef Jo