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, November 27, 2019

Cooking with Chef Jo: Using Up Leftovers

It's that time again. I'm cleaning out my refrigerator and organizing my little freezer. So what do you do with that serving or less of leftover meats and vegetables? I put my vegetables in a large freezer container and my leftover meats in a freezer bag. Waste not want not, right?

So what do you make with all that stuff you've save? A couple of things come to mind soups and stews instantly. When I was much younger I asked my Daddy what was the difference was between a soup and a stew. His response was, "What ever the cook says it was."

Over the years, no matter what country I was in or culinary class I was in the answer remained the same. Although, soups usually have a thinner base liquid. But I hear you, what about cream soups and chowders? Yep, it's whatever the cook says it is. So told I'm sharing my Mulligan Stew recipe. I did a video of making this years ago.

 Man! Has it been 2 years ago!
But I share the written recipe here. It sure will taste good on this cold winter night. For the video, I used stew meat and roasted beast both were leftovers from a previous meal but any meat will do. The meats alone were not enough for another meal, but plenty for this recipe.

My Grandmother's Mulligan Stew

For the video- serves 4

What you'll need

1 1/2 cups of meat, I used 
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs butter
1 onion,chopped
                                                            3 cloves garlic, minced
                                                            4 ribs celery, chopped
                                                            2 lb carton organic, no salt beef broth or 1 1/2 qts
                                                             beef bone broth
                                                            1 qt leftover vegetables
                                                            1 tsp thyme
                                                            2 heaping TBS of tomato paste
                                                            1 cup red wine (opt)

Putting it together
  • In a bowl add meat, flour, salt, and pepper.
  • Toss until the meat is well coated.
  • Place oil in bottom of a large pot, heat until it smokes.
  • Add meat a little at a time so not to lower the temperature.
  • Brown the meat until all pieces are browned. It does not need to be cooked through.
  • Remove meat from the pot.
  • Add butter and heat until melted
  • Add onions, garlic and celery. Cook aromatics until tender and translucent.
  • Add beef broth
  • Add leftover vegetables- potatoes, carrots, corn, green peas, green peas, etc.
  • Add thyme and tomato paste.
  • Put the lid on the pot to cover.
  • Stir until tomato paste is incorporated into the beef broth. 
  • Turn heat down to low.
  • Simmer for two hours.

Serving- In this video I made grits. I put half of a cup of prepared grits (also leftover from breakfast) in the bowl and served the stew over the top of the grits. But it can be served over rice or noodles just as easily or eat it plain. If I had of thought about it I would have made biscuits and side salads to go along with it. Nah, that would have been too much work. But you can if you want to. They'll never know it was all leftovers unless you tell them.

Y'all have a blessed day!

Sunday, November 24, 2019

The Great Chicken Experiment Results

I'm a bit late with this report by a week or so. I simply just plum forgot to blog it.

Three days before we stopped turning the eggs, Mel candled them with a small mag-lite flashlight. Mel was impatient (grinning). One of these days, I'll spring for a regulation egg candler, but that ain't today. We can't justify the expense in our mind.

What she found were two empty eggs, unfertilized! I still can't figure out how this happened with two roos and only five hens. But then, maybe they (the roos) were having an off day, or the hens managed to run faster or hid well.

We lost two eggs, to temperature variations, they died in the eggs. Darn Kassity kept pulling the blanket off the eggs during the night for a comfortable spot to sleep.The last five were kicking up a storm inside the eggs. I'm guessing these were highly viable eggs. 😝 We candled them again before we put them in lock down on day 17 with the container, same results.

When we put the eggs in lock down, we filled the bowl with the sponge with water to increase the humidity within the tub, We also removed the heat lamp leaving only the heating pad under the eggs. The temperature held at 100 degrees just fine.

On day 20, we heard cheeping in the tote, but resisted the urge to open the container. It was hard not to cuddle the new babies. But if we wanted all the chickie babies to hatch, we had to keep the humidity high in the tote.

Sorry for the blurriness.
On day 21, the noise in the tote had increased so we chanced it. The new babies would need hydration. Their internal yolk sack would handle the nutrition. Plus, we couldn't wait any longer. We opened the lids and were greeted by five little puff balls. I haven't sexed them yet, but we're hoping for hens. They look to be all RIRs because of the darker coloring on their heads. But as they get to feathering out, we'll definitely know.

So we would have had 100% hatch rate again except for the unfertilized eggs and if Kassity had left the blanket alone. I still can't believe two eggs weren't fertilized! Instead, Mel's method gave us a 55% hatch rate this time. Next time I'll break out the gifted incubator too to see if we can get more. I'm experimenting here preparing to hatch quail eggs closer to spring.

WTG! for Mel's Cockeyed Homestead Chicken Farm, but none for Hoo-De-Hoo's (AKA Houdini) harem, poor guy. Maybe he'll have better luck with the next hatch out. We plan on doing this three more times before spring. I'm still hoping for at least five more RIR/Buff crosses for him. All crosses will free range plus get fermented feed.

We should have a full complement of Rhode Island Reds (RIRs) and more than enough to start her egg selling business and a few spares to sell at auction. So some reason, brown egg layers command a premium at auction. I guess it's an esthetic thing, they don't taste any different. We'll start all of them on organic starter feed with no antibiotics. Yes, I'll be supplementing their water with ACV (apple cider vinegar) and their crumble with dried herbs and garlic powder.

Cockeyed Dog Food
They'll eventually "free range" in our garden and orchard in tractors until the hens start laying or they are sold. Our breeder flocks of RIRs will not be free ranged, but will have their organic, fermented feed supplemented with fresh greens and veges daily. We only produce organically raised birds not that it'll matter to most frequenting the auction house, but for us it matters. All but a select few RIR roosters, will be culled or sold at about 20 weeks old. Mel still hasn't found a processor for her chicken yet. I guess she's going to have to learn how, because I ain't gonna do more than two a day for our household consumption. That will cut into her dog food making ideas.

I'll cull the Hoo-De-Hoo/cross rooster babies because we only need the hens for egg layers. I consider these homestead only stock. I'll use the meat for our use. I don't expect to get many of those. I'll keep an eighteen-month rotation of hatching these eggs schedule unless one or two go broody. Hens older than four years-old tend to lay more sporadically. We can't have our eggs business lag once we get a strong customer base. After all, we all do even more baking during the holiday months, don't we?

Once Mel gets established, I can see needing a greater number to sell to maintain and increase her profit margin. I don't foresee a glut in the chick, egg, layer, rooster market anytime soon. So she'll probably have a pretty good income/profit margin within two years. We still want the Americanas too. We'll probably purchase those in the spring from our Tractor Supply. As far as a third or fourth breed, I dunno. It remains to be seen as she grows and whatever strikes her fancy to add.

Y'all have a blessed day!
Cockeyed Jo

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Cooking with Chef Jo: Nut/Gluten/Sugar Free Mexican Wedding Cookies

I've been testing out some nutless recipes this week gearing up for Christmas baking. I now have a grandson who is allergic to peanuts so just to be proactive, my daughter has banned all nuts in the house. When a three-year old kid starts wheezing, you don't play around. Poor kid!Besides, Mel doesn't like nuts in her food. She loves nuts, but not mixed with anything else. I thought while I'm at it, I'll make them gluten-free as well. I have a few friends on a gluten free diet as well. Since diabetes run in my family, I'll just tick ALL the boxes and make them sugar-free as well. I can't help it. I just love playing with food and recipes.

My old cardiologist's radiology tech loves my Mexican Wedding cookies.  They're made with ground pecans and loaded with all the good bad stuff though.

The ingredients for Mexican wedding cookies are pretty simple, but they are all so good. This may sound like I've taken all the good tasting stuff out of it and basically I have, but there's one thing I don't scrimp on and that's my butter and eggs. I won't substitute 'em no matter how high my cholesterol is. Besides,current studies have shown that there is bad and cholesterol in eggs so it balances out. The butter is a taste thing with me, especially in cookies. When cooking with vegetable shortening or the fake shortening on the market, cookies come out crisp and without the added flavor that butter gives. There's something so satisfying about having you teeth sink into a cookie made with real butter.

For the gluten-free flour, I mix up a five-pound batch at a time. Otherwise I'd be making this mixture multiple times during a baking session like Christmas baking season. I've tried several recipes for gluten-free flour, nut this one wins for baking and mouth feel. I don't remember where I found it, but I'll share it with you anyhow. Prep work in advance is the key to converting recipes to specialty diet requirements so I prepare everything in advance. I also set my scale to grams.

Gluten-Free Flour (GF flour)

600 g sorghum flour
600 g millet flour
700 g potato starch
700 g rice flour

Mix well and store in air tight container.

Splenda Confectioner's Sugar (SF Sugar)

3/4 c Splenda
2 TBS Corn starch, I use Rumford Non-GMO corn starch

Place in a blender. Whiz on high until Splenda is a fine powder. Sift it to make sure everything is finrly grounf.Store in an air tight container.

Now that the prep work is out of the way, it's on to the recipe.

Jo's NF-GF-SF Mexican Wedding Cookies
Makes 4 dozen cookies

What you'll need
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup Splenda*
2 1/2 c GF flour, plus 1/4 c reserved*
2 tsp vanilla

* Notes- You can use any GF flour mixture. You don't have to use mine.
I use Splenda, but you can use any sugar substitute  except for liquid for this recipe.

 Putting it all together
  • Cream butter, Splenda, vanilla, and egg together until well mixed. The mixture will not feel grainy when rubbed between index finger and thumb.
  • Sift in the flour. Mix until all the flour is incorporated.
  • The dough will be sticky and soft, but hold together. 
  • Sprinkle surface with 1/4 cup of flour and dump dough onto it.
  • Form a ball using all the flour. The dough will be soft and less sticky.
  • Wrap dough in cling wrap and refrigerate for thirty minutes to 1 hour.preheat oven to 325 degrees and cut parchment paper to line baking sheets
  • Make 1 TBS balls with the dough and place onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
  • The cookies will spread slightly, but will not rise. Bake 15-20 minutes. The cookies will be a light tan color, but not browned.
  • Immediately, while hot, roll the cookies in Splenda confectioner's sugar to coat well. Place on a rack to cool.
  • Store in air tight container.

For service- place cookies on a tray.
For gift giving- place cookies in pint or quart jar. Wrap jar with a ribbon and add a tag.

Y'all have a blessed day!

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Arctic Blasts Come Early This Year

We usually don't get the first of many arctic blasts until January. This year it came early sending freezing temps of nighttime lows in the teens and daytime highs just above freezing. It leaves me with foreboding of the winter to come.

It's a good thing I didn't plant a fall garden to offset our year's garden loss. It would have frozen. Icy frost covered everything for two days this week.  With all my health issues this spring and summer, we've been ill prepared for these cold temperatures this soon. Our firewood pile was nonexistent except for 1/4 cord of firewood leftover from last year. I was scouring the yard for the twigs and branches we use for kindling between rainy spells while Mel was on the phone arranging for another half cord of firewood. Did I mention that the price had increased over the summer to $80 for a half cord?

It's a good thing we're out of the rabbit business. The extra water bottles have come in handy for our two, long eared babies. Their fur have has come back in nicely to keep them warm. Before with all the rabbits alive and kicking when their water bottles froze overnight, we'd have to thaw them out and refill them, or substituting crocks of water for them. Rabbits can dehydrate very quickly. Now we have ten spare bottles so I can fill them from the tap inside and carry fresh water to them.

The chickens are another story. Their 5-gallon buckets and pans ended up with an inch or two of ice and they can't drink. I fill an apple cider jug with lukewarm water for them. When I go outside, I have a pointed branch (I keep one by each bucket) to break through the ice in the 5-gallon buckets. I'll pull the ice out because it usually has debris trapped in the ice and drop it on the ground. In the bunny/chicken barn, I'll pour some of the water from the jug into the pan. It'll help wash the pan clean of dirt and debris so the birds can have good water to drink. I then fill it up with fresh water.

I rarely give them more than a gallon of water in the barn because they are free range chickens and they can avail themselves to one of the 5-gallon buckets (4 of them) around the house. After all are fed, the straw is raked under the bunny cages and roosting bars. This gives me fairly stable walk ways through the barn. It's enough to keep the stay-in-the-barn chickens (4 of them) busy for hours spreading it back out. The cold temperatures are keeping most of the chickens from free ranging in the garden and orchard areas so I've taken to scattering grains and seeds around the barn. As well as, their feeders in the barn. Nobody wants to be out in the blustery wind with the temps so low. I even dropped the tarp down over one end to keep everyone warm. Since the wind and rain blows in from one side, this is sufficient. There are still the wired slats between the pallets to provide ample ventilation for the critters.

We are huddled inside for the most part. We are keeping busy with computer work, spinning, knitting, and crocheting. We are definitely glad to have the wood stove. It keeps us warm and cozy. The kettle and water bath canner on top of the wood stove provides the much needed hot tea and chocolate available on demand and humidity in the house. I'm cooking dinner around 3PM because Mel has this thing about eating after dark. By the time we finish dinner and watch two shows on Netflix (currently Supernatural & Agents of Shield) while knitting and crocheting, it's time to go to our respective corner (laptops) to work or play for an hour or three with the alternating chore of fetching four splits of firewood. Mel is nice enough to leave me enough wood to start the morning fire. I'm up most times before her. After that, I'll spin some wool and Mel will read her books until bedtime.

So we're in full winter mode this week. Next week it's suppose to warm back up to our normal November temps again. We'll pick back up with our outside activities like a new coop and run for Mel, and I'll continue with revamping the old rabbit hutches into quail hutches.

Oh, and the coyotes are back. Between Mel, Nnyus, Kassity, and I, we're making it known that they are not welcomed here anymore!

Y'all have a blessed day!
Cockeyed Jo 

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Cooking with Chef Jo: YouTube- Canning Desserts

You should know by now that YouTube is one of my favorite hangouts online. Under the recommended section I ran across canning cakes and quick breads for long term storage. Now there's only two of us on this homestead. So the idea of making something with a large amount of portions means cooking once and eating many times. So the idea of cooking or baking once and preserving the rest for a later date is an attractive proposition. But, to can quick breads and desserts never occurred to me before.

I watched several videos and all but two used little Jiffy or prepackaged mixes, not cooking from scratch like I do. These two content provider were who I focused on. I mean anybody can go out and buy Jiffy or packaged mixes, right? What I wanted to do was take my own banana, zucchini, blueberry, etc bread dough and can it. Cake recipes like carrot, angel food, and chocolate that would ordinarily feed 8-16 portions pared down to one or two servings. With just two here eating it, normal sized portioned desserts and breads goes stale or moldy before we can finish it, and that's just wasteful. Just something sweet for a couple of mouthfuls is enough for us. Any more than that is a huge temptation for me to overeat. I do it for meals like spaghetti, chili, meatloaf, etc. Why not desserts too?

Now, I have various options of wide mouth jars to pick from since I canned so little this year. To keep it simple, I chose 1/2 pint jars. It's just enough for 1 large serving or two small servings. I tried  my Quadruple Chocolate Cake and cream cheese raspberry swirled brownies because almost everyone can use some chocolate in their lives, right? Why do normal stuff when you're a chef who likes to play with her food (like me)?

I mixed up my quadruple chocolate cake recipe. Now, normally my recipe would make 4- 8" layers of cake so I cut the recipe into quarters. After all, I was just trying it out to see how it turned out and stored. If we liked it, I could always make more. This is one of my most expensive cake recipes, but ooh so rich and chocolaty! It's so-o-o good, it'll make you wanna slap yo mama. I can say this now because my mama isn't on this Earth anymore. Otherwise, I'd be picking myself up from the far wall if I ever tried.

Jo's Quadruple Chocolate Cake
Makes 6-7 1/2 pint jars

Just because it's tiny doesn't mean it can't be  pretty
What you'll need
1/2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
1/3 cup dutch-processed cocoa powder, spooned and leveled
1/8 cup Hershey's mini chocolate chips, semi-sweet
1/2- 3.5 oz  Ghiradelli Twilight Delight Intense Dark Chocolate, grated 
1/3 cup granulated white sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp espresso powder
                                                                                   3/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
                                                                                   1 large egg
                                                                                   1/4 cup buttermilk
                                                                                   1/2 vanilla bean (or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)
                                                                                   1/3 cup hot boiling water
                                                                                   2 TBS sour cream 

Putting it all together
  • Sterilized your jars. Wash your lids and rings.
  • Preheat oven to 350°F. 
  • Grease inside of the jars with butter and dust with some extra cocoa powder.
  • Sift the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and espresso powder together in a large bowl. Stir in chocolate chips and grated chocolate bar into the flour mixture. Set aside. 
  • Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or you can use a whisk) mix the oil, eggs, and vanilla together on medium-high speed until combined. 
  • Mix the buttermilk and sour cream, and mix until combined.
  • Add the buttermilk mixture to the wet mixture and mix until combined.
  • Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, add the hot water/coffee, and whisk or beat on low speed until the batter is completely combined. 
  • Batter is will be lumpy because of the grated chocolate and chocolate chips.
  • Fill each jar halfway.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 
  • Turn your oven off and leave the door open.
  • Baking times vary, so keep an eye on yours. The cakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • As you immediately remove your jars, one at a time, from the oven wipe/clean each rim with a paper towel dipped the 1/2 vinegar and water solution. If the cake has risen above the rim of the jar trim the cake down with a knife a little ways below the rim of the jar before you clean the rim.
  • Place the lid and ring tightly on each jar. The jars will be very hot so protect your hands.
  • Remove the cakes from the oven and set on several layers of toweling to protect your jars and surface. 
  • Allow to cool completely and check your seals.
  • Place sealed jars in your pantry after labeling.
For serve- You don't have to do the elaborate decorations with tempered chocolate and whipped cream like I did. I'm showing off and showing the possibilities. Simply frost with your best cream cheese chocolate frosting or favorite frosting. With the effort and ingredients you've put into making this cake, please don't ruin it with those tubs of frostings from the grocery store.

To serve just slice the cake down the middle. It's too rich, moist, and calorie potent to eat as a single serving, but if you really wanted to you could. 😲 This recipe is sure to satisfy the robust chocolate craving and with one small piece. I have to say, for the first timer the results were fabulous. Enjoy!

Y'all have a blessed day!
Cockeyed Jo

Monday, November 11, 2019

When Coyotes Attack

Coyotes, unlike wolves, are basically cowards. They are more a snatch and go predator. When confronted by one dog or more the same size or larger they will turn tail and run unless they are really hungry or protecting their kill. Their strength is in their pack size. Their packs are familial with an alpha male and female.

Now our homestead is on a hilly, northeast Georgia mountains. Just a mere fifteen miles away, you can go white water rafting. Coyotes abound all around these parts. There's not a night that goes by that we don't hear their yips and howls. Our dogs, Nnyus, Kassity, and Herbie are always on watch. Herbie, our terrier mixed dog, usually stays on the porch, protects the house, and sounds the alarm while the two bigger dogs take care of the business end of chasing them off our property or fight them if necessary.

Well, it was late Friday night, when Herbie rushed outside barking. Nnyus had to be released from her bed in Mel's room. The door is closed to keep all 80 pounds of Kassity off Mel's bed. Mel did that and both larger dogs went outside. It was maybe a minute or two behind the terrier. The dogs were going nuts barking and growling. Something was out there for sure and close.

It was then that we heard a high pitched yelping. We thought one of the coyotes had gotten the German Shepherd (10-week old) puppy from up on the rise (Geronimo and Reynaldo's place). The puppy considered our place his as our our dogs consider their place theirs. Mel grabbed the shotgun, still in PJs mind you, and went outside. There was a huddle of barking and fighting canines on the first tier of the orchard. It's about 100 feet from my bedroom window. On seeing Mel, the pack scattered with Nnyus and Kassity in hot pursuit.

Eventually, Kassity and Herbie came inside. Nnyus was keeping guard at the property line if her barking was any indication. I asked Mel to bring in a load of firewood. I told her goodnight and put my glass in the dishwasher when she came back in. "Who's bleeding?"

Those words Mel uttered sent chills up my spine. She went to Kassity to check her out while I took Herbie. Herbie and Mel have a love/hate relationship. He always growled and tried to snap at her when it was not rough house playtime. At 1 AM, it was definitely not playtime. I started with his head and paws, they were the usual places. A little bit of blood was on his neck, but not the amount we saw looking at the carpet. I ran my hand down his shoulders. Nothing. Then I saw it. A skin flap about six inches across. It was flipped over to where the flesh side was showing. "It's Herbie!" I yelled to Mel. She rushed over.

While Mel talked to him in low tones and held pressure to the wound, I got 6x 6 gauze pads, 6" roll of gauze, and the Blue antibiotic liquid. He scared me. Herbie didn't growl or bare his teeth at Mel. He just laid there. I knew the little 22 pound dog was really hurt. I needed to stitch the wound but I only had a limited amount of sutures in my kit. I grabbed the roll of dental floss, a curved darning needle, and scissors. I returned to Herbie. I sat with him surveying the damage while Mel grabbed some towels and alcohol.

This trailer has no overhead lights except for the kitchen, bedrooms, and bathrooms so I dragged him in the kitchen. It was only about five feet. While I could see the wound better, there still wasn't enough light to cut back his long fur and stitch him up. I do not play well with scissors since my strokes. To get out the electric shears would stress him out more. His skin was so loose that it would take two hands to hold it to place the stitches. He was going into shock.

There was no doubt in our mind what had happened to him. The coyotes had attacked the little dog thinking he was easy prey. He had several bites to show he wasn't such an easy prey. But from the way the skin had stretched away from his flesh and the gash from his belly to almost his spine, the little dog didn't stand a chance against a dozen coyotes. The yelping we heard was his. His big dog mentality in spite of his small stature was his undoing. He had also spent over half his life as a city dog with almost no experience with wild creatures. The coyotes, to him, looked just like dogs, but they weren't. In those brief minutes where he was alone with them before Nnyus and Kassity arrived, the coyotes did quite a bit of damage.

Mentally, I went over my treatment for shock...keep warm, reassurance, and fluid replacement for blood loss. It was just the basic ABCs of first aid (airway, breathing, circulation). His airway was fine. His breathing was shallow and rapid. His bleeding was oozing and slowing down. I estimated blood lose to be 1/4 of a pint at best. Not a huge amount even for such a small dog. Other than being almost fully degloved from his shoulders to his hips no arteries had been severed. I didn't know about internal injuries but he didn't appear to have a punctured lung.  He also didn't appear to have any broken bones. I couldn't be sure without x-rays.

Without the ability to shave him or stitch him up, we just bandaged him up after cleaning his wounds. Living in such a small town, there were no 24-hour vets. But, ours did have Saturday hours. I sat up with Herbie until 5 AM rubbing his head, the bridge of his nose, tousling his ears, and talking to him about the rats still left for him to catch, etc. At that point, the adrenaline had long past worn off. I was past exhausted after being awake for 26 hours. I went to bed. He'd either die while I slept or live to go to the vet's office later in the morning.

Herbie at my feet
I heard Mel get up and talk to him before I finally dragged myself out of bed. Mel took him to the vet's office. I wanted to go, but there was a fire to tend to and other animals to care for. Even though this dog was officially hers and her mother's before her, he attached himself to me for the last four years. He'd go with me outside and stay with me until I came in. He rested by my feet inside or jumped up on the couch next to me. Every night he slept in my room. He waited for me to greet him every morning. He was my companion in everything except for the rough house play he did with Mel.

It honestly would have taken too long for me to get dressed to go. I wanted him cared for now. So I had an agonizing wait. I knew we couldn't afford a huge vet bill. We are barely treading water as it is and still haven't found Mel a replacement truck or jeep. Finally, Mel returned without Herbie. I looked at her questioning. If she had to put him down, she would have had his body. She said the vet could fix Herbie for $385. It was less than she thought so she paid her. The vet would stitch him up and give him IV fluids and antibiotics. She wanted to give him his rabies booster, but Mel said no because his little body was going through enough right now. She'd call us later but would keep him overnight for observation.

The vet called us later saying Herbie had come through all the patch work. There was something wrong with his hind quarter but he walked around their grassy compound. He was drinking but not eating. She put in four drains to help the skin adhere to his flesh again. But he was ready to go home on Sunday. We could pick him up around 9AM.

Buoyed the fantastic news, Mel and I discussed ways to help Herbie heal. His spine issues (hind quarters) could just be swelling or traumatized nerves. We would have to wait and see. Then, we discussed cheaper options for her chicken farm and alternatives. We slept peacefully that night, but excited for Herbie's homecoming.

At 8 AM, the vet called to say Herbie died during the night. This is what happens when coyotes attack.

Today, we went and picked up his body. We buried him under the old rabbit hutches. We'll be planting hedge roses there this spring to deter predators from the new chicken run near the house for the flock of chicken that we hatch out this winter. Herbie would like that.  RIP Herbie, my faithful friend.

Y'all have a blessed day!
Cockeyed Jo

Sunday, November 10, 2019

What Do You Do With That Stockpile of Wool and Fiber?

As I said last post, we have a stockpile of wool and fiber. After combing the six pounds sheep's wool, it was still coarse and somewhat scratchy to the touch. It would not be suitable for a sweater or anything close to the skin unless you used a ton of fabric softener when you washed it. I even used baby shampoo and no more tangles on this wool to no avail. It was slick enough the spin to easily, but I knew with the first hand washing that nice feeling would be gone. It has a very nice crimp to it so when you spun it, it held the twist. The staple length was a passable 4" with longer back pieces of 5".

 I know that was a lot of spinning or raw wool jargon in the previous paragraph. But what I'm wondering whether to take the time to spin this gifted wool or not. I guess I could sell it as felting wool. I'd turn over the profits to the person that gifted me the wool. It's only right. With such a short staple length, it would require a greater number of twists per inch, but that isn't the problem because pure angora yarn is the same. Plying or taking the each strand of of spun wool and spinning them together would take 4 to 8 plies to make a usable weight for outerwear. Again like working with angora  except I'd have to heavily lotion my hand and heavily spritz the wool while spinning it.

I was thinking of this pattern
I'm concerned with the yardage. If I made mittens or a hat with the yarn, they'd have to be lined. But, I was thinking more like a coat. The coloring of the wool (dark brown with flecks of gold and tan), would make a gorgeous coat. The coarseness of the wool wouldn't matter. If only the processed wool was softer.  Even six pounds of wool, I may get 6.600 yards of worsted weight spun yarn. As any experienced knitter will tell you, that's pushing it mighty close if you are knitting a coat. For me, it would take  5, 184 yards of yarn (double strands of yarn throughout) not to mention enough yarn to frog (make it wrong) and the amount of yarn to sew the seams. It also depends on how tight you knit. These days, I knit pretty loose. Remember, I'm knitting one handed. This doesn't leave much error room. If I knit it perfectly with no waste, I could make some matching fingerless gloves to go with it, but I doubt it. For me, unless I've made two or more of a particular item, I'll frog it several times until it's finished. This is why I pick one pattern for (socks or sweaters) in a year and knit several pair. My brain can't handle multiple patterns at a time anymore.

Cath 2012
I only kept three pounds of the ten pounds of the pure, English angora fiber from our rabbits this year. If I knew I would losing 90% of them this year, I would have kept more instead of selling it. Once it is spun into yarn, I'll have enough yarn to knit my daughter in Alaska a couple of hats and vest. If I blend it with the other fiber rabbit's fiber and an equal amount of merino wool I have she might get a sweater for her next birthday. She's tiny and might wear a x-small, and have room to spare.

A lot of time has passed since this picture was taken, but she's still as tiny. No fat to speak of except in her bust area. With all the hiking and sports the family is involved with, I don't expect her to suddenly convert to my side of the family's body type anytime soon. Her aunt on my ex's  side is still wears little girl's size clothes at age 58. The only time either woman weighed over 100 lbs was when they were pregnant.

The four lbs of alpaca fiber will be blended 50/50 with merino wool to make a nice sweater for Mel eventually. I may just bead it with small pearls. Nah! Mel ain't that type of girly girl. I made her a cashmere shawl for our first Christmas together here. She hasn't worn it once. I'm half tempted to take it back and knit her a hat or maybe some socks instead. Now I could take the cream colored cashmere and bead it with crystals and I could sell it for a pretty penny. Would that make me an Indian giver?

Decisions, decisions, but that's half the fun of making your own yarn. The possibilities are endless.

Y'all have a blessed day!
Cockeyed Jo

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Cooking with Chef Jo: One of My Wintertime Favorite Soups

I love the cooler or even cold nights because it means it's time for SOUP! Leigh over at 5 Acres and a Dream, wanted more ways to utilize Daikon radishes. So Leigh, here's another one.

Being half Japanese, I love Asian Cuisine. I could spend a small fortune at the online and local Asian market places. Even though I grow most of my vegetables here on this homestead. We grow Daikon radishes out in the orchard for deer forage and our needs. I end up with some 50 or more worth of radishes each year for my enjoyment and a lot more for everything else of this cool weather crop. The rest go to the wildlife and our rabbits. The seeds produce wonderfully and an abundant harvest can be expected for 4 oz of seed. It's a little over $1 at the local feed and seed.The radish roots also break up the clay soil in the orchard. The greens are loved by wildlife, rabbits, and I'll cook them up as you would any greens like turnips or mustard greens.I'll also replace this vegetable for turnips in a lot of recipes. It's an essential in my kimchi recipe.😁 The taste is similar to young purple top turnips.

Similarly, Ox-Tail is an under utilized cut of meat, but it's growing in popularity. I love the creamy, tender texture of this cut of meat. The Japanese in utilizing every part of an animal harvest whenever possible as did the American pioneers. You didn't have to tell them to find delicious recipes to make from these, now commonly cast off, morsels.

Although most of today's ox-tails, often come from butchered cows instead of oxen. The key is low and slow cooking to get the tenderness to form from the connective tissues and flavor from the bones. In many countries, it's a delicacy. There's not a lot of meat on the tails, but you're sure to enjoy this recipe. It's one of my favorite wintertime soups. It has abundant essential elements that prevent and stop a cold trying to catch you too. I've made changes to my mother's recipe to enhance these properties. Now, onto my Ox-tail and daikon soup with Ramen.

Ox-Tail and Daikon Soup with Ramen Noodles
 Serves 6 healthy, meal size servings

What you'll need
I fancy cut some veges for this picture
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped ginger (homegrown)
1 cup chopped ginger (homegrown)
1 cup chopped garlic (homegrown)
1⁄4 cup mirin, Japanese rice vinegar* 
2 cups beef broth beef broth,(home canned) I can my own
2 daikon large, chopped 2" chunks (homegrown 12"x6") 2 large carrots, chopped 2" chunks (homegrown dantes)
                                                                                      1 TBS  ground Turmeric (homegrown,                                                                                                 dehydrated and ground)
                                                                                       2 TBS soy sauce
                                                                                       1 cup daikon leaves or dried seaweed,
                                                                                        coarse chopped  (homegrown or                                                                                                         purchased online)
                                                                                      5 pounds oxtails
                                                                                      1 pound  Ramen (I make 
                                                                                       own with buckwheat flour) 
                                                                                      1 leek, large, sliced into 1" pieces 
                                                                                      1 large onion, chopped into 2" pieces 
                                                                                      4 shiitake or portabella mushrooms*  
                                                                                         (purchased dried from Asian Market)
                                                                                       Salt and pepper to taste

 3 eggs, soft boiled in tea and soy sauce*          
          3 tsp 5-spice powder
          1 black tea bag
          2 1/2 TBS soy sauce
          1 cup boiling water

Notes* -The mirin or rice wine vinegar helps tenderize the meat.
* If using dried shiitake  mushrooms are used rehydrate for 8 hrs before using.
* Tea and soy eggs are prepared a day in advance. Recipe to follow at the end of soup instructions.


Putting it all together

My bullet points went nuts here so will substitute numbers   1) Begin by heating the oil in a cast-iron Dutch oven. Season your oxtail pieces and then brown them all sides in the pan (about seven or eight minutes of cooking time total).  2) Then, transfer the browned pieces to a bowl and pour off any remaining fat. Ox-tails are loaded with fat.
3) Add the chopped ginger, carrots, onions, and garlic to the pan to cook until garlic and onions are golden (about five minutes). Remove vegetable and place in the another bowls.  4) Stir in your mirin and scrape up any remaining browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add your beef broth and bring liquids up to a simmer, then return the oxtails. 5) Cover with the lid, and cook for about three hours, or until the meat is tender.  6) If you want a broth that contains less fat, after the three-hour time period has ended transfer the oxtails to a baking sheet, remove all the meat from the bones, and discard all the bones, fat, and gristle. You should also strain the broth, skimming off any remaining fat. This is not a mandatory step, but does make for a clearer, cleaner, and lighter soup.  7) Return the broth to the pot, add the  meat, daikon, other cooked vegetables, mushrooms, seaweed, and leeks. Cook covered for another forty-five minutes.  8) While the vegetables and broth are finishing up, cook the ramen. Bring a pot of water to a boil, then add the ramen, stirring often. It should take about three -five minutes.  9) Rinse and drain the ramen and place into the oxtail soup to absorb the flavors with the heat off. Place the soy-tea eggs on top to warm. About 4 minutes.
 Tea- Soy Sauce Eggs1) Start with room temperature eggs. 2) To a saucepan, add enough cold water to cover the eggs. Remove the eggs and bring water up to a rolling boil.3) Gently add the eggs. Turn off the heat.4) Let set for 6 minutes with cover on.5) Remove the eggs from the water and rinse until they are body temperature.6) In another saucepan, add 5 spice powder, water, tea bag, soy sauce,7) Bring to a boil.8) Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.9) Meanwhile, crack the ends of the shells against the sink, and then roll the egg all around the sink of the sink to crack the  egg shell. DO NOT PEEL THE EGG SHELL OFF.10) Place the eggs and tea/soy sauce mixture into a ziplock bag. You will turn this bag several times during the marinading process in the refrigerator. At least 8 hr, but 24 hrs is better.   11) Before placing the eggs into the soup discard the marinade and peel the eggs. For service- Remove the eggs from the pot and slice them lengthwise in half retaining egg yolk in each half. Spoon noodles, meat, vegetables, and broth in equal portions and place half an egg atop each serving. Serve and enjoy!
You can sprinkle chopped green onions on top for a festive touch.
Y'all have a blessed day!
Cockeyed Jo

Sunday, November 3, 2019

This and That- When You Are Down and Out

I haven't mentioned a lot of what we've been going through on this blog. That will change with this posting to let y'all know what's going on. Why we haven't started filming our YouTube videos yet and post them on our channel. It's been a while since I've even mentioned our channel. Now defunct after a two year absence of any new content. Especially after an anonymous subscriber bought us a new audio set up and still no new videos. Only the subscribers who get our newsy email each week know about three-quarters of what's been going on. Want to join us? Use the contact form in the right column and a valid email to get your copy ever Saturday-ish. Today, I'm getting personal with y'all. I'm not making excuses just telling it like it is.

Well, there are a couple of reasons for this.

Since this May, I've been fighting for my life or some semblance of a life quite literally. For now, I'm battling cancer. I've battled this beast and won four times in my past. By the Grace of God, we will beat it again. Since my seizure in July, really since my car accident in May, I haven't been able to drive. It will be July 2020 before I can do so again with no repeat in seizure activity. All late spring and summer long, it's been one medical thing after another my head, my eye, my heart, my spasticity due to my strokes, my pressure sores on my foot, my cancer returning after being gone for 26 years. I just started getting my stamina back from July only to have a pressure sore on my foot appear.

It's been a perfect storm kind of thing with me dying and being brought back to life. My body is revolting against me and I'm not recovering as fast as I used too. I'm constantly being slapped in the face that I ain't a spring chicken no more. It'll be the new year before all is said and done. I'm praying 2020 will be my return to "normalcy."

Finances have been so tight that we almost lost our homestead. We've gone through periods without electricity, and still have not filled our propane tank to cook with. So we are relying on the electric cook tops, crockpots, microwave, the grill, and a toaster oven  to cook my recipes on. Now, we have the wood stove too so it's a little bit easier. I hope to have propane before I start videoing my cooking spots again. I'm crossing my fingers, but any money we could have saved is now spent on firewood and the price went up this year.

Since May, Mel has been carrying the load by herself once again. She's even had to carry me. As a result, her seasonal depression has been a year long depressive state. Her medication has helped her not hit the suicidal/destructive state of three years ago. But her frustration level increased with taking over the finances (with my money), my health issues, and doing it all. Her once every two months jaunts into town have now become a three times a week thing. She has deemed herself unemployable because of age and attitude. She hasn't held a job for more than a week in three years.

She's writing a new program for her chicken farm record keeping so by mid 2020 she could really be making money to supplement our working capital and homestead. But programming is hardly easy, especially self taught, or without it's own frustration points. Chickens are much easier to raise than angoras rabbits. So her lack of attention won't kill them. At least she's not talking about chucking the homestead idea anymore.

The fact is we are getting older. Even though we've planned our homestead with this in mind, it's still a lot of work. We've only cleared about 1/2 an acre out of two. Trees still need to be cleared and the land terraced to be usable. What can we do when we can't afford to pay someone to do it, and we neither have the ability nor the equipment to tackle this? Both of us being transplants, still do not have "friend"/family base to fall back on, nor know enough people to ask for help. I've been so far out of the loop this year, it shows. To everyone, we've fallen off the edge of the world.

So for now, I'm combing the three pounds angora fiber, four pounds of alpaca, one pound of angora mixed fiber, and six pounds of wool into rolags for me to spin into yarn. I've got my work cut out for me in my usual fall and winter pastime activities. I'm still posting twice a week here, and once a week on my other site. There's my knitting. This winter, I'm planning on completing four sweaters and a bed throw. If I feel froggy, I'll try my hand at beading/ spinning some more art yarn. It will depend on if the muses hits me just right. There's also converting the outside rabbit hutches into quail hutches. I'm still shooting for spring.

So for now, Mel is focusing on her chicken farm. She'll be building her chicken coops and runs weather allowing. So come spring we can started in earnest on her newest venture. She's been researching hatcheries to get her base stock. She changes her mind constantly on the type of chickens she wants to raise. Americanas are a given. I'm firm about them. But RIR, Orpingtons, Barnvelders, or who knows what she'll finally decide on. She's in charge and it's her venture. I'm just funding her start-up again. They'll just have to be cheaper by the dozen.

When in life you are down and out, you better have a plan to get back up again.

Y'all have a blessed day!
Cockeyed Jo