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, January 29, 2020

Cooking with Chef Jo:Homemade Italian Sausage

We, on the homestead, like our Italian sausage between mild and hot. In the old days, prior to making our own and my pork allergy, it meant buying hot and mild sausage, and mixing them together.  Finding turkey or chicken meat Italian sausage was extremely difficult. I found that eating organically grown pork did not set off my allergies. Makes you wonder what they put in them hogs that are grown commercially, don't it?

Organic meats are expensive. So I cut pork out of my diet totally until I moved here and could get pastured raised pork at a lower price. So this recipe is not pork free. There's something about pork that makes any dis taste so much better! So I buy a small 3lb Boston butt and 3 lbs of turkey. In the days before I had a meat grinder, and even now to save my energy with using the hand crank meat grinder, I'll have the store butcher/butchershop grind the meat for me. We don't grow pigs on our homestead as yet. One day, we'll add American Guinea hogs to our menagerie of animals, but that's not now.

I make my Italian sausage in bulk. I use it in my Pasta e Fagioli Soup. If I want links, I can always make them later for sausage dogs with peppers, onion and spicy mustard yum! 

Chef Jo's Italian Sausage
Makes roughly 6 1/4 lbs of bulk sausage

What you'll need
3 lb Boston butt, boneless & ground*
3 lbs ground turkey, ground turkey thighs is best
1/2 cup red wine, dry red
2 TBS salt
2 TBS black pepper
2 1/2 TBS dried parsley*
2 TBS garlic powder*
2 TBS onion powder*
2 TBS dried basil*
1 TBS paprika
                                                                            1 TBS red pepper flakes*
                                                                            2 tsp fennel seeds*, broken
                                                                            1/4 tsp sugar
                                                                            1 tsp dried oregano*
                                                                            1 tsp dried thyme*

*Notes- Or get a bone in roast and save the bones for pork pork bone broth.
We grow, harvest, dehydrate, our own herbs and spices. I prefer using dried herbs and spices in this application.

Putting it together
  • Break fennel seeds into pieces with a mortar and pestle. You don't want to grind it into powder. If you like whole fennel seeds in your sausage forego this step.
  • Mix all seasonings except the red wine together in a bowl.
  • Break the meat into smaller pieces and mix together.
  • You'll want to mix the meat mixture and here on out with open fingers so as not to compress the meat into a solid mass.
  • Add red wine to the meat mixture and mix well until combined.
  • Sprinkle seasonings over the meat and mix well.
  • Your mixture should resemble a coarse sausage mixture rather than a blob. All your seasonings should show it bits and pieces in the meat fairly evenly. If you have a meat grinder this would be best. The more you work the meat, the tougher it will be. There should be well distributed pieces of fat throughout as pictured.
  • Let sit in the refrigerator for an hour to let the herbs and spices rehydrate and the flavors to get happpy.
Storing suggestions- You can leave this as bulk sausage and vacuum seal it for the freezer, you can raw pack can it for your dry storage.You can pipe it into uncased links, or stuff casing with it. You can form it into patties or anything you want to do with it.

If you do not have a pork allergy, feel free to make it with all pork. Remember the 15% fat to lean ratio.  Or if you are allergic to pork, use the ratio of 1/4 beef to 3/4 turkey. Remember the fat ratio. I've used beef fat and ground beef for the 25% beef (15% beef fat/ 10% lean beef) ratio to 75% turkey.

Y'all have a blessed day!
Chef Jo

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Preparing Your Children for Independence

I was over at Kristina's blog a couple of weeks ago, Pioneer Woman at Heart and she was posted about a Hope chests for for children. I thought it was a great idea for a post here. Now my children, four girls, are long since grown and living on their own. My youngest is now 33, but I'd like to talk a bit about how I prepared them for their adult lives their whole life.

Adult life ain't easy. There are twists and turns. I couldn't prepare them for everything, nobody could. But in a push come to shove situation, they would have the knowledge to fall back on so they'd never starve, or be cold, nor be attacked without means to defend themselves. These were the foundation of life skills. I taught by example and laid the basic groundwork. I taught about ethics in work and life by going through my own and setting a higher standard than society expected whether it was work or home. We discussed my decisions. How it's better to own up to your mistakes in the beginning than later. Admitting fault, problem solve the disaster that followed, and make it right.

Now, my children had it very bad. Just as I had as a diplomat and CIA operative's child. They couldn't get away with anything. They were hospital, police, preacher, and firemen, college kids. They learned fairly quickly about owning up to mistakes and the consequences of not doing so in an up front manner. They assumed Momma would know before they got home of any wrong doing. Most times, they were right. But being fair, I wanted to know their side too before doling out punishment. And, Momma never said wait until your father or step dad get home.

Jenn and her husband 2017
My youngest daughter shocked her supervisor one time by owning up to her mistake before she had a chance to start yelling about it. The woman was speechless at my daughter's honesty. What could she say after all in response. My daughter cleaned up her own mess. She then corrected her mistake. Yes, product was wasted. Yes, the error had been made. The supervisor didn't have to go into a tirade to find the culprit.  The problem had been resolved. Yes, I trained my daughters in right choices also.

I made "hope chests" of sorts for each one. Everything they needed to set up house with. They coined the name of Grocery Fairy for me. I'd make up laundry baskets of kitchen ware complete with hand embroidered, knitted, crocheted, quilted items. Pots and pans, filled canisters, pint jars of herbs and spices, dried food stuffs. A mop, broom, bucket, cleaning supplies like vinegar, bleach, and baking soda. It was all the things you needed to set up a house with besides what you'd get as a wedding or shower present. The items you need to have to run a household. Homemade bath soaps, lotions, razors, and a fully stocked medical tote. I even included a gallon of laundry soap and laundry bars to make more. This practice continued well into their 20s.

But before all of that, I led by example. I grew a garden. Canned and froze my own food with them at my side. I planned meals in advance and precooked them for a harried mom with two jobs or job and college. I taught them how to cook, clean, preserve, and provide for their families. I taught them how to barter, glean, and trade with food growers to get much needed food items for free or almost free since they were knee high by doing so myself. Holistic medicine practices, foraging, and nature crafts were no exceptions. No matter how much money they had, these skills were important. Life has a way way of turning on a dime. I took them hunting and fishing. I taught them how to process their own meat. You catch 'em, you clean 'em. I told them to take advantage of their momma's knowledge while they can and they did.

By not immediately jumping in when there was a problem, I taught them I how to think outside the box and encouraged creative thinking in problem solving. I had a rule that you had to try to solve the problem yourself two different ways before you could ask for help. They would have to explain to me what they tried to solve the problem. There were times, I sent them back to the drawing board to try again. Believe me as a mother, this is hard to do. But it worked for homework to life decisions. Usually they found the solution on their own and pridefully boasted about their success. I let them crow and lavishly praised them. But they always knew momma or their step dad was there waiting to help if it was needed.

When our grandchildren started appearing, I saw my own children repeating what I taught them. Not because it was easier, but it instilled values and confidence. My husband I vowed that our grandchildren would never starve or do without necessities. We took the role very seriously. The snooping mother/mother in law began and the grocery fairy would suddenly appear or the grocery fairy's pantry opened up. I had a 12' x 12' full of loaded shelves. Everything from food to toys. Even 5-gallon cans of gasoline were in the outdoor shed if the need arose.

Now keep in mind, we weren't filthy rich. These stores were purchased or preserved in good times when we had extra. We scrimped and saved watching sales and coupons. Even the gasoline was bought with a store value card. I'd gotten so good at that I could purchase 20 gallons of gas for $2.18 total (gas was then $3.15 a gallon). My vehicle only held 17 gallons. The remaining 3 gallons went into gas cans and were stored each and every time I purchased gas with the card. I had twenty gallons of gasoline stored within a matter of months. School supplies were purchased the same way. I just kept doing it after my children were grown. I taught them this as well.

Yes, I led my children by example, but I learned it from my parents and grandmother first. You see how this works? Two of my children are working full-time and operating their own homesteads too. Now, my grandchildren are venturing out in the world following these same principles and so it goes.

Y'all have a blessed day!
Cockeyed Jo

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Cooking with Chef Jo: Broths, Stocks, and Bone Broths

To me now, they are all the same thing. Once upon a time working in professional kitchens that wasn't the case, but now I'm relaxed about it. Granted broths or stock have added vegetables and seasonings to it. But, when I make mine, I go the extra step and make bone broth I add the flavor. While traditional stocks and broths are added to soups and other dishes to flavor them, why not get the added benefits of the collagen and minerals you get in bone broth? So now, I always make my enhanced bone broth to fulfill all my stock and broth needs.It gives me the most bang for my buck.

If you are like me, I save all my vegetable scraps (carrots, celery, herb stems, leeks, potato, garlic, etc.) I put them in a 2-gallon zip lock freezer bag. When I fill 2 bags, I'll make stock. The same goes for bones even the ones leftover from a meal. Waste not want not. If I hadn't made friends at the local meat processors, this would take a long time to gather, but I can pick up waste bones every time they butcher an animal. It's better than it going to the landfill.

Jo's Enhanced Bone Broth
2 gallons or 16 pints

What you'll need

10 lbs of combination bones (beef, poultry, veal, lamb, pork etc)*
2 bags of vegetable waste, if you don't have the waste quarter 4 ribs of celery, 4 carrots, 2 leeks, 1 bulb of garlic, very rough chopped
1 TBS olive oil
1 TBS kosher salt
1/2 TBS black peppercorns or peppercorn blend
4 sprigs of thyme
                                                             1 bunch of parsley or just the stems 
                                                             4 bay leaves (large)
                                                             16 qts water or 8qts for fish and shellfish
                                                             1/2 cup apple cider vinegar or 1 cup red wine/1 cup
                                                             white wine for poultry or fish*

*Notes- A combination 50/50 neck bones/oxtails/meaty soup bones and long bones have marrow inside. It has some meat, cartilage, and strong bones. I want for the collagen, calcium and other minerals that does the body good.
If using wine, choose a good quality, dry wine.
Putting it all together
  • Put the neck bones bones in a roasting pan. Place pan in a 425 degree oven and bake 35 minutes. Turn and roast again for 20 minutes. The exception is fish bones, and shrimp and other shellfish shells. They will be baked for 15 minutes total.
  • Meanwhile, soak the long bones in a bowl with enough water to cover and vinegar or wine for 45 minutes.
  • In a very large stock pot (20+ qt) heat the tablespoon of oil. There will only be a thin coating of oil on the bottom of the pot. Heat until it forms smoke.
  • Add the vegetable scraps (or vegetables) to the pot. Stir constantly over medium flame for ten minutes.
  • Add your bones and any liquid rendered from the bones to the pot.
  • Stir well until everything is coated.
  • Add four cups of liquid to the pot. Stir well scraping the brown and black bits from the bottom of the pan.
  • Add half the remaining water and bring to a boil. Stir well.
  •  Add remaining water. Stir well and bring to a boil.
  • Add seasonings. Lower the temperature to a simmer.
  • Cover the pot and simmer for: shrimp and shellfish~ 2 hour, chicken-~4-6 hours, beef and other meat~ 8-12 hours. Adding liquid if needed. 
  • To speed the process and cut the time in half use a pressure canner.
  • When the time is complete, allow broth to come to room temperature. There should be half the volume of liquid left in the pot.
  • Strain liquid through a colander removing all the chunky bits of bone and vegetable. Remove the marrow from the big bones. It is delicious on crackers.
  • Strain the liquid again through several layers of cheese cloth or a flour sack dishtowel. The liquid should be clear. I don't mind if a few floaty bits/sediment remains in my broth.
  • Place the liquid in a cool place overnight. I love to make broth in the winter. I'll just cover the pot and set it on the porch. In summer, I'll set it in the refrigerator.
  • The next day, Skim off the top layer of fat from the pot. Don't throw this away! Store it, it'll make fantastic seasoning for vegetables or biscuits!
  • You will notice that your broth has thickened if not jelled. This is because of the collagen from the bones. 
  •  Spoon this jell into a clean pot. You will notice sediment mixed in the bottom of the pot. Leave it in the pot.
  • Return the new pot to the stove and heat.
  • Strain your broth one more time.
  • Hot pack into hot jars and pressure can as directed, or ladle into freezer bag for the freezer. I always make my bone broth in pint jars. It's the perfect amount for a pan of gravy. If I need more for soups I just grab a couple more jars.
  • Be sure to wipe your rims with vinegar to remove any oil that may have splashed on it. You've spent so much
    time making this delicious broth it would be a shame to have it not seal.
  • Pressure can for 75 minutes for pints, or 90 minutes for quarts.
Drink it straight from the jar for your health and refrigerate any unused portion or add it to your favorite recipe that calls for broth or stock. You can add any additional herbs you want to fit your personal tastes, the ones given are just the basics. I've found adding a 12 oz can of tomato paste before jarring enhances the taste of beef, veal, elk, and venison bone broths.

Y'all have a blessed day!
Chef Jo

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Homesteading Posts by the Numbers for 2019

I know we are late doing the end of the year review of most favorite and least favorite posts for 2019, but at least it's finally done. There have been other more exciting topics to talk about like the start of a new homestead based income stream...Mel's chicken farm.

I'm happy to say this little homesteading blog has significantly grown in visits and comments over the past year. I honestly began wondering if I was reaching anyone besides a few of our YouTube subscribers the last three years. Originally, this blog was set up to provide watchers of our channel a behind the scene view of homesteading and other items that did not make it into videos. That all changed at the end of summer 2017. Computer crashes, video editing software problems, replacing cameras, and 4 sets of audio equipment died all put a damper on us continuing with YouTube. So, the blog became our website as we cut out nonessential expenses from our tightening budget.

You see, we will never to be able to earn a cent from YouTube just made matters worse. Mel was banned from Adsense. You may have noticed that we don't run ads on our channel. That's why. We can't monetize it. Me, monetizing this blog was the only way we could make any money from our efforts. But in the 20+ years with Blogger and Adsense, I've never earn one red cent. My other blog has grown to over 1 million hits...think about it. I don't do any of this for money. We video upload and write for the love of the subject matter and to share with others.

I just keep seeing videos about what homesteading YouTube content creators are making from YouTube and just wanted to set the record straight regarding our Cockeyed Homestead channel. I'll get off my soap box now and get on with my post.

If  you read Wednesday's post on this subject do not be surprised by the difference in the numbers. This is just on the Sunday homesteading posts which are considerably lower, but growing. I can remember a time when I got no visits to this blog so these numbers are exciting to me.

The blog with the highest number of 47 unique visitors was ...drum roll, please.

Demolishing the Store Building ...Sort Of

 This surprised me. I didn't think tearing apart a rat infested food storage out building was such an earth shattering post.

The biggest loser for 2019  with only 7 views was...

It's Definitely Springtime!

This was certainly one of my more shorter posts. But still, only 7 souls even stopped by to notice.

But all that being said since starting this blog in May 31, 2016, my little old homesteading blog has received 27.4K (with a high March 31, 2019 biggie of 2,483 visitors to this site) of unique visits. That's not too shoddy looking at how far we've come in three short years since I started writing this.

Thank y'all for visiting me.

Y'all have a blessed day!
Cockeyed Jo

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Cooking with Chef Jo Posts- Some Numbers for 2019

With this, it's the 56th posting of this Wednesday Cooking with Chef Jo. Everyone is doing the year in review and this series has run a little over a year now. Yes, I'm finally getting around to mine for this segment of the Cockeyed Homestead blog.

The recipe with the most views (266) is (drum roll, please) 

Cooking with Chef Jo: Not "Lipton" Dry Onion Soup Mix Revisited

266 may not seem like a lot to y'all, but for this post it's major. I can only attribute it to another homesteading blog "5 Acres and a Dream" posting a link to the recipe in Leigh's blog. Thank you, Leigh. Clapping and doing the Snoopy dance of happiness!

The second runner up with 85 views is...

Cooking with Chef Jo: My Infamous Chicken Salad Recipe 

For a long time, this recipe was #1 until Leigh's blog came out. It was one of my most requested recipes when I was a working chef. Still doing the Snoopy dance of happiness! But a big difference in the numbers of visits and just goes to show you what a simple link can do.

The biggest loser was... 

 With only 4 views 

 Cooking with Chef Jo: Cockeyed Devilished Ham 

To be honest, this recipe is from December 2018 and the Cooking with Chef Jo was in it's infancy. Nobody wants to scroll back a year to find it. It's actually a good recipe. Much better than the canned mush you get in the store. Or, maybe nobody eats deviled ham anymore like us old timers. I dunno.

There you have it the biggest winners and loser of 2019 Cooking with Chef Jo.  Thank y'all for visiting.

Y'all have a blessed day!

Chef Jo

Sunday, January 12, 2020

The Cockeyed Chicken Farm Begins! We Got Babies!!!

Awaiting chicks
The brooder box Mel built out of scrap lumber now sits behind the sofa. Made from 2x4s and sheeting boards, this thing is heavy! Mel had to dismantle it and carry it in pieces, and put it back together in place. When I asked her why she didn't split the 2x4s on the table saw, she said, "I dunno. I didn't think of it."

Instead of a heat lamp, we're using our heating pad once again. This time it's draped over an arched wire frame work. The chicks can go under it for warmth. We put a layer of pine shaving on the bottom of the box. It's easy enough to clean out with a whisk broom and bucket for the waste...it will all go into the compost pile.

 Mel ordered fifteen All Female Rainbow Chick Layers from Meyer's Hatchery last week and the variety assortment arrived on Tuesday. The ad said at least 5 different breeds of chickens and from the looks of the identifying leg tags, we've got 7-10 distinctly different breeds.

From Meyer's catalog
From the picture in the ad, they should be a colorful assortment. We decided not to free range these because some of them are considered rare breeds. We want to protect them. These are strictly egg layers. With so many varying breeds of chickens in one coop/run, it will be interesting to see what kind what kind of personalities and pecking order they establish. Up until now, we've only raised Rhode Island and New Hampshire Reds, and Buff Orpingtons. We'll raise all of them to be friendly to humans. Not necessarily children friendly 'cause we ain't got any rug rats around this homestead. Or, at least not at any given time.

Every day, these chicks are handled by Mel and I. We just can't help it. They are such cute, little puff balls right now. We'll talk to them and cuddle them. We are certainly imprinted in their little minds already. I expect they'll try and follow us all over the place if we let them. I can see it now, all of them squawking to be picked up and loved on every time we enter the chicken run just like Broody and Black Butt does now. Lord knows, the the decibel level of peeps of these chicks dropped once I put them under the heated section of the brooder or we snuggle them inside our flannel shirts.

From Meyer's catalog
I'm personally looking forward to spring and having our own, fresh eggs again. Broody and Black Butt have stopped laying eggs. For Broody, I think it's age. She is in her 4th year. Black Butt stopped laying in the nest box with the Kassity killing Baby Girl. It could be a winter thing too.  I may put a nesting tote in the bunny/chicken barn. So we've actually had to start buying eggs from the store for homestead use!  I can surely tell the difference between our eggs and store bought ones. The yolks are yellow instead of orange and the whites are runny in comparison. There's a difference in taste and cooking/baking results too. Our homestead eggs were superior. Hopefully these new chicks will start laying by June for abundance of eggs to have and sell. Plus eggs from the other birds.

The quail pens are built and awaiting quail. Next livestock auction, I'll be buying some full grown quail and buying some fertile quail eggs to incubate. So our poultry farm begins. I'll have to revamp this design to add some quail and change it to "poultry farm." I still need to clean up the design some. Or, maybe I'll leave it alone for now.

Y'all have a blessed day!
Cockeyed Jo

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Cooking with Chef Jo: "I'll Take Some TOE, Please"

Welcome back to another episode of Cooking with Chef Jo. I'm happy you stopped by! Grab a cup of your favorite herbal tea, don your cozy slippers, and grab a pillow for the back of your chair. Be sure and grab paper and something to write with. Ah, there. All cozy now?

Today's recipe is not about foot fetishes or cannibalism, but an honest to goodness meatless main dish.  My family ask me to make over and over again. I had to give it a name so I called it "toe" because they couldn't pronounce the Indian name for it and the cut vegetables look like toes. It's a curry and one of my favorites. It's made with the old southern goodies: tomatoes, okra, and eggplant or TOE.

My kids got a kick out of it. They would gross out their friends by saying they ate toe for dinner. I've also made preserves made of the same vegetables to farther gross their friends out. I was either the coolest mom around or the craziest. I never knew for sure.

Keep in mind if you have arthritis, vegetables in the nightshade family like tomatoes, okra, and eggplant may cause a worsening of pain and condition. So daughter #2 never ate this.

 Jo's TOE Curry*
Serves 6

What you'll need
5 Japanese or baby eggplants, sliced lengthwise and quartered
2 cups of  very young okra,  about 2" long
2  cups of coconut milk, add more if needed
2 cups of vegetable stock, add more if needed
2 TBS butter
2 TBS olive oil
1 onion, chopped
                                                             1 red pepper, chopped
                                                             1/2 green and red bell pepper, chopped
                                                             1 clove of garlic, minced (large clove)
                                                             1 jalapeno, remove seeds and core, finely chopped
                                                             2 tomatoes, chopped
                                                             2  tsp of fresh ginger, grated
                                                             1/4 cup of desiccated coconut, unsweetened
                                                             2 TBS of Madras curry powder
                                                             1 1/2 tsp of black mustard seeds
                                                             1 tsp of coriander, ground
                                                             1/2 tsp of cinnamon
                                                             2 tsp of turmeric
                                                             salt and pepper to taste
                                                             fresh cilantro, chopped for garnish
                                                             lemon juice to taste*

*Notes-*This is a very mild curry. To add more heat add the core and seeds of the jalapeno or add you favorite hot chilies.
* I usually just cut lemon wedges in a bowl so everyone can add their own.
*To add heat- leave the seeds and core in the jalapeno and increase the number to 3 jalapenos.

Putting it all together
  • Saute eggplant in olive oil and butter until browned on both sides. Set aside. 
  • Do the same for the okra, but don’t brown.
  • Cook the onion, red and green peppers in a large pan. Sweat them a bit with a shake of salt, and then add the curry, turmeric, cinnamon and coriander. Cook for about 10 minutes. Onions will be translucent.
  •  Add the garlic, ginger, tomatoes, and jalapeno. Stir and cook for approximately 5 minutes. The aroma of these additions will fragrance the kitchen.
  • Add the mustard seeds, stir and cook for about 1 minute.
  • Add the vegetable stock and reduce heat. 
  • Add the coconut milk, and desiccated coconut. Let cook for about 10 minutes at a simmer.
  • Add the cooked baby eggplant and okra and simmer for about 20 minutes or until it begins to thicken.
  • Add cilantro right before serving and stir well.
For Service- Serve over your grain of choice. I use quinoa and the nutty flavor or to keep it authentic brown rice. Sprinkle with more cilantro to garnish. Enjoy!

Y'all have a blessed day!
Chef Jo