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.

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Sunday, April 18, 2021

Fool Me Once, Shame on You...

Living in the north GA mountains like we do, I've learned a few things about the weather. You can't predict it, but you can try.

When I came here, Mel had this hard, fast rule of never planting anything in the ground until May 1st and nothing is planted by Halloween. I've fudged on that with potatoes, onions, garlic, and leeks as fall plantings in November (heavily mulched in). and as early as March, but these crops can take a little colder weather before springing back to life or going dormant for the winter. For the most part, I follow her rule. She's got a couple of years on me garden wise in this climate.

So last week when the temperatures soared into the 80s with consistent lows in the 60s, I waited to plant my heat loving crops like eggplant, tomatoes, and okra knowing the temperature was sure to drop again. Sure enough, it did, but this should be the last time unless the Polar Vortex gets absolutely nasty again. I don't think it will but you know what they saw about ASSUME.

Still we were tempted to air out the house on the days we could. We opened the outer doors leaving the screen doors closed. Our free ranging chicken decided to free range through the pet doors and venture inside. They have developed a taste for cat and dog kibble. No sooner did we chase one set out the back door another set would be entering through the front. Chinese fire drill anyone?

A week and a half ago, Mel caught a flu bug. We'd already been though the COVID so we knew it wasn't that. But still she was feverish, coughing and huddled under a throw which a subscriber sent us one Christmas. She didn't eat for three days. I pushed clear fluid on her augmented with bone broths, and my white clover jelly made into a tea. She had almost every pillow in the house propping up her back so she could sleep, but she slept sporadically and fitfully. She's on the mends now. Her fevers have broken for good. Me, whatever it was, I didn't get it Thank God for Kimchi and it's probotic and immuno-boosting powers! It's a good thing we laid in groceries before she got sick.

I've got my 6-month check in with my PCP this week. I imagine his office has been going nuts with all the updates from my other doctors. Lord knows, he shouldn't have to order any blood work. My left arm is still badly bruised and painful from my endarterectomy earlier this month. He'll just check that I'm still breathing and renew my prescriptions for my allergy meds.

That's it for this week. How's it been for you?

Y'all have a blessed day!
Cockeyed Jo

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Putting Food By Dilemma-Canning Lids

This year, I'm having to join the ranks of folks attempting to find flats or canning lids. As I said in my previous post, I've started buying Harvest Guard/Tattler reusable flats and gaskets to replace my lids for my jars. Since the fall, I've been buying them in 100 lid lots each month. This set me back about $130 a month.  

From the 1,500 jars I have on hand (1/4 pint, 1/2 pint, pints, pint & half, and quarts.), about half of the non-pints are wide mouth so I added a lot of of wide mouth to the mix. To date, I've successfully bought enough reusable lids to take care of a full year's worth of canning for me, but I'm not stopping there. My canning goal for this year is to put up two and a half years of  food stuff. This includes dehydrated and vacuum sealing as well as traditionally canned goods. Providing that I freeze all dry goods before I either dry can or keep in buckets staples it's doable thanks to Uncle Sam's stimulus checks. I'm pinching my pennies wisely. I never would have been able to afford these many lids otherwise.

The plan is to keep buying lids and gaskets until I have one for every jar I have on hand and to buy extra set of gaskets for each set. Everything I've researched says the gaskets should be replaced after 10 sealings. So by the end of summer/early fall, my plan should be complete with no actual monies out of pocket.

So what am I canning this week? Pulled chicken and grilled chicken strips. Yes, I bought another $110 meat package this week. When you raw pack your chicken for canning do you par cook it first for "pretty chicken" or do you just put it in the jars raw for "ugly chicken?" I'll usually grill mine first to seal in the smoke and seasonings before I slice it and put it into my jars. I have twenty pounds of Dolly Parton sized chicken breasts just begging to be processed.

Since it's been gorgeous (weather wise), I couldn't resist firing up our charcoal Webber. I put all my chicken breasts in the sink, seasoned it with my blended seasoned salt, tossed it around a bit while the coals heated. I calculated it would make about 18-19 pint jars of chicken and leave us some for dinner. The plan was to make 9 jars of chicken strips and the rest would go into jars as pulled chicken. I pulled two pints of my knock-off Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce from stores already.

Since I was basically canning chicken two ways at once. The only difference was how it was cut up when putting into the jars. I was still raw pack/dry canning it. It would be a "not-so-ugly canned chicken. So I threw the seasoned half breasts on the grill and cooked them 6 minutes on each side. Just long enough to get some of the hickory laced smoke onto the meat and grill marks, but not cook them fully.  I figured one to one and a quarter per jar to gill them.

For the strips, I cut each breast across the grain into 1/2" strips. These would be for casseroles, Fajitas, pot pies, and soups. Leaving a 1" headspace, I wiped the rims, lidded, ringed them  and placed them in my canner. For the pulled chicken, I diced the breasts into 1" cubes. I placed 2 TBS of BBQ sauce in each jar, and then loaded the chicken. I wiped the rims, lidded, ringed, and placed them in the canner. I ended up with one chicken breast leftover. This one I coated with BBQ sauce and threw it back on the grill for dinner.

I pressure canned a full canner load of chicken for 75 minutes for my altitude. I removed the jars from the canner. The next day I washed each jar in warm soapy water after checking the seals. All of them sealed. I labeled them and placed them in my food stores building. Next, I added the jars to my computer inventory program that Mel designed. (For Sale under the "For Sales" tab) So I can keep a running tally of what I have on hand at any given time at the touch of a key.

I plan on doing this several more times in the coming year to meet my goals, but for now, I've got 18 delicious meals that are heat and enjoy. For dinner, I took that one Dolly Parton BBQ-ed breast, shredded it, added a bit more of my knock off BBQ sauce, slapped a scoop of coleslaw(canned coleslaw) on it on one of my homemade buns. I added some microwave potato chips, and a fermented dill pickle on the side. 

Boy, Howdy! A meal fit for a king! It was totally yummy for my tummy! So what have y'all been up to? The weather has been great. I wish I could be playing in the garden. I see the surgeon later on today so I should get my up to 15 lb clearance and my ability to bend forward back. I've been a "good girl" I have over the last two weeks, but I'm chomping at the bit to get into the garden.

Y'all have a blessed day!
Chef Jo

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Stockpiling Food for my Working and Long-Term Pantry

 It's that time of the year when we begin again seriously start filling the larder back up again. As if it ever stopped over winter. It didn't here with pots of soups, chilies, stews, dry beans, and fruits.

And yes, I'm finally converting to reusable lids. I spent the summer and fall months researching and comparing brands. Harvest Guard lids won out because of the comparable quality of the lids and price point. Both are made in the US. I've monthly bought 100 sets of regular mouth lids each month since October. The plan is to replace all my need for flats for homestead use. Sometime this summer, I'll be starting on a spare set of silicone rings for all the lids since they only last for about 10 uses. Yes, I have that many jars!

The news for the last year has been bent on continued instability for the future so I'm preparing to can and dehydrate even more this year. I'm not a die-hard prepper, but a failed vegetable garden two years in a row has made me rethink my previous method of "stockpiling foods. It's only common sense, right? 

I ran across  recommendations for a local butcher who runs several weekly specials of meat.  They were only 40 minutes away so I decided to try them.  I bought the $110/> 50 lbs  variety pack of beef, pork, and chicken. I wanted to try everything they sell in their shop regularly before I committed to a larger purchase of meats. They also sell whole and sides of butchered meats too. Ours, when I looked at I picked it up, totaled 55 lbs of meat. I spent $2 a pound for good meat! What was the $110 package?

10lbs. 80/20 ground chuck
5lbs. Beef roast
1 whole Boston butt (average 8lbs.)
1 whole slab St. Louis Pork Ribs (average 2-2.5lbs)
5lbs. Boneless pork loin
10lbs. Chicken leg quarters
10lbs. Boneless skinless chicken breast

The meat looked good! Hardly any extra fat. The one concern I do have is with the chickens. The 10 lb breast package held only 8 split breasts. Each breast weighed 1.25 lbs. They were what I categorize as Dolly Partons (to me that meant hormone feed for the birds). Not that extra Estrogen would hurt us two sexagenarian females, but it's the principle. So we won't be ordering their chicken again.

We spent the afternoon breaking the packages down into meal size portions for us. The ground beef was divided into 2lb portions, the beef roast (bottom round) was divided into four meals, the leg quarters were split into two thigh or four leg packages (10 packages), the 9 lb Boston butt was left whole to be ground into breakfast and Italian sausage, and the 3 lb pork loin was cut into 1/2" boneless pork chops (6 packages) and the breasts were wrapped separately.

Yes, I'm still buying our usual half and whole of beef, pork, and chickens, but the specials when combined with what I have would allow me the comfort zone I'm looking for our homestead.  This year's preserving goals have doubled (if not tripled in some areas) my regular amounts. It's my stimulus checks in action while my regular money is untouched. Makes sense and cents, right?

My plan for some of the meat is freeze drying the beef roast and sausages, and chicken breasts. I'll store them in Mylar bags and sealed in pint jars. Why pints? It the bulk of canning I have on hand and I won't have to open a big bag to get a week's worth of chicken exposed. Makes sense, right? A pint jar of dehydrated chicken reconstituted makes about four cups of chicken. It's perfect for casseroles, pot pies, and chicken salad during a week. Why double seal it in pint jars too? Rodents and bugs cannot eat their way through the glass and metal. I mean if I plan on putting it aside for years, isn't it worth the extra effort?

I think I told you that I bought a Harvest Right food freeze dryer on halves with another homestead before.  It made the price of the system more budget friendly. For seven years I've used both my freeze dryer and regular dehydrators to dehydrate our food. After two years of trading it back and forth with the freeze dryer, I paid the other homestead to own it outright. I brought it with me along with my regular dehydrators with me when I move up here. Yes, it's an older model without all the bells and whistles that the newer models, like different colors, have, but it still works well. If it ain't broke, don't fix or replace it. It has more than earned out its cost in that time.

Well, that's the plan. Don't worry about tomorrow, be prepared.

Y'all have a blessed day!
Cockeyed Jo


Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Cooking with Chef Jo: Dry Scalloped Potatoes Packets for the Working Pantry

 As I said in my previous post, we are entering our busy time of the year. I'm taking advantage of the newest cold front and rain to stock my working pantry. So "instant" or quick fix short cuts for home cooked goodness are what we need. Today, I'm using my dehydrated potato slices. Now regular scalloped potatoes do not have cheese, but when my mother always made scalloped potatoes she always added cheese making them a cross between scalloped potatoes and au gratin potatoes.

The great thing about this recipe is you only need a can of evaporated milk and water make it so it's a good prepper/working term pantry side addition for a meal. It can be cooked on a stove top, in the oven, or even over a wood fire if needed. I made it all ways. I honestly haven't tried to make it with a sterno stove though, but I imagine it could be done that way. I use evaporated milk to reconstitute the dry ingredients to make it extra creamy, but you can use regular milk to make this. I'll give you the bulk recipe for the cheese-less sauce mix because you can scallop any vegetable. Without further ado, on to the recipe.

Bulk Scallop Mix
Makes a little over 1 Quart

Bulk Mix
2 cups milk, skim milk is okay but whole milk is better
1 cup white flour
1 cup corn starch
1/2 cup dried onion flakes, or 8 tsp onion powder
1/4 cup dried parsley flakes
1/4 cup dried chives
2-3 TBS seasoning salt
1 TBS mustard powder
                                                                 1 TBS garlic powder
                                                                 1 cup dried cheddar cheese powder*

* Notes- *If you are making it like my mom or Au Gratin potatoes.

4 serving "box"

What you'll need
1/2 c mix
3 c dehydrated potatoes slices
1 c evaporated milk
2 cups hot water
4 TBS butter

There you have it another pantry stores made from scratch without all those words you can't pronounce. As always, it's a yummy for your tummy.

Y'all have a blessed day!
Chef Jo

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Garden Delayed on Account of Doctors

You know the saying, "If you want to know God is in control, make a plan?"

This week the weather was wonderful! We decided to plant the spring garden.  That was the plan until I had my new base line ultrasound on my carotid arteries. I had a T-CAR procedure done on the right one back in January and it took forever to get my stamina back (over a month). But I did and we got busy with life again. So I went to my vascular surgeon's office for the scan.

Since I had no problem with the left side, I wasn't worried at all that the right side wouldn't have just as good of an outcome. Mel had gripped almost the whole way there (30 miles) about how doctors just milk your insurance with one test after another. How if they wanted to do more for me just to say no. I agreed with her. I'd pretty much had been put through the wringer for the last two and a half years with this or that treatment, complications, or surgeries.

I saw the PA right after the scan was complete, PA is supposed to stand for physician's assistant, but my husband said it stood for piss ant after a run in with an extremely arrogant one. Anyhow, she gave me the bad news. It seems like the procedure caused a dissection of the inner wall of my carotid artery. I was bleeding in the space between the inner and outer wall and it was closing off the artery leading to my brain on the right side, she judged by the pressure numbers. Another CTA and surgery was needed immediately to correct it or if it ruptured, it could cause a massive stroke or cause me to bleed out that either would kill me. So instead of saying no, I agreed.

So the procedure to fix the problem caused a similar problem below the stent. Go figure. I always say, "I've got the luck of the Irish (by marriage) if Murphy's Law Didn't weigh in so heavily. And, I should know because I'm a Murphey." It's so true. So I won't be planting next week but having surgery instead with all its restrictions afterwards again.

The garden is up to Mel this year. Sigh!

Y'all have a blessed day!
Cockeyed Jo 

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Cooking with Chef Jo: When is Cooking NOT Cooking?

You might be wondering why I haven't posted a recipe for y'all in a couple of weeks. Well, it's like this. I ain't been cooking much. Sure I'm cooking each night, sort of, but not really cooking anything exciting to talk about. So when is cooking Not cooking? when you are opening up jars of leftovers and reheating them.  And, that's all I've done for the past couple weeks.

I've been so busy tweaking the cookbook, doing crafty stuff to replenish inventory, and just trying to figure out my next move that 5 PM sneaks up on me most nights. So, it's open a jar of soup/stews/chili from the pantry and make some cheese toast to go with it. I did make some tuna salad to use up a half dozen eggs last week. On the few warmer nights, we enjoyed it for dinner with some homemade, air fried tortilla crisps and salsa. But that's just cutting up some hard boiled eggs, some onions and celery, and some seasonings. Not much special about that. Even the bread was store bought. 😮

It's even going to be worse next week with garden planting starting. We finally have a few days in a row with no rain. There just are not enough hours in the day to do it all. The Velcro strap, one of three broke,

so I'm sitting more now too until I can get in to the orthotics' place to get it fixed next week. I kind of have-to-have that brace to stand and walk. We brought in the wheelchair from the barn only to find the rats had chewed and dry rot had taken care of the wheels. GRRR! The new pair of tires were $42 through Amazon.  We finally got all the house and food stores building to have them take up residence in the barn. We need a barn cat to adopt us.

The nighttime lows are still in the forties and there us a definite chill in the air after sun down so for now my pantry/food stores works. It's a good thing too. Soon the fresh greens will be big enough to cut for fresh salads again. I can't hardly wait. I'm so tired of store bought salad mixes. Of course, recently I've been boosting them up with fresh micro greens. Oh to have the high tunnel greenhouse Mel talked about building for year around growing, but that's still in the to-do folder. .

Y'all have a blessed day!
Cockeyed Jo

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Weather Woes for the Garden

We've been chomping at the bit for the weather to warm up a bit to start planting in the garden. For weeks now, we've had everything laid out for our Ruth Stout/no dig market garden ready. Tthe weather finally cooperated We had a week of warm spring like weather, but then here came the rain. Followed by another cool patch.  Isn't that always the way it works?

Now, we're watching for the weather to clear and warm back up. Oi Vey! At least the weather clears long enough to have a goof turn out for the Farmers market on Saturdays. Nothing is as miserable as packing the Blazer to go, setting up, and sitting at the market in rain with no customers save those who placed orders the week before.

We're spending our time starting more seeds, and crafting.  We're concentrating on planting summer crops now. We have trays of tomatoes, okra, peppers, and sweet corn started for us and the market. We've also propagated some roses and blueberry bushes from our own stock when we trimmed them in the fall to sell to transplant and sell at the market. Mel started her usual assortment of pansies, zinnias, and petunias to plant baskets for the front porch and to sell in our recycled pots just in case someone is not interested in just vegetables. It'll make our tent more interesting with spots of color.  By selling the plants, we won't be in direct competition with a long time vendor at the market who sells cut flowers. It's frowned upon by the vendors.  It also gibes us our independent niche.

We're hoping the weather will cooperate so we can get our spring garden planted soon before the GA heat makes it impossible to grow. With all this warmer weather the peach trees, wild violets, and strawberries are blooming. The area's dogwoods, red buds, and apple trees brighten the landscape with, pink and white blooms. Is there are better tell that spring is on its way? Of course, seeing a red breasted robin sings to me it's so although this one is more orange.

Y'all have a blessed day!
Cockeyed Jo