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.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Why We Keep a Prepper's Pantry

I wasn't a hoarder as a prepper before my stroke. I never bought more than a year's worth of anything, except for paper goods but that came in handy post stroke. I could make my own laundry, bath, and dishwasher soap if I needed to in a pinch. In fact, I still do many of the things I wrote about in my book living post stroke. I actually challenged myself after my stroke to find ways that I could still function with adaptation.

So today, I'm living on a homestead eeking my way towards being self sufficient. Mentally and physically, I'm a lot better off for it. That brings me today's topic, why I still keep a prepper's pantry.

I watched a YouTube video of a large family mom creating a month's worth of freezer meals. She ended up creating 42 freezer meals in about sixteen hours. It was fascinating to watch. Watch for yourself here. All the time I was watching her I kept a watch on how much trash she generated, and how much time and money she wasted. With a garden and precanning ingredients, she could have saved hours of cooking. Granted, she just went shopping and picked what needed while I spent almost six months growing, processing, and prepping my ingredients, but to each their own.

I also make most pastas except for formed shells and macaroni. Grind my own flour. Make my own sausage and butcher carcasses of meat down to the minutest form. But again that me being self reliant, and knowing where my meat comes from. For this endeavor, I went "shopping" in my food store pantry. I used my handy dandy shopping cart to help me carry in all that I needed.

To prove my point and down sizing the recipes for two servings versus twelve,  I replicated her menus sort of. I added quite a few whole meat meals and seafood dishes. In Operation Empty the Freezer last summer, found me canning meats, spaghetti sauces with ground beef and turkey. I'll make and keep  about 2 cases (24 pints)of chicken, beef, turkey, lamb, vegetable, and pork broth on hand. They are the by products of eating real, whole foods and butchering your own homesteading efforts.

So what did I put in my freezer for a month's worth of meals?

Panned meals (32)
3 beef spaghetti bakes
3 beef lasagnas
2 beef and lamb meatballs with duchess potatoes
3 green chicken enchiladas
3 seafood stuffed pasta shells in a beurre blanc sauce
3 pork chops  with stuffing
3 seared lamb chops over Mediterranean couscous
3 beef burritos
3 cheese and spinach ravioli with meat sauce
3 grilled chicken thighs over yellow rice
1 shepherd's pie
2 chicken pot pies
Bagged meals (10)
2 shrimp and smoked turkey sausage jambalaya
2 shrimp lomein
2 grilled chicken and vegetable stir fry with rice
2 marinated London broil with roasted vegetables
1 chicken marsala with rice
1 herb marinade lamb shoulder with peas and duchess potatoes

For a total of 42 meals! Want any of the recipes. Just let me know.

The difference in what was produced... I made my own ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, sour cream, and yogurt from locally sourced pasture fed cow's for milk. All the beef, lamb, and pork which we didn't raise were antibiotic and chemical free. 80% of the seasonings and blends used were done by me. Total time to put it all together was 5 hours after raiding my prepper's pantry. Of course, that doesn't include time and labor to procure and process it all.

 I also included desserts (4 total-cheesecake, peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies,  peach and apple turnovers) and breakfast menus (waffles with sausage, pancakes with bacon, crumpets, and french toast) to my freezer which added another 2 hours. Plus, there's always the fall back of granola, or grits and eggs for breakfast too.

With possibility of surgeries, injuries, blah days, and who knows what days ahead, it's nice to know that these meals are available when Mel or I need them.


Y'all have a blessed day!
Jo

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Cooking with Chef Jo: Peanut Butter Brittle

I've got a horrible sweet tooth. There I've said it. It was hard to contain when the patriarchal family curse hit at age 40 when I became the latest member in the Mefford gene pool. Luckily or unluckily, this was resolved when I hard my first stroke a month after my 55th birthday.

My stroke kick started my pancreas into overdrive. I went from an insulin dependent diabetic to fighting to keep my sugar levels high enough. Don't try to understand it, or try to explain it. Just accept it and go on. Many doctors have tried to figure it over the years, but can't. I'm just taken this blessing at face value and praising Jesus,

I tend to gravitate more to salty sweets. It cures my snack cravings in very few bites. This is one of those recipes.

Peanut Butter Brittle
Makes about 2 lbs

2 cup sugar
1 cup corn syrup, I make my own
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup water
4 cup dry roasted, salted peanuts, I make my own and you can too. See my recipe below.
2 cup smooth peanut butter, I use organic or make my own
2 TBS butter
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp pure vanilla extract, I make my own

  • Combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/2 cup water in a large saucepan over high heat and bring to a rolling boil. 
  •  Add the peanuts and reduce the heat to medium, stirring constantly.When the mixture reaches the hard-crack stage, about 300° F (use a candy thermometer to measure the temperature), remove the pan from the heat. Add the peanut butter, butter, and vanilla, and then the baking soda, stirring constantly.
  • When you add the baking soda, the mixture will increase in volume dramatically. Continue stirring until all baking soda is combined.
  • Pour hot mixture unto heat safe counter like a steel or stone counter top. It will blister  a Formica counter top.
  • Spread to a 1/4-inch thickness. 
  •  Stretch the brittle until it's no longer stretches. Holes in the stretched brittle is okay. Thinner pieces of brittle is the result and easier to break. I would suggest wearing gloves for this operation because the candy is initially over 200 degrees.
  • Allow to cool for 1 to 2 hours. Break the candy into large pieces and store in an airtight container. The larger pieces will break down further in the container.
* Note- on really humid days, the candy will be sticky. So try making this on days with Humidity less an 70% humidity.

To Dry Roast Peanuts
2 lbs raw peanuts in their shell
2 gallons lukwarm water
2TBS salt
  •   Mix water and salt together in a pan. Make sure all the salt is dissolved in the brine solution. Add the washed peanuts to the brine. 
  • Cover and allow to soak for a minimum of 8 hours. The longer you let them soak, the saltier they will be.
  • Drain peanuts and set them on a towel to dry for an hour.
  • Place peanuts in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes.
  • Let cool and enjoy,
  • Store in air tight container.

 Y/all have a blessed day!
Jo


Sunday, April 21, 2019

Self Sustainable: It's a Cyclical Cycle

It's my birthday week and it's time to PAR-TAY! I wish. The truth is my birthday present to me this year is a spinal cord stimulator implant. It will combat my painful post stroke spasticity. It carries a hefty price tag, before insurance of $35K. After the insurance, it'll cost quite literally pennies.

You know you're well into the golden years when the candles cover the top of a 9" cake and then some. Or, the cost of the candles exceed the cost of a store bought cake. I'm past that. I guess I'm old, but I don't feel it. Or, maybe I do with my post surgical pain. Enough about that. Y'all stopped by to read about homesteading, or what going on at the Cockeyed Homestead? Glad you asked.

This week Mel sowed more seeds in the garden. I've been sowing our heat loving seeds indoors. In another month, it'll be time to plant the peppers, tomatoes, and okra inside. It's all about the garden now. Mel also hand sowed about 50 lb of orchard grass down in the orchard. I usually help with this task, but the healing of the implant will restricted my lifting and and bending. Insurance will not cover the replacement of the implant because of me not following the rules post op so I'll be a good girl.

To makes good soil contact, most will tell you to buy a weighted roller. We don't bother. We'll moisten the area before broadcasting the seed, or wait until we've had a good rain shower like we had this week. When we hand broadcast the seed, we do it forward and walk over the seed as we go. Sure, we don't step on every seed, but our plus 100 lb weight does a fairly decent job. We then cover the whole area with a half and half mixture of compost and straw/hay mulch.

We thoroughly expect our chickens and wild birds to help themselves to any exposed seeds. Hand broadcasting heavier combats this issue. It'll give us well defined borders and thin seedling out a bit. We also expect the wild deer to have a go at the orchard area too. They all fertilize the soil and help the seed make good contact with the soil.We'll let Mother Nature water them in. Yes, we keep a watchful eye on the weather when planning the planting days. Why work against Mother Nature? Work with her and take advantage of God's bountiful blessings. It's also an example of working smarter not harder. None of our efforts go to waste. It a cyclical cycle. Whether it's grain in our bellies or meat and eggs for us later on. It's a self sustainable lifestyle.

By working with nature, we have to do less. Less weeding. Less watering. Less general care while reaping the benefits of a full belly. Everything is better with a full belly, isn't it? That doesn't mean we didn't work hard to reach this point, we did. With careful planning and seeing it through with faith and prayer, we've reached this point.

But we aren't resting on our laurels just yet. We've got more in store for our homestead. That's just the way homesteading is. It's thousands of steps to become more  self sustainable. When you reach a goal, there's another one or two to take its place or make it better or more efficient.

Well, I've rattled on enough this fine Sunday.

Y'all have a blessed day!
Jo



Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Cooking with Chef Jo: Freezing Fresh Strawberries

Well, the decision was made to keep thirty of the most viable strawberry plants. They are sitting in a flat awaiting transplanting this week down in the orchard. Another twenty seeds will be ordered later. The wild strawberry patch is gone.

Even so, I'm hoping for some strawberries to dehydrate and freeze this year. I'm crossing my fingers and praying. So to continue my strawberry recipes, today I'm offering a tutorial on how I freeze my strawberries.


I choose to freeze whole berries. If the strawberries are really large (over 2" in diameter), I may cut them in half.

To Freeze Strawberries
(this works with any berry)
  • Be choosy about choosing your berries. They will lose some of their texture when thawed. Pick only the firmest, ripest berries to freeze.
  • Wash the berries. I use 1 Tbs of salt dissolved into half a sink basin of water (about 3 gallons of water).
  • After washing, I lay the berries on a thick towel to dry. Picking off stems and greenery as I go.
  • I'll core the strawberries.
  • Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Place the berries in a single layer. Leave about an 1/8" space between them.
  • Place filled baking sheet in the freezer.
  • Freeze for 30 minutes.
  • Place 1 cup of berries into vacuum seal bags and seal.
  • Mark the contents and date on the bag and put the bags into the freezer.

Remember, FIFO (First In First Out) when pulling anything from your freezer. Enjoy your spring and summer berries all year long.

Y'all have a blessed day!
Jo

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Chicken Planted Strawberries and Wild Violet Patches in the Garden

When you have a small amount of land to work with, you can only preserve in small batches. But even small batches over time add up. Such is the case with the Cockeyed Homestead. Every inch of growing soil is spoken for.

Last year, I left room for the chicken planted strawberries to grow and mature. Now that spring has sprung once again, they have to be moved or tilled under to make way for other plants in the garden. I should have done it during our 2 days of fall, but didn't. The same goes for my wild violet patches. Oh well, hindsight is always 20/20.

While Mel is implementing her garden plan, I have a day to decide what to do with these patches. I know the violets can be transplanted into large pots until I decide where to put them. But the strawberries should go under the raspberry bushes. These plants bloom and produce berries all summer long with the largest harvest in mid spring. They are already blooming and I may miss this big harvest trying to transplant them.

My question is, do I even bother with them, or do I start them again? I'm leaning towards starting them again. Seeds are cheap. Then, I waver. The berries while small are super sweet and flavorful. I dehydrated them for cereals and muffins last year. So you see my dilemma.Do I start again with bigger berry seed, or keep what I got. It's only their second season and the berries towards late summer were bigger. Decisions, decisions. ARGH!

Mel is still laying the big 24 count soda boxes around the perimeter and a thick layer of wood chips to hold down the weeds encroaching from outside the garden area and making pathways. Yes, we've saved this many! She's completed making two long growing beds. So it's crunch time for me. She only has to make two more rows for her to reach my wild chicken planted strawberries and wild violets. She'll possibly get those done today. Nothing like waiting until the last moment to decide.

Well, I'm off to the garden.
Y'all have a blessed day!
Jo

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Cooking with Chef Jo: Strawberries!

I honestly have every gardener's early spring lament...I hate going grocery shopping with so many new sprouts coming up every day. The promise of fresh, home grown vegetables beats store bought every time, but that's months away. Sigh! Can't you tell I was standing behind the door when God handed out patience?

My strawberries are blooming like mad as I type this. I can almost taste those juicy, succulent berries! I can't wait until those ripe berries are ready to be plucked. When my children and grandchildren were young, I had this rule about berry picking. Two for the bucket and one for the mouth. Since I always grew organically, there were no worries that they would eat something poisonous. Even to this day, I'll pick five for the bucket and one for the mouth when it's just me harvesting the berries. I mean you gotta do quality checks, right? Anyhow, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

 So today, it's a strawberry recipe and it's a twofer...strawberry jam and homemade strawberry hand tarts (Poptarts).

Jo's Strawberry Preserves
9*-1/2 pint jars
(actually it's my Grandmother's and I have no idea where she got it from probably her grand mother)


8 cups of strawberries, cut in half or quarters depending on the size of the berries
3 cups of sugar*
3 Tbs lemon juice
1 cup of water
1 Tbs butter

  • *Adjust the sugar more or less depending on how sweet the berries are. Berries and grapes have a natural pectin. So no added pectin is needed.
  • Sterilize half pint canning jars and keep them hot. 15 minutes in boiling water should do it. Just leave them in the water until ready to fill.
  • Place strawberries, sugar, water, and lemon juice in a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat.
  • Bring to a high simmer and continue cooking until it reaches 120 degrees.
  • Use a potato masher to break up some of the clumps of berries.
  • Remove from  heat.
  • If foamy, stir in the butter. Stir until most of the foam is gone. Skim the rest off.
  • Pour into hot jars leaving about 1/4" head space.
  • Wipe the rim of the jar with a 50/50 mix of white vinegar and water.
  • Lid and ring the jars. Don't worry if your preserves look runny at this point. It will thicken as it cools.
  • Invert on a towel for 20 minutes and then flip the jars right side up. Or water bath can for 15 minutes.
  • After 12-24 hours check the seal. Store in cool, dark place.
Hand Tarts
My recipe has a bread dough like crust versus the pie crust like dough. It's oh so yummy!

2 c  all purpose flour
3 tsp sugar
2 tsp sea salt
1/4 c butter, grated and frozen
6 oz whole milk, chilled
2 Tbs sour dough starter
 1 egg with a splash of milk, beaten for egg wash
1/2 pint jar of jelly, jam, or preserves
  • Mix flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl.
  • Cut the butter into the flour. Mix until it looks like corn meal or baby peas.
  • In another bowl, beat milk and sour dough starter together.
  • Add liquid to the dry. Mix until it forms a dough.
  • Knead dough about twenty times, set dough aside covered with a towel or plastic wrap for one hour. This will allow the dough to rehydrate the flour and rise.
  • Knead dough about 10 times and divide in half.
  • Roll each half about 1/4" thick.
Decision time. Do you want individual portions or or one large pastry? I've done both. Cut your dough accordingly.
  • Spread your jam or preserves onto one section of dough leaving 1/4" inch around the edge without filling. About 2 Tbs if doing individual tarts.
  • Brush unfilled edge with egg wash.
  • Place the other section on top pressing the edges to seal. Crimp edges with a fork.
  • Brush with egg wash.
  • Cover and set aside for twenty minutes.
  • Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  • Bake your pop tart for 20 minutes and place on rack to cool.
Decision time again. How do you want to frost your tarts? You can leave them plain, dust them with powdered sugar, a simple water and confectioners sugar glaze, or something fancier. My favorite one for children is 1 cup of confectioners sugar to a Tbs of preserves liquid. (take out the chunks of strawberries)  Top the whole thing with sprinkles.

You can do this with any type of preserves. Enjoy!

Y'all have a blessed day!
Jo


Sunday, April 7, 2019

Garden Layout- Implementing the Plan

I've been to Atlanta and back again several times. I have been doing a SCS (spinal cord simulator) trial. I had electrodes inserted into my spine to combat my pain and post stroke spasticity. This is the preliminary step for a permanent implant. Maybe, I'll work towards stroke recovery again instead of backsliding into immobility. At least that's the goal for my arm and leg.

On the homestead front this week, it's all been Mel as she maps out her garden plan.She's been busy making new homes for the transplants and seeds for spring planting.

The transplants are beginning to show their first true leaves. We're so excited! There's something magical about sowing seeds and watching them grow. It's God's Grace to be sure. Of this blessing, I have no doubt. A new and sustaining life begins.
Standard YouTube license
 The gate into the garden area is finally fixed. Mel replaced the tree trunk pieces with pressure treated 4x4s. As much as I dislike putting the chemicals  in my soil, it's a necessary evil. It will make a more stable footing for the archway she plans to build. I bought some landscape timbers to use as fence posts. She'll just have to dig the holes for them. For now, Mel's portable fence posts will work.
Standard YouTube license

We talked about making kits for these and selling them like another Youtuber has done, but decided to make the design openly available to all. They are easy and cheap enough to build out of scrap 2x4s. Most homesteaders have a bunch of these leftover from finished projects. We use untreated wood and paint the portable fence posts after construction. The design is also available on our Pinterest account if you are interested.

I calculated just how much in cost and labor it took to rejuvenate and build the garden area closest to the house from hard packed red clay soil to the rich, fertile area it is now. The time frame was five years. We expanded a bit (4'x26'area each year) for a total of 500 sq ft of growing space. We also started a 1/4 acre orchard area two years ago. We were taking it slow until three years ago when I came on board this homestead. So the time frame began in earnest about three years ago. It was a bi-yearly progression of cardboard, 4 bales of straw, 3 bales of peat moss, and compost. Tilling it into the hard packed clay until the beneficial microbes and earthworms could have a stable enough environment to thrive and multiply in our organic garden. But all that work has paid off. We mulch in shredded leaves and compost each year from here on out to continue the growth cycle. 

The orchard is a different story. Cardboard, 2 round bales of hay, and compost times two years. We sow orchard grass and wheat in the open areas each spring. We've tilled the area twice since we've terraced it. Where the trees are we've sowed garlic, onions and leeks around them. Orchard grass is sowed around the fruit bearing vines and bushes. The orchard grass does triple duty as a erosion and weed deterrent, and  fresh greens for the rabbits. What they don't eat fresh (about 3/4s) is dried into hay for them. The wheat kernels are turned into fodder for the rabbits and chickens.

I believe in God's three Biblical promises (not literally) to provide a roof over your head, clothing on your back, and food in your mouth. These are basic human needs once met, you can freely commune with Him. That doesn't mean you won't have to work for it. He has provided for thee needs on this homestead. Everything else is gravy on your mashed potatoes.

Y'all have a blessed day!
Jo

 

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Cooking with Chef Jo: No Gas, Now What?

Well, I used more propane canning this year than expected. As a result our 100 lbs of propane was used up faster than the 18 months it took last time I bought 100 gallons. Ouch! Now, we are out of gas. It will take $300 to get another which I currently don't have. It will take me a month of not having to buy firewood to get it.

But, the thing about being self sustainable is that you have back ups to back ups available. For us, we have the wood stove heater that has a surface we can cook on. We have two microwave and toaster ovens. We have three electric burners, one dual eye and a single. We have two crockpots. We even have a grill with with 30 lbs of charcoal. In a real pinch, we've got wood for a campfire (wood too big for our wood stove ) with a fair assortment of cst iron cookware to cook with so we're not stuck by any stretch of the imagination.

An Example of My No Stove Cooking

For breakfast this morning, we had waffles with blueberry syrup and sausage patties ( wood stove). For lunch, we had oven-fried steak with onions and mushrooms (toaster oven), roasted cabbage (for me) green beans (for both of us- microwave), and Hokkaido rolls, and chocolate brownie cookies for dessert (toaster oven). Later on, I'll make corn dogs in my cake pop machine served with a spicy mustard we both favor.

So in honor of my no gas cooking, I'll share with you my girls' favorite campfire dinner. I'll include grocery store equivalents.

Hobo Stew with Corn
Hobo Stew
Serves 5 1/2 adults

1 pint ground beef, 1 lb fresh, ground beef or turkey
1 small onion, diced
1 pint green beans, 1-15 oz can
1 pint diced potatoes, 1- 15 oz can
1 pint sliced carrots, 1- 15 oz can
1 pint jar spaghetti sauce, Ragu or other brand
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. In a pot, brown ground beef and onions. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Pour off grease.
  3. Add jarred vegetables (liquid and all) and sauce.
  4. Bring to a boil and cook to desired consistency
That's it.

Serve with crusty bread or saltine crackers.. An easy, quick meal that sticks to your ribs. We always made it over a campfire, but you can use whatever you got to cook with. You can change up the vegetables or add to them. I'll add zucchini in tomato sauce, or a bunch of kale or mustard greens, or corn, or beans, or even macaroni to it to change my Hobo Stew up.

This recipes isn't mine. I read it some twenty odd years ago and gradually made it mine with additional ingredients. It's definitely budget friendly with food stores.

Enjoy!
Y'all have a blessed day! I know we will
Jo