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, June 26, 2019

Taking Time Off

Some serious changes are in the works for our homestead. They've been a long time coming. I'm taking some much needed time off from posting until the end of July.

Y'all have a blessed day!
Cockeyed Jo

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Boy, How Fast Time Flies By

A couple of days ago, we celebrated the summer equinox (21st) or solstice...the longest hours of daylight in one day. I hope you enjoyed every moment of them. It's a sad event for gardeners everywhere. In increments from here on out, the daylight hours begin shortening again.

It seems like just yesterday, we were planning our spring planting. Now, it's planning the fall garden while in the height of summer gardening efforts. Our harvests have been pitiful for the most part. I wish I could blame it all on Mel's garden plan, but I can't. A lot had to do with my multiple out of town doctor appointments, surgeries, and our mutually exclusive health issues. It's just been an off year for gardening for us.

I'll be better apt in taking over the garden again by next spring both physically and Mel mentally. It's a very good things that my high 100% goals of self sufficiency in the 2018 garden will carry us through to 2020. Although, I may run low or out on a few things before the 2020 harvest is completed. This is a good thing when talking about a long term storage pantry. It keeps the stock rotating with very little effort.. I make a habit of doing this especially with pickles. Cucumbers being such a tender vegetable tends to break down in texture after the 4 or 5 year mark. The flavor is still great, but the way it feels in your mouth is not so great. It might be my recipe too.

So as the year winds it way down getting ready for its winter rest, that's not today. Tomatoes, peppers, and okra are waiting to be picked or picked up from the farmer's market.. Hmm, salsa! The half pint jars worked well for us as an accompaniment for "Mexican" dinner nights or snacking without leftovers. We've used up all tonato products I canned last year, I'll do it again. We've been out of salsa since January so this year I'll make two cases of it.

Y'all have a blessed day!
Cockeyed Jo

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Cooking with Chef Jo: Asparaguus

White asparagus has a secret
Dee (a YouTube and blog subscriber) and I were chatting via email about some asparagus she was gifted from a neighbor's garden. I should be so lucky. The most standard way is cooked or steamed with garlic. This was after sending our Newsy Weekly Email and mentioning that I was saving the asparagus patch this week. (last Sunday's blog post) If you haven't signed up for it yet, scroll down the right side of the page to do that.

Anyhow that got me thinking if I was gifted this wondrous vegetable how would I prepare it. I've already discussed Mel's and my differences  in how we like it prepare it...waterlogged or crispy. (I like medium to crisp.) For decades I thought I hated this vegetable because I'd only eaten the canned, waterlogged variation of this vegetable along with several others. The first time I had it properly steamed to perfection, I understood why this is a sought after vegetable. I've even planted a patch of it in our limited garden space. This vegetable takes years to grow before you can harvest a single stock. With that kind of investment of time and space, it would be an impossibly in most small gardeners, but we decided to give it a go last year in our efforts towards self sustainability.

While a harvest date is still a couple years away for our crop, I thought I'd give you a twofer today. One recipe for those, like me, that enjoy firmer textured asparagus, and one for those who like the softer version of this vegetable.


Jo's Roasted Asparagus with Bacon and Cheese
These are bundles. Calculate 1 bundle per serving

What you'll need
4-6 fresh asparagus spears, cleaned and prepared*
1-2 slice(s) of pork or turkey bacon, or other alternative
1 Tbs seasoned bread crumbs
2 tsp Parmesan cheese
 1 clove garlic, minced and split (Makes 2 bundles worth)
1 Tbs butter, heated until melted
Black Pepper, to taste
1 lemon, sliced into 6 to 8 pieces

*Notes-
To prepare asparagus, snap spear above the woody base. Let soak in salted water for 15 minutes. This in case any creepy crawlies have made a home in the tips or stem. Now, if you don't mind the extra protein, just rinse to remove any dirt. Place on several layers of toweling to dry.

Putting all Together
  • In melted butter, stir in garlic. Set aside.
  • Mix Parmesan cheese with bread crumbs. Set aside. If you are gluten-free or on some carb restricting diet, omit the bread crumbs.
  • Separate asparagus spears into bundles of 4 to 6 depending on the size (diameter) of your spears.
  • Wrap 1-2 strips of bacon or bacon alternative around each bundle as shown in the picture above. If you need to, insert a toothpick to secure. Just remember to remove them after baking.
  • Sprinkle with pepper.
  • Roll the bacon wrap in breadcrumb mix. Press the bread crumbs firmly into the fat of the bacon.
  • Drizzle about 1-1/2 tsp of garlic butter on top.
  • Place spears on a broiler pan.
  • Bake 400 degrees for 15 minutes, turning each bundle over about halfway through.
  • The bacon and bread crumbs will be crispy.
Serve warm with lemon wedge.

Serving Suggestions
This semi elegant presentation would be a fantastic side dish for a medium or rare grilled steak. But personally, I think this dish would suit any meal except a casserole or meatloaf. The effort would be wasted on dishes like that.

For a snack or appetizer, do single spears.

As part of my month long series of "It's Too Hot to Cook."

Asparagus Gazpacho
This is a cold soup. Perfect for summertime.
Serves 4

What you'll need

2 pints of canned asparagus, drained reserving liquid about 2 lbs worth
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup celery, sliced
2 habanero peppers, seeded and chopped
2 1/2 cups add low-sodium vegetable broth and reserved asparagus liquid to equal this amount.
1/2 cup half and half
Salt and pepper to taste

For the garnishes:
1 cup croutons
1 habanero pepper, seeded and chopped
Fresh mint, finely chopped. I love the fresh taste it bring to the dish.
Pine nuts
Olive oil

Putting it all together
  •  In a pan, melt butter. Add onion, garlic, 1/t tsp salt, and habanero pepper. Cook until tender
  •  Add asparagus, vegetable broth/asparagus liquid into the other vegetables.
  • Empty into a blender or use immersion blender. Blend until smooth.
  • Stir in half and half. You can either stir the entire amount into the soup, or divide the amount in half. Stir 1/4 cup into the soup, and then create a swirling design in the soup with the remaining 1/4 cup. (about a Tbs per serving) I've done both.
  • Chill soup for an hour.
  • Pour soup into serving bowls and garnish with some or all listed above.
Serving Suggestions

Serve alone, with some crusty bread, a quiche, or a salad.

Y'all have a blessed day!
Cockeyed Jo





Sunday, June 9, 2019

Saving the Asparagus Patch!

Bad gardener, bad! I left my asparagus 4x8 patch alone fall, winter and most of the spring. Now, it's overgrown. Other things on the homestead took precedence over a patch of vegetable that I won't be able to harvest sparingly for another year or two. I cite the spasticity and pain in my semi paralyzed arm as an excuse, but that's just an excuse. I just didn't bother with any putting the garden to bed for the winter except for pulling dead plants, sprinkled some compost, and spread a layer of straw.

I planted the bare root vegetable late last spring. Being a chemical free,"organic," self sustainable type, I planted green beans and parsley in that same 4x8 space. Parsley naturally deters asparagus beetles and green beans or any legumes fix nitrogen into the soil. Asparagus are heavy feeders. I basically planted the bed purposefully  to not have the do much to it and basically left alone while other parts of the garden drew my attention heavily. That's the way I like to garden with long-term growth perennials.

My time table is a week because I'm still a week away from the post surgical baclofen pump placement restrictions (No heavy lifting of over 10 lbs, no extensive bending or twisting). I've been a pretty good girl about following these restrictions. I mean, I take an hour and a half to pick the rabbits' breakfast salad each morning instead of the half an hour it usually takes by adding frequent breaks. As much as this irks me, there has been a couple of guarded lifts of 30 lbs, but not many. Like I said, I've been pretty good.

As you can see in the first picture, grasses, wild blue heliotrope, Virginia Creeper various other invasive weeds, and of course, the very present chicken transplanted strawberries all among the asparagus fronds. My mission this week is to clear it all out leaving only asparagus, whatever green beans and parsley that may have self sowed. I'll be sowing black eyed peas and more parsley among the fronds for the same reasons as last year. Ill again cover all seeds with well composted rabbit and chicken manure before putting mulch over the area. Summer is officially starting very soon.

To me, invasive weeds are plants that the rabbits or chickens won't eat like English ivy, blue heliotrope, Virginia Creeper and Morning Glory vines. I'm constantly digging them up, trying to get them gone before they reseed an area. My current wars is with spiny rushes. I'm starting really dislike this weed that has taken a foothold in bunny greens patches and others areas. What I may end up doing this fall is burning the whole area losing both the beneficial (rabbit loving) weeds as well as the unwanted weeds.

I noticed a couple of blooms on my fronds of asparagus, so this effort will not be wasted. The ground will be ripe for receiving these seeds when the time comes. I can see ten of of twenty-two fronds for the crowns I planted, but that doesn't mean there aren't more buried under a blanket of weeds. The fronds will be healthier for my efforts too. It is an asparagus patch after all.

Anyhow, that's my plan for the week. What's yours?

Y'all have a blessed day!
Cockeyed Jo

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Cooking with Chef Jo: Tuna Macaroni Salad


Welcome to my second installment of "It's Too to Cook!"  On the menu today is  my mother's version of Tuna Macaroni Salad has been a staple during summer months for as long as I can remember and that's more than half a century. It's my favorite go-to menu item when it's too hot to be in the kitchen.

It can be a side dish with standard picnic fare, or add an extra can of tuna and eat it as a meal. I've tweaked the family recipe over the years and made it my own depending on what was growing in the garden. Her recipe called for drained can green peas. Y'all know how I feel about waterlogged vegetables. In a pinch, I'll rinse water over frozen, but otherwise, I use fresh.

At home I kept things simple and at the restaurant catered picnics I offered a deconstructed, high-end version of the same basic salad.

Tuna Macaroni Salad
 Serves 6 as a side dish and 4 as a meal
What you'll need
1 lb of macaroni or other formed pasta, cooked, drained and not rinsed*
6-7 oz tuna canned oil, drain and reserve the oil
1/2 cup carrots, scrubbed well and cut into match stick sized pieces
1/2 cup green peas*
1/2 cup red onion, 1/8" dice
2 stalks of celery, 1/8" dice
2 sweet or hot* banana peppers, seeded and sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered if large
1/2 cup fresh herbs (parsley, oregano, basil, rosemary), chopped
1-1/2 cups mayonnaise
1 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice*
Salt and pepper to taste, or favorite seasoning salt
Paprika to decorate

Notes*-
  1. Do not rinse the pasta. Save your hot water.You want the starch on it to help the dressing to stick to the pasta. I cook my in the early morning or night before when it's cooler. Place in plastic bag and refrigerator until time to put it together.
  2. Green peas- I use fresh peas. I'll add them to the pasta water after I've strained the pasta. No sense in heating up the kitchen just blanch the peas. The peas will brighten and partial cook while the water cools to room temperature. Strain the peas and place in refrigerator.
  3. Sweet or hot banana peppers- the choice is yours.
  4. Lemon juice should always be freshly squeezed for optimum taste and in cutting the fat of mayonnaise.
 How to put together
  •  Whisk mayonnaise and lemon juice, add the herbs, salt, pepper, or seasoning salt. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, place chilled pasta, tuna, vegetables, and mayonnaise mixture.
  • Toss well to coat all ingredients.
  • If the salad appears dry at this point it's going be seriously at service because the pasta will absorb it. Drizzle in the reserved oil from the tuna.
  • Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 8 hours before serving.
Serving Suggestions
As a meal, serve onto a bed of baby red and green lettuces. Take 1/4 of a 3.5 oz can of tuna in water and break it apart attractively on top of the pasta. Sprinkle with paprika. Decorate the plate with sliced heirloom tomato, hard boiled egg slices, and cucumber slices. Drizzle these with a  extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar.

Instead of canned tuna, add chunks of sashimi grade, seared tuna chunks. These will be rare for the ultimate buttery, sweet flavor without an overly fishy smell. Or, even substitute seared salmon replacing the tuna.

Enjoy!
Y'all have a blessed day!
Cockeyed Jo

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Picking Fresh Greens for Rabbits

Every year around April or May, I transition my rabbits from a pellet diet to a regular green diet. I used to grow fodder for them, but I started looking at all the fat cotton tails running around the property and thought why am I bothering to grow this? We have a virtual smorgasbord for them to eat for free. It was a hand slap to the forehead moment.

Before moving up to the Cockeyed Homestead, I had a suburban homestead of an acre sized lot. Think of swimming pools and well manicured lots until I moved into it. I grew wild roses for rose hips. My front yard was typical suburbia unless you looked closer at my hedges and realized it was neatly trimmed rosemary. If you looked at my 3'x25' gorgeous flower bed and you breathed the scent of of herbs surrounded by insect deterrent/beneficial insect attractant flowers.

Behind the 8' wood privacy fence to the backyard was where suburbia stopped and where Murphey's Madness took over. Almost 1/4 acre was an organic garden or as organic as it could be, with pecan and fruit trees, a small chick chateau, rabbit cages, dogs and cats, composting bins, and a rain water catchment systems.
Jennifer, it's her 33rd birthday in a couple of days

My now pastry chef daughter and semi homesteader got her start at home. She work along side me in our galley style kitchen creating to die for pastries and chocolates. Even sugar-free versions her insulin dependent, old mother could eat. Competition pieces for various culinary contests and wedding cakes were made in that very kitchen.  She also learned useful skills like canning and preserving that she helped grow. So it wasn't that bad living with old Mom and Dad except when they turned up the stereo too loud and were dancing. "Some people have to wake up early in the morning! Ya know?" But I digress...

Even the game room (26'x16') was solar powered. It was our youngest daughter's teenage sanctuary. It had all the modern conveniences. She had a sitting area, telephone, a jukebox, a stereo, a television, a wet bar with running cold water (courtesy of rain harvesting), a mini fridge, microwave, composting toilet in a private closet space, air conditioner and/or ceiling fans, a small wood stove, electronic darts, and even a pool table. She could runaway from home and never leave home. Not that she ran all that at once. We were teaching her about amp hours on the batteries and survival. How to live off grid and she juggled it all in her decision making. Her other choice was to come inside where one or both of her parents were. Yuck! But I digress yet again, but the was building accurate...

But even before all of that, I was hunting. I'd follow rabbit tracks. I'd see what they nibbled on and what they devoured so I learned where to place my snares. Later, I used the same tactics for wild pigs and deer. I don't believe in catch and release. It was hunt and eat even though I had to money to purchase what I wanted. I was learning and refining skills I might need one day.

So when it came to finding fresh greens for rabbit food. I had a
poplar seedling
basic knowledge. I'm still learning. On this cockeyed property, what looks like a disaster of a yard is actually a gold mine in fresh eating for all. Variety of different grasses, plantain, wild violets, clover, wild strawberries, blackberry bushes galore, hibiscus, dandelions, and assorted other yummy things growing wild and only moderately under control. It's just there for the picking so I do. Along with those our property is loaded with tulip poplar, oak, other fruit trees and bushes we've planted, and sweet gum trees. Every year they shed a small ton of seeds. These sprout up every spring through summer. The rabbits love these. Not to mention what we grow in our garden for all of us to enjoy. Now we even grow 50% of their hay intake too in our orchard. Cha-Ching!

If your not sure whether it's healthy for a rabbit to eat, do your research. I'm still doing it. That's what books and the internet is for. Don't just take my word for it. Read various sites. While I'm at it, I'll add this caveat. Be careful. On our property, it grows the way nature intended (about 2/3 are still wild) within reason no chemicals, fertilizers (composted chicken waste and rabbit manure only), or pesticides with minor emissions from our lawn tractor or our vehicles (we may drive 25 miles a month baring doctor visits or trips). Our weed whacker, small chainsaw and cultivator are electric. Still I hand pull their greens daily and rinse them well before feeding them to our rabbits. Who knows what might have urinated on them during the night.

lemon balm
 I rotate what I pick to feed our rabbits each day. The constant is the broader leaf grass that they favor, violet leaves, and plantain. I'll throw in some dandelions. The rest alternates between a smattering of clover (it can be hard on their kidneys), chicken planted strawberries with strawberries (it's all over our yard now), blackberry leaves, poplar, sweet gum, and oak seedlings. Later, will be hibiscus and roses flowers and leaves. Then there's the herb gardens to add to their meals. In fact, as spring turns to summer, and then again to fall the smorgasbord changes. During winter, it's hay, and commercial pellets again.  With each feeding, their feces are checked for signs of digestive upset. For that there is lemon balm growing in my garden for that. It works for people too.

It's usually an early morning chore for me rain or shine. I love getting busy in the sunshine especially since my pain levels have dropped between 0-2. I have time to commune with nature and my Father. I don't mind tending to the critters unless there's snow or ice. During winter feeding the chickens and rabbits is Mel's job. Even though the job is easier with just hay and pellets. She gets out of her seasonal depression a bit and get some weakened sunshine.

My feeding ratio is 65% of the rabbit's body weight. Our smallest rabbit is, Ebony a lionhead/Jersey Woolie cross, is 1 3/4 lbs sheared weight so it's mostly bunny. Let's do some math, fun right? Convert the weight into decimals 1.75. Now, multiply that  by 0. 65. <Er, um, it's too early in  the morning for that! Grabbing my calculator!> 1.13 ozs of fresh green stuff per day for her. For our big girl, Cara a English/Satin cross, is 8 lbs sheared weight. She gets 5.2 ozs of green stuff each morning. A big difference. Yes, I weigh the greens too for each bunny. Yes it's mainly grass and weeds, but no sense in wasting what God provided us either. I'm also an equal opportunity chef when it comes to my rabbits. I'll make sure every rabbit get a proportional amount of alternating goodies bits in their breakfast.

Rabbits do not gorge themselves. They will move away or trample uneaten green stuff. Once they trample it, they won't eat it. I feed their greens to them in the same spot as their empty J feeders.  For us, we just brush the uneaten bits under the cages to compost, or our two disabled hens that live in the rabbitry will eat them.

In the mid afternoon, they'll be let out of their cages to bunny hop and binky to their hearts content. They may graze a bit on the grains that have sprouted from feeding the hens...all rabbit friendly too. Then, after an hour, they are put back in their cages ready for a nap.

So you could say my knowledge of feeding rabbits fresh greens has been decades in the making. Almost half a century worth since I first set my first rabbit snare at age 12. But there's hope for you to learn now. Look around your yard for some of the things I talked about here and check it out.

Trapped in an urban life style? Ever go hiking? How about parks with wooded areas? Away from chemically treated areas. Start foraging. Or, grab some seeds and flower pots. Grow them organically. Get your buns some fresh grown weeds. They'll do them and you some good. Just look at the "weeds" in my fresh salad post.

On a sad note. This morning when I went out to the rabbitry to feed our precious bundles their breakfast wild salad, I found Angus, one our English Angora bucks had died during the night. We named him Angus after a YouTube contest. With his heavy facial furnishings he reminded of the cartoon sheepdog on the Bugs Bunny. Oops! Just googled it and the sheep dog's name was Sam. Well, I named Angus. It fit.

We'd lift his fur  covering his eyes each morning to say good morning to him. "Are you in there?" He'd even gladly let us comb his hair away from his face. Having just sheared him at the end of March, his fur was already 3" long partially covering his eyes.

He'll be sorely missed.
Y'all have a blessed day!
Cockeyed Jo