Saturday, July 28, 2012

Tail End of the Week: Get Your Friday Farm Fix #20

Welcome to the Friday Farm Fix, a new series on Farmgirl Fare where I share a random sampling of what's been happening around the farm during the past week (mostly on Fridays). Just joining us? You'll find all the Friday Farm Fix posts here.

(19-1) BLT on freshly baked bread with bacon from our local butcher hog, garden tomatoes from a friend, and homemade pesto mayonnaise - FarmgirlFare.com
Our favorite hot summer dinner? BLTs on freshly baked Farmhouse White.

There isn't much to show and tell from the farm this week. Hot days, dry skies, burned up fields, blister beetles, same same. I haven't been feeling well for the last few weeks, and when I wasn't lying in bed, we were in the truck driving 500 miles to various clinics, labs, and other places that were seriously short on photo ops (rural living + no health insurance = lots of traveling).

On Thursday morning while we were sitting in a waiting room several counties away, a guy walked by and said something to Joe about the rain they'd had there that morning. "At least I won't have to water the yard," he said, and then added, "I sure feel bad for the people who are trying to make a living farming."

I smiled wanly and half-heartedly raised my hand. He looked at me.

"You're a farmer?"

Yep.

We're not alone of course. All 114 counties in Missouri have been declared federal disaster areas because of the devastating heat and drought. We had 1/10th of an inch of rain fall while we were gone on Thursday, which is better than nothing, but not by much. Yesterday it rained for about 10 minutes. That was it for the week. Last week we got a quarter inch.

I thought I might have to skip the Friday Farm Fix this week, but it turns out I did make a few fun pictures. Another BLT dinner (no complaints here; we're having them again tonight), some pretty purple in the kitchen garden, a zucchini butter photo shoot (recipe hopefully up soon), heading in for sheep working Sunday, and of course some of our 50+ chickens, because it seems like they're everywhere. My favorite big black cat was seemingly everywhere too. Garden companion, photo stylist, mighty hunter. He catches a lot of rabbits.

Cooler weather, ample rain, medical answers. All we can do is enjoy the bounty of the season—including the juicy Missouri peaches, six pints of cherry tomatoes, and several more pounds of zucchini I bought on the way home Thursday—while we wait for everything to hopefully turn out fine.

12 more farm photos below. Hover over each picture for a description. . .

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wordless Wednesday Dose of Cute: Farm Version of the Pied Piper

Farm version of the pied piper - FarmgirlFare.com

More wordless cute? Here and here.
More chickens? Here.
More hunky farmguy? Here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Recipe: How To Make Your Own Vegetable Tomato Juice (Homemade V8 Juice)

Homemade Vegetable Tomato Juice (like V8 juice) 2 - FarmgirlFare.com
A cool and refreshing way to drink your vegetables (recipe here)

I have a sheep farmer friend who swears by Campbell's V8 juice when working out in the heat. She says it's more rejuvenating than drinking water or Gatorade and literally makes the difference between wanting to keel over and being able to keep going for hours.

This is the kind of stuff I need to know.

What could be even better than V8? Homemade V8! Or in this case V4, though I suppose it's technically V3 if you count the parsley as an herb and not a vegetable. Either way, this easy to make vegetable tomato juice will blow that V8 away. Did you know V8 is mostly made from water and tomato paste?

It definitely helps when you're outside slogging away, and it tastes refreshing and delicious.

To make this healthy, flavorful juice, all you do is chop everything up and toss it into a pot, then put it through a food mill. (I love my Oxo Good Grips food mill.) It's the perfect way to make use of overripe, imperfect, or just plain ugly tomatoes, which you can sometimes find for a deal at farmers' markets.

And thankfully you don't have to be sweating to enjoy it.

Would you rather have your refreshing summer vegetables raw? Check out my quick and easy gazpacho recipe.

© FarmgirlFare.com, where the animals all seem to think that I control the weather. If only.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sunday Quick Chick Pic: Melon Calling Babies

Lokey and her 10 chicks - FarmgirlFare.com
Lokey and her 10 chicks (taken on 7/3)

More baby chick pics? Here.
More chickens? Here.

© FarmgirlFare.com, where that was pretty bad wasn't it? I couldn't resist.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Tail End of the Week: Get Your Friday Farm Fix #19

Welcome to the Friday Farm Fix, a new series on Farmgirl Fare where I share a random sampling of what's been happening around the farm during the past week (mostly on Fridays). Just joining us? You'll find all the Friday Farm Fix posts here.

(19-1) Beautiful old oak tree that fell during Thursday's storm - FarmgirlFare.com
Tim-ber!

We had a slight change in the weather this week. It was still way too hot and way too dry, but for a (thankfully) brief period on Thursday afternoon it was also way too windy. A noisy thunderstorm whipped through the farm, sending chickens flapping, our big gas grill tumbling across the yard, and this beautiful old oak tree crashing to the ground.

(19-2) Big old oak tree that fell during Thursday's storm - FarmgirlFare.com

Fortunately Da Big Guy and The Kid, our two rams who are currently living in that pen, weren't hurt. One of the bunk feeders suffered severe injuries, but at least the little sheep hut was mostly spared. We got about 1/4" of rain out of the whole ordeal, and although it was better than nothing, I definitely would have preferred a little less excitement and a lot more water.

On to a more appetizing subject. I don't keep track of what we eat for dinner every night, but maybe I should start. Sometimes it can be easy to forget just how much wonderful food graces our table.

This week we enjoyed the first BLTs of the season, made with locally raised bacon (from one of the two butcher hogs in our freezers), juicy tomatoes from a friend, and homemade pesto mayonnaise (first pesto of the year! my favorite pesto recipe is here) on freshly baked Farmhouse White (with a few cups of whole wheat flour tossed in). And then the next night we had them again.

More food talk and another 15 farm photos below. Hover over each picture for a description. . .

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Recipe: Arugula Salad with Pan-Fried Herbed Potatoes, Cherry Tomatoes, Feta Cheese & Kalamata Olive Vinaigrette

Arugula salad with pan-fried herbed potatoes, cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, and kalamata olive vinaigrette - FarmgirlFare.com
This flavor-packed main course salad is bursting with summer bounty.

Life is different when you live way out in the country. There's no traffic, no neighbors, no gang activity, no building codes! You can spent eight years putting up a big metal barn house, leave the doors unlocked, crank up the music, and let your seven donkeys bray through the night all they want. You can have seven donkeys in the first place.

On the other hand, there's no mail delivery, no cell phone reception, no 911 service, and no high-speed Internet connection.

And the closest halfway decent supermarket is 40 miles away.

People who visit our remote Missouri farm usually have one of two reactions. It's either, "Wow, I would love to live in a place like this!" or "How in the world do you stand living out here—and where do you get a cappuccino at three o'clock in the morning?" Most men say something like, "This is great, but my wife would hate it."

It's all a tradeoff, and one I'm happy to make—except for the supermarket part. Dashing to the store for a bunch of cilantro or a lemon is simply not an option. It took me three weeks to get the Kalamata olives for this salad. We do, however, have our own little commercial espresso machine, which definitely helps.

Recipe below. . .

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sunday Dose of Cute: Strike a Pose

Donkettes 1 - FarmgirlFare.com
Dolores, Daphne, and Evie in Donkeyland

More photos below. . .

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Tail End of the Week: Get Your Friday Farm Fix #18

Welcome to the Friday Farm Fix, a new series on Farmgirl Fare where I share a random sampling of what's been happening around the farm during the past week (mostly on Fridays). Just joining us? You'll find all the Friday Farm Fix posts here.

(18-1) Lokey's little chicks love to perch - FarmgirlFare.com
Six of Lokey's chicks practice their perching

You know I'm not a fan of summer weather, but even I can't believe how fast these weeks are zipping by. It's the middle of July already? Things around the farm are pretty much the same as they were last week. While I was sorting through photos for this post I found several that look remarkably like some of the ones in last week's Friday Farm Fix, right down to Joe wearing the same favorite yellow shirt.

We've mostly been hiding from the heat and hoping we'll get more rain so the grass in the grazing pastures and hayfield will grow. When we drove to town the other day it looked like the cattle in the fields along the highway were grazing on brown putting greens. Everybody is wondering what we're going to do.

The highlight of the week was definitely when a quick check in the garden yesterday confirmed that the liberal dousing of diatomaceous earth did scare away the hundreds of ravenous blister beetles that attacked on my birthday. Yes! The trick is to put it on and around your plants as soon as you see the first beetles. To learn about the many ways we use this safe, 100% natural, inexpensive stuff around the farm and garden (we even take a daily dose ourselves), check out this post.

I had a fun half day off for my birthday, which included cake, champagne, grilled homegrown rib steaks, the first two ripe tomatoes from the garden, local cucumbers and zucchini, homemade onion rye bread slathered with butter, more cake, and a frenzy of music downloads.

Yep, I've finally discovered how easy it is to buy music online (we don't get enough monthly bandwith to stream music from YouTube, etc.). I mean, who can resist Bob Marley for 25 cents? All sorts of new and old favorites are now blasting out of my computer. I think I've played Lucky Now and Somebody That I Used To Know at least 45 times each.

After listening to Todd Boston's Touched By the Sun about 150 times, I finally bought the whole album, which was produced by Will Ackerman, whose music I fell in love with back in 1983 when he came to my high school and played The Bricklayer's Beautiful Daughter.

I also bought a neat little julienne peeler (which hasn't arrived yet) and finally ordered a Furminator for the dogs. Too cool. Ten year old Lucky Buddy Bear, who never lets you brush him, loves it. I came downstairs one morning and found a smiling Joe and Bear sitting on the floor together with a giant pile of fur next to them.

Lots of birthday fun. And there's even a little cake left in the freezer.

14 more farm photos below. Hover over each picture for a description. . .

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tuesday Farm Photos: The Misty Morning After

Misty farm morning (1) - FarmgirlFare.com
Sunrise in the hayfield

You did it! Between Sunday and Monday we got a half inch of beautiful birthday rain. Thank you. It's definitely a start. Dare I ask for more?

It isn't supposed to be quite as hot this week ('only' in the 90s), and my hunky farmguy Joe says when the mist comes up like it did last night, it's like getting another quarter inch of rain.

There still isn't any hay to cut in the hayfield, and a lot of the grass out there has completely died, but we haven't completely given up hope yet. If we keep getting rain on a regular basis, there's a chance we might be able to cut some late summer hay. We need at least 600 bales; last year we put up just under 900, most of it in June.

The sheep are still out foraging for food in the woods. Hooves, paws, and fingers crossed that the grass in Donkeyland and the front field (where the sheep are supposed to be grazing through fall) starts growing.

Seven more photos below. . .

Monday, July 09, 2012

Monday Dose of Cute: How Do We Celebrate Birthdays on the Farm?

Wet Bert 6 - FarmgirlFare.com
By doing as little as possible.

You guys are the rain dancing/hoping/praying best. As I was finishing up yesterday's post, I heard a little thunder. Less than a half hour after I hit publish, it was raining. Best birthday present ever. Plus I didn't have to water the garden.

We only ended up getting about 1/4 inch of rain, but it was still exciting, as you can see from the soggy beagle Bert blur below. He'd just come in from his morning route through the wet grass and is doing the horizontal happy dance on his beloved Coolaroo (best pet purchase ever).

Five more photos below. . .

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Tail End of the Week: Get Your Friday Farm Fix #17

Welcome to the Friday Farm Fix, a new series on Farmgirl Fare where I share a random sampling of what's been happening around the farm during the past week (usually on Fridays). Just joining us? You'll find all the Friday Farm Fix posts here.

(1) Lucky Buddy Bear in the creekbed after the rain - FarmgirlFare.com
Heading back from Donkeyland after Monday's surprise rain.

Blast furnace hot, dry as a bone. Nothing has changed since last week, except the thermometer keeps climbing and the fields keep getting browner. Nobody around here has any grass left in their pastures. The only thing that's still green in our front field is the blasted cactus (you can see a patch of it below). Nothing kills that stuff, although even it looks a little peaked. Some of the trees are starting to die.

Our hearts go out to everyone across the country in the same scary situation. I have no idea what we're going to do. And now it looks like feed prices will be sky high soon too.

Thanks so much for all the thoughts and prayers and rain dances you've sent our way. They worked! We were thrilled to get a surprise half inch of rain last Monday, and although it was just a drop in a big, dusty bucket it did make a difference. You could actually see the grass start greening up within hours and practically hear the plants sighing with relief as they sucked up the moisture.

Two more storms have blown through since then, but they must have watered somebody else's farm instead of ours. Joe sneaked a peek at the forecast this morning (I still can't bear to look) and said there's a chance of rain for the next several days—and the high today was below 100° for the first time in I don't know how long (which is why I stopped checking the weather). Please keep dancing!

There's nothing we can do about the heat and drought, but I can keep sharing the cute. So how about 19 more farm photos taken during the past week? Hover over each picture for a description.

More below. . .

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Thursday Dose of Cute: Hot Mint Chicken

Hot mint chicken (not a recipe) - FarmgirlFare.com
(not a recipe)

More chickens? Here.
More little chicks? Here.

© FarmgirlFare.com, where some of us are hoping for a really early frost. Like next week. It's only 101 degrees in the shade, but it feels like about 1001 in the sun. Stay cool if you can!

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

An Easy Recipe for Old-Fashioned Blackberry Crisp (and Life in Small Town America)

Old-Fashioned Blackberry Crisp 1 - FarmgirlFare.com
This simple crisp is a sweet treat for breakfast or dessert (recipe here).

The wild blackberries are usually ripe about now, if there are any. Most years the bushes along the roadsides and in the fields are covered with showy white blossoms in spring, giving us the impression that soon the canes will be heavy with jewel-like fruit.

But somewhere in between the flowers and the picking season the rain usually stops, and if any berries do form, they're often small and pungent and full of seeds. One year I went berry picking out past Donkeyland with baby Cary (who is doing fine by the way), and even she wouldn't eat the tart little ones we found.

Another year I found some berries while driving through a friend's field that were nearly as big as my thumb. He pulled the truck right up next to this giant bramble patch, and I picked my fill right through the window. I should have looked in the bed of his truck for a bucket.

This year blackberry season arrived, along with most everything else, about three weeks early. We didn't get any berries, but some of our friends have secret picking places and they managed to score some juicy loot. One of our Amish friends said that they found "a few," and then added that his wife, "put up about 75 quarts."

When I mentioned that the 12 locally picked quarts I'd bought last summer at the one store in town were really small and seedy, he said he's noticed that there are two kinds of wild blackberries that grow around here. Some have five leaves and some have three, and even if they're small from lack of water, the berries on the three-leaved variety don't have many seeds. I need to do some investigating.

My favorite pie is blackberry, and when I'm lucky there are wild berries for my birthday, which is next week. When I'm feeling a little less energetic, I make this old-fashioned blackberry crisp instead, an easy recipe that should not be saved just for special occasions. It even freezes well.

Someday I will have a cultivated blackberry patch. Last year I bought two locally grown blackberry plants and two raspberry plants from the feed store, but I still haven't put them into the ground. I know from past experience that I need to find a spot that is sheep and weedeater proof. In the meantime, they've been transplanted into one-gallon pots and are looking pretty good.

Wild blackberry season in rural Missouri may be unpredictable, but life in very small town America doesn't change much from year to year—and that's just fine with us.

Wishing you a very happy Independence Day, wherever you are in this big, beautiful, bountiful country of ours. It really is an amazing place, isn't it?

© FarmgirlFare.com, the all-American foodie farm blog where homemade apple pie ranks a very close second to blackberry.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Recipe: Easy All Natural Homemade Barbecue Sauce and a Delicious Book for Barbecue Lovers

Grilled Pork Ribs with Homemade Barbecue Sauce 1
Slather on the sauce this Fourth of July! (recipe here)

Almost everything's better with barbecue sauce, including hot summer celebrations. I've been making this sort of tangy, sort of sweet, basic tomato-based barbecue sauce for over a dozen years. I love it slathered on grilled pork ribs, with extra sauce on the side for dipping, but you can put it on chicken, burgers, pulled pork sandwiches, brisket, sausage links, even fries.

Hungry for more than sauce? Wipe off your fingers and check out America's Best BBQ: 100 Recipes from America's Best Smokehouses, Pits, Shacks, Rib Joints, Roadhouses, and Restaurants, a 224-page awesome ode to 'cue. I went hog wild as soon as I flipped it open.

Along with the standard ribs, rubs, sauces, beans, potato salad, and coleslaw, there are recipes for everything from Jamaican jerk hog wings, fried cheese steak grits, jalapeno hushpuppies, fried okra, and vidalia onion dip to barbecued pork steaks with chunky applesauce, lobster stuffed with smoked seafood, rib gumbo, and Bar-B-Q spaghetti.

Anyone for Red's barbecued raccoon or some grilled rattlesnake?

If you love BBQ, you're probably going to love this book even if you never make a single recipe, because the collection of full-color photos of signage, menus, memorabilia, restaurant dining rooms, smiling pit masters, and of course plenty of mouthwatering food is wonderful.

America's Best BBQ offers a tour of the 'best swine dining establishments' from coast to coast, so if you love seeking out new 'cue, then get your hands on a copy, grab a map, and start planning your next road trip.

Have a happy and safe Fourth of July!

© FarmgirlFare.com, where there can never be too much barbecue sauce—or cloth napkins.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Tail End of the Week: Get Your Friday Farm Fix #16

Welcome to the Friday Farm Fix, a new series on Farmgirl Fare where I share a random sampling of what's been happening around the farm during the past week (usually on Fridays). Just joining us? You'll find all the Friday Farm Fix posts here.

(1) Kit Kat Kate by the echinacea (purple coneflower) - FarmgirlFare.com
Kit Kat Kate perched above the echinacea patch

It's bad out there. Really bad. The months of relentless heat and drought will not give up. It just keeps getting hotter and drier, and it's going to get worse before it gets better. We stopped looking at the thermometer when it got up to 106 degrees in the shade. We've stopped looking at the ten day forecast hoping for a chance of rain.

Last year at this time we had 695 bales of hay safely stored in the barn, ready to feed the sheep and donkeys all winter (and then put up another 180 bales of summer grass in early September). So far this year we haven't put up any. Everyone is scrambling for hay, and nobody has any for sale. If we do find some, it will probably be low quality and priced sky high.

The front field, where 33 sheep are supposed to be grazing all summer and into the fall, has nothing left to eat in it. The green grass you can see in the photos below, which were taken a week ago, is gone. Everything that gets full sun has burned up.

Tomorrow morning after we work the sheep we'll let them out loose to forage for food in the dry creekbed and the woods. Thank goodness we sold half the flock in May. I just hope we don't have to sell any more sheep—or any donkeys.

Donkeyland looks almost as bad as the front field, but the perimeter of our 240 acre property, which is mostly steep wooded hillsides, isn't fenced, and the donkeys tend to wander—like up to the highway.

All we can do is try not to get too stressed out (which isn't easy, as evidenced by my tears earlier), water the kitchen garden twice a day, limit our time working out in the heat, drink plenty of water (and Tension Tamer iced tea!), remember to breathe, and find joy in the little things around us.

A nest of hungry baby birds in a very unlikely spot. The cute spotted frog who has taken up residence in the greenhouse. Peeping chicks all over the place. A beagle with his catch and release bunny. Grilled burgers on freshly baked onion rye buns. Delicious bounty from our garden and our neighbors, sizzling cast iron skillets, the first sweet corn of the season, our first summer sleeping in air conditioning.

Everything may be dying of thirst, but farm life still tastes good.

27 more farm photos below - hover over each photo to see a short description. . .