Monday, March 21, 2011

Berkshire Piglets

Well, I decided to try my hand at raising pigs this year. We are now the proud owners of two small Berkshire piglets.

Berkshire pigs are a heritage breed brought over from England back in the early 1800's. They are known to have an excellent disposition and are quite docile - perfect for our hobby farm.

I've never tasted their meat before, but I have read that the meat is better marbled than other pigs, which gives it a better taste and quality. I'm sold.

I'm looking forward to learning more about raising pigs. They don't look like much trouble right now but when they get to be 200+ pounds I might be singing a different tune.

Wish me luck!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Maple syrup time ... again

Spring like temperatures have arrived and the sap in our maple tree has been flowing freely this week. We're getting about 6 liters of sap per day ... that's a lot of water to boil down each night.

Ideally I wouldn't be processing the sap on the stove top but I have no other convenient option.

If you want to see a picture of the tree we tap please check out last years post about our maple tree.

Last year I made the syrup for my 100 meter diet. This year I'm making the syrup for the family to enjoy.

It takes about 4 hours to slowly boil off the water to be left with about 2/3 of a cup of maple syrup. You want to boil off 96% of the sap which leaves behind the wonderful maple sugars in the syrup.

I let the maple syrup 'settle' in a measuring cup over night before bottling it to store in the fridge. This gives the sediments time to sink to the bottom.

In the end, after 3 nights of sap boiling, I'm left with about 2 cups of 100 meter maple syrup. Nothing tastes better than home made maple syrup so it's well worth the effort.

I hope to gather and boil enough sap to make 2 more jars for the family to enjoy.

I wonder how long those jars will last?

P.S. For those of you looking for more signs of spring .... our Red Wing Blackbirds returned last Saturday! I absolutely love their sounds ... it fills my heart with warmth every spring when they return to our ponds. It will only be a few more weeks until the frogs make an appearance with their nightly songs .... I can hardly wait!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Cooking on the wood stove

I don't cook on the wood stove very often but I love to do it when the opportunity arises.

This winter I had my chance when I woke up one morning, on a weekend, and found that we had no power in the house. The heat must have been off for quite awhile because it was already quite chilly when I got out of bed.

As usual, I was awake at least an hour before the rest of the family so I had plenty of time to gather up some fire wood and get the wood stove fired up. By the time the rest of the family woke up I had the fireplace room at a comfortable temperature.

For breakfast we warmed up the cast iron pan and fried up some fresh eggs. Mmmm, delicious.

At this point we were all hoping that the power would be off for the entire day. The kids were having a great time setting up their favourite board games and were settling in to play all day long in front of the fire.

We put two kettles on the stove to warm up some water for coffee and some warm drinks for the kids.

I had to use my trusty camping stove to get the kettle hot enough to boil and percolate the coffee. I confess that I did have a coffee that morning but can you blame me? I was swept up in the moment and at that point I really felt that I had earned a treat. Plus I was looking for a little extra warmth.

The Dutch oven made an appearance to make our next treat ... cinnamon rolls! They took well over an hour to bake on the wood stove but before they were finished the power suddenly came back on.

Since the power was back on I threw the Dutch oven in our kitchen stove to brown the top slightly.

After a few minutes on broil they were done and everyone dug right in before I had a chance to take a picture.

In total the power was out for about 6 waking hours. More than enough time for some family survival fun but we were all left wanting more as we returned to our 'power consumption' routine like moths to a light bulb. Well, it was a fun while it lasted.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Goat meat ravioli

I made these on Family Day and I thought that the recipe was worthy of documentation on this blog. I'd like to think that this is something you might find on the menu at a fancy upscale restaurant ... I can picture the description now ...

Hand made ravioli pasta made with freshly laid eggs from free range hens. Stuffed with ethically raised goat meat, spring dandelion leaves, chives and tomatoes. Lightly seasoned to compliment the natural flavours. Served with a light tomato sauce.

Sounds good doesn't it? Although I doubt that any fine restaurants actually have goat meat on the menu.

This dish would be better if I used fresh dandelion, chives and tomatoes, but alas, I only have frozen to work with.


1/2 pound of ground goat meat
1/2 cup of dandelion leaves (chopped)
1/4 cup of tomatoes (finely diced)
1 tablespoon of chives (chopped)
Spices to suit your tastes

Combine the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Place teaspoon sized balls of the mixture on a large sheet of freshly rolled egg noodles (cut in half). Leave enough space between each ball to form each ravioli.

Give the 2nd sheet of egg noodle a few extra rolls with a rolling pin to make sure you have enough to fully cover the 1st sheet.

Lay the 2nd sheet over the 1st sheet and seal all sides of each ravioli.

Carefully cut between each ravioli and pinch along each side to ensure a tight seal.

You can cook the ravioli fresh or lay them out on a clean baking sheet for freezing.

I enjoyed my ravioli with a light
tomato sauce garnished with some fresh parsley.

I pull them out of the freezer on nights when I don't have anything ready to go. They only take about 10-12 minutes to cook and they are quite filling.

They do take a bit of effort to make but they're worth it.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Putting it all together ...

With spring approaching it was time to clean out the barn this past weekend.

Michael and Matthew stepped up to the plate to help out. I was impressed with their work ethic as they got down to business.

They worked hard, did a great job and they easily cut my work in half.

I've mentioned to them before that if they want to continue this way of life they need to pick up a few more chores around the home. They know that our way of life is different from how their friends live and they are willing to pitch in a helping hand to keep it going. I'm proud of them and more importantly I know they're proud of themselves.

That's one of the wonderful side effects of this journey ... we've all come together as a family to make this journey successful. I couldn't have done this without them and they wouldn't be living all of these new experiences without the diet.

You can say that I'm starting to put it all together and I'm realizing that living a simpler life is bringing our family closer together. We all have a part to play in this journey and we are all finding the effort worth while.

On Sunday afternoon we were all in the kitchen baking and the kids pitched in once again. I had to step back and smile as everyone was busy 'doing their thing'.

I must say that Michael has become quite the pita bread maker. He fried the pitas and got each one to puff up perfectly. He doesn't take any of the credit though ... he says it's all in my rolling. I thanked him but then told him the secret is team work!