Wednesday, December 31, 2008

An Odd Egg

When I went to gather eggs the other day I came across this very odd egg.

I have looked at other odd eggs on the internet but have not seen one quite like this. There are pictures of eggs with one egg formed inside the other, one shaped like a shoe, one with a tail but none with seams.

This must have been two eggs that hooked together.

Here it is next to an apple. The apple was not huge but you can see that the egg is rather long, it looked really funny.
Of course when I cracked it it held two yolkes. One with lots of white and one with not so much white. Very odd but very delicious. I made bacon and egg quesadillias with them. Yummy!
Til next time,

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Paddle Boat, A Bunny House and A Bad Rooster

What do these three things have in common?

A visit with Eileen!

Eileen's Farm House

She grew up across the street. This was her Aunts and Uncles house. She used to help them make butter here. They had a delivery route and sold butter and I think she said, milk.

I'm always surprised by something whenever we visit with her. You should see her run her skidsteer loader! One time we came home with a pound of delicious burger. Another time we came home with a bunch of round bales of hay with which we made our lean-to for our chickens. (see below)

Nice huh?

Chickens stay all cozy inside.

Eileen has, I think, about 20 acres with beautiful cattle, chickens, turkeys, guineas, goats, horses, an amazingly adorable donkey and cats (For some reason the cats are all black, not by her choice though, they have all been strays and dropped off at her farm.).

This is Eileens ummm, I guess you would call it, summer house. It has a wood burner upstairs and is completely open downstairs with a stone fireplace and in the summer a hammock hangs from the rafters. There is a pond in front and she has a really cool, old fashioned paddle boat on the shore. She used to have two paddle boats but she gave us one for our pond! Woo Hoo! One of those plastic kind and it is a four seater! She has lots of nice folks come and stay at her place. Church groups and school kids. She loves to share her farm and let people enjoy it as much as she does.

A windmill runs an aeator in the pond for the fish and the cattle drink from it. In the winter if there is a deep freeze she has to chop the ice with an ax. If the ice is not too thick she says the cattle break it up themselves. It worries me that she is chopping ice with an ax (she is 80), I wish we were closer! Kevin says she is his hero and he hopes that when he is 80 he will be able to do all that she can.

She gave us a few chickens a while ago so one day when she was not home we snuck over and dropped a couple of turkeys inside of her chicken fence. She got home after dark and heard some strange peeping and thought something was wrong with her chickens and found that two turkeys had magically appeared.

This is the view from her back porch. Across the way you can see the green summer house, her pastured cattle and that whitish colored rectangular thing is her son's semi truck and trailer.

This was parked alongside her garage.

The rooster on the left is the bad rooster in the title of this post. He was beating up the other roosters and hens so his number was up. I contemplated doing a drive-by and dropping him off at some unsuspecting farm but we decided to have him for dinner instead.

When we got home Kevin (what is the polite word for killed) dispatched? him and I skinned him down the middle and took the breasts, legs and thighs and we used the rest to try and entice the coon that has been killing our chickens. Later on I noticed one of my dogs guarding something and acting funny. She had stolen one of the chicken feet and was chewing on it. Right under my computer table in my bedroom!

Three more dead on Christmas morning. The mom of the babies and two of the babies. The mom was a beautiful penciled Polish Crested that Eileen had given us last year. We just cannot figure out how it is getting in. When we catch it I will cut him limb from limb! Is that how that saying goes and what does that mean anyway? Limb from limb?

Bunny House, did I mention bunny house in the title??

Check out this awesome Bunny House!

And for the best part.....Eileen says that I can have it!!!! Is this not the cutest thing you ever did see! It is going to be my new house for my Cuckoo Marans. I am going to seperate them from the rest of the flock very soon (well... I guess I have to wait til spring) and get some eggs to hatch. I have three or four Maran hens and a rooster. I absolutly cannot wait.

If that racoon takes anymore of my Marans he will suffer a slow death. (I used to think racoons were so cute, HA, they are bloodthirsty killers. Plus they kill more that they eat, just for fum)

There is one condition to me getting the bunny house. It involves these two unspecting guys below

They have to help load a sweet animal into a trailer to be taken to the butcher. No problem you say, well look at the sweet animal below.

Yep, that's him... the one in the middle.

Here he is closer......

And a little closer. Yikes, this is Harley and he's a big one.

He is a really good bull, produces really good calves but one day something bad happened. He decided that he wanted out of the pasture and bent a thick, heavy gate like it was a piece of plastic. And then one day Eileen had a group of kids for a hayride at the farm. When they got down from the wagon and were walking around Harley saw them he decided to stomp his feet, snort and act very bullish. Bullish is fine but not when he can twist a huge gate like it is nothing!

Plus there is one more reason.

See the little guy right behind Harley? He is Harley's son. There is something about him that Eileen is not crazy about. Can you guess what it is?

Hmmmm, what do you think......

Have you figured it out?

What about now????

He has kinda big pokers on the top of his head. OUCH! Harleys calves have horns.
(Look at the little guy in the cute.)

Harley decided to come right up and see me. I can't tell you how intimidating he is. Even with the fence between us I just kept wanting to back up..and after this shot I did.

Here is Eileen on the back porch. We had an amazing day for the 27th of December. Almost 70 degrees and really nice out. My sister Amy, Eileen and I sat on the porch while guys walked the back part of the property looking for deer sign. Eileens property buts up to a huge public hunting area. Deer have been a big problem in the past for her so they were checking out hunting possibilities. They didn't find much. They found only other hunters and not much deer sign. She said there haven't been much deer activity this year.

Here is one of her black kittys. This one will jump on your back and climb upto your neck. It's only good if you have thick clothes on.

Eileen said it showed up one evening and the way it introdeced itself to her was to jump on her back and proceed to climb on up. She said it was dark out so she didn't know what it was. To say the least she was a little startled til she figured it out. I think it may have scared her half to death. If it had been me I would have passed out.

Here's Eileen and her kitty.

Isn't it sweet, it was purring like crazy.

We are going to go back and pick up a few more roosters and help her make a lean-to for her chickens. Can't wait.

Til next time,


Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Traditions

We do not have very many traditions in our family but we do have one that has to be done every year, no matter what.


As always you have your snowball things (Russian Tea Cakes...don't like em) but my mom's favorite. Then we have the peanut butter what ever you call them. Can't remember but they are pretty good if that is all there is left. Then on the back of the cooling rack (I really hope Amy is making sure that I get a couple cooling racks like this for Christmas) is the all time favorite!

Cut Outs! Ya Hoo!
Or sugar cookies as some people call them. We have a extra special cut out cookie that we make. This cookie has been made in our family since the forty's or maybe even longer. It was whenever they started making these cookie cutters. We had only two of these cutters in our family and they were treasured and protected like they were gold. They stopped making these a while ago but my sister looked and looked and finally found an old set on Ebay. In the last 10 years or so they have started making them again though so if any one wants to try to make these you can get them. Just do a search for "Aunt Chicks" and they should show up.

Here is a picture of the box and an address. Not sure if this address is for the new company though.

Here is the cutter, doesn't look like much. The recipe is different from most other sugar cookie recipes in that it calls for no leavening at all. They would lose their features if you added any. The cookies end up being kinda hard after a few days but they are still delicious.

This is what they look like out of the oven and after they cool. Before they bake I (actually my sister Amy) put currants in for the eyes. It calls for raisins but my mom and grandmother always used currants. They had a box that they used for years. I remember them being kinda dried up and hard but there was still a really good curranty taste when you ate the eye part.

The first step in the decorating was painting the lips and tongue with red food coloring right out of the bottle. I think my mom would pour a little in the cap and use a little paint brush. Now, the food coloring has those pointy lids so can't do that anymore.

You have to be very careful cause it's very easy to make an evil looking Santa or a crazy looking Santa. We had to wait til we were older to help with the decorating. I hated that but now if a kid tries to get within 10 feet of the decorating of these it's lockdown.
My brother-in-law picked up one of the undecorated ones and we all looked at him like he was a freak that just escapes from a mental institution. In unison my sister and I said STOP!! PUT THAT DOWN!! What are you doing!!!!! It's not decorated yet!!!
He thought we were nuts. He obviously has not been in the room during the cookie decorating in years past. He said "I don't want a decorated one, I just want a plain one". Well, we said, again in unison, "Take a tree or a star but STEP AWAY FROM THE SANTAS!

We then proceeded to calm down and continue with the next step.
After all the lips are done then it's on to the cheeks and the hat.

For this step we mixed an egg white and some red food coloring and brushed these areas with the wash and then sprinkled with red sugar. I don't want anyone to even think of mentioning anything about eating raw egg white. It's a tradition, some risks are worth taking besides, they were my fresh eggs and could not possibly be bad. I actually had someone not eat these because of the egg white, she was a nut.

Here is the sprinkling taking place. I remember my mom would take a dry brush and painstakingly brush any sugar crystals that would get in around the eyes.

Next comes frosting the beard. The beard and the tassle of the hat are frosted and then fresh coconut is dabbed on. (I am not a big fan of coconut so Mom would always leave a few plain for me.)

Then one more step. The mustache, eyebrows and the curl of hair on his forehead have to be done. This is the most tedious. It is done with a brush with the frosting thinned a little. I have tried using a frosting dispenser (my brain cannot remember what it is called, it is late 9:45 pm, my bedtime is usually 9:00 pm) but Santa looks ridiculous with a spaghetti shaped mustache.

All done!
You have to be a little careful when thinning the frosting for the eyebrows or Santa will look like he had a stroke.

Here's the whole tray and some yummy candy canes too.
I am dying to eat one of these but I left them all at my moms house. I'm hoping there are some left for me. (Amy, are you reading this? I want some candy cane cutouts too and maybe a star. Please save me some.)

Diane, my other sister said we had to have some colored frosting or it's not Christmas. We used to make all kinds of crazy colors too, usually some awful shade of purple and brown (brown cause we had a horse cookie cutter and a Mickie Mouse too).

I think I like them best with white frosting and colored sugar. Ooooo, see the Santa at the bottom with no coconut, it's calling me. YUMMY!
Til next time,

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Making Deer Sausage

The first step in the making of deer sausage is of course, obtaining the deer. Luckily for us, Kevin is quite good at that. Most every year he gets at least two, some years three. This year was especially good. He got three and the oldest son got two. So that means lots of meat for the year. We want to limit our meat to naturally grown and this is as natural as you can get.

They got two bucks and three does. Four were taken down south near Kilbuck,OH and the other one was taken from our property. We've had quite a few on the property this year, we've seen at least 15 with two being small bucks.

This is the buck that Kevin got. We always keep the antlers and hang them. We like the European style of mount below.

We also have the traditional style but it's a lot of work. I mounted a deer for a friend last year and sometime maybe I'll post pictures of that. I've also done turkey tails, a beaver skin, raccoons, muskrats, groundhogs, pheasants and a fox. My most favorite are the smaller animals.
This is a Dream Catcher that Kevin's dad had done for him. It's beautiful.

Anyway, back to the deer processing and sausage making. First, we spent quite a while trimming all the meat to pieces that would fit nicely through the grinder. Then we grinded away.

The younger daughter was a whiz. She worked all day, happily helping us and it was so much fun. She really enjoys helping with the processing chores. She rocked at the chicken processing. We thought she would be really creeped out during the killing part but she kept watching all the same. She helped with the plucker and jumped when anyone needed paper towels or a drink. Now, if only she liked cleaning out the chicken house or weeding the garden.

All in all we ground about 40 pounds of meat.

We took a trip down to the bulk food store in Sugarcreek. We decided to get our spices there since we were going to need large quantities. We got cayenne, fennel, sage, caraway, mustard seed, coriander, paprika and more. We also stopped at a local meat market to get our casings. We got natural casings for sausage and we also got some collagen casings for hot dogs. We are going to mix some turkey and venison for the hot dogs. We work outside so much that we need to have quick meal options. Hot dogs are the best but who knows what you are getting from the supermarket.

Spices all measured and ready for the mixer. We put the meat and the spices in my Kitchen Aid mixer and let it mix on slow for four minutes. It changes the consistency of the meat mixture and makes it more gooey, more like sausage than just ground up meat.

Then we put it back through the grinder and stuffed it into the casings.

We picked up a bunch of good tips from videos on youtube, everything from grinding, stuffing and recipes.

Kevin trimmed the end and formed the links.

There is a special way to do this so that the links stay uniform and twist correctly.

There you have it, sausages all in a row!

We let them sit a while to dry out the casings a little.

Then packaged them all up and into the freezer.

All in all we ended up with 20 pounds of Italian sausage, 20 pounds of burger and about 10 pounds of steaks from the back straps. The first deer was all ground and froze for burger. We have lots of Tacos and Sloppy Joes so we can never have enough burger. We are processing the last two deer today and I'll be making breakfast sausage and hot dogs. All that AND helping my sister move today too. The sausage might have to wait til Monday.
Til next time,