Thursday, April 28, 2016

Love Thy Neighbor

In previous posts written on this blog Chris and I have shared with you plans we have made, dreams we have chased and ideas we have brought to life. We have shared our hits and our misses, and our plans to do things different in the future. We have also shared that we didn't always have plans to homestead, but now that we are, we learning as we go having faith we are in the right place. 

Following our dreams and our faith has also led us to our partners and friends who have been helping us greatly with this homesteading and farming adventure. There are two people who have helped us out in more ways than we can count through support, teaching us and telling us of their experiences and lessons learned. These two wonderful people are our neighbors. Without their help the dreams we have shared would not be becoming our reality. They have shared with us their time, land and resources to help ensure that our farming and homesteading experience is a success. In previous posts written when I have mentioned our partner please know that to us it's more than a partnership but a friendship as well. 

There is a newer Tim McGraw song out now called "Humble and Kind" that reminds me of our life where it stands right now. In it he says 

"When you get where you're goin
Don't forget turn back around
And help the next one in line
Always stay humble and kind"

We are new, we are inexperienced and we are dreamers. Our neighbors have tuned around to help us to get where we are going for that we will always be thankful and we will remember their generosity.  One day we hope to do the same for the next one in line.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Eating From the Wild Side: Sweet Dandelion Fritters

This weekend we took our menu to the backyard with these sweet dandelion fritters. We love experimenting with new recipes, however these were especially fun to make because the kids gathered the ingredients themselves. The boys are both know to nab a dandelion from the backyard from time to time and gobble it up, but before this weekend we never cooked them. The boys have been asking to make these after we mentioned the possibility to them, and really they tasted fantastic! They were better than I expected them to be the sweet flavor of the batter molds well with the wild dandelion flavor, and the flower makes for a chewy center.

The first step to prepare these babies is have the kids go outside and grab a few handfuls of the biggest dandelions they can find. This recipe works best with fresh dandelion heads that have opened fully in the sun. Once you have them give the flowers a rinse and heat a pan filled with about 1/4 inch of oil. I uses a small cast iron pan that used about 3 tablespoons of oil. As the oil heats prepare you batter. This is the recipe I came up with....

Sweet Dandelion Fritters

  • A few handfuls of fresh dandelion heads
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp pie spice I always use Penzey's pie spice Hand-mixed from: cinnamon (China, Korintje, Ceylon, Vietnamese), vanilla sugar (sugar, vanilla bean), mace, ginger, nutmeg, anise seed and clove.   It's fantastic and spices up sweet treats perfectly. 
  • cooking oil
  • Heat the oil over medium heat in pan while preparing batter
  • Mix the flour, milk, egg, vanilla, and spice in a small bowl well
  • dunk flowers into batter head down with only a minimal amount of stem left.
  • place batter covered flowers into heated oil and heat until browned
  • flip and heat the other.
  • drain on paper towel
  • serve warm
We served our fritters with a side of maple syrup for dunking. Honey would also be a good side option. Aside from this recipe tasting great this recipe is also quite fast taking only 15 to 20 minuets from start to finish. Which is helpful when the kids are "starving" as my boys seem to always be ;)

There are variations to this recipe you can pull the petals off the flower and make them like pancakes or make a savory batter and serve these with a marinara sauce. They are something fun to experiment with. If you have a different recipe for dandelions please share it I would love to try it!


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Updates from the Studio

Last week we updated everyone on the homestead and the farm. We brought you the latest on our lambs, and on what's happening this summer. Though the farm is the main component to our buisness it isn't the only thing that's bustling around here! My studio is a rocking' as well!

The spring is the time of year when I get my final pieces ready for the upcoming market and art fair season. I also like to use this time to restock my etsy shop,  and make sure I have some back up inventory to help sustain my sales through the summer.

Since the majority of my artwork is painted on pallets and recycled wood I scavenge for it throughout the year and keep a horde of it on our property at all times. A few times a year I try to brake it apart and prepare it in bulk so I always have some ready to use on hand.... this is what I have been doing the past few weeks. Breaking apart pallets is the most tedious part of my art making process, and honestly my least favorite,  but it needs to be done. Once I have my pieces prepared and ready to be painted it is always worth the hard work, and knowing that helps modivate me to get it done.

My market season starts May 7th with a booth set up at the Oconomowoc Farmers Market. That's only a couple weeks away so I am getting a bit anxious that I won't have my inventory where I want it to be (as I do every time I have a deadline) but I'm sure everything will work out fine it always does. This season I will have a supply of mixed media paintings on recycled wood. I will keep true to my usual subjects painting wildlife and farm animals. My favorite is painting deer and fish, its a good thing too because both are my top sellers throughout the summer. I will also have some recycled golden book journals like those seen in my etsy shop with me as well as a few different recycled pieces. I love turning what is old into something new again and that is pretty clear with the artwork I bring along.

This summer is the first year we will have both a vegetable booth as well as an art booth set up at the Oconomowoc market. We will also have our three little ones along "helping" so this should be interesting. The dates my artwork will be there are May 7th, 14th , 21st ,and 28th June 11th and 25th, July 9th and 23rd, August 6th and 20th, September 3rd, 17th and October 1st, 15th, and 29th.  I will update with additional dates and fairs as the season moves along along with photos of new pieces available.

Besides being busy with the market I also have a few commissioned pieces that I am working on, and an event with my publisher this June where I am organizing a children's activity. I love working with kids so I am looking forward to this! I am antisipating I will have some things to share after the event is over.

I think that sums up the latest of what has been happening in the studio. It keeps me pretty busy and can get a tad hectic at times, but by working on it a little at a time every day I manage to keep things chugging along.

We have been blessed with so many opportunities and are thankful we have been able to share our story with you. As always thank you for reading and God bless!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Our lambs have arrived!

Just a quick update from Monday's post.... our lambs have been born! We have been anxiously awaiting this moment and are happy to say we have grown our backyard sheep flock to 6 this week. Our sheep "Banana" gave birth to a healthy little female lamb on Monday that our 4 year old cleverly named "banana peel", and our sheep "Cabbage" gave birth to twins Wednesday, one female and one male. This is especially exciting for us because Cabbage lost her twins last year so we weren't sure what to expect. Her lambs has been named "lettuce" and "pepper" by our oldest son... and honestly I don't know who.

We feel very blessed and thankful that the farm has grown, and everyone is healthy and happy.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Carrot Spice Pancakes

For the most part getting our three kids to eat their veggies isn't too hard of a problem for us. They love helping in the garden and eating what they can find while we are there. When the garden season is over and our vegetable supply isn't as high I like to find unique ways to add veggies in to their meals to mix things up a bit. I like to make sure they get vegetables at each meal which can be a little trickier with breakfast aside from adding veggies to their eggs. In order to make things interesting I substitute shredded vegetables in place of fruit in my pancakes, waffles and muffin recipes. We have a child with food allergies (peanut and soy) so the recipes I use are always made from scratch.  

This time I added shredded carrot to pancakes, this recipe is also helpful with a toddler who has a hard time chewing the tougher textures. Here is the recipe I came up with....

Carrot Spice Pancakes

2 Cups Flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp pie spice... cinnamon, nutmeg,  vanilla sugar, ginger, anise seed and clove

Mix in a medium sized mixing bowl and set aside.

I'm a separate mixing bowl combine...
2 eggs
2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla

add the wet mixture with the dry and stir gently. Finally add 2 carrots finely shredded to the mix.

Pour your batter on a preheated griddle or pan on medium heat.


Monday, April 11, 2016

Updates From the Homestead

Spring is here in Wisconsin let the hard work begin! We have just finished hibernating for the year and its time to get things going around Crooked Coop Farm.

The seeds have been started inside a hot house, and we are preparing for the garden and farming season ahead. We will have more work than usual in the garden this year since we bulked up our production plans for the summer. This year we will have our vegetables at the Oconomowoc  WI Farmer's market weekly throughout the season (June through October), and have been in contact with two other markets that we plan to attend and will have details for soon. Aside from the markets we also have been talking with restaurants who are looking to add local certified organic produce to their menu. This is new for us. We have been on the other side of the restaurant buisness preparing and serving food for years but are new to supplying it. As we go along through the process we will update and let our readers know what restaurant will have our produce on their menu. It's exciting to be on the other end of the restaurant experience. 

Last year we helped supply a few grocery stores with some goodies from the garden. It was on a small scale and we were really just getting our feet wet, but it was still exciting to see vegetables we harvested on the store shelves even if it was a small amount. This year we, along with our partner, will be supplying a large amount of produce to two well known local grocers throughout the entire growing season. Details and updates to follow.

That's a bit of an update on the business end of the farm. As far as the homestead goes we are growing! Not in people this time but in livestock. We have two very pregnant ewes that are expecing to deliver any day now. The girls are  showing all signs of readiness from their physical appearance to their uncomfortable gait and it can happen any time. Last year we had one deliver on the 12th and one on the 14th. Unfortunately out of both deliveries we lost two lambs and only had one survive. We still considered ourselves blessed to have him and he kept us fed through the winter. Prayers the lambs and mothers will all be healthy this year.

With the lambs also brings the additions of chickens and ducks to the pasture. We will be placing our order soon to add to both our laying flocks and our freezer. Since I didn't grow up with a lifestyle like this it took a while to get used to the idea or raising our own animals for food, but after a few trips around the sun and living this lifestyle I can say the benefits were worth the lifestyle change. Although it's a more difficult life to live I wouldn't trade the hardships and lessons learned for anything. A freezer full of healthy and humanely raised meat is just a bonus.

We will keep you updated on our sheep along with everything else as we continue on our journey. Thanks for reading and God bless!


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