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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Meet the New Guys!

A little over a week ago we bought two new Black Angus steers to wander around the ranch and eat grass.  They were born a little over six months ago on a ranch just eight miles away. By purchasing our stock locally, the babies won't have any altitude or weather adjustment issues.

First, though, they had a week's stay in a corral since they had just left their mommas. We wouldn't want these little guys wandering down the road, looking for their moms.

When I went to their home ranch to choose, the babies were with their mommas, ambling about, eating grass and drinking milk. Little did they know it was time to be weaned.
So for the first couple of days they were sad, mooing for their mommas. A friend who learned about this said it made her boobs leak!

And then she said that was TMI.

But the other day we opened the corral gate.

It didn't take much for them to realize there was a whole other world out there.

One with real grass, not hay. Yummers.

These guys are a little under 350 pounds right now, but in a year they will be close to 1200-1400 pounds after almost nonstop eating of grass, oak, and whatever else looks tasty.If it snows and covers up the grass, or gets really cold, they will get some hay, too.

How will their lives be different from factory farmed steers?

1. They will never see a feedlot, where thousands of cattle spend six to twelve months of their lives eating mostly corn, which they are not evolved to eat.

2. Because they will never see a feedlot, they will have happy tummies and never need antibiotics. The grain that factory farmed beef eat causes digestive upset and liver damage and they are often ill, so they need medicine.

3. They will breathe easily and see clearly. No gigantic pens full of beef cattle, kicking up manure contaminated dust which can get into lungs and eyes.

4. Stress will be minimal. Treats are served almost every day so the steers will not be afraid of their caretakers.

5. They will have a calm death. Some slaughterhouses process 300-400 cattle an hour. It can be chaotic. Our steers will either die right here at the ranch, not knowing what hit them, or will travel 30 miles to a processor who kills one beef at a time in a quiet room.

One thing I have learned in the three years we have raised beef cattle is that it's important to put a face on what you eat and on who is raising it.

When we eat an animal we are complicit in that animal's welfare whether we want to be or not. I have a hard time eating meat from animals and farmers I don't know because who knows what kind of life that animal had?

May I suggest a book?  Read The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan where he follows each of four meals from source to final product.

That's when I really began thinking about how my food is produced.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Early October Snow

While I stayed inside, toasty and warm on the couch and perusing the internet, Tom and Ms. Pearl went out exploring the snow that accumulated last night. Pearlie had fun chasing those pesky ravens. They drive her nuts.

The snow is a couple weeks early, but because the daytime temperatures are well above freezing, it will have melted away in a day or two. The steers will get some hay rations today since the grass is covered over.

Tom Boyle photos

The weather dudes and dudettes are predicting rain and some snow for the higher ups, with sunny skies tomorrow.

That's good, because these photos look bleak and I don't do bleak.

If we were like Ms. Pearl, this would be an opportunity to enjoy the change in weather and to plow through the snow like an insane person. Not a bad attitude at all.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Do You Have Your Wood In?

This is a common sight right here in Northern New Mexico. Nights are starting to freeze which means nippy mornings and wood fires.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Apple-Golden Berry Blend Crumble (Grain and Gluten Free)

Through a lot of trial and error, I recently came to the conclusion that items made with wheat flour were causing me to have acid reflux. After eliminating most baked goods, wheat pastas and breads from my diet, not only did the reflux disappear, but so did the joint pain I have had for years in my knees and shoulders. Score!

One day this past summer I had a big plate of pasta at a relative's home which tasted ohsogood, yet the next day my knee and shoulder joints were killing me. So now I know.

Anyway, I needed to make something for the Sangre de Cristo Livestock Growers' meeting potluck and found some canned apples in the pantry. Okay, apple crisp it was.

I'd been using almond meal as a substitute for flour when frying, so that's what I used for the topping instead of flour and oats.

Later at the Livestock Growers' meeting, a big old pan of apple crisp disappeared in no time at all and I spied someone using their finger to scoop up some of the leftovers from the corners of the pan. It's that good.

Here's the recipe. Since not all of you have canned apples in your pantry, I've used fresh ones since they're easy to find.

Apple-Golden Berry Blend Crumble (Grain and Gluten Free)
(4-6 servings)

 (for the apple layer)
2 large tart apples or 3-4 medium apples, sliced (or the equivalent in canned apples-not apple pie filling, well-drained)
1/2 cup Trader Joe's Golden Berry Blend (golden raisins, dried blueberries, dried cherries and dried cranberries or the equivalent in other dried fruits)
2 T honey
2 T lemon juice
1T arrowroot powder or substitute cornstarch
1 t cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice

(for the crumble layer)

1 cup almond flour
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup chopped nuts, your choice
1/4 t ground ginger
1/4 t ground nutmeg
a dry sweetener like stevia (I used maple sugar) to taste, about 1 T
1/4 cup melted coconut oil, divided

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

For the apple layer

1. Place apples and dried fruit in 2 quart baking dish. Drizzle honey and lemon juice over the top.

2. Add the arrowroot powder or cornstarch and cinnamon and toss everything together in the dish.

3. Pour 1 T of the melted coconut oil evenly over the apple mixture.

For the crumble

4. In a small bowl mix the almond flour, coconut, nuts (I used pine nuts because we are in New Mexico), ginger, nutmeg and sweetener. Pour the remaining melted coconut oil over this stuff and mix until it is crumbly.

5. Spread the crumble topping over the apple mixture. It will be a thick layer.

6. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes until the apples are tender and the top is golden brown.

Just so you know, this makes an excellent breakfast dish, too.

Note: I love Trader Joe's, which will have all the stuff you need to make this. If you don't have a TJ's, a Sprouts market or your grocery store's healthy food section should suffice.


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Fall Already?

The past couple of weeks have reminded me that winter is coming. The yellow-flowered chamisa is the last of the allergens to bloom and I think this blooming schedule has been designed to make all the hay fever sufferers happy to see the first frosts and the last of their runny noses.

"Die, chamisa, die!"

The first frost was about a week and a half ago, killing the summer veggies, so goodbye to you,  tomatoes, peppers and green beans.

Since then we've had a few more nippy nights but the kale, carrots, cabbage and lettuce survive.  I planted too much cabbage and we are not sauerkraut fans, so cabbage soup is in the cards.

Next year the summer stuff will go in earlier since the raised beds are in place and ready to go.

Upcoming jobs: the dead plants are outta here and garlic goes in that empty bed in the foreground.

Plant garlic by Halloween; harvest it on Fourth of July. Sounds okay to me!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Quilty Pleasures-Mi Familia Part 2

There is more progress on the Mi Familia quilt and we are excited! This quilt has been a collaborative effort between Ann (owner of Thread-Bear in Las Vegas, NM) and me and we make quite a team!

Today we added the thin black print border, auditioned about 8 fabrics for the wide floral border, and eventually decided on this greenie one.

Here is a closer look at some of the details:

For the past three years or so that particular green has been my go-to color to make a quilt "pop." Love those half circles? Read the previous post to see how Ann made that inspired choice.

The black batik border is next, with the flying geese in opposite corners. The batik has streaks, some of which echo the colors used in the center panels.

While we are working on this project I just can't stop smiling. It's a friendly picker-upper. Maybe it's those grinning guys in the center, but it's just a happy quilt!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Quilty Pleasures-Mi Familia

Friend Ann, owner of my local quilt shop Threadbear, asked me if I'd like to work with her on a quilt, so we have been collaborating for a couple months on something very different.

The center panels are from a collection by Jesus Cruz called Mi Familia (My Family) by Andover fabrics.  I apologize for the photo quality. I think I messed up my phone camera lens so everything looks a little fuzzy.

We thought it would be fun to work on this quilt collaboratively, not really knowing what the end result will be,  making parts like the four patches and flying geese and trying them out as we go. Some parts we made worked, and others were, "What the heck was I thinking?"

Working by the seats of our pants can be scary and absorbing at the same time. "Stop Staring and Start Sewing!" is our refrain.

Mi Familia is still a work in progress, but the way Ann decided on the orange border is neato: Ann had a quilt top in her "whoops" collection. You know those projects you start and almost finish, but have enough misgivings you don't want to complete them? I have a few of those and I'll bet you do, too.

Anyway, the discarded quilt top looked like this, but multiply it by a zillion circles because this is just a piece.

Ann cut each row of circles in half. We thought a scalloped border would be interesting and tried that, but then she started playing around and staggered the rows of half circles until they made a type of serpentine pattern.

She's been fussing around, sewing the two half circle rows together, offset, and making sure they are all the same size. As you can see in the first pic, Ann needs to fill in some spots which requires cutting and matching half circles, not always matching the fabric.  Recycling in action! And it looks really cool!

I made some flying geese using hand dyed fabric supplied by quilting friend Linda S. and the "sky" for the geese is a cosmic, spacy looking black fabric.

There are still more borders to go, so we will keep you posted on how it's going.

Have you ever made a quilt with someone else? Have you ever "winged it," not really knowing what you were going to do with your quilt before you started?

If you haven't, take some time to play a little.  Whether you call it liberated, intuitive, or improvisational quilting, you will have a real mind stretcheroo and may find yourself standing and staring at your in-progress quilt for much longer than you realize.

You may even start dreaming about your quilt. And that's a good thing!