Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thanksgiving books 2015

Some of our favorite this year!

An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving by Louisa May Alcott
Thank You, Sarah by Laurie Halse Anderson
Three Young Pilgrims  by Cheryl Harness
This is the Feast by Diane Z Shore

Winter is Coming by Tony Johnston is a beautiful fall book!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Preserving 2015

This has been a big year!  Here is the run down...

Frozen Items

Beet Greens 1 big bag
Garlic Mustard  4 small bags
Swiss Chard  6 small bags, 3 quart bags and one huge bag
Kale 21 small bags, 3 large bags
Green Peppers approximately 100 peppers chopped and sliced for fajitas
Orange Pepper 4 quart bags sliced for fajitas
Mulberries  6 quarts, 5 gallons
Black caps 5 quarts
Red Raspberries 1 quart
Blueberries 9 quarts
Peaches 1 gallon
Garlic scapes 14 bags chopped, 10 jars of paste
Strawberries 6 jars of sliced, 1 gallon whole
Tart Cherries 2 gallons
Green Beans 14 big bags, 10 medium bags
Cauliflower 7 bags
Pesto 20 small jars
Zucchini 4 bags shredded
Garden Marinara 2 quarts
Garlic Lemon Veggies for bisque 5 jars (3 soup recipes)
Zucchini Butter 6 large batches
Beets 6 bags
Cinnamon Apples 6 gallons

Apples 7 quarts
Cherry tomatoes 2 quarts, 1 pint
Thyme, Oregano, Chives, and lots of Mint

Garden Marinara  7 quarts, 2 pints
Tomatoes 22 quarts, 1 pint
Tomato 'water' 4 quarts
Salsa 16 quarts
Spiced apples 2 quarts and 9 pints
Pears 25 quarts, 5 pints
Peaches 12 quarts
Peach Juice 4 quarts, 1 pint
Cherry lime syrup 3 pints
Applesauce 51 quarts, 2 pints
Apple 'juice' 2 quarts
Pear 'juice' 3 pints
Dilly beans 9 pints
Garlic Dill pickles 20 quarts
Bread and butter pickles 7 quarts
Pickled garlic scapes 1 quart, 11 pints
Chard Stems w/ Sriracha  5 pints, regular 3 pints
Roasted corn salsa 9 pints
Fiesta Corn relish 10 pints
Spiced cranberry apple sauce 3 pints, 1 half pint
Sliced apples 4 quarts
Apple Bourbon Chipotle BBQ sauce 15 pints, 1 quart
Spiced Pear Pancake sauce 4 pints, 1 quart


Mulberrry jam 13 pints, 2 half pints
Blueberry cinnamon 4 pints
Black cap/Mulberry 6 half pints
Pear spice 7 pints, 4 half pints
Wild grape jelly 11 half pints
Rhubarb vanilla 2 pints

I still have about 15 butternut squash and 3 large other ones to freeze (one Hubbard and two other ones).  I've got about 5 small cabbages in the fridge along with beets and turnips.  Kale, chard, turnips, lettuce and spinach still out in the garden and doing okay in the frosts/freezes so far.  Lots of maple syrup canned up, along with pinto, black and garbanzo beans, chicken and beef stock.  We put 21 chickens in the freezer (gave two away) and have a little pork (last year's pig purchase) and lots of beef (fall of 2013) left from previous years.  We get our honey from 2 miles away and our milk from 10 miles away.  Most of our produce came from our 10 raised and 1 in ground gardens, mulberry trees, and black cap vines.  The extra squash and peppers came from Brad at the market, garlic scapes from The Blossom and The Bean, apples from multiple neighbors and Orchard Ridge, pears from tree near church and Orchard Ridge, cherries from our tree and Korleskis, corn from McCabes and peaches from Kaufmans.  Really happy with everything turning out as good as it did with our incredibly challenging year and especially summer.  We foraged the garlic mustard and asparagus in the spring and just missed out on some puff ball mushrooms this fall!  Lots of jars are filled...makes me feel so content and secure to see them filled up.  Still had a decent amount of applesauce, tomato chutney and other items left from last year.  Last count put the jars filled right around 450 or so :)

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Chickens 2015

It is kind of amazing that I even raised meat birds this year.  But they did get ordered and they were raised and small that they were, they were butchered.  I started with 21 birds and ended with 20, 10 males and 10 females.  Jilleen and I butchered 10 and 1 hen at 9 weeks and Korleskis and Turners helped butcher the remaining 10 and 2 other hens at 9.5 weeks.  We also did Turner's 3 hens that day as well.

So, I kept bad records on food this year.  Like I'm not 100% on how many bags we went through.  It was either 7 or 8 or 9...seriously, not good records.  I won't have an exact numbers, but will do a high/low instead I think.

So the most possible I spent on food and chicks was $178.36, but I believe that includes 3 bags of food for the hens.  The least possible I spent was around $140.  They just got Farm and Fleet food, but it was fermented with apple cider vinegar for most of their life.  They were slowed down at the beginning on purpose, but also at the end because I could not take care of them for about 2 weeks due to my foot impaling issue.

Total weight on the 20 meat birds was 78 pounds, 10 oz, which is about 1 pound more than my 15 birds did last year.  The first group of males averaged just over 4.1 pounds, the second group of females averaged around 3.7 pounds.  We got an additional 2 lbs, 6 oz of liver and hearts for consumption and saved the 40 feet as well.

We butchered 3 of our old laying hens and they weighed out at 10 lbs, 4 oz.  The variance was crazy...the Wellsumer was 1 lb, 14 oz, one of the Black Austrolorps was 4 lbs, 10 ozs!

We kept 18 birds, giving two to the helper families.  We also butchered the three additional hens which ended up around 8 lbs total.

So meat chicken totals are somewhere between $2.26/lb and $1.77.  Honestly I think it is closer to the 1.77, which is right where it was last year.  Hopefully I'll keep better records next year and hopefully they can grow out as well as they did last year!  But again, I am very grateful to have almost 90 pounds of home grown meat ready for my family to enjoy!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Preservation 2014

So yeah, it is Feb of 2015 and I'm just getting around to this.  But at least I'll have the record of what was preserved in 2014.  This list may be less than perfect and it is less that I would have liked, but our lives basically exploded in August of 2014 so I'm content with what got done.  Here is a fairly good list of all the canning and other preservation that happened on our little piece of land!  Much of the produce was raised here or next door.  I did stock up on squash and potatoes as well.  The grapes were dropped off by a neighbor and the peaches and blueberries were bought from Kaufmans.  Not the most amazing year, but we did raise our first meat and have 4 hens laying eggs.  For all that happened this year I am okay with where it all ended up.  Here's hoping for a lot more home grown produce being preserved this year!

15 meat chickens raised and butchered for a total of 77 pounds, plus odds and ends and feet.

Mulberry jam  10 half pints
Strawberry jam/syrup  8 half pint/ pint jars
Wild grape jelly (2013's frozen grapes) 6 half pints
Peach pit syrup 7 pints

Frozen blueberries 32 pounds
Frozen mulberries 2 gallons
Frozen black cap raspberries 2 containers (2 quarts?)
Frozen strawberries 10 pb jars, 1 gallon bag
Frozen peaches 2 gallons

Dehydrated apples 8 quarts

Grape juice 32 quarts
Applesauce 56 quarts and 4 pints
Canned peaches 14 quarts and 1 pint

Frozen veggies
Yellow squash 4 bags
Roasted beets 6 bags
Zuchinni-shredded 15 bags
Corn 22 bags
Green Beans 8 bags
Kale 6 bags
Brocoli 2 large bags
Zucchini butter 8 cups

Garden Marinara  6 quarts
Dilly beans 5 pints
Zucchini Relish 8 pints
Quicker Kosher pickles 7 quarts
Dill pickles 8 quarts
Bread and Butter pickles 4 quarts and 1 pint
Sweet Jalepnos 3 pints
Addictive tomato chutney 4 pints
Roasted pasta sauce 4 quarts and 7 pints
Fiesta corn relish 7 pints
Crushed/diced tomatoes 28 quarts
Tomato Juice 2 quarts and 1 pint
Roasted corn salsa 12 pints
Tomato water/light juice 4 quarts
Pizza sauce 9 half pints regular 7 pints spicey
Pickled garlic cherry tomatoeos 4 quarts
V-8 juic 4 quarts
Pickled jalapenos 1 half and 1 quarter pint
Salsa didn't record, but guessing about 21 quarts

Dried Herbs
Mint, Thyme, Oregano

Dried yellow pear tomatoes 1 quart
Roasted roma tomatoes 1 quart  (kept in freezer)

We continued to get honey from a local family, raw milk from a local family, maple syrup was still from last year, but needs to be restocked, and the pig was from our local butcher.  We raised the chickens and our beef is still going strong.  I think we'll probably be able to go 3 years on the half we bought in 2013, it was huge!  We raised some of our eggs, the rest were bought locally. We also did get a bunch of things out of the in-laws freezer as we are cleaning out their house.  It was mostly food I would never have bought and a bunch of it was given to others, but we are eating quite a bit.  That may have lowered our budget slightly, but I'm not really worrying about it.  The grocery budget is impacted by the monthly bag we provide to the local food pantry and making homemade dog food.  That and the general raising of prices :)

So the total for 2014 was $3961.18.  $800 lower than 2013, but also no huge beef purchase, so overall probably higher.  It works out to $76.18/week or $3.63/meal.  Considering we are a family of 5 with three growing children I think that is kind of amazing.  With the general quality of food we are eating I am happy with where we are.  Crazy to think I spend about $.73/person/meal this year.  Yes, we do go away sometimes and Mike eats out at times during the summer, but overall we eat at home and pack food when we are away, so although it isn't an exact number it is fairly close and I am happy with where we are at.  On to more growing our own!

Thursday, June 26, 2014


Our first home grown meat is finished!  So excited that I took the plunge and just went for it.  It really wasn't hard, but did take time.  It cost more than I thought (isn't that always the case) as they went through about 2 more bags of food than I had figured.  And the butchering wasn't easy, but it also wasn't hard and it did go fast.  Next time I'll have sharper tools and a better set up and it should go even better!  I butchered 4 of the biggest roosters at 8 weeks and 1 day and the other 11 we did at 4 days.

So the breakdown...

Ordered 15 chicks, was sent 16, lost one at 3 days...in the end the remaining 15 made it to the freezer!  Chicks cost $25.

Went through 7 fifty pound bags of food at about $16 each after tax.  So total was $137 in chicks and food.  I did spend money to build the tractor, buys some dishes, some apple cider vinegar, etc, but most of these are reusable items, so only counting in the cost of this batch in figuring $/pound.

We ended up with 14 birds for roasting (or whatever) and one in pieces.  He had a broken wing that was starting to get infected.  To be safe I just took both wings off and kept his legs and breast meat.  Total meat weight was 77 pounds, would have been 2-3 pounds higher had he been left whole. Birds finished right around 5 pounds each with a few roosters going up to 6 and just over.  I also kept the 30 feet for making stock, the livers for making dog food (maybe 2 pounds worth?) and the 7 pounds of odds and ends (heart, gizzard and necks) for adding to stock.  Amazing how much  comes off those birds that were little puff balls 8 weeks ago. 

So total meat was 77 pounds and cost was $137 making our breakdown $1.77/lb.  If we include everything else it comes down significantly, but just comparing to roasters in the store that is where we land.  Of course, our birds have no solution added so that is the real weight and we know how they were raised and that they had a good life.  Many good days and a few bad moments hopefully means some great tasting chicken!

What an adventure!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

2014 Pork Purchase Breakdown

We purchased another hog from Country Pride Meats in Clinton this spring.  They again ran a special in conjunction with their customer appreciation day.  This year the price was $1.85/lb (based on hanging weight) for the basic cuts and smoking of hams and bacon.  The price was $.10/lb higher than last year and this year there was an additional charge if you wanted any sausage or smoking of hocks and such.  We just had them do the basic and left our ground pork plain.  This will mean I get to make our sausage exactly how I want it!

The break down this year:

Ham (have these cut in half) 4 packs, 20lbs
Ham Steaks                         4 packs, 8 lbs
Bacon                                 12 packs, 12 lbs
                                            3 packs, 4 lbs
Pork Steaks                        14 packs, 12.5 lbs  (next year these should be packed 2 to a pack)
Pork Chops                         17 packs, 19.5 lbs
Loin Roasts                            2 packs, 9 lbs (were supposed to be 3 lbs each, but not a big deal)
Shoulder Roasts                     4 packs, 13 lbs
Ground Pork                         21 packs, 21 lbs
Jowls                                      2 packs, 4.5 lbs
Hocks                                     4 packs, 10 lbs
Country Ribs                           1 pack, 4 lbs
Spare Ribs                              2 packs, 6 lbs
Liver                                       3 packs, 3 lbs

I didn't ask for the fat as we have lots of lard and even a sack of fat to render in the freezer (from some friends.)  The pork liver is something we've never tried, but I figure we'll feed it to the dogs if nothing else. 

146.5 lbs of take home meat, 191 lbs hanging weight, which means we had a conversion of 76.7% this year.  That is fantastic!  I'm not sure if I was generous with weights or if there was just a great conversion on this big, but we are happy with it.  Even with the slight price increase we actually came in with a better price based on take home meat.  It turned out to be $2.41/lb, which I think is pretty amazing for great pork that supported a local farmer, a local butcher and means we have a year's worth of pork.  With the things I've heard about the virus wiping out baby pigs I'm sure pork is going to be increasing in a big way this year.  I'm also glad to have our beef for the next year and a half in the freezer too as I've heard crazy increases are coming in the beef world too.  I've got 15 little chicks that are hopefully going to be in the freezer in about 6-7 weeks too.  And if all goes well in raising them I'll raise another group in the fall, which should pride us enough chicken for the year.  We'll be getting hens in less than  week too, hopefully!  So the egg production is coming in house as well....making strides!

Monday, February 3, 2014

2013 canning wrap up and grocery info

A very belated posting of this, but at least I'll have it for comparison purposes in the future!

This year I canned a lot of new recipes to play around and see if there are some new favorites out there that we just haven't tried.  I didn't have access to our big farmer's market, but I have a neighbor with a small stand that I took advantage of throughout the summer.  I also got pears from a family at church, apples from a few local trees, peaches from our Mennonite store, cucumbers from a different neighbor and lots from our own garden.  Here is more or less what was in stock at the close of the fall canning in 2013.

Applesauce 106 quarts and 7 pints
Apple slices   1 quarts and 1 pint
Peaches  20 quarts and 1 pint
Apple Jalapeno jam 11 pints and one 1/2 pint
Apple butter  4 pints
Pears 20 quarts of diced and 2 quarts of juice
Mulberry jam  9 pints, three 1/2 pints, many others given away to visitors
Cranberry Sauce 16 pints (mix of regular and with orange)
Piccadilly  5 pints (to give to Grandpa G at request of Grandma G)
Tomato chutney  6 pints
Green Tomato chutney  10 pints
Green Tomato Relish 3 pints
Brushetta 3 pints and 3 half pints
Tomato soup  9 quarts
Rotel 5 pints
Diced tomatoes 8 pints
Salsa 25+ quarts  (forgot to do a final count after last batch from freezer)
Salsa water (from frozen tomato batch) 4 quarts and 5 pints
Tomato Sauce 4 quarts
Roasted pasta sauce 4 quarts canned and 4 quarts frozen
Fiesta Corn Relish 4 pints
Dilly Beans  19 pints
Zucchini relish 6 pints
Sweet Garlic Dills 7 quarts
Honey Bread and Butter Pickles 4 quarts
Quicker Kosher Pickles 8 quarts and 1 pint
Bread and Butter 3 quarts and 1 pint
Sweet Jalapenos 6 pints
Pickled Jalapenos 1 pint
Beef stock 6 quarts

plus mixed stock, beans, pickles, zucchini relish and diced tomatoes on hand.  Cranberry sauce was from last winter and I did do a bunch of great chicken stock that isn't in these numbers.  We bought a100 pounds of potatoes from the farmer's market, as well as some cabbage that we turned into sauerkraut (5 quarts I believe).  We had 2 bushels of butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash from our old house and the market.  I frozen a LOT of mulberries (at least 5 gallons), 2 containers of black raspberries, a gallon of peaches, 20 pounds of blueberries, and 1/2 gallon of blackberries.  We froze a bunch of broccoli, a little cauliflower, zucchini, roasted beets, at least 12 pints of pumpkin puree and a LOT of green and yellow beans.  Dehydrated some mulberries, lots of apple rings, some blueberries, chives, oregano, mint, and roasted lots of pumpkin and squash seeds.  We picked up our 1/2 grass fed beef this fall and filled more than our small freezer with the huge steer!  Helped butcher chickens for the first time and brought one home to eat!  Found a source for raw milk (local home school family) and bought 5 soup chickens from them as well after their cull day. Get eggs from the son of our local meat market owners (fellow St. Stephens members) or next door neighbors.  Honey from a family near Janesville (who also turn out to be home schoolers) and maple syrup from our old connection up in Lomira.

All in all a good year for food!  A lot of what we eat comes from very close to home these days. Hoping for homegrown eggs and chickens next year a lot more home garden produce!

Our grocery total for 2013 was much, much larger than in the past!  It came in at $4769.23 for the year.  Works out to $397.43/month or $91.71/week for our family of 5.  The big increase was because of the half beef purchase, but that meat will last two years we believe.  And really when broke down by the meal it comes in at $4.37/meal, less than $1/person/meal.  Granted we don't eat every single meal at home as sometimes we are on vacation, but the huge, huge majority are eaten at home.  I pack for Mike in the summer and we take a lot of food with us when we do go away.  So I think it is fair to say we don't come in too much above that overall.  I'm so happy with our food choices (for the most part) and where we are headed and who we support that I am okay with our budget and won't be actively trying to lower it, although I do expect to have lower overall numbers next year because we won't be buying any beef, just our pork and chickens.

Here's to a great 2014!