Fiber U 2015

A couple of weeks ago I made my annual trek to Lebanon, Missouri for Fiber U.  Liz does such a wonderful job organizing this event, and it’s always a good time.  And this time, it was our maiden vending voyage for Show Me Yarn!

Here we are setting up the booth.

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The only bad thing about that weekend was the seedy hotel we stayed at, where our room had to have been shut up for weeks and they didn’t bother to turn the air conditioning on knowing we’d be in that room.  It was at least 95 degrees inside when we checked in, and running the A/C at full blast on the lowest setting probably only got it to 75 by midnight.  What that meant was I didn’t sleep that night – at all.  And I had an 8:00 a.m. class to teach.   I felt bad that I wasn’t at my best, but there was nothing I could do.

The rest of the weekend was great, and we learned a lot about vending.  Next up, Fiber Daze in Mt. Vernon, Missouri!

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Farewell, My Pet

At the end of June, we had to say goodbye to our beloved DarthPuppy, Jed.  It’s still unbearably hard for me to write this, and to be in a house where he’s not running and jumping and his tail going ninety-to-nothing when it’s time for his cookie.

It was the hardest decision we had to make because he was so young, having just celebrated his 6th birthday, but the injury to his back would have meant a very difficult surgery and rehab, and kept immobile in a crate for many weeks.  It wasn’t the best life for him, or for us, so we made the difficult decision to let him go.

We miss him so very much.

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Jed's Christmas Coat from Grandma

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The Best Laid Plans

So much for keeping the blog updated on a timely basis. This summer has just been crazy, in more ways than one.

My last post was a garden update, so let’s pick up where we left off. Our plan was to grow a “salad bed” with lettuce, spinach, and Swiss chard, along with several tomato and pepper plants, cucumbers, onions, carrots, and last, the strawberry bed.

We got started late in our planting, so the salad plants weren’t doing too well. Then it rained. And rained some more. And it didn’t stop raining. We had a 100-year flood that caused the James River to completely cover part of Campbell Avenue, which is a very busy 6-lane road. Not to mention all the other low-lying areas and low-water crossings that were under high water. What this meant for the garden was that the tomatoes stayed green for a very long time, and the cucumbers grew to enormous proportions because we couldn’t get out to harvest them. Once the tomatoes started to ripen, they were good, but many were small, and there haven’t been enough ripe at one time to make salsa or marinara sauce to can or freeze.

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I did finally make some refrigerator pickles this past weekend, and Robert says they’re excellent. Unfortunately, I don’t like pickles. At all.

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The herb garden also suffered from the massive quantities of rain. Right now the planters are overgrown and a mess, and although I got some cuttings hung to dry, I’ve yet to freeze any fresh herbs. I even bought some special ice cube trays for that purpose.

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Along with the rains, we had storms – and some were doozies. Lightning crashed very close to our home and shook the walls so badly that it knocked pictures off of a shelf in our bedroom and flung them across the room. It also knocked out our well pump, which meant no water (and no shower) that morning. No fun!

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We are fortunate to live in a time where we are not solely dependent on our own homestead for food, although we’d like to move closer to that model. But I find it hard to imagine those who lived even 100 years earlier who had no other options. Praying for rain during times of drought, or praying for the rains to stop, or the bugs and deer and rabbits not to eat what grows (so far, we’ve been lucky on that front). I long for a simpler life, but it’s nice to have a backup when my plans don’t work out.

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Garden Update – June 2015

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a garden update, but then again, it takes time for things to grow. We’ve had plenty of rain this spring, so most everything is going well.

We have tomato plants growing like crazy, and our first baby green tomato! Robert built some clever posts to act as cages, and then next spring we can attach heavy-duty plastic sheeting and turn our raised beds into cold boxes.

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Those are onions peeking out between the tomato rows.

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The cucumbers look like they’re going to be successful.

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Our salad bed, with the lettuce, spinach, and Swiss chard still have some growing to do.

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We just tossed carrot seeds in the dirt, so they need to be thinned out, desperately, LOL!

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We’ve enjoyed a handful of fresh strawberries here and there, but are expecting as the plants spread to have an excess next year.

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We also started some alpine strawberries from seed, and even though we’re late getting started, we’ll still transplant them to the strawberry bed when they’re big enough.

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The herb garden is quite successful, except that we’ve got so much we can’t possibly use it all. There’s nothing like fresh mint in a pitcher of cold water on a hot summer day, though. I do have some basil, dill, and parsley drying in the pantry.

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So everything is growing well, and while I impatiently wait, I’m researching canning and freezing methods. :-)

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Holy Cow!

Robert and I have discussed buying a side of beef several times, but never were able to pull the trigger, so to speak.  As luck would have it, though, I learned a few weeks ago that our friend Kirk had half a cow remaining for sale, so we decided to go for it.

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There are a lot of websites and blog posts that talk about how to buy a side of beef, from finding a farmer, to determining how much of the cow you should buy, to selecting cuts, to the type of freezer you should have.  Talk about information overload!  We got to skip the first steps this time since we bought from a friend.  He arranged to deliver the cow to the butcher, where steps were taken that I really don’t need or want to know about before we finally got the call to find out how we wanted our cuts.

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Half a cow is a lot of meat.  On average, the beef is 1/3 of the hanging weight, which in our case was 900 lbs.  So there was approximately 300 lbs of beef, and we purchased half of that.  Since it’s just me and Robert, we were more interested in getting cuts of steak and roast, rather than maximizing the ground beef.  I also made sure that we requested the bones for soup.

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Yesterday, our meat was ready for pickup, and we were told to bring 3-4 large coolers.  We didn’t have that many, so we borrowed them from Steve and Ginger.  There’s something a little wrong about filling Chick-fil-A coolers with beef – “eat more chicken – really?”  LOL

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When we got home, we unpacked the coolers on the island to sort the meat and take inventory.  By having a list, we can flag that the rib roasts are for our rock salt prime rib, and also keep track of how many pounds of hamburger are remaining after a summer of grilling.

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After the inventory, it was time to fill the freezer.  Although I could have fit everything into what I like to call our “big-a$$ upright freezer,” I kept the steaks a little more accessible in the bottom freezer portion of our refrigerator.  After all was said and done, we actually ended up with right at 136 lbs of beef.

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So . . . what things do you need to think about when buying a side of beef?

  1. Find a farmer you trust, and learn how the cow was cared for and fed (ours was primarily grass fed).
  2. Save your pennies. Half a cow is expensive, and then you’ll also pay for the butchering fees.
  3. Make sure you have freezer space to store your beef. Usually websites say that a side of beef will feed a family of four for about a year, but Robert and I eat more meat than most people, so we don’t expect ours to last quite that long.
  4. Diversify. I not only put part of our meat in a different freezer for space and accessibility reasons, but also as a hedge against an appliance dying.  We want to protect our investment.
  5. Prepare to plan meals further in advance. You’ve got to give your meat time to thaw.
  6. Plan to learn different ways to cook various kinds of beef.  What exactly is a Pike’s Peak/Heel Roast anyway?
  7. Expect to have family and friends inviting themselves over for dinner a lot more often.  :-)

Did we save money on this investment?  Maybe, maybe not.  We paid a little more per pound for high quality ground beef on sale at the grocery store, but a lot less per pound for our steaks.  I also expect our monthly grocery budget to decrease significantly as well.  But more importantly, we don’t have to worry about chemicals and additives in our meat.  And that, my friends, is priceless.

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