Thursday, February 28, 2013

Lamb birth...

Lamb birth from Jody Courtney on Vimeo.

I've been hoping to get a video recording of a live lamb birth and today I just happened to have my camera in my pocket at the right time, however, I didn't quite get the actual birth recorded. I had a glitch in my video-taking skills, and one moment's glitch ended up being The Moment. Still, you will get a feel for what I mean about the ewes "dropping lambs." They literally do drop them right out sometimes, and no harm is done. In this case, she did. You'll see the lamb go from lying still, to shaking her head, and then "talking" to her mama. Mama Ewe immediately starts licking off her baby and "talks" to her. I always think that the communication between animal mothers and their babies is awesome. You see the bonds forming immediately. This ewe only had the one lamb. The flock is still leaning strong to twins and triplets with an occasional single lamb. Today our drop bunch (remaining ewes left to lamb) is down to just 21 head. We should be done lambing within a few days.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Swiss artisan bread...

Remember all the stuff I wrote about making sourdough breads?  Well, I fiddled and fiddled with it until I was tired of making heavy, dense bread that was mostly fed to the chickens.  There was a lot of pre-fermenting and long rising times to get a sourdough bread to its final baking destination, and I wouldn't have minded it too much if my loaves had turned out the way I had envisioned them.  But no.  I'm not sure if it was our northern climate or the sourdough starter itself or what, but I had pretty much given it up and then something wonderful happened.  A new recipe was found in the comments section of a sourdough website. I decided I just had to try it.  It's not a sourdough recipe though.  In fact, I think the commenter-guy, Heinz, decided that some of us out there might be sick of all this fiddle-and-fuss with sourdough and would rather spend less time and yet get great bread baking results.

The loaf you see above is the third loaf I've made in three weeks.  Hubs and I are able to polish off a loaf a week by having a slice of this bread toasted with our morning eggs.  It is just what we want to eat --  crusty on the outside, tender and light on the inside.

The recipe calls for the loaf to be made in a cloche type of clay baker which I do not have, but instead, I make my loaf in a cast iron Dutch oven.  I preheat my Dutch oven base just like they do the cloche and then I put the raised bread in when it's all heated up, pop the lid on, and bake according to the directions.  If your oven doesn't go up to 500, set it for 450.  I set mine at 450 and so far, it has come out perfectly each time.  Want to give it a try?  Here's the recipe.

Swiss Artisan Bread
I would like to share my recipe for my Swiss Artisan Bread which is simple to make, needs no preferment and hours + hours time before it is ready. I call it Swiss Artisan bread because it is closest to the bread we ate while growing up in Switzerland.  I use unbleached, organic King Arthur flour. I find that the dough develops well when the room temperature is around 77 degrees.  ~Heniz
2 cups of white Bread flour

1 cup of whole Wheat flour
½ cup of Rye flour
¼ tsp. Instant Yeast powder (Fast-Rising, Rapid-Rise, Quick Rise)
1 tsp. Honey
1 1/4 tsp. Sea Salt

1 1/2 cup filtered Water
▪ Mix together the dry ingredients in a bowl.
▪ Add in the water (with dissolved honey) and mix until the liquid is fully absorbed.
▪ Knead the dough for approx. 8-10 minutes.
▪ Let the dough rest for 90 minutes in the bowl covered with a plastic bag.
▪ Gently flatten the dough on a flat surface.
▪ Then fold it like a letter and shape it into the desired form.
▪ Transfer dough into a proofing basket lined with parchment paper.
▪ Cover with a plastic bag and let it rest for 60 minutes before baking.
▪ Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 500 with (clay baking dish).
▪ Open the hot oven and transfer the dough with parchment paper into the baking dish.
▪ Score the top & lightly sprinkle with flour.
▪ Close the cover of the baking dish and bake for 30 minutes at 500.
▪ Remove the cover and continue baking at 400 until crust is as desired (about 10-15 minutes).
Good luck and bon appetit.
I'm currently reading a book called City of Tranquil Light by Bo Cadwell.  It is a novel written about a husband and wife who were missionaries to China in the early 1900s.  Since reading it, I often think about how very much we have here in America--plentiful and bountiful foods, good water to drink, and clean  living conditions.  Compared to the rest of the world, we are so rich in so many ways.  When I saw the quote below, I thought how very true it is that most times we reach people first through feeding their hungry bodies and then we can feed their hungry souls the Bread of Life.

There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.
 ~Mahatma Gandhi

Friday, February 22, 2013

Sheepie stuff....

Say cheese!

We're still at it -- lambing that is.  We are probably two thirds done, and now we seem to be in a bit of a lull.  We had a really nice day today, perfect for having babies, but the ewes have not been dropping lambs.  I think we had only three ewes lamb today -- a single, a set of twins and triplets.  

These two bum lambs got a new mommy today -- Dr. Liz, who has eight of their cousins at her place.  She is teaching her bums to drink from a nipple bucket.  Yay! Dr. Liz!  Thank you for taking my chores away (for now).

Here's a fresh-born, wet lambie and her momma.  Her sheepie-mom thinks she looks, smells, and tastes wonderful.  I'm telling you, when I pick up one of these babies to bring it into the barn, it is slimy and wet.  That is partly why you use a crook to bring in lambs. The wetness soaks straight through my gloves.  Thank you sheepie-moms for always licking off your babies.

 Here's a friendly little fella, just two days old.  Isn't he alert and cute?  We keep all the lambs and their mothers jugged up in the barn for a day, sometimes two, to make sure they have bonded and that the lambs have sucked.  Then the set gets turned outside to another area.  All the ewes and lambs are close to a shed and are put in at night due to the chilly night temperatures.  During the day, they are let outdoors.

Sheepie-moms and their littles all soaking in the sunshine today.

Monday, February 18, 2013

A ray of light...

Up at the sheep barn I was caught off guard when I casually walked through a beam of light shining through a hole in the tin.  It was weird -- kind of like being shot without feeling it, but knowing *something* happened.  I stepped back and felt for my pocket camera and snapped a picture.  Just a cool thing.

Today I rode to town with hubby for some supplies.  He's going to build a feed bunk for the ewes with triplets.  We're going to try to feed them extra so that they can raise their own triplets instead of bumming them.  We'll see how that goes.  It's sometimes hard for a ewe to raise three lambs when there are only two spigots.

While Hubs was running errands, OnlyDaughter, her two Littles, and I went thrifting.  We found childrens clothes for the girls, and I found some fun dishes.  For six bucks I got 4 plates, 4 salad plates, 2 cups, 2 saucers, a sugar bowl with lid and creamer.  OnlyDaughter took a couple plates for her plate wall and I took home the rest. 

 After washing up the dishes, I decided I really liked them.  Initially the sugar bowl and creamer caught my eye, but now the rest of the dishes are growing on me.  After supper I decided to go looking for the brand online:  Taylor Smith Taylor Ironstone, USA.  I found that this style is a collectable  made in the 50s and 60s.  Now that I have these few pieces, I'm going to keep my eyes open for others.  I like this retro look and shape.

 Mint by Taylor Smith & Taylor Ironstone

There is another style that is popular in the Taylor Smith & Taylor line called Atomic and a similar pattern called Cathay that looks like the dishes below.  Again, another very retro look that I think is fun.  I'm going to keep a sharp eye out for this style too.  I love thrift shops, and how much bang I can get from a buck.  It's like the barn -- a beam of light shines onto old, forgotten things, and I see them in a different light.

Atomic by Smith Taylor & Smith

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sunday dessert -- Chouquettes...

I am really on a roll now, aren't I?  When I'm not mucking pens at the lambing barn, it's food, food, food that I'm thinking about.  Perhaps I'm hungry?

After chores today, I came home and fiddled around on Pinterest a while and found this adorable British chef who has a show on BBC called Little Paris Kitchen, Cooking with Rachel Khoo.  She also has a book by the same name now published in the USA!   It will be promptly put into my Wish List.  For now, I'm watching a few of Rachel's videos, and one that caught my eye in particular was for Chouquettes (pronounced:  shoo kets').  To me, these are little cream puffs without the cream, but in France, chouquettes!  They are sweet and baked crisp with crystal sugar and -- if you like -- chocolate chips, sprinkled on top.  These were/are our Sunday dessert treat.  Crispy sweetness!

About 25 Puffs
From The Sweet Life in Paris (Broadway Books)
Shaping the mounds of dough is easiest to do with a pastry bag, although you can use two spoons or a spring-loaded ice cream scoop.
1 cup (250ml) water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
6 tablespoons (90g) unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
1 cup (135g) flour
4 large eggs, at room temperature
Glaze: 1 egg yolk, mixed with 1 teaspoon milk
Crystal sugar (Coarse sugar is available here and in specialty baking shops)
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees (220 C.) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
2. Heat the water, salt, sugar, and butter in a small saucepan, stirring, until the butter is melted. Remove from heat and dump all the flour in at once. Stir rapidly until the mixture is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the pan.
3. Allow dough to cool for two minutes, then briskly beat in the eggs, one at a time, until smooth and shiny.
4. Using two spoons, scoop up a mound of dough with one spoon roughly the size of a whole walnut, and scrape it off with the other spoon onto the baking sheet.
5. Place the mounds evenly-spaced apart on the baking sheet. Brush the top of each mound with some of the egg glaze then press coarse sugar crystals over the top and sides of each mound. Use a lot. Once the puffs expand rise, you’ll appreciate the extra effort (and sugar.)
6. Bake the cream puffs for 35 minutes, or until puffed and well-browned.
(If you want to make them crispier, you can poke a hole in the side with a knife after you take them out of the oven to let the steam escape.)
The cream puffs are best eaten the same day they’re made. Once cooled, they can be frozen in a zip-top freezer bag for up to one month. Defrost at room temperature, then warm briefly on a baking sheet in a moderate oven, until crisp.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Apple-Bacon Slaw...

OK, here's another salad for you to try.  It's been splashed all over Pinterest, and I decided to give it a whirl today since I had most of the ingredients on hand.  Let me say this -- it was a big hit, and I could've eaten the whole bowl myself, but I resisted.  It definitely gets a "do again label" in this house.  I hope you like it too.

Apple-Bacon Slaw
revised from original recipe at Ghetto Foodie

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup mayonnaise
3 T. brown sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
 juice from 1/2 fresh lemon
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 medium cabbage, cored, shredded
1/2 lb. of bacon fried crispy then broken up into small bits
Half a medium onion (or green onions or scallions) chopped fine
4 firm apples, peeled, cored and grated
1 carrot, grated (for color)
Mix first six ingredients to make dressing.  (I added a couple teaspoons of the bacon fat to the dressing for more flavor.)  In a large bowl, combine cabbage, apples, carrot, onion, everything except the bacon.  Pour the dressing on and mix.  Let sit in the fridge a few hours to let flavors meld.  Just before serving, add crumbled bacon on top.  Stick a fork in it!

We've had mild weather here for lambing and it's going so very well.  We have had mostly twins and triplets and just six singles born out of about 55 head of ewes.  Thankfully, one of our local  veterinarians is going to take at least 20 bum lambs!  You have no idea how grateful I am for that.  We sent her 8 bummies today.  Lots more lambs yet to come.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Rancher Chopped Salad...

 I promised you a recipe inspired by my trip to Arizona and by a chopped salad my friend and I had at Cowboy Ciao.  Well, here it is.  What I especially loved about the Stetson Chopped Salad we ate in Scottsdale was the presentation -- layers of ingredients, and my favorite taste on the plate was the dried corn.  As soon as I got home, I looked up dried sweet corn for sale on Amazon.  Sure you can buy it, but it'll cost you half the ranch for a 16 oz. bag so I knew I had to figure out something different.  I Googled "roasting or drying corn kernels" and came up with many ideas.  The simplest one was to roast the corn in a skillet  which I tried tonight, and there were a couple other ways to dry-roast corn in the oven here and here.   I tried the second oven-roasting recipe using a cookie sheet, olive oil, frozen (or fresh) corn, and salt and it turned out beautifully.  Whatever you do, don't skip the corn.

The recipe that I concocted goes something like this:
Rancher Chopped Salad

Ground beef, browned with salt, pepper, chili powder
Black beans, drained
Avocado, chopped
Red or orange sweet peppers, chopped
Roasted or dried sweet corn
Leaf Lettuce or Romaine, chopped
Your favorite Salsa and Spicy Dressing on the side or over the top.
Tortilla chips or homemade tortilla chips

Cook enough beef and chop enough of the above ingredients to serve the number of people you are feeding.  You could layer this salad on a large platter like I did or on individual plates.  The idea is to make it look beautiful before you toss it all together with the salsa and dressing to eat it.

Spicy Dressing:

One part plain yogurt
One part sour cream or mayonnaise (or combination of the two)
Sprinkle cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper to your taste.
Whisk together and pour over salad.

For the chips, I took two multi-grain tortillas, sprayed them with pan spray and salted them.  Then I put them in a 350* oven for 8 minutes or so until they were golden.

 Here it is on my plate, all jumbled together with dressing poured on top!  Ummm!

The chopped salad at the restaurant was not a spicy dish.  It did include Scandinavian smoked salmon for the meat part.  I could see my Rancher Chopped Salad made with a good pan-fried Talapia or Cod for a fish taco style salad.  You could even substitute shredded cabbage for the greens.  I am definitely going to do that some night.  I hope you try this salad or make up your own version of it.  Just don't forget the roasted corn!  It's the very best part!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Heart making....

The Girls came over today!  My daughter and her two daughters, and my DIL and her two girlies.  We decided at about 9:00 this morning that we wanted to get together and have a Valentine-Making-Fest.  So we did.  Lots of glue and paper, bows and doilies, stickers and stamps.  We got some great inspiration from Dawn at 4:53.

 We added our own twists to the fancy Victorian style Valentines by adding our modern day lingo to them.  That was fun!  The two 'tines below will go to my single sons.   Pretty good, eh?

 And just for a little interest, I'm adding some sheepie fun!  We had 5 ewes drop lambs today.  One single, 3 sets of twins and one set of triplets.  This lamb was one of the triples.  He's all wet except for his fuzzy head.  Momma Sheep got that part cleaned up first.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Back home on the range...

 From the Valley of the Sun to Home on the Range...

The weather was perfect, the golf was good, the company was lovely, warm, and inviting, and a good time was had by all.  Hubs took in a couple rounds of golf with J, and we watched our son play tournament college golf for two days.  We walked a mostly-green golf course under sunny skies, caught some rays, and took home sun tans. It was great!

Our son took 7th place in a field of 54 competitors and was just 4 strokes behind the first place golfer.  He was not thrilled with his rounds, but he is back to work practicing for up-coming tournaments.  For me, it was just good to watch him play and to give and get hugs.

We enjoyed good visits with our friends, conversing late into the evening and eating delicious foods and desserts made by my foodie-friend, K.  She also treated me to a fun thrift store outing along with lunch at a fine restaurant called Cowboy Ciao in Scottsdale.  We shared both signature dishes that are featured in the link -- Stetson Chopped Salad and Exotic Mushroom Pan Fry.  Unforgettable.  Stay tuned for recipe ideas that I have in my head, inspired by Cowboy Ciao.

We had perfect weather for driving home.  We flew down and drove back with our CarpenterSon's new-used Chevy truck from AZ to SD.  The truck drove like a dream, the road conditions were perfect, and it was an interesting first-time drive for us making our way through Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota and finally home to Montana.  I knew that New Mexico and Colorado had drought this past year and even before that, but I had no idea how bad it was.  There was no grass, I mean NO grass in the pastures where we drove.  I thought we had had a drought this past year (we did), but we look like lush paradise in comparison to NM and southern CO.  We saw very few cattle out there and those few we did see were being fed hay or were in feedlots.  

I almost forgot one more favorite eatery recommended by K -- the Range Cafe in Bernalillo, NM.  Can you see the cows sitting on the awning?  We enjoyed a delicious lunch here.  If you're ever driving through Albuquerque on your way north, be sure to stop by for some good eats!

Back home on the range, there was a set of twins that were born on February 7th.  This mother ewe actually started out with triplets, but the one was small and sickly and died shortly after birth.  Since Friday, we've had two more sets of twins.  The weather has changed from mild to cold and windy.  Today's high is 24* with winds gusting to 40 mph and occasional snow.  Needless to say, the ewes are locked in the  lot near the barn where they can go in and out and where we can keep a close watch on them.

It was a great little get-away for us, and we feel blessed and re-energized, but as always, there's no place like home and sleeping in your own comfy bed. 


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