Thursday, October 31, 2013

Monday, October 28, 2013

Cold enough for....

Doughnut supper. 
24*  a little snow and howling wind. 

 Page 619 of The Joy.
No Knead Yeast Coffee Cake or Panettone
(minus all the fruit & nuts)

 Cast iron skillet and fresh tallow.

 I make doughnuts like Mrs. Wilder --
Almanzo's mom -- from the book, Farmer Boy.

Almanzo took the biggest doughnut from the pan and bit off its crisp end. Mother was rolling out the golden dough, slashing it into long strips, rolling and doubling and twisting the strips. Her fingers flew; you could hardly see them. The strips seemed to twist themselves under her hands, and to leap into the big copper kettle of swirling hot fat.  Plump! they went to the bottom, sending up bubbles. Then quickly they came popping up, to float and slowly swell, till they rolled themselves over, their pale golden backs going into the fat and their plump brown bellies rising out of it.

None of this round doughnut cutting stuff for me. I like self-turning doughnuts.
I dip mine in cinnamon sugar, bite by bite.

I had a little time to work on a Wee project today.
It was a good day.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Rendering suet into tallow...

 We ordered a quarter beef from our local butcher recently, and I asked them to save some of the suet to render into lovely tallow that will be used for frying everything from doughnuts to chicken.   Here's how I did it.  First you start out with the beef fat frozen from the box.  I refrigerated a big hunk of it overnight and in the morning, I chopped up the suet into small pieces and placed it in my crock pot.  I set the crock pot on high for about an hour to heat it up and then turned it down to low for the rest of the rendering.  The process took about 3-4 hours before I was ready to strain off the cracklin's from the melted tallow.  Just so you know, my Hubby thinks the rendering smell is strong, and it is, but I rather like the smell of it. I did make a point to open the windows today.

Tallow is an excellent source of niacin, vitamins B6, B12, K2, selenium, iron, phosphorus, potassium and riboflavin. Grassfed beef tallow contains high ratio of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which is a cancer-resistant agent. Contrary to the popular conception, tallow is good for health as tallow fat is similar to the fat/muscles in the heart. Recent studies have shown that human beings need at least 50% of saturated fats like tallow and lard to keep the heart pumping hard and healthy. Tallow from pasture-raised cows also contains a small amount of Vitamin D, similar to lard.
- See more at:
I used a metal strainer lined with paper towel to strain off the bits of crispy fat from the melted fat.  After the majority of oil was strained, I pressed down on the cracklins to release more oil.  I came up with three pints of rendered fat.  When it is in liquid form, it has a yellow tint to it, but when it's cooled and hard, it turns white.  I put my tallow in wide-mouth pint jars so when it comes time to use it, I won't be fishing it out of a narrow-mouth quart jar.  Tallow is a very hard fat, harder than lard, and scooping it out can be a difficult chore.

I'll store two of these in the freezer and one in the fridge to use right away.  As I remember, my mother-in-love always had a pail of store-bought lard that she kept at room temperature in her baking cupboard.  She never refrigerated it, but simply dipped out of it as she needed it.  Since this fat does not have any preservatives, I think I'll keep it refrigerated like I do with my bacon fat.  I like to save bacon fat for frying too.  It gives everything such a punch of flavor.  Who doesn't like bacon fat?

 You may ask why I would want to render beef suet into tallow.  Well, there are many good reasons.  One reason is because tallow is good for you and has many health benefits.  From

Tallow is an excellent source of niacin, vitamins B6, B12, K2, selenium, iron, phosphorus, potassium and riboflavin. Grassfed beef tallow contains high ratio of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which is a cancer-resistant agent. Contrary to the popular conception, tallow is good for health as tallow fat is similar to the fat/muscles in the heart. Recent studies have shown that human beings need at least 50% of saturated fats like tallow and lard to keep the heart pumping hard and healthy. Tallow from pasture-raised cows also contains a small amount of Vitamin D, similar to lard.
- See more at:

It is also an excellent fat for deep frying at high temperatures -- much better than vegetable oils.  Did you know that McDonald's used to use tallow to fry their famous French Fries?  And our foremothers used to render beef and pork fat for their cooking and baking purposes as well as for soap making and candles.  Nothing went to waste, not even the fat of a butchered animal.

Here is the finished product, all creamy white and ready for cooking.  I'll use a little of it for frying in my cashew chicken recipe tonight (using walnuts instead).  The weather is supposed to turn really cold here in the next few days.  An Alberta Clipper is moving down from the north and will bring cold temps with highs only in the 20s, maybe some snow too.  Brrrr.  I'm thinking about making one of our traditional, cold-weather Doughnut Suppers this week.

Other how-to links on rendering beef and pork fat:
Prairie Homesteader

Friday, October 25, 2013

Cows, leaves, bugs, and bones...

 I wish I could have taken you with me a couple days ago.  We pregnancy tested our mature cows, and then Hubs and I trailed them out to the North Pasture the next morning.  It was a fascinating morning to me.  There was a light fog, and yet it was fairly warm.  The sun kept trying to break through, but just could not.  All along the way I was appreciating the last tidbits of fall that will soon vanish with a hard freeze or two and the setting in of winter.  There were grasses that had turned a bright orange, seeds set on the sagebrush, light green lichens that were scattered like leaves all over the ground.  I spotted something bright white in the pasture and drove over to it to find it was a pile of antelope bones.  I picked up the skull and horns to bring home.

Once the cows and calves were through the pasture gate, they immediately put their heads down and began to graze hard.  There was so much grass there, they thought they had Arrived in Heaven!  They had.  We hope to keep them there as long as the weather permits.  When the reservoirs freeze over, they'll come home where we can keep a close eye on them.

 I've been making time for walks and for afternoon sun bathing on the front porch.  I want to soak up the warm days and all they contain before they are gone. The grandgirls were here for the morning and we picked up pretty leaves to admire and watched a lady bug.  Later on, I brought the leaves in, brushed them with Mod Podge, let them dry, and strung them into garlands with needle and embroidery floss.  I promised the girls I would bring them each a string of leaves to hang in their windows.  I made some for my windows too.  When the sun shines through the windows at about 4:00 in the afternoon, they nearly glow.  Simple pleasure.

Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.  ~Henry David Thoreau

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Wiggly line quilting...

Because you asked, I have a close-up picture here of the wiggly line quilting I did on the Little Boy Blue Quilt.  Nothing special.  Totally free-style.  Just three wiggles going straight through the blocks one way and one wiggle going through each block the other way.  You can see it best through the darker block on the left. Here's a link to the wiggle idea. and another LINK to Christina's many other good, simple quilting ideas from her blog, A Few Scraps.  Thanks for the quilty-love you so generously gave me.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Li'l Boy Blue's quilt...

Little Boy Blue come blow your horn
The sheep's in the meadow
The cow's in the corn.
Where is the boy who looks after the sheep?
He's under the haystack fast asleep.

~Mother Goose

Another quilt is done. 
It's for Li'l Boy Blue, our new grandboy.

I did a simple wiggly line free-motion quilt design.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Time for play...

Yesterday I read Gretchen Joanna's blog post, What You Put in the Dough You'll Find in the Cake.  It's a great article about children and the education we "bake into the cake" that is their lives.  It got me to thinking about modern families living in this high tech, modern world.  It can't be easy.  Raising children isn't, but how much more complicated is it today compared to when we were kids?  It made me realize how fortunate and blessed I've been to raise my children in a quiet place in the country away from a fast-paced world that has little time for children who want to dawdle about a flower garden or climb trees or lie in the grass watching clouds go by.

I've been doing some thinking about the children I know and love.  My own children are grown and off living their lives, some of them with children of their own.  I feel blessed to be near my grandchildren, and since I am, I see them lots and I feel like I know them in a very intimate yet ordinary way.  I watch them play, and sometimes I play with them.  Most of the time, I am just outdoors working at something and they are with me.  We aren't doing anything special.  We just do ordinary things together, but for some reason, the children think it's magical at Gram's house and the best fun ever.  I tell my kids that I really do not spoil their children, I just do my thing with the grandkids by my side, and they are mostly doing their things.  There are times when the Littles want to help me:  watering plants with a watering can, picking up sticks from the lawn, or carrying buckets of apples or fresh-picked carrots.  Most of the time though, they are playing by themselves. 

What I love to do is to watch them play out of the corner of my eye.  I rarely tell them what to do, but I do offer them a few tools to "play" with.  There are garden shovels and tin plates to make mud pies and dirt cakes. There have been many birthday cakes made for the dogs, Sue and Charlie, complete with flower seed sprinkles or flower petal decorations on top.  Shovels also create castles or dig holes for "planting" plucked flowers.  The Littles find out quickly that rootless flowers don't stay pretty for long.


In the flower garden there are tiny pebbles that act as a mulch, but to the children, they are beautiful, colorful gems to be studied and spilled from hand to hand.  There is a large ocean rock in the garden that has finger-sized holes all over it, and it makes the the very best sorting bin.  Smooth pebbles go into the holes and some spill out of holes.  Again and again they are dumped out and refilled. 

Seed study happens all through the summer.  The children are naturally curious, so an unusual flower seed pod is instantly spotted and picked and given to me to identify or to find the seeds within.  Poppy seeds are such fun to shake out like a pepper shaker.  Flax and Love-in-a-Mist pods crumble and reveal small pepper-sized seeds too.  Hollyhock seeds are like many tiny slices of bread all in a circle.  What a beautiful play-ground God made.  

There are always sticks lying around and the dogs will gladly play fetch as long as wee hands will throw the sticks.  Dogs also must withstand having water poured on them from a watering can or dirt sprinkled over them -- all in good fun, of course.

Another game that is played is Running Down the Hill to the apple trees below and back up.  Don't we all wish we had that youthful energy to run up and down hills all day?  The very best hill game is Rolling Down the Hill.  This, I confess, I did teach them.  I remember rolling down grassy  hills when I was a girl, and I thought my granchildren would think it fun too.  They do!  So much giggling happens when one rolls down hills, and so much dizzy walking after.

There are big rocks to climb on and sit on and pretend on.  It is also fun to pour water on rocks for some reason.  Maybe it's the splashing.  It must be because the other favorite play to be had is when I take the children to the pond near our house.  What do we do there?  We scare up frogs that hop into the water, we throw sticks in the water for the dogs to fetch, and we throw rocks in the water.  Why?  To watch them splash, of course.  Big rocks make big splashes and little rocks make little splashes and sticks float.  Great lessons.

The Big October Snow gave us some fun with sledding and snowballs and snowmen.  When the temperatures begin to really freeze this winter, we'll go back to the pond for ice skating.  Peach reminded me that we must remember to skate when the pond freezes over like we did last year.  Do you remember the pink skates?  

 I'm writing down all these ordinary play ideas to remind myself and to remind parents that children don't need a lot of stuff to be very happy at playing.  The only real toys that stood the test of time at our house were wood blocks, Legos, Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys, a few puzzles for little ones, Tonka trucks and toy tractors, and books.  Are books toys?  I'm not sure, but they stimulate the imagination and play, so I'll count them.  My favorite toys to give are books.

What I learned from my own children is that they needed a Time for Play.  What I am enjoying with my grandchildren is watching them make their own Play.  When I say that children need time for play, I don't mean a time for organized sports with parents dictating and running it.  That is something altogether different. I'm talking about children deciding to play ball together or make mud pies or make tents under the clothesline without any adults telling them how (unless asked).  I'm talking about giving children the freedom and time to think their own thoughts and play their own kinds of play.  Just yesterday I watched Peach and Toodles play with a fuzzy caterpillar for over an hour.  They talked to it, and set it down here on a log and there on the grass, and then they let it crawl on their arms and stuck it to their shirts.  The word, wonder comes to mind.  I think wonder and play go together well, don't you?  What are some favorite kinds of play you remember growing up?

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Window project...

(window before)

*Weather Alert:  We had 12+" of snow fall yesterday and overnight.  The mountains had over 40" of snow.  The poor trees are greatly bowed and broken with snow heavy on their branches -- still in leaf.  Today will be spent checking on livestock and feeding since grazing is buried.  Now back to your regularly scheduled blog post.

Back in January of 2012 my hubby, dad and sons helped refurbish my 1990s kitchen.  This was how it looked when it was done and the wooden window, which I love, always looked a bit out of place to me.  I tried lots of window dressings, but it always seemed to just stick out like a cow on a city street.  Note the florescent lighting above.  It's very dated, I know.  It was honey oak.  I really didn't want to rip it out and do something totally different because quite honestly, I love the light it provides in my kitchen -- no shadows and lots of light. I thought painting it the same color as the ceiling would disguise it, and it did help.  Then one day my CarpenterSon said, "Mom, have you ever thought about painting the grids in the light black?"  That got me to thinking and imagining.  The next day I painted.  I loved it.  It got me to thinking about that window.  I figured if I liked the light grids painted black, I might like the window grids black too.  I saw this photo (below) on Pinterest and loved it and imagined it in my own kitchen.  Then I did it.  I painted my window.

( After -- window and florescent light)


I'm pleased.  I have another large picture window with the same grids by the dining table.  I am considering the same treatment for it, but it's too late in the year to paint it.  The temperatures have to be warm enough to really make the paint dry hard and dry well.  So in the meantime, I'll just think about it and live with the small, happy progress I made.  I found a quote from Nesting Place today that I really love.

We find rest in the incompleteness of the present moment 
as we learn to recognize the goodness of what is, 
and as we trust that what is needed for the future will be added at the proper time.

~Sally Breedlove  Choosing Rest

Friday, October 04, 2013

Got snow?

Yesterday was the perfect fall day, glorious in every way.  It was one of those days you really savor and try to etch in your memory because you know there are so few of them left.  It was the "calm before the storm."  This morning we woke up to goose down snowflakes falling heavy and wet.  The trees, still in leaf, are bending and touching the ground.  We whacked off as much snow from the lower limbs and small trees as we could.  Hubs had a long wood pole and I had a golf cub.  Sadly, as I walked around the premises all I heard was the snapping of branches from the surrounding shelter belts and trees.    We received 1.6" of rain yesterday and now snow on top of the wet mud.  I'm estimating 6" so far with much of snow melting underneath as the ground is warm.  In the higher elevations and hills they are expecting 2 feet of snow today.  The electricity is down here and in some of the surrounding towns.  OnlyDaughter has her wood-burning stove going in her house in town with a pot of chilli on top.  (smart girl!)

Now the wind is picking up and the weatherman says we'll have blizzard conditions.  I'd say we've got a good blizzard going right now.  I'm so thankful for a cozy warm house.  Blessed.


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