Archive for March, 2012

Shopping: the New Frontier

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Yesterday was one of two days a month I try to get ALL of my shopping done.  Occassionally, I forget enough stuff on my list that I have to make another trip or two to the store, but I don’t like doing that and try hard to avoid it if possible.  Why you may ask?

Number one is pretty obvious… gas prices are far too high and I am the one who can cut back.  Pioneer Pa is not able to do that as well as I can, he must be able to get to and from his town-job… so we are trying to put the fuel into Pa’s gas tank instead of in mine wherever possible.

Number two… getting to and from the store and doing all the shopping uses large chunks of Ma’s time and Ma’s physical energy.  In short, it’s a tiring and time-consuming.

Number three… I’d just rather be at home getting stuff done here and not running from store to store to bank to post office etc.

So, yesterday, I shopped for groceries at two different stores (and still managed to forget a couple things), picked up some garden seeds and a bottle of propane (for cooking and clothes dryer) and 2 thrift shops for childrens clothes, kitchen items, patterns and fabric.

But then again, sometimes shopping can be fun.  The fun part of our shopping trip ended up being the part where the Littlest Pioneer Girl and mama were “junking around” in the thrift stores.  We found 5 yards of really cute yellow and lime green seersucker type fabric to make pretty summer outfits for Anna, several patterns for sewing teddy bears, quite a few sewing notions, including some lace, snaps and zippers, 2 pairs of pants for Farmer Boy Charles who’s in the middle of a growth spurt, a pair of adorable pale pink dress shoes and a light jacket in a red banadana print for Anna, a tupperware canister for storing rice (I may use it for brown rice) and a never-been-used Bob the Builder character cake pan made Wilton (at about 1/2 price of new) for one of the boy’s birthday.  Had it been a Thursday, I’d have also hit other thrift store in town too.  However, I was rather sad to see that our local consignment shop had gone out of business.

This part of the shopping day started out being a search for Anna a pair of pretty white dress shoes to go with her Christening Gown, since she will be Baptized on Easter in DeSmet, SD in the church that was built by Laura Ingalls Wilder’s father, Charles Ingalls and many of their neighbors over 125 years ago.  We didn’t find what we were looking for, bought the pink shoes for her even though they are a size too big (infant’s size 3, she currently wears size 2) because they were so cute and she will grow into them before fall.

We have been doing much of our clothing and housewares shopping at thrift shops in the last 18 months or so.  Like so many of our ancestral “Ma’s” of yesteryear… I know that shopping for gently used items in second hand shops, consignment shops and at yard/garage sales (particularly for items like baby clothes and childrens clothes) will stretch our family budget much further orver purchasing new items.

Several of the best finds I’ve made in the thift shops in recent memory had to do with housewares.  In the last 12 months, I’ve found a huge dresser for Farmer Boy Charles’ clothes ($45), a bassinet-sized handmade baby crib which the Littlest Pioneer Girl is currently using ($10), a pan for making hamburger buns ($4), the above mentioned cake pan ($5) and a coffee pot ($3).

That $3 coffee pot has outlasted  the last 2 slightly fancerier brand new models that were purchased for about $20 each and only held up for about 6 months of regular use.  And because I bought it used at the3 Salavation Army, not only did I help somebody in need… I won’t be totally annoyed if this coffee pot kicks-the-bucket on me sometime in the next year or so… the daily pot of coffee or so that it has given me steadily, everyday fro the last year are worht far more than the $3 we spent to purchase it.

This past Christmas, we did most of our clothing gift shopping in the thrift stores too.  Pa recieved several nice shirts and sweaters.  The Farmer Boys each got several shirts, pants and ties and Anna got lots of girlie clothes.  I took each of the boys separately with me to the thrift store, gave them $25 and had them choose a nice church outfit for each other, an outfit for their sister and something for Dad.  This is an effort by us as parents to combat the commercialism of Christmas, to teacher the value of money, helping fellow citizens in our communtiy, and the value of giving to others.

Farmer Boy Charles in particular struggles with a very selfish mindset.  Not because he is a mean or selfish child, but because people with autism disorders have a great deal of difficulty understanding the feelings of others. The only feelings they understand are their own and so they are very focused on people giving gifts to them but have difficulty understanding the opposite of that… giving to others and helping others.  Teaching this lesson to Charles may take many many years to cement for him, it will take lots of repetition to get the idea of giving rather than recieving into his brain.

As times become more and more tough economically for families, more and more Americans are discovering the New Shopping Frontier!  The New Shopping Frontier is shopping for gently used clothing, furniture, toys, household items and more.  Families and teens in particular are learning to take second hand items and upcycling them into something new or more “cool” than the original item was considered.  With a few basic sewing skills, an iron, a hot glue gun and items to add interest purchased also in thrift shops or craft stores, simple wardrobe basics like jeans or handbags can be upcycled into something very unique or interesting.

In the April-May Issue of Mary Jane’s Farm (the Everyday Organic Lifestyle Magazine http://www.maryjanesfarm.org if you would like to check it out to see if you want to subscribe to this mag or not, Mary Jane has a lot of interesting homesteading inf o on her website and in her mag) there is an excellent article about Upcycling Wedding Gowns.  For a bride looking for a gown, it is worth looking at 2nd Hand Shops and Consignment shops first for a gown that could be upcycled into a unique gown you’ll love before shopping for a mass produced, reasonably priced cookie-cutter gown or an extremely expensive custom made one.  A bride or family member of the bride or who has some basic sewing and other decorative D.I.Y. skills can take a pre-loved Wedding gown and turn it into something truly unique and special.  In a tough economy, you can still create a goregous wedding on a tight budget.  This is one area that many couples are really going overboard on, often spending more on a wedding (usually of Mommy and Daddy’s money) than they could afford on their first home.  Parents are starting to look at their kids and say “look we just can’t afford the sit-down-dinner-for-300-people” type of wedding.

My own wedding (which will be 10 years ago on June 29th) was a D.I.Y wedding.  Pa and I both wanted a Christmas Wedding, but we lived in Idaho at the time and travel at that time of year was uncertain at best.  So we decided on a Christmas In June wedding instead.  In doing so, my mother and I banded together to purchase clearanced Holiday decor at 50% to 90% off to decorate the church and reception.  My 1st choice of wedding gown was far out of my budget, so I bought my second choice gown ($250 new) and embellished it with the help of my mother with lace that I fell in love with.  (I wish I’d had the article from Mary Jane’s Farm to read at the time… I’d probably have embelished the gown further if I had).  With the help of my step-dad and 2 youngest brothers, I made my own wedding cake (my menfolk doing the actual baking while us ladies worked on decor of the reception and church, and them my doing the actual cake decorating.)  For the real flowers used in the wedding, we special ordered white and red roses thru Sam’s Club for $13/dozen  and cut juniper branches from some shrubs that needed pruning anyway from the home my husband and I had purchased and delivered them to the florist who was a member of our church. Much of the glassware and other food service pieces were eather purchased at thrift stores or borrowed from relatives. And we put together our own platters of meats, cheeses, fruit and veggies and church ladies brought homemade sandwich rolls and deviled eggs all of which was put together as a soup, salad and sandwich making buffet.  Cost of everything for my wedding (from invitations to shoes, cake, food, champagne… everything) was $1500, a tenth or less of the national average and is was still completely beautiful and wonderful.

I learned my frugal shopping tactics from my Ma and her Ma before her and my Pa’s Ma.  Our grandmothers often grew up in an era of frugal spending, saving everything and repurposing things until they couldn’t be repurposed anymore.   These smart, frugal women have much to teach us about SHOPPING THE NEW FRUGAL FRONTIER and keeping us on budget, no matter the occasion.

I really wanted to bring you some photos from my wedding on today’s post, but technology has advanced so very much in 10 years that I was unable to upload the cd’s with the photos on them to my netbook with the new cd/dvd drive that runs off the USB port (10 years ago only people who repaired computers or did programing knew was a USB port was…now everything from laptops to cell phones have one.)  I will keep searching for a way to get these old cd disks of wedding photos uploaded, as I want to revisit this topic at a later date, perhaps for my anniverary.

So, meanwhile, we’ll post some images of those “new to us” Christmas gifts we purchased 2nd hand at the Salvation Army Thrift Store and pics of handmade pajama bottoms I Made the boys as gifts.    I have plans to make the Littlest Pioneer Girl a bib overall dress/jumper to match the bandana print jacket we found yesterday “upcycled” out  of her older brothers jeans that the boys have torn beyond repairs climbing fences and ripping them out right in the seat… but the legs and pockets are still in excellent shape.

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The Littlest Pioneer Girl’s 1st Words

New Frontiers In Speech

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Today, our Littlest Pioneer Girl, Anna Elizabeth, uttered her first spoken words.  She is exactly 7 months old today, at exactly 6 months she got her first tooth (followed closely by the 2nd tooth less than a week after the first.)  The Littlest Pioneer Girl, seems to like being right on the mark with major milestones and making it easy on Modern Ma to remember the dates (‘cuz who has time for scrapbooking just now???  With a garden to plant, animals to care for, house to clean and 3 children and a husband to feed, Ma sure doesn’t!)

Anna’s first word was “Mama” plain as day this afternoon and often repeated and well practiced, especially whenever “Mama” left her sight.  Pioneer Pa was a teeny bit miffed, the boys 1st words were always “Dada” and he expected his daughter to follow suit.  Her second word, so close on the heels of the first, was a very good attempt at “love” and a budding effort at her third word a slightly shreiky “I”.  Then after Mama repeated them in correct gramatical order, Anna kept trying to repeat “I love Mama.”

I, Ma was of course thrilled, Henry was about 9 month before he tried “Mama” (I remember him saying “Dada”, “Dog” and Meow (at the time we had a cat and meow=cat) well before he said mama.)

Charles first word was “dada” as well, followed by “wawa” = water/swimming, dog, duck, peep-peep (chicks), fish and egg by a year old.  Then Charles began losing language rapidly between 18 and 24 months.  Charles had to be re-taught all over again to speak at about 4 years old and did not finally say “mommy” until he was 4 1/2 years old (a huge milestone.) Prior to 4 1/2 Charles always used and understood, but silent “hey you” to address me.

So having my only daughter’s first word be “Mama” is a huge reward for all those years I waited to hear her oldest brother say it.

Pureed Beets

(A Gluten Free & Casein Free Baby Food Recipe)

Indredients:

4 medium sized beets, washed and stems removed

Water (enough to barely cover beets in saucepan)

Equipment needed:

cutting board, disposable gloves (beets stain EVERYTHING), paring knife, chef’s knife, small to medium sized saucepan, Baby Bullet or other powerful blender, ice cube trays made of silicone (regular  ice cube trays will work but cubes may have to be slightly thawed to release them from the trays and I’ve had a few of the cheapo trays crack on me), 1 qt. zip-top freezer bags.

Instructions:

PUT ON GLOVES!  Wash beets and remove tops. Peel beets with paring knife (if you have chickens, other poultry or a hog, reserve peelings and tops for a treat for your livestock).  Using cutting board and chef’s knife, dice beets into 1/2 inch pieces or smaller (smaller pieces cook faster).  Place diced beets in pan, use just enough water to barely cover them.  Put pan on burner and bring to boil.  Cover with a lid, reduce heat to a simmer and allow beets to steam until very tender to a fork test.  Turn off heat and allow temp to drop until they can be handled comfortably, but are still warm.  Place 1/2 of the beets in the bowl of your blender or Baby Bullet, along with approx. half the water.  Secure lid and puree as per the appliance manufacturer’s instructions until of baby food consistancy, add a little cool water if neccessary to thin.  Pour into trays and place in freezer.  Repeat with other  1/2 of beets and cooking water.

To thaw for use:  Remove 1 or 2 cubes from freezer place in a small covered dish such as a recylced baby food jar or yogurt cup.  If to be eaten at next meal, allow to thaw at room temp for an hour or two.  If to be eaten in the next 2 days, thaw in the fridge.

Number of servings will depend on size of beets used and age of your baby.

Pureed Beets are also an awesome addition to vanilla or chocolate cakes, lending their rosy color, vitamins/minerals and a bit of fiber to your family’s diet (an idea I borrowed from one of my favorite cookbooks, Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld, long before our family went gluten and dairy free.  Do check out a copy of her book from your local library or bookstore for more ideas on adding veggies and fruits to you kids’ diets, even if your family has special diet needs, many of the recipes can be adapted to your needs.  We draw inspiration from this book pretty often.)  Pureed beets in a vanilla or yellow GF cake mix and a little organic Chocolate Extract and frosted with coconut yogurt frosting makes AWESOME Red Velvet Cakes/cupckes. Red Velvet is Charles, favorite cake flavor, so we will be posting this before the end of the school term when his class celebrates the summer birthdays.  Stay on the look out for a from scratch GF/CF version of that.

Beets are one of Anna’s all-time favorite foods!

From Hare to Maternity

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Good evening all!  It may just be the 6th official day of spring, but we are certainly off to a hopping good start.

A package arrived in the mail Wednesday! It was sort of like Christmas in March when we opened the box and it turned out to be most of the 4-H materials we’d purchased. (The Gardening curriculum was back-ordered.)

In other news, we mated Daphne to Fluffy twice last Wednesday (before school and after school).  We are quite excited about the prospect of baby bunnies to be born in not quite a month (rabbits have a 30 day gestation period.)  This is our first litter of rabbits and is a totally new experience for most of us, as Pioneer Pa is the only one of us who has raised rabbits before… way back in the days before home computers.

I spent a good deal of the last week looking up more information about rabbit color genetics on the internet.  My research revealed that a mating between a Castor colored rabbit (Fluffy) and a Blue Broken colored rabbit (Daphne) should produce 50% Solid Opal (Castor dilutes) and 50% Broken Opal (spotted like mom with the diluted coat color of dad) babies.  So we are impatiently waiting on the resulting kits.

Daphne should be finishing up conception of her litter right about now!  “To maternity and beyond!” (A tweak on old Buzz Lightyear from one of the kids favorite films, Pixar’s Toy Story.)

Mystery Recipe Monday- March 26, 2012

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Mstery Recipe Monday

Millet Dogs

I know Millet Dogs sounds very odd, but before you run away in fright, please allow me to explain.  One of Farmer Boy Charles’ favorite foods is that “Fair Food”  favorite the crunchy and delicious on-a-stick treat, the Corn Dog.  But lately we’ve noticed some less than desirous behaviors when Charles eats foods made from corn.  We are not sure if this is from the “gluten” in corn (aka corn protein… it really isn’t the same type of gluten as you find in wheat barley or rye.)  Or from the starches/sugars in the corn making the  overgrown yeast population in his gut “a little too happy”.  (Yeast eat startches and sugars, turning them into carbon dioxide, the lovely bubbles that make yeasted bread dough rise, and as their waste product of this digestion, they make alcohol (or what my high school microbiology teacher liked to call “yeast pee-pee”.)  The alcohol can be a wonderful by-product if for example you are brewing beer, making hard cider or fermenting wine… but a bad by-product if there are a huge population on them in your 8 year old child’s gut, making him act like a goofy drunk every time he ties on a meal heavy in carbs.  We don’t know which is the problem for Charles, but we decided to take him completely off corn for 1 month and then do a challenge test to see how he’s handling it.  The goal with this is to see if we are going to need to remove corn permenantly from the family diet or not.

In order to keep life as normal as possible and keep one of the few protein delivery devices we have in Charles’ diet, Pioneer Pa  devised the following recipe, which substitutes coarsely ground millet flour for fine cornmeal.

Millet Dogs (Baked NOT Fried… a healthier version of Fair Food!)

You will need: 1 medium sized mixing bowl, a whisk or wooden spoon for stirring, small ladle or serving spoon (for pouring batter into cooking device), bamboo skewers (may be cut in 1/2 for shorter sticks) and a Corn Dog R (this is an electric cooking device, similar to a waffle iron that makes corn dogs and similar foods… we actually baked brownies in ours once but that is a story for another day.  A Corn Dog R can be purchased for about $25 from www.amazon.com by typing corn dog maker into the search in the kitchen section.  It’s worth the investment if you have a family with young kids who like “resturant” type foods).  See pictures below of our Corn Dog R:

Ingredients:

1 cup Millet Flour (white or red will both work equally well, the white will make a more “yellow” corn dog looking millet dog.  Millet Flour is usually a little coarse and mealy like conrmeal)

1/2 cup white rice flour

1/2 cup soy flour (or sweet sorghum flour if you are avoiding soy.  We use soy to get more protein into our very picky  eater Charles)

2 tsp. sugar

2 tsp. non-aluminum baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 tsp Xanthan Gum

2  large eggs (or equivalent of egg replacer)

1 TBSP Olive or Canola Oil

1 to 1 1/2 cups water or “milk” substitute (this really depends on how dry your flour is.  You are looking for a pancake batter type consistancy here. Tips from Ma: We’ve used the cooking water from making steamed veg like broccoli and such before to add some extra vitamins and minerals before or added 2 to 4 oz of pureed baby food veggies like peas or green beans for part of the liquid in the batter, because Charles will not willingly eat vegetables except for pumpkin (baked in bread or pies) and tomato- based sauces… thus we usually have to hide veggies in other foods.)

1 pkg of your favorite brand of GF/CF Hot Dogs (remember to read your labels)

Pam-type spray oil for oiling the Corn Dog R to prevent stickage

Instructions:

1. Plug in Corn Dog R to heat up.

2. In your mixing bowl stir together dry ingredients until well blended

3. Beat eggs until they appear “scrambled”.

4. Add eggs and oil to dry mixture and blend well.

5.  Add liquids (veg. puree first if using, then water or milk) a little at a time, stirring between additions until the pancake batter like consistancy is reached.

6. Cut hot dogs in 1/2 so they will fit in the baking wells of the Corn Dog R.

7. Spray the hot, ready to use Corn Dog R with spray oil, coating well to prevent sticking.

8.  Using a large spoon or small ladle, fill the bottom portion of the cooking wells in the Corn Dog R with batter.

9. Place 1/2 hotdog in each well and spoon a little of the batter mixture over the top of the hot dogs.

10. Close the lid.  Slide in the skewer sticks, there is a little hole in the side of each well where the sticks go in after the machine is closed.

11.  Wait for the light to come on indicating the millet dogs are done.  If they aren’t quite as browned as you like, you can close it again and keep cooking another minute or two, before removing them.

12. When Millet Dogs are done, either plate up individual plates or place on a platter to serve family style.  Serve with your favorite condiments.  Baked Sweet Potato Fries or Baked Green Beans make a lovely complimenting side dish.

Allow leftovers  to cool.  Place in freezer safe zipper bags and freeze.  These are easily frozen and warmed up again using the microwave.  These make great quick suppers on the run, after-school snacks or can be packed in the lunch box of your school aged children and so forth.  We often make a double batch of them and freeze a bunch on the weekend for later use… we like to call that DIY Gluten Free Convience Food!

(*Pioneer Pa is the keeper and guru of electric cooking appliances at our house… seriously I burn stuff so easily using small electric appliances that when our last toaster died I refused to get another one and dug the toaster oven out of the camper and brought that in the house… I totally manage to burn stuff in a crockpot… give me a  wood or gas range anyday!)

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Someday this old wood-fired range will be returned to where it belongs, in my home. The previous homeowner of our farm removed it from the house and placed it out in the shop building for storage.  I can’t wait to bring it back, as I learned to cook on this type of appliance (though not nearly this fancy) while living off-grid on my father’s ranch in the mountains of Eastern Washington.

Just Keep Hopping

As you may have guessed by the title, this post is about our Farmer Boys, Charles & Henry, and their 4-H rabbit project.  Both boys are getting very excited about this blog, definitely proud to be pioneers.  Henry suggested the title of this post, as we were watching Finding Nemo DVD last night after homework.  Unfortunately, the boys broke my camera.  Not sure which as each blames the other. So, I apologise there are not really any new bunny pictures (especially of the new additions to or hutch.)

Some general information on our rabbits and rabbits in general: Their bunnies are members of the “Mini Rex” breed.  These are a small-medium sized rabbit breed with a short velvet-like coat and come in many colors.  They are one of the more popular breeds for pet rabbits, which is a good market for very young 4-H’ers.  Because bunnies will make lots more baby bunnies fairly quickly, having a good market for the offspring is important.  And Henry in particular is a soft-hearted lad when it comes to animals, so at least right now at 6 years old, meat rabbits probably aren’t his niche. Charles on the other hand, bought broiler chicks specifically for the purpose of wanting to make them into pot pies because he loves the movie Chicken Run (from a few years back… we found it in the bargin movie bin for $5) with the voice talent of Mel Gibson, so meat rabbits might eventually be something he wants to do, if we can find a ready market for them. (Note to self, check with the friend who sells meat goats to the immigrant folks in our area to find out if they might also be interested in rabbit, might be worth paying him a commission to hook us up with the buyers who prefer buy live and do the dirty work of offing the critters themselves.)

Like goats and deer, the males are bucks and the females are does.  Baby rabbits are called kits (like a baby fox) and the birthing process is known as kindling.  As mammals, rabbits give live birth to their young and nurse them.  In preparation for kindling, the mother rabbit pulls out most of the fur on her belly.  This has two functions:

#1. It exposes her mammary glands so her kits can more easily find her nipples in order to suckle her milk.

#2. The mother rabbit uses the fur she pulled out to line her nest and keep her babies warm and dry. Newborn rabbits don’t really have much hair at birth, just a light coating of peach fuzz.

Rabbits are somewhat unique in the animal kingdom, in that they are induction ovulating.  Females do not have a definite “fertile period” like most mammals, they only ovulate when mated by the male.  They also have a very short gestation of just 1 month and she has her litter weaned in about 8 weeks, thus she can easily have a litter every 8-10 weeks.  This is probably where all the jokes about “breeding like rabbits” come from.

Back to Our Rabbits…

As mentioned in a post written Sunday morning, we’ve ordered the 4-H rabbit curriculum (along with several others) for the Farmer Boys.  An email yesterday afternoon said that the order is shipping out of the Chicago warehouse this morning.  I am hopeful that these materials will arrive by week’s end.

Another interesting development in the rabbit hutch is some new additions that were bought during a trip to the feed store on Sunday to get parts to repair the plumbing for our well (you would not believe all the sediment that was plugging up the pipe where the water comes into the house, Pa replaced all the old pipe with PVC and put in a filtering system.) Henry bought a new doe, a lilac (possibly silver chinchilla) & white “broken” (aka white w/ gray spots, seems to have some ticking in her fur), he named her Belle (French for “beautiful”.)  Charles got himself a lilac (blue)/apricot (fawn) harlequin buck (looks like a tortoiseshell calico cat), he’s not named his male rabbit yet.  Anna also got her 1st bunny, a black & white “broken” named Jolie (pretty in French.  No, she is not named after the actress with the same last name.)  We are fairly sure that Belle and Jolie are probably sisters, being nearly identical in size and spotting.  The young buck rabbit was raised in the same grow off pen with the females, but is quite a bit larger (with female rabbits often being larger than males normally at least as adults), good likelihood that he is from a slightly older litter, perhaps a 1/2 brother with same sire or is an unrelated male/distant cousin.  These young rabbits will not be old enough for mating until fall.  currently they are housed together for warmth, companionship and lack of individual cages.

Next payday, we will buy wire and cage clips to build some new hutches for all of the rabbits.  We will design them to fit directly over our raised garden beds, so that in the late fall and winter months when the garden is dormant, the bunnies can directly apply their special fertilizer to the garden where it is most needed. (Stay tuned for that DIY project!)

As soon as Uncle Sam sends our tax refund, the family will be joining A.R.B.A., Inc. (American Rabbit Breeders Assoc., Inc.) and the National Mini Rex Club of America.  This is a great place to start for anybody who wants to learn more about rabbits and programs available for youth in this area of interest.  You can find out more, print membership application forms etc. by going to the American Rabbit Breeders Assoc. website.  The listed breeders is not an exhaustive one and if there are none listed near you, you can do the following to find one. To find a good rabbit breeder near you, contact your local county extension offices or 4-H director.  They will often have a list of  local livestock breeders for various species with contact information for you.  Even if you don’t find the particular breed you are looking for, breeders of other breeds may know who does as these are often small, closely knit groups where people know each other pretty well.  County and State Fairs or other local rabbit shows are also a great place to meet breeders and see lots of rabbits before deciding on a breed.  Most good rabbit breeders will be helpful to people starting out in rabbits, especially youth.  We tried starting out in rabbits a couple of years back  with some Dutch rabbits we bought from a breeder at the State Fair (that didn’t work out because of problems with the barn cats… long story and not pretty.  But when the cats were run over, we just didn’t get any new ones to replace them.)  The breeder was wonderful to our boys and sent us registration papers and kept in touch about upcoming rabbit shows, local club meetings and more.  It was too bad that the cats tried to eat the pair of young bucks (we were waiting for a new litter to get some females that weren’t closely related) the boys had bought at the Fair and the poor bunnies could not be saved. (A lesson here, if you have cats, make sure you have a cat-proof place to keep our rabbits before you get them.)  This time around they wanted to get a breed that was easier to find breeding stock in our area (feed store was probably NOT the best place for that, but it does get them started and is less expensive to “practice on” than fancy show rabbits like we started with the last time.  Making a major calamity less expensive in the long run.

Goals for this 4-H project: 1. Learn more about the care and showing of rabbits. 2. Learn about the mating, birth and rearing process with rabbits. 3. Learn business skills by marketing rabbits to the pet market. 4. Learn about the color genetics of Mini Rex rabbits.

March 19, 2012 is our 1st Mystery Recipe Monday

Starting today, we shall try to post a Mystery Recipe every Monday if possible. If you are a follower here, please stop by our Facebook Page and give us a like over there.  We are going to let everybody know when we’ve added a mystery recipe over there on the Modern Pioneer Family Facebook page before we publish it on here, so you all will be on the look out for our Mystery Recipe Monday posts.

Why, you may ask?  Well, to start that discussion, our recipe posts have been some of our more popular ones and some of our friends are asking for more recipes, maybe as a “regular feature” on certain days.  Another reason is if the recipe is posted as a “surprise recipe” perhaps curiosity will encourage more folks to stop by and check out this new blog.  SO… you ask “why” and I answer “why not”, sounds like fun.

And so… drum roll, please!  Without further ado… our mystery recipe for March 19, 2012 is:

Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter

Equipment:

You will need a mid-sized mixing bowl, a rubber/silicone spatula, measuring spoons & cups, a dish-towel and a clean glazed stoneware type crock w/ an old-fashioned bail top (those wire lid closing things like on antique canning jars) or a 1 qt. canning jar with a new lid and band.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups white rice flour (you can also use all brown rice flour if you prefer whole grain breads/rolls, or do what I do, make one of each.  I don’t recommend blending the flours in your sourdough starter, it’s easiest and works best if you keep it simple.)

1 TBSP sugar (use white, brown or maple sugar as you like.  This is not the place for sugar-free sweetener type products. Honey is also not a good idea here, as you could potentially get a botulism contamination problem going in your starter, you don’t want that. If you want to use honey, use it later in your bread recipe after you have doubled the starter and returned 1/2 to the sourdough crock.)

1 TBSP Dry yeast (go ahead and buy it in the jar or in bulk, if you are going gluten-free, chances are you will be baking lots of your own breads, rolls, buns and more. It will cost less in the long run NOT to buy the little packets.)

1 cup water (if you don’t like your tap water or if you have chlorinated water, use bottle drinking/spring water.)

Directions:

In mixing bowl, stir rice flour, yeast and sugar together.  Mix in room temperature water.  Set in a warm (but not hot) place to incubate overnight.  Check it occasionally and stir if necessary, just so it doesn’t try to climb out of the bowl and overflow (why create an extra mess to clean, right?)  If you like that real sourdough type taste, you can incubate the starter 1-3 days longer before parking it in your fridge. I like mine at the point it makes my bread actually taste like bread (and still neutral enough to make cinnamon rolls and the like) but that is only a personal preference.  And if you are feeding your bread to kids, when in doubt go with what they will eat… you can always slowly increase the “sour” quality so they slowly adjust to more grown-up flavors.

Pour your starter into a very clean crock or canning jar, put on the lid and place it in your fridge, until you are ready to bake bread, rolls, etc.

Care of your starter if not being used for a while:  If you know you won’t be using the starter for a while (say you are going on vacation for several weeks), get it out and let it warm to room temp and feed it 2 tsp. sugar and 2 TBSP of rice flour (add a bit of water if you think it looks too thick.)

The Nurturing of the Next Generation of Farmers

We started with raising some rabbits last summer with the idea they would be 4-H projects once the Farmer Boys were old enough to enroll.  Each child bought his bunny with birthday $$ from grandma.  The rabbits are finally of breeding age and we will likely put them together and allow a mating to take place over the Easter weekend with the expectation of having Daphne and Fluffy’s 1st litter in early May.  We’d orignally planned to do this about 3 weeks later, but I believe we are expecting a long, hot dry summer if the current weather is an indication, and bunnies don’t tolerate heat especially well.  It appears that having baby bunnies sooner rather than later might be a good idea.  This will also allow for slightly older rabbits as entries at fair time for both County and State Fair.

With common breed chicks picked out at the feed store and the “fancy breed” chicks ordered on-line and scheduled to arrive via mail-order the 3rd week of April, to start our fledgeling 4-H’ers on their 1st animal ownership/raising projects and animal breeding projects.

Both kids also intend to do gardening projects this summer and enter some produce exhibits in the fairs.  After our 1st “real” 4-H meeting last Thursday, Farmer Boy Charles , is especially keen to do some educational poster and display type projects and has at least 1 good idea in both catagories coming together.  Poster idea is for “tractor safety” and he wants to do something relating to sharks for a display (Ma and Pa are trying to find a way to tie this to environmental sciences & oceanography… challenging since he mostly wants to put pictures of sharks that bite humans on posterboard and call that a “display”.)  Farmer Boy Henry, our little chef, is excited to try his hand at canning jams, jellies and salsa as an extention of his gardening projects (with supervision of course.)

So with ideas for their 4-H projects well in hand, yesterday we went to www.4-h.org, clicked through to the “4-H Mall” site to order their curriculm materials.  We ordered “Adventures in Agriculture Book 2″as this looked to be of interest to both boys.  We also got them complete curriculm sets for gardening, poultry and rabbits and each a 4-H folder( to hold any handouts and papers from their meetings) and a 4-H record book cover.

Much of the rest of our Saturday (as much as our teething, crankyLittlest Pioneer Girl would allow) was spent finding and printing off record book forms for their various projects.  We had a little trouble in this area, as the South Dakota State University Extention does not have any of these types of forms online, so our record book materials were cobbled together from several other states’ websites (mainly Iowa, Michigan and North Dakota.)  We Many have to design our own cover pages for these record books and have Pa go through a spreadsheet program to retro-fit the forms in their finally copies… but we will use the ones we found as working templates to enter our data on, to be recopied later…. NEATLY (as little boys have a tendancy to be handwriting challenged anyway.)

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