Skip to content

How Dogs Ate us out of House, Part 2

October 9, 2014

Armed with all the tools of a proper musher, we were set to really start running dogs! We found an awesome 3 wheeled cart to use for “dirt training” and headed out to some old logging roads where we could get some miles on the dogs. This cart only weighed in at about 125 pounds, was fire-engine red, ran on wheelbarrow tires, and had rubber tread for brakes. Soon we would learn about every single part of this cart as we had to repair it almost every time we ran dogs on it!

We both had fulltime jobs; we were still showing dogs; and we had horses to exercise, so now we were running dogs sometimes at 2 am – coming home, doing chores, and then going to work. Hey, we were in our early twenties and on top of our game! We balanced everything really well, or so we thought. There was one day that I came home from work to find that LJ had rearranged the furniture in the house – and I had a scary screaming, crying fit over it! That should have been a clue, but we were twenty-something – and somewhat clueless!

Stream and Annie:  Take us!  Take us!!

Stream and Annie: Take us! Take us!!

Things started changing for us when we got that cart, dog box, and good harnesses. The dogs seemed stronger, and so did we. We were starting to see how excited the dogs got when we started loading up to go run, and we saw how much stronger they were when they worked as a team! It was exciting – they infected us with their energy and joy – and it became just a little scary too…..

Our Samoyed and Siberian show dogs became hard-bodies, fit and lean and beautiful! When we next showed them however, we found out that dog show judges really don’t like working dogs to look like working dogs! Our dogs had “harness hair” and were “too fit” – Harness hair, really? And how could they be “too” fit? We had to choose between getting championships on our dogs or getting miles on them. Well, I gotta tell ya – it’s a whole lot more exciting to bounce along behind a bunch of dogs on that cart than it was to try to get those same dogs all cleaned up and trot around a show ring with them. Our show career met a rather abrupt, though painless death!

We were learning more and more about working dogs and experimenting with feeding and training techniques. There was a dirt race right in our little home town and LJ entered the novice division, running just 4 dogs (which was plenty) on the cart. It went pretty well – she didn’t lose the team, and I think she placed decently too! We met a lot of dog mushers – from the laid back distance mushers to the psychotic sprint racers. Some were interested in sharing advice, but many were quite secretive. Everyone was delighted to have new members to the sport – and several had dogs that were “just right” for a new driver starting out!

It’s almost like a tradition, the handing off of dogs that aren’t working out on their current team to the new guy, as it turns out. These weren’t necessarily “good” dogs. They had eating issues, or were slow, or didn’t always work hard. But we loved them all, and we didn’t have fast dogs anyway. We were delighted to get a few “real” sleddogs! Our number grew by a couple that first race, we were trying to be good, really.

Judy Blue-eyes, one of our early "real" sleddog purchases.

Judy Blue-eyes, one of our early “real” sleddog purchases.

That first race taught us that we had a lot to learn, and so, being the wise twenty-two (there abouts) year olds we were, we thought we probably didn’t want to attempt the Iditarod for a couple of years. Heh. We hadn’t even run the dogs on the sled yet – on snow! I was having a good time with this, but LJ was insane! She was scary addicted and we started having conversations about homesteading in Alaska.

Feeding is huge for sleddogs, or any working animal (humans included) for that matter. Good feeding can turn a poor dog into a better one and a good dog into a great one. It can also bump up the chaos factor to the breaking point! We ran experiments on different kibbles, putting two dogs on each of roughly 10 different feeds, ranging from cheap to way-to-expensive. We monitored coat condition and stamina. After a time, we settled on the highest quality food we could afford, and then our friends, told us about feeding meat!

People fed their dogs a variety of meats: chicken skins, whole chicken (beaks and feathers included), beef, beaver, road kill, and this very special stuff that was mixed right here in Washington, called Champaigne Race Diet. Named after its creator, Charlie Champaigne, a successful race driver out of Alaska, this was a mixed frozen feed that many, if not most of the serious mushers fed. It came in a 50 pound, paper-wrapped block and we would thaw it, break it up into 1 lb chunks and re-freeze. Later on, we hacked the frozen block up with an axe and called it good, but we (and by we, I mean LJ) was very precise about things back then!

It doesn’t take much time for food like that to start making a difference and we could tell right away that it was what we needed to be feeding if we wanted to be competitive! Our team was getting better and faster by the day. It was scary, really. We would tie the cart to the truck while we hooked the dogs up, and when we unhooked from the truck, sometimes there was no stopping them – the cart would merrily skid along behind the dogs with its wheels locked and two women hanging on for dear life.

Everyone's pulling hard on this cold morning.

Everyone’s pulling hard on this cold morning.

Pretty soon, we would face an event that was nearly the end of my dog sledding career, but I’ll save that for another day!

(somewhere I have pictures of these early days.  When I find them and scan them in, I’ll update this post.)

Advertisements

How Dogs Ate us out of House and Home, Part 1

October 3, 2014

Dogs have been a part of our life, to some extent, forever; but over the last 20 some years, they have become a way of life for us. As a child, I always had a dog or two running around with me, keeping me safe when I went out riding my pony and constantly there on the farm. There were a few dogless months here or there as an adult, but never very many months. My dogs always came from the pound – where you could save a life for a mere $25 back then.

I was content to just have a pet or two as companions, but when LJ got “into” dogs, it became another story entirely! It started out with fluffy Samoyeds, and later on, a Siberian, and the show ring and obedience training. But LJ had something else in her head all this time – a dream that she had kept well hidden for many years – she wanted to run dogs! By “running dogs” I am talking about sled dog racing – mushing – dogsledding – you know, like the Iditarod!

A small team helping us do chores

A small team helping us do chores

In the course of about five years, I went from needing a new pet to keep me company, to playing hairdresser and poop scooper to a bunch of white hairballs and blue-eyed heathens, midwifing litters at all hours of the night, and being generally choked by flying hair everywhere in the house. I wasn’t complaining, not yet anyway. I loved the dogs, loved raising puppies, and we had fun at the shows. LJ ended up handling professionally and doing great at it, getting championships and obedience titles on our dogs as well other people’s. We even raised some absolutely adorable Norwegian Elkhounds for an elderly lady and showed them successfully. Life was good – orderly, but fun. I liked orderly…..

There were always a lot of unwanted dogs in the paper for free, or simply running loose in the neighborhood and being the kind souls we are, we felt very bad for them. Being the kind of people that like to take care of problems, we decided to try to do something about it. And so our unofficial rescue operation was born. We’d pick out some poor dog, whether it was something at the pound about ready to be put to death, or a dog with a behavior problem that the owner couldn’t handle, or some stray that we could catch, and we’d clean it up, vaccinate and alter it, train it up and find a home for the newly remade dog. We never charged a rehoming fee, instead we asked for donations. We always placed the dogs with the agreement that if it didn’t work out, we’d take the dog back. This was fulfilling and we took in more and more dogs. We stayed in touch with most of the new owners and the placements worked out really well.

A little white hairball.

A little white hairball.

Our little pack just kept growing. LJ showed up from California with 3 Sammies and a funny looking modified shopping cart that was supposed to be for exercising them (uh-huh). We ended up with 6 dogs and then 12, and more. LJ’s secret wish came out at some point during this pack growth. I was dubious – why would you want to hook a bunch of dogs up to …. A shopping cart?! – And let them drag you around? The goal, of course, was to eventually hook these dogs up to a dog sled in the snow – a dogsled weighs in around 25 pounds and is made of tiny sticks of wood – how is this better? We had horses and a horse could take you where you wanted to go in a calm, safe, orderly fashion. There was nothing wrong with that.

Back then, there wasn’t much information on dog sledding and we really didn’t know where to look. We made our first harnesses out of horse halters and our first lines out of lunge ropes. The shopping cart was useless, especially on dirt roads, so we decided to hook them up to my little Nissan pickup instead. At least with the truck, we had control – they couldn’t drag the truck (not yet).

We loaded up our show dogs and our rescues and took them down a little back road near the house. No one knew how to lead the team, so that job would fall to a human. I was very afraid to drive the truck behind the team for fear I might run someone over, so I said I would run out front with the leaders and LJ could drive. At this point, I really believed that LJ wouldn’t stay interested in this for very long – after all, you ran dogs in Alaska, not Washington, and we weren’t moving – I should have known LJ better!

I’m not a very athletic person, so there I was, trying to drag a bunch of dogs behind me down the road at a trot, huffing and puffing, and tripping. They wanted to pee on the bushes, turn around a go visit the dogs behind them, or maybe just lay down and roll around. Half of them wanted to pull (it’s in their dna), the other half had no interest in actually working! Because we are gluttons for punishment, we kept at it, and after a while, the dogs would actually run down the road in their makeshift harnesses, pulling the truck – Bangor, the black lab, Tip, the 25 pound mutt, Con, the Sibe we’d saved from death row, Kisha the Sammie and the others – what a motley crew!

Playing in the Dog Yard

Playing in the Dog Yard

LJ finally found an ad in Alaska magazine for dog sledding equipment and we bought our first real harnesses, real lines, and a shiny new sled. The harnesses, though not the best quality, made such a huge difference, who knew? Heh. The dogs had more power and were actually pulling that truck along in neutral on a regular basis. I wasn’t having to get out and run up front or jump out and fix tangles as often, and thought that maybe this wasn’t too bad.

In the Samoyed Club we belonged to, there was a guy who actually ran his team of Sammies regularly and when we talked to him, he put us in touch with a local harness supplier and dog sledding club. We found out that there were, in fact, races in the lower 48 – a lot of them! And some of them were ran on carts – in the dirt – and so the addiction was born in truth.

The lady that sold the harnesses was a dog pusher – I mean that in a good way – but she was at least in part responsible for growing that seed of a dream into a time-eating, money-consuming, chaotic lifestyle. This woman was more than happy to share information about the sport and to help us get proper gear, a dog box (for hauling the dogs around, instead of chained in the back of the truck), and a few “real” sleddogs. Becky and her husband Joe, ended up becoming some of our very best friends and we spent many, many hours together talking dogs.

After that first meeting, LJ was really pumped about running dogs, and we now had easy access to her drug of choice. I was just swept along in the learning and fun we were having. Little did I know, my orderly life was about to change forever!

Hey!  Why are we stopping!

Hey! Why are we stopping!

New Life on the Farm

September 30, 2014

In a previous article, Flamin’ Goat Kissers, I wrote about how we ended up with goats. We started with two beautiful doelings, and ended up with six goats. The third goat we bought was Penny, a sassy older doe that we bought to keep the young’uns content and so we could have milk a little sooner. She was bred to a friend’s buck in April.

Penny looks about ready to pop!

Penny looks about ready to pop!

On September 2, Penny gave birth to two absolutely adorable kids! We noticed she was in labor that morning, and by mid-day she had popped out the first, a little boy without any interference from us. About 30 minutes later, she had a little girl. Both were healthy and strong, and Penny seemed rather unaffected by the labor.

The gooey mess that is birthing

The gooey mess that is birthing

We aren’t unfamiliar with birthing animals; we’ve raised dogs and horses, and LJ was a vet tech for a time. The joy and wonder never dies! Every time we get to witness new life, it fills us with life too. It has been a while since we’ve had any new babies born here – other than chicks. Chicks are cute too, but somehow not quite the same as live birth – and besides, we let the hens set on the eggs, so we usually only see eggs one day, and then suddenly chicks the next. We rarely get to see them actually hatch.

Penny needed a place of her own to have her babies and her time was coming up on us quicker than we realized. One morning when we were feeding, we realized that her udder was full and she had “dropped” (her babes had moved around low in her abdomen). We quickly threw together her pen and a hoop house for her, and moved her over. The very next day is when she popped! That was a close call!

We weren’t sure how Penny would feel about us being involved with her babies. Many animal moms are protective and possessive of their young, especially when they are first born. Penny was still pretty standoffish with us; not aggressive, just would rather be left alone for the most part. As it turns out, she was more than happy to share her babes with us, and delighted for the pets and scratches she got as well.

Penny is taking good care of him!

Penny is taking good care of him!

Our first born, Linx, was a tiny little brown bundle that his momma was so proud of. Penny has had kids before, so she wasn’t worried. She cleaned him and nudged him, encouraging him to get up and have some milk. He didn’t make it to teat though, before she was pawing the ground, pacing, and laying down and getting back up – the next kid was coming!

Clearing the sac from her nose so she can start breathing

Clearing the sac from her nose so she can start breathing

Stix was born next – and we were ready with towels and camera. Her birth was uncomplicated and she was the picture of a perfect little goat. This babe was much stronger than Linx – more filled out, better put together, and much faster to find her feet. Stix was up before Linx, though they both found milk pretty quickly.

Sunning themselves with Momma looking after them

Sunning themselves with Momma looking after them

In the week following, Stix seemed to be thriving much more than Linx. She was more curious, more playful, and filling out and growing more than him. But as the weeks have gone by, Linx has caught up to his sister – where we once thought that he was the lesser kid, we’re now finding them quite equal in conformation – and we are very pleased with both of them!
We bred Penny knowing that we would likely eat the kids when they were old enough. This has brought about a lot of distress with our friends, many of which can’t imagine that we could kill and eat such adorable creatures. We originally named them Links and Pattie (put sausage in front, and you’ll get it). Linx, being unfortunate enough to have been born male, will be butchered when he reaches a good age and size. Stix is the luckier one – being a doe gives her more value to us as a possible milk and breeding goat, but because we have so many in a tight space, we feel we can’t keep her. She has lovely color and conformation though, so we think we can sell her to another goat lover when she gets old enough.

A content kid!

A content kid!

So, how can we look at those precious little lives and even contemplate eating them? It’s not really easy; taking a life, any life, should never be easy. For now, we can enjoy their cuteness and love them and care for them the best way we know how. Life will always be considered precious to us.

Later, Linx will be bigger, and probably obnoxious, as young goats usually are. In the back of our heads, we know his purpose in life and when the time is right we will put him in the freezer. It sounds harsh. It is. It is also necessary for our life to continue. We will be sad when we do it; we will say goodbye to him and we will thank him for the sustenance he provides us. The meat will taste better for knowing that he was ours and that we cared for him his whole life; and that he was loved and adored, and never abused. So the circle of life will continue here on our little farm.

Looks like Meat’s Back on the Menu, Boys!

September 28, 2014

As a child, I remember butchering day very well. My mother would close all the curtains in the house and we wouldn’t see her again until that evening. I started “helping” with the butchering as early as I can remember, although I’m sure I wasn’t much help at all! Growing up this way, I learned where my food came from. In later years, I would be surprised that people were repulsed by the idea of butchering an animal they had raised, or butchering at all for that matter. For folks that didn’t grow up seeing where their food came from, I guessed it was just easier to buy that nameless, plump chicken at the grocery store.

Rinsing a beautiful chicken carcass in cold water.

Rinsing a beautiful chicken carcass in cold water.

When we decided to start raising chickens again, one of the biggest things we looked forward to was the fresh meat. Homegrown chicken has more taste and texture than commercially grown poultry without all the nasties: inhumane living conditions, antibiotics, and let’s not even go into what they do to that chicken carcass before they sell it to you!

We had a few chickens to put in the freezer last year, and I canned a few. This year we have more! It might gross you out, or it might just give you the push you need to start raising your own chickens, but I think it’s really important to understand what it takes to put meat on the table.

When my dad butchered chickens, it was chaos. Armed with a fishing net, we would chase the unlucky fellows down and chop off their heads in a mass of squawking and flying feathers. LJ and I chose a bit more dignified system for our slaughter day. We catch the birds the night before and pen them up. Each chicken is taken to the slaughter area individually and gently. We are thankful for their gift, there is no need to cause them undo stress or pain. Instead of the old-fashioned hatchet to the neck method, LJ simply slits an artery and, hanging them by their feet, lets them bleed out; less chaos, less mess, and less stress on the bird this way.

Hanging the chicken by it's feet and cutting an artery is a quiet way to take their life.

Hanging the chicken by it’s feet and cutting an artery is a quiet way to take their life.

Once they are dead, we skin them instead of plucking, because it’s quick and easy, and we don’t need the extra fat anyway. Then we remove the head, neck and feet. From there, it’s a quick rinse in cold water and either into a plastic bag to go into a cooler full of ice to rest, or into the kitchen for canning.

Skinning is so much easier than plucking!

Skinning is so much easier than plucking!

Chickens we want to freeze or cook right away need to rest for 24-48 hours to allow the rigor to release. Commercially produced chicken is injected with a drug to make the muscles go flaccid – gross! You can either freeze them immediately and then let them rest when you pull them out to thaw, or you can rest them right after butchering and then freeze them – this is our preferred method.

Storage is a huge concern for us. We don’t have much space, and we need to be able to butcher when the birds are ready. The freezer is pretty small, and always full of something. The fridge is a midget, no room in there! That leaves drying and canning as our two best storage options. These options have the added benefit not relying on electricity to keep the food.

Canning the chicken allows us to store it at room temperature, and gives us a quick, convenient meal option.

Canning the chicken allows us to store it at room temperature, and gives us a quick, convenient meal option.

We are anxious to try making some chicken jerky this fall, but we haven’t yet. Chicken jerky (or dehydrated chicken, if you prefer) can be added to soup, mixed in a dry soup mix for lightweight hiking meals or MRE’s (meals, ready to eat), or just munched on as is. Oh, and the Corgis want to remind everyone that chicken jerky is a perfect doggie treat! I will update you when we actually try this and let you know how it goes.

Canning is super! It’s so easy, and the taste is phenomenal! Last year we pressure cooked the chicken (and a duck) first and then canned it, but this year we tried “raw pack”, where you cut up the raw chicken and can it immediately. It cooks right in the jar! You don’t have to rest the chicken first, just butcher, chop, load jars, add some water (and salt if you like, but we didn’t care for it), seal and pressure can. The meat is so flavorful, it’s hard to argue for making a fresh roast, and so easy to use – open a jar and throw the chicken in a pot for chicken soup, make a chicken salad, add to a stir fry…. You name it! We deboned the bird first, and then made bone broth and with them, but you can actually can the chicken bones and all. The broth cans right up too and tastes so much better than store bought stuff.

Pressure canner heating up and jars at the ready.

Pressure canner heating up and jars at the ready.

We are also raising goats and rabbits for meat, milk, skins, and fiber (for spinning into yarn) now, but we don’t have any to butcher just yet, they are all still youngsters. We love our animals; they all have names, get pets and treats, and when we choose to butcher them, we know they have had a good and healthy life and that they are giving their life to sustain ours. No, it’s not their choice, but neither is it the choice of the antelope to get eaten by the lion. It is a natural cycle and a balanced life – and it feels so right to eat food we’ve raised instead of buying it from the store.

Harvest Season

September 25, 2014
Finally, some rain!

Finally, some rain!

It’s officially autumn now, and the weather is finally showing it. We are finally getting some rain and cool weather, dropping the fire danger down at last so that I can fire up the outdoor oven again! Fall weather always brings out the squirrel medicine in me – I start running around gathering and storing everything I can get my hands on. The gathering this year seems to have started early in the summer, with finding free wood for burning and for building, free glass for building a new greenhouse (next year’s project), wool, brewers grain to feed the animals, and a multitude of other things.

Wood, shavings, brewers mash, apples, and feed.

Wood, shavings, brewers mash, apples, and feed.

We’ve had quite a bounty of goods, and they have become out-of-control piles all over the place. There are several untidy piles of wood, a huge stack of wool wrapped in hay tarps that the owner would like back, logs that need cut, split, and stacked, vegetables in baskets all over the house that need to be processed before they go bad, sunflower seeds in a bucket in the storage room, and apples piled all over in the sun room waiting to be gotten to. We’ve also been remodeling the house this summer, and have piles of our belongings in the yard and storage shed that need to be organized and put away. Last are the stacks of cardboard and paper waiting to be shredded for fire bricks, and little plastic cups and containers that I need to get put away for seed starting next year. It sorta looks like we belong on an episode of Hoarders! This level of disorganization might drive us right off the deep end!

A pile of wool to be sorted and eventually spun.

A pile of wool to be sorted and eventually spun.

As much as we’d like to get all of this organized and our place looking nice again, we simply have too much to do. Our priorities right now are getting the milk parlor built and the rabbitry covered, replacing the tarp on the sun room (which is our bathing room) and the porch, and getting our new wood stove installed. We need to do that while still getting in the shop to do work that actually pays us money, keeping the pens clean (really falling behind there), processing fruits and veggies before they go bad, and a million other little things that add up to not-enough-time-in-the-day. We are both feeling a bit frantic right now, but we have to just remember to keep plugging away at what’s most important first and then worry about the next thing in its time.

Lucky Find - loads of free apples for the picking!

Lucky Find – loads of free apples for the picking!

The huge apple bounty we gathered will soon turn the house into a steam filled sauna smelling of apples cooking! And as we try to find room on the shelf for all the jars of applesauce, apple butter, pie filling, and bags of dried apples and the miscellaneous vegetables, we’ll be smiling through the disaster knowing that we’ll have a bit of summer with us all winter long. Once the food is put away, we can start working on sorting out everything else. We are truly blessed with our finds this year both from friends and strangers – and that’s the most important thing of all to remember!

Happy Autumn, everyone!

A beautiful sunflower ready to weather the oncoming storm

A beautiful sunflower ready to weather the oncoming storm

Preparedness Week, Day 7

September 24, 2014
from Food Storage Made Easy

from Food Storage Made Easy

The last day of the challenge. I’ll be sad it’s over, though I’ve had more trouble the last few days making time for the event. Today’s challenge was an everyday emergency – recipe organization. One of our family members has asked for some help with collecting recipes that utilize food storage. Today we are to organize our recipes, have them converted to shelf stable options, and have a hard copy in case of power outage.

Our specific tasks were to analyze our food storage system to decide if it’s working or to update it, to look at our favorite recipes and see how we could convert each one to shelf stable ingredients if needed, to look at all of our recipes and get them organized into a system, to go through favorite cookbooks and copy down recipes we liked, and finally, to make a copy of our improved recipe system to give to someone that could use it.

Our food storage system is beginning to come together, and the excel spreadsheet I use to keep track of things is working out okay so I don’t think we need to make any adjustments there. I just need to keep working on getting items input, and using things that are close to expiring. I just found out that I can special order bulk food items from Fred Meyer at a 10% discount, so I think I’ll be able to fill out my inventory a bit more easily now – very exciting (and dangerous)!

A jumble of notes and recipes that I have to wade through every time I want to make something.

A jumble of notes and recipes that I have to wade through every time I want to make something.

Well, as you can see, my recipe system is this: scribble, copy, or cut out an interesting recipe and shove it somewhere I might be able to find it again! Sounds reasonable, right? I have them on my computer in OneNote, Word, PDF, StickyNotes, and bookmarked on my browser. I have recipes on scraps of paper, on a couple different styles of recipe cards, and cut out of magazines. I have cookbooks……somewhere. I’ve got a couple recipe cards that have gotten wet and now are barely legible…. OH! And I have a dozen or so in my head! These special recipes use measurements like, “a handful of brown sugar” and are my very favorite ones – until someone asks me to write it down for them.

Getting my recipes organized will help my life tremendously. I have 3 or 4 different biscuit recipes that I run into and I can’t remember which is best. I have notes scribbled on cards about alterations I’d like to try (almost always, less sugar or more spices!) I like the search-ability of having my recipes (along with notes) on OneNote, but my computer isn’t close enough to the kitchen to make it convenient to read the recipe while cooking. I love pulling out my fancy pens and writing the recipe on a card all pretty – but those are the ones that run…..

Often times, I’m really busy or really tired when I find a recipe and I just don’t want to take the time to write it down. Then there’s the issue of the new recipe, which I will scribble down in order to take it to the kitchen and give it a try. I always fully intend to write it down on a recipe card and put it in the box if I like it, but usually the scribbled note goes in there instead.

I must admit, I can’t decide exactly how I want to organize my recipes. When I start to think about it, my brain sort of cramps up and I just go back to the disaster I currently have. OneNote has my vote for recipe trial and error and the notes that follow, but I recognize that I need a hard copy for when the power goes out. As much as I like hand writing things, it probably makes the most sense to print out the recipes that I like. And this is where I get hard-headed and say that I don’t want to! Seriously. It’s hard to live with myself sometimes!

This is where my effort on today’s challenge ended – in a standoff with myself over whether to write or print out my recipes. As soon as I can get past this little…. Roadblock …. I’ll get my recipes organized. Until then, I will have to muddle through my notes and scribbles and scraps of paper. If anyone has good arguments that I might use on myself, I’d be happy to hear them! I can, at least, start putting my written recipes on the computer! 🙂

Food Storage Made Easy 7 day preparedness challenge

Food Storage Made Easy
7 day preparedness challenge

I’d like to thank Jodi and Julie from Food Storage Made Easy for taking the time to put on the 7 Day Challenge and for all the super great stuff on their website! They have invaluable information to share! I certainly recommend going over to their site and having a look around if you are interested in starting on a path toward more self-sufficiency and preparedness. The information is presented in a friendly and do-able format that won’t overwhelm you.

Preparedness Week, Day 6

September 23, 2014
from Food Storage Made Easy

from Food Storage Made Easy

Today’s challenge involved cooking – one of my favorite things to do (mostly because of the eating afterwards!). We experienced a job loss a few months ago and have been living off our food stores. We are down to mostly just grains and legumes now. The tasks are to cook something using a grain, legumes, and something we’ve never tried using before from our long term storage including only ingredients that are shelf stable.

Homemade granola with fresh goat's milk is a perfect quick meal!

Homemade granola with fresh goat’s milk is a perfect quick meal!

Breakfast was an easy fix of homemade golden raspberry/walnut granola, with fresh milk from our goat. We have a bit of dried fruit left over from last year’s gathering, and I buy nuts whenever I find them on sale. I just love making granola! It’s easy, endlessly customizable, and hearty enough to stick with you. Plus, you can make a batch up and then have it for several meals, or use it in other recipes. Here’s the basic recipe I use:

3 cups rolled oats
1 ½ TBS brown sugar
~ ½ tsp spice (usually cinnamon)
¼ tsp salt
¼ cup honey (or 1/3 cup, if you like it sweeter)
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla (if I feel like it)
~ ½ cup dried fruit (optional)
~ ½ cup nuts or seeds (also optional)

Preheat oven to 300. Mix oats, sugar, spice, salt in one bowl. Mix honey, oil, vanilla in another bowl, then combine. Spread on cookie sheet, bake for about 15 minutes, stir, then bake until light golden brown. Allow to cool, stirring occasionally (or it sticks like crazy!), and then mix in your fruit and nuts (or keep it stored plain and add what you want when you use it!). Good stuff. Not sure how long it would store, because it always gets used up within a few days!

Black Bean Soup with fresh out of the oven cracked wheat/sourdough rolls slathered in goat butter

Black Bean Soup with fresh out of the oven cracked wheat/sourdough rolls slathered in goat butter

For dinner we had black bean soup, using beans (obviously) from storage, home canned chicken broth, dried onions, and dried bell peppers – a variation of this recipe shared on facebook. With that, we had sourdough cracked wheat rolls fresh out of the oven with goat butter. I’d never used cracked wheat, but now that I’ve started, I may never stop – yummy!!!!

I like learning to cook new things and I really enjoy making good meals, but I find myself oftentimes reverting back to the same old basics because I am too tired at the end of the day to be creative. Autopilot cooking is okay, but it does get boring after a while. This was a good exercise to remind me to use some of the other stuff I have stowed away in that dark corner of the store room, and to stretch my skills just a wee bit.

One day left of the challenge! What do you think it will be?

Food Storage Made Easy 7 day preparedness challenge

Food Storage Made Easy
7 day preparedness challenge