This year our ‘farm’ as it is referred to around the office has grown, we are no longer a fruit and vegetables operation, we have added poultry to the mix. We opted for egg laying chickens at this point and not meat birds, we prefer to find our meat running around in the woods at this point, you know from a cost perspective (total sarcasm).
Anyways back to the topic at hand, we got chickens – and chickens need a place to live so we built a portable smart chicken coop that is solar powered, self contained and at least a little automated, one of my conditions for getting chickens was that I could still go away and at most have someone stop by and collect the eggs – at most. So we built it, but, its a work in progress and I would like to get a few more weeks/months of working with and on it before I throw out a detailed write up about it. So for now, just know, we have a solar powered smart chicken coop that keeps the girls contained and the predators out – and we can leave for a week and not worry about it.
This is horrible, I have neglected my poor blog, nearly a year since I posted last and it feels like I have lived two. Our first year in our home, with out bigger than we should have started with garden was a success. We are still consuming the fruits, or more appropriately, the vegetables of our labor. In addition to the produce we produced not 100 feet from our back door – I was fortunate enough to get a few deer this fall as well; as a result we are living high on the hog with lean, truly free range protein and garden vegetables and preserves. Aside from our garden last year we planted a couple of peach trees, -which seem to have made the winter, found a neighbor who is also a bee keeper willing to keep a hive here – which is fascinating to watch and spectacular for pickle production and we put in a compost bin.
We also did some landscaping and got a couple of cats, well actually we got one cat we rescued from being coyote bait, he was scrawny and malnourished, someone thought he needed a friend and as such we got him a friend. But let me tell you what I have learned about cats, cats are not dogs – good grief these two HATED each other when we brought the second one home, hated, would not tolerate each other. Because of their deep seated hatred for one another we created the friendship cage – maybe a little obsessive but we did it and after several months of the friendship cage and slowly acclimating them to one another and then allowing them to be together we have a couple of cats who seem to be the best of friends, in fact Hazel the second cat we brought home will cry and cry and Finley, the first is out of sight. Who knew cats could be such a pain? But they are barn cats – and thus they live in the barn, but fear not the ‘cat condo’ as it is known is quite posh and climate controlled, these are the yuppiest barn cats one will meet.
As I write this our seedlings for this year a growing away in the science fare experiment that is my grow box, surely I will write more about the grow box in the future but is my attempt to liberate my seedlings from the pillaging of the mice and provide them with a climate controlled location to thrive prior to being subjected to the outdoors. It’s also as close as I think we are going to come to a greenhouse, even though it is in the basement, like I said more on this later.
In addition to the garden this year we are going to be adding some chickens to our portfolio for eggs – we are getting them for eggs. Well more correctly I am more anxious for the chicken poop they will leave behind I can use to build up my garden, but the eggs will be a nice bonus. We have a bit going on here but I wanted to make sure I remembered how to use this thing before we get started on another summer season, one with hopefully some updates.
Sadly this seems like a theme, it’s been a while, I will get better I promise! I did spend some time revamping the site this spring with full intention of writing again and well here we are almost a full year after my last post begging for forgiveness once again.
We have been cooking up a storm, lots of from scratch dishes, some incredible and some mundane, but I don’t have any of them to write about today, instead I wanted to give you all a little life update, its been a busy six months in the Elston home, a lot has happened.
First we bought a house, well not just a house, a house and a barn and a shed and a couple of acres – in the country. We came across our house last fall and proceeded to move in just in time for deer hunting and then winter. The deer season was good to us this year and we ended up with a couple of deer in the freezer that we have been eating ever since – the winter was not so good to us though. It was a tough initiation winter in the country, I had never actually been snowed in before and I can now say I have, multiple times.
You see our real snow started out in early January, we had a few inches here and there before that but my real initiation took place on my way home from a successful hunting trip in Ohio, woke up that morning and hunted it was 40ºF when I hit the stand and 0ºF when I left the house to head home a mere four hours later, the typical seven hour drive home took about twelve and by the time I was on hour two the car thermometer reminded me that it was -40ºF outside. All through Ohio, Indiana and into Michigan it was snow, blowing snow and cold. On one stretch of highway I went 60 miles without seeing a car. But nothing compared to the fun I had once leaving the highway to make the last few miles home. I captured that with my cell phone (leaned up on the dash not held in hand).
Usually in Michigan we get a snow, it melts and then we get another snow or we get a few snows they melt and then we get a few more. Not so this year, we got snow, and then snow, and then snow and then snow. In fact between the snow and then wind we ended up several times with so much snow in our driveway that you could not push it will a full size pickup with a plow and it had to be dug out by hand, which is a not fun task. You can see the results of our repeated blows here, which at this point they had come through with a loader and opened the road back up to two full lanes of traffic, you can also see our snow piles – which continued to pile up all through March.
And if you get bored there are plenty more winter videos on my YouTube Channel.
And so winter went, not only were we stricken with snow but we were over run by mice, catching seventeen in one week. We did our best to get the mouse problem under control but not in time to save our seed starts in the basement which the mice decided they would be happy to eat, thanks mice. So we tried again to much the same result and when winter finally loosened its grip we gave up on the seedlings and planted straight in the ground for a lot of things.
But I am ahead of myself, with plenty of room for gardening we decided to put in our main garden and I say main because we also have an experimental garden behind the barn, but we decided to put our main garden on the properties southern most edge as it was most suitable to be tilled, or so I thought. After eight hours with a walk behind tiller, literally dozens of rocks and bricks removed we had a tilled garden.
And now we are stuck with the challenge of watering all that space, which is a challenge because after 250′ of hose to get the water out there we don’t have good pressure, we are now on our third type of sprinkler to try and get decent coverage. If anyone has any recommendations, send them our way!
And because of all of this, I, based on lots of feedback am moving away from a food blog and moving into a more comprehensive blog of what is happening in our little corner of Hamilton. For instance, we bought a house on a hill but for some reason still have a wet basement and a constant puddle behind the barn – so this past weekend we put in drain tile and perhaps the moment most worth noting was the planning and the redneck laser level to make it easy to figure out where we should stay consistent with the trencher and where we should aim to go a little deeper. So I will leave you with a picture, that is worth a thousand words, sometimes you don’t have the right tool for the job but you can make one that will do the job just as well with what you have (the yellow on is actually a laser level)
Wow, its been that long since my last post?! I have been sorely neglecting my poor blog and almost as much my taste for food! Well alot has happened since September, for one, last December we packed up all of our stuff and put it in a storage unit (or three) and that includes my beloved smokers – so I have been without my arsenal for nearly 7 full months now and it has been difficult. We find ourselves living with my in-laws while we are in limbo between our condo and our future home (which we are still looking for) and our stuff is far away. But, lucky for me my father in law has a nice gas smoker, unlucky for me today’s weather calls for severe storms and strong winds all day.
But let me back up, what in the world do I even need a smoker for today? Well as it turns out my brother is getting married next weekend (congratulations Dan) and I being ever so thoughtful forgot he may need a stag party before he enters into wedlock and so we find ourselves in need of some grub. So I find myself up against the wall we are out with friends tonight and then tomorrow its stag party time. Dan is pretty simple in his tastes but ribs are one thing he likes and one thing I like to make. So ribs it is, nothing special, usual rub and smoked using the 2-2-1 method (they are baby backs, for regular ribs the 3-2-1 method) but with the stinking gale happening outside my window using the gasser was out of the question, I would spend more time relighting the burner than actually cooking. So that left me with the charcoal, which would take more care than I could give it today or the gas grill…winner winner chicken pork dinner.
Now I have heard that some of you (you know who you are) will take a rack of ribs and put it into a crock pot and turn it into gray mush and then top with some sauce, the words I have are not kind. Well no more! There are no longer excuses, today we will learn how to make ribs on the grill that are just a fuzz less awesome than those off a smoker, after all the one on the smoker get cool points.
Before we can figure out how to cook them on a grill we need to know what makes ribs so special in a smoker, there are a couple of things they are low heat for a long period of time, moisture from the water pan (personal opinion here) and smoke – after all it is a smoker. These are the things we will need to replicate in the grill.
The first and arguably the most important, or at least a close second piece of the equation to replicate is the low heat for long periods of time – I can hear you now, “…in a crockpot…” Gross! Anyways so to do that we will only be using one burner (your grill may be different), you will notice in the picture above that the two burners closest to the camera are turned off and just the one is on. Doing this I am able to maintain a nice 225-250°F cooking temperature (stinking wind, it would be easier without the gales) without much effort. So that was easy figure out where the grill can happily hold our temperature and leave it there, or at least until you are positive you need to adjust and KEEP THE LID CLOSED!
Next there is the smoke and well the water, they are pretty similar so I will cover them together. The first thing you will need are a couple of foil pans that will fit in your grill, unless you want use your good pans then by all means cast iron would be better. Take the grate out of your grill if it has the little under grate, sometimes called flavor bars, and set the foil pans directly over the burner you will be cooking with – fill one with water and line the bottom of the other with wood chips soaked in water.
Finally add ribs and cook as if it were on a smoker. Just like a smoker you will have to refill the water and the smoker chips as needed. Cook and enjoy, use your crockpot for soup and taking things to potlucks, where with any luck someone will steal it.
Well, the blog neglect has gotten worse and worse. One of these days I will put it on the calendar and give it a go. This summer has been busy, way to busy. But fall is upon us and its time to store what I have harvested or at least purchased from the farmers market. A couple weeks ago I bought a giant red onion with the sole intention of pickling it and that I have since done. If you have never had red onion pickled on a taco or a burger you are missing out, its some kind of tangy with a little onion crunch.
This has got to be the single easiest condiment to make, ever. And they will most likely get some looks should you eat them in public or with company present.
That’s it, a few minutes of work and you have a condiment for the masses. What is your favorite off the wall condiment?