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Giving Thanks

Early this summer I posted about the busy-ness of farm life in the summer.  Now that we are in late fall there is much less going on but there is still some activity.  Here is a sampling of what happened this week on the farm.

We got a new rooster the other day.  Until now we have only had roosters on a temporary basis.  When you raise chickens straight-run (from eggs instead of buying them at the feed store) at least half of the flock will be roosters.  But, on our farm – when they crow, they go – straight into the freezer!  However, a good rooster takes care of the hens in his flock.  He will call them to tasty tidbits, send out the alarm when predators come around and for natural flock behavior hens need a rooster.  So when Shannon ended up with an extra roo this year we offered to take him.  Foggy (a nod to Foghorn Leghorn!) is a handsome fellow with golden plumage and a dark brown tail.  Perhaps we will have some chicks in the spring if we get a broody hen!

Time for once a day milking!  Alexis has been dried up for about a month now, Ellie is on her way.  We went out of town for Thanksgiving after morning milking so Ellie is now down to once a day milking.  She is still giving almost two gallons a day, most of which is going to Frank.  He is the bucket calf we got last summer after I had a moment of insanity and bought a second cow!  Originally the plan was to just graft him on to Alexis and let her raise him so I only had to milk one cow.  After two weeks of tying up a homicidal and unwilling mother cow twice a day while he nursed to make sure she didn’t kill him outright, I decided that I would rather spend 5 minutes milking her than 20 minutes watching her.  Frank took to the bucket like a champ and is growing nicely.  He is scheduled to go into the freezer with the hogs in a couple of weeks.  Everyone is appalled that I am going to process a veal calf because there has been so much press around animal welfare issues on veal but  Frank is not locked-in-a-box-in-the-dark veal.  He is running-around-the-pasture-drinking-milk-being-a-nuisance veal.  We also need to have fewer animals in our pasture during the winter to keep down the mud and because both cows are going to calve in March, Frank has to go.  Besides, by Christmas there will be no more milk.

We enjoyed Thanksgiving with family.  My contribution was PIE.  I spent the last week making apple pie filling with Shannon.  I put 15 quarts in the canning pantry and I think she ended up with about 12 quarts.  I still need to do some apple sauce but that is it for canning for this year.  I called my sister-in-law all excited about the prospect of bringing an apple pie – only to have her say, “…and I will be making apple and pumpkin so how about you bring something else!”  So, I brought Pecan, lattice-topped Cherry, and Chocolate Silk Pies.  The chocolate silk pie was a last minute addition because I had extra pie crust and have been on a pudding binge lately.  When you have gallons of extra milk you get creative – and a batch of pudding uses 2 quarts of milk!  My recipe is adapted from one I found on Culinate for Creamy Chocolate Pudding.  I make a triple batch with whole Jersey milk and omit the butter (there is a limit to how much fat one needs!)  For pie filling I add a bit more corn starch than the recipe calls for and the resulting pudding is more like chocolate ganache than pudding.  It is dense, chocolatey, smooth and creamy.  Heaven!   I brought home leftovers of the pecan and cherry, but the chocolate was GONE!  Our turkey dinner will be either Sunday or Monday depending upon when my bird is defrosted.  Sooner would be better than later because it is taking up precious fridge space but I am willing to wait for turkey leftovers!

My mom’s firewood is finally done and in the woodshed.  After 40 years of heating with wood I keep thinking that she will give up and get a pellet stove.  After all, she will be 78 this year and doesn’t get around as well as she used to.  But, no!  Last year when her woodstove died she bought – you guessed it – another woodstove.  Because she has a small house she has a small stove – with a 14″ woodbox.  This means that we need to make sure that the wood is cut small enough and the pieces are well split.  Every year we put her wood up, and every year we wait until it starts raining.  This year was no exception.   But, the wood is in and she will be warm this winter.  My kids used to grumble about helping split and stack 3 cords of wood but now they are older and appreciate the chance to help their grandma.  It is gratifying to see my grown kids serving others and reaching out!

Our family is blessed by a bountiful life and at this time of year we are very conscious of our fortune.  We have a full pantry and freezer after a summer and fall of “putting up” from the farm and garden.  Our children are growing up to be generous and capable people.  We are part of a wonderful community of farm friends and others who enrich our life.  We have good health, a comfortable home and stable jobs in a time when many don’t have those blessings.

As we approach the holiday season, I try and keep in mind that the most important things in life aren’t really things at all.  We try and give experiences for gifts but if you are going to give this year, be farm-friendly.  Several local farms offer CSA’s or Farm Share programs and I can think of nothing better than the promise of fresh veggies during the depths of winter.  The local farmer’s markets have extended their season so you can still buy gifts from local vendors.  And for the kiddos on your list there are a couple books that are favorites around here and help children learn more about farm life.

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