If you want to grow your own food but don’t have a lot of acreage you might be able to do more than you think. Our sheep, cattle, and chickens live over on Maplewood Hill Farm, our 15 acre farm down the street from the house. The lot that the house and yard sit on is less than an acre. There is a large garden, blackberries, blueberries, grapes, raspberries, sour cherry tree, sweet cherry tree, peach trees, plum trees, garden shed, kennel and a chicken house that doubles as an animal nursery. You can pack quite a bit into a yard! Currently residing in the chicken house is Miss Piggy.
Miss Piggy came to us as a little runt piglet that was getting too roughed up by her siblings so she needed a friendlier place to call home. She came to us in January and lived the winter in the chicken house buried under piles of hay. She came out long enough to eat, get back scratches from us and stroll outside for a few minutes if it was warm enough. Her company was an orphaned calf who she loved but the feeling was not mutual.
The intent was for her to go into the freezer but with the price of pork so high these days, quite a few of our friends let us know that they would buy the piglets if we had her bred. It took a village, but she was finally loaded and sent off to visit the boar of our dreams. She rendezvoused with him for few days and came back obviously traumatized from being with her own kind.
Loading her back up for the ride home went much smoother than the initial load. The farmer that owned the boar that she visited said the other pigs were pretty rough with her and he had to feed her off by herself because they wouldn’t let her eat. Poor girl, she’s been handled gently here and has only seen cows and Keb, the Border Collie. When we got her back home, she got a nice cool shower and a clean house to go to. It was just like when we got her; she stayed in the house and only came out to eat. It took a couple of weeks but she is back to her own sweet self and hopefully she’ll produce lots of piglets around Thanksgiving.
Summer is all about sunshine, being outside, and having good times, right? One of the main characters on Maplewood Hill farm is Keb Mo (named after the recording artist!), farm dog extraordinaire. We just call him Keb. He entertains us.
Being a Border Collie, he likes to round things up and bring them to us. Not only does this include the sheep and cattle but other live things like possums and such. This morning he presented us with a chipmunk, a LIVE chipmunk. Let me tell you, that chipmunk was none too happy about being dug up out of his hole, picked up by a big slobbery dog mouth, and carted over to us. Needless to say, after telling Keb thank you for the present, he was asked to drop it. When Keb spit him out that little ground squirrel hit the ground running. I’m pretty sure he gave all us a good cursing on the way back to his hole.
Crunchy Strawberry Tarts
Another part of summer is big red juicy strawberries. I love these little tarts. Don’t sugar the berries and they will be a wonderful tart/sweet combination. These are great for get-togethers. I usually make 12 tarts and still have some left to cut into squares.
6 cups of crispy rice cereal
4 tbsp. of butter
2 or more tbsp. of butter for greasing
1 10-oz. package mini marshmallows
1 pint strawberries
Using 2 tbsp or more (if needed) of butter, grease 12 mini-muffin or regular muffin tins, set aside. Melt the remaining 4 tbsp. of butter in heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. Add marshmallows, stir until melted. Remove from heat, add crispy rice cereal. Stir to combine.
Drop balls of mixture into muffin tin. You’ll probably need to butter your fingers or the back of a spoon and press the mixture against the sides and bottom of the muffin tin to form a tart. Let harden. When ready, pop out of the tins. Chop as many strawberries as needed and mix with the whipped topping (there’s no hard and fast amounts here, just use what you need). Drop by the spoonful into each tart.
I should have never started feeding them the green beans that are too big to cook.
I remember when I was a little girl, my dad made yogurt with a little yogurt set. It consisted of a warming plate and 4 little containers that sat on it. Sometimes the yogurt set, sometimes it didn’t. I’ve read yogurt recipes that have you mixing the milk and a culture in jars, then storing in coolers, or in the oven, even out in the sun and if the all was right with the world yogurt would be born. Since it always seemed like such a hit or miss endeavor I never tried it…until I started seeing recipes about making it in a crockpot. Searching online, I read as much as I could from different sources and believe me it is YUMALICIOUS, and is so easy to make!
Crockpot Greek Yogurt
- 1 ½-gallon whole milk (I’ve read that it can be made with a lower fat milk but I’ve never tried it)
- 1 small container of plain yogurt with live cultures, 6-8 oz. (I usually buy a “natural” type)
- Candy thermometer
- Coffee Filters
Turn crockpot on low.
Pour milk into a heavy bottom saucepan set on medium heat. Using a candy thermometer, heat milk to 190 F. stirring constantly. When the milk hits 190F. remove from burner and let cool to 100F.
Pour into a crockpot, add the small container of yogurt (this is the starter) and blend thoroughly. Turn crockpot off and wrap with a large towel (I use a couple of bath towels). Leave undisturbed for 10-12 hours.
Check the yogurt; it should be solid with a yellowish liquid (whey) when you stir it around. To thicken it up, line a colander with coffee filters and pour yogurt in to strain. This may have to be done in batches depending upon the size of the colander. Let strain for an hour or to your thickness preference. I like mine really thick so I usually set the colander in the sink, pour in the yogurt and after straining for an hour or so I set the colander into a larger bowl. The whole thing goes into the frig to strain for a few more hours or overnight.
Put in a large container and refrigerate. Instead of adding sweetener or fruit to the batch I flavor each individual serving as it seems like I do not have to use as much sweetener plus I can mix up different flavors each day. Since I commute to work and we always have lots of fruit in the freezer from our garden, I layer frozen fruit in the bottom of a container, then a cup or so of yogurt, then drizzle honey over top. By the time I get to work the fruit is thawed. At this point you can add granola, flaxseed or other toppings.
Fruits are now going on sale at the grocer as the growing season is winding down. I have sweet and sour cherry trees in my orchard but damaging storms and birds got more cherries then I did this year so once the price drops down to $1.50 lb. or so I start buying them like crazy to freeze. It’s really nice to be able to pull out a bag of frozen cherries in the winter to add to yogurt or to use in recipes.
To freeze – wash the cherries, drain and pit. I don’t have a cherry pitter so I just cut up the cherries by hand. It sounds laborious but it’s really not and goes pretty quickly. I’m usually listening to the radio while I’m working in the kitchen so I enjoy the process of harvesting food.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper as it keeps the fruit from sticking to the pan. De-pit the cherries, spread the cut cherries out in the cookie sheet and pop in the freezer for overnight. No need to cover while they’re freezing. When frozen just scoop them up with a large spoon or spatula, put into a freezer bag or a freezer container and label. When you freeze fruit this way, it doesn’t stick together when frozen so it’s easy to take out exactly how much you need. It may take several batches of freezing depending on how many pounds you buy.
The pits and stems can be composted if you have a compost pile going. Between the cows, pig, sheep and chickens on the farm there’s always someone looking for a treat. Miss Piggy the pig, loves fruit so the trimmings go to her. I like that nothing is wasted.
Blackberries can also be frozen in the same manner.
I am a transplanted suburbanite living on a small Kentucky farm with my husband, 1 dog, 1 pig, six cows, 18 sheep, and 20 some odd chickens.
My husband is the farmer, I’m the planner. I’m the cook, he’s the dish washer. He’s always been a farmer, I’ve never been a farmer. Maplewood Hill is our sheep farm and while it may not produce a great amount of income it does produce lots of fun, laughter and challenges.
Growing up with parents from the Depression era taught me a lot about cooking from scratch and learning to spend on what was worthy while saving on what was not. I forgot about it for many years and am now finding my way back to a more frugal lifestyle. It’s all about being more frugal in a 40+ hour work week (with a 30 mile commute!) and living on a farm. I am never going to be 100% green, 100% frugal or 100% anything and that’s okay.
Frugal Table.com was started in 2010 to share our crazy farm life with our city dwelling family and friends. There was a total loss of online posts in 2013 so I decided to take a hiatus, but we are back up and running. It makes me happy to be frugal when I can and I hope you can learn something here that will help you achieve your own level of frugal happiness.