It’s not even winter yet!

Geesh!  What happened?!

Here’s what we woke to this morning:

 

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Here is the lovely pasture that the ewes were enjoying just yesterday:

 

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It’s now a snow field!  We had to break open the first bales of hay to feed everyone!  

 

We had to chip through the ice on their water.

 

I’m not ready for winter yet!

 

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The farmer’s market is canceled, the kids are sledding, the wood stove is fired up and the cocoa is on.  It’s an official “snow day” in October!

 

I don’t think I’ve ever seen this much snow in October.

 

But I have to say, despite the inconvenienc,  it sure is beautiful! 

 

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Gluttons for Gluten

We LOVE gluten around here!  I don’t know what we’d do without it!

 

Hello everyone.  I’m Robin Kerlin, and I’m Italian.  

 

Gluten fortifies my blood.

 

I have a good friend who’s Italian and is gluten free.  I sincerely don’t know how she does it!

 

It’s in nearly everything!

 

Pasta…mangia, mangia!

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Turnovers.

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Sticky buns.

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Cakes.

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Pies.

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And ESPECIALLY…bread.

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We love it so much that we literally buy # 10 size cans by the case.

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So how did Morning Star Meadows Farm end up in a new gluten-free recipe book?

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Our dear friends, the Landolphi’s, were the first to make us aware of gluten intolerance.  Rob’s wife had been ill for quite a long time, and in 2000 they finally discovered the cause of much of her problems.  She was intolerant of the gluten in her diet.  Lucky for her, Rob is a chef — now “The Gluten-free Chef”!  He’s written 2 books, and he’s dedicated a recipe in his second book to us because of our love for sheep.

 

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And I have to say, after thumbing through the delectable recipes in Rob’s book, I’m starting to think gluten-free wouldn’t be so bad after all!  Yum!!

 

Thanks, Rob, for “catering” to needs of so many!  We wish you all the best with your new book and with your future career as the Gluten-free chef!

Rendering lard

Last year our BFF’s at Tomcova Farm came over for dinner.  No, they didn’t bring us a bottle of wine.  They brought us a mason jar of homemade lard and some incredible cinnamon pastries that they had made using pork lard!  

You may say – LARD!  That’s what our grandparents (great grandparents) had to use because they didn’t have awesome hydrogenated vegetable fats like our modern technology has given us!  Yeah – we all thought we were getting healthy eating buckets of margerine and crisco about 10 years ago, didn’t we?

Then we learned that hydrogenated fats were bad – so science has tried to eliminated the hydrogenated fats, but guess what?  These products still aren’t natural!

I have to say, I was a bit dubious about using lard.  I started to read about it, and found out that there is a whole lard movement out there (I guess these days everything has a movement, though), and that we may need to rethink what we once thought about using lard.  Of course I’m not saying we should be spreading it on our bread every day or eating it off of a spoon.  Everything in moderation!

We had a great day at the Denison Market on Sunday, and the great people at Stonyledge Farm brought pork suet with them this weekend.  They kindly sent us home with a couple of pounds to try, and this afternoon I performed my first rendering and made my own lard!

Of course I had to capture photos throughout the process for you!

Here we go!

I chopped it up in about 1/2 inch cubes initially, and placed it in a deep pot with a heavy bottom. 

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Here’s a nice close up.

 

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I kept the heat fairly low so that the fat would melt and not burn.

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Glistening gobs of fat.

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Now it’s getting a bit hotter.  The cracklings are starting to fry (basically, everything that doesn’t melt becomes crackling).

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I skim out the cracklings, leaving the melted fat that will cool to become lard.

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A coffee filter worked pretty well to filter it.  I figured it was more disposable than cheesecloth.

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Here it is all strained.

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Then we threw the cracklings in for a bit longer to get crisper.

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A bit more fat resulted – this will be tucked away for more savory cooking.

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And…a couple of hours later…the finished product – all ready for an awesome pastry recipe!  Hmm…it’s about time we made some apple pies!

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sad dog, happy sheep

As I was about to upload a few pictures to the blog this evening, I was rudely interrupted by a smell.

 

The kids were watching Lord of the Rings with Daddy, when Daddy remarked, “I smell something burning!”  

 

I walked around the kitchen, trying to see what was making the smell when one of the kids realized what the smell was…

 

“That’s a skunk!”

 

Yes – I know most of you have smelled a skunk before, but I’m willing to bet that most of you have not smelled skunk juice so fresh and intense that it smells (and practically TASTES!) like burnt rubber.  It is truly one of the most unpleasant odors imaginable, next to rotting smells or carnivorous animal spoor.

 

Anyway – the next obvious question from one of the kids, “Where’s Blue?!”

 

I’ve been meaning to put up a post about Blue – probably our most beloved animal at the farm, and he hasn’t even been mentioned!  Well, now he’s going to have to wait for his time in the spotlight because I’m not very happy with him at the moment.

 

You may say, “Poor Blue!  It wasn’t his fault!  How was he supposed to know?”

 

But you are wrong.  Blue does know.  

 

Last summer he came into the house at 11pm smelling like this.  And yet he was dumb enough to try to make friends with a black and white animal once again.  Of course considering he’s dumb enough to try to make friends with the UPS truck, to the point of nearly getting himself run over every time (ignoring the fact that he knows that the UPS truck is also a dog treat dispenser, of course), I shouldn’t be surprised that he’s either too dumb or acting too instinctively as a terrier to be able to help himself when a wild animal comes into his territory.  

 

Anyway – if you want to make a mental note should this unfortunate event befall your beloved pet, a mixture of shampoo, baking soda and peroxide works nicely to help deodorize.  

 

And of course because there is never a dull moment in the Kerlin household, one of the kids who has a delicate stomach on a good day kept saying that the smell was making him sick.  Daddy, thinking the child was using it as a ploy to stay up later, banished said child to his bed.  This resulted in our next clean-up job, as he ended up puking on the carpet of his room.  Nice.

 

So — now that I’ve filled your senses with those lovely thoughts…onto my real reason for blogging tonight!

 

I have been remiss at updating the blog much lately.  We’ve been really busy with school and other projects, and the sheep haven’t, thankfully, been doing much that is newsworthy.

 

The ewes were recently moved to a lush pasture on the hillside.  They are happily gorging themselves – hopefully those who will be bred this fall are producing lots of nice, healthy eggs so that they will have twins in the spring.  You can tell that the hormones are starting to kick in for them to come into season.  They’ve been butting each other around a little more than they usually do.

 

The boys have been banished to the lower barnyard.  They’ve been feeling their oats a bit as of late, anticipating the impending duties they will have next month when they are introduced to their “wives.”  They are getting along pretty well together, just eating and hanging out.

 

As for the ewes, they are looking healthy and happy.  This is their kind of weather – cool and dry with a stiff breeze.  I thought you might be interested to see how long their coats already are, as so many people wonder why we shear so close to winter.  They are fuzzy and warm.

 

The day was so beautiful that I couldn’t help myself and I wandered out with the camera.  I love photos on sunny fall days.  Something about the contrast of the long shadows on the still-green grass is peaceful.

 

Here’s Bindi.  Since we’ve been farming, there have been so many expressions that I’ve now come to learn from whence they came.  Like “ruminating.”  “I’ve been ruminating about that for some time now.”  Well, Bindi is truly rumen-ating.

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Her daughter, Bruna.  She is still so sweet, always coming over for a pat and a hug.  Sometimes it’s hard to get her picture because she’s chewing on the camera cord!

 

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Esther’s coat is coming in so silky soft, just like her first coat.  

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Molly looks like a different ewe than she used to.  We recently learned that we weren’t giving the sheep quite enough copper, because she was losing her black pigment.  Which brings me to yet another expression, “the black sheep in the family.”  Often sheep farmers would run a black sheep in with their flock of white sheep as a sentinel for copper deficiency.  Copper can be toxic to sheep in large amounts, but they do need some.  Anyway, it looks as if Molly was going grey and now has had a wonderful dye job!  She looks so youthful!

 

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Esther’s mom – Roxanne.  She’s done a great job as a first time mom.

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Shirley, stepping out.

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Laverne, checking me out.

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Here’s our youngest, Fatima.  I’ve been calling her “Mini Millie” lately, as she’s almost a clone of her mother!  She’s the shyest of the lambs.  

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Hi Millie!

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Here’s Matilda…always eating…

 

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And last, but not least, dear Daisy.  Being a singleton, she is HUGE!  Matilda, who had initially rejected Daisy, has done so well with her!  Daisy had ample amounts of milk since she didn’t have to compete with a twin, and it shows!

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Dine Out for Farms

Looking for a good reason to eat out?  Or maybe you don’t even need a reason?  How about dining out for a good cause?

 

We have so many wonderful restaurants in our neck of the woods that make use of locally grown foods and promote small farms.

 

American Farmland Trust is combining with restuarants all over the country:

American Farmland Trust’s Dine Out for Farms™ is a national, week-long event that brings together restaurants and consumers to support a sustainable future for America’s farms. From October 16-22, participating restaurants across the country will educate diners about the importance of farms and raise funds to save the land that sustains us. Don’t miss this opportunity to celebrate delicious food and the farmers who grow it!

How Dine Out for Farms Helps

By joining American Farmland Trust for the Dine Out for Farms™ event, you’ll support our programs that keep farms thriving and save the land that sustains us—from working hand-in-hand with family farmers, to helping communities become more farm-friendly, to promoting sound policies that will ensure a healthy future for America’s farms and food. Proceeds from Dine Out for Farms™ will bring us one step closer to achieving our vision of healthy farms, healthy food and healthy communities all across America.

Click here for a list of area restaurants participating in this event, and then pick up the phone and make a reservation!

Gettin’ crafty!

We are having so much fun making these cuties!  Since we can’t bring our flock to the Denison Market, these will have to do!  Some are just fun…some have been personalized to look like members of our flock, right down to sporting some of that sheep’s wool!  Some are free standing, some are Christmas ornaments, some are pins and some, fridge magnets!

Let us know if you have a color combination you’d like and we’ll try to make it up and bring it on Sunday!

 

 

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