“Become dust - & they will throw thee in the air; Become stone - & they will throw thee on glass." Muhammad Iqbal *Beyond the bushes, boiling with dust, is 4Shoes West boundary road.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Harnessing my Inner Frugal Gourmet

In the interests of saving $$, because grocery store prices are going nowhere but up, & because we have a child whose ambition (it seems) is to be a professional student of higher education (this is year #5 @ university, but she is @ the top of her class!), I have lately been more actively pursuing self-sufficiency. While I have put the chicken plan on the back burner until next year while I get a little more professional counseling on managing my fear of The Borg Chicken Collective, I am going in a positive direction.
Wood rail-box supports 9 buckets perched atop a self-watering delivery system
Of necessity, I have a renewed interest in gardening; Mr. Shoes has built me a tower in which I've planted strawberries, radishes, mesclun & spinach. He has also built me a new raised garden bed & @ right you see my amateurish illustration of a bucket grow system which Mr. has now built into a reality. You may have already guessed that a lot of canning & home preserving is in my near future as well.
Meet Bacon & Sausage, the Berkshire brothers *not my barn*

Mr Shoes & Boot (our son) toiled all day Tuesday converting my round-pen into an escape-proof pigpen; I say goodbye to my pen not really needing it these days & knowing it will be in good service to the farm. Yes, the pigs could live inside the barn 24/7, but in my experience happy pigs make better eating, so these 2 guys need a comfortable outdoor space to call their own before they end up filling our freezer in the fall. Pigs are actually thought to be one of the most intelligent of animals, scoring considerably higher on the scale than do dogs. If you'd like to see proof of this claim, go here to view a group of smart little piggies who have been trained using a form of operant conditioning; the farmer in this video uses a snap of his fingers rather than a clicker or a whistle, but the training premise is exactly the same.

Back to the topic of the day: I have been baking & creating more of our meals from scratch than I have since the days when we were young parents; I don't think Mr Shoes has had to eat a store-bought cookie in close to a year now. Pardon me while I reach over & pat my own back just a little. Mr Shoes loves spicy food, & tacos are a frequent request, but those little packets of taco seasoning can range from a sale price of 89 cents up to a regular price of over $2. That is to season 1(!) lb of meat!!! Arrggghhh. I am happy to say that such highway robbery is no longer an option OR a choice I have to make as I recently found this recipe. In an effort of continued generosity & sharing, now here it is for you all. 
Click on image to visit recipe origin
  • 1 T chili powder
  •  1/4 t garlic powder
  •  1/4 t onion powder
  •  1/8 t cayenne pepper
  •  1/4 t dried oregano
  •  1/2 t paprika
  •  1 t ground cumin
  •  1 t sea salt
  •  1 t black pepper 
Mix all together until well blended & store in airtight container.
Brown 1lb your choice of ground meat, add 1/4 c water & 2-3 T spice mix.
Simmer until reduced.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

How to Get FAT in a Hurry

Okay, let me just say, this is not an instructional post on how to expand your waistline; I think I can
pretty safely assume that nobody wants that. 
Fat Bottom Farm Flowers Soap Bar
Today I'm want to talk about The Fat Bottom Farm & the wonderful woman who runs it, Marilyn. No, not the dirty jobs FBF... I'm talking about the original FBF & Marilyn doesn't just go around letting hunky TV personalities handle any FBF titties - Google it, if you must, but you might want to avoid the word 'titties' in your search & don't say that I didn't warn you. 
(*Aside: Mike can come to the 4Shoes & shovel horseshit anytime he likes; because I'm totally cool like that. Are you listening Mike?)
Fat Bottom Lip Fix
Marilyn was one of my first ever friends on the internet, way back in another lifetime when she was on husband #6 - well, technically only #5  because she married the one guy twice &, hey, who hasn't been there, am I right? The word 'interesting' doesn't hardly even begin to describe my girl! She is a loving mother & Granny, she is vivacious & she is hilarious, she is a talented website creator, she is a successful business woman, & she is one of the most notorious pranksters I've ever come across.
(*Just trust me on this, I have been the target & she has burned me but good!
Fat Bottom Rag Rugs
Marilyn is also a talented Crafter of almost anything - when something catches her interest she will pull the trigger on that new idea like nobody's business! She makes the creamiest, non-dairy, cold processed soap bars that are naturally scented with flowers & herbs & stuff direct from the farm like lavendar, juniper, & honey to name just a few! This woman is so talented I could never say enough good things about her if I talked all day & all night.
(*Judi, not the time to take a cheap shot at me,hee hee, this is Marilyn's moment here.)
Fat Bottom Beanies
Soap is not the only thing that Marilyn makes & sells in her Fat Bottom Farm Etsy Shop. Oh no. She also makes a silky Lip Fix available in Strawberry or Melon that will take you from chapped & miserable to thoroughly kissable in no time; old timey rag rugs that will delight your tootsies like the ones scattered around your Gramma's house; & wonderful crocheted items that run the gamut from simple washrags to the most adorable baby beanies! I plan to try to talk her into adding crocheted fly veils for the horses to her shop in the near future. Oops, she's just reading about that now... How about it Marilyn?
I can send you a pattern & I have 4 gorgeous steeds who will model for carrots...  You know, I am just saying.
Wyatt's Jewellery Design

Marilyn has also passed on her natural talents to her son, Wyatt, who is a gifted artisan in his own right, makes the most wonderful jewellery, & who has his own Etsy shop... 
 But this post is about getting FAT, so that will just have to wait for another day.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Where OCD & Free Time Collide

Gat Dang my SIL!! I blame her for talking about & sending me examples of this fricking Pinterest thing so often that, one rainy day, I finally checked it out.
Big Mistake. Really. BIG mistake. Save yourself, click away now. I am not joking.
The problem with introducing this kind of time suck to an already busy life compounded by a slight tendency towards OCD is that I can't just re-pin random shit - my brain insists that I worry myself over a myriad of concerns, such as:
  • Am I genuinely interested in this project/idea for myself? (Answer must be Yes)
  • Does the link work properly? (It must, so every link is tested.)
  • Does the link lead to a site with excessive or intrusive advertising? (No can do.)
  • Is the description my own words, personally endorsing the idea or project?
  • Is this project manageable for the average DIYer?
  • Are special tools or purchases needed?
  • Is it budget friendly?
  • Have I posted the idea more than once &, if so, are there enough differences between the projects to make each one worth considering?
  • & on & on & on...
You see where I'm going with this, right? I limit my computer time - now I have to monitor that I don't waste too much of that time as a whole on this individual pursuit. OMG, I wish I'd never gone there. Oh Lawdy, why does my SIL have such great ideas that she has to 'share' ??
As a result of this fantastic collection of ideas/supreme time waster, Mr Shoes has been commissioned to build all manner of nifty new stuff for my current obsession - Gardening. He, at first, wondered how I'd been coming up with all these new projects I 'needed' that required him to spend time in his workshop to keep me happy/quiet.
Initially he built me a new raised vegetable bed (relatively easy), then a strawberry tower (more finicky, lots of mitered edges on that project), & now Mr Shoes is working on creating a gutter grow system for my tomatoes & other viners to set up beside the porch where he will soon (you guessed it) be hard at work building some kind of trellis system.
No doubt, Mr Shoes is cursing SIL too except that, amidst all the swear words, he is also looking forward to home canning & strawberry jam which I have promised him as payment for his labour.
Among other things. 
Do not ask. You have been warned. 

View Mrs Shoes' Boards (You probably should not do this.)
View Mrs Shoes' Pins (Really, you should NOT do this.)

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Monday, 4 May 2015

The Borg Chicken Collective

In a bid to become more self-sufficient, we have recently begun considering adding some chickens to the 4Shoes. I say 'considering' because I'm not entirely convinced that I can actually touch a chicken, even now. As a child, I hated chickens - chickens are the root of why birds in general have always kind of freaked me out. I do love me some chicken meat though. Can I get over my irrational fear of birds for the promise of fresh eggs &/or delicious meat in my refrigerator? Not. Sure.
*The following comes from a frightened mind & represents only my own fairly but not likely 100% accurate memory of my terrifying childhood experience with a very scary hen & her Borg Chicken  Collective.*

Chickens are like The Borg of the farming world in that the whole flock appears to share a single collective consciousness. The community brain randomly singles out one poor bugger to torment &, together, they'll pick at it & pluck its' feathers until the thing is so gotdam ugly that even the dog doesn't want to eat it. By the time it is bald & dazed, I have no doubt the poor bird is just praying for someone like the Saint to come along & put it out of its' misery. Once that bird is dead, the flock chooses a new victim & the cycle just repeats itself endlessly.
Charming. No?
Saint with wild Prairie Chicken - Saint is FAST, yo.
Chickens appear to be notoriously bad parents. Hens will lay eggs & go on about their business without even looking back. Other hens will come & lay their eggs in that same nest & also abandon the lot.
When I was a child my mother had an old hen who was missing an eye which she'd probably had pecked out at chicken fight club where she then (enraged) laid waste to a circle of bird onlookers who suddenly decided to choose a different victim.
Blind hen was old. Not sure if she even laid eggs anymore, but she sure loved to set on a batch. She would walk along the row of nesting boxes, looking for the one with the biggest clutch, & that is where she would settle.
Because she had only the peeper & just a tiny piece of the flock brain, OneEye was easily startled & would furiously peck first & ask questions later. I was terrified of that damned bird. Nonetheless, it was my job to fetch up the eggs every morning.

Carrying a wire egg basket, I'd stop by my dad's workbench & borrow one of his big welding gloves. Drawing the big leather glove up over my  little hand & snugging it uncomfortably into my armpit, I trudged down to the hen house with my stomach churning. Hidden behind the water jack was a mason jar that I'd smuggled out of moms' canning supplies stash in the root cellar of the house. Better to go into battle with more armour than less, I reasoned.
With the enormous glove covering my left arm & cradling the mason jar close to my thumping heart, crouching low so as not to be seen, I'd approach the box that cradled OneEye & her treasures. Slipping my right hand into the jar, I'd creep slowly towards the evil white hens' blind side. My heart would about pound right out of my chest as I imagined her flying out of the nest & pecking out my eyes, leaving me more blind than she in some righteous blast of poetic Borg-chicken outrage.

Leaning as far backwards as possible, I'd scoot the egg basket under the box with my foot. Straightening up & drawing what each time I imagined would be the last lungful of oxygen that I would ever enjoy, I'd slit my eyes almost closed & commence to threaten the hens' blind side with my glass enclosed fist. As OneEye attacked the jar with frenzied bloodlust, my gloved hand shot out & snatched her up by her scrawny throat. Ripping her from the box & throwing her to the ground in one practiced motion, I'd kick her as hard & as far away as I could manage. In a ballet of terror, I'd frantically tuck warm eggs into the basket & book it the hell out of there with the fiery hen of death & her minions in hot pursuit.

My dad would catch me leaning up against the closed door, wild-eyed & panting. He never seemed to notice the fumes of panic rolling off of me like breakers in a storm; every day he'd say the same thing, "You put that glove back on my workbench now, you hear me Girlie?"
It was probably that there were children to spare after all... you know, if either The Borg or the fear had just outright killed me.
You imagine starting every day of your childhood fleeing for your life from an angry chicken mob & tell me that you would not have issues...
Somehow I think I'd maybe like to cling to what's left of my sanity for another year.

Rabbit meat is also delicious, & they are much more cuddly & cute.
Oops, sorry - the Collective made me say that.