Saturday, February 11, 2012

Dueling Vinegar Pies

Last weekend, my mom, step-dad, and sister went to the livestock auction with me. On the way home, we stopped at a little restaurant in Martinsburg, where we lived when I was in 1st/2nd grade. This place has the type of food you would find at a dairy stop, but it's more home cooked fare. My mom was reading the daily pie selection on the chalkboard. "Oh, you have vinegar pie!". They have what???? That sounds disgusting. My granny used to fix it for my mom when she was a kid. They only had one slice left (you mean people actually ate it?), so my mom bought it for my sister and me to split.

We finished our meal and it was time for dessert. We also had a piece of hickory nut pie. I tried that one first. It was good. It was almost indistinguishable from pecan pie. Now, it was time to trie the vinegar pie. It looked like the filling was kind of custard-like and the top looked like a sugary, crunchy layer. I'm not afraid of trying new things, in fact, I rather enjoy it. I'm glad I wasn't afraid to try it. It was delicious! It's not quite as smooth as a custard, but similar. It has an almost citrus taste, and the crunchy layer on top was a nice contrast to the filling.

I did a little research on-line about vinegar pie. I read that the early settlers would make it after their store of canned fruits had run out over the winter. There are more recipes than you can imagine. I decided to make one. I've always been a Pillsbury pie crust guy, but I figured it was time to make them from scratch. I read a few recipes and settled on this one. I really want to try one with lard. David at Spring Hill Farm is going to let me know when they have some in stock. On a side note, I'm on the list for a couple feeder pigs once he has some ready. Ohiofarmgirl has done too much raving about them. I just had to try them.

I decied to start with this recipe for the vinegar pie. The one that I had tasted didn't have any of these spices in it, but this one sounded good. You cook the filling in a double-boiler until it's thick and then pour it in a pie shell and bake. It came out very dark, since it has cloves, cinnamon, and allspice in it. It reminded me of a really good homemade apple butter like my grandparents and great-aunts used to make. It was very different from the pie I had tried, but still good.
Contender #1
My pie crust recipe made two crusts, and well, this pie just didn't blow me away. I did another Google search for vinegar pie and saw a picture in the 'images' section that looked a lot like the pie I had first tried. I clicked on the picture and found this recipe. It's actually a page for gluten-free recipes. I used regular flower and a pie crust. This one came out looking just like the one I had tried. For the most part, it tasted nearly identical too. I think I may cut back on the sugar and vanilla next time I make it, but it was DELICIOUS.  I used some organic apple cider vinegar with 'the mother' in it. The mother of vinegar is a mixture of cellulose and acetic acid bacteria that gives vinegar some great properties. Do you know all the wonderful things that vinegar can do? If not, I suggest you do some reading. It really is amazing.
We have a winner!

You really should try this pie. Take a look at some old recipes. This pie is incredibly easy and inexpensive to make. My pie crusts turned out pretty well, but they're far from perfect. Any of you have any great tips for making homemade crusts? I'm betting the lard will really help.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Ode to Cheryl....

Monday night, I was walking out to the barn to gather eggs. It was oddly quiet on the walk. Generally, my two Chinese white geese, Cheryl  and Dodi, greet me loudly. I saw one of them with the ducks. That sent out the message that something was wrong. They're never more than a few feet away from each other. I did a quick scan. I saw white on the other side of the pond. The white wasn't moving. I dropped the egg basket and ran to whomever it was in the pond. I got there and it was Cheryl. She was dead. I pulled her out of the water and saw blood on her head. I looked closer and saw some large puncture marks. It was horrible. I checked out Dodi and he had some puncture wounds as well, but he seems to be doing okay other than being very traumatized. I'm pretty sure it was dogs who did this. I'm pretty sure a coyote would have taken them to eat and the puncture wounds were too large for any of the other typical predators around here.

I had raised Dodi and Cheryl(my nephew named them) from goslings along with a third. I had to put the third one down when it developed a horrible neurological condition. That strengthened my connection with the other two. I always wondered why people kept geese because they're often quite mean as the get older. These geese were my best farm friends. They would jump up in my lap and give me goose hugs and kisses. I'd give them dandelions and we'd talk about our days.
Day I brought the little fuzzballs home.

They always made me this happy!

As they got older, they did get mean to most other people. They pretty much were only nice to my step-dad and me. If the target of their aggression would stand their ground, the geese would usually back off. Their aggression wasn't limited to humans and included dogs and goats and most other birds. None of that mattered a whit to me. I still loved them. They would always greet me when I came home from work or any time I walked outside. Tonight, it was very, very quiet when I got home.
This was when they still liked Chad

Here's the awkward stage between fuzz and feathers

Cheryl before she got her bump on her bill

He doesn't turn his back on them any more. There's Chipmunk who we also lost last year.
Cheryl sometimes didn't mind the paparazzi

But when she did....

Well, she let you know!

Here's a beautiful picture of them taken by our good friend  Cherie Helman
Cheryl, I am a better person for having know you and will miss you more than you could ever imagine. Goodbye, friend...

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Aromatherapy for pigs and Wile E. Coyote impersonations

Since moving to the farm, I've tried to use things that are more 'natural'. I've been reading up on medicinal herbs, aromatherapy, and things of this nature. I'm a big fan of Molly over at Fiasco Farm. She has completely embraced natural healing and even sells medicinal herb mixes for goats.
Well, last week we experienced our first case of hoof rot in our goats. I did a little research and found that tea tree oil is a treatment for hoof rot (also for dandruff and I put it in my shampoo). I trimmed away as much of the dead material on the hoof and put a few drops of the oil on the affected area. It may have been my imagination, but Millicent seemed to be getting around a little better that afternoon. We're applying it twice a day.

That got me thinking. I have noticed some scaly skin on Nigel, our Old Spot/Large Black pig, in his ham region. I've been applying it twice a day for him as well. It's definitely improving. As an added benefit, the barn smells better too.

One of our Black Copper Marans(breed of chicken) pullets(young female) got out of the fence and decided to take up residence across the road in the neighbors' pine trees. When they're in the barn, they come running to me because I = feed. Since she has heard the call of the wild, I = The Warden. My first attempt was to rely on the Pavlovian conditioning I've imposed on her. To set the scene, I'm in my plaid, fuzzy robe wearing pajama pants and muck boots. I went to the barn and got some cracked corn in the scoop I always use for the chickens and my butterfly net (and you thought the scene couldn't get funnier). I go over to her new home (with the net behind my back). I shook the scoop and did my usual 'heeeere chick, chick, chick'. Here she comes! It works! I let her eat for a bit and ready the net. I wait for her to bend down and peck up a few more kernels. Swoosh goes the net. 'Bock, bock, bock', goes the pullet as she runs back to the pine trees. "Grrrrrrr" goes the farmer as he chases after the chicken, followed by lots of wheezing and coughing. I love getting reminded by a chicken that I'm not the spring chicken here...

Once I was able to keep enough oxygen to get the wheels turning again, I came up with an even more brilliant plan. Chickens are flock animals, right? Well, I figured she might come around one of her flockmates. And no, I wasn't going to end up with two chickens on the lam....really. I took a length of twine and tied it around the 'bait chicken's' leg. I took her over to the runaway chickens new abode. We sat there for a while with the bait chicken trying to untie her leg. Little Miss Runaway started heading our way! I wasn't going to try the net again. I was sitting on the ground by the bait chicken. This time I was going to go for the leg with my lightning reflexes. Yeah, see the last sentence of the previous paragraph. The chicken is still on the loose. I went out with a flashlight tonight to see if she was roosting, because they're easy to grab when it's dark. No such luck. Tomorrow, I'm trying some bird seed and an Acme anvil. Stay tuned.

This is a video of the first time the pigs ventured outside. They just look so happy. It breaks my heart that so many pigs never get to be a pig. They are locked in buildings and many never even see the sun, let alone root in the dirt. Our pigs will get to be 100% natural pigs. Tell me they don't look happy. Now the goats on the other hand look terrified LOL. It gets more interesting about 15 seconds in or so...

I have some exciting news. Chad and I worked on the scents for our line of goat milk soap. We came up with two scents and we're going to do one that is unscented called Raaw ;-). We'll decide the mixtures of all the ingredients that go in with the goat milk. We found someone to make the soap as well. We really like her bars. We'll use our own goat milk as soon as we have some....c'mon Shaasta and Staar. It's really fun coming up with the recipes for the soap.

What's going on in your neck of the woods?