Birds, Snakes, and a Sunset

20Sep13_DSCF1890Almost every day provides us with another beautiful sunset or some type of 20Sep13_DSCF1886amazing cloud formation.  The image on the left is of a sunset a few days ago.  The image on the right is of the same day and time, but looking east instead of southwest. 

I was sitting on the east facing deck a few mornings ago, looking at the golden corn fields mixed with green alfalfa, beet, mint, and onion fields; cows and horses grazing in green pastures, while ducks and chickens quacked and clucked in the background.  I finally realized that this is type of property and scenery that I have always wanted to live in.  It is a beautiful place.

So, Misty was walking back from the barn after we went to the barn to look how the newly installed electricity worked, and she spotted a snake.  We went up to where she was and found that she had discovered a small rattle snake about a foot long.  We took a few pictures and let it be on its way, hopefully to eat a mouse or two.  This is the second snake that I have seen on the property, but I am sure that the first snake was not a rattler.  As long as the snakes stay away from the house, they will be left alone as they have a job to do (eat more mice!).

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Last week towards sunset, hundreds of crows landed in the field in front of the house.  I have no idea what they were doing, but it was interesting as they formed a circle in the middle of the field.

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First Fall Storm

We had/are having our first real rain storm.  While it has occasionally rained since we moved in, the rain has been in the form of a few dark clouds, some lightning, a bit of rain, then clear skies once again.  This rain is similar to what we had in Juneau – grey skies and drizzle.  The main difference is however, this will last two or three days, not 12 months.

A few pictures from the back yard, from Southeast to Southwest:

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Fall Maintenance

RototillOn the left is an image of the GPS track that I took while rototilling part of the garden.  The path you see if 1.23 miles, and it took about an hour and a half to complete.  The area is approximately 65 X 65, and will be expanded another 15 or so feet in the coming weeks in preparation of fall.  I rototilled now to give all of the grass clippings from the lawn a chance to decompose over the Fall and Winter. 

I used my BCS 853 tiller for the first time, and after getting used to how the DSCF1854the tiller felt, which is very different from the BCS mower attachment, it was a fairly easy job, though I was sore the next day.  Even though the machine more or less takes care of itself, it still needs to be guided and man-handled on occasion in order for it to go where I wanted it to till, and especially when turning.  I will more than likely till one or two more times prior to winter.

I also tilled a 100 foot path about 5 feet wide where we will put some of our trees in the Spring.  I have decided not to do a Fall tree planting, as there is a specific nursery that I want to order from, and they only do Spring shipping’s.  They also have a better variety of trees, and I am interested in specific tree varieties, especially apple. 

So far I think we are going to initially plant 4 apples, including two cider specific varieties, one almond, two plum, two apricot, three cherries (both tart and sweet), two nectarine, two peach (maybe), two Asian pear, and maybe two Black Walnut trees. 

We had electricity ran to the barn this week so Misty could set up a ceramics studio.  The electricians put in a new pole, and then ran a line 300 feet underground to the shed.  The studio is in one of the four 40 X 20 foot bays that is enclosed, but has three doors and a window, including a large front bay door that allows you to drive into the bay.

The below are images of Misty pressure washing her area, as well as the rest of the barn.  The barn is 80 X 40 and will also house some animals in the near future.

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While Misty and I were working on the barn, Micha did a lot of burning – this is looking from the barn to the side deck:

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After a very hard day working outside, this is our view from the side deck:

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Bacon–Part II

4Aug13_DSCF1765Remember the bacon post – I mentioned I was curing pork belly in preparation for making bacon?  Well, the bacon is done, and it is outstanding.

I cured the bacon for 7 days, and reviewing the recipe, discovered that I had used a bit too much salt in the cure.  I decided that rather than simply rinsing the cure off, that I would soak the belly in water for an hour and a half to push some of the salt out.  So, the night before the smoke session, I took the bacon out, soaked it in water, and put it in the refrigerator overnight to dry.

The next morning I fired the Bradley up and preheated it to 120.  After it was heated, I put the two slabs (one side) in the Bradley and applied 4.5 hours of a Cherry and Hickory wood smoke.  After the smoke, I increased the pit temperature to 160 and waited until the bacon reached an internal temperature of 150.  About the time 150 degrees was reached, my ProCom4, which controls the pit temperature and displays the meat temperature, decided to give inaccurate readings, again.  As we have a lot of meat to smoke and make into sausage, I am looking into purchasing a new model of the ProCom4, as it is quite useful, if not essential, when trying to produce a stable and accurate temperature.  Apparently, the new model can be controlled via smart phone or computer.

Because the proper temperature was attained, I took the bacon out, let it cool, and sliced it in 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices.  Each slice weighed about 4 ounces.  Cooked up a slice and shared it – it was wonderful and not salty at all.  Simply great bacon.

Drool over these if you will:

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Hiking the Owhyee’s

11Sep13_DSCF1794Decided that we needed a bit of outside time, so Misty, Micha, and I went to the Owyhee Mountains in Oregon, a bit east of Rockville.  Our intent was to do some rock hunting for agate, jasper, geodes, and petrified wood, but the majority of the day was spent hiking to various outcrops that were usually on hill tops.  This made for a tiring, but fun day.  Next time will be dedicated to rock hunting.

The image on the left is of, well, cows.

No narrative, just images: 

 

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The center image is of when Misty found a friend – it slithered in front of her and took up position here:

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More scenery:

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Pulled Pork, and a Sunrise.

10Sep13_DSC1606Woke up to another beautiful, sunny, cool morning today. This is a view of the sunrise this morning, viewed as we sat and had our morning coffee on the side deck.  Life is good.

Thought that I would make some pulled pork this week.   For pulled pork I usually use pork butts, but since part of our pig is two large un-cured hams, I felt that it would be a good idea to smoke one, and make ham from the other one.  The ham I am smoking weighed in at 17.5 pounds with the bone.  I left the bone in as it is simply easier than deboning.  It also may be good in beans after the bone is smoked.  10Sep13_DSCF1778

I did a simple rub of salt and various spices such as chili powder, garlic, cayenne pepper, and other such items, and let it sit for a day.  At 7 am Monday, I put the ham in a preheated smoker at 204 degrees, with 4.5 hours of smoke using hickory and cherry wood.  Today at 7 AM the roast was sitting at 169 degrees.  I took the roast out of the smoker, wrapped it tightly in aluminum foil with 1.5 cups of homemade chicken stock, and placed it in a 225 degree oven.  I figure it should take another 4 – 6 hours to reach 190.  I will then cover the pork with towels and let it sit for 4 – 8 hours, or at least until dinner, when we will have the pork with homemade dinner rolls.

As for taste; When I transferred the pork a bit accidently fell off – great taste!

10Sep13_DSCF1774We also had our first taste of the pig yesterday in the form of pork chops.  Misty made a marinade and cooked the chops in a cast iron skillet.  As with the beef, the chops were extremely moist and flavorful, and quite tender too.  Absolutely nothing like even the best store bought pork. 

In other news:  We are still cleaning and clearing the land in preparation of rototilling, fence building, and chicken coop building.  Hopefully, some of the building will happen this year.  Hopefully……

UPDATE:  6:52 PM, Tuesday, 10 September 2013 – The pork reached 190 degrees at 1:30 PM.  I took it out, leaving it in the foil, and covered it with multiple layers of towels.  We unwrapped the pork at 6:00 PM and proceeded to pull it. 

The pulled pork turned out wonderfully.  Tender, very very tender actually, flavorful, and considering the cut of meat, moist.  I knew going into this project that the pork would be dryer than when using a butt, and though not as moist, it was not dry. 

Below is what it looks like.  Want some?  Come visit!

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Flowers and Birds

8Aug13__DSC1587Micha as she was cleaning and burning some of the brush from around the property.  We still have many days of burning left, as well as weeks of cleaning up under the various trees we have.  Apparently, the previous owner was trying to create a forest for the birds and animals, which is cute.  However, they never cleared out any of the dried weeds or pine needles, which are a huge fire hazard, not to mention a spider and bug paradise.  We may eliminate some quail habitat by cleaning, but we will leave enough behind that they will be able to still find quite a bit of nesting ground. 

It was a bit too bright to take pictures of the roses, but I figured that I had some spare time after mowing the lawn and did not know when I would have another chance, so here are some a few pictures of some of our roses:

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And, an image of an injured woodpecker:

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Us

Took a drive to the middle of nowhere in Oregon today – We will be going back on Wednesday to collect petrified wood, do a bit of fossil and geode hunting.  This is a picture:

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Bacon!

4Aug13_DSCF1741Thought that it was time that Grey Cat got a bit of exposure – So, here he is.

We picked up our pig a few days ago.  I told the butcher shop that I did not want them to cure the pork belly, as I wanted to make bacon for myself.  So, on Friday, I took out 12 pounds of the belly and applied a cure to it.  Simply used salt (with the appropriate nitrates), brown sugar, and maple syrup.  I will let it cure for 7 days, soak it in water to remove excess salt, then smoke and package it up for later use.  Not quite sure what type of wood I will use for the smoke, but am thinking a mixture of hickory and cherry wood.  4Aug13_DSCF1765

I also put some of our T-bone steaks on the grill.  They were quite good as the flavor was sweet and fresh, and the meat was very moist and juicy.  What I did not like was the amount of connective tissue in the steak, as it made the steak a bit tough.  Not real tough, but enough that we all noticed.  I am not disappointed, as the taste was great and made up for any toughness, but I am a bit not happy.  We will see what the other cuts are like (the ground beef was fantastic!).

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Oh goody, a steak picture.  Notice how fresh the steak looks?  Nice white fat and non-chemically enhanced flesh.

We had a rain/thunder storm three days during the past week.  Quite a bit of rain and lightning, but the area really needed the rain, and as the skies are clear, the rain may have put out some of the fires we were experiencing. 

The image to the right is during a clearing moment during one of the storms.  This is just one example of the type of clouds that appeared as we were sitting on the side deck watching the 4Aug13_DSCF1733lightning.  Almost every day and night brings something new and beautiful to us as we sit or walk outside.

The temperatures have also cooled off a bit, and we are now at a very comfortable mid-80’s range during the day, and in the upper 50’s to lower 60’s at night.  Very nice to be out doing yard work or just walking around.

Moo Cow–Meat and More

03SEP13_DSCF1730To the left is an image from the back deck.  In the past two days we have had a dust storm, a rain storm, and now simply heavy winds with beautiful clouds.  It has really been a nice couple of days.

Picked up 300 plus pounds of fresh beef from the butcher today (our pig comes later this week). With all of that meat, and with the great selection of cuts available for meals, it was a bit difficult to decide what we wanted for dinner. Finally, I remembered Michas’ Miracle Chicken Cooker that she purchased in Seattle on the way down from Alaska, so we decided to make short ribs.

The “Miracle Chicken Cooker” is actually an electric pressure cooker that can also be used for fermentation of soy beans, garlic, dairy products (for yogurt), and other items Asians like to ferment.  What I think it excels at is cooking chicken , and tonight, short ribs.

All the various functions are already programmed, so it is simply a matter of following directions and pressing 03SEP13_DSCF1702buttons.  However, the directions are in Korean and an interestingly translated English, while all of the buttons are in Korean.  Makes life fun I suppose.  To the right is the pressure cooker with a chicken ready to cook.  We usually get four cups of broth from this, some of which we freeze for later use.  

Anyway, to make the ribs I used about 1/2 cup soy sauce, a few tablespoons dark brown sugar, 1/4 cup or so of red wine, ground pepper, 10 cloves of garlic, a splash of raw honey, a tablespoon of corn starch, one onion and one carrot.  I pressed the correct button and added 30 minutes to the time, and two hours thirty minutes later we had some great tender and moist short ribs.

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The sauce that was produced was also excellent over the brown rice we also made.  In fact, we had 3 cups left over that will be used as a gravy on potatoes or on corn bread.  Look left!

In other news:  Took the BCS tractor for a test today using the sickle bar mower attachment.  It did an excellent job, and after a bit of learning how to control the BCS, it was quite easy.  I may try the rototiller attachment tomorrow or the next day, as the ground should be a bit softer due to the rain.   

Below is a plate of ribs and some tomato sauce.

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