When the grandkids visit the farm

All of our kids and grand kids were back this week to celebrate  grandma’s birthday.  (It was a good week)

As things were starting to wind down,   one of the  granddaughters asked, “Can I check on the chickens  one more time?”

“Can I come too?” said two more….

“We found an egg!”

It is never to early to learn where your food really comes from.

Life is good.

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Drama in the hive

When I got home from work yesterday, I noticed honeybees swarming the 5 gallon bucket of water I have set outside  the chicken coop.  Sun was shining, no wind, temperature in the 60’s, perfect conditions for the bees to be out foraging for water after their long winter.

Side note-  (I do have a large container of water, not 5 feet from their hive, pieces of wood and various other things in it, so they won’t drown.   But no, these bees would rather travel five  hundred feet, and try to get water out of a 5 gallon bucket with nothing to grab onto.)

Taking a closer look, I noticed several bees in the water, at various stages of drowning, so I put some scrap pieces of scrap wood in the bucket, then one by one, fished the stragglers out of the water and plopped them on the wood.

Last night, right before dark, I decided to check on them one more time.   Sure enough, I found 15 soaked honey bees, dead on their little rafts.

I should say, they looked dead, but when I nudged  them with my finger, everyone of them stirred just a little.   Since our  temps were heading down into the 30’s last night, I was sure they would all be dead by morning.

So I took the two little rafts,  with the 15 honeybees into my warm heated shop, and one by one  gently place them on the heating pad I use for starting seeds.  Within 5 minutes all of them were moving around,  drying their little wings and grooming themselves.  Then, one by one, like fighter jets on an aircraft carrier,  they took off.  They instinctively headed for the large window, so I opened it and poof…..they were gone,  headed back to the hive.

This morning  when I went out to the shop,  all  but one of them were gone.

Here’s a 19 second  clip of them  on the heating pad from my YouTube channel:

(as you can tell, I’m easily entertained.)


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I finally cracked the code on how to make thick, healthy yogurt at home.

It happened on Wednesday.

I’ve watched videos on YouTube, read multiple blog posts, talked with Nicole our neighbor who knows how to make it.  Had multiple failures..

Then finally, finally it turned out.

One of the lessons I learned was, just because it says “live active culture on the container” when you buy it from the store, don’t assume it’s still alive a week after you’ve opened it and kept it in the frig.

Not always.

There are so many people who’ve written and posted about making yogurt, I’m not going to do that here.  What I did want to share however was  what I did with some of the leftover whey…that’s the liquid byproduct of yogurt.

Just so happened we got  the Spring 2019  news letter in the mail a week ago from Fort Bumper.   The newsletter is full of “traditional skills, gardening, homemaking, recipes, herbal remedies, caring for farm animals, historical tidbits, and much more for the old-fashioned homesteader.”

In the news letter was a recipe for  “Smith Cakes”  I  tweaked the recipe and made it my own. Recipe called for liquid whey made from cheese making and freshly ground wheat flour.  I had neither.  What did have was liquid whey from yogurt making and freshly ground spelt  flour….

Smith Cakes according to me

“Mix freshly ground (spelt) flour (it called for coarse,  but I used what I had and I would say it was medium fine) and enough liquid whey from the yogurt to form a soft dough.  Cover and let stand overnight.   In the morning pre-heat good quality oil (olive oil is good) in a frying pan.  Make sure oil is nice and hot.  Drop the dough in large spoon fulls, forming little patties.  (I used about a 1/3 to 1/2 cup at a time)  then flattened them with spatula) Fry on both sides until golden brown.” 

Oh my.  They were to die for.  They had a flavor that is hard to describe.  They looked like a pork tenderloin when I  got done.  Normally, I need butter and maybe some jelly on pancakes made from freshly ground flour.

Not these.

They were tasty right out of the pan.

Anybody else out there in blog land make their own yogurt or cheese?  Cheese making is next on my list of life skills I would love to learn.   I find the  whole world of  fermentation and the interplay between bacteria, gut bacteria, and our foods fascinating.

If you have a recipe on either you would like to share, tips ,  blog posts,  websites or stories  you would be willing to share, I would be interested, (or questions).

Thanks for stopping by. DM


PS.  Here’s a link to a cheese making kit I would love to have, if you’re feeling generous: 😉 😉




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Now that had to hurt

Gathered  these, this morning from our new  pullets.

In case you’ve never had chickens before, when a chicken first starts to lay, you will  sometimes find an egg with a double (or even triple) yoke.

I think we have a gotten one.

Stay tuned…

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Sun Dog

Sun Dog 1-24-19

(Took that at sun set last night).


I love winter.

( I really do).

It gives me a chance to do things I normally don’t have time to do when I’m building houses.



80% finished with a book called Story Craft by John R. Erickson  on the topic of writing.   Came across an excerpt  last week called 8 Traits of Good Writers and said,  I have to get that book!  

The book is full of wisdom.

From the back of the book:

     “This book focuses on the vocation of the writer.   But it also works as a guide for anyone trying to find and live out his or her vocations, whatever they may be…”

     “John Erickson sets the table with the ingredients for honing one’s literary skills at any age.  The elements of good writing are masterfully presented and will be savored by his loyal following….”

So there’s that.


Bread making

This week  my  bread reading/ research has taken me deeper into the topic of ancient grains.  In the past, whenever I’ve heard words like “ancient grains”, my eyes would glaze over, I would think, yea, just another fad.

Not any more.

Processed, bleached flour that can sit on a shelf for months and months and not get rancid, can do that for a reason…It is sterile/devoid of life, then it is made stable with chemicals, synthetic vitamins and minerals.   Where as bread made with real flour, freshly ground from scratch is loaded,  loaded with real vitamins and minerals, and fiber, and flavor. 

As I sit here this morning, there is a loaf of  bread made from 100% freshly ground flour sitting on the kitchen counter made from spelt (3 cups)  rye (1 cup), 2 T of rapid rise yeast, 1 1/2 C water, 1 t salt,  and 4 T of honey.  (I soaked most of the spelt overnight in the water and 2 T of apple cider vinegar.  That is another topic for another day, (why soaking fresh grain is important).     What I liked about this experimental loaf, is it didn’t turn out dense, even though I didn’t use any white all-purpose baking poison flour.

And finally,  I  stumbled across an organic farmer  yesterday  who is growing several of these ancient grains in South Dakota.  Belle Valley Ancient Grains.

Here’s link to his website:  http://bellevalleyancientgrains.com/

Check it out.  Tell him I sent you 🙂


Well, that’s a wrap.     DM







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Artisan bread making for a beginner

The smell of onion flakes, sour dough, caraway, black poppy and sesame seed is in the air….the darn stuff smells so good.

I am on a bread making kick (again).

For years my go-to recipe was a rye bread recipe my grandma taught me before she died.  She was one of those 5 loaves a week/ measure by feel/ use real lard /old school/ came from Germany when she was 19 kind of bakers.    I can still  see those loaves of rye bread cooling on her kitchen table.

The art of bread making is beginning to make just a little more sense this week.

There is definitely a learning curve.

I am interested in the big picture.

I want to know theory, not just be a slave to specific recipes.

I approach bread making the same way Vince Lombardi approached coaching football.

Start from the beginning.

Focus on the fundamentals.

“Mix some flour with enough water to form a dough, a touch of salt perhaps; shape it, bake it, the result is bread in it’s simplest, most fundamental form:

coarse, crusty

with rich true-spirited flavor

that one soon learns to love and crave.

       Everything else is extra; yeast, milk, oil, sweetening, eggs.  Extra to make bread more palatable, more “civilized”. more chewable and sliceable; yet in a way the extras only detract from the primitive simplicity of grain-tasting unyeasted bread.

The range of breads and other bakery goods is extra-ordinary, from the simplest flour-salt-water to the fanciest butter-eggs-milk-yeasted pastry…Yet basically it’s just you and the dough- ripening, maturing, baking, blossoming together.

from the Introduction to The Tassajara Bread Book


I’ve discovered the past several years,  an inner impulse  awakens inside of me  each fall to putter in the kitchen.   I’m secure enough in my masculinity to write about it.  For me, the kitchen is nothing more than a giant laboratory.  Cook books are no different than the blue prints I use to build a  house.  This impulse  tends to goes dormant once the weather warms up.  But come September, I start thinking about canning,  baking bread,   smoking meat,  butchering…

Ten years ago when I first started blogging, I became friends with a young woman who was a lawyer by day.  Found out she and I shared several interests besides blogging. She told me she had a single aunt she greatly admired who lived in the country at the end of a dirt road down in Missouri.  Aunt hunted,  chopped wood,  knew all of those self sufficient skills previous generations took for granted.   My young lawyer friend decided to come and pay us a visit.  Before she left,  she gifted me her personal copy of  The Tassajara Bread Book which I have been rereading this week.

My favorite memory of her visit was watching her shoot a pistol grip 12 gauge shot-gun multiple times in a row.   (I wanted to make sure she had a chance to make some lasting memories and connect with her country roots.) 😉

Just went and checked on my latest creation.

Bread is done:

Attempt #6 of sourdough rye bread

Thinking about my lawyer friend  made me think about that song by Hank Williams….Country Boy Can Survive  again, so I’ll tack that on at the end.

Any bread makers out there in the audience?

Any tips for someone just starting out?

Care to share a favorite recipe?

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Solstice Day After 2018

The house is full of microbial activity this morning, much more than normal.

I like that word….


Sauerkraut in the basement….

Bread raising in the oven.

A new batch of sour dough starter on top of the frig.

And a bottle of home made apple wine on the counter.   Neighbor to the North sent it home with me last night.

I have to make a confession….I opened the bottle of wine this morning and took a sip while I was working with the bread dough…. I’m not a big consumer of alcohol at this point. Got that out of my system before we were married, 40 years this coming April.  But both of us have been known to enjoy a sip now and then, especially  when there something to celebrate.

In this case,  I decided to celebrate the day after Solstice.

The shortest day of the year.

Couple of winters  ago, I stumbled across  several things that kept me from getting sucked into dark maw of a winter funk.  The Midwest is not exactly known for sunshine if you know what I mean…  Day after day of little or no sunshine can begin to take its tole….Even on an optimist  like myself.

On a hunch I invested in what I call   “happy lights. ”  Two full spectrum LED fixtures, that light up our kitchen like an operating room.  Can’t recommend them enough!


I was between projects on Thursday, so I decided to celebrate by attempting to make my first batch of sauerkraut.

Former co-worker of mine had given me a jar of home made kraut back in August.  Nothing like the store bought  stuff.  Thursday morning, after  cutting two heads of cabbage with a knife, not really knowing if there was a right or wrong way to cut it, I watched a couple of short videos on YouTube… only to discover, we actually own  an antique cabbage slicer I’ve never used.

It was hanging on the wall in our storage room as a decoration.   Once I dusted off the cobwebs and gave it a good cleaning….


Talk about efficient.


One last random tidbit.

I finished reading a book written by the wife and widow of Patrick Swayze  recently chronicling  their lives the last year or so of his life battling pancreatic cancer, and the next year or so after he was gone.

Her words  touched me deeply.

I decided to write her a thank you note and let her know.

I heard back from her last night.


Well, just got word my 2 eggs over easy are done, so going sign off.

Take care. DM


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