Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Iron Oak Farm, but especially from Tom, who is thankful he is a pet and not joining the cranberry sauce and dressing this year.

Many blessings to you and yours, and many things to be thankful for. May you share in bounty with friends and family.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Automatic Chicken Coop Door Installation and Product Review

Our coop has a new feature! An Automatic Chicken Coop Door, that can be set to a timer so our chickens are always safe from nocturnal predators! Learn more about this amazing product in my latest Community Chickens post.

Automatic Chicken Coop Door Installation and Product Review

Planting Garlic and Other Bulbs

Our bulbs are in for the year. It's always such a hopeful task as we enter into the darkness of winter. It's encouraging to think of the bright and cheerful daffodils and tulips that will emerge next spring.

Planting bulbs is a pretty straight forward process.

Dig a hole or a trench for the bulb to be planted.

A good rule for depth is 3 times the size of the bulb. I tend to do twice the size of the bulb, then add a good layer of compost and/or mulch to the surface.

A bulb planting tool can make it easy to plant individual bulbs. It take a kind of core-sample of the earth out, then pop the bulb in the hole and redistribute the soil. (Ours is pretty old and rusty, but still works like a champ.) 

The bulb should be planted point side up. If the bulb doesn't have an obvious "point" then check for signs of root buds, these should be facing down.

Bulbs do well with a thick layer of compost. It helps fertilize first thing in the spring and it discourages early weeds from taking over the sprouts.

Garlic is also a bulb and is planted in a similar manner.

We dig trenches so the garlic grows in straight rows,

and place the bulbs across the rows evenly before covering with earth and compost.

This year I'm growing two new varieties from Fruition Seeds that I picked up at the Mother Earth News Fair in Wisconsin. 

The first variety is called "Music" it's a large variety often mistaken for Elephant Garlic. It's "sweet and pungent." according to the description.

The second variety is called "Italian Red" it's a hard neck garlic with a mild flavor. 

When I was at the fair, I talked to one of the employees about growing garlic. Ours seems to come back smaller and smaller each year. Her advice was to "Eat the small ones, plant the large ones." This will be my rule going forward.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Pecan Pie Tasting, Maple VS Honey

Zach's dad's favorite pie is Pecan. His birthday party was this past weekend so I decided to make him a pie to celebrate.

I've been intrigued by the Honey Pecan Pie recipe from the Miss Kay's Duck Commander Cookbook. I was particularly interested because I love to use ingredients from the farm whenever I can. This year we got a bumper crop of honey from our hives, so I thought this pie would be perfect!

Get the recipe over at Mommy's Kitchen

I was browsing around other blogs and noticed that honey could be swapped for maple syrup in this recipe.

We have a bunch of that too!

So I made two pies.

One with honey

and one with maple syrup.

They were both DELICIOUS!!!

The maple had a deeper flavor and not quite as sweet as the honey. The honey has a brighter taste, and you couldn't mistake the honey flavor.

If I had to pick one, I think it would be the maple. I love anything maple flavored. Also, Pecan Pie is very sweet to me anyway, so I enjoyed the downplay of sweet flavor from the syrup addition. But both got votes from our family that tasted the pies.

To make the maple version, substitute 1/2 cup maple syrup for 1/2 cup honey, cook as directed. 

Beeswax Turkey Place Card Holders KBB Post

Make these easy place card holders for your Thanksgiving table. Learn how over at Keeping Backyard Bees.

Beeswax Turkey Place Card Holders

Crispy Breaded Porkchops

This is a super simple, easy recipe and only has 3 ingredients! 

Crispy Breaded Pork Chops

4-6 pork chops, I like bone in because I feel like there's more flavor and I admit...chewing at the bone is my favorite.

vegetable oil

1 sleeve of saltine crackers crushed

Place the crushed crackers in a shallow bowl and press the pork chops into the crumbs.

Really mash them in till the crackers stick and coat the whole chop.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large pan, heat the oil on medium high till you drop in a cracker and it sizzles slightly.

Cook the pork chops 2 at a time (don't overcrowd the pan) 3 minutes per side or until golden brown. Don't worry about cooking all the way through, you're going to finish them in the oven.

Place golden chops in an oven safe dish and bake around 20 minutes or until cooked thoroughly.  

Monday, November 23, 2015

Snowed In with Food and Blacksmiths!

What do you do when you're snowed in for the weekend with two blacksmiths? of course! 

On Saturday Zach and I, and our two friends, Nate and Stacey went to a blacksmith demonstration in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The forecast predicted lots and lots of snow, but they're usually wrong so we decided to chance it.

The blacksmith meeting was really cool!

The host, Scott Lankton of Lankton Metal Design demonstrated a railing technique, and how to forge with silica bronze.

His shop was amazing, (as most blacksmith shops are) full of nooks and crannies, project ideas, tools, metal stuff, several forges and 3 Nazel power hammers.

Zach got to try out the 2 B Nazel

The snow never let up all the while we were at the meeting, and by the time we were ready to leave, we had about 8 inches.

We tossed around the idea of stopping at a restaurant for a bite to eat, but we were afraid to be out in the storm any longer than we had to. So we decided to make a quick stop at the grocery store and have diner at home.

Now, when Stacey and I are presented with the opportunity to make dinner together, we take it seriously. We both love to be in the kitchen, and she is an excellent cook! Check out her blog at Investing in a Delicious Tomorrow.

One recipe that her and Nate enjoy is spaetzle, but it's a tedious recipe without a spaetzle press. Stacey and I thought between the two of us, we could knock it out.

Spaetzle is a long, thin German dumpling, traditionally served in a gravy with breaded pork cutlet. The spaetzle dough is very sticky and is formed in a press and squeezed immediately into boiling broth. Neither of us have a press so we had to make the spaetzle by hand.

Stacey's recipe was delicious!!! We also made breaded porkchops and green bean casserole.

While dinner was cooking Nate, Zach and Oliver shoveled and salted the drive, cut paths to the barn and coop, took care of the animals and made a fire in the wood burning furnace. By the time they came in, dinner was almost done. 

Nate and Stacey decided that it was too dangerous to venture out so they stayed the night.

That night, I needed to make two pecan pies for Zach's dad's birthday party the next day. So Stacey helped. I wanted to try the Miss Kay's Recipe for Honey Pecan Pie. We decided to make one with honey and one with maple syrup. Both were delicious, and recipes are coming soon!

The next morning we woke to a winter wonderland. Zach's grandpa read that our area received 16 inches of snow.

I feel like our yard had more like 12-14, but still, it was a lot.

That morning we made biscuits and gravy.

Stacey makes the most amazing biscuits I've ever had.

Just look at those babies! They're beautiful...flaky and buttery!!!

 Served with Iron Oak Farm honey.

We made the sausage gravy with our own homemade sausage, recipe here.  
And fried potatoes.

While the weather took us by surprise, it made for a fun and delicious weekend!