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Monday, October 24, 2016

Menu Plan: October 23 - 29


Alexander Hamilton is dead. Long live Alexander Hamilton! (In our stomachs) Our pig was butchered last week, and we were able to get the cheek meat to slow cook and the tail for the kids to roast like they did in Little House on the Prairie. Rich and I talked about it, and we think we will get three piglets next year. We have been able to get them either free or extremely low cost, so it has only been the cost of feed and butchering, and the feed is minimal, as we have a lot of area that they can graze and forage. The plan is to butcher two for the freezers, and sell one to another family for them to butcher, and the cost of the sale ought to pay for our butchering costs, which brings our costs down considerably. Last year, we learned that you need to schedule the butchering as soon as you get the piglets if you want to get it done in a reasonable time. This year, we learned that they really need companionship. Both Frank (Sir Francis Bacon) and Hammy (Alexander Hamilton) were amiable and genial. They are better than dogs. They are friendly, playful and intelligent, they ward off the coyotes, and when you pet them, your hands don't even stink. Their breath is another story.

If we can get our fencing done properly in the pastured areas of our yard, we're hoping to get a small flock of Tunis sheep (a ram and two or three ewes), but that is a pretty big if. There is so much that needs to be done on the house and on the property, and with the expenses of college and so forth, we have to be deliberate in choosing which project takes precedence. Then there is the time issue. Ideally, though, we'd have sheep of good wool quality that we raised for the meat and wool. I don't spin, yet, so at this point, the wool would be for sale or gift to others, but I'd like to get to where I was able to spin the wool as well. We like the idea of having sheep's milk to make feta and halloum, but that would probably be a long third place to the meat and wool. My perfect flock of sheep would also include a Polwarth ram and two ewes, because I love their wool, but they are difficult to get in the United States. I really like the luster and strength of Blue Faced Leicester wool, but we have pasture for a maximum of eight sheep, I think, and we have so much on our plate at the moment, that the fencing and pasture management would be quite a big bite for us, not even counting the management of a flock of sheep. The Tunis sheep would be the simplest for us to keep, as they are excellent grazers and foragers, were bred for desert climates, and are easy mothers.

We have almost finished putting our garden to bed, and have quite a lot of tomatoes and jalapenos to use up this week. If I can get to it, I will try my hand at a green tomato chutney recipe a friend posted to use up the green tomatoes. If we don't use up enough of the jalapenos in cooking and eating, I'm going to make my first batch of another friend's cowboy candy. Jerome's radishes are pretty much spent, but he still has carrots and turnips that we can harvest. We were gifted with about 90 pounds of dead ripe pears this weekend, so home economics this week includes making quite a bit of pear sauce to eat and to can. We've been eating the pears as well and have given away quite a bit, but they really won't last enough to do a lot of baking with them (which is too bad, because I have a ton of pear recipes), and are already a little too soft for canning as slices or chunks. Pear sauce is a great favorite here, though, and can be eaten and used in baking everywhere that apple sauce can, so I think it's the best way for us to use them and keep them from going to waste. The pears were truly a gift from God, as Rich was driving home from a business trip Friday and called me to tell me he was driving through our fruit growing area and was keeping his eyes open for pears for sale. He found none. Just a few minutes after that I received the text saying that there were boxes of ripe pears available for the first people to respond. There was a call to help clean up the garden for the food bank, so we took most of our kids and helped harvest for that and on our way out, they sent us off with more peppers, some cucumbers, tomatoes, and several butternut squash. Also, Nejat and Yasmina ate an entire row of pea pods (with permission) after harvesting green tomatoes for the food bank. The Lord has been blessing us in our busy and stressful time.

Our life has become one that requires mostly easy and slow cooking meals. The schedule and life we keep with eight children, church activities, knit night at our house, monthly dances, half the children going in different directions, and kids with work schedules on top of their school has kept us hopping. We scored pretty well at the farmers' market so, along with our gleanings and the pears, we have a pretty pile of produce to eat this week, and those feature heavily in the menu. The pork cheeks aren't really enough to feed ten people, but I had such a lovely meal of them at a restaurant in Seattle, that I'm going to recreate it for the family and make an excessive amount of gravy to spread the wealth of the pork and just serve it with a ton of mashed potatoes, salad and roasted Brussels sprouts (we have six pounds to use). I thought of adding some bacon to the mix to add more meat, but Rich thought it would adulterate the flavor. I think the dish was served with grits when I had it, but we have a ton of potatoes, and I make pretty nice mashed potatoes. In looking over our menu plans, I realized that it's Mexican-ish week for us. This is largely because we found amazing deals on these smoky, sweet, red peppers, as well as poblanos and bell peppers at the farmers' market. So, there you have it.

What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a weekly recipe round up.

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