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Chili!

Chili is one of our favorites winter dishes. Comforting and hot, it’s easy to put together for a meal now and to freeze for meals later. This recipe has been my go-to for years. I add cubed butternut squash to cook during the last hour and top it with avocado for additional nutrients. Of course, corn chips or tortilla chips for crunch are tasty too!

For those who already have a favorite chili recipe, scroll down for a chili seasoning packet and a simple formula for using it.

Easy, Yummy Chili

In a 6-quart slow cooker combine:
3 lbs ground beef, browned and drained if needed
3 cans of beans, kidney, pinto or black, drained and rinsed
4 cans of diced, no salt added tomatoes
1 tablespoon honey

Mix the following spices together in a bowl then stir into the beef mixture:
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon granulated onion
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons cumin
½ to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, less or more to taste
2 teaspoons salt, more or less to taste

Cook in the slow cooker on high 6 hours or on low 12 hours until the tomatoes and beef are similar in color and the ingredients combine to look like chili.

This makes very thick chili. We like to serve it with diced avocado. You can top it with corn chips, tortilla chips, crackers, grated cheese, sour cream, and/or pickled or fresh jalapeno slices for a make your own chili buffet. It also freezes well. Just use it in 3 months for the best taste.

Variation to add butternut squash:
Add 1 additional seasoning packet of spices to the pot at the beginning. Omit the honey. 1 hour before serving if cooking on high power (2 hours before it’s cooking on low power) add one butternut squash that has been peeled and cut into small cubes to the pot. Serve when the squash is fork tender.

For 1 chili seasoning packet (Adapted from the Make a Mix Cookbook)
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon granulated onion
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
½ to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, less or more to taste
¾ teapoons salt (we use no salt tomatoes so that we can control the amount and type of salt – you may need to add more or less to your taste)
1 teaspoon honey

Chili formula, from my friend, Ann Boyd
1 pound of ground beef, browned and drained (if needed)
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 can of beans, rinsed and drained
1 chili seasoning packet
If using more than 3lbs of meat, add an additional seasoning packet for the pot. You may also want to add an additional can of tomatoes for a slightly thinner consistency.

This formula can be used to make chili for a crowd. You may want to add additional diced tomatoes and additional seasoning packets to reach your desired consistency and spice level.

Spring green up is on!

After a long, cold winter the fields are greening up nicely. They are not quite ready for the cows to begin the grazing rotation because the grass still needs to grow but the color seems to change overnight. Fortunately, we have been able to purchase additional hay for them. They are tired of hay and let Jonathan know it when he checks on them each day, but they could damage the fields if turned in now.

Jonathan sowed fields 4 and 5 with clover, and it is beginning to sprout. The cover crop planted last fall in field 1 is also greening up nicely.

Some of the tree have buds on them. The buttercups are blooming. The honeybees are on the hunt for any available pollen. Theodora still enjoys some of her meals in the yard. It is still a bit chilly for reports to resume from the front porch, but spring is in the air!

Beehives – Top Entrances

We are using top entrances on out beehives. Conventionally, langstroth hives (modern hives), have a bottom board and a spacer that allows the hive to set up just enough to make an entrance. We remove this space above the bottom board and put it at the top. This keeps us from having to keep the grass cut as short so fewer cuts during the year, or less time required. This also gets the entrance further from the ground. Further from the ground means that the skunks have a much more difficult time reaching the bees. Skunks will camp in front of a hive and scratch around the entrance to get bees to come out and then eat them and can put a hurting on a hive’s population.  Here’s a terrible picture of hive #6.  Next time I’ll try to take a picture with the sun at my back 🙂

Honeybee Hive

Nuclear Hives

Well, they’re actually nucleus hives, or nucs for short; they’re not radioactive or anything.  These are small hives that we have been experimenting with this year.  They are housed in a hive that holds 5 frames, or half the number of frames of our regular hive body.  This means less space to heat and cool and defend.  We set these guys up and let them make their own queen and work on building their hive.  This gives us a kind of insurance policy.  So without a nuc, if we were to loose a queen in a large hive there would be three options to choose from:

1 Do nothing.  The hive would likely die and we would loose any honey/pollen/nectar that was stored due to robbing.

2 Order a queen.  She would take a few days to get here and take a couple of days to start laying, so for about $30 we would only have about 5-7 days of no production of new bees.

3 Let them make their own queen.  This takes some manipulation time on the beekeeper’s part, but is doable.  It takes a hive about 30 days from starting to raise a queen ’till she starts laying, then another 25 days or so until the eggs she laid start hatching.

With a nuc handy, as soon as I realize there’s no queen in a large hive, I can use the queen from the nuc and put her in the hive that’s missing one and get them right back on track.  While it may not seem like a huge difference in choices, if your honey flow is only 30 days long like it is some spring seasons, you can’t afford to miss any days of production or you could miss out on honey for the entire year!

This is how we use our nucs as another tool in our management practices.

Spring chickens are finished

We have completed our raising and harvest of our spring batch of chickens.  They averaged 5 lbs and we were very pleased with the way they turned out.  We used a new hatchery as well as a new pen design and thankfully it all worked out great!

If you’re interested in pasture raised, organically fed chickens, contact us and we’ll get you set up!

Open House and Farm

Dear Friends,

I learned recently from Southern Living that the word “porch” can also be used as a verb. Most of the pictures sent in the farm updates are views from our front porch. This Saturday, May 31st, from 6pm – 9pm we invite you to visit the farm to “porch” with us for our 2nd annual open farm/house.

You may want to bring your supper to have on the porch. We recommend the BBQ sandwich from Burnett’s, the Marathon gas station at Exit 31 (pickles on the sandwich with mild sauce on the side).

You may want to do chores with Jonathan around 7pm. You can help water and move chickens. You can meet the roosters, Rocky, Prince and Pierre, to decide which is the most handsome. You can gather eggs from the ladies. You can learn how to tell the difference between Spot and Speck and help move all the cows to new pasture. Or you can see the infrastructure that makes all of this easier.

You may want to do none of the above and simply rock the time away watching the world go by. Time melts away on the porch.

The real show begins around 8:30 when the lightening bugs begin to make their appearance. Because we do not use chemicals on our fields their numbers create a magical show difficult to describe.

We have a special on our grass fed/finished beef – buy 3 packages of ground beef or pre-made hamburger patties and get 1 free. Fresh eggs will also be available to purchase.

Rain or shine we will be here and hope to see you this Saturday!

Judith & Jonathan

Critter!

There was a yellow-bellied slider (turtle) traveling from one pond to another sometime last year that I got some pictures of, but yesterday it was a different turtle traveling the same path. This time was an alligator snapping turtle. He was a pretty big one, the biggest I’ve ever been this close to. I dropped a quarter on his back and took some pictures, then after two attempts to get my quarter back I decided I liked all my appendages attached and let him keep the quarter.alligator snapping turtle

Corn

The sweet corn is gone, but WOW the response to it was quite a surprise!  We experimented this year with growing corn in the paddock where the cows over-wintered  and were able to grow a pretty decent crop of yellow sweet corn, the “incredible” variety.  I also planted some non-hybrid, open pollinated, certified organic field corn and it seems to be doing well.  This was an experiment on several levels, one was to see if we could plant some crop that would take advantage of the intense fertilization and nitrogen (ie. manure) that was available in the area, and another to see if anyone would possibly be interested in such a thing.  Well, the results are in and the corn grew well and the response was overwhelming!  We sold all our corn after getting a few dozen for us to eat and put up, and I must say that it was some really, really sweet, juicy, wonderful stuff.

We’ve never really been interested in growing vegetables, but the response to the corn and the ensuing inquiries from many customers about what other vegetables we have is enough to make us re-think our no vegetables stance.  We’ll have to see, but it’s a possibility 🙂