Most of us have ugly memories of persimmons when a mean pal or sibling thought it would be funny to entice us to eat an unripe persimmon. That memory really never fades, but for those of us who survived and had the courage to try one that was "guaranteed to be ripe" we have arrived on the other side and are huge fans of the last fruit of the summer, well, around here, anyway.
When I was in California, I was introduced to the persimmons grown there which are easily the size of baseballs. You may have even seen them in the "exotic" section of the fruit aisle at the grocery. Fuji Persimmons. At any rate, I loved them! But when I returned to this part of the country, the only persimmons available to me in the wild were the native persimmons which yielded fruit the size of a ping pong ball in a good year. And they are full of huge seeds. They taste wonderful, but they are hard to cook with. Besides that, I had to clothe myself in camo with grease paint and skunk scent, crawl along the edge of the woods, snatch and grab the ripe ones before the wildlife got them all. Not a pretty sight. Not at all.
I received a catalog about 3 years ago from Jung Seeds. In the back were fruit trees. Lo and behold, there was a persimmon tree that yielded two to three inch fruits with small seeds. The variety of this tree is called "Nikita's Gift," a cross from Russia between a native, cold tolerant persimmon and the asian 'Fuji' persimmon that I was familiar with from California. Hesitant to spend $30 or $40 for one of these trees, I finally gave in and got a couple of them. I now see the prices are much higher than that, now. Whew! I'll be babying these gems, for sure! We had a very cold winter. I didn't protect the trees from the cold, but when I planted them, contrary to the "rules" I added some of our WPR-Compost to the hole because our hill is nothing but gravel and clay.
This year I got a bumper crop of these lovelies. I pruned off the little ones in the spring, leaving 1 fruit for every 4 or 5 inches. Unable to wait until they were completely ripe on the tree, I plucked 5 or 6 that were still firm, before our first freeze (Oct 22). I put them into the freezer for two days. Took them out and let them thaw on the kitchen counter. They were delicious. I picked a full bushel of them 4 days ago which are all ripe and ready since we've had a couple of good freezes on them.
This is how I process them: Core each fruit like you would a tomato. With a little bit of water (16 ounces for a 74 ounce Ninja blender container) I add about 10-12 of them and puree for about 10 seconds on medium speed, until they are all liquified.
Here are a couple of good recipes I've tried thus far:
Basic Persimmon Pie --A very, very, low -to- no added refined sugar pie.
Blend all the ingredients and pour into the pie crust. Bake at 325 for about 20 minutes. Let cool to serve. Can top with more cream cheese, marshmallow cream, cool whip, or whipped cream.
Persimmon Cookies--again, low sugar. These are very soft cookies.
Blend all the moist ingredients then add dry ingredients, then the nuts and craisins. Blend until all moistened. Spoon out onto well-greased cookie sheets. Bake for 15 min in 350 degree F. oven.
Options: Canned pumpkin works well in place of persimmon.
It is late summer here at the WP Ranch, and the apples are ripe in the orchard. My favorite Cake recipe uses fresh apples. I think you will really enjoy this yummy dessert appropriate for any time of the year, but super nice during Autumn Harvest. I also thought I'd share a picture of the original recipe card right out of my childhood--1970's!
It has been a wonderful spring to grow everything from lettuce, to fruit, brambles, strawberries, grass, and weeds. But it is the weeds I want to talk about right now. Everyone complains about the weeds. A weed is nothing more than a plant that is someplace we don't want it to be. In my garden, the area which I've set aside specifically to grow vegetables, I work hard to keep "weeds" out, chiefly because they will compete with the deliberately sown plants for light, food and water. Secondarily, I figure those "weeds" are survivalists and have the rest of the 205.5 acres on which to grow. "Stay out of my garden poke, lambsquarter, and dandelion!" I command to an audience that snubs their lush, green leaves at me.
The last few years, I've decided not to fight anymore battles I can't win. One of those is the battle of the weeds. This strategy will not likely rid my world of weeds, but it will save my limited physical energy, save money at the grocery check-out, and will save money on seeds for things like spinach, turnip greens, chard, kale, and so forth. Following is a very brief lesson on each weed and how to harvest and prepare them from my experience.
LAMBSQUARTER. Best to harvest leaves and small stems when young, early in the spring. Later in the spring just harvest the leaves. Wash then braise, stir-fry, or steam leaves and tender stems for no more than 4-5 minutes. I like to throw them into Pad-Thai at the very end where they basically just get warmed through. They can be used in any dish that calls for spinach, kale, chard, or turnip greens.
POKE. There is a lot of scary warnings about poke. So many people say, "Ohh! I won't even mess with that!" But, it is soooo simple to work with! Here's all you do: pick only leaves that are 6" and under. Throw them into a pot of boiling water and boil for 5 minutes. Take them out of that water and transfer into another pot of boiling water. Boil another 5 minutes, drain, and they are ready to eat or use in a recipe. At this point, I have let the leaves cool and put them into freezer bags and put them into the freezer for a nice winter's meal. Poke can be used in any recipe that calls for greens. I've even thrown them into spaghetti sauce for added nutrients.
PURSLANE. Pick, wash, and this prolific spreader is good raw in a salad, or lightly cooked in any of the above dishes I've mentioned. Wonderful in Mexican dishes for added nutrients. Throw a handful in with a pot of beans or rice.
EASTERN PRICKLY PEAR CACTUS. (Aka Nopal) It takes some care and preparation for this goodie, but for authentic Mexican dishes you've got to have it. Pick a paddle and char the outside it in a dry cast iron skillet. With tongs, scrape off the needles and charred outer skin. Then slice the soft insides and stir fry or add to rice and beans. Quite nutritious!
We have a jumble of "weeds" here. A mature dandelion on the left mixed in with some lambsquarter. In the middle is oxalis which has sour leaves and banana shaped fruits. On the right is common, white clover. Dandelion: pick leaves and flowers early in the spring. Both can be used lightly cooked or raw in a salad. Oxalis: use it sparingly to add tartness to salads. Clover: use the flowers in a salad, sparingly--they add just a touch of sweetness. However, the best use for clover is for our honeybees! We need to preserve our pollinators.
POPPY SEEDS. Lastly, and I know that poppies are cultivated, but mine reseed themselves every year and come up like weedy cousins. I harvest the seeds when the pods dry--in late July or early August here. Then I use these in baking breads, rolls, muffins, cookies. I also blend a spoonful into homemade dressings. Contrary to urban legend, you can't get high on casual use of poppy seeds.
Well, that about sums up our botanical lesson for the day. Save your energy--Eat your weeds!
I've been away, but now I'm back and recovered. Although not yet unpacked.
So, I spent last week with Auntie Mom in Fresno, where they and ALL of the Golden State are experiencing the worst drought in nearly a century. Bear in mind, the San Joaquin Valley produces a VAST majority of the food supply for our country.
Enjoy the flight....
Doug is off to Scuba class with his buzos viejos amigos.
So, he loads 40 bales of hay last night onto the Big Black Beast Silverado to deliver to Murray State this morning. After checking on his chicks, and feeding and watering the horses, he gets in the damned thing to come back to the house to get ready for Scuba and the rat-bastard truck won't start. The alternator belt is blown in about 15 pieces. He has had more trouble with that stupid truck! But, in keeping with our positive attitudes and counting our blessings, at least he wasn't on the highway headed to Murray with that load!
Meanwhile, I'm snoozing right along in the warm bed with thick flannel sheets and 7 blankets when, BAM! I get a wet nose, 40 pound paw, and warm, wet tongue in my face. Princess Zeeva Bear is wound up and ready to go at 7:00a.m. on this freakingly cold Saturday morning. But look and see who is back to sleep...
The chickens' water is frozen, so I've let them out of their house and run so they can drink from the heated bowl. I've hauled in a couple of armfuls of firewood, drank 2 mugs of coffee, and am ready to clean the house! Yippee! I love a clean house, but it seems I just can't get it that way--and keep it that way--very well anymore. I get a little sidetracked. I find more ways to distract myself than you can possibly imagine. For instance, right now I'm trying to figure out the subject of a new book I intend to write and self-publish on Amazon.com. I've already got my yoga sock pattern published--although I can't seem to find it when I search for it--but, I'm sure it is there. Oh, I need to get down to the mailbox and mail some socks that a wonderful person ordered. Need to get some warm clothes on....a good morning to walk to the mailbox so I can get my 10,000 steps in today...BAM! There goes another tangent....
Hey, who hasn't tried to figure out an alternative to expensive fabric softeners? I thought vinegar would be the answer. While, it is for dishcloths, tea towels, etc., it is NO CHEAPER than, say Downy Ultra. Here's why: For a full load, I use about 1/4 - 1/3 cup of vinegar in the rinse cycle, but just one Tablespoon of Downy. Downy costs about $12 for a gallon, while 5% acidity vinegar costs $3. But, turns out, I'm using 3 to 4 times the amount of vinegar than Downy. I just thought I'd share that today. Environmentally, vinegar is best--especially for septic tanks.
The house smells like hickory smoked pepper. Doug is marinating the deer meat for the jerky. Not exactly the "special, homey scent" I would have chosen for my wax tarts, but the jerky will be good when it's done! Anyway, I'm armed with my can of Pledge and dust rags and shall commence cleaning--but only until noon. Recall, that is my "cut-off" time for daily chores.
Every Tuesday we leave the house with our red, padded cooler to make that short drive to the "other" farm. We get 2 1/2 gallons of straight-from-the-udder milk each week. Yeah, the real stuff! The 10% milk-fat, pure white, full- of- flavor stuff. Unpasteurized. Non-homogenized. We've been drinking this for a little over 3 years and still look forward to a big glass of it every day! Doug, who has, until 3 years ago, been lactose intolerant, is able to drink all of it he wants and never suffers for it! The State and Local Health Departments need to keep their conniving, stinking, corrupt, ignorant noses out of the raw milk business. I will go to jail over this if I have to. No government entity or pseudo-government entity is going to tell me what kind of MILK I'm allowed to drink, among other all the other crap they try to tell us what we can and cannot consume. Add our milk to the list of things, which includes GUNS, that we will fight to the death to keep. Take THAT, little snot-nosed man with a badge! Here's to Living on the Edge....bottoms up!
Despite the rain, it is still a beautiful day at the WP.
Doug brought home two rabbits from yesterday's hunt. I have a venison roast out and ready for supper's menu: Stroganoff.
Doug is out and working in the barns this morning after bringing in the firewood. It is rainy and very un-motivating, but I'm ready to get my morning chores done and plan to do some crocheting this afternoon. I have a pattern for a cowl which I really want to complete so I can wear before spring!
It is 1:45 pm and still raining. Doug has brought another round bale of hay up to the horses. I was finally able to catch Rhett and put him back into the pasture. He wasn't happy with me as he was rather enjoying wandering around the yard, nibbling on the last of the clumps of fescue.
Doug has gone to split some more firewood and I've started our venison stroganoff. I've got the fire warmed up in the wood stove which is where I'll let the stroganoff simmer for the next few hours--until supper. The wood stove is at 250 degrees. I'll make an Indian Chapati Flat bread to go with it and the mandatory egg noodles.
I've started the Katniss Cowl in a lovely, merino wool/nylon blend yarn by Schulana called Cortina. The picture is the one on the right, next to Lion Brand's photo of the completed cowl.
Before sitting back down, I need to run out and let our yard chickens outside to scratch around, throw a load of clothes in the washer, one in the dryer, and start the dishwasher....
2 lbs lean venison--I used a roast which has already soaked for 3 days in salt water and 1 day in a little bit of Game Tame by Allegro. Cut into 1" cubes.
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1c plain yogurt or sour cream
2T Worcestershire Sauce
2T Red cooking wine
4T canola or vegetable oil for frying
2t beef bouillon granules
1 pkg of egg noodles, cooked and drained.
Fry cubed venison in oil until browned and cooked all the way through. Remove from oil, set aside. In a dutch over add all the rest of the ingredients except the egg noodles. Add 1 1/2 c of water and blend well, salt to taste. Add the cooked venison. Cover and put in 250 degree oven for 4 hours, stirring occasionally. Or, if you have a wood stove, place it on top of the stove which is burning at 250 degrees. Let it simmer there for 4 hours, stirring occasionally or until venison is tender. Serve over cooked egg noodles and with fresh Indian flatbread.
I have to admit, this is really, very good!
p.s. I don't add the oil/drippings from frying the venison. I pour it over the dog's dry food for their special treat tonight.
So, Doug gets in last night at about 8:45. He had to pick up the feed pans, turn the feed tubes up, and turn the chicks out into the back half of the barns. You see, the first week we have them, they occupy just the front half of the 400' long barns as it is much too hard to keep the whole barn heated. After a week, we like to open up the back half so the floors don't get wet and the birds can spread out. Doug figures he bends over and stands back up about 200 times per barn, picking up those pans and turning the tubing. All he says is, "tonight is a 4 ibuprofen night," as he eats his supper, downs the ibuprofen, and heads for the shower. He is asleep on the couch by 10:00.
It is 2:30 pm, the day is sunny and warm with just a cool breeze. I've been working in the attic organizing patterns and yarn. Doug left at about 9:00 this morning, fed the horses, and checked in on the barns. He left to go rabbit hunting about 10:00. Alice told me of a great way to cook the rabbit, and it hasn't failed yet:
Alice and Dianna's Wild Rabbit
Take the cleaned and soaked rabbit (you want to soak the cleaned rabbit for at least 24 hours in salted water. I've even marinated it in Allegro Game Tame for another day) and put into a crockpot with about 1/2 c of water per rabbit. Season with salt, pepper, and about 4 or 5 bay leaves. Cook until rabbit is done, but not falling off the bones. Remove from crockpot.
Season all purpose flour with Bay Seasoning, smoked paprika, garlic powder, and cumin--all in a gallon zip bag. Put the rabbit in the bag with seasoned flour and shake it up until the rabbit is completely coated Fry in vegetable oil over medium heat until browned--about 5 minutes.
Make gravy with leftover flour or plain flour. Serve rabbit with fresh, steamed vegetables, white beans, fresh biscuits, baked potatoes.
That's what we're down to now. We've done all the belt-tightening we can do, now we're facing the brass tacks holding it all together. When there is still not enough money coming in to cover expenses, it is time for drastic measures. Wave good bye to the last of the middle class folks. Give our do-nothing, no-common-sense, in-it-for-just-themselves-congress the big bird. Pick up our guns, shovels, and pea-shooters. It is time to do what's necessary.
It wasn't like we haven't been warning everyone. We are all now feeling the effects of President Reagan's firing of the FAA workers in the 1980's. (Well, all except the wealthy 1%, that is.) The beginning of the end of collective bargaining, contract negotiations, fair labor standards and practices. A contract used to mean something binding, but now it isn't worth the paper it is printed on. Ask ____ ______, the company Doug raises broilers for. They throw a contract down in front of him every year. If he signs it, they bring him chickens. If he doesn't, they don't. He has NO input into this "contract." Furthermore, they can come to him in the middle of the year and say, "we are going to change the way we pay you, and yes, you will be losing another $200, but that's just how it's going to be."
You all should know that when you go to your favorite chicken restaurant and buy a $10 bucket of chicken, that restaurant paid $3.10 for that chicken from _______ ________. However, you should also know that __________ ________ gave Doug only $.20 for that chicken. Twenty cents. Out of that twenty cents, he has to purchase his heat, electricity, water, rice hulls, repair parts, and labor to raise that 3.7 lb bird. JULY 7, 2016 UPDATE: we still get paid only 5 cents per pound--still about 20 cents per chicken.
To reply to your, "yeah, but..." "NO!," we don't get any farm subsidies. And, by the way, did you know that 80% of the Farm Bill goes to food stamps? We don't even qualify for food stamps! The next time I hear some ignorant idiot mouthing off about the farmers in this country and the high price for food, I won't be nice like I was the last time. I will give them a high-five right in the face and go to jail laughing about it.
BUT, that is not what this blog is going to be about. Really. What I want to do is share our day-to-day life here on the farm--at the WP Ranch. The good and the no-so-good, but in general why we both feel blessed to have the opportunity to live and work here.
The first 10 days of 2014 have been busy. The Company delivered a new batch of baby chickens on Dec 31. They brought about 120,000 or about 30,000 per barn. It took Doug and a helper about 8 hours the day before to set up the barns. This entails placing cardboard trays and plastic trays out and filling them with feed, adjusting the feed and water lines, and making sure the heaters work and the barns are a balmy 92 degrees. We place approximately 4 tons per barn of feed in the trays--all done by hand with 5 gallon buckets and a side x side. On delivery day, it takes about 4 hours to get the birds placed in our 4 barns. Afterwards, he walks through and adjusts the water lines. Thus begins our 24/7 work shift which lasts about 33 consecutive days. Each morning and evening for the first week, Doug "runs" feed. This refills the feed trays for the babies. The temperature outside, if you'll recall, is in the single digits for this first week we have chicks. Our barns burn over 400 gallons of propane a day to keep them 90 degrees + for the first week.
Jan 4, 2014: we are informed that our propane company is having trouble getting delivery of their booked fuel. We pre-booked 20,000 gallons in August of last year at $1.39 a gallon. They will be rationing us to 250 gallons per week at our pre-book price, but we can get all we want at the market price of $1.69. Our question is this: what good is a contract when it can be voided at the company's whim? The key is when drafting a contract, to put a clause in there that states the contract can be retracted at anytime by The Company--they "reserve the right"--language such as that. That is how you get around a contract.
Jan 7: We are nearly out of propane. Doug calls Gary, our Field Tech with _____ _____. "Gary, I only have about 10% of propane left. There are going to be some really cold birds in my barns if someone doesn't get me some propane. You may need to put _____ or ______ on it and have them see that I get some propane or there are going to be 120,000 frozen birds here." A few hours later, Doug receives a text message that he can buy propane from Company X for $2.50 per gallon. "My Ass! Who is going to pay for that? We already make NO PROFIT during the winter months to grow these birds. Are you going to pay the difference for me to keep your birds warm?," Doug asks. No answer, of course.
I finally gave in and went back to the eye doctor today. Need new Rx so I can see. $462 for the exam and new lenses, not new frames. Wow. I am one of the however-many-millions without insurance. I'm going to have to sell a lot of patterns and crocheted socks to pay for that!
Jan 8: The wonderful lady that works at ______ calls to tell Doug they got a shipment in and she can arrange for 200 gallons of gas to be delivered at $1.69. The birds will stay warm for a few more days. The temperature outside is rising to the lower 50's. In the meantime, at the house, I'm doing laundry, sweeping floors, working on the bookkeeping for year end.
Jan 9: Doug is out most of the day running errands. He talks to the Natural Gas Company of Benton to see about getting natural gas run to our barns. Yes, we can do it for about $5,500 which will pay for itself in about 3 flocks. Why didn't he make this switch sooner? Because "I felt I needed to honor my contract with _____ Propane. But, now I see that our contract doesn't matter to them, so I need to do what is best for us. It is business."
Jan 10: Doug spends the day working in the barns, picking up deceased chicks, refilling the pans with food, adjusting water lines. At 5:00 pm, supper is ready, but he comes in and announces he has to go back up and fix a gas line leak which was bubbling up through our rain-soaked ground between barns 1 and 2. He drives into town and is about to procure the copper tubing he needs to make a temporary fix--above ground-- to get the tank flowing propane again to the heaters in barn 1. $86.00 and 4 hours later, he makes it back to the house for supper, a shower, and the evening news. Eleven p.m. and he is sound asleep.
Jan 11. 8:00 a.m.: Doug is on his way to load hay to delivery to a Murray State student. Twenty bales which will give him $120 gross; $20 in the gas tank, $94 to pay towards, fertilizer, herbicide, equipment insurance, and baling twine. Six dollars profit. He stops by the pool at MSU to help his pals with the scuba class clean out the pool area, lockers, and equipment before scuba classes start next week.
Meanwhile, here at the house, I have been trying to keep the stubborn fire going in the wood stove. I've done my typical, everyday chores of laundry, sweeping, dishes, jiggling the toilet flusher handle every hour so it will quit leaking, feeding and watering the dogs, cats, and chickens (my yard birds here at the house which give us the most delightful colored eggs everyday!). The ground is saturated and I sink in the mud across the yard up to my ankles in my rubber boots. Thank goodness for rubber boots! I've planned my spray schedule for the orchards and will be rounding up the various sprays I will need starting the first of February. I really need to get our fruit trees to produce well this year for us. Most of them are now of the age where, with adequate disease and pest prevention, we should get a good fruit harvest this year. Time to attend to my sewing room: I've got a knitting machine to do some maintenance to, and want to photograph and list a few more patterns for the website. I give myself until noon each day to do the general housekeeping chores before I spend time on extraneous projects. What's for supper? I'll be trolling the freezers here in just a few minutes....
I spent most of the day cancelling our webpage accounts for WP Ranch, working on sales tax returns, paying bills, and trying to figure out how to make $1000 stretch until the end of Feb. Perhaps 2014 will be better for us all! Last night's supper: Tinga and fresh tortillas, Yummmmy and filling for winter day.
Dianna's Recipe for TINGA
1 chicken and 5 bay leaves, boiled until cooked, reserve broth, remove bay leaves--add water and a chicken bouillon cube to make 3 cups of broth. Remove meat from bones and shred. Set aside.
Heat 1/3 c olive oil in soup kettle with low heat.
Add 1/2c chopped onions, 1T minced garlic, and simmer for about 5 minutes.
Add the shredded chicken and continue to stir-fry on medium-low for about 5 minutes, lightly browning the meat, add 1 chopped bell pepper and continue to stir fry for another couple of minutes until bell pepper is softened.
Add 1 can of Rotel original or Mexican style tomatoes with green chilies.
Add broth, 5 whole cloves, 8 whole peppercorns, 1 heaping T Chipotle in Adobo sauce (chop the chilies into small pieces before adding), 1-2 t salt, 1/2 t ground pepper, and 1 T of epazote pesto or just dried epazote if you don't have it in pesto form. Cover and simmer on low for 15-20 minutes, while making and cooking the tortillas.
Turn off the heat. Add 1/2- 3/4 cup of cream or La Leuchera. Stir until completely blended. Serve in bowls with warm tortillas.
High noon: The Gang of Five and I took a 1/2 mile walk and I made it back without collapsing. Must get back into shape this year....must....and now I am going to take pictures and post some new patterns to the store!
2:00 pm: time to let our 14 backyard chickens out for the afternoon and collect their gifts of eggs.
Pulled a venison roast, asparagus from May 18, and our new Dog Food from the freezer. I'll elaborate more on the Dog Food, but to clarify right now, NO, that is not part of our supper. Doug has just gotten home, has split some firewood, and is off to the barns. I've finished posting some new patterns for today. My goal is at least 20 per day as long as our data allowance holds that.
4:11 p.m. What would you do if you received a water bill for $506.19? We just did. I'll leave everyone with that information for the evening because my eyes are burning and I need to get supper going. Doug is still working in the barns, I'm heading out to feed the dogs and horses.....the sun is sinking lower in the sky as the temperature drops into the 40's....
who are we?
We are avid seamstresses and crafters since the ORIGINAL 1970's, and we're still going strong. We're also yarn, fabric, and pattern hoarders. ("Speak for yourself," protests Alice.) We, ok, I haven't parted with my stash in over 40 years until now. Maybe we'll have something that you just can't live without! Enjoy browsing!
Click on box above to go to our Compost site for information on usage guidelines and how to purchase!
All photos and stories on this website are the property of Dianna Johnson unless otherwise indicated. Please don't copy them and call them your own. Plagiarism is not only really rude and mean, but it is against the law. I have made every effort to give credit to other artists when I have used their work, and would ask that you do the same if you use mine! Thanks.