Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Twelve Days of a Peter Creek Farm Christmas

Since we are 9 days away from Christmas, this is the perfect time to bring you the 12 days of a Peters Creek Farm Christmas.   Yes, perfect timing for someone who is the ultimate Christmas procrastinator.  I have been known to do my Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve although I do believe that I may do most of my shopping tomorrow while saving just a little bit for next week.  Heck, Christmas cards will have to wait until next week too as weekend plans are full.  I do have the Christmas tree up and decorated though.  It was actually put up early last week.  Some kind of record for sure.

As the year draws to a close and the snow covers the ground, we surely wish all our family, friends and customers a safe and joyous holiday season.  So without further ado, we bring you the 12 days of a Peters Creek Farm Christmas.

On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me......
12 winter coats.........  (just a sampling on the hall tree in the dining room.  Really, we have one whole closet in a spare bedroom full of coats.  How do two people collect so many coats?)
11 antler sheds ..........   (probably more than 11 in this basket.  It's possible to collect a lot of sheds when you live on a farm for 14 years.  To this day, I still think antler sheds are one of the coolest things to find in the woods.)
10 frozen squirrels.........  (yes, we really do have 10 squirrels dressed out and wrapped and in the freezer.  I counted them.  Strange but true facts.)
9 pairs of boots........  (here they are.  You can count them.  Only slightly behind the winter coats.  There are summer hiking boots, winter hiking boots, rubber hunting boots, rubber barn boots.  Ok you get the picture.)
8 barn cats .........   (do you know how hard it is to line up 8 cats?  You get a picture of 2 of them.  And how the heck did we end up with 8 cats anyway?  I remember when we had 2 cats.  10 years ago.  Yes, they are all "fixed", vaccinated and treated for fleas every month.  They are owned by a veterinarian after all.)

7 red tractors .........  (yes 7, if you count the little Wheel Horse lawn tractor that I use to haul chicken feed and the riding lawn mower.  And yes, they are all red.  And yes, all except 3 of them are buried in snow right now.)
6 peach trees ..........  (did you expect more of a tree instead of a twig?  It is winter after all.  And we just planted these trees last year.  Time will tell if all 6 make it through the winter.  A couple were looking kind of iffy in the fall.  Spring will let us know if they live or not.  I love the animal tracks in the picture.  It was pitch black when I took the photo and I had no idea the tracks were there.  Heck, I couldn't even see the tree in the dark.  I don't know what made the tracks.  Maybe cat since the tracks are small and we do have 8 of them running around the place.)

5 kinds of corn ......... (well, this wasn't one of them.  heehee!  Just a free sample of seed that Mike got at the recent fruit and vegetable growers convention in Grand Rapids, MI.  But he really did grow 5 different varieties of sweet corn last year so it fits in the song.)
4 laying hens .......   (sigh.  So weird only having 4 chickens right now, but here they are.  Come spring though, there will be new chicks on the farm.  Stay tuned.)
3 deer heads .........  (again, hard to take a picture of all three because they are on various walls of the living room.  But happy to report that all three are sporting Santa hats this year.  I had to go out and buy one for the newest deer mount.  Ok, just trying to keep things festive in the living room.)
2 beagle dogs ..........  (awwwwwwwwwwww!  Aren't they cute sleeping side by side.  I love these little hounds.)
And a brittany dumb as can be ..................  (fits the song and the dog.  Don't worry, I love Molly too.  Let's just say she is really good for comic relief.  Although a summer picture, I think this really brings out her dumb look the best.)
The End

Monday, December 13, 2010

Snow storms, chili and chocolate raspberry cream cheese pie

I took full advantage of a snowy nowhere-to-go day.  Last week was nothing but go go go.  Got the house decorated for Christmas and cleaned up for company last week.  Went to a live music show in Pittsburgh one night and to my office Christmas party another.  Woke up yesterday morning with a sore throat and a head cold.  So I declared today "do nothing and rest day".  Feeling much better now.  But the wind is howling outside and the snow is flying.  The picture is the view out the front window looking across the street at our mailbox.  Even the mailman must have thought the weather was awful outside as we didn't get any mail today and we ALWAYS get mail.

After I caught up on some much needed sleep, I decided a pot of chili was in order.  I really like white bean chili so I read a few recipes, found one that sounded like a good base recipe and then as usual I changed most of it.  I had 2 cup portions of cooked squirrel meat all ready to go in the freezer, but shredded or cubed chicken would work just as well.

White Bean Squirrel Chili

1/2 cup diced sweet onion
1/2 cup diced green pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil

1 can Cannellini beans drained
1 can black beans drained
1 can corn undrained (I used a pint of frozen homegrown sweet corn with the liquid)
1 can diced tomatoes undrained
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder (could use fresh garlic and saute with the onions and peppers, but I didn't have any)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or to taste
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup chicken broth
2 cups shredded cooked squirrel meat

1 1/2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese

Saute the onions and green peppers in the olive oil until crisp tender.  In a crockpot, stir together the beans, corn, tomatoes, spices, meat, chicken broth, onions and green pepper.  Cook on high 3-4 hours or until hot and bubbly.  Add cheese right before serving.  Still until the cheese is melted.  Serve in bowls.  Add a spoonful of sour cream if desired.  I served this with a loaf of beer bread, but of course any bread or biscuits would do.

For dessert I made a chocolate raspberry cream cheese pie.  I had made this recipe before, but I couldn't find it so I just winged it.  Figured I would write it down here so I could find it later when I needed it.

Chocolate Raspberry Cream Cheese Pie

1 prepared chocolate graham cracker crust
1   8 oz. pack of cream cheese
1/3 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of seedless raspberry preserves
1 cup of melted semi sweet chocolate chips
1   8 oz tub of frozen whipped topping thawed

Beat together cream cheese and sugar into smooth.  Then beat in the raspberry preserves.  Then the melted chocolate chips.  And finally the the whipped topping.  Spread into the prepared graham cracker crust and chill in the refrigerator for a couple hours.  In the summer, I usually garnish this with fresh raspberries.  Today though was all about making a simple dessert.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The transition to winter

One of the goals I had when I started to write this blog was to chronicle the changes that happen from season to season.  Something that I could look back on and remember things like when was the first snowfall of the season, when did I see migrating swans for the first time in the fall or when did I hear the first turkey gobble in the spring.  I was pretty good about keeping up with the changes in the garden over the summer, but the rest has gone by the wayside.  I guess a busy life is the only thing I have to blame.

I suppose what triggered all this was that I shut off the water to the barn today and drained the water line.  December 2nd seems late to be doing that, but since I've never kept track of such things, I guess I really don't know.  I do know that we have only had a few inches of snow a couple times which is highly unusual for us.  All it is going to take though is a simple shift of the wind.  As I type this, Buffalo, NY is working on their third foot of snow in the past day.  If the winds across Lake Erie shifted just a bit, that could be here.  It will be here.  It's just not here yet.

Mike has been busy with winter projects.  He is continuing to do research to put up a second high tunnel in order to be able to start some plants early and continue later in the season.  He really needs a front end loader and has been doing a lot of shopping around to get the best deal he can.  Next week is the vegetable growers convention in Grand Rapids, MI and Mike will be attending that show once again.  More seed catalogs have been showing up in the mail.  There is lots to do in the winter.  It just does not need done with the same urgency that seems to go along with summer jobs.

The picture above is one I took while out in our woods yesterday.  Two days ago we got a boat load of rain and then overnight it turned to snow.  Our land is pancake flat and our soils are poorly drained.  The woods were covered in standing water.  I often think about the ground dwelling animals at times like this.  It must be quite the hardship for the rabbits and the groundhogs and such.  There are small havens of higher drier ground scattered about.  I wonder if they all gather together and tolerate each others presence during such tough times.

I did see a good sized flock of turkeys while I was out.  I had been seeing hen/poult groups of around 10-12 birds, but this flock was larger.  I wasn't in a position to get a good count though, but I'll bet the smaller hen/poult flocks are starting to come together to make the larger winter flock that will stay together until breeding season starts in the spring.

This week is deer gun season in Ohio and Mike and I have been out a little bit trying to refill our venison supply that was lost during our the death of our chest freezer this past summer.  Deer sightings have been few and far between though.  The fall of 2010 has been marked by one of the best mast crops in recent memory.  It has really changed where and when deer are feeding and moving.  Good for them and really for all the critters that feed on acorns and other nuts. 

And about the swans...... well it was two weekends ago that I first started to see the large flocks migrating.  There is something so beautifully distinctive about hearing a flock of swans approaching from a distance and getting closer and closer until the sky above is graced with large silver white wings.  This is nature telling us that winter is here.