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Honey’s Trip to the Market

I guess market is a nicer way of saying the butcher… we’d been wondering when Honey should go into the bacon factory because we are quite honestly clueless and new to the whole hog raising business. Google and/or Bing suggested by his shoulder width he’d be about 300 pounds.

By the way he pushed Rooster about the pen I would’ve assumed the same. My Rooster is no small man by any means and Honey was able to nudge him a bit. So we were flying blind.

We had gone into our local butcher and talked to Randy, our favorite guy at Integrity Meats, and he knew we weren’t going to be able to wait until the end of October either. So we were moved up the waiting list and we’re told a week maybe two and they’d have an opening.

Last Monday on the drive home we got the call… we were on our way to pick up oldest after school, still had to get youngest from school and I’d be off to guitar lessons. So Rooster and oldest were left to their devices.

We lined up a trailer on the drive and everything was set and ready. Just had to load Honey and head to town.

So picture it’s been raining all day, it’s chilly, and windy and the pick pen is a soupy mess. Insert Rooster and oldest with a very pissed off pig. Times like these I wish we had one of those doorbell recording devices…

After much cussing and escaping nearly into the beans reinforcements were called in. Yes, another tale of neighbor Josh and a wild critter ensued.

It finally came down to neighbor Josh and Rooster picking Honey up and physically putting him into the trailer.

Of course stories like these are better told by the original parties, but Rooster isn’t much for writing.

Youngest and I came home to find miscellaneous boards scattered about the yard. No doubt attempts at corralling Honey into the trailer.

Rooster and oldest retuned home at almost eight o’clock. Upon arriving at the butcher there was another debacle, of course. Honey now didn’t want to get out of the trailer, and had to be pushed into the indoor pens.

The sight that was Rooster and oldest when they came home was a little worse than I expected. Covered in “mud”, soaked to the bone, and smelling like they had rolled in the pig pen. Poor guys had quite the adventure and looked it.

Stories were told with great fervor over supper from Honey’s escape attempts, to neighbor Josh’s arrival, and unloading. These poor guys were exhausted.

That night Rooster said he was reconsidering having two pigs next year, and told me he no longer viewed rods as animal cruelty. I was honestly shocked, but had been awaiting this day to change his mind.

Since a week and a few days have passed since the great adventure we’re back to planning on two pigs. Hopefully we will be able to have found the farm of our dreams by spring, and will be able to have two pigs.

So just remember when life covers you in “mud”, soaks and chills you to the bone remember to laugh and live a simple life.

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Take Time to Decompress…

This week, and the past few have just seemed extra crazy. Between football practice and games, guitar lessons, dentist appointments, one kid quarantined, homework, garden chores (canning, freezing, dehydrating, chores, a critter thief in the coop, a 40 plus hour work week and common every day things to do I just feel overwhelmed. Frazzled almost. It’s not a bad thing to admit. The hard part is admitting it.

I’m admitting it. I’m waving the perpetual white flag, surrendering to admitting it’s just too much at the moment. And that is okay. I’m not the superwoman I am portrayed to be, and yet I’m not defeated; yet.

It is important first to realize you are overwhelmed BEFORE you lose your cool at work, snap at your beloved, or even worse snap at your children. BEFORE you get to this point, that moment of sanity when things are quiet for one second we need to acknowledge this is where we are. Frazzled. Exhausted. Overwhelmed. Tired. Whatever the word you are using for what you are feeling, say it. Out Loud. Wave that white flag.

Taking time for yourself to decompress from the day, week, month, or year is needed for your mental health, and probably the safety of your family to be honest. Even if it’s fifteen minutes of extra shower time, hiding in your closet, going for a walk alone, or listening to music in the car; do it. Everyone deserves this. Don’t feel that you don’t, or that you can’t. That’s the crazy talking.

Right now I am decompressing with a vanilla chai with EXTRA lavender, listening to the waves crash against a distant shore while youngest has his guitar lesson. Decompress with me…

Inhale deeply. Smell the salt in the air. Feel the mist of the waves on your skin. It’s cool and refreshing. Your hair dances gently in the breeze. The sun warms your face. You smile. Listen to the waves lapping the shore. Feel the sand beneath your feet. Beautiful white sugary sand slips between your fingers as you slowly exhale.

Decompression is all about finding the calm, the silence, the peace. Not only find it… seek it out! Breathe. Take these moments for yourself, do something you enjoy like reading a book, writing a silly blog, people watching; whatever it needs to be it needs to be done. Minutes. That’s all it is. A fraction of a much longer unit of measure. No one should ever be made to feel that you don’t deserve a fraction of an hour. If they do you seriously need to reevaluate your relationships, and take what is yours. Peace. Calm. Serenity.

So tonight I wish you all a calm and restful night, time to decompress, and just be… simple.

So when life is pulling you thin remember to live a simple life, and simply be.

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Methods to Tomato Madness

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This time of year, August through fall, tomato growers develop Tomato madness. It actually begins to develop in early spring when we are standing at the local garden center trying to decide what varieties of tomatoes to plant, and more importantly how many. I have always fallen victim to the Romas, the Cherokee Purples, the Chocolate Cherries, the Better Boys, the Early Girls, the Beefsteaks, the Kickstarts, all the colors of the beautiful tomatoes. Standing in the garden center on Mother’s Day weekend (when we typically plant the garden) I become overwhelmed and sometimes lose my vision. Last year in the height of the pandemic it seemed every time I went to town I came home with another four tomato plants, of course a different variety than I already had, and packed them into the garden. I think the tomato madness got me close to 30 tomato plants….

The beginning of tomato ripening season kicks off the Tomato Madness with the burning question “What am I going to do with all these tomatoes?” Whether they come on all at once, or a few here and there I have some methodical advise for you! We are in this together!

GATHER and FREEZE

When life is busy with back to school nights, new sports practices, and the like there is a way to save your harvest for the days that you are less busy! All you need is large gallon ziploc bags! In years past I’ve done this, so believe me the method works great for delaying the preservation process of your choice.

I simple gather what is ready, wash them, and freeze them in large ziploc bags. When there is more time to preserve, and the tomatoes are thawed it makes easy work of removing the skins. They just fall off! I keep the tomatoes in the bags until they are completely thawed, then just reach in (with clean hands) and pull out the skins!

Frozen tomatoes will keep for a while in the freezer, which delays your preservation process, and you don’t lose all of your hard work, no rotten tomatoes! SO even if you can’t find time to preserve until the cold months of winter this method has you covered! Preserving your harvest should not, and does not need to be stressful!

DEHYDRATE

This is the first year I’ve actually had a GOOD functioning dehydrator, and I’ve been using it for everything! Dehydrating tomatoes is actually another way to make sun-dried tomatoes! Yes, I know it doesn’t sound right, but in fact sun-dried tomatoes is the term that describes the process! You don’t need to put your precious red orbs out into the sun, only to be ruined by flies, mold, and the unforgiving elements! Using a dehydrator is a simple alternative to the old method of sun drying tomatoes. You can even use the oven to cook the tomatoes down to those delicious wonders we add to liven up soups and stews in the winter months.

In the olden days of Italy, tomato growers would simply throw their tomatoes onto their clay tile roofs to be dried out by the sun, and then retrieve them after a day or two! Today’s dehydrators let you essentially set it an forget it in a similar method of our ancestors. Simply wash the tomatoes, cut them lengthwise, put them on the dehydrator tray seed side up, put them inside, set it and forget it! Once dried out you can freeze them for further safe keeping, can them, or simply place in an air tight container, and place in the cupboard for later use.

SELL or GIFT

If all of the typical varieties of preserving seem overwhelming at the moment, you can always sell your red treasures at a local farmer’s market, or even at work! People LOVE fresh tomatoes, and will gladly pay you for them. Another idea is to gift them. You know the older lady up the road that can no longer garden? How much do you think she will appreciate the gift of tomatoes? While these methods of “unloading” your tomatoes it may be time to consider cutting back on next years tomato patch if you are completely in over your head. Nothing against selling or gifting, but there is no shame in realizing that you’ve gone overboard with 30 tomato plants, a full time job, kids events, and the daily chores of life.

CANNING

Canning. The age old process of preserving our tomato hoard! The right of passage for any gardener is being able to preserve your harvest for the months to come! Often learned by a family elder, and accompanied with family recipes from the old country; canning tomatoes is a great way to keep the flavor of those delicious wonders we have broken our backs over all summer.

There’s pressure canning and water bath canning. I only use the water bath canning process because honestly I am terrified of pressure cookers. There is no specific memory or tragedy when it comes to pressure cookers and canning, I just don’t feel knowledgeable enough, or comfortable using them. Fair enough? Needless to say I love my Instant Pot for everything else, just not canning.

Just think of all the tomato canned goodness…. spaghetti sauce, stewed tomatoes, tomato juice, ahhhh the list goes on and on.

FIRE ROASTING

This process is super fun! I did this last year as an experiment and loved the results. I canned them after the fire roasting, but you could always just freeze them to plop into chili later. This process was so simple it blew my mind, and after some trial and error I’ve got the perfect set up now. Which of course, I will share with you here.

First, like usual, wash the tomatoes!

Gather two large bowls, tongs, a bit of paper towel, a small dish of olive oil, and your handy dandy grill. Charcoal or gas, it doesn’t matter use whatever you are comfortable with. In one large bowl place all of the washed tomatoes you can manage. Place the other bowl under that, grab your tongs and head to the grill. On the left side of the grill place your tomato bowl, and the empty on the right.

Fire up the grill, and let it get good and hot. Once it is good and hot, oil the grates with the olive oil using the tongs, and paper towel. If you’ve never done this before it’s pretty easy. Fold up the paper towel and grab it with your tongs, submerge the paper towel in olive oil, and wipe the grates.

Now this is where the magic happens. Simply place your tomatoes on the hot grill, you will probably want to use the tongs to do this so you don’t singe your knuckles, and close the lid. In about five minutes turn the tomatoes with the tongs. Another three minutes later start checking on your tomatoes. They should be getting yellow singe marks on the skin, if they have broken open no worries, the skins will then begin to blacken. Once they begin to blacken begin carefully moving them to the empty bowl to your right. Once all of the tomatoes have been removed; simply repeat, until all of your tomatoes are fire roasted. Word to the wise… be gentle when grabbing your tomatoes, or they will pop all over the grill, and you’ll be scrubbing guts and skins off of the grates before your husband finds out you’ve used the grill.

These fire roasted tomatoes were amazing. One batch I cooked over charcoal, and liked the results even more because of the extra smokiness that charcoal provides. Side note on charcoal fire roasting… do not use typical charcoal with lighter fluid additive, stick with an old school lump charcoal. Lump charcoal is just like it sounds, lumps of charred wood, and offers a better taste (in my opinion) than briquettes.

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I hope this has given you some more ideas, and saved your harvest. The fruits of our labors should be enjoyed, and our labors less stressful maybe even enjoyable. Have fun with it, enjoy it, experiment and learn! At the end of the sweaty day it’s important to remember to….. live a simple life.

Happy preserving!