Friday, December 31, 2010
From our Family to yours have a fantastic new year!
Friday, November 19, 2010
It's a little known fact that Bryce and I spent our first year of marriage living and working just north of Cincinnati, OH. It seemed to us that chili is to Cincinnati as Cheese is to Green county WI. It's a big deal! According to Wikipedia Cincinnati style chili is a regional style of chili characterized by the use of unusual ingredients such as cinnamon, cloves, allspice or chocolate, (yes-CHOCOLATE) and by the absence of chili peppers or chili powder. It is commonly served over spaghetti or as a hot dog sauce.
While served in many regular restaurants, it is most often associated with several fast-food restaurant chains, including Skyline and Gold Star. Let me tell you everyone down there has a strong opinion about which chain makes the best chili. I never did try the ever popular Skyline/Gold Star chili because of my long standing disdain for fast-food and my rule to never order meat from a restaurant unless it's local and/or organic. In most restaurants you never know what kind of horrible factory farm the meat came from. If you want to learn more about that watch "Food Inc.", "Fast Food Nation" or look up the "Meatrix" on You Tube!
Click here for the Cincinnati Chili recipe I used this week. My family loved it! I had to cut Bryce and Kalena off after two servings! I used a full pound of Riemer Beef instead of just 3/4 lb and yummy fresh local Cheddar cheese. We will definitely make this one again. Enjoy!
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
I went shopping for some essentials and early Christmas gifts at Kohl's yesterday. On my list: Christmas dresses for the girls, a sweater for me, electric toothbrush....and underwear. WHAT $19 for a 3 pack of Hanes!? It seems like a couple years ago they were $6-7 bucks. I realize that prices have been artificially low and that this is probably a price correction, but could we ease into this a bit?
Each morning Bryce and I listen to the Wisconsin Farm Report with "The Fabulous Farm Babe" from 5-6 am (yes, we are crazy). We find information that is valuable to our lives and farm almost every day. A couple weeks ago she discussed the price increase of a few key products that everyone uses and that are increasing in price, quite dramatically. Top 2 on the list Cotton & Beef! The summary of the interview can be found at the WI Farm Report Website. I have included a short excerpt from this link.
"Number one," Blohm says, "Cotton! It's at all time highs, so Gramma giving you socks or t-shirts for Christmas this year might actually be a good idea!" Second - beef! Blohm says with the lack of expansion in beef production - supplies are tight so prices will be headed higher. She says now might be a good time to invest in a freezer, and buy a quarter, half, or whole beef animal to ride out the wave.
Monday, November 8, 2010
OK, so I admit it does not LOOK like the most fantastic thing in the world but hey...it's what's on the inside that counts...right? At least that's what my mom always told me :) Enjoy !
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
It was very fun! We met some very nice folks and sold some beef to boot. Buying beef in bulk can be an intimidating idea for first time customers. We continue to hear people say "Oh...my parents used to buy beef by the quarter or side when I was growing up. It was so good." Some meat party goers also talked about how they never really thought about where their food came from until recently. It really is a novel thing for most suburban residents to know a farmer!
Raising beef without added hormones, antibiotics and steroids is not new at all. Farmers raised their animals on small diversified "natural" farms for centuries. It is only during the last few decades that the industrial model for farming has become the norm. It's the food "industry" that has changed and become, well, industrialized. The vast majority of food comes from what many would refer to as "factory farms." These are the sprawling, overcrowded, unclean and stinky places that inspire scary documentaries such as "Food Inc." and cartoons like "The Meatrix" or movies like "Fast Food Nation". There are many reasons for this change, but that is a topic for another time.
We enjoy raising our cattle and providing humane treatment for them. We love to meet new people and to educate folks about what we do and why we care so much about sustainable farming practices. We are both educators by training and extroverts by nature so selling beef directly and taking part in creative events like “meat parties” just seems like a good fit and a fun way to spend our time.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
These are pictures of Elli hanging out with a couple of her best friends after our bike ride and Kalena singing Karaoke in the Oval Office (at a children's museum in St. Louis). These are just a couple of the cool things we are able to do because of the flexibility of homeschooling. I need to get moving and help Elli out with her painting and then off to the Library followed by a visit to our friendly calf Chuck.
Monday, September 27, 2010
1. Slowly brown beef on all sides using a small amount of oil in a heavy pan (I prefer cast iron) over medium heat. Pour off drippings.
2. Add small amount of liquid (1/2 to 2 cups) of liquid. You can use broth, water, juice, beer or wine. Stout beer adds a super complex flavor to a roast.
3. Cover tightly and simmer gently over low heat on top of the range or in a preheated 325 degree oven. See list below for cooking times.
Chuck Roast: 2 1/2 - 4 pounds, 2 - 3 hours
Bottom Round or Rump Roast (boneless): 3 - 4 pounds, 2 1/2 - 3 1/4 hours
Brisket: 2 1/2 - 3 1/2 pounds, 2 1/2 - 3 hours
All cook times are based on thawed beef removed directly from refrigerator. Enjoy!
Last week we made some repairs to the hog barn - yeah! The concrete guys had some left over concrete in the truck, and they poured a little driveway up to the shed door. The girls were very excited to leave a hand print in the wet concrete, just like their daddy did back in 1983. It is a joy to be on a farm that has a long family history and I smile at the thought of continuing that legacy. From the dinner bell with Willis and Lenora's (Bryce's Grandparents) names inscribed below it, to 6 year old Bryce’s hand print in an old concrete slab, to the many old pieces of farm equipment here and there. We are just beginning to add to the rich history of this land.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
I use the easiest way possible to store my tomatoes for the winter. Since we have huge freezers for the beef I claim a couple baskets in the biggest freezer for preserving vegis. Freezing is not always the best way to preserve flavor but considering the marginal success i have had with canning and limited time this year, I am just freezing again. Just follow a couple simple steps and you can enjoy your frozen tomatoes all winter long.
1. Wash tomatoes and boil water in a large kettle.
2. Fill the sink with very cold water.
3. Drop tomatoes into boiling water a few at a time and scald for 30 seconds.
4. Remove and place directly into cold water. Lift from the water and peal and core.
5. Pack in rigid containers. Leave 1 inch head space. Freeze.
If you do not even want to go through the scalding process you can simply wash and core tomatoes, set them on cookie sheets and freeze. When they are frozen, pack in freezer bags. If you use this method be sure do defrost in a bowl after running under lukewarm water to soften. These tomatoes are best used in sauces, soups and casseroles.
I like to use a great tomato soup recipe from my favorite recipe site www.allrecipes.com. It's simple, my kids love it and it's not from a can! It calls for fresh tomatoes, but you can also use your frozen & peeled tomatoes. Enjoy!
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
1/2 C unbleached all-purpose flour
2 t baking powder
1/2 t seasoned salt
1/4 t black pepper
1 T sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 C milk
1t canola oil
2 C corn removed from the cob
1. Combine the flour, baking powder, seasoned salt, pepper, and sugar in a large bowl. Stir in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the mild and the oil. Fold in the corn.
2. Heat the oil in a large skillet until hot, then reduce heat to medium. Drop tablespoons of batter into the skillet. Cook until browned on all sides, turning frequently. ENJOY!
I also wanted to share with you a quick method for keeping sweet corn for corn fritters and mid- winter stews and chili's.
2. Begin heating water for blanching*.
3. Cut corn from the cob.
4. Pack in Boilable bags & add butter if desired.
5. Press out air and seal bags.
6. Blanch bags, four at a time, in boiling water for 6 minutes.
7. Run under very cold water. Pat Bags dry & freeze.
*Blanching is a term that describes a process of wherein the food substance, usually a vegetable or fruit, is plunged into boiling water, removed after a brief, timed interval, and finally plunged into iced water or placed under cold running water (shocked) to halt the cooking process.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
This post is part 1 in a 3 part series about using and preserving popular vegetables from the garden during this harvest season. Parts 2 & 3 will give you ideas for preserving and recipes for tomatoes and sweet corn.
Although we still have 2 weeks left of summer it certainly feels like autumn and the harvest is well on its way. As a matter of fact you may have a pile of zucchini on your counter as I do and need to do something with it all. During August you can practically get zucchini for free because anyone who grows it is begging neighbors to take it!
Zucchini is just one of many summer squash but seems to be the most popular. One common mistake people make is letting zucchini grow too large. You have to check it every day as harvest draws close, and pick when the zucchini is 6-10 inches long. Bigger is not always better. If a zucchini gets too large it gets a bit tough and spongy in the middle and the seeds start getting hard. I made the mistake yesterday of trying to shred zucs that were too large in my kitchen-aid and ended up with yuck.
Preserve: If you can not preserve right away, do not wash.
- Zucchini can be sliced 1/2 inch thick and tray-frozen, unblanched, to be breaded or flour-coated and fried. Do not defrost squash before frying.
- Zucchini can be grated and frozen for baked goods. When defrosting, squeeze the moisture out before measuring and adding to recipe.
- Zucchini can be dried as chips: 1. Wash & cut into 1/2 inch slices; do not peel. 2. Dry in a dehydrator at 120 degrees for 6-8 hrs turning once, until crisp. Or dry in oven at 120 degrees for 6 to 8 hrs. 3. Cool and package in airtight containers.
- Zucchini can be frozen for stir-frying: 1. Wash. Drain. Pat dry. 2. Trim ends. Slice no thicker than 1/4 inch thick. 3. Pack in gallon-size freezer bags. Press out air. Seal. Freeze.
Great Zucchini Recipe's:
Everyone loves zucchini bread. I found a fantastic and somewhat unique lemon zucchini bread recipe. I use 1/2 whole wheat flour and 1/2 all-purpose and add an extra Tablespoon or so of lemon juice to make it extra lemony. Make a double or triple loaf and freeze for later but whatever you do don't make the same mistake I made years ago and make cucumber bread...it's really not that good!
There is more to zucchini than bread though. Below is a simple and yummy recipe from my favorite cookbook called "Cooking With Heirlooms: Seasonal Recipes with Heritage Variety Vegetables and Fruits".
Zucchini and Tomato au Gratin
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a 2 1/2 quart baking dish.
Heat 1 T canola oil in a large skillet. Add 1/2 medium onion, diced and saute until tender. Stir in 4 medium zucchini cut into 1/4 inch slices and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Peel and chop 2 heirloom tomatoes and add to zucchini. Add salt and pepper to taste and 4 large basil leaves (chopped). Cook 5 minutes longer.
Spoon the mixture into prepared baking dish. Add 1/4 C (or more) shredded cheddar cheese. Bake 5 minutes or until the cheese melts.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Up Chuck, up, stand up...up Chuck, up, stand up... This became Kalena's chant every time we went out to do "bovine therapy" on Chuck, the calf.
Chuck injured a nerve in his shoulders or spine about 12 days ago, and was not able to stand up. We brought Chuck up to our yard last Saturday (11 days ago) and began discussing our course of action. We decided that Chuck needed some special calf food, fresh hay and water and lots of TLC to be restored to health. He could not put any weight on his front legs and it seemed had no feeling in them either. We may have a sick sense of humor, but we named him Chuck as in Ground Chuck...get it? Groan!
Grandpa, Kalena, Elli and I (Jen) spent time with Chuck several times a day moving his legs and massaging his joints. We joked that we could sell him as Kobe beef when this was all said and done.
Chucks progress was slow, and at times we were not very hopeful that he would regain feeling and strength in his legs. However, this Saturday one week after Chuck took up residence in my lawn he stood with help from us. Let me tell you lifting a 300 lb calf is no easy task! Within an hour he stood by himself and wandered a few steps to the shrubs for some fresh leaves and grass. Late Saturday evening our dog Oliver was barking like crazy, when I looked out to see what the fuss was I saw Chuck wandering around the yard munching on anything he could find. Good grief! By morning he was nose to nose across the gate with the other steers about 100 yards from where he began. No one would ever know he had any problems with his legs at all.
Caring for Chuck has been such a great lesson in animal husbandry for both myself and the girls. I have to say we have become a little attached to Chuck. He is the most exciting addition to what we call the Riemer Family Petting Zoo which consists of: 11 Kittens, 3 cats, 1 city dog, 1 farm dog, 1 old pony and now a perfectly healthy, friendly calf named Chuck.
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Over the last several months there have been many changes in the life of the Riemer Family. Not only have we moved to the farm and taken on the daily activities that go along with that, but Jen has also taken on a new role as very part time librarian at Albertson Memorial Library in Albany WI. The most dramatic life change, however, is our decision to home school the girls.
After much research and conversation, as well as many conversations with friends and other home schooling families we have decided that the best education for our children will be right here at the farm. Oh, I know many of you are asking: What about socialization? How will you know what they have learned? Do you really think you can do it all day? These are the top questions that have been posed to us about our decision and from what I can tell from our reading are very common questions. These are concerns that I initially had as well and want to briefly address the ever popular "socialization" question.
Socialization: What does this word mean anyway? Most people are really asking "Wont the girls be too isolated and how will they learn to get along with others"? Well, they are extremely well adjusted so far and they have essentially been home schooled from birth. I have come to agree with most home school families and believe that homeschooling is a big advantage when it comes to socialization and here's why.
- The girls will have many opportunities to interact with other children. On the agenda for this fall: swim lessons, piano lessons from grandma (Elli), Gymnastics (Kalena), Sunday School and countless activities with the strong home school groups in our area. Soon to come 4H...Bryce is going to have to take the lead on this one. The great thing is we can take part in these activities without having the huge after school rush, eating in the car and exasperation that they are taking over our schedule. They are just part of the rhythm of home schooling and we can go deeper with each activity like coming home and doing a reading lesson on Olympic swimmers for example.
- They are not limited to spending time with children their own age. They learn to get along with others older and younger and of different backgrounds than themselves. It is hard to find role models in a room full of 6 year old children, but when spending time with older children they can learn how to act, create and explore with confidence. We have the opportunity to expose them to cultural events in the middle of a Wednesday afternoon if we so choose.
- They can take part in real life opportunities around the house and community. Home schoolers have a better sense of "real life" than other children. They understand better what it takes to take care of a home, balance a checkbook, work with a plumber, shop for groceries, problem solve and fix things when they break. They can learn to deal with real life situations in a safe and supportive environment surrounded by extended family.
- Although we are a long way off, colleges and employers are increasingly impressed by home schooled kids who have proven to be strong people who can take responsibility, cooperate with others, take initiative and lead and participate in team projects.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Where do you get your eggs, pork, produce....? As natural beef producers we get questions from many folks as to where we find the rest of our food. We do our best to buy local and organic foods and if our food is not certified organic we know the farmer and the natural methods they use. I will run down the list and give props to the farmers we purchase from, but to find farmers in your own area visit local harvest, or eat wild on the web.
Eggs, Organic bulk dry goods, spices and honey: Kaufmann's country store in south Beloit WI.
Eggs, produce: Walkup family farm in Crystal Lake IL
Produce: Monroe Farmers Market, Monroe WI or the largest farmers market in the Nation on the Madison WI capital square on Saturday Mornings. There is also a great CSA from Scotch Hill Farm in Brodhead, WI
Pork: R Family Farm in Poplar Grove IL
Chicken: We partnered with our good friends in Potosi and butchered our own.
Cheese: Decatur Dairy just one mile from our farm...National Champion Cheese just a bike ride away, I love Green county!
We are not perfect and sometimes yes we do by food at the supermarket. Healthy clean food is a priority for us, so we make it a budget priority as well. If we can not shake the hand of the farmer that grew it we choose organic as is the case in the milk we buy.
In the future we will move beyond beef into hogs, eggs and chicken, but until that time, we will continue to support other farmers with goals very close to our own.
Monday, August 23, 2010
Fall is fast approaching, but grilling season is far from over! I want to share with you some great tips to preparing a fantastic steak!
- Any steak is great for grilling! If grilling round steak, skirt or flank steak marinade at least 6 hours or up to 24 hours to ensure tenderness.
- Leave a thin layer of fat on steaks when cooking. This helps preserve juiciness. Trim any excess fat after cooking.
- Keep the grill temperature moderate. Cooking beef steaks at too high a temp. can cause the outside of the steak to char before the inside reaches the proper temperature.
- Speaking of doneness: The picture to the left show steak that is Medium Rare ~ internal temp 145 degrees F, Medium ~ 160 degrees and Well Done ~ 170 degrees. I strongly recommend using an instant read thermometer inserted horizontally into the steak. It is not recommended to consume steak that is under 145 degrees internal temp.
- Turn steaks with tongs instead of a fork. A fork pierces the beef and allows the yummy juices to escape.
- Add salt or seasonings containing salt to each side after browning. Moisture is drawn out and inhibits browning if the salt is added before cooking.
Monday, August 16, 2010
I (Jen) grew up in Sterling, IL. A nice place to grow up, but very different from the communities of WI that I knew little about as a child. When I went off to college at UW-Platteville (go Pioneers!) I began to realize that things really were quite different just north of the border. I was horrified when all the boys took the week before Thanksgiving off to go shoot poor helpless deer and was amazed when I learned that there was so much more to cheese than American, Cheddar and Swiss. One thing I appreciated most about Wisconsin though was the state pride and small town festivals!
This weekend we took part in the Brodhead - Covered Bridge Days festivities. The annual gathering of people from town and the country to celebrate...well...there is a covered bridge on the Sugar River Trail...but I think it's more of an excuse to just have a festival. Check out the website here. The highlight of the festival is the old tractors. Just off the main drag is a big field with: flea market, food vendors, old tractors on display and the kids toy tractor pull. I thought the tractor pull would be a great way for the girls to get more acclimated to country living in WI. They were divided up by weight and competed against 15-20 other kids in their class. I figured they would line up the 5 toy tractors and race (silly me). The goal in any tractor pull, toy or otherwise, is to pull weight from the starting line to the finish. In this case 40 feet was the distance. If a child could pull the weight the entire way they would move on to the next round and have more wight added to their load with the winner being the child who could pull the most weight the farthest. I was amazed at how competitive it was. There were 4 year old boys with looks of determination I have seen on Olympic athletes and slews of parents cheering and taking pictures (which I was guilty of as you can see). Some children travel around the state to various festivals and events in order to compete in toy tractor pulls! It's their sport!
Well, I have to say Kalena did pretty well, she was one of two little girls in her class that made it to round two, but then she was eliminated by all the little bruisers who must do this for a living :) She had fun and felt like a true winner. My dear sweet Elli on the other hand did not have that much success. Her load was quite a bit heavier than Kalena's and few children from her class made it to round two. She is very competitive, determined and a little too smart to believe me when I told her pulling the weight 8 feet was really great! It was just not satisfying to her to hear that we were so proud of her for trying something new! She was grumpy for an hour and deep down quite disappointed that her baby sister did better than she did. Ugh, the difficulty of parenting.
Take home lesson...encourage the girls to take part in different sports or activities from now on!
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Saturday, August 7, 2010
I really felt like a true homesteader swinging the grub hoe (similar to a pick axe) although the early pioneer women were not digging trenches to bury their satellite internet cables! The hoe was actually creating sparks when the iron head struck a rock with great force. This is the same grub hoe we used to gut the old plaster out of the farmhouse. Bryce took a picture but of course the cord that connects the camera to the computer is MIA...I guess that's the way it goes when you've been living out of box's for a couple months.
So stay tuned for pictures of the house and our life as farmers.
Friday, June 11, 2010
Due to moving, having no reliable internet and not wanting to move our computer into a construction zone our blog posts will be spotty this month. I hope to have the new office set up and high speed internet running at the farm by mid-July at the latest. Sorry for the neglect of the blog, but we will get back to it as much as we can, so stay tuned!
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Since Tuesday Bryce and I have been sorting, cleaning, moving, sorting again, getting upset with trim and finally really enjoying trim. The Farmhouse is quite large and taking the trim down last year has been the single largest task to date for me (Jen), but sorting through it to get it back up has been almost as much work. Our fantastic carpenter Charlie is able to reuse the 160 year old original and very elaborate trim even though many of the rooms have changed and all of the exterior walls have been furred in to accommodate insulation. Just to give you an idea of how much trim we have picture a 2 car garage filled floor to ceiling with window trim, door trim, baseboards and doors and that is what we have! To make it even more interesting not all of the trim was labeled, and some even miss-labeled (those trim removal days got long). On top of this many our room dimensions have changed. It's like putting together a giant thousand piece puzzle where the picture has changed since you started. It really is quite fun and gives a huge sense of accomplishment when you know you have a full room set with all the trim it needs.
Friday, June 4, 2010
Well, we are moving to a new neighborhood tomorrow. June 5, 2010 is the big day to haul most of our belongings across the IL/WI state line. Our new neighbors are pictured above. They are nice girls! We will miss many things about our friendly little neighborhood, but we are moving on to follow the dreams that have been a long time in the making. We are certainly ready for the transition considering that we have been renovating the farm house for 3 years and living in two different places for as long. However, the change does not come without it's share of emotions and difficulties. A few tears were shed by Elli and I (Jen) on her last day of kindergarten as she said goodbye to her best little friends for the last time.
We are beginning a new chapter in our lives, almost a whole new book! We hope and plan to make Jordan Prairie our forever home and make the beautiful little plot of fertile land our life's work. We are blessed! Blessed to have the "Gift of Good Land" if I can steel a book title from Wendel Berry. We are blessed to have support from so many family and friends. We are blessed to have each other and the amazing opportunity to raise our little girls in the country!
I hope that you will follow along on the adventure as we grow and learn as farmers, parents and stewards of the land. If you are following our journey on this blog let us know, we would love to hear your comments and questions! Thanks ~ Jen
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Here is the progression of the master bedroom. You can see the foam insulation in the walls and roof deck of the attic. This foam insulation was installed by Meier Energy solutions and is a soybean based product. It is not only super efficient, but also a more renewable option to the normally petroleum based product. The second picture shows the "blue board" gypsum based plaster board. Finally the plaster base coat and finish coat went on. It looks so great with the tray ceiling and the tornado finish on the high part of the ceiling. Our hope was to make the master bedroom a bit of a unique and relaxing space and I think we are well on our way.
Finally a photo of our beautiful girls with the vibrant heirloom peonies. We moved a load of our belongings from Crystal Lake to Brodhead including our little garden bench. The rest goes up this weekend! We are so excited to start our farm adventure in earnest.