Friday, April 11, 2014

Quiche: Dinner From Odds and Ends

I thought quiche was sooo elegant a few years back when it started making the rounds of the restaurants.  Little did I know how simple and versatile this dish can be!

You can make quiche with a store bought crust, but to me those crusts taste kind of like cardboard.  I want a real crust and I think I found the perfect crust recipe.  I can't remember where I found this, so I heartily apologize if I've stolen your recipe. This recipe makes five single crusts.  You use one and roll the other four into a ball, wrap them in plastic wrap, and throw them in the freezer.  When you need to make a quiche, pie, or whatever, you pull one out of the freezer about an hour ahead of time and let it thaw.  This piecrust is more sticky to work with, but it bakes into a wonderful crust with an almost puff pastry quality to it.  

Pie Crust

4 c. flour
1-3/4 c. shortening (I use lard)
1 T. sugar
2 t. salt
1 T. vinegar
1 egg
1/2 cup water

1.  Using a fork or pastry cutter, mix together the first four ingredients.
2. In a separate dish, beat the remaining ingredients.  Combine the two mixtures and stir with a fork until moistened.  Divide into five equal balls.  Chill for 15 minutes before rolling out or wrap in plastic wrap and freeze.  

Quiche is one of those recipes that you can make when you have just a few odds and ends in the refrigerator.  You can pretty much mix and match the ingredients with anything.   I like to go onto to see all the different types of quiche.  This recipe is a bacon and swiss quiche.  But if you don't have bacon, you can put in ham, or sausage, or other meats if you like.  If you don't have swiss cheese, you can use cheddar, provolone, or any thing else you may find lying around in the 'fridge.  When I made this I added some chopped spinach to get some veggies into it.  You can add chopped broccoli, asparagus, peppers, different herbs or anything that suits your taste buds.  And finally, the milk component doesn't have to be evaporated milk.  You can use cream, half and half, or regular milk.  You'll find though, using regular milk changes the richness of the final product.   


 1 (9 inch) frozen pie crust, thawed
 1 pound sliced bacon
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
 3 eggs, lightly beaten
 1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
 1/2 teaspoon spicy brown mustard
 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, or as needed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). 

Place bacon in a skillet over medium-high heat and cook until evenly brown. Drain, crumble and set aside.
In a bowl, mix eggs, milk, mustard and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, toss bacon with flour to lightly coat. Spread 3/4 bacon mixture and Swiss cheese over bottom of pie crust. Pour egg mixture over bacon mixture. Top with remaining bacon mixture.
Bake 1 hour in the preheated oven, or until a fork inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before serving.

I found that if you put a tablespoon of flour in the bottom of the pie crust before adding other ingredients adds extra crispness to the crust and that it took only about 45 minutes for my quiche to be cooked through.  


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Ticks, Yuck!

Although its been quite cold, the ticks have already made their appearance here in Potter County.  I found the  nasty, "grey grape" on the dogs today.  Blecch!  Just looking for a picture of ticks made me gag.


Make sure your pets have been treated!  I use Frontline Plus on my dogs and have good luck with it.

I've also ordered guinea hens who are supposed to eat a lot of ticks.  I hope I can raise the keets who are coming in June and get them out onto the grass before the worst of tick season.  But besides the guinea hens being great tick vacuums, who can pass up that awesome prehistoric head? 


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Spring 2014: Moving "Flower," Planting Seeds, A Fig Tree, Maple, And Bees

It's been a busy week on the farm!

We moved Flower, our Idaho Pastured Pig, into her own stall yesterday.  We're pretty sure she's pregnant, but we're not sure when the piglets will be coming.  She's showing some pretty definite signs of an impending farrowing and we didn't want to leave her penned with Tigger, our Idaho Pastured Pig boar.  We were very worried that the move would turn into a piggy rodeo.  We were lucky.  With the help of some plywood to guide her, a bucket to get her to step across the line from the pen she and Tigger have been living in, and my hubby and friend helping, we had a fairly uneventful move.  Now, we'll see how long it is until the babies come!

My fig tree has started to get leaf buds!  This is the second winter that I've put it into the basement after it went dormant and then looked at it all winter and thought, "I bet its dead."  But I looked at it the other day and voila!  I've moved it back upstairs into the light and maybe, maybe, this year I'll get some figs from it!

Its pitiful now, but just wait!

Its been warm enough for the bees to go out and take their cleansing flights.  You can see by the picture above that there is nothing for them to eat.  On one warm day last week, I decided to feed the bees and give them a quick check.  I cooked up some sugar and water to make a spring strength syrup and then got out the bee hive top feeders.  I like the top feeders because I don't have to completely open up the hives to feed the bees.  I just pull off the top and pour in the syrup.  I had put some pollen patties on the hives a couple of weeks ago and was happy to see that one hive had worked its way through about half of the patty and there was some brood.  The other hive hadn't touched the pollen, didn't have a bit of brood, and the bees were pretty nasty.  It looked like they don't have a queen.  Soooo, I spent hours calling around for a queen to buy.  I called Georgia, Florida, Texas, California, even Hawaii!  Nobody had queen bees for sale until May.  So when it warms up next week, I'm going to combine the two hives and then when they start to build up again later in the spring I'll split the hives again.  

Finally, I got my tomatoes, peppers, herbs, and all my other seeds started.  Sadly, I'm behind the gun on this.  I would have liked to have started them about two weeks ago!  Check out my new plant growing shelving.  Its plastic shelves and grow lights from Walmart.  They're easy to clean and at the end of the growing season I can break it all down, put it in a box, and store it away.  

My plan this next week is to get the high tunnel cleaned out, spread with compost, rototilled, and ready to go.  This flat of gorgeous mixed greens is ready to go outside!

We finished our maple season.  It was quite a dismal season this year for everyone here in north central Pennsylvania.  The temperatures stayed cold, cold, cold, and then we had a wee bit of warm weather with cold nights for good sap runs, and now its going to warm right up and the trees will bud and the sap will get slimy.  Next week the kids and I will be pulling taps.  

Now we're just waiting for the beautiful warm weather the weather forecasters are promising.   I don't even care if it rains... as long as its warm!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

New Farm Banner!

After hours and hours of fooling around with logos and getting everything lined up I've finally put together and ordered the banner for our farm stand! 

The borders will be cut closer to the images, but this is how it'll pretty much look.  I decided to go with simplicity.  I think it makes its point.  Now I have to make sure our website is up and running!  

Friday, March 28, 2014

More Eggs!

I had an earlier post about the egg drought being over and oh, boy is it!  This is yesterday's take and the number of eggs grows daily.  Hurray!

I love that this group of freshly washed eggs is a visual feast as well as an edible one.  

Did you know?

Eggs were fertility symbols, German farmers in ancient times smeared eggs on their plows to ensure fertile fields.  Colored eggs are considered powerful and are tossed into the laps of women who want to become pregnant.  Some feel that this idea of colored eggs is how painting eggs as Easter began.   

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Visiting Sugar Shacks

Last weekend was the Potter-Tioga Maple Weekend.  If you weren't fortunate enough to be able to go around to some of the sugar shacks (that's what a building in which maple sap is evaporated is called) then you'll definitely want to put it on your calendar for next year.  

We hope to be part of the tour next year, so I wanted to make sure I got my viewing in this year. 

My first stop was Brydonson Farm.  Brydonson Farm had all kinds of fun activities going on.  As well as having a store that sells maple processing equipment and all kind of maple goodies, they serve a fabulous pancake breakfast.  

Inside Brydonson Farm store - some of the maple processing equipment. 

Brydonson Farm - Boiling sap the old fashioned way.

Brydonson Farm - Fire starting 101 (kids having fun!)

Brydonson Farm - the top of the smoker (see the next picture)

Brydonson Farm - the owner of Costello Inn set up his smoker and sold delicious pulled pork sandwiches (with maple syrup in the sauce, of course!)

Brydonson Farm - after maple sap is boiled down into maple syrup it is run through this filter press.  This cleans out the particles and makes the syrup clear instead of cloudy.  

Brydonson Farm - a small evaporator for the hobby maple syrup-er!

Brydonson Farm - New Horizons Creamery offered yummy cheese samples and sold the most amazing homemade cheese, yogurt, and ice cream!

My next stop on the tour was the Sons of Dunn sugar shack.

Sons of Dunn- has an incredibly large evaporator.  Go to see the reverse osmosis units and their set up for large capacity maple sap processing.  You'll be astounded!

Sons of Dun- Maple syrup beautifully displayed.

Then I drove over to Wending Creek Farms.  Wending Creek has a beautiful facility.  Again with a huge maple sap evaporator and the capacity to process lots and lots of maple syrup.

Wending Creek Farms - maple syrup bottled in glass and in plastic.

Wending Creek Farms- The evaporator is gas powered.  You can see the jets blowing heat into the bottom of the maple sap evaporator.
Wending Creek- a giant evaporator!

Wending Creek Farms - A tree showing the set up for old time maple collection with a galvanized maple bucket and the newer plastic bag.  

Wending Creek- we ran into the Miss Austin Maple Sweetheart as she visited all the sugar shacks on the tour.  

Wending Creek- some of the many colors of maple syrup.  

Wending Creek- an example of maple tree tapping using tubing.  This is the way its most commonly done now by serious maple syrup producers.

My final stop was Hamilton's Sugar Shack in Ulysses.  There are many more sugar shacks on the tour, but I wasn't able to visit any more.  

Hamilton's Sugar Shack- offers a great pancake breakfast.  

Hamilton's Sugar Shack- in a beautiful dining room.  There are lots of interesting antiques around the room. 

Hamilton's Sugar Shack- examples of the many lovely maple bottles available.

Hamilton's Sugar Shack - an antique maple sap collection sled.  A team of horses would be hooked up to this and heavy buckets of sap would be poured into it and then it would be pulled back to where the maple was being boiled.  Folks sure were tough in the old days!

Next year, we hope to have Fitzgerald's Family Farm on the tour and offer lots of nice activities! 

Mark your calendars for the third weekend in March and stay tuned!

Be sure to blog hop over to Tilly's Nest!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Spring Warms Up A Little Bit: A Catch Up Of What's Happening

Spring is in the air. 

 Oh, its still cold outside and the maple trees tease us by producing small amounts of sap and we've begun boiling a little bit for maple syrup.  But the robins and red-winged blackbirds have returned and the air doesn't seem to have the bite its been holding.    

The chickens haven't had their wings trimmed, so they've flown out of their yard (you can see the garden shed/chicken coop in the background) and are roaming close to the house.  They discovered the bird feeders and have started to clean up all the seeds that the wild birds didn't want.  Foghorn Leghorn, our white leghorn rooster almost looks like a statue of a rooster.  Click on the photo to get a blown up version.  Isn't he gorgeous?   

The turkey jake feels amorous and fluffs and strut around his four hens.  It doesn't take much to get him excited.  We cough, he gobbles.  We do our tortured version of a turkey gobble, he gobbles.  If we keep doing it he starts to puff up.   

When he has his wings drooping down (like in the first and second pictures) he actually vibrates them and it makes a loud humming noise.  It almost sounds like a bee buzzing!  And when he's all puffed up and gobbles, his gobble makes a drum-like noise.  Notice how blue his head gets?  

Tigger, our Idaho Pastured Pig boar, has grown up!  He's still sweet, but I'm cautious around him because of his size.  Yesterday, he kept poking me with his nose and Fitz, my hubby, said, "you better reprimand him," but Tigger just wanted his head scratched.  He closed his eyes and blissfully stretched out his back and back legs as soon as I started rubbing behind his ears.  

His tail isn't a perfect curl.  

Flower, our Idaho Pastured Pig gilt, is hopefully pregnant.  I'm not an expert on piggy pregnancy, but Flower and Tigger were pretty lovey dovey in January.  She's not really showing any signs of it yet, so I guess time will tell.   

I still have some pumpkins and winter squash in storage in my basement (I can't believe they've lasted so well!) and I've been using them to supplement the pigs' feed.   These winter squash are rock hard when I throw them in for the pigs and they bite right through them.  Its kind of scary!

Clarence, the Muscovy duck and his girls have led a winter of leisure.  They love when its warm enough for us to fill their little water dish and then it doesn't freeze immediately!  

They try to swim in the little dish!  I hope to put in a little pond for them this summer.  

The bees haven't done much.  It's still too cold for them.  I fed them pollen patties the other day when it was a little bit warmer outside.  I pop the top lid and inner cover, throw in the patty, and a handful of bees fly up at me to sting the crap out of me (yes I wear my bee suit!), and I quickly close the top.  

But look at that gorgeous blue sky!

The chickens have begun to explore their yard now that there's not a foot of snow on it!  They pick at the few blades of green grass.  Eggs will start getting better and better!

The high tunnel is still buttoned up.  You can see the piles of snow that slid off it over the winter.  I've been working inside to clean it up for spring planting.  I put a little cafe table and chair in there and went out to read my book.  It was 80-degrees inside!

Lady, my horse, and her horse friends have been moved across the road to their spring pasture.  It's been a looooong and much too cold winter and I look forward to getting some riding time in!  

There are pictures of a coyote killed deer following.  So if you don't want to see them.  Stop here!  

Predators are always a risk in the country.  Close to our house we've had to deal with coyotes, bears, skunks, and opossums.  In the pasture next to our mini farm, I found the leftover carcass of a deer that had been killed and eaten by coyotes.  The vultures have been flying over to scan the area (scaring the pants off the chickens!) then group up around the carcass.    

And there you have a quick wrap up of spring.  I hope to get some pictures with real green grass soon!