Showing posts with label books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label books. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Our New Book Not Just About Pigs!

I'm so pleased to be writing today about Hank's and my new book, Plowing With Pigs and Other Creative, Low-Budget Homesteading Solutions, published by New Society Publishers. We just said goodbye to a local reporter who came out to the farm to interview us for a newspaper article about the book. One thing that came up was the fact that the book is about so much more than pigs. There are chapters on poultry, pigs, cattle and other ruminants, tools, building what you need, growing small grain crops, making hay by hand, cooking from scratch, remodeling a farmhouse kitchen organically, and running a small home-based farm business. It's our pride and joy and we honestly can't wait to get started on the next book.
If you would like a personalized, autographed copy of our book for $25 (includes shipping), email me at  God bless!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Rendering Lard

I just rendered my first batch of lard, made from the kidney fat from our own Mulefoot hogs. Isn't it gorgeous--there to the right? I've been reading up on traditional cooking, in particular Nina Planck's Real Food, and I am a 100% convert to "real" fats. No more "healthy" canola oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil or safflower oil! Planck documents, quite convincingly, that these oils are relatively new industrial creations, and are the real cause of obesity, heart disease and all the other modern diseases we Americans have been plagued with since switching to an industrial diet. These oils are present in just about every processed food on grocery store shelves.

As it turns out, there are all sorts of things our bodies need in traditional fats like lard, beef tallow, and butter, especially, and Planck gives us the research, the science and the dissenting views in her book. Most disturbing is how margarine is made and what's in it (metal particles, rancid vegetable oil, soaplike emulsifiers, bleach). I'll stick to sweet cream and salt, thanks, which is all that is in real butter. I will never touch margarine again, and living in the Midwest, that's not an easy thing to do if one dines out ... ever.

So, I am going to prepare some good old-fashioned country-style roast potatoes in lard, with their crispy, cracklin coat. Yum! Then some pastry shells for quiche ... then frying some eggplant ...

To render lard, all you do is chop up the fat (or run it through a food processor)--we got our local processor to do this at slaughter--and put it in a roasting pan. Roast in a preheated 225-degree oven for 30 minutes to an hour, until only liquid fat remains and a few bits of protein. Run through a piece of cheesecloth and store in a glass or stainless steel jar in the refrigerator or in the pantry. It will keep for 3-4 months this way.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

They Made Me Think

In the winter when "spare" time is easier to come by than in the spring or summer, reading and knitting are always battling each other in my mind for this rare commodity. But in the last few months, I've read a few books that have really caused me to think ... hard.
I gave Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work by Matthew B. Crawford to my sweetie for Christmas after reading a blurb about it in an airline magazine. It sounded right up his alley. After he devoured it in less than two days, I took it on so we could discuss it. The author is a PhD from the University of Chicago who, after doing a brief stint as a "knowledge worker" in a cubicle, went back to doing the kind of work that really satisfied him: running a motorcycle repair shop and working as a mechanic. The book explores the value of actually knowing how to do things in a day and age where skilled hands are becoming less and less important--and hard to come by.  This book is quite heady, but I found myself nodding in understanding, alternating with looking up words in the dictionary!

My sister, Jennifer, sent me Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage by Elizabeth Gilbert for my birthday with a post-it note attached saying  "I haven't read this yet, so don't think I'm trying to send you some kind of message." Ha! Well, I skeptically began reading it because quite frankly it pertains to the near future, and I finished it in three days. The author and I had way too many similarities to count and I found her research and findings on the institution of marriage to be refreshing--and just what I needed. Marriage, in the old days, was a somewhat casual agreement between couples until the church hijacked it in the Middle Ages and made it an iron-clad contract that there was no getting out of. Through her cultural and historical anecdotes, Gilbert shows how marriage means different things in different cultures and how it has transformed through time. What it boils down to is that while marriage is good for a society (stabilizes people, procreation, families), government has always tried to interfere and prevent people from marrying because the bedroom--and what married couples do and say behind closed doors--is one bastion that cannot be controlled. The mister read it on one snowy Sunday and of course, we laid in bed--behind closed doors!--and analyzed its arguments.
Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity From a Consumer Culture by Shannon Hayes has really got my head spinning (in a good way). Detailing the history of the homemaker, going back hundreds of years, she makes the case that the homemaker is making a comeback--to the way it was way back when households were units of production, rather than simply units of consumption. You see, homemakers used to produce things in their kitchens and on their land--growing food and preserving it, mostly. But around the 1950s and 60s when all the labor-saving devices and convenience foods and products began freeing homemakers from the "drudgery of the kitchen", Betty Friedan coincidentally documented the "bored housewife syndrome." Homemakers lost their purpose in life and became chauffeurs and shoppers, consumers rather than producers. Hayes' argument is extremely well thought out and laid and I encourage anyone interested in sustainable, low-impact and simple living, to rush out and get it. Get the book directly from Hayes on her website  
Food for thought and thought for food!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Book Club Beckons

One of the things I knew I'd miss about my life in Lexington, Ky., was my book club. Having been in one for the past 10 years (one in California, and the other that I helped start in Kentucky), it has become an important part of my life. In the past, the Modus Operandi was always to hand select a group of 5 to 7 women with various things in common--work, horses, crafting, and of course, taste in books--and invite them to join the club. You always had to be careful who you invited, because group dynamics is so important in a situation like book club. You can't have people who are too opinionated, too quiet, too talkative, too this or too that. You also can't have people who never read the book because that just irritates the other members to no end. And, you always have to put some care and thought into your book selection because you are taking 5 to 7 peoples' lives (oops, I mean time) into your hands. In other words, if the book is a dud, you'll hear about it!
So, upon arrival here in Kansas, I set about organizing my next book club with a new MO. This time, I decided I couldn't wait around to be magically introduced to the fun, fabulous and intelligent women I was seeking, so I took matters into my own hands, via Craigslist! Under the community/groups tab, I posted a  chirpy note, a la Joan Holloway (on Mad Men), recruiting cool ladies who loved to read ... the kind of books I like to read, not necessarily the ones Oprah wants us to read. I love historical fiction (like The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver or Serena, by Ron Rash) and memoirs (The Glass Castle, My Life in France) so anyone game for that type of book is in!   
I got three responses for a total of four women--a mother/daughter duo, a 27-year-old single mom, and a retired reference librarian/cob-house-builder-farmer--and we meet for the first time this Saturday. I selected Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates and I already heard back that it was hated by two members. Hee hee. I loved it ... what dialog ... what messed up people! And so much to talk about, group dynamics aside. Can't wait to see how this cold-call book club turns out ... Ladies, this will be FUN!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Husbanding Lunch

Today I had lunch with veterinary columnist, Dr. Dianne Hellwig. Dianne and I have been friends for a few years, and we've even spent holidays together. She raises Rambouillet sheep, Spanish goats and horses. I can't remember the last time I actually had a 2 1/2-hour lunch with someone and didn't want it to end. I had time to have a leisurely lunch! In some ways she and I are in similar places in our lives. She has just emerged from the so-called hallowed ground of academia, while I've just come out of the rat race of corporate America. What did we learn from our experiences?

1. You're never too old to reinvent yourself
2. Your work stands on its own
3. Don't define yourself by your "job"
4. There are a lot of people out there who just don't care, but we can't dwell on that

Dianne spoke about while she was in school in the 1980s, the poultry experts were trying to figure out what magic formula they could feed chickens so they wouldn't develop aneurisms and die (from growing so fast). At the time she spoke up and said, "how about we don't engineer chickens to grow so fast?" That wasn't too popular, because common sense doesn't reign supreme in American agriculture. Profit does. Instead of a common sense solution to a problem, the current rationale is that we must invent a technological one.

I'm reading Gene Logsdon's novel The Last of the Husbandmen . It begins in 1940 and ends in 1985 and chronicles the "get big or get out" model of agriculture. When I told Dianne about the book, she remarked that when she was getting her degree, it was called "Animal Husbandry." Just after she graduated, it changed to "Animal Science." It echoes the fact that during that time, animals stopped being individuals for which we needed to husband--to care for--but merely science projects to be engineered to most efficiently feed the masses. It's a good read, and an entertaining way to learn about that period in our agricultural history. I certainly hope the pendulum is swinging back toward smaller, diversified family farms.