Monday, April 30, 2012

Farm Chore Time

I had the great pleasure of attending Farm Chore Time at My Dad and Me Family Farm.  I've been a member of The Farm since spring of 2009 and will continue to patronize and support this amazing resource until we move to Virginia (we set a date but more on that later.)   

Farm Chore Time is an extensive and interactive behind the scenes tour.  A small group of us got our hands dirty and learned so much from the Hammond Family.  The tour was led by Tina, who is married to David, the son of Daniel (Dad) and Susan, all of whom participated in some way along the tour.

Tina gave us a big jug full of fresh golden cream that we all got to take turns shaking along the way at the start of the tour.  After a while the jug was full of butter which we'd get to eat at the end of the tour.

We started off by meeting the new calves who will join the ranks of the milk cows when they grown and have calves of of their own.  We'll be feeding these babies later!

We then met the diary cows, all of whom are Jersey cows, which give the very best milk. 

They are all named and loved and well cared for because loved cows give more milk.  These cows graze on a chemical-free green pasture and drink 15-25 gallons of clean water a day.

We all had chance to groom and pet one of the lovely milking cows.

And then it was time for milking.  The farm has two milking stations where each cow offers up, if I remember correctly, three and half gallons a day (I should have taken notes and my memory is a bit sketchy.)  They are milked twice a day.

Dad Daniel cleans the udders with warm, soapy water and expresses some milk into a bowl to check the health of it and then the machine does the rest of the work.  We each had a turn hand-milking Maggie.  It was neat trick getting on and off that little stool.

Mom Susan works in the "clean room" where she processes the freshly-squeezed milk.  She filters it into sanitized stainless jugs and quickly chills it down to ensure lasting freshness.  And that's it.  No heating to destroy all the vitamins, enzymes and healthy natural flora, no adding synthetic vitamins to artificially fortify it.  No breaking the molecules to homogenize it.  This is real milk as nature intended with 100% transparency.  All are welcome!

We met some bunnies which are sold as fryers.  Eating Rob's kin-folk doesn't appeal to me.  They are just too cute to eat.

Then we "slopped the hog."  Which basically means to fill her bucket with delicious whey.

Then it was on to the hen house.  We gathered eggs, fed the hens, cleaned the bunny cages and got to see Tina in action collecting a rooster in a bag.  A man came by looking to buy a rooster.  Tina got a hook, a net and a burlap sack and had that thing in her arms in a minute.  I wanted to run in the other direction.  I love the eggs but I'm not a big fan of the chickens.

They've got a few turkeys, too.

And if the Mama Turkey sits on her eggs, we may be able to have a pastured, local turkey for Thanksgiving.

These chicks are going to be the next generation of egg layers. 

Now it's time to feed the calves!


Powerful suck on these babies.  They reminded me of Tally, especially this little girl...

We spent a bit of time learning about the broiler chickens, which you can read more about here.

Our last stop on the tour was back in the clean room where we got to see Susan process the butter we churned at the start of the tour.  She strained out the butter from the churn buttermilk (which is different from cultured buttermilk.)

Then she "beat" the butter to remove any excess water.  She kneaded the butter in cold water changing the water several times until the water was clear. 

Then she seasoned the butter with Real Salt...

and served it to us spread on homemade whole wheat bread along with a sample of the warm milk we helped "squeeze."

Udderly delicious and nutritious!  The golden color comes from the beta-carotene in the grass that the cows graze on.  Milk and butter should be golden yellow, NOT white.  The fat in grass fed butter and cream is highly nutritious, without it our bodies cannot absorb the calcium or vitamins A, D and K in the milk.  We have been lied to time and again that butter and cream are the enemy and that pasteurized fat-free dairy is healthy. 

There was a farm trivia contest at the end of the tour which I won and took home this lemon balm plant as the prize.  It looks a little sad here but it's in the kitchen garden now looking all lush and green. 

It was a great day and if you are local to the Cobb County, GA area, I highly recommend taking part in Farm Chore Time.  Many thanks to the Hammonds for offering such a fantastic experience!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Befriending the Enemy

Sure as Shinola, I start adding proper fitness back into my daily routine and almost instantly I feel better.  Not just better, but great.  More energy, better mood, less food cravings, better quality sleep.  Why do I fight myself on this time and again?  Why must I keep being my own worst enemy?  This is not a rhetorical question, if you have any insight, I would LOVE for you to share it with us.

I visited a new gym Friday for a tour and scored a free week's pass.  Lorren, the sales agent/trainer, could not have been nicer or more welcoming.  In fact, I met several staff members who all seemed quite pleasant.  Such a change from the crossfit gym experience the other week.

I went yesterday morning and did some light strength training as a way of easing myself back into it, also had an awesome trip on the rowing machine.  I have always wanted to try one and it is as fun and challenging as it looks.  Today I took in a Zumba class.  My knee(s and hips) made me stop half way through but it was enough to get me sweating and release some endorphins.  I'm going to visit daily for the rest of the week to see if I want to join.  I'm leaning toward yes already but just want to check out all the equipment, try another class and checkout different times to see the traffic flow.  

I downloaded a copy of Rachel Cosgrove's The Female Body Breakthrough: The Revolutionary Strength-Training Plan for Losing Fat and Getting the Body You Want  0n Lori's recommendation.  I'm nearly done reading it and am going to start the program next week.  As an aside, the Nook copy is terrible!  It is so full of typos it's making me nuts. 

In other news, Tally is loving life with her new underground fence.  She is such an outdoor girl, she just wants to roll in the grass, run around and lay in the sun.  She's always been a loving, happy girl but she's even happier since having the yard at her disposal.  Pee-pee leash is a thing of the past, Rob and I are loving that at bedtime and first thing in the morning. 

That's all for now.  I'll be back with the other post about our St. Augustine trip as well as the pics and experience from Farm Chore Time I did on Saturday.  It was awesome!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Road to Recovery?

My knee is feeling better, I've started building up my endurance walking Tally, up to an hour a day.  I'm still experiencing some stiffness and mild discomfort but the stretches my Chiropractor recommended is helping ward that off.  Aside from that I've been living in my head much of the time trying to figure out where things went wrong.  I feel so far from where I was a year to 18 months ago and I'm trying to figure out a way to pave the road back.  

The weight gain compounded by stress and injuries is like an anvil tied to my ankles, there really is no other way to explain it.  It's making it more and more difficult to keep my head above water.  I must stop coddling myself and start empowering and challenging myself once again.  Empowerment, more effective than tough love, because it doesn't ruffle the inner rebel's feathers, rather helps kick her into action.  Now that I'm much more mobile again, the empowerment is going to come a bit easier.  

I also need to start making goals for myself once again.  When I stopped making goals for myself, I stopped being as productive.  I even had a period of time when I stopped caring.  That was a scary place but I've definitely moved away from that toward a more positive light.  I still have some thinking and planning to do but this post was a good step in the right direction for me.  

I must place the goal of regaining my fitness front and center.  I visited a local cross fit gym to speak with the the owner/head trainer.  That went over like a lead filled cream puff.  Not that I was expecting a ticker-tape parade when I walked in, I was quite put off by the lukewarm reception.  I had gotten a card in the mail awhile back and placed it on my fridge.  The copy read "All ages, sizes and fitness levels welcome."  But the feedback during our exchange didn't really back that statement up.  I came away with a different picture.  He said cross fit is HARD, very hard and we don't want people in the class who don't want to be there. (Fair enough.) Cross fit is VERY EXPENSIVE, he actually told me to talk to my husband to see if we can afford it.  (Moderately offensive.)  And finally, let me take your number, don't call us, we'll call you.  (Yeah, I'll be waiting by the phone.) He never did call to follow up.  His business must be booming because he didn't seem interested in my money.  I feel disappointed.  I'm not afraid of paying for good service, nor am I afraid of a challenge. 

There is another gym that opened about in the last year or so, I'm going to go in and speak with them, I don't want to commit to any sort of contract yet.  I'm hoping I can get a week pass and then perhaps book month to month to see if I like it.  This gym is much more full service than the one I was a member of for the last three years.  There is a pool and lots of classes.  I'm hoping they have a squat cage, being away from weight lifting was yet another disservice I did to my body.  I must remedy that and soon.  

In other news, I'm at a loss without my camera, my sister should be sending it back after her two weeks in Disney, so not long now.  I'm going to do the farm chores tour at the farm on Saturday morning.  I'm so excited!  We're also having an underground fence installed for Tally.  We went back and forth on the matter and when we realized we can take all the equipment with us when we move, we went ahead and pulled the trigger.  The man is just finishing up now and the trainer is coming at 3pm with Tally's collar and to start training.  Tally is going to be one happy baby when she realizes she has the whole yard to run and jump and chase critters around in instead of just barking at them from the window.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Hot Buns

My first foray into making homemade Hot Cross Buns was a success!  I used this foolproof recipe from Simply Recipes and made only a few minor changes. 

I used golden raisins and candied orange and lemon peel, had to omit the orange zest as I forgot buy an orange (d'oh!)  For the second rise,  I cut 12 buns and put them in a baking dish, covered t with plastic and put them in the fridge over night.  They proofed so nicely!

I let them come to room temp, brushed on an egg wash then baked them at 400F for 22 minutes until golden brown and oh-so-tempting.

I didn't ice them with an X because we wanted to eat them hot from the oven, split open and slathered with grassfed butter. 

And I didn't slash a cross in them before baking, resulting in our jokingly calling them "Hot Heathen Buns."  Whatever you choose to call them, these hot buns were absolutely delectable.  Nicely spiced, not too sweet and just perfect served warm with butter.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Heavenly Spring Weekend

Fall has long been my favorite season but each year older I get, I appreciate the beauty of spring more and more.  There is nothing like the feeling of freedom that comes with being outside in the mild spring air after being cooped up all winter.

Rob returned home after two weeks away and I'm so happy to have him home.  His Bunny-Do list was all ready to go.  ;)  Rob pressure washed the deck this morning and we set up our outdoor room.  I set up my planting station and got my kitchen garden planted.  I've got newly planted basil, sweet and opal, peppermint and sweet mint, thyme, Italian parsley, garlic chives, fern dill and pineapple sage.  My Greek oregano and rosemary are still thriving since last year due to the mild winter.  I'll plant some flowers, too, but my herbs are always top priority, I love them so.

I did some cooking today, too.  My knee is killing from all the standing but I'm resting it now, blogging from the deck sipping a glass of well-chilled, creamy Chardonnay listening to Freddy Mercury serenade me.  I made sourdough pancakes for breakfast using up some of extra starter.  I am delighted the way they turned  out.  This recipe was simple as all get out and totally delicious.  My whole house smelled like funnel cake and the pancakes tasted like them, too. They cooked up brown and crispy on the outside and light and fluffy inside.  Unlike regular pancakes (scratch or mix) these were easily digestible due to being fermented with no additional flour added.  I always feel bloated after eating pancakes, but not this time.  What a revelation!

I also started a batch of hot cross buns.  They are doing their second rise in the fridge and will go in the oven in the morning.  Rob always requests them for Easter but I usually buy them from the Australian bakery.  I was determined to make from scratch this time.  Working with sourdough these past few weeks has given me confidence to work with bread dough.  I can't wait to see how they turn out.  

We're having Thai Beef Salad for supper this evening and tomorrow we're having ham and spring vegetables.  Monday is beer can chicken with sweet corn and tomato and basil salad and Tuesday I'm making fish tacos with spicy slaw and pineapple salsa.  Warm weather menu!  The Kennesaw Farmer's Market, which usually opens in May, kicks on Tuesday morning and I'm planning on being there. 

What do you have planned for your spring holiday weekend?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Skechers Shape-Ups: A Warning

I've been a fan of Skechers shoes for years and years but the Skechers Shape-Ups I picked up last week was the first time I purchased Skechers in a fitness capacity.  I bought them because of the springiness of the sole after hurting my knee (and the purple  cuteness was irresistible.) I was under no illusion that these types of walking shoes actually " aid weight loss or tone and shape the butt" as they claim.

Springy, for sure, but having experienced them for myself I'm not surprised about the danger warnings these types of shoes have.  They caused pain in my hips and ankles and my knees hurt worse when I took them off.  And the plantar fasciitis I have had in my left foot for 20 years (and only acts up on a really long hike) was burning like hell before I even got off the driveway. I only wore them twice, I shudder to think the damage that could have been done if I kept wearing them.  They have gone back to the shop!

I'm going to have to stick to New Balance for my choice walking/workout shoes.  They haven't failed me yet.  Sorry Skechers, I'll wear you for fashion but for fitness it's got to be New Balance all the way.

Have you tried Shape-Ups or the like, what was your experience?  What is your favorite fitness shoe?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Layered Cobb Salad

How's your week going?  I'm hanging in there.  By Sunday afternoon my knee was at its worst and I had to call in the dog walker to take Tally out yesterday and this morning.  I've been icing and resting my knee trying not to lose my mind from missing all this glorious weather we're having.  Tomorrow Tally will go to daycare and I'm seeing my Chiropractor, hopefully a few adjustments will sort out my knee, because I'm starting to climb the walls.  There are no more episodes of Big Bang Theory left on the DVR and I finished my 600 page book that I only just stared the other day.

On to more fun things, how about a little food porn?  I love Cobb salad but putting things in all those perfect little rows is a bit fussy, so I like to make my Cobb salad layered like a trifle.  Just look at all those colors...

It's so easy, too.  I layered mixed greens (Organic Girl SuperGreens is my favorite blend) with chopped red peppers, cucumbers, yellow peppers, tomatoes, avocado and topped it with medium boiled eggs and spicy grilled chicken.  I usually put bacon, too, but I used a very smoky rub on the chicken so we didn't really miss it.  I serve it with blue cheese dressing on the side.  

It's a big salad, perfect for an entree for two people plus leftovers to bring to work for lunch.  We enjoyed this so much, it's on the menu for next week.  Meat salad weather is back! 

 What do you like to put in your Cobb salad?