What We Do With Okra

One of our big summer garden crops here is okra! We have tried several different varieties of okra, and it seems as if it’s very acclimated to our weather and thrives very well! Last summer our chief cook of the house even “raised the white flag” and said that we had enough okra – just leave the rest at the garden!

So, when you’re blessed with so much of something, it really is important to know how to use it, and often how to save it for later enjoyment! One of our go-to ways of enjoying okra is the classic fried okra. So, I’d like to share with you the method that we like to use for frying (and storing) this summer crop!

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First, when it comes in from the garden, place the okra in a large bowl and rinse in water, washing off the little dried plant material that usually sticks to it. Next, slice the okra into little coin shapes, discarding both ends in the compost bin.

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We Have an Animal and Fowl Clean-up Crew. Should You?

On a small place many clean-up tasks can be accomplished by birds and animals. These workers often accomplish tasks for free, or maybe even at a profit for you. Here’s what I mean.

All kinds of creatures are glad to do clean-up work. Let’s just consider major farm creatures: cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and chickens. Realize geese, ducks, guinea fowl and a long list of other critters will join a clean-up crew too.

Every one of these creatures likes to eat. Each critter favors slightly different feed, and thus plays a different role in a tidy up system. What’s waste from one creature serves as potential feed for another!

Let’s list strengths of these creatures.

Cattle mostly like to eat grass in a natural setting. Yet most cattle today spend much of their lives eating grain and protein meal hauled to them at great cost in money and energy. That’s even true for cattle kept in just little tiny herds.

cows, raising meat steers

Grazing Cattle

But cattle are glad to eat away at pastures, fence-rows and all kinds of brushy areas, even cleaning away undergrowth from forests. Cattle are designed to graze, and graze they will, if given a chance. If you, as the orchestra conductor, steer the grazers where you need work done, as with moveable electric fencing, you’ll be amazed at improved landscapes.

As with all these creatures, cattle also deposit fertilizer materials neatly behind them as they go about their work. If the critters aren’t crowded constantly into the same area, their waste is all a positive product, not objectionable in any way. Now let’s consider an additional team player.

Sheep also mostly eat grass, but with some important differences compared to cattle. Sheep prefer to nibble on more woody plants than cattle do. Around here pastures constantly want to turn to forests, and gum tree sprouts and blackberry vines are always looking for a start. You could plow up pastures every few years and plant row crops to beat back the woody invaders, but that’s a lot of work. Sheep like to browse on such plant intruders, so their inclusion on a team means fewer woody pasture plants. Which reminds me of goats…

Goats prefer to mostly nibble plant matter that’s higher. They rear on their back legs and browse away on all kinds of leaves and stems. They’re mostly eating away at plants not preferred by the other grazers. Thus they keep the bushes and trees nipped back without really bothering cattle pastures much. They’re brush beater.

Thus cattle, sheep and goats work well together to keep landscapes clean as each has feed preferences available in typical grazing areas. They work well together.

Now pigs are a different story.

how to not waste feed

Woodlot Pigs

Pigs are great scavengers as everyone knows. They’re classed as omnivores as they eat just about anything that comes along. In many cases, when crowded they make a mess. And hogs are such prolific producers of offspring they often do get crowded. This need not be so.

Pigs can do what the grazing animals can’t.

Pigs are made to bull doze things and thus excel at digging out brush and clearing seriously rough spots. If you have woods or dense undergrowth the porcine team will change the landscape. As with the grazers, they leave waste behind setting up improved future conditions.

When trained to electric fencing, porkers are simple to confine and ready to go to work on projects benefiting from some digging and pushing. I wish you could see how two Berkshire barrows worked over an overgrown woodlot on our place.

In addition, pigs willingly recycle all kinds of kitchen scraps and every bit of garden produce you want to pitch over the fence. Your imagination is the limit to how pigs can improve a place. You’re thinking outside the box though if you keep pigs in moveable fencing, and not in a crowd. Give them a chance and they clean up messes, not make messes.

That reminds me of chickens.

Often chickens just hang around and eat expensive feed, constantly hauled in from somewhere off. That’s not for us. We need help. Chickens work for us, not us for them.

We like to eat eggs, fried chicken and chicken salad, but the chickens mostly subsist as a clean up crew. What do they clean?

Chickens, goats

Chicken Clean-up Crew

Any feed item around the dairy goat barn or the rabbit pens immediately gets vacuumed up by the fowl crew. That’s “free” chicken feed, but more importantly a clean barn is less of an attraction to mice and rats. That one clean up function justifies the chickens. By the way, mice aren’t safe around chickens either. They’ll nail a mouse fast if given a chance.

Similarly chickens near cattle keep manure stirred reducing fly populations. Again, chickens earn their keep as a free sanitation patrol.

They likely get a few ticks and other bugs too while on constant travel about the place. We’re all for that.

Traditionally all these critters worked for their keep. If allowed to perform their traditional roles, all these animals work for free and produce some kind of profit for their keepers.

They improve landscapes, keep the place looking good, all at little cost in cash or time. In addition, there’s a ready market for eggs, meat and milk from animals raised in a more natural way in simple uncrowded surroundings.

Now pulling all this together takes time and experience. Managing animals to keep everybody at works is not so simple. But if you’re like me, caring for animals, and giving them a chance to make a living by doing what they naturally do, is highly rewarding.

Consider putting some critters to work doing some of your clean-up work around your place. They work for food and have fun doing it.

Tiny Ranch Hot Sauce

Spicy foods are a big hit at our Tiny Ranch! In fact, hot sauce is our favorite condiment, and is used at every meal.

I used to go through so many of those little bottles of purchased hot sauce, until I found a source for the gallon size. Now, I easily make our own version, and I’d like to share our recipe. I usually make anywhere from 5-7 gallons of this per summer, and store it in the empty vinegar bottles.

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Tiny Ranch Hot Sauce

18-20 cayenne peppers

1 ½ cups apple cider vinegar

2 tsp, minced garlic

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. garlic powder

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan, and bring to a boil. Simmer until the peppers are soft- approximately 20 minutes.  Let cool.  Process in a blender or VitaMix until the peppers are finely chopped.  Strain the liquid into a clean jar or bottle, and it is ready to enjoy!

cayenne peppers, homemade hot sauce

 

Blackberries I Have Known

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My Grandmother Bullington constructed fabulous blackberry cobblers. I’m not at all sure what made them what they were.  My brother agrees with my opinion of them being something special, so I’m sure they weren’t just special in my imagination!

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Best Hoes for Heavy Soils

Hoes are used for several different tasks in gardens and fields. I’m sure some hoes that look useless to me have applications in light, airy soils.

In the heavy soils, often mostly clay, I’ve been associated with, it takes a substantial hoe to make much of a dent.

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An Easier Way to Strawberries

There’s nothing quite like snipping off a bright red strawberry that’s bursting with flavor and popping it in your mouth, right in your own strawberry patch- it’s a wonderful experience!

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It’s pretty easy to deal with everything about strawberries. Eating them isn’t a problem, in any form at all.  Even planting them is pretty simple.  I don’t even mind picking them.  They aren’t particularly bothered by a lot of diseases and pests.  There is a problem though.

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Growing Better Pastures

We have these fields across the road from us and they are a real object lesson in growing grass. The land is in some sort of government wealth-transfer program. For years it’s just been mowed in sections and not all gets mowed every year. The results are amazing.

No way I’m wading out in all that mass of plants, but…

It’s astounding at the amount of diversity of plants that are there.

There are certainly some briers and lots of what would be considered weeds.

But that isn’t all.

There are great masses of what we consider pasture plants and in monstrous amounts.

You have to know that those plant roots run deep.

This is all in the midst of drought conditions too. It just looks like some of the plant mass is thriving and some is not doing all that well.

Of course, there is such a profusion of growth that no one species of plant is dominating. This looks like the ultimate perennial pasture at least for around here.

It has something for everybody too.

I can just imagine that moving across this veritable jungle with all classes of cattle as well as goats and sheep and even some chickens or turkeys would produce a world of meat gain and improve the grass sward at the same time.

One thing that strikes me is the certain efficiency of this vegetation mass as a solar and water collector. There no bare ground in this grown over spot. The grass, not bare ground, is catching all the sun.

The soil and all those roots is likely getting all the water too.

Yep, it sure looks like letting the plants grow up and mature is a lot smarter way to manage at least part of a pasture system.

It’s banking feed for critters. Holding on to water too.

Plus this type of resource management is surely improving the soil and making it even more productive. Just think what easing a few critters across this landscape could do compared to burning fuel mowing it in stages. Grass looks like wealth to me. Let more of it grow… for more profits and more money in your jeans or overall bib… or wherever you keep your savings.

A Tiny House From A Rustic Portable Building

In a world of slim finances and scarce resources, a tiny house makes a lot of sense. Much of the time big living spaces mostly just attract clutter anway. Many folks, us included, have about had it with clutter.

What really got us thinking about tiny houses was a portable building my son just purchased for a taxidermy and leather shop. I’ll give you some background about this particular building, and then share some thoughts about using this type building as a tiny house.

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How To Tell When Sweet Corn Is Ripe

How to Tell When Corn is Ripe

Don’t you just love good fresh sweet corn? Many of the new sweet corn varieties are great, even if they aren’t quite ripe yet. They are even good when quite a bit past their peak.

Especially if eaten raw right off the cob, ripe sweet corn is sensational!

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Rustic Cheeseburger Pie

 

This recipe was quick to put together, and had my hungry crew asking for seconds!

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