Updated: Mar 31, 2020
People come from ALL walks of life and from every corner of this planet...and maybe even universe! However, one thing we all undoubtedly have in common is our LOVE of food. I decided to take a blog post and dedicate it to my food appreciation. I am coining this new term, the "Nom Nom" Effect.
My definition of the "Nom Nom" Effect is the direct feeling of satisfaction you get after the first bite of an incredibly delicious meal; that is so tasty, it makes you want to say "nom nom" out loud.
My "Nom Nom" Effect is usually triggered by a great home-cooked meal that I know was harvested fully, or almost fully, from the ground, farm, or woods that we live on or around on a daily basis. Just being able to see the cycle of life; from raising plants or animals, and being able to harvest them and know where your food is coming from. Especially knowing that the plant or animal had the best possible life it could have.....that, is my "Nom Nom" Effect.
The 3 pillars to the "Nom Nom" Effect here on the Homestead are 1) the food, 2) what we do with the food (do we eat it fresh, or preserve it?), and 3) what we turn the food into! Number 1 is my personal favorite, and I think Austin's is number 3, hehe :) I will only talk about the first pillar today, and leave pillar 2 for fall when we start canning, dehydrating, and freezing our goods. Pillar 3 will be a new addition to our Instagram and Facebook pages as I will start sharing recipes! If you don't follow us already, join us on Instagram @WeberHollowHomestead, and Facebook at Weber Hollow Homestead.
We have 3 major food categories here on the Homestead; fruits & veggies, eggs, and meat. The fruits and veggies, as of now, are a work in progress as we have to build up a new garden since we just moved to this farm. I mentioned in last week's blog how we already have about 8 fruit trees, a blackberry/raspberry patch, random herbs growing in some of the garden beds, and asparagus on the property. We have since planted more raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and garlic. Once the weather gets warmer, and Mother Nature stops bringing snow into Wisconsin's forecast, we will start all of the vegetables.
I have not sat down and planned the garden out yet, because I don't want my excitement to get the best of me if the weather doesn't keep stable, but I think I have all of the seeds gathered and we will most likely be planting some of the following (and probably more!): broccoli, cauliflower, jalapenos, poblanos, green/red/yellow peppers, beans, peas, carrots, brussel sprouts, pumpkins, water melon, corn, cabbage, tomatoes, zucchini, spaghetti squash, butternut squash, cucumbers, basil, thyme, rosemary, parsley, cilantro, lavender, mint, chives, and dill. This is usually what I plant, but find myself planting new things every year.
I will save the gardening blogs for this summer, as I will have SOO much to share; like how to harvest, when to know things are ready to harvest, and the best planting strategies to avoid cross-pollination and bugs. Two summers ago, I went all summer with only stepping foot in a grocery store twice, I believe. I call my grocery shopping going to the garden with a basket and picking what I need :)
I also like foraging for mushrooms in the fall. Hen of the Wood (aka Ram's Head, Sheep's Head, or Cauliflower Mushroom) is a delicious wild, native mushroom that grows here in Wisconsin. It likes moist and cool temperatures, usually at the beginning of fall you can find them growing at the base of trees, but especially Oak Trees. These mushrooms are efficient at breaking down lignin and cellulose, which are main components in trees, which is why you can find them thriving at the base of trees.
Since most fungi grows in mycorrhizal networks, if you find one, you are bound to find a bunch. Mycorrhizal networks mean that the root systems of the individual mushrooms are connected together to allow transfer of water and micro-nutrients more efficiently. Try not to harvest everything you see, as you need to let some of them spore out and create new pockets for the next season. The picture below is one of my Hen of the Wood harvests from the past. This past fall did not yield much due to the warmer fluctuations we experienced. I found 1 patch this year, but decided to leave it so it could get bigger this coming fall.
These are great for cooking up on the stove and throwing on pizza, or into spaghetti sauce. I have also canned them in the past and pickled them. They were DELICIOUS!
The second, and probably most important food group on our Homestead is eggs. Eggs are AMAZING and we use them every single day.
To state the obvious, we eat them on a regular basis, whether we are cooking breakfast, baking, or eating hard-boiled eggs. Next, we feed them to our animals. We crack 1-2 eggs into the dog's food each morning, and I also split a full egg between the 3 cat's food dishes in the morning. We only feed the yolk and the whites, as the shells are usually picked through and not eaten. Since we don't believe in waste, we save the eggshells, bake them, grind them up, and feed them back in the chicken's feed. I usually add dehydrated herbs to make it more palatable for them, because yes, I spoil them.
Before you think "that's so mean, you are feeding chicken back to the chickens", okay, they are animals first off. Animals are good for cannibalistic tendencies and eating their own poop. Second, egg production actually drains calcium from chickens and it can actually make the color in combs, wattles, and legs fade as the calcium is leached form their bodies. Third, they don't know they are eating their eggshells, as they don't eat their own eggs after they lay them. We grind the shells finely, so to them, they think it's just a part of their feed. It's also a GREAT calcium source and helps their eggs have a strong shell. Many people supplement oyster shells into their diets, but why do that when you have a free source that comes straight from the source!
So why else are eggs amazing?
They last for a long time. We DO NOT refrigerate our eggs, and unfortunately, the grocery stores have ruined our concept of how eggs SHOULD be stored, as the groceries have already washed the eggs before they hit the store shelves, which means the shelf-life has now been greatly reduced and they have to be refrigerated. However, when picking eggs straight from the coop, we do not wash them, and they go into the egg basket that sits on the kitchen counter top.
Eggs have a natural bacterial environment that surround them when they are laid, called a bloom. The bloom is the microbe environment that keeps the shell healthy, as there are literally millions of tiny microbes living and thriving on the shell's surface. Eggs can keep for months by not washing them and keeping them in a moderately cool place out of direct sunlight. I have kept eggs for 3-4 months before when I had surplus production.
However, if you wash the bloom from the eggs, they must be refrigerated as they are now a perishable item and you have only about 2-3 weeks to eat them before they can go bad. If you want to test whether an egg is good to eat or not, submerge the egg in a dish of water. Fresh eggs will sink, and bad eggs will float!
Eggs contain roughly 0.13 grams of protein per gram of egg ( https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/there-protein-eggs-meat-7385.html ), whereas most meats contain roughly 0.20 grams of protein per gram of meat and higher. Even though meat actually contains more protein and is still an ESSENTIAL part of your diet (and of course, delicious), eggs are a fraction of the cost, and a very quick and easy meal for anytime of the day.
The last major food group on the Homestead is meat. We do not discriminate around here and have all kinds of meat in the freezer. Some of my favorites include Northern Pike I caught and cleaned 2 summers ago in North Dakota, Austin's venison that he hunted 2 falls ago, and beef from a family friend's cow. I like having local meat sources, but occasionally need to purchase from the store, like pork. I am hoping that as our Homestead grows, we can continue to cut down our dependence on outside meat sources, and source 100% straight from the farm, woods, and water around us.
I am excited that for the first week of May, Austin pulled a turkey tag. We plan to go up to his hunting land and hopefully get a turkey! Also, we have 2 Cornish Rocks that will be ready to butcher in a few short weeks, before our next batch of meat chicks arrive. I want to make a full blog about that, including videos of how to butcher, so if you have a weak stomach, it's probably a blog you want to skim over. The good, the bad, and the UGLY...it's all a part of life on a Homestead.
I am praying and hoping for warm weather this week and NO MORE SNOW, so we can finally start planting vegetables this coming weekend.
Until next time, keep thinking spring for us!