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Digging Razor Clams + a recipe

This article explains how to dig razor clams and how to clean razor clams. I’ve also included a recipe for our favorite way to eat them, fried!

Razor clams are one of those foods that is so delicious it makes you unable to do anything but mumble about how delicious they are and eat until you explode or the clams run out.
They can a bit of work to dig but trust me, you will not regret a single second of the time you spend out on the beach digging razor clams. The beach is beautiful and your collecting delicious nutritious food. What could possibly be a better use of your time?

Washington state regulations

This information may or may not be accurate for another state and could become outdated for Washington, make sure to check with your fish and game department for local current regulations.

Open beaches

First things first, you need to make sure there are open beaches and check to see when there are tides. You will be allowed to harvest in either the morning or evening. If it’s an evening tide you can’t start digging until after twelve. You’ll want to be there an hour or two before low tide. The razor clams are easiest to find while the tide is going out. You can pick up a tide book locally.

Harvesting

You can dig razor clams by hand, with a clam gun or with a clam shovel. Each person must have their own container for clams and you have to keep the first 15 clams you dig. You can share digging equipment and help each other but everyone has to be actively involved in the process.

Licensing

Anyone older than 15 has to buy a license. You can a buy a year long- that lasts from April to March- or a three day license. The year long is only a few dollars more than the three day so it may be worth it for you to buy the year long.

Equipment for Digging Razor clams

Rubber boots or wadders, you’re going to get wet and sandy so come prepared and wear cloths to stay as dry and warm as possible.

Clam guns
The best kind of guns have suction holes on the handles; it makes them easier to work with (especially if you have small hands like I do) and you can get a better seal with them. I’ve seen clam guns made from metal or PVC; the material they are made out of doesn’t actually seem to impact how well they work.
Clam shovels
Mesh bag
You can use a plastic bag, or a bucket but a mesh bag is the best way to go. They usually have a clip so you can attach them to a belt loop and keep them out of the way while you’re digging.

Digging Razor Clams

Finding razor clams

Razor clams are about a foot down in the sand, in the surf. They reveal themselves when they create a little volcano or depression in the damp sand. Watch as someone walks across the beach, most of the depressions that  form are made by razor clams pulling their necks back into their shells.  As the clams are feeding they’ll also build little volcanos in the sand. The size of the depression or volcano is usually correlated to the size of the clam, look for the bigger ones. Remember you have to keep the first 15 you dig, bigger clams equal more to eat.
Razor clams like to be where fresh water feeds into the sea so that’s always a good place to start looking.

Digging razor clams with a shovel

You need to dig quickly, on the sea side of the hole. If you’re really quick you can sometimes flip them right out onto the sand. This is not something I’m any good at.

Digging Razor clams with a clam gun

You’ll want to learn to use the gun on some tester spots because it can be difficult to use. There are one or two holes somewhere on the top of the gun. As I mentioned before, guns with holes on the handle are easier to cover and create a vacuum to suck the clams and sand up.

 

With the hole uncovered, you push the gun as far down as you can into the sand over the clam with a slight angle towards the sea. When you’re in as deep as you can manage, cover the hole to create suction and pull the clam gun out, drop the sand and go back in the hole for another core. If there’s a clam in your first pull you should see it easily, if you don’t it’s always worth taking another two pulls. After that the clam is probably too far down for you to reach. You can also do one pull with the gun and go armpit deep in the hole to grab the clam, either way works. Sometimes you have to rock the gun back and forth or twist it side to side to get it into and out of the sand, but be careful not to break suction or you can lose your clam.
Make sure to have your license on you, safe from the water, and make sure to keep track of how many clams you have.

If you’re only driving a couple hours and it’s not a hot day you can just put your clams in a closed container so they don’t dry out. If you’re driving a ways or it’s hot, you can put them in salt water, fresh or on ice. The best way to transport them is in an ice chest on top of ice.  If you put them in fresh water you’ll need to clean them that day since it will eventually kill them.

Cleaning Razor clams

  It’s always best to clean razor clams the same day they were dug but you can wait until the next day. People say it’s okay to clean and eat them after they die but we always prefer to make sure they stay alive until we clean them.

You will need
Knife or scissors
Bucket or large bowl
Pot of boiling water

When you know you’re ready to clean your clams put them in a large bowl or bucket with fresh water. While they’re in water the clams will spit out sand making them easier to clean.  You’ll probably want to change the water once and then rinse the clams off one last time.

Scalding razor clams

To remove the clams from their shells you need a pot of boiling water big enough to submerge them in. This is a messy job that’s really nice to do outside on a propane burner.

You can use your fingers, a pair of tongs or a big spoon to swish them around in the water and pull them out. The clams have been in the water long enough when they relax and the shell starts to open. At this point, they should pull easily from the shells, with the muscles staying attached to the clam. If not, they haven’t been in the water long enough. There’s a sort of mucous all over the clam that you also want to remove right now. Depending on the time of year and the size of the clam there might not be very much mucous.
Once the clams are out of their shell they need to go straight into cold water, ice water is best, this is to stop any cooking that might have started in the boiling water from continuing.

Gutting Razor clams

You can see my uncle doesn’t clean his clams exactly the way I do.

Take the clams out of the cold water and rinse them again. You’ll want to gut the razor clams near a running water source. This is easiest with a sharp pair of scissors but you can do it with a knife. Hold the razor calm with the neck facing you. The neck has two holes, cut all the way down the side of the smaller tube opening both tubes in the process but leaving the larger whole intact on one side so the clam neck is butter-flied open.

Continue your cut down the clam so you open up the body cavity and just the first half inch of the foot. You want to remove the gills and the dark brown digestive tract, you can also cut the tip of the neck off since it can be very tough. The foot is filled with what we call “fat” that is slightly darker than the rest of the clam but much lighter than the digestive tract. You want to preserve as much of that as possible because it’s fragile and delicious. As you work, rinse the clam regularly to keep from grinding sand into the flesh.

Cooking Razor Clams

You can eat the razor clams fresh, grind them or leave them whole, can them or freeze them.
Some people like to save the foot for frying or baking but grind the neck to use in chowder. Some of my family grind and can the necks so they can make clam chowder all year. Clams freeze well but like most seafood the quality starts to degrade noticeably after about three months in the freezer. Without a doubt our favorite way to eat razor clams is fried the same day they were dug.

Fried Razor Clams

You will need
Cleaned razor clams
Flour
Bread or cracker crumbs
Salt
Ground pepper
Garlic granules
Butter
Olive oil

Directions:

Make a mix of two parts flour and one part crumbs. Lay your clams out and season both sides to taste with salt, pepper and garlic. Heat a large castor iron or stainless steel pan with olive oil and a couple tablespoons of butter over medium heat. While the oil is heating, coat your clams in the flour and crumb mix and set them aside. When the butter starts to sizzle you can add your first round of clams. Flip them when they are golden brown, it won’t take long. Add another tablespoon of butter before starting each batch and add more olive oil as necessary. You want enough fat that the clams are all setting in it.
We’ve eaten nothing but a pile of clams for dinner on more than one occasion without feeling the least deprived. They are also excellent along side rice and vegetables. We pretty much eat every kind of sea food you can think of with rice and vegetables, it’s always a good combination.

If you’re still on the fence about razor clams just go for it! Unless you’re one of those poor souls that doesn’t like seafood you will be in love with razor clams. They are delicious, easy to cook and worth every little bit of work involved.

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why is my grassfed and pastured meat tough?

Meat from grassfed and pastured animals can get tough and dry if cooked like conventional meat. In this article I’ll explain why there’s a difference and how you can keep your grassfed and pastured meat from being tough and dry.

Thinking of the sleepy peeping of chicks from the back seat makes me smile even now.  I hadconvinced AJ that it was time again to raise another batch of Cornish cross meat chickens. We made our way home with our talkative box on one of those cloudy Pacific Northwest days where you couldn’t say what time of day or even what time of the year it was. We spent the next two and a half months obsessing over their care, moving their pen to fresh pasture daily and awaiting the day they would fill our freezer.

Make no mistake, raising animals is hard work. The value we assign to our home grown meat is based on more than just the expense of producing it, and we don’t part with it lightly. You can understand my horror and confusion when AJ’s parents thought their first taste of our home grown chicken was a “little tough.” That chicken that we had so lovingly cared for since it was a day old chick. That chicken that we had carefully and compassionately butchered; taking pains to process in a way that would be the most humane and use as much of the animal as possible. That chicken, was tough.Why is my grassfed and pastured meat tough?

I couldn’t understand it; I had already cooked one and it was delicious and tender. My brain raced to find a solution, and then I remembered: AJ’s parents are used to eating store bought conventional, or as we call it “concentration camp” chicken. Our chickens don’t cook the same as store bought chicken.

It was one of those moments that makes clear how far we’ve come on our real food journey, and because of that, how differently we eat from the average American. I realized that people cooking pastured and grass-fed meat for the first time may face the same disappointment as my in-laws. How terrible would it be if they wrote off such an awesome food because it cooks differently than the meat they usually eat!? That, my friends, would be a tragedy.

I’m here to give you a science lesson so you better understand why grass-fed and pastured meat cooks differently. I’ll also give you some ideas to deal with it. Buckle up, it’s about to get nerdy around here.

Why is my Grass-fed and Pastured meat tough?

What does Grass-fed, pastured and CAFO mean?

The typical animal in the American food system in raised in a Confined (or Concentrated) Animal Feeding Operation commonly referred to by the abbreviation CAFO. Think feedlot beef, caged layers and pigs in gestation crates. Animals raised this way get minimal exercise and are fed a diet specially formulated with the cheapest ingredients so they gain the most fat and muscle or lay the most eggs as quickly as possible.

Animals that could be grass-fed but that are in CAFOs are commonly fed animal protein or grain to increase their production. Animals that should be eating vegetation can only handle so much animal protein and grain in their diet. When they get too much they start to get sick. High grain diets change the pH of the cow’s rumen making the cow sick and allowing E.coli to grow; potentially exposing anyone who consumes products from that animal to the bacteria.  Strains of E.coli that regularly put people in the hospital develop in the rumen of cows that eat excessive amounts of grain.  Just a short time back on hay or pasture allows the rumen to regulate its pH and eliminate the E.coli.

These systems don’t consider the animals’ natural behaviors or long term health. The conditions are cramped, filthy, and sometimes dark. The days are an endless monotony of frustration and fear. When you eat CAFO chicken, beef and pork you’re eating misery. Chew on that.

Grass-fed and pastured animals live and eat very differently.

Grass-fed animals are ruminants and hind-gut fermenters. This means they are biologically intended to be herbivores that eat mainly vegetation. Grass-fed animals can theoretically survive on nothing but pasture but since most of our soil has become deficient in key minerals a source of supplemental minerals and vitamins are frequently fed.
Cows, sheep, rabbits, goats and geese, are all examples of animals that could theoretically be grass-fed.
.why is my grassfed and pastured meat tough
“Pastured” is a term as unregulated in the food industry as the term “natural”. In my opinion it should refer to omnivorous animals that live on pasture or with daylight access to pasture but that need additional feed. These animals can theoretically forage for all their nutritional needs by eating things like nuts, roots, small animals and bugs but in reality they rarely have access to a large enough area to provide sufficient forage.
This includes chickens, ducks and pigs.

When a farmer raises grass-fed and pastured animals with sincere intentions of providing them with a biologically appropriate life they live very differently than they would in a CAFO. The animals have space to express their natural instincts to root, graze and scratch; things they wouldn’t be able to do in a CAFO. Unfortunately, some farmers don’t raise grass-fed and pastured animals with sincere intentions.

The regulated USDA definitions leave a lot of room for interpretation and the USDA doesn’t even have a regulated definition for “pastured.” No matter what the label says it’s important to ask the farmer or butcher exactly how the animal was fed and raised

Here are USDA definitions taken directly from this and this public USDA internet document.

Free-range: This label indicates that the flock was provided shelter in a building, room, or area with unlimited access to food, fresh water, and continuous access to the outdoors during their production cycle. The outdoor area may or may not be fenced and/or covered with netting-like material. This label is regulated by the USDA.

Free range or free roaming: producers must demonstrate to the agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.

Grass-fed: Grass-fed animals receive a majority of their nutrients from grass throughout their life, while organic animals’ pasture diet may be supplemented with grain. Also USDA regulated, the grass-fed label does not limit the use of antibiotics, hormones, or pesticides. Meat products may be labeled as grass-fed organic. *** The USDA as of January 2016 has retired thier grass-fed label. There are other independent labels for grass-fed though, read this for more information***

Pasture-raised: Due to the number of variables involved in pasture-raised agricultural systems, the USDA has not developed a federal definition for pasture-raised products.

If that list of definitions doesn’t have you scratching your head you should probably read it again. Please ask your farmer and butchers exactly how the animals were raised and fed; don’t depend on a label.

Let’s walk through those definitions briefly.

For the Free-range definition it says “access to the outdoors during their production cycle.” For the months before the birds start laying producers are not required to let them out of the building. Our birds are outside during the day starting as soon as they can be without a heat lamp.
Chickens are creatures of habit, not allowing them access when they are young means they are going to spend less time overall outside foraging. I visited a commercial egg farm with a college program here in Washington. This particular farm has a major organic and free range project. They drove us down by their free range houses in their tour buses. There were no birds outside. They never let us close enough to the house to smell if there was ammonia, a sign that manure needs cleaned up, or to see what condition the birds were in. We were never closer than a mile from their caged layer facilities. We only got to see those as distant, white windowless buildings.

On the beef side of things, read the grass-fed definition again. Did you notice that organic grass-fed beef can be supplemented with grain? What the heck is that about? There also aren’t any specifications about how they are living. They could be in a feedlot just like any other CAFO beef cow.
Moral of the story?
If you want to know how they are really being fed and cared for you need to talk to your butcher or farmer.why is my grass-fed and pastured meat tough?

How does this affect the meat?

For starters animals grass-fed and pastured in the true sense of the word are moving around a whole lot more. Used muscle is tougher than unused muscle, that’s why veal (confined baby cow) is more tender than an old milk cow. Muscle that’s used more is also darker because mitochondria, the energy producing organelle in a cell, multiply in harder working muscle.

CAFO animals are fed diets high in carbohydrates that put fat on the animal more quickly. A cow eating grass takes much longer to put on fat.

All of us animals put fat on in a specific order. It’s first laid down around the organs. Fat around the organs is a good thing, up to a point of course. It acts as padding and insulation. Next, it’s laid down under the skin and last, in the muscle.

cow and calf on pasture
photo courtesy of my friends at Pasture Deficit Disorder, please go visit there website and say hi! http://www.pasturedeficitdisorder.com/

That marbling that makes meat tender is from fat in and around the muscle. Since grass-fed and pastured animals aren’t getting the calorie loaded diets they don’t always have as much marbling and it takes them longer to have any marbling.

There are other factors that can make your meat tough that have nothing to do with if the animal is eating grass or not.
Animals that are stressed before and during slaughter don’t age well so the meat doesn’t become tender. This happens when animals are not slaughtered in a humane and quick fashion. No matter how it was slaughtered, improperly aged and overcooked meat will not be as tender as it should be.

How to deal with it?

Before you buy it:

Talk to your butcher or farmer about how the animals were raised, slaughtered and processed. If you’ve had a bad experience with meat you’ve bought there before, be honest. They should care and offer advice. If they don’t, you may want to consider buying your meat elsewhere.

You might want to ask:
If and how the meat was aged
What the animals were fed
How the animals were housed
How old the animals were went butchered
What cut they recommend for the meal you’d like to cook

When you get it home:

Let it rest

Instead of cooking the meat that night let it set in the fridge a couple days covered on a plate. During that time it will continue to go through the aging process and become more tender. Before you cook meat allow it to warm on the counter. Cooking meat when it’s straight from the fridge makes it loose more moisture and stops a good browning from happening.

Brine, marinate, rub or cure

The acid, salt and sugar help breakdown muscle fibers in the same way that aging meat does. For meat you know is going to be tough; such as old hens or old cows, this is the best way to go.

Cook it low and slow

Lowering the cooking temperature and lengthening the cooking time can prevent the meat from drying out so it stays moist and tender. You can accomplish this by covering meat for the first part of the cooking time in the oven, by cooking in crock pots and by just dropping the cooking temperature.

Cook it rare or cook it precise

For red meats the easiest way to retain the good texture is to cook it rare. This is probably why you don’t hear a lot of people complaining about tough grass-fed beef.

For either red or white meats keeping close tabs on the temperature can make a huge difference. Meat continues to raise as much as ten degrees from the temperature you read in the oven or pan. So take your cuts out ten degrees before your ideal temperature. Meat thermometers are easy to use and there are endless temperature guides online so don’t let this intimidate you. This is also why it’s so important to let meat rest before you cut it up. That little bit of time lets the juices redistribute throughout the meat.

 

For further reading on cooking grass fed and pastured meat check out this book, The Grassfed Gourmet

Hopefully this will help you cook a nice tender grass-fed steak or pastured chicken the next time around. Let me know how it goes!why is my grass fed and pastured meat tough?

 

 

Seed Catalogs I recommend for Heirloom, Open pollinated and organic varieties

It’s that amazing time of year where the seed catalogs come pouring in and I dream about the garden. Okay, Its more like I obsess about the garden. How many square feet can I plant? How much and what kind of seed do we need? What do we have room to start early? How many pounds of potatoes do we actually need to plant to feed five people? The endless questions I ask myself!
I spend a lot of time planning the garden and as much or more time reading reviews on companies and varieties, and comparing catalog offerings. I thought since I’ve already done so much leg work I might as well put together a list of companies to buy heirloom, open pollinated and organic seed from for you.
This isn’t a complete list, it’s just the companies that I’ve bought from or done some looking into already.

Seed Catalogs I recommend for Heirloom, open pollinated and organic varieties

seed catalogs I recommends for heirloom, open pollinated and organic varieties

Baker Creek

I love this company. They have some of the best prices around. They often have varieties that are not available anywhere else but on the other side of the coin they don’t always carry popular varieties. I highly highly recommend Baker Creek.

seed catalogs I recommends for heirloom, open pollinated and organic varieties

Seed Savers Exchange

I always drool over this catalog but I haven’t bought anything from them yet. Their prices tend to be on the high side but you can order large quantities of many varieties which is great if you want to grow a lot of something.

seed catalogs I recommends for heirloom, open pollinated and organic varieties

High Mowing Organic Seed

Great selection, generally good prices and large quantities available.

seed catalogs I recommends for heirloom, open pollinated and organic varieties

 Bountiful Gardens

This is part of the John Jeavons company which does the “grow biointensive” method. They have lots of varieties you can’t find elsewhere and lots of Permaculture type plants. Check them out!

Grow Organic

This company has excellent prices, however buyer beware. The word on the street is that the customer service and live plants are hit and miss on quality. I have yet to place my order with them but I will be ordering seeds from them this year. It seems from reviews that this company is fine as long as you order seeds or small not alive items and you order early and don’t need your order to show up when it is suppose to. But GrowOrganic has a horrendous reputation if you’re ordering live plants or large items. The prices are really good so I think it’s a risk worth taking.

Territorial seeds-

Lots of selection but sometimes on the more expensive side. There has been much concern about territorial being owned by Mansanto. That is in fact a panic induced overstatement of the situation. A large seed supplier, Seminis, which sells seed to many catalogs was bought by Mansanto. Last I knew Territorial no longer buys seed from Seminis, if you’re rightfully concerned Territorial seed will happily answer your questions. For more information on this topic read this article by Northwest Edible Life-a brief history of Mosanto and the seed houses who got screwed

Potato Garden

This is a great little company that just does potatoes, garlic, onions and shallots. They have great prices but sell out pretty fast.

Filaree Garlic Farm

This is another small company that does potatoes, garlic, shallots and sweet potatoes. I love them because they are local, just a drive away in Omak Washington.

Now, go forth and order seeds!

Is there a seed company I missed that you love? Tell me about them in the comments! I might add them to my list.

seed catalogs I recommend for heirloom, open pollinated and organic varieities.

Whole Again: Wrapping up 2015

Hello my lovely folks,
I hope you all had an excellent New Years, Christmas, Thanksgiving and anything else you celebrated. It’s been quieter than normal around here; our life on the other hand has been some form of chaos for the last six months. I thought it was high time I filled in the large- er, huge may be more appropriate- gaps for you and gave you a look around our new place. Be forewarned, you might want to settle in with Kleenex and a hot drink, this isn’t exactly a rainbows and unicorns story. This has been hard for me to share because I want to inspire you, not discourage you. Rarely is the whole honest version of a story without sorrow even when it ends happily, this is no exception.

This is a set of panorama type photos of the property

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If you’ve been following along on facebook you know some of what has transpired since I graduated in June. The week of graduation was spent in frantic packing and distracted graduation party planning. Then we were loaded up and gone just two days later.
That morning was clear and beautiful. The birds were carrying on in the tangled forest just across the fence from the barn. The horses hadn’t been fed yet and watched us expectantly. The trailer and trucks were crammed with as many of our earthly possessions and small angry animals as we could fit. It was an adult version of the closet crammed so full that opening it again is dangerous to life and limb. As I finally climbed into the truck I was surprised to find myself crippled with emotions; perhaps exhaustion took the legs out from under my usual resolve. Don’t get me wrong, I was excited to be moving but it wasn’t that simple. We were writing the very last page in the book that contained all our married life, and my entry into adulthood. We were leaving a community of people who had supported us during our time away from or families and the community that we grew up with. The folks in Thurston County became dear to us. We were also leaving Cal, buried there under her A-frame dog house. I was saying good bye to a college that had not just given me knowledge and skills but made me a better person. And, what were we headed to?

Yes, we had a plan, but plans rarely match the reality they try to direct. We were going to a place that was not prepared for us and there was no time left for preparations. I felt a great since of trepidation and excitement. My dreams were so close I could almost wrap my fingers around the barns, pastures, gardens, orchards and greenhouses. Very few of us start out living on the piece of heaven we dream about. Instead we save and we plan and hunt for “the place”. And then we move. Full of dreams and hopes. Excitement and confidence. And, just a little exhausted and sleep deprived. We are neither the first nor the last to have this experience. Such were my thoughts as we raced the sun home. Home. Home to stay after five years.

We might have been going home but that didn’t mean we had a house to live in. AJ’s relatives gave us a camp trailer; the first of many acts of generosity we were blessed with this summer. The camp trailer has actually worked out better than I could have dreamed. We only gained 55sqft but it feels big compared to the 240 sqft apartment in the barn.

This set includes an arial diagram, property lines and our trailer

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Since there wasn’t a coop the chickens stayed in their transport crates or moved into empty rabbit cages. That was a couple miserable weeks for all of us. The temporary coop we managed to set up couldn’t have kept a half dead 20 year old Pomeranian out, let alone the predators we know call this place home. This summer was one of the hottest and driest. Rabbits don’t do well in hot weather. I had them under a pop-up with improvised feed bag walls, on the north side of a building, and I still had to battle to keep them comfortable. Every morning the chickens would migrate from their coop to the cool recesses under our trailer. They would stay there until it cooled off again at dusk. We had, and still have, stacks of storage containers, piles of animal supplies, irrigation equipment, tools, my set of good dishes, keep sakes and recycling- oh and don’t forget the chickens!- shoved under the trailer we call home.
Our permanent chicken and rabbit building, The Racken House, wasn’t finished until a few weeks ago. The morning after I moved the rabbits into the Racken House, by head lamp no less, the pop-up they had been under collapsed from our first heavy snow.

This summer I took to wearing sport shorts, tank tops and a wetted heavy cotton button up shirt to stay semi-functional through the hottest days. During our time in western Washington we had forgotten how hot the hot days are here. We forgot about the dust that coats everything. The reality of this summer was fire kill black and red pines. Blackened crumbs of wood, ash, dust, sand; that all billow up and run off to the neighbors. Dead plants parched for water. Wind that steals the moisture from your lips and the soil from under the trees but disappears on the 104 degree days when you most desperately want it.

It seemed like every day was some kind of battle. Against the weather, the dryness, the shortness of hours in a day. During all of this my husband lost an uncle, great uncle, a previous boss and his grandfather while two sets of my grandparents were in the throws of divorce. Unfortunate times?
It’s been a head down, pull the wagon up the mountain sort of time. More than once I found myself wondering if we were all going to make it to winter.

The work was so all consuming and merciless that I had forgotten why we were even doing this. What was this dream we had anyway?
We are doing this for the green pastures where fat and glossy animals graze, for the trees with birds, bugs, buzzing bees, ripening fruit and nuts. For the chickens hunting in the grass and people laughing in the shade. We are doing this to feed ourselves, to feed our community, to teach people how to be stewards of their land and animals. That is the dream.

Less than a month after we transplanted ourselves my mom was given an abrupt eviction notice. Our own unpacking and preparation for winter slammed to a halt as we shifted gears to focus on her. I’m not sure what we would have done if someone hadn’t donated a gutted trailer house for us to move to the property and set up for her. Moving my mom is a string of blurry days that lasted from before dawn to well after dark. I felt like I was chipping away at a mountain with a tooth pick. We greeted the end of her move with what can only be described as hysterical exhaustion and relief. When we finally moved the last load I thought to myself, it’s going to get easier after this. I sort of caught a glimpse of that pasture and those trees through the moving boxes.
On a Monday morning not long after I sat holding one of my cats as the last shudders of life left his soft sweet body. I was overcome with fury. Why the HELL does this have to be so hard? Yes, I really said that, and some other choice phrases. I’m no saint, hopefully you aren’t too scandalized.

I thought of Jobe’s wife who told him to curse god and die.
That morning I buried my friend on a south east slope and stacked a carren that points to nowhere over him. I scratched wildflower seeds into the dirt and decided it was a good place to plant a chestnut tree. I didn’t curse god. I wanted to. But I couldn’t. My little friend had a good life from his first breath to his last. Death is an inescapable reality of life. As someone who has decided to bind themselves to the raising of food I see a lot of death. I bring about death. Knowing how starkly fragile life is has made me value life all the more.

In my frustration and anger over the direction our life seemed to be spiraling toward I made myself, the animals and the land a vow, and prayed, that things would get better. That it would not be this bad, this hard, anymore. And it wasn’t.

It seems to me that there is a force of evil, call it what you will, that works overtime to derail and destroy good things in our life, our dreams and our joys. After that, in spite of the bad that continued to happen, all the good in the universe came to our aid. We were given copious building material, everything from roofing and lumber to windows and woodstoves. Materials that helped us build the Racken house and set up my moms new house. At some point late in the summer a trickle of produce turned into a flood and I spent days on end canning produce we were given and I was thankful. Its felt like there was a haze of negativity here since my grandparents separated and the Carlton Complex fire swept through. This fall it finally started to lift. We were blessed, blessed beyond measure.
In the fall things started to slow down some. In the empty hours I faced some serious self examination. I realize that I had baggage to unpack. I had spent five years away from this place in a form of self-imposed exile while I was at college. This land is part of my soul in an inexplicable way. In order to survive those five years I had to pack away parts of myself. I used to paint, draw and write poetry. All those things had been tucked away both because college required all of me and because homesickness sucked the creativity out of me. I avoided admitting how homesick I had been for the last five years because it only could have made it unbearable to stay and finish college. I missed every rocky snow peaked mountain, every hill, shadow, sunbeam, dust moat, tree, snag, bush and creature. Being back in this place has made me whole again.

017  

Here on the other side I look back and find it was worth every second of hardship because I am happier than I have been in years. Don’t get me wrong, I loved college. I have a slightly irrational love of learning that made college rewarding and actually fun, even though it was hard work. Now, I still learn whatever I want but I’m also finally getting to start projects I’ve been waiting to start my whole life. In 2016 I’m going to plant a small market garden, or a huge regular garden, either would be a true description. I will be figuring out the farmers market gig and hopefully find some folks who want to commit to CSA shares. I’m also planning to start selling rabbit meat for-reals, but first I have to find farmers to buy feed ingredients from, build feed storage and set up a slaughter system that works for butchering more than a litter at a time. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, we have lots to do!

And where is that all heading? What’s our plan for this place? Why, I’m glad you asked!
My goal is a farm that is focused on providing CSA shares, preserving heritage breeds, improving the land and teaching classes. Enabling people to live better by offering education is extremely important to me. Life From Scratch will continue to play a role in that, hopefully working along with classes we will be able to offer on the farm.

As I consider where the last year has taken us I feel like I could take on anything. Famous last words, right? It’s been a tough slog and I’ve gained new muscles and endurance, both mental and physical. Whatever 2016 brings I feel a peace and confidence grounded in knowing that I didn’t just survive 2015, I’m better because of it. The new year is a blank book and I’m eager to start writing.  025

Raw Cranberry Relish

This raw cranberry relish is sweetened to taste. The whole lemons, limes and oranges mellow raw cranberry relishand sweeten as they soak up the sugar but keep the relish bright. Raw cranberry relish is simple, great to make ahead and gets better with age. Make a batch of raw cranberry relish for Thanksgiving and save some to eat at Christmas too.

 

 

Certain things make it the holidays for me. Snow and wood smoke, are big. Citrus,           pumpkins, squash, Christmas music, sugar cookies and mincemeat cookies, pumpkin rolls and Brussels sprouts. But, I know the season is really beginning when its time to make cranberry relish.

raw cranberry relish       

Raw Cranberry Relish

5 bags –or 17 ½ cups fresh whole cranberries
10 oranges – unpeeled, quartered and seeded
5 lemons – unpeeled, quartered, and seeded
5 limes – unpeeled, quartered, and seeded
sugar to taste ( I go for 7 cups of sugar)

base recipe ( small batch)

1 bag or 3 ½ cups whole fresh cranberries
2 oranges- unpeeled, quartered and seeded
1 lemon- unpeeled, quartered and seeded
1 lime- unpeeled, quartered and seeded
1 1/3 cup sugar

Prep Your Fruitraw cranberry relish

Rinse your cranberries and let them drain.
Vigorously scrub your citrus with dish soap or    vegetable soap. Really put your back into it.

Maybe it’s just me, but at the store it seems like everybody and their kid has to touch the citrus. You will be grinding whole fruit up for this raw           cranberry relish so you want squeaky clean skin. If you can manage it, it would be best to make this recipe with organic citrus and cranberries. I can find organic citrus here but not cranberries. Do the best you can and don’t sweat it.

raw cranberry relishIf there are stem pieces attached to any of the fruit pop them off. Just ’cause this is a raw cranberry relish doesn’t mean it needs to have wood chips in it. Just sayin’.

Quarter the citrus and remove the seeds.

 

Grind Your Fruit

raw cranberry relish

I prefer a fine grind for raw cranberry relish because it helps mix the flavors and allows the sugar to really soak into the fruit.

I use an old school hand grinder ( like THIS) to make my cranberry relish but you could use an electric grinder or a food processor. You could probably use a blender if you could manage to not liquefy everything. I know I couldn’t pull it off.

raw cranberry relish

If you use a grinder make sure to put a bowl under it to catch the juice you’ll make. The cranberry relish won’t be the same without it! Just a kind suggestion, make sure the whole grinder is clean. Because the juice is going to run down it and you aren’t going to want to put that juice in your relish if it just dripped over a scuzzy clamp that hasn’t seen water in three years.

Sweeten, Stir and Wait

Once you grind your fruit mix it well and taste it, before you add any sugar. This way you’ll know the base sweetness of the relish. Keep adding sugar, mixing and tasting until you’re satisfied.

raw cranberry relish

It’s best to make this a week or so ahead. Of course, I procrastinated so this year ours will only have three days to age before thanksgiving. As it ages the fruit really soaks up the sugar and let their flavors mingle. This batch will be eaten at Thanksgiving and a few times between then and Christmas. At Christmas it will hit its peak. Sometimes there’s even a little left for new years. This relish won’t go bad easily because it’s very acidic and has added sugar. Instead it just ages and mellows and becomes more delicious, until you’ve eaten it all.
This is a simple, fun recipe. Go ahead and play with the fruit. Maybe add ginger, or pomegranate seeds even. Have fun! Get the kids to crank the grinder and don’t stop them when then want to taste everything. You’ll get a few priceless faces out of it, trust me. I have fond memories of making raw cranberry relish with my grandma, I would love to share the experience with your family.
Enjoy!

raw cranberry relish

 

Raw Cranberry Relish
This raw cranberry relish is sweetened to taste. The whole lemons, limes and oranges mellow and sweeten as they soak up the sugar but keep the relish bright. Raw cranberry relish is simple, great to make ahead and gets better with age. Make a batch of raw cranberry relish for thanksgiving and save some to eat at Christmas too.
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Prep Time
1 hr
Prep Time
1 hr
2968 calories
784 g
0 g
7 g
30 g
1 g
4696 g
60 g
516 g
0 g
3 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
4696g
Amount Per Serving
Calories 2968
Calories from Fat 55
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 7g
10%
Saturated Fat 1g
4%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2g
Monounsaturated Fat 1g
Cholesterol 0mg
0%
Sodium 60mg
2%
Total Carbohydrates 784g
261%
Dietary Fiber 155g
622%
Sugars 516g
Protein 30g
Vitamin A
101%
Vitamin C
2393%
Calcium
102%
Iron
64%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 5 bags –or 17 ½ cups fresh whole cranberries
  2. 10 oranges - unpeeled, quartered and seeded
  3. 5 lemons - unpeeled, quartered, and seeded
  4. 5 limes - unpeeled, quartered, and seeded
  5. sugar to taste ( I go for 7 cups of sugar)
  6. base recipe
  7. 1 1/3 cup sugar
  8. 1 bag or 3 ½ cups whole fresh cranberries
  9. 2 oranges- unpeeled, quartered and seeded
  10. 1 lemon- unpeeled, quartered and seeded
  11. 1 lime- unpeeled, quartered and seeded
Instructions
  1. 1-Rinse your cranberries and let drain.
  2. 2-Vigorously scrub your citrus with dish soap or vegetable soap
  3. 3-If any of the citrus have stem pieces still, pop those off
  4. 4-Quarter the citrus and remove the seeds.
  5. 5-Grind your fruit making sure to catch any juice and return it to the relish.
  6. 6-Mix it well and taste before you add any sugar. This way you’ll know the base sweetness of the relish. Keep adding sugar, mixing and tasting until you’re satisfied
  7. 7-Keep in the fridge until you are ready to eat, a week at least or much longer.
Notes
  1. I use an old school hand grinder to make my cranberry relish but you could use an electric grinder or a food processor. You could probably use a blender if you could manage to not liquefy everything. I know I couldn’t pull it off.
  2. If you use a grinder make sure to put a bowl under it to catch the juice you’ll make.
beta
calories
2968
fat
7g
protein
30g
carbs
784g
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Life From Scratch http://itslifefromscratch.com/

The Art of Waiting

      AJ walking the driveway~ The Art of WaitingI’ve been sketching farms for as long as I can remember; stacks of fences, chicken coops, barns, gardens and houses. I’ve written intricate plans for buying land and building farms, I have thousands of idea to make the place pay for its self. I came up with most of those ideas as a little kid with a big notebook and plenty of them are still great ideas. It just so happened that I’ve spend the last quarter of college actually planning a farm on the property we will be moving to. I haven’t around much becuase it turns out that planning a 30 acre farm in three months is a lot of work while you’re actually living life. Who woulda thunk it!Planning our farm~ The Art Of WaitingIt’s safe to say owning a farm has been a long time goal for me. My path to that dream has been filled with what would appear to be detours, namely devoting years to a college hundreds of miles away from where I want to live and farm one day.  Aside from a few subject,  I will use what I’ve learned in college all the time. College was a necessary stepping stone to reach my farm, even if it trapped me in a place I have a complicated relationship with.
I thought living in western Washington would mean all year gardening since it didn’t get hard freezes. I had crazy gardening dreams that first year. What I didn’t know is that instead of freezing solid and being covered in snow, western Washington turns into a swamp during the winter, thoroughly suffocating garden plant that survive the onslaught of moisture loving diseases.

Evergreen~The Art Of WaitingOh, and yes it freezes here, just enough to kill plants and dreams.

I didn’t give up that easily though, the first summer here we had a huge garden. I learned some hard lessons about the difference between clay soil and sandy soil; many a seed rotted that year. There were plenty of failures but enough successes and lessons that it was still very much worth the effort.

If the gardening doesn’t get you down, there’s the dreary cloud cover that sticks around for 85% of the year. Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration but I swear, a cloudy day lasts six times longer than a sunny day.

In addition to the challenges of gardening in a climate I’m unfamiliar with, we are renters. We rent from renters who rent from an owner who wants to sell the property we are living on.  Our chickens have a reasonably nice run; fenced but not covered and probably three times the size of our apartment.  Alas, it’s right next to the Log Palace that the realtors love showing off so much. Our landlords are afraid that if our chickens are free ranging either the owner or the realtor will complain and cause problems for all of us. So the chickens only free range when they jump the fence or when I have particularly defiant days.

The barren chicken pen~ The Art of Waiting
The run is down to mud wallows, hard packed earth, tufts of dead grass and feathers. It’s a barren wasteland and it makes me angry and guilty every time I see it. My chickens deserve better than this. We deserve better than this. Our chickens are board and our eggs aren’t as beautiful or as nutritious as they were before.Outside the chicken pen~ The Art Of Waiting
I want my birds to be able to forage. I want them to trim the lush grass that’s just on the other side of the fence. To fluff the pine needles, pick for grubs in the flower beds and manure. I want them to hang around waiting for treats. I know how much happier they would be and it kills me that I can’t give them that kind of life. Seeing all that un-foraged pasture everyday makes me want to scream to heavens, the injustice is unbearable!
Even though our chickens don’t live the way I would like them to, they still have it a hundred times better than industrial chickens. When they wake up in the morning they jump down from their roosts, flap their wings, stretch up on their tippy toes and take a run to the food bowls. Industrial chickens wake up in one of two places: a tiny cage with other birds or an open barn with a thousand other birds. Full body flapping and running? Not happening for those industrial birds. The birds in those concentration camps are on wire or packed manure all their life. There’s nothing interesting, there’s nothing to do. Since the chickens have nothing to do their foraging instincts are redirected to the only thing they do have: each other. They pick at their neighbors, sometimes to the point of death. To prevent the birds from harming each other they have the tip of their top beak burned off as chicks. This prevents them from picking other birds but also means they will never forage like a chicken should naturally forage. Our birds have space to get away from each other and places to forage.  They get to keep their beaks and act like chickens.

Even on the worst day, the life our chickens lead is a dream compared to the life of an industrial chicken. We want to do even better: we want to feed all organic and allow them to free range. Eventually we’ll be able to that but I have to remember that what were doing right now is worth while. Being renters limits your options but it shouldn’t discourage you from doing what you can with what you do have.

So many of us are working towards our dream life and putting off learning skills and starting projects because we still have that nine to five job, live in town or rent. You may not be able to have the vineyard you dream about, the herd of goats or the free range chickens yet but there is always a place to start. You can find someone in the county to goat set for, start reading books, tour a vineyard or start a grape vine in a big pot on the porch. These little things are not pointless. They keep your passion burning and keep you focused on your big goals. Every time you see that little grape vine growing up its trellis you’ll be reminded that some day you’re going to have a whole field of grape vines. You head off to work with the grape vines in the back of your head and the day won’t be as terrible because you’ll know it’s only temporary and its helping you get to your vineyard.red square and clock tower at Evergreen ~ The Art Of Waiting

I made it through college on dreams of gardens, chickens, goats, and pasture. I try not to count the times people told me I should get rid of my animals, that there would plenty of time for them later. They didn’t realize my animals were why I was sticking with college in the first place. Find something that keeps you going, something that keeps you focused on your goal and never loose sight of it.

My dreams seem so close right now but I’ve still got a lot of waiting to do. Waiting is a required skill for this lifestyle. We wait on seeds to sprout, rains to stop and start, animals to grow and skills to develop. Waiting is an act of endurance; we get better at it as time goes on. Our culture doesn’t encourage or teach the art of waiting. People want what they want now, even if getting it now is harmful in the end. If we get ahead of our self we have seedlings without a garden to grow in, animals without fences and trees without an orchard. There is a natural order we have to obey and fighting against it will only give us grief.French Creek ~ The Art Of Waiting

No matter how important, waiting is still awful. I’m no patient monk. Right now I have a roaring case of homesickness, garden fever, spring fever, cabin fever and senioritis. It’s a wonder I’m not running naked in the woods singing about chicks and tomato plants. Seriously, I’ve had about all the waiting I can handle. But here I am, waiting some more.

Waiting isn’t easy or nice but we have to survive waiting because on the other side of waiting, live our dreams!

I can see the fields with happy goats frolicking in them from here but instead of making it easier to stay here, it’s making it harder. It seems to be a universal truth that endings and beginnings are the hardest and it’s no different in this case. It works the other way too, if a situation becomes unbearable it’s probably about to come to an end.

So, as you’re struggling to stay on track, remember you’re not the only one in that situation and eventually, if you don’t give up or jump the gun, one day you’ll be out in that field with the goats, you’ll be picking grapes in your vineyard and your chickens will be fluffing pine needles and trimming the grass. The waiting, will be a memory.

The Art Of Waiting~ Life From Scratch

Planning and Getting on a Schedule

This is the hardest time of year for me. It’s a time to hold our breath, in between winter and spring, with long dark days. It’s so easy to drift off the path we laid for our self when the sun was bright and the grass green. This is the most important time for me to practice self-care and part of that is staying on a schedule. Having a schedule gives my days and weeks a rhythm that makes everything more enjoyable. It’s like the baseline behind the melody.

planning and getting on a schedule

Some people feel like a schedule is stifling and weighs them down, I have to disagree. With a schedule I don’t waste time fretting about what I’ll do next or how I’ll fit it all in; instead I have a plan so all I have to worry about are the details.

I’ve found things are hardest before you start them. It’s like some sort of cling wrap that wants us to all stay as we are. It takes work to overcome the cling wrap but it’s worth it. I know I will be happier and more productive once I’ve got myself back on a schedule but I have to drag myself kicking and screaming in the beginning. Here’s how I plan a schedule and get on it.

Planning Your Schedule:

I’m not one for micromanaging my time. I roll with a barebones schedule that only includes essential daily and weekly tasks and events. A schedule isn’t supposed to be a torture devise anyway; it’s suppose to be a tool

I think it’s important to write your schedule down. I’m all about lists and color coding so I made a grid for a week with hour or half hour chunks of time denoted, then I color code different activities. It makes the OCD corner of my heart happy.

My schedule includes:

A daily morning alarm
A daily bedtime
Scheduled 8 hours of sleep
Block of time for morning chores
Regular planned events
Office Hours
Unscheduled time

Daily Alarm

I encourage you to wake up at the same time even on days off. You can stay in bed snuggling your loved ones, reading a good book or just listening to the radio. This is actually something I love once I get in the habit. It takes me about two weeks to get in synch with my alarm. You might find yourself waking up a few minutes before it goes off or be much more awake when it does go off than you had been in the past. I’m a morning person so I try to wake up early enough to accomplish things. I get the best of everything done in the morning. If you’re a night owl set the alarm for as late as possible and prepare for the next day before bed. This might mean showering or preparing lunches at night, laying out clothes, so on and so forth. Our schedules dictate how much of an early bird or night owl we get to be, but you can still plan around your preferences.

Morning Chores

Figure out a morning routine that is efficient and budget for that time. This is really important for me. If I get up and get stuff done in the morning I’m more productive the rest of the day. It’s like some kind of magic trick: wake up earlier and have more energy! I also need to stay on track in the morning. I can easily get sidetracked with a project that could wait. Before I know it the morning is gone and the animals haven’t even been fed. Yikes, I know, just a little bit of “squirrel syndrome”. I swear I’m not that bad. Usually.

My morning routine includes the daily tasks that are best done early either because of my schedule or preferences. If you’re a night owl you might want an evening routine too.

Bed Time

Getting up at a regular time is more important for me but a regular bed time helps me get more sleep. I literally have an alarm named “Bed Time”. It just reminds me that if I want eight hours of sleep I need to go to bed soon. Do I always obey it? Nope. I probably go to bed within thirty minutes half the time. Other nights I go to bed earlier or later but with the alarm I don’t get so wrapped up in something that I work late into the night without realizing it.

Eight hours of sleep

I know people who seem healthy and functional on as few as four hours of sleep. I am not one of those people; anything less than six hours and I’m grumpy, less than five and you should avoid me. I plan so I get eight hours of sleep if I watch my alarms. I’m not going to lecture you on the importance of sleep; suffice it to say it’s easier to stay on a schedule if you’re well rested. Even if you can get by with less sleep, I highly recommend budgeting for it in your schedule.

Office Hours

I use office hours to limit distractions while I’m working on something and to preserve the quality of my day.

I’m a full time student, the lead coordinator for our college ballet club, I raise and sell livestock and I run this blog. That combination means a lot of people can be trying to get a hold of me in a day.
At one point I was getting phone calls after nine o’clock at night. I answered messages, comments, emails and texts all the time. This turned into a huge time suck and kept me from getting tasks completed. My solution to this was to create office hours for myself.
During my office hours I answer school and sale related phone calls but no non-emergency calls or texts. I also stay off the almighty time suck known as Facebook as much as possible. I check my emails only if I’m expecting something important other wise I check them once early, once at lunch and once in the afternoon.
Outside of my office hours I don’t answer school or farm sale related calls or texts unless they are an emergency. I do reply to comments on my page because I enjoy it too much to not do it. If I have project that needs my full attention I stay away as long as I can manage. Part of the way I enforce this is by turning my phone on silent. I also turn notifications off so my phone isn’t constantly buzzing and blinking at me.
If you work at home you will probably benefit from office hours as much as or more than I do. It’s also helpful to use this strategy to limit your time watching TV or stalking facebook. You might try not watching TV until after five or only fall down the internet rabbit hole at lunch and after five.

Budgeted time for recurring weekly & daily events

These are for both fun things like my favorite TV show ( Grimm and Downton Abbey, in case you wanted to know) and obligations like cleaning my rabbit cages and going to class. I add these so that I can see what blocks of time are free around them.
Seeing the remaining the blocks of white space can be a depressing thing if there aren’t many. I would challenge you to take this moment to consider what is worth spending your valuable time on. Are there commitments you’ve made that aren’t helping you achieve your goals? How much time are the cat videos, Craigslist, Facebook, TV and video games stealing from you? Which of your hobbies do you actually love? You have to make those decisions for yourself. We all would have different answers to those questions but answering them truthfully and making changes because of them should have the same affect for everyone: living a more meaningful joy filled life.

Dipping Smelt

Dipping SmeltMy grandma tells stories of the family dipping a literal bathtub worth of smelt and dip nets so full they broke when pulled from the water wrong. I had never had the opportunity to harvest smelt before but with her stories of a bountiful and delicious harvest I jumped at the chance when a day opened this year.

Due to stock mismanagement our current smelt run is much humbler than the one she remembers. The trip was still worthwhile though; we spent the day catching up with loved ones and came home with twenty pounds of smelt.  AJ and I spent Friday night  with family so we could get to the river in the early daylight hours. We followed my uncle Kent and a line of headlights to a stretch of the muddy river that he said was a good dipping spot. CDipping smelt onsidering the caravan; I’d say he wasn’t the only one who thought that.
There is a technique to catching the smelt with a dip net. I wasn’t so great at it. If you’re going out on your own don’t be discouraged if it takes you a little while to figure out. According to my uncle, the smelt weren’t running that great but we each got our ten pound limit  in a half hour; that’s the fasted fishing I’ve ever been a part of. Back at his house, Uncle Kent showed us how to clean the fish and my Aunt gave me a pickled fish recipe. We spent the rest of the day catching up with family. Our trip was a blast and harvesting delicious, nutritious food was totally worth the price of gas and labor.

Smelt Dipping in Washington

Our smelt have had enough problems to end up on the threatened species list. This means dipping Smeltthere are only a few short days open to dip them each year. These short seasons help researchers conduct audits of the stock and keep the public interested in smelt. People have to care about a fish if they are going to save it and what better way to get them to care about it than to show them that smelt are fun to catch and delicious? Since our smelt population is recovering it’s important to respect the limit set by the state; we need the fish going upstream to make babies!  Also, remember there are plain clothed game wardens all over the place. Being greedy could cost you a lot more than some extra smelt are worth.

The runs usually open for a day at a time in February. We would have gone again if we had any room left in the freezer. You can find places to dip smelt on your own but if you want to find a good spot on the river, you’ll need to talk to some locals. Currently, you do not need any kind of license to dip smelt for personal use in Washington state. This may not always be dipping Smeltthe case and other states may have different laws, check with your fish and game department. You can find Washington state information here. You’ll just need to search for smelt and the year to see if any dates have been announced yet.

 

What you’ll need For dipping Smelt:

~A warm water proof outfit and boots
~A smelt dipping net, like this
~One bucket per each person dipping
~A fish weighing device, either a scale in the back of your car or one of these fish scales

To clean the fish:

dipping Smelt

~A pair of scissors preferably, a knife will work
~Clean water

How to dip smelt

I’m going to be honest: I was really bad at this.

You need upper body strength to drag the net through the water and if there’s one thing I’m lacking, it’s upper body strength. I’m sure if it was a better run I would have been more dipping Smeltsuccessful but when the run is slow you need all the skill and strength you can muster to get those fishies in the net.

Make sure you’re standing on solid footing. It’s easy to get wrapped up in your excitement and go sliding down a muddy bank into the river; not exactly the situation you want to be in.
The smelt follow the banks of the river, getting closer or further, and deeper or shallower depending on how much they’re being harassed by people with nets. Start out dipping as far out and as deeply as possible. Keep up a good even speed while you’re pulling the net through the water. We were dipping with the current, but I don’t know if dipping against it would make a difference. I suppose maybe it’s like sneaking up on the fish?

dipping Smelt

When you bring in the net, keep it in the water and pull it as close to the bank as possible before you lift it out. My uncle said a good run could fill your net with enough fish that it would break if lifted straight out of the water.

Each person needs to have a separate bucket for their limit; once you get them off the river and start cleaning them it’s fine to consolidate your fish.

Cleaning the Smelt

dipping Smelt

You always want to clean, cook or freeze fish as soon as possible for the best quality. Ideally before they come out of rigor, which is maybe five hours depending on the temperature and what not.

Cleaning the smelt is really easy with scissors. Cut the head off just behind the gills, you can save these to make stock. Then slit the smelt open from the vent forward and scrape the body cavity out. If you have a female with eggs you’ll need to remove those gently or leave them in. You can also clean smelt with a knife, it works fine for male but it’s nearly impossible to clean a female with a knife and save the eggs. When cleaning with a knife don’t start your cut at the vent; it’s easier to cut down the body cavity towards the vent in this case. Once the body cavity it empty we give the fish a good scrub. When a sizable number are cleaned we rinse them again before preparing them for whatever their destiny may be.

dipping Smelt
female
dipping Smelt
male
dipping Smelt
roe

We want to use the eggs separately for something but don’t really know to do with them yet. You can leave the eggs in the body cavity and they are delicious anyway you’ll prepare the smelt. If you plan to smoke them it’s fine to leave the fish whole.   The fish are easier to move while smoking if they are whole and the bones are easy to remove once the fish is smoked. Since both the eggs and the fish freezer well we put them in the freezer until we can smoke, pickle or cook them.

Eating Smelt

It’s a white, oily, very delicate fish that cooks quickly. My favorite way to eat smelt is baked with lemons and garlic and then eaten on toast or rice.  Frying them whole is also a popular. However you decide to prepare your smelt be careful not to over season or overcook it. Smelt is at its best when done simply.

Dipping Smelt

Little House on the Prairie Giveaway

When I was finally old enough to realize books were awesome I become a veracious reader. I loved anything inspiring and I especially loved books about animals and how different cultures lived. The Little House on the Prairie® book series is one of my favorites and one of the first series of books that I read. I was fascinated with how the pioneers lived. Since I lived a good a portion of my childhood in off-grid places I saw the characters in the books as kindred spirits. I thought I would get along smashingly with the Ingalls kids and that Pa was just like my grandpa Frank since he also played the fiddle.

2015-03-03 - Little House on the Prairie - Prize Package Giveaway - Pinnable Image

I’m happy to present you with this giveaway today! It’s the first giveaway I’ve done on Life From Scratch and I think it’s fitting. The Little House® books inspired generations of people, myself included, and represent the values that we also hold dear: family, community and a respectful relationship with the natural world.

This give-away was set up by the folks who just launched a new Little House on The Prairie® website for all things Laura Ingalls Wilder; you can visit the website HERE.  You can also find them on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.
On the Little House on the Prairie® website you’ll find a wealth of resources. There are recipes, crafts, historical information and there’s a store where you can buy the books and TV series. They have a tutorial for making corn cob dolls, which my child self was obsessed enough with to actually make. I really loved this article about pioneer gardens. I love finding trees and rosebushes all by there lonesome because I know it means a homestead was there once. The pioneer garden article goes into detail about what pioneers grew and how they planned their gardens. I love that this website is going to introduce the Little House® books to a whole new generation of kids as well as be a fun place for all of us adult fans to visit.

What’s in this giveaway?!

If you’re the lucky duck who wins, you’ll get:
-a copy of the new documentary about Laura Ingalls Wilder
-a copy of Laura’s best selling autobiography, Pioneer Girl
-a Pioneer Girl tote bag
AND the first four seasons of the newly remastered TV series.

This giveaway is coordinated by Little House on the Prairie® through the Homestead Bloggers Network; the Little House on the Prairie® website is also giving away the same prize package. Make sure to enter the Rafflecopter on the Little House on the Prairie® website too so you have a better chance of winning. You could even win two prize packages; because I’m sure you know someone who would love this Little House® awesomeness just as much as you!

 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Homemade Lacto-Fermented Ketchup

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Homemade lacto-fermented ketchup is one of the easiest things to make!
If you can taste and stir, you can make this.

I’ve always had a lackluster relationship with ketchup. I liked it, sometimes, but it was always so sweet and one dimensional that I could never really get excited about it. One day we were at a restaurant and they had a bottle of Portland Ketchup Company Ketchup. I wasn’t expecting anything from that bottle. I looked at it only to notice the conventional red goo inside and shake some on my fries. When I tasted it though, I had to check the bottle to make sure that I was even eating ketchup.

Lacto-fermented Ketchup
It had a rich tomato flavor that reminded me of dehydrated tomatoes (you see them sold under the fancy “sun dried tomato” name), it wasn’t rampantly sweet and it was all kinds of spicy, savory deliciousness.
It took me a long time and many homemade ketchup recipes on pinterest before I started making my own. I couldn’t find a recipe that had the right spiciness and savory notes so I created this based on the flavor of the Portland ketchup. Trust me, you won’t miss that store bought ketchup when you’re eating your homemade lacto-fermented ketchup with your homemade tator-tots or fried potatoes. This is a thick, barely sweet ketchup with a rich savory spicy -but not hot- thing going on.   

~Lacto-Fermented Ketchup~

 I encourage you to adjust this recipe to your own taste. Ingredients are linked to Amazon in case you want to buy any or see what they are.      
Lacto-fermented Ketchup

48 oz tomato paste
½ cup fermented veggie juice
½ cup raw apple cider vinegar
¾ cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbs fish sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
¾ cup white sugar
½ tsp mustard powder
¾ tsp ground ginger
¾ tsp all spice
1 ½ tsp Cayenne powder
1 ½ tsp salt
3 tsp ground pepper
3 tsp garlic granules
1 ½ tsp onion granules

You Will also Need:
Rubber spatula
Canning funnel
Whisk
2 quart & 1 pint canning jars or other nonreactive storage containers
canning lids and rings

Lacto-fermented Ketchup

Notes on the recipe:

The total amount of fermented veggie juice and vinegar can be increased but probably shouldn’t be decreased. You want enough acid to change the pH to encourage beneficial fermentation bacteria. Decreasing the amount of acid can change the pH enough to allow bacteria to grow that could make you very sick.
If you don’t have any fermented veggies to collect juice from you can simply replace that with the same amount of raw apple cider vinegar. If you use fermented veggie juice make sure it is raw. If it’s been canned it won’t work since the bacteria will have been killing in the canning process.
Unlike the vinegar, the fish sauce is there to gives the ketchup a more savory flavor. The ketchup just wasn’t right until it had that extra little bit of flavor. If you aren’t sure fish sauce is for you, add it last. Taste the ketchup and only add fish sauce if you think the ketchup is missing something. You could also try adding soy sauce, Worcestershire, or some other savory something to give it an extra kick.

Lacto-fermented Ketchup
If you like my measuring spoon you can buy your own set HERE

 

This is much thicker than typical commercial ketchup. You may want to add more vinegar to thin it. Taste as you go to make sure it doesn’t lose any of it’s awesomeness by being diluted. Some recipes I looked at said theirs expanded a lot during fermentation. We’ve yet to have that happen but I leave some head space and air exchange just in case.
It’s important to note, there wasn’t salt in the tomato paste or seasonings we used. Check your ingredients. If you’re seeing salt don’t add additional until you’ve tasted the ketchup.
As for the actual making it part?

Directions:

Whisk or blend ingredients together, taste to make sure you like it, adjust the seasoning if not. Portion into jars with an inch and a half of head space and leave it in a room temperature place, out of direct sun for three days. Refrigerate and enjoy the most delicious ketchup ever!

Lacto-fermented Ketchup

 

Lacto-Fermented Ketchup
Yields 2
A simple recipe for a spicy homemade lacto-fermented Ketchup
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Prep Time
15 min
Prep Time
15 min
1065 calories
250 g
0 g
4 g
32 g
1 g
1038 g
3709 g
197 g
0 g
2 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
1038g
Yields
2
Amount Per Serving
Calories 1065
Calories from Fat 32
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 4g
6%
Saturated Fat 1g
4%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 1g
Cholesterol 0mg
0%
Sodium 3709mg
155%
Total Carbohydrates 250g
83%
Dietary Fiber 30g
120%
Sugars 197g
Protein 32g
Vitamin A
229%
Vitamin C
283%
Calcium
34%
Iron
122%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 48 oz tomato paste
  2. ½ cup fermented veggie juice
  3. ½ cup raw apple cider vinegar
  4. ¾ cup apple cider vinegar
  5. 2 tbs fish sauce
  6. 1/3 cup brown sugar
  7. ¾ cup white sugar
  8. ½ tsp mustard powder
  9. ¾ tsp ginger
  10. ¾ tsp all spice
  11. 1 ½ tsp cayenne powder
  12. 1 ½ tsp salt
  13. 3 tsp ground pepper
  14. 3 tsp garlic granules
  15. 1 ½ tsp onion granules
Instructions
  1. 1 whisk liquids into tomato paste.
  2. 2 whisk seasonings into tomato paste.
  3. 3 finish combining ingredients with spatula.
  4. 4 fill jars leaving 1 1/2 inches of head space.
  5. 5 cover with lid and ring, leaving loose for air flow.
  6. 6 leave at room temperature out of direct sun for three days to ferment.
  7. 7 firmly tighten lid and move to refrigerator for storage.
beta
calories
1065
fat
4g
protein
32g
carbs
250g
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