Preparing a meal is a bit like painting

I love food.  I love to cook.  I love to read cook books.  I had quite a bit going on yesterday in the food department.  I suppose if anyone walked into my kitchen while I was preparing food (note, the term “food” is generic here, it may be for humans or animals) they might be a bit concerned, but I have yet to get sick from raw meat nor has anyone I’ve cooked for so I guess it’s okay.

I’m still struggling in the bread making department.  Can’t quite let go of the crutch of the bread machine.  I’ve graduated to making the bread in the machine using the dough cycle and then finishing it in the oven which results in a nicer loaf.  Must take the plunge and try it kneading by hand.  I’ve ogled Kitchen Aide mixers, but that isn’t in the budget right now.

After going through my bread machine cook book and taking stock of what was in my pantry, I chose to make sweet potato bread (a recipe that I’d made before).  It came out phenomenally.  So, what goes good with sweet potato?  Why black beans and grilled chicken.  I had a half gallon of butter milk in my refrigerator that I needed to use up.  My butter milk from goat milk had gone bad because I hadn’t used it up so I needed to make another batch which I did yesterday.

I four whole chickens defrosted for the dogs as well as several zip lock bags of chicken heart and liver.  I cut the breast meat off the chickens and then marinaded them in butter milk, some herbs, honey and Dijon mustard.  I hadn’t done this before and didn’t know how it would come out.  In addition to the chicken, I spiced up some black beans (from a can), added some diced tomatoes and heated some sweet potato fries in the oven.  The chicken breasts were cooked on the grill.  I will be using that marinade again as it was fantastic.  I warmed up the sweet potato bread in the oven, spread some butter over it and voila, a perfect Tex-Mex style meal.

Preparing a meal is like painting.  You start with an idea, add some colors, keep adding to it and then you have a beautiful painting, or in this instance, a meal.  The cool thing was that I didn’t need to go to the grocery store for anything.  All of the ingredients were in my pantry and freezer.

No one taught me how to cook.  I love good food and have never been able to afford to eat out at really good restaurants so I learned to cook restaurant quality meals at home.  I like to cook healthy meals.  The lay-off has forced me to really learn to make things from scratch as it’s much cheaper to eat foods that you prepare yourself rather than buying prepared meals.  One of the things that I miss about Boston (I don’t miss many things about living in Massachusetts) was the North End of Boston.  I lived there for ten years and it was a wonderful time.  I’d stop at the markets on my way home from work and construct my dinner from what looked good on that day.  The Italian delis and butcher shops were simply to die for.  There are many items that I could get in the North End that I cannot easily get here in North Carolina and I do miss some of them.  But, I couldn’t have sheep, dairy goats or Border Collies in Boston could I?

As it stands now, I’m going to go to the livestock auction with Wally tonight.  I went with him once before and really didn’t like it, but I’d like to go tonight and look to see how the chickens are selling.  If I do go, it would be a very late night and I have to work tomorrow morning, but if I get everything done today so I’ll have minimal work to do in the morning, it would be okay.  I’d like to add a half a dozen more chickens to my flock.  I love the eggs that they are laying.  In fact, on today’s cooking agenda is banana bread (I make kick-ass banana bread) and a quiche.  My butter milk from goat milk is done and I started another quart of it this morning.  One recipe of the banana bread uses a cup of butter milk and I think three eggs.  I plan to make a double recipe.  Depending upon how the goats are selling tonight, I might see if I can get a reasonably priced goat to butcher this weekend for the dogs.  My freezer is getting low and they’ve been eating too much chicken lately.

Chicken is the mainstay in the diets of a lot of raw-fed dogs and cats.  I try not to feed much chicken because I do not feel that the nutritional value of conventionally-raised chicken is ideal.  I’d much rather feed rabbit (for the cats and some to the dogs) and hoofed animals, preferably something I raised myself (grass fed) to the dogs.  My venison stash is all but depleted which is unfortunate as that is pretty close to perfect food for dogs and cats.

As I write this, Gel is lying at my feet quite tired.  I got out to milk the goats and only took him with me.  After I finished milking, I let the sheep out and then went back in the house to processing the milk and set up the butter milk to culture.  Then went back outside, filed up the water tank that I carry on the wagon that attaches to my ATV, added a bale of hay to the wagon and headed out to the ElectroNet.  The sheep had wandered several fields over, precariously close to my landlord’s blueberry bushes.  I quickly off-loaded the water and hay and headed up with Gel to bring the sheep back.  It was a very, very good lesson in his whistle-listening skills which are still a bit shaky.  I really need to work on my come-bye whistle because it ends in what sounds like a “there” whistle which causes him to hesitate.  There were several times when I asked him to change directions using whistles where he stopped and changed direction like a cutting horse.  It was cool to watch.  We had another lamb born the day before yesterday to the chocolate ewe we got in South Carolina (one more South Carolina ewe to go) so she was slowing down the production and the flock kept getting progressively more and more spread out so Gel had to do a lot of sweeping back and forth to keep them going in the same direction.  I set him up to drive them through the gate into the field adjoining where I have the ElectroNet set and he handled that very well.  That gate was not open fully so there was a pretty narrow opening to push the sheep through.  Then I asked him to drive them on through the field towards the ElectroNet.  That didn’t go quite so well, but I kept insisting that he listen to my commands and we got the job done and all of the sheep are up.

Wally is quite thrilled with Gel these days.  Several days in a row now he’s gone down with Gel to bring the sheep up and Gel has worked well for him.  The first time that he went down with Gel and had success, he carried a stock stick with him.  Not to be used as a stock stick, but as a walking stick.  Every time he goes down now I tell him he had better bring the stock stick as that may be his lucky charm.  For all the time that I’ve known Wally, Gel has only thought of him as a stick or ball throwing machine and wasn’t ever willing to work for him.  I’m glad that’s changed as right now, Gel is really the only dog capable of bringing that flock up.  Fern can do it, but only for me and with a lot of managing on my part.  Fern has a lot of eye and would be difficult for Wally to work, if she were to be inclined to work for him, which she is not.  If we set the ElectroNet closer to the house, Kessie or Cian might be able to bring them up, but as it stands now, there is too much draw coming across that field and those sheep know that neither Kessie nor Cian are strong enough to keep them from going where they want to go.  Hopefully that will change as they mature and I get more training on them.

I am committed to working both Cian and Kessie and hopefully I’ll be successful with them.  Only time will tell and right now I’m holding off on working anyone other than Gel until that last ewe lambs and her lamb is at least a week old and can keep up.  The lamb that was born a few days ago is a big, strapping ram lamb and he’s keeping up amazingly well already.  I left that ewe and her lamb up in the fenced in area yesterday, but today, she went down with the flock and they did quite well.  Dreadlock’s baby was very small and I carried him down for several days before I felt he could keep up.  Now I can barely catch him.

Speaking of catching lambs, yesterday a lamb got left behind with the ewe I left up.  He belongs to black-headed Dorper #78 and was born here a few days before Dreadlock’s baby.  I had a heck of a time catching him and was very glad for Gel’s assistance in that task.  It’s amazing how fast those lambs can run.

Rose continues to do amazingly well with the new babies.  When we brought up the chocolate ewe with her new lamb this week, Rose was all excited about meeting the newcomer.  The ewe was not willing to let Rose get too close, but it’s interesting to see how Rose hones in on the new babies.  While I was trying to catch the lamb that got left behind, Rose had the opportunity to get acquainted with the new lamb while the ewe was otherwise occupied.

Farming, cooking, dog training, it’s all a great thing and I’m incredibly happy and satisfied these days.