Summertime

It has been hot, humid and rainy. I don’t usually mind, but the garden has suffered and I said to heck with it. Fall is my favorite time anyway. Over the summer we added to our little farm. 

Elsie, our dairy cow is due in October, and she is dry now, enjoying a break before her little calf arrives. We realized that she needed a friend. So, about a month ago, we got Big Butter. She is 100% jersey, just tad bigger and she is lovely. The girls became buddies from the start. This obviously, makes us very happy! They graze all day together, lay side by side in the shade or in the cow barn and they lick each others faces. It’s very entertaining!

Her milk is amazing and she is due in January. Our milking routine hasn’t changed with the new cow. Big butter want used to a stancion, but our stancion is under roof and she has the view of the farm. It literally takes 8 minutes to milk her with our machines and then she is off to enjoy the pasture. 

Before we brought her home, we were 3 weeks without milk, and let me tell you, we were a grumpy bunch of people! Haha, better planning in the future for sure!

Another addition to do farm, were our trio of breeding geese. We bought the American buff geese. What a beautiful little flock. They get to free range all day and are inseparable! They greet us each time we enter their pasture and they have become friends with all of the farm animals. 

We hope the fees will breed and we will sell and harvest their offspring. Nothing like a nice goose for Christmas. 

Our barn cat Lilly had her first and last litter of kittens.

 She is at the house with them now and Daisy,our catahoula had to take over the rat control. Leo, the male catahoula finds their hiding place and Daisy takes care of the rest. She caught a rat in the barn as it was jumping to escape. Mid jump, Daisy’s ninja skills caught it and that was the end with the rat.

We also got 10 Delaware chicks, these are large brown egg layers and we do not have any white chickens, so these beauties are a great addition to our mixed flock of Ride Island reds, Buff Orphignons, welsummers, silver laced cochins, 2 polish hens, a few red stars and 1 austrolorp. 

Chickens are a true gateway drug to any homesteader. I am telling you, all the memes are right! There is no, ok now I am done! Nope! ! Not happening!  We really do have a problem!  Lol.

Mike, has also started removing bees for people. He has removed 4 hives and 1 he couldn’t save. They were africanized and let me tell you how upset he was that he had to dispatch them. He mopped around for days. It is not something a bee keeper likes to do! Having bees has been wonderful. Not just for the obvious supply of honey, but because we have so much to learn from them. They are intelligent creatures with a work ethic like nothing on this planet. I wish people would realize their importance in our daily lives!

I have also started a group on Facebook which helps homesteaders and farmers find ways to make extra income. I post videos every week on a different topic, in hopes of helping someone out there. It has been great connecting with people from all over the world, teaching and learning as well. It is my wish, that no homesteader/hobby farmer ever have to stop what they are doing because they can not afford it. You are welcome to join our group on Facebook. Just click on the link and it will take you to one of our videos. Then, click on the title Discovering ways… This will take you to the group.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/310335206064065/permalink/331460830618169/

Hope your summer was great and you have plans for the fall, we are preparing the garden again… 

Love,

Simca

Because, bread…

We love bread! Yes, if you follow our FB page https://www.facebook.com/farmskitchen/ you can see that on all the bread posts. We bake bread for us and we bake it for customers too. 

There is nothing like homemade bread. Nothing!! Well, I lied. Homemade butter is amazing too!

Ya. So, we make sourdough from various flours, and we make bread with fresh yeast too. It is an all day thing, but bread doesn’t need to be babysat, so can go about your day. When I read complicated recipes, of any kind I am like whaaaaat?  I don’t do complicated 200 step recipes. Who has time for that? Yes, sourdough requires many steps, but only if you don’t have a starter. So, only the first time. Once you have an active and nicely fed starter, you are good to go and 190 steps closer. Just kidding. Or am I??? Haha. No seriously it’s not hard.

Or, you could just use cake dough or dry yeast. You will not get that tangy taste but that doesn’t mean anything at all! You will still get a delicious, open crumb, chevy crust bread, which you will inhale in one sitting hopefully after it cools. Hot bread equals very hard digestion!!!!!!!!!! And you will destroy the hot bread if you cut it too soon! So, don’t do it, man!!

I have a simple recipe which is amazing and can be applied, with small variations, to any flour bread you want. 

All you need is: your choice of flour, water, salt and either a starter, fresh yeast (cake yeast) or dry active yeast. For dark breads, you will need molasses as well. If you have a bread beckers Co-op near you, you can buy your organic wheat from them AMD mill it at home! I was introduced to this place by my farm friend Annette of Cassia Fresh Farm. Amazing lady I call friend! 

The only difference is the amount of water you will use. Why? Because flours hydrate differently, but once you get the touch of your dough, down, you will be able to adjust the water to your flour. It’s all about practice and feeling the dough. This will make sense once you get a hang of it and then you will have your aha moment!

Basic sourdough recipe (2 loaves)

1 cup of starter

5 cups of your choice flour

2 teaspoons salt (added after autolyse- will explain)

3-3 1/2 water (humidity plays a huge factor! The more humid it is, the less watEr you need)

If you are using rye or whole wheat, add 1 teaspoon of molasses. 

That’s it. Nothing else. 

Add the starter, flour and water (and molasses for the mentioned flours) to a bowl. Using your hands, mix it all together into a shaggy and sticky mass. Don’t worry about it being wet and sticky. Let is sit for 30-60 minutes. I have done even longer! Come back to it and sprinkle the salt evenly over the surface and knead the heck out of the dough inside the bowl. Pull dough from bottom and over the the top. The dough will be nice and elastic, it will stretch beautifully and you can use flour here and there to unstick your fingers. The dough will be soft because of the hydration and its ok if it sticks. Now take the dough out of the bowl, onto a lightly floured surface, let it rest while you wash the bowl and dry it. Knead the dough a couple more times. You can use 1/2 teaspoon of oil to wipe the bowl. I use flour. Place the dough back into the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and out it in the fridge over night or 12 hours.

Take the dough out of the fridge and remove from bowl onto a floured surface. Knead it and divide into 2 loaves. This is called final shaping. Place into a well floured basket, brottform, banetton or you can just let it rise free form on baking paper for easy transfer. The dough has to come to temperature which can take 2-3 hours. It should rise evenly and its ready when you lightly press the dough with your finger and it springs right back. 

Should feel room temp. Preheat your oven for 45 mintues to 500F with a Dutch oven in it. When ready, remove the Dutch oven carefully onto a heatproof surface and remove the lid. Gently place the bread inside and score it with a razor blade or super sharp and pointy knife. Quick slices don’t mess around, you don’t want to deflate your bread. 

Cover and place into the oven. Bake 20 minutes covered. Then, remove lid, lover temp to 450F and bake until nice and golden brown. Please let it cool off completely. Bread finishes baking after it is removed from the oven and as it cools. It is very hard to digest when its hot and it is hard to slice too!

Autolyse is hydration of dough. The time it takes for the flour to accept all of the moisture. Salt holds this process back and inhibits gluten development, that’s why it added afterwards.

Now, what if you don’t have a starter. Ok. You can substutite cake yeast, I get it at restaurant depot but you may also have luck at a local bakery. In this case, you will need 42g of cake yeast for the recipe above. Dissolve it in the water of the recipe.

For active dry yeast, instead of the starter quantity, just add 2 teaspoons of dry active yeast to the recipe and pretend its a starter in the directions. 

That’s it. Crusty bread for all. It is not hard, well not after you bake a few loaves. But I promise you will love making bread for your family. Next things you know, you will be experimenting with herbs and sweet potatoes and soaked grains and nuts and chocolate and malted barley and sprouted grains and your husband keeps asking what all those amazon packages are doing in the front yard and Daisy our dog is helping with opening  and you ask for banneton forms for all birthdays and Christmas and you break your oven because 500F is a lot on the heat element and you are happy that the back up outdoor pizza oven from ilFornino is only o few steps away. Oh, gosh, did I say that out loud???

The crazy bread baking lady

Simca

Happy Mother’s day…


My mom, or how we call her Mamička, raised us girls with love, passion, compassion, laughter and adventure. No game was too silly, no book was too long to read and no day was wasted, not even when it rained.  My sisters and I had a childhood many can only dream off. 

Growing up in communist Czechoslovakia, we spent our weekends in the mountains at a log cabin retreat center my parents were managing. We walked those hills and never ending forest and expansive meadows foraging for mushrooms, herbs and rosehips. We pretended to be like Hansen and Gretel, like partisans during the war, running from the enemies. We climbed steep mountains to discover meadows full of alpine strawberries and bathed in ice cold mountain streams. I honestly can not say we were ever bored. I wish, that we had pictures of these adventures a home movie or two. At, that time, not everyone had a camera and a video camera was mostly for professionals. 

The mushrooms we foraged would be carefully cleaned and thinly sliced. We spread them on large sheets of paper and dried them for use in winter. Morels, chantaurelles, porcine, button mushrooms and portabella like mushrooms, which we would bread and fry were just some of the varieties we found. There were so many more mushroom I don’t know their Englwish names.

Cookouts on the weekend was the norm. Our dad, the Chef, always prepared everything with us helping. He packaged meats and vegetables into foil, seasoned them and when the fire was just right, he would gently place them into the coals. He then took us and we looked for the perfect grilling branches. He carved each one with care at the tip, so the thick cuts of bacon would stay put while we grilled them over the open fire. The drippings would be wiped on thick dark slices of bread and the bacon was dipped into the best mustard. We sat in nature, ate and laughed with either family or friends surrounding us. 

In winter, the hills surrounding log cabins would be covered in snow. My oldest sister learned how to sky during her 8th grade skiing trip and so my dad and our friend Laci built us a ski lift. We spent entire days sledding and skiing into exhaustion. Mom would come to the rescue with delicious Russian tea and we made our way back to the main log cabin crossing the narrow plank over barely frozen creek, up the path and to the cabin where hot dinner was waiting for us. Afterwards, we finished our evening in the great hall with the fireplace roaring. We watched movies, played cards and watched the falling snow in the stillness of the night. 

I have no pictures of these years, but I can recall them instantly and sometimes smell the meadow with the alpine strawberries and the fresh crisp air in the dead of winter. I can feel the heat of the bonfire, I can smell the earthy scent the ground releases just as it starts to rain. The distinctive scent of drying mushrooms and the taste of the hot tea with a touch of rum.

Thank you Mamička, for giving us the kind of childhood that many dream of. Thank you for sacrificing everything, with our dad, to give us a better life than what was in store for us living in our former country.

I love you more than words could ever do justice and I hope you feel it.
Your,

Simca

Dusk…

A few minutes before 7pm, I walk to my garden to water it. As the sun descends, I gave it to water the pickling cucumbers.  This is the first year in seven, that is successful for me with this delicious, multipurpose vegetable. I learned yet another thing. Do not plant anything by it, it will be taken over! I shield my eyes with one hand as I hold the hose inbthe other. The sun is still relentless at this time of day. From behind the cucumbers peaks a row of my sister’s sunflowers. Some are taller than me and some are much shorter. Their yellow faces turned towards the sun. I love them. They remind me of the sunflower fields planted along narrow country roads in my former home of Slovakia. 

I am also growing lettuce, kale, chard, carrots and beets in this bed, again next year, I will know better. I am very pleased with this bed though. As crowded as it is, everything seems to thrive. Our rabbits get greens twice a day and they all come from our garden. Our composted manare is amazing!

At the end of this row I planted watermelon. A second for me, but this is actually growing. Last sreason I bought starts and they didn’t do well at all. Right next to it are potatoes.  The greens of them have already wilted and so I left them still in the ground and dig out only what I need. 

As I dig them out, I transplant my flowers starts. Wild flowers and zinnia. My wish is to have a flower garden too. But, one thing at a time.

The middle beds hold our red cabbage, which I have thinned out already, different lettuces, radish, cherry tomatoes and peas. I planted Spanish onion too, but between the grass that is invading this bed, I can’t seem to find it. This is good grass I pull for the rabbits, so I don’t mind.

This is the only bed with a bunch of grass, I will have to add a lot more manure next time to make it deeper. There are two corn looking plants in this bed, but they are not corn at all. I am not sure what they are and it looks like its about to seed, I will have take care of that!

This year I  also bought cabbage starts and planted some cabbage from seed. The starts are much smaller than the ones from seed. Interesting experiment! 

I have never had vine climbing beans. They grow to about a foot and that’s it. I get nice beans, but I would like them to climb too. These are coincidently pole beans haha. 

I planted 3 different bins just for the rabbits. Arugula, lettuce and kale. I keep cutting them back and keep growing back like crazy! Such a satisfying process. 

My tomato jungle is off the charts. We had a late freeze here in Florida and I was devastated, thinking I lost them all. But after cutting the frozen tops, the plants grew like freaks! Let’s hope my spacing issue doesn’t hinder my harvest. I need to address this, is there a I plant things too close support group? I may need to join.

Here i also planted broccoli and kohlrabi. Already harvested and eaten and cooked and frozen. There is a 2 year old pepper which keeps on giving. Good little guy! Oh and somehow, I have some violet volunteer plants here. I must have tossed them over here last year. I don’t know, I love them though. Their scent and color also remind me of Slovakia. If I could only grow Lilly of the valley and lilac, and dandelions and forsythia… Wrong planting zone I know, but one day….
Zuchinni and squash are doing well too. Well the plants are, not so much of the squashes though. I think they are lazy. They flower beautifully but so far, only a handful of squash. 
So many firsts this year! Cauliflower and broccoli from purchased startsfrom a nursery did great! The seeds I used were a Christmas gift from my younger sister. A non gm pack of many varieties of vegetables. These seeds were the best so far for me. I will certainly use them again. 

I am far from a master gardner, but each year I try and do more than the last. The reward is truly satisfying. I don’t believe I could ever not have a garden. 

After I finish watering the garden, I pick the greens for the rabbits and join Mike in the barn for our evening chores. When we finish, the sun is almost gone and we make our way back to the house. We process the milk, feed the dogs and cats and I make coffee. Our evening is done, sitting on the porch enjoying the evening breeze. 

Sow a seed and you will harvest. Such a simple and true phrase. 

What are you planting in your garden or containers?

Simca

Morning silence…

It’s Sunday, 8am. We just finished our morning chores. 

I love Sunday. 

It’s the only day Mike and I get to sleep in. The rest of the week he works and we get up at 5am for the morning chores. 

We sit on our back porch overlooking the farm. The sun is hidden behind a few clouds and the ever present gentle breeze stirs the sycamore trees surrounding our home. Mr. Rod, the original owner of this property, planted them in purposeful manner, so they cast a shade over the house.  Here in Florida, you need shade!

While we sit here in silence, enjoying our morning,  we relax and sip our hot coffee. Today, would have been hard to get up. I worked in the garden yesterday and cleaned the entire house, did laundry and made dinner. I sat behind the computer researching and learning about essential oils. By the end of the night, I was toast. My sciatica was ragging and I had a pretty intense headache from working in the sun. 

We believe in growing and raising what we eat. Because everything we do is about getting back to basics, we naturally inclined to use as much of nature’s medicine as possible. It’s why we have a farm.

Since, I received my first essential oil kit I asked Mike if he could massage my back. He said of course and so I blended a few drops of doTERRA deep blue with some organic extra virgin olive oil. 

Mike is a former weightlifting representative for Czechoslovakia, he knows massage! Let me tell you, for the first time in a very long time, I got up this morning without pain! The oils and massage together helped me so much, I didn’t have to do my pretzel stretching at all. I was able to clean Elsie’s udders without getting up like a beatup MMA fighter. I can not believe that I am sitting in this chair without shifting all the time to release pressure off of my lower back. 

Needless to say, I am happy!

Of course we have a full day ahead, but that is ok. I feel great!

If there is something out there, to help your ailments, making your life manageable wouldn’t you try it? I wish I did sooner!

Anyone interested in the wonderful healing properties of doTERRA essential oils should let me know! Let’s see how we can help you! 

Disclaimer: Mike is not included with any essential oils! Lol.

Please take a moment and visit my website for more information on the best essential oils out there!

mydoterra.com/simcakraskova

Happy Sunday to all!

Simca

Good morning…

​I love sleep. The warmth of my bed, hugging my body tightly, wrapped in my comforter with ten pillows propping up various parts of my body. Sweet peaceful sleep.

But, I am a farmer and waking early is part of the job description. My husband wakes me every morning with a kiss on my forehead and a sweet “wake up baby”. Then, he lingers in the room, making sure I am awake. He makes his way down to the barn first and I follow about fifteen minutes later. 

I walk to the barn in the dark. The path is worn and the moon lights the way. Our Florida sand glitters and our two catahoulas and four cats lead our little procession to the barn. As much as I love sleep, I enjoy our morning chores as well. I get a good morning hug and another kiss from husband and ask him what else needs tending to. 

My favorite, as of this past week, has been checking on the baby rabbits. They are absolutely the cutest things on our farm right now. 

From there I fill their water, replenish their hay and move on to preparing the water for washing the cows utters before milking. I set down my blanket to sit on and prepare the utter lotion and Mike goes to clean the cow stall and bring the cow. He feeds Teatime and gives her hay as well. While I wait, the cats gather on my sitting blanket and Daisy the catahoula lays down in the middle of the barn walkway, where she waits for Elsie, the cow. Leo, our oldest dog-child, does has rounds around the farm.

I hear the clinking of the gate chain and walk over to the stancion and wait for Elsie. It’s best to stay out of the way, she doesn’t understand what “easy” means haha.  

I give her the spa treatment, while she eagerly munches on her morning hay and then we milk. Tag team from both sides because our inexperience with purchasing cows, got us here. We didn’t know about teet size and proportion and hers are, well small and uneven and she can only be milked by a machine and ours is not as powerful, so we have to hold the cups until proper suction is established. Usually about one minute. 
This is when Lilly, my cat, climbs into my lap. She sits down and kneads at my legs, stomach and anything she can. She meows and walks around me and repeats. Elsie is done, Mike goes to open the gate and I wash her udders again and apply udder cream and release her from the stancion. Daisy waits for Elsie to pass and comes to lap up the milk we squirt out of each teet before milking. She doesn’t share with the cats! That is only her treat!

We gather the milk can and turn off all the light and make our way back to the house. Dogs first, us and followed by all the cats. The sky is beautiful and full of stars. Most mornings there is fog covers the pastures and behind us we hear our roosters crowing away. 

I do love sleep, but such mornings make it worth while. After we process the milk, sanitize the equipment and I make Mike his lunch, I send him off to work, feed the dogs and cats and quietly slip back into my still warm bed. 

At 7:30 I wake to get our daughter ready for school.

Simca

To do lists…

It’s no secret, every farm has has an endless to do list. There is a daily list of chores and then the list of things which need to get done now, some are near future and then there are emergencies, which push everything else down the list.

Some things are simple and require only time and labor. Some, need a little spending and most have you digging deeper into your pocket and work ethic.

Sometimes, you just want to take a nap, because you went to bed late reading a great book and had to wake up few ours later to milk the cow, process the milk, make breakfast and lunch for the husband who has to work a ten hour day so you can eventually, dig deeper to pay for those items on the to do list! Ha, now I feel bad! Nap does sound good though.

I regress, the to do list. Ok, so our current list has this thing called the garden. It moves up and down the list, sometimes gets crossed off and then is back on top. 

One of the awesome things about living and farming, in Florida is the soil. Yeah right!!!

Sand, it’s nothing but sand! The bane of my existence! Sand in the yard, sand in the stalls, sand in my garden and sand in my house! I sweep everyday and by now, could have a beach right next to the drain field. Yup, that is a constant item on the to do list!

So, we have been composting our various types of poopies, created by our most loyal farm workers – the animals! I love them and their poop, well not the chicken poop, that’s gross and it’s everywhere. Did you know dogs love to eat freakin poop?? All of it, any of it, anytime! 

Glorious horse poop. I like this poop, it smells good to me. Don’t judge me man!


With the said poop, we add spent hay and leaves and small twigs, used coffee grounds and when I had lots of milk, before acquiring customers, whey. We do not add vegetable scraps to it, because those go to the pig. 

I was feeding our horse, yesterday evening, and noticed the covered area she uses as her potty, has completely decomposed. I got so excited, I nearly peed my pants! Note to self, don’t run to tell Mike, and God forbid, don’t you dare sneeze! TMI, LOL, SMH!!!

Stupid camera on the stupid phone


So, I checked out the compost pile and it looks awesome as well!


Needless to say, the garden is back on top of the list for this weekend! 

My beds are (cough) not ready, I have been layering used coffee grounds, pine needles, grass cuttings and egg shells. The final two layers will be the composted chicken, horse and rabbit poop and spent hay thingy from the barn. I will, probably buy some soil too, just to add a little more goodness!

I won’t lie, this is sad


The list also includes, the mentioned drain field, smoker, slaughter the pig, weeding and fixing of the garden wall around the pool enclosure and everything else, that happens in between!

And, this just in. As I was sitting on my back porch, drinking coffee and writing this post, I looked up over the pastures and noticed an odd thing. Elsie decided, she wanted to eat the better grass in the off limits pasture, so she gently opened the gate. Now we need a new gate. See what I mean? Tested husband, this will need to be fixed first! Lol, I can’t even. Oh, I need a new phone. The camera on this one is horrible and I am a blogger, dang it! 

Ta-da

So, on with the to do lists, scribble and all that jazz. 

Simca