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I’m 8 today, according to Purina

August 1, 2008

If I was a medium breed dog, that is.  Today is my birthday, and I’m doing something that I have done on many birthdays before//i35.tinypic.com/zwggg2.jpg" target="_blank">View Raw Image</a>.  I’m canning.  My dogs are sleeping at my feet, (they are 15 and 49)waiting for a bit of apricot to fly off the cutting board, and it’s raining.  If it wasn’t raining I would be doing something in the hay field.  This rain is welcome though, it means more pasture, and that’s what I want to see.  The garden is getting watered, and the seeds I planted last night are being watered in, so that they will promptly grow.  Nature is always better at watering than me.

No special day planned, as usual.  I was born during the county fair, and spent a good portion of my childhood at the fair after that.  First, as the Child Care project for my sisters, yep, I was a topless model at the tender age of 1.  Then as a fierce competitor for 9 years in 4-H myself.  I miss the fair, our county no longer has a fair, and to be in 4-H we would have to travel too far.  So, something I cherished while I was growing up will not be a part of my daughters life.  We lived and breathed 4-H around here, my Mom was leader, for girl stuff, and she was the leader for the Tractor Club too!  I loved watching my sister sew her projects, and couldn’t wait to be a part of that.  One of us always placed high enough to go to the State Fair.  That trip was always special too, my cousins lived near the State Fair, and had a market garden with a produce stand.  Very interesting stuff to a little market gardener wannabe. 

A visit to the cousins house was always made more interesting because they were such serious canners.  The big old Craftsman farmhouse where they lived had a detached Craftsman canning kitchen.  And, something was always being processed when we were there.  Smells of vinegar, and spices mixed with the heady smell of peaches always come to mind.  It was cool, and inviting in that canning kitchen, and a welcome respite from the boring freeway trip there.  They called their farm SHADY MAPLE FARM because the predominate shade trees in the yard, were maples.  If I win the lottery, I will build myself a canning kitchen just like that one.  It featured a center island, with ample storage and bins beneath.  Miles of counter space lined the walls, with overhead glass door cabinets.  Two sinks, two stoves, stools for helpers and lots of plug-ins.  OMG what am I saying, if I win the lottery, I’ll make my kitchen like that in my house!  Of course, this is my rose-colored version of this kitchen, but as a canner, I think I’m remembering it right.

I have been canning a lot this last two weeks, because while my garden is late, the fruit that I buy to can, has been pretty much on time.  As I sorted through all those cherries, and have been chopping apricots, I have been thinking food is too cheap.  That sentence really doesn’t make sense, but being a farmer and a person who raises a big portion of their own food, I realize I’m guilty of looking for cheap food too.  I’m a product of being raised in the last 51 8 years with cheap food policies.  I don’t want to pay more, because I’m cheap frugal, but really those organic cherries I got for $1.00 a pound should have cost $10.00 a pound.  The cost it takes to get them to the picking and marketing stage is enormous.  That doesn’t even count the time and expense I have in each quart I canned. 

From time to time, we have a meat customer who thinks we charge too much.  Of course, they always complain after they have the meat.  They remember that big steer all fat and sassy, and they look in their boxes of meat and say what happened to it, where did it all go?  I myself being around home butchering, and knowing the insides of cattle quite well, I always think, Wow, that’s a lot of meat!  It never looks like there is any meat on a carcass to me.  Some of these customers have a few acres of grass, they decide they are going to get some steers themselves, by cracky, and they will show us.
Our prices are high, if you want e. coli go to Wal-Mart, or Winco, but if you want to eat steak tartare, come to me, or someone like me. 

The scenario is something like this, They write out a check for $750.00 for their half of beef, which is cut, wrapped to their specification and frozen for convenience.  They grumble about the price.  Their two acres is looking more and more like they need some 4 legged lawn mowers.  Off they go, they are going to get those steers!  Pretty soon, the phone calls or emails start.  Do you have any calves to sell?  NO.  Where can I get some?  They ask about another cattle guy down the road, what do we think?  Well, his cows have pink eye so bad they rub their eyeballs out on his fence posts, but gee I haven’t seen it for myself, that’s just what he has told us… .  Well, what about the auction?  Sure, do you have a stock trailer and a pickup?  No.  Can we borrow yours?  NO. 

 So, it is quiet for a few weeks, and then the calls start again.  Do we need a different fence than the one for our horses?  Our pasture has dried up, should we get hay?  We buy hay for the horses, but we don’t want to do that for these steers, we’re just going to butcher them anyway.  It’s OK to feed the pasture ornament, but not the food.  They still don’t realize they are paying me to watch over that calf for the previous two years, feed him right and keep him safe and healthy.  Every day for two years.  Farmers have a huge investment in money, time and potential anguish if an animal gets sick.  I have invested the last three years in my dream cow, and she is beautiful but unsafe.  It tears out my heart to eat her, but I will, because I have to do the right thing.  We can’t afford to put her down and bury her, and why would I, she’s not sick.  I also don’t want to send her to the auction and risk some poor novice getting her and getting hurt.  And on the other side of the auction coin, it is a terrible place, we’ve had our differences, Jetta and I, but I would rather eat her, than think of her being mishandled for one minute.

So as they finally realize we are working hard for very little pay, do they ever think they should pay more?  No, they just go back to Wal-Mart and buy steaks one package at a time, and never look back.

So what is the answer?  Joel Salatin says you want your customers to be 10’s.  The 1’s are too hard to convince and are just looking for a good deal, the 6-9 bunch is pretty good.  We have had some of all tiers.  Our 10’s have become friends to us and the farm, and really in my book they are really 15’s.   I don’t worry about the 1’s anymore.   

But, I hate it when I’m a 1.  But I still want that deal.  If I spend less on food I can keep buying inexpensive books at Abebooks, or when the Fiesta is on sale at Macy’s I can get one more piece to add the heap.  I justify my frivolous purchases just as good as the WalMart shopper.

By growing as much of our food as I can, I realize I just can’t put a dollar figure on all the work it takes to get it to our mouths.  We have dear friends with a berry farm, the picture in the post about our anniversary showing the rubber tired wagon is at their farm.  We used to go there and give wagon rides for them when they hosted the John Deere club.  They are total conventional farmers, and they believe if they take berries to the cannery, and pick up a 5 gallon bucket of someone elses berries on the way out, they have saved themselves some work.   There is no difference to them.  But to me there is.  I picked 16 lbs of shell peas the other day.  My daughter shelled them and we weighed them again, 4 3/4 lbs.  Blanched and ready for the freezer, it ended up being 6 1/2 pints.  That is just 6 meals in the winter with peas.  Believe me, when I say we guard those.  I love peas, I could eat a pint for a snack.  But, I don’t because when I think of all time we have into those 6 little jars, it makes me reserve them for something special.  Like oh darn, Daddy’s going to wagon class again, lets have peas.  He doesn’t like them, and then we can have them to ourselves.  And, because my daughter has kept those pea rows weeded, and now she has shelled the first batch, she guards them too.  So I guess one pea pod at a time I want to make her into a 10, because it is no fun being a 1.

 

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Ready for the freezer.  I use my old rings and lids for these.

I was going to give my top frugal canning tips in this post, and I got all ranty and rambly again and it didn’t seem like it fit too good.  I promise I’ll work on it tonight after I open my presents!  Usually, I guess my presents and ruin everybody’s day, but they are getting sneaky and I’m not sure what I’m getting…

17 Comments leave one →
  1. August 1, 2008 4:18 pm

    Oh, happy, happy eighth birthday! You sound like my husband; he always guesses his presents, too. Hope you have a wonderful evening.

    I loved the fair as a kid, and still enjoy it today. Even though we lived in town, I still participated in 4-H. My group was the “Happy Homemakers”. I learned to knit so I could enter a scarf and hat in the county fair. My sister did baking. Every year we make the journey to Salem for the State Fair. We spend a significant amount of time in the buildings looking at all the home and garden exhibits, as well as in the barns looking at the animals. We make a big deal out of it, even spending the night sometimes. My hubby was a judge at the photography exhibit a couple years ago, and used to enter the photography competition before life with 3 kids took over. He won several awards.

    Last year, I was blown away by many of the exhibits. The zucchini breads looked particularly good, as did the pies. I noticed many breads were from a bread machine; I think they even have a catagory for that now. The quilts were spectacular, and the cake decorating blew me away. My son (as well as his sisters) thinks we should be able to sample the food submitted. That kid is always hungry!

    I’m learning as much as I can as quickly as I can in hopes that my kids can learn some of these skills and submit an entry before their youth is over. Every year I check out 4-H groups, and the nearest one that they could actually participate in is about 50 miles from my house. That’s not going to work. There are a couple closer, but they are focus on things that my kids couldn’t participate in. Oops, I’m really rambling now. I’ll stop.

    Best wishes for a fantastic birthday! It’s a special occasion … enjoy some peas!

  2. August 1, 2008 4:33 pm

    I’m going to stop reading for a second and comment!

    First,

    ********HAPPY (8th) BIRTHDAY!!!!********

    Ok, now the part where I am in disbelief. $750 for half a side of beef. Are you joking???

    Around here, 1/2 is at least $1200. If I want something besides a used up dairy cow or a holstien steer, it is much, much more. Those people have NO idea what a bargain they are getting (and they know the farmer, man!)

    Ok, end rant. I am going to finish reading and may have more to say…

  3. August 1, 2008 4:48 pm

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY !!!!!!!! Mine was the 19th of July, 41 years young. I hope they find you a bunch of old dusty canning jars for your birthday. Got a feeling you would love that. Those jars you have canned look great.

    Chris

  4. August 1, 2008 6:14 pm

    Happy Birthday!!! I am fairly new to the canning life so I love reading about what you can and your experiences. I hate to admit this but I had no clue that you were not suppose to reuse the covers until reading about it on a blog.

    As for the cost of meat. People whom do not raise their own have NO idea how labor intensive that it is. I never realized how much work/time they consume until doing it. I have yet to raise cows but I see them in our future, maybe next summer.

    Last thing, I love that green bowl your peas are in!

    Eat lots of cake! Kim

  5. Marcia in Wyoming permalink
    August 1, 2008 8:02 pm

    My dad was a County Agent for our area so I was raised 4-H. My boys – both grown now with their own families – had just about every project possible – market steers, pigs, lambs, breeding sheep, milk cow, chickens, leathercraft, gardening and cooking – at one time we had over 100 things entered in the county fair and 23 of them had to be fed and watered – and one of them had to be milked twice a day! Also a comment on the price of beef – we live in the MIDDLE of beef country Wyoming – and the going price for a half of beef – cut & wrapped – is about $800.00 – your prices are very reasonable. HAPPY BIRTHDAY! – Marcia

  6. August 1, 2008 10:21 pm

    Paula, I love the State Fair, we haven’t been for a while. My girlfriend and I still entered in the open class until a few years ago, and one of us had to go to see if we placed or not. I could look at the exhibits for days, there is so much to see, and admire. It always brings back memories of staying there for a week in the 4-H dorms and how much fun we had. The smell of barkdust and petunias always reminds me of fair time.

    Congrats to your hubby for winning the photography contests. That’s great, now I can say I “know” someone who took those beautiful photos on display.

    You can exhibit in 4-H as an individual, if a club is not close enough. The problem for us would be going to the fair which is so far away. There are clubs here nearby, but we don’t have the aluminum stock trailer and 50K pickup to go with it. I would feel like I was throwing my kid in with the sharks. Her horse isn’t registered and she prefers trail riding to pen work. Different than when I was a kid, and people shared a trailer, and it took several days to get everything to the fair. But, times change. To her, these are just more stories. I try not to tell them too much, for fear of sounding like the Fir Tree, talking to the rats in the larder! But, even though it is total crap I even miss the fair food!

    Paula, I don’t know if you sew or not, but if you are just learning, look for older patterns and sewing instructions, maybe from the 50’s. There is so much that is left out now in the newer instructions. Once you learn the basics, you can do anything. Now every thing is so dumbed down, that if you don’t have a serger, you feel helpless. Sewing in 4-H and the Grange contests, with an actual critique and progressively harder projects taught me so much. Some of the pattern instruction sheets read as if a ESL student wrote them. Very confusing. There is nothing more exciting than a nice piece of hand made clothing, with flat felled seams and a personal touch here and there. Especially in our cookie cutter world.

    Gina, I have to say, to tell the story truthfully, I had to state the price from that time. That was 4 years ago, our prices have went up considerably, more in line with your area now. They never did get any calves, but they still are complainers.
    Some people just have that in their nature.

    Chris, Happy Birthday yourself, do you call yourself a Leo or Cancer?

    He brought me some jars from the Jar Nazi on Wednesday and the top secret gift I couldn’t guess was a 1917 Dazey Butter Churn. He can read me like a comic book!

    What are you canning now?

    Kim, there is a lot to learn about canning. But, you’ll be an old hand by summers end. Your garden looks great!

    Yeah it is amazing how much time you can spend tending your own food isn’t it. Your chickens look like they turned out really nice. They will taste good this winter.

    The funny thing about that bowl, it is about the only piece of my Mom’s Fiestaware that I have. It is worn, but loved.

    Marcia, I know what you mean, June around here was very hectic. With my Mom being the leader, she had to make sure everyone’s project was getting done on time and was up to snuff. Did you go to the Summer School in High School? Ours was held at the Ag college and it was a blast, I still have friends from that time, that came from other counties. 4-H was so important, with the Style Revue and public speaking and demonstrating. It was much easier for me to do speech in front of strangers, than it was in a classroom at school. I loved every year, and was sad when I was too old. At that time my sister and I co-led a club for sewing and knitting. It was starting to change though, parents weren’t as interested, and we had to buy a lot of supplies for our members. After a while the parents didn’t even want to take the kids to the fair to see how they placed, so we gradually just gave up too.

    On the beef price, that story is old, so I stated the price from that time, we are higher now. So, Wyoming has the good price – that is cheap. I just read a news article about hay prices tonight, and people are reserving the ’09 harvest already. Thanks for stopping by.

  7. August 2, 2008 7:25 am

    Happy Birthday!

    Thanks for all the great posts. I have no idea where you find the time to write so much and post so many amazing photos.

    The cost of production for small farms is a topic that seems to come up constantly. Mechanization in production and processing, and low labor prices in far away places reduce the prices so much that people don’t understand what it really takes. There are so many differed costs is those systems and so many benefits to local production, that I wish it were easier to explain to people.

    I’ve committed to being a 10 myself, not that it always works out that way, but on the low income of a small scale producer it definitely reduces conspicuous consumption. I remember hearing that in Philadelphia (where I grew up), historically the quakers were known for fair prices because they wouldn’t bargain, they set their price where they felt it should be, no higher, they only sold quality products, and they wouldn’t bargain. It would be so much easier if everyone operated that way.

  8. August 2, 2008 7:56 am

    Holy Cow! I am 8 too, although my birthday was the 4th of July.
    I love posts like this one! You have a way of putting what many of us feel into cogent and coherent words. We also treasure the little hard one dollops of this food or that that just don’t lend themselves to bulk preservation.
    And the beef thing. From hunting for and finding good meat processors, who promptly go out of business to being rooked by bad ones and ruining a couple years of hard work…not to mention defiling an animal that we cared for. It can be very frustrating.

  9. August 2, 2008 9:34 am

    Happy birthday! Eight is better than fifty something at least. The jam looks great.

    You bought cherries for $1.00 a pound??? It would be worth the trip down to get some. The cheapest pesticided (is that a word?) ones up here have been $2.50.

  10. Ingrid permalink
    August 2, 2008 9:44 am

    Happy Birthday! I hope you had a great day, and have a wonderful year!

    Thank you for sharing so openly in your blog, I read every word and treasure your photos. You have given me a lot of insight into many things I never used to think about. I’ll be seven and a half in a couple weeks ( I like your Purina math – I’m borrowing it for myself! ) and I suddenly am learning and discovering new things and ideas like a child! Sometimes I feel like I am just growing up- or waking up? – in my 50’s!

    I hope you had that extra 1/2 pint of peas to celebrate your special day! They look so good!

    Best wishes,
    Ingrid

  11. August 2, 2008 2:30 pm

    Sorry to hear that the problems with Jetta are continuing. What a heart breaker!

    I admit I do shop price, but only within the quality group I’m looking at. And I NEVER, EVER complain. It may impact what I decide I can afford, but never do I think I’m overcharged. All the meat/poultry I serve at home is pastured and bought direct.

    Recently I listened to a friend joke about remembering when people ATE RAW BEEF?!!! as if that were the stupidest thing in the world… I bit back my protests. She knows where I get my meat and why. It’s become an emotional thing and the trigger points are manipulated so the user is at fault rather than the way it was raised/cared for/butchered.

  12. August 2, 2008 2:31 pm

    ooops… I meant to wish you a happy belated birthday but was so full of thinking about Jetta and stupid people that I got distracted.

    Hope it was everything you wanted it to be.

  13. tansy permalink
    August 2, 2008 8:02 pm

    happy birthday!

    i can relate to the cheap people, we’ve ha those issues over eggs. i just tack it up to people being distanced from the food source. sad that your example didn’t learn a lesson from their experiment.

    the butter churn sounds sweet. i got one for my bday this year too.

  14. tansy permalink
    August 2, 2008 8:02 pm

    btw, what keeps your apricots so orange? care to share your recipe?

  15. August 3, 2008 7:37 am

    Thanks to all that wished me a H BD, it was a good one. I’m having a cake hangover though. Blick! Sugar is not our friend.
    Now of course, I can’t find that Purina link with the different dog years, but we always used to use the average rule of 7 dog years for 1 human year, but this chart seemed a little more accurate. My one year old pup is not 7, he’s 15 and acting exactly like a 15 year old human! I long for his days of playing and then napping for hours.

    Josh, thanks, and this won’t help you, but channeling my PMS issues into something productive and lots of coffee, help me write those lengthy posts. I used to just get frustrated, now I realize I can just get busy and get something done. Plus, my cow is dry now, so that gives a couple of hours a day, and Squid takes quite a few of the photos, I can just look through the album on the computer and see what transpired through her eyes.

    It is hard to be a 10 all the time, we’re always struggling. Wanting and needing something are too very different things. Having low cash flow helps the decision quite a bit. Shopping is national past time. I don’t see how people afford it.

    Explaining the true cost of production is hard, people look at those cheap onions in the store, and then the organic ones priced beyond their belief, and they have no idea what is involved in keeping a onion planting weed free. One guy on a large tractor can cover a lot of acres with herbicides quickly, compared to hand weeding alliums. All the cabbages grown around here are coddled and sprayed and I think they hoe them once, and their not even sure of their market from one day to the next. The equipment is huge, and personally I don’t see how they make any money, with the fuel and chemical costs they must have. But, every year, they plant more cabbage… too much rambling.

    I like the Quaker method, quality should demand a decent price, for the producer and the customer.

    TC, I always liked having my birthday in the summer. Too much razzing and teasing at school otherwise.

    I like the snap peas myself, but no one else does. But they would certainly be easier. Those small dabs of food do add up eventually, but some never make it to the house. I never can find enough black caps to freeze, and maybe it’s because I enjoy just eating them so much when I find them, I shouldn’t be trying to preserve them in any way.

    Meat processing is another one of those lost skills, good people and facilities are hard to find, most of the smaller ones around here have been regulated out of business. Sad state of affairs.

    Linda, I wouldn’t mind being 8 again… . But 51 isn’t bad either, I have always kept waiting for it to get as bad as everyone says it will, first you’re gonna die at 30, or 40, or now 50. I don’t feel any older than I did when I was 12, I think it’s a state of mind. We are active and busy and I think that helps. DH always said he wanted to die young and leave a good looking corpse, but now we have both realized it’s too late for that. 😉

    Ingrid, thanks so much for the kind wishes. There are a lot of interesting things going on out there right now, as long as you stay out of the main stream. Soon you’ll have your neighbors following suit. 🙂 Thanks again.

    Hayden, thanks and don’t worry about Jetta, I’ve come to terms with the reality of the situation, and it’s OK.

    There are all kinds of people out there and there will always be complainers. That type of thing is what scares some farmers away from direct marketing I think. At stores, the producer is just some faceless “machine” somewhere and everyone has been trained “that the customer is always right”
    But, sometimes they aren’t and it is hard when you are trying to sell your production to turn away people. But, you have to do it, and let a 10 step into their place.

    You sound like a 10 to me.

    Tansy, thanks, yeah its sad, but at least with direct marketing you can get the last word of sorts. We cull our list regularly, and we aren’t short of customers.

    Churns make good presents, don’t they?

    Aren’t apricots always that orange? I went and looked at my last jar of last year’s jam, and it was the same color. Maybe because I leave it overnight before I cook it? Oxidation?

    I’ll have to make up a recipe now! But, I’ll post it soon.

  16. August 4, 2008 11:44 pm

    I notice that you freeze in your canning bottles? is this safe, how much space do you live what can be frozen in them?

    I love this idea as I hate plastic storage containers.

  17. August 5, 2008 5:46 am

    Celeste, the Ball Blue Book has instructions in the freezing section on head space requirements etc. I use wide mouth tapered can/or freeze jars for vegetables, and if I am freezing liquids, in larger larger narrow mouth jars, I fill the jars 3/4 of the way full. Some item expand more than others, depending on their water content. For instance butter and lard do not expand at all, I can fill those jars completely, the water fraction of milk is quite large, so it expands enough to break the jar if I fill it.
    Thanks for stopping by.

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