Tag Archive | farm life

Making Your Own Cottonwood Bud Oil

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Spring time in the Rockies!   What a beautiful time of year!   The grass is beginning to grow, the baby calves are being born and it looks like summer is within sight!

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We recently watched a reality show where the people made their year’s supply of a wonderful salve that they claimed to use on everything from sore muscles to diaper rash.   Also known as balm of gilead, the salve contains a bounty of medicinal properties.   It’s made from cottonwood buds whose resin contains “salicin” – which is the same compound that gives aspirin it’s pain relieving, anti-inflammatory benefits.   Using the balm as an external rub will reduce joint pain (as with arthritis and rheumatism) and will ease sore muscles.

Because cottonwood is high in antioxidants, it is useful for healing the skin, including sunburn.   The buds are also antiseptic and can be added to other oils to prevent rancidity and molding.

Since we live on a creek bottom full of cottonwood trees, my interest was piqued.

The best time to harvest the buds is in late winter to early spring – so I grabbed a plastic bucket and headed for the woods.

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I picked these buds in early February – they were just beginning to swell.   You can see the little drop of resin.

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While most recipes called for placing the buds in olive oil, I did find one recipe that used rendered beef fat.   I have LOTS of that – beautiful grassfed beef fat – rendered and frozen in blocks.   It got my vote!

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I placed the frozen fat in my crock pot and put the temperature on low to let it melt.   After removing the buds from the twigs I had gathered, they were chopped quickly in a blender.

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Then, I combined the melted beef fat with the chopped buds in the crock pot – and gently simmered for about 48 hours.   Upon waking on the second morning, our house had a wonderful, aromatic smell!   The resin from the buds had turned the rendered fat a slightly orange-ish hue.

I strained the mixture through cheesecloth, wringing to extract all of the oil.   At this point, the oil is done – but it is runny (like a baby oil consistency).   I wanted to use it more like a salve, so the oil was then warmed with a small amount of candellila wax to “thicken” it.   Use about 1 ounce of wax to 5 ounces of oil.

It was poured into jars and then cooled, sealing with a canning lid.   Store your salve in a cool, dark place.

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A note of caution – I have read that people who are allergic to aspirin may also be allergic to cottonwood bud oil.   Please check with your doctor before using if this is the case.

This lovely salve has been our “go to” for arthritis pain and sore muscle rubs.   It helped a friend who rubbed it on his elbow afflicted with tendonitis, and it calmed an injection site from a tetanus shot.   I think we will be gathering cottonwood buds for years to come!

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Repurposing an Old Wringer Washing Machine

 

These wringer washing machines are old relics – perhaps an eyesore on an old farm. I found this one in a heap of metal and got the idea to turn it into a cool ice-chest! It's on wheels, it has a rubber drain hose to dump the melted ice/water at the end of the day, and it has a lot of space for beverages.

 

The machines were quite heavy, so with my trusty little tractor, I tipped it over and we took the motor out of the underside. The inside of the wash tub itself was aluminum, so I masked it off and prepared to paint.

 

There are lots of great spray paint colors on the market today – I first chose one that had a “pebbly” appearance that I figured would cover up the rust pox marks. Worked like a dream, but it was a brown color and I was not satisfied with the color. So, I followed that with a cranberry color.

We replaced a couple of casters and were good to go! It rolls out on deck for “outside” summer parties, and can stay in the sunroom for “inside” gatherings. I simply roll the washIng machine to the outside door at the end of the party, drop the discharge hose on the ground and drain out the remaining ice water.

Instant Cooler! Most of the washing machines had a cover that came with them – this one had probably been lost years ago. If you have a cover – it'll help to keep your beverages cold!

 

A Great Recipe for Your Cherry Tomatoes

It's October, and our area has already experienced a number of frosty nights. We hurriedly pulled the tomatoes from their vines and have frozen and canned a number of batches. One favorite recipe for our cherry tomatoes follows. It makes a beautiful presentation and is full of all kinds of nummy flavors!

 

Cherry Tomatoes Stuffed with Mozzarella and Basil

This recipe will yield about 36 hors d'oeuvres.

1/2 pound of fresh mozzarella, cut into very tiny diced pieces. Should cut enough to make approximately

1 1/4 cup

3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup of chopped basil leaves

1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated lemon zest

Salt and pepper

20 cherry tomatoes

 

In a medium bowl, stir together the cheese, oil, basil, lemon zest, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Place in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before assembling to let the flavors all come together.

Slice each cherry tomato in half and scoop out the insides with a melon-baller or teaspoon. Sprinkle each half with a dash of salt and place, inverted, on a paper towel to drain for about 15 minutes.

Fill each tomato half with about a teaspoon of the cheese mixture and arrange on a serving tray. We like to finish the plate with a drizzle of balsamic reduction over the tomatoes – not much – just a little bit for a great flavor!

Enjoy!

 

The “Fruits” of our Garden

It was an idea that I had been brewing all year – having a farm-to-table dinner with the bounties of the ranch. Boy, did we have fun!

We invited friends from our neighborhood to join us for the fixings. For two days before the party, we gathered and chopped fresh fruits and vegetables.

 

Our evening started with cherry tomatoes stuffed with mozzarella and basil and a charred corn and avacado dip. Baked potatoes and homemade bread (yup, Mom's recipe from my blog earlier this year) coupled with our grassfed beef smoked to perfection. One neighbor accepted a “throw down” challenge with the beef, and he and Kevin each prepared their prime rib and New York strip roasts with their own secret seasonings and techniques. Fresh corn on the cob was mouthwatering, and the watermelons were ready for the picking. We finished off our evening with apple crisp and strawberry rhubarb crisp. Many enjoyed our homemade wine with the meal.

I'd love to share one of the appetizer recipes – it's a hodge-podge of garden veggies that is light, colorful and healthy!

 

Charred Corn and Avacado Dip

2 ears of corn

2 avacados, diced

2 jalapeños, seeded and diced

1 red onion diced

A handful of cherry tomatoes, chopped

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1 can (or fresh cooked) black beans, drained and rinsed

Juice of 1 lime

Salt and pepper (to taste)

Remove the silks from the corn, soak in water for 10 minutes and then place corn on a hot grill for 10 minutes, rotating several times. Cool and remove the kernels from the cob. (note: I have made this several times when corn on the cob was not in season. I simply cooked the frozen or canned corn on the stove in a pan with a bit of EVOO).

Combine all of the remaining ingredients and refrigerate for one hour before serving.

Enjoy!

 

That Contraption is a Hay Sweep?

It was here when we bought the place, just like many other pieces of equipment. It is big….and it wasn't until this last week that I was told what it even was! But today, it paid it's rent out in the hay field !!

 

We were eating breakfast the other morning and Kevin had his attention in a local farming paper that is published weekly. He grabbed the IPad and started searching for something, then he said – “look at this!”

It was almost the same looking contraption that we have – and it was hooked to a skid steer and picking up hay bales. Looked like about twelve at a time. Kevin's eyes twinkled as I could see the wheels turning in his head! Now, he just needed to figure out how to mount our big contraption to the skid steer and maybe put it to work.

Away he went, and later in the day, I walked down to the shop to see what he had accomplished. He had not only been inventing a hay-bale picker-upper thingy, but he had a wheel off one rake, guides off the swather, and a belt to something laying on the cement. Four pieces of equipment backed up to the shop in a pie-shaped fashion so he could reach them all with the air hoses and power tools. He had so much going on that I wasn't sure how he even knew what he was doing – but anyone that knows him would agree that he had it all in order. It was time to cut hay and he was in high gear.

Well, I had brought us each an ice cold drink, so I proceeded to relax against the equipment and enjoy the end of a very productive day. Glancing around, I noticed that this big hay equipment had a faded name on it….Meyer Hay Sweep. It looked old, so I grabbed my iPhone and googled the name. Come to find out, a gentleman by the name of Alvin Meyer invented the sweep way back in 1956. And to think it had been in use for all these years!

Didn't take him but a few hours and a couple of modifications and our Bale Sweep was out in the field. It will pick up 12 bales of hay by simply tilting the forks down and sliding them on the rail. Kev made many, many trips with it – our first cutting of hay in that field was twice – almost three times – more than last year. He could keep the skid steer at full throttle and slide the bales into place.

The previous owners of our old homestead must have had a little smirk on their faces up in heaven….. as they watched their old bale sweep out in their fields. I can guarantee you, I don't think anyone in our neighborhood has one of these contraptions!

 

 

 

That Contraption is a Hay Sweep?

It was here when we bought the place, just like many other pieces of equipment. It is big….and it wasn't until this last week that I was told what it even was! But today, it paid it's rent out in the hay field !!

 

We were eating breakfast the other morning and Kevin had his attention in a local farming paper that is published weekly. He grabbed the IPad and started searching for something, then he said – “look at this!”

It was almost the same looking contraption that we have – and it was hooked to a skid steer and picking up hay bales. Looked like about twelve at a time. Kevin's eyes twinkled as I could see the wheels turning in his head! Now, he just needed to figure out how to mount our big contraption to the skid steer and maybe put it to work.

Away he went, and later in the day, I walked down to the shop to see what he had accomplished. He had not only been inventing a hay-bale picker-upper thingy, but he had a wheel off one rake, guides off the swather, and a belt to something laying on the cement. Four pieces of equipment backed up to the shop in a pie-shaped fashion so he could reach them all with the air hoses and power tools. He had so much going on that I wasn't sure how he even knew what he was doing – but anyone that knows him would agree that he had it all in order. It was time to cut hay and he was in high gear.

Well, I had brought us each an ice cold drink, so I proceeded to relax against the equipment and enjoy the end of a very productive day. Glancing around, I noticed that this big hay equipment had a faded name on it….Meyer Hay Sweep. It looked old, so I grabbed my iPhone and googled the name. Come to find out, a gentleman by the name of Alvin Meyer invented the sweep way back in 1956. And to think it had been in use for all these years!

Didn't take him but a few hours and a couple of modifications and our Bale Sweep was out in the field. It will pick up 12 bales of hay by simply tilting the forks down and sliding them on the rail. Kev made many, many trips with it – our first cutting of hay in that field was twice – almost three times – more than last year. He could keep the skid steer at full throttle and slide the bales into place.

The previous owners of our old homestead must have had a little smirk on their faces up in heaven….. as they watched their old bale sweep out in their fields. I can guarantee you, I don't think anyone in our neighborhood has one of these contraptions!

 

 

 

The Best Weeding Tools

There's surely no doubt that the market is flooded with weeding products. One trip down the aisle of any hardware store will score dozens of products to apply. Here at our house, we try to avoid the “quick fix” of the chemical and rather go by some simpler approaches.

 

Our farmstead came with lots of implements when we bought it. The smaller ones were hanging on this old shed – seriously, all these things were hanging here on the day we came here.

 

The building appeared to be a blacksmithing/tool shed, and evidently – it was easier to find “just the right part” from the walls than rummaging through a bunch of shelves. There was a forge and a can of coal, there were old leather belts fashioned into tool holders. Old sardine cans hung as trays. Traps, pitchforks, and sand points for a water well. More than not, I had no idea what a lot of the things were – but there are a few that have become my favorites in the garden!


This old hoe looks ancient and I don't know that you would readily find another like it. (Believe me, if you do see a hoe for sale like this – buy it!) It has a slightly angled blade at the bottom of it that you can slide under a weed and slice it right off! Normally in my garden, a whole slurry of baby weeds seem to pop up, all at once, a week or so after putting in the corn, for example . This hoe is fantastic for slicing the top off the invaders without having to work up the soil again and I am able to work a section of the garden plot quickly and efficiently. You can also turn it on end and open a new row to plant your seeds in. Because it is not the typical “V” shape, the trench doesn't get too deep for many of the smaller variety of seeds in your garden.

 

I found this next gem at an auction last week. So much of my gardening is in a raised bed where soil compaction is at a minimum. By designing your raised beds to be narrow enough to reach 1/2 way across them, you will never find yourself standing inside the bed reaching for that carrot! Soil prep is a snap with this hoe!

 

So before you reach for a bottle of weed killer, take a look around for some simple tools that will protect our environment, your health, and your children's health. Not only are the best weeding tools in your hands, they are your hands!