My go to recipe for quick biscuits and beef (or lamb) sausage gravy.
Baking Powder Biscuits
2 cups flour
1/2 cup softened butter
1 tablespoon sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup milk
Heat oven to 450 degrees. Cut butter into flour, sugar, baking powder and salt with pastry blender (or by hand) until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in milk (don’t add in all at once) until dough leaves sides of bowl (dough will be soft and sticky). Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Knead lightly 10 times. Roll or pat ½ inch thick. Cut with floured 2 ½ inch round cutter. Place on ungreased cookie sheet about 1 inch apart for crusty sides, touching for soft sides. Bake until golden brown for 10-12 minutes. One dozen biscuits. If using self-rising flour, omit baking powder and salt.
Today, i tried my 10.25 inch cast iron skillet (Lodge – made in the USA). Place skillet in oven whilst it is preheating to 450°F. Roll out and cut 7 biscuits and place in skillet. Bake uncovered for 10 minutes.
Though Dallas and i recently returned from 2 weeks stay in Iceland, we did not have opportunity to visit the location where Thorvin Kelp is harvested, dried, and packaged. If i get the opportunity to go back, i will make a better effort to get there. However, it is a 3 hour drive one way from Reykjavik, so we’ll see. Driving is straightforward and fairly easy in Iceland, so it wouldn’t be difficult.
Thorverk hf. is a seaweed drying plant founded founded in 1986 on the remnants of the pioneering Þörungavinnslan at Reykhólar North of Breiðafjörður, Iceland. The abundnat seaweed grounds of Breiðafjörður have been harvested in the area since 1974 to produce geothermally dried algal meal. The geothermal heat comes from local boreholes. Thorverk is able to produce annually several thousand tons of pure, dry seaweed meal. The product has been certified as organic and sustainably harvested for decades..
Seaweed Meal Processing
Thorverk focuses on harvesting two species of seaweed: Ascophyllum nodosum and Laminaria digitata. The A. nodosum is collected between April and October using specially designed harvesting machines. They cut the plants obove the growth point. The harvested grounds are then left for regrowth for at least four years. L. digitata is harvested using a specially equipped coaster in late autumn and winter.
Harvesting schemes are deployed for the seaweed based on decades of experience and in accordance with surveys and consultancy from Icelandic and international marine biology experts.
Once landed, the crop is chopped and dried using a band drier. Clean, dry air is pre-heated to a max. of 85°C using hot geothermal water that is fed through heat exchangers. This gentle drying procedure ensures that all minerals and organic substances are preserved in the raw material. The drying heat also prevents surface oxidation and browning or burning. Its colour is therefore delightfully bright. The use of the geothermal water also means the production process is environmentally benign. The geothermal hot water flows freely from the wells and emits next to nil of CO2.
Tuesday i took another pallet shipment of Thorvin kelp which i offer free choice to my cow/calf herd as well as offer for sale to those who don’t need a pallet at a time. Thorvin Kelp is offered in 50 lb bags at $60 per bag picked up at Powell Seed Farm, Linneus, MO.
Iceland is a beautiful but sparsely populated country with natural resources including geothermal heat just spouting up all over! and the sweetest tasting just-off-the-glacier water in the world. More about our journey in Iceland in future blogs.
There is something wrong with me that leasing and renting properties never seems to work out. Even when there is a contract with goals and procedures laid out life, weather, resources change and stuff just doesn’t happen as plan. But, by and large, my disappointments seem rooted in being too accommodating. Or maybe it’s a lack of communication though for sure i don’t hold back giving my opinions and expectations – to a fault, i’m afraid. Nevertheless, things never turn out quite the way i want.
Currently, i’ve leased 120 acres for organic farming for 4 years. My goals are to eliminate or drastically reduce endophyte infected toxic fescue and build organic matter through the use of cover crops. I knew going in that my renter has no intention of ever letting cattle graze the cover crops, so i can’t be unhappy about that, yet, the more i see happening and the more i read, it is clear that my soil is lacking due to the removal of animal impact.
Our contract was spelled out and ends after next year’s crop (it was a 4 year deal). I had hoped that it would be successful and that then we could move forward with working another piece and removing more fescue, but it doesn’t work.
Here are some bullet points i have:
animal impact is essential to making cover crop and soil improvements financially viable as well as building organic matter and tilth.
in a lease situation, the owner doesn’t have the power to make certain that soil is covered. This past year, the soil did not have anything in it from November until June (except volunteer ragweed growing in the spring) and now that it’s been worked and readied for more soybeans, it still lays open to the sun, wind, and rain with prevented planting. (it’s now October 2019 and covered with weeds again). Cover crops simply don’t get planted even though that was the written goal.
I knew going in that i was incurring some opportunity costs by leasing vs grazing my own cattle on the property. I weighed that against the possibility of getting better control of the toxic fescue and giving my friend an opportunity to expand his organic cropping endeavor. Bottom line, from a purely income/expense perspective, I make more money with grazing vs leasing the property for row cropping.
Lessees do not care for your property as you would. Trees and brush are growing rapidly in fence rows and untilled portions of the land. I still do the labor of keeping them under control and since the crop is organic, i must follow the rules of how to manage. In other words, i can’t chemically treat the plants or stumps if they are within 20 feet of the crop – So they grow and grow. It will be 7 years from the time i cut brush and treated and the time i regain control of my property. A lot gets big and away. More work at the end of the organic regime.
This experiment was worth the pain since i now know that it simply is not the way i would ever do this project again. I’m especially glad I went with the organic approach despite the stumbling blocks since a conventional farmer would have slathered the soil with toxic chemicals year after year and farmed fence row to fence row and through the waterways. My friend is careful to leave ample grass strips in waterways and leaves 20 foot buffer from the fences (organic rules). At the same time this leaves at least 20 acres that is not be utilized for any purpose since he won’t allow grazing at any time.
The weather immediately turned into drought mode for these 3 years and I’m having to downsize my cow herd drastically to accommodate since my acres for grazing is reduced. Incredibly, this has turned to be a blessing since i’ve culled deeply (after this fall, it will have been about 40%!), no cow gets a second chance and i’ve sold a lot of older cows that i would typically try to ‘get one more calf out of.’ This year’s calf crop is the best I’ve ever had. Now if only market prices weren’t in the tank.
If i had my own farming equipment and the desire to run it, i think there is opportunity to improve the soil, increase tilth and organic matter, create better wildlife habitat, create another employment opportunity, and increase profit with combined cropping/grazing especially if a value added food crop market is developed. We actually do have all the equipment, but not the time or energy to develop the plan, work the plan, and market. The equipment mostly sits in the barn and serves as depreciating assets against income.
At the end of the day, we do the best we can and then we die. The hope is to leave a legacy of some sort – be it a physical asset, money, or wisdom. A friend recently sold his rather large farm he had promoted, taught, enjoyed, and improved with holistic, organic practices for all his life yet it sold to conventional farmers who are likely to plough it all under and row crop until it is degraded. That is sad, but life goes on.
At the end of the day, I’m looking forward to bringing the 120 acres back under my management even though i will only graze it once i get it seeded back down. With managed grazing and some brush/tree removal, the pasture will be back hopefully making money for me soon.
On Sunday afternoon, i threw a thawed 4 ish lb sirloin roast into a small electric roaster. I must admit, i use this little roast unrelentingly, yet only paid $5 for the thing! It was at a church fundraising bazaar and that is the price marked on it. I did not like the noisy little fan on the air roaster, so it was simply removed and the holecovered with tape. Done and done.
Day 1: Sliced roast with smashed sweet potato and fresh salad. Not much more to say, very delicious, simple, and filling. Pictured here is one small smashed sweet potato and about 3.5 ounces of beef roast and a ubiquitous power salad.
Day 2 – Beef & Vegetable Soup – was planning something else, but my husband came up croupy and sick with a cold, so switched gears to make a cold buster soup. Mix the broth created when the roast was cooking with the cooking water from the sweet potato preparation for a nutritionally powerful base for adding sliced carrots, diced scrubbed potatoes with skins, finely chopped onion, minced garlic, sliced celery, then salt and pepper to taste. The broth is strong, but i added 2-3 oz of roast chopped into small pieces to this dish. All in all this yielded about 5 cups of deliciousness. Bring to slight boil, then simmer 20 minutes, but longer doesn’t hurt, just mind keeping on the lid so the moisture doesn’t get away. Feel free to add water for a thinner soup.
Day 3: Crumbled roast in Scrambled eggs (Egg Frittata)
This is my go to when i’m short on time for anything – don’t even need meat. Saute a finely chopped small onion in the saved fat drippings from cooking the roast. After a couple minutes, cut or chop fresh spinach into the skillet, stir those around until softened, then add as much crumbled roast as you want, then add eggs. This is one of the recipes where you can add as much or as little as you need to make the meal. Plus, dress it up even more with sliced fresh mushrooms, sliced black olives, shredded cheese. Or exchange the spinach with any leftover greens you have in the frig.
Day 4: Cubed roast beef with smashed potatoes and white sauce, steamed broccoli
Since i used all the broth for the sick day soup, white gravy made with milk will be a great substitute. Onions are for healing, so finely chopped and sauteed in the beef fat before adding flour and milk creates more robust and healthful gravy.
Day 5 – Roast Beef Salad – an old fashioned favourite
To squeeze out another power soup, use the cooking water from potatoes and steamed broccoli – chop onions, carrots, and the stems of the broccoli – add to the water and bring to a boil. Season with salt, pepper, and even parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme to boost flavour if you like. Although i seldom use rosemary or thyme simply because i don’t like them!
So, there’s a small example of roast flexibility, whatever it’s worth!
My son was required in one of his classes at uni to take subscription of the Wall Street Journal. We had taken it for years, but it had gotten so expensive we’d dropped. However, as a student, he could receive it for $50 a year!
Once in a while a fabulous recipe which meets my criteria is published and i nab it and usually tweak it just a bit. Here’s one i found just last week.
The original version is pictured far below, but here’s what i did:
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic
Sauté these in a medium hot skillet with 1 tablespoons butter, then add mushrooms and lettuce until softened – all in all about 6 minutes. Don’t let it burn!
1/2 cup diced mushrooms
1 cup snipped fresh spinach (or 1/4 cup chopped cauliflower leaves, celery, etc)
Add these items to the above skillet until softened
1 lb grass finished ground beef
1/2 cup finely ground bread crumbs (use leftovers from a failed baking experiment)
1 egg yolk from farm fresh eggs (save the white for scrambled eggs in the morning)
1/4 cup ketchup
1 1/2 tablespoons brandy (i discovered that brandy is a substitute for bourbon)
Mix together, by hand, all these ingredients to make the loaf. Pat into a 2 1/2 diameter loaf and place on a lipped baking sheet.
FOR THE GLAZE:
While the meatloaf is cooking, whisk together in a small bowl: