Country Living Series

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Two-day meat pie

It was my turn to host our neighborhood potluck last week. I wanted to make something different, and spent a few days noodling around what it should be. In the end, I decided to make a (beef) meat pie. Not terribly creative, perhaps, but it was tasty.

It took two days to make. The first day, I took two chuck roasts and put them in the Crockpot (sometimes called a slow cooker).

Then I peeled and diced five potatoes...

...which I also added to the Crockpot. I also added about a quarter cup of Worcestershire sauce and nothing else.

I let the meat and potatoes cook slowly all day. Then in the evening, I took out the meat...

...and shredded it. Then I put the meat and potatoes in the fridge overnight.

Mr. Darcy got some of the fatty scraps, which he thought was just a splendid idea.

The next day, I started the pie itself. I chopped up two onions...

...then I added peas, carrots, and garlic. Isn't it wonderful how much of this pie comes from homegrown or home-raised ingredients?

Here's the filling mixture, ready for the pie crust. For spices (in addition to garlic), I added salt, thyme, pepper, sage, and mustard powder.

Making the crust.

I made one large (9x13) and one small (9x9) pie.

As it turned out, thanks to the nasty snowy weather outside, only two families made it to the potluck, so I only cooked the smaller pie (and put the larger one in the freezer for a future potluck). I baked the pie in the wood cookstove's oven.

A nice hearty meat pie -- perfect for nasty snowy weather.

Here's the recipe I used:

Meat pies (1 large, 1 small)

Into the crock pot:
2 chuck roasts
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
5 medium potatoes, diced
Simmer all day, then shred meat and refrigerate overnight
Shredded meat + potatoes
Two jars carrots
1 jar peas
2 chopped onions
½ cup water
To taste: garlic, salt, thyme, pepper, sage, mustard powder
6 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups lard
¾ cup water

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Dozens of new ebooks now available!

For quite a while now, Don and I have been working on creating a whole bunch of new ebooks for our Country Living Series. In keeping with those we published originally, these new low-cost ebooks are designed to cover unique aspects of rural living, livestock care, preparedness, simplicity, frugality, and rural businesses. All ebooks are in pdf format.

We've also "bundled" a number of the individual ebooks together to provide more information on broader topics. (Note that a few of the ebooks are repeated in some of the different bundles because they're applicable to more than one category.) The bundles are available for 25 percent below the combined cost of the individual pieces they contain.

Additionally, readers of Rural Revolution can get a further 10 percent discount on their total orders by using the promo code RURAL on the checkout page.

Finally, we're looking for other blog or website owners who would be interested in pitching our library of country knowledge on their sites, either by mentioning it with a link, or by posting an advertisement. If you have such a site and want to participate, contact Don at He will provide you with a unique site-specific discount code that you can give to your readers so that they can have a 10 percent discount as well. Not only will you be providing your readers with a valuable resource, but for each order we receive that uses your code, you (the site owner) will receive a further 10 percent of the sales price. If you're interested, contact Don ( for further details on payment options and help with designing an ad for your site.

We're very excited about this project and plan to increase the number of books regularly until we become one of the best resources for self-sufficiency on the internet. Thank you to all my loyal readers for your support over these many years.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Valentine's Day snowstorm

For the last few days, we've had cold, clear, sunny weather.

When we took Mr. Darcy for his walks, he could chase sticks and romp around on bare, snow-free ground.

But all that was about to change, in a big way. We had weather moving in.

We're pretty much perpetually battened down this time of year, of course, though we did lay in a bit more firewood for the occasion.

The biggest advantage during snow dumps like this is -- we don't have to go anywhere. We just stay home. What a blessing.

It was fascinating, yesterday afternoon, to watch the clear blue sky gradually get blotted out by incoming clouds.

Below the high cirrus clouds, everything was thickening up on the horizon.

Even the sunset managed to look vaguely ominous, if picturesque.

When we woke up this morning, Valentine's Day, the world was transformed. Here are some before and after photos.







The new calves, Hickory and Ferdinand, don't mind the snow at all.

(It helps they have a nice cozy barn to curl up in.)

We're keeping a sharp eye on the other cows with regards to calving. I believe Polly is next -- it looks like she's starting to bag up -- and since we're expecting about a week of nasty, unsettled weather, I'll pull her into the barn at the first sign. At least with Jerseys, it's easy to predict imminent birth a few days in advance.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Yet another stupid idea from California

In the chaos over the weekend of losing Matilda -- and our heartfelt gratitude for all your words of condolence -- I clean forgot to post my WND column entitled "Yet another stupid idea from California."

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Birth and death

Just as we welcomed two new members of our herd in the last two weeks -- Hickory and Ferdinand -- I'm grieved to report we lost our beloved Matilda today.

We're clueless, absolutely clueless, what happened. This morning, as usual, she and Amy (her adult calf) were in the barn, lying down, chewing their cud. She seemed perfectly healthy. I went and opened the corral gate so the animals could get out. When I came back in the barn, Matilda was on her feet; so I scratched her on the forehead and said something foolish and cutesy to her, as I often do. Then I left to do the rest of the barn chores. That's the last time I saw her.

The weather today was chilly -- a low of 19F this morning -- but bright and sunny and beautiful. Then Don came into the house around noon. His nose was a bit red. "Matilda is dead," he said gently. I stared at him, stunned. "I'm not joking," he went on. "She's dead."

I threw on outdoor clothes and went to see. Sure enough, she was a few yards outside the corral, lying flat on the ground, unbreathing. Don thinks she might have had a heart attack. It didn't look like she had struggled much, but she was indisputably gone. Her unborn calf, of course, is gone too. I couldn't bear to take a photo.

A kind neighbor will be here in about an hour to dig a hole to bury her.

Last October, I put up a post on why Matilda was always my favorite cow. Let that be my tribute to her. It happened so quick, I simply cannot believe she's gone.

Birth and death. Life on a farm. Good-bye, dear Matilda. Thank you for so many fine years.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Dehorning Hickory

If there's one thing we prefer to do with our heifers, it's dehorn them. We've had cows with horns, and believe me, life is much easier without them. We usually don't bother dehorning the steers since they invariably have a date with the freezer when they're about two years old, and our philosophy is: Why waste a perfectly good dehorning on a steer?

But heifers become cows, and cows are generally with us for a long time, so we find it's best if they don't have horns with which they push others (including us) around.

We use dehorning paste. Another thing we learned (the hard way) is dehorning paste has a shelf life. Always look at the expiration date. We needed fresh paste this year, and at the feed store I noticed they had some paste expiring in 2018, and the rest in 2020. Guess which I picked up.

The first thing we needed to do was get Sparky and Hickory inside the barn, where we could separate out the calf into a smaller pen. In the absence of farm hands (i.e. our daughters), Don and I parked the vehicles to form a funnel toward the barn door. It worked.

Then we assembled our dehorning kit: Hair clippers, Vaseline, Popsicle sticks, dehorning paste, duct tape, and a light (it's quite dark in the pen). The hair clippers are to shave away the hair over the horn buds; the Vaseline is to draw a circle around the buds to corral the paste; the Popsicle stick is used to apply the paste and keep it off our hands; and the duct tape is to keep the paste from getting on the mother, either her tongue (from licking at the calf) or her udder (when the calf nurses).

There is a fairly small window of opportunity for using dehorning paste on calves. It's best used when the baby is between three and ten days old, and the little horn buds can be felt under the skin. One time we were going to dehorn a calf, but for the life of us we couldn't feel her horn buds; so rather than risk applying the paste and damaging her skull, we waited a few more days until the buds could be felt.

Here's the light we used to illuminate the pen where we worked. A friend gave us two of these lights. They're very bright -- 500 lumens -- and can be propped up or hung up. Very nice to have.

Both of us had our hands way too full to take photos of the actual dehorning procedure (if you're interested, we have an ebooklet on the process here), but it went fine even with Sparky bellowing at us nonstop right outside the pen. Distressed cows are LOUD.

As soon as Hickory's head was wrapped with duct tape, we released her to her mama, who instantly calmed down.

Many calves understandably fight the duct tape, but this little girl was very calm the whole time it was on.

We left Sparky and Hickory in the barn all day until late afternoon, at which point we separated the calf once more and clipped away the duct tape (this takes about 30 seconds). Then we released both mama and baby back outside.

What I like about dehorning paste is it's both aesthetic and painless (at least, if the calf's behavior is anything to go by). As soon as Hickory was released from the barn, she was galloping and skipping around in typical baby high spirits -- and we can look forward to a cow who will never develop horns.

Since we're keeping little Ferdinand as a bull, we'll also be dehorning him in the next few days as well.