The Farm Barbie

Make & Can Your Own Pizza Sauce

Candi JohnsIf you are like me, you have a couple of bushels of tomatoes in the garage waiting to become something. This sauce is a perfect way to use them up. The best part — no blanching, no peeling.

I don't want my pizza sauce to be spaghetti sauce. It is not chunky, lumpy, or full of green peppers and odd stuff.

Making pizza sauce

Pizza sauce is simple, smooth, spreadable, and not complicated. This pizza sauce is simple, and you're sure to love it.


• tomatoes
• onions & garlic
• olive oil
• fresh basil
• salt
• lemon juice (for cans)

It doesn't take a lot of fancy ingredients to make fabulous pizza sauce. I grow pretty much everything I eat, so this sauce is no exception. Almost everything in these jars came from my garden. Which brings me endless joy.

Homemade pizza

Homemade Pizza: handmade crust from fresh flour, fresh pizza sauce from the garden ... This will not last long!

I have made two batches of sauce this summer, and we are quickly inhaling the first batch. If I don't want to run out by next summer's harvest, I'm gonna need to keep making this.

Perfect, Simple, Homemade Pizza Sauce

First, let's prep the tomatoes.

The great thing about pizza sauce is that peeling your tomatoes is completely optional. I peeled my first batch. I left the peels on the tomatoes when I made my second batch. Guess what? I can't tell a difference. If anything, the batch with the peels is more appealing because it's more of a red color than orange. The taste is the same.

The reason peels don't matter in pizza sauce is because everything is going to get blasted with an immersion wand. I emulsify this into nothing but a thick, red-orange sauce. You will never know there was a peel in the pot.

Making pizza sauce

Begin by washing and removing the cores from the tomatoes.

Next, quarter your tomatoes & squeeze out most of the seeds and juice.

You really don't want to skip this step. If you make your pizza sauce with all that juice, then you will have some seriously watery sauce ... or you will have to cook your sauce for 6 hours to get rid of all the juice .. or you will have to add a can (or 10) of tomato paste to get it to be sauce.

You could use a food mill. If you are like me and do not have a food mill, you can just shove all the seeds out with your thumbs and toss the tomato meat/flesh into your giant sauce pot. No need to get EVERY seed out, but try to get most of them (they will make your sauce bitter). We're going to puree this with the wand, so the seeds will be turned to paste like everything else.

Go here to see how I can the juice.

Now, we have a giant pot of clean, quartered, de-juiced tomatoes.

Making pizza sauce

Wash your hands and dive in. Squish all the 'maters into mush. When all the big hunks are squashed into goop, move the sauce pot to the stove top and turn the heat to medium.

Go grab a cutting board — we need to chop the garlic and onions.

Making pizza sauce

Chop your garlic and onions and saute them in a hot skillet with the olive oil. Once the onions are clear, dump it all into the pot of tomatoes.

Add the three tablespoons of salt and bring it back to a simmer.

Making pizza sauce

This is the time to get out your immersion wand and go to work. Blend the contents until you have ... sauce. There will no longer be hunks of tomato, bits of onion, or pieces of garlic. It will be a wonderful, full-flavored sauce.

Now we add the basil!

We blended everything before adding the basil on purpose.

You do not want to blend the basil with an immersion wand, or anything else for that matter, or you will have green pizza sauce. It would taste the same but look like it died last year. To avoid green sauce, add the basil AFTER you blend everything else up.

Making pizza sauce

Wash fresh basil, remove stems, and chop into bits. Shove as many of the basil bits as you can possible get into a 1/2 measuring cup. You want lots of basil — it's wonderful. Toss the chopped basil into the sauce and continue to simmer.

Making pizza sauce

The sauce will have a red-orange color with pieces of fresh basil floating around and making everything fabulous. Taste your sauce; add more salt if needed. Cook until desired thickness (if you removed most of the juice, it won't take long).

Add one tablespoon bottled lemon juice to each pint jar. Ladle hot sauce into hot jars. Leave 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe rims clean and adjust two-piece lids. Process in boiling water bath for 35 minutes. Begin timing after water boils.

For a step-by-step guide on hot water bath canning go here.

Making pizza sauce

Now we just need to make some pizza crust, and we'll have dinner!

Homemade pizza for dinner (or lunch) is always a hit.

To get weekly updates, tips and recipes subscribe via email (here), or on Facebook (here), or on Twitter (here) or on Instagram (here).

Happy Canning!

Homemade Yeast Rolls

Candi JohnsBasic Yeast Dough - Slightly Sweet, Homemade, Easy

If you have always wanted to get started into bread-making, this is for you.

This is a detailed post that will walk you through all the "hows" as well as the "whys" that are often wondered when someone dives into the world of fresh-made dough.

You don't even need a bread machine! These will bake lovely in your oven.

This may be the most versatile, most-used recipe in my home. It is very basic yeast bread dough, with a bit of sweetness that can be used to make all sorts of baked goods.

Yeast bread

What I make with this dough:

• Buns — regular buns, hot dog buns, slider buns
• Pita bread
• Pizza crust
• Flour tortillas
• Pan-fried doughnuts (goodness gracious glory and beyond amazing)

All of these magnificent delicacies come from this one simple dough.

You may have noticed that "loaf bread" is not on this list. This particular dough isn't built for loaf pans. If you want to make the most glorious, soft loaves of bread in your kitchen, go here. Today I want to introduce you to the recipe and let you get your hands dirty!

Making homemade yeast breads is an art. I believe it is more of a skill or craft than it is a recipe.

I make all my yeast breads with freshly ground flour. It is so healthy and easy to do. Go here to learn four reasons to grind you own flour. Go here to see which mill I use and how to use it.

I only use fresh milled flour for this recipe. I have no idea what the end result would be if you used store-bought wheat flour. I would think it would be similar, but that stuff's not good for me so I'm not eating it.

Here's the recipe:

Slightly Sweet Bread Dough

• 1 cup very warm water
• 1/4 cup honey (real maple syrup works too)
• 1/2 cup butter (melted and warm)
• 1 cup very warm milk
• 1-1/2 tablespoon quick rise, active, dry yeast
• 2 eggs
• 2 teaspoon salt
• Around 6-7 cups fresh milled flour (add flour until dough begins to "clean" the sides of the mixing bowl)

Now, you can't just grab your bowl and start adding ingredients. Homemade yeast breads require order and process.

Things to know about yeast breads:

• Salt kills yeast — but there is salt and yeast in this recipe ... tricky.
• If your liquids are cold, your yeast won't activate.
• If your liquids are too hot, your yeast will die.
• If your liquids are very warm, your yeast will activate become foamy, bubbly, and make you a light, soft bread.
• If you add too much flour, your dough will be hard and your bread will be tough.
• If you add the right amount of flour, your dough will be sticky and your bread light and fluffy.

See, I told you yeast breads are crafts.

Don't fret — I've been making this stuff for years and years. You can do it too.

Another tricky thing about homemade yeast breads:

There is no "correct measurement" for the flour in this recipe. That's why the recipe says "around 6 cups of flour." It is going to be different nearly every time you make it.

Many factors will effect what is the "right" amount of flour to add to your bread dough. Some include: humidity, sea level, time of year and temperature in your home. The amount of flour I use for this recipe varies depending on the time of year. Sorry. You can't just add the same amount of flour every time and get the same result. You're gonna need to watch your dough, look at the sides of the mixing bowl, and know when it is done.

You can do this!

Let's start at the beginning. So you don't get overwhelmed, here's a quick overview of what we are going to do:

1. Put warm wet ingredients into mixer with yeast and let the yeast activate.
2. Add eggs, flour and salt.
3. Knead for 5 minutes.
4. Let rest.
5. Shape into buns and bake!

First, grab your mixer and insert the dough hook. You can use a Kitchen Aid if you have the big one. Don't ask me which one that is; I just know that some Kitchen Aids can handle bread dough and others can’t. The mixer I use is this one. It is amazing. It can knead and handle enough dough to make over 10 loaves of bread at once!

You want the water, honey, butter, and milk to all be very warm when they go into the mixer. This will do 2 things:

1. Encourage the yeast to activate.

2. Create a "warm" dough. The dough will stay warm throughout the kneading/rising/punching/working. Warm dough rises better and faster. Warm dough is easier to work with. Warm dough will lift and give you soft bread products.

Add the (very warm) water, honey, melted (warm) butter, (very warm) milk and yeast to the mixer. Turn the mixer on for a few seconds, just to mix everything. Cover and let this sit for 10-15 minutes so your yeast can activate.

Bread dough 

If you are grinding your own flour, this is the time to do it! While the yeast is doing its thing, go grab some wheat berries and dump them in the hopper of the mill. Turn the mill on to the finest setting (I want powdery flour, not gritty) and grind up the flour.

If you are using flour from a supermarket, you get to skip the milling.

At this point, the yeast should be done activating.

First, I'm gonna mix in the eggs. Drop them into the mixing bowl and give it a spin.

Then it's time to begin adding the flour. Add half the flour (3 cups), mix for a few seconds, and then add your salt. This will prevent your salt from killing your newly activated yeast.

Bread dough 

Now that the salt is in, let's add the rest of the flour.

Bread dough

Add one cup at a time, mixing after each cup so you can see the consistency of your dough. When you get close to the 6 cup mark, begin to pay attention to the sides of your mixing bowl. Sprinkle in the flour slowly and watch what is happening to the dough. I leave my mixer running on low as I sprinkle in flour.

When is the dough "right?"

Here is what you want to see in your mixing bowl:

• It is perfect when the dough begins to "clean the sides" or "pull away" from the sides of the mixing bowl as it's kneaded.
• You want the dough to be sticky to the touch, but not stuck to the sides of the bowl.
• When the mixer is turned off, you want the dough to relax back into the bowl.
• You do not want your dough to be hard or firm (hard dough makes very dense, tough bread)

The beautiful thing about electric mixers kneading dough for you is that they don't care how sticky the dough is. Mixers can knead the stickiest dough. The stickier the dough, the softer your bread will be.

The goal is to leave the dough as sticky as possible (so the bread will be soft) but not too gooey (or you won't be able to form any loaves/pitas/etc). It's a delicate balance.

Once the dough is the right consistency, set your mixer on medium and let it knead your dough for 5 minutes.

Bread maker

Alright - we've got it. Now, remove the dough hook and cover the bowl with a towel so it can rest. I don't let this rise until it doubles in size. I just let it rest for 10-15 minutes.

Thoughts on rising:

Some people let their dough rise until it doubles, punch it down, knead it again, and then mold it into buns or shove it into a loaf pan and then let it rise again.

Two rises:
• The first in the mixing bowl cover by a towel.
• The second rise happens on or in a pan before baking (covered by thin towel or plastic wrap).

This is absolutely fine and your bread will be fabulous. But you don't have to let it rise twice. If you don't feel like doing two rises, you don't have to. You can finish mixing your dough, shape it into buns, let the buns rise on the pan, and bake them.

Why do people let their bread rise twice if it's not necessary?

Flavor. I think two rises allows the yeast to further develop and spread, and the result is a more flavorful bread. But I think the bread tastes great with one rise. I don't like extremely yeasty bread.

After the 15-minute res,t it's time to get our hands into that dough. If you have children, they will all love this. It's like Play-Doh.

You can make so many baked goods with this recipe, but today I'm going to make slider buns.

Rising bread

First we need to "punch down" the dough so we can shape it and let it rise in our pan.

Bread dough

Work your way around the dough and punch it all down with your fist.

Now we can shape some buns. For hamburger buns you want your dough to be ball shaped. For hot dog buns, just shape them into an oval.

Bread dough

You want to stretch the dough around itself and pinch it off at the bottom, creating a nice smooth top. Be careful not to stretch your dough too far, if you over-stretch it, the yeast will tear.

Now, do that 30 more times!

Cover the cute dough balls in some plastic wrap and allow to rise until they double in size. I use plastic instead of a towel at this point for 2 reasons:

• I can see the dough through the plastic
• The plastic is lighter and won't squash my buns.

It should take 20-30 minutes (depending on the temperature in your kitchen) for your buns to double in size.

When they have doubled, remove the plastic and place in a 340 degree oven. Bake 30 minutes.

For best results, bake all your dough today. You can cover it and put it in a refrigerator for use later, but beware, the yeast will continue to grow and multiply. The longer this dough hangs around without being baked, the "yeastier" it will get. I don't like super yeasty breads, so I bake all my dough the day I make it.

If you don't want to bake all of your dough, and you like yeast, you can put any remaining dough into a large, airtight container and store in the refrigerator to use later.

Here are some other great baked goods you can make with this dough today. Just click on the link to go to the recipe:

Homemade Pizza Crust
Pan Fried Doughnuts

To get weekly updates, tips and recipes subscribe via email (here),or on Facebook (here), or on Twitter (here) or on Instagram (here).

Happy Baking!

My Cow Just Calved! Now What?

Candi JohnsIt is an exciting time when you welcome your first calf to your homestead or farm. It can also be confusing and stressful. Here are some things you can expect and how we handle them around here.

Please contact your vet if your cow needs medical attention. I am not a vet and not qualified to diagnose or treat any medical issues. This article is intended for informational purposes only. These are some generalizations as to what you may be able to expect the first week after your cow calves. Your particular case may require a professional — please don't hesitate to call the vet.


By far, the most asked questions on my blog come from folks dealing with a cow who just had a calf ... also know as "became fresh" ... also know as just gave birth.

The first week is a tricky one filled with shock, surprises and sometimes panic.

I have been through this whole "first week" thing several times with several cows and no longer panic at the sight of an udder about to burst open. Or the fact that my hands, and even the electric milk pump, are powerless against the explosive characteristics of a newly enlightened udder.

If you're in the throws of your first week, here's a few things we have come to expect, and how we have managed to muddle through.

First things First

Congratulations! If you have a healthy heifer or bull-calf on the ground, it's time to celebrate. We are so blessed to experience this birth of new life on our homesteads. It is an amazing and wonderful thing.

• The first few minutes after our cows give birth, it's perfectly normal for them to just lay there. Don't panic if they need some time to catch their breath before attending to the new, slimy puppy on the ground.

• Once she's up, Mama should begin licking and nudging on her new little bundle of joy. We have had to smear molasses on a calf to get one of our mamas to get with the program and start loving her new baby (he was adopted); however, if the mom gave birth to the calf, it should all happen naturally. Most websites will tell you that you want the new calf up and nursing in the first hour. Our vet is a bit more relaxed and likes to see them nursing in a few hours. We have had calves who only had meals when no one was around. This can be stressful because you never see the calf on the udder. We have a trick we use to see if our calves are eating. We smear a bit of molasses on mama's teats. Pure molasses is dark, dark brown. When the calf suckles he cleans those teats. I can come out to the field & if mama's teats are clean - I know the calf is eating. If you need to tie up mama and help the little guy or gal out, do so, just be careful.

• It shouldn't take long for the calf to stand up, and fall down, and stand up, and fall down, and finally stand up and stay up. Hang on, he's getting there.

• Once the calf is up, it should wobble it's way to the udder. Ours usually land around the brisket for a bit in search of food, but eventually make it to the south side of the cow where the goods are.

• Afterbirth buffet. If you want to throw up — watch your cow eat her afterbirth. DH almost lost his dinner at the sight of it. There are all sorts of good things in that glob of squid that just came out the back of the cow. Don't remove it from her field. Don't take it from her. Don't yank it out of her mouth. She needs to eat it. Gag.

FYI, there are situations where you may not want your cow to eat the afterbirth:

1. If your cow had a miscarriage.

2. If she was sick.

3. Or there is a reason to believe there could be some infection or problem in the afterbirth.

Some folks have differing opinions on the afterbirth-buffet, so talk to your vet to see what he/she recommends ... ours is all for letting the cows partake in the glob.

If your cow needs to abstain from eating her afterbirth for whatever reason, bag the squid and get it far away from the field. It's probably best to just throw it in the trash. If you toss it in the woods, it could bring in coyotes (or something else). Coyotes have been known to kill and eat calves. I don't want to draw any critters near my new baby cow, so in the trash it goes.

Whew! Now the excitement is past. The calf is on the ground. The baby girl (or boy) learned how to stand, walk, and bounce. The calf has found the promised land — the udder — and is slurping like a champ. The mama and baby are doing fine.

Cow and calf

Before you start making butter and cheese and yogurt and ice-cream, you must survive a couple more hurdles.

Some things to expect the first week:

• The milk is not milk.
• The udder is not working.
• The cow is going to explode.
• My cow is defective.

HELP! What is going on with my milk cow?


ONE — Engorgement

If your cow just calved and her udder is huge and hard as a rock and milking her isn't alleviating the situation — don't freak out. This has been normal for me every time.

Whether you are milking by hand or by machine, if your cow is in the "engorgement phase" then there's not much that can be done. It's like the milk is stuck in there.

This has happened with all of my cows. The first few days after that calf is born, my cow's udder is so engorged she can hardly walk. Not only is her udder about to pop, there is no way to deflate the monster. Hand-milking is futile. Electric milk pumps do nothing. That milk is happy to be there and doesn't seem to want to leave.

Don't panic.

Here's what I do:

I don't milk on the day the calf is born. For the first 24-36 hours, I just let my new pair bond and hang and I let the baby have all the colostrum. Mama has been through a lot and I'm gonna let her have the day off. I can't say if this is right or wrong, but it's how we have always done it.

After a day of bonding with her new little one, our cows are fully engorged and ready to meet (or be reunited with) the milker.

This is the milking season. Regardless if you are a share-milker, a once-a-day-milker, or a keep-the-calf-with-the-cow milker, the first few months after your cow calves you are probably going to be milking every day. Why?

1. To keep an eye on the udder, the milk, the cow, and the calf, and to make sure everyone is healthy and doing well.

2. Most calves can't drink the amount of milk that a milk cow produces until they are older; someone has to get that milk out of the udder, so you don't have other issues (like mastitis).

3. If your calf does drink all the milk your cow produces, you could have some new problems to deal with, like scours.

4. Most calves around here don't realize there are 4 teats until they are 3 months old ... so my poor cows would spend 3 months walking around with one enormously inflated, completely ignored quarter if I didn't do something about it. You must empty the neglected quarter at least once a day, or get another calf to put on the udder so none of the teats are forgotten.

Daily milking is your life now. At least for a bit.

So, each morning I bring my milk cow into the barn and milk her. If evenings are better for you, you can milk then. The time isn't as important as being consistent. If there's one quarter (or 2) that the calf is neglecting, you want to be faithful to remove all the milk every 24 hours at roughly the same time of day. If your cow seems particularly engorged and uncomfortable, you can milk her more often.

WARNING: Although you may want to milk her like crazy and relieve her from her giant udder problem — don't do it.

Milking cow

Those first few days that I milk my cow, I am not trying to "milk her out." I am just trying to relieve some of the pressure. If you were to milk her completely out, you could cause her to go into milk fever. When you milk, only remove about a pint from each quarter and leave the rest.

This way you are not depleting her body of calcium (calcium deficiency is the trigger for milk fever) and you are leaving plenty of colostrum for the calf.

Even if I only get 1/2 a cup of milk, I still go through the process. You will be doing several things:

• Teaching her where the milk barn is and that she needs to come there.
• You will be able to keep a close eye on her udder to look for changes, inflammation, etc.
• You will have an opportunity to see how the milk looks (color, texture, etc).
• She will be getting a nice serving of grain each day while you milk her (which I feel is important especially when they are fresh.)
• You will begin training her udder to respond to you milking her (by hand or pump), so her milk will begin to "let down."
• You will be able to check her condition closely. Wobbly? Shaky? Fever?

On day 4, you should see some changes. This is the point when our cow's udders become softer, they respond well to milking, and will be flaccid after milking. You may also notice a decrease in the size of the udder.

TWO - Milk Fever

I had a cow who fought some battles with milk fever. It is dangerous and can lead to death, so please be aware that this is a real threat.

What is milk fever? Milk fever is the (cow's) body's response to an extreme lack of calcium. It takes a lot of calcium from your cow's body to make milk. When a cow first goes into production, this calcium strain on her body can cause her blood calcium levels to plummet. When those levels are depleted, it causes milk fever.

Some things that increase your risk of milk fever:

• Cows who are bred for production & make an extreme amount of milk.
• Jersey Cows older than 5-6 years who have had several calves.
• Cows who are not on a good mineral program.
• Cows who have had milk fever in the past.

Be watchful — milk fever is not picky. It can effect us all.

If it is caught early, milk fever is usually treatable by IV or calcium tube. If you have a cow with a history of milk fever, you may want to talk to your vet about administering a calcium tube (or 2) for prevention.

Milk fever is usually easy to spot. Your cow will be wobbly, shaky, or seem unstable.

If you suspect milk fever or have a history of it, remember not to fully milk out your cow during those first few days. If you were to empty her udder of all that milk, you could be taking too much of the calcium from her body. These first few days, only take a pint from each quarter (a couple times a day if necessary). Leave the rest so you don't reduce her blood calcium levels too much.

THREE - Colostrum

The first milk may be pink, orange, peach or yellow. This is colostrum.

Yellow space
Fresh colostrum

The colostrum is the first milk and is full of great things, including antibodies and other healthy stuff a baby cow needs to grow into cattle.

I usually save some colostrum and freeze it. It is a miracle food that can be used for other things and other animals on the farm in the future. Having some frozen colostrum is never a bad thing.

The milk will slowly change from deep orange to light orange to beautiful, creamy milk. It generally takes a week before the colostrum is over and you have some normal-colored milk. All cows are different, so just watch your milk.

FOUR - What Barn?

If you are training a heifer, she may have never set foot in the milk barn. She doesn't know what it is, why it's there, or why she should go in it.

If you are milking a cow that you have milked for 3 years in that barn, she may not go in the milk barn either.

Even if you have milked the same cow for 3 years in the same place on the same farm tied to the same wall ... she may not remember where the dang milk-barn is.


How could she forget?

The break.

When a cow has had a calf she is "fresh." This means that she is making milk. The standard routine is to "breed her back" when the calf is 2-3 months old. This schedules her to have a calf every year at about the same time.

When you are milking a cow who is pregnant, it is important (we feel) that she get a break from milking before she delivers the calf.

This break from making milk is good for her and her unborn calf. It allows her body to rest and focus on growing a baby. It also helps reduce the onslaught of some illnesses due to overproduction. I do know that there are people who milk right through and don't break, but we have always given our cows a 3-4 month break before they give birth.

Since they haven't been in the milk barn in 4 months, they sometimes don't recall that they should go back in.


This is easily corrected with a bucket of grain. If the food isn't working, there is a never-fail solution: pick up the calf and carry him/her to the milk barn. It works every time. Mama will follow that calf wherever you take it.

As soon as the first milking is in the bag, our cows usually come bounding for the barn every time they hear a human. If you have a heifer who has never been milked it could take her a week or longer to get the routine — but don't worry. She will get it. Before long you will be frustrated because you can't get her out of the milk barn.

FIVE — Mastitis

If your milk is weird, not straining, salty or orange, it does not necessarily mean she has mastitis. Especially the first week.

I'm pretty sure all my cows would fail a CMT (California Mastitis Test) the first week after they give birth. The milk is going through so many changes. The udder is just coming back into full production. Things are gearing up and getting flowing. I wouldn't even waste my time or money with a CMT that first week. By the time you order it, buy it, or administer it, the milking issues will probably have cleared up.

Expect weird milk that first week (or two). Mine goes through 5 stages:

• orange/pink/peach colostrum
• yellow and thick
• normal looking — but takes forever to strain
• normal looking — straining great — but not really normal tasting
• sweet milk — praise the Lord!

If your calf is 2 weeks old and your milk looks like milk, with a beautiful cream line and all things jersey ... it still may not be normal milk. It may be Gatorade.

Trinka's milk was salty. Her cream was salty. Her milk had problems.

Fresh milk

Turns out this can be normal.

Two weeks into milking, even though the colostrum was gone, the milk was still not normal.

Once the colostrum yellow, thick phases are over, the milk turns into a salty version of normal. I was told that this is due to all the electrolytes in it. It's just one more step to make sure that baby cow gets everything it needs for a lifetime of health. It's like Gatorade for baby cows.

The salty milk/Gatorade phase can last from 2-4 weeks. Around here, it's over in 2 weeks. There is no "gradual transition" into sweet milk. It happens overnight. You'll just take a swig one day and say, "Hey, it's milk! It's not salty anymore. Go get the ice-cream maker!"

SIX — Where's the Butter?

About the time your milk isn't salty anymore, your mama cow will probably have figured out how to "hold up" her milk. This means that she will let down all the milk for you to drink, but may hold up all the cream for the baby out in the pasture. Ugh.

Cow and calf

When you milk a cow, the first thing to come out is the milk. It's sweet. It's thin. It has little fat. At the end of milking, the last milk to come out is the cream. It's thick. It's rich. It has more fat. It's butter. It's ice cream. It's the gold.

Getting the cream out of a cow who knows there is a hungry calf in the field waiting is doing something. We have this one figured out ... Go here to see how we do it.

Basically, I only milk three of my cow's teats. The last teat cup gets a plug shoved in it. This leaves one teat open and available for the baby cow to suckle. When mama feels that baby on her teat, she will give up the goods. When she lets down the cream, it comes down from all four teats (three of which are connected to your milker).

You could also do this by hand. Just let the baby cow suckle off one side of the cow while you milk from the other.

Does this net me less milk? Probably, yes ... but I would rather sacrifice the milk in one of the quarters in order to get the cream.

SEVEN — Scours

Watch your baby cow for scours. If you've ever bottle fed a calf, then you will know that a calf does not need that much milk. Many dairy calves will eat themselves literally to death. They just don't know when to stop.

Cow and calf

Calf scours is a dangerous sickness that can be caused by simply overeating.

To check for scours, just look at your baby's cows backside and the state of their manure. A calf with scours may have runny poop, a raw backside, a bald backside, and/or a fever. It can be treated. Please call your vet if you suspect scours.

Your vet will be able to prescribe some meds and/or advice to help get your little one the help they need.

EIGHT — Where's the Milk?

At about 8 weeks old, your baby calf is going to get quite the appetite. Not only will he or she be able to go longer between feedings, they also may be able to consume an unbelievable amount of milk. Maybe even all the milk your mama cow is making (especially if she is a heifer or a low producer).

The good news is that since the little guy isn't quite so little anymore, you can begin to separate mama and baby for some periods of time so you can get more milk. Don't worry about taking the milk from the little one; many calf-raising folks wean their calves completely off milk at this age and provide other food.

I don't want to completely wean my calf because I want the help with the milking.

As long as I have a nursing calf, I can take days off milking. I can take weekends off milking. I just let the calf do the milking for me.

At the same time, I want some milk too, so a little separation is going to be a win-win.

To read all about how we separate our calves from the mama, go here.

I'm hoping this provides some encouragement and support for anyone surviving through that first week. If you've experienced something in the first week that I am forgetting — please share in the comments below.

To get weekly updates, tips and recipes subscribe via email (here), or on Facebook (here), or on Twitter (here) or on Instagram (here).

Happy Milking Everyone!

Canning Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

Candi JohnsIt is time!

Spaghetti sauce

The tomatoes are coming off the vines like mad. The peppers are dripping to the ground. The garlic and onions are cured.

The planets and stars have all aligned for our spaghetti-making bonanza.

Get your quart jars sanitized — it's time to can some wonderfulness.

Here in Kentucky, a simple water bath is all it takes to preserve these jars of goodness.

This is a basic sauce that is very versatile. It is a variation of the "Seasoned Tomato Sauce" recipe from the Ball Blue Book (pg. 23). This recipe is processed using the hot water bath method.

With jars of this spaghetti sauce I can make:

• baked spaghetti
• lasagna
• marsetti
• spaghetti & meatballs
• marinara for dipping
• Or any other dish that involves a seasoned tomato sauce

Must have this in the pantry!

Canning Note: Hot water baths and pressure canning can be used to process this spaghetti sauce. I have always used a Hot Water Bath here in Kentucky for canning this recipe. Other sources and certain elevations require pressure canning for spaghetti sauce. Please check requirements for your area before canning.

Spaghetti sauce

Before we get started on the sauce, we need to peel the tomatoes. For a detailed lesson in blanching go here. It's so easy and fast.

Here's the net-net on blanching:

• Cut out core
• Cut an "X" on the bottom
• Dunk in boiling water
• Transfer to cold water
• Slip off peels

Spaghetti sauce

You can make spaghetti sauce with the whole tomato (flesh, seeds, juice & all). I do not recommend it.


If you use the entire tomato, your sauce will include seeds and juice.

I like my spaghetti sauce without seeds. I also like a thicker sauce, so I'm going to bypass the juice.

You could use all the juice and just cook the sauce down to desired thickness. This takes time. This is also a pain in the neck.

If I separate the juice now instead of leaving it in and cooking it "down," I accomplish two things:

1. My spaghetti sauce is done faster.
2. I get quarts of fresh tomato juice in my pantry.

Less cooking time plus quarts of tomato juice — "Yes, Pick me!"

I'll show you how I do it ...

Spaghetti sauce

You could use a food mill. If you are like me and do not have a food mill, you can just shove all the seeds out with your thumbs and toss the tomato "meat/flesh" into your giant saucepot for the sauce. No need to get every seed out. It's OK if some seeds make it into your sauce.

Notice how I am using a strainer to catch all the seeds? What is draining into the pitcher underneath the strainer is pure, beautiful tomato juice that I will be putting in cans later. Go here to see how I can the juice. Yea!

Spaghetti sauce and tomato juice all canned the same day. Bonus!

Spaghetti sauce

Once the seeds are out, get in there with your hands and start squishing.

Keep squishing until the tomatoes are no longer tomatoes. You want a pot of gloop.

Now, run out to your barn and get some onions, and go to the garden for some fresh basil and oregano.

Spaghetti sauce

Chop up the onions & garlic and toss them into the pot with the tomatoes.

Spaghetti sauce

Chop the basil & oregano to smithereens & throw it in the pot, too.

Spaghetti sauce

Add salt and oil.

Spaghetti sauce

Bring this to a simmer and let it thicken. If you left out all the tomato juice, you will be done thickening your sauce in under an hour. If you threw the entire tomato (juice and all) into your pot, you may will be simmering this concoction for ... all day.

Did you know that every spaghetti sauce recipe in the world says, "Cook sauce in a large pot over medium-high heat until volume is reduced by one-half"?

Reduced by one-half!

It might as well say, "Why don't you just die?"

Who has time to "cook until volume is reduced by one-half"? Not me. Which is why I got the juice out earlier during the de-seeding stage of the spaghetti sauce escapades.

So, now we don't have to babysit spaghetti sauce all day.

You're welcome.

Spaghetti sauce

Add 2 Tablespoons bottled lemon juice to each quart jar. (1 tbsp for pints)

Do not forget the lemon juice or you could poison yourself — must put in the lemon juice. 2 Tablespoons to each quart.

Spaghetti sauce

Fill hot jars with simmering spaghetti sauce. Wipe rims with a damp, clean cloth. Adjust lids finger-tip tight (tight, but not so tight that Hulk couldn't open them).

Spaghetti sauce

Process in boiling, hot-water bath* for 45 minutes (35 for pints). Be sure to start timer after water begins boiling.  

This winter you will be glad you did!

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

40 pounds tomatoes (from my garden this is about 100 nice sized tomatoes)

• 6 cups diced onions
• 20 cloves garlic minced
• 1/2 cup tightly packed fresh oregano (chopped to smithereens)
• 1/2 cup tightly packed fresh basil (chopped to smithereens)
• 1/4 cup salt
• 1/2 cup olive oil
• Bottled Lemon Juice

Get all the latest articles, posts and fun delivered straight to you by "liking" the blog on Facebook (here), or sign up to follow the blog on Twitter (here) or subscribe via email (on the top right side of this page) or even follow it on Pinterest here.

Happy Canning!

*Other sources and certain elevations require pressure canning for spaghetti sauce. Please check requirements for your area before canning.

Can Whole Peaches and Enjoy the Flavor of Fresh Fruit this Winter

Candi JohnsI have had more peaches on my homestead than I know what to do with this year. We have a small grove, and it has exploded this summer.

Canning peaches

I do all sorts of fun things with peaches, but one of the must-haves on those storage shelves for winter is canned peaches. They're simple. When you open a jar of canned peaches in the dark days of winter, you open a little piece of summer.

Canning peaches is so easy. I use the cold-pack method, which is the easiest of all. Cold packing involves peeling, removing pits, and shoving the peaches in jars. That's pretty much it. I also happen to not care if my peaches look pretty in the jars, which makes this easy process even easier.

Here's the overview to canning peaches:

• Remove peels and pits
• Cram in jars
• Cover with syrup
• Adjust lids & process in hot water bath

No brainer.

The nice thing about canning peaches is that you can can 10 or 50 or 200 peaches. The process is the same and it's not any harder if you happen to have 5 bushels full. You'll just need more syrup.

Let's can some peaches!

First, make the syrup.

For light syrup (what I use) combine 2-1/4 cups sugar to 5-1/4 cups water. Heat on stove top until sugar is dissolved.

Keep syrup warm. You will want it hot when you ladle it over the peaches.


You could spend half of your day peeling peaches, or you could go grab some kids to blanch them for you. :)

Can Peaches Step 1 - Remove Peels & Pits

The process is pretty simple. Drop 8 peaches at a time into boiling water. Let them simmer for a minute or two. Immediately, move them into ice water and then slip off the skins. If my kids can do it, I'm pretty sure you can, too.

If your peaches are not super ripe, do not even attempt to blanch them. It will be a worthless cause. It will be faster to just peel them (or wait a couple days until they are soft and ripe).

Peach pit

Once they're naked, just cut them in half and remove the pit.

Can Peaches Step 2 - Pack into Jars

Canning peaches

Then stuff them into the jars. You would not believe how many peaches can be crammed into a quart jar. Lots of peaches. Keep cramming them in there. The more peaches you manage to get into the jar, the less syrup you will use.

Can Peaches Step 3 - Ladle Hot Syrup Over Peaches

Canning peaches

When you can't get another peach into the jar, ladle the hot syrup over them and leave 1/2-inch head space. Be sure to remove air bubbles by sliding a knife down all the sides & center.

The 1/2-inch of headspace allows some space for the suction that holds those lids on tight and keeps everything fresh.

For step by step introduction to water bath canning go here.

Can Peaches Step 4 - Adjust Lids & Process in Hot Water Bath

Wipe the rims, adjust the lids, and process quarts in a hot water bath — pints for 25 minutes, quarts for 30 minutes.

You now have a slice of summer to eat all winter long!

To get weekly updates, tips and recipes subscribe via email (here), or on Facebook (here), or on Twitter (here) or on Instagram (here).

Happy Canning!

Homemade BBQ Sauce

Candi JohnsBBQ Sauce is one of those things that we often buy at the store, but it is easy to make. Unlike ketchup, homemade BBQ sauce will only take you 20 minutes, and it will taste better than anything from a bottle. And it will probably be healthier for you, since it won't contain any preservatives or extra stuff.

There are a lot of tempting BBQ sauce recipes on the Internet.

BBQ sauce

Here's the problem with (most of) them:

1. Too many ingredients
2. Too complicated
3. Too much time

This BBQ sauce will not disappoint (unless you want firecrackers in your mouth — then you should get another recipe ... or just add some red pepper). If you want a sweet, tangy, slightly spicy sauce, then look no further. This one is fab. It's thick. It's easy. It only has 5 ingredients. And it takes 20 minutes.

This, people, is my love language.

How good is it?

We had friends over for dinner. We served bacon-BBQ-venison burgers on homemade slider buns. Everyone swooned. Everyone "oooooohed." Everyone "aaaaaaahed." Everyone wanted the recipe.

And I didn't have one.

It was one of those desperate, I need BBQ and don't have any kind of moments where you grab some things & throw it together.

For the next week my family put that treasured, mysterious, homemade BBQ sauce on everything they ate. Burgers, chicken, ribs, sandwiches. It was a BBQ-fest.

When we were down to the last couple of tablespoons, my daughter's best friend said, "I can't believe you don't know how you made this — it's the best BBQ sauce I've ever eaten in my life."

Later, my oldest son said, "We have the best BBQ in the world in our refrigerator but no one knows how to make it."

OK, fine. I'll try to do it again.

I knew the ingredients I used, I just didn't know the measurements. The good news is that I made another batch before the last 2 tablespoons were gone from the magic sauce so I could do a taste comparison. And I have it. And you can make it. And you will have the best BBQ sauce in the world in your refrigerator.

Here's what you'll need:

• 1-1/2 cups maple syrup (or brown sugar)
• 1 cup ketchup (yes, you can use homemade)
• 2 teaspoons dry mustard
• 1/4 teaspoon pepper
• 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

That's it. If you don't have a jug of real maple syrup, you can use turbinado sugar, or some variety of brown sugar instead.

If you think I forgot the smoke part — I didn't. I don't want to eat "liquid smoke." I want my "smoke" flavor to come from the smoke source — the grill (or smoker). Not from bottles of liquid. So don't worry. When you brush this magnificent sauce on your ribs, it will not leave you wanting to drink smoke. Just grill the ribs, then add the sauce, and it will be everything smokey you have ever wanted. Yum!

1. Put 1 cup of ketchup in a sauce pan.

BBQ sauce

2. Add 1-1/2 cups maple syrup (or brown sugar), 2 teaspoons dry mustard, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar. Whisk it all together. It will look like thin ketchup. Trust me, it's gonna change. It's going to be thick and rich and wonderful.

3. Bring the mixture to a simmer and let it roll.

BBQ sauce

4. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring often to prevent sticking. The color will deepen. The sauce will thicken. What looked like ketchup 20 minutes ago is now a thick, rich, sweet, tangy BBQ sauce.

That's it!

If you happened to use turbinado or some sort of brown sugar, your sauce will be a little darker in color than the pic above ... and it will be fabulous. I've made it both ways (with maple syrup and with turbinado sugar). The turbinado/brown sugar variation produces a thicker sauce & doesn't require as much simmering to get to that thickness. Using maple syrup will require more simmering and patience. Whichever version you decide to go with, it will be great.

Now, you need something fabulous to brush this wonderful sauce onto ...

Ribs! Ribs! Ribs!

Oh yes. Oh my. Ribs are spectacular around here.

Since we raise all our own meat, we don't get ribs very often.There are a limited amount of ribs on any given animal. This makes "rib night" kinda like Christmas. It's a big deal.

BBQ ribs

It would be a shame to ruin rib night with some store-bought, mediocre BBQ sauce. When we eat a rack of ribs, it's got to be perfect.

BBQ ribs

We serve more BBQ sauce with the ribs in the house for those (also known as everyone) who want more sauce on their ribs.

Bacon BBQ Sliders

BBQ Bacon Slider, the "Kids' Way." No onions, chives, or other toppings to get in the way.

If a food has ever almost made me cry, this may be it.

Maybe it was the homemade, yeast slider buns. Maybe it was the ground-venison burgers marbled with lard. Maybe it was the caramelized red onions from the garden. Maybe it was the homegrown, thick-sliced bacon. Maybe it was the homemade, maple, BBQ sauce.

Whatever the reason, I'm pretty sure every burger I eat for the rest of my life is going to have bacon and BBQ sauce on it. I have been missing out.

BBQ sliders
BBQ Bacon Sliders, my way ...

You totally need to eat one.

BBQ Pulled Venison Sandwiches

Deer leg, you have met your fate.

Because the front legs are so skinny and lifeless on deer, many hunters just toss them aside for the coyotes to eat. Some processors don't even fool with those lanky front deer legs — it's just not worth the effort for the meat ... unless you cook the entire leg whole. Then you are talking.

We always save our front deer legs. It is one of my favorite meals and can feed a crowd.

For smoked, BBQ venison, first cook the deer leg in the oven for 6-8 hours. Finish in a smoker for 1-2 hours. Pull meat off leg & add the BBQ sauce. You'll be happy you did.

To get weekly updates, tips and recipes subscribe via email (here), or on Facebook (here), or on Twitter (here) or on Instagram (here).


Common Garden Problems and Solutions

Candi JohnsEveryone has great advice when it comes to organic gardening and dealing with pests or diseases. Some of them work. Some of them are a waste of time.

I thought I'd shed some light on a few of the battles I've fought and won in the garden arena.

Here's 5 of My Most Common Garden Problems & Solutions


Garden Problem One: Powdery Mildew

If your cucumber plants look like mine and are already showing all the signs of powdery mildew (thanks to all the rain) it may be too late.

problem 2

The key to keeping powdery mildew under control is to spray every 7 days from when the plants are babies.

It is much easier to keep the mildew at bay with regular organic applications than to let a fungus flare up happen and try to kill it. Ugh.

What do I spray?

problem 71

Neem oil. It's organic. It's an insect repellent and it keeps things like mildew under control. I add a tablespoon of Dawn dish soap to my neem oil mixture to help it stick to the plants ... the Dawn also repels and kills some bugs.

I know there are more powerful mildew prevention methods out there, but I'm gonna feed these cucumbers to my babies, so I don't want any chemicals on them.

I have the most problem with mildew on my cucumbers. Always have.

The fabulous thing about cucumbers is that they germinate and produce so quickly that you can usually get 3 separate plantings in each season.

If your cucumbers look terrible and are on the brink of death — just stick some more seeds in the ground — you'll have another crop of cukes in a few weeks.

NOTE: Be sure to sow the next crop of cucumbers far away from your current plants. If they are too close, the mildew infected plants will happily share the mold.

Garden Problem Two: Squash Bugs

Oh how I hate you, squash bug.

I will tell you that squash bugs no longer take over and kill my entire garden. They are pretty easy to manage as long as you know what to do.

You don't need to spray. You don't need chemicals. You don't need powders. You don't need anything but some Dawn dishwashing soap.

problem 91
Dawn dish soap is all you need to get rid of squash bugs. Not kidding. The squash bugs will laugh at the harshest, strongest, most toxic chemical on the planet — but douse them in a little soap and they roll over and die.

Just fill a spray bottle with some water and add 1/4 cup Dawn to it and mix. Now, go to the squash, zucchini, pumpkin, gourd, cucumber patches and spray the little critters. There are few things as satisfying as watching squash bugs roll over and die.

problem 3

If you are having some trouble locating the little monsters, just water the plants. Focus on the roots — this is where they like to hide. When everything gets a nice watering the squash bugs will all climb up the stems onto the leaves to get away from all the moisture — when you see them come running — annihilate them.

Squirt! Squirt! Squirt!

Squash bug death courtesy of Dawn dish soap.

Now that mommy and daddy squash bugs are dead — it's time to kill their offspring.

Check the undersides of leaves for orange eggs. These are the squash bug spawn. They must go. I know people who just rub them with their fingers and squish all the eggs ... but ... eeew. I'm still a girl and that's gross. I rip off the leaves that have squash bug eggs on them and toss them far, far, far away from my garden. I don't want any baby squash bugs finding their way back to the gourds.

I do my squash bug seek-and-destroy mission a couple times a week. This really seems to keep them under control and I get to eat zucchini bread.

Garden Problem Three: Japanese Beetles

problem 6

Japanese beetles love my peas, beans and sunflowers! Ugh — the Japanese Beetles are out in droves this year. I have never seen so many, and NOTHING will make them go away.

I have taken a "if you can't beat 'em, leave 'em" approach this year. I have some horrible beans growing in my garden that I hate, so I am letting the beetles have them.

Everything else is getting a regular coat of neem oil to deter the little beasts.

Garden Problem Four: Cabbage Worms

By far, my worst enemy. Oh good golly those stinking yellow butterflies need to all die. Arrg. I haven't yet discovered how to get the butterflies to move off my farm, but I have managed to murder all their children.

problem 81

Two words: diatomaceous earth.

This, people, is a miracle. It does all sorts of amazing things including removal of disgusting, wormy poop off my cabbage goods.

problem 4

This stuff is astonishing. This stuff works. This stuff won't hurt you.

What is diatomaceous earth (DE)?
It's actually a fine powder made from diatoms — which are fossilized phytoplankton.

DE has a negative ionic charge — which makes it great at reducing parasites in chickens. It's rich in silica (good for your hair skin, bones, teeth and nails). It's crazy hard (which makes it great for facial scrubs and tooth pastes).

Some places people use (food grade) diatomaceous earth:

• In their homes to get rid of bed bugs & fleas
• In chicken coops to keep bugs out
• In homemade toothpastes & facial scrubs
• In the garbage or refrigerator to remove odors

In short, DE is amazing. There are two types of DE available. The food grade is safe for pretty much everything. The "filter grade" you do not want to smear on your skin or breath into your lungs.

In the garden, the filter grade will eliminate all your cabbage worm issues — just don't inhale it.

Like I said, I have not yet been successful in getting the yellow butterflies (yes, they are the enemy pooping out cabbage worm eggs all over your broccoli) to leave my farm. If you figure that one out, please let me know.

What I have successfully done is kill their slimy green offspring.

problem 1

• I focus my DE application at the base, stems and arms of the plants (where the eggs typically are laid)
• I focus my DE sprinkling on the arms and base of my plants. When the little, cabbage-worm boogers hatch from the egg-slime and meta-morph into green worms the white powder gives them the business.

I'm not sure where they went — I just know that I'm not eating green worms anymore.

Garden Problem Five: Tomato Fungus (Blight, spots)

My life has been filled with an off and on battle with tomato blight. There are two varieties of blight: Early blight and late blight.

They both stink. They both kill your tomato plants if not treated. They both ruin my life. I'm pretty sure I have both flavors living on my farm somewhere.

The good news is that I have the answer.

Tomato blight or fungus has an easy solution that works 99% of the time (for me).

Move the tomatoes. Problem solved.

problem 23

If you can't move them, or it's too late to move them, or it's too late to plant a new crop, or they're already established and dripping with green tomatoes, but the blight is showing its ugly head on the bottom of your plants — here's what I do,

To Stop Blight:

• If it's just one infected plant — rip it out of the garden and toss it far far far far away (preferably bag it & send it out with the trash). You don't want to mess around with blight or let it take up roots in your soil. This disease will produce great-great-grandchildren to infect your future tomato plants for the next 45 years. Trust me, you don't want tomato blight on your farm.
• If it's not just one plant, but your entire crop has spots on the bottom branches — get all the infected branches off the plant and out of the garden and gone for good (burn, bag or remove completely). You want to remove this funk from your farm and garden.
• Do not touch infected plants and then touch a healthy plant — you can spread the disease.
• Don't work with or harvest tomatoes when the plants are wet or damp — this can spread mold spores more easily.
• If over-crowding is an issue, move some of the plants or remove them to get more air flow going.
• Do not add top soil to your garden and think you alleviated the blight — it's probably still in there underground somewhere.
• Once the infected branches are gone — you must spray the plant to stop the disease from coming back. I spray with a baking soda spray. To make it just add 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon dish soap to 1 quart of water. Shake well and pour into a spray bottle. Be careful, baking soda will kill the blight, but too much can harm your plants.
• Respray every 7 days.

To Prevent Blight in the Future:

• Water early in the day so the plant is not wet during the evening. Cool air and moisture is a perfect environment for late blight.
• Give them plenty of room. Space tomato plants so that air can circulate around them.
• Buy seedlings from a trusted source or start your own seeds (how I start seeds here). I have brought blight home from the nursery in the past.
• Keep your tomato plants off the ground by using cages or other system.
• Remove all the branches near the ground at the bottom of the plant. Branches near or touching the ground are most likely to remain damp and encourage mold (just what the blight spores want).
• At the end of the year remove all your tomato plants, branches, tomatoes, leaves, stems and roots from the garden. Put in a bag and dispose of immediately.
• If any volunteer tomato plants come up (and you have a history of blight) remove them.
• Mulch your tomato plants with straw. This will keep your tomato plants from coming in contact with the soil (where the mold spores live).

The great thing about tomatoes is that they are constantly producing new growth off the top of the plant. Even if the bottom half of my tomatoes are dead, brown and pathetic, the tops are always green, lush and making more tomatoes.

Common Garden Problems & Solutions — Quick Reference Guide:

• Powdery Mildew — Neem oil and dish soap
• Squash Bugs — Dawn dish soap and water
• Japanese Beetles — More neem oil
• Cabbage Worms — Diatomaceous earth
• Tomato Blight — Baking soda and dish soap
• Feel free to share your best practices for fighting garden battles in the comments below.

Don't give up! Keep fighting the good fight! You can do it! Rah! Rah! Rah!

To get weekly updates, tips and recipes subscribe via email (here), or on Facebook (here), or on Twitter (here) or on Instagram (here).