Friday, November 21, 2014

Feeding Pumpkins to the Animals

Wisconsin, along with much of the country, has had unseasonable weather.  The temperatures have been below freezing for the past ten days.  Usually we wait until Thanksgiving is over to deal with the decoration pumpkins.  Then, before the Christmas decorations go up, we break up the pumpkins.  The deer and the squirrels love to eat them.  This year was different.  The pumpkins froze solid.  My friend suggested that I throw them on the sidewalk to break them up.  Most years we hit them with an ax or sledge hammer, and they crack into pieces.  It was a funny sight to see me on the top step throwing pumpkins as hard as I could.  They just rolled down the sidewalk like a bowling balls.  I didn't even put a dent in the pumpkins.

The pumpkins were frozen so solid they just rolled down the sidewalk.  I see two bite marks from squirrels before the frost.

Tomorrow the temperatures are supposed to rise into the 40's.  I know as soon as the pumpkins start to thaw, they will turn into a mushy mess.  We had to deal with them today.  We loaded the smaller pumpkins into our wheelbarrow, and wheeled them out to the edge of the woods.

We did a little brainstorming because hitting these pumpkins with an ax or hammer was not working.  I thought of a Sawzall type reciprocating saw.  Those saws can saw through anything including nails.  I asked my husband to help me.

We gave it a try.
It went through the frozen pumpkin like a hot knife through butter.

Within a short period of time, we (meaning my husband) were able to cut the pumpkins in half.  They made cute little bowls perfect for the animals to eat out of.

Next we loaded up the big ones.  We knew the smaller pumpkins could easily be cut in half, but we weren't sure about the big ones.  We were able to cut them just as easily.

These were covered with ice and snow.

Yum, I hope the animals enjoy these.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Thawing Frozen Ground Beef In The Microwave

I had my Tuesday recipe all planned today, but then I saw a very interesting tip.  I was watching Living with Amy on our local Green Bay Fox 11 station.  She often has a representative from the Beef Council of Wisconsin.  They make some delicious recipes.  Today they showed how to thaw frozen ground beef in the microwave.  We have all thawed a chunk of hamburger in the microwave and ended up with hard cooked spots and the rest still frozen.  That is why I came up with the method for cooking the ground beef first and then freezing it.

Here is the link from the Wisconsin Beef Council:

I thought I would try this.  I found a couple chunks of frozen hamburger in the freezer.  They recommend taking the flat pieces off the meat tray and freezing it flat.   Mine were lumps, but it is all I could find.  I put the hamburger in a clean plastic bag.  They said it doesn't have to be a freezer bag, just a regular plastic storage bag is fine.  Some people have voiced a concern to me about using plastic and the microwave.  All I can say is that it doesn't get hot or the beef isn't being cooked in the bag.  I wonder if the Beef Council has addressed this concern.  I imagine a vented glass dish would work.  Then chop up the hamburger after 1 minute instead of kneading it.  Eventually I will try that method. 

These are chunkier than they recommend.

Put the plastic bag in the microwave.

Put the bag of frozen burger in the microwave.  Seal the bag leaving one inch open and not sealed.  Cook on high power for 1 minute.  Take the bag out, let it rest for a minute and knead it to break up the frozen hamburger.  Return it to the microwave and cook for 30 more seconds.  The exact instructions are in the chart and on the Beef Council website.

It worked.

Let it rest for 30 seconds and knead the bag again to break up the rest of the pieces.  It worked beautifully.  There were no hot spots or overcooked pieces.  Ground beef thawed and recipe ready.  Who knew?  You learn something new everyday.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Dog Dish Birdbath

Oh my gosh it's cold.  We are having January temperatures in the middle of November.  I can handle a lot of cold.  I actually prefer it, but this is too cold, too fast.  The birds are being very active at the bird feeders, but the bird bath had to be put away for the winter.  The frozen water doesn't do the birds any good, and if water is left to freeze, the bird bath can crack.  My daughter gave me a bird bath heater several years ago.  It worked but the squirrels would always knock it out of the birdbath.  This year I wanted to come up with another plan.  While at the store buying more birdseed, I saw heated dog dishes in the pet department.  They were a lot less expensive than any other options I found.  I bought it and set it up last week.  We filled our fountain base with sand.  Then we set the dog dish on the sand.  I filled it with water and plugged it in.  When the temperatures fell below freezing, the water didn't freeze.  Some birds and squirrels are beginning to use it.  I haven't taken a photo yet, but I have seen critters there.  I was concerned about the birds freezing while bathing in the winter.  I researched it, and it is safe.  The feathers will shed most of the water and insulate the skin from water.  It is small enough so it provides water, but the birds can't submerse themselves.   I would think that is a good thing.  I just have to remember to check the water level everyday.  The downside is that it has to be plugged in so I couldn't put it where I wanted it to be in the yard.  I didn't feel good about running an extension cord far across the yard.  It isn't where I want it, but it is more important for the birds to have water than it is for me to be able to see it easily.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Dad's 90th Birthday Party

The dust has settled on our wonderful weekend.  We celebrated my dad's 90th birthday on Saturday, November 15, 2014.  He actually turned 90 the day before.  He is such a kind man with such a gentle nature that everyone who attended our open house left happy.  He is a kisser so all the girls (and maybe the guys for all I know) got a big smacker for coming and sharing his day.  I can't thank everyone enough for coming.  He wondered how he was so lucky to have so many people come to see him.  I told him that he is loved a lot, and as sad as it is, most people get together like this at funerals.  We agreed that this was much better.

All decked out in Wisconsin Badger red waiting for the party to start.

Luckily many of my first cousins on my dad's side were able to attend. I hadn't seen many of them in a long time.  I wish we would have gotten a cousin photo.  Sadly one of my cousins has passed away, another couldn't come, but the other eight were here.  I have over 30 cousins on my mom's side of the family.  Some of them I don't know as well.

My dad's only living younger sister came with her two daughter's.  His brother had to stay home with some medical problems.  Hopefully he will get well soon.

Dad with is sister Patricia. 

Dad's Happy Birthday cake.

Lighting the giant candle on the cake.

Five of dad's great grandchildren who live nearby were here.   They love their great grandpa.  They were so good and he got hugs and kisses from each of them.  He has 4 more who live in Michigan.  They tried to make the trip but the roads were terrible.  My sister, her husband and daughter made the trip from Michigan.  They ran into ice, sleet and snow.  Many cars were in the ditch.  They called home and encouraged the rest of the family to stay home.  It was too dangerous.  I am so grateful they made it safe and sound.  Dad went back home to Michigan with my sister.  He is spending the holidays with them.  He will be able to see that part of the family then. 

All and all it was a beautiful day to remember.  I want to thank each and every person who came.