…And Other Life Changers

Have you ever stopped after a seemingly simple moment and thought to yourself, “I think my life just changed”?  I had this feeling last week, and it was such a distinct feeling…I was immediately in awe of how my future could have been drastically (okay, I’m being a bit dramatic) different had this one second of life not happened.  I hope the following doesn’t come off as too creeeeeeepy…maybe Halloween has an influence on this post!

Mmmm, look at that fatty goodness!

Mmmm, look at that fatty goodness!

Several things occurred in building up to this moment.  First, Evan bought me a new chef’s knife.  He’s super into techie websites that find the best of everything without being painfully expensive.  So, he found this knife and got it for me because I’m always complaining about our dulling knives.  The first thing I cut with it was a big four pound rutabaga, and with the first effortless slice I let out an audible gasp.

You see, I have been envious of those with great knife skills for a long time.  It is so impressive to see expert chefs break down a duck or perfectly fillet a large salmon.  The knife appears to find the perfect spot to slice through.  When watching a good knife handler dice onions or even cut an apple, their skills are apparent…but I’ve discovered that a lot of this skill is in the knife!  Now that I have used a truly sharp, nice knife, I am not intimidated by whole chickens or thick skinned winter squash.  The beautiful halibut fillets I’ve butchered in the past will be no more.  Squished tomatoes will be but a memory.  I will no longer be intimidated by whole meats and other foods!

Thank you, amazing new life changing tool.

Thank you, amazing new life changing tool.

The height of this epiphany came last week when I decided to finally roast a pork belly I’ve had in the freezer for awhile.  It was from a pig that I helped raise a little bit–a nice fatty heritage breed.  I’ve been a lifetime fan of bacon, even going so far as to be one of those lame vegetarians who still eats bacon!  However, I’ve heard here and there that a well roasted pork belly is superior in many ways to the salty deliciousness that is cured bacon.

{Commence drooling}

{Commence drooling}

To prepare this pork, I had to score the fatty side of the belly.  It was AMAZING to do this with the new sharp knife.  The responsiveness of it was incredible, I could feel where the fat layer ended and the meat began, allowing me to score it deep enough but not too much.  Writing this out now makes is sound kind of silly or weird–but it really was one of the more illuminating moments in my life.  I think my culinary possibilities have multiplied many fold, and I was already pretty satisfied with how I handled myself in the kitchen.

Is it torturous to roast pork belly in the presence of my canine friends?

Is it torturous to roast pork belly in the presence of my canine friends?

So, I have this new knife…and other life changers.

I used a pressure canner for the first time last week–major life changer!  I love having home made broth, and I usually just freeze it.  I also keep all of my vegetable trimmings in freezer bags.  By the end of the farming season, my freezer is usually overflowing with onion tops, beet peels, carrot tips and all sorts of various veggie parts. We don’t have a large chest freezer or anything, so it was taking up precious freezer space.  So, I borrowed a friends pressure canner and now I have many pints of vegetable, chicken, duck and beef stock.  YUM.  I plan on expanding my pressure canning repertoire in the future but thought I’d start this year with broths and stocks.

Hi Ava! Sing it!

Hi Ava! Sing it!

Another life changer: Ava’s mobility!  She is now able to get to where she wants to be in a relatively fast manner.  She didn’t crawl for a very long time–instead she scooted backwards or did this silly sit, lean forward, move one leg forward, sit, lean forward, move one leg forward kind of thing that took forever to get anywhere.  Now she’s a crawling and cruising machine!  She’s even standing unassisted for about twenty seconds at a time. Her new favorite activity is splashing all of the dog water everywhere and getting soaking wet.  She is no longer a little baby (sigh…) and is well on her way to being a toddler.  Time goes so quickly.

Not dog water...but other spilled water.  So fun.

Not dog water…but other spilled water. So fun.

Before I know it, she will be using a truly sharp knife for the first time…and other life changers.

Have any relatively “normal” things happened to you lately that have changed your life for the better?  I think every Farmgirl has or should have a truly sharp, responsive chef’s knife and access to a pressure canner (as for a newly toddling toddler…probably not a necessity!).  What tools of the trade do you think belong in every Farmgirl’s repertoire?

I hope Halloween next week is fun for all and that you have a sharp knife to expertly carve those Jack and Jill-o-lanterns!

Until next time,

Sending Peace and Love from Alaska,

Alex, the Rural Farmgirl

  1. J Teed says:

    I have really enjoyed all of your emails, Alex, and especially about your new knife skills. Our son lives in the very same area as you do and I understand how your climate works. Hurrah for your new found pressure cooker skills. We have a freezer full of meat that needs to be pressure canned and I will be doing just that this winter now that the summer garden has been put up. I fall into the category of the less than skilled with the knife category. Would you be willing to share the name of your knife and the website Evan uses to find excellent reasonable buys? I am so curious. Thanks for your uber interesting posts that I look forward to each time.

    • Alexandra Wilson says:

      The webiste is thewirecutter.com and thesweethome.com and the knife is an 8-inch Victorinox chef’s knife! Thanks for your comments! Have fun with the pressure canning. I found it to be a very fun process!

  2. Karole King says:

    Soooooo, what is the name of this perfect knife? I love personal recommendations.This was a real tease to tell us the beauty of the knife and then no further information. Knife information please?

  3. Becky Gay says:

    Try a real ulu (Eskimo woman’s knife). Go to AFN this week and find the one that fits you best. Right or left handed. I filet salmon etc with my big one but I use the smaller version all the time. Easy to sharpen if you keep up. Enjoy your blog. Becky Gay, Alaska old timer and Go K9 Farm and Garden in S. Oregon

    • Alexandra Wilson says:

      Oh yeah, that’s this weekend, huh? If I make it to Anchorage I will definitely check out a good Ulu. I only ever see the cheapo tourist ones at the farmer’s market and in boutiques downtown. It’s good to hear that you like it so much. I always enjoy advice from a fellow Alaskan!

  4. Alex, Thanks for sharing the information on your knife. That’s the first thing I was going to ask and then read it in the comments above! 🙂 I’ve been needing a good knife for some time – think I may need to check this out. I grew up with a Momma that used her pressure cooker all the time. Not just her pressure canning cooker but also a normal size pressure cooker. She cooked potatoes, beans, and stew meat in it and so I’ve always done the same. I love it. It especially makes beef stew meat melt in your mouth tender! I loved your blog post and really loved the pictures of your precious baby girl. And yes, they grow up WAY too fast. – Dori, the Ranch Farmgirl –

    • Alexandra Wilson says:

      Ahhh, the possiblities of pressure cooking! I can’t wait to become more proficient and comfortable with the whole thing. I do love the knife! It’s given me a whole new determination in life. I’ve even been excited about splitting wood. I am woman here me cut things into smaller pieces!

  5. Oh, I totally understand! We have a nice set of knives, but after years and years and years of being used everyday and sharpened and re-sharpened, they just were not the best. Last year, my husband bought me a new set of really sharp knives. Oh my goodness! What a difference! At first they scared me – I really had to get used to the sharp and quick cutting of the blades! My pressure cooker just died last week…miss it already.

    I have a question for you…what breed of dog is the one pictured on the right? She could be my dog’s “twin”! Mine is a husky/shepherd mix. I bet your fur-baby is wicked smart, too, and very watchful of your precious daughter!

    Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole (Suburban Farmgirl)

    • Alexandra Wilson says:

      Hi Nicole! RIP to your pressure cooker. I hope it’s replacement becomes a trusty appliance! The two dogs on the right in that picture are my friend’s. I was house sitting for her. Maya, on the far right, is a rescue and a mutt, so we don’t really know her breeds. She was called a “husky mix.” We all think she’s a shepherd/ Alaskan husky mix! tourists up here love taking pictures with her because she kind of looks like a wolf. She is super smart and loyal. I love taking her on walks because my dog, Moki–on the left, behaves WAY better when they’re together!

  6. Barb says:

    Oh, yeah…I’ve had that feeling for both knives and canners…your whole repertoire for food processing opens up! Get a really good, easy to use, professional knife sharpener…it will last forever and you will always have sharp knives…process on!

  7. susana says:

    I hope you saved the fat from the pork belly and made candles. You just have to reboil the fat , skim off the scum from the cooked meat, and cool the fat and remelt with a scent fr candles. Makes good candles. We done that once….with leftover fat from a friends roasted pig-we had the whole pig cooked in reynolds wrap and just boiled the fat with water we sented , and we made quite a few candles from that whole pig.

    • Alexandra Wilson says:

      Wow! what a good use of the lard. I actually used it to deep fry some potatoes, and it was excellent! However, I do have a bunch of pork fat that I still need to render, I will have to use some of it to make some candles. Thanks for the tip!

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A Nice Hot Shower

Vegetable farming in Alaska is fast and furious.  From the cold, possibly snowy days of spring to the nearly 24 hour sunshine of the summer solstice to the cold, possibly snowy days of early fall, farmers are going, going, going. The face of a burnt out farmer is a familiar one around here come the end of September.


Cold, cold sun
I recently realized that the vegetable farming season is structured much like a good Shakespearean drama Continue reading

  1. My how that little girl has grown and so pretty too. Glad you will have a chance to get some rest now. I know how hard you work. My daughter in law works for the local Experiment station here in Virginia and she also is a laborer in the fields. She loves her job. But is hard work and she get very tired. But oh so much satisfaction. I’m send hugs to you and your family. sincerely Juanita from Eastern Virginia

  2. Mary Fenske says:

    Alex, I love your stories, your descriptions and most importantly, the pictures of your adorable little girl. She is precious. Stay warm.

  3. Margaret Martabano says:

    Really enjoy reading Alex’s blogs. I have visited Alaska in summer. Hope winter isn’t too bad this year.

  4. Diann says:

    Are you ready for this one? It was 97! yep 97! where I abide, which I am grateful for because it wasn’t over 100!!! We are so excited around here because next week it will be in the high to mid 80’s…woooohoooo! Can’t wait! The nut ranchers (that’s farm anyplace else I’ve lived!) are done with their 24/7 harvesting and the dust is about to settle. But alas, new plantings for corn, hay, etc., are already being prepared to plant. I am still amazed at the farming that happens here in California. I remember the first year I was here buying fresh strawberries for Christmas dinner….amazing! I love the changing seasons…as long as I don’t have to experience winter! So young lady, bless you and yours for your love of farming and tolerance for that cold stuff. As for me and mine, yeaaaa for sunshine.

  5. Tamara says:

    You sure have a short season! Beautiful baby,too. It’s been a very, very hot summer here in Grants Pass, OR and it’s continued into October. At least it’s not in the 90’s, but it’s been quite warm and dry except for one brief rain storm. Next week is supposed to bring more rain and we’re all quite ready for it. My corn is long gone, tomatillos were finished a couple of weeks ago and the tomatoes are waning. My beans did not do well this year, so I’m harvesting all I can after they dry and saving them to plant next year in more ideal locations. The squash were done long ago. I have bok choy and swiss chard that is doing well for winter. I have to force myself to get out and water because I’m just SO done with that…and fire danger is still looming until we get some steady rains. I’m on a well here and it seems to still have plenty of water, but I don’t want to risk it. My boyfriend has been harvesting anjou pears and figs. I’ve been making dried pears, pear butter, canned pears, and fig and pear preserves. There are still tons of pears on his tree, so I’m waiting for another delivery and we’ll probably call it quits before all the fruit is used. In for a major pruning this winter! Thanks for your blog. I always enjoy it!

  6. Alex, I have family in Alaska and have been there many, many times. So I could really understand this post. I have never seen such BEAUTIFUL rhubarb as I’ve seen at my sister-in-laws Alaska home!!! But I’ve also never been so cold anywhere as I was there. That wind blowing off the icy inlet. Oh my word, it was cold! 🙂 It’s a gorgeous place that is NOT meant for wimps! And you my friend, are not a wimp! Loved this post. – Dori, your fellow Farmgirl blogger – 🙂

  7. Barb says:

    Love your blogs, and the picts of you and the little one….gasp, choke…working OUTSIDE together!! My friends all thought I was horrible and nuts to have my kids out hiking, in the gardens, working sheep and cows in all weather. And awesome adults they have grown to be, as I’m sure that little girl of yours will be! So much of the work we do for the love of it is hard, dirty, and discouraging at times…something as simple as a hot shower or cup of tea makes all the difference and lets us reflect on why we do what we do. Carry on!

  8. Linda says:

    Your daughter is just so cute. Aren’t babies wonderful? Fall is coming in at full speed ahead although today it is quite warm. A goodly amount of leaves have already been composted. I planted garlic earlier this afternoon – some cloves from this season’s garlic harvest from my garden as well as a grab bag of an unlabeled mixture I purchased at the Mother Earth News Fair. I also picked some of the remaining eggplants, tomatoes, and yellow squash in the garden to make ratatouille soup. Everything in the soup except the olive oil and salt are from my suburban backyard. Looking forward to eating a bowl of it tonight for supper accompanied by a slice of homemade bread from the freezer. An aside – the zucchini and yellow squash plants are still putting out blooms and squash. Never, ever have I had summer squashe go this late in the season. (Mid Oct. here in Central Ohio) Just a tad weary of them and so are my neighbors. 🙂 The freezer is full of grated zucchini for winter use and there are many jars of dried zucchini chips. Memo to self – be thankful for abundance. Enjoy the winter break from your tasks on the farm. A time to recharge internal batteries even if it is cold and dark.

  9. Joan says:

    Clean-up is my fall thing. Can’t really think after seeing you and your most precious helper – yes I do think she helps you keep that beautiful smile going. Thanks for sharing.

  10. susana says:

    I remember those days working on a farm…..couldn’t wait for the sun to go down and we could go back to the farm house, get the dirt wahed off and food in our bellies. How dry my hands were and he sore my legs and arms felt! And still having to go out in the dark to get buckets of milk to start churning for the evening butter. Such was not fun! But hard work for a teenager, but it instilled in me so many things ….especially gardening for my later years. My family went every summer and my suster and I stayed the whole summer and for several years before I realized it was More hard work than fun…but it was nice getting Paid……it was my first real job. But wouldn’t change a thing from those learning days. It instilled in me the love of seeing things GROW.

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