Shannon

I am wife to Stewart, mama of five, mediocre homeschooler, messy cook, and avid fermenter. This is where I tell our story... of building a sustainable off-grid homestead in a Christian agrarian community... of raising this growing family of ours... of the beauty and the hard and the joy in all of it.
857 articles written by Shannon

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Right now our chicken field is the stuff of green dreams. I haven’t gotten out there to show you photos yet, partially because I tend to shoot out there to pick some supper fixings and shoot back in before the munchkins start getting restless.

I can walk down rows of kale and turnips and sweet potatoes and choose what it is that suits my fancy. There is also a lone collard plant, a holdover from the summer garden that we are hoping to save seeds from. If it survives summer here, we’re anxious to keep that line going. Frankly, if it grows we’ll learn to eat it in this place which is no respecter of seasons.

And so, having endeavored to grow our own food five years ago now, and having multiplied the mouths to feed faster than the crops to harvest; we talk of counting calories. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, winter squash, milk, eggs, meat. Help us, oh Lord, to grow the calories we need to feed the precious mouths we’ve been given so that we might separate unto you more and more.

Because I know deep in my bones, after five years of failing and seeing only His hand in the successes, that if we are to really, truly grow enough food it will not be because of the work of our own hands. Or maybe I haven’t learned this lesson at all; maybe I need it over and over again. But that is not for me to decide.

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We have been given a field of greens this season, so I’ve been trying to find new ways to feed them to the family. Turnip greens are especially pungent and a fast cook such as this will not mellow its fervor. What does, however, is pungent garlic, spicy red pepper flakes, and tangy lemon.

The children don’t love eating dishes like this, I’ll just be honest. But greens are an underrated currency in the traditional foods dialogue, I think, and so I get them into the little ones however I can. These Calico Mustard Greens and Beans are a good one and the Southern Style Braised Greens is another favorite, but bacon is still a ways off for us.

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Italian-Style Mess O’ Greens

Serves 4-6, depending on your zeal for greens

Ingredients

  • 3 Tablespoons lard, tallow, or coconut oil
  • ~3 large bunches of turnip, kale, collard, or sweet potato greens
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 lemon, divided

Directions

Heat the fat in a large 12″ cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Tear the greens into the pan, stirring occasionally to wilt them down, until all fit into the pan. Cook for five minutes or until the greens are wilted down.

Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and stir to cook two minutes more. Remove from the heat and season with salt and the juice of half a lemon.

Serve with lemon wedges and a smile, for those who need a little reassuring that these are, in fact, delicious.

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It’s been said that many of my recipes start with ¼ cup of lard. That might actually be true and now that I think about it, this recipe holds many of the hallmarks of my cooking.

I scribbled it out in an email for a dear friend a couple of years ago after I brought a pot of soup to a potluck meal. The use of the word “ish” along with whole heads of garlic and plenty of cilantro also seem common among my everyday recipes – who has time for exact measurements and shouldn’t everything begin and end with garlic and cilantro, respectively?

Bone broth, of course, makes the cut as does a combination of homegrown and store-bought staples. I suppose it represents the days of the in-between that I frequent; this space in which we work for money to build homestead infrastructure so that we don’t need money so much anymore.

It’s awkward and complicated and… not at all what many people imagine our life to actually be. Some days we haul dirt and pitch hay and milk goats all day. Some days we stare at computer screens while the other is in the trenches juggling the parenting and homesteading and off-grid living all on their own. It’s almost never pretty but it is the process and that process is gold.

Getting back to this recipe… I found it the other day along with the photo I took to accompany it. I wrote it out just days before Ruthie turned one, months before I found out we were expecting baby Joshua, and one day before I turned 32. That was a year and a half ago.

In that time much has changed. I am beginning to find gray hairs, if ever I meet a mirror. I noticed the same of Stewart’s hair when he trusted me with the scissors. We now kiss five little ones goodnight, one of whom is threatening to outgrow me anytime. Three goats, at least double the chickens, and a three-acre pasture are now a part of our homestead.

Still, much remains the same. We’re still a long way from growing much of our own food. Right now, though, we do have a few roosters to knock off, there are greens galore in the garden, and garlic and cilantro are either in the garden or in the harvest basket. A pot of soup can heal just about anything and is always the easiest way to feed our growing crowd. And so, even in the heat of summer, it is a constant in our weekly meals.

I’m afraid I ruin this vignette completely, however, in admitting that we are out of lard. As they say, I guess the only thing that stays the same is that everything changes.

Garlic & Cilantro Mexican Chicken Soup

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup lard
  • 2 lb chicken thighs breasts, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 6 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 head garlic, minced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 1 32(ish) oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 quarts broth
  • 5 cups prepared beans
  • 1-2 bunches collard greens, chopped into 1” pieces
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne, depending on how spicy you want it
  • juice of 1-2 limes or lemons
  • 1 bunch cilantro, minced, plus more for serving
  • salt to taste

Directions

Heat the lard in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Fry the chicken, working in batches, until browned. Remove to a platter and add onion, celery, garlic, and carrots. Cook several minutes or until onions begin to wilt. Add the tomato paste, diced tomatoes, broth, prepared beans, collards, cumin, chili powder, and cayenne. Return chicken to the pot.

Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Cover partially and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until all of the vegetables are tender and the chicken is cooked through.

Remove from the heat and stir in the lime juice, cilantro, and salt to taste. Add additional cayenne, if desired. Serve with cilantro, avocado, sour cream, tortillas, or your favorite Mexican-inspired toppings.