First Quarter 2018 Newsletter from the Soap Lady

Homemade Cream of Mushroom Soup

 

  • 12 - 16 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
  •         1 medium onion, chopped
  •         3 garlic cloves, chopped fine
  •         3 - 4 tablespoons butter
  •         3 - 4 tablespoons flour
  •         3 cups chicken broth
  •         1 1/2 cups Half & Half
  •         1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  •         salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in heavey 2 quart soup pot. Add onion, garlic and mushrooms. Cook over medium heat until onions are transparent. Remove from heat. Blend in 3 tablespoons flour. Return to heat and add chicken broth. Cook and stir until thickened.

Add additional 1 tablespoon flour and seasonings to Half & Half , then stir the mixture into the soap. Heat to thicken.

Makes about 5 cups of soup.

I use puffball mushrooms (when I am able) to make my mushroom soup, but any sort will suffice. When the mushrooms are ready to pick my son brings them to me. I brush off any dirt, trim away the stem and then dice the flesh of the mushrooms. I saute’ them in butter and freeze in quart bags to make this soup later in winter when I want something warm and delicious!

- Recipe  from the kitchen of Michelle Zahn

January 2018

Back in 1972 I was just shy of 18 years old, a city girl engaged to marry a farmer. Jim and I were in the process of updating the hog shed on the farm we had just purchased. The building was in grave disrepair. The previous owner had kept fattening hogs in the shed and had let the manure build up, causing the wooden posts to rot away, which caused the ceiling to begin to cave in.

First we had to pitch out the manure. The shed measures 12 by 24 feet. There are two stone steps down into the shed through a narrow, short door. A skid loader for this job was out of the question. It took the two of us several days to pitch it out by hand. 

Once the area was clean we started restoration and redesign. At the time we were raising hogs. Farrowing was to take place in this location. That meant building farrowing (birthing) stalls for the sows and incorporating creep feed areas for the baby pigs. The concrete floor had quite a few holes broken into it so we had to repair those areas before we could install support posts.

Jim was farming in partnership with his parents at the time, so the only time he had to work on this project was late at night. I was working at Monarch Range in Beaver Dam as a secretary during the day. I did not have a driver’s license until I was 25 years old (another story) so Jim picked me up at my dad’s house on Lake Sinnissippi in Hustisford every morning and returned me home every night after we did chores on the farm. Late one Friday night we decided it was a good time to fix that concrete floor in the hog shed. We mixed the concrete ourselves using a wheelbarrow and a hoe. You just pour the concrete into the wheelbarrow full of gravel, add water and mix with a hoe until it looks right, then push the wheelbarrow to the holes in the floor, pour and level off, smoothe it over and move on to the next spot.

I did call Dad to tell him I would be late, but I had no idea that the job would take us long as it did. If memory serves, I think I may have returned home sometime in the wee hours of the morning. Dad was not pleased. Jim and I had been engaged for a few months by that time. My excuses for being home after curfew were getting to be a bit hard to believe. (The cows were out. We had a difficult farrowing sow. We were butchering chickens. We were pouring concrete in the hog shed. You get the picture.) 

45 years later we are again restoring the support posts in that shed, this time for sheep. Last spring my ram got into a mood and butted every gate, post and sectional wall in that shed. Nothing remains as it was. We built a new door for the shed this past summer, since that too, was smashed by my overly excited ram.

 Rolo, my beautiful, but sometimes overly excited ram.

Rolo, my beautiful, but sometimes overly excited ram.

I painted Wile E. Coyote on the outside surface of the door just because I could. 

IMG_4863.jpg

We have about four months’ time from now (mid-January) before I expect new lambs. We would like to have the new lambing pens finished by then. 

 One forkful at a time, we pitched this pile of manure out of the sheep shed.

One forkful at a time, we pitched this pile of manure out of the sheep shed.

Late last summer together Jim and I pitched the sheep manure that had built up in the shed over the past year, again by hand. We clean the shed only once a year, usually in the summertime, because a build-up of manure for the winter helps to keep the shed warm for the animals. I have only four ewes and the ram now, so there isn’t much build-up yet.

Currently we have the sheep using one half the area in the building so that the space we intend to redesign is kept clean for us to work. 

 Note the damage done by Rolo. There was once a support post in the center of this view.

Note the damage done by Rolo. There was once a support post in the center of this view.

 New gates, pen walls and posts, all constructed of salvaged lumber.

New gates, pen walls and posts, all constructed of salvaged lumber.

The old pens were built for sows using one-by-six boards (as was the old door). This time we will use two-by-twelves (as we did for the new door). On the upside, chances are pretty good that we have the lumber we will need right here on the farm. I married a salvaging packrat who was raised by salvaging packrats. Nothing goes to waste. If it is made of wood and is no longer in use, you take it apart, pull out the nails and then store it in the lumber shed. We are now the third and fourth generations of the same farm family on these farms. There is alot of salvaged lumber in that shed. If you don’t see exactly what you think you need, you simply make something else work.

Fast forward a month. We have pens and gates built. Thank goodness we started early because that ram must have sneaked in to visit the girls when I wasn’t looking. Our first lamb was born on February 1. The second one came on February 20. The new pens were bedded and ready to receive their tenants in the knick of time. I keep four ewes and the ram, so I may have a few lambs coming yet. We’ll see.

 First lamb of 2018, born February 1. Mother and baby are doing just fine.

First lamb of 2018, born February 1. Mother and baby are doing just fine.

Springtime brings lots of new arrivals here on the Zahn farms. Our younger son, Rudy, hatched 26 chicks in his home as a gift to Jim for his birthday. Our older son, Jonas, purchased 40 more chicks to add to the mix. Since both broods are straight run, chances are good that they are 50% male, 50% female. We will raise the females and keep them to lay eggs for our families. The males, except for one, will eventually be chicken dinners. I like to keep one rooster because they tend to protect the hens from danger. A good rooster will crow when there is danger, causing the hens to run for cover in their coop.

chicks.jpg

These chicks are just a week old. 

And that, as they say, is the news from home for now. 

∗ Sprinkle my bathsalts on carpet, rub in with a soft broom, then vacuum to remove odors!

∗ Use any of my bathsalts to soften your bath water, prevent bathtub ring and keep your tub sparkling clean without need for scrubbing. They make your bathroom smell wonderful, too!

∗ Use my Morning in the Woods soap to keep your fingernails clean and repel insects while gardening. Scrape nails across the bar of soap to fill the gap under nails before your get to work. Clean-up is a breeze.        

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