40th Week of 2017

Two new discoveries/ learning adventures/ obsessions: Thesouthernplate.com and sewing.

Those two things have been occupying my time, in addition to keeping house, keeping animals alive, mothering, wifing and laundry. I have been trying all sorts of new recipes from the website and they have all been wonderful!  I get so excited when I find a new cookbook or blogger that has recipes we can do and enjoy.   A lot of the southern plate recipes call for convienence foods so I’ve just made from scratch what I could. But I have been buying SOME of those boxes and cans since I’m working from home now. (More on that later).

I have fallen in love with sewing. Of course, YouTube has been my teacher and I have learned so much already!  I love learning new home arts!!  I’ve sewn 5 dresses to go into boxes for Operation Christmas Child. I also put a new zipper on my winter jacket and made a beautiful bible cover. My current project is a knit tunic, like the Lula Ro ones.

Mom staying home and living on dads income has so many positives, but we’ve encountered a new one most recently.  Many years ago when mom staying home was the norm, it provided a cushion, some insurance, for when things got tough financially.  If you were accustomed to living on one income, when more was needed, mom could just help out to bring more in.  This is so much different than today.  With both mom and dad working to make ends meet in a living situation, when things get tough, there is no way out.  So for us, things got tough financially.  Homesteading is not cheap, although we live as frugally as we can.  Doug was off work for a bit because he has knee surgery and it put us very far behind.  But I was able to begin bringing in additional income by working from home doing some scoping work.  It has been a blessing beyond means!  I’m still loving my oils, but unfortunately I live in an area where the market just isn’t supportive of Doterra.  I still order and share and love them though.

Luna Mae is getting so big.  I’ve begun separating her at night because she is drinking so much milk now!  The pigs go to the butcher October 10th.  Wilbur really needs to stop being so sweet and adorable because I’m not sure how we’ll be able to eat him now.  Darn it!!!

Were ready for winter.  Ready for rest.

Blessings

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The Easy Way I Can Tomatoes

PSA- I am not claiming to be a health expert. I am not making any claims that what I say is safe and recommended by myself.  I am simply sharing what has been shared with me through older generations.

I can tomatoes and a couple other things with open kettle canning. This requires no canner or pressure canner.  The FDA DOES NOT recommend this as a safe canning method. (The FDA also says raw milk kills you.  I’ve never been one to take the advice of a government organization).

I learned about open kettle canning from an older woman mentor in my life. I recommend all young women have one.  It could be your mom, but I recommend older.  So this method of canning has been used and passed down for many generations. I’m ok with it. I trust wisdom. And I love time savers so I can bake more pies and sweet breads and keep the bathroom clean.

Are you ready?

Step 1- I harvest the tomatoes and put them in Aldi bags or other grocery bags.  When the bag is full, I tie the top and toss them into the chest freezer. They will sit there until I have time or motivation to mess with them.

Step 2-  Fill the sink with a few inches of room temp water. Take your frozen tomatoes and put them in the water, a few handfuls at a time. Swish them around a bit and the skins will start to come off. Remove the skins and put aside for your compost, your pigs, or whatever else you’d like to do with them. Put the peeled frozen tomatoes in a big stock pot.

Step 3- cover your full pot of tomatoes and begin cooking on low heat.  As the tomatoes warm up and soften, I use my pampered chef mix and chop to break them up.  When they cook down to about half the pot, I add more frozen tomatoes until I have a full pot of soft, crushed tomatoes and juice.

Step 4-  Sanitize your jars.  I wash mine with soap and water really well.  I then place them on a cookie sheet and put them in a 225 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. The lids I place in boiling water and simmer until it’s time to use them.

Step 5-  when your tomatoes are the consistency you want, you can run them through a food mill to remove seeds or you can Can them as is. Make sure your tomatoes are boiling hot- not a hard boil, but a normal boil.

Step 6- Fill your jars leaving the proper headspace. Put the simmered lids on, tighten the band and let them sit until they seal.

Step 7- That’s it!

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Homemaking 101

While summer was here, schedules were changed and life got busy. In that time I lost my day to day schedule around the house and now, months later, the consequences are all around me. The house has become a disorderly disaster!  If anyone can relate, there are books by “The Fly Lady” who really helps you get it into gear.  A home is never perfectly clean, but it can be orderly and that makes all the difference.  Continue reading

36th Week of 2017

Hurricane Irma is hitting Florida this morning and my prayers are with them. I keep hearing the Ryan Stevenson song, “Eye Of The Storm”.   It looks like most people evacuated, and we know in every portion of that monstrous storm, Gods finger and mercy and grace is on it all.

I’m making it a priority to visit one day a week.  It will get us out of the house, and when you are visiting your iron sharpening sisters, you leave so inspired. This week we visited Nikki who has been gifted such a beautiful and creative heart.  All she does is breathtaking. I lack this creativity, but the inspiration was there to put more effort into my decor of choice. I lack the vision for home decor so it’s never in the front of my budget or mind. My current hit list will be- buying new chairs and/or reupholstering and painting what we have.

I wanted to begin decluttering September 1st, but that didn’t happen. Do you have days when you feel so busy but feel like nothing has been accomplished at the end of it?  I have found the answer to this is “the list”.  I walk around and have big plans for what I want to get done in a day, but I don’t get it done.  So I write everything down on my board and as I do it, I can check it off.  It’s such great direction for an ADD mind. If I get lost or distracted, I can just go back to that list and seeing it visually helps to pull me back.

Pear sauce, pear butter, apple sauce, apple butter have all been in the pots this week. I just have to can the apple butter and then I am on to tomatoes. They are ripening so slowly.  I took about 5 pounds in to ripen off the vine and they did well. I cannot however, do this with all the tomatoes out there.

When I milk in the morning and watch the animals around me, I get this itching desire to write a children’s book, one about Luna saying good morning to her barnyard friends. This is what she does every morning. I let out the poultry and Wilbur before I start milking. While I’m with Bethel, Luna comes over to visit me and nibble on my jacket for a bit.  Then, as the animals come over, she runs up to greet them and touch noses- chickens, ducks, geese, Wilbur, Harley, a barn cat, and Isaac.

Cutest ever!!  She is so darling, I don’t know how we’ll let her go.

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35th Week of 2017

Delicious, raw, grass fed jersey milk is abounding!  Everyone on the Homestead is happy again.  We all share in the goodness, the pigs, the cats and dogs, the chickens and of course, us!  Bethel has been giving a generous 3 gallons a day which has kept bellies full and the butter churning. This week I’ll begin cheesemaking experiments, starting out with cream cheese. Susie had sent me a recipe for homemade velveeta that is on my list as well.

The butter is such a royal treat. It’s such a treasure to have again. I love the early milk because it whips the butter up so quickly. I can be done in 15 minutes.

The weather has been very cool, and this hasn’t been good news for the tomatoes. They just don’t want to ripen. I’ve harvested a fraction of what we did last year. We’ll let them stay on the vine for a few more days, the temperatures will be warming a little.  After that, I’ll pick them and let them ripen in the house. (Not sure how successful that will be, but it’s worth a try)

I have taken a step back from Facebook and Instagram.  I didn’t realize the distraction it had become until I stepped away.  Technology is a necessary and helpful part of life, yet I’m not sure if we’re meant to be that “exposed”, and to such a large audience. I think about Susie and her community.  When I first met her, the joy and contentment just poured out of her smile, her eyes, her voice. I think the only way to get to that level is to remove the distractions of this life that we call “normal” and needed.  I have been without Facebook for a week and it is most definitely not “needed.”

I also need to time to reflect, to be with the Lord.  So much of my failures and shortcomings and bad choices (all sin), have weighed heavy on me. They have been brought to the surface and need to be dealt with and released. My biggest ones that I care to admit are pride and judgement.  So much of both.

In the kitchen, I experimented with a cinnamon swirl bread recipe this week. It was divine and a special treat for breakfast!    I also got some pears from a friends tree and made pear butter and pear sauce. Yum on both!  The pear butter recipe took 3 days because I used the slow cooker. It was much easier to let it go in there for 12 hours each day and not have to worry about it.   Here’s how I made it

The first day I peeled, cored and cut up the pears and put them into the flow cooker on low. They cooked down all day until I could mash them up. I then used a stick blender to smooth them out. The lid went on and i turned the cooker off for the night. I ended up with 3 quarts of pear sauce.

The next day I added in:

3/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp cloves

1/8 tsp allspice

1 tsp orange zest

1/2 cup orange juice

3 cups of sugar

I stirred it all up and then left the lid off a little so it was able to reduce.  It took almost another 12 hours until it had reduced by about half.

The third day, I heated it back up to boiling.  Poured it into my pint jars and processed for 10 minutes.

Every bite reminds me of fall and Christmas.  it’s especially tasty on Ritz crackers!

 

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34th week of 2017

Monday hailed a total solar eclipse. We were not in complete totality, and the day was mostly overcast.  Yet, the effects were felt here. Bethel went into labor as the eclipse peaked. Two hours later, Luna Mae was born. She is a wild one.  The most active and friendliest calf we have had yet!

Tuesday morning I milked Bethel out.  Her poor udder was so full and swollen. Later that afternoon, she began showing signs of milk fever. She was going down fast and we eagerly anticipated the vets arrival. After a couple iv bottles, she was back on her feet.  Still shaky, but eating and caring for her calf. Both are doing extremely well.

Yesterdays milk was the first milk we kept for ourselves, the rest has been going to the pigs. I had the first attemp at butter today, but the solids just didn’t want to separate. There was still too much colostrum in it.  This batch went to the pigs in addition to the skin milk. I will try again tomorrow.

Wilbur the pig is turning more and more into a pet. This isn’t what we planned. Yet, there is nothing more joyous in the morning, than a pig following you around like a dog as you do chores.

The fall garden is sprouting and the summer garden is producing. The corn will be getting picked soon, with tomatoes coming in by the bushel. I’ll begin canning them in the next week or so before apples begin. Lastly, it will be pumpkins and the season of rest will commence.

Blessings…

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A Dorothy Dix Letter 1935

Dear Miss Dix,
Three years ago I left a good home and position to marry an only son. My husband’s mother lives with us. She is 75 and crippled. She is sweet and easy to get along with, but she makes me very unhappy because she never lets us have a minute alone together. In the morning she comes down to breakfast just to be with him and then she goes back to bed. When friends drop in in the evenings mother holds the floor for half an hour at a time, telling the same old stories over and over again. My friends have made remarks about this and when I told my husband about it he said, “Oh, let her stay up. She enjoys it and she only has a few more years to live.” I am so unhappy that I think I will take my baby and leave.
SAD MOTHER AND WIFE
Answer
Well, if that is all you have to be sad about, you should be down on your knees thanking God for your happiness instead of cluttering up this column with your wails.
If your mother-in-law was mean and bossy and hateful to get along with, and if she was trying to separate you from your husband, you would have just reason for complaint. But she is none of these things. She is a sweet, gentle, crippled old lady who only wants a little of the society of the son she adores and a little of the companionship of you and your husband and your friends.
Aren’t you a big enough woman to look at the situation from her point of view and see how pitiful a thing it is for the old to have to warm themselves at another person’s fire, and borrow their happiness from others? Just consider how poor she is, crippled and old and feeble, the sands in her glass running low, her hands empty and idle, nothing to do, nothing to look forward to, nothing more to hope or plan for, no interest except in her son.
And you are so rich. You have the son, whose love for you is so much greater than his affection for his mother. You have your child. You have your home. You have youth and friends and a million interests that keep your mind and your heart and your hands busy, and a long and rosy future stretching before you. Can you not out of your wealth spare a little understanding, a little patience to this forlorn?
What if she does bore your friends by being garrulous and telling the same old stories? Her happiness is far more to be considered than their being entertained. Besides, they need a lesson in human sympathy and forbearance just as much as you do. And they might all remember that some day they also will be old and tedious and need to call upon the patience of the young.
I cannot believe that you are a poor enough sport seriously to consider leaving a good husband, breaking up your home and orphaning your child for no better reason than that his old mother had got upon your nerves. If you do this, you are a quitter and a coward and your husband will have a right to be glad to be rid of a wife who was made of such poor material that she couldn’t take it.
My advice to you is to brace up and snap out of the maudlin state of mind you have got into. Quit being sorry for yourself. Dry your eyes and smile and cherish your poor old mother-in-law as if she were your own mother. There is nothing that cheers us up like doing the right thing.
Dorothy Dix (1935)

Amish Dreams Come True

I have this facsination bordering on obsession with the Amish.  The simplicity of their life, the strong community, rock solid family values.

I’ve said it before- if Doug woke me up one morning and said “Were going Amish” I’d be all in.  I’d drop the phone in the garbage, after I watched YouTube videos about how to use a wood burning stove.  But I wouldn’t even need it anymore because that is their community!  No man or woman left behind. I would actually learn from a real person, which is so much better than a YouTube video, especially when they’re wearing a bonnet and an apron.

This past weekend we went to visit friends, who live around the Amish. And when I found out that their feed guy was Amish, I knew this was it!!!  I’ve have been pining for an Amish pen pal, dreaming and praying of exchanging letters filled with busy days and recipes.

We went to visit the Amish feed fellow, and he wasn’t there….but his wife was. She was out feeding her chickens.

We drove up past the outhouse.

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Then the phone shanty

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And then she came walking up

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We introduced ourselves and as I shook her hand I tried not to puke. She talked feed with John and Jenny and the words just erupted out of my mouth.

“Do you have a garden? May I see it?”

She replied “Yes! Yes!”

And then we walked through.  She told me all about what they had harvested already, what they were growing now, what worked and what didn’t. I was taking mental notes at a feverish pace, all the while, trying not to throw up.

When the tour ended, I knew this was my only chance. So the words erupted out of my mouth again, and after a brief intro, I asked if she would write to me.  At first she was hesitant, she said she didn’t write very well, but she agreed that she would like to be a part of it.

Ohhhhhhh. Emmmmmmmm. Gggggggg

She invited us into her house so I could give her my address….yes, we went into an Amish house.  I saw an Amish house.  I stood in an Amish house. She pulled loaves of bread out of the oven as we walked in.

Yes, loaves of bread.

And then we chatted a little about cows and milk and cheese and butter.

She showed me her butter churn and I decided that was going near the top of my prayer list.  A Dazey butter churn.  We talked temperatures of butter making and cheese making. She asked if I knew where to get a certain type of thermometer.  She liked it because it told you the right temperature for churning.

In my non Amish world, I have google.  But for a moment, I got a glimpse of that simple life.  Her thermometer broke.  She had no google, or internet or amazon.  She just made do.  Until a crazy worldly lady was standing in her kitchen.

As soon as we left, I ordered her one off of the internet and am having it shipped to Jenny and John to bring to her.  I hope it’s the beginning of our writing friendship!

So now I sit and wait.  Just like in the old days.  When you waited for the mail (post).  And the excitement that will rise up when a letter is there, can compare to nothing else.

And I’ll place all of her letters in a lovely box where I can cherish them always. You can’t get that with email, or text messages or snap chat or Facebook.

Sigh…

The Lost Art Of Hospitality

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In my books I read and blogs I follow, I have been introduced to a now foreign concept, hospitality. I’m guessing it began to fade out in the late 60’s when the feminist movement arose and women began leaving their homes. After all, hospitality is a part of the home life, the home experience.

When we moved here, I had my first taste of real hospitality when I visited Regina. The experience in her home was warm and inviting. The house was tidy and smelled nice and just carried an air of coziness. We sat at the table for a visit and she served iced tea and a baked item she had made that morning. An important point to mention, is that her invitation to me was for a certain time of the day. She did not just tell me to stop by whenever, she gave me a specific time, and this was so she could get her morning work done, and also be prepared for my visit. I left feeling refreshed and relaxed, both at the same time.

She gave me some books to read about old fashioned homemaking and this began my journey of making our home more hospitable. A few things I’ve learned so far

1. Always, always, make sure the house is tidy. This does not mean that you have to scrub down walls and baseboards before people come, but be sure to remove clutter. Find a home for the things that have been laying around and put them away. Focus on the living room, kitchen and bathroom. The rooms that will be used the most by your visitor.
2. Anticipate their needs. What would they like to snack on or drink. Have these ready. Make sure the bathroom is stocked with toliet paper, soap and hand towels.
3. Light a candle or run a diffuser so your home smells pleasant. It’s always a lovely experience to be in a home that smells nice.
4. As Regina did, set a good time for the visit. Make sure you have time to have your work done and the house prepared for your visitor. If they would like to come earlier, you can get things ready the night before.
5. Shift your focus to how you can make it a lovely experience for them. As you are going about and doing your work, think of ways to make things more cozy, more pleasant.

On the flip side, if you are on the receiving end of the hospitality and visiting someone, it is always nice to bring them a little something. It does not have to be extravagant. Maybe something from the garden, some fresh picked flowers, a food item, a small basket of soaps, etc. These are all lovely ways of making your visit to someone that much more special.

With the lost art of hospitality, we have lost a huge chunk of community. Community becomes so much harder when hospitality is removed. It is not a woman’s refusal to be hospitable, we just don’t know how to do it anymore. I hope and pray that times will change. That we can go back to more traditional ways, community can be re established, and families will grow stronger.

The Ultimate Pecan Pie

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For many years my only exposure to Pie was from the “bakery” at the grocery store, or a frozen one that was either thawed myself or by Bakers Square.  (Yea, they don’t bake them from scratch in your Bakers Square restaurant)

So I resigned to the fact that pie was gross and there really were only certain times I could tolerate it, holidays and such.

And then I got off my lazy butt and started cooking and baking, mostly out of budget necessity.  I cut our grocery bill by two thirds just by cooking from scratch and buying in bulk. (That’s for another post). All that cooking works best from an old cookbook, one without all the fancy expensive ingredients.  And those old cookbooks have old Pie and cake recipes. And eventually you’ll hit them, and drool, and begin.

Now listen, if you’re going to go ahead and make your own pie, for heavens sake, DO NOT go to the store and buy a pie crust. You have to learn how to make a pie crust.  This is a kitchen must. Once you realize how easy it is and how delicious it tastes,  you will want to eat pie crust with every meal.  I repeat- DO NOT buy a pie crust from the store.

So without further ado- here is the recipe, originally from Betty Crockers 1961- with a few tweaks I added in myself.

Amazing Pecan Pie

Pie Crust

1 cup flour

1/3 cup shortening (stop acting like it’s a sin to eat it. You eat garbage every day in your processed food or when you pass through the drive thru. )

1/2 tsp salt

2 T cold water

Cut the shortening into the flour and salt add water and bring dough into a ball.  Roll it out to fit a 8 or 9 pie plate.

Filling

3 eggs (farm fresh is always best)

2/3 cup DARK brown sugar, if you can find it. If not, light works as well

1/2 t salt

1/3 cup butter melted

1 cup light corn syrup

1 cup pecan halves

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Beat eggs, sugar, salt, butter and corn syrup together. Mix in pecan halves and pour into your pie crust. Bake 40-60 minutes until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Thats it. Just do it. Practice makes perfect and all the mishaps are always edible!

Just be warned- this will become an addiction after you eat that first slice- an addiction to baking!

Blessings