Monday, August 24, 2020

Preserving the Harvest, Misc.

 I am so glad that my husband takes the time to ask, "What are you going to do today?"  I really appreciate it when he seems interested in the time we spend apart.  He gets so busy sometimes and his head is so full of his agenda. . .Today when he asked, I started looking around at about 6:40 am.  I had already made his lunch and a breakfast to go:  Peanut butter and blackberry jelly sandwich with homemade jelly and bread, homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, homemade canteloupe muffins, water and coffee.  

I had been working on cleaning the shelves in the food dehydrator as they were sticky from the tomatoes we had just dried, finished that and prepared two trays of figs to go in that he had picked the night before.  I had been working on releasing the seeds from all of the fennel that I had harvested the day before.
I had gotten out my bread starter to make some bread, as when I made his lunch I noticed we were getting low on bread.  
Yep, a typical day so far. . .Many plans for the rest of my day include finishing what I started, cleaning (I like a clean slate on Mondays), getting some blackberries out of the freezer to make some more blackberry jelly since I opened the last jar, more harvesting (especially okra, basil, and peppers), probably a trip to the grocery store and to drop off a box, and who knows what else will come up.  Life is good.

In the meantime between last blog post and today we rented a small bobcat and cleaned out the barn which included leveling the floor, clearing out some things the cows tore up, and adding sand to help the floor stay drier.  

We have been harvesting and preserving like crazy.  We have been blessed with rain which has really made the crop this year.  

The pantry and the freezers are getting full and beautiful.  

I am trying to learn more about foraging, finding things like this wild ginger, and pokeberries (which I have read will treat arthritis).  

I have so enjoyed spending time with my daughter, her husband, and my adorable almost 11 month old grandson who recently came over and got a lesson in reading a seed catalog.  LOL

We have also had to get my husband ready to go back to work teaching science.  With the mask regulations, I have tried to prepare him with enough fun masks to entertain him and the kids.  His latest is an ECU mask, of course that I made out of an old ECU t-shirt that was ripping up and some leftover paints:

I've put up pumpkin butter (thanks for the idea Gwen and Gary!), froze eggs for molting season, and gathered seeds (seeds shown are Yellow Mountain Sweet watermelon seeds and pole lima beans):

God is Good!

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Homestead Harvest and Maintenance

The harvest continues.  The tomatoes have been coming in like crazy and we have put up 31 quarts of spaghetti sauce and 15 quarts of tomatoes with green chilies.  We are picking green beans as they come along (slim pickings as the rabbits helped themselves first to the plants) and canning them along with the spaghetti sauce.

We have also dehydrated Tulsi Basil, Goji berries and passion fruit vine leaves for tea.  In addition we dehydrated our Asian pears for snacking, have harvested okra several times (mostly enjoyed them by eating them fresh), and the tomatoes keep coming.  At this point we are canning until we run out of lids on the spaghetti sauce.  There are no lids to be found and the lids I ordered in June from Lehmans are still on back order.  Once we run out of these, we will start drying our tomatoes as I am sure not going to encourage these people who run out and buy things up to try to sell them at an exhorbitant price once they are gone.  No matter that we are living in times when people are hurting.

My husband  is a teacher and recently needed to attend and volunteer at a recent high school graduation for his school (I am sure people know that teachers do not get paid in the summer, right?)  At any rate, masks were required and will be required for the upcoming school year, so we went to the thrift store to find some fabric to make masks for my husband and the school administrators.  For $2, I found some fabric in his school color for the outside and some light colored for the inside, we also bought the pony tail holders and thread, and then used some leftover paint to make some masks with school spirit, after washing the fabric and hanging it in the sun to dry to make sure it was germ free.

The fabric was purchased at my favorite thrift store, Live to Give Ministries.  When we opened the bag with the fabric there was a card in it that said, "Jesus Loves You," which prompted this funny story:  I was working hard on canning spaghetti sauce. My husband helps me with the processing the jars part, as the kettle with 7 quarts in it is rather heavy. While he is not helping me, he is usually running around cleaning up or something. My husband finds this card that says "Jesus Loves you". He said, "Can I toss this piece of paper? I already know that Jesus loves you." "You do?" I said with a smile. He said , "Yes, he gave you me." lol, this is the way we roll. A few minutes later the solar power went down. He diagnosed the problem and figured out the storm had loosened one leg of the power that came in. He told me he was going to bring down the power, which he did, and fixed the whole issue in what seemed like ten minutes. He turned it back on and I noticed the internet modem went on which meant it was fully restored. As he came in the door to check his work I said, "It's all on, even the modem works. You were right. Jesus loves me." Then he smiled and kissed me. Life is good.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Busy Homestead Season

So much has been happening!

We are harvesting blueberries, blackberries, goji berries, raspberries, strawberries, string beans, beets, tomatoes, cucumbers, cilantro, red clover blossoms, mint, so many things I can't even remember them all!  So far we have put up 45 quarts of beets.  We've eaten string beans and put up 1 quart while processing beets.

We have harvested lots of blackberries this year.  The first five gallons went to a batch of wine.  The next couple went to a batch of blackberry jelly. and then we put 3 more gallons in the freezer.  The Squeezo made quick work of extracting the juice from the blackberries to make the jelly.  The leftover fiber and seeds went to the chickens.

Next is blueberries.  We froze 29 one cup bags mostly for muffins, and now have 7 more gallons, five of which will make a batch of wine.

The great potato experiment showed that the grocery store potatoes that we spent very little on (Maybe $3.99) grew about as well as the organic russets we spent $65 on.  Neither one did spectacular, but at least we have more potatoes than we planted.  On the left were from one bag of store bought, and on the right were from organic seed potatoes.

We had to harvest our peaches and cream corn before squirrels or raccoons harvested it for us.  We gave the corn husks to the cows, and cooked some of the pieces we culled for the pigs.  We celebrated Independence Day with the chickens we had processed the Tuesday before, the corn we had picked that day and the potatoes we harvested about an hour before.  It was delicious!

Our garlic harvest clearly showed the ones planted in richer soil grew the best.  The volunteers grown in poor soil are on the bottom of the picture.

A couple days after we processed our chicken, we pulled it all out of the coolers to put in the freezer and we processed the carcasses with the backs and the necks.  We were able to pick off about 16 cups of cooked chicken and made about 8 gallons of broth.  We then gave the carcasses to the dogs and the skins to the pigs.

Our piglets are growing up a storm and are happy and healthy!  I am still cooking oatmeal, rice, grits, corn and other leftovers for them, most of which are mixed with milk.  And of course they are harvesting their own food as well.  They seem to love the clover.

We are harvesting sunflowers for the chickens.  Of course, the gold finch are harvesting their own as well.  We have also been harvesting the Japanese beetles for the ducks and chickens with beetle traps.  Occasionally, we will take some out to the fish.

A friend gave us some beauty berry bushes which we planted in the cow pasture by their automatic waterer so they can treat themselves for flies.  They love rubbing their heads in the bushes.  This last one is waiting to be planted by our porch swing.

We have planted our fall seedlings of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts and peas.  They are coming along nicely.  We also got some hydrangea cuttings from my mother and father-in-law and it looks like they are going to make it!

Last and perhaps the best blessing of all is the hive I had set up as a bee trap has attracted some bees!!!!  My husband just noticed today that it looks like some bees have moved in!  We are so thankful.  God is good!

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Camper RV Remodel Video

Just a quick tour of our finished (?) travel trailer.  Yes, I need to learn skills in videography.  LOL.  Anyway, I will never think it is quite finished so I thought I would film it, rather than wait forever.  Enjoy.

Monday, June 15, 2020


The garden is well on it's way.  We have had generous helpings of rain, and the growth has been good.  My husband has done a great job with whipping it into shape with a little help from his apprentice (me).  We are starting to be able to harvest green beans, beet greens, and we have green tomatoes.  The squash plants are blooming, and so are the cucumbers.  God is

There has been a renewal of hope in the garden.  When you look at the rows and see that there are plants missing, it looks rather incomplete.  However, when you are able to add more seeds and they actually come up, it is definitely a joyous sight.  Thank goodness for new seedlings!

Our friends and neighbors Joanna and Donnie surprised us by bringing us two piglets (and here we thought we were going to pick some up for them - thanks Joanna and Donnie!)  We were able to set up in a hurry due to having had pigs before.  We had their pig hut and water barrel ready.  After observing them and having to round them back up several times while setting up the electric fence, we named them Scarlet and Melanie, as my husband had to set up the fence in a hurry, while I had to keep rounding them up before they were "Gone with the Wind."  This is a new pig adventure, as these piglets were weaned young (only 5 weeks old), so I am worried about their nutrition, and I would like to try to buy the least pig feed possible this time.  So far they have enjoyed some rice and bread soaked in milk, and other leftovers soaked in milk.  They also seem to love the clover in the pasture.

We are still working on taking the ducks to their house on the pond.  We have walked them to the pond "encouraging" them to go, and feeding them there.  This time they actually went in by themselves and swam briefly before getting out and following us right back to the chicken coop area.  Now I am just feeding them further and further out to increase their comfort zone.

We are still being careful in these Covid-19 times, but spending time with our family.  We had a recent Mother's Day celebration for me at my daughter's house who gave me a book to read to my grandson entitled "How to Babysit your Grandma".  We had a sushi dinner with spring rolls and a yummy cheesecake that my daughter made.  My son was there also, and had previously sent gifts.  A gift he gave us while he was there is he showed us pictures of the fact that he actually bought a tiller and planted a garden!  First interest he has shown to that extent!   Life is good!

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

How to Launch a Duck House Without Getting Wet

Today we were successful in many things.  Our beautiful duck house floats!  Yay!  First fear vanquished.

When I went online to look at duck houses and what I would want for a duck house, I was surprised to see that they cost between $1400 and over $2,000.  We made this one from scraps in our workshop, including old hinges to make the top flip open for cleaning and egg gathering, and a chain to keep it from tipping open too far and ruining the hinges, to the 2 inch foam insulation we used to make it float.

Of the many videos I watched of DIY duckhouses, they were launched by someone in a canoe, or used anchors, etc.  Personally, I did not want to get wet in the pond, so I devised a way to launch it without getting wet.  My husband did not want to get wet either, so he went along with my plan, even though I could see doubt on his face.  He bent two pieces of rebar in shepherd's crooks.  We hammered one into the ground on one side of the pond, and one into the ground on the other.  Then we put the duck house down next to one of them and ran the rope through the rebar and tied it to one of the eye bolts on one side of the duck house.  We walked the rope around the back of the pond, looped it through the other piece of rebar, walked it back, and ran it through the other eyebolt (not shown in the first picture.)  Then we pulled it snug and pushed the duck house into the water.  IT FLOATED!!!  YAY!!!

Since the rope was in a loop from one side of the pond to the other, we could just pull it one way until the house ended up in the middle of the pond.  In this way, we will be able to pull it back when we want to check for eggs or see if it needs cleaning.  SUCCESS!

Next comes the part where we get the ducks to want to live in it.  We went back to get the two ducks.  We had been moving the duck house further and further toward the pond and feeding them near it, so we had hoped for success.  However, we did not do it as long as we had planned, as we realized that they were eating pretty far away from their water, and ducks need water to eat. . .

So either it will happen, or we traumatized our ducks. . .but we will keep trying.  For this first time, we walked them back to the chicken coop they were used to.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Camper Remodel Test

Wow!  We took the Travel Trailer out for a spin to celebrate our anniversary.  So many things worked so well, but there are a few things that need tweaking.

Loved the new coffee pot that took it's place on it's bedroom coffee/wine bar and kept the kitchen counter clean.  That beautiful coffee pot just sings.  Makes great coffee too.

The couch that pulls out into a bed was fabulous for use both as a couch, and as a separate nap space.  Siting on it with our coffee and watching the fire light was amazing!

The mini projector projected the perfect size screen on the bedroom wall.

The curtains with the lanyard clips and screw eyes that were made with two pieces of fabric with blackout in between was fabulous.

Another thing that really shined was the tea cart that we turned into a table.  We could put it in front of the couch with one leaf pulled up and it was the perfect size for two.  We took it outside and used two folding chairs for a perfect anniversary dinner set up.  Amazing!

The closet that already had a shallow shelf in it held the bins perfectly so I could have three large bins and my husband could have three!

The hook rail that we put in the bedroom was so very useful for everything from belts to pocket books, to hooded sweatshirts and mugs!

The magazine file folders worked great for our shoes right at the door.

Did you know fire extinguishers come in white?  This is what we found at Wal-mart and when we got it out of the package, it has it's own holder that my husband installed while we were out.

I finished the backsplash while we were out so all the custom pieces were done.  Yay!

Then there was a few things that still need some work. . .

When using the stove, my husband complained that when he turned on the light in the hood, it was hardly putting out any light.  Oops, there is a light in there?  Perhaps it didn't let out any light because I painted it white?  No matter.  A little goof off fixed it.

The pillow stuffing was coming right through the pillow.  That pillow will need a liner.  Easy fix though.

Lastly, we checked the plumbing about an hour before it was time to go.  Leaks!  So we couldn't use it.  No matter, when we got to the site, it had electrical but no water hookup.  Who knew?