Tuesday, December 30, 2008

So I'm not going off grid anytime soon...

I have a confession. Amid all our homestead efforts and my desires to move toward a more "back-to-the-basics" lifestyle, my mom bought us a huge flat screen TV for Christmas...and....here's where it conflicts a bit with this blog's ideals....I LOVE IT. Seriously.

It's 40 something inches and mounted to our wall and movies are incredible on it. Best of all...I didn't pay for it. There's no way I would have spent this much $$ for a TV, so it really was a blessing that we'd never have allowed ourselves. It came with a free Blue Ray player which makes movies jump right off the screen. It's incredible.

Another great thing about it is that I was really perfectly fine with our old TV. I didn't even covet anyone else's flat screen (I sometimes really struggle with coveting other's blessings.) So, this came as a huge out-of-the-blue kind of blessing.

There...I've confessed. I know this does not really jive with many of the ideas I've written about here, but it's true. I'm not going off grid anytime soon...it would mess with my reception of the Food Network. /blush/

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Blessings on the Homestead...

I was gifted with many, many blessings for our homestead this Christmas! Here's a list:

Tons of canning jars from my husband's grandmother...she is no longer canning and wanted to pass them along. I can't tell you how much fun it will be to fill them with the garden's bounty this summer knowing that they were used countless times by NeeNee Davis. Priceless.

A pizza stone and pizza peel for my bread baking!!

A bamboo cutting board that is absolutely beautiful.

My dad wants to build the chicken coop for me! He's quite handy and also very thrifty. Dad plans to use mostly materials that are available on the farm, so that'll be an added bonus knowing that all the stuff was from our family place that once belonged to my grandparents. Those of you with family farms know that the tin on a family farm has been recycled several times...it is never thrown away. Aside from the value of recycling...I'm also a hopeless sentimentalist.

A clothes rack for air drying clothes indoors. This increases the humidity in your home in the winter (when heating tends to dry out the air) and cuts down on energy usage/costs.

Aside from all the goodies, I was blessed with time to spend with family and friends. We are really building some powerful friendships in our little hometown and it is such a gift from God to have good friends surrounding you. I am so thankful that our jobs allow us three weeks off at Christmas. That is a gift unto itself.

I'd love to hear about your best homestead blessings this Christmas! Please share!

As for our plans for coming days...I'm baking bread tonight and hope to cook up another batch of apple peel jelly in the next few days. I've got two gallons of apple cores/peels in the freezer that were left over from recent apple butter and applesauce canning. Oh, and I'll be cleaning house and cooking for a Bible Study party we're having at our house on New Year's Eve.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Finally some photos...and a bit about myself...

As you may have noticed, I am a terrible procrastinator when it comes to uploading photos from the camera. Not sure why I dislike this job so much, but I do. There you have it...confession over. Now on to the pretty photos...

Waaaaaay back when, I said I'd show you some photos of the Mother Earth News bread I've been baking...well, here are a couple of loaves. It truly is yummy bread and quite versatile. My Bible Study group is loving this bread...lemme tell ya.

We even made grilled cheese sandwiches on it and they were maaavelous.

I decided that the only thing missing from this bread was real, homemade butter. The girls took turns shaking a bit of heavy cream. They shook and they shook and...
Took turns shaking some more!

Let me just recommend that you try this bread with homemade butter. 'Nuff said.

Lastly, I'm pondering a remark made by a friend of mine concerning Christianity and environmentalism. I have to say that I see these two going hand-in-hand, although I think in our political times, there is an assumption about Christians that they are not environmentalists. Well, I'm inventing a new term....CRUNCHY CHRISTIAN. That's me. (In case my witty sense of humor is not quite connecting, I'm referring to the "crunchy-granola" stereotype of those some would label as hippies...whatever...I'm funny in my own head...please bear with me here.)

The way I see it, if I give my children a toy, I expect that they will take care of it. Put it away so it doesn't get stepped on, clean it off if it gets milk spilled all over it, etc. I believe that God made the planet Earth for us; therefore, it is our responsibility to be good stewards of this planet. Yes, I am a Christian who prefers products with less packaging, is trying to eat more organic foods, grows some of my own food, composts, and prefers to buy local produce (though it is not terribly available in our area) when I have the chance.

Also in line with CRUNCHY CHRISTIANITY (perhaps more on the hippie side of things), I am a whole-hearted supporter of breast feeding. After all, Mary fed Jesus this way and I see the design of our bodies as a beautiful testimony of God's provision. I loved wearing my babies and had quite a collection of baby wearing options. Ring slings were my favorite. Oh, and I love folk music....not sure if this really matters at all, but I thought I'd throw it in there just in case.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

You wanna make some jelly????

As I was walking through Wal-Mart yesterday, I spotted one of those clearance carts they sometimes park randomly in the store. This cart was different, though....IT WAS PACKED WITH CANNING STUFF!! The boxes of pectin were marked 10 cents...no kidding. I bought 25 of them. They're good until 2011. Score!

I also got some Pickling Salt and Pickling Lime for 50 cents each in huge canisters.

The young boy who was checking looked at me a bit strangly...because of the pectin and because of the mystery veggie he couldn't identify. I explained that it was rutabaga and he continued to peek up at me through a veil of long curly hair. I further explained that our family wanted to try a new vegetable this week and rutabaga was in season, so there you go. Suddenly he thought this was a neat idea and said maybe he, too, would try to cook rutabaga. He wanted to know how you cook it and said, "Let me know how it turns out, okay?"

Monday, December 15, 2008

Bendy Dolls...

My girls have a beautiful wooden doll house that mostly sits and collects dust. It's a mystery to me as I'm constantly trying to lure them into playing with the thing. I recently ran across a tutorial for "Bendy Dolls." These are the most adorable little dolls ever that would fit perfectly into the doll house. They have some similar little people figures, but not nearly this cute and imaginative. We've just watched Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and I think the little knights and princesses would inspire some Narnia play. Perhaps over Christmas break I can aspire to make several of these little gems.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

BBA Unite!!!

This post is for fellow members of the Supreme Order of Bread Bakers Anonymous. I have discovered a wonderful secret for members only. (Okay...my mom discovered the secret.) After sampling the Mother Earth News bread I'm currently baking at record pace, my mother went to Sam's looking for a good deal on yeast. She found 2 lbs. of yeast for $4!!!! That's right...it's not a misprint...I won't have to buy yeast until September 2011 according to the expiration date on the package. Awesome!

In other BBA news, I mixed up a new batch of dough tonight and threw in two handfulls of wheat germ. I think it'll give the loaves a nice nutty taste. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Lastly, but also of notable BBA importance...I finally liberated 6 bananas out of the freezer to make two loaves of banana bread. I have a fantastic recipe for banana bread that has gotten rave reviews everywhere I take it.

Banana-rama Bread
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 stick sweet cream butter (unsalted)
2 eggs
4-6 bananas
1 t. soda
2 c. flour
1 t. vanilla
handful of pecans
  1. cream butter & sugar
  2. add eggs - mix
  3. mash bananas & add to mixture
  4. add flour, vanilla & pecans (if desired)
  5. bake @ 325 for 55 min. (loaf pan) or 30 min. (cupcakes)

A few notes:

The kiddos love to mash the bananas! Hand 'em a fork and let them mush bananas to smithereens!

I've made this with half white flour & half wheat as well and been quite pleased with the results.

I never throw out a banana. Overripe ones go in the freezer then I thaw them as needed for bread. They look terrible when they thaw, but you just rip off the end and squeeze out the banana like toothpaste. I swear these make the best bread ever!

Also, I don't like chopping pecans so I add them whole. It's rather tasty to bite into a chunk of pecan!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Hello...my name is Stephanie and I'm addicted to /sniff/ bread baking...

Admitting it IS the first step, isn't it? Mother Earth News sent out a another fabulous newsletter with this article about how you, too, could have freshly baked bread in only 5 minutes a day!! NO WAY, I thought to myself..IMPOSSIBLE! I will have to just try this for myself!

And I did try it...all weekend long. I made 5 loaves of yummy artisan bread this weekend. I've also started another batch to use throughout the week. Ummm...hmmmm...I'm officially a member of Bread Bakers Anonymous (BBA). Anyone else want to join my club?

The great thing is that the original recipe can be tweaked for almost endless possibilities. The article also talks about making cinnamon rolls and pizza crust with this same starter. WOW! Try it...you'll like it.

(I'll try to upload some steamy photos of fresly baked bread for my fellow BBA members in the next few days! ;-)

In other news, the girls and I made some homemade soaps to give as Christmas gifts. We included Tea Tree Oil as a natural anti-bacterial. It smells great!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Coop De Ville

I think I've found my coop design. After much debate & discussion...DH and I have finally decided on something like this:

My dad saved several wooden screen doors from my grandma's house when he tore it down. I hope to build the run around grandma's wooden door. The sound of those doors clap-clap-clapping shut bring back so many memories.

Since we have a huge yard fenced with privacy fence, I think I can clip the chickens' wings and allow them to do some free grazing. If that doesn't work out, I'll come up with a portable run that can be moved around the yard during the day.

DH and I are both college professors, so it really helps that we have summers off to pursue gardening & homesteading efforts. I'm teaching an online class this summer, so I'll get some summer salary and be able to work from home. It's a pretty good compromise.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Apple Pie

Remember that great deal on apples...and the apples I froze? Well, here they are:

They went into a pie crust...

Got covered with a nice crusty blankie...

And came out of the oven looking like this...

It was goooood!

In other news, the kind folks over at Little Homestead in the City had a recent blog entry about showing off the inside of our pantries! Well...after a bit of reorganizing (is that allowed?), here's a photo.

I just learned to can last November, so I'm really proud of what I was able to do this year. Our garden here in Oklahoma didn't produce as well as it will in normal years (we had a very hot, dry wind that fried lots of area gardens), so I have high hopes for next year!

This year, we did tons of jelly and jam, pickles, applesauce and applebutter. On the right side of the bottom shelf are the dried herbs for seasoning and teas. There are also some dried lavender bloosoms there that the girls and I will be making into soap to give as holiday gifts!

Special thanks to Little Homestead in the City for providing the inspiration to get my One Acre Homestead up and running. Next year, my goal is to double the gardens and add a small flock of chickens. In the future...bees! Stay tuned!!