Wednesday, December 30, 2009

To squeeze or not to squeeze...that is the question!


Yes, I know it's been awhile since I've blogged...but we are still alive down here in the frozen tundra of Oklahoma. And we've been canning, too! While we were snowed/iced in, I decided to haul out some of the apple peels and cores from the freezer and make jelly.

As soon as I started boiling these peels, I noticed the beautiful color of the juice. My mind turned pretty quickly to the county fair! Now, after boiling these peels, you let them sit overnight then strain the juice from the peels. To strain, I put all the pulp in a double layer of flour sack towel and hang it above a pot to let the juice drip out at an excruciatingly slow pace. Now, any jelly maker will tell you that you are NOT...I repeat, you are NOT to squeeze the pulp as it will cloud your jelly. This has always been tough for me because it seems wasteful (and you KNOW I hate wasting anything). I decided to do a little experiment and make one batch of jelly from unsqueezed pulp and another from the juice obtained from squeezing the pulp to get the remaining juice. Here, let me show you the results:





The jelly on the left is from squeezed pulp and the jelly on the right is from nonsqueezed pulp. Quite a difference, huh? Does this mean I will not ever again squeeze the pulp? NO WAY! I got a whole batch of jelly just from squeezing...that's five cups of juice that would have been thrown out. I think this double batch method works pretty well...one batch of nice, clear jelly and one batch of what we've decided to call "peasant jelly!" LOL! We don't really care about clarity when we're loading our PB&Js, doncha know?



Anywho...You'll be seeing this jelly again...she's going to the county fair for sure...and I think she'll bring home a blue ribbon!! BTW...that bubble you see just to the left of the words "Perfect Mason" is a bubble in the glass...not in the jelly. Aren't old jars fun?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Lovely Lavender...

I love our lavender plant and hope to plant more this coming spring as we always find so many uses for it. This year, we carefully harvested and dried lavender planning to use it for Christmas gifts. Here's our jar:



The girls and I combined salt with a drizzle of oil (soybean and olive oil), added a few drops of lavender essential oil and blue food coloring then mixed in some of our dried lavender and a few dried rose petals.



Isn't it lovely all combined?



We'll be giving these out to friends and family members this Christmas...I think they turned out beautifully!

Friday, December 18, 2009

SwagBucks = SwagBOOKS!!!

I recently ordered three FREE books using my SwagBucks! I'm looking forward to reading and perusing them over the holidays! Here's the list:

A Very Small Farm by William Paul Winchester
This is the journal of a man who becomes a substistence farmer on 20 acres in Oklahoma...really looking forward to this read! It chronicles his adventures in gardening, beekeeping, and cow milking as well as orchard building...and all in our very own climate!

The Backyard Homestead Edited by Charleen Madigan
The subtitle is "Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre"...need I say more?

Just in Case: How to be Self-Sufficient when the Unexpected Happens by Kathy Harrison
I don't want to be an alarmist, but I do want to be prepared...and watching the evening news lately has really opened my eyes to all that we take for granted. Looking forward to rethinking preparedness and assessing our own home with this book.

If you haven't joined SwagBucks yet, here's your chance! Click on the banner and get started! I'm amazed at how quickly we earn free stuff!

Search & Win

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ahhhhh...the life of a dog....

Zoe is our female Miniature Australian Shepherd. Since we lost our 15 year old Miniature Pincher in October, Zoe has the run of the house...needless to say she's enjoying herself.





"WILL YOU PLEASE GET OUT OF MY ROOM!! A GIRL NEEDS HER BEAUTY SLEEP, YA KNOW!!"


Ummmm...sorry Zoe. I'll leave you to your nap now.

(Also, please notice the unmade bed...just keepin' it real, folks...)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Applesauce Bread (Okay...Cake....Whatever!)



Since my pantry overfloweth with applesauce, I decided to try baking with it! Now, I'm a big fan of subbing applesauce for the oil in baking, but I wanted to go beyond that. I used a basic recipe and did a bit of tweaking and came up with this yummmmmmmy applesauce bread (errrr...cake?):

Applesauce Bundt Cake

1 cup all purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar, packed
1 egg
2 cups chunky applesauce
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray bundt pan with Pam (or whatever greasing method floats your baking boat)

Combine dry ingredients. Combine butter and both sugars in a separate bowl. Beat in egg then stir in applesauce. Stir in flour mixture until it is fully incorporated. Fold in pecans.

Pour into bundt pan and bake 60 to 70 minutes. You could drizzle this with a glaze, but it was yummy as is...better the second day, even!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

OPEN UP!

Here's a pantry pic! Everyone post your own pantry pics and comment with a link so we can check it out!



You can see that the jars are stacked three high in the back! We also have bags of Halloween marshmallows for our hot cocoa...had to stock up because they were 20 cents a bag after Halloween and we don't really care if they are shaped like pumpkins and bats so long as there are marshmallows!

This is my "overflow" pantry...we also have food stocked in the kitchen cabinets, but all the home canned foods are here so I can open it up and gaze at them several times a day (yes, I'm a dork and PROUD of it!). I'm especially excited because this year I canned more "food" and less jelly. Don't get me wrong, we love the home canned jelly and we haven't bought store jelly in over a year now, but it was my goal to can more nutritious foods this year and I made that goal. Next year, I'm tackling veggies! My Mother-In-Law gifted me with her dial gauge pressure canner, and the local extension agent tested it for me this year, so we're good to go next summer!

We also have two freezers with tons of home grown veggies and sale stock ups...like 20 pounds of chicken leg quarters that were on sale for $4.99 for a 10 pound bag! Couldn't pass that one up! One of these days, I'll take some pictures of the freezers (after I clean them out, of course)!

Alright now, let's see your pantries! LOL! C'mon everyone, don't be shy!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Pantry Building...

So far, I've got 19 pint jars and 5 quart jars of applesauce. I made cranberry applesauce (just throw in a good handful of frozen cranberries while cooking the apples), spiced applesauce (with pumpkin pie spice added...don't ask me why I don't add apple pie spice...pumpkin is just better....trust me on this one), and plain applesauce. For the last two big batches I've made, I've left the skins on and blended them right up with the apples...it adds both flavor and nutrition to the sauce, and makes cooking it immensely easier without all that apple peeling.

Here's a close up shot that shows the little pieces of peel and the lovely colors. Food in jars is just so beautiful, isn't it...or maybe that's just me...


Here's a group shot...smile everyone!


And...I need to confess to you all that I am slightly addicted to roasted pumpkin seeds. It's really becoming a problem as pumpkins are not as readily available around these parts after Halloween. I was extremely excited to find out that roasted acorn squash seeds are just as good (okay...maybe even slightly better) after becoming desperate...er...I mean....researching alternatives to pumpkin seeds! So, here's my coveted jar of pumpkin & acorn squash seeds, roasted, with a touch of salt and pepper for flavor!


I've got one more 8 lb. bag of apples to can...what's YOUR favorite way to preserve apples? Apple butter? Apple pie filling? Hmmmmmmmmmmm.....I'm off to dig out that yummy apple butter recipe...it's around here somewhere!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Apple Craziness!

Apples at 42 cents/lb? Oh, yeah!! So far, I've canned 24 pounds of apples, which translates into 17 pint jars of applesauce which figures out to around 58 cents per jar! The only canning supplies needed were new seals as I already had to jars and rings...canning rocks! I've got 24 more pounds to can tomorrow and plans to do one more round later in the week before the sale is over. I <3 my local grocery store...they even play Christian music so I can sing along while shopping!

P.S. I'll share pics of all this appley goodness later! Stay tuned!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Around our house...

Winter = knitting...this is the softest baby blanket ever for a special brand new baby boy. No, it's not made of organic or natural anything, but this yarn was too soft to pass up. It's delicious!


Six pounds of pumpkin puree headed to the freezer. P.S. I love my new kitchen scale...thank you IKEA!


Good dog, Zoe! She's got a head scarf on and is being put to bed!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Shed...

Here are pics of the loafing shed! I'm so glad we could salvage the tin from granny and grandpa's homestead for this project! It makes it so special to remember time spent at their farm as I'm working on our farm. And the fact that my dad planned it out and helped build it just adds to its value. It's a beginning! And it's progress! And for these things I am immensely grateful!




Now, off to drool over seed catalogs and continue to work on the final touches on my written exams!!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Annnnd...we have a barn!

Homestead Man and my dad finished the barn (loafing shed) today! I can't wait to go out to Willow Run to take some pictures and share them! All the tin was salvaged from my grandparents' farm, so we're planning to patch up a few holes and paint the whole shebang. Later, we'll add some pens around the barn so we can have a hog next year and we can pen up the horses when needed. This will also serve as a safe place to put new calves when they join the family.

I need to look into some solar lighting solutions for the barn as we do not have any electricity out at Willow Run.

In other news, the girls spent the entire day before Thanksgiving picking up pecans at their great-grandmother's house, which we shelled and froze in Food Saver bags. We ended up with 11 pounds of pecans in the freezer. Those are my girls!

This week is a big week for me because I will be finishing up my General Exams and handing them in on Friday. This means I am one step closer to finishing my PhD! It will be tough finishing them up and every spare moment will be spent reading/researching/writing, but the weekend will be GLORIOUS! Please pray for productivity, understanding, and success in this step of the process. On December 14, I'll be doing my oral defense of the Generals...prayers for that day are certainly appreciated as well!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Willow Run

Some of the grass out at Willow Run...keep in mind, it's late November. Our cows are gonna love this place!


Ever wonder where real cowgirls take a nap?


The site of the loafing shed...you can see the pond just behind.


Poles in the ground and cemented...checking to be sure they're level.

Canning Pears

Pears were on sale at our local grocery, so I bought 15 pounds for canning. I ended up canning half of them and making pear-sauce (like applesauce) with the other half. Here are photos of canning:

The set up: You'll need a big bowl of cool water with lemon juice to keep your pears from darkening during processing.


I tried to waste as little as possible. A metal teaspoon makes a great tool for taking out the seeds.


Here are all the pears in the lemon water...waiting for the jars to finish in the dishwasher.


Hot water bath processing:


I didn't take any photos of the syrup, but I used a light syrup and did a hot pack, meaning that the pears went into the hot syrup for a period of time prior to being put in the jars. I believe I boiled them for 10 minutes, but please check the time prior to canning your own, just to be safe.

I put in some apple pie spice in a couple of the jars for spiced pears.




After scooping out all the pears from the syrup and topping off the jars, I was left with a bit of pear syrup...I hated to waste it...then I had a brainstorm. I added a bit of sugar and some pectin to make a lightly flavored spiced pear jelly. After the pears had boiled in the syrup, it was left with a nice flavor.


And in the interest of not wasting any of the pears, the seeds and skins went out to the chicken/rabbit coop.


After dumping the skins into the coop, I thought that I should have used them to make more jelly...similar to the apple peel jelly I've made in the past...oh, well...gotta keep the animals happy, too. :)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

SWAG BUCKS = FREE STUFF!!!

I've recently discovered Swag Bucks, which gives me free prizes just for using their search engine...which I do a lot!

We've already earned a $20 restaurant gift card, which we completely enjoyed...eating out without the guilt of spending so much $$!

Last night, I ordered a book off of Amazon FOR FREE with the Swag Bucks I've accumulated in the past month! The book is a Waldorf-y book entitled The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections. I'll write up a review after I've had a chance to browse it and try out some of the activities!

Anyway, I couldn't bear not sharing this great opportunity for FREE STUFF with all of my frugal blog friends out there! Do yourself a favor, click on this link and start earning Swag Bucks!! I use mine mainly for Amazon.com gift cards, but there are tons of other prizes you could choose!!

Waldorf-y Fun...

There's this educational philosophy that I have been dabbling in for awhile called Waldorf. Some of it I like...some of it I'm not crazy about...but isn't that true of most things? One of the things I love about Waldorf is that it calls for more simplicity...back to basics...which is right up my alley. Now, don't get me wrong, we have more than our fair share of plastic crap toys all over our house, but I would love to move toward less toys...and more natural, handmade toys. In my experience, my kids do LOVE the Waldorf style toys that we make or buy (they're pretty expensive as they're handmade) and they've stood the test of time. They'll certainly be family heirlooms that can be used for generations of OAH kiddos!

There are some Waldorf websites that I love to follow, including The Magic Onion. She is an amazingly creative mommy who is full of crafty fun ideas. We had great fun making her walnut mice! Here's a photo of our little mice that the girls have played with for three days now...by far outlasting many of the plastic crap toys we have laying around!!



In addition, Waldorf emphasizes the use of nature as a natural classroom. Boy, do I ever appreciate that! This weekend we were out at the land, working on the barn (which my dad said is not really a barn...it's technically called a "loafing shed") and the girls found this adorable little fuzzy caterpillar. Wee One wanted to bring it home with us and I agreed, thinking we'd let it go in our backyard the next day. The girls gave it food and water then went to bed. Later that night, I discovered this:



Little caterpillar was making a web...like a spider. Hmmm....interesting...we kept watching. Several hours later, it looked like this:



And the next morning, our tiny caterpillar had completed her cocoon (or chrysalis...not sure yet)and appears to be resting:



How awesome that we happened to find a caterpillar that was at this exact point in her life cycle...and that she chose our home as her metamorphosis home! We are so honored to give her shelter while she performs a little miracle of nature! God's plan for these tiny creatures is so amazing that I can't help but think that it's meant as a metaphor for us...how we all go through a metamorphosis during our lives...perhaps many times....as we live life and find our way to who we're truly meant to be.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Coming soon to a blog near you...

Hoping to blog soon about canning pears as well as the building of a loafing shed out on Willow Run. We cemented the poles today and I took a million pictures! Stay tuned for more!!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Fall Planting

Yesterday turned out to be a big planting day here at the OAH. Homestead Man was repairing our fence and had to make a run into the big city for cement and pipe. While he was gone, the wee ones and I decided to plant our garlic (perfect timing) in one of the raised beds that I'd just cleaned out. Shortly thereafter, the phone rings...it's Homestead Man saying that I should start digging holes...Lowes had their plants on sale...big time. He'd gotten 7 blackberry bushes ($2 each), 1 blueberry bush ($1.50), 7 white crepe mertyls ($1.50 each), and several other decorative bushes and ground covers ($1 each).

We got about half of the planting done yesterday and we'll finish today. It's a great time to plant berries and shrubs because they are able to establish their root systems before the stifling heat of our Oklahoma summers.

Our cumulative numbers? We're up to 16 blackberries (probably maxed out on these) and 5 blueberries. Let's hear it for antioxidants! LOL! Seriously, berries are power foods just packed with health...we should all beef up the berries in our diets. Both of these berries also freeze well to preserve the harvest oh so easily.

The chickens are only laying an egg or two a day now...some days there are none. I'm so glad I froze some of the eggs for winter baking!

We are having a blast socializing Zoe's new litter of pups. She had four beautiful puppies this time and we are truly spoiling them. Our plan is to skip her winter litter this year if we can stand the huge fit she and Zeke throw when they are separated (especially when she is in heat). Nature has a way of out-howling us mere humans, you know?

Oh, and for those of you wondering about Willow Run, the horses LOVE it out there...plenty of beautiful green grass and room to run and roam. Still working on getting a couple of steers and a pig...Homestead Man's father has been quite ill this Fall and many of his weekends have been spent driving down to Texas to help out. We have tried to ride the horses at least once a week and they are really shaping up with the additional attention they are receiving now that they are so close to us.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

It's the little things...



I've been needing a pair of mud boots for awhile now and this past weekend I found the perfect pair at Academy! Check 'em out! They had cheetah print, zebra, hounds tooth...then I spotted these mosaic print boots...and they were clearly made for me! Now I can wear them when I muck out the chicken coop this weekend!! ;-) I'll be stylin', huh?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Crazy Busy...

We've been crazy busy around here the past few weeks. Field trips to the pumpkin patch, a brand new batch of adorable puppies, baking...baking...and some more baking..., lots of projects at work in progress, and beginning to work on my General Exams for my PhD. So, you haven't heard much from the OAH lately, but it's for good reasons.

This is the time of year when I am drawn back into the kitchen and I've been baking bread and muffins along with making pots of beans, stew, chili, and cornbread. Tomorrow I plan to make up a double (maybe triple) batch of bread dough, shape it into loaves, and freeze it for the coming month. This will allow me to take a loaf out of the freezer at night, let it thaw/rise overnight, then bake it in the morning. We'll need this "homemade convenience" while I frantically work on General Exams.

I'm also hoping to have a leeetle bonfire out in the garden to burn all the dead growth from this past summer and make some nourishing ash to spread on the garden for next year. Gotta wait until it is all nice and crispy and the weather is just right, though.

So, don't give up on me...I'm still here.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Fall is my favorite canning season!!

Because Fall is when the apples are on sale at our local grocery. Final count...18 jars of applesauce! One batch each of cranberry applesauce, chunky apple pie spiced applesauce, and skinny applesauce (applesauce with skins included :)



Chunky Applesauce:


Cranberry Applesauce:


Skinny Applesauce:
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