Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Lies, Deception, and Parenthood...

Psst....come closer...I'll tell about how I mislead my wide-eyed, innocent children. Here it is...are you ready for this? I tell them wheat germ is...SPRINKLES!!! Seriously. They frequently ask for sprinkles on their food. Yogurt, applesauce, cereal, oatmeal, whatever. Today, the 6-year-old lit up and started CLAPPING when I took the mason jar out of the fridge and graced her applesauce with *sprinkles*. Shhhhhhhhh...don't tell! You're sworn to secrecy.

For children, it's all in the packaging. The big companies know this. That is why they sell sugar water with a bit of red food coloring for $5 a pop...after all, it's in a cute little Winnie the Pooh sipper bottle!! Sometimes just renaming the food does the trick.

We also eat a whole grain hot cereal that we call "Three Bears' Porridge." They can't get enough of it!

Monday, February 23, 2009

New Recipe!

One of the blogs I regularly read had an interesting new recipe recently.

Simple Sourdough Pancakes
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (or whatever grain you want)
  • 1 cup cultured buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 3 T. melted butter (or oil)
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. sea salt
Stir the flour and buttermilk together in a glass bowl. Cover with a cloth and leave on the counter overnight. In the morning, stir in the egg, melted butter, baking powder and salt. Whisk together, adding extra milk or buttermilk for the desired batter thickness you prefer.

Cook pancakes on a well buttered, hot skillet or griddle, flipping once bubbles begin to form. Serve with real maple syrup, applesauce, jelly, or any of your favorite pancake toppings!
I'll be trying these tomorrow morning. My flour and buttermilk are soaking on the kitchen counter as we speak!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Applesauce crisis...

We were down to two jars of homemade applesauce...not good...but yesterday I came across apples for 53 cents per pound! I got 15 pounds and made up some applesauce to replenish our supply. Crisis averted.

Discoveries made during the process:

I have discovered that crockpot applesauce has a brown color even if you add lemon juice, but stovetop applesauce will yield a color more like store bought applesauce. My kids don't seem to care either way, but it is nice to know in the case of making applesauce for other people.

I also discovered that I prefer to use pint jars because I feel like I've accomplished more when there are more jars sitting there cooling on the towel and pinging to tell me they're sealed. How silly is that??? I decided to use quart jars because the girls will finish a pint jar in one sitting, but was a bit disappointed in the number of jars I got from 15 pounds of apples. I may have to go back to the store and get another 15-20 that price, it's hard to pass up!

I've also discovered that I like wide-mouthed jars best because they stack more easily.

I wonder what all of you do with your empty jars. How have you found to store them? I was putting them back into my pantry, but really would prefer to find a better place. After all, full jars are so pretty, but empties just take up space.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ol' fashioned fun...

Wanna have some laughs? Throw a handful of grub worms in the brooder with four baby chicks! I would have taken some pictures, but we were laughing too hard.

Seriously, I plan to give the chicks some grub worms and other pests as they are available to "train" them to seek out these little buggers. They seemed to really "hit the spot" as the chicks chased each other around playing keep away with the worms. I have one garden bed that is full of grubs, so this will be a good way to eliminate many of them while also influencing my chicks taste buds. I have absolutely no scientific evidence that this theory will work, but it seems like good common sense, doesn't it?

The tomato plants continue to sprout and I've got a nice germination rate on the first seeds I planted. The second bunch still has some time. No sign of the potatoes, onions, or beets in the back bed. /thrumms fingers on table/ It is so hard to wait patiently.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

BIG NEWS!!! let me show you....

Hmmmmmm....what kind of sweet little feet are those?

I *think* these two are going to be White Rocks. Good egg producers, even through winter. They are also supposed to be pretty docile...good news for the 4 year old!

The rusty looking two should be Rhode Island Reds. Also good producers of eggs and one of the most popular chickens. This photo shows all the chicks looking quite perplexed at the roost I provided.

I'm still hoping to find a Barred Rock chick or two. Atwoods is supposed to get more chicks in this week, so I'll go back to check for little black chicks with white patches....those are the Barred Rocks!

Establishing a backyard flock of hens is a great way to provide organic eggs for our family and for us to be more independent as the economy goes crazy beneath our feet and grocery costs continue to skyrocket. I also think that these are very valuable lessons for my see where food comes from and what goes into growing fresh produce and nurturing the chickens that give us eggs. My oldest will probably show one or two of the chickens in the 4-H show next year as well. All in's another adventure for our family.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Big things come in small packages...

The first two types of tomatoes that I planted are just beginning to sprout. Aren't seeds amazing little capsules of life?

As you can see, these are planted in our newspaper pots that can be planted directly into the garden soil, lessening the transplant shock on the plant. In addition, the pots will add organic matter to the garden. I had some plastic forks that someone brought to a get together here at our house that I decided to use for plant markers this year.
I had hoped to get the carrots planted in the garden yesterday, but our youngest and I have both been down with the flu, so they'll have to wait. Maybe I can plant them later in the week.
In other news, digging around in the freezer, I came across a frozen package of apples that I put up when they were on sale. We made some delicious apple crisp with them.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

To-mAH-toes, To-mA-toes...

Whatever your pronunciation...I planted more last night. If every newspaper pot ends up with one strong seedling, we'll have
  • 4 Pearly Pink Cherry Tomatoes
  • 4 Pink Boar Tomatoes
  • 12 Green Zebra Tomatoes (Just for fun!!)
These are in addition to the other tomato seeds I'd planted. Nothing has sprouted yet, even though I go out to the garage to stare at them several times a day.

Also, Dad has set a date to come up and build the chicken coop. I'm still waiting for Atwoods to get their baby chicks in...can't find a mail order company that will ship less than 25 chicks. I'm only looking to get 4-6 chicks, so I guess I'll have to be patient. Our local Atwoods store says their chicks will arrive in March. I plan to check at two other area stores, though, to see if they will be getting chicks earlier.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Day old bread??

Do you make homemade bread? If so, you probably hate to eat day old bread like I do...I'm spoiled. After a couple of days, I cut any leftover homemade bread into one inch cubes and throw it into the gallon sized freezer bag labeled leftover bread. This makes great stuffing and....even better...BREAD PUDDING.

Here's the "Easy Southern Bread Pudding" recipe we're trying out tonight. I'll let you know how it turns out!

Gardening, Building Moats, and Atwoods...

The gardens are really coming along! This weekend, I cleaned out two of the raised beds and planted several varieties of peas (Sugar Snap and Wando) along with spinach. We tilled the newest garden bed in the backyard and were really surprised by the soil. Don't get me wrong, it is still Oklahoma clay, but it is not as bad as the West garden. We didn't pick up any compost because we decided to use partially composted mulch from our mulch pile to mix into the soil and break it up a bit. I also added two wheelbarrows full of compost from our compost pile.

Today, I formed two wide rows in the new garden and planted 138 seed potatoes, 60 Super Sweet Onions, 80 Red Onions, and a handful of Beet seeds. I formed a moat around the whole bed and in between the rows. This will keep any rain that falls on the garden in the garden...a must here in Oklahoma! I covered the center moat/walking space with loose hay. The hay will keep the trail from being muddy and will clearly show my girlies where to walk in the garden.

A note on the frugal nature of gardening...I purchased my seed potatoes, onions, and some other seeds at Atwoods. Seed packages were 8 cents each and I paid around 2 dollars for 140 onion sets. The potatoes were around 8 dollars. An 11 dollar expense will turn into a year's worth of potatoes and onions...and we're not even covering the additional seeds I picked up for 8 cents per packet!

As I was planting, though, I was thinking of what a blessing it is to work with the soil. I'll have to share the story of my paternal grandparents someday...I'm convinced that gardening and homesteading are in my blood.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

OAH chores...

  • Cook the last of the blackeyes from the freezer (the smell of these cooking on the stove is so connected to summer for me...isn't it funny how our sense of smell is so anchored in time periods and emotions?)
  • Check on applesauce supply...the girls are going through the applesauce I canned this fall at a record pace. I may have to consider making more next fall.
  • Crank out some more newspaper pots
  • Start two varieties of tomato plants (Cherokee Purple and Genovese...the rest will be started next week)
  • Set up an area in the garage for the new plants near the South window
This weekend:
  • Till up two veggie beds, one in the backyard and one in the west yard (outside the fence)
  • Pick up a load of compost to topdress both beds and the remaining three raised beds
  • Check at Starbucks for "Grounds for the Garden" to add with to the beds with the compost (Maybe also enjoy a Frappuccino with my Starbucks gift card from Christmas?)
  • Plant peas and spinach
  • Prepare to plant onions, potatoes, and beets (Tuesday)

According to the forecast, we're in for a beautiful weekend followed by a few thunderstorms early next week...perfect for prepping the gardens and getting early stuff in the ground.

On a side note, DH is going trout fishing this afternoon, so perhaps we'll have some fresh fish to eat over the weekend as well!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Washing Soda $2.99.............Zote Soap 95 cents..........Borax $5.99..................
.........Laundry detergent for 18 months? PRICELESS!

(Please note: You will need another bar of Zote to make enough for 18 months, but only one box each of Borax and Washing Soda.)

Compare this with what most of us pay for store bought detergent! I have a front loader, so I have to buy the low suds HE detergent, which is even more expensive in most cases.

This homemade laundry detergent works beautifully and smells so good! Here's the recipe I use:

1/2 bar Zote soap, grated
2 cups Washing Soda
2 cups Borax

To get my mixture this smooth, I ran it through my trusty blender for a few minutes after mixing everything together. You only need a tablespoon or two of this in any wash.
I use this handy little scoop that came in some coffee.

Feel free to add a few drops of your favorite essential oil for different scents. I like lavender and lemongrass. I've also added tea tree oil to towels and sheets as it is a natural antibacterial/antifungal and smells nice to boot! I also think it looks so much more "Martha" on top of the washer than one of those ugly detergent bottles. Don't you think? ;-)

The main reason I'm attempting to tighten up our budget right now is that we are saving money to buy a bit of land. We want to be ready when the right place pops up for sale. Our plan is to find something with a pond, adequate fencing, and perhaps a loafing shed or barn. Aside from moving our horses closer to us (the currently live with family 2 hours away), we will stock the tank with fish and raise some cattle. DH has agreed to raise one steer each year for our own meat. He will be raised as organically as possible. The remaining steers will be raised for profit.

This plan will provide us with a reliable source of beef and fish at a minimum. Also, we'll get more time to ride, which we both really enjoy. This will also be a place where we can possibly raise a few sheep for wool. I've got to get busy practicing my spinning before this will happen, though.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Planting Calendar!!

TennZen has the coolest link on her blog! Check this is a planting table you can customize to your exact location! The only problem? I've gotta get to Atwoods to get some seed potatoes!! I didn't realize I could get them in the ground so quickly!

Here it is! Have fun!

It's the little things...

Little changes in our home I've been experimenting with in the past two weeks.
  • We ran out of plastic wrap and foil. I decided not to buy anymore right now...see what happens. It's hard at first and I've found that some things REALLY need to be wrapped in plastic wrap and/or foil like quick bread that you're freezing. I did learn that I use these products WAY too much, and it's really a waste of money to cover a bowl with plastic wrap when a plate placed on top will work just as well. I'll buy some more, but try to use them more sparingly. Less trash and less money thrown's a win/win!
  • I wash my hands constantly when I'm cooking, so I've started putting the stopper in the sink to catch all that nice warm, sudsy water for washing the dishes when we're done eating. Not sure why I didn't think of this before, but I'll be saving a bit of water AND a bit of dish soap. Obsessively frugal? Perhaps.
  • I'm going back to making my own laundry detergent soon. A friend of mine, who can find ANYTHING on the internet, let me know it is safe for front loading HE washers, so I'll be making some this week sometime. I'll post some instructions and photos later. This saves a ton of money and I think this soap cleans our clothes much more effectively than the store bought stuff.
  • We have an aerobic sewer system like this one. It's all self-contained at our house. What is really nice is that the treated water is sprayed out every night to water our lawn and a few carefully placed trees. I'm thinking we need to reroute one of the sprayers onto the pecan trees. More effeciently use the water.