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!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

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.
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