Thursday, October 15, 2015

Homestead Happenings, Just catching up


I planned to blog more about our homestead as it was happening, but then life happened.  So, I am going to catch you up all at once about our summer and early fall.

First, the garden.  Well......we did not have a successful gardening year.  Here, the weather was just miserable for crops. It was sad.  We got good seed and spent the time planting only to meet a very very wet June - rain every day - followed by a very very hot and very very dry July and August.  We got a total of 2 bitter cucumbers, one super tiny pumpkin, one super tiny cantelope, and a couple of tomatoes veggie wise.  Very discouraging, but that is the way it is sometimes with gardening.  But, with all the loss in our garden in the way of produce, our flowers went to town.  We had stunning sunflowers.  The purple cone flowers, rose of sharon, crepe myrtle, marigolds, and zinnias did wonderfully and were absolutely beautiful.  Here are some photos of those.






On to the animals.  They are doing wonderfully.  All our spring chicks are full grown chickens and are laying beautifully.  We bought 5 random bantams at a local feed store.  2 of them turned out to be roosters.  We have one away and kept the other.  The kids named him Batman.  


He's a handsome fellow and very well mannered.  I am pleased. We have had some very nasty roosters in our years of chicken raising.  Speaking of which, we slaughtered off the nasty older roosters.  We had one gentle one among that batch, however, as with the keeping of chickens, there is a risk of foxes.  And, our poor Big Red met his demise protecting the hens.  It was a sad day.  Hopefully, Batman will be just as good of a protector if the time should come.

The other chickens are all doing well as well.  We are currently getting about a dozen eggs a day of varying colors and sizes.  It is very fun indeed!





Our meat cow, Sir Loin, is full grown and ready for butchering.  He has been an interesting rascal.  He seems to be able to get loose at the drop of  a hat.  And when loose, he is quite destructive.  We won't mind a cow break for a while.


We are also now the owners of 2 cats!  Our first cat which we have had for a while is 8 years old.  She is my oldest one's cat whom we have had since she was 10 weeks old.  In the late summer, we found someone had dumped a wee kitten off our our house.  Turns out it was only 8 weeks old, 2 lbs., and a girl! So, we are now the owners of 2 cats.  We love our cats and they are very handy for mice control.  



Last but not least, we were blessed to get some apples and peaches for canning.  I spent 2 days doing peaches canning fruit and making jam and 2 days doing applesauce.  We had so many apples, I just froze the rest in slices to make into more applesauce later.  


I think that catches you all up on the homestead happening of our little corner of the world.  Now that fall is setting in, we have been cleaning up the yard and gardens for winter and doing some health preparations for winter.  But that's another post for another time.  Here are a couple of final photos to close out this post.  Happy Fall everyone!






Monday, October 5, 2015

New Feature: A book review, or two



(this post contains affiliate links which means I make a small amount if you make a purchase.  thank you in advance)

Those who know me are fully aware of my deep love for literature.  We have an extensive library in our home.  Every room, except the bathrooms, have shelves and all those shelves are overflowing with books.  I have read to my children since before they were born.  Yep, I was one of those weird moms who read to her belly.  And I love to read aloud to my children.  My kids are ages 18 to 6 and we still read together.  We may not get to it every day, but we read together.  And we love it.  

I want to start a new feature in my blog, book reviews.  From time to time, I will post about a book or series of books we have read either together or personally and then write about it.  And, from time to time, I will feature my children and have them write a review.  

So, without further adieu, our first book, or two, reviews.  

Over the summer, we read two books by Chris Grabenstien, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library  and The Island of Dr. Libris.  What fun reads these were!  Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library is a story about a city opening a new library and the famous Mr. Lemoncello has cooked up a tremendous overnite stay at his new state of the art library for just 12 7th graders.  Well it turns out to be more than the kids expected.  And in order to unlock the library and go home they have to win the game that has been left for them by Mr. Lemoncello.  The story has unique twists and turns and is full of fun clues and mysteries to unravel.  Of course, there is an arch rival to the main character and you are left on the edge of your seat to see which of them will win.  I loved how much literature was referred to and how they bring out an interest in wanting to read them.  Mr. Grabenstien knows his books!   Also, you learn about the Dewey Decimal System while reading, a system that seems to have fallen by the wayside due to our advancing computer age.  My kids were all engaged in the story.  Every day it was, "Let's read a little more."  or "Aw, do we have to stop there?"

Of course, we dove right into The Island of Dr. Libris right after that!  This story takes place when a boy has to spend the summer at a lakeside cabin in the mysterious Dr. Libris' cabin.  He finds himself without all the modern conveniences of TV and internet and has to rely on this huge ornate bookshelf that he finds in the house.  He picks up a book and finds that the story is more than he ever imagined.  Again, there is mystery.  Fun characters from classic literature come to life?  How in the world are they doing that?  Again, many classic peices of literature were used which makes the tale very fun to read.  It is definitely a different flavor than Mr. Lemoncello, but still another fun read.   Just as a warning, the main character's parents are going through some marital problems and Billy is trying hard to figure out how to make things right.  I will not ruin the ending by saying whether he is successful or not.  Its all part of the plot.  But, if a topic like this is not what you want your children to hear about, you might not want to read it.  We used it as a chance for discussion, as we have with many stories where discretion in necessary.

Stories if read alone are suited for about age 10 and up.  However, as a read aloud, we all enjoyed it, even my youngest 2 who are 8 and 6.   


Overall, we give them a 5 book rating!!

Happy Reading!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Another freebie for you, The Apostle Creed flashcards



At the church we attend, part of the liturgy is to recite one of the creeds.  Right now, we are reciting "The Apostle's Creed".  You can learn more about the origins of the creed here.  My older children have already memorized it, but I decided my younger 3 needed to learn it from memory and my oldest son needs to review it.  For my youngers who don't read well, I made some simple flashcards for them.  I thought I would share them with you, too.  You can find them here:

Apostles Creed flashcards

Just print, cut in half (there are 2 flashcards per page) and learn.

I plan to make my two sons some copywork pages for them to review the creed.  I will be sharing them within the next week or so.  So check back.

Happy Homeschooling!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Freebie for you! The Magic Treehouse book series timeline



Hi!  Got a great freebie for you.  In our home, we are readers.  And, I love tying good books in with what we are studying.  I ran across a great reference tool for the Magic School Bus DVD series, and I got to thinking what a great thing it would be if someone had made a timeline of the Magic Tree House books.  I spent some time researching on google and came up empty handed.  So I asked my oldest daughter if she would be interested in helping me make one and she agreed.  So, here is my freebie for you, The Complete Magic Treehouse Book Timeline.  I pray you will find this useful in your homeschooling plans.

Your freebie:

Magic Treehouse Timeline

Happy Homeschooling!

Friday, August 7, 2015

How to make Yogurt in the Crockpot


Any time I can save money, I try to do so.  Anytime I can have one less appliance in my kitchen, I will do so.  For years, I have made my own yogurt for my kids.  For a while, I had a Salton yogurt maker and it worked well for me.  But, we had to move to a smaller place and I needed to downsize some of my kitchen stuff.  So, I began to research if I could make yogurt in a crockpot.  I was happy to find out that you could.  After a bit of playing around, I got it to work well for us and was down by one more appliance.  What I also love about this recipe is it makes more yogurt than my yogurt maker did and that is a plus with a big family.  So, here is my tried and true recipe for making yogurt in the crockpot.

Ingredients:

8 c. whole milk
1/2 c. powdered milk
1 greek yogurt, this could be either plain or vanilla, we happen to like vanilla flavored better
your crockpot

First, put 8 cups of milk and 1/2 powdered milk into your crockpot, whisking well, and turn on LOW.  Allow to cook for 2 1/2 hours.  


After the 2 1/2 hours have passed, turn off your crockpot and allow to cool for 3 hours.  DO NOT OPEN THE LID AT ALL!


After the 3 hours have passed, open the lid and put your prebought yogurt into the crockpot.  Stir well.  Wrap well in a large towel.  I use a thick beach towel we have but you could use 2 bath towels.  The point is to keep it warm and let it incubate.   Incubate for 10 to 12 hours.   



As a side note, I find it easiest to do my yogurt making in the afternoon.  I start it right after lunch and by dinner time, it is ready for the incubation process.  I let it sit all night and get up the next morning to it being done and ready for the final steps.

Now your yogurt is done.  It should be thick like yogurt and ready to go.  Now, you can eat as is if you like or you can add honey.  I always add honey to mine.  We have never been thrilled with the taste of plain yogurt, so I add honey to mine.  How much you add is totally up to you.  You know what you like.  

Now, you put it into your jars.  You could recycle glass jars or use canning jars.  I love canning jars, so I use those.  Spoon your yogurt into your jars.  Add lids and refrigerate.  Its all done.  This batch makes a bit over 2 quarts of yogurt.  We eat about a quart per meal.   It will last in the fridge for about 2 weeks and still be good.  That is all, though.  After that it will mold and go bad.  Mine never lasts the whole 2 weeks.  



This is great with granola or all fruit jams or chocolate chips (my kids favorite) or fresh fruit.  Hope you enjoy the ease of making yogurt without adding an extra appliance to your kitchen.  Bon appetit!









Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Little Girls Shirred Apron



I was shopping at Joann's recently.  While I am ever shopping there, I always look at the remnants section.  I am particularly fond of checking it out when remnants are 50% off the already marked down price.  You can find good deals in there sometimes.  I found a few goodies - a piece of white fur, some polar fleece, and a bit of shirred Frozen fabric.


My little Princess was estatic!  I mulled over what I could do with it for a long time.  I even browsed Pinterest and came up short.  It is a bit short for her and it wouldn't wrap all the way around her either, so I was a bit stumped.  This morning as I was holding it up to her to toy around with more ideas, I said, "This is the perfect size for an apron!"  In our house, one can never own too many aprons.  We love them.  She was thrilled!  So, off to the sewing area I went and this is what I did.

If you want to do this idea, I suggest you measure your child from under armpit to under armpit.  This piece of fabric is 15" at the shirred part.  It fits an 8 year old nicely.


If you have never worked with pre-shirred fabric before, the top and bottom are already finished off for you.  It is what makes this project a breeze.  

First, finish off the side of the fabric.  I own a serger, so I just serged the side edges up.


After that, I turned each side under 1/4" twice to hide all serging threads. 


Then, I measured for the ribbon.   I had Princess hold it up to herself and I measured approximately from where I put the neck ribbons adding enough extra for tying.   I then measured for the back ties.  You will be sewing these to the top of the shirring on each side.  Be sure to add extra for tying.  Mine measured 20" for each neck ribbon (you need 2) and 21" for each side ribbon (again, you need 2). 



I just happened to have a bit of leftover Frozen ribbon from curtains I had made.  You need 7/8" ribbon to get a good width for tying.

Now put the apron body up to your Princess.  Mark where inner edge of shoulders are.  This is where you will sew your neck ties.  Straight stitch them in place going over several times for security.


Next, pin your side ties at the top of each side of your apron body about an inch from the top.  Sew a straight stitch over them going back and forth several times again for security.


Last but not least, cut the ends of your ribbon at an angle.  This will keep them from fraying.  



Now you can stop there.  It is complete.  But I thought a little bling was in order.  I had some tiny snowflake buttons that I hand sewed to the shirring to make the apron look a bit more fun and "Frozeny".  



And now, at least for me, it was complete.  Princess was so happy with the end results!  And, so was I.   I was also estatic on how long this project took, only about an half hour.  I was so thrilled with it that I am now ready to go back to Joanns and see if I can find some fabric for my big girls.



Happy Sewing!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Healthy Homemade Chicken Broth, in the Crockpot

I have been making chicken broth for some time now.  I like making my own.  I know what ingredients are going into it.  I know there is no MSG in it,  and I can control the sodium content.  I tried for a long time to do it, and it always was less than savory.  Or just too fatty.  In other words, just plain gross.  I read someplace though that you need to cook it slowly and at low temps to keep the fat from coagulating.  But, my problem with trying it that way was it made my kitchen hot from all the simmering.  Great in winter, not so great in summer.  So, I decided to try my crockpot.  It can keep it at a low temp, simmer, and not heat up my kitchen.  I decided to give it a go.  And, I will never go back!  I love making it this way.  And it is so easy to do.


Ingredients:

1 fully cooked chicken - I usually do this within 24 hours of eating a roast chicken dinner
2 stalks of celery
2 whole carrotts, do not peel
1 whole shallot
6 cloves of garlic
1/2 c. of apple cider vinegar
12 peppercorns
3 tbsp. sea salt
water

Place chicken in crockpot.  If you are only down to just the bones, you can do this recipe.  Add the various ingredients.  Add water till it covers the chicken.


On the day I made mine, I had some carrots and celery I had frozen myself in my freezer so I used those.  At other times, I would dump in the veggies whole.

Cover and turn on the crockpot to low or 8/10 hours if you have one of those types like I do.  Let simmer for 8 to 10 hours.   Remove lid and allow to get to room temperature.  This takes mine about an hour.  I then place it in the fridge overnight to cool it completely.  


In the morning, I take out my large silver bowl and large silver colander and put one inside the other. 


And, I separate out the chicken.  I separate every little piece of meat off those bones!  I place it in bags to use later for chicken noodle soup or quesadillas.


I then drain the rest of the contents of the crockpot through my colander and I am left with the broth.  I usually just throw the contents away.  If they weren't full of bit of chicken I would just feed it to my chickens, but I don't want them trained in cannibalism.  


I then pour 2 cups of broth into each of my freezer containers.  My freezer containers are nothing fancy.  Over the years, I have save our lunch meats containers and repurposed them into freezer containers. 


Then, you can just freeze normally.  Pull out whatever you need whenever you need it.  This times yeild was 12 cups of broth and 4 cups of chicken which I separated into 2 bags for soup.  That is my typical broth yeild each time.  The meat varies due to the size of the chicken or my kids appetites!  


I love making broth this way.  It is savory, and I love knowing I am feeding my family a broth that is very good for them and filled with good pronouncable ingredients.  Bon appetit!