Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Stocking Up

First, I would like to thank GG and JD for such lovely comments. They were very appreciated. You are both much too kind!

My pantry is very full, and keeps getting fuller with every load that comes out of the canner. We also shop sales and stock up on items we use when the sales are good. I couldn't get the full shelf in from where I stood, so you are missing the bottom shelf - where all the maple syrup, juices and other beverages are stored. I am slowly replacing store bought items with home canned. I want to limit my dependence on store items as much as possible.

This morning was another cold morning, and the house boasted a chilly 61°F. As tempting as it was to turn the heat on, we didn't. Instead, I made a double batch of granola which warmed the house up some. Pulling up the blinds on the south side of the house helped with the rest. The sun felt so nice and the dog appreciated it as well. He followed the sun spot on the floor all across the living room. It's going to just about kill me to turn on the furnace this year. With the prices the way they are, I so wish our outdoor boiler was in working order. DH says he thinks he can fix it - but then we need to still get wood. It'll be fun getting wood in the snow :) I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it can be fixed.


3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup honey
5 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup dried milk
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
Pinch salt
1/2 cup raisins
Other on-hand ingredients ie: nuts, dried fruits, coconut, seeds, etc.

Place oatmeal in a 9" x 13" pan. Sprinkle evenly with dried milk, then salt. At this point, I usually will sprinkle 2 Tbs. flax seed meal, an even coating of each: coconut, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, chopped walnuts or pecans.** Leave the raisins out until later.

After you are satisfied with with the ingredients in your cake pan, set aside. Preheat oven to 375°F. Mix the oil, brown sugar, and honey in a small saucepan and heat until the ingredients combine. It will seem like the oil and sugar won't mix, but once it starts boiling, you will see a change - everything combines. Take off heat and pour over ingredients in cake pan. Mix well. Bake for 7 minutes, stir, then bake for another five, stir, then put back in for another 5 minutes. By now, the ingredients should be a bit browned and the syrup has been incorporated evenly.

Take from the oven and cool - mixing while cooling to prevent items from staying in one huge clump.

**Note: If I'm putting in raisins, I usually add about an equal amount of dates. If I'm using another dried fruit or berry, I'll leave out the raisins sometimes. There really is no recipe of what to add after the first four cereal ingredients - it's usually whatever I have on hand and what I think may taste good together. I like to put in as many seeds as possible, because the seeds have a powerhouse of good vitamins and minerals in them.

We have been making this granola for a good year now, tweaking it as we go - experimenting with different combinations and ingredients. Today I made our normal raisin, date and pecan granola and in the second pan I made a cherry granola which used our own dehydrated sweet cherries. The cherries were a bit of a disappointment, as they didn't have the flavor we get from dehydrating sour cherries. It was still good, but not as good as it could be. I will be making note of this.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

We Have Carrots!

Free Photo of a Carrot Picker During Harvest, 1935, in the Gorki Region, USSR. Click Here to Get Free Images at Clipart

I can't even remember how many years it's been that I've tried to grow carrots. I've followed directions to the "T" and every year I've had no luck. I've tried floating row covers, sand, peat... you name it. Then I read that one needs to sprinkle the seed on top of freshly worked damp dirt, cover with a thin layer of sand, and then cover with a board. I tried it, and had it raised just a tiny bit for a little air circulation. IT WORKED! I had a 5 foot row of carrots that sprouted and matured! Tonight we will be eating the fruits of that row. I know - five feet isn't much, but I was so tired of wasting seed and garden space. Finally - I know how to get those little buggers to grow. Life is good!

Seven more trays of mint now dehydrates on the counter. I'm hoping we'll have enough for tea this winter. I've never tried putting up a year's worth of tea before. I've been counting things by trays for my notes. I could put down gallons or quarts of dried apple slices, but if I post trays, I have more of an idea how much needs dehydrated instead of the end product.

I still have to go to the garden today and pull in the green tomatoes I want for jam. Then the garden is finished. Then all we'll need to do is put it to bed.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Early Bird

Early this morning, DD and I left our nice warm home to brave the rainy and foggy weather to get to JCPenney's to hit the early bird sale. She needed a new winter coat, and although we looked at yard sales and the thrift stores, we didn't find one in her size. We found a nice feather down coat in her size plus we also found a bra on sale that she liked. If we had purchased them at regular price, we would have spent $194.99. Instead, we bought both for $63.49!! It certainly was worth taking the time to go!!

We were out of Penney's before the mall even opened (another big plus!) and made a quick stop at the health food store to pick up some echinacea purpurea root, elder flowers, cardamom, and wheat germ. I buy all these in bulk and it saves a lot of money. The girl at the register asked me why I'm buying elder flowers, because they are so easy to harvest. I told her I know, but sadly missed them this year. She said she did, too. I did go for elder berries, but the birds had hit them hard, and were eating them even before they really turned ripe, so I just let them go this time. Next year...

I think I have pretty much everything we'll need for cold and flu season now. DH won't drink the elder tea - says it's TERRIBLE, but to the rest of us, it just tastes like any other herb tea. He says he'd rather die of the flu than drink it. I just roll my eyes, because we all took it as soon as we started showing signs of a cold week before last, and we did get the cold, but it passed by so quickly. DH on the other hand was miserable and ended up missing a couple of days of hunting and a couple of days of work. Sigh...

Friday, October 26, 2007

Getting Fall Plantings In

We were lucky to get the garlic in today before the rain. We allowed things to try as much as possible, but the ground was still wetter than we'd have liked it. It now is snuggly nestled under composted manure, straw and leaves - all ready to set roots and quietly hang out until spring. We also moved all the winter onions and replanted them, as well as a couple of horseradish plants. Not much left to do in the garden, except to put it to bed. I still have a few tomatoes to pick before the killing frost they are calling for this weekend, and a couple of carrots to still harvest, but that's it.

As you can see, the trees here are still green. This was taken from our backyard through the lilacs...

What is even more amazing is the peppers - here they are STILL producing.....

The milkweed pods are opening and they are drawing in some new friends - can you see one here? You have to look closely.

If not, maybe this picture will show them off better....

Every other Thursday is interrupted with a trip to take the kids to their biology lab, so I can't get involved with anything time consuming. It's about a 40 minute round trip, so I decided to put some bagels in the bread maker to try. I found a recipe on RecipeZarr that sounded quite good. I was quite surprised how easy they were. To think all this time I've been putting them off because they appeared to be more difficult than they actually are. They turned out nicely - and everyone here is insisting that we don't buy them from the store any more. (Note - if you see marks under the bagels - please ignore. I cooled them over the parchment paper I baked them on so I could catch all the wandering poppy seeds.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Dried Apples

We ended getting rain - and quite a bit of rain to boot, so the garlic still sits here waiting to go in. Well, at least have of it made it in before the rain, so that will have a good watering to give it a start.

I decided to take it a little slower yesterday, so I only did 5 loads of laundry, put 10 more trays of apples in to dry, and researched some on soap making. I'm about ready to begin, but I don't have a sensitive digital scale, so I need to find out if my postal scale will work for now. The last thing I want to end up with is a lye-heavy soap.

This morning, the day started with a few surprises. First, I awoke at 6:55 am and tried to figure out why I was still in bed at such a late time. Then I heard DH - he was sleeping in the tub and snoring away...and very late for work!

After we scooted him off, I was telling DS about a dream I had about my brother. I called my brother (who is now in England), and he answered his home phone - so I didn't believe that he was really out of the country. That was about the gist of the dream. DS laughed at how weird my dreams were and then I went out to take the compost out. When I came back in, the phone was ringing, and it was my brother in England! How weird is that!???

After our nice little talk, I tested the apples and found they were ready to come out. They are now packed and vacuumed sealed and ready to go on the pantry shelves. I did do a Food Saver canister full that will be left up here for the kids to snack on. They are so easy to seal - so they'll open it and then seal it back up in just a few seconds. I like the canisters, but they are quite expensive.

When I put the apples in yesterday, I decided to experiment with a couple of the trays. Every year I make the dried apple snack in the Ball Blue Book, but it aways makes such a mess out of my drier. Even when I line the trays with waxed paper. So, this time, I just sprinkled them with a little organic sugar mixed with cinnamon. They dried nicely and didn't weep. They aren't as sweet as the others, but I didn't use near the amount of sugar. I think these have a nice flavor, and the kids like them, but have asked that I continue to make some of the others as well.

One of my most favorite places to stop by every morning is Garden Gnome's blog. She is one of the biggest inspirations to me. That woman is wonderful! She has inspired me to try new things to can - and I love how she's always looking for a better way to do things. She's sort of like having a virtual mom - telling and explaining how to can and cook. It's been a real blessing with my own mom gone. I've been teaching myself how to do the canning, and when I'm not sure, I've had to read or search on the net. Now, with the discovery of Garden Gnome's blog, I can pretty much search her blog, get answers and have photos as well as great instructions. Not only that, but since she answers comments on her blog, I'm sure if I have a problem, she would be there to help. She hits me as a wonderful person that loves to share her loves and talents. If you ever read this, GG - you are a true blessing to me - THANKS!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Bread Baking

There is nothing like a homemade loaf of bread, and to have it warm with butter, is like having a slice of heaven on your plate. Besides the wonderful taste, baking your own bread is so much cheaper - easily getting 3 loaves of home made for the cost of one loaf of store bought. If you usually purchase the expensive whole grain breads, you will save even more to make your own.

I prefer the flavor and texture of kneading and baking the bread in the oven, however, there are times that I'm so busy or the kitchen work area is taken up with other things, that I can't easily make it like my grandma used to. A bread maker has been a great blessing on those days. I never realized that, until this past summer, our bread maker died and I was determined to do everything else and on top of getting the bread baking done. Canning jars were all over cooling or set to be filled, washed, etc. and every work space was loaded with something. Our kitchen is small and with no work area to knead, I really had to put things off. The freezer was full, so I couldn't bake bread and freeze it, so, we ended up buying bread. Yes, I hang my head in shame, because the stuff my dear husband brought home from the store was very expensive, and certainly didn't even resemble bread. It was awful - and a premium price.

My husband decided that enough was enough and surprised me with a very nice bread machine! So we are now back to home made and healthier bread - all the time. Everyone is truly thankful :)

This morning, I decided to get up extra early and start a loaf of raisin bread so when everyone got up they could have a nice hot piece before going about their daily duties. Usually, I will just set the timer so that the bread is done when we need it, but this recipe has milk in it, and the raisins are to be added at the second kneading. Yes, you can put them in at the beginning, but they get chopped up more, and just aren't as pretty to look at. Everyone was thrilled with waking up to the wonderful smells of cinnamon through the house.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

1 1/4 cups warm milk
1 Tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons organic sugar
3 cups unbleached flour
2 teaspoons yeast

Put all ingredients in pan in order listed or according to your maker's manufacturer's directions. Select the white bread setting and bake on light to medium color crust. Use the 1 1/2 to 2 pound loaf setting.

At the beginning of the second kneading (or at the beep) add:
2/3 cup raisins

When the bread has finished baking, I will take it out of the pan and put in on a cooling rack, and brush with butter, then allow to cool. By brushing the finished loaf with butter, you will end up with a nice soft crust.

After the raisin bread came out, I put in a loaf of my husband's favorite bread, Drew's Famous Onion Dill Bread. This recipe came from the DAK Turbo Baker IV recipe book. The DAK (which we fondly called R2D2) was our first bread machine, and that machine lasted over 10 years. It would have kept going, but the pan inside broke, and it cost much more to replace the pan than to just purchase a new bread maker. We then bought a Toastmaster that did well, but didn't last nearly as long - two if I remember correctly. We are now on our 3rd machine - a Sunbeam and it is working well and makes larger loaves.

Drew's Famous Onion Dill Bread

Mix together and warm until lukewarm:
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup cottage cheese
3/4 cup sour cream
3 Tablespoons organic sugar
3 Tablespoons minced onion
2 Tablespoons whole dill seed
1 1/2 Tablespoons butter

Pour the above mixture in your bread maker pan. Add:
1 unbeaten egg (room temperature)
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3 1/3 cups unbleached flour
2 teaspoons yeast

Bake on the white bread cycle using the light setting. Use 2 pound loaf setting. Remove from pan, place on wire rack and brush with butter.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Garlic Planting Time

Free Picture of a Head of Garlic. Click Here to Get Free Images at Clipart

We spent the day finishing up the garlic bed. DS turned it all by hand and spent a lot of time making sure it was ready. Then we raked and marked it out and put one of the two wide rows of garlic in today. Our garlic plot is only 6 1/2 feet by 8 1/2 feet. We planted a 26" x 8 1/2' row today. After we put them all in, we sprinkled toe row with composted manure and then some straw. I still need to add more mulch - probably leaves and more straw before the freeze. The row now is home to 85 very large cloves of garlic. Tomorrow, we'll put the rest in.

Our friend, Paul, is an heirloom garlic "collector" (and I say that very fondly!) and he was sweet enough to share some of his garlic with us. We planted 35 cloves of Georgian Crystal, 25 cloves of Siberian, and 25 cloves of Bavarian Purple. We still have Chesnok Red, Transylvanian, Polish Softneck and California White to plant tomorrow. I'll have to separate the cloves and see how many we will have to plant. He sent us so many beautiful bulbs, and if I have a lot left over, I'll see if there's another small place we can plant more. Our garden isn't very large, so space is an issue - right now. I'll have to do some figuring, to see where and how we can make more room if need be.

I ordered the book, The Healing Power of Garlic by Paul Bergner from PaperBackSwap. With all the garlic we should have next year, we'll need a book on how to use it other than cooking with it.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Putting Up Food

We've put a bit of food up in the pantry this year. What we didn't grow came mostly from friends and some from the local growers market. When we can't grow it, we make sure to purchase locally.

Here's a peek at what was put up on the pantry shelves or in the freezer this year:


1 quart garlic cloves in oil (actually these are in the refrigerator)
1 batch Sweet Cherry Jam
1 batch canned peaches
1 batch peach pie filling
1 batch Peach Brandy Jam
1 1/2 batches Peach Jam
1 1/2 batches Spiced Peach Jam
1 batch Spicy Habanero pepper Jelly
1 batch Habanero Pepper Sauce
2 batches Barbecued Hot Peppers
1 batch Jim's Salsa (from Countryside Magazine)
1/2 batch Pickled Peppers
13 quarts and 5 pints tomatoes
4 quarts pears
1 batch Spiced Pear Jam
1 1/2 batches Pear Jam
1/2 batch Squash Relish from Heinz pickling booklet(DD made these!)
1 batch Tomato & Corn Relish from "The Joy of Pickling"
7 quarts and 1 pint Apple Sauce
2 batches Caramel Apple Butter
1 batch Apple Butter
10 pints meatballs
3 pints browned hamburger
6 pints hamburger with onions and peppers in tomato juice
7 pints hamburger with onions and peppers in water
1 batch Pineapple Sauce/Topping
3 batches Pickled Peppers


5 batches Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
4 packages sliced onions for French Onion Soup (6 generous cups each)
26 cups chopped onions for cooking
3 packages chopped chives
3 pints peaches - sweetened
1/2 gallon bag flash frozen peach slices
7 quarts (generous) green beans
8 packages grated zucchini
1 quart flash frozen green bell peppers
3 generous quarts chopped green bell peppers
1 quart flash frozen Cubanelle peppers
4 generous quarts Cubanelle peppers
1 pint flash frozen red cherry peppers
1 batch Vera's Apricot-Zucchini Jam
6 pie crusts from "30 Day Gourmet"
9 generous quarts corn


2 trays sweet cherries
5 trays onions
2 trays zucchini slices
3 trays peach fruit leather
3 trays hot peppers
15 trays apple slices
6 trays apple snacks


Dried mint for tea
Echinacea tincture
2 quarts frozen chopped parsley
28 cubes frozen chopped parsley in water

Homestead Dreams

We have dreamed about buying lots of land and becoming self-sufficient since before we were married many many moons ago. Every time our income went up so we could almost afford land, so did the land prices. We decided to keep going and honing our skills here, until we go move on to our dream place. So far, the dream place is still a dream, but we are doing pretty well here on just 7 tenths of an acre.

With the economy not looking very promising, we've decided to stop looking for now and just be thankful that we are out of debt and everything is paid for - our home, our cars, our credit cards... everything. If the economy spirals down like they claim it will, I know we will be better off than some of our friends and family members. I'm thankful we didn't listen to all the times they told us to just take a chance and go deep into debt. I think the best thing I've heard from them is, "You can only live once". Well, now they are panicking for "living once", and we are saying "phew!" knowing where we could be standing now.

This blog is for our explorations and trials - our successes and failures...And how we are doing it all here, in the middle of town, on 7/10ths of an acre.