Sunday, May 30, 2010

Ice Pop Experiment Summer 2010

Since the weather has warmed up quite a bit, the boys have been going through boxes of Popsicles like crazy. I don't buy the dyed water version for them though because of the dyes, High Fructose Corn Syrup, huge amounts of sugar, and the fact that they don't have much in nutritional value either. One of our boys has a sensitivity to red dye so it can be difficult sometimes to give some things to the others and exclude him even though we find suitable alternatives, they know it isn't quite the same thing and even if it is better it somehow doesn't seem fair in their eyes. On a positive side, he seems less and less effected by it as he gets older. Anyway, I grew tired of buying the high-priced boxes of "ice pops"* and decided last week to begin making them instead. The boys and Matt have really enjoyed them so far, and I have found lots of resources and recipes to try out over the next few weeks...not to mention a few of my own design. The Market is starting on Saturday, and I figured if the boys are enjoying them it might be a good treat to sell at the Market so we will give it a try if I can work out the traveling and storing aspects of it. I am starting out with rather basic fruit pops, and a couple of creamy ones, if I get the chance I will also add a tea or coffee one. In time if it all works out I would like to try and focus on fresh and local produce. So far I have come up with Watermelon, Pineapple-Coconut, Pear-Blueberry, and fruit punch. Tomorrow I would like to make Lemon-Berry or Lemon-Mint, Lime, and maybe a fudge pop with chocolate cookie chunks.

If you are interested in trying the pear-blueberry yourself, it was fairly simple, I had a can of pears in juice no sugar added on hand and frozen blueberries. I pureed the pears, you can add a little honey or sugar(I didn't and it came out fine) poured it into molds and added frozen blueberries and the sticks. I would like to use fresh fruit in the future, but this was a trial so I used what was handy. The hardest part was waiting. This basically made enough for four "ice pops"*.

*As a side note I just wanted to explain the phrase ice pop instead of using Popsicle. Apparently, Popsicle is now a registered trade mark and can not be used as a general description any longer, that is why you find "popsicles" listed under Novelties in the freezer section.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Getting Ready For The Farmer's Market

June is approaching fast. What a quick spring we have had, It seems like winter would never end and then in the blink of an eye summer has quickly descended upon us.
This week and most of next week will be rather busy preparing for a new season of soap at the local Farmer's Market and local stores that carry our soap.
New batches are now curing in anticipation of the June 5th opening of the market. Many of the batches have been updated in some way to make them more unique and to add more interest. Late last year I began experimenting with sugar and salt body scrubs and got good feedback on it. I am thinking of adding these if time allows. I am also still trying to find a lip balm recipe that I am happy with so that I can have those ready this year too. Later this summer I am hoping to begin making a line of liquid soap. Then in the Fall I would like to also add lotion bars, and body butter. Another change we are working on for this year is adjusting the labels a bit and eventually changing the packaging.

This is the new label for the soaps. Anyone have any comments on it, they would be appreciated.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Monday, May 24, 2010

Mini Farm Update

The rain has been really nice lately, especially for the garden. Besides not having to drag out the hose, the plants much prefer the natural water from the sky instead of all the chemically processed water that comes out of the faucet...of course I really don't hear them complain too much, they just look happier after a nice shower.The only problem with the great rain showers is that it also makes the weeds happy, happy, happy. Last week the garden was relatively clear of stray plants.

Walking outside yesterday I realized that there was a little neglect on my part, but in my defense those plants grew way faster in a week than I would have anticipated and nearing the end of this pregnancy has proven to be a little more difficult than the previous ones, making it harder for me to spend as much time outside in the last couple of weeks with the increasing heat and humidity.Anyway, it looks like I will have to brave the heat and the itch that comes with it and clean out the garden before they swallow my plants whole. The cucumbers also need something to climb on, that should also be done tomorrow. Maybe I will even get the green beans replanted.

On a happy note, some of the watermelon seeds that were planted recently have started sprouting despite the garden intruder that
tried to eat all my seeds, unfortunately they managed to eat every one of the cantaloupe seeds on the row and left the seed shells to taunt me.

The compost heap has been growing some beautiful stray plants, it looks like there are some potatoes, and squash(maybe from last year's decorative autumn display) for sure. The squash plant is amazing and I can't wait to see what it produces.

The chickens are doing well. It seems like they are really happy in their house and run. They really enjoy being out during the day, and unlike my children know when to put themselves to bed.
About an hour before sunset for the last couple of days they have gone back to the coop all on their own which makes it a lot easier on them and me. Seeing the boys chase them around the run for half an hour and stressing them out was really starting to stress me out.
We have also come to the realization that we will probably not have free-range chickens like we first planned.
The neighbors dog is just way too interested. At first it was really cute, she is part border collie and she seemed to want to herd them around, but she is also part bird dog which makes me think she is trying to herd them into a corner for a snack. I am not sure that we are ready to find out which it is so for now they will have to stay in their run until I get brave or build a pen that we can move to different areas in the yard.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Good Friends...Good Fun...Good Crawfish

We have been trying for quite a while to have a group over for supper at our house since we have moved in. On Thursday we hosted a crawfish boil for some of the people that work for Matt and some of our friends and neighbors. This was our first official gathering at the new house and despite the looming clouds and intermittent rain it seems like everyone had a really good time. We cooked about 75 pounds of crawfish along with lots of potatoes, corn, mushrooms and onions. The vegetables soak up the seasoning that the crawfish are boiled in and it gives them a really good spicy flavor.

The boys really enjoyed themselves. Nathan has been to crawfish boils before back home in Louisiana and probably ate his share and mine. Noah and Jacob on the other hand have never been to a boil before and had lots of fun catching and chasing crawfish in the yard. I was amazed at how brave they were. Neither of them had any second thoughts about sticking their hands into the pot of live crawfish to catch and play with them.

Eating it was a different story, though. they were not too sure about them. It was a little funny. Noah liked eating them, but didn't want to have to peel them. He mostly made a meal off of the corn and potatoes. Jacob on the other hand was positive that he didn't want to have anything to do with eating those bugs on the table, but every time you handed him a tail and he didn't know where it came from he would eat it and ask for more.

Unfortunately, after everything got cooking I put my camera down so that it didn't get rained on or fall into the pot and forgot to take pictures of the actual supper.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Garden Update

We have been working hard to make sure that the garden is well established before the baby comes. It has been quite a task, lots of plants have been put into the ground, but so far it has been a fight to get them established. Now that the warm weather is here to stay, it seems like things are coming along lots better. The squash is really beginning to take off. The tomato and cucumber plants were struggling for a while, but now seem to be catching up with a little boost of fertilizer. The lettuce seems to be perking up a bit, but the onions still seem to be behind in spite of the extra help. Although the green beans and yellow wax beans that were planted are producing some beans, they flowered way too early to let the plants establish themselves, so they will have to be replanted soon also to be able to have another crop of beans. Last week I planted watermelon and cantaloupe seeds, but it seems like most of them have been eaten by a critter of some sort. I will wait a few more days to see if at least a few seeds escaped the feast. In the next couple of weeks I am hoping to get some eggplant and pepper plants into the ground. My neighbor was nice enough to help clear out a part of our property and we now have quite a large place to plant more stuff and we are in the process of creating a shared garden up on the hill.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

What's coming up in the yard

It has been lots of fun watching and waiting to see what the previous owners have in the flower bed and around the yard. From the end of summer last year when we looked at the house I noticed several herbs, what I thought was strawberries(turned out to be wild strawberries), and lots of dead/dying annual plants. Since the start of spring we have had several types of daffodils, a couple of types of iris, dasies, roses, azaleas, a couple of different types of fig trees, a plum tree, mullberry trees, dogwood trees, lots of muscadine vines, maybe a couple of wild cherry trees, I'll know for sure when the fruit ripens. There are also a couple of trees that flowered early in the spring, but I forgot to mark them to see what they were...maybe I'll remember next year.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Our Big Little Harvest

When we moved into our house we noticed plants that looked quite a bit like strawberries. I have been waiting to find out exactly which kind and it seems like we have a crop of wild strawberries. They are sweet, tart and flavorful little berries...very little berries; a pint container can probably hold more than fifty to seventy. The plants are beautiful, they have deep green rather large leaves that grow in an upright form that almost shade the flowers and berries that grow on shorter stems closer to the ground in clusters that may have as many as ten or fifteen berries on them, but they are not much bigger than blueberries or raspberries. The berries are lots of fun to pick, and very tasty. We have been picking them for a few weeks now, and really enjoying the flavor, but I do not think that we will have enough to do anything with them except eat them fresh. They would make an excellent jam if there were enough of them. The boys are having lots of fun picking them and eating them right out of the yard. My guess is that the previous owners used these plants as ground cover to keep the weeds down in the flower bed. I am hoping to keep them growing in the future and maybe add some of the regular strawberries also. They don't appear to grow in the same way as the regular strawberries, they don't seem to have runners so I am not too sure how to make sure that new plants will continue to grow. I will have to watch them as the season progresses to see if runners form.