Monday, November 7, 2011

K5 Learning Trial/Review

K5 Learning has an online reading and math program for kindergarten to grade 5 students.  I've been given a 6 week free trial to test and write a review of their program.  If you are a blogger, you may want to check out their  open invitation to write an online learning review of their program.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Demos at the Farmer's Market


This year at the Taylor Farmer's Market I tried doing a couple of demonstrations to show people some of what I do to make soap and other bath products. One of the demos was making Bath Bombs. They are really fun to make and since there wasn't a huge crowd involved this time, I let some of the kids that were standing around the table participate and take their creations home. It was really lots of fun to get people involved in the process instead of me standing there doing the demonstration and just explaining each step. I think everyone involved had a good time and it looked like the people that participated were really excited about what they made. Bath Bombs are a relatively simple project that really anyone can do once you get the feel for it. The ingredients are very simple and safe, and there are so many things that can be done to make them your own creation. It is all up to your imagination.



If you are interested in trying yourself, here is a simple recipe that can get you started.




Basic Bath Bomb Recipe
1 cup Baking Soda
½ cup Citric Acid
Witch Hazel (or water) in a spray bottle
Color*
Scent (essential oil)*
The most important step is mixing the baking soda and citric acid. Make sure that it is well blended this is what creates your fizz.
       Add your color and scent and mix well. If you are using a food coloring that is water based mix it in quickly because it will make your mixture fizz.
       Now for the difficult step…Begin spraying while mixing with the other hand. Don’t let the mixture get too wet. When you can squeeze the mixture in your palm and it stays together without crumbling it is ready to put into molds.
       Tightly pack the mixture in your molds. You need to work rather quickly so that the mixture doesn’t dry up on you. The harder you pack the molds, the heavier, denser, and more durable your final product will become. Let your molds set for a while and unmold on a sheet pan that is covered with a towel. Let them air dry for a few hours or overnight. When dry place them in an air tight container.

*Note: because of sensitivities in our family, color and scent only comes from natural sources. I try to use only colorants that are a natural material(vegetable, clay, etc.), and scent only comes from essential oils. Fragrance oils and dyes can be used if you like.


Cabbage Casserole

This recipe has always been one of my favorites as a kid. It is really easy to fix and can be done on the stove, in a slow cooker, or in a rice cooker. It is warm, hearty, and great because it is a one pot supper that includes everything.

Cabbage Casserole
1 lb ground meat(pork, beef) uncooked
1/2 lb smoked sausage
1 onion chopped
1 bell pepper chopped
2 stalks celery chopped
3-4 garlic cloves
2 cans chopped tomatoes
2 cups rice uncooked
1/2-1(depending on size of cabbage) head of cabbage shredded really fine.
1 cup water
Seasoning to taste with salt, pepper, basil, oregano or others of your choosing.

Take everything and put it into which ever pot you decide to use. Mix it all well and cook until rice is tender. Sometimes you need to check and make sure there is enough water and add a little if it looks too dry.

So that is the recipe that I usually follow. One other change that I did make was to cut back on the amount of meat used. If you feel like you want more in the recipe you are welcome to put more in The other day I wanted to test using the outer leaves of the cabbage...you know the ones you never see in the store that are left out in the field to waste. Okay, so here is the adjusted recipe that I tried.


Cabbage Casserole 2
1/2 lb ground meat(pork, beef) cooked
1/2 lb smoked sausage
1 onion chopped
1 bell pepper chopped
2 stalks celery chopped
3-4 garlic cloves
2 cans chopped tomatoes
1 can of tomato sauce
3-4 cups rice (cooked left overs from gumbo)
3-4 large outer leaves of cabbage shredded really fine and chopped
add a little water if necessary since the rice is already cooked and will not soak up liquid like above.
Seasoning to taste with salt, pepper, basil, oregano or others of your choosing.

Just like the other recipe add everything together and stir until combined. This time most of it is cooked so basically it is just re-heating and wilting the cabbage. It should be the consistency of a Jamabalaya. Ham, chicken, or shrimp could possibly be substituted, or no meat at all. Mushrooms, or carrots would be a great addition also. We really enjoyed this dish this way also. Everyone had seconds and one of my boys even ate thirds. Which was pretty impressive to me considering cabbage was involved. The large dark green leaves are not as strong as regular cabbage. I used the cooked rice because it was in the house, the recipe is so much better if you make it using the uncooked rice so that it soaks in the liquids.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Baked Potato Soup

This is a very simple flavorful hearty meal that is great on a cool or rainy evening. The key to making this meal flavorful in adding layers of flavor. One of the most important steps it to make sure to saute the vegetables to bring out their flavors. The cream and butter add a layer of richness, flavor, and a creamy texture to the meal. 








Baked Potato Soup

Ingredients

  • 6-8 strips of bacon, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 4 cups chicken stock, or enough to cover potatoes(or water)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a large heavy bottom pot or duch oven cook the bacon over medium heat until done. Remove bacon from pan, and set aside for garnishing the top.

Chop onions, bell peppers, and celery, add them to the bacon drippings and begin cooking until onion begins to turn clear. Add the garlic, and continue cooking for 1 to 2 minutes. Chop the cubed potatoes, and add them to the pot and saute for 5 to 10 minutes in order to begin browning them. Add enough chicken stock to just cover the potatoes. Cover, and simmer until potatoes are tender and the soup has thickened to the consistency you like. Add butter, cream and seasoning.

To serve, ladle soup into bowls and top with cheese, sour cream, bacon, chopped green onion or any other toppings that you enjoy on your baked potatoes. Serve with pieces of crusty French Bread.




Wednesday, October 26, 2011

For those of you who responded to the soap sample give away, Thank you very much. Because there was such a low turn out each of you will get a sample for playing. :) Tiffny Stewart, Loretta Reece, Michelle Muse, Laura Manley Schlett, and Angela Smith Elledge I will be sending you each a sample of our new Chocolate Almond Oatmeal soap.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cinnamon Rolls

There is nothing better than a warm gooey cinnamon roll fresh and hot out of the oven. Most people don't think they have the time for that anymore, but it really isn't that difficult especially if they are prepared the night before. It has taken me quite a while to get this recipe to the point where I am happy enough to share it. We love to make these on Saturday that way you can fix the cinnamon rolls in the pans and put half of them in the refrigerator overnight and you have an almost instant Sunday breakfast treat. Take them out, let them come to room temperature they rise while we are at church and when we get home  we pop them into the oven and breakfast is ready.

Cinnamon Rolls
3/4 c milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup butter
2 packages yeast
1/3 cup warm water(for yeast)
3 eggs room temp
5 1/2 - 6 1/2 cups flour

Filling:
1/2 stick butter
1/4 cup of cinnamon
1 tablespoon of flour
1/2 cup of sugar

Topping:
1/4 stick of butter
2 cups of powder sugar
milk or half and half(enough to make it liquid enough to spread but not to liquid.)
vanilla or other flavor

Heat milk and butter(I use the microwave) until the butter is melted but not hot.
Dissolve yeast and add to milk mixture.
Put 5 cups of flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl add the milk mixture and the eggs. Mix and let rise for 30-45 min. Add more flour to make the dough workable and knead for 10 minutes, put in a oiled bowl and let rise 1 hour. (If you have a mixer skip the kneading and let the mixer do it.)

Divide into two roll out one section at a time into a rectangle-ish shape and put filling. Roll up cut into sections 1-1.5inches wide and put in a baking pan cover and let rise for 20 min. Bake just until the top starts to turn brown 15-20min? -ish?

soften butter mix with powder sugar and milk until you get a good consistency to pour on top add vanilla and spread on top before they cool too much.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Gumbo Z'herbs



This is a wonderful recipe for anyone who is vegan, vegetarian, or enjoys meatless meals on occasion. Traditionally it is made on Holy Thursday to be eaten on Good Friday because it is a day of fasting and abstinence for many Catholics. It was a meal that came about in New Orleans because although the No-Meat-On Friday Rule for Catholics was usually not a problem for most, this particular day posed a problem because it is a day of fasting. So for many who do not agree with the Friday seafood feast it can be toned down with this meal in keeping with the tone of the day.

All of the greens listed do not have to be used, but the more variety you have the more layers of flavor you will get in your gumbo.  This gumbo is also a great way to use all those tops to your root vegetables that you thought had no purpose. Carrot tops are actually quite tasty like a mixture of parsley and carrot.

A note on pepper grass. This is actually a weed found growing in fields, edges of woods and abandoned lots. I can remember chewing the seeds as a kid because of the distinctive pepper flavor that they have. It is not necessary if you do not know what it is or can't find it, but it is a nice addition if you can get it.So don't be afraid to try it you probably won't even miss the meat.

 Gumbo Z'herbs(Green Gumbo)
  • 1 bunch collard greens
  • 1 bunch mustard greens
  • 1 bunch turnip greens
  • 1 bunch spinach
  • 1 bunch watercress
  • 1 bunch beet tops
  • 1 bunch carrot tops
  • 1 bunch radish tops
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 bunch chicory
  • 1 bunch pepper grass (if you can find it)
  • 1 bunch arugula
  • 1 bunch sorrel
  • 1 bunch dandelion greens
  • 8 or 10 sprigs of tarragon
  • 1 head romaine, green-leaf or butter lettuce (not iceberg)
  • 1 green cabbage
  • 1/2 bunch green onions
  • 1 gallon water, salted
  • 1 large smoked ham hock (optional; omit if you want it strictly vegetarian)
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 2/3 cup oil or butter
  • 3 large onions, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 4 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 bunch parsley, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves(optional)
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme (please try not to use dried for this dish)
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 whole allspice berries
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  • 6 cups cooked rice
Wash all greens thoroughly and remove all stems or hard centers. Chop finely and put aside. In a large, heavy-bottomed stock pot make a brown roux of the flour and oil or butter (or a cup of purchased roux). Add 4-6 quarts of water and bring it to boiling. Add the ham hock Let it continue to boil while you chop your onion, bell pepper and celery and sauté for 10 minutes.

The Ham can be taken out at this point since it is used as a seasoning to flavor the gumbo only(and saved for another use), added to the pot if desired, or omitted completely for a completely vegetarian meal.
            
Add the onions to the roux and water. Add the greens, herbs, spices, and seasonings. Simmer on low heat for 1 hour 1 ½ hours. Adjust seasonings as necessary.

Serve in large gumbo bowls. Put 1/2 cup of rice in each bowl, and ladle generous quantities of gumbo over it. Optionally, you may season each bowl with gumbo filé. Yield: 12 servings

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Chocolate Almond Oatmeal

As delicious as it sounds, it is not breakfast, fudge, or a new granola bar, although I am quite tempted to try it. It is my newest soap scent. I think it came out quite nice. The scent is very strong in almond, which may need a little adjustment, and then the chocolate comes through. It is a nice warm scent. 


If you are interested in trying out this new scent, I am giving away 4 sample sizes. All you have to do is post in my comments and let me know if you have tried any of my soap before, what are your favorites, and follow our blog to get future updates and giveaways. I will randomly draw 4 names to receive a sample of this new scent. If you know of anyone who would be interested in natural soap send them a message, if your friend wins I will send one to you and the friend.

So here's your chance to try a new scent on me.
Good Luck!

I will pull names on Tuesday October 25th.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Realigning Priorities

Apologies for my absence and negligence. I always intend to make sure a post gets done and somehow it just hasn't gotten done.  I find it interesting how being intent on something and having good intentions are so far removed from each other. One is an action and the other is a dream that will probably never be. I say this because lately my life has been flooded with good intentions that I just have not attended to. It is wonderful to have hopes and dreams, but action has to come in order to make it a reality. Unfortunately my good intentions in the last few months have been just that because of inaction. It  begins to permeate other aspects and before you know it life is swirling around you waiting for you to grab hold and take control. The time has come...


Ok, so yes I have started reading a new book that has inspired action...What's this great book, you ask? It's Dave Ramsey's newest book EntreLeadership. I began reading this book because it is time to go forward and make more out of this little business that we have started. Actually, I am really needing to go forward in so many aspects of my life and it is interesting how this book has set that in motion. Although it is a book about business, and Leadership and guiding a team, Mr. Ramsey's words are very far-reaching and can apply to so many aspects of life, not just business. I am about half way through the book and I can't wait to get to the end. The book serves as it's own work book that directs as you go so just like his other books, they can be life changing but it requires work. So thank you Mr. Ramsey for yet another book to ponder and work toward setting new life goals.

So here's to putting dreams into actions, setting goals and putting life into motion again instead of standing in the center of life's tornado watching it go by. One of my first goals again it to give our blog more attention and be more active in posting. So see you soon with another post.

Other books that I am in the process of reading right now: How to Win Friends & Influence People, and Guerrilla Marketing: Easy and Inexpensive Strategies for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business. What are you reading right now?

Monday, August 29, 2011

School is inevitable...

It's funny in life, you always have grand plans to be on top of everything so that you have every part of your life running like a well oiled machine....and then it happens...LIFE! It seems like these days there is just too much to do and never enough days in the week. So why is it that we just can't seem to stop adding other things to what we are already doing.

Summertime is officially over and school has begun, so has Cub Scouts, and Boy Scouts, and what seems like countless other things to fill our days and nights. And yet there are times that I just feel that one more small thing can be squeezed in to be juggled along with everything else.

We are beginning week 3 of our school year. So far it is going pretty well. I actually expected it to be a more difficult transition. We officially have 3 in school...6th grade, 1st grade, and Pre-K 4.   I am determined to make this year more exciting than the last one. It is time to have a hands on year. One of my thoughts was to have 3 weeks of actual school work, and then a relaxed week of art exploration, experimentation, and exploring things not in our regular lessons to have a break, but not to completely abandon school work. This year I would really like to do more with writing reports and short stories, maybe a little poetry thrown in too...

In our first three weeks, Nathan has mostly stayed on task and completed everything that is asked of him...It makes me very, very happy to see an effort being made.

Noah is very good in math and has started reading and writing, which is very exciting because last year he wasn't very interested in "knowing all that letter stuff".

Jacob, well we are lucky to get him to sit still for more than 15 minutes, but in that time he shows lots of interest and promise...what more could you ask of an overactive 3 year old.

Evelyn is working hard at taking steps and saying new words, eating new foods, being patient when mom's time is focused elsewhere and napping.

So, what are some of your grand plans and goals for the year. How do you deal with life interruptions and hiccups.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Diligence

Well I tried to put photos up today...for some reason it just won't work. Anyone have a clue about how to fix it? The pictures will upload, but will not show up on the post...ugh!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Happy Birthday Baby Girl!

Today Evelyn turns one. The first year is always such a blur of excitement, change and growth..She has brought so much love and joy to our family. It has been fun watching her personality grow and change over the last year. It looks like she will be a princess, but is also showing that she will be right in the middle of it all with the boys. She is bright, inquisitive and curious, and is already getting into trouble and messes. She doesn't walk yet, but knows how to climb and although she is a girl of few words, she has no problem making herself understood. It has been a wonderful first year and we can't wait to see what next year brings.

June 21 2010
July 2010
August 2010 Baptism
September 2010
October 2010
November 2010
December 2010
January 2011
February 2011

March 2011
April 2011
May 2011
June 21, 2011

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Summer Is Here

J. Planting Beans
Everything is heating up fast, and summer is now upon us even though not officially yet. It is definitely time for front porches and ice cold tea, lemonade and popsicles. The gardens are not really thriving this year, but they are planted and some things are more successful than others. In time we will get the soil right and have better success.

N. Planting Peas
 The onions and shallots seem to be doing really well. A few of the garlic seems to be doing well too. Right now we have two tomato plants that are just beautiful and one is loaded with tomatoes(Creole Tomato) and the other is slowly producing a few(Amelia Tomato). There is also a cherry tomato that is trying really hard to get established.

Zucchini, and Yellow Squash are growing nicely this year and it seems as though we have escaped the dreaded Squash Boring Bug that gave us so many problems last year.

We also have a few random potato plants, a volunteer squash or pumpkin of some sort that is beautiful, and a few gourdes that will look like eggs.

Our new garden space
On the new garden plot so far we have planted some eggplant, peppers, okra, squash black eyed peas, and purple hull peas. I am hoping to put in some more tomatoes, potatoes, pumpkins, corn, and cantaloupe.

I am already planning and looking forward to the fall crops...I am really enjoying the process of gardening even though the yields are not overly successful.

Some of the Chickens
The chickens are doing great. These new guys are a whole lot different than my first ones. They are less timid, and a whole lot more aggressive. The little rooster is beginning to show dominance and our older chickens are not too happy about it. So far they haven't been too mean to the smaller ones, but they let them know who is boss.

Our baby girl is on the move

The kids are all excited for summer and what adventures are ahead of them for the next couple of months...nothing really planned yet, but there is a lot of anticipation. Hoping we can make it a memorable summer for them.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Garden/Farm Update

As of today Garlic, red shallots,  and yellow onions have been put in the ground. Three tomato plants(creole, sweet 100's I think, and a pink variety that escapes me right now). A few egg gourds just for fun. Sweet Peas and a few bush beans. Yellow squash and zucchini two of each I think. A couple of asparagus plants.

The blueberry bushes seem to be doing really well right now and even though they are really small this year, several are bending under the weight of the berries they are holding so I look forward to future years. I also have five new bushes that need to be planted soon, hopefully this week, but the question is where.

Sadly, the strawberries that I planted a few weeks back do not appear to have taken, so it looks like we will have to try again another time...maybe seeding would be better. It was very disappointing I figured they would take off rather well considering there were already a type growing in that area.

Right now there aren't many flowers actively blooming, except a few purple iris, a couple of roses, and one of my favorite my wild gladiola. It is a beautiful spike of bright fuschia/purple blooms that bob and sway with the wind.

Our weaknesses: The soil really needs amending. I will be sending in soil sample tests soon, but recently we did a home test kit just to see quickly what we were looking at and it was also a great project/science lesson for the kids to see. It turns out that one part of our yard is very acidic, very low in nitrogen and potassium and moderately low in phosphorous...so basically it needs quite a bit of work. We also really need to get more sun into our yard. Although we don't want to clear cut and cause issues, there are very few places in our property that has the daylight hours we need for garden plants.

The chicken run/coop progress has basically just stopped, just way too many things going on and being taken into too many directions. We are still just where we were at the last post...the posts have been put in. All the chickens are still okay where they are; our big girls are happily laying and egg a day(3 total), and the chicks although restless and I am sure ready to be outside will have to hang in there for another couple of weeks.

I am interested in getting several plants...one of the top on my list right now is jewel weed. Mostly because I will be using it in a future soap and spray in next year's soap season. It is good for relieving poison ivy. So I look forward to testing it...especially right now because I have poison ivy...ugh. Licorice, Bay Laural, Artichoke(saw the plant this weekend and love it), a few woodland ferns and other types of shade greenery that could be used for decoration, marsh mallow, and a few others are also on my mind.

The weather is getting really bad so I will post this now and fill in with pictures later...

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Happy Easter!

I thought I would share with you...one of my favorite trees. I have loved this tree even as a small child, because it was my climbing tree. The tree where I found refuge, where I would go to think, where I would go to wonder, where I would go to pass the time on any given day, alone, or with my pal Cotton(my dog)...and yes, I would actually carry the poor dog up in the tree with me. Before my teenage years, my tree died and had to be cut down it was heartbreaking. Later in life I found this legend and it has always made me smile. My favorite tree as a symbol and reminder of Christ. It is interesting to me that the tree that I found solace in as a child is a symbol of Christ and as I grow older I am learning to find comfort in Him. What a beautiful reminder living in our woods and on our world.

The Legend is a really beautiful sentiment true or not. The version I read many years ago is not the same as this, but it does tell the story. So I share it with you today in honor of what our Lord did for us. 


               Happy Easter!             


The Legend of the Dogwood


Many years ago, a dogwood tree grew on a hill outside Jerusalem. In those days, the dogwood tree was as tall
and mighty as an oak, and this tree was the tallest of all the dogwoods, and extremely proud of its strength. 

"Something wonderful is going to happen to me," it said to anyone who would listen. "I'll probably become the mast that holds the big sail on a grand ship, or the main timber supporting a great house." 

Unfortunately, the huge old dogwood was cut down to become the cross to which Jesus was nailed. The tree was horrified. All its dreams of glory were smashed, and it groaned in agony as two boards
from its trunk were nailed together. 

Jesus took pity on the tree, even as he carried it to Calvary. "You will never be put to such use again," He told it. "From this day on, your shape will change, even as will the world. You will become
slender and sway easily with the breeze. And instead of acorns, you will bear flowers in the shape of a cross... with
two long and two short petals. In the center of the outer edge of each petal,
there will be nail prints... brown with rust and red with bloodstains to show the world how you have suffered." 

"Last of all, the center of your flowers will be marked as though with a crown of thorns to remind people forevermore, that you and I spent our last moments together." And so it was. And so it is. 

~ Author Unknown ~

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Soap Process

The other night I finally got to make two new batches of soap. I really hate it when I get behind because instead of being able to experiment and create new batches I am having to make batches that I run low on...which I am not at all complaining about because it means that it is selling, and that is wonderful! I just want to make new stuff for the 2011 season and haven't been able to yet....okay enough whine.

I wanted to show off a couple of pictures of a stage that I don't often get to witness but think is very, very cool! It is called the gel stage, because as the soap heats starting from the center of the block it turns into this jelly like substance and it spreads all the way to the edges of the block and then begins to cool down from the edges back to the middle. It is very fascinating to me to see. Not all soap makers let their soap go through this stage for various reason, and there are some soaps that you definitely do not want to do this like some milk soaps, or soaps with essential oils that are more volatile because the heat will either alter, or make the essential oils evaporate from the batch and in some cases disfigure or completely ruin the batch of soap. This particular batch is a new batch of Rosemary Lemongrass, it seems to have gelled nicely. When I get the chance to cut it into bars we will see the actual results...but right now is looks pretty good.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Garden/Farm Update

With rising prices lately I am even more determined to make this Homesteading adventure work for us. It seems like every time we make another trip to the grocery store the inflation that is not possibly happening, is happening. Even the children are starting to see the rising prices. My eleven year old is noticing the gas, and some of the grocery stuff...you know the important things like Pop Tarts. We don't buy them, but his comment was, "now we will never get Pop Tarts when they have gone up to THAT price". So it is amazing to me that even our children can "see" what the some can not seem to. It seems to me that many are being lead around with blinders on and music blaring so that they can not see or here what is being pulled from under them. Okay, enough rant...garden.

We have lettuce in the ground, a few of the blueberry bushes have a few berries this year probably just enough for the boys to pick at while playing outside. The okra, green peas, green bean seeds have been started and have really taken off in the last couple of days, a couple of squash and zucchini plants, and new strawberry plants started so that we can hopefully have something more than fairy berries like last year. Recently we also got a bag of seed potatoes, onions, asparagus, shallots, and garlic that I would like to try this year. My guess is the asparagus will be an ongoing project because it takes time to get anything out of it. Soon we will start some warmer weather seedlings like peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, basil and such...I just can't wait for some fresh pesto.  Next week I will put the two tomato plants that my mom brought in the ground. I did a quick soil test on the area that we would like to garden on and it looks like it will need some help and nutrients over the next few years. I really wish that I had followed through and done that last summer so that we could have been adding stuff over the fall.


The chickens are now one month old and growing really fast...faster than we are getting the run and the coop expansion done. With all the busyness that is going on here lately I have a feeling it will be a race to see who wins...us or the chickens. Our older three chickens have really been enjoying the weather, so much so that they are being naughty and escaping out of their enclosed run to explore the yard for tastier things...I can't blame them I enjoy them being out in the yard to explore. The other day one of them even killed a snake. It was a garden snake and not a threat, but I didn't know they would do that.

Until next week or so...

Friday, April 8, 2011

It's Alive!

 A new project revisited. Before we had Evelyn, we were making and drinking quite a bit of Kombucha. In all of the chaos of adjusting to the new baby it was forgotten about and died. Recently I was given a new one to start all over with.  It is one of those acquired tastes...well a lot of people will tell you that it is a like it or leave it thing, but there are many others that will try it and not like it but have to try it again just in case, before long you realize that you really like it. If any of you don't know what the heck this science experiment in a jar is, it is a symbiotic bacterial(scoby) growth very similar to a vinegar mother which feeds on wine to make true vinegar, not the stuff made as a byproduct of the petroleum industry. It feeds on sweet tea...yes, you heard me right all you sweet tea drinking southerners out there. I can just hear it now...OH THE HORROR! You feed that thing sweet tea! Well yes, because it turns it into a really yummy fizzy beverage that keeps me from wanting soda, and other drinks and it is good for you. It adds beneficials to your system helps boost your immune system, adds B-vitamins, and apparently lots and lots of other healing properties according to the internet and other people who enjoy drinking it. 


It feeds on the sugar and reduces the caffeine and what you are left with is a fermented drink that is very similar in many ways to apple cider. So fermented, you mean it is an alcoholic beverage? Yes, there is alcohol, but it is a fraction of a percentage so it doesn't affect you. You can brew black, green or a combination of teas. It is best to brew pure tea without flavors because the chemicals from flavors could alter the symbiotic relationship and could hurt or kill the organism. Recently I had Kombucha made with green tea and really liked it, before I only used the black tea. One of my favorite things to do after the batch is ready is to add ingredients for flavor. A few frozen fruit(peaches, blueberries, strawberries, and black berries are really good) pieces, grated ginger, lemon, orange, lime peels, etc...but I only add it after I remove the scoby. 


It takes about a week for one batch to be ready and if you are wondering why it is called a mother, well eventually you will feel overrun with these scobies and you will not know exactly what to do with them. That's when you start your friends and family off with new 'pets' of their own...only if they want one and will use one of course.


At this point I am making ours in one one gallon jar it's best to use glass. Soon I will be putting my other jar to use since it is just sitting around. 


So in case you would like to try your own, you can get them on the internet, or wait a few weeks and I will be happy to give you one of your very own.


How to Directions:
Place Scoby disc in a clean jar I used to use quart jars they worked really well. The disc will usually come with starter liquid it is very important don't throw it out add it into the jar too.


Brew some tea what ever type you would like, but just remember flavors are not a good idea(even Earl Grey) just plain tea(black or green) is best. While the tea is hot add some white sugar. Don't worry about any special sugars or good honey, it needs just plain old sugar to eat and when it is done most of the sugar is used up so it doesn't matter anyway. Besides honey has properties that may harm the disc.


When the tea is cooled either let it sit on the stove until cool or add ice or cold water to make the amount equal the whole amount you will be using. Pour your tea into the jar, cover with a towel or paper towel and secure with a rubber band. That's it now all you have to do is wait. 


It will probably need to work for 7-10 days especially the first one you start. Once you start making it regularly, you can start testing earlier the temperature of your house will also affect how soon it is ready the warmer it is the faster it works. I like to test it after about 6 days to see how sweet it is. If you like it at that point pour it into a container or bottles to put into the fridge and start another batch or add some flavoring additives and let it sit out on the counter for a few more days and then put it in the fridge. 


The disc gets put back into the original jar and used again. The reason it is called a mother, is because a new layer will form at the top of the jar, or attached to the original over time they grow thicker and form more layers and you can store the extras in a jar in some of the kombucha in the fridge, and share them. The only maintenance they require is to periodically pour some of the old liquid off and add some fresh kombucha so that it doesn't get too vinegary which will happen if it is left too long. This isn't a problem either because if it goes to far and becomes vinegary you can use it to cook with and in salad dressings like you would use vinegar.


So there you have it, an introduction to Kombucha as I understand it so far....





Cheers!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Taking things for granted

Sometimes life just starts going into auto pilot. You follow along day to day never really catching up, never really realizing that your days have turned into weeks and your weeks are turning into months and life is passing you by at a very steady speed. You find yourself thinking there will be time to start that project next week, or finish that chore tomorrow. It is easy to get caught up in a cycle of unfinished forgotten chores and projects that just follow you around while you are basically sleeping through your life. Then something comes along that wakes you up. It makes you realize that if things don't change you will turn around and suddenly the wasted time and energy are all gone and there are no more chances to finish, catch up or start something new. I think I got my wake up call and I am praying that I answer it before life passes me by.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Garden/Farm Update

What a wonderful time of the year, and it is beautiful outside. The sky is the bluest hue and there are very few clouds to be seen. There is a wonderful breeze and the temperature is a wonderful 68 degrees. I don't believe anyone could ask for a better day. As soon as this is posted I will make my way back outside to continue planting what my mom brought on her recent trip up. We will have squash and zucchini plants put in the ground, a few chive plants, a few herbs, a couple of tomato plants, small lettuce plants, several different flower and decorative plants.

Other things happening on the Mini-Farm Front:

The plum tree has lots of small fruit, but didn't produce any last year, so I don't have much hope for it this year. I'm not really sure if the tree is too old or if there is something I can do to keep the fruit from dropping off like last year.

Our blueberry bushes planted in the fall are beginning to show new life and some are already starting to bloom and grow a few berries.

The new strawberry plants that were planted a couple of weeks ago have started to show leaves.

If I have the time today, we will also try to plant some green beans seeds in the ground, maybe a couple of other things, and start a few seed trays.

The chickens(big) are now happily laying an egg each per day. The chicks are growing very fast and were finally moved from their little box inside the house to a large refrigerator box on the porch. They are very happy to be in a new space where they have more room to run and play. Today the boys and I gave them some limbs from the yard to 'roost' on and they have been happily playing and jumping around.

So far on the new run we only have the posts placed in the ground. I will probably try to dig a trench for the buried hard wire cloth to be put in and then we will put in the larger fencing. At the end of the month we are hoping to move the coop to the new run and begin adding on additional space for the new chicks.

Time to go plant. :)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Crossing Over

This week Nathan received his arrow of light and crossed over from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts. It is amazing how quickly time has gone. In the last five years we have watch him grow from an imaginative, adventurous little boy, into a fine young man. It has not always been easy or fun and there were lots of bumps along the way, but most things worth attaining in life will be met with challenges and obstacles to overcome. It is hard to imagine that in the next five years we will be watching our oldest son go from the imaginative, creative little boy that we know grow into a man. It is really wonderful to see the qualities and talents that God has given to him begin to emerge and show us a glimpse of the person he can become.

Nathan is creative, artistic, intelligent, kind, and friendly; he never meets a stranger. He is also strong willed, obstinate, overly confident and sometimes very hard to convince that he should be doing things differently. Often, as parents we want to focus on and foster all the good qualities and work really hard on removing the 'bad' traits. We have to remember that even some of the characteristics that we may not like now will serve him well and make him a stronger adult. These traits will be what makes them leaders. Sometimes as a parent we forget to foster those qualities also and remember that they have a purpose in their life; that it is important to guide and not push(something I need to work on).

My hope and prayer moving forward is that we can work together to focus on helping him to become the man he is destined to become. Here is to the future of a bright, wonderful young man and the next leg of his journey. Our oldest son, Nathan. We love you.




Sunday, March 20, 2011

New Chicken Run Construction and Chicken Update

Today turned out to be a great day; it had a rough start, but once we got going it was great. We started putting up posts for the new chicken run, which is now going to be 25' x 30' and 4' high. Matt Nathan and I dug out 20(I think) post holes and put in the posts(4 4x4's and trees we cut out of the yard). After the first couple of hours it looked like we would never get finished, but by supper time we had actually completed putting in all the posts and filling in around them.

This week I will start digging the trench to bury the wire. Eventually we will be moving the existing coop and adding on to the side of it. We have been trying to decide what to do with the existing coop, if we should add on, add another, or just start over. I hated the idea of starting over because it seems like such a waste. Building another, although a good option, isn't very pract
ical, so I think we have decided to just modify what already exists to accommodate the new brood.

Since it looks like we will not be able to let the girls out as often as last year, I have hopes to maybe split the run into two parts, and grow grass on it periodically so that the chickens don't live in a muddy mess like before, but have not completely figured that one out yet. That will probably be an on going project to accomplish, I have a feeling it will be a very challenging one.



As of Wednesday, the new chicks are doing great. One of my roosters wasn't growing well and hadn't figured how to eat and drink well on its own so I have been feeding it a mixture of sugar, water, and feed with a syringe. Last night it seemed to be doing much better, but it is smaller and getting picked on quite a bit by the bigger birds. The Leghorns and Austrolarps seem to be a bit more aggressive than the Easter Egg Chickens and Wyandottes that we had last year. My little rooster is a Easter Egg Chicken and they are really being rough on him. I really hope he makes it. (The picture is of my little rooster, not the best picture because of the broken camera, but you can see he is really cute.)

Also, it has been about four day without my camera now, and it is almost driving me crazy...not to mention all those people around me that I keep telling, "oh what a great picture that would be..." It should arrive at the Nikon fix it shop tomorrow and I am really hoping it doesn't take too long before I hear something from them. The auto-focus just stopped working on it last week and I am hoping that they can fix it and it doesn't cost an arm and a leg since it should still be under warranty. So there will either be no new pictures, or old pictures until further notice.