Welcome to Mama Homesteader!

Follow my family in year 3 of our homesteading journey. Along the way we try to answer the question ," What can one small family do to change their lives on little more than 1/10th of an acre?" Let's Find Out!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Time to Unplug

As I've contemplated a simpler homesteading life, I've found a desire to unplug and get away from some newer tech in my home. I've started with my electric clothes iron. It's big, it's clunky, it's ugly and I don't use it all that much.  So it's on its way to a new home, being replaced with a vintage 6lb cast iron clothes iron. I bought it on Ebay for a few bucks. It's heavy, so when I do use it I'll be getting a workout . It also looks nice, fitting into my  new idea of functional and decorative. My DH laughs at the concept. But I figure that by downsizing some of the stuff in my kitchen and replacing some things with vintage items- I'll have a tidy and aesthetically pleasing kitchen. Ah bah, who am I kidding- I just like old stuff, hence my husband ;p





                  Keep in mind this is the first of a handful of changes I want to make, so stay tuned!


                                                        Cheers! ~ Mama Homesteader

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

1900 House: Part 3

The final clips to "1900 House" courtesy of effectiveideologeme at Youtube!


















I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did!


Cheers! ~ Mama Homesteader

Monday, October 31, 2011

1900 House- Part 2

 Here is the second installment of "1900 House" courtesy of effectiveideologeme on Youtube!


















Hope you enjoyed this installment of "1900 House"! I will return again tomorrow with the last installment of the series, as well as my response to watching the series.


CHEERS!~  Mama Homesteader

1900 House: Part One

A few years ago I was excited to find a show airing on PBS called " 1900 House." Being the history nut I am, this show is right up my alley. The concept was taking a modern British family, modern being 1999 in this case, and transporting them to the year 1900. The family would live a full three months in house that would have been typical for the middle class at the time.

The following clips are the first seven parts to the series. They follow the creation of 1900 House and the first day of the Bowler Family at their new abode. Special Thanks to affectiveideologeme for these clips!

















I certainly hope you've enjoyed these clips. I will post two more series of clips this week so that you can follow the series to its end. In the future I also plan of including "Frontier House" and "Regency House" for your entertainment.


              Cheers!~ Mama Homesteader

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Root cellaring with No root cellar

Also known as the Great Carrot experiment:)

I went to the local farmer's market on it''s last day, October 18th, for my last chance at a huge selection of fresh produce. What I walked away with was 12 bunches of carrots, more honey, and lemongrass. And yes, I bought that many carrots on PURPOSE:) All summer I had visions of root cellaring these yummy treats, because quite frankly, store bought carrots pale (more like albino) in comparison.

All the sites I visited suggested storing root vegetables in either damp sand or damp sawdust. This year I'm opting for damp sand because we just happened to have two bags of play sand and an empty tote. So I carefully layered  my carrots and sand, then tucked it all in my hall closet. It's not precise by any means, but its cold. In the fall and winter, its warmer than the outside but colder than the house. Good enough, at least at the moment.



After safely tucking my carrots in for the winter, I went on vacation for the weekend. I had planned on grabbing one or two for kiddo on the long drive to Virginia, but forgot them in the rush....



What I found when I came home ( at this point they had been stored just over a week), dumbfounded me. My carrots had started to sprout. Apparently I needed to take the tops clear off and had forgotten to do it. So I had to redo my carrots all over again. The turnips are fine being stored the same way. The squashes are hanging out in a basket and are doing swell for now.





Now to kick back on this little experiment, save for weekly checkups, and savor those yummy carrots all winter long! I'll post come spring on how this worked for us!


                                                           Cheers! ~Mama Homesteader

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Joy in Life

The joy in life is one's friends and family. When someone asks me where I'm originally from, I don't tell them Canton (where I was born) or Alliance (where I lived most my life and graduated high school). I tell them Paris. Paris is a small one traffic light town south west of Alliance. But my fondest memories are of my childhood there, and of the beloved friends that lived there.

I just received news that one  of those friends, Dan, lost his long battle with cancer and other illnesses. I could write an extensive piece on Dan and his role in my life, but I will simply state this: He brought many smiles and much joy to my life. I will certainly miss his sense of humor!

                                                                     
                                 I love you Dan, and I will miss you  very much!
                                                   Mama Homesteader

Praying Mantis

Really haven't seen too many of these in recent years. But his big fella is welcome to eat all the squash bugs he wants!





~ Cheers! Mama Homesteader

Algonquin Mill Festival 2011

    This year marked the second year in a row that we have attended the Algonquin Mill Festival in Carrollton, Ohio. When I was a young child, my family would attend every so often. I have a lot of fond memories of the smells of apple butter and sorghum, antique farm equipment, and homemade crafts. It's been awesome to share these memories first hand with my daughter!

    This year Papa John ( LOL my Father-in-Law, not the pizza place!) couldn't join us, but Nini Pam still did. And of course, Papa Harry was at the festival packing sauerkraut in the kraut house.

But here are a few photos from our day:


  Entrance to the Mill Complex.
                                   


   Ready to ride the mini steam train!

                                               
Sarah's first pony ride!
His name was Macaroni:)

 
Sitting pretty in the Schoolhouse:)


 In heaven among the "Bump Bumps."


Hayride with Nini Pam and Papa Harry.





    A little Bunny Friend!








We had a unbelievably nice day. The weather was warm and sunny, a beautiful fall day. Everyone was tired after a long day, and kiddo slept VERY well that night!!

If you're ever in Ohio during October, check out the Festival. It's well worth the trip!

                                               ~Cheers! Mama Homesteader

Friday, October 7, 2011

Mama vs. the BIG Apple

And no, I don't mean New York City. LOL. After a day of apple picking at Stahl's Farm Market, my friend Julia (Chef Momma) snapped this picture. I have to laugh because at the last moment I decided to ham it up, and I'm glad I did. That Gala apple is frickin HUGE!




I'll be heading out again in nicer weather this weekend for at least two more bushels (I bought three last weekend). This time will be even better, because I'll have my munchkin with me. She's going to have such a fun time picking apples, if we let her get too carried away I may end up with WAY more than I planned for ;)


                                                   What makes you Laugh?

                                               Cheers!~ Mama Homesteader

Belated Garden Update!

After a lot of problems with uploading videos directly to the site, I switched to Youtube for videos. So here it is- a belated update on the garden!



My apologies for the very late posting. After my post "Heartbreak on the Homestead"  I suffered an injury. While out in the garden, I stepped in a previously unknown hole and twisted both ankles. I was laid up for quite some time and still have stiffness problems. But I'm back on track with projects around the homestead, FINALLY! As we are heading into fall I'll be preparing the garden for winter and ultimately spring. I will post a video soon detailing my future plans of garden expansion and current plans of garden winterizing.

                                                    Cheers!~ Mama Homesteader

Monday, October 3, 2011

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Heartbreak on the Homestead

  I haven't been on for quite awhile. The date of my last post is listed at July 12th...wow that's quite some time! Initially my leave of absence was caused by malware infecting our computer. Thankfully my good friend ChefMama has a husband with a knack for computers!
  I whole heartedly wish that my lack of posting was due only to a lack of a computer, but sadly that has not been the case. On July 27th, we received a phone call that no one should ever get. My DH's Cousin shot himself. Shortly after the initial call we were informed that he did not make it. He left behind a doting mother, his two children, and scores of people who loved him. What happened was senseless and heartbreaking, and our family is left to carry on without him. I know all too well how that is, because my fiance in college, Steven, committed suicide. I know the heartache, the questions, and the search for answers that you will never find. But what hurt worse was knowing that there was nothing I could say that would help easy his Mother's pain. All I could do was hug her.
  Two days later I was in my OB/GYN's office. DH and I have been trying to get pregnant since Kiddo was 10 months old with no such luck. She'll be turning three in November, and all I keep hearing is that it's time for another one. If only it were that simple. With kiddo it took us three years, little over two on our own and a few months on medications. So when we decided that we wanted Baby #2, we knew that it might take awhile. Actually I was thinking more like a year. The medications worked like a charm the first time right? The second time should be a breeze. At least that's what I told myself. But sadly that isn't the case. We've been referred to a specialist.  DH and I at least agreed to see the specialist, but its all too real that we probably won't be able to afford treatment. We've talked about adoption as well, but in all likely hood that is out of our reach as well. I've been depressed and just plain angry. Several friends have had second, and third children. One is even contemplating a fourth. I am extremely jealous of her, because she has this ability to make the decision to have another child and viola within a month or two there's a baby on the way. I get so angry because I wish I worked that way, but at the same time I chuckle. Because I know that I would forget a pill and be pregnant all the time if that were that case. Insane asylum anyone?  Just one, all  ask for is just one. I'm not greedy, please?
   If the death in my husband's family and our fertility problems weren't enough, on August 4th my Paternal Grandma passed away. Grandma Kate finally moved back to Ohio last October after years of living in Las Vegas. It's what I wanted all these years, and when she finally came home I took everything for granted. There are a lot of stupid excuses that seemed important then, but I didn't manage to see her often and didn't pick up the phone all that often. We saw her at family functions, but at the last family get together Kiddo didn't want to see Great-Grandma because she was a stranger. That broke my heart. After that I vowed that we would make time and get together for dinners and chat on the phone. But then Grandma got sick with pneumonia and was put in the hospital. The wonderful Doctors there did everything they could, but it wasn't enough. Two weeks in the hospital and my Grandma was gone. My only consolation right now is that she was surrounded by all of us who loved her. She wasn't in Las Vegas when it happened, and we could all be with her. When they took off the oxygen, I prayed to the Blessed Virgin that she would not suffer. Thankfully she didn't, in the end passing with a whisper. I feel truly blessed to have been able to say goodbye, but also blessed to be able to tell her how sorry I was. I hope she can forgive me for not being there like I should have, because it will be a long time before I can forgive myself. But my DH gave me something that made me smile. "Kathleen is such a pretty name. If we ever have another girl, she should be named Kathleen..."
  At this point, I will trying to be throwing myself more into homesteading and blogging. Better days are hopefully on the horizon soon, and I can't wait to share them after the gloom.

                                                   Cheers! Mama Homesteader

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The joy of Kittens

 

      I have a few fond memories of being a young child, and experiencing the joy of having newborn kittens in our home. It was a rare event in our house, but we lived in the country. We didn't have our cats spayed and neutered,  mainly because the crusade to prevent overpopulation wasn't in full swing. Secondly, well there were no funds to do so. But in the end, I remember two sets of kittens being born into our home.
  There is something absolutely sweet about kittens. Soft fur, tiny ears and tails, little meows. Although the logistics of finding homes for kitties these days is extremely hard, mainly due to the economy, I would rather have a house full of kittens than seeing kittens homeless and in danger. That is why we decided to bring in Dandelion, the pure white stray that adopted us and became our outdoor cat. We knew that she was VERY pregnant, but realised as well that we had six raccoons wandering our neighborhood. We enjoy our furry neighbors, but it was a very real possibility that harm would come to small kittens if they were discovered. So in came Dandelion on the 6th of July, bringing the cat population of our house to seven....


  Indeed we knew she was very pregnant, and had pondered bringing her in for sometime. But that day I just knew that if I didn't bring her in now, then she was going to have those kittens outside. I didn't know exactly how true that was! Within an hour she was extremely clingy, wanting me to follow her around and be with her. That lasted until four in the morning. I finally had to shoo her away because she woke up Sarah as she was laboring on Sarah's bed. As Sarah and I fell asleep, several new members of our family were being born into our home.
  We woke up and went about our morning routine, and Dandelion was right there yowling at me. Turns out I wasn't paying attention quickly enough and she nipped me on the leg. Shortly after that I found a kitten crying on the basement floor, and after cleaning her up, gave her back to Momma- who in turn took her under the couch.  I later moved the couch and discovered five little kitties! Three white and two black, but unfortunately two of our kittens did not make it.



   I can see the excitement in Sarah's eyes every time we spend time snuggling her baby kitties. They've been a valuable lesson on life (and death), on gentleness, and on responsibility for her. As they get older, I'll be able to give her the supervised responsibility of feeding them,socializing them, and playing with them.
  All of our cats, except for Dandelion and Snowy, are fixed. As soon as possible they'll both be spayed to prevent any future kittens. There won't be anymore kittens, so we'll be enjoying every second of our time with ours before they find new homes to spoil them rotten.

                                             Cheers! Mama Homesteader

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Hidden Treasures in the Garden

     When taking walks around the garden, it always seems as if new treasures are always being found. When we first viewed this home, we found wild strawberries in the backyard. They are small and seedy, with no flavor- but Sarah loves to pick and snack on them! I've uncovered hostas and ferns that I transplanted to a shade garden on the side of the house. I've found daffodils and crocus that I will later transplant to the flower beds. We've discovered hidden roses and dainty ivy. All sorts of beautiful gems gleaming in our garden!!
      In my latest walk, I looked up at a thick green canopy in a nearby tree. It suddenly dawned on me that we had wild grapes growing along the property line! Certainly I knew they had been there last fall, but I hadn't viewed them as a potential resource for our family. As I looked at the large leaves that day, I saw visions of stuffed grape leaves and it reminded me of my college roommate Alana. She had also been my bridesmaid, and these days we live states apart and I miss her. Part of her family is Lebanese, so I sent her an e-mail requesting her recipe for them. It's wonderful to be able to share something so simple as a way of bringing people together! I've collected, processed, and frozen several dozen of the large leaves already. I can't wait to be able to cook with them! I also have plans of making grape jelly for Sarah when they are ripe, and maybe some grape juice.
      Lo and behold though, the grape vines were not the only gem hiding in the back yard! As I studied the large tree on which they were climbing, I realised that it was a large mulberry tree. Mulberries are edible, and I can't wait to collect some ripe ones for tarts and jams!

                              What hidden gems can you find outside your house?
                                         
                                             Cheers!~ Mama Homesteader

Counting Blessings

   Lately it seems as if everything that could possibly break, pretty much has broken (knock on wood!). This has left our small family in need of replacing the refrigerator, the washer, the dryer, as well as repairs to our only vehicle. Some days it seems too much to bear. Especially when you factor in the other things we need for our home! This is our first time managing an actual house. Before our four year stint of living with family, we lived in an apartment. Meaning that such basic supplies such as garden hoses, weed whacker, gardening tools...were all items that we were /are without. It can be nerve wracking when odd jobs around the house and property need done and you don't have the tools to accomplish them!
    I'll fully admit that I find the ongoing, and lengthy, list of things that we could really use to be a major irritation. For once though I've decided that instead of focusing on what we don't have, that it was time to write down our blessings!

1. With our 2009 Tax return, we paid off most of our outstanding credit card debt and caught up other bills. This wise move paved the way towards our Independence!

2. We were very lucky to have Mark's 401K, from which we were able to borrow the funds to pay the initial rent and moving costs! Without this, moving to our current home would have been impossible!

3. Having a wonderful family friend, Dave. When the moving truck company made a mistake, and we had no truck to haul our belongings, he saved the day with his pickup truck and trailer!

4. With a lot of praying we've been able to manage the finances of running our own household.

5. My mother in law, Pam, kindly bought us a new mattress/box spring/bed frame so that we no longer had to sleep on a mattress on the floor.

6. When Sarah was ready for a big girl bed, her grandpa kindly gave her the bed from his guest room that he made. She now tells everyone that "Poppa Harry made it for me."

7. My mother bought an air conditioner for Sarah. That was she could sleep comfortably in her big girl bed when it got hot.

8. My friends Julie Ann and Jules, gave me a pressure canner. Which is something I needed. I was able to put the money I saved for one towards other things our family needed!

9. Freecyclers gave me a garden hose and quart canning jars.

10. I have an Aunt that is willing to let me use her canning supplies. This means that I don't have to buy as much.

11. When our car was broken down last summer, My dad, Aunt Patty, and my husband Best friend Bret, gave us money so that we could get it fixed. Without them we would have been vehicle-less for a long time!

12. My Aunt Sharyn gave us a working lawnmower  to replace the two broken down ones in the garage. She also gave us a pool ladder for the inflatable swimming pool my mother in law gave Sarah last summer.

13. My dad and father in law gave us shovels, hoes, and rakes for the garden.

14. My Dad gave Sarah and I a wheelbarrow for the garden.

15.A family friend, Dave tilled the beds for the garden.

16. Our washing machine is ancient and dying. My mother in law decided that she would get us one for our anniversary. But before that happened, the refrigerator started dying. So instead, she put a new refrigerator in layaway. By the end of July/ beginning of August our new fridge should be delivered and installed. We are also blessed to have had dad's mini fridge still in the garage. That way we can store the dairy safely.

17. With careful financial planning we will still be able to get our new washer in August, as well as fix the remaining problems with our vehicle by September.

18. Warm sunny days have made it so much easier to live without a dryer!

19. We have a garden that is now thriving. Which means putting up food for future use, and which means more Independence from having to be on state benefits.

20. Last but not least, having family that is willing to help when possible. And Having a wonderful family of Mommy, Daddy, and Kiddo. This makes life sweet!


                                              Cheers! ~ Mama Homesteader

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Love Thy Neighbor


     Many people know the commandment, "Love thy Neighbor." In this day and age, our neighbors come from all different religious, political, and cultural backgrounds. There has never been a bigger need for the commandment "Love thy Neighbor", than there is nowadays. But I want to point you towards a different kind of neighbor, one you may not even think of as a neighbor. They are indeed our neighbors, and we MUST respect them as we would any of our human neighbors and extend to them the same common courtesies. I'm talking about our local wildlife.
    Native peoples around the globe have a deep understanding and respect for wildlife etched in their cultural roots. This is something that seems to be lacking in modern society. Often these animal neighbors are treated little more than playthings, tormented, wanted as pets, or simply something that is an inconvenience.
    In this instance, it's a family of Raccoons in my neighborhood. They live right next door to us in a hollow tree in our human neighbors front yard. My family had known for quite some time that an adult raccoon was living nearby. We affectionately named it, and like any of our outdoor strays ate happily at the food bowl on our porch. She never caused any trouble. Having access to the cat food ensured that our trash cans remained undisturbed. I've had many a happy evening sitting on the opposite side of the screen door, talking to our furry neighbor. Odd, yes, but I respect this neighbor of mine.
     Our neighbor is a single mother of five toddlers, god bless her! I'm not sure how she manages! We've been overjoyed at seeing them play in the front yard or explore toys in the backyard. They forage and frolic- everything baby raccoons are apt to do. We've done our best to respect these animals and behave as good neighbors.
     But unfortunately others do not. One of my human neighbors is a photographer, and was taking pictures of these sweet fuzz balls. We chatted awhile, when it came up that her mother had been babysitting recently. She saw a man pick up one of these babies and try to stuff it into a sack! At first she thought it was a cat, but then she realized that it was a tiny raccoon. After some hissing and screeching, the man threw it out of the car and sped off! Sadder yet, middle school aged children (who should know better!) have run around the tree chasing these babies and tormenting them! I've seen people standing by the tree with cat carriers, claiming to be looking "for their lost cat." But tonight was by far the most shocking behavior I have ever seen. Two grown men circling the tree when suddenly a baby fell out of the tree and fell across both pavement and grass. One man picked it up and shook it, then it started toddling off. He kept chasing it, it shook as it climbed the tree. A third man jumped down from the tree, grabbed it by the tail and hind limb and shook it up some more. He quickly let go and the baby fell, this time headfirst onto the sidewalk. The tree is a few yards from my porch and yet I still heard the sickening thud of its skull hitting. It's a small miracle that it got up again and climbed its tree out of reach. These were three GROWN men tormenting a bunch of helpless baby raccoons and laughing about it!!!!
     I have to find it in my heart to pity these men, because obviously they weren't raised with the idea of loving and respecting ALL your neighbors. My husband and I have both taken to watching the tree closely and doing what we can to protecting them. I have been communicating back and forth with a wildlife rehabilitation specialist from Canton. We are hoping that they can, or can send us to, someone who will relocate our small neighbors. At this point we fear for their safety, and  fear that if they are not moved soon something terrible will happen to them.
    I'm asking you to search your heart and extend the  idea of "Love thy Neighbor" to your animal neighbors as well. Learn to respect them and cherish them. Be kind to them, defend them, love them.

                                                      Cheers!~ Mama Homesteader

Watermelon Rind Pickles

In my previous posts, I managed to use everything but the pit for apricot jam, syrup, and pie filling. It really struck a cord with me. Looking around our refrigerator I found another item that could go through this same kind of process: the humble watermelon. We all have favorite memories of eating this sweet summertime favorite. Juice running down our chin, who could spit the seeds farther. All that sweet red juicy middle. But what about the rest of the watermelon? You know, that white part that everyone tells you not to eat. I knew that some southern cooks pickled the white rind, and that in some circles it was fairly popular. But was it worth it for me to try the same technique? Yes that rind can be pickled. But did it taste any good? So with the rind of one watermelon on hand, I chose to find out!





Watermelon Rind Pickles

  • 3 quarts (about 6 pounds) watermelon rind, unpaired
  • ¾ cup salt
  • 3 quarts water
  • 2 quarts (2 trays) ice cubes
  • 9 cups sugar
  • 3 cups 5% vinegar, white
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon (about 48) whole cloves
  • 6 cinnamon sticks, 1 inch pieces
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced, with seeds removed

Wash your watermelon.

Make your brine solution. Mix 3/4 cup salt with three quarts of cold water. Stir well.

Prepare the watermelon. Remove all the red flesh. Peel off the skin (throw it in your composter!), and chop into 1x1 inch cubes. Place cubes in a non metallic bowl and cover with the brine solution. Chill overnight.

After soaking overnight, drain and rinse. Add to pan. Cover with fresh cold water. Cook 10 minutes or until fork tender.

Prepare your pickling syrup. Combine sugar, vinegar, Spices, and water in a pan. Heat until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes.

Drain the rind and add to the prepared syrup in a non metallic bowl. Add lemon slices. Chill overnight.

Heat the mixture and bring it to a boil. Turn down the heat and cook 1 hour.

Prepare your jars and lids. When mixture is done, ladle hot mixture into hot jars. Leave 1/2 inch head space.

Using the water bath method, heat the filled jars for 10 minutes at 200F for pints, 20 minutes for quarts.


Honestly I was surprised by the outcome. These are a sweet pickle, with a slightly different taste, not at all a bad one either. After sampling some of them, I have to admit that I do like them. Albeit not enough to make a TON of them, but the few watermelon we eat this summer should supply us with a few nice quart jars. I consider this project a success! My batch made one quart of rind pickles, and two quarts of pickling syrup- which I will keep on hand for the next watermelon that comes our way!

                                       Cheers!~ Mama Homesteader

Friday, June 17, 2011

Strawberry Jam

In light of my recent apricot jam making session, I decided to follow suit with a batch of homemade strawberry jam. Strawberries are coming into season here in Ohio, but for this purpose I went with Driscoll strawberries from California.  Driscoll berries have a reputation for being fairly consistent as far as flavor is concerned. I still intend to go berry picking, but those will be for the freezer.

Strawberry Jam
makes about 9 half pints

4 cups hulled and crushed ripe strawberries
2 tablespoons lemon juice
7 cups of sugar
1/2 teaspoon unsalted butter
1 (3 ounce) pouch liquid pectin

In a pan combine strawberries, lemon juice and sugar. Cover and let stand two hours.

Remove the cover. Over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, heat until all the sugar is dissolved.
Stir in the butter. Increase heat to medium-high, and bring the mixture to a full rolling boil. Stir in the pectin. Return the mixture to a full boil, stirring constantly. Boil one minute. Remove the pan from heat. Skim off any foam.

To prevent the jam from separating in the jars, allow to cool 5 minutes before filling prepared jars. Stir every minute or so to distribute the fruit.

Ladle the hot jam into hot jars. Following proper canning procedures, process in a 200F water bath for 10 minutes for half pints and 15 minutes for pints.


When I made my batch of jam, I ended up with two problems. One, my jam separated. Two, my jam never jelled up as it should. I ended up reprocessing my jam. I added a second pectin pouch, and left the jam to cool 10-15 minutes before ladling into jars. The end result is considerably thicker (and more distributed) than previous, but still not a fully jelled jam as I would like. The moral of the story is: pay attention to your fruit to sugar to pectin ratio. Carefully measure everything. Somewhere I miscalculated and my jam didn't become the consistency I wanted. It may not be as thick, but its far from being a failure. It will still serve the purpose satisfactorily.

                                                        Cheers! ~ Mama Homesteader

Thursday, June 16, 2011

That's too tasty to throw away!

  Indeed in my last post I told you to hang onto your apricot skins. With good reason: Apricots are expensive, delicate (meaning they don't keep extremely well) AND those skins are tasty! It makes no sense to throw them away, they can still be used to create more culinary masterpieces for your family. For this post I am going by what was left with my double batch of jam. (If you only made one batch, then it is easy to assume that you need to halve this recipe.)

Apricot Syrup

4 cups apricots skins (or chopped apricots)
3 cups of sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice

In a pan combine the skins and sugar. Cover and let stand for 2-3 hours.

Over medium low heat, warm until all the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat to medium high heat, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat and skim off any foam. Let cool for 10 minutes.

Ladle cooled mixture into a sieve to drain. When drained, set aside pulp.

In medium saucepan combine syrup and lemon juice. Over medium high heat, bring syrup to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and skim off any foam.

Follow proper water bath canning procedure. Ladle syrup into hot jars, and process at 200F for 10 minutes (15 minutes for pints).

At the same time, ladle heated pulp into a prepared pint jar. Can according to the above directions.


There you have it. Two pints of golden apricot syrup, and a pint of lovely apricot filling for desserts!





Cheers! ~ Mama Homesteader

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Apricot Jam



   Recently, I made up a double batch of apricot jam for my family. Apricot of course is DH's favorite. As quickly as the jar in the fridge is evaporating, I may have to make another dozen half pints! In this instance though I used a recipe from Linda J. Amendt's "Blue Ribbon Preserves." Unlike most apricot jams, she calls for peeling them.  It is definitely worth the effort! The resulting jam has an intense apricot flavor and is smooth.


Apricot Jam
makes 6 -7 half pint jars

4 cups pitted, peeled, crushed or finely chopped apricots
6 tablespoons lemon juice
6 cups of sugar
1/2 tsp unsalted butter
1 (3 ounce) pouch liquid pectin

In a pan combine the prepared apricots and lemon juice. Add half of the sugar, cover and let stand one hour.

Remove the cover and add remaining sugar. Over medium low heat, warm the mixture until all the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat to medium high and bring the mixture to a boil. Boil for two minutes stirring gently. Remove from heat and skim off foam.

Return the pan to the heat  and boil again. Boil one minute stirring gently. Remove from heat and skim off any foam.

Stir in the butter. Bring to a full rolling boil over medium high heat. Stir in the contents of the pectin pouch. Return to a full boil, stirring constantly. Boil for one minute. remove from heat and skim off any foam.

To prevent separation in the jars, allow the jam to cool five minutes before filling jars. Follow proper water bath canning procedures. Process in a 200F water bath for 10 minutes (15 minutes for pints).


TIPS!

First of all when I made a double batch of jam, I had the equivalent of 14 half pints instead of twelve. It would be wise to either prepare 14 jars for canning, or have a pint jar cleaned to have some ready for the fridge. Your family will love you for the later!

Secondly, don't throw away those skins! Apricots can be extremely expensive. Get the most use out of them as you can. In my next post I will show you how to turn those skins into a yummy apricot syrup and a scrumptious apricot filling! If you follow my ideas, the only things wasted are the pits!

What does your garden grow?


    I must say that after a brief period of doubt with my tomatoes, the rest of my garden is thriving! It had definitely lifted my spirits to find that I have many things starting to sprout- I've done something right:) Let's pour a glass of sun tea, and I'll give you a quick tour!                                             
     As you can see we have the laundry out to dry these days. It was my hope to eventually have a clothes line put in the back yard. There is nothing better than fresh laundry swaying in the breeze! Unfortunately its more of a necessity at the moment. Our dryer decided that it had dried its last load. It was an old dryer and had worked  beautifully for well over a decade (if not two!). They simply don't make them  like they used to. With hot summer days, its easy to rely on the method that most of our grandparents and great grandparents used. We don't mind a bit, the back yard seems much more "homey" now!


    The arugula is growing fantastically this year. The other greens (lettuces, cress, and spinach) seem to be struggling, but I believe that we'll have plenty of arugula for the summer. I can't wait to put it on salad or even pizza!









Our bean patch and two varieties of peas seem to be thriving as well. I can't wait to can green beans and peas for the year's use. In this bed in particularly are sugar snap peas. I doubt they will make it past the garden, because we love munching on fresh sugar snaps. They never last long at our house! At the moment the green beans (front) are larger than the peas (back). They won't be for long!
                                                
                                             







 The potato and eggplant bed are off and running as well. Our potatoes have started sprouting leaves, and our eggplant are growing rapidly. Sarah can't wait for her "tatoes"!

                                                                                    Potatoes (Top) eggplant (Bottom)
                                                                           
   After a period of rapid die off in the tomato patch, they are now actually starting to flourish.  I don't know if they will have a huge harvest this year, but we're hoping that we'll still have a decent harvest. I realized that the problem was a fungal infection. After much research I dusted the plant bases with cinnamon which has mild anti fungal properties. It seems to have done the trick, no more plants have died off. Actually the die off did give me the opportunity to plant my peppers among the tomatoes. It saves me the extra work of digging another bed for them! In this heat that's a blessing!


 
Our raspberry bush is prospering! We won't have berries this year, but next year we should have some. Maybe then we can find more bushes to add to it. I can't wait to make jams, pies, and ice cream out of those lovely berries!


 
    Of course Sarah just has to show off our red climbing rose in the back! I'm glad I didn't completely get rid of it. It's simply beautiful! Hopefully we can get a trellis at the end of summer for it and start training it to climb it.
   We also have broccoli, turnip, and cucumber sprouts as well.

 
   There's a lot to see in our garden, but for now let's get out of the heat. Sarah doesn't mind the heat, so she's off playing.Going home? OK. I hope that you come by soon to visit again, it was really nice having you here and showing you around! Next time you're here you should be amazed at what has grown here in our little patch of dirt. Until Next time my friend!

                                                     Cheers! ~ Mama Homesteader


                                                           

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Wisdom, I need it!

   Watering in the hot sun is not the problem I'm facing with my tomato plants. Dampening Off disease is. Apparently I have a fungal infection spreading around in my garden, so tomorrow I'll be dusting everything with Cinnamon. Weird I know, but cinnamon is anti fungal. Other people have raved over its ability to stop the process in its tracks. So we shall see.
     In all I've lost 8 plants in the first bed, nearly all 21 plants in the second bed, and all in the third bed. It's quite depressing. But I'll add the cinnamon, and go back to having the third bed done in Peppers and Basil (and eggplant). Then it looks like I will have to replace several of my tomato plants with store bought...... A lot of work lost in two days time!
    The garlic and onions are planted, although I had to relocate the site I was planting them in. Apparently someone put a ton of gravel along the side of the house years ago. There is a layer of grass over that, so next year I'll  be setting containers along that side for growing.
      Hopefully a beer and good nights sleep will help me regain focus!

                                                   Cheers!~ Mama Homesteader

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Of Tomatoes and Toddlers.

   As much as I find that I like helping Sarah learn new things, I find that in the beginning stages of gardening its been best to do it myself. Most the time she's too excited to play in the dirt and WON'T listen to instructions. She also just keeps digging, often in a newly planted bed. Thankfully she's been distracted the past two days with her kiddy pool. That sounds evil, but I think her energy level will be best suited to the later stages of gardening like harvest time. What can I say, my little princess is a human ping pong ball bouncing everywhere!
    But even as great as it seemed to "do it myself", even sometimes I don't know best. I planted a tomato bed early this morning, and watered it in. Obviously this mama didn't pay attention, because by evening I had tomato plants with pinched wilted stems. There were about eight or nine that had to be replaced. (Thank god for all those extras!) Note to self: when watering in do not water on the plant. In this heat they cook. Off to the side is best. And in the evening when its cool , water well.  If I had been slowly going along having her help me, then I would have probably taken the time to realize that. Oh well life is a learning experience..... ( and I managed to kill some other greenhouse seedlings too this way. eek!).
   We have three beds of tomatoes now. With losing some, and replacing, that's still 63 plants! I hope that my family loves tomatoes. But if more die off I guess it wont be too horrible, even though I still have fourteen seedlings left. The potatoes and marigolds are planted, and the shade garden is done. What a day!
    For tomorrow, we'll see how the tomatoes hold up. Maybe we'll start the pumpkin patches or the garlic patch. Who knows. But I do know this, ready the bed early and plant in the cool evening;)


                                            Cheers!~ Mama Homesteader

Monday, May 30, 2011

Out in the garden!

    A few days ago Sarah and I planted the pea/bean beds. Now we have some really gorgeous green sprouts! Those three beds hold bush beans, sugar snap peas, regular peas, sage, thyme, cumin, and cayenne peppers. All of them are looking great! Along with that we planted the rest of our hostas in the shade garden and mulched it. We have a bit around the door and trash can that I think we'll be digging and mulching, but its pretty much all done and looks nice.
    And on a positive note: The rose that I thought had died has surprised me with new growth! Finding that was wonderful. I promptly removed the one I planted before Mother's day. It has done NOTHING since it was planted! Another wonderful walmart dud. Oh well, I have my prize rose and I am happy. I transplanted it, some of it looks rather iffy, but there is a section that looks great. As long as I keep it happy in its new home- there will eventually be beautiful blooms greeting my guests.
    The heat has been a little unbearable the last day or two. We did a lot of running between payday errands and memorial day celebrations! The heat (and hives) didn't curb Sarah's enthusiasm for great weather. We planted flowers at the cemeteries. Sarah is a pro planter by the way! :) She had fun at TWO cookouts on Sunday! To top it all off she watched a parade (and got lots of candy) and won a goldfish:) Life is nice!
    But heat aside, her and I will be out in the garden early tomorrow. I have some of the beds ready for planting. We'll be planting broccoli, turnips, cucumbers, tomatoes (some of them), and marigolds (leftovers from what was bought for cemeteries). If we can tolerate the weather we may do more, at the very least prep a few beds for Wednesday! I'm aiming for Wednesday/Thursday for planting potatoes. The bed is done, but I need to give my cut seed potatoes a day or two to cure before planting. We should get about 35 lbs of potatoes out of our planting!
   On that note, I will be expanding the garden. The seedlings I started for my mom have come around enough that I will be planting them. She went ahead and bought plants, so I am left figuring out what to do with the ones I have. So officially I'll be adding at least  four more types of tomato (12 plants), cauliflower, eggplant, and another type of green pepper. It's all good...I'll be a summer vegetarian.

                                               Cheers! ~Mama Homesteader

  

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Homeschool Preschool

     I love being able to teach Sarah new things, but I am the first to admit that this is hard. There is only so much I can do to keep her engaged. She loves her work book, and we work with it about 30 minutes a day. we do puzzles, play games, watch Dora, read, do crafts and do things around the house.  
     We don't always do it, but I have relaxed myself. I can't sit her down and do a lesson like in a "real" school. That is not how Sarah works. We can only spend 15-20 minutes before its time to move on, because that is her attention span before she's ready to move on. I have relaxed myself into our preschool merely introducing concepts to her. I know she's not going to master them right away, but the ideas are being planted.
     This month we focused on ABC and items that begin with that letter, and 0123. We talked about different modes of transportation, and she recognized most of them- though truck and taxi are a bit harder. Since we are gardening I added gardening tools and parts of a flower (flower, leaves, stem, roots). I made matching games for both transportation and gardening. She loves them both and plays them everyday!
      We are also in the process of gearing our dining room toward Sarah and learning. Once I have everything the way I'd like it, I will be posting pictures!

                                                        Cheers! Mama Homesteader

Garden Update

      Today a family friend, Dave, came and tilled the majority of the garden. It was a HUGE relief to have it done, it's a lot of space and I was dreading digging it by hand!


   What you see are actually five spaces along the back, and two longer spaces across the front. There is also one across the back of the shed! They look a bit messy right now, Dave's tiller is a beast. Once I have all the kicked out soil raked back in, it will look much better!                                                          
      Sarah and I also got our one and only raspberry planted. It was disappointing that the second bush we bought was dead, and the selection of that variety at walmart all seem to be dead. But so far the one bush we have is thriving well!


         I know it's hard to see, but its there in the middle of the dirt. Before you know it we'll have canes everywhere! Good things can come in small packages!                                                                             
        I also started the shade garden on the side of the house. You will also notice in this picture that the bushes on the end of my porch are gone! Well mostly, we still have to pull up the roots yet!  


          
I had an enormous amount of Hostas on the property, so I put most to good use and the rest I gave away on Freecycle! I was also very surprised to find ferns in the back yard, Sarah and I planted them    along with the hostas. For  the most part the side shade garden is done. There are a few more hostas    that we will be planting on the other side of the garbage can. But if weather holds up, we can             probably get that done tomorrow! As for the bushes, once they are gone we'll be putting in two dwarf lilac bushes. They'll only get 5 ft tall  and 5 feet wide maximum, and I'll still have room for more        hostas! LOL                                                                                                                                              

The above picture looks a little messy. Sarah and I have some weeding to do! Her NiNi Pam gave her some violas, and she gave Mark and I Marigolds for Mother's Day. We planted those along with a new Tea Rose in this front bed. I am really glad that I left the Azaleas alone, because they are absolutely      stunning! Sarah's bird statue completes the bed!                                                                                                                  

We have tomatoes everywhere! Four dozen plus a few extra. I can't wait till I have the garden beds finished so that Sarah can plant her " 'Tatoes "! Mom's stuff didn't do so well, but I think it was due to too small pots and not enough light. My marigolds didn't do well either, only three our of thirty six      sprouted and grew. Maybe next year! I have a few tweaks to do to make the greenhouse work  better, but next year we will be much more efficient in our seed starting!

                                                    That's all the garden news for now!            

Cheers! ~ Mama Homesteader           
   

Canning Chili


   Recently I made way too much chili for lunch one weekend. Usually, and I am ashamed to say, soup leftovers rarely get used up. It's not because we don't like them, but its because I either forget that it is in the fridge, or that its in the freezer. I hate wasting anything! My solution was to try my hand at canning the leftover chili, two quarts of it.  Following the instructions for my canner, I pressure canned them at 75 minutes. What I was left with were two stunning jars of chili!



I loved adding these to my growing stockpile of canned goods! It's awesome to think that once I have my stockpile built up, that I can grab a can of soup on a busy day knowing what's in it. Healthy and    
convenient!                                                                                                                                                       
Cheers! ~ Mama Homesteader
                                                                                                                                                       

Homemade crayons

   Last Christmas Sarah received a large 200 count box of crayons. She already had the remnants of two large boxes, so we have an AMPLE supply of crayons at our house!! The real question became- what on earth to do with the broken fragments. Bits and pieces of crayon are a fact of life, but finding a way to reuse them can be fun and creative.
    At Make and Takes, they have all the instructions for turning those old bits and pieces into new fun crayons. In our case, I carefully peeled the crayons when my little one was asleep. She loves to peel the paper, but quickly gets frustrated. Once peeled, I sorted them according to color into a muffin tin lined with cupcake wrappers. The next day, Sarah watched as I put them in the oven. She was excited as I pulled them out later, she kept asking when she could have them. Once they were cooled, she had a blast with them!



Such pretty colors, I just had to take a picture in sun to show them off!


Sarah loved showing off her "chunky" crayons!



Coloring is hard (but fun) work!


These crayons also make a fun stacking game!

This is a wonderful activity to do with young children. You can let your imagination soar with different color  and shape variations. Better still- no more crayon bits!

Cheers! ~ Mama Homesteader

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Homeschool Preschool here we come!

   After talking with DH, we both decided that the homeschool preschool program I was looking at would benefit Sarah. ABC Home Preschool is very simple nine month curriculum. It is divided into Reading (alphabet), writing (tracing and learning to write letters), arithmetic (learning numbers and eventually writing them), Social Studies (family and community interactions), and science (small projects learning how things work). It also includes ideas for including music, shapes, physical activity, etc.
    Sarah is exceedingly bright, and I have absolutely no doubt that she would be able to handle the subject matter if she entered preschool at age three next November. What I do doubt, and her Daddy and Grandmas agree, is that she would be emotionally ready. We've noticed that in Toddler Lapsit at the Library, in our small (approx. 6) group of kids, she is fairly shy and will only fully participate when the subject matter really excites her. Grandma Pam took us last Wednesday in the morning, where there were 30 children. Poor Sarah barely moved, and when she needed to get things from her teacher, one of us had to accompany her. She was a wallflower, more content to watch than participate. It's heartbreaking to see your child stand back, when you know that she knows the subject matter and can share it with others. I can see this being the norm if she were to go in November.
    So Monday we'll start exploring the Age 2 curriculum (which will take her to February) and seeing where it leads us. DH and I have already discussed that if this works for her, then moving her to the age three curriculum (which would take her to November). If she would be ready when the year starts that fall, then we would finish the course as a supplement to preschool. (Well that's the plan at the moment!)
    Wish us luck on our new journey!

Cheers! ~ Mama Homesteader

Around the Homestead

  The last few weeks brought massive changes with all the rain! I didn't realize just how high the grass really was until Sarah and I were laying in the middle of it today playing "Soccer". (That's my little Dora fan for you!) We picked dandelions and violets, and watched the "buggies"  crawl by, and found dragons in the clouds. It was wonderful! Even better was the fact that our landlord installed two out of three new storm doors. Now Sarah and the cats can look out the door on decent days and watch the world! To top it all off his wife kindly mowed part of the yard, as our mower is still down and she was already mowing her Mom's lawn across the street. That meant one less thing to do at the moment!
   The tomato plants are growing beautifully, albeit a bit leggy. I'm thinking re-potting them in bigger pots may help, along with more light. Peppers are all OK as well. Everything else seem to be having various issues, all dealing with the amount of light I'm able to provide. I can't wait until I can put the greenhouse outside!
   Our faithful car needed some TLC recently as well. Two of the tires needed replaced, and we've been told that one tie rod needs replaced for an alignment to work. After that we need two more tires, then brake pads and rotors. Keeping my fingers crossed that Dear Husband's overtime keeps going!

That's all Folks! Cheers!~ Mama Homesteader

Friday, April 15, 2011

Mama's got a new Pantry!

    I'll admit it, my kitchen is tiny. I can handle that, but there is a serious lack of cabinetry for storage. It was irritating to have "stuff" piled and crammed everywhere, never knowing if I was ever going to find "that" item I needed. My pantry was the worst.



           It worked better than what I had initially, which was two totes crammed with stuff. But this kind of disorder was an eyesore. (My pantry did the job, but it could be much better.) What couldn't fit either sat on the floor, sat in another bookcase next to the stove, or took up valuable space in the cabinets I did have. (The bookcase next to the stove was a pain, because Sarah's play kitchen sat right in front blocking my cookbooks. It would be easier to move the toy, but Sarah likes to help Mama cook!)
          After spotting a hutch on Craigslist, I talked it over with DH. He had been on overtime recently, and I knew that we could afford it if we wanted it. He agreed that it was a nice find for the money. With the help of my longtime friend Paul, we picked it up and installed it in my kitchen.  The result is stunning!



  Not only is everything organized, but it held so much more than just the contents of the original pantry space! One of those drawers holds some of my kitchen utensils. They were overflowing the utensil drawer! With them relocated, I was able to put my dish towels in their place without space issues. My dishtowels are actually now in my kitchen! Yay! (Really it's the small victories that keep me going.) The other drawer holds my coupons and such. My cookbooks are now easily accessible, as are my spices, oils, and other ingredients. Boxed foods, canned goods, my waffle iron, and my Forman grill now reside in the bottom. AND all my small appliances fit on top, much more accessible than the cabinet WAY on top of the refrigerator!
  All in all, I freed up a lot more space than I initially thought I would. There is a whole section of cabinetry empty. With a few rearrangements, it is looking like I will be able to finally bring all my cake decorating supplies in from the garage!  **Faints**
  I have my DH to thank for this first. I left the final decision to him, and he knew it would make me happy. I could just.....well, I'll have to PG 13 that thought, er, cuddle him? LOL I love him and he is the greatest for affording me this pantry. Secondly, I have to thank Paul who helped us pick it up. We definitely couldn't have done this without him!

                             
                                  I'm one happy Mama! Cheers!~ Mama Homesteader

Tomatoes!

  We now have baby tomato plants in our greenhouse! It's been awesome to see how FAST they've grown. Sarah loves her baby "tatoes"! In the first picture below, those sprouts literally appeared overnight. The night before they had been barely visible! Surprisingly my germination rate has been over 95%, as almost all the seeds I planted have sprouted.



                                 


                             

  Last Tuesday evening I got around to starting my pepper and marigold seeds, so it will be exciting to see if they do just as well. I have a few more seeds I'd like to start, but most of what i have can be directly sown outside after danger of frost.

                             'Tomatoes are like toddlers...they just keep growing and growing!"
                             
                                                  Cheers! ~ Mama Homesteader