Monday, September 30, 2013

Cooking up Compost

            I have been doing this homesteading thing for a few years now, and I'm always learning. I have taken an interest in compost. That is normally my hubby's job. Physical labor just isn't my thing. But lately with all that has been going on in my life, I've felt the need to be outside, breathing fresh air and MOVING.

            This spring I had made my own raised bed garden using a real bed frame. I like to use what we got...know what I mean? Anyway, my daughter helped me with this project...she did a lot of sighing and shaking her head. We hauled the bedframe across the yard to the perfect spot in the middle of the orchard. Hey, the trees are small yet, I figured it wouldn't hurt...didn't think about having to mow the grass.  Then we took my little truck to Lowes and picked up some bags of dirt and plants.  I felt so empowered....I AM WOMAN!!!!! driving my truck hauling some dirt...grunting and aping like a daughter did a lot of sighing then too. And giggling.  I drove my reverse...through my yard to the bedframe.  Oh it was so exciting! The memory still makes me smile.  Then I remembered I should really have some compost mixed in with the topsoil. So, my Diva daughter and I drove the Mule(glorified golf cart) over to the pile the guys had made when they cleaned out the pens. I scraped off the top layer to find the lovely composted stuff and loaded up the back of the buggy and hauled it over to the frame. I also put down a good layer of newspaper as a weed barrier and then my composted bedding and then the topsoil on top of that. I planted Kale and Kohlrabi. I have to say, it flourished. We were eating kale all summer. I planted in May and just pulled the plants today. They still had new leaves coming on, but I wanted to try growing garlic. According to the Amish lady at the Market,  I need to plant it tomorrow. I  cleaned out the bed, fed what plants were left to the goats and pigs. I scraped the last of the compost pile up and hauled it over and spread it around, mixing with the existing dirt. I have one bag of topsoil left so I'll add that on in a bit and tomorrow I will plant my garlic cloves. From what I have read I need to add a layer of mulch over top to help them winter over, and then in spring scrape the mulch off of the shoots. I think I am going to rake up the leaves and then mow them using the bag attachment, instant free mulch.

            OK, So my interest in compost has been peaked because we don't do anything to make just happens by accident when we clean out pens and pile up the bedding. I want to make compost on purpose. I want to see how all this works. I want a steaming pile of nutrient rich compost that I can add to my garden without worrying that I'll plant wheat seeds or weed seeds.

            I'm forming a plan. I just swept out one pen, a holding pen we used for the piglets until they were big enough to go outside...It is dry and fluffy. Then I have the broiler pen, where we brooded the chicks for the first 4 weeks...that is damp and gross. I think If I layer those two, I'll have the start for my "on purpose" compost pile. 
             Right now? I have to hunt out my child, who is not filling out the names of the 50 states on his map. This homeschooling deal is making me a little crazy...while he is great about math and science...getting him to do any writing for purposes other than his own, is difficult...that is putting it mildly, because sometimes I'm not so nice a teacher.....

Monday, September 23, 2013

Apple Pie Contest

I am now an AWARD Winning Baker!
Yes! I placed 3rd in the pie contest! My ribbon is hanging in the cabinet next to my soup trophy! Oh there really is no living with me now. If I can figure out how to download pictures from the cell phone onto the laptop and then over to the blog...that would be a good thing...Look! The Martha Stewart is coming out of me again!
Charlie Brown is currently working on his biography about Mary Pope Osborn...I learned quite a bit too. I think she was a hippy for a bit after college, traveling Europe, camping in a cave in Crete...Ahhh the things I am learning.  When he finishes his sentence writing we are doing a science experiment to show how rocks are formed and reformed. Good thing I am a crafty person who throws nothing out...aka, hoarder of all things crafty. We will shave crayons onto foil...representing weathering and erosion, then heat the crayons to melt them together...molten rock, then add pressure, then reheat, then pour over ice...oh the fun we will have....hmmm...I better go change my shirt and dig out an old apron!
I also have two Angel Food Cakes in the ovens. I have over 40 doz eggs at the moment...need to hard boil a few dozen as well. I would like to try canning pickled eggs...I'm just a little lazy about I think about doing it and then say I WANT to do it. Intentions with out actions mean very little.
Perhaps we will have an egg casserole for dinner tonight. I could make some cream puffs too for dessert...I can feel the arteries clogging now.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Facebooked out...

Where have I been....FACEBOOK! I just deactivated my account because I found myself spending more and more time sitting in front of the computer. I wasn't just looking up recipes and learning new homesteading skills. Instead I was playing games and reading everyone's status updates and then reading all the comments or commenting myself. Information passed that I really didn't want to know. Also, I discovered that people can be really MEAN when they are commenting. You know they certainly wouldn't behave that way in person. I found myself involved in someone else's drama...thinking about it when I had other, better, things to think about. I had had enough and without some eloquent speech about how I was leaving, I just made a clean break and deactivated my account.
Now I am focusing on home again. It's amazing what you can get done in a few hours when you are not repeatedly looking at the computer or the smartphone.
I am homeschooling my 8yr old. WOW. It is a challenge but I think we are going to make it. Third grade is tough. We are using PACyber... not traditional homeschool but I am right there reading lessons, doing science experiments, going over spelling, maps, recipes, music and art projects...whew and this is the first month...well six weeks.
We still homestead. Currently raising meat chickens, layers, turkeys, pigs, goats and a steer. I am constantly either spraying essential oils all over the house, diffusing them in the air conditioning or wearing them so I don't have to smell the pigs. Really...I enjoy farm smells...I dislike strongly, the pigs.
I'm trying to get my husband to butcher my older laying hens. I want to use them for stock. I need to build up my supply for the soup cook off in January. I won last year! There were 11 soups entered. This year there will be more. I need to be prepared. Having that plastic gold trophy really made me feel good. In fact I tell my kiddos they can't complain...I'm an award winning chef now. Tomorrow I am entering the apple pie contest at the Heritage Days festival. Not sure how I will do, but I won't know unless I try!
Still canning and freezing whatever I get from the produce stand. My garden was a bust this year...too much rain then too much sun...the weeds did really well.
But I am working in the sewing room during the times I would normally be on the computer. I am well on my way to finishing some Christmas presents.

Maybe now I will have time to post and read my other favorite blogs that I have not visited in a long time.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Oven canning dry goods

A few months ago I read an article in the Countryside magazine about oven canning dry goods. When properly sealed these canned items are good for decades. I thought it was a great idea and tried it. I canned flour and rolled oats...but you can do any DRY good...beans, rice, cereal.
I bought a 50lb. bag of rolled oats for $25. I filled 12 half gallon jars(twice, plus some on the counter), packing them tight by "stomping" the jar on a folded towel. Didn't want to break the jar. The next step is to place the open jars in a preheated oven(200degrees F)for one hour. When the time is up, open the oven and start placing the lids and rings on the jars. It's hot so be sure to wear an oven glove or use hot pads. The OV glove works best because I had my fingers free. Once the lids are snug, take the jars out of the oven and place on a towel lined counter to cool. As the jars cool, the lids seal. This process kills any larva or critter that may have been in the oats or flour. Ever open a bag of flour in the back cupboard only to find tiny black bugs? ick. I usually store my flours and oats in the freezer...but that takes up space I need for meat.
I have been using the oats and flour... they are great. The only thing I have found is that I need to sift my flour before using it. since it is packed down in the jars it seems clumpy and I like it nice and fluffy.
I save money buying in bulk, it is sealed and I don't have to worry about bugs or rancid flour. Plus, with the shaky economy, I have a stock pile to help get through the winter.
Now, I have friends who oven can food, but I don't trust that method. I either water can or pressure can my foods. Since I didn't grow up learning how to can, I stick to the proven safe methods. I would hate to go through all the prep work and expense of buying the products only to have it spoil due to poor storage methods.
But the dry goods seems pretty safe and as I said I have been using them without any issues.
I hope this inspires someone else to try it. It took about 2 and a half hours total time investment filling the jars and heating for an hour and cooling .

Monday, January 14, 2013

Planning and Dreaming

This is the time of the year when I sit back with a good seed catalog and plan my spring garden and dream of all the harvesting and canning I will be doing. I generally leave out all the work, digging, weeding and planting. For some reason that always comes as a shock come spring and I end up not planting everything I dreamed about in the winter months. Anyone else do that?
Hubby and I were sitting with our evening coffee discussing what and where we were going to plant. He wants to make the garden area we already have established, a potato garden and establish a new garden area in the side yard outside my kitchen door. While I see it in my head...skipping out to the garden in my apron to select fresh veggies for that nights delectable dinner...I'm leaving out the hours of breaking new ground and all the hard labor that goes into composting and weeding the area. I focus on the end result and not the journey to get there.
You learn so much about life when you think about gardening. I know I do anyway. I see in my mind the future I want, the garden, the herbal business, the booming contracting company...but I have to keep in mind all the work involved and am I willing to do it to get the end results. Or do I need to rethink my goals and make them into something I can manage and am willing to devote my time.
My imagination tends to run from reality.
BUT we will try it. Maybe work it in small sections so that by the end of the summer we will be ready for more next year.
We also discussed what is the most efficient veggies to plant. An example Hubby brought up was to plant cherry tomatoes but purchase canning tomatoes(Amish farms near by sell them fairly cheap by the bushel), plant beans, buy carrots, grow broccoli buy cabbage...
He has a dream of growing a strawberry patch...we tried it before, but all our plants died. We had bought bare roots (200)that is a lot of planting and a very frustrating failure. Maybe if we plant in a different area it will work...more digging.
I suggested horseradish and he asked me why I would plant that, I don't even use it...I think it was just the seed catalog high talking...

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Goals for the New Year

I think just about everyone makes up some sort of resolution or goals even if it's to say I'm not making a resolution...see still resolving not to make a resolution.
I've decided that I'm going to list my goals to help me move forward to my dream of being closer to the Proverbs 31 woman.

Goal number one is to rely on GOD for everything. To trust in Him and to LISTEN for what He needs me to do. Because seriously, I fail on my own all the time.

Goal number two is to stop being so negative about myself. I need to stop doubting myself, I need to stop being so critical of myself. I am worthy of success and need to stop fearing it. I'm actually a pretty cool chick if I would stop comparing myself to others or trying to be something I am not. I'm chatty and easy to talk to, creative, resourceful, honest and open, passionate in my interests, loyal to my family and friends and I am able to adapt to life's ups and downs without too much mental trauma.

Goal number three is to focus my main energy into raising my family. Whatever my dreams are for the future, I cannot allow them to interfere with my job as wife and mother today. My children will grow up too fast for me to have regrets later that I focused on my soaps and salves instead of my children. If I can find a way to have it all work together that would be great. But if it came to a choice, family first.

Goal number four is to research the herbal world. I want to take a few classes on herbs and their uses and to be able to identify them in the wild. I can always keep learning and growing.

Goal number five is to learn to finish what I start. If you have read my blog know what I mean. Intentions are nothing without actions.

So those are my goals for 2013

I'm excited for this new year

Thursday, December 13, 2012


I am slowly getting busy making and selling my soap, salves and lip balm. I really have to get over this fear of rejection. The ladies were over on Tuesday and I was talking about how I felt. I would rather not try, than try and be rejected. My Hubby gets soooo irritated with me. My one girlfriend told me the number one rule is to not take the NO personally. She says they are saying NO to the product not me. My issue is the product IS me. It's made by my hands. So much love and passion goes into each product. I have a hard time even pricing the stuff! I sit and think...what if someone buys it then doesn't like it? What if I priced it too high, they will think I'm a rip off? What if... Sounds pretty pathetic doesn't it? I'm even frustrated with myself. I don't know how I even became so full of self doubt.
But I am biting the bullet. I sold several jars of salve and lip balm just from people asking for it. So today and tomorrow I am making a few more jars of salve and lip balm, digging out some aprons I have made and I'm going to set out Saturday. I am surrounded by prim shops and they are all having sales Saturday. I am right in between two of them so I thought what better way to get started. People will pass my house to get to the prim shop. I also have soap at another prim shop...but so far, no sales. I'm ok with that because I'm not there to be
So I am making the healing salve and a breath ease salve(eucalyptus, rosemary, lemon)and a tea tree lip balm and maybe a cocoa mint lip balm. I finally figured out how to make my labels so I will even have our Up The Creek Homestead name on the products.
I have bottles coming from Mountain Rose Herbs for my homemade vanilla. I also ordered some herbs to make more infused oils and tubes for the lip balm. I'm hoping I can sell more so I can make more.
I really have to lock up the lip balm because my daughter keeps taking it! I told her she was going to have to work it off...the tubes cost about .50each!

I also tried a new to me idea of whipping coconut oil. I can't remember if it was a blog, pinterest, or facebook. But you whip coconut oil and it gets white and creamy. It's used as a moisturizer. I made some up and added a few drops of peppermint oil. It smells nice...I may add more more, just testing it out now. The coconut oil firms up a bit after whipping but not as hard as it is otherwise. It also melts into your skin as applying it. I think I like to use it more at night as it is pretty greasy feeling at first.
Well, I'm going to get busy.