Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Garden Paradise

Back in the day, before I raised so many kids and weeds, we used to garden every summer. The "me" part of we used to do the maintenance and harvesting, while the "he" part of we was in charge of getting the ground ready and planning where everything would go.

This year, I was on my own for ground-breaking and planning. One would think that with all the years of wathcing it be done, that I would be ready. Not so. I refer now the phenomenon of going to the same place week after week as a passenger, then suddenly driving oneself to the destination only to realize you don't remember the way!

Number 1 and I found a place to rent a roto-tiller and brougt it back home ready to break ground on our own. I had used a tiller before, but only long enough to frustrate Hubby and have him take back the controls.

Tilling actually went fairly quickly and was a little easier than I had thought it would be. We covered the whole garden in black plastic for a couple weeks to kill any weed seeds that had been churned up. That method worked very well!

Planting time came and we put it some potatoes and onions. I was proud of us to remember how to properly set potato eyes into the ground and mound the rows. A few weeks later a very nice friend stopped by to help get the rest of paradise planted.

We have lovely pole beans, squashes, broccoli, lettuces, asparagus, tomatoes, peppers, and radishes! I love going out every morning to check on my little babies to see how they are growing.

Biscuit designed a fine scare-crow, and Trink put up a scary little tiki man. Number 1 built a tee-pee for the pole beans, and E-man was on worm patrol to make sure there were plenty around!

Today, we harvested our first radishes! Boy they grow fast - only 24 days from seed!
I can hardly wait to start canning our own veggies this summer!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Busy with a capital OMG!

I have obviously been way too busy! I have not even posted in three months! Homeschooling is wrapped up for the year, other than maintenance reading and writing. We are in full-swing summer mode.

To me full-swing summer mode means: easing into the morning, picnicking at the lake, afternoon bike riding, evening salads (read NO Cooking!)and gardening, lightning bug hunts. Whoa! That's horse language for stop! That does not look like MY full-swing summer mode at all!

Number 1 is carriage driving (mom is planning summer camp!), Biscuit is riding as often as possible getting ready for horse camp, E-Man is baseball superstar riding horseback whenever he can to get ready for horse camp, and Trink is wondering when she'll get a turn, too! The two olders are also serving as grooms for other riders this summer. Of course there are festivals and fairs the kiddos are signed up for one event or another, in addition, they are trading barn chores for riding/driving privileges!

Where is the lake, bikes, picnics, bugs???? Although this is not the kind of summer I dream of with no responsibilities, we are having a blast doing these other fun things.

Of course we blend in chore time, friend time, nature club, and ice-cream. Perhaps I can slip in some more blog time, as well!

Happy Summer y'all, Ayuh!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Maple Sugaring Update

We boiled down the last of our maple sap today and pulled out the last tap. I combined all the syrup together and planned to can it for later. I didn't have a jar small enough! The grand total came to just 1 cup of syrup! It was still very worth the effort of trying it this year!

We tapped a total of four trees and checked for sap every day for three weeks. Sometimes we only brought in 1/2 a gallon of sap. Twice we got just over one gallon of sap! I will definitely do this again next year!

Improvement ideas for next year:
- Trees will be positively identified in the fall and marked.
- I will purchase more taps right now for next year.
- I will look into boiling the sap down outside on a stove(to avoid too much sticky moisture in the house).

I'm already excited about next maple sugaring season. Now I just need to plan that "perfect" meal to feature that hard earned mapley perfection!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Whistling Dixie

Every farm (and kid) should have a dog, right? I have definitely been the hold-out in our family. We would have had a dog a long time ago if it had not been for the fact that I didn't WANT a dog!

Well, times are changing and our farm now has a dog! She's a three year old Wheaten Terrier from the Humane Society. Her breed is known for herding, protecting chickens and eggs, and hunting. She is gentle and seemingly very smart.

She came to us with her name and it suits her very well. Dixie is very sweet and we are very happy to have her sharing our home!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sap Today, Syrup Tomorrow! - (maybe)

After a week of not-so-cooperative weather, the sap buckets were only half full. However, still very excited about the maple adventure, I boiled it down! We only tapped two trees with one bucket on each tree, so there was only about a gallon of sap. I decided to use my indoor woodstove and put the pot with sap on top and left it overnight. (I actually started it on my electric stove, but quickly moved it over to the free heat!)

The next morning, more than half had been boiled away! According to the book, we should boil down most of the sap until it becomes syrup-y and the correct temperature, of course! Our family needed to be gone from home for the day, so the pot just sat for the day off the stove. One more night over low heat and WE HAVE SYRUP!!

Pancakes were certainly on the menu for breakfast, and the maple syrup tasted fantastic! Even better than I imagined. There was just one problem. There are six people in our family and enough syrup for just TWO!

It takes about 40 gallons of sap to get about one gallon of syrup - so with just ONE gallon of sap, we got about TWO ounces of syrup! I guess we wait for more sap!!! Please HURRY!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The "yolk's" on us!

I'm learning a lot about chickens and the eggs they lay. As I have posted about before, we get a variety of colors; greenish/blue, white, and different browns. We also get a few with more than one yolk in them!

They come out quite large and occasionally we get to hear the hen who lays it! She really makes a squawk in that nesting box - I can feel her pain (I myself had enormous children!)

Sometimes when the kids come back from gathering eggs, they will tell of eggs without shells! They are always broken open, usually by the hens themselves. The kids just scoop it out of the nesting box and throw it into the compost. But recently, they found a whole egg without its shell.

Today, the neighbor's dog got into the chicken run and killed a few of our hens. It was a sad event. Being thrifty and trying to make the most of the farming/homesteading lifestyle, we salvaged the meat. During the "salvage" we discovered another type of unusual egg - one not yet laid!

I guess the joke's on us this time!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A sappy story...

The maple sap is running in New England!....or so I have heard. We decided that we wanted to give it try, so I did what every "from away-er" does. I bought a book. Now I know everything there is to know, right? First on the list is to identify the sugar maple the fall. What? But, it is now late February and the sap runs, NOW! OOPS. Okay, plan B. Fortunately for our family, Number 1 has a few skills and comes through for us. He has pointed out what we are absolutely, almost fairly certain, sure to be six sugar maple trees.

Okay, now what? I bought a few taps. We decided to use some plastic water jugs (they were free) to collect the sap, this will really keep our costs down.

Number 1 is drilling in the maple tree, while Trink and E-Man look on.

Today was THE day to install the taps! After re-reading the book to make sure of how and where to put the taps, we realized that the tree diameter must be at least ten inches. Uh-oh, all the trees that Number 1 found are NOT that big. Well, he was able to find two other that were big enough.

So, with taps installed and jugs attached, all we have to do is wait! I can already taste that syrup!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Hobos, Veggies, and Trink

My littlest daughter, Trink, has a heart for the ministry. Trink is six. She is our family's cheerleader and biggest snuggler and absolutely loves to laugh! All of this information is background for a couple of funny things I wanted to share. It is based on "Kids say the darnedest things!" theory.

Months ago, my older children began discussion on Hobos. Being homeschoolers, we dove right it to discover the origin of the term Hobo. We learned that there are many theories of the origin, also they had their own community, culture and even language! While studying, Trink realized that Hobos didn't have a home of their own. Of course the rest of the family took that point for granted, but it gave her a tremendous idea.

Our family had been in deep discussion over what our farm would be, what should we raise or sell or grow, etc. Trink KNEW that she had solved two problems with her marvelous idea. We should have a HOBO Farm! They could just set up tents in our fields and we would take care of them! Problem solved!

I mentioned that Trink loves to laugh. In our family, when we are tickling, it is called "getting out your go-guffles" which generally live and breed in one's armpits. The term was coined by my great-grandfather. Trink truly enjoys having her go-guffles removed. They must be removed regularly in order to prevent an over-abundance of them. During a recent "removal" Trink was evidently thinking of her future. She announced quite out-of-the-blue that "You know, Muma, when I get married......." What? When you get married, what??...I thought. "You will have to bring the vegetables!"

Vegetables???!! I'm confused. It turned out that she could not bear the thought that once she was married, I could no longer get out her go-guffles, and she just couldn't bring herself to tell me!

I didn't bother to hide my laugh!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Mission to Lima

Biscuit and I were able to accompany my parents on a mission trip to Lima, Peru at the end of January. It was a wonderful experience that will never be forgotten!

The House of Hope Ministries (HOH), based in Chesapeake, VA has, been feeding the kids in Peru and other parts of the world for over a decade. HOH does not just send the much needed money, but they take an active part in helping to build feeding centers or sometimes homes. Occasionally, HOH will bring a medical team and offer free clinics. They also offer spiritual guidance when asked and give support in anyway they can to the ministry that has already been established by the Peruvian People.

My parents have been traveling to Lima for about 10 years and so I have seen many pictures of the work being done there. I can easily see where Father has moved and the prosperity that has come through the faithfulness of HIS people. I did not need be there from the beginning to witness the changes.

Churches have sprung up as a natural progression of the feeding centers and on this particular trip, three of the churches were holding VBS. It works much like in the U.S. only in another language!! We were able to help out with the kids and also with feeding. Many of the kids will recieve their only meals from these centers!

Biscuit had the opportunity to teach her Lip Balm recipe at one of the centers. It is the hope that the teenagers will be able to make and sell Lip Balms for themselves. It was a fun experience for Biscuit and the teens seemed to enjoy it also!

As Biscuit is such a wonderful cook and is always looking for a new recipe or neat experience, she quickly grabben an opportunity that presented itself. She was allowed to help prepare the meal for the Vacation Bible School attendees. The kitchens are VERY different than she is used to!

I am greatful for the experience for myself, but it was special because I got to share it with my parents and daughter!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I LOVE having fresh eggs every morning! I don't eat them every morning, but I love when the kiddos bring them in from the hen-house every morning. E-man is in charge of the farm animals (currently there are only chickens!)so he gets up each morning and runs down to "check the chickens." They are collected in an egg basket that I wove myself many years ago, still warm and sometimes have bits of shavings from the nesting boxes stuck to them.

We get several different colors of eggs. White eggs come from our two bantams. Greenish/bluish are layed by the Aracaunas, and the Rhode Islands generously deliver a variety of brown eggs. We get about 10 eggs each day, now that it is winter.

The W Family owns half of our chickens and they keep a couple dozen eggs every week. The rest are usually sold or eaten by our family. I really enjoy selling farm fresh eggs from happy hens! It brings such satisfaction to know that I can contribute to our financial stability - I bring in about $2.00/week! It's not about the money - obviously - but it is fun!

"Ant" another thing I want to mention before I close, I had a mental block on how to work in that last syllable of the title into something clever. Guess it won't happen this time!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Lip Care is da "Balm!"

Biscuit is a budding homemaker. She is my right arm, really. Though only 12 years old, she can cook an entire meal and have it all ready at the same time. I was about 30 by the time I mastered that one!

Lately she has had opportunities to learn to make soap, lotion, laundry soap, hand soap, and Lip Balm.

We are still working on finding recipes that work well for us as far as the laundry and dish soaps. The Lip Balm recipe is wonderful, however! It is also AMAZINGLY simple!

I have always steered clear of lip sticks and gloss because I can "taste" them and I always seemed to end up with a stomach ache. That is not the case with this recipe. We found chapstick tubes at our local health food store for about 32 cents each. These are a little easier to use than "pots" but the pots are easier to pour into.

1 oz beeswax

4 oz oils (you can use any combo of your faves - like olive, canola, even veggie) We use Smart Balance from the grocery store - it contains vitamin E

Several drops of essential oil (so far, we LOVE peppermint, but plan to try lemon soon)

Melt beeswax and oils together over low heat. Once melted, remove from heat and add essential oil. Pour into containers. Mixture sets up in about 10 minutes and will be ready to use!