Monday, August 29, 2011

Meals filled with our own homegrown food.

 If you are a regular here at all you will have heard that we are feeling very blessed with all the produce we are getting from our place. Since things are growing well I have challenged myself to not buy any fruits or veggies this month but rather eat stuff that we have been able to get out of our own garden and also what we have been blessed to have others give us (Like cabbage, garlic and now apples from my parents and Beets from a friend). It has gone quite well. We have eaten more vegetables than ever. Most meals we have at least two types of veggies and often many more. There has been some adjusting as we got used to not having apples or other fruits (my parents just gave us apples today and they sure tasted yummy after going without for the month) to snack on and learning to just appreciate what we did have in plenty.
 There is something so fun about fixing a meal and realizing that we knew exactly where basically everything came from. Take for example our Sunday Dinner that consisted of: Steak (Hormone free, grass fed and raised by a man in our area), Baked Potatoes (Gleaned by us last year- we will be going again soon Lord willing), Corn on the Cob (from our garden) and Cabbage Salad (With cabbage from my parents garden and cucumbers and onions from ours). Most meals have been like that lately and it has been so much fun!

   I don't think we will ever eat totally just local foods as I do enjoy chocolate, coconut, some bananas and other things that we simply cannot grow here (though I do have a banana tree in my house- maybe someday it will produce a few). I do have a goal however of having the majority of our diet made up of food that we either produce or get from somebody that we know around here who raises it naturally. Step by step we are making progress and I am enjoying the journey. There are thinking adjustments that have to be made along the way. Recipes that might need tweaking, new favorite foods discovered and enjoyed.

Here are some photos of some other Local food fun that has happened around here lately:
 Today we went to my parents for lunch and enjoyed another homegrown meal. Above my nephew Lars is helping grandma to make applesauce which was sweetened with our honey.
 Aaron and Mara went out and picked chokecherries which we are making jelly from.
Our garden isn't picture perfect (in fact it is pretty weedy!) but that isn't stopping it from growing food!
Do you try to raise a lot of your own food? What is one of your favorite homegrown foods?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Abounding with blessings

 "He who tills his land will have plenty of food, But he who follows empty pursuits will have poverty in plenty. A faithful man will abound with blessings, but he who makes haste to be rich will not go unpunished." Proverbs 28:19 and 20

I am glad it says "tills his land" rather than "keeps a weed free garden"! Joking aside, we have been extremely blessed with lots of good food and I remember over and over that it is all because of God!

  This verse is a good reminder of the priorities we need to make in our life. God wants us to lead useful not empty lives. He cares about all parts of our lives. He wants us to work hard but yet not be obsessed with getting rich. We need balance and we need to always seek His will!

Just google it!

 In our family we as a general rule have very inquisitive minds. We like to figure out the answer to things that we have questions about. When I was growing up the answer to that inquisitiveness was to look it up in the encyclopedia or dictionary but in our ever changing world what we tend to say now is "Google it".
We have to be careful because not everything online is true but still being able to search through the wealth of information online has helped us to learn a lot!

Here are some of the things I have been googling (I actually use Swagbucks search engine because I am able to earn swagbucks which I can then use to buy Amazon gift cards) lately:

How to keep bees through the winter in cold climates~
This is something I am thinking about though most in our area just kill their bees off. I think this video is helpful:

Here are some more links that are useful:
~Another video (I like videos for learning!)
~An Article on preparing them for winter.

Natural Beekeeping/ Not using antibiotics automatically~
This goes against what I have been told around here but it is something I would really like to look into more as giving medicine when there is not problem is not my style at all. Especially when I find out that the diseases are becoming resistant to the antibiotics anyway.
~I found this man's take on it interesting.
~Someone else who practices natural beekeeping.
~Natural Beekeeping looks like a book that I would like to read.

Ways to use chokecherries~
Mara and Aaron were able to pick quite a few on our property and I am sure we could find a bunch more if we went looking. Most people don't use them as they don't taste good without preparation and some sweetener added.
~A nice article on Chokecherries.
~Jelly Recipes

Making Coconut Milk~
Tropical Traditions sent me a bucket of coconut (I'll be reviewing it and hosting a giveaway soon!) and I wanted to try making milk with it. I found that they have a nice video and recipe to teach you how.

Can Elephants Paint?~
That was the question of the day when our friend was over the other day. She read a fiction book to Megan that said that the elephant loved to paint and our friend said her sister had a picture painted by an elephant. We wondered if that could really be true so we checked it out online and had so much fun watching several videos of elephants painting (and better than we can!). It was fun. Here is one of those videos:

Harvesting and Using Wild Hazelnuts~
We have these on our land and I have tried to use them before but they got wormy when I had them drying. I am hoping to figure out how to make use of them without them getting wormy.
Here is some of the things I found:
~A blog article with nice pictures and a bit of info.
~How to husk them.
~Roasting them.

How to make lye (for soap making) from ashes:
This has long been a project on my mind ever since I read about it in a foxfire book. We had a fire outside this evening so now I am thinking on it again. Here is some of the information that I found:
~A step by step instructions list
~More info
~A lot of practical sounding info.
~How to make wood ash soap

How to make wool dryer balls~
I had read about wool dryer balls and figured that I could make them rather than buy them in order to try them out. I have wool clothes on hand that I would like to use. Here is some of the info that I found. I may kind of use their ideas but do my own thing. Here are some of the ideas that I found:
~Making them from old sweaters.
~Made from yarn.
~Some for sale on Etsy that look more like what I am thinking about making.
~Here is the info I was looking for! How to make wool dryer balls from old clothes.

That is some of the things I have been googling- How about you?

Friday, August 26, 2011


 I had mentioned a while back that I was having fun working on making pinwheel things for my brother's wedding. I didn't show you the projects then but now that the wedding is all over I thought it would be fun to have a "show and tell" (though I failed to take any decent pictures of one of my favorite projects).

  My sister in law, MollyBea had decided to use pinwheels for wedding decorations and then she also made some really fun big ones out of scrapbook paper to put in the bouquets and decorate the reception area with. She wanted pinwheels for the bridesmaids hair and the groomsmens' "boutonniere". I volunteered to make them out of fabric the way I had seen done on this blog and she took me up on it. My sister Martha and Mara helped me make them.
For the bridesmaids' hair
To go in the groom's boutonniere and the Mothers' corsages.
For the groomsmen to wear as a boutonniere
 Luke also asked me to make flat bottomed ties for the guys. They were pretty easy once I figured out how to do it.

Above is a project I had fun making but then failed to take any good pictures of. Instead of a guestbook I made them a table runner with 3 large pinwheel quilt squares in it. There were two red pinwheels and a yellow pinwheel in the middle with a white background. People could sign their names on the white areas of it. I thought it turned out cute and it made for a unique and fun "guestbook".

 Here is the happy couple. MollyBea had 3 medium sized pinwheels in her bouquet and the bridesmaids each had one large one.


 The had a very cute cake with pinwheels on it too (which I did not make). They just had a small cake and then lots and lots of cupcakes.

 I had fun making them pinwheel hot pads for their new home.
I had fun trying out making pinwheel cookies (but they did not use that particular idea) and you can see my tutorial here.

 Do you like pinwheels? Do you have any other creative ideas for using them? am linking this to Fix it up Friday at Blessings Overflowing.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tidbits from my Brain

   I have had a lot going through my brain lately and I was having trouble figuring out what to blog about so I just decided to share some of the bits and pieces of thoughts I have been having.

~~~~~~~ I have been thinking about Finances/Stewardship. Yesterday I bought myself a brand new bike from a bike shop. We were needing another bike for our family and Ken decided that I could get a new one and Jonathan could then use my old one (at least for the time being). We have gotten pretty burnt out on cheap bikes from places like Walmart so we decided to buy a more quality one this time. I have spent quite a lot of time looking and asking around (in person and online), reading reviews and comparing products and prices. For me the idea of spending $400 for a bike isn't easy but after research it seemed like the right choice. As we were making that decision I was thinking about the many ways that we work to spend less- rarely eating out, making our own laundry soap, reusing things rather than buying new, etc. and I just reminded myself that the reason we are extra careful in many areas is so that we can use the money God has blessed us with in areas that matter to us. Biking is a very fun and useful activity for our family and so it is worth carefully spending money in that area since are able to.  God really has been blessing us by giving Ken and I both thriving businesses. Ken's very adequately provides for our needs and my small part time floral business has been able to provide extras. It is our goal to use what we have well on things that matter to us and be able to contribute to causes that matter to us as well. Giving to others is something I still want to grow much more in but I am thankful for the opportunities God has given us so far.

~~~~~~~~I have been thinking about Marriage. I have been feeling very thankful for the husband that I have and really enjoying the relationship that we share. I have also been realizing the need to always work towards having an even better marriage. Marriage is something given by God and it is until death. During our time here on earth together we should make the very most of our time together. I encourage all of you as well to work hard to have the very best marriage that you can possibly have! Sharing together as best Friends and lovers. Some of the things that have inspired me lately to keep working on having a great marriage are: The Truth Project (Lesson 7, I believe), It is a video series and there was a wonderful lesson that really encouraged married people to live the way God intended. I have also been blessed by recently reading through Song of Solomon and the Magazine "Above Rubies".

~~~~~~I have been thinking about Homeschooling. We plan on starting our official school year on September 6th. I ordered (just in time!) Math books for Mara and Aaron which were the last books that we needed. I have been thinking about how we can learn what we need to while keeping it fun and interesting, learning together and not getting overwhelmed. I am excited for the new year to begin! This year all of my kids will officially (I say officially because the truth is we are always learning no matter the age or the time of year) be students. Megan is 5 and will be doing some simple books and maybe learning to read too.

~~~~~~~I have been thinking about Simplicity and Organization. I am in a continual process of trying to live with less. Not buy new if I can help it but rather use what we have. We are trying to go through things and get stuff organized. I am trying to figure out ways and motivate myself to work ahead of schedule and not put things off to the last minute. This doesn't come naturally to me so I am working on it.

~~~~~~I have been thinking about Hospitality. About how fun it is, how I want to do it more and how I could be better at it. Hospitality is a way that I think God can really use Christians if they are willing to give of their time and lives to others.

~~~~~~~I have been thinking about how very blessed we are! Our garden is busily producing, the bees are making honey just as fast as they can, we have so very much more than we need, the weather is beautiful, we got to enjoy beautiful music by Brass in Blue, I found nice new shoes for Jonathan for only $4 and we are a healthy and happy family. All of this is from God and I am incredibly grateful!

What have you been thinking about?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Speaks to me Sunday

"For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it." Hebrews 2:1

Do you like to study your Bible? Do you make sure to set aside time regularly to read and immerse yourself in it? I am very blessed in that I grew up in a Bible reading/studying home and then I had the blessing of attending Bible college as well as attend congregations that focus strongly on reading and studying God's word. That said I still have a lot to learn. Sometimes I regrettably just read and don't really focus on gaining and learning from what I read. Lately I have really been feeling strongly that I want God's word to be an even stronger focus of my life. I want to share it often with my kids, to think of God's wisdom when I am visiting with others and to share more of it on here as well. I want to make sure that I really fully understand what God wants for me and my life.

There are many good reasons for studying God's word. In it we find all the solutions for life, it is the instruction manual for everything. Studying it regularly will help us to not drift away from the faith we have. We learn about who God is and who we are.

"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." Psalm 119:105

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tattler Reusable Canning Lids {Review and Giveaway}

I said I would be back this week with a giveaway. Did you think I had forgotten? I didn't forget we just have been having another of those fun FILLED weeks. We have been in the garden, harvesting honey, putting up food, doing wedding flowers and enjoying company. But I am here to tell you about some pretty neat harvest time helpers just now.

   When we put up food I like to can a lot of it. I freeze some things and dry a few in my dehydrator but my favorite preservation method is canning. I just love to see the rows of beautiful produce in nice pretty canning jars lining my pantry shelves. I like that with my own canning I can reuse jars over and over and over again. But I have wished that I could have lids that were okay to use over and over as well. Well that wish is now granted!

  Tattler Canning Lids can be used over and over(Check out these testimonials). So now I can reuse all the parts of the container that I can food in. I much prefer that to throwing them away. What a luxury to not have to go shopping for canning lids or to run out just when I really need them. At the present I have the 12 regular lids and 12 wide lids that I was given to review but I hope to buy more soon as I would much prefer having all my lids be reusable lids.

I had wondered if these canning lids might be more complicated to use but they were not. I used them in the pressure canner with a couple of batches of green beans, in the water bath canner with dill pickles (my first time making pickles!) and I also used one with my inversion method for canning raspberry jam. They worked fine every time. You use them almost identically to the regular lids so it is not hard at all.

  Another very cool thing about Tattler canning lids is that they are BPA free which normal canning lids are not nor are tin cans from the store.

I am very thankful that Tattler let me try out their lids and am looking forward to buying even more of them. Are you doing canning too? One of you can also try a dozen regular lids and a dozen wide lids. To enter the drawing please leave your name and e-mail address so that I can reach you if you win and tell me how you would like to use these lids.
Please enter before August 26th as the giveaway will end at that time.

Disclaimer: I received lids free from Tattler for purposes of reviewing but all thoughts expressed are my own.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Things are really hopping on our homestead!

 Wow! God has certainly blessed us with good food. Our bees are staying incredibly busy and productive and our garden is having probably its best year ever. Thanks to the strength that God provides we have been working hard to take care of everything and put it away to use the rest of the year.

  As far as the bees are concerned, during a very busy first week of August I discovered that they had filled up my very last honey supers. When I bought the hives I got a total of 10 supers thinking that 5 for each hive would probably be plenty. This summer I had one really active hive of bees and then one that was a bit slow. So it had ended up that over the summer I had put 7 supers on the busy hive and the other one had just 3. Well come August both hives were getting what they had filled up. I didn't have an extractor yet and I didn't have any more supers but I also didn't want them to swarm as I knew they had a month of honey production left. I had just had a very busy summer and was not prepared to have such busy bees.

  My Dad and brother Peter came to the rescue and made me an extractor. I had been searching around for ideas on how to do that as to buy one costs upwards of $300 and the ones at the low end my beekeeping mentor did not advise getting. He advised a radial extractor opposed to the cheaper ones where you have to flip the frames mid process to avoid them blowing apart on you. Anyway my Dad and Brother where able to make an extractor using things that my Dad had on hand and less than $20 worth of stuff that I picked up at Menards.
I had first intended to buy a large trash can to use as the base but the ones I found didn't end up having a large enough radius. Dad remembered that he had this barrel around his place (which had originally come from the beekeeping supplier not that far from here) and so I scrubbed it up good and we used that.

 The plans that I had found showed making a wooden radial frame to hold the honey frames in. Dad and Peter with their expertise in welding and metal work decided that a metal frame would work better. Dad went to his scrap pile and they found some perfect light metal to use for that. The only way I was able to help was by scrubbing up again. :-)

Peter trying out the new extractor
Dad had an old ice auger that they used for the long metal piece to go through the middle. Originally they used the ice auger handle as well (as pictured above) that handle didn't work so well so now Dad has replaced it with a short one that works tons better. We are still considering putting gears or a motor on it but the short handle (which just for interests sake I will mention came off of an old dump truck that was parked on Dad's property).

  For draining I found a PVC ball valve at Menards that they were able to screw into a hole that they made on the side of the bottom. Below is a picture that shows Mara using that valve and filling a bottle.

I had never taken frames out of the hive before and I wasn't sure how easy it would be without getting a bunch of bees too and without using a fume board.  It wasn't bad at all though I sure did get the bees buzzing all over! I simply took a frame out and brushed the bees off of it using the bee brush. Then I backed up a few steps and brushed off the ones that returned and then I quickly put it in a covered tote. Using that process I did get a few bees in the tote but not many and since they were busy gorging themselves once I got the tote inside they didn't pose any problem and I quickly got rid of them.
Working on this first batch of honey made me realize how much better I could be organized and how much I have to learn. I was thankful I wasn't getting tested on how unsticky I could stay during the process or anything like that. I was a pretty sticky mess once it was all over and everything I touched was sticky too! I was also pretty tired. Lifting honey supers around especially when some of them are above your head is hard work and cranking an extractor isn't easy either. I should have strong arm muscles (and the kids will too!) by the time honey harvesting is over.
The end result of lots of honey to use is certainly very fun! We are loving having our own honey. It is so much fun to eat, learn to bake with and to share with others.
Our first day's harvest.

Beyond bees and honey we have also been busy with other homesteading activities. This past week was our county fair. We always enjoy entering things in the open class and then going and seeing and getting ideas from what others enter as well. The fair is a very neat way to learn homesteading ideas and be encouraged to try new things out. Here are some pictures from the fair:
Some of the canned goods. I entered green beans and tomatoes in this section.
 I love looking at all the handwork and we also love entering in this section. In the picture above you can see Mara's grey and blue crocheted ski hat (First place!) and below that my striped baby set.

All of the kids entered quite a few things and everybody won some prizes so we had a fun time.

Another activity of last week was making pesto. Last year I made pesto for the first time and loved it so I wanted to make it again. My basil is growing well so I had quite a bit available for use. The pesto was yummy and I hope to make more soon.

This week the garden is still growing busily with cucumbers being one of the top crops. Here is a picture from Monday's harvest: 

 Oh I do love fresh veggies! I have made it my goal to eat garden fresh veggies every night with supper this month and except for when we were out of town I think we have done that so far. The harvests are just getting better too. We will be eating corn soon and I am excited!

 I have also been canning stuff for the winter and be sure to come back to visit here soon as I will be hosting a review and giveaway soon for Tattler canning lids. They are reusable year after year and they are pretty cool!

  Is your homestead a hopping place too? What do you have going on?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Verse for the week

Last night I wrote my Speaks-to-me-Sunday post but then when I went to publish it it disappeared. I am not going to rewrite that whole post but I did want to share the verse. It is one that I have found convicting and motivating and inspiring for a long time and one that I am really trying to focus on this week. I hope you appreciate and gain from it too!

 "In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behaviour of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. You adornment must not be merely external -braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God." 1 Peter 3:1-4

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Busy, Busy times!

 The last 7 days have been some of the busiest I ever remember. All the reasons for being busy have been wonderful and fun but when but together they can leave you feeling a bit tired (and not having any time to do any blogging).

  Some of our activities of the last 7 days have been:

~Discovering my bees had filled up their boxes and I didn't have any more to put on. Something needed to be done but I wasn't prepared for that. I will tell you later how my Brother and Dad majorly helped out and our experiences. (And of staying up late at night while getting extremely sticky!)

~Spending time visiting with my visiting brother and his family. (Going berry picking together.)

~My garden is overflowing with produce and weeds!
 ~Doing flowers for a clients wedding here in our town.

~Traveling 6 hours south to attend my little brother's wedding. (And doing flowers for that.)

 It was a fun outdoor wedding with all sorts of personal touches. I had fun helping out by making the guys unique ties (my brother gave me instructions), a table runner for people to sign and pinwheels for the girls hair and the guys shirts.

 Here is all my family except one brother-in-law. (My grandparents on my Mom's side are also in this picture.)
 ~Enjoying an evening with a bunch of old friends after the wedding on Saturday.
 ~Going to the wedding, in yet another town, of a daughter of some of our Friends on Sunday. (And doing flowers for that.)
~Coming home and working hard to get all of our stuff ready to enter at the fair. We dropped them off today and are feeling like doing some relaxing!

I think I might relax by cleaning my super messy house, weeding my garden and canning beans. :-)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

New warm mittens!

 While we were on our lengthy road trip I decided I should keep my hands busy with handwork. I finished a baby sweater that I had started over a year ago (I ended up not liking the way the yarn was to work with so I had gotten frustrated with it and skipped over it to do other projects) and then I made some mittens!
I had fun combining some fuzzy green yarn with cream wool yarn to make some mittens that should keep hands quite warm. I doubled the yarn throughout the mitten- sometimes using to strands of cream and sometimes using cream and green.

 I was able to do these mittens all on Sunday as we came home so that was fun to have a quick project like that. I especially like knitting because with a simple project you can look out the window at the passing scenery while you still knit away.

 I have been trying to finish up a bunch of projects lately as our county fair is next week and as usual we want to enter quite a few things.
  What have you been working on lately?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Our jungle garden

The jungle- Wild cucumber is growing all over the right hand corner.
 We came back from a week of vacation to find our garden had turned into a regular jungle! Many of the plants grew at least 2 feet (Corn, Tomatoes, Beans, Cucumbers and Weeds anyway!). There were weeds everywhere but we also discovered that the corn was tasseling, there were little zucchinis, a bunch of little peppers, tomatoes and tomatillas were looking good and the beans and peas were in desperate need of being picked.

 We even have a tomato that is almost ripe. There is plenty of basil to be made into pesto, The herbs are growing a lot and the onions are big! It is so fun to see just how much a garden can grow!

 We picked some of our beans today (maybe half) and got two gallons. I shared some with my parents and now I need to find time to can some as well.

 The bees have also been doing well. I haven't really checked in the hives since we got back (I wanted to today but when I had time it was sprinkling) but before we left on our trip I had needed to add 2 more honey supers (the boxes with frames) to Catnip Castle (one of our hives) since they already had 5 full. The other hive- Moonbeam Manor isn't doing as well and only has 3 supers on but I think we will be getting plenty of honey. I am actually out of supers now and I am pretty sure I will need more honey space for the big hive. I am trying to decide if I should make another super box (as I do have extra frames to go into it) or just go ahead and extract some honey (I still need to get an extractor!) and then put the emptied supers back on.

This evening we went out to my parents and picked around 2 gallons of raspberries. I am hoping we can avoid going grocery shopping this month and just make use of all the food the is growing so abundantly around us.
How is your garden growing?


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