Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Happenings on the Homestead

Things are pretty busy around here (aren't they always?!). This heat has been deadly, literally. I lost my 2nd chicken to the heat last weekend. We are doing everything we can to keep them cool. We fill the waterers daily and put frozen water bottles in them to keep the water cold (sometimes several times a day). I leave the big door on the coop open all day so the breeze (I loosely use this term!) blows completely through it and I turn on a sprinkler that pumps out 58 degree water. The chickens don't necessarily like the sprinkler while it is on but they love sloshing around in the water when I turn it off. Even through all of that, we have lost 2 of them. Two of my better layers at that! This is a hard part of homesteading, losing that which you have nurtured since it was born. But life goes on and so does the work. Speaking of chickens, we had our first snake in this chicken coop the other night. The kids went out to close up the coop for the night and collect the eggs when they came roaring back into the house screaming about a snake. Apparently, my son opened the egg collection hatch and was about to stick his hand into the laying boxes and a very large chicken snake was already in there consuming eggs. Little man is NOT crazy about snakes so he came and got us for that task. Snakes don't really bother me. Frogs terrify me but snakes fascinate me. Hubby told me to get his gun and I started thinking "He's not REALLY going to fire that thing in the chicken coop, is he?" Thankfully, he was going to fire it AFTER we got the snake onto the ground outside but things didn't really go as planned. Mr. Snake wasn't really interested in leaving his stash of eggs so hubs took the shovel to him in the laying box. It was pretty hard to manuver around because the shovel was almost as wide as the box but after a few strikes, he got the job done. When he pulled the snake out, it was about 3 1/2 feet long and quite fat. Needless to say, we only got 4 eggs that day. The kids have been pretty reluctant to go back to the coop but we are trying to teach them that snakes are just a part of homesteading and that they still need to do their jobs. They are, however, collecting the eggs while it is still very light outside so there are no more at-dusk surprises!

Like I said, the heat here has been awful so hubby and I purchased a solution. A pool! It is just an above ground one but it is huge!
Here is the hole that was dug and filled with sand to make the bottom level. The truck in the background is the installers on their way tour house.
Here, they have put down the bottom rail that will hold the sides up.

The sides are up, yay!!!! These are the 2 installers. Poor guys, it was sooooooo hot, I was worried they would fall out with heat stroke or something. You can see they put our sprinkler in the pool to help keep them cool.
Liner is in!

Top rail is on and it's time for water.
It took 2 days to fill this thing up. I felt so guilty about using so much water but it is just too hot to feel guilty for too long!
The finished product! All filled and ready for swimming! We plotted out where we want the deck to go and priced it yesterday....OUCH!!! Apparently, our tastes are a bit expensive! We had planned to do it ourselves but hubby is super busy with work and we want it to get done ASAP so we aren't tracking a ton of dirt into the pool everytime we get in.  We have 2 people coming to give us a price for them to do it but if it is too much, looks like we will have a weeks' worth of late nights working on it ourselves. We don't want to spend too much money because we have a vacation coming up in September and we need to make sure we don't touch any of that money that has been set aside.

Along with the end of July comes planning for the beginning of school. I have been making out some schedules for the kids (and me) for when we "officially" begin school on August 13th. Like all homeschoolers though, learning goes on each and every day, but we tend to be a bit more relaxed for a month or two in the summer. I have already ordered their cirriculum and I am just waiting for it to get here. We use Switched On Schoolhouse. We love it. The lessons are challenging, they have lots of different electives we can add on to our base courses and there is very minimal grading that has to be done by me. THAT is a good thing! The program keeps track of all grades and even attendance (for our state compliance). I just print out report cards to keep for their files and we're all good. I can access their grades at all times and I can even see how long it took them to do lessons, quizzes and tests. We usually do the lessons together, though, so I can make sure that they are getting a good grasp of the material and we practice their reading aloud by having them alternate reading paragraphs in the lesson. I know some people think that we need workbooks and textbooks to be really learning but I find that my kids are learning a great deal (dare I say MORE than their friends in conventional school). And, like I said before, learning takes place each and every day. I truly love homeschooling and I pray that I never have to send them to school outside the home. This is where they belong and so do I.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Review-Homestead Blessings-The Art of Dairy Delights

I have to state, up front, that I am not a fan of milk. Or yogurt. Or a lot of cheese. However, I truly enjoyed watching this dvd. Someday, sooner rather than later, I would like to get a dairy cow. I have done a ton of research and I have a friend who lives in Maine that owns a dairy farm (lots of free advice and tips!) so I feel fairly confident that I could do this. I may even decide I like raw milk. Who knows? Anyway, my kids LOVE milk and we go through a ton of it but I really don't think the milk bought in grocery stores is all that healthy. I have been researching milk for quite some time now and have decided that, for our family, raw is a better fit for us. Plus, it will be one more thing that I won't need to depend on a grocery store for.
Now, for the dvd review. This was a wonderful and informative video. They use milk from their cow (and even show you how they milk it) to make all sorts of yummy creations such as butter (flavored ones too), yogurt, cheese and ice cream. They make it all look so easy! I can't wait to try the yogurt. Even though I don't really like the taste of yogurt, the twins and hubby could eat it all day, everyday. When you buy it from the store it can get a bit expensive plus you have no control over what the manufacturer slips into it. When you make it yourself, you control the ingredients, the texture and tartness. I also like how they use a standard cooler to "cook" their yogurt. No need to buy any fancy yogurt maker. You use what you have.
Since we use butter for almost all the cooking we do, we go through a lot and it ain't cheap at the store. Organic butter at our Kroger is $4+ a pound. The regular butter is $2.50 a pound. I am trying to buy as much organic as I can but it can get really pricey, really fast so making it ourselves will save money. I have also heard that the price on all things dairy and beefy will skyrocket by the end of the year so every little thing we can do one our own will benefit our bottom line. These dvd's teach you how to be self reliant and provide for yourself and your family. Who couldn't use that? Plus, they show you a family working together to achieve a common goal. That is something that I want for my family.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Review-Homestead Blessings-The Art of Cooking

I feel the need to give you this very important warning: DO NOT watch this dvd if you have nothing to eat in your house. Oh my oh my oh my!! Every single recipe they did looked positively scrumptious! They show you tips and recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner plus a dessert. Let me tell you that I wasn't any where near hungry when I started watching it but I'll be darned if I didn't eat a snack halfway through it! That is the main reason I don't watch the Food Network. I could just finish a big meal, sit down and watch a Food Network show and then go raid the pantry. Something about seeing yummy food makes me want to eat it. And there is a lot of very yummy food in this video. They start off with breakfast of pancakes, fried potatoes and fried apples and onions. Along with giving you the recipes and all the steps, they also give you some techniques to use to make all kinds of different foods. There is such a sweet rapport between these girls that is quite enjoyable to watch. You can tell that they have been cooking together with mama since they were little girls.
Then it's on to lunch with pizza, tomato soup and salad with homemade dressing. There is even a little surprise with the dressing. Something that I have wanted to try but thought it took forever. It took her 45 seconds! I won't give away all the details because I want you to see them for yourselves.
Next up is dinner. This one is down home country cooking at its finest. Pot roast with carrots, potatoes and onions, home canned green beans with onions, buttermilk biscuits with gravy and peach cobbler for dessert. I love the fact that they cook so much of their food in cast iron skillets. I have a set and absolutely LOVE them. It takes a little getting used to using them because they take a little while to heat but retain that heat FOREVER! AND you never, never, never grab the handle without a pot holder. Those suckers get as hot as the pan. But for cooking, you just can't beat them.
This dvd is the longest, at 80 minutes, but it feels like it flies by. Unfortunately, they are eating all that good food at the end and you are left to rummage in the pantry. Another two thumbs up for the West Ladies.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Review-Homestead Blessings-The Art of Bread Making

Another home run for the West Ladies! The Art of Breadmaking teaches you everything you need to know to get started making your own bread from working with yeast to rising dough to enjoying that homemade aroma. They are so easy to watch and their advice is just plain, simple country know how.  They walk you through making loaves of bread, cinnamon rolls, hamburger buns, cornbread and more. If you are inexperienced at bread making or just need a refresher course, then this is the dvd for you. The bread that they make in the video is almost the same recipe that I use but they do it a bit differently. I am going to try their way today when I make bread to see which is easier. My daughter is begging me to make the cinnamon rolls from the video so I will re-watch it and write down the recipe...or  better yet, just do it along with the video. I have been watching them on my laptop while it is propped up on the counter. I should probably put some plastic wrap over the keyboard because, yesterday, it got splashed with cherry juice when I was pitting them for the marmalade. A sticky computer is NOT fun to type on!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Review Homestead Blessings-The Art of Canning

Yesterday, I finally received my birthday present. The ENTIRE Homestead Blessings dvd collection!!! You have no idea how excited I was to see that box in the mail lady's hands. Of course, I dove right in. There are 11 dvd's in the collection and I am going to post a review on each of them. Let me just say that I HIGHLY recommend these dvd's. They are done by the West Ladies which is a mom and her 3 daughters. They are absolutely enjoyable to watch and very informative.
Yesterday, I watched the one on canning. WOW! It takes place in their "summer kitchen" which is an outdoor area with tables and a stove and plenty of country kitsch. They walk you through, step by step, the process of using a water bath canner and a pressure canner (something I have only done once because it terrifies me!). They show you what equipment you will need and the basics of how to can jam, green beans, pickled eggs and okra. There is even a segment on sauerkraut. I really love that what you see is what you get with them. It is obvious that this is a way of life for them and not something that they no nothing about. They are such a sweet family and they even sing some of their songs on a couple of the dvd's. If you get a chance to see these dvd's or purchase them, I highly recommend that you do. I ordered directly from their site Homestead Blessings and the cost for all 11 dvd's was $179. I know, it's pricey but they are so worth it. You can also get them from Amazon but the price I found was $10 higher than directly from the West Ladies. I will be watching these dvd's over and over again. There is just so much information in them. In honor of reviewing the basics of canning, I canned some Cherry Marmalade this morning. I'll be sharing that recipe soon.
One more thing I want to share-the other day, I canned tomato sauce. The recipe I followed was pretty easy but it did involve straining out all the pulp, seeds and skins which was a bit time consuming. My husband asked why I couldn't just puree the tomatoes and can all of it. I told him that wasn't how my recipe was and I just don't know enough about canning to experiment. Well, I popped in the canning dvd the next day and guess how they make their tomato sauce? They puree the whole tomato (minus the core and ugly parts)! How's that for learning something pretty quickly?! Now I only wish that I had canned the tomatoes AFTER I saw the video!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Birthday Dinner

Last Tuesday was my birthday. Hubby asked me where I wanted to go to dinner and I told him I wanted to go to our kitchen. He looked at me kinda like he didn't think he heard me right. Yes, I wanted to cook my birthday dinner (and dessert). He just shrugged and told me whatever I wanted. It's funny how, the more you eat homemade from scratch cooking, the LESS you want to eat out. It has gotten to the point that most of our date nights are spent at home because we have no interest in eating at some restaurant that serves food that we have no idea where it came from. I went online once to look for restaurants in our area that serve food from local farmers. Know what I came up with? Nada. Zip. Zilch. There are no restaurants within an hour from my home that serves local food. To get something like that I need to drive 2.5 hours (one way) to Atlanta. Seems a little foolish to spend 5 hours in a vehicle to get what I can make in my own kitchen. And that, my friends, is why we eat at home.
So, back to my birthday dinner. My mom gave me a new crockpot (my old one bit the dust months ago) for my birthday so I put a rump roast in it to cook all day. That roast is from the steer we butchered months ago.
The picture looks unappetizing but it was delicious, I promise.

Once dinner time came around, I boiled some potatoes and set some onions on the stove to carmelize.

Once the roast was done, I made some homemade gravy and put the meal together.
Those are my home canned peaches on my plate. I only got 4 quarts of them this year so I am trying to savor them.
Oh my word that was good food!
I topped it off by making Lemondrop cupcakes with Creamy Lemon Frosting from The Nourishing Home. Nice and healthy...to make up for eating gravy!!!

Yep, birthdays just keep getting better and better, even if the number keeps going up and up!

Canning Tomato Sauce

Whew!! Today has been a busy day! After church, I came home and got to work on those tomatoes that have been sitting on the counter. I also went to the garden and picked every red plum tomato I could find (there was a lot!). I found a recipe for tomato sauce in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. It was pretty easy (thank goodness). I washed all the tomatoes then cut off the stem end and any yucky parts, quartered them, tossed a few in a large pot set on medium high and brought them to a boil. Once they started to boil, I used a potato masher to squash them and stir them up. I kept adding more tomatoes, squashing and stirring, until all of them were in the pot. I actually had to use 2 pots because I didn't listen when it said to use a BIG pot. Lesson learned. Once they were all in the pots, I boiled them for about 10 minutes to get them all soft and squishy. Next, I started to use my little fine mesh strainer to strain out the skins and seeds but, after straining FOREVER, I finally got smart and used the mesh strainer that I clean all my veggies in. It worked beautifully and I had the seeds and skins and pulp in one container and my tomato juice in another in a jiffy. I set the pot of tomato juice on the stove again and brought it to a boil over medium high heat, stirring frequently. Once it had reduced by about 1/3 to 1/2 I was ready to bottle. I put 2 tbsp. lemon juice, 1 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. dried seasonings (I used garlic, basil, oregano and rosemary) into each quart jar and then ladled the tomato sauce into the jar, leaving 1/2 " headspace. I wiped around the rim with a clean cloth, put on my lids and rings and processed them in a water bath canner for 40 minutes. After all that work, I only got 3 quart jars! Next time I will make sure to use pint jars. At least it will SEEM like I have more!!!
Sharing at The Prairie Homestead, Frugally Sustainable

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Sorry posts have been so inconsistent for the past few months. I really wish I had time to post something witty, insightful or educational every day. I REALLY wish I had something witty, insightful or educational to SAY on a daily basis but sometimes the work of just "being" takes up a lot of time. Right now I am staring at a counter full of ripe tomatoes that, if I don't do something with them in the next 4 seconds, they will rot. But, before I can do anything with them, I have to clean out about 40 jars of old canned stuff from the beginning of my canning days. You know, the ones before I actually knew what I was doing and used past-its-prime produce which is now inedible but still taking up valuable pantry shelf space. Then, once that is done, I have 7 pounds of fresh cherries to do something with. I have picked out some canning recipes in my Ball Blue Book but, again, I need to get those doggone jars cleaned out! I would just start on them right now but hubby needs me to do some mowing so he can start burning old branches, grass and how-knows-what-else-is-in-those-piles! We have finally gotten enough rain that if his burning were to get away from him, it can't go far. Speaking of rain, the other night we had a doozy of a storm. Came up out of nowhere and there was a mini tornado in it. Passed right in back of the house. Blew down all kinds of branches and, for about, 10 seconds, whipped up everything in front of the windows and blocked the entire yard from sight! It was a little scary because there was a bolt of lightning that struck so close the light was in the house and the boom really hurt our ears. Lots of downed branches but we only lost power for a few seconds. That was good because I was right in the middle of cooking dinner. Lord knows, we don't like anything delaying a meal for us!!! Hubs spent some time yesterday picking up the big limbs with the tractor so the twins get to spend some time today picking up the little ones with the Buggie. They don't really mind doing that because they get to drive the Buggie all around the property. That is freedom in the eyes of a 12 year old!
Great news...We are getting a pool!!! It is just an above ground one because we will be building a new house in a few years but it is being installed by an actual pool company. No more Walmart pool for us. We bought one last year and it was a piece of junk. Then pump was no where strong enough to circulate the water so we had lots of problems with algae and really icky stuff even though we tested the water often and cleaned it once a week. Our new pool is a little bigger than the last and it comes with an automatic pool cleaner. Woohoo!! Hopefully, it will be installed Monday or Tuesday. We really miss being able to jump into a nice cool pool after working in the hot sun all day. When we do build the new house, we will have an inground pool put in. I told hubs to make sure he budgets for a nice one!
I have begun crocheting again kind of regularly. I have decided that I will make baby blankets for all the children born in our church. So far, I have given away 2 blankets (1 boy, 1 girl). Like an idiot, I forgot to take pictures of them. They turned out beautifully if I do say so myself! A friend of my mom's taught her and I to crochet when I was 8. I hadn't really done much of it in the last few years and I just felt the urge to be creative. Now, I work a bit on it each night when we sit down to watch tv. I hate for my hands to be idle if I'm sitting down, so this works MUCH better than using my hands to bring food to my mouth!
I guess it's time to go wrap up the leftover pancakes and stick them in the freezer and get to work. Honestly, I will try to get back here more regularly.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Happy Birthday To Me!!!

Yes folks, today is my 43rd birthday. Forty three years of living and learning and boy, have I learned a lot! Why is it that, once you get to this age, you wish that you knew most of this stuff when you were younger? It wasn't like I was incapable of learning it. I am sure my parents and grandparents trid to teach me many of these life lessons but, being young and knowing everything already, I didn't listen. Hubby says it's because in order for a lesson to be really learned, it needs to come with a little bit of suffering (or a whole lot, depending on how stubborn you are). He may be on to something. All the really good lessons I have learned have come to me through some kind of trial.

This gem was learned over ten years ago when we almost lost everything we had worked so hard for. It has taken us all these years to start seeing the end of that VERY long tunnel. Lesson learned? We don't need STUFF! No vacation or grown up toy will ever satisfy us the way being debt free does. (or will do once we actually get there!)

Ahh yes, learn to keep my mouth shut. This is one I still struggle with today. I like to have the last word. My father used to tell me that the only time he ever thought about strangling me was when I wouldn't let something go. Of course, he never had a problem with me standing up for what I believed, it was all those other stupid things I would blurt out that showed just how ignorant I really was, like arguing that adults have it made and can do whatever they want and they are just being mean to their kids by making them do chores. I was an only child so lots of chores fell on me. Little did I know that mom and dad were teaching me how to live on my own. Yes, the good Lord is driving this point home with me on a daily basis for He gave me a son that is soooooo like me. I have never apologized to my parents as much as I have since he began talking.

This is one that I did learn pretty early (thankfully). I see so many young people walking around with a huge chip on their shoulder because they are under the mistaken impression that they are owed something by the world. This one really gets under my skin because I have 2 step daughters that have all of a sudden begun thinking that we didn't do enough for them and that, even though they are full grown adults, we should still be supporting them. They don't think they should have to work because they have kids. Umm, hello, I had kids and worked. You gotta do what you gotta do and quit bellyaching about it! The twins are definitely being raised to know that they have to pull their weight and then some for the rest of their life.

Don't laugh. This is a very important lesson that way too many people don't know. I was an incredibly picky eater growing up. My parents never really pushed me to try new things and if I didn't want to eat something, I didn't. That set me up for one of the biggest obstacles that I have had to overcome in my adult life. Well, that I am currently overcoming. This world is changing and I don't think it is for the better. I think, in the next few years, our way of life will be changed drastically. There won't be any room for fussy eating so I better get used to eating (and liking) everything that I can grow myself and that hubby can shoot. Again, sweet Jesus blessed me with a son that used to be every bit as picky as me. "Used to be" because I am no where near as patient as my parents were with me and little man has to try whatever is on his plate and not eating veggies is non negotiable. He is MUCH better nowadays as he is almost 13 and consumes EVERYTHING in the house!
As for the exercise part, well that is still a work in progress. I DON'T sit in front of the tv at all, but I could move more. I am working on it while trying to get the youngin's involved.

This was rarely talked about when I was growing up. I was raised Catholic (I'm now a Methodist) and my family went to church but I never really had a relationship with God. Sure, I believed in Him, knew about Jesus and what He did for me but we just never really talked about it. It was only last year that I read the entire Bible from cover to cover. Only a few years since I even CONSULTED a bible. Now, that is very sad to me. Hubs and I have made sure to really involve the kids in our relationship with God. We pray together every day, we try to do daily bible reading (I really need to improve this because it falls to the wayside more often than not) and we talk about God every single day. I want the kids to feel their relationship with the Lord is second nature, something they naturally work on every single day.

There are so many other life lessons that I have learned but those are the ones that have been the most important so far.
Before I leave, I have a cute little comment from a friend of mine. Last year, on her 42nd birthday, her mother called her and asked what she thought of being middle aged.  My friend laughed and told her mom she was no where near middle aged yet. Her mom responded with this, "Honey, do you honestly think you'll live much past 84? You're middle aged, dear." Gotta love moms!!!!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Pie Crust

If you are anything like me, you like to make things yourself instead of buy them. I can't stand spending money on something that I can do myself and I really hate letting some big manufacturer decided what chemicals are going to be in my food! Now, I have been cooking for a very long time but the one thing that has been beyond my capabilities has been pie crust. For whatever reason, I have NEVER been able to make a decent crust. Until now. My friends, I present to you a very easy, very tasty pie crust courtesy of Mary Jane's Farm magazine. This is the recipe I used in the Tomato Pie from the other day. It makes 1 double crust 9" pie or 2 single crust 9" pies...Like how I did that math for you?!


2 1/2 C. Flour (calls for all purpose but I used whole wheat)
1 Tsp. Sugar
1/2 Tsp. Salt
1 C. Cold Butter, diced
5 Tbsp. Ice Cold Water

Combine dry ingredients in a food processor or bowl. Process or use a pastry blender to cut in the butter until it resembles course meal.
Add water, 1 Tbsp. at a time until mixture forms a ball.
Shape into 2 disks and chill for an hour (this can be frozen for up to 3 weeks at this stage)
Roll out each disk to fit into pie plate.

So easy even I couldn't mess it up!

A little side note for you-I was reading about how you can use whiskey in place of the water for a really flaky crust. It says that the alcohol cooks out so you aren't getting all boozy eating the pie and leaves the crust extra flaky. Have you ever heard of that? Have you tried it? I thought it was a bit interesting so I think I may try it...if hubs will spare the whiskey!!!

Sharing at The Prairie Homestead, Frugally Sustainable

Monday, July 9, 2012

Tomato Pie

Now don't be turning your nose up at the thought of Tomato Pie. It is sooooooo good. When my father in law first mentioned it, I thought EWWWWW! Then my mother in law made one and sent a few pieces over for us to try. Oh. My. Word. The kids and I were scarfing it down so fast I had to beat them away from it to save enough for hubby to try it. Yes, it was that good. So without further delay.....


1 Pie Crust, precooked and cooled
3-5 Ripe Tomatoes, sliced 1/2" thick and sprinkled with salt and placed in a colander to drain for at    least 15 minutes.
2 C. Shredded Cheese-anything you like. I used Mozzarella
1 C. Mayo
Pepper, Basil and Oregano to taste

Layer sliced tomatoes in pie crust and sprinkle with seasonings. In a small bowl, mix mayo and cheese together. Spread mixture over the top of the tomatoes covering all the way to the pie crust. Bake at 425 for 25-30 minutes until browned and bubbly.

This is good hot or room temp. and reheats well.

Being shared at The Prairie Homestead

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th Of July

Happy Birthday America!!! Hope everyone has something fun and fantastic going on today. We are having a cookout with friends and family. We were going to have it outside since there are too many people to fit comfortably in my house but we got one heck of a storm last night and all my patio furniture is soaked and we are expecting more rain today. After several weeks of no rain, I am NOT going to complain! We are just gonna get REAL CLOSE inside!!!
We are having the standard fare of grilled hamburgers. I make my burgers by combining ground beef and ground deer in a 2:1 ratio. Then, for every 3-4 pounds of meat, I mix in 1 envelope of Lipton Onion Soup mix. The burgers are to die for!!! I also make my own buns. I thought that I had already shared my recipe for buns but, after a quick scroll through my post list, I see that I have not. No worries. I have a NEW recipe that I just discovered the other day that is really good...maybe even better than the original! I'll be sharing them both soon.

You can't have a cookout without potato salad and my mother in law makes THE BEST potato salad!!! Just for me, she puts big chunks of dill pickle in it. No little itty bitty relish! I love pickles!
My mom is bringing fruit salad which is so cool and creamy for a hot day! One of our friends is bringing a rice dish that my entire family loves. I don't make it anymore because it calls for canned soup, but once I redo that recipe, we will be eating it again. Th original recipe is one can beef consomme, one can french onion soup, 1 cup long grain rice (can be white or brown), 2 Tbsp. butter. Mix all together and put in a casserole dish and bak at 350 for about 45 minutes (a little longer if using brown rice). Scrumptious!!!!!!

To keep everyone from starving to death while the burgers are grilling, we will have chips and dip (doesn't everybody????) and a great little dip I found on the blogoshphere called Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip. It is outrageously good with graham crackers or apple slices....or a spoon!
I'll be sharing that recipe soon, too!

To end the meal, I will be making a blueberry crisp with blueberries from my bushes and crisp from...my pantry. AND I came across this little firecracker cake on ziplist. It will be making an appearance at my house this afternoon!

We hadn't planned any fireworks due to the extreme drought and the simple fact that we didn't want to burn our farm! I really am okay with that. We will probably watch some on tv tonight if we are in the house. If not, cest la vie. We will enjoy ourselves anyway!

Have a wonderful, SAFE, fun, SAFE, enjoyable and SAFE 4th of July!!!! Feel free to share with me what your family is doing for the 4th. I would LOVE to hear it, er... read it!!!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Dang It's Hot!

I don't know what the weather is like where you live but here, it's hot. Not just any kind of hot but someone-turn-off-the-oven-and-quit-baking-me-alive hot. We had 2 gloriously cool mornings this past week and then hell took over our weather. We went to eat and to Home Depot last night. When we left there it was 8 pm and 106 degrees! What, pray tell, is the purpose for evening temps to be in the 100's???? I find no logical explanation. Yesterday was so hot that we had to put a hose in the chicken coop, set on mist, to keep my chickens from frying in the heat. I was sure I would look outside and see them spontaneously combust! I implemented an idea I got from one of my favorite blogs, Hickery Holler Farms. She takes used water bottles and fills them and freezes them. Then, in the morning she puts them in the animal pens to help cool them off. Throughout the day, she exchanges the melted ones for frozen ones. She has so many great ideas, please check her out! Anyway, I put some frozen bottles out there yesterday in the places they go to cool off.  Nobody died so I am counting that as a victory!
On the gardening front, I am swimming in tomatoes. I am NOT complaining, however! Most of them are my grape and cherry tomatoes so they get eaten pretty quickly. You know the deal, they are on the counter so every time I pass by, I eat a few. Could be worse. I could be grabbing m & m's instead of tomatoes. BUT I AM NOT!!! The m&m's are already gone :) I think I will be pulling up my yellow squash plants. They have been producing heavily for a couple of months and are looking a little ragged. Also, my green beans that were planted in full sun are about done. They look terrible and aren't producing much anymore. They ones planted in partial shade still look pretty good so I will still be getting some beans. I am getting a little okra but I am not impressed with the plants. Not much growth on them, shaded and full sun alike. I noticed that I have several watermelons growing away in the field and the pumpkins are just starting to get a bit of orange color on them. I planted sugar pumpkins because I want to can my own for pies. Which reminds me, I REALLY need to get some more jars. I have never canned this much before so I have run through my stash. Mother in law said Big Lots had a bunch of them on clearance so I will go check.
Most of my sunflowers have bloomed and dropped their petals. Can't wait to have fresh sunflower seeds. I need to find out how to go about drying them. I have no idea how long I need to leave them in the ground. They are looking a bit sad right now and they are all planted right in front of the front door so anyone who comes to the house has to pass the drooping flowers. That is okay because we don't get too many visitors out this far unless it is family (they know better than to comment on my droopy flowers) and the UPS guy. Lately, he has been coming at least 3-4 times a month. I am just glad he is not driving OVER my droopy flowers!
The blueberry bush is producing more than I thought it would. This will probably be the last year for these bushes. They are in an area that needs to be reworked and they may have to go. It's all good because, once we get started on the new house, I will need to replant everything anyway.  I am hoping that my muscadines make it. We have been under a severe drought. No rain in over 2 weeks (and none in the forecast) and temps in the 100's make it hard to keep everything watered. We do not have a sprinkler system so everything is done by hand. They are looking as droopy as my sunflowers. Today, I will be concentrating on getting them watered good. They like water but they don't like their "feet" to be wet. Something tells me that won't be a problem today.
One benefit of not having a sprinkler system and no rain is that my lawn doesn't need to be cut often. I tried mowing yesterday to knock down the hay that is sprouting up but everything is so dry and brittle that it was only shredding the yard. Oh darn, I can't mow so I guess I'll just stay inside all day. Thank you Lord for air conditioning!!! Stay cool out there!

Saturday, our temps we over 114 degrees. We built an extra shelter for our chickens as the only shade they had was under the coop and a small bush. We put a sprinkler in the pen to spray cold water all around and refilled all waterers with ice cold water. At 8 pm, we were still over 100 degrees. When the kids went out to shut the coop for the night, they found one of the hens dead. My sweet Matilda made it all the way up the ramp and then died in the doorway. Even after spending all day trying to keep them cool, we still lost one. Please keep a close eye on your animals! If you have a husband like mine who refuses to let you install a room air conditioner in the chicken coop (yes, I really suggested it) then you must be extra vigilant about keeping them comfortable...and alive!

Monday, July 2, 2012

God's Blessings

I have had something on my mind for quite some time now. I even thought about going and talking to my pastor about it. Eighteen years ago, hubby and I got married. It was his 2nd marriage and he had his 3 kids in his custody. Being an only child, I wasn't really prepared for what I was about to get into becoming a wife and step mom (we never liked that term and the kids made me swear to never use it) to a 6 year old boy, and a 5 year old and 3 year old girls. Yes, there were problems. His ex never really took much of an interest in the kids and, when she did, it was a really bad influence. However, I adored being their mother. They were great kids and we really wanted more. My husband had a vasectomy when his youngest was born and, after we got married, he had it reversed. It was a success but I still could not conceive. We tried for 5 years and nothing. We finally sought help and agreed to try in vitro. I was implanted with 2 embryos and it was a total success. I gave birth to our son and daughter and we froze the remaining embryos. We always knew we would use them, eventually. Then, we fell into a financial nightmare that has only just lifted. We sold our house and moved to another state and began living a totally different lifestyle.  When I turned 40, hubby and I felt that maybe we were done having kids. The twins were 10 and didn't need as much hands on time. When we went somewhere, we could actually have fun and didn't have to worry about strollers, diapers and nap times. We felt very good about that decision so when the storage fee for our remaining embryos came due. We decided to donate them to be used for implantation technique practices (not to be implanted into anyone.). I hadn't really felt any "urge" to get pregnant and I figured that if it hadn't happened (without medical intervention) in all the years we had been married, there was no need for birth control. Fast forward almost 3 years and I have been struggling to come to terms with what we did. It hit me all of a sudden that we essentially murdered our future children. We never asked God to guide us in that decision. We relied on our own understanding instead of His. Several months back, I got the overwhelming feeling that I would like to have more kids. I talked with hubby and while, if it happened naturally he would be fine with it, but he didn't want to go through the whole in vitro process again. I began praying that God would again bless us with more kids. Then it hit me. He HAD blessed us with a successful in vitro procedure. He HAD blessed us with 6-8 embryos that were unused and in a deep freeze. And what did we do with that last blessing? We threw it away! That realization broke my heart and continues to break it each day. Why would God give me the blessing I was asking for when I so carelessly didn't accept it before? These are feelings that NO ONE from the fertility clinic tells you about. If you are in this situation, PLEASE don't make any permanent decisions right away. Years later you may regret it. And you can't change it. No matter how hard you try. I know God forgives me for what I have done. I have fallen to my knees and repented. But just because He forgives me does not mean He will give me what I ask for. Maybe that is my punishment. I wish I could change things. I am in a different place in my walk with God than I was when I made that decision. My eyes have been opened to what God expects of me as a believer. Children are a blessing from Him that should never be turned down. The regret that I live with now is crushing me but I know that my Saviour is still holding out His hand to me, waiting to pick me up. And I will continue to praise Him even though He may never bless me with more children. He knows what I need so much better than I do.