Be true to who you are…..

And the family name you bear……


Monday, June 25, 2018

Eggs

Spring is a time of abundance, it is also time to make your plans for providing during the dearth of Winter.  Today we are talking eggs.

When you live with Grace eggs are supplied in abundance but it does not happen without planning.  Such as, early in the year (Jan/Feb), much to her joy, we add six to twelve pullets to our flock.  These birds will begin to lay in late summer and will skip the winter molt and lay right through providing us with fresh eggs for eating.  Now don't let that number fool you the girl will hatch out a million more throughout the summer but they will not begin laying until the following Spring and they provide the backdrop for the rest of this post.

The older birds will take a break and their laying will be spotty from the end of November until the end of January and the younger hens will not lay until the following Spring.  If 6 -12 eggs provides breakfast, what can we use for baking?  Well, we put up the Spring abundance of eggs.  After the family and the Hogs are fed we freeze the rest.  If you don't have chickens your abundance will be Easter, watch the sales adds and grab as many as you can afford.



You need to gather a few ice cube trays and your eggs.  The first time you do this you will need to determine how many ice cubes equal one egg... I find that in most trays it takes two cubes per egg and those that are not exact are close enough that it doesn't make a difference but check so you don't have a disaster.

Break your eggs into a large bowl or picture.





lightly whisk them and add either a sprinkle of sugar or salt... you do not have to add the sprinkle but it helps to hold down the frothing.  I usually just give a shake or two from my salt shaker and call it good.




Then pour the whisked eggs into your ice cube trays. As you can see I was very scientific in choosing my ice cube trays... they all match and give me precise measurements.... sorry for the sarcasm I just want to point out that we try to make life much too complicated by making it "right" when close enough really works and is less stress.




And then slide them in the freezer.  The next morning pop them out and put them in a storage container.  If they are sticking in the tray run the back side under hot water for a short second.

For use just pull the desired amount out and defrost in the fridge.. or on the counter if you're like me and usually remember an hour before you need them. 



That's it, Ladies, don't forget to save all those wonderful shells for your garden and Happy Baking.
Now, get back to your family. <3




Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Rendering Lard

Well, it's happened.... Spring!  I knew I would be in trouble when it hit because there is so much to do that there is no time to write.  We had a couple of rainy days so I was able to get our lard put up and I actually remembered to take pictures.


Throughout my married life, those in the "know" have proven one thing to me and that is ~ they don't know. 

"fats are good for you"

"fats are bad for you"

"Olive oil is good, vegetable oil is bad"

"Coconut oil is good, olive oil is bad"

"Wheat is good"

"wheat is bad"

"eggs are good"

"eggs are bad"

"butter is good for you, margarine is bad"

"margarine is good for you and butter is bad"


It's exhausting.  exhausting.  How about running our families according to the bible?  How about all things in moderation?

That being said.  what of these "all things" can I produce on my own?

For my family, it is butter and lard.  Both of these I have complete control over and to me that makes them as healthy as a fat can get.

The only fat I purchase is coconut oil.  I can get it from Country Life Natural Foods in 50 lb buckets and it stores well.  But the majority of our fat comes straight from our land.

I wanted to post about butter right after the yogurt but it just hasn't worked out well for me... My blog tends to be about real life and real life just isn't perfect.... like I forget to take pictures all. the. time.
Soo.. you get lard today but! keep this little butter churn on your radar and for less than $40 you have a way to make butter and we will get back to it, I promise.

I am blessed in that we breed pigs so I can control my fat source from conception.  It hasn't always been that way and even if you do not have a way to raise your own pigs, you can visit a custom butcher and ask him to save you the fat from healthy farm raised pigs.  Most people don't keep their lard and often he will just give it to you for free or for pennies.

The only tools you need for rendering lard are a ladle, a slotted spoon, a crock pot, and a sharp knife.

A quick tip, Walmart puts crockpots on their black Friday ad every year for around $10 without fail. You don't even have to fight the crowds to get it.  Walmart.com and it shows up at your door two days later. I own three because when I do things I tend to do them in mass quantities.  It's an illness, really.


Your fat will come in long strips.  Just chunk it up with a sharp knife.



and toss it in your crockpot.  a word of warning... lard does not smell like frying bacon.  If you can put the crockpot outside on a nice day or in your garage great, if not ... oh, well... just ignore the comments from the rest of the family.  turn your crockpot on low if you don't have time to babysit it and high if you will be around all day.



The fat will start to melt and the impurities will sink to the bottom.  You can begin skimming any time you wish.  After skimming you can add more fat to the pot if you have it and allow it to heat back up.  I ladle mine off into cake pans but you may have canning jars or something else you wish to use.


The lard is hot and not something you want little children around.  Lard is shelf stable and how you chose to store it is completely up to you.  I cool mine in the pans and then cut it into three cup sections and store in my freezer because I can't spare canning jars or shelf space.  If there are any impurities left in your lard it will sink to the bottom and can be cut off before freezing, if it's in a jar the last little bit in the jar will be gritty. still good for frying with but not so much for making cookies.



The lard turns pure white when set.



And finally, the cracklins.  It is the leftover meat and stuff from rendering.  You can salt them and they taste like pork rinds, only, the texture is all wrong and we don't much care for them... They can also be fed back to your pigs (oh! the horror, Shelly!) chickens or dogs.  At the very least toss them in your compost, don't waste it.

And that is it, ladies.  For a few hours of work, you can have your fat supply for a year with minimal outsourcing and cost.  Plus, we are making soap here shortly and lard soap is one of the recipes I will be sharing.

Now, to get back outside it's almost time to plant the pumpkin field.... and pumpkins are excellent pig food for next years lard.



Thursday, March 22, 2018

Dear Young Mother...

I have been invited to a baby blessing for my grandson... Basically, it is a group of ladies that gather around the baby and pray for him at different stages of his life.  The church we are attending has had them for decades but I am new to the whole business.  Personally, I am not so sure of how I feel about it either.  I am all for praying for children and pray for my children and grandchildren daily but I'm not so sure about this once for all approach.  At any rate, I was asked to give a short devotion and these are my thoughts...

Dear Sarah,

One of my favorite quotes from Tozer reads "Our prayers will become effective when we stop using them as a substitution for obedience."

Prayer is good.  Prayer is vital.  Prayer is not the totality of our work as a Christian. All the prayers we offer up here today will be of none effect if we ignore the plain precepts that our Lord lays down in scripture.  You, sweet momma, and your man are the feet of the Lord's plan.  You are His mouthpiece, His arms, His enforcer.


let's read from Deut 6 verse 2

That thou mightest fear the Lord thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou and thy son, and thy son's son, all the days of thy life; that thy days may be prolonged.


As I watch you raise and love my son's sons.  I seek to encourage you that the time is short.  As a woman of God, you do not have the luxury of living for today... none of us do.  Living for today is a lie that Satan feeds our world to lull us to sleep.  It is imperative that we catch God's vision and to see down the telescope of time so that we not only raise godly children but  that we also raise godly children that will raise godly children.  What a waste if our work dies in the next generation.

Let's skip down to Deut 6: 4- 9

Hear O Israel, The Lord our God is one Lord:  And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.  And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently to thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way and when thou liest down and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.  And thou shalt write them upon the post of thy house and on thy gates.



Our Lord then repeats this entire message again in Chapter 11...


The Bible gives a very clear picture of raising a child for God and the picture it paints is that of a child underfoot...so beautiful and so contrary to what society teaches us about child rearing.  Satan hopes to cause us to run from our children. Let the pastor, youth leader, coach, school teacher or group peers be responsible for the training of your child.  And yet, God, lovingly in his word encourages us to run towards our families.  To work beside them, to dive headlong into their messy, chaotic, vibrant world and to teach them that they are a valued and important part within their family and within the family of God. 

By keeping them underfoot we are constantly available to point them to Christ, to remind them that they live in the presence of a holy God,  we serve as the frontlets between their eyes. 

I am reminded of a story that Christ told in Luke 11.  A man ended up with an unexpected visitor late at night and had no bread to give him so he ran to his neighbor and beat on the door asking for bread.  The neighbor answered, "trouble me not the door is shut and my children are with me in bed.."  If that isn't a picture of a child underfoot then I don't know what is.... and if you have ever had one of those little buggers turn sideways and take up all the room turning your spine into a pretzel then you know what I am talking about. When thou risest up and when thou liest down....cherish every moment and use it... even pretzel time... to teach Christ.

It is not enough to keep our children from evil.. to simply remove "bad" from their lives.  Further down in this same chapter we find a man that was healed from an evil spirit and he wandered around finding no rest for his soul.  His rooms were clean and swept but he had nothing wholesome to fill them with and so he went out and took to himself seven more spirits that were worse than the first.

A mother's duty is to fill her children's days by speaking words of light. Fill their lives with the presence of a Holy God.  Remind them that they are ambassadors for Christ and that they must serve Him with love, honor, and respect.  She must infuse every part of their being with Him.  Be watchful of their souls, sweep out the evil and replace it with good.  Examining their hearts and allowing them to see hers. 

We must walk with our children underfoot and constantly be leading them back to the feet of Christ because before you know it their feet will bring them to a path beside ours instead of under ours and that footing must be secure.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Stand By Your Man....





Not too long ago I bought a milk cow from a young dairy farmer. He was selling out and moving.  His farm was beautiful rolling hills dotted with Holsteins.  I had my choice of probably a hundred cows.  As we walked, I imagined his kids flying kites, catching frogs and coming home dirty and tired every night right before dark.  A hundred cows take a while to walk through so it wasn't a quick trip.

His wife joined us while we were walking and as we talked the conversation led to why they were quitting...


He shook his head and looked off into the distance.. "I need to drive truck for a while, to pay a few bills, and she just doesn't want to help me anymore."

She stood there, arms folded tight against her chest, staring at the same unknown spot on the horizon..  she didn't deny it but simply said.  "This was his dream, not mine.  I'm going back to my career."


There was a deep, hurting sigh from the farmer and I stood there feeling like an intruder as I watched an unspoken conversation take place between the two.  After what felt like an eternity of silence I asked about her career choice.


"I have the chance to become a manager at McDonald's and I am going for it."

Ladies, this is going to show you what a horrible excuse for a Christian I am... because I simultaneously wanted to give her a big motherly hug and ....I also wanted to slap her upside her head....hard.... the battle was real.  I did neither. Go Shell!


Then it was my turn to let out a big sigh... I couldn't help it.  This man sitting in his field with his hopes and dreams laying in a crumpled heap all around his feet.  And her.  We can give her some excuses.  It's just the age she's been raised in, her lack of biblical knowledge.. her will.  Maybe he is just a big, fat jerk.  Maybe she doesn't like cows. Not one of those excuses lessens the pain she is causing her family.  Not one of them validates her behaviour.

We stand around and lament that men aren't men anymore... good heavens, ladies, let's give them some real women and see what happens.

 In an instant I watched those same tired, dirty kids move from sitting in the cow bunks to sitting on the couch at some daycare, playing video games and popping pills for their ADHD  while she handed greasy fries and overpriced burgers to strangers who didn't even bother to look up from their phones to say thank you.

Would my opinion have changed if she would have said Lawyer? Doctor? ... No.

and I know there are some men who ask their wives to work outside their homes.  I'm not talking about working at home or away.... I'm talking about vision.

Purpose.

My man.

Your man.

Her man.

they were created for greatness.  It. Is. In. Them.  It's in you.  And while each person can achieve a certain level of greatness on their own.  When a man and a woman enter into a covenant relationship together, they become one flesh.  One team.  Every good team has a team leader and teams only win when they work together towards the same goal.

Don't punish your family.

To be drawn and quartered was a punishment ordained in England for treason. They would take the condemned person, tie him to horses and send those horses running in different directions thus ripping his body mercilessly apart. It is considered the epitome of cruel punishment.  Ladies, we draw and quarter our families when we pull against our man.


Let's contrast that with the words of our Lord in Ecclesiastes,

The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh.
Better is an handful with quietness. than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.
Then I returned, and saw vanity under the sun.
There is one alone, and there is not a second; yea, he hath neither child nor brother: yet is there no end of all his labour; neither is his eye satisfied with riches; neither saith he, For whom do I labour, and bereave my soul of good?  This is also vanity, yea, it is a sore travail.
Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.
For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.  Again if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?  And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.  Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king.


Stand with your man.  It is better to live a quiet and poor life at your man's side than it is to have the best career in the world,  live like a king and leave your children to their own devices.  Money is temporary and replaceable.  If you took all the money you have and burned it today, tomorrow you could earn more. For all that matters, you can steal more (please don't) or find more... money is always available. always somewhere. That man that lays beside you each night and those children across the hall?  They are irreplaceable.  They are God's gift to you and your gift to the world.

Do you ever wonder why in Proverbs 31 when the Lord is extolling all the character qualities of a virtuous woman one of them is  "Her husband is known in the gates"?  Because she put him there.  She freed him to be a leader by lifting instead of dragging,  by praying instead of nagging, she stood on her own two feet and became a woman of strength by becoming the woman of her man's dreams.  He owed her everything, and he knew it.... and a few verses down we find he praised her for it and so did her children.

Did the Lord give you a business mind? Skills?  Talents? Why would you ever waste them building a stranger's empire?  Get behind your man... square your shoulders, my dear, and boost. See his vision and give it all you've got.  Oh, it'll be hard work,  I know.   Some of it isn't going to be any fun.

We will be exhausted and some days reduced to tears.  But let's give that man of ours a wink even through the tears. Give our children the ultimate picture of a strong woman by filling their lives with peaceful joy.  That trail that our fella is trying to lead us down? Let's jump on it with both feet, girlfriend, and let's keep trusting in God because he has great things planned for us.

Crown Up.

~Proverbs 12:4   

Friday, March 2, 2018

Grafting...

We have been praying for the Lord to give us an additional piece of property for several years now, so far He has been asking us to wait. 

I hate waiting but wait it is. 

I decided that while I wait I can prepare though.  The piece has a spot on it that will be perfect for another orchard the only problem is is that when He finally gives us the green light we will be so broke paying for it that I won't have the funds to buy the new trees.  I don't want to buy the trees now because I have no place to store them until we get it... it's a mess, really.  So I decided to use the fruit trees that we already have and love.  I will graft branches from them to rootstock in preparation for the property.  They will be small so thus easier to stash until the Lord sees fit to bless us.

Grafting is a lot easier than it sounds.  first, you need rootstock.  you can find them online for a fair price and buying them ensures that you can control the height of your tree. Or you can buy seeds to grow grafting stock here.

The cheapest way is to just plant seeds from the fruit you are eating.  The girls and I are constantly throwing fruit seeds and pits in random pots of dirt and forgetting about them until they are big enough to graft... or in some cases bear fruit. don't laugh, someday you may be eating a Holverson apple and lovin' it.   The only drawback to this is most of them are standard roots so they will be tall. It doesn't bother me, I figure I can either trim trees or my husband's wallet and I would rather trim trees, the trimmings make good grafting starts.  Yes, it's a never-ending cycle.

Today, I am grafting apple. I grab my rootstock.


A dormant plant is ideal but today, this is what I had. Life is full of compromises, girls

full.  of.  them.


I  also grab a fresh limb from the tree I wish to duplicate... at least one of them is dormant.  You want the branches to be as evenly matched in size as possible... if one has to be bigger make sure the root side is the bigger diameter. A small root cannot support a large tree.



I then cut the root and the limb at an angle to expose as much cambium as I can.  Cambium is the green layer under the bark and before the wood.  That is the part that grows so you want to line up both layers of cambium touching as much as possible.







yes, I have pulled my rootstock out of the pot.  This is a much more graceful process when you don't have to photograph the entire thing with your cell phone, I promise.  



It helps to cut a second groove into the backside of the branches this will allow you to slip them together like tongue and groove. Giving added support.  I had to recut this branch after I pulled it apart to show you the slice.  It should not be this dramatic just a thin strip to wedge together.







Gently slide the two pieces together until they are well matched. 




When the cambium matches up as best as possible wrap it tightly with a rubber band (it will weather and crack off).   On the last wrap tuck the tip under the loop and it will hold itself.




Next you will want to heat some bees wax.  If you don't have bees you can get some here for a good price.   I use a dessert dish in a pot of boiling water like a double boiler.


once it is melted I can lift it out and pour it over the rubber band to seal it, unless I am grafting a branch onto a mature tree and then I use a paint brush to brush it on.




make sure both sides are coated.  This will all crack off and weather over the next year.  Don't pick at it for at least twelve months and then if it is growing well and you feel that you need to you can help it a little but it is really not necessary.



Then replant it being careful to keep the graft above the dirt line.



It is important to graft several trees even if you only want one.... any time you are dealing with living things you should expect a certain amount of failure. Having to find another spot to put a tree is much easier to swallow than not being able to dig a hole for any.

And that is just another easy way to fill your paradise with safe, wonderful, food.  Have a great weekend!


Friday, February 16, 2018

MYO Yogurt


We have milk cows.  Our last house had two acres with it and we had milk goats.  The house before that had three city lots, plenty of room for pygmy goats behind a privacy fence.  In some towns that is illegal, it was in our town... so I may or may not have had pygmy goats behind a privacy fence... that's not the point.  The point is, we can produce our own dairy and for relatively cheap.


Pygmy goats are small, they can live in a dog house. I will give you a goat in the city tip... you need two.  A lonely goat is a noisy goat, besides you only get milk if that little gal is bred. So two it must be.  A pygmy goat only gives about a quart of milk a day but because it is whole milk you can water it down and make it stretch farther in cooking or on cereal.


Dairy animals can be fed grass, hay, garden produce.  Summer squash and sunflowers are a fast growing food in the summer, feed the sunflower leaves and keep the seed heads for winter.   Winter squash, carrots and beets store over winter providing free food year round.  If it's goats, they love leaves and tree prunings. Super easy to store and super cheap.


Well, I really should get on to the blog post, shouldn't I...


Yogurt is super easy and so very good for you.  Even if you need to use store-bought milk. Making your own ensures that you are giving the best you can to your family.



Step 1: Heat your milk to 180 degrees, I use a meat thermometer.  They run double duty and are cheap.  you can pick one up for less than five bucks here. My yogotherm holds a half gallon so that is the amount of milk I heat.






Step 2:  You are going to need something to incubate your yogurt in... I picked up a yogotherm when our oldest was a baby so 25 years ago...  I like that it doesn't require electricity and after 25 years I can truthfully say they last.  Amazon has them here or you can use a jar wrapped in a towel and placed in a cooler.  Some instapots have a yogurt setting, mine doesn't but I'd check. maybe make use of an old thermos.  Or you can buy a fancy electric one. (sorry, I couldn't recommend a brand)  There are many choices out there.




Once your milk is heated it needs to cool to 112 degrees.  I know, why heat it that high in the first place? ... it's supposed to kill out competing bacteria.  To be honest, I rarely make it to 160* before I tire of babysitting it and dump it in the therm but the recommended temp is 180* so that is what I recommend you should do.....



So now, the moment of many choices.  What to use as a starter.  I recommend Rickie's  Y5 direct set culture.  You can find it here.  They messed up one time and sent me the Y3... it's good too.  If you purchase a yogotherm it will come with a culture sample.  Unless they have improved it in the last quarter century do yourself a favor and toss it.  It will not set.  I had to make lots of smoothies for the kids out of unset yogurt before I realized it wasn't my fault but the cultures.  


*Money saving tip:  once you make a batch of cultured yogurt you can use a teaspoon of it to set another batch and so on for quite a few batches before it becomes sour and needs to be replaced.  The package of Y5 or Y3 both come with five starters in them so they last for a long time this way. Store culture packets in your freezer.


Okay so your milk is at 112* and you are going to sprinkle the starter over the top and let it sit for about five minutes... again this is a preference, some days I need to get outside and I make it a minute or two and just stir the puppy in.  But for the rest of you patient people who can wait five minutes then gently stir the culture to ensure it is mixed throughout.  (Somehow I missed a picture of this, probably too impatient.)

Place the lid on and let sit undisturbed for 12 hours and then refrigerate.  I usually make it in the morning then toss it in the fridge just before I go to bed...close enough.



and for breakfast, you will have rich creamy yogurt that you can feel good about serving.

It can be flavored in many ways. Jam or honey are two of our family's favorites.  Maple syrup is good.  I am hoping to do an extra credit post for using it in desserts... we'll have to see how this weekend goes.






But that is it gals, feeding our family less. Less additives, less sugar, less human contact.  Less.

Now make more of your day and spend it loving on that family!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Vanilla Extract

I love cooking with real food.. and real food is expensive if we are talking money.
Real food is fun if we are talking saving our money and providing for our own.


Today, I am making a new batch of vanilla.  I made the old batch eight years ago and I have just been adding to it as the years come and go.  This year the beans are finally getting weak enough to justify buying some new ones.  And by justify I mean justify.. they have gotten so expensive.  The tall slender beans that you see in my old bottle, I paid ten bucks for.  This time,  I paid an arm and a leg for these little ugly beans.  However,  when you average it out over the next eight years, the savings is there.



What you need:

1)  a bottle of vodka

If you use ibotta they are offering some really good kickbacks on vodka from Walmart right now.  If you don't use ibotta, it is free to sign up here, They are awesome at supplying rebates on everyday purchases.

2)   vanilla beans



That's it.  oh, and about five minutes of your time.




I like to use bottles with the flip top lid, they last longer than the metal screw on.






Any bottle will work though, even a decorative one from the dollar store.






 unwrap your vanilla beans.



use a sharp knife to slice them open.





Drop them in.  set it on your counter and every so often give it a good shake. Or don't... vanilla isn't picky about the amount of attention it receives. In about 6 weeks you will have oodles and gobs of vanilla extract. As you deplete it add more vodka to the beans.




Simple and basic.  Easier than getting that stupid sticker off my new bottle anyway.  Now, what other plans do you have for the rest of your day?



*I have been asked if you need to let the vanilla sit for an additional six weeks when you add vodka.  If you add to it regularly and in small amounts the answer is no.  I knew my beans were wearing out so I have not replenished this bottle in a long time.  If I were to add to it at this stage, yes, I would let it sit at least a couple of weeks.

Have a great day, Ladies!