Rosey the Riveter

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Guest Post

For a long while, I have been enjoying From Scratch, the on-line homesteading magazine.  I was thrilled when I was asked to be a guest blogger for their 12 days of Christmas series.

Head on over and check out my post!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Homemade Citrus Extract and Dehydrated Citrus Powder

It's the baking time of year.  As soon as fall weather arrives, soon followed by Thanksgiving and then Christmas, it's time to put on the aprons and break out the mixers.  It's also citrus season, which means it's a great time to make some homemade versions of baking ingredients.

Citrus Extract is great for flavoring icings, and I love ground citrus powder in muffins, cookies, breads, tea... you name it.  So, when I can find organic lemons and oranges (which isn't always easy), I always buy them.  With very little effort, you can add some tasty tools to your baking arsenal.

Homemade Citrus Extract

Peel an organic orange (or lemon, depending on which flavor you want!) and remove as much of the white pith as you can.  Slice very thin, and place into a jar.  Cover with Vodka and let it sit.  Strain after 6 weeks (or, um, a year...)

Homemade Citrus Powder

Peel some organic oranges (or lemons) and remove as much of the white pith as you can.  Slice and dehydrate.  When thoroughly dried, grind in a coffee grinder.  If you are using it for icing, I'd do a very fine powder... for baked goods, you can leave some larger pieces.  I use this in place of citrus zest in recipes if I don't have fresh fruit on hand to zest.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Dried Cranberries

Many people who are new to dehydrating assume that they can pop whole cranberries in their dehydrator and get 'craisins' out of the deal.  You know what they say about assuming!  The truth is, craisins are loaded in sugar...
1/3 of a cup of processed craisins contains 123 calories, while 1/3 of a cup of home-dehydrated cranberries contains only about 42 calories (by my calculations... I dehydrated 7 bags at 180 calories per bag and got 10 cups of dried berries, which yields 126 calories/cup) It's the added sugar that helps keep the texture of craisins more like raisins.
Dehydrating cranberries at home, sans sugar, results in bits of crispy, crunchy, sour goodness that are fantastic in muffins, scones, breads, etc.  If you click on the picture above, you might be able to see there's quite a difference between the craisins on the left and the home-dried cranberries on the right.

The process is quite simple.  Rinse your cranberries in a colander and pick out any remaining stems you can see.  Working in batches, give the berries a few whirls in the food processor, which will break them up and make them dry much faster.  Spread them out, in as close to a single layer as possible, on your tray.  I use the fruit-roll liner on top of the plastic tray just because it presents little bits from falling through once they are dried.
If you have a temperature control on your dehydrator, set it to 135 and let it go... when the berries are crispy, they are thoroughly dried.  Be sure to remove any whole/mostly whole cranberries that didn't dry, as they could cause mold.  Store in an airtight container out of direct sunlight.

Use in any recipe calling for dried cranberries.  There's no need to rehydrate them beforehand.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Oh, My!

I knew I was behind in blogging, I just had no clue HOW behind!  Lots going on between now and last I posted, 6 weeks ago!  I have continued to post over at Mother Earth News and you can see all of my blogs HERE.

The annual dessert auction to raise funds for needy Seabee families and to decorate the children's ward at the Portsmouth Naval Hospital came and went.
My basket of jams and jellies 'only' raised $75...  last year it went for over $200.
But the basket of 'DIY Dessert' items, including homemade vanilla, our own eggs, and maple syrup from my brother's farm in NH went for $125, so that was great!

Our Autumn Larder Swap had us trading up a storm.  My favorite this time around was the Monkey Butter made by my neighbor, Lisa.

Our church had a "Community Service Day" last weekend, and while my husband and youngest daughter were landscaping/raking at her school, my oldest and I sewed bags for kids in the foster system.  It turned out to be more complicated than I thought (serger?  I don't know how to do that!), but after fighting with my machine, Abby got to at least sew a few seams and get the feel for things. 
The next day, she made some napkins for her school lunches.  I had started the project awhile ago but had a few more to finish, so she sewed them up like a pro and was quite proud of herself!

I've been experimenting with using the Stevia that I grew, dried, and ground.  My first attempt at homemade sugar-free chocolate pudding was a disaster, but I'm determined to figure it out!

And, I am in seed heaven, because the new catalogs have started to come in.  The first one was from Baker Creek, and is a much bigger version than their normal one.  It's on sale at bookstores, so you can run out and get one if you'd like.
Yesterday's mail brought a catalog from "High Mowing Seeds" which is out of VT.  Highly recommend it for those in New England, as if the seeds do well in VT, they will probably do well anywhere near there.  It's for that same reason that I prefer to use Southern Exposure Seeds here in VA.  Unfortunately, that catalog hasn't yet come, but I did get to buy most of what I want from them at the Heritage Harvest Festival.

I guess that's it in a nutshell.  I'll have more posts soon, I promise!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Oatmeal Squares

I'm blogging over at MEN today about my Oatmeal Squares and how to use up all those jars of jams sitting in your fridge.

Unfortunately, they didn't include the most important picture!  So, here it is... as you can see, I used up eight jars of almost-empty jam.

Unfortunately, there were so many other jars in the fridge it didn't make one bit of difference in there!!!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Book Review: Gaining Ground

Today I'm over at Mother Earth with a review of a great book.  Read all about it HERE.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Whipping the Garden into Shape

Now that the air is cooler in the morning, it's a delight to spend time out in the garden, which is suffering from some serious neglect.  This morning alone, I lugged out 4 lawn bags full of weeds from the pathways.

Once the weeds were tackled, I noticed immediately that the rosemary was desperately overgrown.  It tumbled over the raised bed into the walkway and I got the snippers out to give it a haircut.  This resulted in a massive pile of rosemary that I couldn't bring myself to just throw away.

Then I had an ah-ha moment and got a wire coat hanger and my florist wire.  What resulted was an herbal wreath that I now have hanging on my front door.  I did add a few snips of parsley, sage, and oregano and topped it all off with a raffia bow.  It may not be as beautiful as the Williams-Sonoma wreaths, but it didn't cost $50, either!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Isle of Wight Fair

Today was one of those gorgeous days you wish would last forever.  We were lucky enough to be able to spend the majority of it outdoors.  We went to a neighborhood yardsale in the morning and scored lots of treasures.  And then we decided to head to Windsor (about 45 minutes from here) to check out the Isle of Wight County Fair.  I'm glad we went, because the weather was perfect... but I doubt we'll go back again next year.

Parking was free, which was a nice perk.  But it was $8 per person to get in, even for the kids.  There was one tent full of handmade entries and I loved seeing all of the canned goods.

And then we went to the Heritage Tent, whose theme this year was bringing back family farms.  The girls got a kick out of these painted gourds.
 I was enchanted by the 'peanut pumpkins' which I'd never seen before.
 Abby loved the 'goosebump pumpkin' which was also new to me!
 Then we went to the 4-H tent and swooned over all the chickens.  A friend of mine thought my last post about 'window shopping' for chickens was funny.  Well, I did it again.  We all loved the Barnevelder.
 And I was intrigued by the Sicilian.
 And the Cochin Calico was way more pretty than the camera could capture.
But my favorite had to be this "Frazzle".  The lady told me it's a result of crossing two Frizzles.  I don't know if that's the truth, but I do know that I need one someday!  Us curly girls have to stick together!

This Brahma rooster was GORGEOUS but he absolutely didn't want his picture taken.  Notice the "I Bite" sign!!!

And, of course, I swooned over the Speckled Sussex.  I cannot explain the attraction, but I am in love with the looks of them!
Stephen really liked the looks of this Ameraucana, but it was going crazy pacing back and forth in the cage and I couldn't get a good picture.  I do love our Blue Wheaten Ameraucana, so I can totally see us getting more when we are able to settle down.
 There were lots of adorable animals in the Petting Zoo, too.

But other than that, and a lot of food vendors and carnival stuff, there wasn't a lot going on.  I wish we'd arrived at a better time so we could have seen the circus and some shows, but we weren't about to stick around for another 2 hours.  Joe Nichols was the headliner for tonight, so if I was young and single I totally would have wanted to see that... and if we were 'locals' who could count on running into people we only see once a year at the Fair, it would be a different story.  But next year we'll skip this one and may be try the State Fair. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

I'm Off!

I'm leaving bright and early in the morning for the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello.  I've been looking forward to this every since I got home from last year's!  I promise I'll be taking good notes and sharing lots of great info when I return.  In the mean time, here's my latest post for Mother Earth News.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Seed Saving: Lemon Balm

Did you happen to notice the new 'search this blog' box on the right hand side?  It's new.  I put it there because my neighbor Lisa complained I didn't have one.  It was too much work to google "Homesteading on the Homefront" + whatever it was she was searching for.  I was all proud of myself this morning when I told her I'd added it just for her.  She quickly burst my bubble by saying "Lately it's all about chickens and bees.  I can't do anything with chickens and bees."


Cue the Lemon Balm.

Lemon Balm is a great herb that I grow (and Lisa grows) to use in a medicinal salve along with Calendula.  Lemon Balm is also an herb that can spread really fast.  Unless, of course, you harvest the seeds to share.  This will greatly reduce spreading, but not prevent it entirely.

I'm heading up to the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello on Friday, and part of my preparations include getting ready for the Old Time Seed Swap on Saturday.  I figured I'd harvest the seeds from my two lemon balm plants.  Except I could find NOTHING online about the best (er, 'easiest') way to do it. So this is the method I came up with and I'm pretty happy with it.

About this time of year, the plants will bolt and the seed pods will dry up and turn these beautiful plants into eyesores.
 Harvest the dead looking stalks.  I filled a bag with only two plants' worth.
Squeezing each stem, run your fingers down the length of it to remove the foliage.
The teeny-tiny black things you see almost in the center of this picture are the seeds. 
I placed a fine-mesh screen over a large container and gently sifted.  You can see hoe the seeds separate and fall into the container.
 There was still a good bit of foliage in with the seeds, so I decided to sift it again.
As you can see, it did a pretty decent job of sifting.  With such small seeds, you're never going to get everything out, so I consider this good enough!
One source I read stated that the shelf-life of lemon balm seeds can range from years up to decades depending, of course, on how they are stored.  These will be placed in labeled bags to make it easier for swapping.
I plan to use a similar method to save other small seeds... like horehound and anise hyssop. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Homesteading Goals, Revisited

Last January, I made a list of 5 Homesteading Goals for 2013.  Since the kids will be going back to school tomorrow and I am about to have more time to myself, I decided to revisit those goals, see how it's going, and tackle the ones that I've yet to master.

Here's how it's going:

1.  Chickens!  - CHECK!  The chicken tractor was built, pullets were acquired, one was re-homed when 'she' started crowing, one was nursed back to health after a burst abscess, two more were added to the flock.  This goal has been met, and I have loved every minute of it.  I seriously cannot imagine ever not having chickens again.

2.  Food Preservation:  - CHECK!  I have been much better this year about preserving foods my family will eat.  I made less jam, canned more meat and veggies, dehydrated more fruits.  I do want to try my hand at home-canned tuna, so that's in the works.  I am continuing to keep records of how much I have put up, as it was such a help to have that information from last year.

3.  The Garden:  -  Work in progress.  I was very happy with our spring garden.  But the summer garden is another story.  My peppers are just now starting to produce.  The volunteer tomatoes were so blighted I pulled them up.  I am now working on the fall garden, and my green beans, peas, carrots, and kale are coming along nicely.  The lettuce hasn't sprouted yet, so I'll have to redo that.  I've also decided that instead of the woodchips for mulch, I'm going to try using leaves... but I can't do that until they start to fall.  In addition, I want to get the chickens in the garden.  I just have to figure out how to make that happen.

4.  Meal Planning:  - This is what I need to concentrate on.  Earlier in the summer, I made a list of all the meals we enjoy that didn't require the oven.  That worked well.  Now that I can visit the Farmer's Market and grocery stores without kids in tow, I need to start weekly planning.

5.  Learn something new.  -  We learned how to harvest our honey, and I've learned how to crochet scrubbies.  I haven't done much with the homemade cheeses like I wanted to, but I did learn how to make penny rugs. 

So, it looks like I'll be concentrating on meal planning and the garden in order to reach this year's goals.  Overall, not shabby progress.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Chicken Dreams

One of the reasons I've been so absent lately is that I spent some time back home in New England.  A trip in late-summer meant we were able to attend one of the local fairs, through which we ate ourselves silly.

But it also meant strolls through the animal barns.  In addition to some gorgeous cows and sweet sheep and huge pigs, we particularly enjoyed the chickens.  It was a chance to see some breeds up close and personal, and add them to our mental list of 'someday chickens'.

The Speckled Sussex is at the top of mine, and has been since the spring when I saw them at a friend's farm.  They are a beautiful heritage breed that originated in England (of course!) and came to the states in the early 1900s.
This was a HUGE Colombian Wyandotte.  I am hoping our Windy doesn't grow so large, but she's going to be a looker, that's for sure.
This one was a Blue Orpington.  Truth be told, I couldn't tell the difference between this chicken and our Rosie, who is a Lavender Orp.  Again, I am hoping Rosie doesn't get quite so big!  We might have to add more roosting space if she does.
And I couldn't resist taking a picture of this gorgeous boy.  What a stud!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Exciting News!

I will be blogging for Mother Earth News!  My first post is up, and it's all about how/why to start/join a Homesteading group... so head on over and check it out!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Honey Update

We extracted the second hive today and I was shocked that we only got 3.5 lbs even though it seems the frames were more full than yesterday's super.

So, 10 lbs total from 2 hives.  Not really that great... but we learned some lessons.  Now that we have our own extractor, we can take the honey next spring as soon as it's capped.  I think the bees uncapped a lot of it and either moved it or ate it, as I swear the supers were much more full earlier in the season.

The honey today was darker and thicker, which was also interesting.

Here are the labels I came up with (not that there's much to give away, only 5 of the 10 pounds are ours!).  I think they are cute.  I hate the plastic bottles but I won them at the VA State Beekeepers meeting, so I'm using them up!

Why "Can Do Bees"?  It's a nod to the Seabees, whose motto is "Can Do"... our permanent apiary will have a permanent name once we can settle down in one spot, but this will do for now!