Saturday, August 27, 2011

Weaving the Fabric

This post is a sort of continuation of my last post and an extension of some thoughts generated by some comments left.
I don’t intend to hammer away at people who own a food processor, Magic Bullet, vacuum cleaner or bread machine, but let me give you some sound reasons to put them away or use them less. We live in an age of unprecedented ease, never have such large amounts of people had to work as little as what we do. And yet, yet, we’re so unsatisfied. Something is missing from our lives; I touched on this in the post What Would You Give In Exchange? “Community” is a cry I’m hearing a lot, more people are waking up to the fact that truly no man is an island and they’re groping for a way to regain what was so carelessly tossed away by those of a generation or 2 ago. However, trying to rebuild community is putting the cart before the horse. Without the proper building blocks you can’t build anything that will last. The building block is the family and until the family is experiencing “community” you will never be able to replicate community on a larger scale. The best you’ll be able to do is to reenact it. Family community is built on need, Father and Mother need the children just as the child needs its parents and you can’t need somebody that you don’t know and never spend any time with. Let me present an example: we preserve a lot of food, right? :-) I’ve written about the tools that we use so you know that there isn’t a whole lot of mechanization being used here. Why would we choose to make it so hard on ourselves? Family community.

When we're making salsa somebody is washing tomatoes, Mr. G or Katie or Levi is cranking the Victorio Strainer, Elisabethe or Abigail is putting the tomatoes in the hopper, Aleks or I are dicing peppers, somebody else is cutting onions etc. We’re together, working to get an important job completed. It’s the same when we’re canning corn. Aleks picks it, Katie puts the water on to boil, Levi, Micah, Tabitha, Rebekah, Elisabethe and Abigail begin to husk it and remove the silk. Asa tastes the corn cobs to verify that they’re edible. And then Aleks, Katie and I cut it off the cob. Mechanization means not only noise that prohibits conversation, but it erases opportunities for us to work together. I need my children, we could not live this life without them and that needing them in turn grounds them to a real life. We're weaving more of the cloth that binds us together everytime we work together.

What kind of child abuse is it to turn a child loose to have their character shaped by their peer group? To substitute meaningful work for a virtual reality and passive existence: watching actors pretend to have relationships and act out immorality, listening to somebody else sing, watching other people play football, listening to somebody else read the Bible and explain their interpretation of it. Entire childhoods marked by passivity and then when they should be adults we wonder why they aren’t. We’ve set them up for failure by denying them a real childhood. “Fun” should be replaced by these two questions: is the task meaningful? and is it satisfying? Of course I’m not saying that we should never have fun, but it shouldn’t be a god that we worship. Enjoy spending time with your family, whatever your family happens to be; build that community first.
The two images shown are both of corn husking bees, the top image is a scene painted from the Island of Nantucket in 1876 and the bottom is a photograph taken at Hog's Jaw, a small community on the Cumberland River in lower Whitley County Kentucky about 1910. Friends and neighbors once gathered to help each other for such things as house raisings, quiltings, stir-offs, and bees. As it brought people together, it was considered as fun in those days and friends came from miles around. The work was often followed by a delicious meal and perhaps an evening of square dancing or games. Community building was happening all the time without there being any special effort to “create community”. Need compelled people to rely on each other, nobody was self sufficient but communities were to a large extent. If your very survival depended on your small town blacksmith, shop keeper, wagon maker, and midwife you would be much more careful to tend those relationships. We have so many more choices today that the “need” has been removed, or at least it appears so. But be not deceived, your survival still depends on others, they're just a nameless and faceless other that doesn't care about you as an individual. The Bible says that "My people perish for want of knowledge", you can apply that many ways to this situation, but it's not a stretch to say that God desires parents to work with and impart values to their children and also that He wants us to build communities.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Domestic Economy

Summer is slowly, almost imperceptibly winding down; I can feel the change in the air though the workload is still as heavy as it ever was. We finally finished canning green beans, but the corn and carrots are far from done. We try to do a few canner loads every day and that way it isn't overwhelming and the jars do add up little by little. I'm thankful for the ease and convenience of having home canned foods on the shelf, meals can be made in a hurry and I know they're wholesome. I want to can some corn with red and green peppers in it, we'll add that to cornbread sometimes and we really like it that way. I also want to make a batch of salsa using all Green Zebra tomatoes, green salsa will be different and I do get tired of the same old things all the time. Home canning is a relatively recent invention, at least canning as we understand it today is- though people have been preserving food for later use since time immemorial. Our understanding of cooking has also undergone a radical change in the last hundred years. It’s rare today to find a woman who cooks meals for her family at home, much less a woman who has the knowledge of how to cook from scratch. We’ve gone from a nation of self reliant women to a nation of women who don’t cook or can’t cook anything more involved than Shake-n-Bake chicken and Stovetop stuffing. Obviously there are multiple nutritional benefits to cooking wholesome food from scratch, but there is also the satisfaction of knowing that you aren’t relying on Proctor & Gamble or SaraLee to decide what your family ought to eat.

By the same token, relying on a lot of "labor saving" devices might prove unwise if you are unable to cook without them. My "modern"kitchen equipment consists of a blender and a Victorio
Strainer (we just got the Victorio this summer). That’s it. All of the canning/preserving we do is done with those 2 tools, we dice all fruits and vegetables by hand and cut corn from the cob with a knife. We've canned 430 jars this summer so it is feasible to do all this without a lot of extra gadgets. Our philosophy has been to learn to do jobs the old fashioned way with the least sophisticated equipment and only then switch to more modern methods/equipment. If nothing else this certainly makes us appreciate how easy we have it! I think that it's a beneficial exercise to study old cookbooks and try to cook sometimes using these receipts and ingredients that our Foremothers would have used. Maybe we will never find ourselves in the position of needing to rely on these books and methods, but it's certainly better to be prepared and never need the knowledge than to find ourselves in a desperate situation with "if only" on our lips. Several receipt books that I enjoy perusing are Miss Beecher's Domestic Receipt Book 1850, The Great Western Cookbook 1857, The Frugal Housewife 1830 and The New England Economical Housekeeper 1845 . In addition to the usual recipes you will find directions for cutting up and preserving meat, keeping flies out of your house, remedies for illness, how to choose a domestic servant and other quaint advice. My plan is to print these books out and put them in pages protectors in a 3 ring binder, I prefer browsing through an actual printed book rather than on a computer screen. Today is the day to turn our energies toward acquiring useful skills that will serve our families whether it be canning or cookery, sewing or knitting, animal husbandry or gardening.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sumac Lemonade

So Gentle Reader we find ourselves again prepared for another exciting installment of "Everything You Never Knew You Could Eat". That's right, Mrs. G- connoisseur of boring historical minutiae and purveyor of the same, is ready to conduct you on the first leg of your tour of edible weeds and scrub bushes.

I'm assuming that at least for those of you in the Eastern U.S. that the several varieties of Sumac are easily identifiable, yes? If not, stop right here and get some good field guides or do some internet research and before you eat anything be positive of what you're consuming. If you're bright enough to get yourself dressed and use a computer then you're intelligent enough to learn to positively identify Sumac. Poison Sumac tends to get all the press leaving its humbler cousins in obscurity, but differentiating between the poison and non-poison varieties is very easy. Smooth Sumac and Staghorn Sumac both have red berries, whereas Poison Sumac has white berries, simple. You can use both the Smooth and the Staghorn varieties pretty interchangeably but you should be aware that the Staghorn has more vitamin C than the Smooth. For this recipe I used Smooth Sumac because it is what was growing at the side of the road, "hey that's Sumac STOP THE TRUCK!" and Mr. G dutifully jumps out and twists off 6 berry clusters for me. Some sort of clippers or trimmers would have made the job easier by the way.

You will need to remove the berries as the stems give a bitter taste if you don't. The outer berries will come off easily but the inner ones don't, you can dehydrate the clusters to make removal easier and to store berries for the Winter. Because Sumac berries are high in vitamin C, higher than oranges even, you should keep plenty in reserve to combat colds this Winter. The Native Americans used Sumac extensively for this purpose.
You then boil 1 quart of water and pour it over 1 cup of berries and allow to steep for 15 minutes. Strain the tea through a cloth to remove all debris, sweeten with up to 1 cup of sugar and enjoy. If you've never imbibed Sumac before go easily at first as some people allegedly have a mild allergic reaction to it. The tea can also be combined with elderberry or red raspberries to make a jelly though I've never tried it.
As an aside, many folks on the survivalist forums recommend on stocking up on Vitamin C, but these people's idea of survival tends to involve generators and fossil fuels etc all in the attempt to maintain their current comsumer lifestyle. Our family's plan tends to center around learning to live without or learning to make our own reasonable substitutes and if you share that philosophy then Sumac meshes in nicely with that.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Taste of the Genuine

Everybody loves sweet corn, it's the quintessential summertime vegetable. Preserving corn was one of the very first foods that I learned to put up. Back then we froze our corn, which is the way that most home preservation families still do it; even among families who can they will still freeze their corn. Frozen corn tastes almost exactly like fresh off the cob, definitely worth the trouble. However, I no longer freeze corn. Once we made the decision that we wanted to move away from reliance on electricity and freezers we needed to come up with a different variety of corn to grow. Almost without exception the corn you buy at a grocery store or Farmer's Market is one of the modern super sweet hybrid varieties with the sugar enhancement gene. These types, Incredible being the most common one grown here, don't lend themselves to home canning as the sugar content caramelizes when canned resulting in brown corn. We finally settled on Country Gentleman, a late 19th century shoepeg variety.
The kernels aren't in rows but are placed hodge podge all over the cob. The taste is different than what I'm used to but we knew that going into it, we are exchanging hyper-sweet for a more realistic corn taste. Because the sugar in any corn begins to turn into starch the minute the corn is picked we strive to get our corn into the canning jars within an hour of being picked. I try to have the exact number of cobs picked to fill the 7 jars. Today it was 46. The children immediately begin to husk it and pick the silk off (we save the silk too). Then the kernels are cut off with a knife, there are specialized tools for this but I've not found any that I thought were worth the money and hassle.
For each 4 cups of corn I mix in 1 teaspoon of salt and then the corn goes into the quart jar to be immediately covered with boiling water. So we go, jar by jar, until the 7 are done. They are then pressure canned for 85 minutes at 10 pounds pressure.

When I open the jars I will sometimes add 1 tablespoon of brown sugar to each quart, this is completely unnecessary but I think it will help ease the transition to this more humble repast. I think we'll get about 70 quarts of corn this year, interspersed with corn we are still canning carrots, both plain and candied. Though I realize that canning corn isn't something that you're going to sit up at night fantasizing about, you might want to file this information away so if/when the day comes that you do need to try it you'll know how to go about it.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

What Would You Give In Exchange?

It's been a week of news and excitement around here, some good and some not so good. The gardens are producing abundantly and we are adding to the canning pantry shelves almost daily. I need to get a new seal for my pressure canner but Lehman's was sold out of them. The gal said that she could sell 24 seals each week but management insists on only ordering 6, supplying local people with what they truly need is not the goal of Lehman's unfortunately. So in the meantime we're limping along with the old seal and hoping it doesn't give up the ghost before the new one arrives.

The main news in the neighborhood is that Irvin, brother of the man who keeps his heifers here, was gored by a bull. The bull was known to be aggressive and they were getting ready to ship him, either to the livestock auction or to the butcher, I'm not sure which. The bull was in with the cows in the holding pen and Irvin went to bring another group of cows into the parlor when the bull got him. It smashed into him driving/throwing him backward where he broke a 2x6 with his face and neck. When he came to he saw that his cell phone was destroyed and his calls for help were unanswered so he unsteadily had to make his way through the cows to try to reenter the parlor. Which is where he was when the bull got him again. This time the bull gored his leg, threw him through the air and over a gate which, providentially, saved his life. He is recovering and will survive, farm people are made of tough stuff.

We also found out that our landlord is going to sell off the wooded portion of the farm we live on. This was fairly catastrophic news for us. We rely on the woodlot to heat our home, the boys hunt in it and we tap the sugar maples in the spring. Our days were numbered here anyway so we're trying to see this as good news in a roundabout way, but it's hard. So the search begins for a new place to hang our hat.

Our lawnmower blade broke a few weeks ago and the lawn has taken advantage of the situation to the utmost. The yard more closely resembled a hayfield than it did a yard but some neighbors showed up yesterday evening and mowed it for us. It was a beautiful sight this morning to see it looking all neat and trim! This weekend we're going to help other neighbors to clean up an old junkpile in the woods, many hands will make rapid work of an otherwise depressing job. So I've been thinking about community of late and how important it is to us. When I discover that I'm out of mustard seed, I know that my neighbor will have some that I can borrow because she cans too. When a different neighbor needs some men to help unload hay he knows that he can call us. If my neighbor has an abundance of pears she will drop them off here and likewise I will take her a peck of hot peppers when ours are in full swing. Where would we be without good neighbors? We buy our flour and sugar from a locally owned Amish bulk food store, we shop at a local hardware, buy workboots from an Amish shoe store and press our apples into cider at a community cider press. I can't imagine a better life than the one we lead, a place where you're known and people still make face to face relationships. I understand, in an abstract way at best, that city life and "anonymity" is attractive to some people, but what are they giving up in exchange? What is the true cost of being able to do as you please and nobody cares about your business if those same people could watch you beaten to death outside your door and wouldn't even call 9-1-1?

People were better off I believe when there was less mechanization and they had to rely on each other. The industrial age has freed men from much of the work necessary to maintain life, we work less hours and at easier jobs than ever before in history and yet we're so unsatisfied. We feel the need to escape from a life that somehow lacks a point and purpose. Lack of meaningful work means a lack of purpose; if my only point in life is to wake up and go to my meaningless job so that I can exchange *life* for money, what am I gaining? The yearly vacation, "getting away from it all", is what keeps them going year after year. And I can't help but look on that with sadness, that can't be the purpose of life, can it? I believe that it's a symptom of what happens when we lose touch with what God intended for man, which is a life of hard meaningful work and neighbors to care about us and to help each other. I would like to encourage everyone to build relationships where you are, whether it be in the city or country. Be important to enough people that when you die your absence will be a loss. It's easy to romanticize the past and wish we could have what they had, but I truly believe that with effort we can still move closer to that ideal. It's an exchange though, "what I want when I want" must be replaced by "is this for the good of everyone or just me?" It's a completely different mindset than the one most of us grew up with but I believe the exchange is a good one.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Candied Ginger Blueberry Jam

We'll have a new culinary experience this winter when we finally get to eat the Candied Ginger Blueberry Jam that I made last week. I've never really liked blueberry jam, most recipes call for too much sugar for my taste, but since I tweaked this recipe extensively I think that I might actually enjoy it! Here's the recipe if you'd like to try it, this yields 7 half pints.

4 heaping cups smashed blueberries

2 cups sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Combine ingredients and allow to set for 1-2 hours
Add a heaping half cup of diced candied ginger

Heat slowly on stove until very hot but not boiling

Set aside and in a different kettle bring 1 cup sugar, 1 box sure-jell lite and 1 cup water to a brisk boil.

Add contents of sure-jell kettle to the blueberry kettle

Bring to a boil stirring constantly
Remove from heat and place in jars

Can in a boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes

I made 2 batches of this jam and then we canned the rest of the blueberries like I wrote about in the Canning 101 post. I think we got 11 quarts and 11 pints. We are also in the thick of canning peaches which came right on the tail of cherries. Aleks told me that the peppers are almost ready, they will become salsa and Cowboy Candy *and* we've got green beans coming! I think this is why most farm families (those who can anyway) really look forward to winter. :-) The pace is crazy all through summer and autumn, but oh is it worth it!
My one canning shelf still needs to be taken outside and scrubbed and then it's getting a fresh coat of paint. Until then there are jars of food completely filling 2 cupboards and much of the counter space. I feel rich!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Home Canned Fruit 101

If you're interested in learning to preserve food at home, canned fruit is the perfect place to start. Canning fruit is easy to learn and requires the least specialized equipment, perfect for the beginner! An excellent resource for all things canned is the Ball Blue Book, they walk you step by step through canning peaches; however, my method is slightly different than theirs and yields a vastly superior product. Generally fruit today is canned using a sugar/water syrup the proportions of sugar making either a light, medium or heavy syrup. Canning fruit with water necessitates adding more sugar since you're in effect making "fruit soup"; the overall effect is a watered down, super sugary, vaguely fruit tasting product. My method is easy to implement and I think you'll be pleased with the result.

1. Wash fruit to remove pesticide, bugs and unripe/overripe fruit.

2. Peel and slice fruit if needed (such as peaches) most berries can be left whole.

3. Layer fruit and sugar in a mixing bowl or bucket. I use 1/3 cup sugar per pineapple and 1/2 cup sugar per quart of Black Raspberries for instance. The amount of sugar is a personal preference and some things, like rhubarb, need more sugar.

4. Cover and allow to set at room temperature for 12-18 hours. Fruit doesn't juice up well in a refrigerator or other cold environment.

5. Place fruit in jars with a slotted spoon and top off jars with reserved juice.

6. Affix lids and can for the amount of time specified in the Ball Blue Book.

That's it! If you're used to canning fruit using the syrup method you won't find switching over to be difficult at all. Allowing fruit to make its own juice really makes sense when you think about it!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Asa's Green Gown

I think that I mentioned getting Asa's image taken this Fall to commemorate his 2nd birthday; I decided that I wanted a gown that looked quasi-military inspired, decidedly boyish in cut and trim, and in a color that would hide dirt.

My taste in historic fashion tends to run toward loud and gaudy, two things that don't appeal to me in modern clothes. I chose a hideously garish shade of green with diarrhea yellow stylized flowers. Perfect. The trim is 100% cotton twill tape that I dyed bright yellow, it is sewn on with a running stitch and is easily removed if need be.

The bodice is flat lined with a light weight cotton and the sleeves are set in without much fullness at all. I also chose to pleat the skirt because it looks more manly than gathers, I think.

His chemise and strapped petticoat were sewn by the lovely and talented Brooke Whitaker. She did a fabulous job!

I have two of the four buttonholes sewn, I get bogged down at the end and just want to quit looking at the thing that I've been laboring on. :-( For buttons I'm using china ringers, the ring being black, it really looks well with the print.

Now hopefully he won't have outgrown this gown by September!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Mother's Kitchen

Hello friends, I've been rather neglectful of this blog lately. Summer is a very hectic time for us and leaves little time for virtual reality when concrete reality in the form of produce makes faces at me everyday begging to be put in jars. We're complying at a breakneck pace but still, some days it feels like drowning. Things will settle down around October and then I can engage in other pursuits like sewing and knitting. On especially stressful days I try to remind myself to be doubly thankful for so much food and for the ability to preserve it. Some people just aren't able to put the harvest by and have to rely on grocery stores. That's a picture of my canning shelf (square nailed and mustard milk paint, Tiff :D) it's loaded with: blueberries, dark sweet cherries, light sweet cherries, peaches, rhubarb, Cowboy Candy, mulberry/black raspberry jam, blackberries, pineapple, mulberry/apple jam, black raspberries, peach jam, Lemony Sticky Sour Cherry Jam and blueberry/candied ginger jam. It's only a fraction of what we have canned and an even smaller fraction of what we will can. All of the canned dry beans, corn, green beans, carrots and most pickled things are stored elsewhere. I look at it and I feel rich. :-) I know that we will eat well this winter regardless of what happens with the economy and that gives me a peace.
We have many things that grow wild here and I feel obligated to preserve them since God has provided them. We have an abundance of mulberry products because we have mulberry trees, the black raspberries grow wild as well so they get put in jam, we will have chokecherries that will become waffle syrup and maple trees to tap in the spring. If I would neglect to take care of what has provided for us for free, then how could I ever complain about God's provision for us? If it's here and I'm able, then it goes in a jar. Our Forefathers understood this principle, that we must labor in season to provide for ourselves out of season. Modern dwellers have become accustomed to relying on an outside entity to maintain life, that's risky business in this day and age.
Take care, I hope you're enjoying your summer!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Song of the Needle

Methinks it is a token of healthy and gentle characteristics, when women of high thoughts and accomplishments love to sew; especially as they are never more at home with their own hearts than while so occupied. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Marble Faun, 1859

After an 8 month hiatus I have returned to the sewing machine. It all started innocently enough, I was thinking about Zoar and who will be there this year and then I thought about the daguerreotype that we had taken of Asa and Katie. And then I thought about having another taken this year to commemorate him turning 2 and became more and more enthralled with the idea of childhood milestones marked by wet plate images. However, having a wet plate image of all of the children really, really appealed to me and now boom! I'm back sewing. We had our own version of The Great Try-On and I found that Aleks and Levi have trowsers and vests, but no shirts and Micah has nothing. Katie is all set but the other 4 girls need dresses as does Asa. I've ordered Asa's fabric and will begin on his when it arrives but in the meantime I've begun a gown for Abigail.
I had the bodice and sleeves already cut for somebody, but I can't remember who. Elisabethe maybe? So I rewashed the pieces and trimmed some bodice length off for Abbie. I finished the neckline this afternoon and want to cut new sleeves out this evening. Hopefully it will be finished before the new fabric arrives. It feels good to have a needle in my hand again, I think I must have missed it. I have approximately three and a half months to get everybody ready and that seems somewhat daunting, but I keep thinking of the image that will preserve the memory. I'm thinking a full plate will be necessary, maybe a 3/4 plate? I don't know, that's nine people to fit in. I'm full of anticipation.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Best of Times

We had a very enjoyable Memorial Day weekend, Gill's brother came on Sunday and we had a cookout. Uncle Pat is a superstar here. :-) On Monday we visited a little lonely country graveyard called Union Cemetery. It's tucked way back in with the tiniest little sign, if you didn't know it was there you'd drive right past. There were tons of veterans there, more per capita than any other cemetery that I think I've ever visited. And children, lots of children. There is something gut wrenching to think of little ones lying there, forgotten by everybody who knew them. One small stone marked the grave of Rosina, she died in 1845 at the age of 2. I wish stones told how people died. Was she sick? A farm accident? A fire? I wonder about her, not just how she died but what her life was like. Ohio was fairly wild in the 1840s. History becomes more and more interesting to me the older I get.

Today, however, it Katie's 18th birthday. EIGHTEEN! We're not celebrating today, trying to get her to ask for anything is like pulling teeth. She says her trip to Tennessee was the best present she could have had. :-) We'll celebrate this coming weekend which gives me a few more days to figure out what to get for a girl that's satisfied with what she already has. I can't believe that she's all grown up, it tempts me to say some cliche' like "where did the time go?" So, I'll spare you that and just say that I'm so proud of her, I couldn't ask for a better daughter than what she is. She's industrious, accomplished, friendly, witty and enthusiastic about a simple country life. What more could any parent want? So, Happy Birthday Katie! I love you!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Wow, it quit raining

Asa had the most terrifying experience today. We went to the car wash and.......vacuumed the truck. He cried hysterically, in all of his almost 20 months he has never heard anything as frightening as that. Poor baby. We don't own a vacuum cleaner so he's never heard one before. :-)

We came home and Katie took him outside, his favorite place to be.

Chicks dig Asa, he's scared of the Momma though. We have turkey poults too, but they're in a different shed.

Dirt is a nice playground for little boys.

What happens after you spend the morning racing around outside, come in and eat lunch, get cleaned up and changed, and then rocked to sleep.

The gardens are still not tilled. We had record breaking rainfall here for the past month so it will be a late start this year. Things will hopefully get planted in the next week, it's so nice to see the sun again.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Yard Sale

I'm going through my clothes and fabric and I've decided to sell what I no longer need. All prices include shipping. Please email me direct at Also, I have several pairs of men's/boy's pants, Past Patterns Summer Trowser, waist 28"-32" that I want to move on to a new home, prices very reasonable. :-) Some prices negotiable, I really need these gone!
Ladies wrapper, will fit a woman approximately 5ft 6 and under, waist is very adjustable. Lining is unfinished. $50 ppd
Double pink fleur de lis fabric, 4yds + 15 inches, 46" wide, $18 ppd
Green Originals By Kay dress, this dress is *very* used, mended multiple times and needs mended again at waistline. Will fit a size 8-10 lady. $45 ppd
10 yards sheer aqua/white check fabric, 50+ inches wide $46 ppd

Original 1850s infant hood. Shot silk, quilted, bought from Fiddybee, $38 ppd
period correct Swiss Dot fabric, 4 yds + 11", 48" wide, $20 ppd
Peach 1850s style dress, waist 29.5", length 46", $45 ppd
Semi sheer fabric, 5 yds 10", 45" wide, $22 ppd

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Spring at home

My two oldest, Aleks and Katie, went to Tennessee this past week. They stayed with Meggie, a friend of Katie's and had a wonderful time! They got to see mountains and historical sites, as well as meet interesting characters like Joe. That's Katie proposing to Joe as Aleks and Clive (Meggie's Dad) look on. They have had so many interesting stories to tell about what they saw and did. For Aleks it was a working vacation of sorts, Clive owns an antique grist mill that he grinds corn in to sell to a distillery and he also does historical restoration. They were moving a log barn into Gatlinburg last week. Aleks loved the work and really enjoyed himself. Katie got the opportunity to spend time with a very Godly young lady who is like an older sister to her. It was a nice break for both of them, they work hard here and deserved a vacation, but oh, am I glad they're home!
Aleks' tomato plants grew an amazing amount while they were gone, he has about 100 left after thinning them out. They're all heirlooms, what we don't use will be sold at the Farmer's Market. He also has oodles of peppers and tobacco started too. I want to get my culinary herbs going, but haven't yet. We won't plant anything outdoors until May but I'm excited to think about canning again. Last year, in the thick of it, I was plenty tired of doing it but it kept us eating and eating well, this winter! Most of my canned food is gone, I have some tomatoes, some meat and 4 jars of beets/parsnips/carrots/squash and that's it! It's a good feeling to have jars upon jars lining the shelves.

We were in Kidron today so we stopped by Lehman's, they had a flood there and some merchandise is marked down 70%. I bought this cutesy little 1 gallon keg for $15 and 2 real bayberry hand dipped candles made in Zoar for $3.

Though I pointed out to Aleks and Katie that the Forsythia is in bloom and there are daffodils galore, they sniffed disdainfully at this cold Northern weather after their foray into the South. We still need a fire many mornings, though by noon it's warm enough for the cow to go on her picket and the calf to go in her portable pen so she can still see Mom while she grazes. It's much more pleasant to hang laundry out now that Spring has arrived!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Two and a Half Day Grits

Do you like grits? I don't, at least not the pre-packaged instant variety that we found and bought once from the Bent-N-Dent. I decided to experiment with real grits made the old fashioned way and this is how it's done. On day 1 you place 1 inch of pickling lime in the bottom of a 2 quart jar and fill with water. Allow to set for at least 12 hours and then pour off the water into a clean container leaving the lime in the bottom. You can find pickling lime in the canning section of your grocery store.

On Day 2 after you have poured off the lime water into a separate canning jar you can prepare your corn by shelling 3 cups of kernels. This is Micah and I shelling our dried open pollinated corn from last year.

Grind the corn coarsely, this is important because it needs to be ground much more coarsely than you want wheat flour to be. Measure out 3 cups corn meal into a bowl.

Pour 3 cups of lime water into your 3 cups corn meal. Mix it up well, it might look a little greenish and that's fine. Let set overnight.

Why do I need to soak my corn? Our ancestors knew that corn needed to be soaked in lime water to release the Vitamin B3 which otherwise remains bound in the grain and unavailable to you. Soaking also improves the amino acid quality of proteins in the germ. Pellagra was a once common disease in the rural South when farmers were encouraged to leave off the old ways for the "Modern Age", it is due to vitamin b3 deficiency. Sometimes the old fashioned way really does work and has logic behind it; that's certainly the case here.

The next morning bring 3 cups of water to a boil with 1 teaspoon real salt. When water boils add your soaked corn, liquid and all. Reduce flame and stir constantly to avoid sticking. Cook until thickened and serve with butter, maple syrup, sorghum etc. For leftover grits mix 1.5 cups grits with 1 egg and form into patties, fry in butter and serve with a pork product. Mmm!
These grits were light years different than the instant stuff. They tasted like real food.
In other news, we're still in the throes of syrup making. I should actually be in the kitchen finishing some off instead of blogging. :-) It has been a good season so far. I'm always glad to see it start and I'm always glad to see it end!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Goings on

It's Sunday morning, almost noon and we're done with church so I thought I'd write a bit. We've been going through Hebrews, I enjoy hearing Mr. G expound on it, but it's deep stuff so we take it only a chapter per week. Katie opened a can of pork and mixed with BBQ sauce for pulled pork sandwiches for lunch. We've had that quite a lot this winter. Our seed orders are ready and we've been discussing buying 2 bummer lambs to raise for meat. I like lamb and another source of grassfed meat would be welcome. The men have been cutting wood every day or sometimes every other day, Levi and Micah haul it home and then Mr. G and Aleks split it. Lately it's been yummy, fragrant cherry.

We watched a hawk swoop down the other morning and kill one of Micah's banties. :-( There are mice, voles and rabbits galore, but the hawk prefers "chicken welfare". Tansy is due to calve in another month or so, I'm ready for it! We're eagerly checking the weather in anticipation of syrup season. I just ordered another 20 gallon cast iron cauldron. In some areas of the country you can pick them up for very little money, here however, they go for way too much money! The Amish still use them and demand drives up the price. Anyway, I bought both of ours from the same folks in SC. They're honest, decent people and I enjoy doing business with them. Syrup boiling should go twice as fast now. Aleks and the boys use the roaring fire to melt lead to cast their bullets. It helps break the monotony of sitting up in the sugar camp for hours, plus it's a useful skill.

In the background there is our deceased vehicle. So, currently we have no working transportation! :-) Woo Hoo! Mr. G is working some things out, so by hook or by crook we should have something figured out in a day or two. That's pretty well the sum of happenings in our neck of the woods!

Monday, January 24, 2011

What Does Not Irritate You To Death.....

What does not irritate you to death makes you stronger. My motto for the past weekend. :D A little background, we live in a drafty, old, uninsulated farmhouse. Possibly romantic in the abstract, but frustrating in the concrete. For the second time this winter the pipes froze in the barn leaving us waterless in the house, it still isn't back on. Cooking is well nigh impossible with no water, bathing doesn't happen and 10 people using a toilet that can't flush....well, just imagine the possibilities! We melted snow to wash hands and used that water to flush the toilet when it became a matter of public safety. Mr. G bought a couple of jugs of water to brush teeth with and we ate Domino's for lunch and soup and sandwiches for supper since we could do that without water. Still, all in all, it could be a lot worse. We had a big pile of beautiful, fragrant cherry firewood to burn, food and relatively warm beds to cuddle into. All of the important things. Mr. G hopes the water will be working soon (he's been messing with it all day) because he really needs a shower before he heads to work. :-) We spent the evening last night listening to Mr. G read The Hobbit to us, FYI Asa shares Bilbo and Frodo's birthday so how cool is that?
Then the Men cleaned their guns and oiled their boots, Asa is obsessed with Aleks and wanted to "help" with the gun cleaning. He rubbed that cloth up and down the barrel for ever!
We are counting down until the official arrival of Spring which could be in as little as 3 weeks! It begins for us when the sap commences to rise in the trees and sugaring begins.