Thursday, July 30, 2009

Book Review - The Backyard Homestead

"Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre!" I'm a sucker for any book that makes that sort of claim on the front cover! The Backyard Homestead, edited by Carleen Madigan, just came out recently and was on my wish list when I spotted it at the library Saturday! If you have a bit of land, small or large, and wish to grow more of your food, this book will inspire you! On the back cover it says "from a quarter of an acre, you can harvest: 1,400 eggs, 50 pounds of wheat, 60 pounds of fruit, 2,000 pounds of vegetables, 280 pounds of pork, and 75 pounds of nuts"! Wow! We have almost three acres, and though some of our land is quite rocky, this book sure demonstrates that we could be utilizing our property wiser!

This book covers everything from making sauerkraut to beekeeping, cheese making to bread baking, building a chicken coop to making sausage. My impression is that the goal of the book is to give you a vision of what your land can do. The vegetable growing section is rather comprehensive but the rest of the book just gives an overview. If you really decided to get a milk cow, I'd suggest reading some of the resources mentioned in the back of the book. Though there is a nice amount of information on chickens and eggs, there is nothing about how to butcher a chicken. The book isn't huge and is very readable. If it answered every question on every topic they introduce, it would take a volume of encyclopedias!

But if you wonder how you can make the most of your land and want some ideas that you may have never even considered, I'd heartily recommend this book! Just don't look for it at the library this week if you go to our local library, because I'm intending to keep it for a while!

Now I'm off to research nut trees...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Harvesting Carrots

Carrots are one of my favorite vegetables to put away for winter. No shelling, husking, or peeling! With the help of a pressure canner, carrots could hardly be easier!

We dug a whole wagon full of carrots. It had rained the night before so the ground was soft and muddy. I went down the row with a fork, loosening the carrots and the children pulled them out! I plant the Danver Half Long variety. They are short carrots and great for clay soil. And so sweet and good!!!

We swished the carrots in a bucket of water to take the worse of the dirt off. Any job with water is a favorite with my children! You'll have to imagine how wet and dirty they were when we were finished as I didn't think to take a picture! After cutting off the carrot tops (which were fed to the chickens) I used a stiff brush and clean bucket of water to do the final cleaning. Last year I had a whole bunch of tiny carrots. I hated the thought of scrubbing each one individually so I dumped them in the washing machine and ran it through the cycle (without detergent, of course!)

Since the carrots were fresh and tender, there was no need to peel or scrape. A food processor made quick work of slicing the carrots.

The final result: 36 pint of sliced carrots! All ready for adding to soups and casseroles this winter!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

First Egg

For those of you who have been following our chicken we gathered our first egg! The children have been checking for eggs every day for several weeks! This morning I sent the children out to check again (just to get them out of the house!) They didn't really want to go and asked if I thought there was really going to be an egg! The pullets are 21 weeks old, so I told them we really would have eggs any day! A few minutes later they were dashing back to the house with an egg!

Actually, I guess this is our second egg. We found a smashed pullet egg shell last week in the pasture in the movable pen. This morning the egg was in the nesting box. It is amazing to me that a young pullet who has never laid an egg could figure out where we wanted the egg laid!

Next question...who will get to eat the first egg!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Through Child's Eyes - Raising monarch butterflies

One of my favorite late summer memories is finding monarch caterpillars and raising them to butterflies. In our area, monarch butterflies are laying their eggs on milk weed plants in August. At least I always thought it was in August, but this year we've already found two monarch caterpillars in July, so maybe they begin laying eggs earlier then I thought! For a fun project for children (and adults!) take a walk down a weedy road or abandoned lot and look for tiny striped caterpillars on milk weed plants. Though you can raise other kinds of caterpillars, monarchs are easy to find because they only eat milkweeds.

Cut the milk weed plant and place it in a jar of water. The caterpillar will eat voraciously and grow quickly. You may need to pick more milk weed leaves for him to eat.

When he reaches his ultimate size, he will look for a quiet place to make his chrysalis. At this point it is good to have him trapped in a jar because he will roam out of sight! An ideal system is a large gallon size jar with a small baby food jar of water inside for the milk weed. But if you don't have a jar big enough, a box with a screen top so you can watch him, works as well.

The caterpillar will hang from his tail with a little webbing and then change into his lovely green chrysalis. Two weeks later he will emerge as a beautiful monarch! Release him to the outdoors to begin his long flight to Mexico for the winter. To learn more about these fascinating insects, check out this site here. We've been enjoying some of the library books about butterflies but nothing beats watching it first hand.

Give it a try, and maybe it will become a favorite memory for your children as well. (And you don't have to have a child around to enjoy it!)

The photos in this post are mostly from last year's butterflies, though a few are from our present caterpillar!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Whole Wheat Pizza Crust

I know that some of you have been using the pizza crust recipe that I shared last fall. I have been making it with half white flour and half whole wheat flour for some time. Every time I tried it with all whole wheat flour it seemed too dry. We eat lots of pizza which gives me ample time to experiment and I finally have figured out how to make it with all whole wheat and taste better then ever!

1 cup warm water
1 T yeast
Dissolve yeast in water.

2 T oil
1 tsp sugar or honey
1 tsp salt
2 cups whole wheat flour

Mix all together and stir for several minutes. I usually do this by hand unless I'm doubling the batch, then I use the kneading hook on my mixer. Allow the dough to sit for five minutes. This allows the flour to fully hydrate in the water and keeps you from adding too much flour. After five minutes, turn the dough out onto a floured counter and add only enough flour to make it easy to manage. You still want it to be slightly sticky without being tacky. I usually add about ½ cup more flour, sometimes not even that much. Knead only briefly since you stirred it well previously. It is fine if it is still rather sticky. Place in greased bowl and allow to raise until double. Place on baking sheet or pizza pans, add toppings and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes.

For more information on making pizza crust, check the original post.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Green Bean Supreme

This time of year, green beans are on the menu almost every day! We usually just eat them with a little butter and salt or other seasoning. When I asked Ed if I should participate in Tammy's In Season Recipe Swap and if so, what recipe I should share, he immediately said this one!

1 cup sour cream (I use plain yogurt.)
2 T flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 small diced onion
1 quart green beans
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup bread crumbs OR 1 cup crushed cornflakes

Mix sour cream, flour, salt, pepper, and onion. Layer beans in greased 9x9 casserole. Pour over sour cream mixture. Mix together bread crumbs and cheese. Sprinkle over top. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Garden Tour

I love to visit gardens! Formal gardens are great fun but friend's gardens are even better! If I come to your house, I may do a detour around the flower beds before I make it to the front door!

I thought I'd give you a little tour of our place! So come on over! I just hope the photos are small enough that you can't see the weeds!
Welcome to our little place we call Thistleberry Hollow! We seem to have an abundance of both berries and thistles! This has been our home for seven years now. Almost every summer, I am digging a new garden somewhere! The above photo shows the flower bed along the drive as you pull in.

The flower beds in front of the house.

Shade garden behind the house.

Our vegetable garden is divided into several beds. Above is the original garden when we moved here. The soil is rich, beautiful and loose. You can dig potatoes with your bare hands but because of the trees, the garden doesn't get as much sunlight as would be ideal. The fence divides our garden from our neighbors. Zucchini, watermelon, and hollyhocks grow along the fence. Strawberries, potatoes, broccoli, lettuce, chard and pumpkins are planted here. In back is our garden shed and compost bins.

Another shot of the same garden. When the strawberries were finished, we planted corn along the strawberry rows. It is just an experiment to see if it works to multi-crop in this way! We could make our garden bigger but we are trying to use every inch first!

From the garden shed you can see the other garden areas. To the right is the children's garden, on the left is the asparagus and grape arbor.

To utilize space, we planted pumpkins and winter squash along the pasture fence behind the asparagus and grape arbor. Vine crops take up so much room and we usually didn't plant them but this year we are making use of this wasted space along the fence.
Our largest vegetable garden. This was pasture when we moved here. The soil is good though not as nice as the first garden. We are slowly adding organic matter and trying to improve it.
Vegetables are growing well! These tomato plants are taller then me! In this garden is planted zinnias, green beans, peppers, basil, marigolds, tomatoes, onions, carrots, potatoes, and corn.

Another view from the opposite end of the same garden.

On the hillside beside the garden is my herbs, garlic, butternut squash and newly planted blueberry bushes. The blueberries are tiny and barely surviving and completely unseen on this photo!

Thanks for visiting! Whether your garden is a pot on the deck, or an acre truck patch, I'd love to see it! If you have a blog, take a few pictures and leave a link in the comments so we can come visit!

Monday, July 20, 2009


Seven Wonderful Years!

Thanks for making marriage awesome, Ed!

Hoping for many more years!

Through Child's Eyes - Raising Tadpoles

Back in April, my sis-in-law shared some newly hatched tadpoles with us. I thought it would be a great hands-on-nature project for the children. But I had as much to learn as they did!

First of all, what does a tadpole eat? I figured if we gave them pond water, there would be something in the water for them to eat. After several weeks, I began to wonder if I was caring for them correctly, none had died, but they were not growing either! A quick google search (make that Swagbuck search!) found that you could feed tadpoles fish food flakes or boiled lettuce leaves. Did you know that boiled lettuce has the exact same appearance and feel as scummy pond weeds! But the texture apparently appealed to the tadpoles as they ate a huge amount of lettuce leaves! I must have been starving them!

It took a while, but eventually they began to grow back legs. More time passed and one little guy grew some front legs and lost his tale. Now we really did have a frog! But he promptly died. The next tadpole to grow front legs joined the first in his demise. I had a large rock for the baby frogs to climb on but I learned that newly turned frogs can drown. I got a new jar, placed stones on the bottom and just a small amount of water. As tadpoles would grow their four legs, I'd place them in this jar, where they lived happily ever after.
Well, not quite. Now the frogs would not eat lettuce leaves. And I didn't know what they would eat! Worse, their water was getting a lot of little squiggly larvae of some sort. I figured it was mosquitoes and I wasn't going to sit around and watch several hundred mosqitioes emerge from the tadpole jar!

It was time to move on! Or move out! The children didn't like losing their tadpole pets, but like most pets, mom was the only one who was caring, watching, or otherwise involved in the pet's life. They really had gotten tired of watching them anyway. We walked down to our neighbor's pond and found a nice shallow spot on the pond edge and gently placed the new frogs into the grass.

The same week we found two little frogs (or toads) by our garden. They were just tiny things, but about twice the size of the ones we raised. They also had the same markings on their back. Whether this is what our tadpoles will become when they grow up is unknown to me - but the children loved playing with them and if we ever see them again, they'll always think they were the ones we watched grow legs!

No nature adventure is complete without books! We found two wonderful books about frogs in the library! Frogs by Nic Bishop and Face to Face with Frogs by Mark W. Moffat. The photography in these books was amazing! And the stories (facts) these books relate is even more incredible! Such as the poison dart frog that carries her tadpoles on her back to a safe growing spot in the rain forest - and returns to each tadpole to lay an unfertilized egg for it to eat! Who says frogs don't have brains! Truly our world is fearfully and wonderfully made!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Children's Garden July Update

Wow! The children's garden is growing! Look at the difference just a few weeks makes!
Playing "house" inside the corn maze. We are still losing some corn stalks occasionally, especially when little brother tries to ride his scooter in the maze and has a collision! There are a few more "doors" then the original design specified!
The sunflowers are just about ready to burst into bloom!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Zucchini Crust Pizza

Here is a different twist on zucchini that we enjoyed! My sis-in-law gave me this recipe several years ago! Ed said he does not want to give up our regular pizza, but he asked the next day if there was any leftovers of the zucchini pizza for lunch! I love the garden fresh flavor! A great way to use all the garden produce that we have this time of year! And it is so pretty!

3 cup shredded zucchini
3 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
Mix together well.

Spread on 12 inch greased pizza pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes.

Add toppings.
2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 small diced tomatoes
1/2 cup julienne green peppers
1/2 onion (sliced and rings separated)
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil
3 T Parmesan cheese

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.

For more recipes using zucchini, check the recipe category on this blog or go to Tammy's In Season Recipe Swap!

Linked to Tasty Tuesday

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Fruit Cobbler

We really enjoy this fruit cobbler and don't even notice that it has less sugar than other recipes. The original recipe came from Jess. (Hope you don't mind that I am sharing it here, Jess!) Jess and her husband produce some great honey at some of the best prices. If you live locally and do not already get your honey from them, drop me a line and I'll give you some contact info!

1/8 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
Cream together.
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
Add to butter and sugar.
1/2 cup milk
Stir in milk until just moistened. Spread in greased 9x9 baking dish.
2 cups fruit (blueberries, cherries, or peaches)
Sprinkle fruit over dough.
1/4 cup honey
2/3 cup water
OR use 3/4 cup apple juice instead of honey and water
Drizzle honey and water over fruit or pour apple juice over all.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.
Great with milk or ice cream!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sweet Cherry Pie with Lattice Crust

Last year I searched high and low for a recipe for sweet cherry pie. It seems that most bakers use sour cherries for pies but we prefer sweet cherries. I don't remember where I finally found this recipe but we really enjoyed it!

I rarely make pies. I'm more of a bread person! But when I do get around to making pie, I'm surprised how quick and fun it really is. Cherries are so pretty that it is the perfect time to do something special - like make a lattice crust! I only did this once before so I was quite pleased how this one turned out!

Dough for double crust pie -either bought or homemade
4 cup pitted fresh cherries
4 T cornstarch
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar (adjust according to the sweetness of your cherries, I used the first)
1/8 tsp salt
1 T lemon juice
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 T butter, cut into small bits

Stir together cherries, cornstarch, sugar, salt, lemon and almond extract gently in bowl.
Roll out half of dough and gently place it in a 9-inch pie pan. Trim edges.
Spoon filling into pie crust, discarding the majority of the liquid that has pooled in the bowl. (I thought the crust was not full enough so added another cup of cherries. But then the juice spilled out into my oven!) Dot filling with bits of butter. (I forgot this!)
Roll out remaining dough and cover over filling. Crimp edges and cut vent holes.
Or make a lattice top!
Roll out dough and use and knife or pizza cutter to cut thin strips.
Lay several strips across the pie.
Begin laying a strip of dough the opposite way, weaving through alternate strips.
Continue with next strip, weaving alternate strips from the first.
Continue laying strips until finished. Trim off the edges and crimp.

Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 25 - 30 minutes more or until golden brown. Cool. Enjoy

A nice option is to beat an egg with 2 T of water and brush over the pie crust before baking. Then sprinkle with coarse sugar for decoration.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Heart of Home

by Christine White

Lord, let our house be something more
Then just a shelter with a door,
May it's windows glow with light,
Shedding radiance through the night.
Not just a glitter of glass and chrome,
But give it the "feel" of a happy home.

Let it have flowers, a well-loved book,
Soft cushions in a quiet nook.
May it be more than downy bed,
Or snowy cloth with silver spread;
Lend it some smiles, warm sympathy
With kindly thought, true charity-
That all may recall, though far they roam,
That God was there - in the heart of home.

This week I haven't felt like much of a homemaker. Some of the children have been sick and caring for them, doctor visits, and interrupted nights have left not much time or energy for anything beyond the basics! If it wasn't for post dated posts, it would have been rather quiet here on this blog. Our children have been so healthy that it takes a week like this one to really see how blessed we are! We are still awaiting some test results but I think (hope) we are on the road to recovery. I had typed up this poem last week and I thought of it often these last days. I'm so glad that homemaking isn't just about freshly baked bread and spotless kitchen floors, or I would have been a miserable failure this week! I only survived by the help of a husband, sister, and freezer meals! But placing God at the heart of our home is something all of us can do! And a God-centered life is really the only worthwhile life anyway! May He be praised!

Friday, July 10, 2009

You might be a book addict if....

Your husband brings home a bookcase - and you can't imagine anything sweeter! I would take a bookcase before roses and dinner out! And I fully admit I have a hopeless book addiction!

Ed found this bookshelf on Craig's List. It is not fancy but it is large and sturdy! Works for me! We set it up in the dining room. If you've been to our house, you know that the dining room is the only room of our house (besides bathrooms) that did not already contain a bookshelf -or two!
Bookshelves containing photos and "accents" were unknown at our house before this bookcase arrived. Our many bookshelves were stuffed to capacity. It is nice to have room to "spread out"! Since it is a few steps from our kitchen, I even placed some dry pantry items in blue glass jars on the shelves. While I setting up this new shelf, I took the opportunity to organize all our books. It was fun to have the option of placing books together by topic instead of just "where they fit"!

Organizing books is like a reunion! I love visiting old friends! The worst part is that I found numerous books that I'd really like to reread and a more that I've never read yet. Since I already have four books started at the present time, I really should not begin any new ones! I added a few more books to my Paperback Swap list. Empty shelves mean that we can get more books, right? I visited a yard sale last week and brought home a new (to me) stack of books. Also, through Swagbucks, we've earned $30 worth of Amazon gift cards, which I'm eagerly anticipating using! There is no way that a lifetime contains enough time to read all the books I wish - but I can have fun trying!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

After the success of the chocolate zucchini bread, which I shared yesterday. I decided to try to lighten up another favorite recipe. We all loved the results! Two-third cup of the oil was replaced with applesauce, the sugar decreased and whole wheat flour added. I have found that using mini chocolate chips somehow makes it seems there is more chocolate then regular size chips. Here is the recipe.

1 1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
2/3 cup applesauce
1/3 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla
2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
2 cup shredded zucchini
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Beat sugar, eggs, applesauce, oil, and vanilla together. Blend in dry ingredients. Stir in zucchini, nuts and chocolate chips. Pour into two greased loaf pans. Bake for 50-60 minutes at 350 degrees.

Do have any favorite tips on making favorite recipes healthier?


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