Wednesday, December 30, 2009

my poor neglected blog!

life is busy~ Jesus' birthday, the big kids are home, friends and family visiting...

cooking, cleaning, laundry...

livestock to butcher...

quilts to finish...

a spring garden to start thinking about and planning for...

thanks for stopping by~ faithfully~ even though there is nothing interesting posted...

I'd like to get several posts up soon...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

it was a rough week for the livestock...

it was a really busy week here, with a lot of blood and gore being flung around...

after finishing up with the 3 deer that we got (1 roadkill and 2 on the first day of deer season) it was time to launch right into our next project~ butchering the pig!

she was slaughtered on Tuesday, and after hanging all night (in the 20 degree weather) we butchered her on Wednesday.

i plan on doing a post about our experiences~ it was not nearly as difficult as you might imagine to butcher a pig, and we have lots of fresh meat. the hams and bacon will be ready by Christmas, and we're really looking forward to that!

while we were on a roll, we went ahead and butchered 20 chickens on Thursday. only 30 more to go this next week, and then we're all done for the season! our freezers will soon be groaning...

i, for one, will be relieved to be done. we've been raising chickens since last march!

also, there are pig butchering pictures up over on facebook, so if you're a friend, you can see them now... here's a link, even if you're not:

and that nasty pig stomach is still in my fridge. i think I'll just chuck it- i have to draw the line somewhere!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

in which the blogger rambles on a bit, and also hops up on the soapbox

can i just say that we live in a really strange world?

'cause maybe you won't realize that unless i tell you.

remember the other day when i told you about our new Christmas family tradition, the Jesse Tree? when i googled "Jesse Tree" to find some suggestions about our ornaments, there were results of well over 1 million. actually, it was closer to 1, 060,000.

today we butchered our pig.

or maybe to be more accurate, today we slaughtered our pig. the butchering part comes tomorrow.

and now you're wondering if there really is a point to this post?

it's coming, just hold on a sec...

anyway, i saved the pig stomach. because Dave likes hog maw. i never even heard of it until i married him, but apparently it's a local delicacy that he grew up eating. or something like that.

and because I'm a really good wife like that.


now i have this really disgusting thing sitting in a bowl in my refrigerator.

and i don't quite know what to do with it.

so i did what any modern, technologically savvy person would do. i googled "preparing a pig stomach for hog maw"

and i got 4,130,000 results. four million, one hundred thirty thousand results.

like i said, it's a very strange world that we live in.

and that thing is still sitting in a bowl in my fridge.

frugal AND festive... and a quilt sale just to make it fun!

this year I've done alot of quilting. (check out the quilt gallery to see just how much!) before starting to cut any piece of fabric, i need to "square it up" using the rotary cutter. this leaves me with a piece of fabric that is 45" long and usually about ½" wide. I've been saving these pieces all year (thinking that i might colorfully tie up my tomato plants) and just this week i got a chance to use them.

i wrapped all our Christmas gifts in plain old newspaper, and then tied a piece of fabric festively around the present. some of the fabrics are a Christmas print, others are super bright, and some are just plain pretty. i love how the packages turned out so simply, with just a hint of color!

festive and frugal works for me!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

it's a winter wonderland!

yesterday we had our first "measurable" snow fall; that is, if you don't count that slushy muddy mess we had back in October.

G and i promised to take the girls out after nap time, and we all had a fun time.

we made sure to do the "potty thing" before bundling up to go out. it makes life so much less stressful that way! (i learned that useful tidbit from watching "A Christmas Story". and don't forget the phenomenally helpful lesson of never to stick your tongue on a frozen flagpole...) both girls had fun playing in the snow, and carrying it around. (i couldn't convince them to make a snow angel, though) G had fun lobbing snowballs at all 3 of us.

either he has exceptionally bad aim, since he didn't hit any of us.

or he has exceptionally good aim, since he didn't hit any of us.

we also had fun sledding down the little hill by the side of the house.

and look what arrived in the mail last week~ just in the nick of time~ a mitten tree! Dave's dad, bud, made this for me. i gave him a picture out of the lehman's catalog, and he designed this mitten tree just for our family! he's amazing like that.

although, judging by the number of mittens that are on the tree after only being outside for less than an hour, he obviously should have made it about 4 feet taller!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

we have a new family christmas tradition~ a jesse tree!

for several years now, I've been hearing about a Jesse Tree. finally, this year, we're on the ball enough to begin this thoughtful tradition with our own family, specifically the two little girls.

apparently, I'm a little slow on the uptake, as the Jesse Tree fever has been sweeping the bloggy world for quit a little while now. if you google "Jesse Tree" you'll get no fewer than 1 million results. 1 million!anyway, the premise behind the Jesse Tree is an advent preparation, tracing the spiritual family tree of Jesus Christ, retelling many of the bible stories that lead to Christ's birth.

each day, beginning with the first Sunday in advent, there is a brief devotional. we're using the book that can be found here. ( i will say, however, that this book is a bit young~ and brief, so as the girls get older we'll be switching to another, deeper devotional.) after G and i read the passage for the day out loud, i read the same story to the girls from their little study bible. (also found here.)

then we hang on the ornament that represents the story or person. so far, that is the biggest hit with the girls. (of course!)

i like that this "advent calendar" (of sorts) puts the whole focus on Jesus, and the reason that we celebrate. it's been a meaningful tradition for us so far, and although it's probably too late to start one for your family this year, there is always next year!

then you'll have lots of time to make wonderful ornaments! (unlike me, since I'm usually scrambling around at the last minute trying to make the days ornament!) your ornaments don't have to be fancy- there are lots of patterns to be found on line. here and here are some cute ones that can be simply made out of card stock, felt or foam. (scroll down to see the Jesse Tree patterns) if you want to see how another blogger made this tradition meaningful for her family with really cool ornaments, you should go visit Shannon at rocks in my dryer.

I'll update periodically and show you our ornaments. but meanwhile, make the time to celebrate meaningful traditions with your family as we prepare for Jesus' birthday!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

exotic bird spotted at local birdfeeder!

this morning we looked out the window, and were amazed to observe a rare sighting of an unusual bird!

of course, it's just our pesky indian runner ducks gobbling up all the wild bird food. ironically, the ducks have the very same cracked corn in their little hoop house (seen in the background), but they seem to think that pilfered corn is much tastier!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

it's time to prepare your heart and home for Jesus' birthday!

i know this is a day late, but I'm hoping that my good friend Martha will understand that i was a little bit busy chopping deer into little bits yesterday.

i think that if we start right now, we can probably catch up on this list~ i know that I'm going to really try!


December 1~Blanch carcass from Thanksgiving turkey. Spray paint gold, turn upside down and use as a sleigh to hold Christmas cards.

December 2~Have Mormon Tabernacle Choir record outgoing Christmas message for answering machine.

December 3~Using candlewick and hand gilded miniature pinecones, fashion cat-o-nine tails. Flog gardener.

December 4~Repaint Sistine Chapel ceiling in ecru, with mocha trim.

December 5~Get new eyeglasses. Grind lenses myself.

December 6~Fax family Christmas newsletter to Pulitzer committee for consideration.

December 7~Debug Windows XP.

December 8~Create snow sculpture replica of Bethlehem at the birth of Christ.

December 9~Align carpets to adjust for curvature of Earth.

December 10~Lay Faberge egg.

December 11~Erect ice skating rink in front yard using spring water I bottled myself. Open for neighborhood children’s use. Create festive mood by handmaking snow and playing my Christmas album.

December 12~Collect dentures. They make excellent pastry cutters, particularly for decorative pie crusts.

December 13~Install plumbing in gingerbread house.

December 14~Replace air in mini-van tires with Glade ‘holiday scents’ in case tires are shot out at mall.

December 15~Take dog apart. Disinfect. Reassemble.

December 16~Child proof the Christmas tree with garland of razor wire.

December 17~Outfit neighborhood rats with tiny antlers.

December 18~Adjust legs of chairs so each Christmas dinner guests will be same height when sitting at their assigned seats.

December 19~Dip sheep and cows in egg whites and roll in confectioner’s sugar to add a festive touch to the pasture.

December 20~Drain city reservoir; refill with mulled cider, orange slices, and cinnamon sticks.

December 21~Float votive candles in toilet.

December 22~Seed clouds for white Christmas.

December 23~Do my annual good deed. Go to several stores. Be seen engaged in last minute Christmas shopping, thus making many people feel less inadequate than they really are.

December 24~Bear son. Swaddle. Lay in color coordinated manger scented with homemade potpourri.

December 25~Alphabetize all the Christmas gifts for family and friends and cross-reference by color and size.

December 26~Write and mail Christmas thank-you notes. Order cards for next Christmas. Estimate number of cards needed by allowing for making new friends and actuarially appropriate death rates for current friends and relatives.

December 27~Organize spice racks by genus and phylum.

December 28~Build snowman in exact likeness of God.

December 29~Hand sew 365 quilts, each using 365 material squares I weaved myself used to represent the 365 days of the year. Donate to local orphanages.

December 30~Release flock of white doves, each individually decorated with olive branches, to signify desire of world peace.

December 31New Year’s Eve! Give staff their resolutions. Call a friend in each time zone of the world as the clock strikes midnight in that time zone.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

happy hunting grounds!

yesterday was the first day of rifle (shotgun?) deer hunting season. Dave was eager and ready to go out hunting. he has a tree stand right down below the lower garden. while the kids and i left for Harrisburg to meet the bus back to BJU, Dave was off hunting in the rain.

and after several (many?) years of not getting any deer at all~ sometimes not even seeing a deer all day~ he got 2 deer: a doe and a button buck, and was back up in the house by 8AM! now that's what i call efficiency!

the girls were up, and Dave got them dressed and took them down into the woods to "help" gut the deer. they were very excited for their daddy, and were happy to pose for some pictures~ my two little rednecks!

the doe was much larger then the other. the button buck was probably this year's fawn. ( i made Dave some tenderloin steak for lunch, and it was definitely tender!) i cut all 4 loins out of the deer and made them into steaks.

the remainder of the deer meat we cut off of the bone. i canned 14 quarts of venison for stew, and the rest we made into burger, using our brand new meat grinder, a 1HP Sam Baer. we ran the meat through the grinder twice- the first time using the 3/8" blade,

the second time we used the 1/4" blade. the meat grinder did a really nice (and quick) job, and had no problem handling the bigger pieces of meat.

deer meat is really easy to can, and I've heard that it tastes very tender. we just cubed the meat into about 1" chunks. i heated the meat, so it wasn't going in the pressure cooker cold. after washing my jars and sterilizing the lids, i hot packed the meat into the jars. i added 1 teaspoon salt, and filled the jars to the shoulder. i added hot broth, and ran a wooden spatula around the jars to get out all the air bubbles. then i pressure cooked them at 10lb. for 1 ½ hours. since i have 2 pressure cookers, it was pretty painless, and relatively fast.

thankfully i had some freezer wrap on hand, and it was almost enough to do the 16 1½ pound burger packages that we got.

with the 14 jars of stew venison, the 16 packages of ground meat and the 3 packages of tenderloin that i froze, we have 33 meals that the family can eat!

I'm sure pleased about that!

and no, i don't feel guilty for eating Bambi. remember how much of my garden he and his mamma ate this year? sunflowers, beans, summer squash, beets, carrots, winter squash and sweet potatoes.

so the way i figure it, we're even.

but just barely!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

a sneak preview~ i have so much to be thankful for!

last week i had the forethought to buy my turkey, instead of waiting to the last minute. (as I'm prone to do) i bought the biggest turkey i could find, which turned out to be just a little bit bigger than my pot. but with some determined stuffing and cramming i managed to make it fit in there!

i decided to roast the gigantic bird today, to alleviate the rush and stress in the kitchen tomorrow. A and B were excited to peek in the oven to see how it was doing.

and here we have it~ roasted to perfection! yum, yum! our thanksgiving table will be groaning with bounty tomorrow~ turkey, stuffing (old family recipe), peas and corn, cranberry jello (another family tradition), buns, apple pie and pumpkin pie (G's request, rather than pumpkin whoopie pies) and mashed potatoes.

i have so much to be thankful for~ not just tommorw, but every day of the year. on the top of that list is my loving husband and houseful of children.

life is good.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

spreading the love...

last week i finally managed to get the 5 bushels of apples on our front porch canned for the winter. usually we put up as many as 10 bushels, often trying to get that done in one crazy long day of canning.

but that was back in the days of having 4 helpers. this year it was just G and i, and i procrastinated for longer than usual, feeling rather trepiditious about tackling that many apples with just one helper.

i must be getting wimpy in my old age!


i just wanted to share with you the recipes that we use to preserve our apples for winter- applesauce (of course), apple butter and new to this year's line up: apple pie filling.

Gramma Jean's Applesauce

(makes 13 quarts)
Add to your finished applesauce:
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup honey
1 t. salt
4 t. cinnamon
1 t. nutmeg
½ t. cloves
if very bland can add 1 T lemon juice

mix together, and hot water bath quarts 20 minutes

Apple Butter

5 quarts prepared PLAIN applesauce
10 cups sugar
1 cup vinegar
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. cloves

combine and mix well in crock pot. cook on low until thickened to desired consistency. stir regularly. ( i cooked mine for a long time; the butter reduced to 7 pints!) hot water bath pints 10 minutes.

Dave and the girls like this on their morning toast. it's the new favorite.

Apple Pie Filling

8 quarts sliced apples (do not use a soft apple!)
3 ½ cups cold water
14 T cornstarch
5 ½ cups sugar (not so much if apples are sweet)
4 t. cinnamon
7 t. lemon juice
1½ t. nutmeg

mix all but apples, and bring to a boil; gently add apples and fold together. pack into jars and hot water bath 20 minutes for quarts.

this recipe is fairly easy (it just takes forever to slice all those apples yourself!) and it makes the task of making apple pie super easy! i bought some pie crusts on sale (for shame!) and making a fresh apple pie for dessert is not a hassle at all.

crumb topping
½ cup flour
½ cup sugar
½ cup finely chopped walnuts
1 stick butter

combine and sprinkle over the pie before baking

finally, with the completion of apple preservation i can finally say that I'm done canning and preserving for this year! after i make sure that my kitchen notebook is accurate, I'll be removing the putting stuff up list from my side bar.

it's been a long and busy season, and we're thankful for the abundance of fruits and vegetables that God has provided! we'll be eating well all winter long~ and we have lots of extra to share with friends!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

look both ways before crossing the street!

if you're one of my regular readers, you may have noticed that the traffic is a bit busier than normal today. that's because I'm "hosting" a stocking giveaway over at weareTHATfamily. Kristen has written a flattering post about my quilts and stockings, encouraging all her readers to come on over and have a look.

if you haven't stopped in at the Quilt Gallery lately, please do! i finally finished moving around the furniture and unpacking all the boxes, and the quilts are all hanging up for display. there are a few new quilts, as well as some more coming soon.

and of course, be sure to stop in at Kristen's blog for your own chance to win the set of Christmas stockings.

it's sure to be a busy and exciting day; i'm so glad you stopped by. if you're new here, consider coming back again~ it's been nice to have all of you!

Friday, November 06, 2009

if at first you don't suceed... try, try again!

another month has sped right by, and it's the first Friday of the month. as in First Friday celebrations and general frivolity downtown in our little town. that means that it's time for the town bake off again, and this months' theme was pumpkin.

so after obsessively licking my wounds and nursing my pride from last month's disappointing results, i gathered up my courage (and my pumpkins) and decided to try again.

and no offense to Pioneer Woman, but this month i decided to go with my new favorite foody blogger, Bridget. she makes the most awesome cookies~ absolutely incredible! most of her cookies look too wonderful to eat. but don't worry, they are the best ever roll out sugar cookies I've ever made. (even if they don't look anything like hers! but that's another post for another time...)

moving right along...

after much agonizing, pondering and far more indecision than I'm normally given to, i decided to make Bridget's pumpkin whoopie pies, which she adapted from a Martha Stewart cookbook.

and can i just say? that was probably the best decision i made all week.

meaning~ i won the town's pumpkin bake off contest.

would it be bragging if i said it again?

I won the town pumpkin bake off contest!

*insert blogger's little happy dance here*

so the moral of the story is: Martha really knows what she's doing when it comes to stuff like flour, sugar, eggs and butter. just run the other way if she starts talking about the stock market!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

in which the blogger offers up yet ANOTHER lame excuse...

all is well here at our house.

well, mostly.

if you don't count the computer, sewing machine and digital camera.

all of which have decided to die in various degrees of severity in the last week.

that's why you haven't heard much from me.

on more than one occasion, i have found myself drifting idly around, wondering what on earth to do with myself.

no computer?

no sewing machine?


but i have managed to find myself a new time-consuming past time.

administering medications via nebulizer.

four times daily.

times two.

BOTH little s have bronchitis.

apparently Dave was hoping that i would use some of my free time to clean.

and G was hoping that i would do some baking.

it's not looking good for either of those things, but as for snuggling on the couch and reading stories?


and double check.

Friday, October 16, 2009

it's a sneak preview for all my favorite readers!

I've been working very hard getting some special stuff ready in preparation for a giveaway that I'll be participating in at Kristen's blog.

on November 10th, she'll be hosting her weekly giveaway, and that week it will be a set of scrappy his~n~hers Christmas stockings that i made.

how cool is that?

but if you don't want to wait until then, or if, perchance, you don't win the giveaway... you can still get yourself (and your brood) your very own stockings. you can go see them here.

another thing that i was feverishly working on all last week was: QUILTS! i had an opportunity to exhibit some quilts in a local fall festival. while i was disappointed to not sell any quilts, i was able to spend more time than usual quilting. and what can be so bad about that?

in conjunction with the giveaway, i wanted to post an on-line quilt gallery for people to see what I've made, and (hopefully) purchase some of my quilts. i anticipate an increase in bloggy traffic after the 10th, so i want to have everything spiffy and ship shape for all my visitors.

the gallery is not quite done yet, but there's lots of pictures (and inspiration), so head on over and take a looky~see!

Monday, October 12, 2009

it's so easy, i know you can do it!

a little while ago i promised a free quilt tutorial from my quilting class that i taught at the Ben Franklin in September. here, (at long last) it is! (and i guess it's been even longer than i thought since i posted last. after trying unsuccessfully to log into blogger, i found that i had forgotten my password! imagine that!)

anyway- this quilt, Trip Around the Scrap Basket, (and tutorial) is taken from the book "Slice 'Em and Dice 'Em Quilts"

while this quilt may look overwhelming with all the triangles, it's actually very easy once you break it down into manageable (and understandable) parts. this quilt is made entirely of squares ~ 9 patch blocks and also larger squares.

before we really get started, remember that it's always important with quilting to have an accurate 1/4" seam allowance. a sixteenth here and a sixteenth there can quickly add up, causing your quilt to not go together properly. that's really frustrating when you've spent money and time on piecing the top. so take the time to check for accuracy- you'll be glad you did later! also, i almost always use grey thread in the top and bobbin when quilting. it's a universal match, and if you wind several bobbins ahead, you can really make good time.

this quilt, as I've already said, is made up of 9 patch blocks. (it's actually very similar to the Tossed 9 i pieced last winter.) the center square of the 9 patch is always the same- in my case, the yellow. the inner 4 blocks are your lightest fabric (tan) and the outer 4 are the colors that you've chosen to make predominant in your quilt. (blue and brown). look at my square below to help make that a bit clearer.

the selection of your fabrics is actually the most difficult part of this quilt. it is very important that the center square is different in color and/or value from all the other fabrics that you choose. and the lights need to be LIGHT ~ not just sortakinda light. (and don't use muslin either, that's too 1980's!)

i chose a multitude of blues and browns for my quilt. I've laid out all the fabrics that i used in my quilt, just to give you an idea. my quilt is significantly bigger than the one in the book, so i needed lots of different fabrics. (this is where we all do a happy dance for the invention of fat quarters~ a great way to build your stash without alot of money)

since the center square is the "dark" and the inner 4 are the "light", that leaves us with "medium" for the outer 4. it's important that all your fabrics be of the same value. an easy and quick way to determine if all your fabric choices are "keepers" is to take a digital picture of them and then change it to black and white. you can see above that all my fabrics "read" with the same "value". there are no fabrics that jump out at you. again, this is very important to the design of this quilt- you want the eye to travel around the quilt, and not get stuck on any particular fabric.

if you're still with me at this point, you're home free! the rest is easy-peasy! these squares are all 3 ½". (including seam allowance) you can either strip piece them, or do it the traditional way. (which is square by square) the orientation of the outer 4 blocks (my blue and brown) makes absolutely no difference. trust me on this one. just make sure that you've used an equal amount of each color.

once you've pieced all your 9 patch units cut them up into 4 equal sized blocks.

now, here's where the really interesting and intriguing part comes. from all your blues and browns, cut squares that are 4 3/4". draw a line from corner to corner diagonally. then match this plain square to one of your quartered 9 patches. with a 1/8 seam, sew down either side of your drawn line.

make sure you orient your quarter 9 patch unit like is in the picture. trust me on this, too.

next, cut the new unit apart on the drawn line. press, with the SA towards the square.

after you've done this to each of the quarter units of the original 9 patch, you'll have 8 new blocks.

here's what happens if you're not paying attention and orient the square units the wrong way on the quarter 9 patch. since these are the only 2 that i did wrong in my whole quilt, I'm not feeling too bad about it! (and besides, i needed this example to show to all my students, right?)

for each 9 patch that you sew, you'll get 8 of the new blocks, so plan accordingly. my quilt is 14X18 units square. that means i only had to make 32 9 patch blocks. with quick and easy strip piecing, surely that's not an unmanageable number! with an inner border of 2" and the outer border at 4" my quilt finished at 67" X 83"

if you click on the picture of my completed quilt, you'll be able to see how to arrange all your squares. if you have a design wall, more power to ya! otherwise, wait until the kids are in bed and lay it out on the living room floor. you'll want to do this to make sure that you don't have 2 like fabrics next to each other.

i quilted this quilt (in a evening) using invisible thread (and a walking foot, of course), and stitch-in-the-ditch. (the backing is brown)

if you really love this quilt, but don't want to make your own, it's for sale. contact me if you're interested in buying it. soon my quilt gallery will be up and running, so you'll be able to see some of the other quilts that i've made.

this quilt was fun (and easy) to make, and since the old-fashioned 9 patch is one of my favorite blocks i really enjoyed the new challenge and look that resulted from this old standby. already I've had one of my children drop a not-so-subtle hint that this quilt would make a wonderful graduation-from-college gift.

I'll have to ponder that one for a spell.

8 women signed up for this class, and i remembered to take pictures of 3 of the quilts. you can see the great variety that is accomplished just in the different fabrics chosen.

Sondra made this quilt for her dog (!)

Carla's grand daughter will be the happy recipient of this quilt.

and (???) made this quilt for her bed. notice that she did hers differently, and it turned out just fine. all her 9 patch squares used only blue (in the outer 4), and her other square units were brown exclusively. i was worried that it would not work, but obviously this is a beautiful quilt!

if you decide to make a quilt of your own using this pattern, please feel free to ask any questions about some of the important information I'm sure I've inadvertently omitted.

and by all means, e-mail me a picture of your competed (or not) quilt! I'd love to see what you've made.

so would my 8 other faithful readers!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

i would even go so far as to say that it made 26 hours in the car worth it!

when we took M and N down to Bob Jones University in August, the highlight of the trip was that Papa and Nanny drove up from Florida to spend time with us.

the girls regularly talk to nanny and papa on the phone, but it had been over a year since they saw them.

it took the little girls some time to warm up to the real people behind the loving voices on the phone, but both A and B were so happy to see their grandparents.

we didn't do anything more special together other than visit and spend time talking and catching up.

A is quite happy and secure in the knowledge of how much her papa loves her.

she loved interacting with him, and teasing him, as well as being teased right back!

baby B was a little bit more reserved and hesitant to be so exuberant, but she was full of smiles and giggles too!

i had a special quilt that i wanted to give Bud and Joyce. even though they live so far away, and we rarely see them, it's no doubt that they love our whole family. i wanted to give them a little something to let them know how much they mean to me, and how much we all love them right back.

our visit was much too short, but we were so happy to see them, and are looking forward to seeing nanny and papa again.

hopefully sooner rather than later!

Friday, October 02, 2009

but only if you're a world famous blogger...

on the first Friday of every month our downtown has a little shindig. there's discounts at all the stores, giveaways, activities for the children and just general frivolity and happiness. all in the spirit of Spend Money At A Local Buisness And Buy More Stuff.

i usually go and participate. that is, me and my faithful sewing machine, Miss Bernina.

we go and demonstrate whatever quilting class I'll be teaching that month at the Ben Franklin. it's just a time for me to sew in piece and quiet, and chat with any prospective students, encouraging them to come to my classes.

this month the Dry Goods Store had a little contest. an apple bake-off. with gift certificates being awarded to first, second and third place.

i thought that it would be fun to participate, being the domestic homemaker that i am.


so i signed up early in the week, paid my entry fee, bought a handful of granny smith apples and this afternoon while the girls were sleeping i made PW's Upside Down Apple Cake.

i figured that the odds were pretty good for me to win something.


i got fourth place.

and that's only if you're being polite.

there were only three other entries: emergency cake (whatever that is!), apple dumplings and a spicy pie.

so really, i came in last.

what's with that, anyway?

PW got 444 comments on that post, saying how wonderful her cake is, it's so delicious, we had it for dinner last night when George Bush came over, it's my dog's favorite dessert, this cake changed my life and saved my marriage, I'm going to run out and buy a cast iron skillet... blah, blah, blah.


so now we know 2 things: I'm really whiny tonight.

and I'm obviously not a world famous blogger.

(but i guess we knew that already, didn't we?)

next month the bake-off is for a pumpkin dessert.

if I'm done whining about it, i think i might try again.

and no hard feelings, PW.


Thursday, October 01, 2009

Thursday's Livestock and Garden Report ~ Week 27

although we still have just a few things going on in the gardens, i will reluctantly call this the last L&G post for 2009. it's been a busy growing season for us, but not nearly as busy as it could have been. we'll remember all the things that we've learned this year, and by doing better next year, we'll be busier~ and have more of a harvest. but all-in-all, it's been a good year.

here's a view of the upper garden from the duck puddle. you can see the buckwheat and pole bean cover crop. the soil is not that great, as evidenced by the stunted buckwheat, but we're still working on it!

we did finally pick the beans, and i got enough to freeze for 3 meals. the yield was disappointing, but I'm thankful for what we did get.

note to self: although i did plant these beans (back in July) as a cover crop, i was certainly hoping to harvest a fair amount of beans, both to eat and to sell. however, all that was available at Agway were pole beans. i wasn't able to stake all the beans, so we just let them crawl over the ground. they did their main job of shading out the weeds in an area of the garden that had just been tilled up. (we decided halfway through the summer that we wanted less yard and more garden) however, pole beans apparently really do need to climb. (go figure) consequently, the beans were in all stages of maturity- from blossoms to tiny beans to nicely edible to cigar size. i sorted them out for people consumption and animal consumption and just called it a lesson learned.

we pulled all the beans out, and tilled the green stuff under,

including the buckwheat. already we have a winter cover crop of annual rye and oats in. with the rain that we've received in the last few days, the shoots are already peeking through the soil. both of these crops are not winter hardy, so at some point we'll roll out some of our mulch hay.

last week we butchered our 2nd crop of chickens. that was the batch that we had such a miserable time with, having only 21 chickens to butcher! (out of the 50 that we started with!) 15 were sold, and the remaining 6 i put in our own freezer.

the chickens are winding down as well, with our final batch of 50 4 weeks old today, giving them another 6-8 weeks to get pleasingly plump.

the first crop of green beans that i planted is still growing! we left them on the tomato cages and just planted the rye around them. the girls love to go out and pick beans for the chickens.

the chickens are always eager for something green, and B is quite adept at poking the beans through the wire without getting pecked by a greedy hen.

we are getting almost a dozen eggs nearly every day, and it's hard to keep up with that production rate! i freely share with some friends from church~ but still...

soon the older hens will be destined for the pot. it seems such a shame (disloyal, even) but they're getting ragged looking and old. from the 5 older hens, we're only getting 2 or 3 eggs a day now, so there's definitely some slackers in there!

B is still enjoying some of our fresh peppers- what's left of them. i forgot all about them down in the lower garden, so we definitely could have had more for the freezer if i had remembered!

the big red pig was ready to butcher, and i was able to sell him at the last minute to someone we found through our butcher! Dave still wants to try our hand at butchering our own pig, and since it's still too warm to do that, i was so glad to not be stuck with this gigantic pig!

we got him all crated up and i drove him on his final journey to the butcher shop. we got a call later in the week that he hung at 223lb! that's some pig!

we found this praying mantis while working down in the lower garden

and had a fascinating time looking at him. a praying mantis is a cool looking bug~ in a freaky sort of way!

but the really big news is~ we bought a potato plow! with 5+ rows of potatoes to dig, any help we can get is appreciated!

it's actually a horse drawn walking plow (close-up pictures later, hopefully) but easily adaptable to our horses Massey and Ferguson. i was elected to drive, while Dave wrestled with the plow behind. the idea is to run the tip of the plow right down the middle of the potato hill, and all the potatoes just pop up and out, neatly laying in the row for the happy helpers to gather up.


there's definitely a technique for using this implement, and we're still learning. but even with several stops and starts, we were able to dig a whole row rather quickly.

we filled the wagon with Red Pontiac and kennebec, plus a few renegade pumpkins.

next year perhaps I'll grow all my veggies like we did these pumpkins- benign neglect. (and come to think of it, the whole gardening thing would be so much easier!) we did not plant one. single. pumpkin. seed. and at the beginning of the season, i was even pulling the baby pumpkin shoots like weeds! but still~ we got a respectable showing of pumpkins, did we not?

however, i can say that the philosophy of benign neglect does not work for flower beds! i really need to get out and weed before we close everything down for the winter.

i also have bulbs to plant- garlic and spring flower bulbs. i ordered some bulbs from gurney's and Dave got me tons of tulips and daffodils for my birthday so i can see another gardening day in my near future!

I've never planted garlic before, so I'm looking forward to trying it. i still haven't decided where in the garden to put them- i don't want to forget about them and accidentally till them under in the spring!

our freezing and canning is also winding to a close- just some grape jelly (today) and applesauce (next week) to do yet.

we also need to put the cover back on the high tunnel. it's getting chilly here at night (no frost) and the broccoli and cauliflower are doing well. hopefully well enough to actually produce something!

I'd also like to get a planing of lettuce and spinach in the high tunnel and cold frames. i should have done that a few weeks ago, but never got to it... i have noticed, in all my second plantings, that the plants do well, but take longer to mature and produce.

so- i guess that's it! we learned alot, and had a good time with our gardens this year. before you know it, the seed catalogs will be pourning in again, encouraging us to dream and plan for next year.


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