Thursday, April 30, 2009

Thursday's Livestock and Garden Report~ Week 5

i can't believe that it's Thursday again, and time to have my "show and tell" of what we've been doing this week!

Dave disced the whole lower garden for me, and baby B was glad to ride along and help. that girl sure loves the tractor!

then, G tilled the garden, to prepare the soil for planting. we had a slow start due to a broken belt, but we got that fixed in no time, and were able to till and plant potatoes before the rain. (all NINE ROWS of them!)

we also got the onions planted, and A was glad to help. she came walking down the row toward me, and said "do you need any help, mama?" even though she had a hard time telling which way to plant the onions, i was glad for her company.

the beets are planted as well, and will benefit from the rain that we had. we're expecting more rain tonight and tomorrow, and I'm glad for that!

but so far, the only thing that i actually growing in the lower garden is pumpkins. lots of pumpkins. i can see that it was not necessary for me to buy a packet of pumpkin seeds, as the renegades will most likely take over the entire garden!

last week we got our new pigs. I've not really seen them too much, as they spend most of their time skulking hiding in their house. the pink one is a female, and the red one is male. Dave has already said that the red one will be ours, and we plan on butchering him ourselves in the fall.

someone stopped by last week to give me some watercress. it's doing very nicely in the frog puddle, and I'm looking forward to some watercress sandwiches.

one of our hens went broody, and she's been diligently sitting on the eggs for almost 2 weeks. we're excited to be looking forward to having our own chickens. A is not understanding that these peeps will come from the eggs, as all our chickens so far have arrived in the mail.

the johnny-jump-ups are blooming all over my flower garden. their little faces look so happy and cheerful!

so there's another week of hard work and growing things. thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

i enjoy the simple things of life

last fall i was given a housewarming gift of a box of spring bulbs. on a very cold and windy fall day i planted almost 100 tulip, daffodil and hyacinth bulbs.

today my garden is pleasantly spotted with all the colorful blooms.

and I'm enjoying this simple little bouquet on my kitchen windowsill.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

my brain must have burped or something...

even though I've been pretty sparse and sporadic about posting regularly, i have been making an effort to keep my sidebar updated with all our Garden 2009 news and happenings. (and even though it's not Thursday, I'm giving you a little update.)

if you've been following my updates there, you'll have already noticed that i put in a new button- "Give What You Grow". i found out about this ~not so new~ concept in my bloggy wanderings. i can't even remember how i stumbled upon it.

anyway, it's pretty easy. just share whatever you grow in your garden with the local food bank, or others in need. (just click on the picture and you can go see for yourself.)

when i bought my *150 pounds* of seed potatoes, it was March. it was cold. it was windy. this winter was the longest that i can ever remember. spring seemed a long way off. and most importantly, I'm a very optimistic person by nature.

and i thought- heck, how much potatoes that really be, anyway?

and my family really likes potatoes, and in many different ways.

(while I'm optimistic by nature, i could definitely not be described as astute. this is evidenced by the fact that all my farmer friends from church kept asking me incredulously "how many pounds of seed potatoes did you say you bought?" then the farmer would invariably shake his head in amazement and then turn to another farmer and say "did Jennifer tell you how many pounds of seed potatoes she bought?" at which point that farmer would shake his head in amazement. i should have realized what i was in for several weeks ago...)

well, fast forward to today, and a very healthy (and hot) dose of reality.

let me just tell you that *150 pounds* of seed potatoes is alot of potatoes. ALOT.

G and i have been working steadily all afternoon, and we still have 50 pounds of potatoes to cut and plant. we're on our 5th row of potatoes, and the rows keep getting longer and longer...

but here's where my nifty new button comes in. God has abundantly blessed my family though the years, in many miraculous and even amazing ways. and this year, with my garden and the produce that i hope will be produced, i plan on sharing our abundance with others in our community who may not have as much as they need right now.

and i think that maybe I'll start with all my farmer friends; because the Good Lord knows that we can't eat all those potatoes ourselves!

Monday, April 27, 2009

busy moms can use all the help we can get!

the garden is almost in full swing now, and already I'm finding myself very busy, and it's so easy to get overwhelmed. with gardening, children, school, cooking, cleaning and laundry... I'm finding (all over again) that i need to be very organized and disciplined in order to be a good manager of my home.

easier said than done, i know!

but, a few weeks ago at our MOPS meeting, an extension agent from Penn State came in and gave us a talk about preparing frugal, but quick meals. while almost everything that she mentioned i already do regularly, she did have a tableful of pamphlets to share with us. and buried among the shopping lists, food pyramids and sign ups for canning classes was a "template" for creating a casserole. there are 6 steps: the base (rice or noodles), meat, sauce, seasoning, veggies and topping.

i was intrigued, and have already created my own casserole, and have plans to try several more. i can see that in order for me to reliably feed my family healthy meals in this busy gardening/spring season it's going to take some preparation on my part. and this handy chart will certainly help!

rice (2 cups water, 1 cup rice) or
noodles (cooked)

9 - 12 oz. tuna or
1 ½ cups cooked chicken or
1 lb. cooked burger

¼ cup milk mixed with 1 can soup or
white sauce

½ cup chopped onion and/or
celery and/or
chopped green pepper

2 cups veggies or
16 oz. can veggies, drained

2 T. bread, cracker or cereal crumbs.

the basic instructions are to pick something from each step, and then just go for it. I've already made a casserole using rice, burger, cream of celery soup and peas. ( i would not recommend trying it yourself, however!) i have several possibilities that I'm thinking will turn out slightly more appealing...

noodles, burger, cream of tomato soup, salsa, corn
rice, chicken, cream of chicken soup, peas

with the simple addition of the 2 basic kitchen staples that they overlooked (tomatoes and potatoes) the possibilities can truly be endless.

and hopefully edible!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thursday's Livestock and Garden report~ Week 4

another busy week has sped by, and there is lots of stuff to tell (and show) you. I'm glad for all my readers- those of you who have followed my blog from its very boring beginning, as well as those of you who have become recent followers. thanks to all of you who take the time out of your own busy days to see what we're doing here on our little homestead in northern PA.

Dave decided that this was a weekend for planting potatoes, so that's what we did! i went crazy buying seed potatoes, so we're sure to have lots of fresh potatoes to eat, as well as plenty to share and sell.

we planted 40 lbs. of the Yukon gold here in the upper garden. these potatoes are not keepers, so they will be nice and handy for me to go out and dig for easy summer meals.

A was intrigued, and was of course more than willing to help her daddy plant the potatoes. i cut them up, and we'll readily admit, the chunks are bigger than normal. they are also planted a tad bit close, but we have so many...

(remember, i bought 150 lbs. of seed potatoes! there are 50 lbs. each of Yukon gold, kennebec and red Pontiac)

before we were even done, A was happy to help water the newly planted potatoes. she has a watering can, and is able to get water out of the frog puddle all by herself. and with those trusty yellow rain boots, this is a job that any 2 year old would love!

this is not technically the garden, and obviously there are no animals either. however, this is the completed walkway that G and i did this week. I'm really very pleased with how it turned out. last night before the rain, i transplanted some of my abundant day lillies, and now the walkway looks like it was done by a professional landscaper! with the completion of this path, you can now get into our house by both doors without tracking through the mud. i will fill out both of these garden areas with more flowers as the season goes on. but for now, it's off to a really good start!

on Friday, we had a pleasant and welcome surprise when a friend from church stopped by with a trailer load of farm machinery that he had bought at an auction. we were very pleased to buy both a plow and disc!

Dave immediately drove down to the lower garden to try out the disc, and of course it worked just fine.

then on Saturday, before he headed off to work, he taught me how to plow. it's not that hard, and it was a very satisfying job to do. i was done in no time at all, and was thankful that we have a tractor, and not horses...

A and B were thrilled to be outside with us, and collected lots of worms from the freshly plowed ground to feed to the chickens.

another task that i finished this week was the "final" plan of the lower garden. my two favorite books this year are Carrots love Tomatoes and The Joy of Gardening. as i mentioned last week, i am gleaning advice from both these books to plant wide rows, with companion planting to help deter critters from devouring all my hard work!

i spent time making a *color coded* diagram that i was hoping to share with you, but my computer is being stupid and won't let me. if i get it figured out, I'll upload it later.

the end of last week we worked hard to get all our fruit trees in the ground. Dave dug most of the holes, but N helped with the holes for the plum and cherry trees. A was glad to supervise.

B watched over her daddy while he planted the cherry tree, all while she was munching on an apple.

A helped with the apple and peach trees. as he was digging the holes, Dave took out the heavy bottom layer of clay soil. when he planted the trees, he used only the top soil and some rich, black soil that he dug from the old barn foundation. the trees should do very well, and we hope to have fruit of our own in just a few years.

the meat birds were moved outside to their hoop home. they will remain in this hoop house until their unfortunate demise on June 17. however, they are right by the garden for now, as the oats and clover are not up yet.

A loves to help me feed the chickens, and insists on having feed in her own little bucket. they are eating so much now that i need to feed them 3 times a day!

A made sure that they are all settled in. it's still a bit chilly here at night, so their hoop is covered with another tarp, and they have a light bulb inside to help keep them warm.

we've had lots of rain this week to help our onions, potatoes and day lillies get a good start. hopefully next week we''ll be able to get more of our garden in. until then, i hope you have the chance to get outside yourself and marvel at the wonder of God's creation, all fresh and new for spring.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

a little bit more of some kitcheny love

this gorgeous quartet of hand towels arrived on my doorstep, all the way from Florida a few weeks ago. my MIL made them for me to match my new kitchen and new dishrags.

i had mentioned that the hand towels that i had were all ratty, so she promptly got to work crocheting these up for me.

now, do i have a great MIL or what?

Monday, April 20, 2009

breakfast of champions- cheap and easy!

i love to use my crock pot, and have collected several favorite recipes that i use over and over. especially with the busy gardening season coming on, i foresee using my crock pot even more frequently. i make crock pot granola several times a week, as we seem to consume fantastically large amounts of sweetened oats.

the cast of characters:

REAL butter
flax seed
raw sunflower seeds
maple syrup
banana chips

and of course, rolled oats. now of course, for your average family, it's not necessary to buy such a huge quantity of oats at one time. however, i will tell you that it is much cheaper. and plus, we will go through this bag in about 3 months or less. i kid you not!

add the oats to your crock pot, and then sprinkle on the ground flax seed. then dump in the melted butter and the maple syrup. toss in the sunflower seeds and mix it all around, making sure to evenly coat all the oats. vent the lid- i just use the spatula that i will be stirring the granola with.

turn your crock pot on high, and stir the oats when you start to smell them. do this several times, and then turn the crock pot down to low. your granola will start to smell really good, and get a little bit toasty looking, too.

and an extra piece of advice- make your granola late in the afternoon, or in the morning when you'll be in the kitchen working anyway. because if you're tired, and forget all about the granola you promised to make for your son, and don't stir it...

let's just say that the chickens ate extra healthy last week.

this is how the granola will look when it's done- toasty, but still slightly moist.

then i dump it into the bowl, and add the currants and chopped banana chips.

G loves to have a bowl for breakfast, or lunch, or for a snack... A and I enjoy it as well, but Dave won't touch the stuff. i think that he might be afraid that it's too healthy!

Crock pot Granola

10 cups rolled oats

1 stick butter

12 oz (1 ½ cups) maple syrup (or honey)

3 T ground flax seed

½ lb. raw sunflower seeds

½ lb. currants ( i like to use these because they are smaller than raisins)

½ lb. sweetened banana chips

sometimes i also use: mini marshmallows, mini chocolate chips

dump oats into crock pot. melt butter, combine with maple syrup and mix with oats. add sunflower seeds, and cook on high for 2 hours. vent crock pot, and stir occasionally. turn down to low, and continue cooking for (maybe?) another 2 hours. add currants and chopped banana chips. serve and enjoy!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thursday's Livestock and Garden report~ Week 3

it's been a busy week around our little homestead, with barely enough time to do the laundry, cook dinner and correct tests, never mind keep all you faithful readers up-to-date!

but as promised, here is much of this weeks happenings, in no particular order!
B loves to drive the tractor! even though it's Dave's tractor (a mere technicality) i drive it more often than he does. whenever it's time to move the pigs, stones or mulch, baby B is sure to ask me for a ride.

the doors are on the high tunnel, and Dave has it tilled, furrowed and ready to plant. i hope to get that done in the next week or so. we still need to cover the ground with black plastic, and with the temperature consistently hanging around 80 degrees during the day, the tomato plants are sure to do well. we have 3 flats of tomatoes, and though they are a bit on the small side, i think that we may plant them anyway.

this is a little triangle of land between our little run-off stream and the road. the layer hens are in their chicken tractor just to the left of this picture. here Dave (and A) are tilling under the winter rye, which we planted last fall as a cover crop. in the distance, N and B are picking rocks. (G was helping, too, you just can't see him in this picture) after Dave had tilled under the rye, we all picked rocks. i can't even tell you how many wheelbarrow loads we hauled out of this little plot! but, many hands make light work. after we picked *most* of the rocks, Dave broadcast oats and clover. after it's fairly well established, we'll put the Cornish X meat birds in this triangle. they also will be in chicken tractors, and if we're faithful about moving them daily, this planting of oats and clover should last for several years.

A was happy to help her daddy with the tilling. that handle is just at the right height for her to hold onto and walk right along behind.

Dave and i both got a little bit impatient waiting for a 2 plow, so he started preparing this lower garden with the rotor tiller. much of the sod was already broken up from the pigs, so the job was not nearly as hard as we thought it would be. the tilling was done not any too soon, so G and i planted our onions from Gurney's on Good Friday afternoon. shortly after we were done, the gentle spring rain began, watering the onions and giving them a good start.

i am nearly done planning out the layout of this lower garden. I've been reading several different books, and I'm looking forward to trying out a combination of wide rows and companion planting. this week we got back our soil sample test results from Penn State, and with the exception of magnesium, our soil is pretty crappy needs some attention. we'll be addressing that issue in the next few days.

but first, G needs to back fill the rather long, large and deep trench that he and his brother dug for their paint ball wars. the trench filled with water, and with me planning on spending so much time down in the lower garden, it was obvious that it would not be safe for the little girls to be around. yesterday i helped by bulldozing as much of the dirt back into the trench as i could, but there was only so much that i could do. this job is high on the list of things for G to complete, and now that the trench is draining, it's made the garden too wet to till or plow.

on the left you can see the pig tractor and Dave's my tractor. both pigs went to the butcher on Monday morning, and I'm pleased to say that it was an uneventful trip. Dave and G had built a pig crate, and since the pigs were used to it, each of them went right in when it was time, making the transport quick and easy. we're expecting the call from the butcher in a few weeks, when all the meat will be ready.

we have just a few days down time between pigs, as our new feeder pigs will be ready for pick up early in the week. we're getting them from the same friendly farmer as we did last fall, and I'm grateful that he had 2 pigs for us. it is difficult to get feeder pigs around here, especially at this time of year. we are considering raising feeder pigs ourselves, since there is obviously a market for them. more on that topic in another L & G report.

the Cornish X chicks are growing rapidly, and are well into their second 100 pound bag of food. we've moved them outside into the "teenage" chicken pen, and with their new 3 gallon waterer and 3 feed troughs, i only have to feed them 2 times a day. they are nearly all feathered out now, and soon they will go into their more permanent housing. at 4 weeks old today, they are already 1/3 of the way to butchering day!

the buffs are 3 weeks old, and are also feathering out nicely. they are still in the mud room in a giant box, and will likely stay there for another week or so. now that the buffs are older, we are turning off the light for them at night, since it is stressful for them to have light 24 hours a day.

the mini greenhouse is full again, as i just started a bunch of seeds last night. we're onto round two with the cauliflower and broccoli, and hopefully it will do much better this time. I'm thinking that the reason that they got so leggy was because it was TOO warm in the greenhouse? i also started my daisies- both Shasta and gloriosa. there is also some sedum, for ground cover between our rock paths. i started lots of basil, as fresh pesto with tomatoes and pasta is one of my very favorite meals. i usually make tons of pesto with the fresh basil when i have it, and then freeze it to enjoy the rest of the year. cilantro is another favorite of mine, and I've been collecting salsa recipes that I'm eager to try out. tonight i will start several flats of marigolds, and that should be it for a few weeks...

we've also tilled under the winter rye in the upper garden, and plan on spending some family time tonight after dinner out there picking rocks. you would not believe the amount of rocks that are in the soil- and not just tiny little rocks, either. big honking rocks- and plenty of them! we've treated the soil up here with lime, and will also add some fertilizer and phosphate. we plan on planting 50 pounds of Yukon gold up here, with the remaining 100 pounds of red potato and kennebec in the lower garden.

our trees arrived this week, and we'll have pictures of the "orchard" to show you in the next L & G report. the cold frames are doing well, with lettuce and radish up. however, i need to manage them better. with so many other things going on, it's easy to forget to tend to the little plants in there.

that wraps up this edition of our Livestock and Garden report. now i must go and finish dinner (chili and cornbread) and tend to those things that I've been ignoring while I'm typing all this out!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Monday- the universal laundry day

Julie, one of my favorite bloggers over at OCTAMOM, was blogging today about balance. as in, how hard it is to balance all our responsibilities as wives, mothers, teachers and home keepers. i say a big, hearty amen to that!

while i may be doing well in some aspects of my home management, laundry can so quickly get away from me. i don't know what in the world happened, but just today i have:

* dirty laundry in baskets

* wet clothes in the washer

* clean, dry clothes on the line

* dirty, sorted clothes in the laundry room

* dry clothes in the dryer

* clean, dry clothes on the drying rack

* piles of laundry on the bed, waiting to be folded

* wet clothes hanging on the line

* clean, dry clothes in baskets waiting to be folded

* wet clothes waiting to be hung on the line

i think that maybe I'll forget about getting a cleaning lady, and get a laundress instead. I'll talk to Dave about it when he gets home. that is, if I'm not buried under a mountain of laundry!

Friday, April 10, 2009

the other half of Christmas is almost here!

spring is here, and along with the promise and renewal of new life that naturally comes with it, we are waiting with joyous anticipation the profound miracle of Christ rising from the grave. with His sacrifice comes the completion of the gift that we were given at Christmas. the arrival of a new baby, wrapped in rags lying in the manger, is triumphantly transformed into the risen Savior, victorious even over death!

the little girls can relate to the wonder of a newborn baby boy, but to explain to them the agony and despair of Good Friday is a difficult task. and how can they begin to grasp what Jesus really did for us when He died on the cross as our blood sacrifice? too many big words and concepts that they cannot begin to understand.
for now, we will celebrate that Jesus loves them. A and B are fully and deeply loved by their daddy, and that is their best introduction into the love of God. when they are older, they will be able to understand how much God loves them, because they are secure in the knowledge of how much their daddy loves them.

we will continue to build their foundation, and will teach these two little ones how much the Father loves them, and what He sacrificed for them.

even though Easter and Christmas are bound together as two parts of one story, for us Easter also reminds us of something else. this nativity set is a poignant emphasis. Dave brought it back from Haiti for me last year. for most of the last few Easters, Dave and M have been down in Haiti, serving as short-term missionaries with ARM. both Dave and M have had the opportunity to serve in the mobile medical clinic and construction teams.

i know that Dave has been profoundly impacted by what he has seen, smelled and observed in Haiti. although I've never had the privilege of serving alongside him, i feel as if I've been in the tiny town of Gallette. his descriptions and memories have almost become my own recollections. i hope to some day have the chance to travel to Haiti myself, and see the things that are only in my mind's eye.

M has a very compassionate and tender heart, and last year she was thankful to be able to assist in a more hands-on way with the mobile medical clinic. it was her second Easter down in Haiti, and being older allowed her the maturity and insight to better process all the experiences that she had and observed.

this is a picture of the gully, where most of the people that Dave and M were ministering to lived. these are just cement block houses, stacked one upon the other, much like Legos. there is no running water or electricity. no sanitation. no windows or doors, either.

we cannot begin to fathom the poverty that the majority of Haitians live with. but despite the daily struggle to merely survive, the people are sustained by their sincere and absolute faith in God. many times i have heard Dave tell us of the glorious celebration on Easter morning. despite the fact that their church is merely cement blocks and a tarp for a roof, that assembly of believers is worshiping a risen Lord with their whole heart, and with their loudest praise.

we who have been blessed with so much can surely do no less.

Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

if I'm sitting at the computer... inside...

... then I'm not outside doing all the stuff that i have to do. or doing all the stuff that i have to do inside.

things are busy around here, (did i mention that already?) and it's not that i don't have stuff to write about. or stuff to tell you.

but if I'm writing, and not doing, then there is no stuff to tell you about, and I'm not getting my stuff done.

i haven't forgotten about all you faithful readers. I'll tell you about the stuff we're doing now when i catch up on my stuff.

stuff. stuff. stuff. that's a neat word that starts to sound weird if you say it enough times in a row.

'nuff said.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

pork and sweet potatoes. yummy!

I've mentioned before that a dear friend gifts me with all her cooking magazines. (hello, Miss Wanda!) i really enjoy looking through them, and choosing new recipes to try for my family. this one, Sweet Potato Pork Skillet, was a keeper and i thought that i would share it with you.
Cast of Characters: pork chops (i used pork loin), olive oil, pineapple tidbits, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, sweet potatoes, green peppers, cornstarch. and rice, which is not in this picture.

and just in case you didn't notice, I'd like to point out that my salt is in the salt pig. from the same dear friend that I've already mentioned. i really like it! (both the pig and the friend!)

slice up the pork loin. cut up both the sweet potatoes and green peppers into chunks.

brown the pork in olive oil in a large skillet. sprinkle with salt.

make sauce using brown sugar, cinnamon and pineapple juice. stir into skillet and add sweet potatoes. toss to coat. bring to a boil. cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.

add green peppers and pineapple tidbits. (and yes, maybe you noticed that in the picture my pineapples were sliced, and not tidbits? I'll have you know that i saved a whole 10 cents by cutting them into tidbits myself!) cover and cook for 10 ~ 15 more minutes or until potatoes are tender.

now it's time to cook your rice. if you have a rice cooker, these little gadgets are the niftiest thing going. if you don't have one of these small, metal time savers, run right out and buy yourself one. i got mine for $20 at Wal-mart.

now you're ready to add the cornstarch and pineapple juice mixture to thicken up the sweet potato stuff. bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes longer.

serve over rice. with homemade applesauce if you have it. super yummy, and way easier than it looks. it's a good company meal: easy to make, impressive to look at, and tastes great to boot! the really exciting part is that next year, i'll be able to make this same recipe using almost exclusively stuff that we've grown!

here's the complete recipe. let me know if you try it, and how you and your family like it. I'd love to hear from you!

Sweet Potato Pork Skillet
4 pork chops (or pork loin)
1 T olive oil
1 can (20 oz.) pineapple tidbits
3 T brown sugar
1/2 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
1 medium green pepper, cut into chunks
1 T cornstarch

in large skillet, brown pork in oil. meanwhile, drain pineapple, reserving juice; set aside. in a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and 1/2 cup of the reserved juice. stir into skillet. add sweet potatoes; toss to coat. bring to a boil. reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15 minutes. add green pepper and pineapple; cover and cook for 10-15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

meanwhile, cook rice according to package directions. in a small bowl, combine cornstarch and remaining pineapple juice until smooth; add to the skillet. bring to a biol; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened and bubbly. serve with rice.

yield: 4 servings (i doubled it)


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