Monday, December 9, 2013

More Rain for the Christmas Season!

      So, I am not doing well keeping up my blog site.  "What was I thinking?" I can tell you, I thought this would be an easy, relaxing thing to do in the afternoons when the kids hit the bed and my hubby was busy.  I did not realize, however, that it requires a LOT of maintenance on my part to keep up with.  It is the 10th of December and no post for November and well, it is not looking real good for December. 
       Truth be told I want to share with others how easy and rewarding homesteading can be.  It does take a chunk out of your time.  We have a new Jersey bull calf we are bottle feeding and the rain, rain, rain will not go away.  It means that animals that usually love the open field are very unhappy.  We added a jenny to our pasture to help with coyotes.  She came to us totally afraid of humans so we have been working with her also.  In addition to our usual chores.
       November was very busy, my hubby and I both share a birthday in November along with one of our boys, my brother and both of my sister-in-laws.  There is Thanksgiving to consider too.  We did just as usual, had my hubs family over on a Sunday afternoon and Thanksgiving lunch at my parents. 
       We have had a terrible stomach bug that has been passed through just about everyone in the house and we are saying prayers of praise for those who have not had it.  Hosted a Ladies Cookie Swap here last Saturday too.  I know there are no pictures for todays post, but I will try to get some on here of what our decorated farm home looks like for Christmas.  I do love to decorate for the holidays so I would like to share that with you. 
       My garden is filled.....with hay and cow manure.  There are no veggies left now.  We plowed up the last and it has become the catch area for all things stinky till spring. LOL!!!  It makes for great fertilizer and helps put back some of the natural nutrients needed for good veggies next summer.  I am continuing to milk my goat till February then I will freshen both of my dairy goats at the same time to minimize having to take care of kids on and off.  I enjoy babies, but you never know what will happen with them.  Hoping my newest girl will be a good first-time momma.
       Well, I am listening to thunder.....that is right folks, Tennessee, in December.  It seems an appropriate time to get in bed and enjoy the sounds of rain on the windows and thunder in the distance.  It is a heavenly sound that reminds me of spring and flowers bouncing back to life after a cold winter.  But, the reality is spring is far away and so are the beautiful colors it brings.  SO off to dream of a warmer, less rainy time creeping months away from now.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Where Did September Go????

     I have to say SORRY.....I have no idea where September went.  I was so very busy harvesting, taking care of animals, getting ready for 2 trips, I just did not have the time to write.  I do have to admit that my computer went on the blink for about 3 weeks and I did not have a back-up plan, and mysteriously one day I turned it on and it fixed itself...(Isn't that scary?)  I was overjoyed to have it back and not to have to spend a penny having it repaired.  Thank you Lord, You are so good to me.
     Well, are you dying to know what has kept me busy.  Homesteading of course.  Let me just tell you, it IS a full time job.  The rewards far outweigh the trials and pains you encounter on a day to day basis, but this is NOT for the faint of heart.  I have harvested so many pounds of peppers that I have lost track of how many bags I have in the freezer.  They will come in handy for pizza, making salsa, spaghetti and chili in the (hopefully) cold winter to come.  I gathered probably the most beautiful bunch today.  These are just my bell peppers and sweet bananas, the jalapenos I will get tomorrow, I plan on making some salsa tomorrow and want them fresh from the garden.  With a lot of luck, they will bloom and continue growing till frost.  My plants were hardy through all the rainy summer we had, and look better and stronger everyday. 
     I am continuing to pick the largest peppers and leave the smaller ones to grow and by doing this once a week, they are having time to grow really large.  We have stuffed so many, I think my hubby is growing tired of them.  So the question arises, "What to do with all these peppers?"  Well I am a southern girl and southern girls like of you are wondering what cheese has to do with peppers.  I remembered a Christmas party I went to last year and there was a block of cream cheese on a platter with this green stuff running all over it.  I tried to stay away from it cause it looked....well....not as beautiful as the other dishes, however, it was flying off the platter very quickly and I decided I must try this before it disappears and leaves me regretful.  It was this creamy, cool, sweetness with a flash of spice, the yummiest I have ever had on a cracker.  I was in love!!!  So now armed to the brim with loads of peppers, I knew I MUST have pepper jelly for this years party appearances.  You absolutely have to know, it does not smell good, nor taste that good while cooking..(this is free advice)..but the product you come away with is outstanding poured over cream cheese and served with crackers. 
     Enough about peppers, what else has been going on.  Well, sadly we sold two of our beef calves.  Winter is coming, that means less grass for the ones we will be eating ourselves.  We have kept one for next years beef and one for the following.  We will pray God provides replacements for what we will consume.  I just want to be honest, next winter can wait as long as it likes, it will be sad when Brown Cow goes.
     The ladies have been slowing down on production, I cannot tell you how I hate having to feed 25 hens and get 2-5 eggs a day.  Some of those ladies have seen their last summer.  In the meantime, we are trying to cook the eggs while we have them cause I do realize that soon enough they will stop laying when they all enter molt...ugh.  
     The goats have been well, which is a blessing in itself.  Geez it is hard to keep them happy and healthy.  I wish we had acres upon acres of pasture, but it is acres and acres of woods.  I do enjoy it and am blessed, but we have 2 choices, clear out some more land, or move them in the front yard (Guess which one I refuse to do..LOL).
     I have truly enjoyed the last few weeks we FINALLY took a family vacation 3 weeks back.  It was so enjoyable to not have to worry about the farm.  I have, with out a doubt, the best friend who took care of my girls while I was absent and milked for me.  We went to see several shows while on our trip, which is something we usually cannot do with a family of 7.  We just planned out our trip differently this year so we could take advantage of some discounts.  I also took a day trip with some good friends and just got back last week from a relaxing weekend with 8 sweet ladies.  Break is over until next year, with Thanksgiving and Christmas fast approaching.  It was so sweet to just enjoy being....I love the mountains, I love to ride through with the windows rolled down and the crisp smell of autumn in the air.  It is a sensation I will never get over, and I try to relive as often as I can.  I want my kids to appreciate it, the beauty God has created around us, the smells, the colors, the sounds.
     The sounds....I hear them outside now, with their dad, enjoying precious time together making a campfire and setting up their tents. Just like heaven to them. It is such a fun, innocent moment in their lives, and a great way to spend Friday night.  Then reality hits and the door opens, and there stands hubby with our littlest screaming (he obviously does not care that he is keeping everyone up talking) and now has been ousted from the party outside.  So to the tub for a scrub and a cup of juice to make everything better.  He will be glad he slept in his own bed tonight.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Making Goat Milk Cheese

   This weekend was very busy.  I am trying to do so many things to get caught up so I can get into the fall spirit.  I would just love to walk into my kitchen and it not be a mess of canning jars, buckets of apples, and puzzle pieces (courtesy of my three year old).  I have visions of a beautiful walnut table with a center piece of fresh cut Limelight hydrangeas in the middle, instead of piles of homeschool books and supplies.  I wish my floors were shiny instead of streaked with mud and standing water from the kids running in and out of the house from the barn and pool.  I do realize that would mean my kids would not get to fully enjoy living on a farm to do that, and I want them to enjoy every minute! 
   I wanted to do something productive yesterday and in the middle of the mess, I somehow came to the conclusion that making cheese was just that thing.  We have been milking our goat, Bernice, for about 2 months now.  She gives about 3/4 to a half gallon of milk a day.   I had some extra and had been eying a video on youtube of a farmer making it with only apple cider vinegar.  I figure I can't go wrong with that and it does not cost a thing, since I had everything on hand. 
   I started by putting a half gallon of milk in a heavy sauce pot and heating it to the boiling point, to which I then add a 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar and the milk began to curd.  I was half way to making my first batch of homemade cheese and had not spoiled a thing yet...YEAH!!!  I turned off the heat and continued to stir until it did not curd any more.  I poured my curd and whey mixture into a dish towel over a strainer and a large stock pot.
   I then continued by pulling up the corners of my dish towel and twisting it and mashing it to get as much water out of the cheese I could.  I then had a perfect ball of cheese.  I could not believe I actually had done it.  I was so proud of myself.  I could just taste the hot cheese on crackers and could not wait for it to cool so I could have some.

    I cut into it and added some kosher salt.  It was delicious!!!  ALL my kids loved it.  It does not taste "goaty" it does not have an off flavor.  Just delicious fresh cheese.  We ate it on bagels and just by itself.  But I wanted a cracker to go with it.  I went to the cabinet where we keep our crackers....I knew I just opened a box.  I went to the pantry.  No crackers!  I could not believe I had this perfect cracker topper and there was no cracker to be had.  Then my oldest offered that sissy and the little one ate the WHOLE box in a sitting while I was busy doing something else.  THE WHOLE BOX!!!!
    I just have to say that owing my own milking goat has been a investment totally worth it.  We have already recouped what we paid for her in calf milk replacer and at least 6 to 8 gallons of milk over the last few weeks. In the afternoon and early morning when I am out milking and everything is quiet it is just a moment of silence that can make your day perfect.  There is time to think.  You can talk to the Lord while you milk and no one bothers you...... for just a moment.  But then you go in the house to eat your crackers and cheese and then remember, the reality is 2 children under the age of 6 ate a whole box of crackers in one sitting.  What can you do but just smile and go on with your day.

Monday, August 19, 2013

A New Place for Hay

     Well this was the weekend to finally finish the shed for our fall hay cutting.  We have a list of things that we need to be doing before cold weather comes.  The calves have outgrown the small lot we fenced in for them in May.  We need to add another pasture if we are gonna use grass to sustain them.  We are having to feed a lot of hay to make up for the small lot they are on.  Our chickens have made our barn a HUGE MESS.  We need to switch places with the goat lot and get them out!  They bother Bernice, our milking goat. When I am trying to milk her, they create a most unpleasant experience for both of us.  They eat her food, fly up on my, and her back, and they try to look in my milk bucket while I am milking!  Don't get me wrong, I love my fresh eggs, but.....come on girls!!!!  The barn needs a coat of paint on it since it is saw milled wood.  Oh and about 30 other little things that I couldn't even name.
     The hubs came in and proudly announced Friday,"I am gonna get the shed finished if it kills me!"  True to his word first thing Saturday he and dad were at it.  This project has been going on for quite sometime.  A few months back we knew we were gonna need a shed for hay.  The barn is just too full of animals and tools.  We began looking at homesteading blogs for ideals.  How could we build a shed and do it VERY inexpensively?  We just decided we would make it out of logs!  We have a lot of trees on the property and they don't cost a thing.  Pines, don't you just love them?  That was our choice, so about 6 weeks ago dad and hubs set out to haul them in.  Then life happened....  I wondered how long it would take them to get back to it, there has been much rain delay figured into this project.  They can't drag out all the logs needed unless the ground is dry enough for my dad's large tractor.
      They finally did get three logs in the ground 3 weeks ago and then it just stood there like a redneck tribute to Stonehenge.  I am sure people had questions about what we were doing......
     The guys did, however, finish their project by Saturday afternoon with only a little bloodshed, and help from our oldest (he would be so glad I mentioned him.)  Now, please don't bring the levels, cause you know our woods only produce the straightest pine logs around.  No, seriously  it is neither level or straight!  But the total cost was around $25!  We probably used $20 in gas for the 3 tractors we used.  Yes, I said 3, and it took everyone of them.  The screws were left over from the barn build, cost would be around $5.  So, anything you imagine is possible if you have a little ingenuity and grit. 
     I am thinking that the most heavenly part of the weekend had to be for my oldest.  He got to spend the day with his Dad and Paw, learning to work like a man.  Enjoying their banter as they work.  I never got to meet either of my grandfathers.  They both died long before I was born.  My kids are so blessed to know both of theirs and a great-grandpaw!  I know he will remember that weekend he put the roof on the shed.  He will remember Paw bringing up the tin to them in the bucket of the tractor, while they pulled it off and put it into place.  I wonder if he will ever pull in our driveway and pass that shed without thinking of that.  I have to smile, because I know that those are the things we remember when we grow older.  The moments we share with the adults in our lives as we are growing up.  The reality of it is, he IS growing up, right before my eyes.  I wonder where we will be in 5 more years.  Will our "simple" life appeal to him, I hope so.  I hope he will look back on these days and remember getting to grow up at home.  My biggest prayer is that he will grow to know the Lord more everyday of every year.  That is where he will find his true calling in it the farm, or the city. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Apples Everywhere, and a Flower Bed Full of Weeds

    Well, I have finally worked my way through a little more than half our apple stock.  I started off over the weekend and just decided I was gonna get some done.  I pulled out a juicer I have had in my cabinets for a very long time, after my three year-old's incessant rantings of,  "I want apple juice!"  (I have a friend or two who can testify that it never stops unless he has a cup of it in his hands.)  I made the first batch from some tiny green apples, they were delish!  He and my only girlie were singing my praises...."more juice, more juice"...However, it does take a huge pot full of these little apples to make a half gallon of juice.  I juiced the bigger apples next and BOY THEY WERE SOUR!  My mouth still waters thinking of how sour it was.  How in the world will I get them to drink this?  My mom saved the day, she told me to make a simple syrup equal parts sugar and water heat it till the sugar melts and cool it and add it to the juice.  BINGO!  It is still better than that stuff from the store and FRESH!
    Now off to make some applebutter.  I have personally never made the stuff.  I wanted something spicy and sweet to cover up the sour apples.  I found a great recipe that called for cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves.  4 cups of sugar to sweeten and 3/4 cups of juice (I just juiced enough to add to the applebutter too)
I made a run in a heavy sauce pot... the butter was a light golden color, and the overnight crockpot butter was a beautiful deep amber color.  I made these on Saturday but canned another 11 pints this morning of the wonderful stuff.  I think I will attempt to put the rest up as apple jelly and apple sauce, till we make another run to the mountains to restock.
    I love to be in the kitchen working away while the kids are playing at the table.  It reminds me of my grandmother who was always in the kitchen cooking something.  It makes me feel close to her.  She was drinking out of Mason jars before it was cool ya'll!
     I would love to get tons of applesauce stocked up.  My goal is not to hoard all this, but change the way we eat.  My parents always do a garden every spring, putting up corn, green beans and okra is a tradition.  I have NEVER bought any of these items from a store and it saves TONS for a family of 7.  I do want to have other things at our disposal so I am not constantly making trips to the store for "something sweet"  so the applebutter will go a long way in making apple pies, apple muffins, fritters, cakes, topping for pancakes. We just want to use what we have and quit buying so much "junk."  God has so blessed us in the area of our garden, He has always been faithful to give us rain, and sunshine when we need it.  I want to be able to bless others too with excess when we have it and nothing is a greater gift than fresh food!
     On another note, school is in full swing at our home.  I am trying to manage taking care of all our animals, getting 4 out of 5 kids motivated to do school, getting myself motivated (LOL)  Don't act like you don't understand that last part.  All the meanwhile my yards is a foot tall, and my flower bed is ...ummm...well..let's just say we might loose the little one in there!  I did make a pitiful attempt at mowing a third of our yard this afternoon, but it just looks like waves of kelp floating on the top of the ocean.
     I am constantly thinking about all the things I need to do, but then realize that the JOY in life is being in God's given place, at that VERY moment when your kids all love each other and their laughter fills the space you are in....what a slice of heaven.  But, then we go out to the front yard to play and I realize.... that the reality of it is," I have a flower bed full of weeds!" 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Up To Our Knees in Apples!

  So, in homesteader fashion, me, my dad, and my 3 oldest boys headed out to Starr Mountain to a friend of ours to pick some apples.  I was so excited to see the trees loaded with beautiful green and red apples.  It reminds me of fall and that feeling you get when you smell the fresh apples baking in the oven.  I think back to my younger days, when life was more carefree, driving home on our road where the tree tops seem to bend over and release their beauty on the ground.  The leaves dancing on the pavement over the joy of fall and the hues of each red, orange, yellow and brown color filling my path home. 
   I long for fall.  Don't get me wrong, there is nothing better than swimming in the creek and being out in the garden.  But fall is my FAVORITE season.  So off to the mountains we go, the boys are screaming with joy over their bounty of large apples, but me, I am just enjoying time with my dad and the beauty and simplicity of the moment. ( I have a sneaking suspicion that my desire to be out in the open and living off the land comes from him.)  We picked until all the buckets we took were full.  Then sadly left the mountain to come back to our home to get busy.  The thoughts were racing through my mind on the way home, apple butter, apple jelly, apple pies, applesauce, cooked apples, baked apples, apple fritters, apple doughnuts.....oh the possibilities.
    But then reality hit and I have dinner to fix, a house to clean, animals that are requiring special attention, and I realize that my grandiose plans will have to wait till tomorrow.  So, I helped my mom peel and cut up a batch for jelly, we made a pie and then I traveled home to begin dinner.  I went to the computer to get a idea on baking apples and came across a simple recipe.  I cut the apples put each one individually in a bowl and layered the recipe over the top.  I baked them and served them to my children....not the reception I was hoping for....2 ate the baked apples and the other 3 decided they would forgo dessert tonight.  Not sweet enough for them, but was exactly what I needed.  My hubs did eat it, so it was not a total bomb...LOL
    Now what to do with the other 60 lbs of apples....only tomorrow knows.  So there you have it,  heaven today was enjoying time with my loved ones doing something very simple......but the reality is there are only so many hours in a day, and when you have apples up to your'll just have to wait till tomorrow :)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Here We GO!

  Well, it has only taken me 2 weeks to figure out how to set up a blog.  I am so new to this computer stuff.  I was a computer major in college.....BUT, that was over 12 years ago and over 5 kids ago.  This is a new thing.  You might ask why?  I am interested in sharing our "homesteading experience" with others looking into the same thing.  It is also an outlet for me to the world, since I spend most of my time at home. 
    I have had so many of my friends tell me I need to write a book about the goings on around here.  So, it is also a good way to remember life as it happens.  Hopefully, it won't be boring and it will be helpful.  I have found so many blogs a great help along the way as we add each new animal or skill to our homestead.
    So, today on the homestead.....looking out our back door at some of my kids playing our oldest, our youngest and our only girl....playing tug with a small 4 wheeler, a strap, and a broken riding toy.
Our oldest is the driver with our girl riding with him, followed by my 3 year old being pulled on a 4-wheeler that no longer runs....GREAT FUN!!!!  Isn't the heavenly part of homesteading getting to see your kids grow up together with an endless amount of ideals to try?  Now, on the other side of this sit a bucket full of apples asking to be cut and put away, a load of laundry to do, dinner dishes to put away, and a failed attempt to make pancakes for tomorrow morning. This is my reality when that sweet moment from heaven passes.