Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Tangle with a Fig Tree

    Wednesdays are my days at our county's master gardens. Though my required hours for completing the program are well met, I still spend the day working and learning alongside seasoned growers. Arriving today, the question was posed- could I help pick figs. Why not. I'm always up for something new.
     Figs are something I have absolutely no experience with. While a fig tree is planted on my property, it generally suffers abuse and devastation from my donkey and his goat minions. Several years of returning from straggly nubs, the poor thing is short and rather puny. As soon as little green figs make an appearance something always swipes them before they ripen.
     The figs in the master gardens stand quite a bit taller than I and span the same distance around. After an hour of wiggling around the branches pinching plump, ripe fruits I ran into a nasty problem. Hives. It seems figs and I are not compatible..fig trees anyway.
     Once the nasty itch and raised rash subsided a few suspects came to light. It seems fig leaves secrete a sap that can be volatile to the skin and eyes. Another possible culprit is sprays. Our orchard department has new management that holds to a more natural growing plan, however, it is unclear what may have been used prior to this summer. Organic or not, sprays can be a volatile contact as well.
     While my first real interaction with fig trees was less than favorable, it wasn't all bad. I found the fruits themselves to be tender and very sweet especially when eaten right after picking. Then, some amazing preserve recipes were shared while we washed and put up the fruits; mock strawberry seems to be a common favorite among my garden friends.
      How about you? Ever tangled with a fig tree on a hot summer day?  

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Oh Yes I Did...

   It started with a comment, continued with a strange notion, and became a full blown challenge when I saw it on Pinterest. Who in their right mind attempts to combine the rich glory of creamy banana pudding with moist, tender cake? At least two crazy people in this world have attempted it and let me say, the results are shameful... deliciously shameful.
   Banana Pudding Cake
    In my quest to conquer this challenge I traveled over the web to The Country Cook for an answer. I found one..but something was missing. Mulling over the recipe for days it finally hit me. The vital, key components of amazing banana pudding were missing- bananas and nilla cookies. They weren't there. No offence to the country cook, but thoughts of instant pudding and a faint dust of cookies deflated my hopes of presenting this to the spoiled rotten men in my family. 
     Not one to be defeated I posed the dilemma to my hungry fellows. They graciously and wisely posed a notion back to me. Why not simply use the 'tried and true' family banana pudding recipe with a simply vanilla cake..put the cookies and bananas in between. They are geniuses- each one of them. 

     Simply Scaife's Not So Simple Banana Pudding Cake

The cake:

  • 2 cups sugar,
  • 3 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, soft
  • 1 1/4 cups milk, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9" x 13" baking dish. Whisk or sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the butter and blend with a hand mixer until 'sandy'. Add the vanilla to the milk and blend into the sandy mixture, blending for 30 seconds until well incorporated. Increase the speed to medium and blend 30 more seconds. Add one egg at a time, blending 30 seconds after each one. Pour into the baking dish, baking 40 minutes or until cake tests done. Cool while preparing the pudding. 

The Pudding:

1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs (three if they are small)
1/2 cup flour 
1 large can evaporated milk
1 small can evaporated milk
(or skip the evaporated milk and use 3 cups full fat fresh milk)
1/3 cup butter (yes real butter), soft
1 tsp vanilla

In a heavy bottom saucepan, mix eggs and sugar, then flour. Pour in milk and stir gently (if using evaporated, measure in cup and add enough water to make 3 cups). Drop in the butter and set this over medium flame. Gently stir and cook until it begins to thicken and will coat the back of the spoon. Remove from heat, cover to prevent a "skin" forming on top, and cool to room temp.

Assemble it with:

3 bananas
1 box vanilla wafers
whipped cream

Use the handle of a wooden spoon to poke holes at random in the cake. Pour half of the lightly cooled pudding over the cake. Let the cake drink it up before layering with a hearty scattering of the wafers. Slice the bananas and scatter them over the wafers before drizzling the rest of the pudding all over the whole thing. Spread with cool whip and chill thoroughly. 

     So it was born- the Scaife Family Farm version of Banana Pudding cake. Rich, moist, dreamily delicious and so full of calories you will need to fast for a week. This recipe is so dangerous it has to be set aside with great reserve and saved for only the most special of occasions. We share it with you to use at your own risk..we are not responsible for the sugar laden euphoria that will result from consuming unrestrained portions of this amazing delight. Bonn appetite! 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Ok, Today Let's...

    Today let's meet in the sewing room to discuss the many options for backing our quilts. See you there!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

I Have Been....

    I have been:
out of my element
living out of a suitcase
swimming in research and statistics
missing my family 
and my farm

I have been:
relaxing from my travel
fishing with my guys
breathing deep the nature all around me
and watching a little boy
become a young man.

Now that I am home, it is time to catch up on chores and challenges I have been missing- oh, and apply some soothing aloe to my sunburn! See you in the sewing room tomorrow- until then, keep cool and wear sunscreen!!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Lifelong Plague of a Short Girl

   Here in the lower atmosphere dwells the few, the overlooked, the neglected short girl. Forgotten by the makers of cars, restaurant booths, and fashion designers, we short girls struggle to make it in the 'amazon' woman's domain. Truth be told, I drive with my tip toes..always have. Actually that's not true, my early years of driving found me with a phone book behind my back and blocks tied to the petals. Yes, it was the best kept secret in high school. In my forties, I can swing my feet in nearly any chair I sit in. I am that adult in a restaurant dangling her feet wishing she had a Sears and Roebuck's catalog.
   Is this a rant? No. A gross complaint against humanity? Not really. It is a shout out to all in the lower trenches with me. Ladies under the five-two mark, you are not alone. Smile with me..we reached perfection sooner than others and stayed 'just right'. Giggle at the reality that we are 'fun size'; perfect complements to our taller mates. Groan as you face the start notion you will pass it on to at least one of your children. Sorry, Jen, you got it from me:)
   Off to finish the hem in five new pair of pants..some I cut more than five inches from! Can you believe it? 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Morning Dawns

    The faint light of morning sun filters through the window as Doc's loud bellow can be heard from his stall. My alarm sounds causing my feet to hit the floor and my mind to ponder- how does he know to holler right before the alarm rings? His racket starts a chorus of noise as goat, guineas, and chickens join in.

     Coffee perks as the farm boy and I head out. He rations out feed as I set to milking. Hadassah follows him, but the barn cats follow me; bits of creamy foam are too tempting to miss. These peaceful moments at the milk stand give me pause to breath in the beauty of this life..the scent of mixed grains as Zaida crunches and paws, the furry old cat at my feet sure in her self as she waits her morning treat..hens squawk and cluck when feed arrives in their tray. Here I know who I am and what my place is.

      The farm boy and I meet inside; a breakfast of hearty eggs and fresh fruit are welcome starts to the day. We share coffee, listen to scripture study, and read the day's news. Unlike his sisters, he is quiet and deep thinking. A comment here, a phrase there..that's all we need as we go over the plans for the day. Soon I will head to the office while he tends the farm before heading to the gym when his dad wakes.

       Driving through the silver gate, the farm boy closes it behind me. I head off to places less sure; less secure than this one. Each new day brings with it demands, yet, this sure and steady start brings with it strength and grace to face whatever will come. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Crock Pot Yogurt Test

    Yogurt. There once was a time I thought this odd dairy culture concoction was for strange people with no cooking skills. I have grown since then, realizing the amazing benefits of bacteria and lactose blended and grown into this amazing probiotic wonder. My confession is: we consume a quart of yogurt daily. Yes, yogurt has become a staple in this gym-fanatical home.
I have tested powdered cultures. For me, using previous yogurt batches is more efficient.
     That in mind, one realizes it much more cost effective and healthy to culture their own yogurt than purchase that much at a time. In an effort to streamline my dairy chores, research led me to 'crock pot culturing'. Skeptical of change and anything too easy, I bit the bullet, accepted the challenge and ran a few test cultures of my own.
I had forgotten to take pictures when making the yogurt. Here the crock has a roast in it:)
     I gathered my crock pot, gallon of fresh milk, and a culture starter (generally a pint of prepared yogurt with live cultures). All of my research offered common directions which I followed during this first trial.

Crock Pot Cultured Yogurt

      Add one gallon of fresh milk to a standard crock pot. Set the temperature to high allowing milk to come to 180 degrees; it should take approximately 2 hours. Turn off crock pot.
      Once heated, cool the milk to 110 degrees. If the crock removes from the base, you may set it in a sink of cool water to speed the process. Return the crock to its base but leave it off. 
       Add the culture to warm milk, stirring gently but thoroughly. 
       Allow the milk and culture to set undisturbed 6 to 12 hours. If the kitchen is cool, consider wrapping the crock with a heavy bath towel to insulate. 
       Once the yogurt has cultured, set it in jars and refrigerate or freeze it, if desired.
In a smaller, one piece, crock pot.
      Easy enough, but not something I would likely do regularly. Did it work? Yes. The yogurt turned out..the second time. Unfortunately for me, the first time around I lost track of my task letting the milk cook to the point of no return. There are few things nastier than scrubbing scalded, cooked milk from a large white crock pot. I made a total of five cultures using this method and each time struggled with meeting the initial temp and then cooling effectively.
      This in mind, and knowing I have made milk on the stove top for years, I will not likely use this method for culturing my yogurt. I found heating the milk in the crock took way too long and was much harder to cool down again. If I had been using a crock that wasn't removable, this would have been much less pleasant. Do I recommend this method? Sure. If you are careful to watch the milk preventing over cooking, or if your crock has timer settings or heat controls, then go for it.
       What about you? Have you tested this? 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Meet Me In the Sewing Room

    Despite the ragweed, the weather, and a wounded goat we are meeting in the sewing room to finish work on this summer picnic quilt top. Tissues in hand and a few videos to help..let's get stitching!

Saturday, July 20, 2013


Hebrews 3

King James Version (KJV)
Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;
Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house.
For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house.
For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God.
And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after;
But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.
Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice,
Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years.
10 Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways.
11 So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.)
12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.
13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
14 For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;
15 While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.
16 For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses.
17 But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness?
18 And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?
19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

The Weekend Garden That Wasn't

    I am a planner; a maker of lists; a dreamer of big projects. There is always something bubbling or brewing in my mind and on my property- yet, I am human. Despite my lofty goals of getting fall tomato starts in the soil, setting runner bean seed, and trimming goat hooves I am down with a bug. The wonderful wet soil will have to wait until my tummy settles and my sinuses relax.
    In between soda crackers and ginger ale, I have managed to work a little house keeping. It wasn't too bad considering this was my first full week at my new job. At one point I seriously considered thinning my herd and downsizing the gardens this fall. Thank God in heaven that notion passed. Instead I sit here plotting a seed plan- sketching little seedlings on paper. It's good therapy.
     Back to my sipping and nibbling in hopes of a full and fast recovery- weekend blessings to you!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Flashback Friday: Salsa 2 Ways

    Last summer we had a grand total of 50 pepper plants; pepperochini, jalapeno, chili, Tabasco, even a few habanero. This summer we planted much less- two standard rows. Even with 'so few' plants, we are harvesting plenty of spicy peppers in complement to those juicy tomatoes. In honor of this week's flavorful harvest we will flash back to last summer for a look at our favorite salsa recipes.
   As far back as I can remember Salsa and I have had a crazy 'love the heat' relationship. This wonderful passion is shared between me and the farm boy..the spicier the better. Recipes shared here are for mild salsa (if you want firehouse death heat salsa, my son can hook you up!). 
   Two recipes are shared because, well, I have always made salsa one particular way until recently when roasted tomatoes became a wild passion of mine. So, first recipe..our standard fave..second love. Here we go...

Simply Salsa

10 cups chopped tomatoes
5 cups chopped green peppers
5 cups chopped onions
2 1/2 cup chopped hot peppers 
(such as jalapeno)
1 1/2 cup vinegar
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 teaspoons salt

In a large bowl, stir all together mixing very well. Ladle into pint jars (approximately 6) leaving 1/2 inch head space. Process in water bath. 15 minutes. Hint: a food processor is a wonderful friend:)

Simply Roasted Salsa

12 Roma-style tomatoes, halved
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 large onions, quartered
5 hot peppers
olive oil
1 lime

Spread tomatoes, garlic and peppers on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and salt modestly. Roast at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.
Once cool enough to touch, peel skin off tomatoes before pulsing them in a food processor (with peppers, onion and garlic). Add juice and zest of one lime..stir well before ladling into pint jars (about 3). Process in water bath 15 minutes.

   Now, break out the tortillas and roasted meats..I feel a fiesta coming on!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

July in the Barn

    The arrival of mid summer finds us searching for shade and relief. July started with temperatures topping at triple digits with humidity almost as high. Grazing needed to be done early in the morning as well as late in the afternoon. Welcome rain showers arrived this week bringing much needed relieve and restoring to the pasture grounds.
     Kids born this spring are now completely weaned, enjoying the freedom of pastures and play areas. Daily romps across the high grass are made even more joyful when paired with a session of leaping among the logs.
      Yearlings are taking their place among the adults, sharing grazing space during the early mornings. Hopefully Jubilee's first breeding season will be successful yielding another blue eyed beauty. Mattie is maturely sporting the characteristics of a herd buck, complete with beard.
       Naomi was dried off and had been sharing a field with a buck in hopes of success having proved a good mother and a wonderful producer. Unfortunately, we lost Naomi last week.
        Doc continues to oversee the operation with his grumpy frown and boisterous holler. He has yet to see the purpose of guinea fowl; their racket sets him bucking.

       The coop is open with hens loose in the corn pasture. Grasshoppers and grubs are their new favorite morning nibbling.  Hadassah keeps them in line, rounding them up when they roam too far. We had a brief run of viral infection in the flock, fortunately loosing only one. All others have recovered and have returned to the group.
       Fans are blowing, water troughs are replenished. It's a muggy afternoon here in the barn. While the livestock rests I'm off to do a little quilting and maybe get some dusting done.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

What Happened to Home Ec?

     Classroom kitchens furnished with all the modern appliances; stainless steel pots and pans just waiting to be used. Home Ec was the place little aprons were stitched and baby dolls were diapered; where many of us attempted, for the first time, a complete meal prep- all on our own. I still have the pillow designed, stitched, and stuffed by my own hands. 
      Today's curriculum finds little room for proper table settings and embroidered aprons. Instead, according to Los Angeles Times, we have left behind cake decorating for a more vocational approach to child development and culinary arts. No longer encouraged as an elective course, today's "Family and Consumer Science" program is offered as an after-school program in a 'trade school' type setting. The Department of Health, Education and Welfare felt Home Ec was outdated, needing to rise to the needs of the culture, but did it?
      An article in The New York Times posed an interesting question- would bringing back Home Ec help in the battle against childhood obesity? It is a sobering reality- many households do not know how to cook, and often have very limited knowledge of where their food comes from or how to perform basic mending tasks. Planning a budget, setting the table- even sitting at the table for meals- seems lost in the shuffle. Would this education restore the balance aiding the next generation with knowledge to make better choices? Sadly, funding needed to change is lacking- schools are just not equipped or willing to take the plunge. 
      Our hands seem tied in the matter, but are they? Not necessarily. Resources exist; we just need to know where to find them. FFA and 4H programs offer several activities/projects to assist our classrooms with agricultural, nutritional, and home ec-type training. Our state holds an extension program known as "Better Living for Texas" offering classes and hands on demonstrations for both youth and adults to learn the skills we have lost over the years. 
      As a parent, I was saddened by the reality Home Ec no longer exists. Determination drove me to find the programs, curriculum, and help I needed to implement home training for our children. I encourage you to dig deeper into your area education system and local extension office- find what works for you. If, like me, your children have outgrown it..consider helping your area teach others home economic skills. There are always places for new hands to help.  

Monday, July 15, 2013

My Perspective on Teenage Boys

    Teenage boys. It seems the mere thought of our baby's teen years can crumple even the most resolute parent. When my own children were little ones, the thought of those teen years scared me half to death. I have survived, even adapted, once my girls made it there. Now we have a boy smack dab in the middle of his teens- let me just say, it's completely different.
       My heart, as a mother, has been to raise up a young man with a heart for God and a strong sense of accountability. This is not easy, yet, nothing worth doing is. In order for such character qualities to develop, there must be examples before myself and him- this can be difficult to find. We realized early on those models were not to be found in the media, the video games, or popular culture. If we want to raise a young man who is strong, faithful, and determined to respect others we have to buck the system and search long and hard.

        The first place to start is prayer. Many a night on my knees seeking God's discernment and guidance. From there, I had to open my eyes to the role models already in our life. We are blessed with a honorable and faithful husband/father who holds to hard work and respect, grandfathers and great-grandfathers who are close enough to us to be leaders in a young man's life. Here lie primary jewels often neglected in the quest for raising up young men. Our farm boy has spent a great deal of time elbow to elbow with these men in his life gleaning skills, character, and Godly guidance from them,
          Let's expand. Home and family influence can be complemented or contradicted by external influence. Church leaders, sports coaches, and 4H leaders have come in and out of our teenage boy's life offering examples of Godly manhood and respectable behavior. Unfortunately, as a parent, we have to be present and paying attention recognizing when and if and influence lines up with the character we are teaching. It takes a strong parent to recognize and remove the issue if it is detrimental. By God's grace, we have been blessed with Godly men in so many of these areas; backing up the teaching of quality characteristics and masculine respect.
            As for friendships with peers, it seems as healthy influences are present in his life, our farm boy has been able to discern relationships very well on his own. Occasionally we have had conversations about different peers in our social realm only to realize he had already discerned the issue and been working it out on his own.
          All that said, the reality is..the farm boy is with me more often than not, leaving a relationship in itself that must be fostered. I am his biggest fan, his toughest critic, his sounding board, and a huge influence. How we relate will determine how he relates to other women, including his future young woman. My role is not only discipline and nurture, it is to show him how to treat women and how to relate with them without pushing an effeminate or demasculating character over his will.
          I have found it a fine balancing act to respect his role as a young man, yet, reveal and remind him I am a woman, I am his mother, and I am an adult. Daily we are found side by side hauling feed, working gardens, building, repairing, and handling the in and out of homestead life. We train together in martial arts, shooting, fishing, and even 'survival hikes'. A young man must be respected as a young man, yet, reminded that women are not only a complement, but have their strengths as well. When attitude hits our house- and it does- we 'work it out on the mats' or in the fields, getting that tension off our shoulders and reminding each other there is a need for mutual respect.
    Do we have it all figured out? No way. Are we working through it? Absolutely, and learning every step of the way. I did not write this to glorify myself or make my son seem unrealistically ideal. These are difficult, formative years..those of us in the trenches need to stand together and support each other as we rise to the challenge. My heart goes out to parents recognizing the dangerous and devastating reality of our culture and our children's generation. Stay strong and press on. It is so very worth it in the end. 

Remember that prayer and discernment is the key, Seek His help, and you will find a way. My husband and I are here, in the trenches with you. If there is anything we can pray with you about, or if you have an issue you would like to talk over with another parent in the trenches, please email us at God bless!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Getting Square

Today we're meeting in the sewing room to square up our strips and layout the design for our summer picnic quilt. Join us, won't you?

Saturday, July 13, 2013


Hebrews 2

King James Version (KJV)
Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.
For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward;
How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;
God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?
For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.
But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man that thou visitest him?
Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands:
Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him.
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
10 For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
11 For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren,
12 Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.
13 And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me.
14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
16 For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.
17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.
18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Weekend Gardening: July Update

    July in our southern garden means reflection and evaluation. Tender plants have long gone from the rows as many vines are following as well. Tomato leaves start to crisp next to cucumbers what wilt in the midday heat. Texas is tough on a garden; only the hot peppers thrive in this extreme heat and humidity.

     This month the last of our corn plots were harvested and put up for later. Their stalks dry in the noonday sun offering shade to the flock of hens grazing the plot. Soon those stalks will be tilled under to compost down before the next planting season. Cole crops and greens will replace the corn once soil has rested and amended.

      Our victory plot gets more bare every week; sun-baked vines suffer alongside withered kale plants. Tomatoes and peppers offer their fruits along with okra and eggplant..still hardy enough to survive. Late squash plants are just now blooming next to southern peas while gourds and pumpkins start to sprawl across empty rows. Cucumbers are succumbing to the heat offering very little to harvest, yet the basil nearby sports tiny blossoms as it goes to seed.

       In the herbal garden, mints run wild under bushy roses that stopped blooming last week. Hibiscus now offer their brilliance shading the tender lemon balms and thyme below. Fruit trees strive to get enough water next to freshly trimmed berry canes. We have been heavy mulching this plot, adding soaker lines to assist with the water demands.

       July's garden will find me canning plenty of sauces and salsas, pulling out crops that are finished, and plotting the rows for the next season's planting. Time to scavenge for compost, barter for mulch, and muck those stalls. Next week we look at amending the empty beds in preparation for the next plantings. Grow something beautiful!

Self-sufficient-ish Process

Self-sufficient: Able to provide for oneself without the help of others; independent.
   To provide and not depend..sounds so ideal doesn't it? While complete self-sufficiency is not where we are as a family, every little bit helps. In our more than twenty years of our marriage, we have made strides to be less dependent on others...better able to meet our needs without running here and there for this and that. 
   Early on, gardening was a key to our stepping away from dependence; natural foods grown by our own hands by our own methods. Every year new plots and new crops are added..currently we are growing four difference garden plots on our homestead..providing a large amount of our produce. Berry bushes and a couple of fruit trees were added last year- if they survive the drought, we hope to see them produce.
   My flock of hens were the second step...providing tasty fresh eggs and occasional meat. Since that first flock we have progressed to a seasonal meat flock and a batch of turkeys (grown once a year). The freezer full of meat has been a great blessing as well as a precious learning experience for our whole family. From housing, to feeding, to human and appropriate butchering...yearly advances and improvements are added here and there to ensure a better success in the next season. 
   The more recent additions were a dairy and meat herd. Our silly goats have been a great blessing to our self-sufficient life. Again, learning the ropes for natural production and health have been a challenge and a joy. Seasonal births of precious little ones, bottle feeding, home dairying have led to cheese making. The blessing of meat in the more step. 
   While these things are all steps toward independence, other goals are always on the board: maintaining a debt free financial situation, continuing our educations (in classes or independently), as well as personal health care. In a self-sufficient life, education is important ..and on going. Libraries, online and in local colleges a wealth of information is available; why not use it? Let's not for get county extension offices and master gardener programs. They're there to help...learn from them!
   In all our endeavors one thing must never be overlooked; our dependence on God. From His hands all things are given; our life, our health, our land and it's produce. In our strive for independence, we never want to lose our dependence on our heavenly Father. Through prayer and seeking our journey continues...the journey of self-sufficiency.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Preserving the Harvest: Corn Canning Trial

    This year's corn crop was a bumper harvest despite the wicked winds and wet start. Hearty ears of plump kernels grace our kitchen, and our plates. In every plot of corn we grow, there are often some 'nibblers' that find their way into the harvest; those stunted ears that, while small, still hold tasty, sweet kernels. This year we decided to jump out of our comfort zone using those little nibblers for a canning trial.

     I have never canned corn here on my homestead; freezing is so quick and easy. With a freezer overflowing with meat from spring butchering, and a very successful corn crop, space is limited. The logical thing to do is can it. Let's take a look at what we did.

      Harvested corn was shucked and scrubbed before blanching in boiling water. Ice baths stopped the cooking process, keeping the kernels nice and juicy while releasing some of the starches. A sharp knife carefully applied to the side of each ear released the kernels, once they were cool enough to handle.

       Canning jars were packed, leaving proper head space, and filled with warm water. Since this was a trail run, we canned pints instead of quarts. Each jar was given a fourth teaspoon of salt, a run through with a knife to remove air, and gently sealed with a lid. Our pressure canner hissed and sputtered for fifty-five minutes.

         Let me just say, canning corn is not for the faint of heart or the weary worker. This was an all day task that kept me on my feet and at the sink. While the results are wonderful and quite rewarding, I still prefer freezing over canning, but that's just me. Also, I did not make 'cream-style' corn because we just don't eat it that way. The trail was successful, rewarding, and quite exhausting. How about you? Do you can or freeze your corn harvest? Do you do it differently?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Start of Something New

    Tomorrow my footsteps lead me beyond the homestead gate in a direction I have not gone before; a place where it all comes together. Here is a direction I have been uncertain of in a place I never expected.
     It's no secret, my children are nearly all grown. Two have left home while another is stretching toward the door. This reality drove me to my knees seeking direction; where do I go from here? My life has been built around the teaching, training, and nurturing of my family through home schooling, homesteading, and 4H-ing. As one by one those things come to and end, I sought with wonder how they might all come together now. 
Texas Grow! Eat! Go!
       Enter "Grow, Eat, Go"; mentioned at a Master Gardener meeting one afternoon. I causally expressed interested, not at all expecting to have the credentials or qualifications for it. God' plans are bigger than ours and it seems He indeed had a plan. Tomorrow finds me in the office working through training and lesson plans to be installed as the Project Specialist for this program.
       So, what about the homestead? The blog? Quilts? They aren't going anywhere. Years ago I taught in a classroom with all the homestead responsibilities waiting for me when I got home. True, this time there are les hands on deck to help, however, it will work itself out.
       Pray for us as we step in this new direction; follow us on our journey. If you would like to read more about this program, hop over to their web page here.