Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Serving the family...

How do you like to take care of things? Are you a morning person? A night owl? I am a little of both, if that even makes sense. I love waking up early, if I am not exhausted. I love getting things done at night, if I'm not a walking zombie. Either way, sometimes... things just have to be done?
Any Mom's out there know where I'm coming from?
At least in a few hours I can get up and have coffee. haha 
but really... 

Tonight is one of those nights for me.
 I have been purging our home of convenience items for a while now and were are really getting down to the nitty gritty.
Most of the boxes of crackers are gone.
The store bought bread has been long gone.
The dressings are outta here.
 I'm so glad... but it does pose an issue.

When convenience items are gone, you have to do some prepping! Getting things prepared for the next day and/or week!

This is a prep time for me.

It's late already, I can here my honey deeply breathing from the bedroom. I can imagine how warm and cozy it will be to go in and sidle up beside him.

 For now though... I have to finish.
Kefir has been strained and started again.
             Sourdough starter has been split 3 ways and fed.
                         Sour cream is setting up, as well as the cream cheese.
                                   Honey's lunch is made and will be waiting for him.

2 loaves of sourdough bread is on their first rest. A double batch of sourdough tortillas are souring for tomorrows frying. A few pieces of chicken have been cooked up for lunches tomorrow.

Pastured pork chops went into the crockpot on low to slowly cook through the night and tomorrow for supper.
The coffee is on... waiting on me to wake up. 

All this to say, there are sometimes that it's hard to get away from the convenience food trap. From microwaves and 30 second meals. To know how good REAL food tastes, how nice it is to sit down to a meal together as a family. 
It's worth it. 
It's totally worth it. 
All this prep took me maybe 30 minutes plus a few minutes to clean up everything I used. Yeah, I was already tired when I started it... but the deep satisfaction of knowing that things are well on their way for tomorrow morning trumps that sleepiness for that extra 30-45 minutes. 

Don't be afraid to start ridding your home of some of those foods that you know have no benefit to you and your family. Embrace natural, God made foods! Involve your kids. Mine helped me so sweetly tonight. They put away the dishes as I cleaned them. They even got the last load of laundry happily spinning away in the washer. It's good for our kids to work, to not be waited on, but to help by serving the family. 
Have a great day friends and may you enjoy the fruits of your labor and enjoy serving your family as I do mine!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Strawberry Appalachian Stack Cake

I know I promised you a recipe for the Strawberry Appalachian Stack cake a week or so ago. Sorry it has taken me a little while to get it for you. I have been making soap and writing and crafting... in addition to my other responsibilities of my life. I have to sneak in those moments of creating though. It feeds my soul. I enjoy it so much.

This recipe is from a yummy book called Cake Ladies: Celebrating Southern Traditions. I can thumb through it and honestly... my mouth begins to water. TMI? Well, it's true.
Carrot Cake, Caramel Cake, Coconut Cake, Hummingbird Cake and the list goes on!

Each looks divine and I am sure they all taste just as delicious. I may work my way through the book... Making one a month or something like that. That would be fun, tasty, and not TOO overwhelming.
I made this cake for some ladies that came over for a Pampered Chef party at my house. The cake was insanely good! I had some organic berries and fresh cream, so I just had to work up the layers and assemble.

Here's the recipe:

For the cake:
2 cups self-rising flour, plus more for kneading and rolling
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup leaf lard, refrigerated (I didnt' have any lard in the fridge so I used butter)
1 egg gently beaten, at room temperature

For the filling:
6 cups fresh strawberries
1/2 cup sugar

For the whipped cream:
2 cups fresh cream
1/4 cup sugar

Also, you need a well seasoned 8 or 9 inch cast0iron skillet preheated in the oven at 425*

Combine flour and sugar in mixing bowl. Cut in cold lard with pastry cutter until mix resembles cornmeal. Add egg and milk. Stir until just ocmbined. Knead mix gently by hand just until everything comes together.
Transfer dough to floured surface and knead until dough is smooth and the consistency of piecrust. Do NOT over knead or over handle
Divide dough into 5 equal parts.
Flatten one at a time in bottom of cast iron skillet. Bake for approx 10 min until golden brown. Work this way until all 5 layers are baked. Lay layers on cooling rack to rest and cool.

Wash berries and slice, sprinkle with sugar and set aside so berries will release juice.

Whip cream on high while slowly adding sugar until peaks form.

To assemble cake, wait til almost time to serve. Layer cake, strawberries with juice, cream, over and over til you finish off with a cloud of whipped cream and a small smattering of berries. Garnish with mint or edible flowers. This cake is best eaten right away.



Friday, April 26, 2013

Soapmaking 101

Good Morning! I am going to attempt to show you somewhat step by step how to make soap. With permission from my friend Ashlee to share the recipe that she shared with me. 

First off you need to gather all your materials. 
Stainless Steel Stock Pot
Stainless Steel Spoon for stirring 
Hand blender
Soap Mold
Non reactive container (that is what I used my plastic coffee can for)

I will say this. These pictures are not great. I had planned on having someone man the camera for me, but my girls were babysitting, my boys were chasing a rooster and my husband was mowing the yard. So you get some blurry shots, and some haphazard directions, but hopefully you will be able to make yourself a batch of soap soon!

The recipe for the soap is:
20% coconut oil = 12 oz
20 % castor oil = 12 oz
30% olive oil = 18 oz
30% lard = 18 oz

Lye Solution
lye= 8.1 oz
water= 18 oz

A little bit about soap molds... You need something sturdy, that will withstand the heat. I saved an old coffee creamer box. I am trying not to buy these anymore (because of the horrid ingredients), but I knew this box would make a great mold. I opened it up and cut one whole side off. I folded the edge in and duct taped it. It's already got one of those waxy finishes, so I didn't line it with wax paper. IF it was a regular cardboard box or a dish. Line it with wax paper, that way you will easily be able to get your soap to release. 

Baby Stepping through friends... here we go!
Measure out your hard oils, which are coconut oil and lard. These two will need to be melted to get ready for your soaping. Measure exactly and go ahead and put them on low in your soap pot and melt them gently.
Measure out your liquid oils

Once your hard oils are melted and you combine your liquid oils, set it aside and get ready for your lye mixture. 

I measured 18 oz of ICE water. This helps cool the lye mixture down LOTS, because when lye mixes with a liquid it heats up DRAMATICALLY!!!! The ice is a great idea to bring down the temp easily. 

Measure your lye. I like to keep a glass measuring cup just for this purpose. It has a pouring spout to make transferring your lye into water a breeze.
Lye into water is so much smarter!
Always pour your lye into water, that way there are no splashes!
Here's my water waiting in an empty sink.
I thought this was a great place to do the lye solution because if there ever was an accident, this would be the place to contain it.
Thankfully there has been no issue whatsoever, so far. :)

Lye into water!
Mix well!
Now, I don't have a picture for the waiting time, but this is our rule of thumb for both containers. The lye solution container and the oils in the pot. Once you have given them both time to cool, you should be able to feel the bottom of the container and feel warmth. If it is hot to the touch... they are NOT ready. If you can rest your hand against the bottom of container and it is warm... You are ready for mixing.

Once comfortable to touch, take it to a spot where you can plug in your immersion blender and pour your lye into your oils and get ready to BLEND!
This process can take a little while 5 minutes to even a little longer... It really depends on your recipe. Thankfully this one is easy and basic and doesn't take that long.

You want to blend, blend, blend, without stopping til you have a nice pudding type consistency. Meaning if you were to pick the blender up and some soap dropped off the blender it would sit on the top of the mixture. Does that make sense? I tried to capture it in a picture. This is called trace.

See how goopy it is? That's what you want.
Ladle your soap into your container. I made a simple container just to show y'all that it doesn't have to be a mold like the one on the left. Soap can easily be made in pretty much anything!

Here's a bar that came out of the mold I made. I put some oats at the bottom for exfoliating. I also added just a bit of peppermint oil at trace to give it a light scent.

In 24 hours, you can take your soap out of your mold. Set it in a place that there is good ventilation. This will help in curing your soap. Your soap will set up and cure in about 4 weeks. The longer the soap sets, the dryer it will become and the longer it will last.

Thank you Ashlee for giving me the courage to step out and try this new craft! I am so excited and so thankful! And thank you for allowing me to share the recipe with my readers! 

Just a little disclaimer at the bottom here...
I am by no means a soap making pro. 
These are my ways of making soap. 
You may want to wear gloves and goggles because of the lye mixture. It's not a bad idea, I just don't do it. You may want to designate all your soap making supplies to soaping. That's a great idea too!
This is just an aspiring homesteader learning a craft and sharing what I do with you. I hope you enjoy and let me know if you have success with your own soap making adventure.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Farmer's Market

 This past weekend, I was blessed to be able to go to The Chattanooga Farmer's Market! What a treat, for the ears (the symphony was there!), for the eyes (the crafts and art=BEAUTIFUL), the taste... (food!). It was a happy day!
 These birdhouses were just beautiful! A rusty tin roof, weathered, chippy paint. Right down my alley! The sign below was hilarious... it says, Caution: The dog can't hold his licker. LOL!
 It was jam packed busy! People everywhere! Everyone was excited to be a part of the new season. This was opening day!
 If I had the money... this gorgeous piece would have went home with me! I absolutely LOVED it!

 Another favorite vendor was Alchemy of Sol. Her soaps are wonderful! I was first introduced to them when I bought one of her Peppermint & Oatmeal bars at Whole Foods! I'm hooked!
 Look at the marbling on this one below.  Incredibly lovely!
 Pottery is a weakness of mine and there were several interesting booths set up. Again... If I had some extra. Cha-ching! I wanted a whole set of those coffee mugs! OH and the bowls on the bottom shelf! Amazing!
I fell in love with the Chattanooga Farmer's market this weekend and I will make plans to go back for sure! Thanks to some sweet friends of mine who invited me to go with them!

Have a great day friends and be sure to make it out to your local farmer's market!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Flowers make everything better!

It's true, right?
 Flowers do make everything better!
I mean look at these happy chickens.
They are saying, "Moma! You and the girls have made us deliriously giddy!  Look how cheery those marigolds make our home look!" 
I knew it.
I am a chicken whisperer...

Domino seems to particularly love the flowers. She hung around the whole time the line was being planted. Happily clucking and scratching. It could have been that she was hoping we might toss her a juicy worm or a cricket, but I am sticking with my story. She was utterly thrilled with the beautification of the chicken coop.

See, here she is again... She's totally loving it! She brought a few friends with her this time... they are easing up. Henrietta, Red, Papa New Guinea, Henrietta 2, Henrietta 3... Obviously, some are without original names. LOL.
A little work can go a long way. We cleaned up the food bins, mowed around the sides and hopefully will clean out the inside again soon. That is another days work...

Oh and because my girls are adorable and wanted a little variation... they planted a couple of Sweet Williams on the other side of the door.

Now... if I can just remind my boys to NOT weed-eat them down like they did my foxgloves today.
GASP... that still stings.
IF I can teach them that, maybe I can teach them anything!

Have a great day, friends!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A barn quilt for the hen house

I have a special place in my heart for our little homestead. It makes me so happy. It may be small and not particularly perfect... but it IS growing and it is a happy place to be.

I adore barn quilts. One day... ONE DAY, when I get my barn, I will paint a barn quilt to go on OUR BARN. Yes, yes I will. :)

Well, until then. I decided to go a little smaller scale and paint one for my hen house.

And truly, what better quilt to paint than a basket full of eggs.

Now, friends. I am NOT an artist. Haha... I have no qualms saying that. I know truth. BUT, this is pretty standard and pretty simple, and you won't be looking at it too closely, but from across the garden. SO if it isn't perfect, that's OK!

I started painting it one evening and by the next morning I was up finishing it... I was so tickled. I realized afterwards, that I should have gone up a little larger in size.
That's ok. It is sweet.

Yeah, I really should have pulled the hose back up before I took the picture, but I was so stinkin tickled. You forgive me for that, right?

My little hen house has a history. My family used to have a 'junk yard'. Meaning we would sell used car parts and cars. It was called junk yard before the politically correctness got all involved, and it became a little more sophisticated and became... Auto Salvage.
We still called it the junk yard. Well, this little hen house was a place that held starters and alternators and who knows what else...
Before that, when I was a VERY young girl and our junk yard was still pretty new, well... my Popa liked to play cards in this very house. He and his buddies would get together on the weekend and play cards and gamble. What a history to this little building.

Here we are on the 3rd generation to own the little building. It houses my hens, roosters and guineas. We gather eggs and hatch off babes. I declare, I think I have the happiest of times with the little house.
To make it even nicer, the 'hen house quilt' looks special and it makes me smile when I look out at it.

I can see it from my kitchen window. I can look out and see my hen house and coop. My orchard and parts of the garden. All the while it makes my dish washing chore so much nicer.
My happy place is my homestead. We can all do things to make our worlds a more beautiful and happier place. Enjoy and remember it's the little things.

Monday, April 22, 2013

How does your garden grow?

Oh Chassy, Chassy (my nephews call me Aunt Chassy... be still my heart) How does your garden grow?

It's finally getting green and growing well. Rhubarb is GORGEOUS! Completely full and green. Just beautiful!

Strawberry blooms are abundant. Sadly, weeds are abundant as well. It's a task keeping this garden growing, but a delightful task it is.

I have planted garlic for many years now... planting in the spring.
Failures each time.
This time I planted in the fall and look how tall and happy it is! I am looking forward to a big harvest this summer! If I can give a tip... PLANT GARLIC IN THE FALL!!
My onions are popping up and standing straight. I'm happy to see them, because this bunch can go through a lot of onions!

I pruned our grapevine within an inch of it's life, I was worried that I did too much. Thankfully, I have a lot of beautiful leaves that are sprouting out. I am hoping for a great grape harvest. Our supply of grape juice has almost been depleted.

This is our apple tree. I so want an apple harvest this year. Even if it's a small one. Our trees are still really young, but we should be able to get a few pounds this year from each tree.

I tried a little something different this year. I planted our lettuce in a container garden. I took a galvanized washtub and filled it with some soil. The lettuce is up and filling out nicely. I adore butter crunch lettuce. It's one of my favorites, so this spring mix variety is a fun lettuce to grow. 
I love all the colors and varieties of the mix. Happy salad plates coming up soon!

A few of our blessings that are growing here on the homestead. I hope things are coming up 'green' in your neck of the woods. To my friends with snow on the ground... I am sure it won't be long for your green pastures. That snow is going to help make a nice soil for you to work in, I have no doubt!