Friday, July 31, 2009

Gardens and Weeds…

 

So the biggest question that has come my way of late has to do with the lack of weeds in my garden and how I do this..  what is my secret??   


The answer is:   I pick them!    ..  no big secret here.  I hoe between the rows with my trusty stirrup hoe and pick them out of the rows.  I spend anywhere from 20 minutes to one hour 4 to 5 days a week in my garden and most of that time is spent weeding.  I don’t really know any other way to deal with them (aside from chemicals which I don’t want in my garden)..  I could mulch and I do a little of that, but not enough to keep the weeds under control.  I just try to consistently stay on top of them and get them picked before they take over and are overwhelming.  This is why I have a great tan this summer!  Haa.. haa..   I get exercise, sun and get to be outdoors and I get fresh veggies in the end for all my efforts.  It’s a great package deal.. 


Monday, July 27, 2009

Garden Update..

 

Isaac and I went down to water the garden last night and I was surprised to see how my green beans had grown so quickly!  I planted bush beans and I moved the plants around a bit to see and saw a ton of green beans about ready!  Really it seemed like overnight…. But I am thrilled!    Besides eating them fresh I will be freezing any leftover ones and canning some 3 bean salad.  I don’t think I really planted enough to bother with canning, we will see though.  I may can some if it looks like I have enough.   


Today the temps are soaring to around 100 and so Leanne and I went down to the garden this morning to water again.  I wanted to make sure my garden gets plenty of water during this upcoming heat wave.  I took some pics while I was there.. 


Lettuce..  well, I planted a whole lot of lettuce and we are eating lots of salad but it seems that we barely put a dent in what I planted! LOL..  so lesson learned?  Plant less and plant ever few weeks instead of all at once..  I knew this actually so why I did not follow this I am not sure..  a few too many summers off of gardening and my skills got rusty! 


   


Summer Squash..  I still don’t have any ready. I planted 3 mini zucchini's and 3 sunburst squash plants..  but I am gathering together all my zucchini and summer squash recipes to be prepared. 



Those green beans..


 


Wild Flowers..



And a few more… 




Friday, July 24, 2009

Updates from the Homestead


Wow.. the last week has just flown by..  We have been enjoying a few cool days and a few hot summer days!  My garden is growing like crazy.  So far I have harvested lettuce and cukes.  I have one summer squash about ready (and hopefully many more coming soon!) and lots of green beans that seem very close to the first picking.  The corn is getting taller and the flowers are starting to bloom..  so it all is looking pretty.    Oh.. and I have a nice tan from spending so much time working in the garden! LOL..   


The kids have all been busy with summer fun and work.  For Emily this has been finals week.  Then she gets a break for a week and will start up more online classes from Thomas Edison State College.  Leanne has been house sitting and caring for either goats or elderly ladies and seems gone lately more than she is home.  Doing these jobs has given her time to study and she is working on her first year CLEPS for her degree.  Jacob has been working quite a bit.. doing haying and other various jobs for neighbors and friends.  This weekend he is away on a camping trip with a friend and his family and I am sure enjoying the play time.  The younger ones (Sierra and Isaac) have been helping in the garden, helping dad by stacking wood for this winters heat, spending time in the pond and with friends.  Our summer is somewhat slow paced and very enjoyable.   


I took advantage of the cooler weather days and made bread and baked some cookies.  This next week looks like it will be a hot one so I am planning my menu accordingly.. sandwiches, salads, freezer stash meals and bbq meals!   


Speaking of summer heat and meal planning.. I have cooked a few meals outside on my deck in either my roaster oven or crockpot.   Salads such as taco salad work well for main dishes and right now my garden is producing lots of lettuce so I have been thinking of chicken salads and other main dish salads to serve. And of course we like to grill on the bbq.  Side dishes can be a challenge if you don’t want to heat up the house.  I was even thinking that my rice cooker could probably be set outside.  I love potato salads and macaroni salads but have to find a time of day to cook the potatoes and noodles that won’t overheat the house.  I was thinking at night (in prep for the next days meal)..  that way the house can cool down somewhat during the night.  Of course having meal starters in the freezer has helped me out quite a bit too.   


 How are you surviving the summer heat and meal planning?  What kind of meals do you plan for this time of year?  


Anywho..  that is all from the homestead!  I will try and not let another week go by and not blog..   


Don’t forget to check out The Family Homestead on Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Family-Homestead/115582552812  One commenter said the link did work for her.. if you just search Facebook for “The Family Homestead” you will find it. 

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Using My Freezer Stash

 

This last week I have been using my freezer stash and have loved the convenience!!  Here is what I have done so far with the food I cooked up and froze.. 


Chicken Noodle Soup
1 bag of cooked chicken and 2 bags of chicken broth.  I heated it up, added noodles and some chopped up carrots.  Served it with a big green salad and whole wheat crackers. 


Chicken & Rice Alfredo
I made my chicken alfredo sauce from this recipe: http://www.thefamilyhomestead.com/chickenalfredo.htm   and added a bag of rice (instead of pasta) and a bag of chicken.  Served it with a salad  


Hamburger, Bean and Pasta (I really don’t have a name for this as I just threw it together)
I
had extra people to feed and wanted something for the crockpot.  So I put 2 bags of cooked hamburger and 1 bag of cooked beans in the crockpot.  I added 6 cups of beef broth (from the freezer) and 2 cans diced tomatoes.  I added some Italian seasonings and a little chili powder.  I let this cook on high for about one hour, until everything had defrosted and added about 2 cups of whole wheat elbow noodles.  I turned it on low and let cook for a couple more hours until the pasta was done.   


Beef & Rice
I took one bag of cooked rice and sautéed that in a little olive oil.  I added one bag of the beef (it was already defrosted) and heated this up.  I added some sour cream and some cheddar cheese.  I was only feeding Tobin and a couple of the kids so this was a smaller meal. If I was feeding everyone I would have added more rice (one or two bags depending on how many people I was feeding).  I served this with homemade sauerkraut and a salad.   


I will probably be making more to refill my freezer stock as I run out.  This has just been so nice to have meal starters in the freezer, I highly recommend it.   I have been spending more time out in the sun, enjoying the summer, working on my garden and swimming with the kids..   


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Facebook…

 

For all you Facebook folks..  I now have a page for The Family Homestead if you would like to join.. 


http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Family-Homestead/115582552812


 


 

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Cooking for the Freezer

 


Last week the weather cooled down quite a bit and even rained.  I decided that I would do some cooking for the freezer.  When we do have hot days I really don’t like spending them in the kitchen and I don’t like heating up the house.  So I put together a lot of meal starters.  Here is what I have in the freezer… 


Lots of bags of cooked beans (12 or 15 quart bags with about 3 cups of beans in them).  I cooked up a mix of pinto beans, red beans and black beans.   


Roast beef – I cooked about 7 or 8lbs of beef roast in the crockpot and then pulled off the bones and fat and shredded the meat and added some salt and onions and let that cook a little longer and then bagged it all up.  I ended up with about 5 or 6 bags of cooked beef that has 2 to 3 cups in each bag 


Chicken – I bought 2 organic chickens and cooked those in the crockpot.  I deboned the meat and bagged it up. I got 4 bags of chicken with 3 cups in each bag.  I then cooked the bones in water to make broth and had 5 quart bags of chicken broth.. I thought that was a lot of good mileage from my 2 chickens!   


Hamburger – I cooked 7lbs of hamburger with an onion and salt.  I then added a can of diced tomatoes and a can of tomato sauce.  I divided this into 7 bags (about 2 1/2 cups per bag).   


Beef Broth – I already had beef broth that I made a few weeks ago..  somewhere around 20 cups.   


Brown Rice – I cooked up a big batch of brown rice in my rice cooker and divided that and froze several bags. 


Here is how I can use all this food… 


Tacos:  cooked beans and cooked meat (beef, hamburger or chicken) combine and add seasonings or add a bag of hamburger and a bag of beans to a big tossed green salad and have taco salad 


Spaghetti: mix a bag of hamburger with spaghetti sauce  


Casseroles:  mix any combination of meat and beans or meat and rice and add a sauce of choice (tomato, alfredo, organic can of mushroom soup, etc…) and top with a little cheese and bake outside in my roaster over.  Or any type of chicken casserole like ranch house chicken casserole or chicken lasagna or chicken n’ gravy or chicken green bean casserole.. you get the idea!!   Or hamburger casseroles.. the list is endless..  


Beef and Beans over Rice: mix a bag of beef with a bag of beans and add any seasonings (I like to add Tabasco, salt and pepper, or spicy tomatoes) and serve this over brown rice 


Soups: using the broth and meat and rice and adding a few veggies makes a yummy soup 


And that names just a few..  really the list is endless and now I have some time to enjoy being outside and working in the garden and spending time with the family.. 

Monday, July 13, 2009

Happy Birthday to the Best Hubby in the World…


At least in my opinion ;) 
  Yesterday my hubby celebrated his 48th birthday.  We celebrated with pizza, salad and banana splits made with homemade vanilla ice cream.  It was lots of fun.  


Tobin is a hard working man who loves his family and is incredibly responsible.  I feel blessed to have him in my life.  He is loving, kind, thoughtful, logical, selfless, caring, talented in so many areas, strong, handsome and just an all around great guy!  


 


Happy Birthday Tobin!!  I love you! 

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Watering the Garden

 

I have mentioned a little bit on how we water our garden and thought I would share some pics of the process and show you how my garden is growing.  I had a few people comment on doing a “square foot garden” and one reason I don’t do that method is due to how I water.   


We have 2 ponds.  One is a small spring pond that feeds our big pond.  The spring pond is what I use to water my garden.  There is a pipe that runs underground from the spring to the garden.  I can access the water from a faucet in the garden. The elevation from this pond to the garden is not much.  I am not able to run sprinklers.  I also can’t use soaker hoses because the spring pond has debris in it that plugs up the soaker hoses.   You can see a pic here of the 2 ponds (the spring pond being the small one in front of the big pond) and you can see my garden to right.  You can also see the little dam in the pic.  The water needed to rise above the level of the pipe that carries the water from this pond to the garden….


 


After lots of trial and error we came up with a plan (several years back now) to use PVC pipe and a ditch type of watering system.  The pipe runs from the faucet across the top of the rows….


 


The pipe has been cut to lengths that can be removed at the same intervals as the width between my garden rows.  Basically we start at one end and turn on the water and let run down the little ditch we make to the end of the row….




Then we remove a section of the pipe and it waters the next row.  We continue the process until all the rows have been watered.  
 



 


Now it takes just one person only 10 or 15 minutes to water the garden.. a big improvement in time!  It was taking one person one hour to water the garden by buckets.. which is what we were doing before Tobin fixed the dam in the spring pond. 


The down side to this system is mole holes.. If they dig under a spot where my ditch is the water goes down the mole hole instead of down the garden row. 


The boys are checking the water flow to make sure it is getting to the end of the row and not down a mole hole.



My castor oil mix does work, somewhat.. but I found my pesky mole(s) was digging tunnels in different places. So now I have resorted to the gum method.. I’ll keep you posted.  A couple people commented on cats taking care of their problem.  I do have cats but unfortunately have way more moles on my property than they can keep up with.    


 


 


 


 

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Updates from the Homestead

 

Homestead Life
Well it has been awhile since I updated life on our homestead.  There are so many details to share that I am just going to hit on the highlights!   


On the first of the month Tobin and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary!!   It was a wonderful day.  We decided to stay home and have a bbq. I am glad we did.  We grilled steaks and had potato salad and a nice green salad and homemade ice cream.  We enjoyed spending the evening with our family and reminiscing on the last 29 years (we have been married for 25 and known each other for 29 years).. lots of sweet memories to share.    


The 4th was very quiet at my house.  Tobin had to work on the holiday so we did not have plans and the kids seemed to have their own plans brewing.  Leanne was at a house sitting job and Isaac was with her.  Emily, Jacob and Sierra spent the holiday with friends at the Oregon Coast.  Tobin and I really enjoyed our empty nest evening.  He helped me water the garden and we enjoyed sitting out by our pond soaking in the sunshine and heat before he had to leave for work.  The kids spent the night with our friends, went to church with them in the morning and were home later on Sunday.  Leanne is still house sitting and goat milking. 


Tobin has been making his way through his to-do list on his days off and this week made it to “fix the spring pond”..  we have a spring pond near the garden that we use to water the garden.  It has an underground pipe that runs from the pond to the garden.  A couple of years ago the kids were playing in the pond and messed up the dam that holds the water at a high enough level to be able to reach that pipe.  So we have been watering the garden by hand with 2 and 5 gallon buckets getting our water from our main big pond.  If I water the garden myself it takes me about an hour, with help it takes anywhere from 15 minutes to a half hour (depending on who the help is )  Tobin fixed the dam and the water level rose high enough to reach the pipe and we had water in the garden once again!!   So the boys and I spent some time getting our watering system up and running and figuring out what PVC pipes went where..  and getting plenty wet and muddy in the process.. LOL..  We all cleaned off in the pond when it was over.  I will do another blog entry and show you my system after I get some pics of it.   


In the Kitchen
I have also been doing a lot cooking in my kitchen.  Recently I made another banana cake.  I had 3 overripe bananas to use up and a cake sounded good… and it was!  My recipe is HERE ….


 


I also made some peanut butter chocolate chip ice cream!  That was delicious.  I used my basic recipe and made changes.  Here is the recipe…. 


Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Ice Cream



6 eggs
3 cups cane juice crystals
1 cup peanut butter, the healthy type.. no sugar or hydrogenated oils added
2 t vanilla  (only the real stuff)
2 c. whole cream
1 cup chocolate chips, chopped fine (I ran mine through my food processor)
Whole Goat Milk, as much as needed to fill ice cream maker container (whole cow milk will work too..  :)
1 T arrowroot powder (helps make the ice cream smooth.. but this is optional if you don’t have any) 


In a big mixer (like a Kitchen Aid or Bosch) mix together (with the wire whip) the eggs and cane juice crystals until light and lemony colored.  Add peanut butter and vanilla and mix again.  Add cream and arrowroot powder (if using).  Add the chocolate chips. If using a Bosch I take out the wire whips and mix the chips in by hand. When all of this has mixed together completely pour it into your 1 gallon ice cream maker container.  Now add whole milk up to the fill line.   Continue according to your ice maker directions or you can read basic directions HERE. 


I also made cinnamon rolls the other day.  I used my oatmeal dinner roll recipe and made half of it into hamburger buns (we were grilling burgers that night) and made the other half into a pan of cinnamon rolls.  They were pretty much gone by the next day.


 


Yesterday I finished up another batch of feta cheese.  I was completely out of whey and my salsa and sauerkraut supplies are getting very low so I knew it was time to make cheese so I can have the whey.  Below is a pic of the cheese and the amount of whey I got from it.  I have one jar in the fridge and one in the freezer and a jar of feta cheese to enjoy!  You can find my feta cheese recipe HERE.


 


That is all the updates from my homestead for now. Hope you all are enjoying your summer on your homesteads!  

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Dealing with Moles in the Garden

   

Moles are such a huge nuisance in my garden. They dig tunnels all through and wreak havoc with my veggies, uprooting them and such.  The watering we do sometimes ends up down the mole hole instead of the plant roots.  I was getting very tired of fighting them for another year.  So I started doing a little research on how to get them out of my garden.  Poison was my first thought..  but I didn’t want that stuff in my garden.  Traps are effective but expensive. So I looked for more affordable remedies.  I came up with one that is easy to do.   You make a mixture of castor oil and Joy dish soap (2:1 ratio).  You add a few tablespoons of this mixture to a gallon of water and pour it down their holes. 


I have been doing this with some success.  The reason it can work is that moles have a heightened sense of smell and can’t stand the smell of castor oil.  They also don’t like the feel of it on them.  After a couple of applications some of the holes were not bothered any more but I still had some.  So the next time I put in more of the castor oil mix into my gallon of water and made the applications a little stronger.  I had been using 2 to 3T tablespoons per gallon..  so I doubled that.  Well I am happy to say that yesterday while in the garden I saw that all my mole holes had not been disturbed again..  so success maybe?  We will see.     


If my pesky mole just makes holes in other areas of the garden I will try another solution I read the other day and that is bubble gum.  You drop pieces of bubble gum (or Juicy Fruit I also read they like) into their holes.  The reviews I read said this was effective and will end the problem permanently!  I guess their digestive systems can’t handle gum..  they are eaters not chewers.. haa.. haa.  So if castor oil does not solve the problem..  I will try bubble gum.   


Just thought I would share this bit of mole info for anyone else battling them in their gardens this summer..