Monday, December 17, 2012

Canning Pumpkin

Canning pumpkin for pumpkin breads, pies and whatever else your heart desires is a great way to experience the wonderful taste of REAL pumpkin any time you want.  It is a bit more work because you must first cook the pumpkin to soften and remove the thick outer skin.  After that, just cube and process in a pressure canner making sure to follow required time and pressure guidelines.

I used two small pie pumpkins (4-6 lbs.) purchased from a local grower.  I yielded 6 quarts and one quart will make about two pumpkin pies if you use the shallow pie crusts.

I wanted to make a "medium" simple syrup to pour over the pumpkins for processing instead of plain water so that the pumpkin cubes would already be sweetened.  This means I won't have to add much extra sugar when I am ready to use them in cooking.  And believe me they are so sweet and delicious I could eat them straight from the jar.

5 cups water
3 1/4 cups sugar

Bake pumpkins till they begin to "squat" and the skin begins to bubble up off of the flesh.
This took about an hour at 350.
Then cut your pumpkins in half and begin to remove the skin.
After the skin is removed, cube and place in your clean jars.
Pour the simple syrup over the pumpkin cubes and process in the pressure canner for 90 minutes at 11 psi. Let cool, then they are ready to use!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Whitaker Point and Buffalo River in Ponca, Arkansas

We took a short vacation in November and went up to Branson to do some Christmas shopping.  We took the dogs and decided to spend the day driving through the Buffalo River National Park.  We also stopped and saw the elk at Boxley Valley, the lookout over the Arkansas Grand Canyon and hiked out to Whitaker Point.

It was a gorgeous view and totally worth it, but don't let people tell you it isn't much of a hike, as in don't just take off with your dogs in non-hiking shoes and no water.  It is a little longer that just a "short hike" at least now we know!
We just missed the leaves turning, but it was still a beautiful sight.
And I was glad to sit down, since I was wearing totally inappropriate shoes for our "short hike". 
It was about 45 minutes in and if you get lost about an hour and a half out, not that it happened to us or anything.
Remi wanted to jump in the Buffalo River so bad, we had to keep her on a leash.
Bull elk and his lady friend.
View from the lookout at the Arkansas Grand Canyon.  They said you could see Missouri from here!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Summer Veggies becoming Fall Soups

This week has been our first taste of some much lower temperatures so I decided to warm myself up with a bowl of hot soup...using only the fresh veggies I happened to have left on hand.

It turned out delicious!

I'll call it:

 Creamy Bell Pepper and Potato Soup

2 large potatoes per person
3 chopped bell peppers
1/2 medium onion
1 can or two cups chicken stock
3 cloves garlic
1 large turnip
1/2-3/4 cup sour cream
6 sprigs dill
2 tbsp butter
2 cups milk

  • Bring to a rolling boil, let cook until potatoes are thoroughly cooked.  Mine cooked probably about 20 minutes.
  • Mash potatoes, add butter and milk then return to heat.
  • Return to a boil, add sour cream to desired level of "creaminess".
  • Add a few more fresh dill sprigs and enjoy!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Homemade Wine 2012

We have just bottled and are enjoying our first batch of wine!

The peach wine is very sweet and light and the plum is more dry, red and tart.

I'll give you a brief explanation of the wine-making process, now that we have successfully made our first batch.
  • Weigh out fruit, place in a knee high stocking or cheesecloth, squeeze out as much juice as possible into clean 2.5 gallon bucket.  Add water.
  • Weigh sugar, add to juice, stir then take out a sample and measure the specific gravity. Usually it should be around 1.10. You will need a hygrometer for this step, one came with our starter kit.
  • Add your preservatives and stir. Place it in a cool dark spot, in 24 hours add the yeast. Let ferment for another 5-7 days until specific gravity reaches the next goal point as stated in your recipe.


  • Next you will siphon your juice into the glass carboy, fill it to near the top with water, and place your airlock on the lid.

  • Let sit for about a month or two until they clear.
  • We siphoned each off again into a second clean carboy to get the juice off of the sediment.  Then we let it sit for another month.  At this time you can test the specific gravity again to be sure it has reached the proper alcohol content.  0.9 equals about 12% alcohol content.
  • Then the final step is the best part...bottling! Siphon into a clean bucket, add more stabilizers, water, and sugar (if needed) then siphon into clean bottles and cork.  Store bottles on their side so the corks will absorb some and the wine and swell to completely seal the bottle.
  • And if you have some that won't fill another bottle, then put it in a mason jar and enjoy immediately!

Currently we have grape wine in the glass carboy, they should be another month or so until they are ready, and muscadines are in the primary fermenting bucket.

The muscadine wine should be ready by Christmas!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Orchard Additions 2012

We have been adding to and trimming up our trees since purchasing our house last March.  When we first moved in here there was one good pear tree, two crappy ones, one good blueberry bush, one very crappy blueberry bush, one good mulberry tree, one crappy cherry tree, and one good peach tree that requires ALOT of care to produce decent peaches.  Peaches are a pain in the butt, they require a spraying with pesticide and fungicide every 2 weeks after they have set fruit in the case ya didn't know!

This year we have added:
  • 2 Burbank plum trees
  • 1 Arkansas black apple tree
  • 2 Halls hardy almond trees
  • 1 Yellow Delicious apple tree
  • 1 Premier blueberry bush
  • 1 Brightwell blueberry bush
  • 1 Methley plum tree
  • 1 Moorpark apricot tree
  • 3 Cowart muscadine vines
It will be a few years before most of these start setting fruit, but once they begin they will produce for years!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Honey Pear Sauce

I made this pear sauce because my grandparents gave me a HUGE box of pears from their pear tree and I hated to let them go to waste! I have a lifetime supply of various jams and jellies at this point, so I decided to try something different.
Pear sauce is basically just like applesauce, in fact this recipe is interchangeable between apples and pears.
It was very easy to do and it tastes as good as it smells!

  • 16 medium sized pears
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • Cinnamon to taste
  • Cloves to taste
  • Nutmeg to taste
  • 8 half-pint canning jars

    1. First wash and slice your pears, discard the cores (or feed them to your chickens like I do). I did not peel them but if you don't like to eat the peels then you may, it just takes much longer.
    2. Then place all you slices into a large pot, add the water, honey, and spices.
    3. Bring to a boil and let simmer about 20 minutes. Pears should be translucent and tender, but not mushy.
    4. After letting cool a bit, drain it and place in food processor, blender, food mill, etc. Blend till "applesauce consistency" then pour the sauce in to your sanitized jars. Leave 1/2 inch of headspace. I used half-pint jars because I will use them as snacks or part of breakfast.
    5. Then place jars in boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
    Great project to get you in the Autumn spirit!

    Monday, May 14, 2012

    Sweet Dill Pickle Relish

    I am adapting this from a Mennonite recipe that makes about a years supply of relish, so have patience with me! To make about 8 quarts of relish, you need about a gallon of pickles AFTER they're chopped. If was making this for a lifetime supply of relish it would work, but I don't have that much storage space!

    This is what I came up with. I bought a gallon of large, ballpark style pickles from the grocery store and a bag of onions so I could play with the proportions.

    About 6 large pickles chopped in a food processor makes about two cups of ground pickles. Two small onions chopped makes about one-half cup of ground onions. This produced 3 pint jars of relish. So here is my final draft of the adapted recipe. To make 6 pints of relish.

    • 12 jumbo pickles (a one gallon container)
    • 4 white onions
    • 4 cups of sugar
    • 2 cups of vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon of celery seed
    • 1 tablespoon of tumeric
    • 1 tablespoon of mustard seed
    • 1/4 cup salt for wilting pickles
    Chop pickles and onions in food processor. Not to a puree, but close.
    Place in a large bowl, add salt and let sit for 2 hours.
    After 2 hours, strain off excess juice through a cheesecloth or very fine colander.
    Place the mixture into a large cooking pot. Add sugar, vinegar, and spices. Heat until it begins to boil.
    Place into pint jars, the recipe should make about 6 pints.
    Boil in water bath canner for 10 minutes to seal lids.
    Let cool overnight and use "prn"!

    Redneck Tomato Garden using 5 Gallon Buckets

    To create a tomato container garden you are going to need:
    • 1 five gallon bucket per plant
    • peat or compost
    • fillers such as empty water bottles or soda cans or even beer cans will work
    • drill
    • small to medium growing tomato plants (I used Roma tomatoes)
    • water
    • sunshine
    For the good ole' upright tomato plantings.

    First dig some empty cans or plastic bottles out of your recycle bin.  Busch Light cans work just as good as any!
    Drill 5-6 holes in the bottom of the bucket for water drainage.
    Then fill your five gallon bucket up till there is about 12 inches of space left for dirt.
    Add your compost or potting soil up to about 5 inches from the top.
    Place your plant in the center of the bucket.
    Cover roots and stem with soil up to the top of the bucket.  It will pack down after a few waterings and you may want to add more soil.

    Plant in a location that will get at least 12 hours of sun a day.
    Water every 7-10 days if needed.

    Friday, May 11, 2012

    Easy 3-Ingredient Strawberry Jam

    My grandmother makes the best strawberry jam, store-bought jam doesn't even compare...seriously!   So naturally I thought her recipe was a family secret, or used magical strawberries, and was super labor-intensive to produce such awesome jam.   Nope, she told me that it was just three ingredients that (with a food processor) only took us about 20 minutes to make the first time we made it together.

    I will never eat store-bought jam again!

    Here is the rediculously easy ingredient list:
    1. 2 quarts of strawberries
    2. 4 cups of sugar
    3. 1 package of Certo liquid fruit pectin
    The directions are pretty simple and after you do it once you probably won't even have to look at the instructions that come in the Certo box!

    • Cap the strawberries, wash, and chop (not puree) in a food processor for just a few beats.   You still want them to be kinda chunky
    • Put the chopped strawberries into a large bowl and add your sugar.
    • Add the Certo liquid pectin and stir it in well.
    • Quickly (before the pectin starts to set up) divide your mixture out into your jelly jars.   Cap them, let them set up for a few hours, then they are ready to use!   Place the extra jars into the freezer for future use or give to friends and family as a cute, homemade gift.

    I don't have a ton of freezer space so I like to go ahead and put them in a water bath canner to seal the lids.   About 10 minutes in boiling water does the trick, then I can keep them in the cupboard at room temp for up to 1 year.   Great tasting and made with love!   Doesn't get much better than that!

    Monday, May 7, 2012

    Wagon Wheel Herb Garden

    This weekend we were fortunate enough to be able to attend the Spring Planting Festival at Baker Creek Seed Co. in Mansfield, MO. There were so many booths with fragrant herbs and tons of varieties of tomatoes and peppers. Not to even mention the flowers! It was difficult to decide what exactly it was we needed to bring home! Luckily I had a good idea of what I was wanting for my veggie and herb garden.

    After looking online at herbs that would grow well here in Arkansas, I decided that I wanted to put in a perennial herb garden. There are several kinds of herbs that will overwinter here and can be enjoyed year after year.

    I decided on four kinds of herbs that I use the most:
    1. Lavender
    2. Sage
    3. Oregano
    4. Rosemary (a specially hardy variety - Hill Hardy)
    In the other two spokes, I transplanted some dill and lemon basil that I had started from seed earlier this year.  They aren't perennial, but I didn't want to leave the two spokes empty!

    One of the problems with herbs, especially ones that are perennial, is that they can become invasive. So where to put them? Not in my butterfly garden or vegetable garden or in the middle of my yard! Also, they dont really like to be watered much or put in rich soil or fertilized. They need full sun and need to be planted in the ground because the soil in containers wouldn't be insulating enough for the plant's roots in the winter. So we decided on making another raised bed just for the herbs. This one we did not use railroad ties, though, we bought an old iron wagon wheel from a local flea market for cheap!

    Thus the wagon wheel satisfied our needs; good drainage, not-so-great soil, room to spread without restraint, plus it has the added bonus of looking pretty cool in the yard!

    Friday, May 4, 2012

    Mulberry Wine

    Our first adventure into the world of wine making starts with the discovery of a large Mulberry tree in the front yard of the house we purchased just last year.  Of course, last year we were so busy moving in and painting and cleaning that we did not even notice the tree...until this year when it literally began raining mulberries on my husband while he was mowing the lawn.

    Here is the first chapter in our adventure.

    April 2012:

    Finding the tree, harvesting the berries (it is a fruit not a berry, in fact) and trying to figure out how to begin wine making from scratch.

    After some research, (God bless eHow) we found that to make about 1 gallon of wine using the siphon-hose and bucket method, we would need about 5-6 pounds of ripe fruit per gallon of wine.  Well, there goes our vineyard idea, we would need many, many more mature trees than we have!  So we will begin by doing a bit of experimenting.

    We placed a plastic sheet underneath the (very tall) tree to begin catching the berries as they dropped to the ground.  After a day or so we had about half of a 5 gallon bucket full.  Ok so we won't have to pick these by hand and we can use not-so-perfect berries...sweet.  We though that was good enough to work with, so we got online and began looking for a reasonably priced complete wine-making kit to get us started.

    We decided on the One Gallon Wine Making Kit from

    The kit will be in after a few days and we can begin the second leg of our journey!

    Wednesday, May 2, 2012

    Hot Pepper Jelly

    We are big fans of hot pepper jelly.  You know, the kind you spread out over cream cheese and eat on crackers, especially around the holidays.  We also like to use it marinade pork tenderloin, we put on our toast with butter and we also use it as a dipping sauce for pork steaks.

    This year one of my goals is make some hot pepper jelly from the fresh peppers grown in my own home garden. 

    My mom loves the stuff and I thought it would be good to do a trial run with some store bought peppers and give her a couple of jars for Mother's Day. 

    This was my first attempt and it turned out pretty well!

    To make this recipe you will need:
    • 4 twelve ounce or 6 eight ounce glass jelly jars
    • water bath canner (or just a tall chilli pot would work for such a small number of jars)
    • pectin (in the canning aisle), use 2 three ounce packs of the liquid or one pack of the powder
    • about 8 medium sized jalepenos about 1/3 cup when chopped
    • two sweet bell peppers (any color) about 2/3 cup when chopped
    • 2 and 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
    • food coloring (optional)
    • 6 cups of sugar
    • canning funnel

    Begin by chopping up all of the peppers very finely using a blender or food chopper. 
    At this time start your water bath or large pot on high heat so the water will be almost boiling by the time you are ready to put in your jelly jars.
    Combine the peppers, 6 cups of sugar and apple cider vinegar in a large pot, stir constantly until a rolling boil.
    Decrease the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

    Strain the mixture out into a colander. 
    Save about two tablespoonsful of the peppers to add back to the mixture, discard the rest.
    Bring mixture to a boil, add pectin and food coloring and boil for 1 minute.
    I used just a few drops of red food coloring, but you can also use green, or any color you want for that matter!
    Funnel into the jelly jars, leaving about 1/2 inch of headroom.
    Put the lids on the jars "fingertip tight".
    Place in the boiling water bath.  Boil for 10 minutes, or longer if you can tell the lids still havent "popped" and sealed shut.

    Remove the jars from the bath, turn upside down and let cool overnight.
    They next day you can put them in the cupboard for storing or put in the fridge for immediate use!

    Saturday, April 28, 2012

    How to Dress up Your Front Door

    April showers bring May flowers!
    Containers can add beautiful colors and interest to your outdoor area.
    Here are my four planters that I used to add life to my front porch and back deck.
    The trick is to combine three types of flowers and plants:
    • Spiller
    • Filler
    • Thriller

    Having the spiller cascading down the planter will make you container look lush and elegant. The filler will keep you from being able to see most of the dirt in the planter. And the thriller should be a tall, attention grabbing plant or flower. The more showy the better!

    On the front porch, in my larger containers, for my "spiller" I used a combination of lime green and purple sweet potato vines. You can stick with just one color, but I really like them used together. My "filler" is yellow-blossom Million Bells aka. callibrachoa. It is related to the spreading petunia, but has smaller blooms. The spreading petunia would also make a good filler but doesn't have generally have as many blooms. For my "thriller" I went for fuschia colored geraniums.
    This is three sweet potato vines, two Million Bells, and one large geranium in a planter with a volume of about 5 gallons.

    On the back deck in my smaller planters I used one sweet potato vine, two white allysom for the "filler" and one tall, spiky Dracena grass for my "thriller". These containers are probably only about one gallon volume.

    Friday, April 27, 2012

    How to get Chicks (the Poultry kind)

    I have just received my second round of chicks. They are two Polish Crested, two Brown Leghorns, and two Rhode Island Reds. Since my first round of 12 chicks all lived, I'm batting 100% so far! Here is my set-up. Large rubbermaid bin (used to house Christmas decor), a heat light from Orschelns, a bag of pine mulch, a chick feeder and waterer, medicated chick feed (contains anti-protozoan medication), and a bungee cord to keep the water up off the ground. This is optional, but it really helps to keep them from pooing in the water dish!

    Line the bin with pine mulch about one inch thick. It helps to keep smells at bay and you can dump it on your garden as it gets dirty. Weed control plus built in fertilizer, we call that a "two-fer", as in, "you get two good things fer one!". Keep them in a place where they will be safe and there is electricity so you can keep the heat light on them AT ALL TIMES until they are about 4 weeks old. Chicks must be kept at 100*F their 1st week of life. You may decrease their heat requirement by 5*F every week until they are about 5 weeks old. At this time they have "feathered out" enough to be able to be moved outside. While they are being kept under the lamp you can take them outside a couple of days a week while you clean out their cage. They must be watched over while outside and must ALWAYS be offered a constant source of food and water. Make sure they are not huddling up together, which can mean they are too cold, and be sure to put them in a spot where you can easily catch them like a corner. They are faster than they look!

    You can get all of these supplies from a farm supply store, including the chicks! However, I got my first brood from a local seller I found on Craigslist. These were much cheaper and I would always prefer to buy used and local products when possible! You may even make a new friend who will give you some free heirloom tomato seeds! I just love how we can become inspired by the most unlikely people and live in a community that is so interconnected.

    The set-up
    Heat lamp that requires a special bulb

    The feeder and waterer

    Their feed with antibiotics

    The chickadees!

    Wednesday, April 25, 2012

    Heirloom Tomatoes

    This year I was introduced to heirloom tomatoes. A friend had purchased a few seed packets from Baker Creek ( and after planting all that he wanted he passed the remainder of the seeds on to me. Of course I started them in seed pods as quickly as possible and was eager to learn all I could about what he called "heritage tomatoes". He told me about the Purple Cherokee tomato that turns purple when ripe and how it had been grown in Arkansas by Native Americans for hundreds of years.
    First, they are called heirloom because they are not genetically engineered like most seeds that you buy in stores. Those seeds come from companies that genetically alter their seeds, called Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), to produce more resilient plants that can stand up to harsh pesticides. But in our home garden we don't use pesticides so they are not necessary. Also, GMOs produce plants with sterile offspring. Meaning you can't replant the seeds from those tomatoes and expect much of anything to grow! So the heirloom variety comes from the fact that these tomatoes have seeds that can be reproduced year after year and saved for use the next year. This is the way our ancestors did it for hundreds of years. These specific types were chosen because they did better in our climate and produced fertile fruit. Also these fertile plants can cross pollinate with other tomato species, so you could possibly end up creating your own unique tomato variety! Here are the four varieties that I chose to grow.
    • Cherokee Purple
    • Brandywine
    • Rutgers
    • Beefsteak

    I started out with 36 seed pods growing 4 different varieties. 31 made it to true "leafing out". Of course I don't need 31 tomato plants, so I decided to pay it forward. Since my goal is to encourage other people to plant veggies gardens as well, I gave 4 plants to my dad and 4 plants to one of my coworkers. From one mans heirloom seed packs he was able to stock his garden, my garden and two people he doesn't even know with fresh tomatoes all summer long. I just love the idea! So now I'm down to 23 plants, still a lot, but I know I can always make the surplus tomatoes into salsa and can it for the winter!


    A friend of mine suggested that I begin a blog about my home garden, decorating, and raising chickens.  I have shared these ideas with my friends on Facebook who wanted to know more information about my projects, but I have finally decided that they do need to be shared with the blogosphere.  So here I go!  My hope is that I can share some of my ideas and inspire you to create your own modern homestead.