Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Grape Jelly

5 pounds grapes or 5 cups of grape juice
4 cups sugar
1 package of reduced or sugar free Sure-Jell pectin

Starting with 5 pounds of washed grapes, chop in food processor.  
Move them to a large pot on the stove, bring to a boil then simmer for 10 minutes.  This releases the juices (and color) from the skins. 
Strain out seeds and skins. 

 Place 5 cups of strained grape juice into a separate pot. 
Add package of pectin and bring to a full boil. 

Add sugar all at once, stir and return to a boil.  Boil hard for 60 seconds. 
You may check to see if your jelly is going to set by taking and ice cold spoonful of the juice out and letting it cool.  If it doesn't "set" then add another half-package of pectin and boil for another 60 seconds. 
If you have the consistency you like ladle your hot juice into sterilized pint or half-pint jars. Place lids in jars and place in boiling water bath canner for 5 minutes. 
Remove and let cool. Jelly should set as it cools, usually within 4 hours or so.

Grape jelly makes a great gift and taste great too!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Refried Canned Pinto Beans

I was making some beef burritos one night and I thought to myself, 

"These would be excellent with some retried beans...but I don't have any in my pantry...although I still have some dried beans left from that huge 5 lb I bought for canning...no that will take too long...but what about the quarts of pinto beans I canned from that bag? ...yes!  I intended to use them in chilli, but I could easily make them into refried beans...YES!"  

Thus went my inner monologue.  At least it wasn't out loud and I was not asking and answering my own questions, not that I would ever do such a thing.  After a quick google search to get a second opinion I decided to give them a try. 

And yes they were so wonderful, gently spiced and fresh they reminded me of my first mission trip in Honduras!

Here is all I used: 1 quart pinto beans, 4tbsp bacon grease, salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, onion and garlic powder

Heat the bacon grease, lard, whatever you normally cook with in a large skillet. 

Add beans cook for 15 minutes until easily smashed with spatula. 
If necessary, add a small bit of water. 
Add spices to taste. 

Serve warm. 

Try not to eat the entire bowl before the rest of the meal is finished cooking, but if it DOES happen...I won't judge!




Monday, July 1, 2013

7 Reasons to Cover-Crop with Wheat

Since beginning gardening two years ago when we first bought our house, I have been researching ways to make our garden more time and cost efficient.  The first year we tilled/fertilized/weeded in an ongoing cycle of weed growth and plant disruption.  Since then we began incorporating using lawn clippings as mulch and fertllizing with chicken poop from our coop.  This has really helped save time and money and benefits garden's healthcare regimen.  Last fall we decided to choose a nitrogen-fixing cover crop that would function in many ways.  Here are my top 7 reasons reasons why this worked out so well for this years garden. 

1.  To decrease weed growth
2.  To bring nitrogen to the surface where beneficial bacteria "fix" it into nitrogen that is usable by other plants. 
3.  To prevent soil erosion. 
4.  As chicken fodder. 
5.  To use as a mulch when it is ready to cut. 
6.  To help promote good habitat for worms and beneficial insects. 
7.  To help maintain moisture in the soil.

These are just some of the benefits, but if we add in the time it has saved us in weeding and on mulches and fertilizer the pros would far surpass any cons. 

Fall 2012, winter wheat growing in.  The red building at the back left is the chicken coop. 

May 2013, the wheat was still green but starting to seed out.  We tilled it down in between the rows so we could plant garden veggies. 

The tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, sunflowers, squash, zucchini, okra and melons getting big and the wheat drying out. 

Pickling cucumbers using some wheat stalks for support. 

The cut wheat providing hours of fun for the chickens, walking paths for us and most importantly mulch so I don't have to weed as much!
The 2013 summer garden!

Off to a great start thanks to cover-cropping. 







Tuesday, June 25, 2013

3 Ingredient Liquid Washing Detergent

We have been using this liquid washing detergent for several months now and I can definitely vouch for its smell, effectiveness and cost savings. 

For about 10 dollars in supplies at Walmart you can make your own washing detergent for 1/10 of the price of buying it.  Plus it only takes about 15 minutes and a 2 gallon bucket.  

Here's how we made the switch from $10.98 a jug Tide to about $0.50 a jug homemade stuff!

We saved a couple of old Tide jugs to put our homemade detergent in to make it easier to handle than the bucket. 

So here's is what you'll need:
2 empty washing detergent containers
2 gallon bucket
1/3 Fels-Naptha bar of soap
1/2 cup Arm and Hammer washing soda
1/2 cup 20 Mule Team Borax
*optional laundry scent

All ingredients can be found in the laundry aisle of Walmart. 

1.  Grate 1/3 bar of Fels-Naptha and place in a large pot, add 6 cups of water and heat until soap is melted. 
2.  Add 1/2 cup washing soda and 1/2 cup Borax, stir until dissolved. 

3.  Remove from heat, to the 2 gallon bucket add 4 cups HOT water.  Next add the soap mixture to bucket.  Stir.

4. Then add 1 gallon plus 6 cups of water.  If desired add 1/2 to 1 ounce of scented laundry oil (I use Linen scented).  Stir. 

5.  Let sit about 24 hours to gel.  Stir it up again and using a funnel pour it in to empty detergent containers.  Now your homemade detergent is ready to use!

Make sure you shake the detergent well before each wash because it tends to separate. 



Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Gardening Goals of 2013

I enjoy setting goals for myself; spiritual, financial, physical, etc.  I believe it is important I continue that practice in order to 'grow' my gardening skills, excuse the pun please.  Last year one of my goals was to make "Garden Salsa" without purchasing any ingredients, save the spices.  I grew the tomatoes, onions, jalepenos and cilantro.  The cilantro was by far the most difficult for me, though I have had multiple people tell me how easy it is for them, huh.  I guess we all have our Achilles heel.
So without further ado...my 2013 Gardening Goals:
  1. Make a salad with only organic, grow from seed veggies. 
  2. Can a whole years supply of salsa, pasta sauce and chili tomatoes. 
  3. Track and weigh my harvest so I can better estimate how much to preserve. (Freezing lightly breaded okra included!)
  4. Grow and figure out how to cook an eggplant.  I read they like hot, dry weather so I guess that means they will LOVE Arkansas!
I am pleased to announce that as of tonight I have achieved Goal #1!



Healthy, totally organic, totally grown from seed by my own hand.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Succulent Table Arrangement

I have been wanting to do a succulent arrangement to put on the table on the deck.  I love the colors and textures of succulents and them seem pretty hard to kill (except if you overwater them).  So I stopped at the "home improvement place" and picked out 9 of my favorite succulents and a bag of cactus mix potting soil. 

I stuck with the arrangement motto that you need a "thriller, filler and a spiller". 

Pick a well draining bowl or container.
Fill it with cactus mix soil.
Then start adding the plants. 

I started by already having a plan laid out in mind.  I like to use the tallest plant in the center for my "thriller", then do my "fillers" opposite each other based on color and leaf shape.  Then I went back with the "spillers" and put them on the outer edge so they would grow out and hang down.  

Then I went back and added a few pebbles to provide extra support and cover any bare spots. 

I think it turned out beautifully.  Hopefully they will be happy outside all summer (Lord knows we never get much rain anyways) and this fall I'll bring it inside to live as a houseplant. 



Sunday, April 28, 2013

Photo Book for Mother's Day

Shutterfly offers exclusive layouts and designs so you can make your book just the way you want.

For months now I have been gathering and photographing my grandmother's old recipes in order to preserve them. 

At Christmastime, I helped her bake her "Christmas candy" which took three people, 8 hours and even more patience.  She told me all the tips, tricks and techniques {there are many} for making a good batch of Divinity down to the best weather conditions for baking.  We had a great time and now I have committed some of her best recipes and a few pictures from Christmas 2012 into print in this picture book.  A few of my favorite recipes: strawberry freezer jam, cheeseball and apple pie have already been featured on my recipes link and on my canning page.

I purchased two copies and I intend to give my mother one and keep one for myself {after showing it off to my grandmother, of course}.

I can't wait until it comes in and I can show it off to everyone!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Homemade Iced Coffee

With warmer weather in the forecast it is time that I transitioned my morning wake-me-up to something that won't get me sweating before 8 a.m.   Since it gets very hot here in the summer I prefer iced coffee when temps rise about 80F.  This usually happens May through September! 

My iced coffee recipe is super easy and only requires three things: coffee, ice and creamer.

  1. Make coffee using half the normal amount of water, use your regular amount of coffee grounds.
  2. Fill the decanter up with ice so the coffee will be further diluted and chilled.
  3. Add more ice to your thermos/mason jar.
  4. If desired, add your usual amount of creamer.
  5. Pour in coffee, mix well and you are ready to face your day.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Propagating Jasmine

My dad asked me to propagate some jasmine for him.  It had been planted on the arbor of a house they bought a couple of years ago and since I had not heard of yellow flowered jasmine I was not completely confident in his ID of it.  The vines are numerous, evergreen, cold hardy and drough-tolerant, oh and they smell like heaven.  First I wanted to identify it to be sure.

I looked on several websites and confirmed that it was Carolina Jasmine. Other species have white flowers and are less winter hardy so I am pretty sure that the Carolina yellow vining species is what we have growing here in Zone 7. 

  • First I got out my rooting hormone powder. 
  • Then I removed the petals and leaves from the bottom 2/3 of an 8 inch cutting of NEW vine. 
  • The older woody stems will not root as easily as the flexible new growth. 
  • Then I wet a few inches at the base of the plant and dipped it into the rooting powder. 
  • Here is where the controls for my scientific experiment come in.  What can I say I will always be a science nerd!
I decided to use three different mediums and placements for planting the propagations.
  1. I used water with a bit of rooting hormone powder mixed in and placed the vase out of the way on the kitchen counter.  
  2. I used a soil starting mixture and put my container in the greenhouse.  
  3. I used regular potting mix and placed it in a sunny spot on the windowsill. 
I expect to see some new roots in 4-6 weeks, I will update you then.

Which method do YOU think will work best?

Monday, April 8, 2013

3 Minute Consult: Vertigo in Women

Springtime is upon us, pollen is in the air wreaking havoc on those of us with allergies.  Another common ailment I have been noticing with increasing frequency is vertigo in young, middle and older aged women.  Today I wanted to share some of what I have found and add my own thoughts.

Vertigo attacks occur more frequently in women and can increase with age.  It is a subtype of 'dizziness' categorized by a whirling, spinning sensation.  It affects the vestibular system (inner ear) through altering fluid balance. 

The main type of peripheral vertigo is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo.  Symptoms of BPPV include nausea, vomitting, fullness, pain or ringing of the ears, and imbalance.  It is due to calcium carbonate crystals in the inner ear becoming unbalanced.  The crystals can be realigned by a medical professional through the Epley maneuver.  However, crystals can shift again and it would have to be performed again.

This is much more common than central vertigo which is caused by injury occuring in the brain or brainstem ie. stroke, trauma, tumors, multiple sclerosis, migraine headaches and many others.

Since most people experience mild, yet persistent symptoms most folks just treat symptoms as they occur.  The drug of choice for vertigo is meclizine (brand: Antivert).  It is technically an antihistamine like Benadryl or Claritin, but it its claim to fame is its anticholinergic properties.  Meaning it is really, really, really DRYING of all secretions.  Think dry mouth, dry eyes, dry EARS!  It is believed that by decreasing the fluid in the inner ear meclizine renders some benefit.  It also has the added benefit of decreasing nausea and not so great for daytime, but great at night side effect of drowsiness.

So just to be prepared if you notice your vertigo symptoms occur more frequently during certain times of the year or under certain stressors you can pre-medicate to prevent symtoms.  Chlorpheniramine would be a great choice to provide anticholinergic effects without being as sedating as meclizine and is also a great antihistamine.  So if you have seasonal allergies you could also follow this advice for preventing allergy symptoms before they start!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Organic Salad Greens Farm to Table

I had tried to grow lettuce in my raised garden bed in the past, unfortunately without any success.  When my husband bought me a small greenhouse last year I was excited to try extending our growing season so in early February we set it up. 

The lettuce seedlings I had been growing in starter pots was the first to get transplanted out there.  I also transplanted some and sowed some of the same lettuce seeds into the raised garden.  So that I could compare the results, my results surprised me!

Lettuce seedlings started mid January

This is the lettuce not long after transplanting in mid February
I did not keep very good records :(  Whoops!

The lettuce at the end of March, ready for harvest

Greenhouse to table in about 6 weeks
No pesticides, herbicides or fungicides 
Totally organic, even the soil!
What would this salad be worth in the grocery store, I wonder?

Another of the lettuce mix just after transplanting

The lettuce mix today.  It made a beautiful bouquet, but if I had planted it further apart it would have had more room to grow.

The reason I cannot show you the pictures of the seedlings and transplants that I set out in the garden is simple, because the seeds I sewed in the garden never germinated (probably too cold, wet, etc.) and the chickens ate the transplanted lettuce.  Whoops again...

So I have decided that greenhouse lettuce is the way to go.  I think that next year I will try growing out in it more during the winter and sewing seedlings and transplants every two weeks or so for a continued harvest.  That is what makes gardening such fun, there is ALWAYS something new to try!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Grandma's Apple Pie

I was really craving apple pie the other day so I decided to make one using my grandma's recipe.  It was delicious!

  • 6 cups thinly sliced apples (about 4 large)
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Let sit 1 hour to soak.

Spoon mixture into prepared pie crust.  Top with second crust, cut slits in the top.

Bake at 425F for 35-40 minutes or until apples are tender and crust is brown.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

What came first the chicken or the egg?

I just wanted to give everyone a chicken update.  We had another chick hatch today and we have two left in the incubator still.  We have had great survival rates so far (100%) for hatched out and store bought chicks.  Now we are up to 16 chickens total. 

1 Dominicker rooster
3 Australorpes hens
1 Wyandote hen
1 Rhode Island hen
4 Easter Egger chicks
1 Rhode Island chick
5 mixed breed chicks from hatching
Here they are scratching at our kitchen floor. 
Big difference between 1 Day and 1 WEEK old chicks!
Mama Rem keeping an eye on them.

The best part about having pet chickens. FRESH eggs!  Do you have any idea how old store bought eggs are?  Well neither do I, BUT I do know they aren't "fresh as fresh can be"!  Some studies show organically raised and free range chickens have 4 times lower rates of salmonella than traditional laying farms. 
So ugly, he's cute.  Pretty energetic for being about 6 hours old!

Since it does take supplemental feed to keep our chickens from going hungry because they are not ALWAYS free ranging (just when we are home to supervise) it does cost a little to keep them.  So to offset the costs of feed we have decided to start selling some of our excess eggs.  We will keep a special piggy bank just for chicken expenses.  The money from selling the eggs will go in the bank and the money for feed will come out of it.  At the end of the year we will see how we did!






Sunday, March 24, 2013

Biggers Bed and Breakfast in Hardy, Arkansas

I had the weekend off work and the weather was not going to be permissive for any work outside, so my husband and I decided to take a little weekend getaway for Spring Break.  We stayed at Biggers Bed and Breakfast in Hardy, Arkansas in the relaxing and romantic Shangri La suite.  It is perched on top of a very high bluff and has sweeping views of Spring River below.  On a clear day they say you can see about 9 miles.  We had a jacuzzi, gas fireplace and a balcony with an gorgous view; it was so relaxing we never even turned on the tv.  This morning the fog was really heavy on the river, but as the sun came up I was able to get some really gorgeous pictures even though it was cloudy and cold.

The gazebo.

They also have a restaurant on the property, The Bluff Steakhouse.  We had dinner there last night and my ribeye was so melt-in-your-mouth tender and perfectly cooked I am already craving another one.  They also have a great bar and wonderful cocktails.

From the sunroom, you will have the best table view around.

The pool area, which although we did not test out due to inclement weather, would be so much fun to lounge around on a hot, summer day.

We had a great time and cannot wait to go back!