Thursday, May 26, 2016

Check in: How is this Homesteading thing going anyhow?

I've been blogging for a while ( not always super faithful but you know....) and I thought it would be good to see how things are coming along around the place...

Things that are going really good:
We'll start with the positive and see what good progress we have been making as a family.

1. We are living pretty simply. We have one TV in the house and only have Netflix. We watch on average less than one hour a day of TV and go many days without turning the sucker on. Since before we had kids my husband and I had a super expensive cable package and it seemed all we did was watch TV, I would say this is a definite plus in our home.

2. I've gotten really good at meal planning and keeping our groceries under control. I've been making our own bread, rolls and pizza crusts and planning accordingly for the things we need at the store. I know what I'm harvesting for the week and what I have canned or frozen so I can make a pretty good list. There are many weeks where we don't go to the store at all, and even more weeks where the only place I go is the Farmer's Market.

3. We love our chickens. The kids love 'em, my husband and I love 'em and they are keeping us stocked with eggs. They are fun, not too much trouble and we enjoy the eggs.

4. I've gotten good at canning!! That doesn't mean that I've canned all we needed for a year or anything like that, but I've gotten good at it. I know what to do and how to do it.

5. There are some things in the garden that we grow plenty of, at least for the last few years. Those items are muscadines, grapes, cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers. I've got all of those that I want.....

Things that are going okay:

There are also some things that are going good, not amazingly well, but I'm still pretty proud of.

1. Our gardens in general are doing well. Above I listed the things that we really have way too much of, enough to share, and even sell a bit. There are some other things though that we have just enough of. A little bit to share, and can even. Those items are squash, zucchinni, okra, cabbages, kale, lettuces, broccoli. corn and potatoes ( both sweet and white). We also normally ( some years are better than others) get enough pecans from our trees.

2. We ( as a family) are reading a lot and that makes me happy. Every Tuesday we head to the library for books. Even my husband is in on the action when he has time. All three of my children really enjoy reading and I of course do myself. I'm pleased with this aspect of our homesteading quest.

3. Our diets are good. You may recall that my profession is a Registered Dietitian and I am working on my PhD and even though we have always eaten pretty well, I can say that I'm pleased with the way we eat. We have lots of water bottles, we pack lunches and snacks when we travel, and I cook a lot. Are we 100% organic? No. I don't have a desire to be honestly. We aren't vegetarians or paleo or anything like that, but I am impressed with myself when I open up our pantries or the fridge or freezers. My kids aren't picky and we eat a variety of really delicious food.

4. We are watching our trash production. We use reusable items like dish clothes, napkins, even feminine items, as well as reusing what we can, recycling and donating or consigning items that no longer fit us.

5.We are composting! Not only do we have rabbit manure and grass clippings and leaves, but we compost our broccoli stems and apple cores and just all those little knick knacks from the kitchen. Our composting is coming in handy.

6. We have one bee hive and have done well with them I think. We should be ready to harvest our honey here in a few months.

Things that I'd like to work on:

1. We have plenty of pears and muscadines, but I'd like more fruit!! I always have enough blueberries, blackberries and strawberries for a few desserts a year and for us to snack on, and occasionally enough to freeze a bit or make some jam, but right now I'm getting our berries, apples and peaches from the farmer's markets or pick your own type places. I'd like to add more fruit to our homestead. 

2. I'd also like more corn and peas to add to our pantry and freezers. We eat a lot of corn, and I do put up quite a bit, but I think adding a few more rows of each would be helpful. 

3. I'd like to start making soap. I have plenty of herbs that I could dry and I bought a book off of Amazon about how to make cold press soap, but that's been it. I'd like to start experimenting with making our own soap. 

4. Last year I put up a ton of delicious pizza sauce, pasta sauce and salsa, this year I'd like to try my hand at vegetable soup. Last year I would just get a jar of stewed tomatoes and add frozen veggies and stuff to it, but those big quart jars of veggie soup I remember from my childhood are just calling my name. 

5. I'd like to try cheese making. I don't have a place to get good fresh milk right now, but I'm sure if I looked a little harder I could find someone local to get some milk from. I know you can make cheese from grocery store milk, but I would like some from a local farmer. 

If you've read this far. Bless you :). 

What are some things you are doing super well with on your homestead? What are some things you could work on?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

What's blooming around the homestead?

Some wildflowers. 

 I'm not super good at flowers. We have some mixed flowers planted as well as some sunflowers but they aren't blooming yet. There are a few pretty colors though around the homestead.  Enjoy and Happy Homesteading!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

What's growing around the homestead?

We have a total of three gardens that we tend each year. The one below is one of our newer ones, we've been gardening this spot for about 4 years. 

It has lots of cabbage, broccoli, green onions , corn, squash, peas, beans, zucchini, watermelon and cantoloupes. 

It won't be long before we'll be digging some nice potatoes and we are already harvesting broccoli and cabbages. 

This is garden number two and is our "main" garden. It has the stuff we'll pick almost daily and it has tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, corn, beans, squash, zucchinni, blueberries, radishes, onions and is framed by the muscadine and concord grapes. 

It won't be long before we have blueberries to snack on. 

Some tomatoes peaking through. 

Baby zucchinni!

Grape vines

A teeny tiny apple that will be yummy soon. 

 And this is garden three. Here are our cucumbers, a few more melons and a few blackberries. 

We also have a small plot of strawberries that are doing pretty good this year, not enough to can but enough to eat. And we have a large bed of asparagus and several random  herb containers and gardens. I hope everyone else is off to a beautiful, productive gardening season!

Happy Homesteading!!!!!!!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Seeing the South: Weekend to Natchez, MS

My very best friend since literally birth is getting married next weekend! So as matron of honor I wanted to take her to a fun girls weekend before the wedding, so we headed towards Natchez, Mississippi. It is right on the Mississippi River and has beautifully restored plantation homes that literally feels like you are stepping back in time. 
 We toured several of them which was amazing, but we couldn't take pictures inside. The outside though gives you a good idea of how perfect they are.

We took a carriage ride through downtown, and I think this was the bank. There are blocks upon blocks of just amazing historical buildings. 

 This house is called The Longwood. It was very very interesting and if you go to visit Natchez, I found this to be very neat. I won't give away what is so special about this one, but go see it if you are ever around. 

 Then we went to Saint Mary's Basilica. It was free and is open to the public. Even though we are not Catholic the architecture was stunning. We went inside and just sat and soaked up the wonderfulness. It is reportedly the first Catholic church in Mississippi. The stained glass windows are amazing. 

I don't know how I didn't get more pictures of the house we stayed in, but here is the one I have. It is named "The Monmouth" and is a beautiful Inn you can stay in. The grounds are spectacular with a rose garden, hiking trail and two ponds. If you are looking for a nice historical weekend getaway, I'd point the car towards Natchez. Even homesteaders have to have fun right? 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Asparagus and Dill Quiche

I'm always ready for a good Quiche Recipe. We are blessed to have many eggs at the moment ( well most moments actually) and after a trip to the library and coming home with a book called "Pies" by Ashley English I found this Quiche that seemed just right for Spring. You could make your own crust of course, but I did not. I found them on clearance after the holidays and bought about 20... They were like .29 cents for a two pack. I doubt I could make them for that. Anyways.... the asparagus is not mine , but from a farmer's market we go to. The dill is mine, as are the eggs.

So you cut up a bundle of fresh asparagus into bit sized peices and put into the pie crust.
Then add the dill.
Then you crack your six farm fresh eggs into a bowl and mix well, then pour onto the top of your pie. This is also where you add the heavy whipping cream.
Cover with about a cup of Feta and bake at 350 until it begins to get nice and bubbly and brown on top.  My husband and I gave this recipe a 10! The kids gave it probably a 7.5. Either way it was a nice way to use up some eggs and it fed us dinner, then kept great as left overs for lunches for a few days. It's quite rich and didn't take much to fill you up.

I would say to number 1) check out this super fun book from the library, I gave it back but plan on getting it again in the summer when my fruits and veggies are more productive and two try out this recipe for a very nice Spring brunch, lunch or dinner.

Happy Homesteading!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Reflection on my canning/preserving from last year.

Last year I tried to keep a track of what all I canned and preserved. The deer and rabbit meat didn't make it on the list, but I think most of the produce did, except for the corn on the cob I froze, not sure how that didn't end up on my list. I also gathered about 10 gallons of whole pecans from our two trees, that I just keep in buckets in our shed and use as we need them. Below is a list of what put up last year

15 pints Strawberry Jam
3 half pints Strawberry Jam
1 quart Strawberry Jam
3 quarts Frozen Strawberries
7 pints Frozen Strawberries
1 quart pickled Asparagus
1 gallon Pickled Jalapenos
30 quarts Dill Pickles
21Quarts Bread and Butter Pickles 
11 Quarts Bread And Butter Pickles ( ZESTY) 
1 pint Bread and Butter Pickles
11 pints sweet cucumber relish
4 Quarts Blueberry pie filling
4 quarts pickled okra
14 pints hot salsa
6 jars Pepper sauce
6 quarts Pizza Sauce

You can see many of my posts linked to my 2015 Canning Total page here.

Now that canning season is here again ( I just got my first batch of strawberries that need put up). I thought it would be a good time to reflect on exactly what all we ate, what we didn't etc. I encourage you all to do the same so you'll have a better idea of what you need to focus on this year.

We have only 3 of the 15 pints of jam left.. so I'll certainly put more of that up this year. Also as the kids are getting older I assume they will eat more.

We have zero frozen strawberries left in our freezer... we ran out sometime in February. I use those in making strawberry shortcakes, strawberry cake and in smoothies and homemade popsicles. I'll certainly try to freeze as many as I can get my hands on this year.

The pickled asparagus is gone, i just used the last of it in my pickle tray, but honestly I kind of forgot we had it and I just opened it up a few weeks ago. If I can get my hands on some asparagus I'll pickle some more.

I certainly want to do more pickled jalapenos. We use them on nachos, pizza, sandwiches, burgers. All kinds of good stuff.

The zesty bread and butter pickles are GONE ( I gave some away for Christmas, and the others were just yummy so we ate them).

The blueberry pie filling also was a hit and I could have used more this winter if we had them. They are great to use in pies but also cobblers.

We are down to about one quart pickled okra and about 5 quarts of regular bread and butter pickles. We also have probably 5 dill pickles left also.

No hot salsa is left in this house. My husband LOVES it.

There is no pepper sauce left and 1 quart pizza sauce. No pasta sauce is left either.

We have about 5 pints of cucumber relish and about 5 pints of the hot pepper relish left also.

So there you have it. This year I would like to try to put up more tomato based items if we have tomatoes available as we all seem to eat that and they are very good meal starters. Besides that, I'll put up anything we have extra of, and hope to freeze more fruit and more corn also.

As of right now we have plenty of deer meat to last us until well into Fall, which hopefully we'll at least get one or two more. We also have about 15 meat rabbits and use their meat fresh when we butcher them.

How do you all do this past year? Make too much of anything? Not enough of something?

Sunday, April 17, 2016

My pickling came in handy!

If you have been reading my blog for very long at all, you have probably caught on that I'm from the SOUTH. Like super southern. Not so much geographical, but very much cultural south.

So... impromtu fish fry tonight. I love fish, especially when they are caught fresh and fried...

So I needed to get together something to take, as that is just the proper thing to do you know?

You may recall that I pickled quite a bit of goodies in 2015... so I made this beautiful little pickle tray to take.
Starting at the bottom left corner are so delicious dill pickles from our garden last year, then moving clockwise are bread and butter pickles, then pickled whole jalapenos, black olives, pickled okra , then pickled asparagus. In the center are some green olives. The green and black olives were not grown nor were they pickled by me, but I had a jar of each so in they went. 

I thought this made a nice little pickle tray and I made it from items I had on hand. 

Happy Homesteading Y'all