Friday, March 25, 2011

The story of our Homestead

I really felt compelled to share abit about our family history today. I honestly feel very blessed to be where we are at in life right now.

So I'll start at the very beginning......
My father's family immigrated from Ireland in the early 1800's. They settled in south Alabama ( no clue why....). Then the story goes that a few years after the Civil War one of the family members moved up North to Arkansas and bought some land. This was obviously when land was very abundant and he bought several hundred acres. He married someone locally and had a child, my grandfather. He was born in 1920 something, and got married also and had 8 siblings. The youngest of which was my father.

When each of the older siblings got old enough to marry they each got land. My grandfather passed away when my father was about 17 and my father was the only one not married with kiddos by then, so he was kind of the commissioned to take care of my grandmother. He stayed around the original homeplace helping her. He got married, had a 3 kiddos and when my grandmother passed away, the original homestead plus the acreage that was to be "his" when he married belonged to him. He's lived on the same patch of land his entire life.

I grew up here also. By this time the old dog trot house has been torn down and a newer model was erected.  The well is still in perfect condition though and has the coldest water in the South I promise! Other remnents include some beautiful trees and bushes my grandmother had planted, as well as dozens of various fruit and nut trees. There is a gigantic Oak tree also, that still has an old peice of plywood on it that served as my father's basketball hoop growing up.

Yeah, so I grew up in this paradise. 3 ponds to fish and swim in, beautifully rippling creeks to play in and catch crawdads in, loads of fresh fruit in the summer right off the tree and great room for gardens and livestock. I was a blessed little girl for certain. So I grew up there. I loved it there. I graduated high school and went to college. I got married and of course where else would I want to live? None other than where I grew up.

So my father very willingly allowed us to have a portion of his land. We can still walk to his house and the well is still functioning halfway between our two homes.  On the other side of the hill is my uncle and a little further down is an aunt.  Thankfully my husband ( who grew up in the city) is just as mesmerized by it all as I am.  We've added our own goat pen, chicken coops, gardening areas etc. But we still share the well, a strawberry patch, a corn field, the potato patch,  and a watermelon patch  with my parents and of course above all else we share memories and we get the chance to share our lives together.

My kiddos get to grow up with their grandparents and they get to experience this enchanting world that I was always a part of.

I liked this up to Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The colors of Spring

It is official! Spring is here. We are so blessed to have such beautiful colors all around our place. I couldn't resist snapping a few pictures today around the homestead... Hope you enjoy.

Burning Bush - Nice and beautifully fire red

Weeping cherry Tree- Amazingly beautiful pink blooms

 My favorite picture I've taken in a while, a beautiful butterfly up against a perfectly blue sky, enjoying the flowers of the Weeping cherry.....
 Another butterfly o nthe tiny little white flowers all over the ground.
 The color didn't show up as well as I had hoped, this is a huge Red bud tree. Smells heavenly.
I don't know what this is called, we have always just called it the white bush. It is framing the path for the turnoff to our driveway. It is also huge and absolutely stunning.

I can't wait for more beautiful colors to start peeping out.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Cleaning out the pantry and freezer!

This weekend I got into a "nesting" mode as my husband likes to call it and went through all of our pantry and freezer space to really take inventroy of what all we have left from last year. This serves a couple of purposes: 1) is to see what we have an abundance of and use it up before our canning season starts so we will have space and 2) to see what we ran out of early so I'll know if there are things we need to can more of of.

Things that I still have an abundance of from last year:
- apple mint jelly
-apple butter
-pumpkin butter
-blackberry jam
-fig jelly
-strawberry jam
- pear preserves ( 25 pints of this alone)
-pepper jelly
-pepper relish
-green tomato chow chow
-pasta sauce
-tomato juice
-canned diced and whole tomatoes
-salsa ( mild)
-muscadine jelly
-pickled peppers
-dill pickles
-I still have plenty of dried herbs, including lavendar to work with
-corn on the cob
-bell peppers
-fish fillets
-ground deer meat and deer steaks

Things that we ran out of, or are almost out of and I should do more for next year:
-green beans
-vegetable soup
-bread and butter pickles
-cherry jelly ( I only had enough to make 3 pints and those were gone fast!)
-plum jelly ( made about 8 pints but this is my Dad's fave, so he ended up with about 5 of them)
-dried apples, pears, peaches, plums, cherries, etc. ( I was just perfecting my drying technique and didn't do a whole lot of those)

-frozen strawberries
-frozen blueberries
-frozen blackberries
-corn off the cob
-deer stew meat
-purple hull peas

One thing that we really enjoyed this past winter ( which seemed to be particulary cold for our area) was the vegetable soup. We really enjoyed a big bowl of that with some homeade bread, biscuits or cornbread on a cold day. All of the frozen fruit was used quickly also, in smoothies, pies, cakes, ice cream etc.

As far as the pecans go, I couldn't really have put up any more than I stored. I picked every single one up off the ground. We used them in trail mixes, cakes, pies, cookies, etc. Mainly around Christmas baking time.

I'd also like to put up more green beans this year, they aren't that hard and we enjoy them a lot.

I want to encourage you all to take an inventory of your pantry and freezers and really take a look at what you need and want for this next year and plan accordingly. If you put up 100 pints of pepper jelly, and still have 98 left, perhaps you skip that this year :). Of course the point is to enjoy it fresh as much as possible, and beleive me, during the summer we eat most of our meals all completly from the garden, but we of course have excess and it's so soothing knowing that in the dead of winter that apple butter , soup or other veggies will warm your spirit!

What about you guys? Any funny stories of over zealous canning? What do you always run out of?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

So busy around here, and loving it!

I love Spring. I really , REALLY do! We have been so busy around here and I'm loving being able to enjoy the outside.

Last weekend on Saturday we went to a local Daffodil festival.
I realize you can't see the girls' faces in this picture, but I still think it is cute of them running through the beautiful flowers. We picked several bouquets and brought them home and have enjoyed them all week.

Then we had packed a picnic ( and a change into play clothes) and went hiking at a nearby state park. When it was just my husband and I we would do  many many miles, but the girls did great at 1.8 miles. I was proud of them, it was pretty rough terrain at times and we just took our time and enjoyed it.

We put out 2 more apple trees this last week, and planted 50 more Strawberry plants. These are called "whoppers" and claim to be as big as peaches...... we will see.

The Bradford pears and weeping cherries are in full bloom and are providing a beautiful blacksplash of color to the newly greening grass.

We put in our chick order at the local co op and they should be here around Thursday. Several of these are for my oldest to try her hand at showing them at the fair for 4H, but we also just wanted  to increase our flock a bit, with food prices going so crazy high, we may be wishing we had more eggs in the near future. Plus my oldest daughter will gather the eggs and there are a few people she will sell them to weekly, which helps out with the feed costs. I think it just teaches her good life skills as well.

We put out about 5 green onion sets, so those will be good hopefully this summer. I really like to just eat one with dinner at night, especially with freshly caught crappie......( which to non-southerners, is a perfectly delicious little freshwater  fish).

Until next time, happy homesteading

- Homesteading Quest

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Updates for March

I was really hoping to update once per month on the goings on around here...and here it is already March 15th and I haven't updated yet. So here goes:

Here is what I wrote back in January....One of the things I would like to do ( and at least keep track of) is to "put up" 600 pints of goodies this year. This will include canned, frozen and dried. I've made this cute little ticker, although I'm not sure exactly how to keep up with it, but I'll try. Nothing happening here quite yet. I do have day dreams though about freshly canned fruits, jams, jellies, pickles, salsas etc though. We have started out our early crops and I am excited about this Spring and Summer. I still hope to get to my 600 pints of goodies though by the end of the year.

A few other things I would like to do this year

- complete 20 scrapbook pages - nothing here, I need to do our Christmas pages, fall pumpkin pictures and our snow pictures, sigh, I'll get to it, I really will......

- Read 10 books - This is something I'm actually keeping up with. I typically do read more in the Winter though. You can see them books I have read on my book Review page, I added a cute little Book shelf so you can see what books I've read.  I read Radical Homemakers

which I really enjoyed. It is a wonderful look into modern day Homemaking and Consumerism, and I really enjoyed the book. I couldn't put it down. It takes a look at the History of women's role in homemaking and also looks at current day consumerism. I think this is a must read for anyone!

I also read a John Grisham book " The Broker" which I really enjoyed. I got it a yard sale for .25 cents which made it even nicer. I've always been a big John Grisham fan. You can see the other books I have read on my little Shelf on my book page. So I have read 7 books this year, out of the 10 I was hoping for!

- Make rock candy with the girls- Nothing here either. I think they will enjoy it though and I can't wait to try.

- Go camping at least 5 times this year- It's been too cold for us to go camping. We normally don't start until about March or April .  Looking forward to it though!

-Plant the girls a large wildflower patch for them to make bouquets out of - I ordered some seeds and we have been talking about it, but we haven't planted yet. I also picked up some bulbs, so that will be fun.

- plant 2 additional fruit or nut trees- I planted 2 blueberry bushes , and also another pear tree! So I guess I have met this goal for the year. I can't wait until harvest!

- Earn at least $100 in Amazon codes from Swagbucks and/or Irazoo - use these for Christmas - I have $15 so far that I have earned from Swagbucks, and I have $5  from Irazoo, so  $20 out of the $100. Not bad.

-Make fresh, homeade peanut butter with the girls - :( wow this is kind of depressing. I haven't done this yet either.

- Host a giveaway on my blog - Nothing here, I have a few ideas though for something soon.

- have 50 followers on my blog - I have 21 followers out of the 50! Thanks guys!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Monthly Shopping update plus WOW prices are going up

A couple of you have written to me that you also do once a month shopping. I have started doing this and have a budget of $285 which includes 4 people's food, toiletries, household products plus dog and cat food. I have a seperate budget for livestock feed which we buy at the local co-op. So, today is March 6th and I'm just now getting around to doing my March shopping. I still had some wonderful stuff left from February so my March shopping trip today came in at $129.xx! For the whole month! So, I'm pretty excited about that. I do have a few notes though about this shopping trip, hopefully someone will find them useful.

1.) If you have got eggs, USE THEM!
Our hens are finally starting to lay consistantly since it is getting warmer. We have 10 hens and are getting 8 eggs a day. If you are getting eggs, you really have to be creative in your meal plan in order to utlize them. Of course I use them in normal baking and such but I've found that it really helps to stretch our budget if I use the in main courses as well. Here are a few examples:
- at the first of the week I normally hardboil about a couple dozen eggs and I go ahead and peel them and refridgerate them. My 5 year old LOVES them as snacks, I like them in salads and sandwiches and so does my husband. Egg salad sandwich on freshly made bread is DELISH.
- make scrambled egg burritos, just scramble the eggs, then I put them in a tortilla and put salsa, cheese, sour cream and black beans in it and it makes a great dinner. Very easy, and a great way to turn your eggs into a dinner.
-scrambled egg sandwiches
-Quiches, I have found lots of great recipes in magazines as well as by searching online.

2.)WOW stuff is getting expensive. Although I normally buy my milk from a local farmer, I do try to keep up with prices at the grocery store. Normally a gallon of Horizon white milk is $4.99, today it was $6.79!!!! Wow, I was shocked. A few other things that I normally buy like Kashi Go Lean Crunch cereal, a store brand of quinoa, and the store brand of molassas has also gone up in price. I guess I say that to say that I really think that the crisis in the Middle East among other factors are really going to drive not just our gas prices up but all of our grocery prices up tremendously. I'm not going to get political here, ( because it would take waaaaayyyy too long) but I'm convinced that the problems over there are going to effect us here in America more than any of us would like to think. So my solution is two fold: first of all every time I go to the store I buy 5 things for my "stockpile". These are mainly things like dried beans, rice, pasta etc. but also things like medical supplies, bandages, matches , bottled water etc. This will be helpful not only in a time of extreme crisis, but also in the case when food prices go up so high that people can't afford them.
Second, I'm certainly planting more in our garden this year than years past. I also plan on putting up more foods than normal for my stockpile. I urge you all to do the same also!