Canning Dried Pinto Beans

I have wanted to try canning dried pinto beans for a long time. I have made many a large pot of beans and frozen the extra for later. It seems it would be much more convenient to open a jar instead of thawing them out. I don’t know about the quality of canned vs. frozen. So, we will find out. As far as energy consumption goes, what takes more – the propane to can or the electricity to keep them frozen? I don’t know the answer to that. It may depend on how long they stay frozen before they are consumed.

The beans I have stored are about five years old and getting to the point that they are taking longer to cook. So, it’s time to experiment.

The canning recipe I used says to cover the beans with water, boil for 10 minutes, turn off the heat and let sit for 2 hours. I followed everything but the wait time, it was more like 6 hours. The beans had to wait until the mozzarella was finished and the cheese pots were off the stove. But I figured the extra soaking time wouldn’t hurt them any.

I had jars of frozen ham and turkey broth that I planned to use for the liquid when canning the beans, so out they come to thaw. Most recipes call for water instead of a broth, but I figured this broth would add more nutrients and a little fat which is a

necessity if you don’t have any other sources in your diet. 

We brought the broth and beans to boiling…..

…..ran the jars through the boiling water. And simmered the lids and rings.

We measured the jars because the recipe says to fill them 3/4 full of beans. It doesn’t look like a lot of beans, but they aren’t cooked all the way either so they will absorb more liquid during the canning process.

Since we are using broth with some fat content, we wiped the rim of the jars with vinegar to insure a good seal.

We are using some of our Tattler lids on this batch. The process for using them is a little different, so we are practicing. I am glad we discovered these since they are reusable as long as the rubber gasket is good.

Process in the pressure canner for 90 minutes with 10 lbs. pressure. We came out with 27 pints of beans! I didn’t know about quantity – x beans = y pints….and I am very happy with the results. 

This will be a good, nutritious meal in times to come and I won’t have to depend on the freezer or use cooking fuel if I am trying to conserve energy. I would encourage you to learn something new everyday that will benefit you and your family. You just never know when that experience will come in handy.

Until next time – Fern

Making Buttermilk from Culture

When I make cheddar cheese, I use cultured buttermilk that I have to make ahead of time. It has to sit overnight to culture, so I have to plan ahead if I am out of buttermilk and need to make cheese again.  This is how I make it.

The directions call for one quart of milk heated to 86 degrees. Well, I decided to cool the milk to 86 degrees instead of heating it. Saves time and energy if I don’t first chill it then heat it back up.  So….when I came in from milking, I filtered some milk into a quart jar and checked the temperature.

It was almost 100 degrees.


So I put the jar into a bucket of cold tap water and stirred it around until it lowered to 86 degrees. 

Then the directions say to put in the culture, stir it around and let it sit for two minutes to rehydrate. Stir well again and let sit at 72 degrees for 12 to 24 hours. This is no problem because Frank keeps our house at about 72 degrees all summer!

As we were reading over this, Frank asked, “What is the culture and why can’t you use the milk you get when you make butter? What is the difference?” Well….I didn’t know, so I looked it up. According to Wikipedia, traditional buttermilk is the milk that comes off of butter when you make it. Cultured buttermilk is fermented or ‘cultured’ to allow specific bacteria to increase the acidity of the milk, thus the tart flavor. The same is true for yogurt. Commercially made buttermilk has been pasteurized and homogenized then inoculated with a culture. So, the milk from the butter making process would probably not have the same result when making cheese as the cultured buttermilk does. But we may have to do an experiment one day and find out what it will do. So…if you left the traditional buttermilk (milk from butter) sitting out all night would it also thicken and cause the milk to ripen in the cheese making process? Interesting question.

Okay. Back to making buttermilk. It will keep in the frig for 2-3 weeks, which isn’t long. I put a piece of tape on the lid with the date so I can keep track of myself. I use this buttermilk in cheddar and cottage cheese recipes. If I am not making much cheese, I wait until I am ready to make another batch before I culture the buttermilk. Otherwise, It goes bad.

The milk will thicken. It’s hard to show in a picture, but it’s almost a thin yogurt consistency. If you poke your finger in it, it will coat your finger with a thin layer of buttermilk. That means it is ready. 

And since the frig is overrun with milk again…’s time to make cheese!

Until next time – Fern

Radios – CB Export/10 Meter

Hello, Frank here.

I would like to tell you about a CB radio that is not really a CB, but it can be. I don’t understand exactly why these are made or sold, but I would assume it has to do with profit. There is going to be some new jargon on this post, so like always, if you don’t understand everything, wait a little while and it will soak in. 

Export radios, to the best of my knowledge, are what they say they are. These radios are meant to be sold outside of this country – exports. Other countries use different bands and frequencies for their radio communications. Therefore, these radios are easy to modify and can be used for the frequencies and bands in this country as well. Some export radios are programmable via computer which makes it easy to add the CB frequencies. Another option is power capabilities up to 100 watts, 200 watts and more. These radios also tend to be more expensive. Are they legal to use on the CB frequencies? The answer is no. Do people use them on the CB frequencies? The answer is yes. Some of the previous sites I have posted sell export radios. If this is what you are looking for you will probably never have any problems with the FCC unless you are interfering with other forms of transmission. 

10 meter radios are similar in nature to export radios. Almost everything I said above applies to 10 meter radios. Let me explain the difference. A 10 meter radio operates on the amateur radio frequencies or ham radio. You have to have an amateur radio license to use the radio on 10 meters. I will talk more about amateur radio licensing and frequencies in a future post. Okay. Follow me here now. Some of the ham bands are 10 meter, 12 meter, 15 meter and so forth. The CB radio frequencies fall between the 10 and 12 meter ham bands. CB is often called 11 meters. Meters have to do with the length of the frequency signal. But at this time, that is not important. It will be discussed more later.

So. You can buy a 10 meter radio with a small modification or you can program in the CB frequencies with the computer program option if it is available. Let’s clarify something here. A ham radio license does not allow the ham radio operator to operate on 11 meters because CB radios are approved by the FCC to operate on CB frequencies only. Is it legal to operate a 10 meter radio on CB frequencies? The answer is no. Do people use 10 meter radios for CB purposes? The answer is yes. These same dealers mentioned above also carry some of the 10 meter radios. It’s a matter of driving 56 MPH in a 55 MPH zone and driving 95 MPH in a 55 MPH zone. Both are illegal, one will attract a whole lot more attention than the other. 

Can you mount these radios in your car or truck? Sure, you can. If the radio runs higher power, it will come with the appropriate size

power cable. If you need to extend this cable to your battery, use the same size cable or larger. In most cases, you can use the same antenna as any CB radio, unless you are running an exorbitant amount of power. In that case you need to make sure your antenna will handle the power. If you need to tune these, you can do it yourself or you can take it to your local CB shop and they can tune your rig for you.

If you are giving thought to purchasing one of these types of radios, please get one with SSB. Remember, some, but not all of these radios can be used for 10 meter ham radio operation.

If you choose to use this type of radio for a base station, your one amp power supply will not work. A quick review here: P = E x I. P = power or watts, E = voltage, and I = current or amps. Let’s say you are running 200 watts of power. That is your P. Your voltage will be 13.8, that is E. That is 200 divided by 13.8, equals 14.5 amps or I. Don’t forget the rule of 80. This means you will need at least 18 amps just to run this radio. That’s why on the last post it was recommended that you purchase a 30 amp power supply for your home. 

There is something I failed to mention on the last CB post. You cannot take your base station and outside antenna to a CB shop and have it tuned so you will need to do it yourself, or have a competent friend help you. This will involve an SWR meter, and a three foot jumper, which is a short piece of coax with a 259 connector on each end which allows you to put the meter in line between the radio and the antenna. This will allow you to tune your SWR down. Read the FAQ at this site. It will answer most of your questions about SWR. Again, make sure your base station antenna can handle the power you are using. Don’t push any antenna to the maximum, use the rule of 80.

If you can, ground your radio. The radio may or may not have a ground plug on the back, most CB’s don’t. If it doesn’t, slide in a piece of flexible, coated, copper wire about size 12-14, where you attach the screws to mount the radio. This will give you a good, solid ground. In your car, find a screw somewhere connected to metal. In your house, run the ground wire back the same way you brought in your antenna wire and attach it to the three foot copper rod that you placed in the earth. Do you have to ground your radio? No. Will it help clean up some sound issues? Yes. When we talk about ham radios, grounding will be covered in greater detail.

By the way, if you choose to get your ham radio license, you can use these radios to operate on 10 or 12 meter frequencies. Just a little bonus there if you decide to make that switch. 

I know all of this information about the CB radios, export radios and 10 meter radios is a general and broad view. I would encourage you to read some of the earlier posts about laws, regulations, safety, and some of the websites that have FAQ sections about radios and antennas. There is a lot of information about CB radios that is not included here. In future posts we’ll be talking in more detail about power supplies, antennas, coaxial cables, connectors, ham radios, GMRS, FRS and commercial radios.

What I have to say now is a personal observation. The reason I got into radio communications is because someday there may not be the regular types of communications that we have now. When I say regular, I am talking about cell phones, hard-line phones, internet, television, AM/FM radio, etc. A lot of people currently have CB

radios. Some folks approve of the type of traffic on them and some don’t. But if there is a nationwide emergency, CB radios and GMRS will be excellent forms of communication. Most people don’t realize that the two-way communication radios that they have right now are of an excellent quality and can be used during an emergency. Of course, I hope this day never comes. But I believe that the wolf is at the door. I would recommend all families have some type of communications, whether it is two-way or listening only. We will talk more about receive only radios – how to power them with things such as rechargeable batteries, small solar panels or car batteries. This is all part of communications. 

This finishes up my posts on CB’s for now, more will come later. Next I am going to talk about GMRS, FRS, and MURS. 

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank

Life Experiences – You Just Never Know

Life is a journey and it is not so important where it leads you as what you do with it along the way.

Frank and I have had many different experiences that we can now bring to bear as we prepare for the changes our world is about to experience. Looking back, it seems that so many things happened so that we would be better able to deal with these times.

Living in remote, bush Alaska teaches a person a lot about their internal tenacity and endurance. We lived in a Inupiat village for nine months without running water. It was great that there was a laundromat to wash our clothes and that we could shower at the school, but we heated water to cook and wash dishes. Frank carried the water in two five gallon collapsible containers to fill up the 30 gallon trash can we had in the kitchen for our water supply. That winter for a week it got down to -65 degrees with a howling wind. That was when the entire village’s water supply froze and we had to take the snow machine and sled down onto the river where there was a spring to gather water. It was a great time of learning and is just one experience among many.

We actually went to Alaska just to have a great adventure. And it was. We had a blast. But looking back, it has taught us so many

things and given us a confidence that we will handle, to the best of our ability, whatever life brings to us. We learned to cook many things for ourselves because the nearest store at one point was a 20 minute plane ride away and many things couldn’t be flown in during the cold of the winter.

Raising sheep, goats and chickens has taught us how to care for livestock and process meat. Growing, or trying to grow a garden is always an adventure – sometimes much more successful than others – but always a very good learning experience. We are trying to establish a perennial herb garden that will not only make our meals more enjoyable, but the herbs may be used medicinally as well. Making bread, butter, cheese, canning vegetables, always reading, researching and acquiring books to improve the skills and knowledge we already have are part of our daily lives. Yes, we still acquire regular, old-fashioned books because this wonderful internet may not always be with us. We have been learning more about radio communications and how to set up a system that will work off      12 volts powered by solar panels and batteries, if the power is off. Learning, learning and more learning.

Many people in our position are slowly winding down to retirement and older age. Our learning curve seems to be almost vertical. There is so much to do and learn while there is still time, that it can be overwhelming. We get tired and achy, disappointed and disillusioned with the way life in our country is going. But….still….we go on. And we will continue to go on until we are finished…whenever that time may be.

We encourage everyone to learn and experience all they can everyday. Seek out the opportunity to do something that might increase your health, welfare and comfort in the event our lives change from this comfortable, cushy, get-anything-you-want when-you-want-it lifestyle. Use your mind and body to learn those things your family will need. Now. The time is short.

Blessings to you all,

Frank and Fern

Making Whole Wheat Bread

I love to make bread! It smells good. It tastes good. Wheat – the staff of life.

The recipe I use now is a variation of the one my mom used when she taught me to make bread when I was in high school many years ago. She still makes some at Christmas time. It brings back good memories.

I keep my favorite recipes on index cards in a little file box. I guess you can tell I have used this one for a while. It looks a little worse for the wear. I have listed the ingredients for a single batch that makes two nice loaves and a few rolls, as well as a double batch when I want more.

A friend asked me what the difference was in the flavor of bread that is made with 100% fresh ground whole wheat flour and my usual recipe of 50% fresh whole wheat and 50% unbleached white flour. I told her the 100% whole wheat is a much heavier bread. This time I am going to make the 50/50. Later on I will make the 100% whole wheat and show the difference.

First we grind the wheat. I use a Wonder Mix set on pastry or the finest setting. It has a whining jet engine kind of sound, so you have to be ready for some noise. 

I like to grind the wheat when I make bread. Fresh ground wheat flour has a higher nutrient content than the flour at the store. As soon as wheat is ground, it starts losing nutritional value and I think fresh ground tastes better.

I start off heating half of the milk with the shortening in it so it will melt. I used the microwave. I have also heated it in a pan on the stove many times.

While that is heating, I measure out the honey and pour it in the mixing bowl.

Then, using the little bit of honey that is left in the measuring cup, I add the warm water and the yeast. This lets the yeast soften and start to bubble up.

Next add the eggs, salt and whole wheat flour to the mixing bowl. After the yeast is bubbling up, add it into the bowl.

I buy the yeast at a warehouse market by the pound and keep it in the freezer. After I open it, I keep it in this small canister in the frig.

When everything is mixed well, add the white flour .

When it gets to this point, I turn it out onto the counter and start to knead. I used to knead it only until it was nice and smooth.

I found out from a friend recently that if you knead the bread for about 10 minutes it will be less crumbly – a complaint we had about my bread for years. It is so nice to learn new, useful things!

When you finish kneading, the dough should be just a little sticky, but not enough to come away on your finger when you poke it. Coat the mixing bowl with shortening, put the dough in, then turn it over to coat it with shortening.

Put it in a warm place or on top of the refrigerator covered with a warm, damp towel to rise.

It will take about an hour or two to double in size depending on the temperature in the room.


Isn’t it beautiful? Silly question, huh? I like the smell of bread rising.

When it is ready, turn it out onto the cabinet and let it rest while you grease the pans.

We bought this cast iron pan thinking we would bake biscuits in it, but we prefer the cookie sheet method. However, it makes wonderful rolls when I make bread.

When I learned how to make loaves, I always rolled them out, like it shows in the Betty Crocker cookbook. Now I just kind of roll them up by hand and skip the rolling pin. They turn out just as well.

For this recipe I make two loaves and a few rolls. I really like cast iron and these pans cook the bread up nicely.

Yum! Can you smell it? Fresh, hot bread. What a treat!

The rolls bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees.

The loaves bake at 350 degrees. When the bread is rising, the rolls are ready first. By the time the rolls finish baking, the loaves are usually ready to go.
The loaves need to bake for 40-45 minutes. After the first 20 minutes, I take them out and cover them with foil so they won’t get too brown before the 40 minutes is up. I keep this foil and reuse it only for this purpose. I used to throw it away each time, but it seemed like such a waste.

There is not much that can beat the smell of baking or freshly baked bread. You will notice there are only three rolls now. The rest didn’t survive the baking of the loaves.

It is a very satisfying skill – to be able to make bread for your family.

I save produce bags and twist ties. They work well for storing the bread.

There is nothing like fresh, hot bread with homemade butter. Add to that some deviled eggs and cheese, and you have a great lunch!

It is hard to describe the pleasure and satisfaction we get from producing our own food – or as much of it as we can. It is time consuming and hard work and a tremendous learning experience. But most of all, it is very gratifying. We are humbly grateful.

Until next time – Fern

Hooray for the Assassin Bugs!

Last summer I made one of the most important discoveries of gardening ever! At least for me. Assassin bugs. You see, we don’t use chemicals of any kind in our garden and some years we are just overrun with bugs chomping, chomping and chomping.
Well, last year this really creepy bug came along – and there were lots of them. At first, I squished them. Then I decided I needed to figure out what they were. I had never heard of an assassin bug. 
I read what I could find in my gardening books, then I did an internet search with images. Cute, huh? I found out they are very beneficial insects, so I quit squishing them. And after a while, I decided they weren’t so creepy after all.

For some reason these bugs liked to congregate on a couple of my pepper plants. Across the garden I had a squash plant that was just covered in squash bugs so I thought I would do an experiment. I went out one morning and gathered up about 20 assassin bugs in a jar (I wore gloves, of course!) and dumped them out on the squash plant. I had no idea whether or not it would work, but a few days later, the squash bugs were almost entirely gone.

What a great discovery! Well, this spring, I have been watching for their return. A friend saw a weird little bug on my porch last week that I thought might be an immature or nymph assassin bug so I did another internet search that confirmed that it was. But I still don’t have a lot of confidence in my knowledge and ability to identify some insects.

I know the squash bugs are here because I have seen a few and this morning I began finding their eggs on my squash plants. (See the gloves? I don’t like to touch bugs!)

So I went on a more detailed search through the garden and found and squished about 20 squash bugs. I picked off the leaves that had the eggs on them and fed them to the chickens. 

And then, in the midst of my search, there was that weird little bug again. And guess what? He was eating a worm! Yahoo! The assassin bugs are back!

It’s funny the things we get excited about. I never thought I would be so happy to see such a creepy little bug!

Until next time – Fern

Fern’s Fast Food

It was time for dinner and I wanted to cook something easy and quick. So we had toast and scrambled eggs. It took me about ten minutes from start to finish.

I started by making the toast. No, well, I guess I started by making the bread last week. And to do that, I started by grinding the wheat. I did buy the wheat, though. We did not grow it.

Then I got out the rest of the roast that was left over in the frig. This was a part of a quart bag of frozen roast I had cooked a few months ago.

But this roast started out as a young buck kid two years ago, which means we bred his mom five months before he was born. And she was born here a year before she was bred. But before that could happen, we had a barn built and Frank built the birthing pens into the barn. And even before that, we had to locate a herd of Nubian goats about 150 miles from here because we couldn’t find any in the area. We butchered some of our wethers (castrated male goats) last winter, thus, the roast for our scrambled eggs.

Next, I got out some cheese – cheddar cheese that was made, waxed and set to age in July 2012.

This was made possible by breeding the nanny, that had the kids, that gave the milk, to make the cheese.

Doesn’t this remind you of that old nursery rhyme about the house that Jack built?  

The last ingredient in the meal was eggs. These we gather every day from our laying flock which was incubated and hatched in April 2012. The eggs that were incubated came from the flock that we hatched in the spring of 2011.

New chicks have to be around six months old before they start laying eggs. And, of course, they need a house with a roost and somewhere to lay the eggs.

There is an old saying Frank has: Postpone gratification for long term gains. It is very suitable in this instance. Even though, to me, this meal was homemade ‘fast food’, it has actually been years in the making.

Something to think about. In a world of instant gratification, be it food, the technology with which we blog, clothes, houses, cars, you name it – do we ever really slow down to see, really see, where it all comes from? We have all grown so accustomed to going to the ‘store’ where someone else provides everything for us. Are we even aware of the process it takes to produce a simple, easy, quick meal that is good, wholesome and nutritious? What would happen if the only ‘store’ you could ever go to again was your own? Writing this blog has given us much to think about. It has focused our thoughts more than ever before. We hope that it will give you pause, and ‘food’ for thought.

Until next time – Fern