All In a Day’s Work

We had a lot to get done today. So here it is. The day in review.

Milked the goats, fed the chickens and Pearl.

Fed the new kittens

 

The frig is running over with milk again, so I made Chevre. It doesn’t require any attention. It can sit on the counter all day while I get other things done. This evening I will hang the curd and it will be ready in the morning.

 
Canned 14 pints of green beans

While the green beans were in the canner, we made squash relish. I will post that recipe later.

While Frank was grinding up the ingredients for the squash relish, I put the water on and washed the corn that needed to be frozen. We got the first batch boiling and it was time to take the green beans out of the pressure canner. Once we had everything chopped up for the relish, it has to sit for a while, so we could finish the other projects.We blanched and froze 3 1/2 gallon bags of corn.

Now, it’s break time. The last time we were at the warehouse market, Frank picked up two cases of Snickers –  our favorite. You know you need to stock up on comfort food too, right? Well, when he was putting

them on the shelf they wouldn’t stack right with the old box. Then he realized that the new box wasn’t quite as large as the old box. So he got out a candy bar from each box and compared the size. The old candy bars net wt. was 2.07 oz. and the new candy bars are 1.86 oz. with a difference of .21 oz. That comes out to about five candy bars less per case of 48 bars. Frank feels slighted. But they cost the same so that means prices are not going up and we have no inflation, right? It’s too bad sarcasm doesn’t come across the same in print as it does when you can hear a person’s voice.

After break time we still had to finish up the squash relish, cook and eat dinner, then feed the animals. It’s all in a day’s work. And it’s a lot of work. Those of you that grow and preserve your own food know just how much it is. And I would bet you wouldn’t trade it for anything, would you? Not even at the end of a long, tiring productive day.

Until next time – Fern

Seedlings for the Fall Garden

Frank made a great discovery a few years ago – a Pot Maker. We had always saved up a bunch of newspapers to wrap chickens in when we freeze them and various other things. When we got serious about growing our own seedlings, we wanted a way that would be economical, practical and ecological. With all of the information coming out about GMO (genetically modified organism) seeds, we were determined to grow and eat the most natural foods we could. Thus, the discovery of the Pot Maker. They are very simple wooden forms which make great little biodegradable pots. And since it is time (well, actually a little past time) to start my seedlings for the fall garden, I thought I would share this with you.

The pot maker comes with instructions and measurements for the

size of paper to use. At first I cut them according to directions. I soon figured out that you can cut six strips out of a standard sized newspaper and it works just fine, so I no longer measure. Start off by rolling the paper up on the wooden form. One 

trick I learned was to begin the fold under where the paper ended. This tucks that open part of the newspaper in first and lets the other folds hold it closed. After all of the paper is folded under, place the form into the base and twist back and

forth, shaping and somewhat sealing the bottom in place. It doesn’t take much effort or pressure to do this. Children love to make pots for seeds. So if you have any kids at home, this is a great project. Gently slide the paper off of the form. They tear

sometimes, but are still usable. The dirt will hold them together. These pots are easy to make. It doesn’t take any time at all to make up a hundred or so, and then you are ready to plant.

For now, we are buying garden soil for our seedlings. My handy red crate holds 100 pots and that will be a start. I will need to roll up about 400 more, which sounds like a lot, but it really doesn’t take long.

We buy our laundry detergent in buckets at a warehouse market and have found out that the lids make great trays for our seedlings. Each tray will hold 20 plants.

 

Another trick I have discovered, is to make sure I pack the dirt into the pots until they are full. Some of the first pots we did ended up with about an inch of dirt in them because after we watered them in, the dirt really settled a lot. It wasn’t really

enough to support the plant well and they dried out very quickly.  It doesn’t take long to fill the pots and get ready to plant the seeds.

One more thing learned by trial and error was paying attention to the way the pots are turned. If I put the open side of the pot toward another pot instead of facing out, they won’t gap open when I water them.


 

I mark my seedlings with popsicle sticks and I reuse them until they rot or break off. I have a fine tipped marker for writing the name of the plant, but some of these I have already marked and they are ready to go.

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A friend was at a yard sale and saw this bundle of popsicle sticks. She knew I used them, so she brought them to me. Some people may think that is funny, but I thought it was a great gift.

 

I am planting Acorn, Buttercup and Cushaw squashes along with some pumpkin and melons. The seeds we buy are heirloom or open pollinated or non-hybrid. This is so we can save the seeds. Hybrid plants don’t always reproduce the same product as the original plant.

Then there are the spinach, mixed greens, kale, kohlrabi, cabbage, broccoli, lettuce…… 

and snap peas…..

Here are some zinnia and marigold seeds we picked this afternoon. I’ll show you how I harvested and processed some cucumber seeds in another post.

 
There. I have them started. That feels much better. I hope I haven’t waited too late on the winter squash. We really enjoy it. The planter in the back in another experiment. We planted some of our chicken scratch to see what would come up. So far we have sunflowers and something else that could be wheat or milo. 

The seeds are watered in and ready to germinate. Tomorrow morning Frank will hear, “Did my seeds come up last night?” I am always impatient and excited to see new growth.

Seeds are truly miracles. It always amazes me to see what can come from a tiny little seed. Soon they will be worth more than gold. Do you have a good supply of seeds to grow the things your family eats, enjoys and that will provide the nourishment necessary to carry out your daily duties? Frank has been heard to say, “You can never have too many seeds.”

Until next time – Fern

Canning Okra – DO NOT USE THIS RECIPE

UPDATE, AUGUST 28, 2013: DO NOT USE THIS RECIPE AS IS. DUE TO NEW INFORMATION I HAVE RECEIVED I NO LONGER RECOMMEND THIS RECIPE. PLEASE READ THIS POST FOR NEW INFORMATION.
Fern

A few years ago, I was given a recipe for canning okra. This okra is supposed to be good for frying. I was very, very skeptical. I asked how you could can okra without it being really slimy and yucky or tasting like vinegar. The lady that gave me the recipe said she had the same doubts and questions, but found out it works great. Since we are trying to decrease our dependence on the freezer, this is the summer to try this canning recipe. 

1 gallon sliced okra 
2 tbsp. salt
6 tbsp. vinegar
1 cup water

Prepare jars, lids and rings. Place okra in a large pan. Mix vinegar, salt and water together. Pour over okra. Fill pan with enough water to cover okra. Bring to a full boil. Boil for 5 minutes. 

Fill jars with okra. Pour enough liquid in jars to cover okra. Seal. No hot water bath. Just have everything hot and the liquid boiling. Put the rings on tight, cover with a towel and let them cool slowly and seal.

Now, I can’t say it looks very appetizing in the jar. It’s kind of cloudy and slimy looking to me. And the boiling made the okra a pale green color. My comment – looks yucky. We did two quarts initially as an experiment. We waited two weeks before we cooked up the first quart. Then waited another two weeks and cooked up the second quart.

When you’re ready to try it, pour it into a colander, rinse well, drain. 

Since the okra is wet, it takes a little more cornmeal than fresh.





 
We don’t deep fry our okra. We use just enough oil to keep it from sticking. When it first starts to fry it doesn’t look very good. The pale color is odd and it is softer than I expected.

But as it cooked, it started to look like ‘normal’ fried okra. I wondered if the vinegar used during canning would change the flavor.

Guess what? It is good. It is even better than the frozen we put up last summer. When you fry up frozen okra it is a little tough and chewy. The canned okra was more moist and has a very good flavor. This was a very nice surprise. 


Sometimes it pays to be a little skeptical and cautious, but not to the point that it precludes trying new things. You never know when something new you try may be of great benefit to you or someone you know. Especially something that tastes good!

Until next time – Fern

What Would You Do?

I had a friend ask me yesterday, “What would you do tomorrow if you knew that a long-term collapse of some kind was going to happen the day after tomorrow?” I told her, “That is a very good question. I’m not sure. I may go the the store for the last time to get whatever I could. Or I may just stay here and plan on not leaving again.”

So I pose the question to you, the reader. What would you do?

It’s an almost inconceivable thought process – to try to imagine what it would be like if what you have, know, can do, your location – that’s it. No more trips to the store, across the state, across the country or across the ocean. This is it. Where you are, what you have, what you have learned – are all you have to help you and your family survive. 

Are you ready for that? Do you have the spiritual, mental, emotional and physical preparations you need to take care of those who will be depending on you? Can you support each other when the sheer enormity of the situation threatens to overwhelm you into a stupor or cause you to curl up in the corner in a quivering mass? Do any of us truly have the internal tenacity to not only withstand but overcome the obstacles and odds that will impact our very survival in a serious collapse situation?

I listed the types of preparations needed in a specific order for a reason. First, spiritual preparedness. If a serious, long-term collapse situation occurs, we all need to be prepared to meet God. We will all get to meet Him one day, but in a collapse situation, more of us may meet Him sooner rather than later. So, have your relationship with God steady and sure.

The strength you will draw from Him  will help see you through, when times are stressful and difficult from your world being turned upside down. 

Next, mental preparation. Are you ready to face a collapse type of situation? Can you deal with not ever going to the store again for anything? No Cheetos, pop, coffee, tobacco, prescription medications, highly sugar laced prepared food, no frozen dinners, meat, eggs, cheese, salt, cereal…..and the list goes on and on. No tools to repair things with, no gardening tools, sewing supplies for mending, no pots and pans, canning jars and lids, or shoe strings…..  

Are you ready to defend your family – mentally. Can you do whatever it takes to keep them safe from those that would harm you and take whatever you have? Do you have the means of providing that protection?

There are many types of mental preparation to practice and think about. What about no internet or cell phones? No technology of any kind. No information about what is going on in the world, no way of knowing. That will be hard for many of us. We are so used to instant information and if we have to wait two seconds longer than usual for a webpage to open it is ‘slow’. What if it all goes away in the blink of an eye?

Emotional preparedness. How can we ever really get ourselves ready for a total change of life? There are many books and movies

that depict a great number of suicides in a collapse situation because people cannot handle what has happened. I pray that you will not be one of these people. Doing what you can to be prepared for whatever may come will bring a measure of peace and strength to face the future. That preparation doesn’t happen overnight. It is a process that has to be dealt with one step at a time. 

Physical preparations are the ones we think of most. Stocking up on canned goods, grains, freeze-dried food, clothes and other items is what usually happens first when someone becomes aware of the need to have some things handy in the chance of a short-term disaster. But what about a long-term disaster? Can you replace the food items you have once you eat all of them? Can you grow more food? Can you preserve the food you grow? Do you have enough seeds?   

So, what would you do? Would you collapse? Would you be able to step up to the challenge of survival? If you had one more day to prepare………

Blessings to you all,

Fern

Did Someone Say Peaches?

There are several orchards in this area that grow peaches. We have wanted to can our own for several years but haven’t gotten around to it – until this year. Some of our friends made a trip to the orchard for peaches and kindly picked up three bushels for us. We tried to estimate how many we might eat in a year, so we will see how this turns out.

The first thing we did is eat two or three, then we sorted them out. Most of them needed to sit and ripen for a few days before they were ready to can. The really soft ones we set aside to eat first.

We have planted fruit trees, but we have never been very successful at growing anything. We will keep trying. But for now, it is nice to have fresh fruit to put up. And did I say these are good? I really like peaches.

This picture is only half of the peaches (and some whey left from making cheese and the harvest from the garden for the day).

The first thing we made was peach butter. We had great luck with pear butter last summer and like the simplicity of the recipe. So we tried our luck at peach butter.

The recipe is fairly simple, but I didn’t follow it exactly, of course. We did an experimental batch to see if it was good before we made more. It is good. Really good. It kind of tastes like peach cobbler without the crust. I also didn’t get any pictures. So I will just describe it for you.

Peel, pit and slice or chunk 9 lbs. of peaches. In a stainless steel pot, combine peaches with 1/2 cup water, 2 tsp. grated lemon zest (I used dehydrated orange peel) and 6 tbsp. of lemon juice (or the juice of one lemon). Boil gently until peaches are soft – about 20 minutes.

The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving recommends using a food mill or food processor to puree the peaches, but I used my potato masher. I took about half of the peaches out and put them in another pan just for ease of working, then took my time and mashed them up. They aren’t consistently smooth, but that’s okay with us, we like a little more texture. This step will be a personal preference in consistency.

Next, return all the peaches to the pot and add 3 cups sugar (if I followed the actual recipe it would be 8 cups of sugar – way too much for us), 1/4 tsp. almond extract, 1/8 tsp. nutmeg and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon (these spices are not in the original recipe). Stir until the sugar dissolves, bring to a gentle boil and simmer until thickened to the desired consistency. Since I use much less sugar than called for, my butter doesn’t thicken up as much, but it holds together fairly well when chilled. It isn’t runny, but isn’t smooth and buttery textured either. The last step is to process it in a water bath for 10 minutes (for pints). The most time consuming step is letting it cook down to consistency.

Next came canning peach slices. If you have read some of the other posts, you know by now that we use minimal sugar.

The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving has a great table that shows how to make ultra light syrup for canning fruit. I didn’t use quite as much as it calls for, but almost.  5 cups of water and 1/3 cup of sugar – we did 5 times this much.

The first step is to blanch the peaches to loosen the skin. Put the peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds to one minute then move them to a sink of cold water.

We added ice to the water in the sink to keep it cold.

Next skin the peaches……..
We blanched about a bushel and a half – enough to fill up the dish pan. We weren’t sure how many quarts this would make, so we stopped there for the first go round.

Slice them. Fill the jars with peaches, fill with syrup, wipe the rim, seat lids and rings and place in canner.

Our water bath canners hold seven quarts and we are using both of them. Round one goes well and uses a lot of the peaches. We have enough left for six more quarts. 

Shortly after we started the last batch, one of the jars broke so we got to fish out some floating peaches. It’s the one in the back that’s higher than the rest. We couldn’t find anything wrong, so it must have been a jar with a weak place. The bottom broke off all the way around in one piece.

Day One = 19 quarts of sliced peaches and 8 pints of peach butter

We got started earlier on day 2 so we thought we would be finished at a decent hour. This was not the case. First we washed up the jars from day one, labeled them and got them put away.

Time to get out more jars and get them washed up and ready to go. You know, we have named the dishwashers here – Frank and Fern.

Since we wanted to use both water bath canners, we got out our hot plate to heat the syrup on. This really filled the cabinet up, so we had to be very organized.

Milk buckets sure do come in handy. We have our rings and lids in the bucket with boiling water over them.

Here is one of the batches fresh from the canner.

12 hours later, we were very, very tired. But the peaches are finished and beautiful to behold.

Total count
40 quarts of sliced peaches
26 pints of peach butter
2 tired people

Growing, processing and canning your own food is a lot of work. I have great respect for our ancestors that grew and preserved what they ate – or they didn’t eat. We all know that changes are in the wind for our country and our world. We don’t know when, what kind or to what degree, but we do know they are coming. I continue to urge you all to learn something that will be beneficial to your family now and in the long run. Now is the time to learn while failure is still an option. Yesterday Frank was talking about using up some of the store bought green beans we have on the shelf. So we made a green bean casserole for lunch at church. He said if we don’t grow enough this year to can and replace them, we will go the store and get more. We still have that option, and I am grateful we do. It may not always be the case.

Until next time – Fern
 

Shortwave Receivers

Hello, Frank here.

Today this is going to be a short post. No, actually, it’s going to be about shortwave. Okay, let’s see. 

Shortwave is from 3 MHz to 30 MHz, or thereabouts. To help clarify a few things, medium wave is just underneath shortwave and that is where your local AM commercial radio station functions. Directly under medium wave is long wave. For entertainment purposes or listening, not a lot happens on long wave. But if you are in London, or other parts of Europe and you ask someone about an AM radio station, they may look at you a little odd, because over there it is called medium wave or MW. Most, but not all, shortwave radios will pick up all 3 of these bands. 

But, what we are going to focus on today is between 3 and 30 MHz. Falling in that same range is where most HF (high frequency) ham radio

takes place. That’s why I have included the ICOM ham bands. Take a look at this chart. Especially the lower part of page one. You can see where the ham frequencies operate. You will notice that between 10 meter and 12 meter ham bands are the CB frequencies, or sometimes called 11 meters. Why is this stuff important? If you want to listen on your shortwave radio, that picks up these frequencies, then all ham bands in the HF frequencies are either lower side band (LSB) or upper side band (USB) which is called SSB, single side band. So, if you want to listen to the ham frequencies, you will need a shortwave radio with SSB capability. Most shortwave radios do not have SSB. 

I have included a few DX websites. DX in the ham world normally means out of the continental United States, DX for shortwave purposes, means shortwave. Go into these sites and play around. Prime Time Shortwave is filled with information about radio stations. Look on the left hand side, go down about five tabs and you will see SW schedules to America. Click on it. These stations are geared for broadcast to America, which means they are in English, normally. Play at this site for a long time, there is some really great stuff there. The DX Zone is a place with lots of information. Look around here. DXing.com is another site that is filled with information. Check out the left hand side column. 

Okay. You’ve looked at a few of these and you have looked at some of the radio stations. The time is weird. The time for these stations is sometimes called GMT – Greenwich Mean Time, Zulu Time, or

UTC (Coordinated Universal Time). You will find these on the first website I sent you to. You can figure out the time where you are. I live in the Central Time Zone, CST. I am about six hours different from UTC. Example: If it is 8:00pm in London, it is 2:00pm in Oklahoma, CST, or thereabouts. But you say, it doesn’t say am or pm. 8:00pm is actually 2000 hours. Because 8:00am is 0800, and you just keep on counting – 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 – you’ll get the picture. There are some charts there to help you, if you need it. So, if it’s 2000 UTC, it is 1400 CST.

Now for some radios. There are portable and tabletop SW radios. If you

will take a look at some of these, you will see there are vast differences between portable and tabletop. Most people use a portable, which I have included two of – one is the Tucsen PL600, the other is a Grundig 750. Each one of these will work fine for basic shortwave reception and both are SSB capable. Remember if you want to listen to the ham frequencies, you will need SSB. 

You might ask yourself why do I want to listen to a bunch of old men talking? Because if the power goes off someday and you are operating this radio in the dark, plugged into your car’s cigarette lighter plug, then those old men might be the only voices you hear. Then you might be glad that your SW radio has SSB. Almost all shortwave stations operate in the AM mode. This is not the AM band that is in your car. This is the AM mode of transmission which about any shortwave radio will receive. So much for preaching.

Also included are a couple of tabletop shortwave radios. The ICOM R75 and the AOR AR-Alpha. Both of these cost a little bit more

than your portable SW radios. The AOR costs a whole lot more. You might recognize that the ICOM R75 looks just like the ICOM IC-718 ham radio transceiver. And it does. The primary difference is that the R75 does not transmit it will only receive and it costs about the same as the IC-718.

Okay, so this light goes off. Why should I buy a receiver when I can buy an IC-718 that will transmit and receive for about the same cost? Good question. The IC-718 is a ham radio that will pick up all the HF frequencies and transmit. It will also pick up all of the shortwave frequencies which are just mixed in between the ham frequencies, but you can only receive on those. It will receive USB and LSB, which are ham functions and AM which is a shortwave function. These are all called modes, by the way. 
 The SW frequencies in many cases are also designated by meter. They are in between and around the ham meters. Look at that ICOM chart again with the ham frequencies. Hopefully you are starting to get the picture where the SW DX frequencies are located in relation to the ham frequencies.

You can buy a used ham radio, from a local ham radio operator or at what is called a ham fest. The ARRL, American Radio Relay League, is the home site for most ham radio operators. Open this site and look for clubs. You can find one in your area. They have meetings, radio sponsored events, websites and phone numbers. You may not be interested in getting your ham license, which if you are this is the place to start, but if not these local clubs will have individuals that will be happy to answer many questions about radios and where to purchase them. The ARRL site also has lots of information about radios, it’s a good place to play around in. If you’re looking for a $100 SW radio with SSB, there is one mentioned above. If you’re looking for a $300 radio, there is one mentioned above. If you have longer term plans and are thinking about a ham radio licence the ARRL is a great place to start. Then you can get a ham radio that will also work as a SW radio. Food for thought.

If you live in a metal building, or you want to put a radio on your desk inside a metal building, then you might want to consider a little bit longer wire for an antenna. If you don’t live in a metal building, and you live out in the middle of nowhere, or somewhere in between, the longer the antenna wire, the better the reception. If you choose to go the ham radio route, you can use the same antenna as your ham radio. Okay, that’s enough for now. Above is a lot of information, give it time, let it soak in. Next time we will talk about scanners, which should be a whole lot easier.

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank

An Extra Rooster? Sounds Like Lunch to Me!

We ended up with an extra rooster this summer. Our new flock of chickens are Araucanas and we weren’t sure if this last one was a hen or rooster for a while so he is the ‘leftover’ rooster. We have already butchered the rest of the roosters that came when we ordered 50 straight run chicks back in March. Straight run means there are usually an equal number of hens and roosters. We do this to have some to eat and a choice of new roosters. This last  one is too old to fry but should be good baked. I will cook it just like I would a turkey.

**WARNING** WARNING**WARNING**WARNING **

If you do not wish to see our butchering process, please read no further on this post. We raise some of our animals for meat and prefer to do our own butchering. It is a yucky job, but if we want quality, homegrown meat to eat, this is part of the process.

A friend of ours came over that wanted to learn how to butcher chickens. He has recently started raising his own chickens, but hasn’t had any to butcher yet.

The first thing we do is thank the Lord and the bird for the meat we are about to receive. 

We usually set up sawhorses with a board to use as a chopping block and chop off their heads with an axe. But since there is only one bird this time, I will kill them with a three pound sledge hammer and cut off the head with a pair of strong kitchen shears. This will allow it to bleed out.

I have only tried plucking one chicken and that was many, many years and many, many chickens ago. I could not get all of the pin feathers out to my satisfaction and ended up skinning that bird…. and every bird since then.


 

So we will skin out this bird….

 and gut it….

We keep the heart, liver and gizzard.

 

It doesn’t take long to dress out one bird. If you haven’t had homegrown chicken, they don’t grow near as big as commercially grown birds.

Wash it up……
and throw it in the pan. It sounds a little like…Pattty cake, patty cake, baker’s man, roll ’em up, roll ’em up, throw them in the pan…..

This bird is five months old so it should bake up very nicely. I sprinkle salt, pepper and marjoram in the body cavity. Then I stuff it with an onion. On the outside I sprinkled garlic, salt and pepper.

These are some of the potatoes we grew this spring along with some of the carrots we canned. Mmmm…this makes me hungry!

There you have it. Homegrown chicken, potatoes, and carrots.

Knowing how to grow, process and cook your own food is a skill that takes time. It increases the nutritional value of the food and at the same time, decreases the additives and chemicals of commercially produced food. Just like in the post Ferns’ Fast Food, this meal took many months of production before it ended up on this plate. It was well worth the wait. 

Until next time – Fern