Sunday, October 30, 2011

Chicken Soup

I have a nasty sinus infection this weekend which has made my throat a bit raw so nothing better to have for supper than homemade chicken soup.  When I butcher chickens I leave the neck attached to the back and freeze them just so that I can use them when I want to make soup. This one I started about 2:00 in the after noon. I put the back in water and let it boil, then added some sliced fresh carrots, some diced turnips, onions, dried mushrooms, salt and pepper, later I took all the meat off the bone and then I added the egg noodles shortly before I wanted to eat it. I just finished eating two bowls and it was absolutely wonderful.

Dehydrating Broccoli

Today I had some small heads of broccoli to preserve. So the tops went in to be blanched but I had heard that you could use the stems as well.

So I peeled them with a carrot peeler and cut them in rounds and blanched them. Then I put them in the dehydrator. You are supposed to dry them and then grind them up in your food processor to make broccoli powder which is good in dips and soups. Sounds like a fine idea to me. Less waste the better.

9 Pints of Organic Yellow Carrots $3.96

Of course growing them myself would have been better but not by much. 

So It Wasn't Toothpaste...

turns out that it was deodorant! I tried it as deodorant (new batch with orange extract because I didn't not want to smell like mint). Tried it all day yesterday, no smell. Did not put any more on- this morning, very, very little smell--less than when I use deodorant. It is solid since this coconut oil turns into a solid at 76 degrees and there is no heat in my bathroom. I believe I could refill old stick deodorants with it and it would be just fine. I had heard that there might be some irritation from the baking soda but that hasn't been the case.  No irritation at all. Anyway, this was an excellent experiment. The only problem I can see is that in the summer it would have to be stored in the refrigerator.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Country Woodcraft by Drew Langsner

Phil found this book for me while we were at the Salvation Army thrift store today and I was so glad that he did. This is an incredibly useful book. Written in 1978 by Drew Langsner. This isn't about making fancy wood carved pieces for your house. It is about making useful pieces, most of which people don't think to make anymore. Drew and his wife Louise made and used these things themselves on their farm.
I hope you can read the contents here. He starts with tools you will find useful such as an Indian crooked knife, Swedish sloyd knife, billhook, Scorp, hewing adze etc. Complete with drawings of each so you at least know what to look for when trying to find them. He then tells you about wood, felling logs, building wood ricks and woodsheds. You then move on to sawbucks, shaving horses, different types of saws, wedges and tool handles. 
Some of my favorite parts are making a pitchfork from wood, making wooden spoons and making a dough bowl but it also tells how to make oak baskets and different farm tools.
It is presented in such a way that when you have finished reading  you really should be able to make the item yourself--maybe not perfectly until you have some practice but you should have a useable piece anyway.
I don't know if this book is available through Amazon. I haven't looked yet. I paid $1.75 for it at the thrift store.

Little things....

like this irritate me to no end!  WHY?
Does a bigger box make people want to buy it more? Apparently not since I bought this marked down to 
$ .99. It is just beyond my understanding.  To me it is just being wasteful for no reason.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Lollipop Ghosts

So we needed treats today for our Halloween party for the kids at the Club that we are having Monday. You would think with our budget that we could get treats and supplies when we ask for them but it never seems to happen that way. But I love these 120 children so I went and spend a little money to buy them treats and prizes. This idea I saw on the Web and just loved it. It is nothing but a lollipop with a tissue tied on with yard and a face drawn on. I'll be making cupcakes this weekend as well. I have seen some good ideas for Halloween cupcakes too.


The one thing you will always get from my blog is the truth. Just because you can make something yourself doesn't mean it is going to be good. The "toothpaste" that I tried this morning is an example off that. I saw this on a couple of different blogs with people all saying how wonderful it was. They said it wasn't gritty, didn't have the greatest taste but worked really well. 
The recipe was simple:

4 T. coconut oil
5 T. baking soda
Several drops of peppermint essential oil

Now I don't have any expensive essential oil so mine had extract in it. I doubt that essential oil would have made much of a difference for me. This was absolutely the most nasty stuff to put in your mouth and brush your teeth with. I don't care what you mix with that baking soda it is still going to taste like baking soda. It is completely gritty and salty, plus.. oily tasting (if you could just see the look on my face just writing it!).
However!, the reason I wanted to try this is because the toothpastes I have been using lately just aren't working as well as they used to (like everything else) and my teeth often don't feel clean even after brushing, with this nasty stuff, they were completely clean afterwards and if you can get through the vile taste while brushing and then rinse with Scope (a few times), lol, you at least will have clean teeth.
On the bright side, I hear it can be used as deodorant too so maybe I'll try it for that this weekend.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Little Walk Around the Gardens

Phil asked me had they changed much since the last time. What does he know anyway? I think they have.
Red Cabbage
Some little garlic sprouts mixed in with some spinach that finally came up anyway.
There are still some nice roses in the front yard although they are smaller than they were this spring.
This bush is producing some nice hips.
To the side of the house one of the small fig trees has a few little figs on it. These will  likely fall off but it gives me hope for next year. 
One of the few surviving strawberry plants still trying to produce.
The two tomato plants in the raised bed in the back yard have now decided to set fruit. There are blooms all over them that will never do us any good now. 
So that was my quick walk around the gardens this morning. You all have a nice day. 

Wow, 100 Followers!

I hope that means that what I am posting is useful or at least interesting. I am on here all week long reading other people's postings but hardly ever have anything good to post until the weekends when I have time to actually do something. Lately at work they have been trying to schedule some Saturday trainings and I tried to explain to my Unit Director that I just can't give them my time on the weekends because even though I don't "work" outside the home, the weekends are when I do all my work for my home and because we try to live self sufficiently my weekend probably isn't like other people's weekends. Other people who work there don't have to make soap, bake bread, slaughter chickens, clean out brooders, turn compost piles etc. on their weekends. I don't go to work until noon but even my mornings aren't like their mornings. One of the girls came in the other day and talked about how she had just slept all mornings and she guess she just needed it. Ha! There is no sleeping in here and if I do happen to screw up and sleep in, I am then rushing around trying to get the animals fed, watered and cleaned and something already set for Michelle to cook for supper. Not that I would change how we are living for anything but some days I do think how easy it must be to just lounge around all morning and then go to work at noon. I guess I'll never know.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Soap Making Part 2- Making the Soap

So today was soap making day finally. I started by going to the soap calculator and putting in the oils that I had available. I had read up on them and had an idea of the approximate percentages that I should use of each oil. I only like to make one pound of soap at a time, though eventually I may make more. Once I had my recipe I got all my ingredients and supplies assembled on the table. This included my soap molds which I greased lightly. I could not remember how many I would need so did a few extras. Any small plastic container can be a soap mold.

I also had my postal scale for weighing the oils, water and lye, my candy thermometer, fragrance and coloring. Then it was time to weigh out the oils. I used olive, coconut, soybean and Castor oil. I also had my gloves, long sleeved shirt and safety glasses (keep in mind all this stuff gets hot so make sure you can keep cool. It was fairly cool in our house this morning but I still had to turn the heater off before I was done.)
These I put in the microwave for about a minute and a half. Their temperature when they came out was about 150 F. 
I then weighed out the water, put it in the bowl, then weighed out the lye and added it to the water. Biggest rule in making soap: ALWAYS ADD THE LYE TO THE WATER NOT THE WATER TO THE LYE. 

The lye and water was about 175 F when first put together.
Both the oil and the lye have to be at about 100 F before you can put the two together. I put the lye bowl in to a bowl of cold water until it cooled to about 125 F then checked the oil and it hadn't cooled as much as I would have liked so the bowls got switched and I stirred the oil until it cooled down to almost 100 F by then the lye/water was almost to 100 F as well. I poured the oil into the lye/water.
Then comes the stirring and stirring and stirring ....and stirring. You are looking for soaponification. What is it? Well...your mixture should thicken up some and look creamy and combined. It is hard to explain and different oils tend to look different at soaponification. I have had it turn very thick but also had it stay very thin. This one I stirred for an hour and it never really got all that thick but it did look like soaponification had occurred- at least I hope so. 
I added fragrance--lavender vanilla and poured it into the molds. I then swirled in a little color. Covered it with plastic wrap and set it up on a high shelf where it is unlikely to be bothered for the next 24 hours.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sink Replacement

So we live in a very old double-wide. It has these plastic sinks and tubs. The plastic sink in the small bathroom seems to be fine (the tub is broken but that is a post for another day--hopefully)but the one in the larger bathroom had...issues. It is scratched and had started to peel. I have no idea why. I take it that it was just..old. Today I finally decided we would spend the money for a new one- $30. Plus a tube of silicone. Phil had some pipe tape, a pair or large mouth pliers and a drill. Those were the only other things needed to replace the sink.
He shut off the water and removed the faucet (he replaced the faucet a year our so ago) and then the old sink.
Now the old sink is just nasty looking.. and this was after cleaning yesterday.
Then he drilled holes for the bolts of the new sink, put the drain pipe together (this is where pipe tape came in on the drain pipe), put the faucet on and siliconed around the drain and edge of the sink. This will have to dry until tomorrow but here is our new sink!

Ducklings on the Move

They HAD to move. Ducklings inside in a brooder should be as temporary as possible. Because ducklings are so wet all the time there is no way to keep their brooder clean and dry. I had mines water on a rack with a catch pan underneath it and they still manage to wet their bedding within a few hours. Not to mention that these Welsh Harlequin ducklings were growing fairly fast and just plain running out of room. It is my believe and my observation that if birds are kept in a brooder with not enough space or cleanliness for too long that they fail to thrive so the sooner you can get them more space, the better. But really it is the smell that gets you. Wet pine shavings and duck poo are the most nasty smell you can think of and it is IN YOUR HOUSE~ Eeew!
My ducklings in their new home. They were enjoying it right off and got their swim water filthy right off as any duck will do.
So now they have plenty of room to move around. They also saw the rest of the duck flock (when I let them loose for their run today), NOT that the other ducks paid them any attention but they saw and heard each other which I think is good for them too. Tomorrow, I will see what I can do about the other brooders if I get any time for that. I do hope to get a small batch of soap done and several other projects as well...stay tuned.

Beef Stew

A few days ago there was a discounted package of stew beef at the store that will make two pots of stew for us. There really isn't any recipe for beef stew. If it has beef and is a stew it is beef stew. Today our beef stew has stew beef, red potatoes (also marked down), turnips (also marked down), carrots, onions, mushrooms (on sale), garlic, salt, pepper and a packet of beef stew mix (beef bouillon and your own herbs and spices would work fine) . Mine is in the crock pot but you can make it on the stove top, of course. I will likely thicken it some with some cornstarch and water later. Simple but so good. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sick Today

The day started out fine but shortly after I got to work it was apparent that I had caught a nasty stomach flu. Couldn't even drink water. So couldn't take any aspirin for the fever. I toughed it out and made it through until I could go get Phil at 7:00 p.m. though. Good thing I mostly sit at the desk.
Of course, while I was there we had some really nasty thunderstorms. Michelle has developed a real phobia of storms since all the trees fell here. She called me wanting me to come get her but, of course, I couldn't. I told her to stop looking up the weather online, she was making herself more worried than she needed to. The worst of the storm was not going to pass over out house but over me at work and towards Deering (where I had to pick up Phil). She took  my advice and it calmed her down through the storm.
So I made it over to get Phil (trees had fallen over the road but they had them cleared by then). He drove back and I finally got some aspirin down when I got home. Say what you want about beer but it will ease off stomach cramps. The fever is abating and I am starting to feel a little better. So glad since I really need to work all day tomorrow since the kids are out of school. We are expecting about 80 kids to show up and will be short staffed since everyone else can't work all day  (some go to school, some have other jobs) like I can.
Anyway, I am DETERMINED to feel better tomorrow! (think that will help?)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Quail Dinner

Sorry I didn't get a picture of the whole pot but we were hungry and I didn't think to take the picture until there was just one left.
Now maybe that doesn't look real appetizing to some of your but trust me, IT WAS SO GOOD! I didn't have any plans for supper so just took them out frozen at about 10:30 a.m. tossed the whole lot in the crock pot, mixed up a can of cream of mushroom soup and about half a cup of milk and some of my dried mushrooms and poured it over the lump of frozen quail. They cooked on low until we got home at 8:00 p.m. and they were wonderful!

The Garden in the Mist

We have had nothing but misty rain for the last 3 days but we are happy to get it and for it to last this long is really good for the plants here.
I just wanted to post a little update on how the garden was going. Since it was pretty much a bust this summer, I am definitely making some changes to all raised beds. This is the work in progress. So far everything I have used has been recycled. Three of these are made with wood from the bunk beds (you saw the first two and then I realized I could make a little one out of the rest of the wood from the bed) and the other bed is made from an old pile of blocks I found in the woods when we moved here. They once were my fire pit but since we don't use that anymore, they now are another raised bed.
Planted in the first two right now are red cabbage, broccoli, green cabbage, and garlic (the spinach and onions did not sprout/live). I don't have anything to fill the other two with right now so they will likely just slowly get filled until spring and yes I hope to eventually put down some kind of mulch in between the beds to keep the weeds down. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Soap Making Part 1-Gathering the Materials Needed

It has been a couple years since I made soap. A few years ago they took the lye off the market and I had to stop but now thanks to Patti telling me about Rooto Chrystals, I am again able to make soap. However, making soap is not something you take lightly, you have to have all the right materials to do it with. 
First I had to familiarize myself with the whole process again. Frankly, I had forgotten how to do it. So off to the soap making sites I went. Reading, reading, reading and reading some more. A few things had changed, others hadn't. Things I had always been told like using vinegar if you got lye on you, are now considered wrong. Also not everyone is using lard now. I always disliked the smell that lard gave the homemade soaps so my first soap this time I will try without lard. I found lots of recipes and familiarized myself with the soap calculator again. I still don't feel quite ready and I'll be reading up on it some more before I attempt to make any. 
I also needed to collect up some things: a new thermometer, some rubber gloves, oil and a few fragrance oils. Other things I found I still had: the molds I used to use, some soap coloring and fragrance. I also have a digital postal scale this time which I am sure will help a lot. I went looking for a stick blender (my old soap making one burnt out --no one had told me to shut it off and stir when it got hot). When I had made soap before you could buy one for $9.99 in Wal-mart, now they want $24. Needless to say, my first batch may be stirred by hand (unless I can find one in one of the Dollar stores or the thrift store). 
So I am just about prepared. I have an apron and will collect safety glasses from Phil. The only thing I need now is time to make it. I guess that will have to wait until the weekend :(

Monday, October 10, 2011

First Bath

Just a little cuteness for this morning. Here are the ducklings taking their first bath in the tub. Needless to say, they loved it.

And this is the Gold Laced Polish chick that hatched this morning. "I'm not UGLY! I'm not UGLY!"
I'll take his picture again when he is all fluffed out. 
Brooders are all clean this morning and one large Easter Egger chick moved outside (because he kept stomping on this one). Fed everyone in the rain this morning but can't complain since we need the rain so badly. Planted some more cabbage and broccoli this weekend and I am sure the rain will help them settle in well.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Dehydrated Sweet Potatoes

There seemed to be a lot of fresh produce on sale this week at the store. We came home with broccoli, turnips, peppers, sweet potatoes, grapes and bananas. Sweet potatoes are not one of our favorite vegetables. I like them alright but Phil doesn't really like them at all. However, sweet potatoes are quite popular here in the South (baked) and came be quite cheap when in season. I have heard about dehydrating them but had never tried it until today. It is pretty simple, just peel, slice, mix up with a little salt and put them in the dehydrator to dry. They taste pretty good though to me they are not as good as dried zucchini snacks but not bad nonetheless.  A good healthy snack anyway. I will be taking them to work with me along with my usual jar of homemade yogurt that also got  made today.
In other news, I did find the lye for soap making! Yeah! I can't wait to try it again. Need a new thermometer and rubber gloves and maybe a stick blender but then I will be ready.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Pasta Salad and Ranch Dressing

I learned to make this pasta salad at a restaurant I worked at for several months. We are spoiled now and don't want any other.
First you have to make the ranch dressing. It is simple: equal amounts of mayonnaise and buttermilk (today I did a quart each) and Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing (1 packet per quart). Just mix it together good (use a whisk) and put it in the frig.

Now for the pasta salad you will need:

Your homemade Ranch dressing
Approx 1/2-3/4 cup bacon bits
2 or 3 green onions
1 -8 oz. package shredded cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese
green and black olives or canned chopped olives
1 -8 oz box Rotini pasta

If you have whole olives you will want to chop them up fine (I use a mine food processor). You only need enough for 2 heaping spoonfuls. Put these in a large bowl.
Cook your rotini pasta, then put in a colander and run cold water on it until it is no longer hot. Add it to the bowl. Mix. Add your bacon bits, chopped green onions and cheese. Mix again.

Now add some Ranch dressing. It takes a lot. You want to keep adding until it no longer looks sticky but more creamy. It took 3/4 of a quart for mine today. Mix well and put in the frig for a couple hours to let the flavors blend some.
So good!

Accomplishments of the Day

There was a lot I wanted to accomplish today and I didn't do too badly. I didn't get the crackers I wanted made and I didn't get the fish tank cleaned but I got most everything else done.
I started by making waffles this morning for breakfast and so that I could have some to freeze for Michelle to eat for breakfast during the week.
I then got one of my home raised chickens into the crock pot; added some soy sauce, garlic powder and a bit of pepper (I added a few herbs later). It is done now and we are about to eat. It smells SO GOOD! (picture is before cooking).
After that I got out the other crock pot, added the milk, dry milk and sugar for yogurt and got it to heating. There is a blog post here on how I make yogurt. I think it is on the Preservation page but it might be in Recipes. 

I then got out to the pens, gave everyone a quick feed and proceeded to butcher quail. I took six of the males out of the big brooder as they have reached maturity now. I cut the heads off and took them inside in a pail for plucking and eviscerating.  I always dry pluck my quail. Sometimes the skin tears a little but it is a lot less mess than having to scald them and usually they pluck easily.
After these were in their ice water soaking, I started on the brooders. The baby quail have already been moved out of the brooder with the ducks, either the ducks were squishing them or it was just too wet and I was losing quail so they now have a small brooder in the closet of their own. The three big chicks went out to the outside brooder and the chicks and ducks inside had to be separated. A week or so in with the ducks is about as long as I want to leave them as the ducks have started to really wet the brooder. Anyway, both inside brooders had to be completely cleaned out and the babies reorganized.
Everyone in their nice clean brooders again.
I then went on to make Ranch dressing and pasta salad but I will save that for a new post.