Monday, September 29, 2014

Harvesting Potatoes Means It's Autumn

    It's that great time of year again! Potato Harvesting! I know that once we begin digging potatoes out of the ground the end of the harvest is not far off -- and that means that winter is soon and back-to-college. 
    But, while that approaches I don't want to miss the good times here and potato harvesting is one of those good time. We only planted four rows of potatoes this year but they produced a lot. Unfortunately we caught too many on our shovels, so that means we'll be canning a lot of them.
     What's left to cann besides potatoes? Kidney & pinto beans, apple sauce, apple juice, peach raspberry jam, blackberry jam, ... and that might be it. 
       Just a heads up: The family and I are headed to Utah in a few days. If I have time I'll take pictures and blog our adventures while I'm out there. Be on the look out!


Friday, September 26, 2014

Haying in Fields of the Past

  So, I just spent one the most magical, wonderful evenings I have spent in a long time. I finally got to go haying with my father and siblings. Mom hurt her arm playing softball this year (we play ball with friends every other Wednesday evening in the summer/early autumn) so she opted to stay home rather than re-injure herself.

      As you can see in the above picture, we were haying for an Amish neighbor of ours and his hay-baler is horse powered, of course. It was fun to watch it scoop up the hay, pump it through the mechanism and spit a square bale out the back, twine and everything. I still don't know how it manages it.

    Here's what the field looks like once it's all baled -- just waiting for an eager mob to descend and gather the bales up.

    Of course my family and I weren't alone in this adventure. We were joined by our good friends that I've mentioned before in my Christmas Caroling Post, my Splitting Wood & Building Men Post, and my Our First Hay-Day Post. They always seem to show up when there's work to do and they make the job go twice as fast and be twice as fun.
    They, all of them, are a hardworking, home schooled, morally clean, good Latter Day Saint family and we are so glad they are our friends!

Sitting & waiting for the baler to finished baling the field.

    We fed the horses our apple cores and bits of grass from the field. It was absolutely the neatest thing to be working alongside horses -- counting on a living breathing thing to do the work we couldn't do. Maybe I've just read Misty of Chincoteague, King of the Wind, Black Beauty & Smoky the Cow Horse too many times, but horses have always made me feel nostalgic. Tonight they made made the whole evening feel like a step into the past.

Heading into the field to begin work. 

    Pictured here is the second field that we baled and loaded into the wagons. The first one was smaller, but we used a tractor instead of the horses because the hills were just too steep. 
    On our last load, we were all sitting atop the bales when the tractor started to turn downhill. The bales began to shift and so did everyone else. I knew I was going to end up falling before it actually happened. I don't know if I actually fell or if I jumped. In any case, there was a bunch of screaming, as then I hit my head hard on the ground. I saw bodies and bales falling all around me. The tractor stopped before anyone was run over, but a few people were hurt and a lot of the children were scared. The worst casualty was a bitten lip and a scraped back.

BUT, after the initial scare, we all agreed that that was the best part of the night.

Hay-Bale Backpacks! Not the most comfortable kind :)

    So our job was to carried the bales to the wagon as it passed up and down the rows. We knew we were going fast enough if the wagon never had to stop. It was hard work. I could lift a bale by myself, but after the stacks got too high I could lift if high enough so me and my sister were a team. 
    They hay stuck to all of our clothes, scratched up our forearms and ankles (well mine anyway since my skirt didn't reach the ground), and got in your hair. But oh what fun it was to be a part of a team like this one. We were all excited to be there and eager to help each other out and just plain happy.

    I don't know how many bales we loaded up tonight, but we filled three wagons like this. Two for this field and one for the first field. At the end, both of the wagon-backs started to break (you can see in the above picture how the right side is cracking and bend weird). Maybe we didn't stack the bales correctly, maybe the wagons were just due for a hammer and nails already, but in any case we were just glad that they made it back to the barn.

    Back at the barn, we used a gas-powered conveyer belt to send the bales one-by-one up the the loft. The barn was an old barn with a HUGE loft and there sure was a lot of hay stacked inside.

    I didn't get a picture of the loft, but the belt goes up pretty high to reach it. I decided to test myself and climb the belt all the way to the top. I made it, but at the end I was twenty / twenty-five feet up on a wiggly conveyor belt and had to jump over a gap into the hay. I did it! But it took some mind work to make it happen.

    Anyway, what a fun night! When we were finished we went and had pizza, noodles, and ice cream at our Amish neighbor's house with our friends. How could you end an already beautiful night more beautifully?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Churning Our Own Cultured Butter

One of the fun things that my family does is make our own cultured butter and buttermilk.  

    First we skim the cream off the milk with a ladle or measuring cup?. Can you see the color difference between the milk and cream in both of the above pictures? The cream is really thick -- thicker than the heavy whipping cream that you buy at the store.

    We don't use a hand churn like some of our Amish friends do -- we just use our Bosch Mixer. It gets the job done in less than ten minutes, but you have to watch it carefully so you can stop it when its finished. 

Here are the three stages that we look for. (1.) Cream (2.) Almost butter (3.) Butter.
You can click on the photos above to make them bigger

    As you can see, the yellow globules of butter clump together slightly, but are still mixed in with the buttermilk. We take out the beaters and use out hands or a spoon to bring all the butter-clumps together into one large ball.

    After that we wash the butter in the sink. Don't use hot water! If you do you'll have no butter left by the end. Use cold water and squish and wash the butter until the water that you squeeze out is clear instead of white like the buttermilk. The colder the butter gets the stiffer it gets too so get it clean before before it grows too stiff

Then the butter is salted to taste and stored in a little glass container in the fridge. 

Before moving out to Amish country I thought all eggs were white and all butter was white. Oh I was mistaken. The best eggs are brown and the best butter is yellow :) Who knew?

Friday, September 19, 2014

What is A Hay-Day Really Like?

    It's haying time -- when the air smells like fallen leaves and fresh-cut-grass. My brothers and father went to help an Amish neighbor hay his field today. They had quite a crew helping today. Our friends who helped us split wood a few days ago were also there.
    I didn't go with them, but I did wash a bunch of laundry afterwards and it sure did look like they had worked hard. They had hay in every sock and pocket as well as in their hair and ears. The next time they go to hay I want to go with them.

    The corn is as tall as it's going to get, the tips of the trees are starting to brown and the mornings are much chillier. Winter will be upon us in no time at all. But first, I want to enjoy Autumn while it lasts.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Splitting the Wood & Building Men

    We are friends with this great family that lives about two hours from us. I wrote a post about Christmas caroling with them last year. They often come out for whole days at a time to help us with farm chores that are just too big for one family. 
    Today, all the boys came out and helped my dad and brothers split wood. Afterwards, they built this totem-man-statue-thing out of a couple logs. It made for a great picture, but it was ironic too. We're not on this farm, harvesting our own food and splitting our own wood just because we want the food or the wood -- we're here because we want a strong family. We're not really splitting wood -- we're building men.

It is easier to raise strong children than to repair broken men. ~ Frederick Douglass

Monday, September 15, 2014

Gourmet + Healthy Dogfood

    While I was away at college this last time, my dog Bolto died. We knew it was coming so it wasn't a big shock. Bolto spent the last few years (especially the winters) grouchy from the pains of growing old. Mom decided that we could do more to help our dogs stay healthy.
    To tell the truth, the dog food that you can buy at the store these days is mostly filler with just enough nutrition for the advertizes to put bold letters o the bag. We decided to experiment with making our own dog food and see if our animal's health picked up at all.

    The recipe we use comes straight off of The ingredients we use are meat, rice, hard boiled eggs, and vitamins (minerals and oils) -- pretty simple. We used beef in our first few batches, but my brother hopes to get us a deer this year so we will use ground venison in the future.

    The hard boiled eggs are crushed whole into the rice and then mixed with the beef. My sister prefers to wear gloves while she mixes it and often makes faces as the raw meat squirts between her fingers. I've never actually mixed it myself, but I have lots of healthy mirror neurons so I can empathize.

Eggs & Rice -- next mix in the ground meat.

    My mother ordered these vitamins off of Amazon. They weren't the fanciest out there, but I don't think our dog's mind too much. I think they're just in luxury with their new diet. We like what we're seeing as far as the rise in the dog's energy. Their hunting has picked up as well as their attentiveness. Who knows -- maybe it's the change in season or some other factor, but I do think thier new diet has played a role.

Mix in those Minerals!

    After it's all mixed make 1/4 cup patties and place them in a dog-food-designated baking dish. We're use our old 12 X 14 Granola Pan. The Teflon is flaking off so we don't like to use it for people-food. But I think the dogs can handle a few Teflon flakes.

    The patties are frozen in the pan for a day, then removed and transferred to plastic bags before returning to the freezer. Every morning, my sister pulls out the number of patties we need and thaws them in the laundry room sink. Each dog eats four and each cat eats one. We're still experimenting with ingredients, and proportions. I's fun to always be trying new things.

   10 lbs ground beef (or venison)
   18 hard boiled eggs (including their shells)
   15 cups cooked rice
   8oz Fatty Acid Supplements for Dogs
   1 cup Mineral & Vitamin Dog Blend

    In a large bowl or bucket mix together your beef and rice. Crush in your hard boiled eggs along with their shells until the pieces are small and mixed in. Add your Fatty Acid Supplements and Mineral & Vitamin Dog Blend. Mix well. Use a 1/4 cup to make patties in an old cookie sheet. freeze the patties for one day before transferring them to plastic bags for easier access.

    Again, we got this recipe and these directions straight from so if you have further questions make sure and check out their site.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Farm Life in the Best Way

    Farm life isn't all work ... in case you got that idea from my blog :) Today my little brother mowed up a piece of landscape cloth and my sister spent a half hour cutting it out of the blade. However, she took a break afterwards and talked on the phone with her friend. I just had to snag a picture of her.

Farm life is just an all-around-exciting life. Don't you agree?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Harvesting Lettuce & Treating it with Basic H.

   So, one of our last crops in the garden is the lettuce. It's still doing well. We cut a head off about twice a week. We're big salad eaters. We also buy lettuce from Costco to have some variety in the types of leaves we eat. Of course, the lettuce we buy at the store was grown with insecticide and pesticide so let me show you how we wash it.
     We fill up a sink with water and add about a tablespoon of Basic H. soap into the water. The lettuce leaves soak in the water / soap for about ten minutes before we rinse them in a strainer and dry them in a lettuce spinner. Basic H. is a Shaklee product. It's an organic, biodegradable, all-purpose soap that is good for a thousand things. We like it four our vegetables because it cleans better than just water and it is super mild and won't hurt a body if it's ingested.

We also soak our store bought fruit in Basic H.

After it's soaked and rinsed we dry the lettuce in a lettuce spinner.

    To store it, we line a Tupperware with a paper town and lay the leaves inside. This is super nice for when I just want a salad for lunch, because I can just ope the Tupperware and tear up as many leaves as I'll eat, rather than having to wash and tear up a whole head. Make eating vegetables easy and you'll eat more vegetables!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Braiding the Onions

    So .... how do we store whole onions? Well, we used to use mesh bags before, but I think we discarded that idea because a new more effective one was introduced to us.  It was the first Amish family that befriended us who taught us how to braid onions.
    Now that's all we do because it's so easy to prepare, store and use the onions.

    The greens dry along with the onion bulbs on newspaper in the greenhouse. Then, my sister goes out and braids them together. in a long chain. That chain is then hung on nail hooks in the root cellar. They stay together really well AND when we need an onion we just go down and twist on off the bottom. Sometimes we get two instead of one, but that just means we store the second one in the fridge until we need it ... which isn't long in our family.

    Onions are really good for so many things both food-wise and medicinal-wise. I haven't blogged nearly at all about our herbal or essential oil use now have I? Well, we've used herbs since I was just a little girl, but Mom just picked up essential oils and loves the ones she's tried. Being heath-oriented and holistically minded when it comes to medicine is just another branch of the mormish lifestyle. 
    Maybe, one of these day's I'll do a post about all the medicinal ways we have used onions.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Friendly Swarm

    Today we went over to a friend's house for supper and the children were playing kick-the-can after dessert. One of the girls was hiding behind a bush waiting for the perfect moment to jump out and kick the can when she realize that she wasn't alone behind that bush. There was a huge swarm of bees right there next to her.
    Bees, while they swarm are very friendly and will almost never sting. So we all gathered around and had a look. One of the mothers found a bottle of honey and the children had fun putting a dot of it on their finger and letting the bees cluster around for a taste. 
    I think it was good for the children to make peace with something they were formerly afraid of. Besides, it made for a very interesting evening. We didn't capture the swarm -- even though we thought about it -- because, as the one rhyme says:

A swarm in may is worth a bale of hay
A swarm in june is worth a silver spoon
A swarm in July isn't worth a fly

    There just isn't enough time left in the year for the bees to gather enough honey to make it through the winter so we just left them hang in that bush.