Monday, September 30, 2013

Harvest and a baby doll bed fix-up

I sure hope that next year at this time this post will be about my own harvest, but since it was too late in the year to plant by the time we got here this year, I'll just have to enjoy the neighbors harvesting this time. The fields have all turned the golden color of fall and the farmers around us have been getting the machines out and getting them ready.

The hay has been cut and baled, the cows moved to the last pasture of the season to eat the remaining grass before it's all gone for the winter. For us, this year the harvest means a little extra income in rent from our grain bins and our wonderful new neighbors stopping by to offer combine rides to the kids. Of course, the (small) downside is that once the harvesting starts the mice will get evicted from their homes in the fields and we will spend months trying to keep them from taking up residence in our house! I really dislike mice, especially if one does get in the house, but it's a small price to pay for everything I love about living out here.

The boys have been hard at work organizing one of the garages with some of the workbenches and tools. I'm not sure if they've noticed that this is on the side of their man cave...
..but i think it's cute.

And while they're doing that I started working on a doll bed that Farm Girl will be getting for Christmas. I found it in my parents old barn, and it wasn't looking too good.
It needed some new nails, a new leg, and some sanding for starters. That part is done, and now I'll be painting it pink and then sewing all the bedding for it. It's much sturdier (and will be way cuter!) than a cheap bed we could've bought her from Walmart or somewhere. I'm looking forward to the kids getting more homemade gifts this year because I know they will love them and they will be more meaningful. I remember all the dolls, doll clothes, quilts, wooden games, many other handmade gifts I got as a child and I love that I have the memories of getting things my family worked hard to make for me, they were my favorite kind of gifts.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Fall is officially here!

And I love it. I can't wait for the leaves to change so we can see our new place with fall foliage for the first time. It's been cooler out, the perfect weather to enjoy the outdoors, including taking lots of walks and spending lots of evenings sitting outside. We've even squeezed in a couple little "campfires", complete with marshmallows, in the yard which is the kid's favorite thing to do. The fields are getting closer to being ready for harvest and make for beautiful views.

It's been kind of an exhausting few days around here. Farm Girl got sick (just a cold, but when they can't sleep, neither can I, so loong nights!), I'm still cooking/freezing apples and pears everyday, and we've been moving some more things from our old house which means a lot of time spent driving. I'm trying to cut down  on trips to the grocery store because the one in our town is tiny and very expensive, and the nearest bigger town with normal prices is about 45 minutes away so I'm also busy with trying to get in the habit of making everything I can from scratch. With school and work lunches to make everyday, one of the hardest things to keep up with is the bread. I used to make a potato bread that everyone in our family really likes, but it is very time consuming. Now I'm making just a simple, basic bread, which is also very good (especially warm, right out of the oven!) and takes a lot less time. 

Here's the recipe:
1 cup milk
1 cup warm water
1 heaping teaspoon yeast 
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp salt
1 egg
6 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350. Mix the milk and water in a bowl, the liquid needs to be warm to the touch. Stir in the yeast and let it sit while you mix the salt, sugar, egg, and oil in a large bowl. Add the yeast/liquid mixture to the bowl. Mix in the flour slowly until the dough pulls away from the edge of the bowl. If you need to add a little more or less than 6 cups you can. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes then let rise for 20 minutes or until the dough is doubled in size. Knead it again, shape into loaves, and place in oiled pans. Bake for 40 minutes. Easy, right?  

Also on list of things to do lately: getting ready for Christmas! That's right, Christmas when it's only September. I like to get any shopping done early, especially since I don't want to drive so far into a bigger town once the weather is bad. More importantly, I will be making a lot of the gifts for the kids so I have to start early! 

Well, off to enjoy this beautiful fall night!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Apple butter and Christmas quilts

Got the apple butter done! Though I might make another batch or two cause it is fabulousI don't have a picture of this one because it turns out that apple butter is not very photogenic. Or at least not with my camera! This is another super simple recipe with great results! Just put 4 quarts of finely chopped tart apples into your crock pot, then in a separate dish, mix together 2 1/2 cups sugar, 3 tsp Allspice, and 1/8 tsp salt. Sprinkle the mixture over the apples. Cook on high 3 hours, stirring every hour. Then turn down to low and cook 10-12 hours or until the butter is thick and dark, stirring occasionally with a whisk to make the butter smooth. Then you can either pour it into sterilized jars and seal, or freeze in freezer bags or containers. It will be wonderful on waffles some cold morning this Winter!

One of my other projects today was to do a  little work on one of the quilts I'm making the kids for Christmas. Last Summer I found all their old infant receiving blankets in a closet. I had saved them because they are all so sweet, but they were just taking up space so I put them in a pile to donate. But then I thought they would make really cute quilts for the kids so I got them back out and cut them all into quilting squares. Then they just sat there again because I could never seem to find the time  to work on them. Now, finally, I'm getting back to them! I've sewn all the squares together to make 2 small quilts just about the right size for the kids to curl up on the couch with.

Each of the kids chose the fabric they wanted for the back and I got the front, batting, and back pined together. I wanted to do the old-fashioned hand tied quilt because I have one that my parents made together (they stitched the entire thing by hand!) about 50 years ago, so to me it has a nostalgic feel and I think it's such a warm, rustic look. So today I got started tying! 

I hope to have both quilts done to give the kids for Christmas. I know... it seems like it should be really easy to get two small quilts done in three months, but between kids, house, animals, and APPLES time has been flying by!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Super scrummy spiced applesauce

About a hundred apples down, a few more hundred to go! The first apple project of the season was a success! I made spiced applesauce in the crock pots and it turned out wonderfully! I don't usually like applesauce because of the texture (mush, gross) and it also tends to be too sweet for me, but this is a chunky applesauce and it's more of an apple pie taste with the spices. Also, it was a lot easier than standing at the stove for hours!
Of course, first there's a lot of peeling, slicing, and coring. I started out using this apple slicer thing, but it really was a lot faster to just cut with the knife. I scaled down the recipe for this post because I realize not everyone will want a freezer full of applesauce. So, we'll start with 8 apples for the sake of this recipe and you can always double it (or quadruple it or whatever you need). 

Peel and core your apples and cut into chunks.
          You may want to put the cut pieces into a bowl of water with a little apple cider vinegar to keep them from turning brown while you cut up the rest, though when you add the spices it will all look brown anyway.
Mix together in a crock pot: the apples, 1/2 cup of water , 1/2 cup of sugar (more if you have very sour apples or just like a sweeter taste), 1 tsp cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon sweet nutmeg. 

Cook on high for 4 hours. It's great warm, or you can refrigerate or freeze it.

Oh, and it makes the house smell really good too!

Tomorrow, apple butter!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Apples and pears

One of the great things about moving to our new place its that it's a lot closer to my sister's farm. They live just a few minutes from us now so we've been able to enjoy more time together. This weekend we headed over to do some apple and pear picking. They've got some fantastic old apple trees and one HUGE pear tree!
They are so full of fruit this year the branches are hanging really low.

Of course once we started picking we couldn't stop....

...and a couple bags of fruit turned into....
...sending the bro-in-law back to the house for a wheelbarrow! 

So now I'm ready to dive into all the apple recipes I can find (and a few for pears too)! I would've liked to can a bunch but unfortunately with the move, my canning stuff is still buried in some random box in the garage at our old house. So for this year I will be doing a lot  of freezing. On the list so far, apple butter, apple pie filling, some apple slices for apple crisp (my bro-in-law's fave, he deserves something for that trek back for the wheelbarrow!) pear butter and pearsauce, and first up, the project for tomorrow, spiced applesauce! 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Maple Cookies

I love Fall. Everything about it. The leaves, pumpkins, apples, sweater weather, Halloween... In fact, I tend to start wanting to do fall things in about August (ok, I've been secretly making pumpkin bread since July). But now that we're a little way into September I can finally come out in public. One of my favorite Fall recipes is Maple Cookies. They're delicious, simple, quick, and involve cookie cutters so it's a good recipe to make with the kids too.

Here's the recipe:
1 1/2 cups softened butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar (packed)
2 eggs
1/3 cup maple syrup
4 cups flour
food coloring
Maple leaf cookie cutter

Preheat the oven  to 375. Use a mixer to blend the butter for a few seconds, add brown sugar and blend in. Mix in syrup and eggs. Add in as much of the flour as you can with your mixer and then mix in the rest with a spoon. Add food coloring. For this dough, it works better to put the dough in a zip-lock bag, add in the coloring, and then knead the dough to work the color through. Flour your work space, roll dough, cut with cookie cutters, sprinkle on a little sugar, and bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for about 8 minutes (or until edges are light brown).
My dough was supposed to be a nice fall looks a bit pink, doesn't it? I put little red decorating sugar on one, but that just made it look more pink. Weird. Anyway, they taste great in any color!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

I love laundry

I actually do kind of love laundry. I didn't like it as much before, but since moving here it's become something I actually enjoy. For one thing, I've been making my own laundry soap for years but now that I'm home with the kids all day it's become a fun project for us (they don't do the the parts that involve hot water!). I've heard mixed reviews from other bloggers who make their own, but for me it has always worked great. I'm one of those people who used to buy the really expensive laundry detergent to try to avoid harsh chemicals, but this works better and is a whole lot cheaper.  Also, a few of the people in my house have pretty sensitive skin and this soap doesn't bother them at all.
In case you want to give it a try, here's the recipe:

1 bar of Ivory soap (or your homemade soap if you make your own) OR 1/3 bar of Fels naptha which    is a heavy duty laundry soap
1/2 cup of washing soda (Not to be confused with baking soda!)
1/2 cup of Borax powder

Grate the soap into a sauce pan with 6 cups of water and heat until the soap has melted. Add the washing soda and borax, stir to dissolve. Pour 4 cups of hot water into a bucket then add the soap mixture to the bucket. Stir, then add 1 gallon plus 6 more cups of water and stir again. After you let the soap sit for 24 hours it's ready to use. The consistency will be a watery gel and produces only a very small amount of suds (it doesn't need suds to work!) . Use 1/2 a cup per load. You could also add essential oils to give it a fragrance if you want. I don't, only because we have a family member who is very sensitive to smells and is more comfortable with fragrance-free products.

The other part of doing laundry that I actually like? Hanging all the clothes on the clothesline. It's fun. Seriously. And they smell like fresh air!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Attack roosters and eggs

Some of the first animals on our farm are the chickens that the previous owner left here for us. We love that we have them but they include a few Sumatra roosters which are beautiful birds,  but they were originally imported to the US as fighting roosters and are often quite aggressive. After a couple attacks we're learning to watch our backs around them and warn our visitors!

We also have about as many roosters as we have hens which is presenting a problem in the number of eggs we are getting. From about 20 hens we are only getting about 5 eggs per day. Having all those   roosters just puts way too much stress on the hens. Ideally, we would need no more than 2 roosters for our 20 hens. Soooo, some of these guys may need to be relocated soon. Until then, at least they have a much nicer home after we did a good cleaning of the chicken house, built a new roost, and got better feeders and waterers set up for them.

 The next big chicken project to complete sometime before next Summer is to move the chicken house to a new location further from the house. The flies and chicken smell are a little too close to our back door where it is now! It's so nice to watch the chickens all out in the yard though, and having fresh eggs is wonderful. I love not only the taste of fresh and free-range eggs but also just the color, that gorgeous sunny yellow!

 Well, off to collect eggs....