Friday, December 30, 2011

A Christmas Gift I can use...

Frequently, my mother-in-law and I have very different views on what I would like to have for a gift.  God bless her, she has amazing taste and buys very lovely things... it's just not my taste and not my lovely.

Imagine my excitement when she actually clicked on the links I sent her and received THIS for Christmas!
A pioneer drying rack from Forgotten Way!  James frowned when I asked him to help me assemble this, and oh, dear, I need a drill, but once he realized it was just a few screws to hold the dowels in place, we were both very happy with how quickly this assembled.

Our only hiccup came when James returned to the house with his electric drill, which I had found run over by the van (I don't know which of us committed such an atrocity, but there it is!), which would NOT work to drill the pilot holes.  Then, as James said, he "went Amish" and fetched the hand-powered drill I had purchased for his Christmas gift in 2010.  Don't you love it when you buy a good gift?

Until next time, remember,this is not paradise, it's Purgatory Ranch.

End of the Year

And we have been absent, but not idle.

Rain continues to fall on Purgatory Ranch, giving us a full pond for the first time in two years.

Isn't the ice beautiful?

Did you know that you can't but a cap for 8" PCV pipe around here?  6" will have to do, and we only capped the inner pipe.  It's a good thing Uncle Bruce came through and figured out a way to cap the pipe after we left.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Adventures in Luffa

Or loofah, as you please.

These long-season plants, similar to cucumbers, grow MILES.  This year, our second in attempting to grow them, finally proved to be a success.  Their flowers are beautiful and attracted lots of bees in the fall.

I think I might have waited too long to begin peeling mine, but I had tried to peel another and was too quick, so I decided to be good and sure!  

We chose the floor for our peeling experiment because it was MESSY.  Here, the kids are picking out the seeds so we can try again next year!

She's so proud of herself for gathering seeds (and she closed her eyes on purpose).

Bear Cub Q wanted a picture taken too.

The leftovers.  It's supposed to be easier to peel than this, if you peel earlier,
but I didn't know that until after the fact.
I will be washing it next, and bleaching if necessary.

If you would like some seeds, please leave your email.  I'd be willing to send out a few envelopes of 10 seeds for anyone who would send me a SASE.

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Homemade Chili Powder

This year, I had plenty of chilis, so I made a double batch.  If you want a smaller amount, cut the ingredients in half!

2 c. dried chilis
We use any kind of dried pepper.  The hotter the peppers, the hotter the powder.
Last year, I made a pretty mild version, using plenty of bell peppers, but, since the the peppers are fresh instead of having sat on a grocery store shelf for a while, the taste is still much stronger than I was used to from my old chili powder!  Use at your own risk.

2 t. paprika
2 T. dried oregano
4 T. garlic powder

4 T. toasted cumin seeds
(toast over medium high heat, shaking frequently)

Throw in the blender until a fine powder is formed.
Please don't open it for a little bit, or all these fine particles will be in your eyes instead of
in the blender, and you don't want that!  (Neither do I!)

On the left, remnants of last year's batch.
I used more green peppers, so you can see it has a more greenish cast.

I'm looking forward to trying it!

I *think* this is based on an Alton Brown recipe I found last year, but since I didn't note it on my recipe card, I'm just not sure!  Check out other homestead blogs on the Barn Hop at Homestead Revival.

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

No-Sew Handkerchiefs

Have you ever wondered what to do with all those T-shirts?  You know the ones I mean... you can't wear them anymore in public, but you don't really want to save them for a T-shirt quilt (one can only have so many T-shirt quilts, after all), but you hate to throw them away?

Two winters ago, I was appalled at how many tissues we used in the winter, even when no one was sick.  Our house is approaching its 90 year mark, and with the original windows in place until a month ago, winters were cold, and that meant drippy noses.  Why buy tissues, I thought, when I could make them?

A pile of T-shirts had been aging nicely in my "someday" pile, the pile of things I will do "something" with, "someday."  In search of a good use for the soft fabric (and noticing my children preferring to wipe their noses on their clothes rather than stiff tissues), I decided to try a few no-sew handkerchiefs.

Two years in, I think they're great!  Because we have a shoe-box full, they don't have to be reused all day like traditional handkerchiefs.  I have to wash cloth diapers and make sure they're sanitary, so the cloth tissues can go in the same wash and be germ-free. (The tissue to the right is old and no longer a tissue... it was commandeered as a rag for an ink spill, and has only gotten more stained with time!)

Here are two old polo shirts that I cut recently.  One was too worn for my husband to wear to work, and the other had a large grease stain.  Neither matters for tissues!

I use a 6.5" quilting ruler and a rotary cutter, but you could cut a template to your preferred size out of cardboard, mark with a pencil or chalk, and cut with plain old scissors.

The important thing here, to avoid needing to sew the edges, is to cut on the bias, or a 45 degree angle from the straight edge of the fabric.  There is a little raveling the first few washes, if you use something like an old tea towel, but T-shirts don't ravel at all... as long as you cut on the bias.  Also, if you have a t-shirt with a large plastic logo on it, I would not use the plasticy part for a tissue.  Just cut around it.  Tea towers also work (that old, stained tissue is one of the originals, now ink-stained from some long ago spill...), or flannel receiving blankets that have one of those permanent stains on them.

You don't have to be too scientific about where to start cutting... I managed 9 new 6.5" squares from a medium polo, and 16 from an extra large! 25 new tissues from a few minutes work for something that I wouldn't give away and couldn't use anymore in it's original form.

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Jam and Jelly

Peach, strawberry, mint, and blueberry.

The peaches are leftover from last year and have been biding their time in the freezer.  In order to use them up, we made a batch of jam.  I think next time we'll blend it more...

Two batches from strawberries we picked this summer.  These have also been waiting use in the freezer, pre-measured and pre-crushed.  It was just TOO HOT this summer to even think about canning.

Three batches of mint jelly that Myle picked and saved.  The mint is the ONLY canning today that didn't gel, and I suspect, in retrospect, that we used too much of the mint liquid.

One batch of blueberries we picked this summer.

It's amazing that we picked/harvested all the fruit included in these beautiful jars.  We filled 37 8-oz. jars and 2 pint jars (we ran out of jelly jars... we didn't realize we would fill so many!  Pint jars aren't recommended for canning jelly or jam, so we'll be popping these in the fridge and consuming them first).  Our goal each year will be to can at least a year's worth of jelly.

One realization we have had is just how much fruit we need to grow to be able to keep up with our kids... dozens of apple trees, gaggles of fruit bushes, hundreds of strawberries... WOAH.  I bought 80 pounds of apples a few weeks ago.  Where did it all go?  I think my kids ate 10 pounds.  Then there were a few pounds of peelings (our kids eat them dried), seeds, etc.  6 pints of apple pie filling.  3 quarts of apple juice.  1 quart of apple leather.  Only 11 quarts of apple sauce, which, when split between two families, is only a few weeks of apple sauce!

So far, the reusable Tattler lids are sealing properly.  Let's see how they work over the next year!

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

Check out other homestead posts at:

Apple Preservation

Start with a "few" pounds of apples...
Use one of these fabulous gadgets (by Norpro... I b ought mine from Pleasant Hill Grain as I love their fast shipping!).

Make it look like this...
and this...

Use a few of these...

And of course, a lot of this...

Our apple pie filling did not gel... Ah, well.  I think I was too impatient.

Our apple sauce is much smoother than last year, but also juicier (you can see the juice at the bottom).

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sweet Potato Harvest

... 3 slips, leftovers from the ranch, produced 17 pounds of sweet potatoes, ranging from a bitty 3 oz. to over 3 pounds!

The Assistant is modeling our largest sweet potato.
Yes, it's dirty.  I don't want to scrape the fragile skin any more.

I think this one is as big as Jimmy's head.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Planting, hacking, and weeding

A week late is better than never, right?
Our garlic was supposed to be planted by Columbus Day, but I forgot.  Then, I received a notification that our Jerusalem artichokes had shipped, and since those were due to be planted at the land too, maybe it was a good thing I forgot.

After school on Tuesday, we packed up and drove to the land, where I marveled at how quickly weeds will grow.

After hacking down the honey locusts attempting to control the drive, we hacked the foot + tall weeds (yes, next year, we'll be planting a cover crop.  Immediately. after. digging. potatoes... speaking of which, we uncovered another 2 pounds).

Then we planted our artichokes, garlic, and tree onions.  I love planting, freshly dug ground, and doing something to further our self-sufficiency goal.

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Canning Adventures

Last week, I picked up my order of 80 pounds of "juice quality" apples from the Azure Standard route.  I love apples for $.50/lb.  What to do with all these fresh goodness?

I prefer to can with Myle, but I wanted to cut down on the four crates of apples hogging the counter space in my kitchen, so...
8 pounds, still cutting

half done cutting!
 I made apple juice.  24 pounds of apples and a chunk of finger later, I have three beautiful quarts of juice.  Do you know what I REALLY want to know?  Why, even when I follow a canning recipe precisely, I have significantly less yield than expected.  This time, I should have had 6 quarts and only have 3.  What am I doing wrong?
Isn't it beautiful?  (Ignore the dirt... there's a pile of tomatoes from the the garden just out of sight!)

Apple leather in progress.
With 56 pounds in my basement, I see lots of applesauce in my future, and I might even branch out and try apple pie filling or some other tasty variation.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Didn't you ever play in the dirt when you were little?

Check out her stance.

Lacking-a-Name Pond
also lacking water

Hard to see, but there's a pesky stump in the middle of the picture.
It had to come out before we could safely drive on our new access point.

See how much trouble we would have been in?
We are grateful to "Uncle" Bruce for loan of his tools and teasing.

After.  Isn't it beautiful?

First use of our new access point to the land.
No more driving over the neighbor's hayfield!

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Please Excuse Our Absence

Homesteading recently has involved plenty of activity, but none of it very entertaining.

The heat has broken.  We desperately still need rain, but in essence the garden produced very little.  Frequent watering could not overcome the overwhelming heat.

We took our house in town off the market.  New windows were installed this week (let's not even talk about contractors and all the fun involved with them, 'kay?).  We had to move out during the replacement, and 34 windows later, we can already tell a difference.

Twice we've been laid low by feverish children.

In an effort to contribute to continued preparation to move (which includes paying off the mortgage and land debt), I am preparing for a craft fair.  Please pray that my efforts will be successful (at least I would like to pay back to the family budget what I've spent in yarn and other supplies).

The Assistant loves school, and being with other kids all day is great for her!

I have returned to teaching Catechesis of the Good Shepherd 5 times a week, although the above-mentioned sick kids have caused a few cancellations.  I began training for Level II, which necessitates travel to another city.  I'm not sure I will be able to complete it... 14 trips may be took expensive for our already-strapped budget.

We begin to prepare our food stores and activities for the long cold of winter.  It is good that we have over a month before the fire place will be needed again.

What is God's will for us now?  We don't yet know.

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

Monday, September 12, 2011

This is the dash board of my neighbor's Chevy truck. He has been maintaining it himself for twenty years.

He is the same neighbor that has saved our arses a few times and is pictured below. On a slightly related note, the best book (excepting of course the Gospels) concerning the Christian life of poverty is this book:

In my more rational moments I realize the need to be poorer, which is to say I can know that I need to rely more on Christ.

One more slightly tangental thought; Technology is not a neutral force in our culture. Though I cannot deny it has some merit. That being said, watch this video. (It has bleeped out salty language)