Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sweet Child of Mine

Cat o’ Nine Tails….. in case your wondering.  As I scrolled through the pictures I took last week I came to this series of photos.  I had forgotten I had even taken these.  They put a smile on my face, it’s just so Flower Girl!  My sweet little free spirit.  You see I always say that Maine Man and Country Boy are a lot alike.  I believe they are both old souls.  As for FG & I,  we are also two peas in a pod.  I often think of the two of us as new spirits trying to figure our way through this thing we call life.

FG’s writing prompt this week:

Written verbatim:

One day when I woke up the earth looked as it had a soft white blanket covering it.  snow was gentely pelting to the ground….I stood staring at it for a while.  It was beautiful….just beautiful!  I could not stop staring at a sight like this!  So then I ran down stairs to see the frosty world!  First I put on my nice and cozy skipants, second I put on my extremly fluffy Black coat, Then I put my wonderful warm Bog Bots, after that I put my furey pink hat on, Then last of all I put on my puffy, warm, Black, mittens.  I finily was all ready to go out side when all the suden.  ”FG what are you doing?  It’s five in the morning!” “Yeah I know it’s five and I am going outside.  Just look how beauitiuful it is!” “Anyway have you eaten Breakfast?” “Yes ummmmmm NO……but I am not hungrey.” “You should eat before you go outside….and that is not a choice.”  ”fine.”  ”I am going back up to Bed so your on your own.”  ”OK!”  After that I cooked up some yummy yellow fresh chiken eggs and some wonderful crispy brown backon.  After that finlly I started to go outside….when I tool a step out I said ” Oh my gosh!  This is….the best…..THING I HAVE SEEN SENSE LOBSTER!!!!!!”

Love that kid!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Slow Food


After years of coping with wood cook-stove envy I am finally happy to say I have my own.  My neighbor, Biker Stacy has an BEAUTIFUL cook-stove!  I last posted about this last year almost to date when Maine Man was cleaning it up.  If I wasn’t so lazy I’d dig deep to find the before pictures of it…. you would be amazed.   So THANKFUL for my handy man who fixed it up and for my farmer friend who bartered to get me this great find.  Those 2 men are the main reasons why many of my farming/homesteading dreams come true!I’ve only experimented with cooking on top but I will soon experiment with the oven.  One thing I quickly figured out is that small pieces of wood are best to burn when attempting to keep the temperature up.  County Boy has been chopping up our firewood and keeping me in good supply even without being asked.  LOVE that boy!

To date I’ve cooked soup, home fries, breakfast sausage, veggie stir fry, and applesauce.  I will post again after I experiment a bit with the baking.     In effort to educate myself on the matter I am slowly making my way through a borrowed book, Woodstove Cookery ~At Home On The Range by Jane Cooper (1977).  I am headed upstairs to read as soon as I finish this post.  After I get bored with that I will delve into a  book I bought MM for Christmas, We Took To The Woods by Louise Dickinson .  All the while the kids are quietly watching Johnny English for the umpteenth time.  Perfect Saturday night in my eyes, my how times change.  For the better I’d say!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Lost Art


I know the art of sewing isn’t necessarily lost but there are many people of my generation for various reasons that have never picked up a needle and thread.

Shortly after high school (yikes…20 years ago) I bought myself an inexpensive sewing machine.  I attempted to sew a few items, became frustrated, and gave up.  I then lent it out to my best friend for MANY years.  She bought a newer, nicer machine and returned mine.  It accumulated dust for several months until Flower Girl & I were inspired.  Our inspiration was  found at one of our favorite yearly events this past fall, the Common Ground Fair.

Great idea…old t-shirts converted into tote bags.  I don’t know about you, but between the kids and I we seem to always be scrounging around for bags to fill with goodies.

The picture below is where we really found ourselves MOST inspired.  It was a young woman who recycles clothing by piecing items together to create new garments.  She had a lot of really cool clothing for reasonable rates.  The piece that was my favorite was an upcycled beige wool sweater that was converted into a wrap-around skirt.  Something that would have looked perfect with a pair of leggings under it.  Someday I may attempt to make one.   On a recent trip to my favorite thrift store I scored a couple wool sweaters in hopes to make FG and I each a pair of wrist warmers.  Click here if your interested in other good ways to recycle wool sweaters.   You Tube truly is an invaluable resource for teaching yourself new skills!

In December I decided to attempt my first big sewing project, Christmas stockings for the kids. The kids each picked out fabric I had kicking around the house.  CB picked out camouflage material (imagine that) and  FG picked out a colorful print covered with cats & dogs ice-skating.  I followed a 9 minute and 54 second you-tube video and 4 sessions, 10 beers (joking…ok, maybe 2) 6 hours later they were hanging over the fireplace.  As I sat and made the stockings I thought on more than one occasion that I could have easily bought them new ones for a couple bucks (straight from China).  However, the look on their faces and sweet remarks they made when I gave them their new Christmas stockings was absolutely PRICELESS!  Unfortunately, I neglected to take pictures and they are neatly packed away in the barn until next Christmas season.

So a week before Christmas I had this bright idea to make them each a blanket.  As you can see above I bought a cheater quilt fabric (love that stuff) along with some fleece and made CB a blanket.  Needless to say it never made it under the Christmas.  Better late then never.  I then proceeded to make FG’s blanket out of beautiful purple batik fabric and fleece.  I thought I’d be smart and add a wool blanket in the middle to make it warmer…BAD idea for a novice.  Let’s just say it looks like a pre-schooler sewed it but it’s pretty from a distance and warm as ever.   Always best to look at the positives, right?  So much for cleaning out closets and painting this winter.  I think I’ve found myself a new hobby to fill my time ;)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Crazy…..but true!


It’s hard to believe but I picked these carrots, beets, and turnips in our unheated greenhouse last night.  Those are the only 3 crops left until Maine Man starts planting in March.  I sooooo look forward to fresh greens.  The vegetables are no longer growing but in a dormant state.  The carrots are as sweet as candy and we will soon see how the beets & turnip taste.   Who says you can’t grow vegetables in a Maine winter?


P.S I’ve decided to continue posting here as well  Bangor Daily News.  It only takes a few extra minutes.  I just CAN’T give up blog spot for a few reasons:

1) The connections I’ve made here

2) For easier retrieval purposes (I often find myself going back to find recipes and how-to’s)

3) At the end of each year I make a book of this blog.  I make it for my non-technological  friends & family  to read and I like to have a hard copy for myself.  I think my kids really appreciate this when they are older.  I am not sure that the other format would work for that.   

Monday, January 9, 2012

Conversation overheard at our house


Flower Girl: Awwwww……your eating the heart?

Country Boy: It’s only fair that I get the heart because I shot the squirrel!

For those of you that don’t know CB, he is an avid squirrel hunter but his mom (me) says you eat what you kill.  We’ve had a good share of squirrel as of lately.  Believe it or not, I actually like it.  Tastes like chicken of course.  Actually, if I had to compare what it tastes like I’d dare say it is similar to the flavor of a rabbit.  If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time you would remember this post.  CB scored his first game with his newly acquired pellet gun and I cooked it, a porcupine.  We are quite adventurous here on the farm ;)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Soap making and a book review

This is my 3rd or 4th attempt at soap making and by far the most successful. My farmer friend built me two soap molds, this was my first time using them.  He made the above mold from maple he sawed on his sawmill, isn’t that cool? The ends are removable which allows for easy removal and quicker drying.
The recipe came from a book titled “The Back to Basics Handbook” by Abigail Gehring.  I was asked to do a book review of this book a while back by Skyhorse Publishing.  When I received the book in the mail we both had a good chuckle.  We already had an older edition of the book that we’ve referenced many times before.  Absolutely love this book!  It is perfect for the beginner and a good resource to those of us who’ve been dabbling in this homesteading lifestyle for a while.  It includes but it is not limited to everything from beekeeping, raising livestock, gardening, to candle making.  Would be a lovely present for your loved ones that are interested in learning basic living skills.  What I like best about this recipe is it’s simplicity.  I cut the recipe in half for fear of screwing it up.  I like to minimize my wastes.  To my surprise it came out great!

For soap making I have supplies set aside that I use only for this process: old mixer, wooden spoon, glass bowl, 12qt pot, thermometer, rubber gloves, and eye protection.   I also use my kitchen scale.

4 ingredients:

  • 3 lbs of beef fat
  • 1 1/4 pints of water
  • 7.5 ounces of lye
  • 1 oz. essential oil (I used mint)

First I cover my table with newspaper.  Then I prepare my lye solution.  I suggest you read up a bit on lye if this is your first attempt using it.  It is very dangerous and improper handling can result in burns.

  1. Pour cold water into an enamel-ware pot.  Then add lye slowly while stirring the solution steadily with a wooden spoon.  The reaction between the 2 substances combined creates a temperature up to 200 degrees.  You can either allow it to cool on it’s own (as I did) or place it on a cool water basin. .
  2. Meanwhile I took my beef fat that I had previously rendered and warmed it lightly until it melted into an liquid form on the stove top.
  3. When both the lye mixture and the fat are at approximately 95-98 degrees I mixed the 2 together.
  4. As you can see in the picture below the mixture begins to thicken.  They call that saponification I think.  When the consistency is about like sour cream I added the entire bottle of essential oil, stirred a bit more the poured into my mold. (I lathered the mold with vaseline prior to to prevent sticking….it worked perfectly!)

  1. cover with a towel for a couple days
  2. remove from mold and allow to air dry
  3. soap can be used in 1 month

It made for great Christmas presents!  The feedback I received from friends & family was much better then any soap I’ve made before.  I even kept a bunch for us as well.  The whole family likes it.  I will definitely make again real soon, maybe this weekend!  Next time around I plan to use half pig lard since I have a bunch that needs to be used.  I also may use goat milk instead of water.  I froze goat milk this past fall in anticipation for soap & cheese making.

If you give soap making a try I’d love to hear the results!

Sunday, January 1, 2012