Thursday, October 31, 2019

Be Ready!

So many things are running thru my head as I watched the snow fall today. What an Awesome God we have! Look at what beauty is in the snow. How many things I have left to finish before winter...and then it hit me! We have no idea when He (God) is coming back! We had better be ready!

My family has had the privilege of having some pretty cool conversations lately around salvation. Avi has been asking so many questions and trying to piece together why Adam and Eve sinned, Why God sent His Son as a baby, Why Jesus died on the cross with nails in His hands and feet and blood and it hurt Him, that He didn't stay dead, and then asking Who is your Savior? It is an amazing privilege and responsibility to be here answering those questions for her!

I was then thinking about how we still have a few projects needing done before the frost sets in the ground. I was thinking how I knew the snow was coming and though I was mostly ready for it, (not gonna lie), there are some things I didn't do. and then it hit me! This is no different than salvation. God tells us be ready, He is coming, but how often do we live "almost ready" for Him. Sure, I knew the snow was coming, but I still put off some things, not completely ready for the snow to come. Well, ready or not, the snow is here and winter is here, sure we will have a little time left to wrap up outside, but unlike weather, when Jesus comes back, thats it. We are either ready or we aren't.  Are you ready? Here are a few pictures from Avi's booklet that she is going over and processing. Hearing the hurt when she sees Jesus on the cross and the concern for the pain that He went thru has made me think all over again what He went thru for me on that cross! And the second picture shows that He is alive!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Making Soap

If you have ever considered making soap, I am here to tell you, DO IT! I was scared to death to start making it. I asked many people. Got many opinions… and the common theme, it is worth it. So, let me back up. You are smearing stuff all over your body, which is being absorbed into your body… how much "junk" is in it?  Once I realized how little I put into my soap, I began freaking out about how much stuff is in packaged soap (and stuff I can't even read or pronounce). 

So my fear of starting to make soap was the unknown… I was afraid of lye. I was afraid of getting chemicals on me. I was afraid that it would not be natural because of adding lye. I was afraid to have lye in my house because of my children. I was afraid to make it around my children. Long story short, I was afraid for nothing. I needed to face my fears head on and just be careful.  So, I started… I studied, I read, I asked other soaping people, I learned that lye can be made from running water thru ashes (um, how natural is that?!?) I always do soap when John is able to watch our children. When I started, I did it after they were asleep. Now I start it when they are winding down for the night and can watch the oil mixing stage.  I keep my boxes of supplies out in the shed and on my soap nights I bring everything in. That was a choice I made because of my inquisitive little girl. I did not want to worry about her getting into the lye, so for my benefit, I keep all my soaping ingredients out in the shed.


I studied. I read a book called The Natural Soapmaking Book For Beginners on kindle and then purchased it so I could take notes and have a hard copy for referencing while I work.  I highly recommend it for starting out. It tells you techniques, natural color additives, recipes, supplies needed to get started and explain all the ins and outs of soaping. You can find it here:

I asked many questions. I talked to people. I got their opinion on lye. I watched many videos on it. I have been making a decent amount of soap and would be lying if I said I loved working with lye, however I have learned a healthy respect for it so it doesn’t scare me, but I am not careless with it.  I do not allow my children to be around when I work with it. I take precaution by going out on the porch when working with it. I put the dogs away. I put glasses on. I wear gloves. I don’t mix things or drip when lye has been introduced. I am cautious. I have gotten lye water on me, IT BURNS!  Lol… but I ran in and rinsed it off and all was good, not a continual burn like hot peppers!  It is recommended that you wear a mask so you don’t inhale the fumes. I did that once too, it sucks, but it wasn’t the end of the world. I absolutely do not allow my children around during that part as I would not want any of those things happening to them.  So develop a healthy respect of the supplies you are working with, exercise caution, and you will be fine.

A quick summary of it all, step by step. What it looks like for me. My soap nights are Tuesday nights. Tuesday night I carry all my boxes in and line them up on the counter. For me, start, carrying stuff in to finish, cleaned up and carrying stuff out is two hours. Once I have everything out, Cole hops up on the counter and helps me weigh out all my oils. I like to use basic recipes. Some of the ones I am starting into have some more fancy oils, but start simple, coconut oil, tallow, lard, olive oil. I weigh out the oils and pour or dump into a pot on the stove to melt down all together. Once that stage is done, I let it cool down (this can be rushed by placing in cold water sink).  I now head outside with my lye and water, glasses, and gloves  (also can be rushed by using one- half to two-thirds ice vs all water) always pour the lye into the water, not the other way around. It will heat up very fast! Keep stirring till it is all mixed in.  It is at this point you need to get your oil mixture and lye water mixture to 100-110 degrees. Once they are both within that temperature, mix the lye water into the oils. Then I am comfortable with bringing the pan inside to mix or you can mix on the porch. I use a handheld little mixer ( Mix off and on till you reach trace, which is a pudding consistency. Pending if you need it light or thick trace, your recipe will tell you. Now is the fun part!
I started with just pouring it into the mold and being so excited! After a few batches I began playing around… adding flowers on top.  Adding lavender throughout and or essential oil mixed in.  Making layered soap. The possibilities are endless! Then wrap and let it set overnight. The next day we cut it. This is where my children get involved again 😊 I start with cutting a loaf into 12 pieces. It was not perfect, but that was ok, it was for my family. I since was asked to start selling it at a local store, so I purchased a cutting mold so I slide the slicer in 1" slats to make them all even 😊   I now get nine bars per loaf, which I am ok with because who doesn’t like to get a big bar of soap! My children always decide if I use a crinkle cut or straight. This is a fun thing we do together, they love to watch as I cut the soap slices. You are not done yet!  Now, the soap has to be set up so it can dry for four weeks. After that, enjoy!

If you have ever considered making your own soap or getting into it, DO IT! you will not regret it. you will love the feel of homemade soap on your skin. You will love knowing what is in your soap. You will love the moisture of it! you will not look back. We take ours with us when we travel we are so spoiled by it now, lol.

I will eventually do a YouTube video on soapmaking. I am working on setting up an Esty shop for soap sales, so please stay tuned and I will post more about that as it progresses. 😊

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Homeschooling on a Homestead

Ok, I just lost you with the title. I know what you are picturing. You have the stereotypical vision in your mind. I am here to show you that first, homeschooling is an amazing privilege and opportunity to spend every day with your children, training and teaching them how to grow into the adult they will one day be. It is not scary and is totally doable, FOR ANYONE! Homeschooling doesn’t mean you are weird, unsocialized, or unkept. Are you any of those things now? What is going to change? LOL. 
Homeschooling is actually easier than you think. Sure, you can make it complicated, but it can also be quite simple too. First there are SOOOO many options out there right now: video classes, online classes, full grade kits with teachers editions, tests, and materials included. There is also the option of piecing together what you want for each class book by book. It is totally up to you!

Many people worry about the socialization of their kids. Another hurdle that is so easy to overcome!  Sure there are families out there that don’t get out enough, but in the end, it’s the parents' choice. I am here to tell you that there are so many activities out there for children to be involved in, the lack of sitting in a classroom will not make them socially challenged. Church, baseball, swimming, martial arts, soccer, playground meets, library clubs, and the list goes on with places your child could have interaction with others. The choice is yours as to how many places you go and events you are involved in. I do caution though. It is easy to get involved in so many activities you can burn yourself out. Children are amazing and adaptable. If you give them the resources and means to meet others, they will! They will have more friends than you in an hour timeframe, simply because they have not learned the fear of rejection yet.  So provide a venue for them to be around others and they will be just fine.  Also encourage them to meet friends and be friendly. Don’t pass your fear down to them. Be strong, be confident, be an example!

Homestead life fits very well with homeschooling.  Do I follow a curriculum? Yes. Do I have a set amount of lessons as well as goals for my children to reach in the school year? Yes. Do my children have to do long days of school for eight hours? No, and I am good with that. They have their textbook lessons and curriculum requirements for each grade level that must be completed before the student can move on to the next grade level each year.  However my children's training does not just involve textbooks. My children's  learning also involved hands on life lessons. We do food preservation together, we talk about raising animals. We count eggs, measure milk and learn proper sanitation involving those things.  We learn weights and measurements in cooking. Life skills are just as important as textbooks in our household.

God has given us a tremendous responsibility in training and raising our children. We feel the best thing for our family is homeschooling and living this life on our homestead. It is not for everyone, and I get that. But I do want to challenge you that if you are afraid to take the step into homeschooling, don’t be! There are so many resources out there to make this journey easy.  Feel free to reach out to me if you have questions, I would love to encourage you with it!

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Harvest Time/Busy Time

Not sure which is a busier time of year, spring planting and babies or fall harvest.  We are so thankful for all God has provided and is continuing to provide for us this year. We are in full swing of food preservation. This year, we are doing drying of herbs, freezing and canning our veggies and fruits. One of the projects we want to add to our homestead would be a solar food dehydrator. I have found plans on Mother Earth News that I want to make and look forward to using.  We will see if time allows for us to add one next year. Our orchard is growing and most of it is doing well. We look forward to having our own fruit over the next few years, but for now are very thankful for the local fruit we are able to pick or purchase to put in storage for this winter. Our vegetables are doing well and we are in the middle of summer squash, beans, peas, potatoes, cucumbers, cabbage, and peppers. We are also able to season our food from our garden with our own herbs!

 Garden harvest takes place in many forms. Drying of herbs, canning, freezing, and dehydrating. We have been studying different ways of food preservation and it is recommended to store food in many different ways. Basically the principle of not putting all your eggs in one basket. If your power goes out and you loose all your freezer food, what would you do? If you have all your food in glass canning jars and an earthquake hits your area sending your food crashing to the ground, what would you do? So variety is key in anything you do.
This year I dried our herbs a little different than last year. And a whole lot easier, lol. This year I picked stems of herbs and then I rinsed the dirt off them, I tied them all with a thread, put a note thru the thread of what it was and hung them on the railing in my loft to dry. I checked the other day and a few are done, but not all are "crispy." Once they are all dry, I am going to crumble the leaves or all but the stems into a jar so they are ready to use as seasoning.  Super excited to have my jars all cute with my seasonings this year.  

Canning is a big project but so rewarding!  Seeing all your jars stacked on the shelf is well worth the work put into it.  Oh and there is the whole eating your own food all year long with such flavor aspect too! So, in my mind, canning requires the most attention to detail as well as the most responsibility. Botulism is a risk with canning. Know the risk, but face it head on and take proper steps to can and you will be rewarded with food that tastes amazing as well as lasts for years to come.  I highly recommend the Ball Blue Book for canning it will tell you how to prepare your food for processing as well as times and type of processing required.  It is important to sanitize your jars before using them. Sanitization of jars is not just washing them or running them thru the dishwasher. It is important to boil them for 10 minutes on a hard boil before placing food in them. After boiling your jars, remove them, pour the water out and if you are running a few batches then cover the jars that just came out so that flies or dog hair, etc. does not find its way into them. Some canning involves raw packing right into the jars, wiping the rims, placing lids (that have also boiled for 10 minutes), and rims onto them and then placing them in either pressure cooker or canner pot for allotted time. Once the cans have processed, follow removal directions per the recipe and then let cool and sit for 24 hours. After 24 hours, check the lids by pushing down in the middle. If nothing happens, great, if it pops down and or back up then stick it in the fridge and use sooner than later. That jar did not seal, no big deal, treat it as a jar you just opened and use it.    Canning opens a whole world of opportunity. You can do everything from simple to complicated. Peaches and tomatoes are a few of the easier things to start on and give you great yield (and pretty color on your shelves). All you do is dip them in boiling water, slip the skins, and take out pits for peaches, shove in jars, pour boiling water or a syrup over the fruit, lid, rings and process.  Jellies and jams
are also great for learning to mix things. Purchase a package of Sure Jell pectin, follow the recipe inside and it will walk you thru step by step on how to process your jelly. It is as simple as that. Once you decide to expand, try relish, sauces, and eventually meat. This is my first time canning meat and I am very excited about it!
Meat has to be pressure cooked for a long time. Chicken is 75 minutes. I must say I would not have considered it had my grandma not said it tastes so good and is such an easy meal to prepare because it is already cooked and ready to warm and serve, that is my kind of meal!

Freezing food is a simple necessity in our household. A good vacuum sealer is a must. I have to admit, I thought it was a gimmick, however once John came home with one for our venison, I saw how easy it was to use and amazing it kept our food longer with no freezer burn, it is well worth it.  We started with a Food Saver and it has been great for the last four years. I think I just wore it out. Currently, I am looking for a new one this year before hunting season. Keep an eye out on our Instagram and Facebook page for what we choose.  I'll give you my opinion and compare the two for you. I like to freeze my food ready to eat. So corn is off the cob and ready to be warmed up. Zucchini is shredded in two cup bags ready to mix into bread.  Zucchini and yellow squash is washed, sliced and packed into bags ready to stir fry. Squash is cooked, pureed, butter and brown sugar added and frozen into family sized bags ready to warm up and add as a side dish for dinner. When freezing food, think of  how you will serve it. How much will you need to feed your family for a meal? How do you want it seasoned? You are already doing the work to store it away, what is a couple more minutes to save you time when you serve dinner? It is completely doable to not have huge dinner prep and yet have an amazing home cooked meal simply by putting your food away during harvest in a way that you use as a family.

Another way to preserve your food is dehydrating. I hope to have more on that next year.  As mentioned before I want to build a solar dehydrator next year. I did a little of it last year but I have more to learn and experience before I share too much on that.

Food preservation is a lot of work, but it is rewarding work. It is a great feeling looking at your shelves at the end of harvest and looking in your freezer knowing you did all you could do to plant, grow and preserve the food God has provided through the work and effort you put forth. It is good knowing what your family will be eating the next year. I feel it is a responsibility that I have to fulfill. I ask God at planting for a bountiful harvest, I need to faithfully put away and use what He has given me. Have fun, be creative and enjoy your food knowing what is being put into your families bodies.  

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Chicken, Chicken, Chicken!!!

Some friends of ours raise meat chickens and asked if we wanted to add some in this summer. Sure! why not have fresh chicken in the freezer? I planned on freezing all of it until I was talking to my grandma who said canned chicken is the best! So I began looking into it and decided to can our chicken thighs and legs. I am so thankful she told me about canning it, and cant't wait to try it! We froze the breasts and wings, and boiled down the bones for broth. My last round of broth is cooling in the pressure cooker as I write.  I wanted to add a few pictures to show you our chicken journey! Enjoy!

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Still Here!

Hello! Just a quick note to say hi! I have not forgotten to write, in fact, I have started a few blogs and fell asleep in the process, haha.  Things have been very busy here with harvest time and getting ready to start school=) We have been canning, freezing and putting food away for the coming winter like crazy! God has been good to us and has blessed us with a bountiful harvest. I am trying to be a good steward of what he has given and getting it all put away or eaten so nothing goes to waste. School will be starting for us in two weeks so we have unpacked school books and I am going to start organizing binders! I have attached a few pictures so you can see what we have been up to!

Monday, August 26, 2019


This amazing fruit is very near and dear to me as I write this blog I have stared at buckets full of blueberries over the last three days.   😊 Our children and I picked a decent amount of berries and had a great time with a friend of ours a few weeks ago when blueberries were first coming in.  Now due to our need to put away our food for the year, we did not have enough berries and went back for more once the bushes fully ripened. We went as a family and also took another family of friends this time. As a group, we were able to pick 39 pounds! That is a lot of berries! We are very thankful for all the fruit God has provided for us thru various local u-pick farms. It has been a blessing to get lots of fruit put away for the upcoming winter. We have blueberry bushes planted on our homestead but our plants are still young. Going to the u-pick farms allow me to dream about how our plants will produce in the future. I also look forward to putting away fruit in batches rather than all at once in one fell swoop! I am going to share a few of the things we made this year along with recipes for you to try if you would like. Have fun and happy canning!

I use the Ball Blue Book for reference and tweaked recipes around a bit here and there. I also use the Sure Jell recipe for jams and jellies. Before canning of any sort, make sure you follow the sanitation steps and processing times. It is very important to sanitize jars (I wash mine and then boil them), keep surfaces clean, and follow processing times to avoid botulism.  I have repeated this a couple times in this blog because of its importance. Canning can be simple and fun, or scary and dangerous. As with anything in life, follow the directions and things should  run smooth and fun.

I started with jelly. I made cooked blueberry jelly from the Sure Jell recipe that is inside the box. If you are new to canning, it is super easy and relatively forgiving. Make sure you sanitize the jars, cook as instructed, boil the lids before using them, wipe the rims clean (to allow a clean surface for the lid to adhere to the jar), and process according to the times in your region.

6 cups whole fruit = 4 cups pureed fruit
1/2 tsp butter
4 cups sugar

Mix pureed fruit, pectin, and butter until it boils then add sugar. Bring back to a boil and boil one minute. Pour into prepared jars (about 7 half pints, already sanitized) wipe off rims of jars, place lids (boiled for 5 minutes) and rings on jars. Put into hot water bath and boil for 10 minutes (or what your altitude calls for) once finished, remove from hot water and set on a towel to cool for 24 hours.

I then thought I would whip up a quick batch of blueberry syrup...HAHAHAHAHA! Wow, was I wrong. First mistake… quick batch… second mistake… double batch. (Because John said how much he LOOOVVEEES blueberry syrup.  I thought, hey, I can be a good wife and make his belly happy.) I read in the recipe that I need to crush the berries and boil them in water, then strain berries and juice.  Now I am used to straining milk so I thought, no big deal, it will run right out. Not sure what I was thinking as it is not a liquid to begin with. It is a thick berry with sugars emitting from it. Long story short, my kitchen looked like a blueberry bomb went off! I burned my hands squeezing out the juice and I have come to the conclusion my family better enjoy this batch because it is not on my top ten list to make again, lol. Not to mention, my quick batch of syrup took over 3 hours! LOL

Blueberry Syrup from the Ball Blue Book
2 quarts blueberries
6 cups water divided
3 cups sugar
2 TBSP lemon juice
Wash and drain blueberries, crush. Cook blueberries, 2 cups water, and lemon juice in pan for 5 minutes. Strain. Combine sugar and 4 cups water till a boil. Boil to 230 degrees F. Add blueberry juice to syrup and boil 5 minutes. Ladle hot syrup into hot jars. Put hot lids and rings on. Process in hot water canner for 10 minutes on pints.

After that I made 6 pies, 4 to put in the freezer and two to eat that night. Remember to always make a  fresh pie when you pick fruit 😊 at least that is what my family thinks! Actually I guess we made 10 pies because we had four little people in the house that day and all four needed to make their own pie too. 😉 Cuties!

I use the Betty Crocker Pie crust recipe.
1 cup flour
1/3 cup plus 1 TBSP shortening
Cold water - 2-3 TBSP
Cut in shortening to the flour and salt. Add cold water just till dough sticks together and can form a ball. Roll out with a rolling pin and transfer to pie plate.
Blueberry Pie filling-
I take 3-4 cups of blueberries, add 1-2 cups of sugar, based on tartness, a TBSP of flour to help thicken it and mix together and put in pie crust.
Crumble top is 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/4 cup flour, 1/3 cup butter. Cut the butter in with a pastry cutter and sprinkle over the top of the pie.
Bake at 375 for 45 minutes

The next day I made a blueberry conserve (abbreviated from the Ball Blue Book based on what I had on hand).  John likes more fruit vs jelly in his yogurt, so I am attempting new recipes.

1 quart of blueberries
4 cups sugar
2 cups water
Lemon juice
3 tbsp fruit pectin
Mix everything except blueberries to a boil, add blueberries and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute. Ladle into hot jars with hot lids and rings. Process half pint jars 15 minutes.

And last but not least we were able to can 4 1/2 quarts of whole berries in syrup.
I fill jars with blueberries and then add a medium syrup (made by boiling 3 cups sugar with 5 cups water) pour over blueberries in jar and add hot lids and rings. Process in hot water bath for 15 minutes.

Whew I am tired thinking over what we did these last few days. It was a lot of fun working with some friends of ours and having extra hands in the kitchen was great help with keeping up on all the dishes while I worked.