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Friday, September 28, 2012

The slower days of fall

I am loving the slower pace of early fall on the farm. Most of the garden has been harvested. With exception of the sweet potatoes. That may happen this weekend if it dries enough. We have had rain this past week off an on. We need water in the ground but it sure adds to more pain for me with the arthritis an fibro. But live with it I can just to be able to enjoy the wonderful weather. I hope tomorrow is nice and not too wet or cool so I can pick raspberries and whats left of the peppers in the garden. Its not like I need any more in the freezer so I will have to dry what ever I pick. I have enough raspberries in the freezer to make another big batch of raspberry jam to can and that will free up some freezer space. I do still have the makings for gumbo in the freezer too that needs to be used an canned up. Its almost deer hunting time and we will need the space. So there really are things I need to get done soon. As I will be away the first weekend in October for our annual BHM get together in central Kentucky. I look forward to meeting like minded folks and some nice folks I have chatted with online on the Backwoods Home chat room. It is always a fun time.

It is starting to get cooler at night and I was hoping my hens would be done with all this broodiness stuff by now. But just as luck would have it, my white lil hen that has hatched several clutches this year just hatched off 2 more lil fellows. I love watching lil chicks explore their lil world and learn to eat and drink. I now have a hen that has 2 of her own an 1 that is older that joined her lil family cause his momma weaned him. One hen has 5 babies with her and now the one with 2 babies. The roosters always join at the big freezer in the outbuilding when they are bigger. Of all my past several years of having laying flocks this has been the best bunch to hatch and raise chicks. So we shall keep them to keep the flock going.

Last weekend I picked the red Roselle buds to dry for tea. I started with about a gallon of buds and got those in the dehydrator to dry. Ended up with a pint jar full of dried buds in all. My daughter in law to be is from Jamaica and she tole me they use it to make a Christmas drink and ask her mom how it was done. Her mom said you boil the Roselle and a piece of ginger in water till the tea is as strong as you like and let sit over night and serve hot or cold. It does sound interesting. The ginger is good for the stomach and the red Roselle aids in speeding digestion. So it has to be good for ya.

Around here we try to raise a large variety of things containing various nutrients so as to have a better diet. What we raise is mostly organic and all are heirloom varieties so we can save our own seed. I stumbled upon this site earlier today while surfing and thought I would share the link. Interesting the nutrients available in things we consume every day. Best if homegrown or at least organic in my opinion.

Not much else happening here, so till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Its been a day!

Yesterday we butchered 7 chickens, actually 6 young roosters an 1 older hen that was not a good momma. She is the one that tossed her babies out of the nest an tried to kill em and I ended up with 4 orphans in the house.So she did not get a second chance. My friend Lori came down to hang out and help us. This was her first chicken killing experience. She was a lot of help, she and Rodger plucked the chickens an I cut them up. I deboned the breast to use in gumbo later and froze that. I deboned the thighs and canned the thighs and legs in stock today. I made stock with the bony pieces and fat from the birds. So the stock got done last evening and I strained it and let is sit over night. Today after I got able to walk around, (thas a whole nuther story) I went out and put the stock an chicken in jars an got it canned. I ended up with 6 quarts of meat and stock an 7 quarts of stock. Not bad for a days work.

On the walk around business, I obviously walked around too much yesterday. OMG I had leg cramps from hell last night. Not sure what the deal is unless its the new meds stripping my potassium or what. The new meds I am taking (Lyrica) does help some with the pain. For that I am thankful. But dang the leg cramps. That is one of the side effects of the medication so I can learn to function within limits to prevent the cramps. Last night I woke several times with bad cramps and decided I need some potassium to calm em down. So off to the kitchen to get some sauerkraut, and had a few bites of that and back to bed. I did this twice before I realized I was a goober an sauerkraut did not have potassium in it but is loaded with vitamin C. See my mind don't work well when I wake up, it takes a bit. I have moved a lil slow today but am OK I think.

When I was in the summer kitchen today I took the dried red Roselle out of the dehydrator an put it in a pint jar. Dang it I started with a gallon bucket of that stuff cleaned. Anyway I got a message from my future daughter in law that the red Roselle is used in Jamaica to make a Christmas drink. So I guess we can wait till she comes home with Rob for Thanksgiving an let her make us a traditional Jamaican drink. Something tells me it will contain rum. Looking forward to that.

Not much happening here this time of year. Rodger is battling the muskrats and beavers for our field of corn. He put up an electric fence yesterday evening and put the wire low to the ground in hopes of deterring them from totin off the corn. I may try to move some manure out of the chicken house tomorrow and get it ready to take to the field so we can transplant our grape vines that I have started. I think I have 25 or so of em. They really need to be in the ground so they can get established before frost kills them back for the season. I would sure hate to go to the trouble of setting them out to have em all freeze to death. And I probably need to pick raspberries again. They will produce up to frost. Not to mention I am still picking strawberries. But I love it.

So till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Happy fall to all!

Happy fall to all of you, my wonderful readers. You can just feel the cool days of fall in the air even tho it was nice an sunny today. The little breeze blowing made it kinda chilly at times. But I did get out an piddle around a get a few things done. My buddy Gene had given me a chair/step stool/ironing board and I took it out on the porch an cleaned it up and got the dust off it. It looks hand made and is an ingenious idea to save space.

Ironing board
The chair
The step stool I ain't allowed to have
It has had some repair work done, but the design is still really neat I think. But he knew I collect old ironing boards so he picked it up for me.Think I will bring it in a use it and give my old new model ironing board to someone else. Gene had given me another old ironing board a few years ago an I use it to display a quilt. This one I think will be near the kitchen so if I need to reach something up high, well it ain't too tall to fall off of.
Later this evening I went out an picked cotton, yeah I grew some cotton to see what it looked like growing. Not sure what I will do with some lil natural organic cotton balls but I got some. See!

Cotton that is ripe an ready to pick.

Cotton plant with ripe cotton and still blooming.
 The cotton is a really pretty plant to grow. It can have different colors of flowers on one plant. Would make a nice border planting as well. Now to find a funky use for cotton balls.

Red Roselle
 This is my first year growing the red Roselle. My friend Deb sent the seeds to me and I started them in the greenhouse an transplanted them to the herb bed. Talk about big beautiful plants. These would make a hedge plant. The stems are somewhat woody. The part used to make tea and a lemonade type drink are the calyx. I picked a bunch of the buds off this evening an proceeded to remove the calyx from the seed pod. I just took a sharp knife an made a ring around the end that was attached to the plant an squeeze the calyx a lil bit an the seed pod will pop out and ya keep the dark red calyx to dry or freeze. Here is some good info on the Roselle if someone is inclined to grow it. I have been told I will try anything once.

Removing the seed pods

The Thai Red Roselle calyx ready to use , dry or freeze.
I really need a hobby, don't I? I might try making the cranberry sauce with the Roselle and see how it turns out. I rinsed the Roselle an have then draining and tomorrow I might freeze some in a single layer on cookie sheets to make drinks with. IF my tomorrow don't get too busy. We plan to butcher off the young roosters we have. I am sure my older laying hens will appreciate that as they are a nuisance to them. My friend Lori wants to come help an learn how to butcher chickens. She is a self proclaimed city girl the lives in the country and is willing to learn. So we shall see tomorrow.

Not much else happening here, so till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Another batch of soap

I love learning new things an playing with this soap making process. I had the idea to make some soap for the guys to use after work to remove junk an smells. I have read that coffee added to soap will do the trick. So today I made a batch of coffee/chocolate soap.

 You can see the grounds of coffee in the soap and gosh does it ever smell good. The whole house smells like chocolate and coffee.

 Here is the recipe:

Coffee and chocolate soap

28 oz of lard
2 oz coconut oil
2 oz olive oil
2 oz Shea butter
4.56 oz of lye
11.22 oz cold strong coffee

Additives: 1 tablespoon fine ground coffee, 1 tablespoon Hershey's baking chocolate 

Weigh out the lye an coffee and add the lye slowly to the coffee and stir gently till all lye is in an dissolved.Set aside to cool.
Weigh out the lard, olive oil, coconut oil an Shea butter in a plastic bucket or bowl that you intend to make the soap in. Measure out the fine ground coffee and chocolate and set this aside.

Melt oils in kettle on stove top or in microwave in short burst till all the fats are melted and blended.
With a thermometer check temp of lye solution and fat solution, both should be around 120 degrees an within 5 degrees of each other. When the temps are correct put stick blender in the oil and start to blend as you slowly add the lye solution. When all the solution is in the fats blend about another minute to help saponify the fats. Let rest for about 3 minutes an blend again about 30 seconds, repeat this procedure till the soap is at a medium trace. With the blender on add coffee an chocolate powders and blend well. Soap should be at a good trace by this point. Pour soap into prepared molds and cover the surface with plastic wrap. This will help prevent soda ash from building on the surface of the soap as it hardens. Cover with a cloth to maintain heat so it cools slowly. Once soap is set after 24 hours, remove from mold an cut into bars.

Let the soap cure for at least a week before using it. The soap gets harder as it ages as well which makes it last much longer in the shower.

The herbal healing soap I made over the weekend looks nice and I love it. It leaves the skin moist an not sticky. Lathers really well and leaves very little fragrance behind.

Now what else can I make? Maybe I will make some lotion next, or body butter, or..............well the ideas are endless.

The weather has been just beautiful the past few days, sunny an cool. Great to be outside unless the fall blooming plants get you down. Well that leaves me in here looking out I guess. I sure don't need bronchitis. Rodger went to mow around the big corn field this evening after supper an a bit ago when he came in his hands were ice cold. Not long till we have frost an we need to dig our sweet potatoes before frost. They should be nice size by now with the rain we have had. We shall see.

Not much else happening here, so till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.


Saturday, September 15, 2012

A day of rest

It is Saturday an our day of rest here. I haven't done much today, got up late, had my coffee an by then it was noonish. We had veggie soup for lunch and Rodger took another nap. I decided I was gonna make a batch of soap. I had my recipe and all the stuff so it was easy to put together.

The recipe for herbal soap:

8 oz coconut oil
8 oz olive oil
16 oz lard
2 oz Shea butter

4.8 oz of lye
11.2 oz liquid

herbs used

2T chamomile
2T round leaf plantain
2T comfrey leaf
2T golden seal

Grind herbs pretty fine and use half the dried herb mix to make  tea for the soap liquid. Steep the dried herbs in about 21/2 to 3 cups boiling water for about 30 minutes. Strain out the herbs an then weigh 11.2 oz of tea for your soap liquid part. After teas is cold, stir in 4.8 oz of lye slowly as this will get very hot. Let sit to cool down to about 120degrees or so. Weigh an melt all the fats together and allow them to cool to same temp as lye/tea solution. When both have cooled put your stick blender in the oils and hold it at an slight angle and slowly pour in the lye solution and blend the soap till all the oil is incorporated and no oil floats on top, just a couple minutes.Turn off blender and let sit for 5 minutes, stir again, repeat this process till the soap traces which may take about 30 minutes or so. Once the soap traces blend in the remaining dried herbs and pour the soap into you selected an prepared mold. I cover the top of my soap with saran wrap and lay a towel over the top to insulate it. This helps it retain heat to set an cure better. Kinda looks like butter. Smells great tho!

Tomorrow I will remove the layer of plastic and remove the soap from the mold an cut it into bars and let it air dry and cure, then its ready to use. All the herbs that I used in making the tea for this batch of soap have healing an soothing properties for the skin. And the addition of Shea butter will make it a moisturizing soap as well. I am excited to try it. I have a ton of other ideas for adding things to homemade soaps. I would like to make a batch and add dry ground coffee after it traces for hand soap to remove grim an smells from the hands. Once you know the basics of soap making the possibilities are endless.

I also made a loaf of honey oatmeal bread this afternoon too. It was so dang good hot from the oven with butter all over an sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. Yummy!!

Not much else happening around here, so till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Pickin a peck o peppers

We actually more like a couple bushels of peppers. Last evening we picked the 2 buckets of peppers and the 1 bucket of jalapenos and the bucket of cayenne peppers. I finally got all those taken care of today. It took me all day but the job got done. I have to learn to pace my task through out the day an not try to do everything at once. So thas how I did today. I got out this morning an cut up one bucket of peppers for the freezer, came in a sat an rested for a bit, cleaned all the jalapenos an washed an laid those on a towel to drain. Later I went back out to bag those up for the freezer. Came in a fixed supper and ate. Later this evening I went out an cut up the other bucket of peppers an ran them thru the slicer on the food processor an put them in the dehydrator to make dried pepper flakes. I make my version of :Ms Dash using the veggies an herbs that we dry. Very easy to do.

Homemade Ms Dash recipe:

1/2 cup dried onion flakes
1/4 cup dried bell peppers
1/4 cup dried carrots
1/4 cup dried celery
3 tablespoons of granulated garlic or to taste
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon black pepper or to taste
2 tsp basil
2 tsp savory
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp tarragon
6 tsp parsley
2 teas cumin
1 teas cayenne pepper

grind all ingredients in a spice grinder till very fine. Bottle in a shaker of your choice an label. Much cheaper to make than to buy this stuff. Not hard to do if you grow an dry all your ingredients like we do.  This is a good seasoning on steaks or pork for the grill. Add some brown sugar to the mix an make a great dry rub for meat to smoke or grill. You are only limited by your imagination. This is just the method we use.

I got started on a new med for the fibro today. My doc wants me to take Lyrica. So I took the first dose this evening. Guess we shall see if it works or not. It is quite expensive but IF it works well worth it. Only time will tell.

Not much else happening here , so till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

I love fall, my sinuses hate me

This is my favorite time of year, to me it is so relaxing this time of year. I guess maybe its because the gardens are coming to an end and the weather is cooling down a bit. This week our weather has been just perfect. Sunny but not too hot, cool at night so the AC don't run. Actually cool enough at night that if you were out ya might need long sleeves. Sadly along with fall come all the weeds that blooms that give most of us wimps a sinus head ache an snot nose. I have had the head ache  thingy goin on all dang day. But not real bad, just nagging. Maybe if I stay inside for a couple days it will subside an I can venture back out.
I did finally make it to see my family doc on Monday to ask about some meds I was taking. He wanted to put me on another med for the fibro to see if it helps, now we have to have it pre-authorized so the insurance will pay for it. I had ask him if he thought maybe a B-12 injection would help some with the fatigue. He said it might and it would not hurt a thing to try an see if it worked. I hate shots, but I feel like it helped enough that I will suck it up an keep taking the injections of B-12. I have slept better an not been so exhausted during the day since then. I did feel like getting out yesterday and weeding the big herb bed. Now that is all done an I feel better about it. While I was out I pulled the few weeds in the strawberry bed near the driveway and picked about a quart of strawberries. So there is 2 items off the to-do list. I took a bowl an picked up a bunch of ground cherries an husk those, rinsed them an froze them on a cookie sheet. I probably will use them in granola when I eat it.
 In the spring my friend Deb had sent me seeds for Red Roselle. I planted them an they are beautiful bushes. Now what to do with those. I had to do some research today and found out they are good for several things. The calyx of the spent flower is removed from around the seed pod an  is used for tea, can be used to make sauces an jelly, with the jelly tasting very much like cranberry. The calyx also have medicinal properties too. They can be made into a tea for a blood thinner, to increase intestinal peristalsis,lowers blood pressure, diuretic, can be made into cough syrup. Tons of uses. So now I think I shall pick the buds off the plants an dry those for tea. Yep I need a hobby.
After supper Rodger an I went to the garden to see if we still had beans to pick and decided they are not enough tender green ones to make it worthwhile so we are letting them dry on the vine to make dried beans which I will can as chili beans later. We picked 2 more 5 gallon buckets of sweet bell peppers, half a 5 gallon bucket of jalapeno peppers, and another 2 gallon bucket of cayenne peppers. The cayenne's are in the dehydrator as we speak and will dry hopefully over night so I can chop an dry some of the bells. The jalapeno peppers will be frozen for jalapeno poppers.
We decided to dig in the sweet taters to see how they were gonna do and Oh My!! they are gonna be nice ones. Surprising considering we had so little rain this summer. Those will get dug in the next couple weeks most likely. Then it will be "oh what to do with many bushels of sweet taters". Hopefully we can sell a lot of those this year.
Not much else happening around here, so till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Its realllly late.......

I bet you wonder as of late why my post are written so late at night, well really early in the wee hours? Well cause some days I am busy with other stuff till late, other times the brain fog is so bad I just cant concentrate long enough to write a post. Believe me it can be frustrating to say the least. And thas not cause my life is a mess but it really is a mess about now. As most of you know I have RA and fibromyalgia. Along with the RA comes pain, sore stiff joints and such, like ya granny use to have. With the fibro comes more pain all over the place, the fatigue most days is as bad if not worse than the pain. Then it seems just when ya think ya gonna have a good day, bam! ya belly gets upset with ya. I have never been a morning person in my adult years but with fibro ya don't want to start tryin to be one either. It takes a few hours in the morning to get up and get moving, by then if you MUST go out for some reason, you take a shower. After all this you are so tired you are thinking of another nap instead of what you need to go do. You are exhausted, then you get irritated because your body has failed, then ya force you body to go do what you needed to do out of the house. The fatigue gets worse to the point you avoid doing things because it requires so dang much effort. I have always been a people person, but its not that I don't like people its just that I have a hard time interacting with them now  mostly due to the brain fog of fibro. It is a hard illness or disease to understand because I don't look "sick". People assume if ya look OK ya must be OK. With fibro you are constantly on a mission to find something to help you maintain a balance so you can function normally. But really it steals you life away because you never get back to normal. You just get to the new normal for you each day. The point of these late night , or early morning post, depends on how you see the time is because it is quiet in the house, no one up, no need to think of what to eat or cook, its dark outside so cant see what needs doing out there, and at these times I seem to have a lil more mental clarity than during the day when there are things that need my attention. I guess at night I have less thing to distract me than during the day. I am not a multi-tasker any more for sure. But such is life with fibro.

Anyway not much goin on here on the homestead this past week. Although I did get out last weekend and picked a bunch of the lil Mexican cukes and Rodger helped me make them into dill pickles. We ended up with about 10 pints. And not a damn one of em sealed. Don't know whats up with that. Really made me mad cause it was painful to pick all those tine lil cukes and wash em and then for them to not seal. DAMMIT!
But on the upside I got some lil baby chicks from some of the hens that were sitting on eggs. One hen has 2 lil babies and of all things she takes them out side and a single blade of grass is an obstacle for them. They are so cute. The hen that was sitting in the corner of the chicken house on heaven knows how many eggs has hatched off 5 lil ones and she is smart enough to keep hers inside so they don't trip and fall over a blade of grass. The hen that was sitting on one egg an egg gourd nest egg in the middle of the chicken house floor has moved to the abandoned nest in the corner and is on the eggs the hen left. So I am sure in a few days she will have a lil chick or 2 because the other hens had been laying in that nest while the first hen was setting on it. I have yet another hen sitting on about 6 eggs in the bottom corner nest box. She will hatch in a week or so. I have several hens that have brooded more babies this summer than they have laid I think. I know the 2 brown hens and the white hen are on about hatch number 4 for the year. And they are all good mommies. I do have some young roosters from their past hatches that need to be butchered off as they are starting to bother the hens and fight among themselves.

We have had a shower of rain this past week that probably made my beans grow again. I am still trying to get the ones dry for shuck beans that we picked a week ago. But with clouds and humidity it is hard to dry them outside. Maybe they can go in the dehydrator tomorrow to finish up. If we don't get rain, which the weather man says we are supposed to get, we will need to pick the green beans again. I will probably make more shuck beans with them as we have more than enough canned already and it will be less work for me. Probably need to pick more ripe peppers too and okra. After the lil bit of rain we had I am sure the raspberries are getting ripe and will need picked too. I need to make another batch of jelly to get the berries out of the freezer. I still have the makings for a huge batch of gumbo in the freezer and that also needs to be canned up. Maybe if it does rain tomorrow I can enlist Rodgers help and do that. I will sure need help with making the gumbo. Would sure be nice if my friend Deb could come up and help. We had such a great week when she was here. And dang it, I may not get to see her at all this year. She has a son getting married in Tennessee the same weekend we are having our Backwoods Home get together in central Ky. So she cant be 2 places at one time. I am really looking forward to the get together to meet old friend and new ones too from  the BHM forum we all visit. All the folks I have met from there are just wonderful. Now I got to figure out how to manage a 3 hour drive alone. I hate driving anymore cause I am so easily distracted and cant do more than a very few things at one time. Hard to think about you turns, watch other traffic and stay awake all at the same time. Sounds easy an it is until fibro bites ya.

Not much else happening here on the farm right now, so till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Gosh a lot can happen.....

On the farm a lot can get done in a few short weeks. Well everything but updating my blog of course. But you already knew that.
With the extremely dry summer we had been thinkin the whole dang garden might be a bust we have been blessed once again. We had far more corn than we needed and gave some to some friends that were short on corn, short as in knee high and not lookin promising. All the time I kept thinking maybe we would not have enough green beans to can for out food supply. Ended up we had far more than enough of those too. I think we have near 160 quarts of green beans canned. My bell peppers out did themselves this year. The plants were huge and so were the peppers. Two different time we picked 2 of the 5 gallon buckets of peppers and dried and froze them. I also have a gallon jug of dried cayennes that will last a few years. The jalapeno peppers did great too and I have plenty of those for poppers later. The carrots were not as good as I had hoped but we still have our years supply put up.The potato crop was not as bountiful as we had hoped but we will manage with what we have and be happy we had those with no rain. The sweet taters are still in and will get dug just before frost to prolong their storage life. The popcorn is lookin like it will be nice this year. The okra is still producing and I still need a bit more in the freezer for gumbo. I almost have all the stuff in for making gumbo to can so that will get done in a couple weeks for sure. The last bushel of beans we picked I am using to make shuck beans with. I like shuck beans but they are not a favorite of Rodgers.

With the hot dry summer and predicted low yield of crops in the western part of the country and potential for ever increasing food prices we decided to go ahead and make our trip to Sams club to stock up on things we dont grow or make here. Ends up, compared to most households we spend very little at the store. It may seem like a lot when we spend $300 at Sams but it has been 5 months since we have been there. Not to mention the stuff we bought will last probably 6 months or more. That averages out to around $50 a month. Now mind you we do buy a gallon of milk locally and very few other things, most of which are not necessities. Like coke to support my habit. I do like coke products and you get rewards points that I use for a lil splurge of ordering magazine subscriptions for free. With my points I have ordered 6 magazine subscriptions that didnt cost me anything out of pocket. Anyway back to the stuff we do buy, such as flour in 25 lb bags, sugar, coffee, rice, well you get the idea, just basics. Our total monthly average outlay for purchased food stuffs is close to $100 a month and that would include coke and milk and ocassionally chips or buns, thing we could live without if need be. Not bad to be able to eat mostly organic home grown food including meats. I think we do pretty well here.

It has been a hard month for me as far as medical condition goes. New state law is not conducive to providing pain management for those of us who take our meds as we should and dont abuse them. So it has been a long painful process of trying to can and take care of things here with no means of reducing the pain from the RA and fibro. Sure makes for some long nights when ya cant sleep for hurting. I do see the RA doc on Thursday so maybe he can do something different this time. I can only hope. The fatigue is awful most days. But I manage one day at a time and hope the next day is better.

It is gettin late and there are things to do tomorrow, so till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.