Monday, April 30, 2012

Work Day: Garden Version

We are really trying to put in a much larger garden, but as you can see in some of the following pictures our soil is very much clay.  What gets planted in the dirt really doesn't do well, so a few years ago we decided to build raised beds and fill them with "store-bought" soil, manure and compost.  We also have a large composting bin that  consists of vegetable scraps, wood shavings with droppings from the chicken coop, manure from a friend's horse barn, sawdust, chopped leaves and more.  This weekend we added more beds to our garden and Jordan built a runner bean trellis tunnel that we hope will be filled with beans soon.

Caedmon is "helping out" at the bean tunnel.  We save cardboard boxes to put in the bottom of our raised beds.  Here we used them in the tunnel.  Later they were covered with dry leaves.  We also use the leaves as compost in the raised beds.  We have almost 9 acres and most of that is woods.  Leaves are free and plentiful around here!

Caedmon at the backside of the bean tunnel.

Jackson unloaded bags of soil from the back of the truck and then emptied them into this bed.  This bed is now filled with basil and volunteer tomato plants that I dug up from my  large mint bed.  That bed is made up totally of compost, so we have had many tomatoes and some squash plants come up in it.

A side view of the tunnel.  Beans are planted all along the base of the tunnel.  Jeff liked it so much that Jordan will be building another one later this week.  I hope all his hard work pays off!

A volunteer tomato

A volunteer squash

A new bed that is now used for lavender.  I started three plants from seed last year and Jeff bought two more the other day.  I hope they do well.  I would love to infuse the lavender in olive oil to use it in soapmaking.

Aaron fills another new bed with soil.  We are so thankful for these children who don't mind some hard work!

This is a new bed with apple mint.  I was inspired by the West Ladies from Homestead Blessings.  They have a beautiful bed full of apple mint that they use to make a refreshing tea.  We love hot and cold teas around here and I  hope to increase our homegrown herbs in order to make our own teas.  In addition to the apple mint, we also have lemon mint, chocolate mint, spearmint, peppermint, sweet mint and lemon balm for tea making.   We've even tried some sage and thyme tea for medicinal purposes.

Jeff is bringing up more cardboard to line a new raised bed.  We keep the cardboard boxes broken down and put in a large plastic box down in the barn.

And, just to keep it real....This is out directions!  Earlier in the morning I had transplanted leeks and peppers, planted lavender, mint and lemon balm and tomatoes and peppers.    I can still feel the burn in my thighs from all that squatting!
Our Simple Farm

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Menu for April 30-May 6 and My Kitchen To Do List

b-English muffins, ham and eggs
d-baked spaghetti, salad

b-yogurt, fruit and granola
l-cheese, crackers, fruit, raw veggies
d-grilled steaks, roasted potatoes, grilled squash, zucchini, onions, garlic and peppers

b-bacon, eggs and bagels
l-vegetable soup and corn bread
d-pasta salad with steak strips, green salad

b-baked oatmeal with apples
d-baked chicken, brown rice pilaf, broccoli and salad

b-pancakes and sausage
l-tuna salad sandwiches, chicken soup
d-flat bread veggie pizzas, salad

b-biscuits sausage, eggs and grits
d-black beans, brown rice, tortilla chips and all the toppings, salad and dessert

b-cinnamon rolls
l-finger foods at church
d-bbq sandwiches, cole slaw and roasted potatoes


Sunday evening-put beef bones on to roast in roaster, put yogurt on in dehydrator

Monday-dehydrate onions, add water, chopped vegetables and apple cider vinegar to bones

Tuesday-strain broth, put on more bones to roast, dehydrate more onions  NO MORE BROTH TO MAKE!!


Thursday-dehydrate either onions or apples

Friday-dehydrate apples, can broth

Saturday-make grape , either apples or onions in the dehydrator

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Where's the Beef?

My uncle and cousin raise Angus cows.  I have often mentioned to my mom that I would love to buy one from them to have processed.  She mentioned it to them in either December or January and, after many phone calls, we now have a freezer full of wonderful  Angus beef.

It is a huge blessing to have all of that tasty meat just ready for the grill, stovetop, or oven, but at the same time it causes a little bit of a problem.  You see, next week we will pick up 100 chickens to raise for meat.  There is absolutely no room in our largest freezer right now!  The chickens will be ready for slaughter in about 8-10 weeks, so I have to get creative.  We had already been trying to eat up most of the vegetables and fruits from the freezer that have been in there since last summer...and some from the summer before.  I do have a large freezer as part of my refrigerator and a 6 cubic foot freezer that we generally use for our home-prepared freezer meals.  I really don't want to purchase another freezer as we would have to put it in our detached garage.  We've had a couple out there in the past, but I find it easy to forget that they are out there.  And then there is the added expense of running them as well.

So, what's a woman to do?  My plan is to can the much as I can!  : )  I plan on canning chili, spaghetti sauce, beef stew, beef tips in mushroom gravy, sloppy joes, taco meat, and just plain ground beef.  When we ordered our cuts from the butcher we requested he save and freeze the bones for us as well.  We had a large box with around 40 pounds of bones!!  This past week I roasted half of the bones and made beef broth and canned it!  It only took 5 days for the entire process, but we got 31 pints of beautiful, wonderfully nutritious beef broth!  This week I will work on getting the rest of the bones processed and that should definitely give us enough beef broth for the year.  What a blessing!

We'll also make many freezer meals using the ground beef such as this family favorite:

LASAGNA--this recipe has been in my family for about 38 years...we all love it.  My brother who was single for many years also makes this recipe and adds lots of veggies to it.

1 lb. ground chuck 
1 cup chopped onion
2 large gloves garlic, minced 
2 tsp. oregano, crushed
2 cans tomato soup
 ½ cup water
2 tsp vinegar
 ½ lb lasagne noodles (cooked & drained)
1 pint cottage cheese
 ½ lb mozzarella cheese, grated
grated Parmesan cheese

In saucepan, brown meat, cook onion, garlic, oregano. Add soup, water and vinegar. Simmer 30 minutes, stirring frequently. In baking dish, arrange 3 alternate layers of noodles, cottage cheese, meat sauce, mozzarella. Top with Parmesan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Let stand for 15 minutes. I usually double or triple as it freezes well.

Mini-meatloaves, meatballs, beef enchiladas and frozen grilled hamburgers are also some of our favorite beefy freezer meals.  If you have more canning or freezer ideas for the beef, I would love to hear them!!

I'm learning as I go on the canning and have Jackie Clay's canning cookbook to guide me.  Chicken ala  king, plain shredded chicken to use for salads, casseroles and fajitas, chicken stew, chicken soup, and chicken and rice soup.  And, of course, I will be canning all that chicken broth as well.  I'll also be pulling out some of our favorite chicken recipes for the freezer, too.  Creamy green chili chicken enchiladas for some reason the link is not showing up, but click on enchiladas for the recipe....I recently found that someone had pinned it on Pinterest!!)  are always a hit on our dinner table, a variety of seasoned chicken strips, cajun chicken, a variety of grilled chicken....oh, I'm hungry just thinking about it!!

If you have any canning tips for either chicken or beef, I would love for you to share them.  And, if you need me, you know where I'll be....keeping my busy hands and busy minds in the kitchen!!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Caedmonianisms-Funny Sayings of My Three Year Old

We've been spending a little more time in the car lately and Caedmon has been very vocal as we travel.  The other day when my mom and I, Caedmon and Jackson traveled to pick up our beef order Caedmon had two funny sayings.  Now, you must remember that we live in Mississippi.  My mother lives in the country and so do we.  If you drive for any distance in Mississippi you will be in the country...very rural and very nice.  We see horses, cows, donkeys and more;  and when we drive into our local town we even see zebras, bison and water buffalo.  My kids are used to seeing farm animals as we drive around and are used to smelling road kill...the most offensive being the fragrant skunk.  This makes Caedmon's "sayings" even funnier to me.

"What's that smell in my nose?"

"Wait a minute!  I just saw a cow!"

And yesterday, as we were in town he yelled out, "Wait!!  Stop the car!  There's a boat!"  We live 1 mile from a state park with a nice big lake.  We see boats all the time.  Maybe it's that he is just now being able to see out the car window?


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Hen House

A few weeks ago I realized I never showed you the inside of our chicken coop that Jeff and the boys built last year.  You can see how they built it in these posts:


The first third of the coop is not for the chickens, but for storing their grains and supplies.   See that door?  It opens into the room for the hens.  We can check on the hens through the wire screen.  These boards in the center?

They open up to reveal the nesting bozes....two rows of four boxes...Oh, look!!  A couple of eggs!!

This is the room for the hens.  Their feeder is suspended from the ceiling so feed doesn't get spilled everywhere and it can be retrieved from the doorway without having to actually step in the room.  A lightbulb is also suspended from the ceiling.  That little light kept the hens laying all winter long.  And you can see the little door that allows the hens to freely go from house to pen.  We will soon be adding a back door and another large pen for more space.

A hen's eye view!  The nesting boxes and watering cans.  Looks like a cuckoo maran is laying an egg now!

All the ladies outside soaking up some vitamin D.

And that's a look at the layers.  Next week we will be adding in 100 meat birds.  Where will they reside?  We have the perfect place!!  Check here to see our chicken tractors.  We have two lovely chicken tractors that should give our meat birds all they need.  We can move them around daily and they can forage all they want!

Our Simple Farm


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Menu Plan for April 22-29

We've got lots of kitchen projects this week including canning turkey and beef broth, making butter and yogurt, canning some milk and dehydrating onions.  Plus the usual piano and violin lessons with lots of extra practice time due to upcoming recitals and an overnight visit from Lauren and the grands.  Hope to get in a good bit of schoolwork and some much needed house cleaning and gardening.  All in all, it will be a normally busy week for us!  LOL!!  How about you?

b-sausage, eggs, bagels
l-leftovers (turkey pot pie or venison stew)
d- stewed potatoes, squash and  onions, peas, cabbage, creamed corn,  corn bread and blueberry cobbler

b-blueberry muffins, ham, eggs, grits
l-turkey sandwiches, grapes, popcorn
d-roast, potatoes, carrots, onions and English peas

b-baked oatmeal with strawberries
l-vegetable soup, rolls, salad
d-open face roast beef sandwiches, home fries and salad

b-toast, eggs and strawberry smoothies
l-soup and sandwiches
d-turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, green beans

b-pancakes, bacon
d-homemade pizzas and dessert

b-biscuits, bacon, eggs, grits
d-beef and bean nachos

b-cinnamon rolls
l-finger foods at church
d-minute steaks with onion gravy, rice, green beans and salad

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Getting Dressed

Last night during our family worship time, Jeff read to us from Colossians 3 and 4.  This verses from chapter three, though, really stood out to me.

"Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another;  even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.  But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.  And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body;  and be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.  And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father, through Him.   Colossians 3:  12-17

As he was reading I could see each one of us getting dressed each morning and adding on each of these qualities layer upon layer.  How good and pleasant would it be if we could just go to our closets or drawers and physically PUT these qualities upon our bodies.  Oh, if it were as easy as that!!  Dressing ourselves each day with all of the following traits:

          -tender mercies
          -bearing with one another
          -forgiving one another
          -be thankful

Sounds almost impossible, doesn't it?  And it is!   It is only through Christ's righteousness that we can exhibit any of these qualites and even then it isn't always easy.  I fail. every. single. day.  At the end of a busy day of homeschooling, cooking, cleaning, errand running and child training it is so easy to think only of myself, to get tired of answering just one more question, of listening to one more piece on the piano, to hear the constant drumming, banging, snapping that one son MUST do (he has so much music and rhythm within him that it MUST come out!), one more dish to wash, one more load of laundry to fold....It's tiring and I snap, fail.  But then I remember that even though I do struggle, I do not depend upon my own works for salvation.  I can rest on HIS righteousness and not my own weak self.  How wonderful and precious is that?

The following poem, written many, many years ago by Charitie Lees De Chenez is so special to me.  I cannot get through singing it at church without tears, but the third stanza is generally where I break down.  Yes, I will strive to clothe myself in all the qualities listed in Colosians 3, but will daily remember that Christ has paid it all and has clothed me, even me, with His righteousness.

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea,
A great High Priest, whose Name is Love,
Who ever lives and pleads for me.

My name is graven in His hands.
My name is written on His heart;
I know that, while in heaven He stands.
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look, and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.

Because the sinless Saviour died,
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him, and pardon me.

Behold Him there! the risen Lamb!
My perfect, spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I AM,
The King of glory and of grace!

One with Himself, I cannot die,
My soul is purchased by His blood;
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ, my Saviour and my God.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Menu Plan for April 16-22

We've had a busy weekend with gardening, cooking, cleaning, massive amounts of laundry and a visit from Lauren and her family.  I was exhausted!!  Being on my feet all day Friday and Saturday really tired me out and caused lots of leg pain, so yesterday I stayed home from church and aside from washing a few more loads of laundry, I stayed in the bed or recliner all day long.  Hoping to be much more productive today, though!

We do have another busy week with some plans still in the air for the later part, so my menu is not complete.  I was able to buy a couple of turkeys at a great price last week, so my menu reflects that!!

b-bagels, eggs and dairy-free, egg-free baked oatmeal for the little boys
l-leftovers (we had yummy chicken fajita nachos with rice and refried beans on Saturday night and I made extra for today)
d-Papa John's pizza and salad (free pizza from Papa John's!)

b-apple crisp and eggs
l-potato soup and raw veggies
d-sesame turkey nuggets, green beans, rice pilaf and salad

b-blueberry muffins, ham and eggs
d-grilled turkey/cheese sandwiches, turkey soup and salad

b-English muffins, sausage and eggs


d-turkey pot pie, salad

b-cinnamon rolls
l-finger foods at church
d-grilled burgers, roasted potatoes, salad

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Look Around-April 2012

This is really just for my records.  I want to record how our garden grows throughout the season this year.

The oregano bed was planted a couple of years ago and just keeps going.  It was covered in leaves throughout the winter and is looking great.  I'll be adding lots of fresh oregano to our salads and drying some as well.  I also have a four by four bed of lemon balm that will need a few more plants added to it.  For some reason it is not doing as well as the oregano.

This is a new bed that Jordan recently built for me.  I had transplanted my mint into another bed and it didn't do very well.  Now I have transplanted most of it to this bed and will be adding more plants as I find them.  We love peppermint tea and I would love to have this entire bed full of peppermint!!  I also have pots with lemon mint, apple mint and chocolate mint.  I am hoping to get some four by four beds built soon to fill with each of those mints. 

Our older blueberry bushes are covered in berries!   Last year was the first year we really were able to harvest much from them and we only got a couple of gallons.  We have several more planted, but it will be a while before they are very fruitful.  Thankfully, we are just a few miles from a huge blueberry farm and can pick all we want there!

I think this bed is a 12 x 4.  It is full of everbearing strawberries and we will be getting a good bit from them this year.  This bed was started last year from the babies of the mother plants that I purchased 2 years ago on clearance.  I spent about $15 for a dozen strawberry plants and we have two beds full now.  We'll be seperating these before next season into two other beds.

Birds like strawberries, so we have to keep them covered or there won't be any for us!

This is another 12 x 4 bed full of squash plants....and one lone marigold.

Another 12 x 4 is ready for a load of soil.  We still have cucumbers, watermelons and green beans to plant from seeds and I have started tomatoes, leeks, more squash and lots of basil that will need to be planted soon.  We need more beds built!!

Yesterday we purchased more plants to add to these beds.  We now have early peas, tomatoes, various peppers, and squash planted here.

This is a muscadine vine that was growing near the garden.  Jordan is training it to a trellis.  Last year he foraged in the woods and got gallons of muscadines and we made jelly.  Yum!!

To the right we have marigolds planted alongside onions started from seed. To the left are chives and more onions and marigolds.

We are mulching with leaves this year hoping to keep down the weeds and to retain moisture.  When the leaves break down they will enrich the soil.

This is the first year that our little plum trees actually have plums.  There won't be enough for a big batch of plum jelly, but we'll have enough to eat fresh.  And we also have apples!!   So excited about this!

Around three groups of felled trees we have huge mounds of wild blackberry bushes.  Last night when I was taking pictures, they were covered with bees.  If we only had beehives.....

More marigolds waiting to to be planted...Marigolds help keep the bugs away.  As these die down we will save them to scatter around plants next year.

This bed has sage and thyme.  I harvest them in the fall and the sage grows back up to about 3 feet high. 


Knockout roses are looking beautiful!

I had to put in a picture of Caedmon.  He had already had his bath, but ran out while I was taking pictures.  The azaleas at the porch railing were beautiful this year, but are at the dying out stage and look slightly frazzled.  

That's a look around here this week.  Hope to see you soon!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Menu Plan for April 9-15

b-bagels or English muffins, eggs, grits
d-ham/potatoe bake, fried squash and zucchini

b-baked blueberry oatmeal
l-cheese, crackers, popcorn, fruit, raw veggies
d-crockpot roast, potatoes, carrots and onions, green beans and creamed corn

b-applesauce muffins, bacon, eggs, grits
d-grilled cheese and turkey sandwiches, potato soup

b-English muffins, ham, eggs
l-cheese, crackers, popcorn, fruit, veggies
d-garlic chicken, sauteed onions, squash, zucchini and carrots, oven roasted potatoes

b-pancakes and sausage
l-leftovers or sandwiches
d-homemade pizzas and calzones, raw veggies

b-biscuits, bacon, eggs, grits
l-sandwiches or leftovers
d-seasoned pinto beans, corn on the cob, cron bread, raw veggies and apple cranberry crisp

b-cinnamon rolls
l-finger foods at church
d-ham and cheese omelets, sausage, grits, applesauce muffins
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