An Interesting Week

Last week, we were feeling a little bit of a financial pinch, and I really didn’t want to spend anything more than I absolutely had to. Well, we ran out of dish soap, and were on our way to being out of laundry soap. I didn’t want to use what little cash I had for that, in case we needed something really important, like feminine hygiene products or toilet paper. I draw the line at DIY’ing either of those!

I had, however, made laundry soap before with limited success, so I googled a recipe for that  and one for dish soap. I had everything I needed in one form or another, except for washing soda. I did have baking soda though, and I knew I had read somewhere that you could change one to the other, so I went back to Google.

Once I found what I needed, I decided to sneak in a chemistry lesson, so I told Kat to look up the difference between baking and washing soda, as well as how to change one to the other. Surprisingly, she did it without complaining.

Making washing soda is easy. You can learn how here. Basically, all you do is bake baking soda in the oven for about 30 minutes at 400 degrees. There is a slight change in color and a definite change in texture.

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Fresh baked washing soda

Then we used the newly formed washing soda in the recipes we found for laundry and dish soap. The dish soap recipe that I used did not work out well for me, so I will keep experimenting in that department and let you know what I find out.

The laundry soap, on the other hand, turned out great, and seems to work pretty well. I have not used it on Ed’s uniforms yet, but it did fine with the rest of the laundry. You can find the recipe here.  You grate soap (I used Ivory), and then mix it with Borax and washing soda, and put in the food processor until its a fine powder. I used about 2 tablespoons per load. It’s a lot easier and a lot less mess than trying to make liquid laundry soap.

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grated soap

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Before processing

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After. Notice the layer of dust. We let that settle for awhile before we opened it. Don’t need to breath soap dust.

Over the weekend, the dogs decided they would start playing “find the hole under the fence” again, giving Ed fits for about three days. Since they haven’t got out since Tuesday, I think he solved the problem.  He is still working on new living arrangements for the chickens, but I’ll let him tell you about that.

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Hanging out in the house while Ed fixes the fence . Notice the cats on the table above. Bookworm is annoyed, but think Captain is asleep

During all that, I discovered what I thought might be a spider bite on my back between my shoulder blades. I couldn’t see it with out mirror and I certainly couldn’t reach it. I enlisted Ed and Kat’s help for a few days, but finally gave in an went to the doctor on Monday. It’s an abscess..We don’t know how, and we don’t know why. She gave me a shot in the rear, put me on antibiotics, and told me to come back Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Ed planned to check the bee hives. He hadn’t had a chance to take a good look at them in about ten days, so he was kind of anxious to  check on them. When he went out just to look, the saw this.

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A ball of bees under the pallet the hive sits on. The usually don’t do that.

Then he came back in and called our friends at Crooked Hill. Tammie told him he needed to see what was going on inside the hive, which is what he already planned to do. So he donned his bee suit,  started his smoker and went to visit the bees. As I usually do, I went too, staying on the far side of the fence. From there, I can usually get pretty good pictures and stay off the bee’s radar. I said usually.

Since the Sparta hive had the strange activity, he started there first. All I can say is wow! The hive is crammed full of bees, brood, and honey!

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One frame from Sparta hive

Even with the smoke, they seemed especially agitated, and when I realized I was starting to get some attention, I walked away. When I got back to the chicken pens, they left me. A few minutes later, Ed walked over to the fence and asked me to bring him the camera. Big mistake. Suddenly I had a lot of bee attention. As I started moving away again I felt the first sting on my face, and knew I might be in trouble.  There is a an old metal washtub sitting out there near the black berries, and it was half full of rain water. I had noticed it earlier and decided that might be my best chance of freeing myself from the bees. I hit the ground and dunked my head in the tub, using my hands to splash water up on myself. Once I was pretty sure, was free of them, I went to the house and told Kat to get the plantain oil we made last fall. I know I had at least five stings. One on my face, two on my head and two (maybe three) on my arm. Ed came in a few minutes later to check on me. He got stung three times through the bee suit, but he doesn’t have the reaction I do to things like that. The plantain oil did it’s job, but I took some allergy medicine just in case.

The stings on my face and head swelled a little, but were nearly gone in a few hours. The ones on my head hurt the worst, but I think that was because they were right underneath where my glasses rest. The area on my arm got red and hot. You should have seen my doctor’s face when I went back to see her about the abscess and she saw my arm. Poor woman. She offered to give me a shot for that too, but I told her I thought I was ok. The abscess is nearly  gone.

Today, I had my pre-op appointment for my foot surgery next week. It will be an outpatient procedure so I’ll get to come home the same day. Ed’s kind of stressing about how he’s going to get me out of the car and into the house, but I think it will be fine. We went ahead and rented the knee scooter, so I could practice with it. I think I’ll be ok.

I told you it was an interesting week.

Things have calmed down a little now, although Ed is making plans for harvesting some honey. I’m sure he’ll be posting all about that next week.

Connie

 

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My Side of the Fence

Well, of the fence story anyway.

On a group Facebook page, I began a lengthy post by saying,
“Nothing like those incidents and accidents that show you where your gaps are “.

It’s true. Although I have slowly and surely learned about different herbs and their healing properties, I found myself seriously lacking in knowledge and skill when dealing with animal emergencies.

The weekend before Meeko went over the fence, I came home from dropping Kat off at church for a youth meeting, to find Loki bleeding. When I brought him into the house, I saw that the tip of his ear had been ripped in half. I wasn’t sure what had happened, but I knew I had to get that bleeding stopped.

My first thought was yarrow. Its the absolute best for stopping bleeding…when the bleeder is relatively still. It doesn’t work nearly as well on a 30 lb ball of fire that is slinging his head away from me every time I try to touch it. I finally got enough plastered on to at least slow down the flow.

Because I didn’t want to leave him in the house alone, I took Loki with me when I went to get Katherine, praying the whole time that he didn’t start bleeding again in the car.

When Katherine got in, I explained the situation and warned her that the kitchen looked like a crime scene because there was blood everywhere! Once we got back in the house, the bleeding started again, and thus began the two hour ordeal of trying several different methods to stop the bleeding and bandage the ear. Finally, Kat got in the tub, wrapped herself around Loki, and held his head while I wrapped gauze covered antibiotic ointment around his ear, folded his ear over the top of his head, and wrapped his whole head in a self sticking bandage.

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Bandage number one

That worked until the next day. Round three involved James holding him in the tub, Kat holding his head, and me applying various things to his ear, until in utter frustration, I covered the tear once more in antibiotic covered gauze and wrapped his ear in duct tape! That held for three days. His ear isn’t pretty, but it seems to be healing.

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Unless you look closely, you really can’t even tell those marks aren’t just dirt or something.

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This side is a different story, but it still looks much better than it did two weeks ago.

It was during those three days that Ed and James worked on the fence and we began to play, “Where did they get out?” with the big dogs. On Thursday, it was already nearly dark when they got out. Ed and James were both working, and I couldn’t tell where they breached the fence. I couldn’t just put them back out there, so I had no choice but to bring them into the house for the night.

So, I had a 72 lb lab mix, a 62 lb lab mix, and 30 lb dachshund/husky mix and three cats in my house. Let the circus begin! Libby decided rather quickly that she did not like Loki jumping at her and trying to lick her face. Her lessons are short and to the point. He still doesn’t bother her much.

Anyway, the next morning, we thought we had found where they got out and made a temporary fix. Katherine and I headed for Independence for a day of girl time and Christmas shopping. As Ed told you, he picked up more fencing posts before he went to work.

When we got home, it was dark. I told Katherine to put the chickens up, and then we would unload the car. I wanted to go check on the big dogs. Since my car lights didn’t catch two pairs of eyes at the corner of the fence, I wanted to make sure they were still inside. In the dark, I could make out Libby’s form, but I didn’t see Meeko. I called for him, but he didn’t come. I shouted to Katherine that he was out and we would need to go look for him.

She was still with the chickens but called back to me that she thought she could see him along the back fence. She got to him first, and told me he was hurt. He was just outside the fence, near the big log.

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A daytime shot of the big log from inside the fence. This is where we think he went over.

He was whining, and carrying his left foot off the ground. Using the lights from our cell phones, we tried to see what was wrong. I couldn’t find any blood, but he was obviously hurt. I thought it was probably too far to try and get him to the house, but I thought I might be able to get him back in with Libby. I took hold of his collar and we very slowly went around to the gate. I pulled a dog house and the food and water bowl where he could reach it, and went back to the house to get my head lamp. More light really didn’t tell me much, but I was afraid he had broken something and was seriously hurt.

Over the next few hours, I talked to Ed a few times and went back out to check on Meeko a few times too. In between, I was combing the internet, looking for something I had that I could give to him for pain. I didn’t have much luck. Maybe I just wasn’t asking the right question.

Ed told you the rest of the story. We have now finished the first week with him in the house, and to be honest, he has done pretty well. He is a sweet natured dog, and he just wants to be with us. Like Ed said, getting hit with that cone is an experience, especially from behind! I think he and Loki have come to somewhat of an understanding. Loki can lick Meeko’s face until Meeko growls and then the game is over.

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I just need to lick this one spot…

After I shared the experience on Facebook, I was overwhelmed by the amount of information, advice, sympathy and empathy I received from the homesteading community. That is one thing I love about homesteaders and similarly minded people. Everyone is willing to help and share information.

So what did I learn in all that? I learned that I don’t know nearly enough about animal care. I learned that you can give dogs Benadryl for sedation (1 mg per lb of dog weight). I seriously wish I had known that when I was working on Loki’s ear. I have learned some wormers and other vaccinations are available at feed stores. When I was a kid, my mom raised collies and we always gave all our own shots. I thought that was no longer available, but I’m going to look into it.

I learned that raw honey on a wound has healing properties, and that flour will stop bleeding too. I learned that I need to get a copy of the Merck Veterinary Manual. It’s pricey, so it will have to go on my wish list.

Remember in Old Yeller when Mama sewed Yeller up after the hogs got him? I’m thinking I need to learn how to do that too.

For most of my life I dealt with veterinarians that took payment arrangements because the important thing was taking care of the animal. I’ve learned that is no longer the case, so I need to be able to drop several hundred dollars at a moment’s notice or learn to do some things my self. I learned that I am not the only one feeling that frustration. I just don’t know what we can do about it.

Connie

Don’t Fence Me In

No matter your good intentions, with no regard to the detailed nature of your planning, in spite of the skill and care with which you execute said plan and in the face of all of your hopes and dreams, you did not consider one possibility. That one possibility will occur and leave you dumbfounded.

Ed’s version of the Law of Unintended Consequences

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This is the point of Meeko’s attack. I estimate this fence is probably, oh, about my age. That corner post is rotted and it all needs to be replaced.

So here was the problem. When I fenced in Libby and Tweedle Dumber (AKA Meeko), I used three sides of the already standing fence. The north side is the oldest fence on the place, but at the time, seemed adequate with the addition of two electric fence wires.

The first unintended consequence was when Meeko, who sometimes seems to channel Houdini, figured out that electricity wasn’t so bad after all, especially when you manage to short out the box by shoving the electric wire into the metal fencing. Did I say Houdini? Let’s make that Einstein.

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A little wider view, to accomplish what I need to I am going to have take out all of the fence from the Corner post to another corner post about 105 feet west of this.

That was still manageable until Meeko pushed on the old fence to where he could simply climb over what once was a four foot fence and a strand of barbed wire. Yes, I suppose it did hurt. At least once he left about an inch and half long cut on a very sensitive part of his lower anatomy. (All males please murmur OUCH!)

So the problem was that the old fence along the north side needed to be replaced, which is going to take some time. I am going to have to cut several small and one very large tree out of the fence line for starters. Answer? I, along with James, put up a four foot fence about twenty feet back from the old one. So that is a hundred feet of four foot field fencing, ten poles and a bag of wire links to attach fence to poles, at a total cost of about a hundred and fifty bucks.

Oddly enough, a hundred feet came up short. Why was that? A hundred worked the first time and it was within a foot or so the same length. Had I been cheated? No. I had not considered the fifteen foot gate installed in the south fence. That problem was solved, I thought, by cutting the standing East fence in the part I planned to replace anyway and stretching it back to attach to the new fence.

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This was my answer, I cut off about a third of their run and put up a four foot high fence. From this angle you cannot appreciate three days worth of adjustments to the original.

The next morning Connie stepped outside to be met by both dogs. Libby is the under-dog: she goes under. Meeko prefers the high flying route, though he will follow Libby under in a pinch. This time they both excelled. Libby dug out at a low point and Meeko just mashed the old fence down and climbed over. This I rectified with an old piece of fencing that we had brought from the old house.

Yes Connie, you were right, we did need it and we really should have brought it with us.

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This is the completion of step one. With poles stapled in and all egress under the wire stopped. At least there.

That started the same routine as always. They got out and I fixed the problem. Then they moved on and found a new one. At first it was all pushing and scraping under the fence. The first time I found only Meeko out I knew I had fixed the underside. Somehow he had gone over. I looked the fence line and found what I considered to be the problem.

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If you look up past my fixes you will see a dark log, I suspect this is where he tried to go over the fence and got hurt.

The next day, I had business in Cameron and made a stop at the farm store to buy four more fence posts. It was a simple enough problem to solve. I would just put in more fence posts. I tossed the post off the truck and went to work. I would do it on Saturday before I was, again, off to work.

That night I got a text message from Kat that said, “Meeko is hurt bad.” I called home, it appeared the old boy had hurt his back left leg. It was not my best night at work. Connie had coaxed and helped him into the lot with Libby and set up a temporary dog house for him. The next time Connie checked Meeko was half way across the lot, the time after that he was at “their” dog house with Libby.

When I got home it was after eleven PM, I got Connie and we went out to the dog house. He was lying there and his whining on seeing me was absolutely pitiful. When I sat down on the ground beside him Meeko placed his front paw in my hand and looked at me like to break your heart. It was as if he was certain I could fix it. Thankfully, that trusting soul did not know how many times in my life I have not been able to fix several different “its”.

We think that Meeko climbed the fence and got his foot stuck in one of the  4 x 2 inch blocks then fell forward over the fence. The result was, we found out the next day, a dislocated left hip.

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At that point all we could really do was console him. In the morning we tried our new Vet’s home and cell and he was not available. As I understand it now he probably was out of state and it was Saturday. Connie called our old vet in Independence and we took Meeko on a seventy mile road trip so he could be seen.

The vet examined him, and thought the problem was likely a dislocated hip, but they would have to sedate and x-ray him to be certain. That meant two nights at the vet’s office. They reset his hip and placed it in a sling. As an alumni of several different orthopedic torture devises myself, this one looks particularly uncomfortable.

I was concerned with how, exactly, we would keep him from chewing off his sling before the necessary two weeks wearing the contraption. When I saw him I realized that the problem was easily solved. Someone appeared to have shoved a lampshade on his poor head, backwards. It works, and it makes a nifty device with which to knee cap Master and Mistress, not to mention sticking it in the girl’s face as she is riding home with you in the back seat of the car.

That was last Saturday. Five days have passed with daily visitations with Libby, trips outside to do his business. Business that is hindered by the fact Meeko habitually lifts his right leg to pee, and he has no operable left leg to hold himself. As an old man who has a bum left shoulder which hurts when he puts his jacket on left arm first, but still puts his jacket on left arm first because “that’s the way I do it”, I sympathize with his plight, but cannot help much.

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True love cannot be thwarted. I suspect Libby really only came for the warm house and the goodies.

 

All told though, Meeko is not having too hard a time. It is mildly interesting that they gave him the same pain medication which the doctor prescribes for my intermittent pains. I am still pondering what, if anything, that says about me. Looking on the bright side I will have at least another week and half to get that COTTON PICKING fence fixed.

When you visit with the Lord, if you remember, lift Meeko up to Him. The vet has said that if this doesn’t work, he will need major surgery to put pins in his hip. That would be bad for him and, frankly, we have no idea how we could pay for that at present, although God always finds a way to provide what we need. I just hate to see the Knot Head hurt anymore.

Ed

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This is a picture taken when Connie came back in from seeing to Meeko’s need for some out door time. I add this picture because it is just slamin’ cute. Also, it is amazing how, with just the right moment, you can see how someone you love very much looked like when they were three.

 

Run, Run, Run!

Seems like all we did this week was run.

We made two 100 mile round trips to Liberty. and one 140 mile round trip to Independence this week, for doctor’s appointments and other personal business. Needless to say, we didn’t get much done on the homestead.

However, we did find a supplier for free wood pallets and other cool stuff from a store in Liberty. Look what we brought home yesterday!

wood frame with pallets in the background.

wood frame with pallets in the background.

Since we still don’t have the cold frame finished, Ed is thinking about using part of one of the pallets to frame the windows. Lord willing, his next two days off (Monday and Tuesday), will be “stay at home and catch up on projects” days.

Even with all the running, we did manage to get some school done. Most of what we did this week was literature. Since she was having to do a lot of sitting and waiting, I made her take books with her. She was not happy, but she did it. Today we started some Shakespeare, as well as reading “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” . Next week will have some “catch up on school” days as well.

The days that Ed worked, I got a few projects finished. I got some goldenrod picked and then I hung all my herbs out in the garage to dry.

goldenrod

goldenrod

drying herbs

drying herbs

I started drying them this way a few years ago, when we lived in Independence. I had a bumper crop of herbs and needed to get them all harvested before a forecasted frost. I crammed everything I could get into paper grocery sacks and stuck them on a shelf in the back of the house. Time got away from me and I didn’t get anything done with them. A few months later, I opened the bags, expecting to find rotted plant matter. What I found was perfectly dried herbs. I’ve been drying them that way ever since. The challenge this year was finding a place to hang the bags. I thought about the basement, but its too damp. I finally settled on the garage. I would have suspended them from the rafters, but I didn’t have any way to reach that high.

I also finished my first fall decorating project.

maple syrup bottle candle holders

maple syrup bottle candle holders

It’s the same concept as the blue ones I did awhile back. These are maple syrup bottles. I coated the inside with a shade of acryllic paint called “nutmeg”. Since the little handles are solid glass, I covered them with hemp rope. The leaves on the front are real maple leaves from the trees in our front yard. I coated them in about a ton of Mod Podge, to make them stay on. Then I tied on the raffia bows. I think they turned out well. The candles were too big for the bottles, so I had to whittle them down a little to make them fit. I guess that is as good a reason as any for learning to make my own candles!

Of course, on the days that Ed worked, we still had school, and Katherine still had to read. Here she is reading Les Miserables. Bookworm is reading along.

Kat and Bookworm reading Le Mis

Kat and Bookworm reading Le Mis

Ed is working on a series of posts about our critters, but I have to say something about Bookworm here. She is Captain’s daughter, from her first and only litter. At our last house, she practically lived outside. Now, she won’t go out unless we make her, and then she climbs the front door screen, yelling at us to let her back in. She divides her time between Katherine’s room and the tables in front of the picture window in the front room. I’m not sure what she was  thinking here. Maybe she thought she looked better in the pot than the avocado tree did.  That tree is tougher than it looks. It stood right back up when I made Bookworm move.

Bookworm in the avocado pot

Bookworm in the avocado pot

Our weather has been typical for Missouri fall. Two temperate days, one hot day, and then a “but I don’t want to turn on the furnace yet” day, and then back to a temperate day. We are getting very close to our average first frost dates, so I would really like to get some things finished outside soon. I also need to bring in some potted plants and herbs from the front yard. Then I’ll have to work on some interior lighting.

Hope everyone has a great evening!

Connie

Writing 101 Day 3: Treasure

On Day three of Writing 101, we were given a list of words and told to choose one. I chose the word “treasure”.

The expression, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” has been around in one form or another for a long time, probably because of the truth of the concept. It basically means that what one person finds useless, another might find valuable.

I like junk. If I see something “free” on the side of the road, I have to at least slow down and take a closer look. I have done some excavating in the old burn pile on our place, and found quite a few treasures. When he found a small, old tractor or lawn mower tire in one of the junk piles left on the place, my son told Ed, “You know, Mom is going to want this.” He was right, and I think I have an idea of what to do with it. I’ll share it with you when it’s finished. I keep tin cans, toilet paper tubes, glass containers, bottle caps and whatever else I think might be useful. I think I probably told you about the time I picked up a used windshield wiper turned it at an angle and told Ed; “Look honey, it’s an eyebrow!” He just calmly said, “No baby, it’s a windshield wiper.” Its taken some time, but he is starting to come around. Here are some pictures of some of my repurposed junk.

We found this in the side of the road a few years ago.

We found this in the side of the road a few years ago.

same dresser  painted and decorated with ribbon and scrapbook paper

same dresser painted and decorated with ribbon and scrapbook paper. The bottom drawer needed some work, so Ed has it in the garage

rub made from old sheets

rug made from old sheets

tin man, dog and flower

tin man, dog and flower

God tends to favor one man’s trash too. The scripture is full of examples of the Lord choosing the most unlikely, least qualified individual to serve His purposes. Jesus himself was the “stone the builders rejected” who became “the cornerstone”(Psalm 118:22, Matt 21:42, Eph 2:20, 1 Pet 2:6). I take great comfort in knowing that God sees the hidden beauty, the buried treasure in us; just like I see in a old piece of junk along the side of the road.

Connie

Let the Horror Begin!

That is what Katherine said as we started school this morning. Yeah, that was encouraging. Well, we made it through the day with only one meltdown. Although, I guess you could call it a double, because we both got pretty hot. Fifteen-year-olds with attitudes are so much fun. Yeah, right.

The rest of the week was just as busy as last week. I did get my herbs harvested, but haven’t done anything with them yet. I got the strawberry bed mulched, and cleaned out the mess in the driveway that runs into the basement/garage. We had stuff sitting out there covered with tarps, and the tarps were useless. The garbage man had a busy day. Oh well; it’s just stuff.

harvested sage, rosemary, oregano, thyme, parsley, basil and mint.

harvested sage, rosemary, oregano, thyme, parsley, basil and mint.

Katherine and I pulled out some old tires and an old bike we’re going to turn into yard art, and scrubbed them down with dish soap. Now, I just have to get the paint.

scrubbing the bike, tires, and other things.

scrubbing the bike, tires, and other things.

Speaking of paint: We have a ton of paint left by the previous owner. Most of it is interior latex paint. Any ideas about what to do with it? She and I have totally different tastes in color schemes. Most of it is pastels, except for a really bright “melon”. Not my thing at all.

I do want to share a few things with you that I’ve learned in the last few weeks. You know I can barely stand to throw anything away if I think I can do something with it. Well, I have been reading for years about things to do with toilet paper and paper towel tubes, and have a bunch in a bag. Last week I was fighting with two different glue guns and a glue pot, trying to untangle their cords. I was about to roll the cords around their respective owners when the bag of tubes caught my eye. Ok, it’s not pretty, but it really works! As for the pretty part. I covered coffee cans with scrap book paper and old dictionary pages to make tube collectors that sit on the back of the toilet.

cords in tubes

cords in tubes

tube can

tube can

Since I keep all glass jars and bottles, I have spent a lot of time trying to remove labels. Then a few weeks ago, I read this blog post. She is absolutely right. Wow that works! Only don’t leave them to soak over night. Your jars will be clean, but the cold washing soda will set up in the bottom of your sink around the drain plug. Using, vinegar, running water, a table knife, and about thirty minutes time, we finally got it out.

washing soda hard as rock in the sink

washing soda hard as rock in the sink

petrified washing soda

petrified washing soda

Some time over the last few weeks, and I honestly don’t remember where I read it, there was something that said you could spray a table spoon of Epsom Salts diluted in a gallon of water on your peppers and they would produce better. Since mine weren’t producing at all, what did I have to loose? So I sprayed them. Of course, it could be a coincidence, but my peppers are blooming like crazy and I actually have a few small peppers growing. I’ll keep you posted. I took some pictures, but you can’t tell what from what with all the green.

Oh, here is a picture of our pitiful potato crop. Our neighbor, Mr “A” says he doesn’t “fool with potatoes”, for that very reason.

pitiful potatoes

pitiful potatoes

The other day, I noticed something growing in front of the barn doors that I thought I should know. I had to wait for blooms to be sure, but it’s mallow! I’ll tell you about it in my next post, as well some info about preserving herbs.

Mallow!

Mallow!

Connie

Chicory on the Homestead

Yes, I admit it; I spend entirely too much time exploring the net. Pinterest is one of my biggest downfalls, but email notifications from blogs I read can keep me going for days. I’ll see something, which will make me think of something else that I really need to look up, and suddenly the whole afternoon is gone.

A few weeks ago, during one of my exploration excursions into the world wide web, I saw pictures of chicory blossoms. A few days later, when I saw those pretty blue flowers on tall, spindly stalks, I was really hoping I had chicory growing outside my barn doors. I went online and looked at more pictures of chicory plants and blooms! Yes, it’s chicory! Chicory root can be dried and used for coffee! Yes!

One thing I have discovered about identifying plants; once you know what something is, you see it everywhere. We have a lot of chicory. I noticed some growing outside my back door. It had been cut off several times with the weed eater and lawnmower so it wasn’t in the best place for a long healthy life. I thought that would be a perfect place to dig up the roots.

Well, not quite. This first snag was the stones underneath a very thin layer of top soil. The roots grew down through the stones. Ok, well, I’ll just dig them up. I wasn’t expecting the larger layer of gravel underneath the stones. At that point, I knew that my little garden trowel was not going to help me. I did manage to break a few roots loose, but called it a day.

A week or so later, when Ed was off and it was too wet to mow, I asked him to help me get the chicory root by the barn. Ed really likes chicory so he was agreeable to the task. Well, guess what? Underneath a thin layer of top soil, he found gravel: dry, hard as a rock, gravel. He went to find the mattock. If you don’t know, a mattock is kind of like a pick ax.

Ed and  the mattock

Ed and the mattock

more rock

more rock

After breaking up the dirt and gravel, He alternated a couple of different sized shovels to dig up the gravel and expose the roots. It took him over an hour to get this.

Wheelbarrow full of chicory

Wheelbarrow full of chicory

Since I really hate to waste anything, I spent some time looking up alternate uses for the stalks and flowers, but didn’t find much. However, I did find out some things I didn’t know about dried chicory root.

For instance: while it’s true that chicory is often used as an additive to coffee, it actually has sedative properties. So I suppose if you drank enough of it by itself, it would put you to sleep. It also works to relieve constipation. When I told Ed, he said that he would hope that it wouldn’t do all that at the same time!

Since all I need are the roots, I tried to remove them with my garden shears, but that was not going to happen. I ended up getting the hatchet from the garage and chopping the roots off. Chicory blossoms open and close at the same time every day. It was fascinating the see rootless flowers continue to open and close for four days after the roots had been removed.

Anyway, my plan was to chop up the roots, roast them, and then grind them in my spice mill/coffee grinder. Chopping up the roots was a little harder than it looked, and to make an already long story short, I enlisted Ed’s help. Between him, I, and the food processor, we finally got it ready to roast.

washing the roots

washing the roots

all clean and ready to chop

all clean and ready to chop

chopping the root

chopping the root

Roasting chicory smells wonderful! Katherine asked if I had something chocolate in the oven. She was disappointed to learn it was the chicory. Once it cooled, I ground it in the spice mill and put it in a repurposed honey jar.

ground chicory

ground chicory

I made Katherine a cup of chicory tea, but she wasn’t impressed. She said it smells a lot better than it tastes. Out of curiosity, we made a pot of straight chicory in the coffee pot. It was ok, but not something I would want all the time. However, adding a tablespoon or so to a pot of regular coffee adds something that I can’t quite describe.

Yesterday morning, Ed noticed the chicory jar is nearly empty, and asked me if I was ready to go dig some more.

Did I mention Ed really likes chicory?

Connie

This and That

Its been hectic here on the homestead.

Ed went back to work this week, so everyone is having to adjust. Right now, he’s in training, so he’s doing the 8-4, Monday-Friday thing, but after training he will work 11 a.m to 7 p.m.. We don’t know what his days off will be yet, but we do know that it won’t be the weekend. All that means that, at least for now, he will be missing both Sunday morning church service and Wednesday night Bible study. He is not happy about that, but he is happy to be working again. We both know that the Lord will straighten out the scheduling eventually. He’s done it before.

Bam Bam put a deposit down on an apartment that is much closer to work for him. He drives about three hours a day now. So, he will be leaving the homestead when the apartment is ready at the end of March.

In the meanwhile, Kat and I have been knee deep in school, trying to finish up some things before March, when we will start a botany unit. We are both excited about that! I’m getting most of my ideas from a guesthollow.com unit study, and it starts with a study of chocolate (see why Kat’s excited?)

Today, as part of a study on caves, Kat was suppose to “carve” an ax head from soap. I thought that might be a little young for her, but I gave her the option, and she wanted to do it. She kept talking about all the soap shavings, and I remembered I had a jar of soap slivers that I had been saving. After a few minutes of internet research, I found something I thought we could do.

Everything I read suggested grating or chopping the soap, and neither one of us was really up for that. So we just put what we had in a pot with about a quart of warm water. We let it cook on low for about an hour. Now it has to sit covered at least eight hours or over night. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
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With Kyle gone and Ed at work, Kat and I are going to have to pick up the slack with some of the chores. Nothing major, just little things that add up, like taking the kitchen compost can out to the compost bin near the barn, taking the trash to the road, etc. Things that Ed has normally done simply as a matter of course. Once we get critters, we’ll all have more chores anyway, so we might as well get used to it now.


After that extended January thaw, we went back into the deep freeze. We brought the dogs in nearly every night last week. I think our coldest morning was -7 (F), and that does not count the wind. We did have one day in the 50’s, but today it is gray, cold, and windy.

Kat took this amazing sunset picture Sunday evening on her way out to youth group.
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Speaking of evening, we have had a fox visitor several evenings, as well as early mornings, which is driving the dogs crazy. Meeko has decided that the shock he gets from the underground fence isn’t so bad if he hits it at a dead run. Yes, I know. He is crazy. We plan to build a real fence with a slick wire as soon as we have the funds, but for now, he is on a cable. I don’t know who hates it more: him or us. The only one who doesn’t seem to mind is Libby. I think that is because she can now get attention from us without having to fight off the attention hog (Meeko).

I managed to make some yogurt this week with a half gallon of whole milk and two tablespoons of Greek yogurt as a starter. By the time I thought about taking pictures, it was gone (Bam Bam). I’ll be sure to take some next time, and explain how I did it. I think that will eventually be a weekly event. I really like yogurt.

I’ve started preparing an area in front of my east-facing picture window for starting seeds. Ed attached a florescent light to a frame that he originally made as part of a jewelry display (that’s another blog post), for a makeshift grow light. I bought a few herb plants at Sprouts last week and they seem to be doing quite well under it. Kat and I also started a terrarium and placed it there too. She’s had the kit for a long time, and we just never did anything with it. Don’t know if the seeds will grow or not, but we’ll see.
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I plan on bringing in my mini greenhouse, as well as a baker’s rack that I’ve used as a plant stand. I just haven’t done it yet. When money permits, I’m going to invest in some house plants too. I used to have Wandering Jews and African Violets, and would like to again.

Connie

Christmas Trees!

We woke up this morning to the first significant snowfall of the year.

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Probably as early as October, Ed started pointing out various roadside evergreen trees as “Christmas Trees”. Our previous home was tiny and we had no room for a large tree. We didn’t have much room for a small one either, but we worked it out. Last year, I was rather proud of the “tree” I made from a tomato cage and artificial greenery. You can see it here.

Now, we have plenty of room for a large tree, but have neither the desire nor the finances to purchase a large artificial tree. When Ed started pointing out the trees along the road, I told him that I had never had a real tree. My stepfather was a firefighter, and had seen too many go up in smoke. He absolutely refused to have a real tree. Early on, that meant one of those silver things with the rotating color wheel, but eventually, we did have some nice artificial trees. When I was grown, I just kept up with that tradition, eventually having a seven-foot, pre-lit beauty. It was heavy, hard to move, and harder to set up. Additionally, the lights never worked properly. When we moved to the smaller place four years ago, it was one of the first things to go in the moving sale.

My revelation seemed to put Ed on a mission. He was determined to find me a real tree. We walked around our property and looked at a few prospects, but most of them were WAY too big. One of our neighbors had already told Ed that we were free to take any dead fall we found on his property for firewood, so we went over there to see if there might be a small evergreen tree we could use. We found one that, from the road, looked to be about four feet high. We came back home and Ed called our neighbor to make sure it was okay to cut it. He gave his blessing, and back we went.

Getting to the tree took a little bit of hiking. It was bigger than we originally thought, but Ed was able to cut it easily. Carrying it out to the road was a little more of a challenge, but he did it. Ed put the tree in the back of the truck and we went back home.

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Once we got there, he built a stand from a coffee can and some scrap wood.

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Then he went to carry in the tree. Once we got it inside, I realized it was a LOT taller than four feet. Probably closer to seven or eight. Ed had to cut a little off, but he get it up. He helped me put on the lights, and left the rest of the decorating to me. 009010

Then my daughter and I strung popcorn. That was a first for her. I’m not sure she was that impressed, but it gave as a chance to sit and watch a movie together while we worked, and that was nice for both of us.

I think this tree is a cedar. It has little tiny needles that become as sharp as metal needles when they dry out. There were enough dry needles on the tree that I had to put on my leather work gloves in order to hang the ornaments without getting stuck.

All that being said, I think it turned out nicely
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Connie

I Don’t Want It All

But I do want to learn it all.

Ed already told you how we got here, and what our basic livestock/gardening plans are, so I thought I give you my perspective. One thing Ed neglected to mention is that our new place is over an hour’s drive from our old one, and we came here without knowing a soul. We came with two of my three children, two half crazy dogs, and four completely crazy cats.

Although we had agreed not to do anything major until next spring, we had hoped to be a little farther into settling in to our new place than we are. We had some unexpected health issues that have slowed us down some. If you’re interested, you can read about my accident here. Things are better now, but still moving too slowly for my impatient self.

Ed and I both believe that people need to learn how to do things the old ways because one day, they just might not have a choice. For me, I think it goes a little deeper than that. I’ve always loved history, and as an extension of that, I want to know how to do things the way my great grandparents did them.

Grandma did teach me how to make bread, but wouldn’t attempt teaching me to sew or crochet, because I am left-handed, and watching me work “backwards” made her crazy. No one else in my family knew how, so I’ve muddled around off and on over the years, trying to teach myself. I’ve had more failures than successes, but I keep trying. I am, however, the family “go-to” person for homemade bread, and my oldest son can make it as well as I can. All three of my kids are bread kneading experts.

If I could, I would learn how to do everything. I would learn about caring for goats, chickens and horses. I would learn how to card and spin fibers, knit, crochet, and weave. I would learn to quilt and make our clothes, I would learn to make butter and cheese as well as all our own bath and laundry soap. I would learn to grow and preserve all our own food. I would grow and grind my own grain, and press my own oil. I would learn about wild edibles and medicinals, and take care of my families health through the real food we eat and natural medicine. I truly believe that when God created this world, He gave us everything we need. We just need to learn how to use it.

OK, well that is the short list of what I want to learn. Give me a few minutes, I’m sure I’ll think of more. Oh, yeah, I want to learn to play piano and guitar well. I can play some now; just not well.

I’ve been actually working on this list for a long time. So how am I doing? Well, as I said before, I’ve worked some on needle work and sewing. YouTube has been great for learning things left-handed. I have made laundry soap, deodorant, and lip balm. I have made lye from wood ash. I never got to the soap making part of that, but that’s another blog post. I have grown and canned some tomatoes. I’ve made apple and pear butter, and raspberry jam. I’ve grown herbs and learned to dry them (by accident). I’ve used said dried herbs for medicinal purposes. We are going to talk about Yarrow in a future blog post. Its great stuff! Last year, I attended a wild edibles workshop.

As much as we can, we try to limit our use of processed food in general and refined white sugar in particular. I’ve done a little research into essential oils and their uses. We have a few here that we use. Number two son swears by peppermint essential oil for headaches.

Almost everything I mentioned in the last two paragraphs happened before we moved here. I am so excited to have more room to learn things, grow things, build things and make things.

We are so glad to have you along with us on this journey as we create our homestead. We welcome any input, information or advice you have for us too. That way, we can learn from each other.

Connie