Raised in a Barn…

Day-to-Day Life of a Country Mama

Emergency Water

I was looking for simple and inexpensive ways to prepare for emergencies. I was reading about how much water was needed for both drinking and sanitation purposes. I couldn’t decide how the best way to put back water would be; we have a well for water and I really don’t care for bottled water.

I decided to start putting back our own water. With making my own cleaners, along with other uses, we go through a good amount of vinegar. I began buying them by the plastic gallon with screw-top lids from Dollar General. After I’d empty one, I would refill it with water and label it for non-drinking purposes.

For drinking water, I use my empty canning jars for storage. I have some put back by simply closing it with regular lids, but this isn’t a great longer storage method because I’d rather they be sealed. I can either buy plastic freezer lids to avoid this problem or can the water with normal flats to seal the water. I’m leaning towards canning it. Then when I need the jars for canning foods, I can rotate the older ones and use the water in them for the canning process or watering plants.

Setting our own water back seems to be a good way of doing this. I don’t have enough set back yet for the family, but maybe I can build on this method to have enough.



When I ordered my garden seed, I included several herbs. One is catnip and I’m very glad about this since I keep learning more about its uses.

I first found out that catnip was good for more than driving your cat crazy two summers ago. At market one morning, we were talking about colic in babies. One vendor said his son had a terrible time with it. Nearly at the end of their rope from sleep deprivation, they consulted his wife’s grandmother about any old-time remedies. She promptly walked out to her garden, picked a plant for them: catnip. She told them to steep it like normal and give it to the baby in his bottle; he could drink as much as he wanted. He took a little over half the bottle and settled down for the longest sleep they’d all had since he’d arrived. From then on, they gave him catnip tea to fight the colic.

After I heard that, I checked around. Sure enough other people knew catnip (actually a member of the mint family) was a digestive aid, though none mentioned using it for colic in babies. I bought some from the health food store to keep on hand. We didn’t need it much, but it was a nice addition to herbal teas. I figured it was good to toss in now and then if it helped improve digestion.

Recently, I have heard a little more about it even though I still haven’t done much of a study on it. It’s by no means a trendy herb like holy basil so I have only read snippets about it here and there. One listed it as helping anxiety and emotional distress. Apparently it has a mild sedative effect for calming down.

I had been adding it to my basil to improve digestion when I’m anxious. It’s an even better partnership than I’d imagined since both seem to help anxiety and digestion issues. I can’t wait to try growing my own catnip once it finally warms up.

Beef Stew and Biscuits

I found a recipe from Southern Living Magazine that is amazing. It’s a cast-iron recipe for beef stew with cheddar biscuits. Here is the printed recipe with my adjustments in parentheses. First off though, I used fresh vegetables so I chopped those before starting.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat a large (12-inch) cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Add 1 and a half pounds of lean ground beef sirloin. Cook, breaking up and stirring with a wooden spoon, until well browned, 6-8 minutes.

Add 1 (14-oz.) package thawed frozen pearl onions, 2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, 1 tsp. minced garlic (1 garlic clove), and 3/4 tsp. each black pepper and kosher salt, and stir until combined. (I used chopped sweet onion and dried thyme instead.) Cook until fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Stir in 3 tbsp. tomato paste, and sprinkle with 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour. (I left out the tomato paste. I also went ahead and added my chopped cauliflower and carrots because my homegrown beef has a little extra fat to cook in than suggested.) Cook until well incorporated, about 2 minutes.

Add one 12-oz. package of thawed peas and carrots; stir to combine. (Of course, I skipped this. When I chopped my vegetables, I kept them fairly small to keep cooking time shorter.) Stir in 3 cups beef stock; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until thickened, 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together 2 cups self-rising flour and 1 tsp. kosher salt in a large bowl. (I mix up my own substitute for self-rising by whisking together 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 tsp. baking powder, and 1/2 tsp. salt.) Using your hands, work 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, into mixture until it clumps together and becomes pea-size pieces. Stir in 1 cup shredded mild Cheddar cheese. Stir in 1 cup whole buttermilk just until incorporated. Using a 1/4-cup ice-cream scoop, drop biscuit dough directly on top of the stew, leaving about 1/2 inch of space between biscuits. Sprinkle top with 1/2 cup shredded mild Cheddar cheese.

Place skillet on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake in preheated oven until biscuits are browned and flaky, 20-25 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes, and serve.

I didn’t get a picture of the final product; we were too busy enjoying it. I hope you enjoy it too!

Couch Cover Update

I have made some good progress on the couch cover I’m making. I decided the best way to cover the arms was sewing long panels together with the machine. Then I joined the side of the block of panels to the back as you can see below. (Later I would add one more panel to the arm blocks on top and join it to the seat.)

I left the final/hardest section at the top and along the inside of the arm/back cushion until last so I could hand stitch it. I pinned it in place to get an idea of how it would look.

I also pinned darts and whipstitched them in place to make the top corner more fitted.

Then I pinned and stitched the block into place. I used a navy blue thread on this that blended in perfectly with the navy plaid.

I’m repeating this progress with the other arm, which will leave only the fronts of the arms to close the finally gaps and hemming the bottom at the very end. This project has been a long time in the works. I am looking forward to finally having it done!

Quick Update

I wanted to apologize for not getting many posts out recently. At the beginning of the month, I was elected the director of marking for our farmers market. A lot of my free time has been tied up with promoting and event planning. Hopefully before long I will have the ball rolling for the coming season and have a bit more time to write. I also won’t be adding any info about our fruit plantings soon because we found out our nursery order is back ordered until mid-March. We will still be busy though and I’ll try to update y’all as work gets done!

Pruning Walnuts

Since walnut tree branches droop lower as they age, I started eyeing a good number of the lower branches I had originally left. I looked at how they would grow and hang over our garden area. I decided I needed to do some more substantial pruning on them this year.

I borrowed my parents’ battery-powered, extendable limber. It’s like a small chainsaw on a pole for those unfamiliar with the machine. Any branch thicker than two inches, I would make a notch below where my main cut would be as suggested by my pruning book. This not only prevents the limb from breaking and damaging the trunk, but also keeps it from pinching the saw blade. This was my first time using this saw and was a great learning experience.

Since some of the branches were pretty thick, I sectioned the bases of them to save for the wood pile. Then the girls helped me take the smaller ones down to where we can burn them after they dry out. The girls were really good about playing down out of the way until they were able to help.

Now there is a lot more space for walking on the west side of the garden. The garden should also receive better sun exposure this way. And maybe next year I won’t have much to prune from the walnuts.

Basil Tea

I still have a lot of dried basil. I love using it to season many dishes I make, but I’ve still only made a small dent in it with this use. More substantially, I have been enjoying it as a hot tea, either by itself or with another herb or too. Add a touch of honey and it’s perfect. I have heard people say they drink it for its benefits, not its taste; I like the taste too so I drink it for both.

Now just the occasion of having a hot cup of herbal tea can be calming, but some herbs aid that and basil is one of them. It can help with emotional stability, easing depression and anxiety (though maybe not as effectively as the powerhouse – holy basil). It can also aid digestion. Of course in my case, digestion troubles have frequently been tied to anxiety so the help is twofold.

Even if you don’t need these benefits, try a cup if you like basil. It’ll add another way you can use your fall harvest of the herb.

Raspberry Patch

I decided to open up some space around my raspberry canes and turn them into a patch. My two best sections were almost square to each other. I adjusted their posts out a little to make the area. Then I dig up my third that I wasn’t sure would survive either way and planted it in the middle.

I layered straw on to protect the transplant from the cold and kill out the weeds and grass in the patch. Then I was able to reuse the wire I’d had around them individually to fence the patch. With the straw being some that came off the garden, I wasn’t out any supplies in this switch.

Usually these patches should probably be made east to west for the best sun exposure. I made the exception here because I didn’t want to possibly compromise more canes shifting it. Also I have seen these wild raspberries produce well in partial shade before so I’m willing to take my chances.

Spring Planting Plan

This year, I am going to direct-sow my garden. I have talked before about how starting seeds inside doesn’t work well for me since none of our windows receive direct sunlight. Even though I know this, the last two years, I have been suckered in by spring fever and the desire to do something garden related. This year I am holding strong.

Now most seed packets work against me because a large number of my varieties can be started inside to have a jump start. Their planting instructions use this with no mention of when would be a good time to plant the seeds outside. Luckily I have a booklet to fall back on.

That Garden Answers booklet (a Garden Way Publishing Bulletin) my friend gave be has a chart for planting according to the last average frost date and ground temperatures. Plant varieties are broken down to roughly four varieties with time frames that all fall in a little over a month of each other.

I think this will keep things a lot more simple for me. I can simply concentrate on having all of my ground worked and ready for the seeds until planting time.

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