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Raised in a Barn…

Day-to-Day Life of a Country Mama

Expanding in Fruit

I am absolutely bouncing-off-walls excited! We have been wanting to expand into having more fruit bearers and this year we are focusing on that. We have placed an order from Stark Brothers Nursery. It will be delivered next month!!

It’s a little overwhelming deciding what varieties to get. Mine is a little on the ambitious side, but I wanted to make the step forward with a well rounded variety. I picked out simple, well spoken of ones and found a couple package deals that would save us money in the long run.

That is how I ended up with two trees each of red and golden delicious apple trees. I also ordered two Arkansas black trees because I love them after growing up with them. All the apple trees are semi dwarf. I picked out two dwarf pear trees (Bartlett and Moonglow) and two blueberry bushes (Duke and Darrow). I stumbled upon a package deal for four grapevines, each of a different variety. And finally, I found another deal on strawberry plants in bulk.

Needless to say, I’ll be quite busy in the coming month and a half. I’ll be preparing ground for planting them all and building a bed for the strawberries. I have a rough plan where I’m going to put it all; I just have to get it all ready. I’ll keep y’all updated on how it goes.

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Pruning Peaches

I got out the other day and pruned the peach trees. I made two main mistakes in pruning last year that I am hoping to fix this year.

As you can see from the growth of the tree above, I didn’t prune the top, which resulted in a large gap in branch growth up the main base. I was kicking myself all last growing season as I watched it’s branches not fill out as nicely as the second tree did.

On the second tree, I was happy with it except that I left too many branches last year. These branches were too close to ground level to prune off properly so I had left them. When I looked at how the main one would grow as it got larger, I became worried that the weight of fruit would cause the branch to one day split. It’s location could compromise the trunk and kill the tree. I decided it would be better for the tree to have the shock of removing them this year than that worse shock at a later time with a larger branch.

Now they look almost harshly cut, but I hold on to how nicely that second tree grew when I did the same thing to it last year. It’s all a learning process. The book I’ve been reading on fruit trees and the like says that even with experts, no two will prune a tree exactly alike. I just have to find my rhythm for pruning and adjust as I learn from the previous year.

Cast Iron Pancakes

I’ve shared my basic pancake recipe in the past, but recently I’ve had a problem with it. I have upgraded our cook wear to weed out nonstick varieties (though it pains me to give up my nice wedding set). Because of this, I have started cooking our pancakes on cast iron.

Cast iron cooks hotter than nonstick. This has been causing an odd dapple effect while cooking pancakes. The pancakes aren’t rising properly as the sides cook. I kept trying to find the perfect temperature to have my burners at to fix the problem. Then I stumbled onto a different solution.

In my usual recipe for pancakes, I use two teaspoons of baking powder. Last week before my monthly shopping trip, I ran out of baking powder and substituted about half a teaspoon of baking soda. Problem solved! The pancakes raised quickly and cooked properly. I’ve made them a couple times since and have been equally happy with the results.

It was such an easy fix it’s hard to believe. Now I understand why certain recipes use both baking soda and powder. The baking soda jumpstarts the rising and baking powder sustains it slowly through the end. I hope to find more cast iron tips as I get more familiar with mine. As many pancakes as I make for our bunch, I’m certainly glad to have figured this one out!

Easiest Peanut Butter Cookies

These turned out so good for being so simple. Mama came across this handwritten recipe from my grandma while she was sorting though some papers. Since she detests peanut butter, she gave it to me.

How simple is it? Mix 1 cup peanut butter with 1 cup sugar, then add an egg and mix again. Roll the batter into small balls and place them on non-greased cookie sheets. Bake them in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 8 minutes. Move them to cooling racks and add chocolate chips if desired.

What you get is a wonderfully soft peanut butter cookie that you won’t be able to stay out of. I suggest making them to take somewhere so you don’t eat them all at once. Goodness knows I came close to it myself having them setting around the house! Happy baking.

Garden Table

I saw some blueprints for work tables to have near the garden. This allows space for cleaning, trimming, and sorting harvested produce before moving it inside. The table reduces the frequency of trips from the house to the compost pile.

Some of them are a little more elaborate than I felt capable of building. I was planning on a simple 5 to 6 foot table with shelf underneath and maybe an extension out for heavy buckets (so I don’t have to lift them to the top). As I was looking at the spare boards I had planned on using, I realized it would be much heavier than what I would want to tote to cover through winter and much more complicated to build than what I’d hoped. Thus entered plan 2.

It started out as an idea to use a couple of spare pallets I had set back as part of the table’s frame. As I was looking at these half pallets, it hit me: why not cut down on the work and use the pallets as the table top and shelf? I already had the table legs at the length I wanted them. I just had to figure out how to attach them to the pallets.

What you see above is the result. I used the wide half pallet for the table top. I chose a thinner and longer one for the lower shelf. The legs are flat against the pallets’ sides on the far side and fastened with screws. On the closest side where the shelf extends past the table top, I fastened a board between the legs to support the shelf.

I’ll also add some hooks and maybe some side-mounted storage baskets. I’ll update as I make some additions on it, but as it is, I’m very happy with how it turned out after only a an hour and a half of work and improvising.

Bottling Apple Vinegars

I bottled my first jar of vinegar! It has a beautiful color and interesting flavor. I’ve put mine in a corked 33 oz bottle from Hobby Lobby. It is now ready for use. I’m trying to decide what to test it in first.

I used a damp thin cloth in the top of a funnel to strain the vinegar again as I filled the prepared bottle (cleaned and sterilized). The bottle size was just right for the amount I had. This isn’t the cork lid I’d envisioned, but I think it’ll work well. I labeled the bottle and added it to my shelf of ingredients.

I also got the other jar ready for acidifying. I strained it twice as I did on the first batch, returning the liquid to another sterile gallon jar. (I added the discarded apple pieces to the compost.) I covered the jar with a thin cloth, securing it with a rubber band. This jar will now sit for another 6 weeks.

You will notice that I started with two jars fermenting while the first batch acidified. The best I can figure, the second one I got to full and the fermentation bubbled the liquid up to the top of the cloth cover, dampening it. This meeting allowed gnats to lay eggs through it. This is my only guess because somehow gnats managed to get into it and there was discoloration to the cloth when I took it off. So the whole jar had to be dumped.

All a learning process for next time! And I still have a half gallon of liquid from the first jar to acidity and bottle.

Simple Chicken Soup

The girls picked up a cold from their cousins and didn’t have much of an appetite. I decided to fix them up some simple chicken soup from leftover chicken. I have to say, it turned out a little on the salty side, but was pretty good.

I tossed in about a half cup each of shredded chicken, sliced carrots and chopped mushrooms. I added two cups of water and 2 chicken bouillon cubes. I added some salt, garlic powder, ground ginger, and a dash of dried oregano. I let it simmer until the carrots were tender.

It would have been perfect if I hadn’t put in that little extra salt. The bouillon probably had enough sodium in it alone. But the soup still made for a good and simple meal. I’ll just remember to hold off on the salt next time until I taste it.

Hanging Tin

I’m finally getting it done! Papa had set some scraped tin roofing aside to add to our loading shoot. It will blind the shoot and make loading easier. I’d told him that if he didn’t get time to do it, I’d get it hung for him. Well, here is the first sheet up.

I drilled a small hole in the top and bottom about every 3-4 foot. I slid the tin in place behind the loading panel. Then I ran a section of wire through each hole on top. I hoisted one corner, fastened it quick, and repeated with the other corner. Then I fastened the rest of the top and the lower ties.

The tin covers from a little lower than eye level to a bit above mid-calf. It should work perfect as a blind and not block the cattle panel bars if someone needs to climb up quick. And with that number of ties, it shouldn’t be going anywhere. Now I had better get back to hanging the rest!

Crochet Hat

I’ve discovered that I’m still having problems with crocheting with the right amount of tension. I made this hat for Travis, but it turned out too tight. At least the girls can still use it.

The pattern alternates in its stitches from single crochet to double crochet in each row. After one row, the next row’s single crochet stitches go in the previous doubles and double crochet stitches go in the previous singles. The end result is an interesting bubbling texture throughout the hat.

This was my first time adding a brim to a hat. I used a slip stitch between it and the main body to connect them instead of sewing it on. I didn’t have enough of the dark green so I thought a black brim would accent it well. If nothing else it was s good practice run. Hopefully the next one will fit Travis.

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