Raised in a Barn…

Day-to-Day Life of a Country Mama

Delay in Writing

I apologize for not posting much. I should be able to finish writing several pieces I’m working on soon. I managed to hurt my wrist a bit clearing brush. Luckily I didn’t do it until after the fall harvest, which was suddenly needed due to a serious cold snap. I can write for a bit, but the repetition of typing bothers my wrist after a little. Thank you for being patient! I’ll fill you in on the fall harvest soon.


Apple Vinegar

I let my apple peals ferment for almost three weeks. We had a few cool days so I allowed some extra time just in case. I found out after the fact that I was supposed to be stirring it everyday. Oh well, I’ll do that next time because I just started another batch. (Here’s round two!)

But back to the first, I strained the concoction twice. The scraps got added to the compost pile and the juice landed back in a jar. That jar will now sit covered with a cotton towel (secured by rubber band) for the next 4 to 6 weeks. I have dated them so I won’t get my batches mixed up.

Soon I will probably buy a couple jars or plastic canning lids to put it up. I’m still deciding how to store it. Jars with either plastic or cork lids are needed because the acid eats at the metal ones. I wanted to be sure to note for anyone else doing this, homemade vinegar is not recommended for pickling, canning, or cleaning. It differs too much in acid percentage with no accurate way to read its ph level. It can be used for consumption in drinks, salad dressings, and the like though. I’ll pass along any that I use my vinegar in.


I found another great deal on apples so I bought another half bushel bag. This time they were cooked down into applesauce (except a few that the girls snuck out to eat). I washed them and set up a pealing station.

First, I blossomed the ends, pealed and sliced the apples (leaving the seed core). The ends, peals, and core went into a jar for making into vinegar. The rest went into a pot to cook down into sauce. The thin slices sped up the cooking process. They also allowed me to make chunky sauce without using a blender or food processor as suggested. I simply added some water and simmered it. I stirred it occasionally with my wooden spoon and used a potato masher once or twice if I saw some trouble chunks. It worked great!

I kept the applesauce plain, no sugar, cinnamon or other spice added. I figured, if desired, we could always doctor it later. I kept it simmering after it was cooked and ladled it straight into prepared jars. After lids were added, they went into my hot water canner and processed for 20 minutes. As usual, I was following the suggestions of my Ball Blue Book.

The jars are now ready for the pantry. I’m excited to have a good amount of applesauce put up for the girls. As much as they love it, we will probably go through it fast, but it’s nice to finally have some homemade for them to enjoy.

Keeping the Comfrey

Comfrey is a great herb with many topical uses. I’m so glad I have some, but as always with my herbs, I’m sad to see it go once the weather turns cold. This year, I’ve been concentrating on preserving my herbs so I will have them for winter. (I even dried some rose petals and the little bit of lemongrass that didn’t get eaten by grasshoppers.) It hit me that there shouldn’t be a reason why I couldn’t dry some comfrey for winter use too.

I tried drying it two ways: once as whole leaves and once with shredded leaves. Comfrey has thick veins with lots of moisture so the shredded leaves dried faster and more evenly. I figure it’s a toss up on which preserves the benefits of the plant best. Drying the whole leaves prevents loss from cutting, but prolongs it’s exposure to heat. Shredding the leaves reverses the problems. I don’t know what the answer is, but I will probably go with shredding the leaves.

I’ve been harvesting several leaves a week to dry and put back just in case. I am also going to try to make an herbal-infused oil with it. It’ll be my first time making an oil like this so I’m excited. I’ll probably write more on that at a later date through. I’m just happy to have a nice supply of herbs back set for winter already.

Fall Garden Progress

The garden is still puttering along. We’ve had nice weather here and there between cool downs, so plants are still getting pollinated. The tomatoes bloomed again and I think we may have a few more green tomatoes in the work, if they will come on before the real cold hits. They will have to grow faster than this if we are going to get any through.

As you can see above, we are still getting a few summer squash and zucchini. The herbs are still looking good, though the parsley looks the best. The basil looks like it is drawing to a close, but given the yield of dried basil I got before the replant, I have plenty!

We are still getting a few green beans, but they have slowed down due to the cooler temperatures. I’m still holding out hope that we will get at least a bit of corn. It does look questionable since the few ears that look nicely developed haven’t filled out their kernels yet. Maybe they are just growing slower with the cool temps too.

I’d say we are very blessed to have fresh produce at pretty much the end of October though. Especially given our location and the sudden change to fall that we had. We will be thankful and enjoy it while it lasts.

Wintering the Bananas

I’ve decided to try our luck with wintering our banana outside. I went out to dig it up initially, and quickly decided the job was going to be much, much harder than last year’s. It grew at an astounding rate this year. As I worked around it and pulled the mulch from the base, I discovered several more starts and was worried about the removal’s impact on them. Ours should be a moderate cold-hardy variety so I’m trying out a method I read about online: cut back and cover with lots of mulch.

I had already trimmed the palm fronds off so I decided to layer them down as an inner layer of mulch. I figured it couldn’t hurt and I didn’t have a use for them. Besides, what’s a better use than protecting the roots for next year?

Then, with Savannah’s help, I piled about a foot or a little more hay around the base. I figure I’ll add more as this compacts down. Given the wind on out hillside (and children that like to play in mulch), it is staying put really well.

I’m interested to see what happens through this wintering process. I don’t know if the the stalk will die back or if it will just go dormant. We will see how it goes.

Knitting Coasters

I have a knitting pattern book for using up mini skeins, leftover yarn, which I have plenty of. I thought this winter might be a good time to use up some of these scraps. My first use for them is making waffle coasters for around the house. I might even make a few extra to take to market next year.

It is a simple pattern and a good way for me to get some knitting practice in. I’ve been doing a lot of crochet, but I want to grow my skill with knitting too. There will be more little projects like this to come I’m sure.

Winter Positivity

With winter getting close to settling in, it can get a little depressing. Days get short; cold temps roll in; kids have to be bundled before they can go play. More inside time; less fresh air and vitamin D. I try to do my best to fight the winter blues with positivity and proactive planning.

I’ve taken up hobbies/work that I can do seasonally. Through the summer, I write down a list (I know, so shocking) of work set aside for winter. It usually includes needlecraft projects, more in-depth cleaning, garden and yard prep for spring, and inside activities for the girls. Throw in a stack of books, scrapbooking, and some organizing work and I’m looking at a whole mountain of work to keep me busy through the winter months.

I refuse to be deterred by the cold. I make sure we have clothes that we can layer for the days of varying temps. We go and play anyway. Yeah, it takes more time to prepare and it’s kind of cold, but seriously our winters are not that bad for going out in. This gives us our dose of fresh air, even if we still don’t get our vitamin D from the sun. (Fall is a good time to pick up a good quality vitamin D supplement.)

Winter is also a time to evaluate nutrition and try out new recipes. I can spend a little extra time checking how our diet is and what we need to adjust on it. I still have Grandma’s recipe books that I’ve barely scratched the surface of. I’ll be sorting through some of them and deciding what to keep. I don’t have to worry about making the house hot by trying that new cake or roasting recipe that may take longer than the supposed time.

Winter provides down time, but that can be a good thing when used properly. It gives us more time to concentrate on family and our spiritual journey. It allows us gardeners to catch up on other necessary life tasks. I guess the biggest way I combat the winter blues is concentrating on what I can do instead of what I can’t.

Collecting Peppermint

Grandma Barnes’s peppermint batch spread into the lot and loading shoot beside the yard years ago. Growing up, I associated the smell of fresh crushed peppermint (among other things) with loading cows for sale. The peppermint still grows in that now unused shoot. This year I decided to make use of it.

I picked a couple small basketfuls and have dehydrated it for tea. I set the oven for 180 degrees and removed the leaves from the woody stem. (I am now wondering if I could have used this too; what do y’all think?) I lightly layered the leaves on cookie sheets and put them in the oven, venting the oven door with a wooden spoon as usual. I can’t give a specific time. I stirred the leaves to check them periodically and removed them when they were fully dried.

I let them cool and then funneled them into a jar with an air-tight lid. The jar is now sitting on the shelf with my other teas. It’s nice knowing we have homegrown peppermint tea.

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