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Raised in a Barn…

Day-to-Day Life of a Country Mama

Pickled Beets

I had a neighbor give me a bag of beets. It turned out to be just the right amount for a batch of pickled beets. I don’t frequently have this happen! I was very excited; yes, it really is the little things for me. I added a little clove to the cinnamon and allspice seasoning called for in the Ball Blue Book recipe as usual. Here they are labeled and ready to be added to our provisions for winter.

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New Old Method

My grandma was one that would save and reuse her butter tubs and other containers. Mama did on occasion save containers too, though not nearly as many as Grandma. I am completing the circle of saved containers and I admit to having a couple cottage cheese containers saved back. After all, you can send food with folks and no one worries about getting the container back at some point. However, the majority of mine are saved glass jars.

With starting to buy in bulk (rice, beans) or grow and dry my own (beans, herbs), I was looking at potentially buying a lot of canisters. Then my best friend gave me some saved glass seasoning and pasta jars with metal lids. She knows I like reusing such stuff wondered if I could use them. Her timing was perfect and I’ve saved a few more with the few I now buy.

I am slowly transforming my cabinet contents. I keep my bulk bags downstairs in storage and refill the jars as needed. In the case of herbs and teas, I harvest and dry them, then place them in glass containers that fit their batch size. I’m labeling with just cut pieces of paper and tape, that way I can simply take it off when I clean it and store something else. This was also very helpful when I discovered ants had gotten into one plastic bag I hadn’t switched over. They couldn’t get into anything else.

It has saved us money and allowed us to use what would have otherwise just gone to the recycle company we use (ours is apparently one of the few that actually takes glass). I also love the way my cabinets are looking. So I carry on the tradition of saved containers with my own twist.

Spoilage: The Cost of Learning

I really don’t like wasting anything, especially food. However, given how I’m trying to learn to home-produce a lot of our staples, learning frequently comes with the cost of spoiling good food. I try to salvage what I can, but sometimes there’s just no way to do it. This was probably the worst spoilage I’ve had while practicing: three quarts of homemade yogurt.

I have made a couple good batches of yogurt by feel and decided I should try to make one the “proper” way with a thermometer. Well, I went through the motions, but it didn’t feel right. Looking back now, I don’t think I read thermometer I was using correctly. With yogurt, you heat your milk to just short of a simmer (supposedly 180 degrees, stirring to prevent scorching) and then cool it down by placing the pot of milk in cold water. Once it’s cooled to 120 degrees, you stir in your starter completely and pour it into your sterilized jars. You cap the jars and put them in an ice chest with hot water for 3 hours to incubate, then move them to the fridge. After that, they will set up as they chill and be ready for serving.

This is just a rough explanation of the process, you can find the in-depth details on Pinterest. On top of most likely misreading the thermometer, I made it so the timing caused me to need to move the yogurt to the fridge right before bed, after I got the girls to sleep. Well the girls were wound up and took forever to go to sleep. I was tired after and promptly passed out asleep in bed. The next morning, I saw the ice chest and couldn’t believe I had forgotten it.

I put the jars in the fridge to chill with hopes, but it didn’t set up and when I took the lid off one, it was funky. So I ended dumping out all of it. It is certainly a lesson I won’t forget soon. I’m not sure that I will try using a thermometer again….

Studying Up on Schooling

With all the schooling choices available out there (homeschool, private, public), picking one seemed a little daunting. I was concerned about having enough time to research and pick the right one. Savannah is only three and a half years old, but time passes quickly and I didn’t want this to sneak up on me. The last thing I wanted was us to be scrambling to make a decision when it came time to enroll in one.

I am a huge supporter of homeschooling, especially when done right. Meaning learning is structured and complete; children are involved in other activities that build their social skills as well. The schooling can be easily worked around farm chores. No time is lost through commuting to a school or because of snow days. Studies can be easily supplemented with an active imagination and initiative. (Take a hike after reading about forest ecosystems to see it first hand, family trips can double for learning about other areas and history, etc.) A curriculum must be chosen from many and paid for in time to begin schooling. Parents have to make sure they have the time and willingness to be responsible for all their child’s schooling.

Private schools vary a lot depending on which you are interested in. One north of us that friends use is an academy that divides time: three days are onsite, two are home study. Private schools function on money made from the tuition paid in and private donations, which I prefer on principle over government funding.

Public schooling is a no-brainer for most folks given the fact that we all have taxes extracted to pay for it and it keeps the kids most of the day. I personally don’t care too much for the system, but I try to not rail on it. The problems I see it having are mostly the fault of the governing bodies and certain varieties of parents, not the majority of the teachers that are so frequently blamed. However, with recent events involving the targeting of schools for violence, peer pressure, and the occasional bad seed on faculty, I do worry about going the public school route.

I believe we have settled in on the perfect combination though. The public school my husband attended (Deer/Mt. Judea) set up a digital learning program a couple years back. The state of Arkansas allows us to pick what public school we use (though our tax dollars still go to the one in our district). We just have to submit a form for school choice to Deer/Mt. Judea and sign up for their digital learning. The school will provide the curriculum and supplies for me to teach Savannah at home. It also helps the school (which is smaller) from running the risk of being consolidated with another bigger school. (Don’t even get me started on the stupidity of consolidations.)

Anyway, I’m still reading up on the curriculum the school’s program uses, but I think this will be a great way to go. We would do quarterly testings at least and I would submit updates on our progress as we go. It also will make Savannah eligible for field trips, sports and other activities sponsored by the school. I’m very excited to have this decision settled (basically) on such a great option. It’s certainly a load off my mind.

Garden Update

I’m beginning to think that I’ll have to replant what I already replanted next week when I replant the corn. None of the squash or herbs have come up. The good news is that the green beans are putting on again. They had tapered off between the drought, extreme heat, and Japanese beetles. We had a cool spell with a few rains and I have been doing a lot of washing which waters the garden so the green beans and basil are looking good. Even the Japanese beetle cycle seems to have ended. I picked a handful of beans yesterday, so hopefully we’ll be getting a good number before long.

The other positive note is that my winter onions that I thought had died from drought and the shock of extreme heat soon after placement are sprouting! The stocks died, but the bulbs are putting up new bright green ones.

Well enough sitting around for now though. I need to get out and do some weeding. This on top of helping unload the last load of hay to the barn and washing clothes is going to make for a busy morning. Have a good and productive morning!

The Buzz

We have had new visitors to our feeders this year. Our hummingbirds increased a couple in number of how many frequent in the early morning and late evening. It must be because I have tried to stay vigilant in keeping food in all three of our feeders. I’ve been trying to keep the sugar mix made up in advance so I can fill them easily as soon as they run out.

We have also had a good number of honeybees! They prefer the feeder in the picture above and cluster like this on one spout with a few stray ones going to other spouts. They are frequently there in the hot parts of the days, which works well since the extra hummingbirds come at the coolest. The main overlap is of a morning, but it seems to be working out for everyone.

Not-Squash-Only Bugs

The problem with growing new varieties or even varieties you haven’t grown in years is making really stupid mistakes. Watermelons were this for me this year.

Growth had slowed to almost a standstill even on the two little watermelons they grew first off. I thought I wasn’t watering them enough. I increased it. Nothing. I’d look at the plants, but couldn’t find any definite insect damage.

All this time, I was battling squash bugs on my squash plants. I even went through a spell where I couldn’t find adults but there would be a leaf with new eggs of a morning. This went on until the worst of the heat hit and I decided to replant the squash. I killed several adult squash bugs as they tried to escape the burn pile and assumed I’d just been missing the last of them in the mulch.

In the week after I pulled the squash plants, when I looked over the watermelon plants, I found several adults and a couple leaves with eggs on it and the problem hit me. With them being in the same family, the extra adults I had been missing had been hiding on the watermelon plants while I was keeping the number cleared on the squash plants for the most part. Then they would return to their preferred plant to lay eggs and go back to the watermelons. Their presence was just enough to slow growth but not enough to show extensive signs of pests.

I haven’t found the massive number of adolescents that I should have if I’d been missing eggs on the watermelon plants so this is the only explanation I can find. So remember, look for the pest that you are fighting in one area everywhere because you may be missing something obvious.

Fall Replantings

I have a little bit of a break going on right now since my green beans and broccoli are the only things currently growing. My squash petered out so I pulled it and replanted. I also replanted some herbs for fun to see if I can get any to come up for a fall crop. I will be waiting another month to replant the corn. This will put the harvest time when I want it and give me time to have the ground weeded and ready to plant. We’ve had rain several times last week, which was a blessing for both a break in the heat and drought and also kept me from being in the garden constantly watering my replanted areas. I’ll keep you informed of what comes up!

Blended Squash

I put the last of my extra squash up until my replanted round starts producing. I roasted and blended it with just a bit of water to make it easier to work with. Then I divided it into the cups of my silicone molds and froze them. I will keep these handy little half cups for a quick way to add nutrients and thickness to sides and soups. I really excited to start trying it out. I’m hoping it will help me sneak veggies in on my two fruit-preferring little ones.

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