Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween

Seriously. . . are these not the cutest little aliens you've ever seen?

We are aliens.  Who are runners.  
We came for the intergalactic marathon.

We stayed for the CANDY!

I know this seems like a weird thing to be, but, thankfully, it turned out pretty cute.

How does a family decide to be running aliens for Halloween?  Well, it's funny you should ask.  

We ALWAYS dress as a family for Halloween.  If the kids are allowed to dress up at school, they can be their own thing there.  But, when we set out together, it's dressed as a group.  Each year, as the time approaches, we have a family meeting where ideas are thrown out and mostly immediately shot down.  (Why did they not want to be a BLT sandwich?  I don't get it.)  The real possibilities go onto a list, we make a case for our favorites, and we put it to a vote. It's all very democratic.  

This year, we determined that we would be marathon runners.  That should be easy enough.  We've got lots of running gear.  But, we needed to match. Enter the red shirts.  (Why are we always wearing red for Halloween?  Our super hero outfits were red.  Our pizza delivery uniforms were red. . . )

But, "runners" is kind of generic, and the kids were really pushing for something a bit more along the lines of standard Halloween gore.  We are planning to participate in Saturday's Zombie run in our costumes, so John had the idea to add zombie masks to our running outfits.  The kids loved the idea, and I got to shopping.

And, I just couldn't do it!  As a kid, I was never allowed to dress in anything scary, bloody, or gory for Halloween.  And our own kids have always played it pretty tame as well.  I just couldn't picture my sweet 4-year-old in the zombie masks I was seeing online.  

I found the alien masks and proposed a compromise.  Alien runners it was, then.  But, why are we alien runners?  It just seemed too random to me.  We needed a tie in.  John saved the day when he came up with the lettering on the shirt:  "We came for the intergalactic marathon.  We stayed for the CANDY!"

Sure, you have to read our shirts to make sense of it, but I just can't get over how cute Little Boy is as he dances around in his little get up! 

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Work Begets Work

Lately it feels as if every time I cross something off a list, another thing is there to take its place.  I just can't seem to get ahead.  

As I mentioned before, our half a cow will soon be on its way, so I needed to clear out some freezer space.  After a bit of work, I was able to free up half of this freezer and another fridge-top freezer.  Hopefully, that'll be enough space.  So, I can cross that project off the list.

But, in order to create all this space, I needed to make some chicken broth.  

Often when I take a chicken from the freezer to the kitchen, it's just to make use of the breast, thighs, and legs.  I stick the rest of the carcass back into the bag and toss it into the freezer.  I do the same with leftover parts of celery.  

To make a batch of broth, I just throw in two carcasses, chopped celery, chopped carrot, chopped onion, garlic, thyme, parsley, bay leaf, and salt and let it all simmer for as long as I can stand it.  Yummm!

Once the broth has been strained off, I pick the bones of any meat that's leftover and store this cooked, shredded chicken in little 1/2 c. bags so that it's at the ready for chicken salad and the like.

This is actually a great time of year for me to be making broth.  It's at the end of the growing season, so I'm able to make use of whatever jars aren't already occupied.  And, we're just now entering the season in which I use a lot of broth for cooking hearty winter soups or big pots of rice or beans.

If you're looking to make use of your chicken leftovers and are thinking about making your own broth, you should definitely give it a try.  The finished product is so much more flavorful than anything you can buy at the store.  And, if pressure canning is out of the question and you don't have a 1/2 a cow headed your way, you can always freeze your broth in quart- or gallon-sized baggies.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Plentiful Peppers

Our first frost meant that I needed to harvest all those beautiful peppers that hadn't yet made their way to the table.  and ASAP.
We busted open a jar of pickled peppers that I'd put up a couple months ago to determine whether they were worth repeating.  Yuck.  Both the texture and flavor were less than ideal.
So, I decided to play it safe and make some more purple pepper jelly. 
When I picked the kids up from school, Girl 1 informed me that she had "easy" homework. "Great!" I tell her, "You can help me make some pepper jelly!"
Her response:  "Oh, ummm. Did I say easy?  What I really meant was . . . "
Luckily, Girl 2 was a much more eager helper.

She even created a ring pyramid.  :)

Of course, all 3 of the kiddos were fans of the finished product.

Girl 2 was so much help, I decided to reward her with a big tub of sour cream.  ;) 
This picture cracks me up.  Actually, we are trying to clean out the freezers a bit to make room for our half of a grass-fed cow that should be headed our way in the next couple of days.  I've got lots of individual servings of lime frozen yogurt that we've got to go through before the cow comes home. 


Monday, October 28, 2013

A Rest for Razz

So much of farm life is seasonal.  It is now solidly fall.  The tomato plants are on the compost pile, the cool-weather kale is thriving, and it's time to dry the milker. 
It's time to give Razz. our milking doe, a rest for the winter so that she can conserve her calories through the duration of her pregnancy.  We will get to milk her again when she gives birth in the spring.  In fact, we're hoping that Honey and Izzy will become Mommas/milkers this spring as well. 
Last winter, I was ready for the milking break when the time came, but this year,  I find myself wanting to delay it.  Knowing that this time would soon be here, I've been freezing milk in ice cube trays to have for soap production throughout the winter. 
To gradually dry Razz off, I've been milking her just once a day.  Gradually, I'll go even longer between milkings until she's dry for the winter.
Until spring, I'll miss my quiet mornings in the milk shed, but I'll bet these two will miss milking time even more than I will. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Frost-Bitten Garden

This morning, I woke up with a sinus headache that made me feel like my left eye was going to pop out of my head.  You know the kind I'm talking about?  I don't get these very often, but I'm particularly upset about this one because I have a big race tomorrow.
Anyway, I go about my early morning routine with my eyes closed as much as possible (it just seems to hurt less that way).
I don my headlamp, grab my milking pail, and head out into the still-dark, very cold morning. Wait a minute!  What is that glimmer on the grass?  My headlamp is illuminating little diamonds on each blade.  How beautiful!

I finally get past my sinus-headache-induced euphoria enough to realize that these beautiful diamonds are in fact frost . . . heavy frost.


And, I've been so busy with other things, that I've failed to check the weather forecast and erect the cold frame that could've saved my poor garden plants.

I know they say not to cry over spilled milk, but surely it's acceptable to shed a tear over frosted kale.  Yesterday, it was so healthy and beautiful.  Now, it may not be salvageable.  

Looks like my procrastination has come back to frost-bite me in the bum!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Jelly-Making Secret

Our canning club is careful only to endorse methods and practices that are USDA-approved.  But . . . I've heard whisperings.  At one meeting recently, we were making jelly and an older lady I was sitting by was surprised to see that we were putting the jelly-filled-jars into the boiling water bath at all.  "I've never done that, and my jars seal just fine," she whispered.  

What?  This went against everything I'd ever heard!  This would be BIG.  This would make jelly-making accessible to the masses.  The idea of "canning" is too big hurdle for some to get over.  But, what if all you had to do was bring the juice, sugar, and pectin to a boil and pour it into jars?  Would they really seal?  Would they be shelf-stable?
I didn't do anything to test the theory then, but I filed this experience away in my mind.  
Then, I came across a recipe for sugar-free jelly that RECOMMENDED not processing the jars in a canner.  Once the sterilized jars are filled with jelly to 1/8" from the top, you just twist on the lids and turn them upside down for 5 minutes.  Once you turn them back right-side-up, just listen for that wonderful "ping" that lets you know they've sealed.  

So . . . listen.   I tried it yesterday, and . . . 

lean in . . . .

(you promised not to tell, right??) . . . 


Every jar sealed beautifully.

I didn't love the particular recipe I tried, so I'm not reposting it today, but once I've got a good recipe to use with this, I'll let you know.  This sealing business is BIG news, guys, BIG news.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Jelly Making= Anger Management

I'm really not an angry person, but I was realizing as I punched, poked, and prodded this butter-muslin-turned-jelly-bag that if I were, jelly-making would be great therapy.  
This year, I wanted to try 2 different plum jelly recipes and would need 10 cups of juice to be able to make both.  

I extract plum juice the lazy way -- that is, I throw whole plums into the pot -- skin, pit, and all.  I add a cup of water, turn on the burner, and commence Therapy Step 1 as I wield the potato masher and punch and mash those plums to a pulp.

Once it's all boiled a few minutes, I pour it into the butter muslin and hang it over a giant bowl.  It dripped about 8-cups-worth, but as I said, I needed 10.  That's when Therapy Step 2 began as I punched, mashed, squished, and poked another 2 cups out of that bag.

Tomorrow, I'm going to let you in on a little canning secret that you have to promise not to tell the other members of my canning club.  It'll just be our little secret.  Promise?  

Thank you to those of you who noticed that I missed a couple of blogging days early this week.  That makes me feel so loved!  
As explanation, I offer this picture.  
Amazingly, my calendar held two pretty-much clear days, so I jumped at the chance to go visit these fun folks in Texas.  
I missed sharing my blog with you, but, what can I say?  I never pass up an opportunity to spend time with my sis!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Lettuce, please!

Q:  Do goats like lettuce that's gone to seed?

A:  Ummmm.  Yes.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

I'm Not the Only One with a Candy Corn Problem

Clearly, I am not the only candy corn addict out there.

This was the scene on the candy corn aisle at Wal-Mart yesterday. (Okay, I realize it's not officially called the "candy corn aisle," but really we all know that's the only thing people are looking for when they head down that way.)

I may be a full-fledged candy corn junkie, but at least I have the decency to wait until I get to the car to tear into my bag!  ;)

Happy Weekend!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Follow-up Friday: Goat Lovin'

It's breeding season around here.  Surprisingly, I caught these two in the act yesterday.  (I decided to spare you the breeding photo.  I did take one, though, to send to John who was still at work.  And, no, I don't think that's weird.  It's just farm stuff.  I was just so glad to see that Oreo knew how to make things happen.)  This photo was taken immediately afterward.  Oreo is giving his love a little kiss on the neck. 
Allow me to explain why I was surprised to see this yesterday.  Female goats have a 21-day cycle.  (If that last sentence doesn't hook you, then feel free to just check back in tomorrow.  Maybe the topic will interest you more.  For those who are interested in the female cycle of my goats, read on!)
The males will pretty much try to make things happen anytime there's a female nearby, but their efforts are usually thwarted because the female wants none of it . . . unless she's in heat, which only happens every 21 days.  Only then will she "stand for it."  I can't help it --the double entendre just cracks me up.  Literally, she will only stand still and allow things to happen when she is good and ready on that 21st day.  Any other day of the month, she's likely to jump away or even head-butt him in response.
Since we've had Oreo running with the ladies since the first of September, even though we hadn't seen him take care of business, we'd assumed it had just happened in the privacy of the goat shed or something sometime last month.  If that had been the case, Izzy wouldn't be in heat now, though, and willing to "stand for it."  Hmmmm. 
Maybe our young buckling just needed some time to work up the nerve.  ;)
At any rate, we probably need to revise our pregnancy test schedule.  We'd originally planned to preg test the first week of November.  For most accurate results, the blood should be drawn at least 30 days after breeding.  Looks like we'll need to move that date back a couple weeks!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Soap Packaging: I Need Your Help!

Another dreary day outdoors . . . another productive day indoors. 
Thanks to one of my great family members and faithful readers, I've had a great offer that would allow me to sell soap through a local antique booth.  I'm excited about this opportunity to get my soap out there and see what happens!
So, I've been busy getting soaps packaged and ready to go.  Currently packaged and ready are . . .
Lavender and Olive
Oatmeal and Cinnamon
Orange Chamomile
They are, of course, all goat milk soaps.
I've run into a packaging problem, though.  I can only fit so much information on the label without it looking cluttered. 
Right now, labels have the farm/brand name, "All-Natural {type of soap} Goat Milk Soap," and our farm location.
Since I can't fit much more on the label, I was thinking of setting out a small chalkboard sign that provides a few other key pieces of info.  What should it include?
Some ideas:
info about what makes goat milk soap different than other soaps
"Meet the goats" (and put the blog address and/or a snapshot of Razz)
Or, I could have some business cards made up that would allow a spot for a little more info. 
Thoughts?  Suggestions?  If you were the shopper, what would convince you to try a bar?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013



Pantry Re-organization

About a month ago, I sent Girl 2 into the pantry to retrieve something for me.  A few minutes later I hear, "Mom!  I found it, but I can't get out!"  Sure enough, she was able to climb over all the canned goods stacked in the floor in order to get in, but once her hands were full, she couldn't get out.  I rescued her and then moved some of the stuff from the floor into the guest room -- definitely a temporary fix.

We're actually blessed to have a very large pantry (like it? It can be yours!  The house is for sale, you know!).  However, with all the canned goods and homesteading cookware, it's managed to spill over into the kitchen, guest room, and guest room closet.  It was time for a reorganization.

Before pics:

As with any re-organization project, it's best to start by determining what you want out of the space.

 For me, I wanted . . .
1.  to be able to find things easily
2. to showcase all the beautiful jars of food I'd slaved over all summer
3. for my children not to get stuck when they venture in

Guest room floor

Step 2 is to empty out the space.  Resist the temptation to clear only one shelf at a time, clean it, and place back the items you plan to keep.  You won't be able to completely re-invent the way the space works, unless you can see it empty and get a good look at what all needs to go back in.

It's during this emptying out phase that you need to ask yourself the hard questions.  For example, why did I think it was a good idea to keep the paper shredder in the pantry?  Or, is it necessary that this be the location where I collect the newspapers for recycling?

As I mapped out my new layout plan, I kept a few things in mind:
1.  What items do I want the kids to be able to access easily?  Goldfish.  Nutella.  Cereal.  Popcorn.
2.  What items do I not need/want the kids to access easily?  Baking items.  Chocolate.  Glass jars.
3.  What items ought to be stored together?  

After pics:

Drawer units store less frequently-used/not-easily-stackable items.  

Canned goods are visible and adult-accessible.

Baskets corral similar items and keep them organized.

Bottom right: snacks are easily accessible.  
Potatoes no longer have to reside in the dining room.

Top left:  canisters made from recycled grapefruit containers store staples like rice and sugars
Top right:  herbs in large quantities are stored in a tray on a high shelf for when the small jars (stored in the kitchen) need to be refilled
Bottom left:  beautiful, beautiful jars!
Bottom right:  frequently used baking goods are stored in a basket together that can be easily carried to the kitchen 

I can't wait for Girl 2 to get home and see that surviving the obstacle course is not a pre-req for after-school snack time today.  

Not a bad way to spend a rainy day!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

All Will Be Well

It's raining and, well, just pretty nasty outside.  I should know.  Between trying to coax my rain-a-phobe goat into the milking shed and going for a wet run, I've spent considerable time out in it already today.  

So, it's a bit dreary out. What better time to look ahead to the sun that will shine tomorrow?

Though it has very little to do with homesteading and I'll have to ask you to forgive the language in order to preserve the rhyme, it seems like a good day to consider some of the lyrics from the Gabe Dixon Band's "All Will Be Well":

The winter's cold,
But the snow still lightly settles on the trees.

And a mess is still a moment I can seize until I know,
That all will be well.

Even though sometimes this is hard to tell,
And the fight is just as frustrating as hell
All will be well.

. . . All will be well.
You can ask me how but only time will tell.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Lazy Layers

Chickens naturally slow their egg production in the winter.  Many folks follow that up by mistakenly believing it has something to do with cold temperatures.   In reality, it's the shortened daylight that causes chickens to lay less frequently.  

Our weather right now is good proof of this.  Our mid-October days are shortening even though our temperatures have remained relatively warm.  Still our gals are pretending it's time to buckle down for winter and turn off their laying machines.  Egg production has dropped off tremendously.  I decided it was time to put a low-wattage bulb in the hen house.

This allows us to extend their light exposure, fooling them into believing the days are longer than they actually are.  When it actually gets cooler, I can switch the bulb out for a higher wattage to keep the gals warm throughout the winter.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Farm Find

Last night, as they were "exploring" at the farm, the kids found this guy.

Through the walkie talkie, I heard, "We found a BIG spider!"

"Is it a tarantula?"

"I guess.  It's brown and black and hairy."

Immediately, I remembered that Little Boy was caught playing with a dead mouse in the backyard earlier this week.  And, just in case you're not keeping up with us very well, Little Boy is my 4-year-old son, not the backyard cat.  When I expressed my disgust that he was touching it, he said, "What?  It's dead,  I guess I can get my gloves."

Anyway, as the girls were describing the spider's physical attributes into the walkie talkies, I could hear Little Boy's excited voice in the background and all I could picture was him swooping in and picking up the hairy fella.  Since I wasn't physically present to swat it away, I just blurted into the walkie talkie  "Stay back!  They can jump!"

You should've heard them all scream.  Apparently, the idea of a giant spider was great, but a potentially-jumping, giant spider is just plain SCARY!   These kids are so funny-- never a dull moment, I tell ya!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Owls, Beautyberry, and Scat -- Oh, My!

Yesterday, I accompanied Girl 2 and 2 school buses full of 2nd graders to Crowley's Ridge Nature Center in Jonesboro.  Our favorite part was learning all about owls and even getting to pet one.

Did you know that owls' eyes are fixed in their skulls, so they can't move them around in their heads?  That's why they need such extraordinary range of motion in their necks.

Did you know that their eyes make up about 5% of their body weight?  That would be comparable to us walking around with eyes the size of softballs!

Did you know that they can hear a mouse scurrying from 75 yards away?

Anyway,  as I was walking into the building, I saw the most beautiful plant.  I snapped this pic and then, a little self-consciously, went inside to ask the ranger at the desk whether she knew what type of plant it was.  She smiled knowingly and directed me to the stack of flyers they'd printed out to offer the MANY visitors who inquire.  Wow!

It's an American Beautyberry but is also known as a French mulberry.  Here's some basic info I gleaned from the flyer . . . 

This 6 ft. tall shrub is a member of the verbena family and flowers in the midsummer.  In the fall, it develops bb-sized purple berries that drape in gorgeous clusters.  
It's berries are a favorite of songbirds and deer, and it's crushed leaves deter mosquitoes and ticks.  
It's a perennial shrub that fruits only on new growth, so it is best cut it back to the ground each winter.
It will flower and fruit in medium to heavy shade but will produce much more if it receives at least some direct sunlight each day.  

The ranger said that most of the Beautyberry shrubs she's seen other places pale in comparison to the ones located at the nature center.   She theorizes that this is because gardeners fail to cut them back each year and because the nature center is home to LOTS of pollinators.  

I'm hoping to be able to find a source for the Beautyberry so that I can put some in at our new place.  Anyone know where they are sold?

While Girl 2's favorite thing was petting the owl, a close second was the scat and print exhibit.  She's been hunting tracks out at the new farm, so John and I picked her up a field guide while we were in Minneapolis last week.  Since then, she's been using it and going around the backyard replicating the tracks from the guide by drawing in the dirt.  Then, she and Little Boy go exploring, field guide in tow, and she tries to get him to identify the various species we've got roaming around our backyard.  Elk?  Who knew?  ;)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

I Was the Lady Tearing Through the Grocery Store Today

I was once introduced to someone as "Ashley, her family grows all their own food."  Believe me, our backyard efforts may decrease our monthly grocery bill somewhat, but if all we had to eat was what comes in the backdoor, we'd be in pretty sad shape.

I had another person ask me whether my kids had ever "been exposed to" high fructose corn syrup, like it's the latest virus going around.

Yes, we make an effort to eat healthy most of the time, but for those of you who think that we are some ridiculously healthy household that wouldn't recognize a trans fat if it knocked on the front door, I offer you this confessional . . .

First, I am a stress eater.  I know this is a very bad thing.  But, when I'm anxious (and can't go for a run), I find solace in the pantry.  And, then the fridge.  And, then more than likely the pantry again.

Confession #2= My name is Ashley.  And I am a candy corn addict. (Maybe I should introduce myself like that.)  The first time this year that I saw them looming there by the cash register (and it was shortly after school started, mind you.  What's up with that?), I had a ridiculously long inner-dialogue.

"Oh, the kids would be so excited if I brought them home some candy corn."

"Who are you kidding, Ashley?  Those kids would never see that bag of candy corn, and you know it."

"I'll just get this one bag and that'll be it for the season.  If I can just get past October 31st, the temptation will be gone for another year."

"Who do you think you're kidding?  You buy this one bag, and you're just breaking the seal.  Next thing you know, you'll be adding it to every grocery list from now until Halloween.  And, before you know it, you're inventing another thing you need from the store just so you can snag another bag."

"Well, would that really be so bad?  It is sweetened with honey, after all."

And on.  And on.  And on.  Suffice it to say . . . I won.  That is, I avoided buying the candy corn that first trip and felt very proud of myself.  So proud, in fact, that I rewarded myself on the next trip to the store with a bag of candy corn.  It's basically been a downward spiral since then.

So today, I'm in the middle of the grocery store when I get a text that sends me reeling.  There are few problems in the world that can't be solved by candy corn.  And, even though this text relayed a problem far too large to be solved by that sweet conical goodness, I had to have them anyway. And, I had to have them right then.  My candy corn addiction had met up with my stress eating disorder and created a perfect storm.

I high-tailed it to the candy aisle.  You've got to be kidding me? No candy corn?  This Autumn Mix mess is not an acceptable substitute.  Surely they have some by the checkout.  No?  I'm turning corners on two wheels as I realize we're about to be late to Little Boy's immunization appointment (a whole other story) and head toward the Halloween costume section.  Surely they keep at least some candy over there -- the very special candy, at least.  No?  Back to the candy aisle.  I'll not put up with any of that chocolate-y mess in the Autumn Mix, but desperate times call for desperate measures as I grab a bag of Mellowcreme Pumpkins.  I'm pretty sure Little Boy was using a judgmental tone as he begged me for trail mix on our way out of the store.

The point of this post is two-fold:  to make you smile and to dissolve any last notion that I am some oh-so-healthy hippie who is above the struggle to eat well.  Believe me, I'm struggling right along with you.  But, I do believe the struggle is worth it.  Here's looking toward Halloween, so that I can finally put this addiction to bed for the year.  At least Thanksgiving just entails one day of gluttony.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Fall Gardening

I know that everyone gets all excited about gardening in the spring.  And, while I too love to put in a spring garden after a long, cold winter, I've about decided that I prefer gardening in the fall.

We love lettuce and other greens, which are easily grown during this season.  And, I keep checking the leaves, but it appears the worms and other pests have decided to pack it up for the year.  Those beautiful greens are growing undisturbed.

Fall gardens are also lower maintenance because cooler temps mean that plants require less frequent watering.

I do need to get out my cold frame and be sure it's ready to go for when those overnight temps dip.  Other than that, though, the most fall gardening effort I've expended has been tossing out a few seeds and harvesting delicious greens.

I know that this is the season when most gardens sit unkempt with the last of the season's tomatoes rotting on the vine.  And, yes, many gardeners are just ready for a break from the intensity of summer gardening.  But, if you're not entirely burnt out, don't miss out on the opportunity to extend your growing season by fall gardening.  It's worth the (minimal) effort.  :)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Best Buy's Vending Machines

John and I spent last week in Minneapolis.  Though I did bring home some city boogers as souvenirs, we had a great time on our little jaunt in the big city. I've got several posts in mind about the trip, but let's begin here. . .

For those of you who, like me, have never seen one of these, this is a Best Buy vending machine.  This one is located in the Little Rock airport, though I saw several during the course of our trip. Items for sale include iPods and $300 Beats headphones among other things.

If you're thinking "Oh, I can't wait to hear what this crazy, homestead-y, blogger girl has to say about this!", you may be disappointed.  I will say I couldn't shake it -- just kept thinking about it and what it might say about us as a society.  There's a great essay to be found in it all, I think. If only I had the time!

But, I would like to offer the words to a song I'd never heard before we attended Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church in Minneapolis last Sunday . . . 

Simple Gifts:  Shaker Song

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free, 'tis the gift to come down where we ought to be, and when we find ourselves in the place just right, 'twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained to bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed, to turn, turn, will be our delight till by turning, turning we come round right.

Monday, October 7, 2013

So Much Soap!

Since school started, Thursday has become Soap Day.  I've churned out about 16 batches of soap so far, and my drying rack is nearly completely full!

Soon, I'll have bars ready to package and will be looking for a good way to sell them. My current plan is to see whether any local boutique-type places might be interested in stocking them. I'd considered an Etsy-type store for online sales, but I really don't think they'd ship well.  Any other ideas?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

White River Community Garden

This past week, I found myself needing to kill a little bit of time in Batesville between doctor's appointments (long story -- another time).  As it was lunchtime, I picked up a to-go lunch and headed to a spot with a nice view.  Some folks may head to the river or the park.  I drove right over to the White River Community Garden.  I was able to enjoy my lunch while checking out what everyone is growing and how they're trellising and mulching and more.

I don't actually need a garden bed at the community garden, but I was interested to know more about how it works, so I decided to call the number listed on the sign and check it out.

What I found out was so great, that I thought I'd pass it along to you guys in case anyone would like to take advantage of this great opportunity!

The large beds are 10'x10' and cost $35 to rent for the year.   
The smaller beds, at 10'x4', are $20.  
Each bed has its own water hydrant (as pictured above), and water is included in the rental fee.  

I mean, seriously!  Do you know how much food you can grow in a hundred square feet?!?  
If you live in town but don't have the space to grow your own garden, this is a great option. I would also think this would be great for the beginning gardener.  You wouldn't have to put any money into the start-up infrastructure of garden bed and basic soil, and you'd have the added benefit of having your garden surrounded by other gardens that you can watch and learn from throughout the growing season.  If you're out there harvesting or tending while other gardeners are present,  you can even exchange gardening tips along with pleasantries.

The rental is for a calendar year, so call Sharon Clark, an Independence County Master Gardener in January to secure your plot for 2014.  She can be reached at (870) 251-2148.

If you aren't a local reader, look into community gardening in your area.  It's becoming very popular.  I'll bet if you do some digging, you can find something similar available in your hometown.  And, if not . . . maybe you could get one started.  ;)

Friday, October 4, 2013

Intrinsic Benefits of Gardening

According to the Horticultural Society of New York, which has practiced "horticultural therapy" with Rikers Island inmates since 1989, the list of benefits is a long one:  "stress reduction, mood improvement, alleviation of depression, social growth, physical and mental rehabilitation and general wellness."

Wow!  Well, there you go.  No wonder I'm in such good mental shape!  ;)

Could you use a little stress reduction and mood improvement?

If you've ever thought about gardening but don't know where to begin, check back in tomorrow.  I've got just the solution for you.  :)

Thursday, October 3, 2013

DIY Frozen Yogurt (New and Improved)

Last year, I posted this recipe for strawberry frozen yogurt.  And, while this recipe does make a very yummy product, I've found a new one that is more resourceful, so I thought I'd pass it along.

The problem with the old recipe is that it calls for sweetened condensed milk.  This product can get pricey when you're throwing in 3 cans per batch of yogurt. I love the new basic recipe because it uses plain 'ole sugar as the sweetener.  The recipe calls for "caster sugar," which is basically sugar that has been processed so that it's consistency is somewhere between that of granulated sugar and powdered sugar.  This just-right sugar helps the yogurt to freeze into a nice consistency.  I didn't have any caster sugar, so I made my own.  You can do the same.  Just whirl your granulated sugar around in your food processor for a minute or two, allow the dust to settle before removing the lid, and, voila!, caster sugar!  I processed a bunch and keep it in a mason jar in the pantry so that it's always ready for a batch of yogurt.

Chocolate Frozen Yogurt
2 cups (or 16 oz.) yogurt

4-5 tbsp cocoa powder

1/2 cup caster sugar (or to taste)

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp salt

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

2 cups (or 16 oz) yogurt

1/2 cup caster sugar (or to taste)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice

1 cup fresh/frozen strawberries, pureed  (You can basically sub in any fruit here.  

We've done a batch of mixed berries that turned out great!)

What I love about this recipe is that you can just play with it.  Here is a mid-process batch of lime frozen yogurt.  (John loves those Edy's frozen lime bars, so I thought I'd try this for him.)  I basically used the fruit recipe above (minus the vanilla) and added frozen limeade concentrate in place of the fruit.  

You can double or triple the recipe to make a decent-sized batch.  Just combine all ingredients and process in your ice-cream maker like you would ice-cream.  Enjoy!

Thank you to "To Food with Love" for the original recipe.