Pioneer Woman at Heart

One Flourishing, Frugal and Fun Family!

One family learning to live off the land, cut back on expenses, and to live a simpler and a more self-sufficient lifestyle.

Adopted Motto

"Eat it up,
Wear it out,
Make it do,
Or go without."
~A Pioneer Sampler, by Barbara Greenwood~

Monday, August 30, 2010

Weekend of Camping ~ No Electricity

We had so much fun last weekend.  I have been overly stressed and, out of the blue, told my husband that we were going camping - without kids.  Well the first part happened anyway.  We did get one night free of kids, and all to ourselves.

Every meal, breakfast, lunch and dinner, was cooked over the fire.  Even our morning coffee.  We also brought along some farm fresh eggs for scrambled eggs.  Yum!  The campground did not provide showers.  We had port-a-potty toilets and a ground water pump.  There were electric hook-ups for those who wished to have them, but we decided to camp without electricity.  

Days were spent in tank tops and shorts, and evenings were spent in pants and jackets.  It was perfect weather for getting a way to reconnect.  The last night was spent with our two youngest children. 

We hiked the lake, and I showed the girls how I could whistle in an acorn shell.  Just to share a tip, it works better with a fresh acorn top, versus an old one that's been on the ground.  They both work, but one works easier.

Thankfully, I had a tote in our garage, already prepared for camping.  We have not had a vacation of any sort, for over five years.  It felt wonderful to finally get away, and for all the reasons of restoring, relaxing, and rejuvenating.  No running around touring this or that, or messing with hotels and motels. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The garden is still thriving

Although many vegetables are done producing, we still have cabbage, brussels sprouts, tomatoes, green beans, beets, turnips, strawberries, and more squash.

Yesterday I boiled up a dozen farm eggs for after school snacking.  I also shredded the last zucchini and made them a pan of Zucchini-Banana Squares.  I then froze 2 quarts of tomatoes, and have a lot more to freeze.  For dinner I baked a spaghetti squash and used up more tomatoes with a recipe we love.

I spent most of the day yesterday chasing rooster and his women out of my garden.  This time they got into the squash, and kept trying to come back to get more (while I was in the garden).  I finally pulled some corn, shucked it and tossed it to them.  That seemed to keep them happy for a while, and out of my garden.

I noticed our school is having a "market" day where teachers and parents have donated extra garden bounty and are giving it away.  I am so surprised that people do not can and freeze their extras for the winter and spring.  It's easy to have extra squash, but I even shred or cube mine and freeze it.  I'm about to pickle some banana peppers today as well.  My husband came home with an eggplant from a co-worker.  I was, however, truly thankful for that.  Our eggplant did not do so well.  Our okra did, and it was the first year growing it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Encouraging Teens Find Work

It's been a long journey in finding work for our 18 year-old son.  He's filled out applications left and right, and even talked with managers about possible openings.  Finding a job is even more difficult now that the college students have returned.  Even so, most adults are seeking the jobs that most kids have gone after in the past.

To encourage my son, I suggested he take his knowledge and write articles on-line.  With his expertise in areas that usually end up on most "hot topics" lists, he has already started earning extra money.  It won't happen over night, as I have already warned him, but he is much more positive, and job searching is less overwhelming.  I'm just glad God blessed him with the writing ability to get him through this difficult time.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Early Morning ~ Sunrise

This camera does not do justice for this beautiful sunrise this morning. The colors are not photographed at all like they actually appeared.
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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A chicken enjoying watermelon ~ check out her beak

Too bad, I didn't get this focused well.  It would have made an awesome photo.

Project Updates

My 8 year-old's blanket now reaches the measurements of 6 ft 2 inches wide, and 40 1/2 inches long. She's begging me to stop and give it to her as is, but I had to explain that I need to finish it. She's so eager to have it. I have already spent more than 20 hours on this blanket. I have to say, this is my favorite so far, in the 3 blankets I have crocheted.

Here is an update on my embroidery sampler. I have added another stictch since this photo. You can see, it's a bit wrinkled from holding the material. I'm really enjoying making this, but will probably make another in five years to check my progress.
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More Freezing for Winter and Spring

Today, I shredded and froze 12 cups of zucchini, and left 2 cups on the side for 2 loaves of zucchini bread.  I also froze 1 qt. of tomatoes.  After that I took the green beans I picked and boiled them with potatoes and added crumbled bacon.  I also took our last Kohlrabi, and made a terrific Frittata.  I even added swiss chard to it.

Chickens running wild ~ Farmgirl photogrpahy

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Can you identify this flower?

I have yet to identify this flower.  I planted it about 11-12 years ago, and had purchased it from a mail order catalog.  I have since then, dug it up and moved it twice, and have now planted new starters in 3 other areas.  The hummingbird loves it, and it spreads quickly.

Farmgirl Flower Photography

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Morning Photography ~ After the sunrise

Monday, August 16, 2010

Even more Farmgirl Photography

The second photo was difficult, as were about 42 others I took.  I'm finding out difficult it is to take pictures when the wind is blowing and my camera is limited in features.  I tried photographing several other butterflies, including one that blended in with the colors of my dark orange and black marigolds.  Not one came out well enough to post.  With flowers all over our property, we can sit and watch butterflies almost all summer.  Today the hummingbird was back to visit two times.  One of these days, I'll be able to photograph it too.

More Farmgirl Photography

Embroidery Sampler ~ Making progress

Here is the beginning stage of my embroidery sampler. I used a fine cross-stitch material I had on had as scrap material. The spaces make practice stitching easier. It's been years since I did any embroidery. 

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Freezing and Canning ~ Garden Bounty Once Again

Today I froze 2 quarts of Swiss Chard, 2 quarts of tomatoes, 2 quarts of green beans, and I canned 4 quarts of homemade salsa.   And we haven't even gotten to the squash yet.  I'm sure I'll have yellow squash, zucchini, and acorn squash.  We also picked 4 spaghetti squash prior to today's rainfall.  We are surely loving the garden, and I can't wait to enjoy some salsa tonight!

Meet "Charlie" ~ The Second Rescued Dog

Here is a "before" photo of Charlie, the second dog for us to rescue.  When the humane society absolutely refused to help, we decided we had to do something.  The only option they gave us yesterday, was to keep him as our own (duh!) or take him to the dog warden.  Their reasons for not assisting in this dog's care, were contradictory and lame.  They pick up abandoned strays themselves, and this is an abandoned dog.

After we had a vet look at him, we discovered he has testicular cancer, and needs medical help.  We are praying we can get his weight up enough to withstand surgery in a week.  Then we will be able to test for heartworm and to check of the cancer spread to his lungs or not. 

Looking at Charlie today, you'd never know he was sick. Unless you looked at him from behind that is.  He is full of energy today and is very alert.  Last night when I was petting his head, then stopped, he pushed his head under my hand for more.  He's definitely been someone's dog, and a neglected one at that.  The owner may have not had the money to care for him, or the owner could have just not cared too.  Either way, Charlie is now being cared for by us, regardless of the situation.  He has no way to defend himself, nor care for himself.  He's relying on us now.

We are taking it one day at a time.  We are praying he does not have heart worm either.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Nurturing a Malnourished Dog ~ Another stray that came to us

In just a few short weeks after we took in a stray puppy, we now have this stray dog.  We found him late last night.  He had wandered onto the property early in the day, but then disappeared.  My son found him laying in the woods, unable to walk. 

The good news, is that he's up and walking, has been flea combed and treated, had his very long nails trimmed, and is about to go see the vet for overall check up.  He's a very loving dog, and is anxious to come inside.  A visit to the vet is needed first, as we already have 3 healthy dogs inside.

I am sure the dog warden was looking for him yesterday.  After we saw the dog wander around the barn, and disappear, the dog warden's van was driving up and down the highway, and up and down side streets about a mile or less away.  He even sat in our driveway for a time, looking directly at our house, but never knocking on the door.  I am certain, that if the dog warden had found this dog, he would have put him to sleep.

Thankfully, the dog came to us, and it was us who found him.  Now, it's just one day at a time, nourishing him back to health.

Photography ~ Learning the Skills

While studying photography with the merit badge program with MaryJanesFarm, I snapped this neat photo of the yellow and black butterflies in one of the flower beds.  The barn in the background made the photo even more beautiful.  The bad part of this, is now I want a better camera (ha ha ha!).  I guess I'll have to put it on the family wish list for now.  My oldest daughter has encouraged me to continue with photography.  When she sees something outside, she'll often say "what? no pictures of that?" and she'll point to something worth photographing (like the blossoming apple trees etc.).
Another photo to share with my Farmgirl Sisters.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Garden Tales ~ Tomatoes and Cantaloupe ~ And a Naughty Raccoon

It's that time of the year when the tomatoes are turning red all over the garden.  The downside this year, is that a raccoon keeps eating my beef tomatoes.  I've been able to get about 5 this week before he/she did.  I think it has to do with the corn fields this year.  Last year we were surrounded by corn crops.  This year that is only one across the street.  Many raccoons have died going back and forth, but one seems to keep eating away on just one type of tomato.

However, we are getting a lot of roma tomatoes. I've been using them to make our homemade salsa, and many dishes.  I have frozen some too.  Yesterday I decided it was time to make tomato sauce from scratch for the very first time every.  While one daughter was away on a camping trip, I enlisted the help of 3 more kiddos.  They all helped remove seeds from about 8 pounds of small roma tomatoes.  This was torture to them (he he!).

We made the sauce with fresh basil from the herb garden, onion, garlic, and even oregano.  We were quite impressed with the final outcome, however it did need more seasoning.  We like to get crazy with the spices.

After I finished the sauce (which took 2 hours to cook), I decided to slice up a garden green pepper, a zucchini and a yellow squash.  I added that to the sauce without cooking it prior, like I usually do.  I topped it with a lid and boiled up whole wheat spaghetti noodles.  We loved it!  It was bit watery, compared to store bought sauce, but that's why you bake up homemade bread sticks - to wipe the plate clean.

I have to say though, I will need a lot more tomato plants if I ever want to can tomato sauce.  It did take time to remove seeds, but at this point I have no intentions of buying a "sauce maker" as requested by my husband.  I'm sure it's electric and it would, at this point, just take up space.

We've also been enjoying the very juicy and organic grown cantaloupe, from our melon patch.  We've eaten about 5 nice sized one so far, with the largest about 7 inches in diameter.  Prior to the season, we added sand to the melon patch.  So far, it's helped us grow nice sized cantaloupe.

As for our watermelon, we have enjoyed about 3 of them so far.  It takes longer for them to ripen.  And even though I warned my husband that we should not pick one yet, he did.  It was, of course, not ripe enough.  It did have a wonderful flavor, and we ate most of it anyway.  The rest went into the fridge, and was chilled.  We then cut it into cubes and treated our chickens with an nice cold snack, to help keep them hydrated in this extreme heat.  They loved it!

As I sit here they type this, a stray dog has wandered into our driveway.  He looks very much like one of our dogs, with a sickly look to him/her.  The kids are outside right now, trying to entice him/her with a treat and fresh water.  Then we can see if he/she has a collar and tags.  It appears dehydrated, poor thing.  I hope it doesn't run off without getting a drink of water.  It was over 90°F yesterday, and the only water source nearby is creek water.  Not good for a dehydrated dog.  If they are successful at rescuing the dog, I'll be sure to post an update. My heart breaks when I see a stray, hungry, and dehydrated dog, especially when it's extremely hot out.

Today, I am making another batch of liquid homemade laundry detergent.  I've tried 2 types of soap - Zote and Fels-Naptha soap.  I prefer the Fels-Naptha, even though Zote offered a more pleasant smell.  It's melting away on the stove, so I can later add the borax and washing soda.  Making it has become a natural choice for us now.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Honey ~ The Bee's Business ~ More Garden Tales (if you can stand to hear them)

We were researching honey and my husband found a local harvester.  To give it a try, we bought a quart.  When he asked me if I wanted a gallon, I thought he was crazy!  A gallon?!  Who in their right mind would use a gallon of honey?  Well, I think we will be using more of it.

After reading all about the benefits of local harvested honey vs. store bought, I was shocked.  Today I made a Honey Apricot bread with 1 cup of it.  We have yet to slice it.  I sure smelled good, and the recipe came from a Bear Wallow recipe book.

We also dug up more home grown carrots and peas.  This is the first year to use heirloom seeds and we started with the peas.  I can't believe the color and the taste.  I will definitely add more to my garden, so we will have more and even more to freeze for the winter/spring.

While the bread was baking today, I made another 2 quarts of homemade salsa!  Yum!

While the girls helped chop tomatoes, I ventured out to the garden to pick more.  Only I found that Mr. Raccoon made a visit to the tomatoes last night.  He pushed a few stands over and munched on a few tomatoes.  That must have been what upset the barn cats last night.  There was such a racket of noise, cats snarling and hissing, we wondered what happened.  Here, the barn cats were guarding the garden.  They are so funny in that way.  Protectors of their land, that's for sure.  As for the raccoon, I'm wondering if it's him that's splattered on the highway today (blech!).

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Recommeded Reading ~ Living Smart and Simple


Tomato, A Fresh-from-the-Vine Cookbook, by Lawrence Davis-Hollander

Quick-Fix Healthy Mix, 225 Healthy and Affordable mix Recipes to Stock Your Kitchen, by Casey Kellar and Nicole Kellar-Munoz.

Gardening Books

The Organic Gardener's Handbook of Natural Pest and Disease Control, A Complete Guide to Maintaining a Healthy garden and Yard the Earth-Friendly Way, edited by Fern Marshall Bradley, Barbara W. Ellis, and Deborah L. Martin

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tales from the Garden

The calcium spray solution we used seems to be helping, as we were able to cut 3 zucchini the other day.  We may lose the 2 yellow crookneck plants, but the others are looking pretty good.  The yellow straight neck squash is starting to produce, so it will be a matter of days before I can tell if it will be okay as well.

So far, since the beginning of our season this year, the yellow squash has blessed us many times over.  It takes about 8 squash to make patties with, and we have made them over five times already.  I have not shredded any zucchini for the freezer this year however.  It seemed to take a slow start at first.  Last year it was growing like crazy, so this year we've been eating what has been harvested.

As for the tomatoes, I've been able to freeze 2 qt. bags so far, and have made several dishes for meals.  Nothing has been wasted.  A few tomatoes have been eaten by tomato worms, but I'm not in a panic like last year.  I found out we can pick off the tomato worms and feed them to the chickens.

We planted a lot more green peppers from seed this year that are starting to produce.  We planted one plant we bought from a local greenery and about 4 from a produce stand seller.  The rest are from seed.  All in all, the 4 are producing nice large peppers, but thin in texture.  The one plant produced only 2 peppers since the beginning of the season.  Our plants from seed are producing nice thick peppers, however smaller.  These smaller peppers however, have abundant flavor and have a much richer smell to them.  We also had good luck with our poblano peppers, banana peppers and cayenne.  We've been able to make about 5 qt.s of salsa this year.  This is the first year to make homemade salsa.

We added red and white onions this year as well.  We've used every one of them, however made garden notes to plant a lot more, to prevent having to buy from the store.  The heirloom peas are a first for the garden this year as well, and we know now to plan them early from seed outside.  Our cauliflower has yet to produce, but it's a first from seed for us as well.  The brussels sprouts are starting to produce on their stalks and the cabbage looks great too.

Our sweet corn is looking good, so we can't wait to try it as well.  However, next year we need to plow down an area to grow enough to freeze about 2 bushels.  We also may grow corn for the chickens, so we will not have to purchase corn from the store during winter.  We will know also, that it's grown chemical free, which is excellent for our chickens.

The greens were a nice addition to the garden, especially the swiss chard.  It has done well growing next to the pepper plants, and without bug damage.  We planted the collards next to the rhubarb and they are bug eaten, so we are researching that as well.  The asparagus will have to wait for another year, and the rhubarb two more years.

The cucumbers did great, and we were able to make over 6 qts. of pickles this year.  This is also a first for us.  Next year I need twice as many plants so that we can actually can pickles and relishes for the winter as well.

Our two rows of potatoes were a new addition this year as well.  I had plans to freeze some into hash-browns, but with our large family, we will need more rows planted next year.  The early lettuce blessed us many times over, and next year we plan to plant a second planting.  Same thing with green beans.  We plan to plant a second planting and add more varieties.

We planted spinach from plant, and from seed, and both died before we could enjoy them.  The weather seemed to be a problem with heavy spring rains followed by extreme hot temperatures.  We, with the help of our books guiding us with companion planting, planted radishes next to the spinach, and those did well.

Winter Kale is looking nice, so we plan to do that next year as well.  We missed adding broccoli, but have the brussels sprouts. 

With our first compost bin this year, and adding lime to the soil, we should have a better garden next year.  The idea is to grown enough food to freeze and can for the winter and spring.  We added 2 blueberry bushes and discovered a pear tree on the property.  It's too small for this year, but next year we should have enough to can pear butter.  Overall, I think we are doing much better than last year, and will do much better next year.  We need to plant more berries and citrus trees.

This year, I bought flower seeds (mixed), 3 for $1.00.  I planted them around the house just before a rain, in areas I would normally buy annuals for.  This saved us a lot of money as well.  I not only have a variety of flowers and colors, we have lots of colorful butterflies and lots of bees.  We have seen butterflies almost every day since the flowers started blooming.  I also dug up perennials, split them, and spread them around the gardens, also saving us money from purchasing more this year. I've only had 2 encounters with black water snakes, while out watering flowers.

As for the kids, they still think I am nuts, and think having a garden is way too much work.  I honestly don't think they will appreciate it until they are out on their own, and have the experience of handling money overall.
They hate all the dishes I use when I bake, cook, can, and freeze from the garden, but they gobble it all down and ask for more!  Having a garden, especially this size, is a lot of work.  Gardening keeps us healthy, physically and mentally, and keeps us self-sufficient.  Life should be more than going to work and spending all your money at the store (or on bills).  I have to say, for me at least, I am a much happier person.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Compost Bucket

Back in April/May we received a free compost bin from a family friend. We have been using a plastic ice cream/sherbet bucket for the compost items in the house.  It's working great, and the kids can easily carry it to the compost bin, dump it, and replace the lid.

Dream Journals

"Have you ever kept a dream journal Mom?" asked my 16 year old daughter.

That's funny she asked.  I used to keep one years ago.  I'd write my dreams down as soon as I had one, but over the years I stopped writing in it.  As to why, I really don't know.

The kids, especially the older two, have found that writing a novel is better than sitting around sulking that they can't find jobs.  My son in particular is secretly writing away, and I have a bad feeling I'm in that journal - yikes!  I've always warned them to be careful because they may end up in my novel.  Now, I am the one that has to be careful.  However, our lives would make a great novel. I very good one indeed.