Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Patchwork of Our Summer Days (photo-heavy)

I have been taking some internet free time here, though not exactly strict about it. I've popped in here and there, peeping at friends on Facebook, trying to keep up with a at least 1 photo daily on Instagram, etc. For the most part, it's been quick in and out and back to the necessary tasks of my day. The stress level is definitely improved with limited social access :-) And when I did stop in at Facebook, I pretty much found things as I'd left them...a whole lot of political arguments, Black Lives vs All Lives Matter debates, and some horribly flooding through Louisiana and parts of Texas.

As much as things seem to change, they really do just stay the same in terms of the "news" issues I suppose. There's an evil in this country that we seem a bit inept at shaking off right now. I just keep praying it doesn't continue to grow into what I fear is coming. We've left off from our roots and it's starting to really show.

August came and is on the way out and I finally decided it was time to sneak a peek at how the blog fared. Not too bad, though I suspect after the past couple of years of my woeful neglect, y'all don't have high expectations where this blog is concerned, LOL.

What's been up since that last June posting around the homestead you ask? I would love to give you some awesome exciting update, but on my honor, I swear my days are all white bread bland for the most part. I did however, just yesterday, have a super exciting, long awaited and prayed for, event. I can't share a great deal just yet, but I spoke to someone I have been looking for for a very, very long time. It was a huge answer to a great many prayers over the years, and a wonderful blessing. I look forward to growing that relationship further in the near future. I kid you not, this was a major deal. I'm not a sappy, emotional sort but I tell ya, I was crying tears of deep joy yesterday :-)
I'm a tease, I know. But I promise I will fill y'all in as soon as I am free to do so.

So, onward...This summer there has been a few exciting moments...
Our oldest son got married :-)

 
 The boys headed in to tame their wild locks and get some nice haircuts...sigh, my boys do clean up handsome don't they?
  
We helped decorate a beautiful barn that offered the perfect backdrop for the day
 
We helped get Big Brother put together properly, and not once did his brothers snap his suspenders (though I'm sure the temptation was strong, LOL)

 We took some photos. It was so nice having the whole crew together, even if they couldn't manage to get looking the same way at the same time for our photos :-)

 We couldn't have asked for a more blessed day. Family, new friends, and the next generation of love :-) It was definitely a beautiful day.

 In the School Room:
The herbal studies continue, though I am plodding along more than skipping along. I have discovered I apparently have a bit of test-taking phobia. I have been sitting in one unit for a couple of months now. I love the courses. I'm learning how all these various puzzle pieces connect together, discovering new herbal treatments I wasn't familiar with before, gaining a deeper understanding of some I've used for years...but I can't bring myself to take the test and move forward. 
Silly, I know. I mean it's pretty simple...I either know the material and will pass the test, or I don't know squat and will not get a good grade.

By the way, if you've ever thought about getting more education on medicinal herbs, or just want to learn how to care for your own family in a more healthy manner, now is the time! Herbal Academy of New England has a great back to school sale going on, with all courses, from their Introductory Herbal course, to their Clinical, Professional, and Family Herbalist programs discounted 15%.

The remaining 5 at home are back at the books more full-time now. We school year-round, but there are breaks along the way, and our course of study alters a bit as well. We go from textbook studies in most subjects, to a lot of outdoor study and simply reading. Right now, it's back to the textbook work to get our feet back on track. As the weather cools finally, I'm hopeful we can get back outdoors more. It's been a long, hot and sticky spring and summer. And wet. I see all these ponds so low, their dried up banks showing more and more, yet we have had rains almost daily for 2 months or better. Some light and misty, some strong and heavy. I am so ready for cold weather and maybe some winter conditions for a change.

In the Kitchen:
This past weekend we knocked out a couple long-awaited big projects in the new kitchen addition. I say "new" but seriously, that space has been in the making in one manner or another, for going on 5 years now. It went from a simple deck to a covered porch, got walls in place and turned into a huge storage space. Finally cleared that accumulation out and started using it as a sort of quiet dining room and school space. Last year, we decked it all out for the holidays and used it for gathering, eating, etc. But it still wasn't moving along in terms of the final work. This weekend Dewey and Matt built the counter top area and got the farmhouse sink set into place, and we finally moved the Kitchen Queen from the main living space into it's new kitchen home. It isn't piped in at all yet, and I need to get the right size sink drain, but I can see the finish line just ahead finally!! 


I'm excited. It's definitely not the dream kitchen everyone would want, but it is every bit of the vision I had for this space :-) The counter space is about as rustic as you can get...simple 2x6 boards. I scrubbed them with Apple Cider Vinegar, then after that dried, I've been applying coats of oil. Started with grapeseed oil, used a bit of coconut oil, and am currently treating it with olive oil. Guess my ADHD kicked in and I couldn't choose just one, LOL. The wood has soaked in the oil nicely, taking longer and longer to absorb it all. The last coat I applied last night is still showing it's shine and moisture, so I am probably about finished. When the antique table gets brought in to be my work surface and island between the sink and the cookstove, I'll prep the large cutting board top in the same manner. There will be a primitive cutting board cover for the electric range as well, to help camouflage it when we aren't using it.

There's still quite a bit of work to do in here to get it finished, but it's just about usable now, and I can live with that. Next weekend, if the weather cooperates, maybe we can get the stovepipe in and get the Queen hooked up for use. And that sink drain, lol. We haven't put the hearth in for the cookstove yet, or even laid the flooring down, but I am so ready to start really using that space!

It hasn't been all construction and such in the kitchen. Life still has to happen around here, despite the stacked 2x4s and power tools. We've been doing our usual stuff like menu planning, bread baking, etc but a couple weeks back we brought home 80# of bananas and set to prepping them for the dehydrator and the freezer. We had to make several loaves of banana bread to enjoy, though after slicing bananas all day, no one was that interested in eating banana anything for a few days, LOL.

 
  
 

We cleared the frozen veggies from the freezers and dehydrated them to store in the pantry, and got some needed bulk mixes made up as well.
If you don't have a big garden or access to good farm markets to buy your fresh vegetables, frozen is a better option than most canned vegetables. If you're like me and stock up on them as sales come along, you may find you have a freezer full. As we start planning the bulk meat purchase and more cases of Zaycon Foods wonderful chicken breasts, I found I needed space freed up in those freezers. Dehydrating the frozen fruits and vegetables stored there was easy :-)
I normally keep a lot of cans of cream of this or that soup on hand to use here. It's easy to ditch those cans and mix up from scratch really, but I wanted to give a bulk mix recipe I had here a try. Although I added the chicken bouillon into the mix, it can be left out to add on an as-needed basis, making the recipe even more versatile by subbing beef bouillon, or even a vegetable bouillon. We tend to use chicken or mushroom soup here most often, so I added it in the main mix. If you want more DIY Pantry Mixes and dehydrating ideas, I definitely suggest visiting 21st Century Simple Living. You will be taking a lot of notes :-) Next on my list of DIY, the Tomato Powder. I currently buy that in the ethnic foods section of my Walmart, but making it myself would be so much more healthy. It reconstitutes into everything...tomato juice, tomato paste, tomato sauce. Of course having ready-to-go tomatoes in the pantry is great thing, but tomato powder would be a huge bonus as well. I can easily add a few spoonfuls to 'beef' up the flavors of soups, stews, casseroles, etc.

a photo of my dear friend Glenda's current canning stash :-)

I love seeing the jars fill in the spaces. Used to be our pantry held almost nothing but jars of home-canned foods and very few store-bought items. I've gotten too far away from that in the past few years and it's time to get back on track. I'm thinking we may need to leave the warming oven off the Queen this winter so I can get some canning done. My All American pressure canner is huge and doesn't fit on the cook surface with the warming oven in place. Not that I want a smaller one...canning meats is a long process per batch, and being able to load 19 quart jars into this canner is a huge bonuse, LOL.

In the Craft Basket:
I have no current projects really. I've been wandering around patterns looking for some inspiration, but all I've been working on are dishcloths and pot holders. I have a million patterns set aside for working on, but I just haven't found that perfect yarn for any of them yet.
You knitters and crocheters know what I'm talking about. The struggle is real.
I need to get working on something else soon. I mean really, I may be a mess in the kitchen while I'm working, but even I only need so many dishcloths and potholders, lol.



Around the Homestead:
  
 
We've finally had some dryer days where collecting our water at the spring-fed lake wasn't put off. I love going out there, though I'd much prefer a good water source here on the homestead (yes, we have tap water, but it's not something we will use for drinking or cooking. The chlorine levels are pretty high still.) Still, I love visiting the private spring-fed lake when they open weekly for the public to gather water. Even with the 100+ temps we've been having since mid-June, it's a peaceful, enjoyable time.

A couple weeks ago we took a quick (ha ha), fairly unplanned road trip one Saturday...to Baxter Springs, Kansas to pick up Matt's girlfriend so she could come visit before school resumed. The 8 hour one way drive made for a long, long day. You would think, 8 hours there, maybe an hour lay-over, then 8 hours back equals 17 hours. It might for normal folks, but for me...it was more along the lines of 22 hours. I like to meander a bit :-)
Meandering aside, the scenery we were treated to was amazing and well worth the zombie-like state we were in the following day. The area around the Ouachita National Forest and the Ozark National Forest is absolutely beautiful. I could definitely live there in that mountain terrain, lost in the acres of woodland :-) 
On the return trip the following Saturday, we managed a great 3 hour visit with a dear online friend :-) She drove down an hour or so with her husband and children to meet up with us for lunch. We had a great visit after years of text, Facebook, and phone chatting.

 
We've also done some country road trips locally, of course they were mainly to check out the elderberry progress along the mountain roads and fields. Wild foraging has been a lot of fun this year. As I learn more and more in my courses about botany in general, recognizing wild plants, and the many remedies they provide, I am amazed at everything that is around me I have over-looked all these years.

 
 
We found enough wild violets/leaves for a huge batch of infused oil for salve making, honeysuckle, Mimosa blossoms to make 3 jars of tincture, elder flowers gathered and dried for use, and a jar full of dried elderberries. I placed an order for some other necessary herbs I wanted to have on hand as well.

 
Everything you need for keeping your family healthy, tending seasonal and chronic ailments, treating wounds...it's all right there in nature, just waiting to be rediscovered and put back into use. We've lost so much of the knowledge our ancestors had and have turned to OTC 'faux medicines' that offer little more than a bandaid to the problem, and often create new problems to compound our already weakened systems.

Learning all I can to help my family break that cycle is a top priority for me. It's a slow process, having to relearn these long lost 'arts' and break my mind from thinking Tylenol (or any other medicine) first, but it's the legacy I want to leave for my children and grandchildren :-)

I don't think there's much else to share about the last month or so. Like I've said, we are a pretty boring bunch here. Most excitement we tend to have is fighting the tall, wet grass to mow and weed eat. I do have a project I am working on, but it's nowhere near the ready to share stages yet. Not to tease, just not sure which direction it will take or if it will even come to fruition, so I'll keep it tucked away for now. Wouldn't mind some prayers sent up on its behalf, just in case it does continue on and develop :-)

For the most part though, It's just same ol, same ol around here from day to day. We just change up the tasks a bit to fit the season. Right now, I'm in pantry-mode so we are ready for whatever autumn and winter bring to us here in the Deep South.







7 comments:

Diana Coley said...

Deanna, I loved all of the pictures and the updates today. I have sorely missed your posts on FB. I do not blame you for the vacation from it. Tell Dewey you want the dual or triple LP burner used for camping and a side table so you can use your AA canners outdoors under a screen room tent. That way you can keep your warming oven on the stove. I love the kitchen so much. I see many great times there. It needs a hoosier cabinet with sifter (hint hint). Love you sister. Diana C.

Leticia Justus said...

Hello !
I would love to hear a more detailed story about your frozen to dried vegetables :) Did you thaw them first or blanch them before setting them in the dehydrator ? thanks so much !

Anonymous said...

I am grateful for your Blog. I appreciate the encouragement to prepare for the months ahead. Praying God's Blessing on your Day!
Linda from Frederick, Maryland

Mrs Dewey Smith said...

Hi Leticia,thanks for stopping by!
No, I didn't thaw them or blanch. Just grabbed the bags, spread the frozen veggies on the dehydrator trays (although I did slightly thaw the broccoli so I could cut down some of the larger bits for more uniform sizing), and turned them on. My dehydrator's veggie setting is about 125. I did them until crisp then sealed them into a glass canning jar.
There's a great website with a wealth of information on dehydrating just about everything as well as sharing several recipes for make-it-yourself items like a powdered cream of... soup mix that I love to use!
http://www.21stcenturysimpleliving.com/ Check it out! You'll find plenty of goodies to keep your pantry stash growing :-)

I hope you stop by again and visit!
Deanna

Mrs Dewey Smith said...

Thank you for such kind words Linda. I am so glad you stopped by and found some things of use here. I'm afraid I don't keep up as well as I should, but my archives go way back and I was much better at sharing and keeping updated back then. I look forward to "seeing" you stop by and visit again!
Deanna

Mrs Dewey Smith said...

Hi Diana, I actually have a couple of outdoor burners, but with the intense summers we tend to have down here, I don't get the use from them that I'd like. I don't mind pulling off the warming oven for the canning times...as long as I plan ahead and do a week or two of work at once. When I order the meat and Zaycon chicken I'll be busy with canning for quite a while. It will certainly be nice fitting in 14 or more jars to a canner-load when meats take 90 minutes plus coming up to temp and cooling down time!
Deanna

Greg and Donna said...

You have been BUSY! I love keeping up with you on FB, Instagram and the blog! Hope fall comes early for you in Mississippi! donna

Jer.6:16

Jeremiah 6:16
Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.

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