Winter Canning

It might seem like a good time to put up the pressure and water canners but indeed this is actually a wonderful time to catch up on winter canning.  We’ll be picking up meat from our friends after harvest in a few weeks and the freezer needs to get cleaned out.  I save the green parts of leeks, the outer layers of onion, carrot ends, kale ends, heading to the edge veggies and store them in large freezer bags.  When it is time to make broth I stick them all in a large pot.  In this batch I did all the mushrooms I had in the freezer waiting for fried mushrooms that never came about.  Onion, and garlic cloves joined the bunch of veggies and large sprigs of rosemary were added.  3 hours on low and the simmering broth smelled delightful.  Rosemary and mushroom broth will make a delicious broth in rich dishes.  The next batch I will be doing will be made with a chicken carcass and all the corn cobs saved in the freezer from summer.

Jpeg

The broth is strained  and poured into hot quart jars.  The rims wiped down, hot lids replaced, and the jars put into a pressure canner with three inches of water on the bottom.  10 pounds of pressure for 25 minutes for normal folks; we high altitude homesteaders just keep all the weights on at all times.  The 25 minutes starts when the top starts ticking.  Turn off the heat when the timer goes off. Do not open for a few more hours at least.  It is always nice to have broth at the ready and to know what is in it.

Jpeg

I also took the opportunity to re-can the peach jelly..ahem, syrup.  If you have been reading my blog for a long time you know that I never get it right the first time!  I have had amazing high altitude homesteading jelly makers give me every tip in the book.  I suppose my problem is not following directions, ever.  It generally works the second time…one more box of pectin, 1/4 cup of lemon juice, 1 more cup of sugar, let it boil for longer than it says…we’ll see if I am giving peach jelly or peach syrup this season!  It takes a few weeks to know if I succeeded.

It is always nice to bake bread while canning since you are stuck near the stove anyways.  The warmth of the kitchen heals chaos and settles the spirit.  The root cellar in the house we are buying has large shelving that I look forward to filling.

Jpeg

 

Make Your Own Cough Syrup and Chest Rub

Folks are hustling and bustling through our shop doors each day, the sniffles, the Strep, the cough, the infection, the crud.  My medicines are absolutely the best on the market, and I stand by that.  You can always order online at WhiteWolfHerbs.com so that you have plenty of stock in your medicine cupboard and be at the ready.  But today I want to teach you how to make a delicious and effective cough syrup and chest rub.

elderberry

Elderberry Mint Cough Syrup

1 Tablespoon of dried Elderberries

1 Tablespoon of dried Echinacea (leaves are best, roots are okay)

1 Tablespoon of dried Peppermint

(Herbs can be purchased online or in the bulk section of a health food store.)

1 cup of honey

Place ingredients in a small saucepan and very gradually infuse over medium low heat.  Swirl the pan often to keep from burning.  After 20 minutes or so the honey should be quite liquefied, the purple color infused, and the smell of mint should meet you.  Let cool for a minute and then pour in 1/4-1/2 cup of brandy, bourbon, or the like.  If you prefer not to use alcohol, use apple cider vinegar.  Stir, heating slightly to liquefy if needed, then strain into a pint canning jar.  Dosage is 1 teaspoon for children, 2 for adults.  Stays good indefinitely.

mint

Chest Rub

Vapor Rub is petroleum based and really not safe for children.  This is a quick remedy that you can use anytime to help breathing.  In 2 Tablespoons of sunflower or olive oil add 3 drops each pine, eucalyptus, and peppermint essential oils.  Rub onto chest, bottom of feet, and along cheek bones.

Wishing you a season without the crud!  But at least you will be ready if it comes knocking on your door!

 

Bringing Christmas Cards to Life

card

Every year we have sent Christmas cards.  When the children were little they drew adorable pictures on the cards.  As they grew older, our farm was growing and we cheekily signed each and every farm animal’s name.  The chickens, cats, goats, dogs, ducks, sheep, alpacas, the whole troupe were displayed on the card along with the kids’ names.  Last year we found ourselves without children at home or farm animals and from our friend’s basement we penned just a few cards and sent them out.  This year we are sending quite a few!

Are Christmas cards important anymore?  We have instant correspondence with friends and family any where in the world.  Social media, texts, or good old fashioned phone calls are all ways to stay in touch.  But Christmas cards are different.  A bit of yourself in the design of the card.  A sweet note inside.  A sign that one took time out of busy schedules to sit and pen a note of love for the season.  That feeling of finding an envelope with card stock in the mailbox, the heavy feel, the glossy stamp, the sound of the envelope opening.  A note of cheer inside.  Yes, Christmas cards are still important.

Now, take care that you don’t just purchase a box of cheap cards and hastily scribble names.  A simple little note, photo, or heart brings that same card to life.  Sad or bragging Christmas letters are out, notes of cheer and personal touches are in.  Just as they were all those years ago when the Christmas card began.  A way to let the homefolks know all was well.

Every year our card list changes.  Turning pages of the address book show a life of friends and family that venture in and out of our days, those that have passed, those we wonder what happened to, new friends that have entered.

christmas-card-2016

This is what I have learned over the years, send cards to who you want.  Include a photo.  Write a personal note.  Sign your pets’ names if you wish.  Affix a sticker to the front of the envelope.  Use pretty stamps and your best penmanship.  Send a little love and cheer.  It is just one way to make the world a slightly sweeter place.

I’d love to exchange a card with you or even an old fashioned letter.  Mrs. Katie Sanders, P.O. Box 2012, Elizabeth, CO 80107.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Four Years Being a Farmgirl…and our new home

November 25, 2012- I had just learned what a blog was and was excited to try it.  Pages that would normally fill journals filled spaces on this web sized book.  To write stories that teach and inspire and make folks laugh while learning to farm and homestead was my idea.  A compilation of tales that I wish I could have found at the beginning of my journey.  I could have never imagined the amazing pieces of life we would be recording.

Indeed over the past year and a half you have put up with me pouting when we lost all that, started two more blogs, always return to this one.  I use my own blog so often to find recipes that I might be one of my best followers!  Over 110,000 times Farmgirl School has been read over the last four years.  I am honored.

When I found out that we were actually buying a house, my inspiration came flooding back.  Months of blog posts already half written in my mind.  Home.

Jpeg

Our new abode come December 30th.

November 25, 2016- I can now use the skills I have learned about chickens and ducks, gardening, and decorating, cooking, and preserving, cooking on a wood stove, and intertwine them with new memories with my beautiful family, and all the things I want to learn, like Hugelkulter beds, and canning cranberry sauce to create many more years of Farmgirl School.  And all the things along the way that I will learn and share and our world-wide community continues.  We all share so may beautiful desires and wishes.  To return to homesteading life was certainly ours.  So here we go…

Recipes Made Better

Jpeg

A swirl of truffle oil or walnut oil on green beans is really quite nice.  Some toasted slivered almonds or walnuts dressed with truffle salt is delicious.  And a bit of blue cheese and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar  elevates the green bean casserole from cream of something to fresh amazing.

Recipes are developed to appeal to the average palate but if you want to take your dishes from average to extraordinary, it really only takes a few changes to make your guests take pause as they eat.

Jpeg

Pumpkin bread calls for cinnamon, but what about adding other spices from pumpkin pie spice?  Instead of vegetable oil sub out vanilla olive oil…or orange olive oil.  Add a handful of chopped candied ginger or chocolate chips.  It doesn’t change the basic recipe at all.  Vanilla salt replaces ordinary salt.  This makes pretty amazing pumpkin bread.

Jpeg

Combine sesame oil with orange oil to dress salad.  Use smoked salt on mashed potatoes.  Add a little New Mexican red chili to sweet potatoes.  The sweet marshmallows and the smoky chili is bliss.  Cream chives into the butter.  Or cinnamon.  Have fun!  Cooking is an exploration of the human palate, a sensual dance of sweet, sour, spice, umami, and savory, far from average.  And eating with loved ones is food for the soul.

Here’s to family, friends, gratitude, and dreams come true.  Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

 

 

 

Sunflower Heads and Autumn Drifting

Jpeg

Last summer in the community gardens I planted a row of glorious sunflowers along the edges of my plots.  They grew tremendously high, ten feet many of them, faces to the sun, and yellow petals being tickled by ginormous bumble bees.

As the summer faded their heads grew heavy with seed and drooped low.  Some dropped their seeds for the birds and wildlife, and to regrow, some I retrieved.  When the heads are filled with seed and are visible, the yellow center petals being pushed out with the seeds, simply take a pocket knife and cut the heads off (ask first!) and place in a paper bag to dry on the porch.  They are very sticky for some time as they dry.  In a month or better you will find that you can wiggle the dried head to pop the seeds out  Store in a canning jar or bag.

Sunflower seeds were a staple in many Indian tribes.  The seeds were shelled, pounded to make meal, to release the oils, and were added to many pots of squash, corn, and/or beans.  They would never dream of putting several heads out on the table for the birds like I did.  I like watching the small finches hopping around the mounds of sunflowers pulling out seeds and singing.  If I am out there reading I will pop a few out to munch on as well.  There was plenty to go around this year.

Jpeg

As autumn fades, her beauty and splendor lasted well into the season (our first light snow was just last week).  The leaves have long left their limbs, and the autumn sky turns to rain and snow clouds.  I bid lovely autumn adieu and welcome the calming time of winter.  For next spring, I will have my hands in the soil.  They accepted our offer on the house.

The Grandma House

 

Jpeg

My grandparents lived in their house for forty years.  They have lived in their current one for twenty.  My in-laws lived in theirs for thirty.  I wonder what it would be like to settle into a place that is home.  Where every corner holds memories, each piece of furniture remembers laughter and family gatherings, where each knickknack had a reason, has a story.  Where the gardens grow in beautiful tandem each year, naturally knowing their place, the roses reaching up over the heads of grandchildren.  Where neighbors wave and remember the day (“Where did the time go?” we’ll laugh) when we….  Neighbors and children and life in a home without worrying about moving when the rent goes up.  My goodness, this is exciting.  We have owned homes before but none will ever be so received with as much gratitude as this one.

Jpeg

We walked through the house (which looks remarkably from the outside like our Kiowa house) and felt the presence of family.  The house was tended to with such love for the past sixty plus years.  A grandmother certainly lived here.  The house sings of the perfect grandparents’ house.  Lines inside the hall closet note growth of children.  The kitchen waits for sizzling pans and glasses of wine with friends.  Or coffee at the kitchen table.  The wood stove boasts proudly in the living room.  Each room with original wood floors.  The roots cellar stands ready with rows and rows of shelving for canned goods.  A busy woman lived here.  The front yard has great grandma and grandma’s roses.  The ones that towered over me as a child and created large orbs of romantic flowers. They are by the front porch.  A chicken coop and large run waits for spring babies.  A big front yard, a big back yard waiting for little feet to run across it.  Maryjane tries out the tree.  The plot is on a corner and is an impressive quarter acre right in the quiet neighborhood.  One block from a lake and playground.

A million things could go wrong the fearful part of me proclaims (she is new since last year) but Doug and I look at each other and we know.  This is our house.  We put an offer on it last night.  Is this the house?

The Return of Farmgirl School

That’s right, Folks.  From small town urban farm to prairie homestead to friend’s houses to apartment living while farm dreaming to….our own homestead.  One that we own.  As we approach the four year anniversary of Farmgirl School, how fitting to start it off with a bang.  A new farm.  An urban farm.  Watch as we search, find, purchase, decorate, and turn an ordinary place into a beautiful and inspiring homestead.  Farmgirl School is back.

cornucopia-farmer-meme-705x705