How to Make Dandelion Wine (and any other you can think of!)

“Honey, you want to harvest these dandelions before I mow?” my husband called out.  Why, I didn’t even know the dandelions were here yet, and there they were in lovely carpets of gold; their lion manes of spring feeding the bees and dotting the yard with color.  I love dandelions.

Using my thumbnail, I simply pop off the tops of the flowers.  Like a little bee myself, I flit from flower to flower.  I filled a quart jar and a half and still left some in the garden beds for the honey gatherers.  The next thing you want to do is to pour the golden flowers into a paper bag and leave it on the porch on its side.  This allows the stragglers to escape.  No one wants ant wine.

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Wine is, in its essence, fermented sweet tea or juice with yeast that feeds off the sugars turning it into a delightful and medicinal drink.

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Bring flowers, one peeled orange, and 16 cups (1 gallon) of water to boil.  Turn off heat and cover with lid and let sit for 15 minutes.

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Strain into a gallon container used for wine making.  Leave a few inches headspace. You will have some tea left over.  Add 4 cups of sugar (I prefer organic, unbleached, raw sugar) and 2 cups of brown sugar (molasses is what makes it brown).  Stir to dissolve.

Dandelions taste particularly good with orange and caramel notes.  I like to add orange extract and butterscotch extracts when making dandelion jelly.  In this case, we are using fresh orange and brown sugar to create those notes.

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Let cool to 90 degrees then add 1/4 teaspoon of white wine yeast.  Stir.  Replace lid and carboy.  Pour a smidge of vodka into carboy to specified lines.  Let sit in a cool corner and bubble away.  It will bubble (the yeast is eating the sugar) for 10 days to 3 weeks depending on what kind of wine you are making.

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When the bubbling stops then it is time to siphon the wine (all but the bottom 1/2 inch of sediment) into super clean bottles.  Place in root cellar for 6 months to a year or more.

You can use any fruit or herb to make wine.  If there is enough juice and sugars in the fruit (like in grapes) then you just add yeast to the juice.  Most things will be made into a strong tea like the above recipe as well as my chokecherry wine and rosehip/lavender mead.  Have fun and experiment.  Use 4-8 cups of sugar.  Use 1/4 or 1/5 of a teaspoon of wine yeast, red or white.

My chokecherry wine was pretty dang strong after a year, but after two years, lord it was smooth, and I highly wished that I hadn’t given away all of the bottles!

Farm Heroes and the New Chicken Yard, Greenhouse, and Shed.

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Emily, Shyanne, and Peep (and Maryjane in that little baby bump)

We started our farm when the girls were young teenagers.  They spent hours in the chicken coop with the new chicks, cooing to and naming them.  Tempers would flare and they would take their own time out among the soft chirping and fresh straw.  My youngest daughter and I (along with dad and Reed) have plans to go in on a farm together in the next few years.  We dream of two houses, one land, a barn, a large community plot of garden, animals, greenhouses, a view.  A Farm Air B&B, hot farm fresh breakfasts, coffee on the porch.  A small restaurant on site to serve high end dinners with a set menu with room for four couples a night.

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Emily and Ayla

But right now, everyone is busy.  The kids have their own lives.  So, it was incredible to see them all show up at the front door in the un-forecasted snow to help us create a functional farm back yard.  We certainly could not have done it by ourselves and our gratitude is overwhelming!

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We live on one third of an acre.  We have fourteen chickens and a very large dog.  Our eighteen month old Great Pyrenees doesn’t require a lot of room for running (he spends most of his days sleeping under the elm trees in the dirt or on the pink futon in the living room (which is covered in dirt).  I have a lot of room for the chickens but wanted to increase their yard to reach the piles of branches so they could play and have more space to roam.

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I also desired a greenhouse which I received last week as an early birthday present from my friend Tina.  This would require a fenced in separate yard to increase my garden space, and keep the puppy out.  This space will end up having a pond and waterfall with a tea ceremony setting.

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Doug purchased a shed to house all of our yard items and tools and try to make sense of our back porch which has become overwhelmed with debris, broken chairs, tables, tools, and market items.

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These things came in a million, zillion pieces.  A roll of field fencing to top it all off.  And two not-so-handy parents.  Enter the children riding in like heroes to our farm story.

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My beautiful granddaughter, Maryjane’s dad came.  Bret is amazing and he will always be one of my kids.  He helped Doug build the shed.

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Reed

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Emily’s long time boyfriend Reed (Ayla’s daddy) and I started on the greenhouse.  It got incredibly complicated and when Jacob (Shyanne’s long time boyfriend) showed up, he took my place.  They got it built and it is perfect!

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Doug and Shyanne and Bret then started on the fencing and quickly got two areas partitioned off.

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My granddog Lupo enjoying the new shed.
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The chickens enjoying their new yard.
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And my new greenhouse and garden.

Six cold hours later we took the kids out for sushi to celebrate Reed’s birthday and to thank them for helping us make the next phase of our farm dreams come true.  This little urban farm sure has lots of space and opportunity.  But it always feels more like home when the kids are here.

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Tunnel of Arbors (and how I made ours)

I would love to say that I am super handy or a DIY kind of farmgirl.  But, I am not.  I can think of all sorts of clever alternatives though that don’t require more than a screwdriver!

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I am in love with this arbor idea.  I have been for years.  I find it so enchanting!

So, I priced them out at the hardware store.  Yikes.  “You can just build one so easy,” my friends tell me, “You just need PVC pipe and…” They lost me.  I can go on Amazon though, y’all.  I ordered five arbors for $24.99 each.  I have had ones like this before and they last forever.

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Feeling mighty fine wielding my trusty screwdriver, pulling screws from my apron pockets, I got three of them up and made my husband do the others.

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One went by the gate because nothing is as wonderful as approaching a home and entering a gate and walking under an arbor with climbing roses atop it.  Secret garden indeed.

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Before (this is our third season)
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The new garden beds just waiting for climbing peas, yard long beans, and loads of pumpkins!

To read how to make my signature garden beds in about fifteen minutes and fifteen dollars, click here.  They are a combination of permaculture and straw bale gardening with a touch of broke farmgirl from buying too many seeds.

Spring is here and I would love to hear about your garden plans!

Giving Outdated Throw Pillows a Second Life

It occurs to me that sewing might be one of those lost arts.  My cousin and my youngest daughter have expressed a desire to learn.  My older daughter zips away on her machine making pillows for her house that is being built.  It is probably a little unusual for her age.  I can certainly sew, but I am limited in what I know how to do.  I don’t often use patterns and wish I knew more so that I could make elaborate clothing and such.  Anymore though, you can purchase a machine from a craft store and they will throw in sewing lessons.  If you do sew, it is time to take your machine out and freshen up the house for autumn.

Throw pillows always add a dash of personality and color to a space but they begin to look tattered or out of date fairly quickly sometimes.  Today we are taking old throw pillows (or new pillow fills) and giving them a new look.

These are very simple and can be done by hand if one does not have a machine.

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I used a new pillow because these are going into my new shop, but I will be doing this with my old pillows for my house as well.

Measure the pillow, then measure your fabric, adding 1 inch on all sides.

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Iron!  I am the type of dreaded housewife that does not iron.  Lord, if it needs to be ironed, it doesn’t get bought or it ends up in a pile of ironing for close to five years.  But, as my grandma taught me, you must iron in sewing.  Period.  Now, iron your fabric so it looks all pretty.

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Fold fabric in half inside out.  The folded edge is one edge you don’t have to sew!  Pin the sides, leave bottom open.  Sew each side, giving it about a half inch seam.  Take out pins and run your hand along side to make sure you got them all!  (Camouflaged little suckers.)

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Now flip right side out and use a chop stick or the like to gently push out corners.

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Place pillow inside and fold in bottom seam and pin tautly together.  Hand sew or machine sew.

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Easy as that!  Now, I took that pillow before we started and used a large needle and yarn to pierce all the way through the pillow and back out, tying securely to create a crease in the middle.  So when the pillow is done, you can see that little indentation.  I carefully wove a piece of yard through the fabric and top layer of the pillow and brought back through and tied a ribbon.

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But then I found a pretty button so fastened that on!  You could also hem the open bottom instead of sewing it closed and sew on adjacent ribbons to tie closed.  That way you can change your pillow covers and wash them.

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Throw pillows can generally be washed in the washer and floofed and dried in the dryer.  If a fabric is particularly fine, place it inside a bigger pillow case and wash and dry it that way.

Growing and Blending Seasonings

rosemaryI shall grow basil in plots

I shall grow oregano lots

The chives shall come up fine

along rows of heady thyme

I shall grow rosemary too

And red chile for New Mexican stew

I shall grow sumac if I can find

and lavender to breathe and unwind

Could I grow caraway too?

for rye bread to eat with a good brew?

The onions and garlic are growing now

I can make them dried somehow

I use all these herbs in dishes galore.

I will grow so many herbs you can’t see the earth floor.

Along with herbs for medicine and herbs for aroma and more

I will grow herbs to blend instead of spending money at the store!

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I admit it, I spend hundreds of dollars on culinary seasonings.  I have a large basket and two full cupboards of seasonings that we use all of the time.  Many are the very same herbs that I grow for medicine and to use fresh.  I spend hundreds on infused oils.  You know how it is at the end of summer, you are already pushing time to get all of the harvest in, preserved, garden beds cleaned, and trying to catch some of the glorious last warmth.  Blending herbs for the kitchen just seemed like one more thing I didn’t have time for when a nice store already did it for me.  Because I am an herbalist I also get bulk herbs that are going to be a lot cheaper than the specialty stores.  If I just use bulk herbs for what I cannot grow, and grow and blend the rest, I will save SO much money!  I can infuse my own oils.  Dry, dehydrate, and blend my own seasonings.  It will be worth the time!  Another DIY for this homesteader.  We are going to be busy this summer on Farmgirl School!

For the Love of Farmgirl School (your one stop resource for everything homesteading DIY)

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Even when I wasn’t actively writing this blog for the short time that we weren’t homesteading (I was pouting), I kept pulling up Farmgirl School on my computer.  I used it to find recipes.  How do I make eggnog again?  I need a good recipe for dinner.  How do I make…

IMG_0741I love my blog.  I always have.  I am so happy to be actively writing again here.  Want to make something new for dinner?  How about Margarita Chicken?  Want to crochet some fingerless gloves for someone for Christmas?  Do you want to make soap?  How about cheese?  Interested in getting farm animals?  Maybe you just want to can some broth.  Maybe you want to read some funny, heartwarming stories about a real family and their life.  You are in the right place.  This is your blog too.

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If you love this blog as much as I do, perhaps you will consider sharing it on social media.  Or email it to a friend.  Or share a post on your own blog.  We sure have done a lot and been through a lot in those five years!  And now settled into our forever home, a small homestead in the city with chickens, a root cellar, and the love and experience to enjoy every second of it, I would like to invite you to come around more often, too.  Let’s celebrate all the great things about homesteading and the joys of a simple life.

Creating Hills in the Garden (you be the teacher)

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In this installment of Farmgirl School, you are the teacher!  Please respond with your ideas and experiences.  We will all greatly appreciate the inspiration!

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So, in this crazy idea of mine where we have meandering paths around and through the gardens (on this very flat land), I would like to create some height.  I think it would be interesting to create a look of natural hills and curves.

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Now, how does a girl that may have spent her gardening budget on seeds create such a thing on the cheap?

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Doug’s idea is to outline the “hill” with rocks.  Fill center with the discarded branches around here.  Fill it with fill dirt (am I bringing that home in my Fiat?) and then organic soil.  Seems a good plan.  What else can we do?

What say you?

DIY and the Three R’s

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Homesteaders old and new must be so busy we had to find acronyms for everything!  DIY-Do It Yourself.  So, when our friend, Ingrid, said to look up videos on YouTube to see how to fix the fridge, we wondered why we didn’t think of that!  We are homesteaders after all!

Armed with a drill and some online videos, Doug set to work.  Back panel off, fought the shelving unit, removed the ice maker, tried to get the inside panel off.  I went and did yoga in the living room.  Too much for me.  Then I got the phone number for an appliance repair.  Here’s where the Reduce, Recycle, Reuse comes in!  We got ourselves a refurbished fridge.  It’s ugly as sin, shorter than me, and needs a paint job (can you paint refrigerators?), but it will do the trick.  They will take ours, fix it, and resell it.  We keep a small business busy, kept a fridge out of the landfill, saved money, and Thursday we will have cold food.  All in a day’s work!  We didn’t need new.  Just a little thinking through.

Farmgirl Decorating; Next Idea Board and Paint

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This is the second idea board- Beautiful Farm House.  Simple.  Comfy.  Clever.  Painting starts today with the living room.

Now first things first when you are redecorating your space.  Paint is simply the biggest alteration you can make.  It will speak loud and clear about the space it represents.  It is also inexpensive and fairly easy to do.  I do love paint with all my Farmgirl heart.

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I want to combine my two idea boards into the living space.  I want to honor the home’s ninety-two year old history.  This is a family home.  It should have places to put one’s feet up, places to read and dream while looking out one of the many windows.  It should be clean and orderly but not so much that it feels stagnant.  A comfortable home where Grammie and Pa can be found.  It should represent Doug and I and our loves (lots of plants, books, gifts from friends, and art created from our daughters, granddaughter, or myself.

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A nice chocolate color on the trim will help it mimic beams.  It will give it a cabin/country feel.  For the walls I have chosen a beautiful yellow to illuminate the light from the windows.  I took down all the curtains, and well, you’ll just have to check back tomorrow for the before and after!  See you then!  I have to start painting!