Making Halloween

This year the boys are really into Halloween.

It all started about a month ago, thanks to the store displays, and they’ve been preparing ever since. Every rendering of a skeleton, witch, pumpkin, spider, bat, ghost etc must be put to use. All crafts, movies, books and play revolves around being spooky and scary and HALLOWEEN!

So we’re jumping in and enjoying Halloween to it’s full potential.

Learning about skeletons, bones, joints and muscles.

I move at all my joints.

 Brains too…Why carve just pumpkins?!

Very rough watermelon model of a brain.

It’s also a great time to learn about bats, owls, mice and spiders habitats and habits.

Of course we need a few around the house to give everyone a scare.

Creepy Crawly Critters

Bake some cookies and count them.

Witch fingers and pumpkins

The recipe we used is this one. Rolling out the fingers was not working well so we switched to pipette and pumpkin cut outs which worked well and bat ones which came out too puffy.

Of course we carved a pumpkin and have a few other Halloween surprises to share too but that will have to be another post.

What do you do for Halloween?


{this moment}

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

. . . . . . . .

(Spooky Photo by Noah)



Sour Dough Part 2 Action!

In Sourdough, Part 1- Rehydration I added water to the dehydrated sourdough starter, softened it; added some whole grain fresh ground flour to feed it and get it going. Twelve hours later there wasn’t much sign of life. Just a few bubbles but otherwise flat and lifeless. But no worries.

After 12 hours

I fed it. I don’t really measure. I just go by thickness not too watery but not so thick it’s doughy. Fresh ground flour also seems to absorb water differently than refined store flour so I take that into consideration too. Stir well and try to incorporate some air.

After feeding

Now let sit. Oh I don’t think I mentioned this last time but when I use a jar I cover the jar with a piece of cloth held down by the screw band. This way it breathes and no bugs get in. Otherwise be sure to burp the jar.

Like this

This time there’s some Action! Yay!

Action! Note the bubbles of the raise.
View from the top. Starter has doubled in height.

Stir the starter down and either get rid of half and feed it in jar or transfer the starter to another larger container than will contain the starter once doubled again. Otherwise it WILL overflow. You might also notice that if you use whole grain ground flour the starter looks a bit different now. Less grainy and pasty. More smooth, doughy and there is definitely that sourdough smell.

Starter ready for another feeding before first use.

Now it sits. Time to start thinking about what kind of sourdough goodie to make first.  A loaf? Some pancakes? A batch of crackers?

Time to get a batch of cultured butter started.


This post is part of Traditional Tuesdays and Real Food Wednesday , Simple lives Thursday and Fight Back Friday

Making Soap Without Lye

On Plastic Pumpkin Farm we have a herd of Oberhasli goats. Their breeding season starts at the end of August and runs through January. During this time our bucks get well…bucky. Which means, among other things, they smell quite pungent. This scent transfers easily and lingers through most hand washing soaps. My solution- make Buck Off Soap.

Someday I’d like to try making soap with lye.  In the meantime a store brought soap base with added essential oils is fast and easy and it actually gets rid of strong scents- I also use it after handling onions, garlic, etc.

Here’s what you need to make soap:

This is what I use. (Plus a bottom pot)

A bain marie. I highly recommend you dedicate a bain marie (aka double boiler) for non food purposes only. Once the base melts it gets into every crevice and you don’t want your food tasting like soap. Check out yard sales and thrift stores and save yourself some cash.

Soap base. I’ve used the goat milk base available from my local hardware/general store.

A knife or grater to cut base into small pieces to melt. You’ll also need a knife  to cut a large brick into smaller bars.

Essential oil of your choosing. I used Lavender but any will do, be sure it is an essential oil and not an extract or flavoring.

Soap molds. You can buy bar molds or make some out of a carton (i.e. milk, oj) or some plastic PVC pipe cut to length with plastic wrap secured with a rubber band on the end.  have these ready BEFORE you start melting the soap base.

Plastic prefab soap molds.

Optional additions: I added lavender buds to several bars. You can add anything you want-dried flowers, oatmeal, ground almonds, even a small toy for a child.

A freezer helps to loosen bars from the mold but you can also use  petroleum jelly. And don’t forget the stove!

Once you have the soap base grated and melting your almost done. It’s actually a very fast process.

If you are interested in soap made with lye check out this post  at  Homemade Alaska


Shared with Simple Lives Thursday

Squash! Saving Seeds

Acorn Squash

Winter squash is now In Season! I love winter squash, particularly those of the acorn or butternut variety. And pumpkin too, of course.

Squash are awesome because 1) they grow great (and slugs don’t eat them) 2) they have a long shelf life 3) they are versatile (roast, soups, mashed,pie,pancakes….) 4) they produce a ton of seeds.

Seeds from half an acorn squash.

And seeds are awesome because not only can you roast and eat them- you can save them to plant next year. Squash seeds are super easy to save too. Basically you just need to pull them out and lay them in a single layer to dry. Removing all chunks of squash to prevent mold. You can rinse them so they’re all nice and clean but I’ve found it doesn’t make a difference. Once dry I stick them in an envelope. For longer seed life stick the envelope in the freezer.

A great book about seed saving is Seed to Seed. Gorgeous photos too.

Seed to seed: seed saving and growing techniques for vegetable gardeners by Suzanne Ashworth

 What’s your favorite way to prepare squash?


This post is shared with Traditional Tuesdays , Real Food Wednesday , Simple Lives Thursday. and Fight Back Friday

Sourdough Starter- Rehydrating – Part 1

This summer got too hot to use the stove unless absolutely necessary. I didn’t even think about turning on the oven. And so my sourdough starter sat in the fridge till finally it was just so old I had to throw it out. Now that the cooler weather has returned I’m feeling thankful I dehydrated some starter back when it was plentiful.


Here it is broken up.  There’s about a cupful. You can start with less. I just used half of what I had dried.

I added warm water and let soften.


After several hours I stirred in some flour to thicken/feed it. There’s no need to wait hours, I was just busy doing other stuff.

Stir to thicken

Now I’ll let it sit till I see some activity or for about 12 hours (whichever comes first) and then I’ll feed it.

I use whole wheat flour that I grind but store flour will work just as well- although the amount of water added will change.

I will post Part Two and a post about which grain mill I have/how I grind my grains soon.


This post is linked to Traditional Tuesdays , Real Food Wednesday  

and Simple Lives Thursday and Fight Back Friday

what starts with m? math? or was that muffins?

Can numbers be any more fun than when baking? Or more rewarding?!

  I don’t think so either.  And it makes for a delicious breakfast.

The hardest part, really, was standing back and letting the kids do it.

Whee! Flour Everywhere!

Quality Control

Pour It

Stir It!

Bake It! This is where I come in.

Fresh Out of the Oven (Photo by Noah)

They came out great! Clean up with 3 people was a snap. They even wanted to wash the dishes but I had cabbage soaking. Next time.

From what I’ve overheard next time sounds like  pumpkin. But pumpkin what? Pie? Muffins? Cheesecake? Soup? Oh the possibilities.


Joining Owelet in:

On the Needles @ the Beach

I’m finally knitting struggling_along a hat- in OD Green (Olive Drab Green) of course. The pattern is from Ravelry. Ishmael (son#3) really likes those needles- knitpick’s wooden harmonys- they do have a nice feel. Alas, time to knit has been quite limited lately-too many gorgeous fall days to enjoy.

Noah (son #1) and Ezra (son #2) had a blast too…




Butter-and-Eggs, also known as Yellow Toadflax,  is a common “weed”; often found along the side of the road. The cheery flower, similar to that of  snapdragons, are a rich yellow accented with an orange spot.

     Yellow Toadflax also known as Butter-and-Eggs  (Photo by Phil Lucas  )

The boys and I have been taking nature walks collecting plants and leaves for closer study and identification. We often have a little fun exploring common names and speculating on how it came to be. The first time Noah (our first born) saw an Orange Hawkweed in bloom he said “look! a paintbrush!”.  Lo and behold a common name for the Orange Hawkweed is Orange Paintbrush!

      Orange Hawkweed or Orange Paintbrush (Photo from flicker)

The name butter-and-eggs struck me because while it should be obvious that the yellow is the butter and orange the yolk I bet a lot of kids would ask “why is it orange?”. These days butter is white and yolks are yellow.

One of Our Free Range Eggs. I wanted to show a side by side comparison but I don’t have any store ones to show you right now.

Free-ranged birds are not only healthier than factory farmed supermarket producers but also also produce healthier eggs. Testing done by Mother Earth News  has shown that eggs from pastured birds contain 1/3 the cholesterol, 1/4 saturated fat, almost 3xs the vitamin E, 2xs the omega-3s, 4-6xs the vitamin D and7xs the beta-carotene as the USDA’s standard data does. The higher level of carotenoids are what give the yolks their deep orange color.

Support your local farmer and buy free ranged eggs- it’s better for everyone. (Or try your hand and raise a few chickens yourself- you’ll be glad you did).

Linking to: Real Food Wednesday @ Kelly the Kitchen Cop and Simple Lives Thursday @ GNOWFGLINS and Fight Back Friday

It’s that time of year

The mercury is dropping so my thoughts are turning from babies everywhere (piglets, bunnies, kids….. not to mention our 3rd born son!) to idealistic images of  sitting and knitting with my boys by the fire (perhaps with a bowl of beef stew accompanied by a slice of fresh-out-of-the-oven bread slathered with butter and a glass of raw milk). I do hope to get around to several crafting projects this fall/winter including some knitting, quilting, rag rug making, and fixing an old treadle sewing machine. So if any of those interest you (check out the About page for other topics I may cover) be sure to stop on back here, have a look, and maybe you’d like to share what you are creating (photos encouraged).

Here’s our youngest and myself:

Snuggling up Ishmael- 3 months old