Last Round

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Syrup season is over; truthfully, it never really got going. Just not the right kind of winter for it. Nevertheless, we didn’t do too bad considering the small-scale snowshoe out and haul it back by hand method we’re using here. It’ll be at least a few months before we’ll have to consider buying some store brought syrup to grace the kid’s pancakes.

These photos are from the last two rounds of hauling back sap. The snow has finally melted, well, except for those stubborn patches by the tree line. The soil is warming up; we planted a few cool weather crops: lettuce, sugar snap peas, kale, arugula, broccoli, a few turnips. Not too much, just a little of each to get some fresh veggies started. 

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Crafting with Kids

Kids love to make stuff.

Provide some materials, heck let them find their own materials, and all sorts of creations will appear. The creative process is a personal one so I try to leave what they create and how up to them. We have basic craft supplies on hand with occasional special material (for as long as they last). Simple materials have the potential to become anything. Take paper for an example:  sketch or paint on it;  fold a sheet of paper into a plane, a sun catcher, origami figures; cut them into snowflakes, paper doll chains; coat strips into paper mache. Sculp with clay, scented play dough or why not fondant for a change of pace?!  Whittle away at a piece of wood or nail them together. There are tons of materials I didn’t even mention too!

Kids crafts are simple so that they are within their abilities while providing a chance at mastery, an opportunity to be in control and have fun. No wonder art is often used in therapy! Join them creating something yourself. Model the attention to detail and dedication to your own project. A mess is practically unavoidable, but it’s a good sign folks are doing things! Honor their efforts even if the results aren’t quite a “masterpiece” (or even recognizable). Ask questions about what they made and why they choose to do what they did. Finally, put their (and your) work on display for others to see and be inspired by.

Here are some recent creations:

Winter Holidays = Cookies

It’s that time of year! Winter is well and truly here; winter solstice and Christmas are just around the corner. Our outdoor projects have been traded for some much-needed indoor renovations. So we’re shifting things here and there, patching walls and ceilings and generally making a huge mess. That’s right, a week ’till Christmas and we’re tearing the house apart. Not to worry though, this is just a classic example of “it gets worse before it gets better”, and we are beyond ready to be rid of these old pepto bismol pink walls!

But, as we all know, the holidays are not about whether or not your walls are pink, or if your house is spotless in time for guests, the holidays are about being together with those we love. So while we are chipping away at the piles of stuff (in hopes of fitting a tree in here somewhere) we’re also making time to bake cookies (and eat them with friends), play in the snow, craft ornaments, read, and just spend time together.

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DSCN8453The tree is by Ezra and the I is by Ishmael, of course!

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DSCN8410On the topic of cookies, if you’re looking for a gluten/grain/nut/ egg/dairy free (AIP Compliant, Autoimmune Protocol) cookies you have to try these Jam-filled Thumbprint Cookies from Delicious Obsessions. I tried a couple other AIP cookie recipes with such dismal results I almost gave up on the idea of cookies. These are a mixture of coconut butter, shredded coconut and coconut flour which give the cookies a great crumbly cookie texture. You can make your own coconut butter by running shredded coconut through the food processor until it resembles a nut butter. It will be runny and a tad grainy immediately after processing but it will set up, like store brought coconut butter, with a little time. These cookies work best with warm stir-able coconut butter so freshly made coconut butter is perfect.

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DSCN8445For everyone else, we made these to use with the cookie cutters. Everyone says they’re good and it’s a great recipe for kids because the dough is easy to handle and doesn’t fall apart easily. We also made these thumbprint cookies this year. They have no nuts so my kids prefer them to the traditional nut rolled thumbprint cookies. I find we make a handful of the same kinds of cookies every year plus one or two new kinds for fun. Cookies are essential for the holidays – and we’re fresh out!

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The First Steps

 I try to use as much as I can from what we are able to produce for ourselves. We produce eggs, some of our meat, goats milk (for a few more days before they are off to a new home) and veggies. The garden just might be the largest source of our food, well, eggs are abundant and full of protein. Either way, the garden is certainly the cheapest, most varied and most convenient way to feed ourselves. I can be assured that our veggies are organically grown, and are clean and fresh.

DSCN6925When you grow your own food you’re part of the cycle. You plant the seeds, care for the plants, harvest the veggies. You know the struggles of pests, droughts or too much rain, and the joy of rain when you need it. You know the importance of beneficial insects (or reptiles, e.g. snakes and toads) who eat those pests and/or pollinate your plants. Food doesn’t just magically appear on the shelves nicely packaged. Real food involves dirt, animals, including insects, blood and guts, sweat and even some tears of frustration and loss. This is the reality of life.  DSCN6922

Perhaps even more importantly, is the link between our food and our freedom. We all need to eat but if we can’t produce anything to eat ourselves we are utterly dependent on those who do produce food and subject to their whims. To quote Gene Logsdon: “[We must] realize the danger of depending absolutely on politically motivated governmental processes for food, clothing and shelter. In the world we must live in from now on to produce our own food is the beginning of independence and to accept that responsibility is the first step toward real freedom.”

So we try. We’re nowhere near producing all of our own food but, we’re taking our first steps- and getting a little steadier on our feet. Our kids are learning that ultimately food sprouts from the earth, that sunshine and rain are equally important and that not all insects are “bad”. By growing our own food we avoid pesticides, GMOs, high fructose corn syrup and overly processed (and packaged) products. Here are a few ideas to get the most out of your garden.

  • Start small – don’t get overwhelmed.
  • Grow what you eat. You’ll know what to make with it and you won’t have to buy it.
  • Leafy greens grow quickly and are packed with vitamins. Plants like lettuce, spinach, and kale can be picked and will grow back repeatedly.
  • Plant more than once. Get two harvests, or more… arugula and radishes grow fast (about 30 days to harvest). This leaves lots  of room for trying again if you lose a planting to misfortune.
  • Thin your seedlings for larger and healthier plants. Some seedlings can be replanted further apart or eat those thinnings. Try beet seedlings in salad or, if the thinnings are older, use the greens as you would spinach or swiss chard. Onion thinnings are similar to chives or green onion tops, try them in a potato salad.
  • Examine what you’re tossing. I’ve always thought radish and carrot tops were suppose to be tossed. Not so! Radish tops can be roasted. Try this carrot top pesto next time you roast carrots.
  • Feed your scraps to your livestock. No livestock? How about a worm bin, or compost it.
  • Remember it all starts with the soil. Healthy soil = healthy plants.
  • Try, try again. Goats eat your plants? Chickens eat your seeds? Garden in too wet or too sunny of an area? And, that’s just in the last two years. A new (fenced!) garden area is paying off. There’s always more to learn- from failures and from successes.

 

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sharing with Fight Back Friday and Fat Tuesday and Farmgirl Friday

 

 

Kid Tested And Approved

DSCN6201A few inches here, a few inches there…. and one kids belt is finished, tested, and approved! Noah noticed that the buckle has a built-in emergency whistle (also enthusiastically tested!). This kids version of the Slatt’s Rescue Weave belt contains a guesstimated 35 feet of camouflage cordage.

Two more belts to go. They’re in high demand around here! If you’d like to learn the Slatts Rescue Weave and/or how to start or finish a belt I recommend the Paracord Weavers youtube videos. Also TIAT (Tying It All Together) is another great resource. I have more ideas for projects than time to possibility make them all!

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Pretzel Bites

To quote struggling_along: “These are awesome!”.

DSCN4190These being ham and cheese filled pretzel bites. I found the recipe here at Pip & Ebby. What a great soft pretzel!  Adding ham and cheese takes it over the top. We eat them as a light meal or as a snack. Somehow, either way, there are never any leftovers!

DSCN4187  I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve made these in the last few weeks. I usually make a double batch and try to freeze some for another day. I managed to freeze a small batch just to see how they did in the freezer. I froze them after boiling but before baking. They baked up great with only a few extra minutes needed in the oven. “Extra” cooked pretzels reheat superbly in the oven or toaster oven. I read in the comments (on Pip & Ebby) that the microwave works well too.

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Here’s how they look after boiling. I froze some at this stage, then bagged them once frozen.

Here is the pdf printable of the recipe. I’ve reproduced the pdf printout below for your convenience. Although, I recommend popping on over to Pip & Ebby – if only to drool over her photos.

……….

Ham & Cheese Pretzel Bites
(Source: penniesonaplatter.com)
Servings: 48 bites
Ready in: 2 hours,45 minutes
Ingredients:
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 cup warm milk (110-115 degrees F)
2½ to 3 cups flour
1 package (1/4 oz) instant dry yeast
½ cup finely chopped ham
½ cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
6 cups water
4 teaspoons baking soda
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1-2 tablespoons coarse kosher salt
Directions:
1.In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar and warm milk until dissolved.
In a large bowl combine 2 ½ cups flour, the milk mixture and the yeast. Stir
until a soft dough forms. Add the remaining flour as needed. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead a few times, forming a smooth ball.
2. Brush the inside of a large clean bowl with olive oil. Transfer the dough to the bowl and
cover tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a warm, draft-free area for about 2 hours, until dough has doubled in size and bubbles appear on the surface.
3. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 4 equal pieces. Lightly dust
hands and rolling pin with flour. Roll one of the four sections into a 12×4- inch rectangle. With the long side facing you, gently press ¼ of the
ham and cheese into the bottom third of the dough, and roll as tightly as possible, starting with the end that has the filling. Cut into 12 1-inch pieces and transfer to a
baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat with remaining 3 portions of dough.
4. Let rest, uncovered, at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
5. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add the baking soda and reduce heat to a gentle simmer.
Boil pretzels in batches, cooking about 20 seconds each, turning once. They should be
slightly puffed. Use a slotted spoon to transfer them back to the baking sheets.Bake until
puffed and golden brown, about 15 minutes. Brush warm pretzel bites with melted butter
and sprinkle with salt. Serve warm
…………

 I cut the rolls into thirds instead of bite-sized pieces. After boiling I cut the thirds into bite sized pieces. I also grease a cookie sheet instead of using parchment paper, which kept sticking to the bottoms.

If your kids love to help in the kitchen, like mine do, I suggest getting them involved in the first steps of the process. My youngest two (4 and 2) are quite capable at measuring out the ingredients and mixing up the dough. They also help sprinkle flour, roll the dough out, prepare, and add, the filling.

DSCN4235DSCN4182You’ve got to try them!

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sharing with:

slightly indulgent tuesday

barn hop

wildcrafting wednesday

farmgirl friday

Parker & Dexter

A few days ago Ms. Ellie delivered her kids! Meet Parker (in the front of the photo with Ishmael) and Dexter (laying down in the back of the photo below) named after the man who first built the barn which is now coming down.

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This finally gives me an opportunity to try out the goat sweater I knit a while back.  It’s a tad big for a newborn goat and absolutely huge on Dexter, who is quite small, but it does seem to help keep their cores warm. I’m going to knit a few more in smaller sizes to have on hand for future newborn goats.

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Parker has been doing quite well from the start. Dexter was weak and unable to stand but thanks to struggling_along jumping in I believe he’s going to make it. He’s up and about now and is getting stronger everyday. In fact we’re off to check on them right now.

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