Friday, July 30, 2010

A Good Catch

The boys had a couple friends over after Totus Tuus. They went fishing for a while and caught over 20 crappies and 3 perch. Nick and Warren spent the rest of the evening filleting fish. Today Nick practiced catch and release.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Garlic Dill Pickles

I've tried different pickle recipes over the years, but the one my family begs for year after year is Garlic Dill Pickles. If you've made pickles in the past and they were soggy or unflavorful don't fret; these turn out every time.

Start with fresh pickling cucumbers. I like to pick them when they are 3-5 inches long. Wash and sort according to size. Cut off sliver of blossom end (opposite end from the stem).

Gather and wash large mouthed quart jars. Place rings and lids in kettle and pour over boiling water. Let set.

You will need fresh garlic cloves, fresh dill, white vinegar, sugar and canning salt.

Put clove of garlic and a few sprigs of dill in jar. I only use the dill heads and about the top 3 inches of stem. I don't know if you can use the whole stem. I'm just sharing how I do it. Then pack tightly with cukes. I leave the smallest ones whole and pack those together. I slice the longer ones lengthwise and pack those together. Pack as tight as you can. Leave a little space on top to add another clove of garlic and a couple more heads of dill. Set aside. I can pickles when I have at least an icecream pail full of cukes. That will yield about 5 qts. pickles. Fill jars until you run out of cukes.

Then to each jar add: 1 Tbsp. canning salt, 1 Tbsp. sugar, 1/2 c. vinegar and fill with tap water (not hot). Put on lids and rings. Gently tip jars until all sugar/salt is dissolved. Place in hot water bath. Cover. Bring to a boil. Turn off heat. Leave alone for about 20 minutes. Remove and place on double layer of towels. Allow to cool without disturbing. Keep out of drafts. Check for seal. Store away for at least 3 weeks, if your family can wait that long.

With these directions I am assuming you know something about canning already. If you need more details please leave a comment and I will respond.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Picture of My Life

Standing in the kitchen today I happened to really notice my counter. I stopped and just took it all in. I don't have a fancy gourmet kitchen or highend stainless steel appliances, yet the kitchen is my favorite room of the house. I spend a great deal of time there attending to the needs of my family. Obviously it's where meals are prepared, but it's so much more to me. The family calendar covers the freezer door, reminding us of all our lessons, appointments and activities. My planning center (junk counter) is located in the kitchen; it's a constant job keeping that spot clean and organized. But today, I just stopped and noticed how the kitchen counter was telling a story about my life as of late.

We're just getting into the prolific production phase of our vegetable garden. Lettuce, zucchini, onion, beans, peas, cucumbers...it's all up there waiting to be made into a BIG salad for lunch. As long as I provide hard-cooked eggs and croutons, salad can be considered a main course lunch for my family. With garden vegetables come lots of kitchen scraps, waiting in dirty bowls to be tossed out for the chickens. It's been hot, but the hens are still laying. Most days I find washed eggs drying on the counter. Canning rings scream out that I've been preserving something or other to be stored away until just the right snowy day when we all need a reminder that summer indeed does come to Wisconsin. The glass jar at the left - that's holding boxes of allergy pills, another staple in my diet this time of year. Under the paper towel is none other than Chocolate Zucchini Cake. Some items aren't as noticeable, like the fillet knife resting on the bird book on the window sill. Nick's been catching lots of fish this summer and has just learned how to fillet on his own, so the knife - it stays right there on the window sill waiting for the next perch. I don't know if you can see the birthday candles, but they're lying on the window sill as well. I'm known for not putting things away in a timely manner. Sam's birthday was July 10; I'm sure that's when those candles found themselves on the sill. Now when I notice them and think about putting them away, I say to myself why? Little J'll be 2 in just a couple of weeks, so they stay put. Hopefully they burn down enough that I can justify throwing them away after his birthday, otherwise they'll sit on the sill until September 4 when the next birthday rolls around.

Some days I look at this "mess" and feel absolutely disgusted with myself. Why can't I have clean counters? Why is my house always messy? Why is the window sill always covered in trinkets? Other days this "mess" is a reminder that I live a real life. A life filled with all I love - family, food, gardening, canning, birthdays! Life can be messy. Life should be messy. A clear counter would only mean nothing is happening and that would be a shame.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tips For Weeding With Kids

Some things go hand in hand: ice cream and cones, summer and Popsicles, jelly and toast, kids and weeding......not so much. I shared with you Bernice's trick to living a long life, weeding and making brush piles and how we weed just about daily. I'd like to clarify that for you and share with you a few things I've learned over the years of weeding with my kids.

  • Some people have a green thumb and since children are actually people some will have green thumbs and others will not. For the child with a green thumb they will most likely be willing to weed at a younger age and exhibit a level of precision beyond their age. Other children will need a little maturing before being allowed to pull anything in the garden. I've found that the average 8 year old can definitely be an asset to family gardening time. Younger than that depends on the child. It's important to assign age appropriate tasks. I don't let the younger ones completely off the hook. At 6, Sam is quite willing and able to pick potato bugs and feed them to the chickens. At 8, Amber can pull weeds around onions, carrots, peas...vegetables that grow somewhat low and are easily identifiable. At 11 and 12, Nick and Emily are expected to have complete knowledge of the plants and pull weeds, root and all.

  • Weed with your kids. I've tried sending them out to weed in years past only to have crying children at the door within minutes. Someone isn't working fast enough. Someone isn't pulling the weeds, root and all. Someone is singing too loud. You get the idea, right?

  • Garden in the morning when everyone is fresh; keep this time open every day if possible, so everyone can expect that they'll be weeding at that time.

  • Have a definite plan for the day. Each day when we are done weeding, we take a walk around the vegetable garden to see what needs the most weeding. We decide, for example, that tomorrow we'll weed the peas, carrots, and sunflowers. I've learned this lesson the hard way because for me once I'm out their and I see weeds, I want to stay out their and pull them. Kids don't much care if the weeds get pulled today or tomorrow. So having a concrete plan allows them to keep the end in sight.

  • Put a weeder on each end of a row to weed towards each other. The row doesn't seem so long and when you meet up you get to high five each other and yell out Row 1 - Done. Work together from start to finish - just because your row is done, doesn't mean your done. If there's an odd number of weeders, mom works alone on her row until another weeder if freed up to jump in on the other end.

  • Sing! Camp songs, Marian songs, Country songs. It doesn't matter, just sing!

  • Have a treat when it's all done. Anyone who's put in their time gets a treat.

  • Be PATIENT - the weeds will grow faster than your young weeder's ability, but soon enough you will have a little gardener at your side sharing their dreams of having a garden of their own.

*Note: Kids are far better helpers in the vegetable garden than flower garden. Why? Food is at stake, that's why.

Do you have any tips to share? Leave a comment.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Weeding is the Key to Longevity

Yesterday we headed South to the Kickapoo Country Fair at Organic Valley in LaFarge, WI. The draw was Michael Perry and the Longbeds were scheduled for the mainstage. We arrived well before their concert time to have a look around the fair. The overall flavor of the fair was quite alternative. It seems funny to write that seeing that I've been called a granola head before. We live in the middle of the woods, raise chickens, homeschool, grow a fairly large garden, preserve everything we can, bake bread, read pioneer stories, fish and hunt for food rather than only sport, burn wood, recycle and reuse everything we can, sew clothes and quilts...the list could go on. And still, the fairgoers were definitely more alternative than us. I'm sure I'm not the only one who enjoys people watching. However, we did have a great time listening to Michael Perry and the Longbeds. Warren listens to their CDs so often and I wanted the music to feel fresh at the concert that I put a ban on listening for a couple days. I'm glad I did because I anxiously awaited each song hoping to hear my favorites, which I did, except for Somewhere Out in Mudbrook.

It was a hot, hot day and little shade was to be found except for under the umbrellas Organic Valley had provided. I walked through the crowd looking for empty chairs to snag and hoping that I'd catch an umbrella at band changeover time. Gradually I acquired 4 chairs and we positioned ourselves near an umbrella, sharing chairs. An elderly woman's group of friends were leaving and she offered the extra chairs to us and motioned for us to move into her shade under the umbrella. What a godsend! As the band was setting up we got to talking. What a lovely lady, that Bernice. Turns out she's 90 years old. She's had cancer and a stroke, but as she put it the doctors fixed her up and she's good to go. She plans on making it to 100 like her mother did. She explained her longevity is from years and years of weeding and making brush piles. Matter of fact she's still volunteering in her community garden weeding. The kids ears piped up with that since most mornings we begin with weeding 4 rows in the garden. Every morning we head out to weed our 4 rows and then stand back and admire our work and make plans for tomorrow's weeding. Life is good!

By the way the concert was awesome. I love watching the emotion of Michael Perry's face when he's singing. On our way home even the kids commented about his many expressions. We're anxiously awaiting the next CD.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

I Love Canning!

Hands plump from working with steamy jars, water, juice and kettles = A Perfect Feeling

If you've ever canned you know the feeling I'm trying to convey. The steam creates this incredibly smooth and plump feeling in your hands and the creamy whiteness of the fingernails is enough to make me feel like a Sally Hanson hand model. Today it was more rhubarb jelly. I use a steam juicer to prepare my juice for jelly making. This week I made 10-12 qts. of pure unsweetened rhubarb juice and today made one batch of rhubarb jelly. I would've made more, but I ran out of sugar. So then I moved onto Garlic Dill pickles; made 7 qts. Watching the empty jars on the canning shelves slowly fill up with pickles and jelly is the ultimate in fulfillment.
Rhubarb Jelly

3 1/2 c. rhubarb juice
1 pkg. Sure-Jell
4 c. sugar

Follow the Sure-Jell directions and then hot water bath it for 5 minutes.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I'm Back

I didn't plan on taking a 6 week blog break, but life happens. I've missed blogging and so have others, so I heard. The plan is to make blogging a habit again; just seems there are so many things I want to do during summer break that blogging gets put on the back burner. However that's not the best because when we're cooped up in winter it's nice to read through the summer archives; it gives us a little hope that summer will indeed return. I'm afraid if I don't document our summer a bit, we might not survive the long Wisconsin winter. So with that here's a little bit of our summer so far in pictures.

In no particular order.....

Amber and Little J playing a little ditty

Father's Day cookout at our place

The kids surprised me with a fur blanket for my birthday. The blanket tells the 2009-2010 Trapping Season story. They caught all the fur at our place.

Warren caught a 38" musky on his annual fishing trip with Paul. This was caught on Oneida Lake.

Emily keeps a good attitude on our Elroy-Sparta bike ride with friends. We purposely scheduled it for May to avoid the extreme summer heat. It was around 90 F that day.

Amber doing what she does best - playing pioneers at the campout spot.

I'll have to do a July update later.