Monthly Archives: February 2013

Making Hay While the Sun Shines… or Something Like That

© Lilya | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Lilya | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

As I mentioned on episode 45 of Small Home Farm Radio, this odd winter weather has made stock-keeping a more difficult chore than usual for us.  We have endured repeated cold snaps, with a brief warm-up above freezing.  It rains, melting enough snow that things become treacherous when we dip back down into the single digits. And also making things that have been soaked (like the bedding in the henhouse) turn into chunks of solid ice.

I was thrilled when things warmed up just enough yesterday, that the previously frozen bedding started to soften up.  I was able to scoot out there and chunk it up and scoop it all out to add to one of the compost bins.  A brand-spanking new, deep layer of fresh, dry, clean pine shavings was maybe more a relief to me than to the ducks or hens, who honestly didn’t seem to mind living on a thick bed of frozen shavings.  I can see it’s time to replace our leaky henhouse windows!

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Elderberry-Echinacea Syrup for Colds

Photo by Mark Robinson.

Photo by Mark Robinson.

Ugh.  My kids have been sharing a nasty, nasty cold these past two weeks – and I’ve run out of my favorite herbal remedies to help!  My poor kids are sniffling and sneezing and coughing and doing their darnedest to keep breathing through their stuffed up noses.  And here I am – unprepared.  Not a drop of honey left in the house, not one elderberry, not a vial of oscillococcinum.  I have a tincture of echinacea, but as a standalone it’s not helping much.  It being Sunday, the bulk store that sells herbs and raw honey is closed and I’m a bit at a loss.

One of the kids finished the last drop of elderberry syrup, and another finished the last bit of honey.  But *if* you have these ingredients at home, you can actually make your own herbal cold remedy (which I don’t believe I can legally claim as a cold remedy.  Let us say it is a “folk remedy.”  And you’ll have to try it yourself to see if it makes a difference to you at all.)  Why on earth would you want to make your own instead of just buying it?  I don’t know.  I just like to do things myself. Just find a good herbal syrup and buy it if it doesn’t sound like fun.  But if you like the feeling of making something useful all by yourself – give this a try.

My kids are terribly inconsistent about taking anything for their colds until they’re so miserable they can’t stand it.  Not the best idea.  These things definitely work best when you catch something as it’s coming on.  But once the kids are good and miserable, they’ll try to get it over with quickly by swallowing just about whatever I throw their way.

So – folk remedy it may be, but I, with a rather sincere respect for a lot of tried-and-true herbal “folk” remedies, grow echinacea (purple coneflower) and elderberries as part of my herbal medicinal repertoire.  And although I no longer keep hives, we do have local honey available to us – raw is best if you can find some, as it still has all the good enzymes in it.  Strained honey is also good if you are squeamish about ingesting bee parts – legs and wings and so forth.  I’m a little squeamish, so I’m all about raw, strained honey.  Regular off-the-shelf honey will still do if that’s all you can get.

“Folk” Remedy for a cold:

1/4 c. fresh or frozen elderberries

2 tsp. dried echinacea root

1 tsp. cinnamon (or one cinnamon stick)

3/4 c. water

1/4 c. honey

Put first four ingredients in a small saucepan on medium-high heat.  Stir occasionally, watching constantly until it begins to simmer.  Mash gently with a potato masher to squish the berries.  Turn down to low and put a simmer mat underneath your pan – or just keep a tight watch on it, stirring as needed to keep from burning.  Let moisture simmer off by about half the volume (may take 30 or more minutes).

Next, strain through a fine sieve or a cheesecloth to get most of the particles out.  Let cool until just hot enough to touch without burning your skin, then add honey and stir to dissolve honey in the herbal mixture.

Take as needed.  I usually take herbal remedies about four times a day when there is sickness.  This can keep just fine in the fridge for a couple months, but this is a small enough batch that it probably won’t hang around that long.

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Waste Not, Want Not – Organize Your Refrigerator!

© Chef | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Chef | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

One of the organizational struggles that can actually increase your food costs is refrigerator organization!  How many times have you thrown out limp vegetables or half-empty containers of this or that?  If you’re like me, probably pretty regularly!

We have kept a twelve inch two-tiered lazy susan on the tallest shelf in our refrigerator for years in an effort to corral loose pickle jars, cottage cheese containers, half-used black olives, the bacon grease I save for making the occasional batch of fried potatoes…  It’s worked okay, but as you may figure out if you think about it very long, a round lazy susan wastes space on a rectangular refrigerator shelf.  And if you spin it too fast – well, use your imagination!

This week, the plastic on our lazy susan finally cracked and we needed to do something about it pretty quickly.  Since I’ve realized – just from using it – that the lazy susan hasn’t really been the best solution to being able to store and access all these little odds and ends, I started a search for something that would work a bit better, and I’ve been rewarded amply for my efforts!

On Amazon I found a product called “Binz” that are, well, bins that you use in your fridge, freezer, or pantry to store items.  At first I thought it would just be a waste of money – they’re not inexpensive.  Each one is in the ten-plus dollar range.  But there were a lot of really good reviews.  Reviewer after reviewer insisted that they really do help with refrigerator organization – particularly that age-old challenge of keeping things from getting lost in the back of the fridge!

See if you can find these 4" wide Binz, or the 8" wide Binz at your local kitchen supply or home goods store, or order them online.  I find them quite sturdy - and truly useful!

See if you can find these 4″ wide Binz, or the 8″ wide Binz at your local kitchen supply or home goods store, or order them online. I find them quite sturdy – and truly useful!

I was surprised to see them showcased at my grocery store this week, and I picked up two small ones and a large one to try them out.  I could always return them or buy more depending on my experience.

I haven’t had so much fun cleaning out and organizing my refrigerator in – well – ever.  I would never call it fun.  But I had fun this afternoon!  And by gosh and golly – it really does work.  The bins are just deep enough to go from the front to the back of the fridge without leaving space behind for anything to get lost.  You pull one bin out and everything in that row comes with it.  So it’s no hassle to have sweet pickles all the way in the back of a bin.  They’re as easy to get as the olives in the front of the same bin!

Okay, this may not thrill you all the way to your socks like it does me, but waste has been a huge problem in our busy family of six.  Whether it’s little dabs of leftovers, or partially unused ingredients of some sort, I always feel like I’m just throwing my dollars in the trash if it’s too yucky (as is often the case) to even feed the hens.  It’s just too easy to push stuff to the back without meaning to.  And there it stays.

I was so inspired that I left one shelf, probably about 8″ tall, free to put what I call “Things To Use Up.”  Yeah, I labeled it with my trusty label maker.  I’m that big a geek.  But I was excited about the idea.  I think that, after purchasing two more of the 8″ wide bins I can put these leftovers and half-used containers of diced tomatoes in them.  I even pulled a head of cauliflower out of the veggie drawer that I’d bought for something special and ended up not using.  I added it to that shelf so I remember to use it up right away.  If it stayed in the drawer under the spinach and carrots and things we use regularly, I’d have lost it for good until I discovered on fridge clean-out day that it was covered with mold and unsalvageable.  This way, I know to search my “Things to Use Up” shelf every day when I’m planning meals.

I hope that if you’ve struggled with food waste like I have, you’ll find my tips helpful.  You might think about saving a few dollars up so you can give Binz a try.  And you might like the idea of setting aside and labeling an area for “Things To Use Up” that you can check regularly when you start meal prep for the day, too!  I considered the Binz I brought home my Valentine’s Day gift … to me.  I have a feeling I’ll like them even better than fresh-cut flowers – and I’m pretty sure the happiness they’ll bring me will last far longer!

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Mom’s Homemade Wheat Bread by Don Roylance

© Photoeuphoria | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Photoeuphoria | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

MOM’S WHOLE WHEAT BREAD
Makes four loaves
 
2 Tbs yeast
2 c warm water
6 tsp sugar
2/3 c honey, brown sugar or white sugar
2/3 c oil
2 Tbs salt
5 c warm water (hot from tap)
12 to 13 c whole wheat flour
1 c white flour
 
 
Directions: Dissolve yeast in 2 c warm water mixed with 6 tsp sugar. Combine honey or sugar, oil, salt, 5 cups warm water. Mix in 7 cups whole wheat flour. Add yeast mixture. Add 1 cup white flour and 2 cups whole wheat flour. Knead for 15 minutes. Add 3 to 4 cups more whole wheat flour to make dough just stiff enough that you don’t stick to it when touching it. Knead 15 more minutes. Divide dough into four equal parts. Shape into small loaf shapes and put into generously greased pans. Let rise covered in warm location for 25 to 30 minutes until well shaped. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.  Eat hot with butter and jam or honey.
 
 
 
MOM’S WHOLE WHEAT BREAD
Makes two loaves
 
1 T yeast
2 c warm water
3 tsp sugar
1/3 c honey, brown sugar or white sugar
1/3 c oil
1 T salt
2 1/4 c warm water (hot from tap)
6 to 6 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c white flour
 
 
Directions: Dissolve yeast in 2 c warm water mixed with 3 tsp sugar. Combine honey or sugar, oil, salt, 2 1/4 cups warm water. Mix in 3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour. Add yeast mixture.  Add 1/2 cup white flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour. Knead for 15 minutes. Add 1 1/2 to 2 cups more whole wheat flour to make dough just stiff enough that you don’t stick to it when touching it. Knead 15 more minutes. Divide dough into two equal parts. Shape into small loaf shapes and put into generously greased pans. Let rise covered in warm location for 25 to 30 minutes until well shaped. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.  Eat hot with butter and jam or honey.
 

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Goodbye, and Keep Cold

© Jsalonis | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Jsalonis | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

I have been putting together my presentation on Small Home Orcharding for next weekend’s Organic Gardening Workshop.  I’m getting so excited about it!  Orcharding is one of my favorite topics to talk about – well, all fruits in general.  But I have such an affection for my little home orchard.  After spilling forth all that is necessary to know to successfully establish an orchard, and how to maintain it throughout the year, I will give the floor to my favorite poet, Robert Frost, who has the very best summary of all that one needs to know when overwintering an orchard:

 

Goodbye, and Keep Cold

This saying good-bye on the edge of the dark

And cold to an orchard so young in the bark

Reminds me of all that can happen to harm

An orchard away at the end of the farm

All winter, cut off by a hill from the house.

I don’t want it girdled by rabbit and mouse,

I don’t want it dreamily nibbled for browse

By deer, and I don’t want it budded by grouse.

(If certain it wouldn’t be idle to call

I’d summon grouse, rabbit, and deer to the wall

And warn them away with a stick for a gun.)

I don’t want it stirred by the heat of the sun.

(We made it secure against being, I hope,

By setting it out on a northerly slope.)

No orchard’s the worse for the wintriest storm;

But one thing about it, it mustn’t get warm.

“How often already you’ve had to be told,

Keep cold, young orchard. Good-bye and keep cold.

Dread fifty above more than fifty below.”

I have to be gone for a season or so.

My business awhile is with different trees,

Less carefully nourished, less fruitful than these,

And such as is done to their wood with an axe—

Maples and birches and tamaracks.

I wish I could promise to lie in the night

And think of an orchard’s arboreal plight

When slowly (and nobody comes with a light)

Its heart sinks lower under the sod.

But something has to be left to God.

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