Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Trio of New Dresses

I've been keeping busy lately with holiday plans and checking items off of my "Sewing To Do" list. Katie and I worked together on Elisabethe and Abigail's matching "sister dresses", I wanted them done in time for Thanksgiving and they were, barely! I finished up the final hem late on Wednesday evening and these pictures were taken Thanksgiving Day.

I got this trim idea from Heidi Hollister, a gal from the Sewing Academy. The gown she sewed was a lot more elaborate, but I'm happy with how the trim turned out on these. Interestingly, the fabric isn't blue at all. It took me a while to realize it but the checks are purple and green, however, your eye reads them as blue. Abby is looking somewhat dazed in this picture, holidays are tiring for children. :-)

Next on the list was a gown for Asa. I saw this gown in Godey's from an 1861 issue. It is a "Plain Morning Slip", what that translates as is a loose gown worn in the morning before donning the more fitted gowns that were fashionable. What it translates for me is: a loose gown that looks comfortable and that he won't easily outgrow!

The gown has 10 one inch tucks across the front and 6 one inch tucks in the back, they are eight inches long and release just above his tummy. I debated using the same style trim on his gown as I had on the girls' dresses but Mr. G liked this trim idea better. It seems so martial!

The fabric is a design from the Colonial Williamsburg Delft collection that I've had for a little while. The skirt is 60" at the hem and buttons up the back with 3 china buttons.

One last picture. He finds everything just hilarious, his smile makes him quite the Lady's Man! :-)

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Hello to all of you, I hope you had a pleasant Thanksgiving. Our day was relaxing and enjoyable, as well it should be after the months of preparation that go into it! Plans begin in May when we plant the garden and decide which varieties of squash and pumpkins to plant, the very ones that will grace our table come the holiday season. We had Delicata squash this year, and oh! what a delicious tasty variety it turned out to be! This is a variety that dates from the 1880's or 90's and will definitely be something that we will plant next year. The pumpkins were a variety called Connecticut Field Pumpkin, a very old variety that dates back a few hundred years. They make the best pies, a process that begins the day before Thanksgiving when the pumpkin is quartered and baked. The cooked pulp is then scooped out, seasoned, mixed with fresh cream and baked to perfect doneness. A real homemade pumpkin pie beats any other kind! Whilst Katie and I were in the kitchen on Wednesday, the men and littler girls were outside butchering the Thanksgiving turkey. It was one that had been raised on our farm, outside in the fresh air and sunshine. We raise Narragansett turkeys, another old, heritage breed that is no longer commercially grown due to their slow growth. Your typical store bought turkey was a confinement raised "broad breasted white" hybrid monstrosity. They reach market weight in less than 6 months, whereas Narragansetts take a year or more. Slow is good. :-) The whole butchering business goes quickly, so quickly that I didn't get pictures and I really did mean to. The ambiance of country life, eh Ken? :-) However, I will describe how we go about it. A lot of folks have a killing cone but we don't, so we use the good, old fashioned chopping block. A piece of twine is tied loosely around the turkey's neck to keep its head stretched out so that it can be killed in one quick chop, I abhor the thought of torturing anything. Aleks sights the spot where he wants the ax to fall and thwack! its head is off. I've only ever seen a bird *run* after its head was cut off once, usually they just flop around which is what this one did. They also butchered 3 chickens that day and one of them flopped around so wildly that it ended up in the corn field, much to the amusement of the children. Then the bird is hung by its feet to bleed out, after that it is dunked in the cast iron cauldron of boiling water to loosen the feathers which are then pulled out. After the bird is plucked then it is gutted and immediately thereafter put in a tub of ice water to cool down. And that's it! About 12 hours later it was in the oven to slowly bake to perfect yumminess!

Later that evening we played tableaux vivants. This is an old form of entertainment where people in costume, with or without props, put on a scene. They don't move (so it's unlike charades) or speak and then we guessed what it was they were. For example our first tableaux of the night featured Asa, Abigail and Elisabethe sitting in the cast iron baby tub. Elisabethe held a knife, Abby had a rolling pin and Asa held a pewter candle stick. Can you guess what they were? Rub a dub dub, three men in a tub, and who do you think they be? A butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker, throw them out, knaves all three! Other children did scenes from fairy tales, the pilgrims landing, a scene from Of Mice and Men, a scene from Fiddler on the Roof , and even one scene from Bugs Bunny, lol. We had such a good time and already everybody is planning what they will do for New Years. We finished off the evening by listening to records on the phonograph player. I have a treasure trove of 78's that we play, including a lot of Bing Crosby Christmas carols. There are waltzes that we love and even some FDR speeches if the mood strikes us. The younger set like to wind the handle before placing the needle on the record and they like to discover a new favorite from the box of records that we haven't yet listened to. It was a wonderful end to a wonderful day!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Asa update

I'm shamefully overdue with getting the baby's measurements posted. Anyway, we took him for a check up at 6 weeks where he weighed 13 lbs 5 oz. That's a 4.5 lb gain in 6 weeks, the doctor said he was indeed obese. :-) He was off the growth chart that she showed us, however I found the WHO's growth chart specifically for boys and height and weight wise he was in the 85-95% both at birth and at 6 weeks. His infant chemises fit him until 7 weeks (barely) and then they were *tight* on his tummy and arms and so we put them away. Another milestone passed, that's bittersweet, isn't it?
This week he is 9 weeks old and though I don't have a weight for him he now has a 19.5" waist and is 25" long with a head circumference of 16". His blue homespun gown and his 1870's gown still fit, along with his 3 nightgowns, but that's all that he currently has. :-/ I have several of Sarah Jane's baby gowns and I tried a precious little wool one on him for Thanksgiving. It looked so sweet on him but I couldn't hook and eye it up most of the way down the back. He needs another few gowns but so do several of the girls, so I'll have to sew what I can, when I can.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A New Barn

Our current barn where the cows are kept and milked is really little more than a tumble-down shack, it features holes in the roof and a rotted out floor. It is the epitome of the "rustic and informal look" as Micah likes to say. :-) There is no way it will make it through another winter and so Mr. G has endeavored to build a new shelter before the snow flies. The new barn will be large enough to store some hay in, as well as put the fanning mill and plow etc. in.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

1870's Baby Gown

Since the baby keeps growing by leaps and bounds I thought that I would try a different style gown that would afford more tummy room. The 1870's isn't an era that I generally sew from but I researched a little bit and found some very easy and flattering baby styles to give me inspiration. The impetus for this is seen in the first picture below. Yes indeedy, that's an 18" waist. :-/

The gown is called a "tent style" gown in the period, but I think of it more as just a basic "A" line shape. There is no fitting done at the waist, it just falls straight to the feet. It closes with one button in the back like the originals do that I found. The main difference is the overall length, baby dresses covered the feet, but that could be by a little or a lot. On all of Asa's gowns I have opted for about 4"-6" of skirt to cover his feet, this seems like a reasonable amount that doesn't gobble up too much fabric. However, if I were making this gown again, I would make the skirts longer because I'd like them to be somewhat wider across the middle. He has wiggle room but not as much as I'd wish. Then again he will probably have outgrown it by the day after tomorrow anyway. :-)

Here is a close-up of the bodice detail, it is basically just bias strips ironed into shape and applied. However, it does give the illusion of a waistline and makes the gown somewhat more interesting than an untrimmed one.

This original gown is from the Wisconsin Historical Society and is dated 1860-1869. It would seem to be a less popular choice at the beginning of that decade but as time passed it is seen more frequently in images and surviving originals. It is basically a chemise style gown but is left uncontrolled at the waist, by contrast most 1860's gowns have a definite fitted waistline.

This image is from Godey's magazine and was published in 1871, I'm sorry that I don't have the exact month. It shows a baby in a gown very similar to the original pictured above.

This baby shoe pattern from January 1870 was found in Peterson's magazine and would be the perfect compliment to Asa's new gown. They look so easy to sew up that I'm really tempted to make him a pair!

The last image is also from Peterson's magazine, November 1870. It shows how gored the skirts could be as pictured on the little girl's dress on the top right. It also displays the sizeable bustles that were fashionable. The fashions of the 1860's with the voluminous skirts and supporting hoops give such a different silhouette than fashions a scant decade later. By the 1870's most skirts had the fullness pulled to the back creating a flat panel down the center front with the fullness taken up in bustles that would continue to increase in size. I think they are beautiful in their own way but not a practical fashion for a Country Wife.

All in all I enjoyed sewing this new style but I certainly wouldn't want to limit my wardrobe to strictly 1870's fashions. Until the baby stops growing in such great strides though I may have to make up a few more to help flesh out his wardrobe.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

New Blue Homespun Gown

I completed the first of Asa's new gowns this past weekend. I did it in blue homespun basically because it's what I had on hand. I have a hard time getting him to lay anywhere without me and not cry so Katie took these pictures whilst I held him. He is such a Mama's boy!

I lengthened the bodice by an inch and widened it by 2 inches, so it now has a 21 inch long waistband. I don't *think* he'll outgrow this one in 3 weeks. I cut the front bodice on the bias to give it a little "interest" and lined it so it would lay neatly. I have yet to do the buttons and buttonholes. It looks huge just hanging there, almost like Abby could wear it. :-/

A final picture just because he looks like a little Sumo Wrestler. :-)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Historic Baby

I wanted to record as much for myself as anyone else what garments Asa wore at what ages. Memory just doesn't serve to keep the dates straight. So I'll call this set of posts "Historic Baby" and it will be the chronicle of clothing our baby in his old fashioned garments.

First we begin with his chemise and cotton socks. Thankfully the chemises still fit him, they are one of the best things that I made, he wears them every day. He has cotton socks on today but also has wool ones if the weather worsens. He has cloth diapers but the only "period correct" wool soaker that I have doesn't fit him, he pretty much just skipped most newborn sized things. So, it's a disposable diaper for today.

We add his petticoat now, this particular one is cotton but he has a wool one for inclement weather. It should tie in the back but tying in the front goes smoother. :-)

Next we add his "daily cap", this particular one is my favorite. It's made out of a double thickness of flannel and keeps his ears so warm! The gown he's wearing no longer fits but I wanted a final picture of it; his waist is 16" and makes his gowns too tight to be comfortable.

And, the final layer for cold weather wear, his wool sacque and bonnet. These are the only garments, other than his chemises, that aren't already too small. :-/ The sleeves are long and the bonnet is plenty big even with his daily cap underneath. These layers paired with a wool shawl/blanket keep him toasty warm in any weather.

This is how he is dressed every day, we've not varied from it yet but I have to make him more gowns immediately. As it is he spends a lot of days wearing one of his nightgowns. The "A" line of them afford more tummy room than his gowns do. I wasn't sure if I would like this clothing experiment, maybe the novelty would wear off and it would become a hassle or a chore and I'd long to dress him in sleepers. But, I'm happy to say that I really enjoy dressing him this way! I don't find it to be unpleasant and it keeps him so much warmer than sleepers ever did. And, I definitely don't miss onesies, I always detested pulling them over a baby's head and with his garments now nothing has to be pulled over his head. Happy baby, happy mama!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

and THIS little piggy.....

I had a check-up yesterday with my midwife, whilst there we wanted to get an approximate weight for the little man. I knew that he was gaining but I never expected that he'd be well over 10 pounds! That's over a pound, more like a pound and a quarter in 13 days; I think they recommend that babies gain back their birth weight by 2 weeks to a month, ! So, I guess he's getting enough to eat, huh? :-) That's a picture of him taken this evening in the 3rd nightgown that Katie made him, it's flannel lined and *cosy*!

We are starting to can pumpkin and squash now, it will make an easy addition to quicky meal preparation. I'd like to can dry beans as well like we did last year, but I don't know if I'll get to it or not. We pressed cider for the first time last Thursday and got 20 some gallons, they were so busy, we waited hours to get our turn. I'd like our own cider press, maybe some day! Senna is now weaned and so we've been having a massive influx of milk. We make a lot of ricotta but really how much ricotta can one family eat? I've made some harder cheeses a few times but I'm no expert, a lot of people make yogurt but I'm not really a fan of anything that feels like snot in your mouth...... So, what to do? All the animals would drink the excess of course, but I'd rather the children benefitted from it. We still have chickens to butcher, a turkey for Thanksgiving, and several pigs to do this Fall.

In other mundane news, I washed the baby's clothes this evening. I hand wash all of his clothes, he doesn't do well with standard detergents so I wash his in Charlies. Have I mentioned Charlies lately? I *love* the stuff, it's not harsh on clothes and is completely unscented as well. His clothes just smell clean, not perfumey. I add the recommended 1 tablespoon of soap to a washtub of straight hot water and all of his white clothes (gowns, chemises, socks, caps, petticoats etc) and let it set until I can comfortably put my hands in it. Then I rub the clothes between my hands any place where they seem soiled. Squeeze water out and place in rinse tub. I rinse twice and that's it! Hang and they're dry by morning! To the wash water I then add the hot rinse water and his pastels and repeat. After that the water is pretty cool and I wash his few darks. It uses a lot less water, is much easier on his clothes, and most importantly I like to do it.

I have a number of sewing projects lined up for the coming weeks that I'm excited to get to! First is a dress for me! I'll be so pleased when I can wear it, I almost never find time to sew for myself, but I'm *making* time. I've been inspired anew but several dear friends who are sewing lovely historical gowns for themselves. Thanks to all of you!

Monday, September 14, 2009

All finished!

It is with great satisfaction that I can write "my sewing's all done!", great relief as well as I was nervous that I wouldn't have it completed and then what would I do? I finished the final little gown at the end of last week, it is a really beautiful terra cotta color and not pink like the photo seems. I put calico buttons on it, I don't know if that's a no-no or not but white china gets boring.

Following are photos of the baby sacque and bonnet that I finished a while ago. I know a lot of you have already seen it but my family hasn't. The outside is light blue tropical weight wool, the lining is champagne colored silk poplin and the embellishment is peach silk embroidery

Katie has been sewing more little caps and if I feel like it I'd like to make a fancier cap from Batiste. I guess that I just can't knock it off with the sewing!


The boys gathered about 60# of apples today. We will eat a lot, dry some and make apple butter for the year. Early apples don't make good cider so we'll wait to press until October, I think. This weekend we did another 15-18 dozen ears of corn and we are *hopefully* done with corn now!
I am 39 weeks on Wednesday but since I go late I could actually have close to 3 weeks left. I am so eager to meet our "little stranger"!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Corn and a nightgown

Katie finished the baby's nightgown yesterday. It is flannel on the inside and smooth on the outside (I'm sure there's some technical term for that). We drafted the pattern ourselves and I'm pretty pleased with how it looks. It was Katie's first try at a placket and I think she's really glad that it's over, lol. She did offer to sew another though, so maybe it wasn't a horrible experience after all!

We're big fans of composting and adding manure to the garden in the autumn, it has really increased our soil fertility. Our neighbor who is a conventional farmer has soil that's pretty well dead, his yields are about half of ours. Here are some examples of healthy soil and what it will produce. Below is the first of our corn harvest. We grow open pollinated corn and grind it for cornmeal; this was not by any means the largest ear, merely the first to ripen!

Aleks also trained the pole beans to climb the corn stalks. The problem now is that the corn stalks are 10-12 feet high and the beans dangle high overhead. :-)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

4 down......

I've completed 2 more gowns for a total of 4 and that only leaves me 1 more to do! I will leave the 5th and last gown until everything else is done though since it's the least of my worries. The white gown has a tucked front and the skirt is pleated, it reminds me of a tuxedo so that's what we call it, the "tuxedo gown". I will finish up the last bits on the chemises by next week and hopefully the sacque (the bonnet is already done) and that's it!!! I'll be done with the baby's layette with time to spare! I need to order some diapers, I had quite a few newborn sized fitteds but I loaned them out and they never came back. I need another wool soaker or two and some diaper pins...... but I am truly almost ready. Your 9th baby might as well be your first; by the time you have that many most of your clothing is worn out and has to be replaced anyway. I made some diaper rash cream last week with comfrey, plantain, chickweed and shepherd's purse. We also use it for wounds etc. and I want to make a batch of unscented soap to use on the baby, I'd like it to be done before I go to the hospital so that I can give him his bath. I don't want him leaving my sight the entire time. We are printing out our "refusal of care" forms worded the way we want them instead of the standard form that implies that you're negligent for refusing. We basically refuse everything: eye drops, vitamin K, hib shot, PKU test, all of it.

We picked up 15 dozen ears of corn yesterday and will get 15 dozen more on Saturday. We are drying it all like we did last year, I want a total of 60 dozen by the time it's all said and done. Katie did all the corn yesterday, the younger ones husked it and she did all the blanching, cutting, and stirring it every 15 minutes in the oven. It's easier for me to sit and sew than it is to bustle around the kitchen these days ("bustle" seems kind of comical considering how slow I am these days :-)) We missed "sewing hour" yesterday but Katie did get another baby cap sewn this week, it's like the other only in a bigger size.

We also brought home 40 zucchinis. I really like zucchini but you can only eat it so many days in a row so we looked for other recipes and found Zucchini Pickles, I hope that we like them! I will add zucchini to our relish and I suppose if I can't find enough ways to use it then the animals can have it.

I noticed that the cicadas started singing a few weeks ago, a sure sign that Summer is waning along with the goldenrod in bloom. Public school started this week although we won't until after Labor day. Usually I'm all excited and so ready to be doing school again, this year however, I'm not ready! It came too soon, the garden is rather late this year and the baby's coming and I need more time! We'll be gathering apples before long to press into cider and making sugar beet syrup as well. Will there be enough hours in the day? To every season there is its own work and unique pleasures. Here's to you enjoying and appreciating yours and us to enjoying and appreciating every moment of ours!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A time to every purpose

This has been a busy and productive week for us thus far so I thought I'd blog about the highlights. The green beans and sugar peas are still in full swing, we dehydrate/can some every 2 days and will continue for a few more weeks. I'm expecting our corn to be ready any day now and so then we'll have 30-40 dozen ears to process, but in the meantime we haven't been idle. ;-)

When my sister Dawn brought out the cradle she also brought along loads of comb honey. A man that they know does bee removal and some of the honey he takes out of buildings he gives to them. As you can see, it was not the most aesthetically pleasing honey I've ever seen, so we strained out the liquid honey and got well over one gallon. With the remaining comb we rendered out the wax by repeated boilings and strainings. The house smelled so wonderful during the process!

The final rendered product all ready for candle making or salves. Quite a contrast to the "before" picture, isn't it?

These are Aleks' first Jacob's Cattle beans that he harvested. They are an heirloom dried bean good for baking and soups. They were easy to grow and prolific to boot! He has several other heirloom varieties that aren't quite mature enough as of yet but should be ready soon. After he has all the seed stock that he'll need for next year, we get to eat the rest. The thought of homemade bread with soups and chowders to accompany it almost makes me wish for cooler weather. ;-)

We have been making peach jam quite a bit this week. I made it the same way as the other jams we made: with very little sugar and no added pectin. We added cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg and it was delicious (we ate some this morning on cornbread)!

And, on the sewing front: I found this piping cord and I just love its tiny size for baby gowns, the scale is perfect! I used it on...........

My first completed baby gown! I have several white Pima ones almost finished but I was running short on white thread after my chemise marathon so I decided to make up a printed gown.

This gown has a total length of 21" which seems to me to be a more practical length for a gown that will see a lot of use. I believe it was Sarah Jane that mentioned that longer gowns tend to trail about and become very dirty. The skirt is a very full 60" to more easily facilitate diaper changes and the sleeves are plenty wide so little arms will slide in easily. I'm really enthralled with it, I hung it on the jelly cupboard so I could look at it often. :D

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

State of the Farm Address

Rebekah had her 9th birthday on Monday and of all the things that she wanted, a pet was first on her list. Now, I'm not much for "pets", animals that pay their own way and earn their keep? Sure! But not getting an animal just for the sake of having it. We used to have ducks and though I haven't missed them since they've been gone, the children did. So, I heard a lot about how ducks would keep the fly population down and other enticing statistics. ;-) There *are* tons of flies here; the man who keeps his heifers here in the big barn rarely cleans it and it is a gigantic fly incubator. Anyhow, we got her 2 Black Swedish and 1 Blue Swedish duckling. She was thrilled with them!

The garden is really producing well, we're racing to keep up with it. As you know, I'm a big advocate of dehydrating foods but I do can some as well. I look on the canned stuff as "convenience" food since it's quick to prepare/heat up but I like to use it sparingly as it is nutritionally depleted. I think jars of canned produce do look pretty though!
And! The big news is that Tansy calved yesterday!!! She had a heifer calf which is Aleks' as part of his graduation gift from us. She is named Senna. The birth went just as I wished it would: outside in the fresh grass, with no problems. Tansy cleaned her up and she went to nursing.

We've worked on numerous dairy farms and were pretty sure that we didn't want the conventional dairy model as it relates to birth. On some of the farms the laboring cow is put in a headlock and gives birth there on the concrete. When the calves hooves are showing they tie chains to them and yank the baby out. The calf is them beaten on the chest and cussed at until it breathes, taken away from its Mother and thus begins the life of a dairy cow. :-( On a different farm every birth was attended and the calf literally did not touch the ground before it was taken away, on still another farm the cow gave birth in with all the other cows, usually right in the manure. You would find the calves completely coated in manure, unable to stand with only the tip of their noses showing. Makes you want a glass of milk right now, doesn't it?

The little children weren't there for the birth which I was glad for, but they did watch her eat the afterbirth. Most farmers don't allow this but we do. The placenta is loaded with oxytocin which will slow down any excessive bleeding and it's full of calcium which helps prevent Milk Fever. I actually wasn't worried about Milk Fever as cows who don't eat grain (i.e. grazing cows) rarely get it. After we put the Mama and baby in the barn for the night we gave her warm molasses water and a quantity of comfrey leaves. Together they give an iron boost and an immune system boost. Life seems abundantly good right now! ;-)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Summer ritual

Today kicks off the official beginning of Jam Making, a very much enjoyed (and tasty) summer ritual. The various pastures around our place boast several Mulberry trees which we attempt to harvest ahead of the birds and raccoons. The children's summer ritual involves eating enough Mulberries to give them diarrhea ;-) Actually, I'm glad to have them do this, it works as a sort of early summer cleanse I think. I looked up the health benefits of Mulberries and was surprised at some of the info. All of the below is from

Antioxidants, capable of eliminating the damage caused by free radicals in the body and slow down the process of aging, seem to be the main constituents of the fruit juice of the Mulberry tree. Scientists mention resveratrol as the most promising component in this respect. For this reason, they now try to discover as much as possible important information about this element. It is suggested to have cardio protective, antiviral and anti-cancer action. It may also lower bad cholesterol and work to alleviate chronic inflammation, as well as postpone the development of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
Anthocyanins – pigments in the fruit – also have antioxidant action; thus, are medicinally valuable as well. They have been studied primarily as the means to fight cancer and showed excellent results. Their content is the highest in the fruits, which are grown in the warm climate with much sunshine.
Flavonoids in the root bark of the Mulberry tree were discovered to increase the level of insulin in the body and reduce blood glucose level; therefore, they may help in controlling diabetes. The root bark is considered a mighty diuretic and expectorant. The bark of the tree has anthelmintic property.
Mulberry leaves are used to treat diabetes and hypertension, but the old leaves have tranquilizing properties and may cause hallucinations, headache, and upset stomach, so, their remedies should be used with the extreme caution.
Mulberry contains large amounts of vitamins C and K, minerals magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, calcium and iron, carbohydrates glucose and fructose, free acids (tartaric and malic), fatty acids (linoleic, stearic, and oleic), protein, pectin and fiber. The health benefits of the Morus tree are tightly connected with the elements composing its chemical structure.
Health Benefits
Lately, fighting diabetes and cancer with Mulberry became the primary issue of scientific research. These diseases are difficult to manage and Morus fruit seems to possess the necessary properties, which could be of great help in controlling these conditions.
On the other hand, strengthening the immune system, relieving pain from chronic inflammation (for example, caused by arthritis or atherosclerosis), and nourishing the blood have a long history of treatment with Mulberry fruits.
In addition, naturopaths recommend to lower bad cholesterol levels (thus, helping to avoid the development of cardiovascular disorders), shed excessive pounds, increase bone strength and fight osteoporosis with Mulberry remedies. Besides, maintaining healthy liver and kidneys, soothing the nerves, eliminating weakness, fatigue, and anemia is possible with them. It is interesting to note that premature graying of the hair may be stopped with Mulberry.
Do not forget that the treatment with Mulberry remedies is not only effective against the mentioned disease, but pleasant due to the taste of the fruits as well.

I have never really been interested in making jam from them though because you can't easily remove the stems but we decided to try it anyway. The results were very pleasing!

When I first began making jam I made loads of freezer jam, a super tasty method that is probably the most popular right now with home canners. I did make one batch of strawberry freezer jam for my folks, my Mom likes it on ice cream. ;-) But the majority of our jam this year will be the good, old fashioned cooked version. Also, I really want to get away from store bought pectin because it costs money and has ingredients that I don't like in it, so I made our jam without added pectin. This results in a different "set" than what I'm used to, but I wonder if that's because the artificial, mass produced product seems "normal" whereas the real deal seems "off" to us? I've found that to be true in so many cases, for instance, what does corn really taste like? Likely you've never had anything but the super sweet, hybridized candy thing that we call corn. It's such a shame how much we've lost. The biggest down side to cooked jam is the loss in yield, we ended up with about half of what we would have had by doing freezer jam (and I can just hear Angie now saying that she's not going to all that trouble to only get half, lol). I also added very, very little sugar, this gives a tarter taste but is more in keeping with our philosophies about sugar consumption. We all loved it when we did the taste test though, so apparently no one misses the sugar.

The other new thing I did this year is to replace the traditional bands and lids with Gulf Wax. I really debated this one because paraffin is a petroleum by-product which I don't like but lids are a constant expense and I don't like that either. Just so you know, the USDA does not recommend using paraffin wax to seal anything because of mold contamination. But I think the USDA is suspect anyway, probably representatives from Ball sit on its advisory board...... but I digress. The nice thing about the wax is that it's endlessly reusable! I really like that, plus it looks quaint and old fashioned which is a nice bonus. Aesthetics are important, right? The USDA representative did say that the only real danger would be mold, which is easily seen upon opening the jar, so it's not like you'd be playing around with botulism or something that can't be seen or tasted. I hope that I will like it as much as I want to like it!

I have found that I can't make too much jam in the evening because it makes my feet swell up, so I try to be finished before noon. I can then go and enjoy the breeze on the porch which is where I've also been doing my sewing lately. I'll have Mr. G or Aleks carry my "sewing table", which is actually my Great Aunt Elizabeth's canning table, out to the porch and I can sew with a comfortable breeze blowing. I like to be there and watch the children play and depending on where Tansy is I can watch her graze. It is a very peaceful feeling. ;-) All of my "work" (should I even call it that?) brings me such a sense of satisfaction. The cooking, canning, dehydrating, sewing, hanging laundry, mending....... none of it is a chore. I'm so thankful that I don't have to leave home to earn money. I really sympathize with those who are compelled to do so!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Home Economics

My last post got rather lengthy and so I left out what we did when we got home from the auction. The day had been very warm and we were so thirsty for a refreshing drink that we decided to make lemonade. Here is our recipe if you'd like to see what the real deal tastes like. Fair Day Lemonade

  • 8 lemons

  • 2 cups white sugar

  • ice

Place lemons in a mixing bowl and cover with boiling water. This removes the wax that lemons are coated with to keep them from drying out. Let sit in water for 2-3 minutes then drain water and wipe out bowl. Place lemons on a towel and roll firmly back and forth to dry them off and to make juicier. Slice lemons thinly and place 1 layer in bottom of bowl followed by a sprinkling of sugar. Slice lemons on a plate so as not to lose any juice. Slice all lemons and use all sugar layer by layer then let it rest for a half hour. Press firmly with a beetle, don't worry if you break the pulp. Place all contents in a glass pitcher, add 3 quarts of cold water, stir well, and serve over ice cubes for your picnic luncheon at the Fair. Because of the peels, this lemonade will get bitter if left overnight and is best consumed fresh.

Also on the menu were homemade crackers. This recipe is exceedingly simple and very hardy. They hold up well in soups and are great for dipping, the recipe is so versatile that I never tire of it.

Cottage Crackers

  • 3 cups flour

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 cup warm water

  • 1/3 cup olive oil

Mix flour and salt together thoroughly and then add water and oil. Knead until all the flour is incorporated and dough has an even consistency. Tear dough into 12 fairly even balls and coat each lightly with oil, then place on a plate and allow to rest covered with a towel for 45 minutes. Heat oven to 450 and roll each ball into a rectangle then cut into strips (these can be rolled out without using flour, the oil coating makes them not stick). Place on floured cookie sheet, poke with fork holes and add garnish. These crackers are really bland plain, our favorite toppings are garlic powder, salt and parmesan cheese. Divine! For a sweeter cracker use sugar and cinnamon. Bake for 10-13 minutes or until edges lightly brown and curl. They will have more snap if allowed to cool before eating. The first time I made these I cut them into circles but the dough doesn't like to be handled too much (it will get tough) so the strips seem to work best. Enjoy!!!

Today the children dug 300-400 leeks and brought them home to be preserved. We love wild leeks, they really add zip to soups and casseroles.

Below are Elisabethe and Abigail, they were in charge of washing the stems before they got diced up.

Rebekah was washing the bulbs and placing them on a tray to be dehydrated. Tabitha, in the background, is chopping up stems.

Levi, Aleks and Micah were trimming roots off, chopping stems and placing on trays.

We will dehydrate these for a day or two and then store them in gallon size glass jars. If it appears to be an insufficient quantity, then we will try to get another batch harvested before the fields get plowed and they all are plowed under. We also made 2 batches of butter today, which never lasts long. I can't hope to put any back with the way the children eat it. ;-) I fed the buttermilk to the baby chicks, usually I use it in biscuits or pancakes or something but not today. We are also freezing at least 1 gallon of milk a day so that when Tansy is dry we won't have to resort to buying milk. I think that's all the news from the home front for now, I hope you have a lovely Wednesday evening!