October 31, 2010

Psam 92: 1-4

It is good to give thanks to the LORD,

to sing praises to your name,

O Most High.

It is good to proclaim your unfailing love
in the morning,

your faithfulness in the evening,

accompanied by the ten-stringed harp

and the melody of the lyre.

You thrill me, Lord,

with all you have done for me!
I sing for joy

because of what you have done.

Psalm 92:1-4

October 24, 2010

Flashbacks.... Boys, Men, Tonka Trucks & Backhoe Loaders....

Most of you know that we've had a hard summer with the water around here! Between the well being very low at times, the pump not working and then the water line needing to be replaced, it has been a trying summer. Pete was able to get a backhoe loader to use so we can bury the water lines. Earlier in the day, Pete started the dig to locate where the pipes were coming out from...  then he let the boys have a turn!

Today, after spending the day out with the girls, I come home to seeing my youngest, Austin... his buddy from birth Jesse and Travis outside in the dirt! Travis was up to his chest in the hole and Austin and Jesse are operating the backhoe!
YIKES...  talk about flashbacks!! I remember when these boys (plus Ben... Jesse's older brother) would play in the dirt at our old house. They'd dig big, deep holes and run their trucks all over the place moving dirt from one place to another! Aaaahh, ya, those were the days! Now my little boys are men. The toys are now BIG equipment and yet... they still come inside all dirty looking for snacks!! I guess some things are gonna stay the same forever! And, that's ok by me!

October 20, 2010

Here Chick, Chick, Chick.... Building the Finishing Pen!

After taking a few years off, we've jumped back into raising meat birds again! I know, I know...  for those of you who get a bit squeamish, it's ok if you don't read any further! I'll understand. Just be careful on what you buy at the grocery stores... most of those meat products (aka: chickens, cows, pigs) weren't cared for as well as the 'local farmers' care for their animals. Ok, on with the task at hand!

We start our birds (layers & meat birds) in a BIG cardboard box! Actually, two dishwasher/washer/dryer sized boxes or 1 refrigerator box will work great!! Lay the box on its side. You'll need to keep the bottoms of the boxes but cut off one side piece. This becomes the opening or top of the brooder. Do this to both boxes and then slide the two together, kinda like an accordion! This way they have a small space to start with and as they grow, you slide them apart to give them more space! Clip a heat light in there and cover with a large screen! (a junked slider door screen works great!) This entire creation needs to be kept in a barn, garage, shed or basement for protection from the elements & predators!!

After about 3-4 weeks, your birds should be feathered ...  this is where we are at now!! After thinking this through and checking out a few different grower/finisher pens, we've decided to build ours! In the past, we had a pen that we dragged around the yard, allowing the birds to eat the grass etc. as well as grain. It is a great way to go, IF you can put them far enough away from the area that you also use as a yard! We've done it that way a few times. This time we are building a pen that will be movable (for storage purpose) and will stand over a portion of the garden that has been harvested and is ready to be put to rest for the winter! Reasons... additional fertilizer with NO shoveling! We'll see if this idea actually works out for us!

Pete is finishing the frame of the floor!
The plan: a pen approximately 7X10 with a slatted floor, size determined by the available scrap wood that we already have! We did purchase strapping to use as flooring and have spaces so HOPEFULLY the droppings will drop down to the garden area!
                                             There is 1/2 inch of space between the slats of inch strapping wood...
                                                                   Tweak is wondering what this project will become!

We have chicken wire for the sides and will have inserts of cardboard to protect them from chilly nights on one end! This may become wood eventually, depending on the needs and how this works out or maybe we'll use a tarp as a windshield! That is yet to be determined... 
Travis, Pete and Austin are stapling the chicken wire to
the sides. This should keep the chickens
 in and the unwanted critters out!

    The roof is sections of corrugated roofing.... with hinges so that
  we will have access to them from the top!
Ok, having a finish carpenter in the family can lead to more expensive projects then it could have been! But, this should last us for many years of raising birds!! Check out the opening...  pretty cool huh! Now I (the shortest one in the family!) can reach in to feed & water!   :)

Fortunately, we have scrap lumber around so we didn't have to purchase all of the materials. We are hoping to spread out the work of raising meat birds by doing 25 in the spring and then another 25 in the fall!! Maybe we can even toss in a few turkey chicks in the spring to be ready for the fall! (But, let's keep that little plan a secret for now!)   Check out other awesome ideas at Sustainable Eats look for the Simple Lives Thursday and look at some of the past issues!! There are some very creative people out there!! :)

October 17, 2010

Hot Pepper Jelly Can-Jam for October!

YIKES! HOT PEPPERS!!! What are you trying to do to this VERY MILD eating family!! :)  Well, I took the challenge... and although NONE of you HOT PEPPER loving people would find this hot at all... it works for us! Actually, out of the six of us... one truly LOVES the hots and the rest of us like mild, so here's hoping we all can eat it when I'm done! :) Can you believe this is month #10 for the Can Jam?! It's been fun and challenging....  just perfect!

Using a recipe from the book; Saving The Seasons (pg118), I followed the directions to make my first ever "HOT (but NOT too HOT) PEPPER JELLY"....   this is very yummy over a block of cream cheese and then spread on a cracker... AND just in time for holiday gatherings or to put in a gift basket!

5 Cups jalapeno peppers, finely chopped (about 2 lbs) Admittedly, I used our sweet red peppers from the garden and added SOME hot green peppers to make this work for our family. I used 4-5 large red sweet peppers and 3 jalapeno peppers. It seems to be the right amount of zip for us!
1 1/2 Cups apple cider vinegar
1 box powdered pectin
7 Cups of sugar
1/2 tsp. butter (optional)

Wash, stem, remove seeds and finely chop the peppers. (NOTE: wear rubber gloves when working with hot peppers!) Put the peppers into a cooking pot and stir in vinegar & pectin. (Add butter to reduce foaming if desired). Measure out the sugar and set aside in another bowl. Bring the pepper mixture to a rolling boil (a boil that doesn't stop when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in sugar and return to full rolling boil for 1 minute, while stirring constantly. Remove from heat and skim foam from surface. Ladle quickly into jars, leaving 1/4 inch of head space. Tighten lids and process 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Makes 8 half pints!  

Aren't they pretty!

Audrey & I tested it. Cream cheese, crackers
and a little jelly... WONDERFUL!
We both think that this
has just the right amount of zip!

Ok, the challenge got me again!
 I will be making at least one
more batch of this jelly too!

A cookbook sidenote for use:
crackers & cream cheese
sandwich spread
serve with poultry or pork

Additional Note:
Be sure to clean the
knife & cutting surface
and wash your hands
after you're done with
the hot peppers
doing anything

October 14, 2010

Simple Lives Thursday..... Scrap Note Paper

About a month ago, my sister in law and I were talking about a previous employer of hers and some of the odd jobs she had helped her with. One of these ideas I thought was VERY clever and I've started to implement! We ALL get junk mail....  more then any of us want or ever asked for, I'm sure!

In the past, I've tossed my junk mail into the trash without even opening MOST of it! Think of all the potential 'SCRAP NOTE PAPER' that it could become! In my house when anyone needs a piece of paper to write a note, phone message or grocery list we've grabbed a sheet of computer paper. 
Here's two days worth of junk mail... minus the grocery store flyers etc.

                                             NOW... see the note paper I've saved out of it!

There are 42 pieces of scrap paper just waiting to become a menu for the week, note to the kids, shopping list, to-do list for the day or some other important list!

The average size is approx. 4X5 inches...  I cut the long envelopes in half and then cut along the edges which then made 4 pieces of scrap paper! Some of these have a little bit of writing or a company motto on one side which is fine! They still are great to be used for notes for phone messages etc! Click on Simple Lives Thursday for more great ideas!
For today...
Outside my window... are reminders of things we need to do before winter.

I am thinking... about the dishes that need finishing

I am hearing... the hum of the refrigerator.

I am thankful for... the love of my family.

I am wearing... jeans, t-shirt, wool socks and sneakers.

I am remembering... to be thankful.

I am going... to figure out something good for dinner.

I am reading... Plan B & The Divine Mentor.

I am hoping... to have the water back soon!

I am creating... plans for Christmas projects.

On my mind... my sister in law & mother in law, both are ill.

Noticing that... winter isn't far away.

Around the house... proof  that  a family lives here.

One of my favorite things... filled chairs around the dinner table.

 A Picture to share...

   Taken at the Millennium Theater
  in Strasburg, PA this summer!

October 7, 2010

Simple Lives Thursday... Rings & Eggs.... What???

It's Thursday again.... you know what that means? It's time to share another "Simple Lives Thursday" connection! It is fun to come up with ideas to share... what is hard is to limit each week to ONLY one idea!

I saw this idea SOMEWHERE online!For the life of me, I can't remember where!! It must have been 6-12 months ago, so... if this was you, let me know and send me the link in a comment and I'll give your link credit!! The idea was just so cool, that I just remembered the idea, but sadly, not whose idea it was! 

We've gone through lots of glasses because of breakage and finding replacements of the same style is almost impossible! A few years ago, I decided to swap out ALL of my glasses for wide mouth, pint canning jars! I LOVE the large size, holding a solid glass in my hand and it is SOOO much easier to wash without fear of breaking it and cutting my hand!! (Yes, I wash dishes by hand!)

Now the question is... what do I do with all the lids/rings??! I've just kept them in a zip lock bag thinking that at some point I'd come up with an idea! Well, I've taken the idea and elaborated it just a bit.... 

The kids have grown and now we are a family of 6 adults and everyone is on a different schedule. So, to make things flow a bit easier for all, I make up breakfast sandwiches and freeze them!

I put a dozen of frozen biscuits in the oven, turn on the griddle and spray with cooking spray or use shortening and then......

The idea that I saw was to use the rings of wide mouth jars and spray them with baking spray or shortening, put them on the griddle or fry pan (already coated with the spray or shortening)

                                        And then break an egg into each of the rings....
                   Using a fork, I break the yokes so the egg will cook all the way through.
After they've cooked a while, carefully remove the rings.
I use a fork because the rings are HOT!
See how nicely the eggs hold their shape!!
Now flip them over to finish cooking.
 These will fit perfectly on a biscuit, a bagel or
an English muffin!
After they've cooked through, turn off the griddle and  
                                                   .... add a piece of ham or sausage,
                                              and when they've cooled down, add the cheese.

                                               Now it's time to cut the biscuits in half and
                                                        add the egg, ham & cheese!
                                                             Don't they look yummy!
                               Two of them were eaten before they even made it to the freezer!
                                          One sandwich per baggie, or wrap in plastic wrap
                                                                   for freezer protection.
   Then put them into another larger freezer bag 
      or a plastic container!

In the freezer & ready to be eaten!!

When the kids are hurrying around to get out the door they just pop one in the microwave on a plate (without the baggie or wrap) and they are ready to go! (They can also take them in lunchboxes or have them for a quick dinner .... etc.)

I looked at the prices today....  a package of 4, ready made biscuit/egg/cheese sell for $5.79 and with ham or sausage it was $6.79.  I'm gonna price this out for a comparison! 

Biscuits  12 frozen  Pillsbury   $ 3.39    (.28 cents each)  Even less if you use your own recipe!
1 dozen eggs  $ 1.69    (.14 cents each)   Admittedly, straight from the chicken coop is best!! But, figuring out pricing was a bit more then I wanted to undertake for this post!!  :)
cheese pkg of 24 slices  $ 2.29  (.09 cents per slice) Obviously, varying types of cheese altar the pricing and overall flavor of the sandwich! (provolone, swiss, cheddar, cheddar jack... all yummy!)
Ham precooked 16 oz  pkg. cost $4.29 (7 pcs. that I cut in half .31 cents per half)  Again, using my great grandmother's sausage recipe with fresh ground pork would make these more delightful! 

Now, let's use this information to figure out the cost.

Each ham/egg/cheese biscuit cost me .82 cents PLUS the cost of baggies ($1.99 for 100 baggies breaks down to .02 cents per baggie) which raises the cost to .84 cents per breakfast sandwich and
.53 cents per sandwich without the meat!! I didn't add the additional .05 cents per large storage bag... since there is NO food contact they are reusable!

The cost per breakfast sandwich of a well known brand is $1.70with meat and $1.45 without meat!
Another option would be to use my own biscuit recipe, which would lower the costs even more!!

October 2, 2010

General Tso's Chicken... Not Hard To Make!!

Making General Tso's chicken is alot easier then you think!! I bought a package of boneless chicken (3.7 lbs. for $8.47) and two heads of broccoli for less then $2.00 and a 40 oz. bottle of General Tso's Sauce & Glaze. I don't remember how much this cost... but it had to be less then $6.00. So, that is less then $17.00 of yummy food to feed a family of 5... plus the cost of rice!

Egg & a bit of milk for a wash, dredge the pieces of chicken in flour
and then fry the chicken in olive oil.
After all the chicken is fried we add the sauce....
Serve with rice and broccoli and
you'll wonder why you ever paid so much in the restaurants!