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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Welcome to Our New Homestead

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This is our 12 acre homestead in the hills of Tennessee where the birds chirp all day long and bees happily buzz.  A place where the sun rises and sets over the beautiful hills and cascades its glorious light across our pasture.  This must be a dream!  It sometimes just seems too good to be true!

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We have a couple pastures fenced in our front yard.  It is great to have a yard with grass, but why not make your land be fruitful and used to its greatest potential?  We have learned that when you want to eat from the bounty of your God given lands, you must use all available space for grazing livestock and growing produce or fruit trees.  This was our second year without a garden and we have felt the loss of that.  Moving from one homestead to the next both in seasons of producing a garden, has taken it's toll on our eager green thumbs.  I bought my first 2 bushels of tomatoes this summer and boy have food prices gone up!  I was very reluctant to hand over 2 twenty dollar bills for the tomatoes, but knew that I needed to fill my shelves with tomato product.  I generally can about 100 quarts of tomato products each year and I was not about to give in and shop for these items at the grocery market, so I splurged on the tomatoes at top dollar.  They were grown in the community here, so I was happy to know that they were heirloom quality.  We did end up canning, as a family effort, about 60 quarts of spaghetti sauce.  I am so thankful that we were still able to can this year and we are looking forward to preparing our garden for spring.  Mark is planning to do a cover crop of kale greens.  That way we can nibble off them until it freezes hard and in spring we can till them into the soil for added nutrients.  We plan to have some raised beds there and use the no till method after we have established our garden area.

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This is the lane we live on that separates our land from the beautiful Cane Creek.  We enjoy the pretty views and the slow pace of this gentle country road.  It makes for a nice walk or bike ride as well.  The kids have been enjoying riding their bikes to the volleyball court which is about a mile down the lane.  They have a diving board and rope swing there that keeps the kids busy enough.  

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This building sets off toward the lane and it is where Mark is now building his wooden drying racks.  

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Under this carport was a Emu pen.  They tore down all the fencing and it will be a great place to store up hay and fire wood.  Again, using our property to its fullest potential.  Miles was busy all day helping dismantle the pen with his neighbor friend and his dad.  What lovely productivity.  Mike Pearl was just preaching this morning about laziness.  It was such a timely message to all.  It reminded us to be even more diligent in shaping our little ones to be hard working people.  If a person can learn to be a hard worker, they will be successful in anything they do.  Besides that, they will be prosperous because they will not eat the fruit of idleness, they will find something to do to make a living.  It is a general principle but their are curve balls that may come and cause us to be in a needful spot.  A true worker will fight to get on their feet again because they want to be needed instead of being in need.  It is a blessing to be at our fellowship.  We get to learn so many wonderful things, sing songs, and fill a need in the world.  

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Mikey is standing next to our big tree.  It is such a neat hollowed out old tree.  When we lived here 7 years ago, my children could all fit inside the trunk because they were so little.  It is amazing how big they have become in such a small space of time.  Hold on to each and every moment while you have time with your little ones because they grow so fast.  One minute you are holding a child on your lap, wiping their tears away, and the next minute you are sending them down the road to work a part time job.  It is true.  Miles is already working a part time job with a concrete working crew.  He loves it.  

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Our precious moo moo, Marilla Moo.  She is happy in her new homestead.  We finally have a great milking set up.  There is, YES, running water in the barn!  A sink to wash the milker, and a place to strain the milk, Yes, in the barn, I say!  To top it all off, there is a refrigerator out in our barn to get the milk cold in a very timely manner.  It is surprising how primitive we have lived and how really nice it is to have POWER!  We lived off grid for the past year in an Amish house.  It was fun and a huge learning experience, but also it is very nice to have some technology.  But wait!  We are not working as hard!  It won't be long until the butchering season is at hand and canning all our meats again.  That will be enough work to keep us in the not so lazy category!  

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Here are my beautiful Buff Orpington layers.  They just started laying some pretty brown eggs.  We allow them free range of the homestead.  I am sure they are keeping our bug population down which is a good thing in this part of the country.  I have been attacked by all kinds of bugs and my legs are covered in red dots.  Not so fun nor pretty.  But, I feel better that the chickens are at least getting a lot of bugs and that means less bugs bothering our family!

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Hay prices are on the climb as well as feed prices.  But it really seems to be hitting the groceries stores as well.  Everything is getting high.  Even paying a high feed price, we still know that having our milk cow is saving us some money.  We just reseeded our pastures with some rye and fescue grass.  When the fields are better, we should be able feed the cow on the pastures longer.  As for now, we need to supplement about a half bail a day for our sweet MOO.  So, we are spending about $4 a day.  And that is primarily in the colder season only.  The remainder of the year she should have plenty of good grass to graze on.  If we bought just milk from the store it would be $4.  We not only have milk to drink, we have enough to make yogurt which is very pricey (about $4 a quart!!), butter, and cheese when we have plenty milk on hand.  Moo has gotten very attached to my husband.  It is so funny.  He can say "Come Here, come here!" and she comes mooing and running like this:

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My kitchen is bustling.  There are always things baking in the oven.   Aromas of breads, cakes, and cookies fill the air.  The girls have been busy helping clean and cook meals.  As they get older, they are getting even more capable of running a household.  I am working on training them to be help meets someday.  Making sure I add "Daddy has been working hard all day, we need to make sure he gets a good meal".  It teaches them to look after someone's needs.  And then I will say, "Oh, daddy will sure appreciate some cookies, you know how he loves cookies." They find joy in baking for their daddy.  Sometimes they even make the cookie in a heart shape for him and tell him how special he is.  It is all good practice.  

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My spices are all lined up in order.  Having my home in order is so important to me.  I love making a home for each thing so I always know where to find it.  I was not always this organized, you can ask my poor husband.  When he married me, I was a real slob.  I stuffed things all over the place.  Sometimes I get very busy and the temptation to "stuff" things comes.  I have to resist it and work hard all the time to not allow myself to be disorderly.  The longer I have been this organized, the more and more natural it has become to me.  To the point that I feel really uncomfortable in disorder.  It takes a lot of work to get it to that point, but it is so worth it.  One drawer, one closet, at a time.  Then anyone can find the time to squeeze a little order in their life.  

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The living room is always filled with people.  We have lots of neighbors and friends, who are here often.  I love it.  It is so nice to have the gathering room filled with laughter and conversation.  

Adventures with Homeschooling!!!!!

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We have started a little school in our homeschool.  After hearing the inspiring stories of the Harding family (all their kids go to college at age 12), it makes you reevaluate your standards.  Right now we are doing high school math, science, literature, history, and writing with Molly, Megan, and Miles.  It is so fun!  My mornings are very full as I also teach alongside my neighbor.  We figure out lessons together, and just makes it FUN!  This past week we did ancient sumerian life.  The kids had to figure out their trade and create a village.  The kids made huts out of reed and little camp fires that they cooked fish on.  

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The boys were spearing fish with homemade reed spears.  

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Miles made a nice sharp tip on his.  They cut up the fish and traded the girls- fish for eggs.  Experience is the best teacher.

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Here are the girls in their hut.  They had so much fun with this project that they were down there until late in the evening cooking and keeping warm around the fire.

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Molly, Megan, and Robin.  They really love to experience the history projects together.  It is kind of like team work, learning something along the way.

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Junior is busy learning how to read. He lost another tooth last week.  

Saving the Best for Last!!!!  Our Little Golden Treasures!!!!  

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If you think chicken feet are gross, think again!!!!  They are really little golden treasures.  I found this out just recently.  I never saved the heads or the feet when butchering.  I figured it was waste, and it was really gross after all- in my mind it was just plain nasty.  A couple weeks ago, I was talking to my friend Terri Taylor who had a couple cooler fulls of chicken feet and heads.  She offered these fine gifts to any one brave enough to try.  I said "I'll do it!"  Terri told me that the feet and heads make the richest broth, EVER!  Thinking rich thoughts in my mind, I had to forgo the disgusting smell of chicken poop that was caked on the feet.  Yuck!  My dear husband said, "This is what you do when you are 'hard up' for food."  It did not appeal to him in the least, in fact, he thought it was a total waste of effort.  But, I pressed on, knowing that I would get a special rich prize at the end of the disgusting job.  Rich broth.  

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Grandma Evie came to help.  She never tried this in all the years she was a homesteader.  Evie thought it was kind of gross.  Well, you do need to clean the feet.  How do you clean these nasty feel?  You have to boil them for 5 minutes to sterilize them.  It is is kind of like blanching peaches.  The skins of the feet that are caked with chicken feces come off.  And that was FUN!!!  I happen to enjoy peeling things off, so I sat there peeling 80 pounds of chicken feet with Evie.  And of course, there were heads.  Every once in a while I would find an eyeball, and that was pretty nasty but I did not have nightmares over any of this or anything.  It seemed to be a very peaceful type of work.  You are just sitting there, peeling feet skin while listening to the crows cawing, and the crickets chirping.  I felt like I was in heaven.  I know, not most peoples idea of peaceful and wonderful, but to me, it just was.  When all the nasty stuff is peeled away, the feet do not seem as gross and you know that your broth will be clean.

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I even had a chicken fight with Evie.  I could get her with my claws!!!  This was all accomplished in our big car port so the mess was not in my house.  How lovely!

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Next I cut up some onions (left the skins on for added color and flavor), carrots (no need of peeling), bay leaves, celery, pepper corns, and rock salt. Added water from the hose into my big bylers.  Then I added the cleaned up chicken feet and heads.  Brought it to a rolling boil and let it simmer for 4 hours.

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It is such a nice set up to can in the carport.  All that steam.

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Our very dear friends, Jared and Rebeca Rowe came to help us when the work of straining and filling jars was at hand.  Jared and Mark strained out the wonderful smelling broth into a stock pot.  It is nice to have men helping.

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Look how rich the broth looks!

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It was ladled and strained through a sieve.

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Rebecca and Evie were filling the jars and putting the lids on.

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We shared in the work and in the bounty of the work.  In total, we canned 40 quarts of golden goodness.  Processed in a water bath for 90 minutes.  Rebecca is a young mother and she will have some broth to fix meals for her little family this winter and Grandma Evie will have some as well.  We Will fill more shelves with tasty broth.  What joy to share with others, the joy of canning!  Such sweet fellowship, indeed!  

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