A brief update …

Where have we been?

Earlier this year, we had days and weeks of rain. Since we love sharing photos and videos, it kind of put a damper (ha!) on our desire to blog.

Once the rain lifted we were simply too busy. I didn’t forget about the blog, but I just couldn’t make it a priority.

We’re back, though, and we have lots to share. New animals and new plans and a new school year are all here!


Where to Buy Heirloom Seed (video)

We’re often asked what type of seed we buy, and where we purchase it.

We prefer heirloom (also called heritage or open-pollinated) seed for a number of reasons:

~ To preserve genetic diversity
~ They have not been manipulated or modified
~ Capable of being saved from year to year
~ Adapted to my region and climate
~ Superior taste and nutrition
~ To reject the concept that a corporation can “own” our source of food

We put a video on YouTube showcasing some of our seed choices from our current sources.

Victory Seeds: http://www.victoryseeds.com/
Baker Creek: http://www.rareseeds.com/
eBay Seller SeedMania: http://myworld.ebay.com/seedmania/
JNull0‘s Guerilla Gardening: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N50uw7KZxrs

Where do you buy your heirloom seed? Please share in the comments!

Free Homeschool Math Software (time-sensitive)

Jen over at Gricefully Homeschooling has shared a link today to free homeschool math software.

You’ll need to sign up for an account before you’ll be able to click the download link. I just signed up so I cannot offer a review of the software just yet. I wanted to share the information with my readers right away because the offer expires on May 17.

We often use other resources to supplement our preferred Life of Fred math curriculum, so that we can keep things fresh for the kids.

Life of Fred Math Contest!

Back in November, we announced an upcoming give-away on the Life Of Fred Fans Facebook page. While we weren’t looking, the page surpassed 1,000 fans, so it’s time to announce the contest!

Our family has tried many different math curricula since we first decided to homeschool our children over 18 years ago. Some worked a bit, some not at all, but none worked so well for all of our children as Life of Fred.

Soon we were fielding more and more questions about Life of Fred, so we decided it was time to create a Facebook fan page. After all, it’s much better for many folks to be able to answer questions, than just our family. We still have not progressed through all of the books in the series, so there are certainly other folks who can better answer some questions than we.

To fulfill Facebook’s legal requirements for a proper give-away, we have opted to use Rafflecopter to choose a winner for us. At the end of the contest, Rafflecopter will help us choose a winner who will receive the Life of Fred book of their choice (up to a $20 value).

Liking the Facebook page will give you 5 points, and is a mandatory entry. If you leave a comment here on this blog post, you will earn 3 points. Each and every day you can tweet about the give-away for an additional 2 points earned daily.

So comment, like, tweet, and share your way to a potential win!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Eggs in a Blizzard

Winter Storm Draco is spinning over us right now. It’s difficult to see how much of the snow we see is falling and how much is being picked up and blown about by the winds.

This summer, with it’s extreme heat and drought, put our hens off laying. When the heat ended, the girls started their moult and we continued to find just an egg or two every 4-5 days.

Finally in late October, egg production picked up. Now we get an average of four eggs per day from our 12 hens, even though we are into late December. Today I found 2 eggs in their favorite spot in the run, even though it is quite exposed to the wind and snow. Good girls!

Homemade Non-Electric Water Heater

Teach Nollaig posted this great design on Facebook recently. I would love to duplicate it one day.

This gentleman built his own home on wheels and needed a non-electric water heating option. The copper coil thermo-siphons the water.

I stared at the photo for a few moments, wondering why the piping seemed to be swapped. I thought it made better sense for the lower water outlet to be placed at the bottom of the pot so the colder water is heated first, siphoning upward and back into the pot. As I flipped through his photos, I found that he said the same.

Family Recipes from the Depression Era

Kenny and I went to the grocery store today for some staples and, while there, he decided he wanted to make a dish from his childhood for our children this evening. I decided to do the same, so tonight we are having …

Kenny’s Creamed Macaroni
16oz box of Creamette elbow macaroni (cooked & drained)
2 cans of Carnation evaporated milk
Combine, heat through, and serve

I recommend adding an additional can of evaporated milk to the Creamed Macaroni. Kenny also said the macaroni needed to cook until it was very soft if it were to be just like his childhood meal. We prefer our pasta al dente and he wasn’t in the kitchen to correct us in time.

My family never had Creamed Macaroni, though both Kenny and I were born and raised in Ohio. I liked the dish better with some of the sauce from the stewed tomatoes drizzled over top.

Michelle’s Creamed Stewed Tomatoes
Quart jar of tomatoes (We used 2 14 oz cans)
Chunk of butter (2 or 3 Tbsp)
Splash of evaporated milk
Heat through and serve over torn-up bread

This was a great way to use up stale bread. For families with a cow, butter and cream were added to the tomatoes. For those without access to fresh dairy products, canned evaporated milk was most often used.

Kenny’s family had Stewed Tomatoes, but they prepared it differently. They simply warmed the stewed tomatoes and mixed them in a large bowl with torn bread. No milk/cream and no butter. He said that he prefers my “rich man’s” version. ;)

I found mention of Creamed Macaroni over at The Blind Pig blog in the comments of this post. There are many mentions of Creamed Stewed Tomatoes on the internet, though not many connected the food with the Great Depression.

Did your family eat these foods when you were young? Do you serve them to your family? Tell me about it in the comments!


P.S. I know this violates our “Just Eat Real Food” philosophy, but we spent our meal sharing family memories and lessons from history. It was time well spent and food well eaten.

This post was entered in the Homestead Barn Hop!

Cooking on a woodstove …

I recently shared on Facebook about our experiment in cooking on top of our woodburning stove. The stove isn’t intended for cooking, but it works quite well.

In this photo you can see the first meal we made on it. The small pan held a pound of grass-fed ground beef that was easily and thoroughly cooked from it’s frozen state. The large pot held all the veggies, stock, and leftover rice for our vegetable beef soup. We added the beef to the large pot when the meat was fully cooked. The skillet held seasoned red potatoes. I kept enough water in the pan to cover the bottom throughout the cooking process. Our only issue was that a couple of the potatoes were cut too large compared to the others and didn’t cook as quickly. The meal was a huge success and the house smelled marvelous.

This photo is a side dish for tonight’s meal. I pre-heated the skillet and plopped in cold leftover stuffing from Thanksgiving from four days ago. It fried up nicely.

I want to buy two or three of these cast iron trivets so that I’m not placing cold pans directly on the surface of the stove. They’re going on my Christmas list.

What grows in a drought?

Apparently weeds grow quite well during a drought.

Britches and Brambles - Weeds Grew in the 2012 Drought

This is a photo taken with my phone while I was mowing the yard at my parents’ home about a week ago. Their yard had not been mowed since some time in May because the drought made it unnecessary. In fact, we were concerned that mowing in the heat and dry conditions might spark a fire.

They live next to us and had gone away on a trip for their anniversary. Part of our surprise for them was a freshly-mowed yard. The other part was the gift and planting of about 250 perennials. That was a major undertaking!

I mowed plenty of weeds and dust, but very little grass.