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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

We Wake

Tradition dictates that I wake when someone close to me dies. I have had two good friends die this month, and my three days (six total) seems to be lasting much longer. 

But I don't have the time, nor the people to properly Wake my dear friends. Instead I have been working in my garden. Canning and drying, and prepping for my fall garden. My hands are blistered, sore, and stiff. My tail bone bruised, as I still can't crawl. 

In a way, I feel like I am punishing myself, rather than honoring anyone. Yet as I lay at night, listening to bull frogs croak, cicadas hum, and a lonely wolf howl, I know that this is the best way I can work through my grief, and find peace. My mind, however, is still in turmoil. And I apologize to those I should have contacted personally. 

Death is common on a homestead. Yet we never grow use to it. We mourn over our livestock, but we never expect to mourn over the homesteader.  To us, they are immortal. They must be. We love them, we are proud of them, we are astounded by them. To lose one of our own isn't merely difficult, it feels twisted and demented. 

The last few days I have had wonderful conversations with fellow homesteaders. Our stories of how these people have touched our lives, the joy and frustrations they wrought, the profound idiocy we found ourselves in, has help us with our Wake. We cry, we laugh, we tattle on our deceased. The stories of their lives will continue on not only through blogs, but through us. 

If you have a story of Sci you wish to share, to help us all celebrate the amazing life she lead, feel free to comment or email me. 

My other friend is not known. He was a brilliant story teller, and an accomplished man. He showed me that you are never too old to live Rock and Roll. And I miss him greatly.


Monday, August 25, 2014

With an aching heart

I told Sci-fi chick last week, that no one has too much rabbit or cantaloupe.  She argued with me, as she tended to do, then laughed and told me I was right. And to stop sending her smilie faces, they mess up her computer.

In her revengeful playfulness, she posted two cows standing in front of a burning barn for me. She knew my paranoia, and played on it to the fullest. 

She has been one of my closest friends for years. Back in the day when the American Preppers Network was just coming into its own, Sci, Kymber, and I would take over posts, or threads, treat it like our personal living room and told the world what we thought of it, and to stick it.  We debated on anything and everything, subjects that make the general public cringe we turned into mock battles, playfulness and education mingled together. We had each other's backs, we made our mistakes in public, then solved the issue together. Sometimes our advice to each other didn't work, but we still loved each other for our stupidity. I believe that one of the reason we bonded was the fact that we weren't afraid of our mistakes. And that in reality we had the minds of 12 yr old boys. Always great to have in a relationship. 

She taught me so much about dehydrating. I think I just gave her recipes. I don't know what I really contributed, besides being her friend and allowing her to gritch when needed. 

Tuesday, 2 days before she passed, she told me she was proud of me. She talked me down from bowing out of homesteading, which I was close to doing. I gushed over the outdoor kitchen Mars had built her. 

Small farm Girl texted me yesterday to tell me the news. Sci had died from a heart attack. I didn't have time to cry, Sci would have told me to suck it up. I rushed into town to call Kymber, not knowing if she knew yet or not. I cried a bit then. I couldn't sleep, thinking about her and Mars. I cried again this morning when I read the tributes from some of our closest friends. 

Sci wouldn't want me to blubber, she would want me to tell you that a volcano was about the explode in Iceland and that we need to prep. It could cause mass havoc, world wide. She would want me to tell you that just because my life is difficult, I haven't gave in yet. She would want me to tell you not to waste things, find a way to use it all! 

I did have the honor of meeting her and Mars in person. My Clan went to Ok last year, before the move. Sandy and her husband were here as well. We had a wonderful time, and awesome food. My boys remember it fondly, as we talked about it yesterday. Sci's garden was gorgeous. And she was a brilliant hostess. I will always remember that day fondly. If you haven't yet, read her story, "Bacon and Eggs".

But I will always remember our last conversation, and how proud I was of her as she was of me.


( I am sorry. I have an unpublished comment from Sci, I was distracted by it when approving your comments, and accidently deleted your comments. I will try better.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Lost

We had a landslide and a tree fall on our fencing yesterday. We cleaned it up and repaired the fence. The cows were secured, but the sheep were spooked. Large didn't tell me until last night that he couldn't find the sheep.

They were spotted, and we attempted to get them back to our property. But without them following the cows, it is next to impossible. Hopefully I can spot them tonight, away from anyone else's animals, so I can start shooting them one by one. I have little choice left. Update, just got a phone call, they did come back on their own. We will see if they stay.

Large and I spend several hours each morning and evening patching or remaking fencing. If there is a weak spot the cows will find it. They do not like being down in the holler, they want horizon. But we can't afford to give them that yet, so we patch work a fence, praying each night that they will be there come morning.

When does one say enough is enough? 

One of the reasons I came here was because of my livestock, and now I am slowly losing my herd. Between them and Husband, my stomach is knotted in stress and worry. I barely sleep, I barely function. Most days feel like autopilot. It seems better to have no emotion than to cry endlessly. With dry eyes one can at least get things accomplished.

I assumed things would get better, but almost a year into it, things have steadily grown worse. I want to be able to fall back in love with the land, but right now it could all be swallowed and I wouldn't bat an eye. I try to remember why we loved it so. Instead I glare at it in spite. 

There are so many things to rant about, nepotism, forced union dues, liars, thieves, drug addiction. But it all becomes a blur, intertwining with all the other stressful events taking place. Murphy's law is in full force here. 1 good thing means a week of hell. 

I am glad some of you think I am so strong, so resilient. The fact is I am merely hard headed, and now I am lost. If only 1 good thing would happen with no consequences, maybe then I could be happy again. Maybe Husband could find that joy he first felt when we got here. Until then, I am buying stock in antacids and tissues.



Tomorrow, back to the optimism.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The things I done did.


I got to can in the daylight! Talk about bliss. There is something to the saying about taking things for granted. . . 

I digress, last night I harvest a decent amount of cucumbers, crookneck squash and summer squash.


I am running dangerously low on canning jars. An added stress in my life. Wait, I promised not to get whinny about things. Let us move on. One solution to lack of jars;


A bit of airing out and sun drying. 

I decided to use some of the crooknecked squash in a relish. Sunshine is always needed in the darkest of winter.


Sunshine relish

4 lbs shredded crookneck squash 
2 large onions, minced
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons canning salt
4 cups sugar
3 cups cider vinegar
1 tablespoon each celery seed,  and ground turmeric
1 tablespoon whole seed mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cracked peppercorn

Directions
In a large pot combine the sugar, vinegar , salt and seasonings. Bring to
a boil. Add squash, onion and bell pepper then return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer
for about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Ladle hot mixture into six hot pint jars, leaving 1/2-in.
headspace. Remove air bubbles; wipe rims and adjust lids. Process
for 15 minutes in a boiling-water canner. 


I went ahead and canned a few jars of straight squash. Just sliced summer squash in water. A bit of salt if you'd like. You really should pressure can these at 10 lbs for 30 mins. I hot water bathed for over 90 mins.


And finally some sweet pickles. I have the mixture premade so that I don't have to have a plethora of cucumbers to start canning. Just reheat the mixture if you have leftover.



2-1/2 pounds 3-inch pickling cucumbers, well-scrubbed and quartered into spears (about 12 cups spears)
4 cups cider vinegar
4 cups sugar
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
3/4 teaspoon celery seeds
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
6 heads dill
2 medium sweet white onions, halved lengthwise, cut crosswise into 12 1/2inch-thick slices (I actually minced them this time)
7 whole cloves, crushed

In a large saucepan, stir together vinegar, sugar, salt, mustard seeds, celery seeds, cloves and pepper. Bring to a boil over a high heat, stir to dissolve sugar.

Put dill and 1 slice of onion (or the minced onion) at the bottom of each of your sterile jars.

Pack spears into sterile quart (pints for me) jars. ladle vinegar mix over cucumbers in the jar, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Process in hot water bath for 5, 10, 15 minutes depending on how high you are from sea level.

The above picture was taken just as I removed the jars from the canner. The pickles will stop floating in 24 hours. I know that freaks some of you out. -wry grin-

Friday, July 25, 2014

Blackberry Jelly


Another after dark, campfire canning event.

The berries were dutifully smashed, then processed through my food mill. Next I drained the juice, pulp and seed through three layers of cheese cloth, and allowed it to drip over night. And then into the next day, unable to get to it until after dinner, as the sun set.

With the campfire roaring, I placed my canner, a pot of water for the jars and a pot of the juice to boil (4 cups) I use a fly wheel on top of my campfire. Keeps my pots from going black and gives me a more consistent heat. Once the juice slow rolled, I added one box of pectin, and brought to a hard boil.

Using a flashlight, I checked it periodically to make sure it was a hard boil, then allowed it to roll for one minute. Next I dumped 4 1/2 cups sugar into the scalding juice and returned it to a hard boil, again checking on it with my flashlight. It should only take a minute, but sometimes it can take 5, as bringing it back up, without burning it can be tricky on an open fire.

Once it jelled on a spoon (did I mention it is July, yet I can see my breath at night?) I poured the soon to be jelly into my sterile jars and processed in the hot water bath for 30 mins. It should only take 10, but my fire wasn't fully cooperating. 


And there you go. Very basic blackberry jelly. Up next, rum/ blackberry vanilla spiced blackberry jelly and chocolate raspberry jam.


My confession;

I have an aversion to crunchy jam or jelly. There is a time and a place for crunch, this is not one of them. I realize that many people do like blackberry jam. I won't hate you because of our differences. Just know that. I am a texture person, and I will look at you like you just emerged naked from a spaceship that flew out of a unicorn's rear end. But we can still be friends.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Interestingness

As odd as the mimosa leaves strung out across my driveway was, it pales in comparison to what happened next.


Just about every night we hear rocks being dropped or smashed together. The only time it happens is during a new moon, or very cloudy night where little moon light can penatrate the dense canopy of trees along the Creek Styx. (Those new, this is what the boys have named our creek).

I figured it was just raccoons, breaking open food items on the rocks. Our dogs have grown use to it, so no longer bother to acknowledge the noise with bursts of nervous barks like the once did. They ignore it and go no where near the area the sound emanates from.  However, if the dead leaves or the underbrush is disturbed closer to the house, they quickly become alert, and very protective, as per their job description states. We insist they sign a contract before allowing them room and board. 

One night the sounds of dropping rocks woke me. It was very loud, and didn't sound like small, easily raccooned moved rocks. But I am a neophyte, a babe in the woods, so what do I really know? The next day, Large and Small were out and came back with a tale of cairns being built in the stream, near the abandoned bus.


I am stubborn in my refusal to go near this during the warm months, citing rats and snakes. 

Large informed me of two different stacked rocks. My boys have been known to fib, luckily Small is horrible at it, and I knew that the pillar of rocks were indeed there, and that neither child had built them.

The first one is easy to explain, if I had any rushing water the last few days.


However the second stands over 4ft, and the bottom rock is hefty. Husband says easily 100lbs, too much for one child to lift on his own.


 


I know a few things about cairns. I also know that hikers will stack rocks to mark trails or danger. However this one is too tall for traditional trail marking. Plus they would have had to go through barbed-wire fencing to erect it. 

Now there are a few theories.

1) stowaway stoner creating a fairy land 
2) we have our own Blair Witch
3) Bigfoot
4) someone is getting a kick out of messing with us.

Now I do not know a lot about Appalachian folklore, and the role of cairns in it. I tried looking it up, but so far have found nothing. 

Things have been interesting, fun and a bit creepy. If someone is trying to scare us off, they will have to try a tad harder.



Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Braiding onions

It's been a few years since I posted braided onions. Don't want info going stale, ya know.



Normally I wouldn't be pulling onions until next month, however we had a couple of puppies decide to play in the onion bed, so more than half my bulbs were uprooted.

First you want to lay your onions out to dry for a couple of days. Allowing them to crust up, and the skins to be nice and dry.

Once confident in that, time to braid. You will need some string or twine. 

Food the twine in half. Make a loop at the end,


Take the opposite end and run it through the loop.


Tighten.

With the next onion, place the top between the two strands of twine, wrap around one side, then the other, almost a figure 8.



Repeat until you have as many on your braid as you want. Tie off the end, make a loop, and hang in a dry, cool, darkish area.




Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Berry time.


Blackberries and raspberries are ready and waiting to be plucked, or fall, whichever their suicidal tendencies may lean. Medium and I stopped at the top of our driveway, and slowly walked the half mile down, gathering what we could reach, bloodying our hands purple. 

Medium immediately started to complain when he realized how thick the thorns were. Between the blackberries, the rose bushes, stinging nettles, and something I have yet to identify, cat scratch fever was proclaimed by my middle son. Suck it up buttercup. I received a glare to my laughing reply. A few scratches, no real blood, however we discovered that one of the thorny plants enjoyed breaking its talons off into the soft flesh of mammals. I think I still have one in the back of my neck.

Being interrogated by the locals, lead me to believe I would be fighting off territorial 25ft snakes, with venom dripping from their eyes. I was vexed by the thorns, spiders and hornets. Oh dear, the hornets were our bane! We could have that berry, but woe is you if you plucked that one, or that one! The buzzing of the hornets changed swiftly from the medolic hum to a high pitch "mine mine mine". At one point Medium suggested pushing me down the hill and running for it. "I know where you live boyo".

Once the hornets realized we were superior, having thumbs and all, they let us be. And we resumed our plucking. The woods alive with birds and other insects, yet left us alone to enjoy light banter and thorn drama. 

"I wasn't calling Rapunzel." I suddenly yelled. "Don't scratch out my eyes!"   Thorns in my hair, my ear, grasping desperately to my back. I, stuck in a frozen runners pose, please no, I pleaded. "Relax mom. I'll save you." Oh Medium, my hero.


We spent two hours picking. This is what we were able to gather just off the driveway. Next, the fields.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Dill pickles

We are down to one vehicle right now. The motorcycle is firing on one cylinder at this time. Hopefully Husband will be able to get to it this weekend. Because of this, we closed shop early, so he could get to his second shift job, and I could get home.

With several hours extra time on my hands down in the hole. (Feeling so small. . . .I'd like to fly, but my wings have been so denied) I was able to process 11 pints of dill pickles. 

Unfortunately I haven't yet began to replenish my herb supply. Some of my herbs are coming up, but pickling season is now, not just next year. That means I had to buy some of the ingredients.


I had more than enough cucumbers to keep me in hamburger dills for the next two years. 11lbs.


If you don't remember or are new, I love my hand powered food processor. Makes things much easier, and less tiring. Especially when you have kids to run it for you.


My first round of slicing didn't turn out like I wanted to. Oh the despair! How could you dissapoint me so food processor? A change was made.


 
The crinkle cut cone worked wonderfully.  They will be a welcome addition to my burgers and other sandwiches. 

 
Dill is the first of my herbs to be ready. I am grateful to them for growing like they should. I must have a conversation with a few of the others. 

For dill pickles you will need;

4 quarts water
6 tablespoons coarse white Kosher salt
18-20 cucumbers, scrubbed
8 cloves garlic, unpeeled and lightly-crushed
2 tablespoons pickling spice (recipe below)
6 bay leaves
1 large bunch of dill, going to seed, washed

In a large pot, heat 1 qt of the water with salt until dissolved. Add the remaining water.

Sterilize 3 quart canning jars

divide the garlic, spices, bay leaves, and dill amongst them.

If doing halves, pack the cucumbers vertically into the jars, making sure are very tightly-packed. 

Fill the jars with brine so that the cucumbers are completely covered. Hot water bath for 20-30 mins for halves, 15 minutes for pints of chips. Ready to eat in 3 days.

Pickling spice:

2 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons hot red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons allspice berries
1 tablespoon ground mace
2 small cinnamon sticks, crushed or broken into pieces
24 bay leaves, crumbled
2 tablespoons whole cloves
1 tablespoon ground ginger.

In a small dry pan, combine peppercorns, mustard seeds and coriander seeds. Place over medium heat and stir until fragrant, careful not to burn them. Keep the lid handy in case seeds pop. Crack peppercorns and seeds in mortar and pestle (or use the side of a knife on cutting board).

Mix together all ingredients. Store in a tightly sealed plastic or glass container.


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