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Friday, September 05, 2014

No, I am not ready.

The past few days have been filled with love. Oh, I can feel it. I have received numerous emails, comments, messages, and texts asking if we are ready for winter.

I know you are worried, but just remember we survived last year, and we will survive this year. Albeit the only thing that will have changed is the amount of food on hand.

Turns out August is mold season here, unlike Kansas. That means my drying options are limited. 

My house and my Ford's dashboard give me a bit more time to dry. 

I have plenty of canned goods from my garden.

I have puréed goodness in the shop freezer, waiting for me to turn them into awesomeness.

One the weekends the boys and I hike out, marking dead standing trees for Husband to down. We do need to get propane, however, I have a wood stove that I have become very acquainted with, and am able to cook on.

Even though we are not where we had hoped to be at this time, we aren't as bad off as we were last year. We will still have to walk up the driveway of doom,

I've accepted it, and will perceiver. I appreciate your love and concern. Your care packages have been sanity savers, as have your comments and emails.  

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Not those kind of shrooms

We decided to go mushroom hunting this Labor Day weekend.

Husband, Medium, Small and I (Large wasn't interested) had a great time hiking through the woods. Small's mushroom finding abilities are truely supernatural. I called him a truffle pig at one point. He didn't take offense, merely snorted. The hike was good for Small as well. Two weeks ago I had to run him to the ER for stitches. He was playing in the creek and fell, cut his knee open and required stitches. He had just gotten them removed. He was a brave one rough the entire ordeal, however Medium didn't take watching his little brother get stitched up too well. A nurse had to take him into another room. I digress, we are talking about mushrooms.

Medium called down to me, "found shrooms!" Then started singing on odd little ditty he made up. "You can't eat those" Small yelled in reply. "Not those kind of shrooms!" Medium laughed. I could only shake my head, what are they learning on the bus? 

Suddenly aliens invaded! These puff mushrooms are too late for eating, however we did find a couple more that were just right. 

I deemed this one poisonous. Firstly I was unable to ID it in my book, and secondly, when I pulled it there was a volva surrounding it. In the book, only the poisonous ones showed having such a thing.

Another one I was unable to fully identify. The top was very slimy, however it had gills, not matching anything in the book. As much as I like "The Pocket Guide to Wild Mushrooms" I need another book.

Husband made me hustle when he found these Straight Coral Fungus. Never seen such a thing above water, and edible too.

Didn't pick this one, due to it looking to much like a no-no.

Now this Chanterelle got me excited. I know these mushrooms, and I know the difference from the false ones.  And we found many of the trues.

No, this is not a mushroom. It is a corner stone to an old road that use to go through our property. Found it with a mess of Bay Boletes and what looked like (in the book) to be Summer Cep.

I can hear the laughter from my conversant shroomers. We will get back to that in a bit.

I think this one is called Old Man of the Woods. Was unable to fully identify though.

We also plucked The Gypsy and Corrugated Milk Caps.

Once home, it was my job to reexamine the mushrooms, to be sure of what they are. 

Now back to the laughter.

I picked up the Summer crep. The book says that there are no poisonous look-a likes. However. . .

I broke off a small piece and chewed. Dear all that is holy! I spit it out as soon as it touched my tongue. Husband uproarious laughter followed me as a swished out my mouth with the water I had handy. It was Bitter Bolete. And it just wasn't bitter. It was so peppery that it burned! I heard Husabnd explaining the old bitter beer face commercials to Medium and Large, and their cackles shortly followed. Was I brave enough to do that again with a different type of Bolete?

You bet.

The Velvet Bolete was Devine,the Bay Boletes turned out to be red cracking Boletes. And the taste was to die for. Small helped me prep them for drying, he loved the way the yellow flesh turned bright blue when cut.

And though you take a risk drying out Chanterelles, I find it is worth it. They work beautifully ground up and added to dips.

The milk caps and (found both Saffron and corrugated) were canned. I added a bit of dill to help bring out the shellfish flavor. 

Oh, and mushrooms shrink when canned. I really should have cooked them for 20 minutes first, before canning, but it was starting to get dark, and I was exhausted.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Our first year.

Our first year in a new homestead, in a new State has come and gone. No fan fare from us of course, it's been much more difficult than expected.

We arrived with great expectations. We became the ant trying to move the rubber tree plant.  But we have high hopes. (For those of you old enough, you are welcome for the ear worm).

We settled in as best as one can without a ceiling, walls, or electricity, and a rotting floor. At least we now have a ceiling. We made the best of what we had, still I found myself scared and alone during the harshest winter seen here is 20 plus years. We were unable to drive up our drive way, and had to walk the half mile in snow and ice. The last time we drove up on ice, we went flying backwards at 20 mph to a blind curve, one side a 75 ft drop, the other a steep hill. It was eerily calm in the truck, as though we accepted out deaths. Nervous giggles erupted once the truck stopped moving and we were safe.

The boys kept my spirits up.

It felt hopeless. Husband gone back to Kansas for work. Me unable to prove I lived here. Our budget so tight that I didn't eat for several days just to make sure I had enough for my growing boys. 

Spring came and I tried to find the happiness that had initially brought me here. Business picked up and I no longer had to sacrifice meals. I could also proved I lived here. Husband took on a 2nd shift job that is making him miserable. But we all make sacrifices. We did, once, love the land.

With spring came planting. Our tiller broke, so we worked the soil by hand. It was trying work, and I was unable to plant all that I wanted. As summer encroached, I stopped worrying about feeding everyone this winter.

Summer is rapidly coming to a close. My cows still escape, my fences are patched daily, I still do laundry in the creek (except Mondays when I can catch up at the laundromat). The hens have begain to lay eggs. Nuts are almost ready to harvest, and mushrooms are being gathered. 

It's sort of looking like the life we had hoped it would be here. Maybe in the next five years we will find our way, find the love, and not be so stressed.

Time will tell.

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


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

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.

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