Thursday, October 9, 2014

Pineapple Block

I found a fabulous tutorial on doing a pineapple block at Crazy Mom Quilts. Here is the link:
I've been wanting to try my hand at a pieced quilt. My mom is always making beautiful quilts and is an inspiration to me. But I needed to start with something kind of simple and straight forward. This is it.
I'm going to take a little different approach in color schemes than in the tutorial and try to keep all the blocks semi-matching. So they will all begin in the center like the pictured block.
The other thing I did different was to make the center pieces slightly larger. I cut my center square 3" instead of the 2 1/2" suggested in the tutorial.
Now I'm excited to finish all the centers so I can decide what the next colors will be. I'm leaning toward some cream colored floral prints.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Elderberries Promising

Last year the birds ate all my elderberries. But then, that seems to be generally how last year went. After the dogs and raccoons killed the chickens, the deer ate the pears and squash and few other things we grew successfully. But this year, the garden shows so much more promise. Mostly a difference in how much effort we've put in.

Look at these elderberries.

You can see the birds have still gotten some of them, but they seem to be leaving them alone now. I wonder if they like them at a certain stage and then as the elderberries get bigger, they aren't so appealing. Works for me. I was afraid I might have to figure out how to cover the bushes with something protective to have any elderberries. This felt like an overwhelming task, since the bushes are getting pretty tall and bushy.

So what can you do with elderberries?

I planted the bushes for medicinal purposes. Elderberries, along with yarrow and peppermint, make a great glycerite that I use for the cold and flu season. It's nice, because it tastes pleasant and the kids don't mind taking it. The combination helps to build the immune system and works to keep them from getting sick. Whenever we hit that season and the colds and other sickness start going around, I tell the kids to take a couple doses a day, hoping to avoid any sickness.

It seems to help. We are generally pretty healthy.

However, this is not the only thing I do with the elderberries. When I first got married, my mother-in-law had made elderberry jelly. I thought it was one of the yummiest things I'd ever tasted. So two years ago, when we did have elderberries, I made some. My kids agree with it being the yummiest. There was only enough for a few bottles of jelly and they were prized and carefully rationed. When we pulled out the last one it was a sad, delicious moment.

This year, there will be more jelly. My kids will love me for that.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Growing Flax

I finished my first home-spun project, a scarf made of wool from Alfred, my English Angora. I sent it to Peru with my daughter and can't find the picture we took before she left.

However, I have another fun fiber project I'm working on. Growing flax.

It's hard to see the little blue flower buds on top, but there are a couple there.

This is a  special flax that is grown for the fiber in the stem of the plant. I only have a few plants this year, but plan to collect the seeds and grow more next year. I'll have just enough stems to play with though.

The process of spinning flax into linen seems involved to me. I can't picture how you can ever get enough flax that is ready to spin into a piece of fabric. Evidently there are several steps that involve breaking down the fibers in the stem into something soft enough to be carded and spun. Sounds like alot of work and I don't know that I'll ever do enough to make anything, but I'm fascinated with different fibers.

What's funny is that I tell people I'm growing flax, and of course they assume I'm growing it for the seeds. That's a pretty reasonable assumption, especially since most people don't think about fiber coming from the stem of this plant. I didn't.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Bean Trellis

Usually I plant bush beans. But when we went to get them, the bush beans were out. I'm wondering if I will get a better yield with pole beans anyway, so it seemed like a good year to experiment with it.

They're ready to have a trellis though and I'm still trying to figure it out. And keep up with the sticker weeds. You can see some of those on the left at the bottom of this picture. They are miserable.

I looked at what my dad has done and analyzed what I already owned that I could work with. We have a stack of 2x4 boards from when we disassembled the play area. I'm going to put three of these boards in each row and then work from there. I guess it's time for a trip to Home Depot, to figure out what else I need.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Kakai Pumpkins

It's harder to find time to blog this time of year, because every spare minute finds me working outside in the garden. But the garden is part of self-sufficiency, which this blog is based on. And I'm growing some fun plants this year. Some of them I've never grown before, like my kakai pumpkin. It just got it's first bloom. A little slow, but promising.

The exciting thing about this pumpkin is that is grows hull-less seeds that you can eat without having to shell. I've always loved pumpkin seeds, but it is debatable whether its worthwhile to roast them and remove the shell from every seed before you consume it. I've wondered how they hull all those seeds they sell. But I guess they don't. They grow hull-less seeds like the ones in this pumpkin.

I'm pretty excited to see this plant grow a bit more and get some more blossoms so we can produce pumpkins.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Make Butter, Part 2

This is a continuation of Make Butter, Part 1.
After making several batches of butter I ran out of little bowls to put the butter in and needed a new method. This is what I came up with. It worked beautifully. The next time I do this I will skip the bowls and go right to making cubes. See what you think.
 I made the butter into something that looked much like a cake. To do this I spread the butter into a cookie sheet as I finished each batch and piled it up on itself. 

As it got higher I used my hands, a spoon and a spatula to mold the butter into what really did look like a big cake at that point. This took awhile and I was able to fit many batches of butter on the cookie sheet. 

When it was all molded as I desired I cut it into cubes. Fortunately, it was cold outside so I let it sit in the van overnight so it would freeze without being bothered. The obvious alternative to this is to stick it in the freezer.

The next morning I was able to pop each cube out of the cookie sheet easily. I wrapped each cube in freezer paper (wax paper would also work) and stored them in a freezer bag so they won't come upwrapped. This will also help them to be protected in the freezer and last for a long time.

One more thing. 
It is not the same as cultured buttermilk, but is sweet when you first strain it off the butter. We did several things with the buttermilk. First we tried making hot chocolate with it. It was delicious. However, it soured quickly, since the whipping cream was close to date (which is why it was so inexpensive in the first place). The other thing we have been using the buttermilk for is pancakes. The were awesome and it doesn't really matter whether the milk has gone sour when you are making pancakes or baking with it. 
So I stored the buttermilk in quart freezer bags and put it in the freezer. The only caution about this is to let it freeze before you pile another bag on top of it. Otherwise you may be surprised to find a mess in your freezer because the bag didn't stay sealed. Happy baking!