The Gang

The Gang
October 2008 Sweet Potatoe Harvest

About Me

I am a busy mommy of 6, seeking to be a loving, godly helpmeet to my husband and a biblical discipler to my children. God has blessed us with a child with Autism. May the lessons that the Lord is teaching me and our family be a blessing to you and yours!

My Favorite Books

  • Bible
  • Created to be His Helpmeet by Debi Pearl
  • Four-Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman
  • Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver
  • Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll
  • Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
  • Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp
  • The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace
Saturday, July 19, 2008

Our pig adventures began on Monday when the pigs decided they'd like to become "free range" pigs! :-) Thursday was the worst day yet. I woke at 6:50 hearing a noisy commotion in the entry way. It sounded like Sunny was famished and eating fiercely. Then I heard the dog bark, he was standing in the driveway looking into the entrance barking. When I peeked out my kitchen window I discovered two pigs eating all Sunny's dog food! That was the first of many pig chasing episodes for the morning. At one point the pigs had wandered into the creek, which is beyond the barbwire fencing. I was walking through the corn field on the other side of the creek and trudging through the creek trying to stir them back into the pasture. Finally we were able to spot them, so I put the kids on watch while I went in to make some lunch, it was already 11:30. Yes, you read it correctly we had been chasing pigs off and on for 4 1/2 hours. Ugh!!! Finally around noon Sam jumped into the creek and chased them back into the field where Sunny & Elizabeth successfully chased them back into their pen. We tried to block every exit point they had created in the pen and then set the kids up on a rotation watch of the pigs until Daddy came home.

Thursday evening Phil started building a new coop and fenced in area for the chickens. We ran out of feed and they are not getting enough grass in their current pen. We HATE giving them grain and have no money to buy more so fencing in a grass pasture area was the only and best solution. By Friday he had it finished so we spent the morning chasing chickens and putting them in their new fenced in area. We caught all but 13 who were caught in the evening once they were in to roost for the night. The picture I have posted is of the pen before Phil built the roof. Now it has a peeked roof with a laying box way up high. The 2 full size hens showed their appreciation for the grass and laying box by giving us two fresh eggs last night! Earlier in the week Elizabeth found a nest in the hay loft with 18 eggs in it. We tested them all in the water test and they were all good. They've already all been eaten and were still fresh and wonderful!

I have to tell you that I was so exhausted by Thursday night after chasing pigs for so many hours that I literally cried tears of relief when I realized that Phil would be home all Day Friday to help us keep the pigs in their pen. And wouldn't you know, they didn't try to escape ONE TIME on Friday.

Today was a different story though. They got out several times before Phil finally corralled them into the old Chicken pen. Phil and Sam are expanding the pigs fencing and electrifying it so our little porkettes will stay put (hopefully)!

The kids love having the chickens in the yard. Phil and I laugh every time they pull out the camp chairs and sit around the pen "chick" watching!! :-) Today they caught a big beetle and enjoyed watching the chickens play "beetle football"! I love looking out one kitchen window and seeing our garden and the other window to see our meat & egg sources for the winter. It is GREAT getting to raise/grow our own food, but it is a lot of work!! The weeds are winning in the garden right now because it has been far to hot to be in the garden during the day and we've been getting a lot of rain. Both the veggies and the weeds like these growing conditions, which is causing us to loose the battle to the weeds for this week at least.

Phil has decided to build chicken tractors and is trying to decide on a design that will be economical and easy to move. We figure we will need a few of them. He wants to try to design chicken tractors that will hold 25 birds each. Right now we have 28 hens and 25 roosters. We have 50 more chicks arriving next Monday. It is a straight run so I'm not sure how many of each sex we will have. We'd like to start pasturing them within a couple weeks since August is very warm here in WI and having the grass will give them a strong healthy start!! Plus, they will outgrow the room we have set up for them in the barn. We also have 6 turkeys that will need their own tractor. I think the 6 ducks and 2 geese will also need their own tractor. So That means Phil needs to build at least 6 bird tractors. WE have PLENTY of Lawn for the birds. We are determined to use this useless grass to help our food supply instead of use energy we need to spend elsewhere. It takes Phil about 7-8 hours a WEEK to mow the lawn with our push mower. I'd rather spend the money on building the tractors so that our meat and egg birds will be healthier than on a riding mower.

I'm sure the next few weeks will be filled with building lessons as Phil and the kids finish the pig fencing and start making the bird tractors. There is never a dull moment!
Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Today our 80+ pound Berkshire piglets arrived. Thomas is having a hard time accepting that we will eat the pigs. He wants them to be Wilbur! :-) Tonight when Thomas was talking on the phone with Grandma Conover he told her that he didn't want Mom and Dad to Bake the pigs. His next comment was, "They'll be under arrest!" I think Thomas wants to have us arrested for butchering the pigs. :-)

I'm very happy to get some of my freezer space back! I've been saving food scraps for the pigs since we found out we'd be able to buy some. I had the entire freezer in one of the refrigerators FULL with slop for the pigs.

Today while I was working in the garden Philip was telling me that he wanted a pet. I told him we had a pet, Sunny our dog. He said that he wanted a different pet. I asked him what kind of a pet he wanted, his reply, “ A Elephant!” As we held hands walking up to the house I told him that I didn't think we had enough food to feed an elephant. I then said, “ Philip, what would you feed the Elephant?” His reply, “Chick starter”. Then he told me that he wanted to use his “dollar” (which is actually a $5 bill he earned for helping with chores) to buy his elephant. I love the way four almost five year olds think!

Tonight I sent out an email to family and friends whose email address I have. This email contained our new address and phone number. If you didn't receive it and would like to please email me and I would love to pass our contact info on to you! I do apologize if I missed anyone. It is very likely that I don't have everyone's current email address.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008

It has been a few days since posting. Nothing major has been happening here. I organized my canning jars and unpacked most of my stoneware yesterday. We've been trying to keep up with the garden, laundry (hang drying everything since we don't have a dryer yet) and keeping the house in order. It is amazing how much easier it is when there are no distractions... like Internet or TV. Mind you the house isn't immaculate, but it is usually company ready and pretty clean (my mom would be proud of me).

So, is anyone wondering about how the garden is going?

This is what I see when I walk through the gate into our garden. Can you see all the beautiful green plants? For those of you who have seen or heard of our failed attempts the past two years, you'll be SHOCKED to hear me say that our garden is beautiful and about 85% weed free. In a garden as large as ours it is almost impossible to keep it completely weed free. The interesting thing is that this years garden is about 3 times larger than last years. The big difference is that we have a desire to really work at it and we have researched out how to do it. Over the past couple days I rescued the strawberry plants from the weeds. About 40 of the 50 we planted have survived. The few berries we have gotten have been so sweet, more like candy than fruit! We've already started to cut broccoli. For some reason our broccoli is flowering instead of making large heads, I'm not sure why. If any of you know please leave a comment and share what I should be doing or not doing to get nice big heads of broccoli. Some of the broccoli plants are about mid thigh on me, so the plants are definitely large enough. All have some broccoli forming. We now have enough broccoli to have a meal with cheesy broccoli once a week plus have broccoli on salads a couple times a week. YUM!

Elizabeth took this picture of me standing in the middle of the garden so you could get a bit of an idea as to how large it is! This is the view I see of the garden from my kitchen window.
This is the view of the garden from the road. You'll notice there appears to be several straw piles in my garden. These are my potatoes. I was told by a friend that instead of using soil to cover my potatoes I should use straw. I guess the straw makes it easier to harvest and gives a good yield. It will also be great to till into the garden this fall to add to the health of the garden soil. That same friend told me to put straw around all my plants. She said that the straw would help to keep back the weeds as well as to keep the soil moist around the plants. Since it has been a VERY warm lately I have put straw around everything except the corn, onions, garlic, and the new squash & cucumbers that are emerging. Our squash veggies (butternut, spaghetti, cucumber, pickling cucumbers, yellow & green zucchini) went in a little over a week ago along with more bush beans and they are coming up nicely.

I have two beds of red onions. One is almost ready to harvest, these are the ones I started from seed and I think there are only about 16 onions, though I haven't counted. We will start using them once I use up the organic ones I have in the pantry. The onions that I started from seed are doing better than the ones from sets. Next year I will do a LOT more from seed and will succession start them indoors. The green bush beans & peas are both flowering. I'm not sure which pea I have that is doing well, a rabbit mowed down about ½ the pea plants. I plan to plant a lot more peas in August for fall harvesting since I only have about 5 plants that are doing well. Many of the tomato plants have flowers and a few have fruit forming finally!! We are still planting carrots. I planted some a few days ago and will do more today or tomorrow. From now through August I plan to plant about 6 rows of carrots every 5-7 days. My rows are three feet long and spaced about 3 inches apart. I also have more beans to plant. Since the ones I planted a week ago are all up I plan to do about 30 more plants today. We never seem to have enough green beans to last the year. This year I'm doing succession planting and hope to have my freezer full of beautiful green beans. August will start a time of even more planting as we prepare the fall crops and winter boxes.

My dear hubby knows that I really want to keep up with the garden. He also knows that I HATE getting up early. Today he woke me with a sweet kiss and breakfast in bed. He served me a yummy omelet with some green grapes and coffee with fresh cream. He knows that I don't like mornings yet he also knows that I love getting up to kisses and food! :-) I got up, had some Bible and prayer time, made the kids donuts (the recipes is below), and headed out to work in the garden for the next 2 ½ hours. Nathan came out at some point half naked, so I had to head up to the house in my mud moon boots to get his clothes. The soil was very wet because of last nights rain so it clumped badly on my shoes adding about 2 inches of mud and a couple pounds of weight to each shoe. Last week when Caleb had his surgery and I worked in the garden early in the day, Nathan came out with two shirts on, one where it was supposed to be and the other around his waist. :-)

It has been a while since I posted a recipe. Todays recipe is Whole Wheat Soaked Donuts! My children LOVED them!

Whole Wheat Cake Donuts

3 ¼ cups whole wheat pastry flour or freshly ground flour of your choice

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp cinnamon

¼ nutmeg (I left this out because I don't have any right now)

2/3 cup kefir or milk (I used kefir)

¼ cup butter melted

2 eggs

2/3 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla

oil for frying (I used safflower, I'd like to try them in coconut oil but cannot afford to this month)

Powdered sugar, granulated sugar, or an icing or glaze of your choice.

  1. Combine flour, baking powder, spices and ¼ tsp sea salt in a bowl.

  2. In a different bowl beat eggs, sugar and vanilla until thick.

  3. Combine melted butter and milk in a separate bowl.

  4. Add flour and milk mixtures to egg mixture alternately beating well after each addition.

  5. Cover and let set at room temperature over night.

  6. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours in the morning.

  7. Roll out on a lightly floured surface ½ inch thick. Use a cup to cut 2 – 2 ½ inch circles or a donut cutter. Use a corer to get a middle circle and donut hole if you don't have a donut cutter.

  8. Fry for 1 minute or until golden brown, then flip with tongs or slotted spoon and cook for another minute.

  9. Cool slightly on a rack then sprinkle with powdered sugar (if you have a sugar shaker) or put sugar in a baggie and shake donuts to get them covered.

COOKS NOTE: If you have a large family you will need to double this recipe. This made 12 donuts and donut holes. If I was making these again I'd double it because Phil and I didn't even get to try them!

Tonight at dinner Caleb was giving us a digestive tract lesson. He didn't care for the veggies served (garlic Parmesan grilled zucchini & baked potatoes) with dinner so he only ate his grilled pork chop then he said he was full. We were questioning him as to whether or not he was REALLY full. Phil said something about Vanilla Ice Cream to see if he'd all of a sudden have room in his tummy. He said he'd have room for Ice Cream because only the food side of his tummy was full. He had room on the desert side of his tummy! We enjoyed the mini lesson that followed talking about how his tube divides so food goes down one side and dessert down the other then they come together at the bottom until they go all the way through and eventually come out the front or back! :-) My comment: “I sense the need to do a unit on the digestive system this year in school!” :-)

If the Internet is cooperating tonight I'll try to post a couple pictures of the garden. If not I'll at least load up the one that Elizabeth took so you can see how large it is. I wish I could post more pictures of the garden showing off each individual veggie. I am so thankful and in awe each time I walk through. God is so good to provide all this wonderful food for our nourishment and enjoyment. Today as I was sweating while working on weeding the leaks, beans, yellow beans, red onions, and planting more beans & carrots I was struck with how it must have been difficult for Adam to have to work hard after having things “spoon fed” to him in the Garden of Eden. Phil and I have talked much about how “lazy” we've been over the past 13 years of our marriage. This little homestead farm is forcing us to get a small picture of what hard work really is when it comes to providing good food for our family. I say only a small picture since we aren't farming the land while trying to raise animals and work a garden. Our dream is to some day be able to grow our own crops for our livestock both the four legged and the two legged kind! :-) God has seen fit to only give us what we can handle as we learn how to do more for our family and I'm thankful that He is taking us through this journey one step at a time!

Well, for not having much to post about I've sure managed to kick out a VERY long post once again. I hope it was enjoyable!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

OK.... it is 1:12 a.m. and I've been trying to download pictures for over an hour. I can hardly wait until we get our high speed internet!!! I'll try to ad more pictures to this post tomorrow, so check back to see the picture of the kids with the pot of berries.....

Today was a busy but fun day! We are so blessed to have many Amish farms in our area that sell GREAT produce! I purchased $75 of Strawberries and a large bundle of Rhubarb. While I was chopping up the 36 cups of Rhubarb Caleb & Elizabeth de-hulled all the Strawberries. You'll see my largest blue speckled pan filled with de-hulled berries on the chair. After shaping our bread loaves and setting them in a warm spot to rise we started the process of making Jam. I have never made real jam before and it has been about 10 years since the last time I made freezer jam. We made a total of 35 pints of Jam and still have about 12 Cups of fresh strawberries left. It was such an enjoyable process with all the help from Caleb & Elizabeth! Tomorrow I'm making a fresh strawberry rhubarb pie and a rhubarb cream meringue pie, both at the request of my dear hubby.

Phil and Samuel drove up to Pembine to get another load of stuff from our house. Somehow we forgot the vacuum on the first two trips. We also needed to check our mail and pick up canning jars. Soon after they got home our new Pastor came over for our first new member meeting. We had a great time sharing our testimonies and going over a portion of the churches constitution.

This evening was spent finishing up Jam while making Tapioca (Phil's Favorite) pudding. Yes, the picture with Elizabeth stirring berries & Tapioca at the same time was posed. She did help quite a bit with the entire jam making process and I think she enjoyed it! She is starting to show more interest in learning how to cook and bake. I'm enjoying teaching her little things here and there as we prepare our meals. When the kitchen was cleaned up we headed outside for a garbage bonfire and some firecrackers that Phil picked up for the kids. :-)

While at the bonfire Thomas said, “Mom I'm hungry for something.” I asked him what he was hungry for and he said, “Some Marshmallows!” He didn't know that I actually had some in the cupboard and I didn't tell him since we are saving them for our 4th of July bonfire.

I'm sad to report that we lost poor little Elizabeth the goat a couple days ago. We are still going to try to get some goats but will get adult goats NOT little kids. Before getting more goats we need to get our pig pen finished so we can get our pigs. I've been saving scraps and freezing them to pull out for the pigs when we get them. I just hate to throw away food and love the idea of giving the things that are leftover to the pigs rather than just throwing it away. My freezer is getting quite full! Phil went to get some ice cubes tonight and made the comment “We really need to get those pigs!!”

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Praise the Lord, Caleb's surgery went well. The doctor said everything went as planned during the 2 hour surgery. We were told that in a couple of months Caleb will be able to get his contact.

Caleb is resting comfortably on the front couch. We praise God that the trip home from the hospital was much shorter this time and that Caleb was able to tolerate being in the car. He is on bed rest until he sees the doctor tomorrow morning at 10 a.m.