Sunday, August 17, 2014

Canning Goals/Reality

A friend asked/challenged her fellow home-canners to share what our canning goals are so here I am to share :)

I will admit up-front that my goals may not be spot on for us.  I haven't done much canning in the last 4-5 years so I'm not completely sure what we will use in a year.

The smaller # in a range is what I think we will need for 1 year, the large would be a guess at 2 years worth.  It pays to be prepared and you never know what will happen to a garden next year.

Sweet corn (freezer) GOAL: 52-104 3 cup bags
                                DONE: 101 3 cup bags

Green beans (canned) GOAL: 52 quart jars (that is a 2 year estimate for us as we don't eat beans every week)
                                  DONE: 57 quarts

Salsa (canned): GOAL: 12-24 pints
                        DONE: 30 pints

Spaghetti Sauce (canned): GOAL: 12-24 quarts
                                        DONE: 7 quarts but we had one for lunch today

Tomato Puree (canned - I use this like juice): GOAL: 12-24 quarts
                                                                    DONE: 2 quarts

Tomato Sauce (canned): GOAL: 12-24 pints
                                      DONE: 0

Diced Tomatoes (canned): GOAL: 12-24 pints
                                         DONE: 0

Pizza Sauce (canned): GOAL: 12-24 pints
                                  DONE: 0

Okra (frozen): GOAL: 2 gallons
                       DONE: 2 quarts

Jellies/Jams:  There is no goal.  I make as much of these as humanly possible both for our consumption and to give as gifts.  I have no idea how much I have made because I just store it and keep going.  lol

Shredded Zucchini (frozen): GOAL: 24 bags
                                          DONE: 64 bags (I just kept shredding as I can substitute it for hash browns

Pickles (canned): GOAL: 12-24 quarts
                           DONE: I have absolutely no idea.  I think that I have 60 quarts and 40 some pints.

Pickle relish (canned): GOAL: 6 half pints
                                  DONE: 0 but I still have some left from last year

Rotel (canned): GOAL: 6-12 half pints
                        DONE: 0

Apple pie filling (canned): GOAL: 12 quarts
                                       DONE: 0

Fruit: I would put up as much fruit as I can get my hands on but it is expensive and I don't have any growing here. I will do some apple butter, applesauce and pumpkin butter.  And can some pumpkin.  I am also going to dehydrate some watermelon and canteloup when it is ready.

We will have a calf in our freezer very soon and a pig or 2 in a few months.  We have 57 chickens now :)  Plus pheasants, guineas, a turkey and ducks.  And hopefully someone or another in this house will get a deer.  We are very blessed.  In a few weeks we will dig our potatoes, onions and sweet potatoes for storage :)  I've been picking mint.  Hopefully next year my herbs will do better.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Summer...aka Canning Season

It's the most wonderful time of the year.....one of them anyway.

All that work we've been doing in the garden is beginning to pay off.  Earlier this summer we had spinach and lettuce with our meals...green onions too.

The ever present zucchini have made their way into many of our meals and I've been trying lots of new recipes....we've had:
fried zucchini
zucchini bread
zucchini pizza crust (not very good)
zucchini bites (working on the seasoning)
zucchini applesauce oatmeal cookies

I've also made lots zucchini jam.  Google it.  It's very good, easy to make and cheap.

I've been shredding zucchini and sticking it in the freezer.  I use it in the recipes above and also to stretch potatoes in any recipe that calls for hash browns (I use equal parts zucchini and potatoes).

We also have cucumbers.  So far I've just been putting cucumbers and onions in a quart jar with a little sugar, a little salt, half water, half vinegar.  Let them sit in the fridge overnight and then enjoy!  Delicious.

I'll be making dill pickles later this week.  Bear loves dill pickles :)

And a batch of sweet pickle relish.

We've been eating cherry tomatoes (Bear and Abby love those things too).  Finally some of our big ones are starting to turn.  What do I plan on making?
spaghetti sauce
salsa
tomatoes and peppers (rotel)
tomato sauce/juice
diced tomatoes

Green beans are blooming so I expect to be picking next week.
We've already been blessed with sweet corn from a family member so I've got a little in the freezer.  Ours should be ready in a couple of weeks.

We are also growing peppers: sweet, cayenne and jalapeno; eggplant, sweet potatoes, potatoes, onions, okra (I've been freezing some), pumpkins, watermelons and cantelope, broccoli, cabbage, green beans and sweet corn.

It is very satisfying to see the jars lined up on the counter, hear the ping of the seals, walk into a full pantry.  It is a lot of work, but the results are so worth it.  The less I can depend on big business to feed my family, the happier I am.  The more work I do myself, the less our food costs.  Gardening is the ultimate cost saving tool.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Shinn Homeschool 2014-2015

Let the 2014-2015 homeschool year begin!

I'm sure you all remember my "thought process" a few weeks ago in deciding on a curriculum.  I scrapped that plan.  I just didn't have the money.  But that's ok!!!!!  Thankfully I have a lot of books here so for about $60 we will have everything we need to get a great 1st grade and Prek4 education.

Bear will be using:
Singapore math 1A and 1B (ordering)
A Reason for Handwriting 1 (ordering)
All About Spelling Level 1 (have)
Explode the Code books 1-3 (ordering)
Alphaphonics (have)

Abby will be using:
Amish workbooks (have)
Coloring, letter, number pages from the internet (just the cost of printer ink)

Together we will be studying:
Creation/Old Testament, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome (have)
the days of the creation week in relation to natural science topics (have)

Our read alouds for the year include: (have)
Mr. Popper Penguins (started)
Little House on the Prairie series
Winnie the Pooh
Charlotte's Web
Magic Tree House series

I plan to include mapwork that goes along with history and science topics and we will learn the oceans and continents this year.

We are currently working on life skills such as traffic signs, address and phone number memory, and usage of a telephone.  We are studying the Bible together and our character trait of the month is contentment.  This will also include Awana lessons and memory work when the time comes.

I also expect to spend at least one day a week doing nature study.

Abby will be continuing exercises in letter recognition, counting (she does to 15 really well) and some at-home speech therapy.  I will evaluate where she is in January and MIGHT order the Before the Code books for her.  MAYBE.  She is 4.  I will not push her.  We will also work through some of the activities in a Before Five in a Row book I found upstairs (getting books from the library if necessary).  She has made great strides in motor skills over the last few months so I am pleased with that.  If we can get a handle on her speech issues then she will be doing well.  She IS doing well, but I'm sure you know what I mean.

So that is where we are.

I've alotted about an hour in the morning for "seatwork", a short period for Bear to read aloud to me and then 30 minutes in the afternoon and again before bed for me to read to them.  Our first day was a success.  I look forward to many more happy days.


Monday, June 30, 2014

Summer Routines

Once upon a time, I lost my to-do list.

Thereafter ensued a rather lengthy discussion among friends about the use of to-do lists.

I had one friend even suggest that she didn't use one at all.

So I gave that a try.

Let's just say that the results were not encouraging.  lol

Back to the to-do list I went.  A few friends asked to see it so I took a picture but then a few wondered exactly what my to-do list day looked like so here we are :)

To begin, you must understand that I exist from routines.  My to-do list contains the things that won't get done with just my basic daily routine.  So I'll start there (If you've read my post about my winter routine some of this will be the same).

I get up around 6 a.m.  I get Lee up if it is a work/school day and then I go feed cows.  In my pajamas.  The cows don't care.
When I get back in I make coffee, start laundry, make sure Greg is up and do my Bible study.  I hang out the first load of laundry and start the 2nd load.  I check facebook.  I hang out the 2nd load.  Sometimes I do the dishes.  When the big boys leave for work/school I take a shower.

After my shower I consult my to-do list.  Sometimes I make a "master list" on Sunday, sometimes I make the list every morning.  The list is sometimes on an index card, scrap of paper, my day-planner calendar.....I just jot down when needs to be done that day.  Really, don't over think this.  If the kids spilled kool-aid on the kitchen floor, the add mop kitchen floor.  If someone wrote their name in the dust on the coffee table write dust living room.  If the dog knocked over the potted plants (again) then write down clean/sweep front porch.

Then do the things on the list.

I try to spend an hour on the list first thing in the morning.  In addition to whatever is on the list the following is to always be done, every day:  sweep downstairs, make my bed, straighten bathroom, laundry, cat litter box, dishes, meals.  I also am in charge of feeding the cows twice a day, at 6 a.m. and 4 p.m.  Those are ball park times but I try to stay on schedule...remember that if you do everything at the same time everyday it is harder to forget to do it :)  Sometimes I also feed and water chickens and gather eggs.  Rarely I will check on pigs (usually only if Norman has worked more than a double shift in a week).  I also don't often put hay in the manger or straw in the cow stalls but I could.  Every day I check with Norman and one of us do these chores.  If I do them, I do it around 3, just before I feed cows the 2nd time.  Routine, routine, routine.

As long as I only do 2 loads of laundry, I bring the dry laundry in right after lunch.  Then I do any remaining chores from the list.  If we do school that day then there are more chores in the afternoon.  If we don't then I try to get everything done before lunch.

I got to thinking about my insistence on having my work done before supper.  I know a lot of moms that do housework all day, even into the evenings and if you are working then I imagine that you would have to do that to get everything done.  I find it very important to give myself a "stopping point".  So after 5 or 6 I am "off the clock".  That means that if it isn't done off the list by then, it moves to the next day.

Does that mean I'm watching TV all night?  Sometimes.  Sometimes I work in the garden when it is cooler, sit on the porch and read, knit or sew.  I think it is reasonable to have a stopping point in your day of work.  Now when the garden is in full swing I imagine that my days will stretch far into the evening as I preserve as much of God's bounty as possible.  But I try not to make that the "norm".

I hope that this helps some of you establish your daily routines and to-do lists.  Really, the routine is the most important thing.  If I can get the routine stuff done (basic housework and animal chores) then the day has gone well.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Finding My Place in History

I'm a historian.  Looking at the big picture in light of past events is something I do...sometimes unconsciously.  I like to fit together the pieces of the puzzle, compare past events and their consequences with things that are happening or seem to be happening now.  I enjoy teasing out the way history has been "revised" to fit present "correctness".

Once upon a time I thought I might enjoy a future in politics.  Historically, many of our founding fathers dealt in politics, although I'm sure nothing like the current mess we have.  I wanted to be out there MAKING history.  I didn't just want to read about it....I wanted to DO it.

Somewhere along the way, I discovered, correctly, that I wouldn't be cut out for politics....in any century.  My skin isn't that thick, I don't think that quickly and I doubt I could shoulder the burdens of the world for one minute let alone for the duration of a career.

That's probably just as well that I discovered this early....like in 8th grade.  lol  Anyway, as a young adult, a young mother, I discovered my favorite part of history.....learning about the lives of those who have gone before us.  That is true history.  The day to day stuff that shapes the lives of children, families and communities.  THAT is what will eventually trickle down and create history.  The lives and actions of ordinary people make a big difference in the scheme of things, even when their names and lives are forgotten.  I think that is why it is most important that we keep a journal, whether online or on paper (I do both).  I find those things fascinating and I'm sure others do.

In our world today we are fighting a war in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The big debate is whether Bowe Bergdahl was a deserter, taliban sympathizer or genuine prisoner of war (I'm sure his mother is glad he is home but was the price too high?).  And what in the heck is his father spouting off about??  Who knows, right?  Unemployment is through the roof (and touches the lives of those I know), drug use is running rampant and the state of IL is going down the drain (rapidly).

Let's face it....what can I do about any of that?  Really?  In the course of historical events relating to these headline items, you will not find my name.  You won't find the name of anyone that I know personally.

And that's ok.

That took me a long time as an adult to realize.

It's the little things, the mundane things, that matter.  They really do.

If I don't feed our cows, they will die.  The same with the piglets and chickens.  If I don't care for them daily in feeding, watering and general maintenance then they will die.  If they die we are out food for the next year and a fairly large chunk of money.    I school my children daily so that they will grow into hardworking, dependable, loving, generous and kind adults that make an impact in their family; their community.  I shop (care for my family, supporting my community businesses) and visit and take part in community activities.  I volunteer.  I read.  I knit.  I try to expand my understanding of the world around me.  Not because I can single-handedly change it, but because God made this wonderful, beautiful world and I want to know what's out there.  Why shouldn't I?  

I want to be able to help my neighbors and friends.  I want to love unconditionally.  I want to impact my little world.  I CAN do that.

Washing dishes might not seem like much but if they aren't clean, chaos reigns supreme.  If chaos reigns, then how will my children understand the peace of order?  If clothes aren't clean, will my husband be able to go about his duties with a full focus on the work in front of him?  If meals aren't healthy, how will our bodies get the nourishment they need to grow and function properly?  If we don't expand our minds, how will we know what could be?

Mothers, fathers, don't get stuck in thinking that life is mundane nothingness and then you die!  It is the little things that count!  One more story, clean laundry, home-cooked meals, snuggling in bed, driving to practice, homework.......we are impacting the lives of our children and those we encounter every single day!  Let's put a smile on our faces and embrace our places in history.  My place is as a wife, mother, gardener, animal caretaker, dog and cat owner, baker, knitter, seamstress, learner, explorer.......and I plan to leave a written (typed) legacy of all those wonderful things for those that come behind me.  How about you?  What is your legacy?  Have you embraced your place in history?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Preparing for the 2014/2015 Homeschool Year

Welcome!

I'm a homeschooling mom.  As a homeschooling mom, summer brings thoughts of a new school year, new books, new lessons......and I'm in charge of it all.  LOL  It can be overwhelming.  When I was homeschooling Lee and Greg, every June I would empty all my homeschooling "stuff" out of my homeschooling "closet" and decide what our focus for the year would be, what we would be using that we already had and what would need to be purchased.  I would organize the closet again according to those decisions and purchase what was needed.  We frequently started the year up in July.  Hopefully that will be the case this year as well.

The problem with this plan is that as the years went on all the "homeschooling stuff" aka BOOKS didn't fit in the homeschooling "closet". So I used bookshelves, then rubbermaid totes to contain our "learning materials"  aka BOOKS.  When we moved to town I was in heaven because there were built-in bookshelves in 2 of the downstairs rooms.  All of our "stuff" (aka BOOKS) had a home and I organized according to category (history, children's, science, art, etc).  It was wonderful.

Here, there are no built-in bookshelves.  Anywhere.  There isn't really room to put bookshelves except in a hallway upstairs outside of  Lee's bedroom.  Currently, that is where the boxes, and boxes, and boxes of school "stuff" aka BOOKS reside....also there are some in the upstairs linen closet, upstairs landing and one shelf of Abby's bookshelves and 2 shelves (and some creative stacking) of a downstairs bookcase I snuck into a dining room corner and on 2 shelves of the dining room hutch and a small stack of current stuff on the air conditioner.....there are also children's books in Abby's room, Bear's room and on the living room coffee table.  (((sigh)))  Did I mention that I have a stack (ok, 3 stacks) of books on the floor beside my bed?  And antique books in the china cabinet?  And cookbooks in the kitchen?  If there is a 12 step program for book hoarders, I don't want to know about it.  I. Just. Don't.

I went to a homeschooling convention in Cincinnati Ohio with a friend in April.  If you've never been to a homeschool convention, the seminars are wonderful but the reason everyone goes is for the vendor hall.  Think, shopping mall for book lovers.  Yep.  So I go and on the first pass through the vendor hall the first day I picked up all the free magazines and catalogs.  I went with very little shopping money and managed to come home with my free stuff and a very nice planner.  Hooray!

I also hashed out multiple ideas for how our upcoming school year would go.  I think I ended up with 3 different plans before the weekend was over.  I've since made up 2 more plans and then reverted back to one of the ones I made in Cincinnati.

Here is an overview of the plans:
Plan 1:  My Father's World.....1st grade stuff for Bear (would just need to buy worksheets from MFW, handwriting and Singapore 1) and then some cheap workbooky things for Abby.  Relatively in-expensive. (I haven't figured up exact cost of that yet, probably around $150.) Would require me to dig for the necessary books in the boxes upstairs.

Plan 2:  Sonlight.....I'm looking at P4/5 for both, adding in LA 1, Singapore 1 and handwriting for Bear.  Using as is with Abby.  Approximately $600.  Like I have that kind of money laying around (maybe I'll look under the chickens).

Plan 3: A compilation of various things including language arts from Queens homeschool, Singapore 1, unit studies/lapbooks for history and science, handwriting and workbooky stuff for Abby.  Cost around $100 but I would have to do all the legwork.

Plan 4: I briefly looked at Heart of Dakota.  I don't really think it is in the running.

I've been back to Sonlight twice.  I love Sonlight.  I used it some with Lee and Greg (core 3 and 4 - now labeled C and D spread over 3 years).  I think if we started with P4/5 that I would be able to keep the kids together, spreading each core over 1.5 years or so supplementing with free lapbooks to really dig in to the material.  The cost would be substantial over the next 3 years or so but then I would be using something that I already have.  I just don't have $600 and honestly, I don't have the bookcase space that Sonlight requires.

I like My Father's World.  I've used MFW Grade 1 and Adventures (2nd).  It is similar to Sonlight.  I like the Language arts.  The cost would be very small this year and next year.  I could roll Abby in with Bear whenever I want.  I already have MFW K (that is what Bear used over 2 years, when he was almost 5 and 6 - he has a late birthday).  I would need to dig for the books but the teacher's manual is right here next to me.  I don't know why I don't like it as much.  There is no logical reason as the programs are very, very similar.  We can supplement units with free lapbooks or could even buy lapbook kits because honestly I would have very little output of money.

I'm not very good at putting my own stuff together.  It never ends well.  I know that is a weakness I have so even though it might save a little money and it would be fun, I know that I just won't get it done.  And then there we are.  lol

Ok.  So, now that I've hashed that all out (wasn't it fun???) I think that we are looking at My Father's World first grade for Bear.  I will get Singapore math 1 and handwriting (either a Reason for Handwriting or Handwriting without Tears.....comments???).  I already have All About Spelling Level 1 and we will finish working through our Alphaphonics book.  Abby will continue doing the preschool workbooks that I already have her working through and I will get tot packs to supplement as she gets bored.  Maybe mid-year I will evaluate her and possibly begin MFW K with her....we will see how it is going.

I've written out plans to get us started in July working on some life skills.  We will start the actual curriculum in August.  Probably around the time the boys start public school.  We will see how the harvesting/preserving of the garden is going.


Chicks, Chores and VBS

We have chickens, a very nice borrowed incubator and eggs (and a rooster) so my husband loves to incubate eggs.  We put 71 eggs in a month ago and this past weekend had 55 hatch :)  It's always exciting to have new babies around.  They stayed until Monday when we sold 50 of them.  Hopefully at least one or two of the 5 we kept will be hens.

A friend of my husband's gave him some fertilized duck eggs so they are resting peacefully in the incubator now.  We've never hatched ducks before but are hopeful that a few make it.

The part I detest the most about gardening has arrived.  Weeding.  I spent a couple hours out there this morning.  Finished weeding the lettuce and got most of the onions done.  We could really use a small rain shower, the ground is like hoeing into cement.  I'll try not to complain though.  Interestingly we still haven't gotten our sweet corn or green beans in the ground.  Maybe this weekend.  All of our zucchini and many of our tomatoes are blooming :)  I found a little zucchini on one plant, about the size of my ring finger.  Very exciting.  Makes the weeding worth it :)  Norman tilled around almost all the tomatoes before he ran out of gas.  So it is coming along.  If we could get some mulch down that would help with the weeding also.  I just need to plan on spending a couple hours out there every morning when it is cooler.

I used some of last year's shredded zucchini and made zucchini bread for today's snack. Ham steaks and au gratin potatoes with corn for lunch.  Swept through the house and brought my laundry off the line.  My clothes line holds 2 loads of laundry and that is usually what I need to do each day so that works out well.  No complaints from me.  There is nothing better than warm, sun dried laundry.  So that is all folded and everything but the boy's stuff put away.  I weeded most of the flower beds around the house until I got into a nest of fire ants.  I escaped mostly unscathed.  Need to figure out what to use on those little buggers.

Bear and I are going to work on one of his 4H projects here in a bit then I will get the kids ready for VBS.  This is the first VBS of the year, at Falmouth Methodist Church and the kids are loving it.  Everyone there is great and the kids always have the best time.  Next week is VBS at Central Christian then a week off before VBS at our church (Hidalgo Independent Christian).  I take my kids to every VBS I hear about that they are able to attend.  It's good for them to go and gives me a little break.

The big boys worked until after 8 last night.  Norman just left for work tonight, will come home and sleep a few hours then is working a 16 hour shift tomorrow.  I'm not sure what we have planned for the weekend but I'm sure it involves gardening.  :)  I'll let you know how that first zucchini tastes!  Oh and one of the cherry tomato plants has a cluster of green tomatoes and Norman said he saw a little one on the regular plants also.  I love fresh produce!


Saturday, May 24, 2014

Hello Saturday :)

It's been a good day!  I recovered from my itty bitty pity party and am optimistic and joyful again :)

We started our day with our 4H club at a local cemetery placing American flags on the graves of those who served in our military.  While there we met my sister-in-law and took possession of my nephew Brennan.

I had managed to get 2 loads of laundry on the line before we left this morning so when we got home I finished my house picking-up, brought in the clothes and hung out my sheets and quilt.  There is nothing in this world that compares to bedsheets and quilts after they have soaked up some sunshine.

Baby chicks are hatching!  We have 4 new arrivals so far so I helped Norman set up the brooder.  We gathered eggs (19!), fed and watered chickens.  Brennan loved the chickens!  He held a chick and a big chicken.  He has no fear of them at all :)  I just love that little guy!

I baked some cookie bars this afternoon, folded laundry and remade my bed with my nice, warm, sun-shiny sheets and quilt.  After my brother picked up Brennan, the littles, Thor and I walked down the lane for the mail.  Supper is in the oven now.

Norman and Greg worked on the hog pen again all afternoon.  I think its almost done (which is good because the pigs are ready to move!).  They fed the cows for me and then Norman ran Greg into town to the swimming pool.  I think we are being gifted a tiller so he went to check on that also.  What a blessing!

I can smell the herb potatoes in the oven and am feeling so blessed.  I'm so very, very blessed!  Have a wonderful enjoyable weekend friends!