Wednesday, April 25, 2012


The boys put in a makeshift fence so the chickens could have free range of the backyard. We are really enjoying their funny ways. The other day we all had fresh salad from the garden and decided to have our salads outside with the chickens. I sat down on the step and about a second later I had a chicken on my lap eating out of my salad bowl! She seemed to like the olives the best but I only let her eat one. Silly chickens. Here are a few pictures ... "chicken salad" included :)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Lacto-Fermented Soda (make your own healthy soda!)

(see my revisited ginger-soda post for how I do it now ... and a VIDEO: Ginger Soda) Recently I tried my hand at soda making ... and I must say ... a real big 
We really enjoyed our first batch of homemade soda (I made ginger-ale) and have made several more ever since. We tried using grapes one time instead of ginger. I did not care for that very much. I think we'll stick with the ginger!! But, if the boys have a chance to pick some sassafras and sarsaparilla, we'll look forward to homemade root beer.

So, how is it done? Well ... let me see if I remember. First you need the starter. This starter can be a few cups saved from your last batch of soda, or you can start the starter from scratch. Here's how to do that:

Have on hand FRESH ginger root, sugar, and filtered water. A rubber band, coffee filter and wide mouth quart jar are needed as well.

Chop up the ginger small, add 2T of that along with 2T sugar into a quart mason jar filled with about 3c of water. Stir well, cover with coffee filter, secure with rubber band, and let it sit for 1 week total. Each morning you will add 2t of fresh chopped ginger and 2t of sugar. Stir well. Each afternoon and evening you will stir well. It is good to incorporate air into the mix.

Your mixture will eventually start to get a little cloudy, but it will smell pretty good and have a mildly sweet ginger taste each day. At the end of 7 days, it should be bubbling a little ... it might even be fizzing a little. I've read a lot of different instructions on how to do this (including one that was a guest post on here about 2 years ago) and all have a little something different to say, so I guess this is not 100% set on how to do it. Some say it will fizz, some say you will hear the fizz, some say it will bubble a little, some say it will bubble a lot. I was somewhat concerned because I could not hear a fizz in my starter by the end of 7 days, nor was it really bubbling much. I saw small bubbles around the perimeter of the jar, but that's it. I used it anyway to go on to the next step ... and it ended up working just fine.

OK ... so the next step is called the "wort". You'll need fresh ginger, lemon, sugar, filtered water, a gallon glass mason jar and a coffee filter with a rubber band. Well ... you'll also need a pan and something to stir with.

Grate the ginger (you do not have to peel it) with a cheese grater until you have about 2oz. I should have measured the 2oz in a measuring cup as well, but it seems to be about 1/2c of unpacked grated ginger. I'm guessing here. Add the grated ginger and 1 1/2c sugar to a pan with half a gallon of water. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove from heat and pour into a clean glass gallon jug. I read somewhere that putting a butter knife into the glass jug helps prevent the jug from cracking. It must work because I have not cracked a jug yet. Add the juice of 2 lemons and some more water (but be sure to leave plenty of room for your starter!) and let it sit till it reaches room temperature. To hasten the cooling process, you can set the jug in a bigger container and fill the container with cold water. Stir occasionally and add more cool water as needed. Once it is cool, add the starter and more water to reach about an inch to the top. Here is a picture of my cooled mixture with the starter next to it (this is starter from my last batch):

Place a coffee filter over the top and secure it with a rubber band:

Let it sit for at least 2 days. Taste it. It should be fizzy and have a lightly sweet ginger taste. If it's too sweet, there is too much sugar in it. Leave it sit for another day and taste it again. The more you make, the more you'll know what to look (or taste!) for. It's all right if it's a little sweet - more sugar will be eaten up in the final process. Bottle the soda. Some like to get all fancy and use soda or beer bottles with special lids that look like this (or bottles with lids separate):

But, I don't have money for these bottles right now and found it works to just use old juice jugs with tight fitting lids. The discount store here sells organic juice for $1.50; sometimes we drink the juice with a special 'breakfast supper' or I will use the juice to make more soda (take out a cup of the juice and replace it with a cup of starter), and then use the jug for the finished product :) It works out well. The key is, the lid must fit (it must be air tight). The soda now needs to sit in the jug/bottle for a day or two out on the counter. Be sure to release the air whenever needed ... you don't want it exploding! Taste it once or twice a day and when it has the right amount of fizz and a good flavor, secure the lid and put it in the fridge. The stuff could sit there for months ... but we drink it up quick and have more going nearly all the time.

Let me know if you try it!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Drip Irrigation

Thanks to the help of a brother and his parents, we now have drip irrigation in our big garden out in the country. Brian's parents, Gary and Carol, came to visit us a few months ago and gave my boys the idea of drip irrigation. Gary had installed his system last year and said it worked wonderfully. He also said he'd like to get the parts for us (He lives in Ohio and could get the parts for a good deal) if we just tell him what we need. Corban spent a good amount of time figuring it all up and finally got the figures to Gary. Brian and Gary would not let us pay for it ... we were thankful for the gift!

The boys got everything installed a few weeks ago, have everything planted as of yesterday (except a half a row I think?), and are also almost done with an electric fence to keep the critters out. The idea for the electric fence is a funny story ... one day we came home and saw a piece of paper hanging on the fridge. Brian had done some figuring of his own :) :) (I guess he felt a little left out?!) and helped us to see that no matter how much time and effort we put into our garden out in the country, it will all be in vain if the critters have free range of it! Here is Brian's diagram ... can you see it well enough?

Thank you Brian for the great laugh! I especially appreciated the little 'squared' symbol above the 'r' (which represents rabbit).

Ok, now on to the real garden pictures!

Here is one of the potatoes with Corban standing at the end of the rows so you can see better how long the rows are:

This is of the same place but taken at a different angle a week or two ago:

The smaller plot, also taken a few weeks ago:

A closer view of the smaller plot; these squash plants are much larger now and a few did not make it ... no worries though! We'll have plenty to go around!

Here is a picture from a distance:

And here is another picture looking off to the west. How terrible it must be to spend time out here in the fresh air and the sunshine looking at all the beautiful countryside and listening to the birds!

Speaking of beautiful countryside, here are a few pictures of on our way to and from Hemphill's.

This particular place called Booger Holler ... Christine (the 92 year old lady I pictured in a previous garden post) knows the woman who named it Booger Holler, but either she wouldn't tell us why or she did not know why. Whatever the case, despite the funny name, it sure is a very beautiful place.

And these pictures are on the way to Christine's house from Hemphill's and Booger Holler.

I plan on posting about the chickens either today or tomorrow, and also I'll probably get a post on here about our city garden soon.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Flowering and seeding kale (saving kale seeds / bolting kale)

(added 5-19-15: for info on making your own green powder for smoothies using kale and other greens, click here: Homemade Green Powder for Smoothies)

I have more to come, but I thought I'd post this real quick. Our kale from last year has begun to flower and go to seed. I thought it would be beneficial to someone if I posted what it looks like.

The old kale plants (and other plants like it) all the sudden start growing taller and taller and the stock gets really thick. Shoots start growing out of the top and then flowers come (kale flowers are yellow). Eventually the flowers and plants die and seeds are ready. I have not seen the kale get to this stage yet, but I remember our lettuce and spinach at this stage last year and the seeds were much like dandelion seeds (you know when the head of the dandelion flower is all fuzzy, you blow it and all the seeds come off?).
UPDATE: The kale plant starts to produce seed pods. The pods get bigger and bigger and eventually (as the plant begins to die) the seeds will be ready to harvest.
The bed of old kale going to seed:

The flowers:

A more artistic view of the flowers (thanks to Brianna):

The thick stock:

I'll update this post with pictures of the kale seeds whenever I can.

UPDATE (5/23/12) - new pictures!

This first picture is of the new kale. We use kale in green smoothies and also chopped up small in soup or with tomatoes over rice. A huge bowl of kale cooks down to nearly nothing, so we can put a lot of kale in a main dish. I've heard that kale is the most nutritious dark green leafy veggie you can grow in your garden and (as we know from experience) it's VERY easy to grow. We plan to plant more of it soon.

See how tall the seeding kale from last year has gotten? The yellow flowers are mostly gone and there are hundreds or thousands of seed pods.

A close up of the seed pod. I think they will be ready to harvest when the plant dies and the pods start to open.

UPDATE (5-28-12) New Pictures!

The seed pods are nice and dry now and some have begun to burst open. In the last picture of the seed pods, you can see that they are still a bit green. Now however they are a light sandy color and are dry. Here are a few pictures of the dry pods as well as harvested seeds. We have thousands of them. Many thousands. We'll have to share :)

A final note about saving kale seeds ... collards, broccoli, Brussels' sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, kohlrabi, and kale, except Siberian kale, are all in the species Brassica oleracea, so they will all cross pollinate. When plants of the same species cross pollinate, their seeds will no longer be pure and may or may not produce anything next year. If they do produce next year, the results may or may not be the vegetable you were hoping to get and then the seeds from the year after that will not work! 

You have a few options to prevent cross pollination from happening. One, you could just plant one plant from the same species. Two, you can plant what you want but pull up the others of the same species before they start flowering and only let the one go to seed that you want to save. Three, plant the same species in different gardens, very far apart from each other. (this method is not fool-proof! you'll have to do some investigating to see how far apart is recommended. sometimes it's 100 feet. sometimes it's much further.) Four, protect different plants from the same species from cross pollinating. For example, C. maxima (squashes like hubbard, buttercup and some varieties of large pumpkins) -- you must purposefully pick a male flower and use that to pollinate a female flower; this is called hand pollination. The female flower must remain taped shut so there is no danger of cross-pollination with another of the same (or similar) species. Corban then puts a piece of tape around the vine that has the properly pollinated fruit on it so he knows which ones to save seeds from.

But this post is about kale so forget about option 4! It seems the safest thing to do for brassica oleracea would be to plan on saving seeds from, let's say, kale in the spring/summer and broccoli in the fall/winter. Option 1 or 2. :)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Do it yourself

Part of being a frugal person is being willing to try to do things yourself; my dad has always been a great example of this. Growing up I thought and knew that "my dad can fix anything!" and that's pretty much true. A brother at our old church told us once how his dad had a saying: "If it can be fixed, we can fix it." Between growing up around my dad and working with all the brothers we have in the Lord, my boys now know that "if it can be fixed, we can fix it." I am so thankful for the good examples around them.

These last several days we have been out of town helping my dad with his roof. While I never got up on the roof, I was happy to be the 'go fer' ... running around here and there trying to get the right nails for the job. Two brothers from our church came with (Olen Yutzy and Chris Irick) and two brothers from our old church were able to help us out on saturday (Elson Miller and Leon Zook). What a blessing!! We always enjoy working together like this and I know my dad was so thankful for the extra hands. The men did not get everything done, but they did get all the stuff done that would have been hard for dad to do on his own.

Our camera woman was left at home to tend to the chickens, the gardens, the seedlings, and to help out a sister who's husband is out of town. I did the best I could, but I know I do not compare to Brianna! I only remembered to grab the camera a few times ... here is what I got:

Elson and Corban


Leon taking a water break; Olen getting the next piece ready.

A picture of the whole front of the house.

Chris peeking over the edge.

Tylor and dad (Steve)

I like this picture of Chris' hat over the top of the roof :)


Tylor and Corban - that black spot above Tylor is a bird.

I like this picture of Olen ... the beautiful blue sky and the pretty green roof.

And then there's one of dad's cats walking around the tools on the kitchen counter. Yuck. Dad has cat hair everywhere! But, they sure are nice cats.

We were blessed to stay over at Elsons' house thursday evening for a nice time of fellowship. We got to dad's on friday morning and had a long day of work. It started to rain a little towards the end, but then that was all for the rest of the time. Saturday we finished around 5, cleaned up, went out to eat, and then most of us took a nice walk around dad's neighborhood. We got up early sunday morning and made it in time for church at 10am (6 hour drive). A sister here, Monica Rohrer who Brianna stayed with, was so thoughtful to have us lunch in the crock pot! I was beyond thankful to not have to worry about fixing up something to eat. They stayed for lunch and then went home. Here are two pictures of after-lunch play:

Carina and Martina Rohrer :) I don't know what they were doing, but it sure was cute! They pulled the chairs to the couch like that and were playing something.

Here is a picture Brianna got of them this morning I guess before they left for church:


Ok. Time to make some supper.