Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Fall is here!

I am beyond excited. Really. I am so thankful for the cooler weather and all that fall brings with it.

Our country garden did rather pathetically this year for several reasons ... Corban, the main gardener, was much too busy with work. Brianna, the main helper at home, was much too busy helping me, other mothers, old people and keeping up with her sewing business. Tylor, the muscles behind the operation and the go-to-man for anything dirty, moved out. And me ... well ... my health was beyond bad (but, praise the Lord, it's been really good the last month or so due to something new I am trying ... but more on that later once it proves to be true and not just 'coincidence'). So anyway, like I said, pathetic country garden. That's ok. We did get some tomatoes, a good bit of green beans, a good amount of winter squash and a puny showing of sweet potatoes.

Our main plan with the country garden was to grow produce for the farmers market. However, due to all the reasons mentioned above, it was just not happening. NEXT YEAR (Lord willing) we plan on just selling plants that have been started from seed. Starting and growing seeds happens at a time of year when the head gardener is not as busy with other work. All of his started plants did beautifully well this past season, so it seems logical to put our focus on that instead of trying to grow a bunch of produce that we may or may not be able to take care of.

Our city garden provided a steady supply of kale, lettuce, spinach and beet greens (well, not so steady in the hotter months) as well as some more seeds. Corban planted a few small rows of sweet potatoes and those did very well.

It was nearly dark outside but you can kind of see the results from one plant.

Our friends got a good deal on apples so we purchased 8 bushels - 2 for eating and 6 for canning. So far we have canned 4 bushels of applesauce (which, if anyone is curious, comes about to about 60 quarts). So, that's 60 quarts of homemade applesauce with JUST APPLES for $36. Not bad. Of course it would have been nice to get hold of some free apples, however these apples were pretty cheap and in VERY good shape ... which means a lot less work. The remaining two for processing will become apple pie filling and dehydrated apples.

This time around instead of using my vitamix to process the sauce, we borrowed a sister's "Back to Basics Food Strainer and Sauce Maker". It sure did make processing the apples a lot easier! All we did was quarter the apples (leaving the skin and cores in place), boiled them till soft, put them through the strainer and water bathed them. Easy! I might have to purchase my own mill if the budget allows. Here are a few photos of that:

Using the wood stove provided a lot more cooking space.

Running the apples through the mill/strainer.

In other news, I think I am going to try and have this blog on facebook. I have not had a personal facebook account in a long time but I want to see if having a fb page for this blog will be profitable. If you are interested in joining me, here is the link to the page: Frugal Home and Health on facebook. I have done nothing with the page yet ... so please be patient! Like I said, I am not even sure it will be worth my time but we'll see.

That's all for now. Have a great day!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Meal Planning and Bulk Pancake Mix

We all know it's wise to plan out our meals, right? My weeks always seem to run smoother when I have a plan in mind. I try to sit down on saturday and plan out at least one week of meals, but two is better. I then see what I can do ahead of time.

Last week for example on a planned day I ...
- Made 3 meat loaves, put them in loaf pans, covered with foil and wrote the directions on the foil with a sharpie.
- Made 14 hamburger patties, froze individually, and then stacked with waxed paper in between and stored in a freezer bag.
- Made dough for 16 hamburger buns and 32 dinner rolls (same recipe). Shaped in to balls, froze individually.
- Canned chicken veggie soup and beef veggie soup (this was not part of my meal plan, but something that had to be done. These soups come in handy when there are no left-overs for the boys to pack for lunch).
- Made 2 gallons of bulk pancake mix.
- Made 3lbs of turkey sausage crumbles (maybe I'll share the recipe some other time if I remember) to be used in biscuits and gravy and another breakfast dish.
- Made sure I had all the groceries on hand for the next few weeks (but knew I would still get a few things on my regular shopping day).

So why am I sharing this? Well ... it helps keep things running somewhat smooth when they otherwise would or should have been falling apart. We had a should-have-been-tragic-but-still-very-stressful situation happen last week and it was a blessing to have a plan all ready in place to keep everyone fed. This situation left me stressed out and very tired ... and the LAST thing I wanted to do was think about supper. Well actually, the very last thing I wanted to do was think about cleaning. Unfortunately that cannot be done ahead of time, but it helps to have it caught up and organized! Anyway, I did not have to think about supper because there was my handy-dandy meal plan ready to do the thinking for me. Yesterday for instance was meat loaf, roasted potatoes, peas and bread. All I had to do was pull the frozen bread dough out (that was made a few weeks ago) and pull out two of my meat loaf pans. They sat on the counter all day long and were ready to bake at the right time. All I had to do was cut up some potatoes, add some olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic, and throw them in the oven. Easy.

The bulk pancake mix was an experiment but we all loved the way it turned out.
Not the best photo but you get the idea! The sharpie will wash right off.
Here are the ingredients if you are interested in making your own:

10c Kamut flour
10c Buckwheat flour
10c Unbleached white flour
1 1/4c Baking powder
2 1/2T Salt
2c Dry sweetener of choice (I use rapadura)

This yields almost two gallons of mix (we already dipped in to the jar on the right in the photo above). The flours may be substituted for whatever you prefer ... all whole wheat, half whole wheat half white, all kamut, some rye, spelt, rice, whatever. If you use all rice it will be a bit crumbly; you may add 5T xanthan gum if it's 100% rice flour. We have done this before even without the xanthan gum and it works fine ... we just had to get used to the different texture and preferred them more as a savoury pancake along with supper.

To serve:
4c Mix
4 eggs
1/4c oil
3c liquid of choice (I just use water)

Combine the liquids before adding the mix. Gently stir and pay attention to the consistency. If you think you need more liquid or more mix, it's best to add it before it's totally combined. As with any pancake recipe, be careful not to over-mix it!

Variation: You may use a liquid sweetener instead (honey, syrup, molasses, etc.), however it will obviously not be added to the bulk mix! Simply omit the dry sweetener and add 1/4c liquid sweetener with the other liquids.

Other variations:
- Add 2T cinnamon to the dry mix
- Fold in about a cup of berries or other fruit chunks to the batter (apple cinnamon comes to mind ... YUM!)

I welcome your suggestions and ideas.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Living Books / Charlotte Mason / Homeschooling

Wow, it's been more than a month since my last post. It's been a bit busy around here, but what's new? That always seems to be the case.

This morning I am working on some things that take a while to download and upload, so I thought I'd use this time to post something that has been on my mind. Recently we added a 14 year old boy to our family. He has been working a lot with Corban and other men from our church and I believe this is the best kind of 'schooling' a child could have. Life. However we are also doing some sort of schooling at home in between work and sleep. It has been 'fun' for me to pull out my old ideas and methods and WOW I am enjoying it a lot. All of the children desire brushing up on old skills and we are hoping for a hard winter :) so we'll be able to have more evenings by the fire.

This post may be a bit redundant and silly to seasoned homeschoolers, however it might give you new ones some fresh ideas :) That is what I am hoping any way. 

My homeschooling method of choice over the years has been rather eclectic - taking ideas from Charlotte Mason, Raymond Moore, John Holt, John Taylor Gatto, and others that lean more towards a 'child led learning' approach rather than the 'school at home' approach. I also got ideas from a curriculum called "SOW" (Student of the Word) - I did not follow it exactly but I really appreciated the ideas it gave me. And that is what should happen ... no one way will work exactly right for everyone, however we can glean ideas and get inspiration from a variety of places and shape and mold them to fit OUR family and preferences.

One of my favourite things to do was to read "living books" (a phrase coined by Charlotte Mason) and pull further learning ideas from the books ... history, copywork, science, math, vocabulary, spelling, and so on.

I like the way this website said it: "A “living book” is usually written by an author who is very knowledgeable about his subject, many times in an experiential way. The author tends to write from a love of his subject, one that propels him to write with an enthusiasm that excites the imagination of the reader and carries him along as though experiencing the subject first-hand." [my disclaimer - I have NO IDEA what all is on that website! I just googled real quick and found that page]

A good example: my daughter really likes animals and always has. Not only does she like animals, but she has also always been interested in the care of animals. James Harriot is an excellent writer and was a vet; he has/had so many stories to share of all sorts of encounters with a variety of animals while working in the city and the country in England. We also picked her up a very large book (college text I believe) at a yard sale that was about the veterinary care of animals. James Harriot and this other topic-specific book on veterinary care are both considered living books; check out your local library for books like these if you have a child that is interested in animals. A word of caution though ... James Harriot sometimes uses a bit colourful language. Nothing that I would consider defiling [that I can remember???], but I know we all have our own ideas on what is acceptable and what is not. He's just being himself and telling the story as it happened ... and sometimes not-so-appropriate words or phrases are used.

The bible is a living book [in more ways than one]. The last few years I homeschooled I would use the bible as our main text; we started with Matthew. I would choose a chapter or two [wherever it made sense to stop] for the week and read to myself it before the school week began. From those chapters I would choose vocabulary words ... any word I thought the children would benefit from knowing a more exact definition. I would also choose a passage of 3 or more verses, depending on their age and ability. These verses were then used for memorizing, dictation and copywork.

At the beginning of our school week, we would read the chapters together. Then I would dictate the passage to them and check over their work; any spelling errors would become their spelling words for the week. Each day they would practice their spelling words and also copy their passage as nice as they could ... handwriting / copywork practice. Also on the first day they would write out the definitions to the vocabulary words and use them in their own sentence. And then throughout the week they could either write or draw (or both) an outline of the whole reading. Sometimes I would also have them focus on one particular person or character trait (good or bad) in the reading and write about that person. We would then all share what we wrote.

Well, you get the idea, right? We all really enjoyed this way of learning and that is what I am going to implement again ... or at least try to!

Now for a real example.

Ambleside Online has been a great resource for me over the years. I really appreciate their 'living book' or 'twaddle-free' book lists, though I cannot recommend all of them. I am not really sure how some of the books are considered 'living' or 'twaddle-free' when they are filled with witchcraft, goblins, and other such things. No thank you. But ... AO did introduce us to so many good books that I would have never known about otherwise. I recently checked their list again the other day and saw the book "The Endless Steppe". I have never heard of the book before, but the library had it so we checked it out and made it through the first chapter.

SO MANY THINGS flung out at me as I was reading the book. Ideas about geography, geology, history, language, culture, and so much more! And the vocabulary ... wow. This book is packed full of good vocabulary words. In the first chapter alone I got several of them:


Do you see that word "baroque"? That could lead to a history study on the Baroque period ... art, music, architecture, geography, people, and so on.

The first chapter talks about speaking Yiddish and making challah for sabbath. That could lead to a culture / religion / language study. There are many directions to go with that.

Geography and geology ... specific places are mentioned as well as rivers and of course the title of the book has the word "steppe" in it. 

History: the whole book is a study of history ... Hitler and WWII.

So many things can come out of this one book. Do you get what I'm saying? And each of these subjects can be studied. Your studies can be added to subject-related binders and be used as a portfolio or a scrapbook of memories.


Here are a few of the books I appreciated:
The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook by Raymond Moore (and his other books ... but this is my favourite ... and it might actually be at the very top of my all-time favourite list.)
Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto (he has other books and speeches as well, including a new one I just saw and might check in to if the library has it)
A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola (excellent book)
Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Comstock
You Can Teach Your Child Successfully by Ruth Beechick (and other books by her)

Well, I am sure I am leaving out several but that's what I have in my head right now.

Please share your favourite homeschool books and ideas!