Monday, May 30, 2011

A Moving Tribute

Memorial Day took on a new meaning for my family this year.  We had a family member who was killed in the fighting in Afghanistan.  The family was notified on Friday.  It was in the news by Saturday night. 
We always celebrated on Memorial Day with picnics and we have a family picnic today.  But today for the first time it has really sunk in for my family.  The price that these men and women pay to insure our freedom.

This morning my cub scout group participated in our towns Memorial Day Parade.  I walked along with them since I am the leader of the Tiger group.  At one point in the parade as the cub scouts were walking into the cemetery a group of people started clapping for them.  These boys were proud as they carried the flags and waved to the nearby people.  The thing the most moved me was after the parade was over.  We were standing a good distance away from the ceremony going on at the cemetery.  We were waiting for some parents to come pick up their boys.  When they raised the flag and started singing the National Anthem I witnessed something amazing. 

First my son stood up and in his uniform saluted the flag. 

Soon the other Tiger cubs joined in and they all stood there in their uniforms saluting the flag.  An older boy not in uniform placed his hand over his heart.

To see these young boys who are only 7 years old realize the significance of this was truly moving.  I was so proud that my son thought to do this first and that his fellow cub scouts who I have taught all year joined in and truly showed us adults what today is all about. 

Please join me in honoring those who have fallen, those who are still serving, and those who serve at home. Please pray for the families who have lost loved ones.  Families who still have loved ones away from home serving their country.  Also don't forget to pray and honor our local men and women who serve us.  These are the firefighters and police officers around the country that fight every day to protect us here at home.  Today is a day of remembrance and honor.  Please take a moment today to do that.  Thank you and God Bless.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Laundry Soap

Up until a few months ago I did not know that you could make your own laundry soap.  I have heard of people doing it and saw recipes for it but I thought that it could not work or would be expensive.  Boy was I wrong!!  Most people make their own laundry soap in order to save money.  I have two reasons for making my own soap.  The first is to save money and the second is because my son has allergies and eczema. 

I started out only using Dreft.  It is good because it is very gentle.  The only thing is it did not get my husbands clothes clean.  So I would have to separate the kids clothes out from our clothes and do several different loads of laundry.  Then Tide came out with a free and gentle laundry soap.  It is free from dyes and perfumes.  These are what breaks my son's skin out.  It worked great but very expensive.  And when you have 2 boys and a husband who are constantly getting dirty, muddy, grass stains, etc..  you do a lot of laundry.  So I was spending almost $32 a month on laundry soap. 

A friend told me about this recipe for laundry soap. I decided to try it out.  Then I went to buy the ingredients. 
                     Washing soda:  Check
                     Borax:   Check
                     Fels-Naptha:  Uh Oh!!!
The Fels-Naptha has fragrance added to it.  I can't use anything with fragrance in it for my son.  But then I remembered that the recipe said you could also use Kirk's Castile soap.  I looked on the back of that and was relieved.  All natural, no added dyes or fragrance.  So I make my laundry detergent with that.  I know you can add essential oils to it to scent it.  But since I am the only girl in the household I just leave the laundry unscented.  The Kirk's Castile soap is made out of coconut oil and has a nice fragrance to it anyway.  
So I made a batch and tried it out.  It worked great.  The clothes were clean.  I looked up a recipe for fabric softener too.  I have never used it because almost all fabric softener has fragrance in it.  I made up a batch of fabric softener and it not only softened our clothes but brightened up the colors and whitened the whites!!

So here is the recipe for Laundry Soap that I use:
1 cup Borax
1 cup Washing Soda
2 cups grated soap (this is normally one bar of soap.  I use Kirk's Castile, Fels-Naptha works great, I actually keep a bar of Fels-Naptha on my laundry sink to use for tough stains.  I just rinse it out before putting the clothing in the washer.)

I make up a triple batch at one time.  The Kirk's Castile soap comes in a 3 pack so I normally just make up a triple batch.  I started making laundry soap in January.  I have only made it twice.  The first time I made one batch.  The second time I made up a triple batch.  I just ran out last week when I made this triple batch.  The Washing Soda cost a little over $2, the Borax is around $4 and the Kirk's Castile was $1 a bar.  I still have not used up my first box of Borax.  I just opened a second box of Washing Soda.  So you can see how cost effective this laundry soap is.  I make them laundry soap up in a old gallon ice cream bucket.  First put in your Borax and Washing Soda.

Then with a grater, grate your soap right into the bucket.

Mix it all together and your soap is ready to use.

This laundry soap uses 2 Tablespoons for each load of laundry.  This is an 1/8 cup scoop which is the same as 2 tablespoons.  I put it together with the lid on and store it by my washing machine.

The recipe I use for fabric softener is very simple.  You use water, vinegar, and baking soda.  The only thing is you have to watch the vinegar and soda when you are combining them.  If not, well you all have seen the volcanoes for science fair!!!  Nice eruption without the orange color!!!

Here are the ingredients: 8 cups water, 6 cups vinegar, 1 cup baking soda

First put in 2 cups water.

Then pour in your baking soda.  Put the lid on and shake to combine.

Now add in your vinegar 2 cups at a time.  Slowly pour in each time
 letting the foam settle before adding more. 

You can see how it is foaming up after you add the vinegar.

After you have added all the vinegar put in the rest of the water.  Do this slowly too as not to bring the level up to high and set off a reaction.  I let it settle with the lid on until you here no more sizzling.  To use gentle shake to mix up baking soda and add 1 cup to your rinse cycle.  I use a downy ball.  One cup will fill the downy ball up.  That way I don't have to run down and add the fabric softener. As with the laundry soap you can add essential oil to scent it.  I just make mine unscented.  But lavender or lemon essential oil would smell great in your clothes!! This lasts me about two weeks a batch.  Not as long as the laundry soap but it is still a lot cheaper than buying it without all those dyes and perfumes!!! 

Now that I am making my own laundry supplies I have clean soft clothes at a fraction of the cost.  Plus they are allergen free!!!  Most things that are allergen free are very expensive.  So to my delight I can now save my family a lot of money on laundry care while still keeping my son's skin free from irritation.  At least from his clothes!!

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Last night we had several severe thunderstorms move through our area.  It dumped a lot of rain on our already saturated ground.  When I stopped at the farm today to check on animals I saw all the flooding.  I only had to go a mile down the road when I came to this. 

The small ridge of water in the middle is actually a drainage crick.  It is at least 6 feet deep.  There is a small shallow river at the tree line in the back.  In between the two is a small field that someone farms every year.  As you can see the river and drainage crick are flowing as one. 

The river also flows into a field on the other side as well

The river is normally about 6 feet or more below this point.

This canoe launch sign is sitting in water.  You normally have to climb down a hill to get to the river to launch your canoe

There is a wildlife trail on the opposite side of the road as the fields.  You could only get to the parking spot a few feet off the road.  The entire trail system was completely flooded

A small bridge that goes into the trails.  It is just barely peeking out of the water

My kids were amazed at all the water.  We are hoping for some dry weather soon.  We have not had enough dry periods to dry out the soil enough to get into gardens and fields.  I remember when this area flooded when I was a kid.  I have not seen it flooded this much in a while. We are praying for some sunshine.  We also had some tornadoes or high winds that did a lot of damage about 40 minutes north of us last night.  There are so many places in the country right now dealing with flooding and tornadoes and wind damage.  Please pray for all that have been effected in any way!!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Canning Carrots

I know carrots are not ready in the garden yet here in Ohio.  But sometimes when I find a good deal at the grocery store I stock up and do some canning.  Our local grocery store had  a 2 lb bag of organic carrots on sale for $1.99.  That was only a few cents more than the regular carrots.  So I bought 3 bags and canned them up so I could have them later.  I didn't get any carrots canned from the garden last summer and I miss having carrots in my pantry. 

Carrots like most vegetables are pretty easy to can.  I usually raw pack most of my vegetables.  It is so much easier and less time consuming.  I start out by washing the carrots.

Since these didn't come from the garden I don't have to scrub the dirt off.  So a quick rinse and then peel them.  Then I slice them up and put directly into jars.  Fill your jars leaving 1 inch head space.  You can add 1/2 teaspoon of salt per pint or 1 teaspoon of salt per quart if desired.  This is only for flavoring it does not help in the preserving process.  I normally don't add salt to my vegetables.  I add seasonings later after I open the jar and prepare it for my meal. 
After you fill your jars with carrots, cover in boiling water leaving 1 inch head space.  Wipe the rims of your jars with a clean dish cloth.  Then boil your new canning lids and place on jars.  Tighten rings by hand and place the jars in your pressure canner.  All vegetables must be pressure canned.  Put water in your canner according to the directions for your canner.  Then process for 25 minutes for pints and 30 minutes for quarts at 11 pounds of pressure.  Let your canner completely depressurise before opening.  Remove your jars and and let sit until completely cool.  Check all your jars to make sure they sealed.  If a jar did not seal put it in the fridge to use up within a week.  

Jars of Carrots Before Canning

Jar after they have been processed. 

I canned 9 pint jars from 6 lbs of carrots.  I had two left over that I just ate raw!!   

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Drying Herbs

Yesterday was a very busy day for our family.  I got up early for once and had so much done before 10am I was kind of amazed with myself.  I first loaded my dehydrator with herbs and got that going.  Then I canned carrots.  My son's rabbit kindled a litter of baby bunnies!!! She had 4.  Mom and babies are doing well.  Her first litter last month were all still born.  So we are so happy that we have 4 little ones.  I will have to get a picture soon, but mom was not very happy with me yesterday when I was looking in her box!!  I also had to do laundry but found out I was out of laundry soap.  So I had to make up a triple batch of laundry soap.  Then my boys had their end of the year cub scout picnic.  So I had to make food for that!!  So today I need to clean up from all that I did yesterday!!!  But I did grab my camera and took pictures of a few things I did yesterday. So I have enough to blog about for the week!!!

Here are a few tips on drying herbs.  Herbs should not be dried any hotter than 95 degrees Fahrenheit.  For optimal quality you should harvest your herbs in the morning when the dew is still on them.  You first need to wash your herbs.  I fill my sink with the herbs and cover with cold water.  This knocks off any dirt, grass, weeds, insects, and pollen or dander that may have collected on the herbs. 
Next I remove the leaves from the stems and discard the stems.  I will put the leaves in a colander and let sit for a little bit to remove excess water.  Then you can load your dehydrator.  Sometimes if I am unable to harvest herbs in the morning I do harvest in the evening.  I wash the herbs but it is too late to load the dehydrator so I will put the prepared herbs in gallon Ziploc bags and put in the  fridge.  The next morning I will then load the dehydrator.  This also works well when I have more herbs than will fit in my dehydrator.  I just keep pulling out the next bag and refilling the dehydrator as each batch finishes drying. 

I load the trays right on the dehydrator.  Here is the bottom tray filled with lemon balm.

Here is the second tray filled with lemon balm also

The third tray is filled with pineapple mint. Isn't it pretty with its white and green leaves!!

The top tray is filled with peppermint!! My favorite!

Now I set the dehydrator on the herb setting which is 95 degrees Fahrenheit.  I put  on the lid and plug it in.  I dry herbs in the basement.  My husband can't stand the smell of certain herbs drying.  He says they all smell like weeds. 

About 4-6 hours later your herbs will be dry.  Depending on how wet they were and how full you filled the dehydrator. 

Next it is time to unload your dehydrator and store your herbs in air tight containers.  I normally store mine in gallon Ziploc bags labeled with the name of the herb. 


Pineapple Mint

Lemon Balm

Herbs that are ready to be stored.  I am actually using these tomorrow night at church. I am teaching a hands on workshop on the use of herbs.  This is a follow up to the session I taught earlier this month that was on Herbs in the Bible!

I will continue to dry herbs all summer through fall.  I just keep adding to my bags until they are full.  I make a wonderful mint medley tea out of pineapple mint, peppermint, and spearmint.  It has a wonderful flavor.  I am out of it so I need the herbs to grow so I can start harvesting and drying.  Right now we are just starting to plant the garden so it is a good time to harvest and dry herbs.  By July I will be canning and that will last until October!!  

Monday, May 23, 2011

MInt Jelly

I love herbs.  There are so many different kinds and varieties.  Out of all the different herbs out there, mint is my favorite.  I have always loved mint.  Even as a child I loved peppermint and mint flavored candy.  The mint family has about 30 different species.  Many more can be counted with all the hybridization going on out there.  In Ohio spearmint grows wild.  I remember walking up and down the road when I was little so we could pick spearmint along the road side.  We would walk through pastures and smell the spearmint in the summer.  Some of my best memories were of mint jelly and minted pears.  Since it is not pear season yet I settled for mint jelly.  So I picked some spearmint on the farm and made up a batch of mint jelly.  We used it for rolls, biscuits, PB&J, and Christmas cookies!  Here are the steps to make mint jelly

First pick your mint.  Any type will do.  Depending on the variety you will get a slightly different flavor.  I stick to the spearmint of my childhood.  Wash the mint in a sink of water.

Next pick the leaves from the stem and measure out 2 cups of leaves.  Pack them in tightly. 

Chop the mint and put in a saucepan with 4 1/2 cups of water.  Bring the water to a boil and then cover with a lid.  Turn off the heat and let sit and infuse for 10 minutes. 

Next strain the mint infusion through a jelly bag.  I use an old pillow case.  Let the leaves sit until all the liquid stops dripping.  Don't squeeze the bag.  The key to clear jelly is not to squeeze the bag. 

Now measure out your ingredients.  You will need 4 cups of the mint infusion, 5 cups sugar, 1 package of powdered pectin, and green food coloring (optional, but I always use it).  I buy pectin in bulk so 1/4 cup is equal to one package. 

Before you start cooking your jelly get your jars ready.  Sterilize your jelly jars by either running through your dishwasher or putting in your sink in very hot water. 

To cook the jelly first pour the mint infusion into a jelly pan or tall pan. 

Add the powdered pectin and stir until dissolved.  Cook and stir on high heat until the mixture begins to boil.  Once it has come to a full rolling boil add in the sugar. 

Once the sugar has been dissolved add the food coloring.  When you get the color you want continue stirring and bring to a boil.  Start your timer and cook and stir for 1 minute.  Then take off the heat.

With a spoon skim off the foam.

Ladle the jelly into your prepared jars.  Fill to within a 1/4 inch from the top. 

Wipe the lip of your jars clean with a clean dish rag. 

Boil your new lids to activate the gum on the lids.  This helps create a better seal. 

Using a lid lifter, put your lids on your jars and screw on your rings.  Hand tighten your rings. 

Here are six jars waiting to go into a water bath.  Notice I have a little left over in a plastic container.  That will go into the fridge to use.

Using jar lifters put the jars of mint jelly into a canner filled with enough water to cover the jars by one inch.  Bring the water to about 180 degrees Fahrenheit before you put the jars in.  Put the jars in and bring to a boil.  Once the water comes to a boil set your timer and boil for 5 minutes.  Remove your jars and let sit to cool.

Let the jars sit on your counter until completely cool.  Within a few minutes you will begin hearing the "ping" and your jars are sealing.  Once sealed and cooled put in you pantry for later use or for Christmas presents!

Recipe for Mint Jelly

4 cups of mint infusion
5 cups sugar
1 package of powdered pectin
green food coloring (optional)