Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Peaches Galore

I finally harvested the rest of my peaches today for the season. I had been taking 10-20lbs off at a time and when they were ready. I kinda wanted to be done with them and move on to something else, so I harvested everything.  I ended up with about 90lbs today so around 130 to 150lbs total. It was my best crop yet. I always keep the peaches organic and work around the bug and bird bites. I have cut up a ton for freezing and dehydrating. I was surprised at how much my son and husband love them dehydrated. I have never done that before with peaches.
 I have been doing peach fruit leathers or "roll ups" too. I did one banana and 6-8 peaches depending on the size and blend till smooth, adding stevia to sweeten if needed. I poured them out on the teflex sheets that you can buy with the Excalibur dehydrator and smoothed them out to about 1/8 -1/4 inch. I just dehydrate overnight and check them in the morning. I peel them from the sheet and roll them up on parchment paper then cut them into 4ths.
 I put a little tape in place to hold them closed and put them in zip lock bags to store. You could also wrap them in plastic wrap. These are great snacks for your purse for snacks or school lunches. I plan on doing other fruits also, especially apples and cinnamon.
The fruit roll ups you get in the store are full of  tons of chemicals and sugar. These are wonderful alternatives and don't take much time to make and store.
Homesteading tip:
If you over dehydrate the roll ups and they're too brittle leave out until they rehydrate some moisture from the air and are pliable again. You can also boil a little water in the kitchen to help the moisture along.  Also, when fresh fruit isn't available thaw some frozen fruit, blend and dehydrate.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

My Herbs

I started a lot more herbs this year than I usually do because I was afraid some of the seeds wouldn't take and I tried to get some plants going in various stages. I do most of my herbs in pots, they tend to be more fragile but the weeds are easier to keep down and I don't have to worry about other plants growing over the herbs.
I planted stevia this year for the first time and I really like it. Sometimes while I'm out in the garden I'll just take off a couple leaves and eat them. They have a very nice flavor with no after taste. I use this mostly in my smoothies, but I also juice it for a mean green juice. I'll start harvesting it more and blending it up and freezing it in ice cube trays for later use. You can also make up some simple stevia teas to use when sweetener is needed.
I have a lot of chives. I love chives on eggs in the morning and I use it in my Mexican meals, salsa, salads etc.
This year I ended up with a ton of basil, usually I have a couple plants and at least one croaks. This time I have 6 or 7 pots full. We use basil in our lettuce wraps, in Italian dishes in salads.
Our favorite is fresh sliced tomatoes with mozzarella and basil leaves stacked. Then I mash a couple cloves of garlic in olive oil with S&P and pour it over the tomatoes. Soooo good. I also grow parsley for soup and smoothies, thyme, rosemary, cilantro for salsa. Since the season is coming to and end soon I plan to start dehydrating everything for the winter.

Homesteading tip:

Once herbs are dehydrated remove them from the dehydrator immediately and put in air tight jars out of the sun. When herbs are left in the dehydrator when it's off they can rehydrate partially and mold.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Pork Loin Chops and Cinnamon Peach Tart

I wanted to post this recipe because I know people love a super tasty, easy dinner and this is one. I love pork chops but buying a pork loin whole is sometimes half the price. So I buy a whole pork loin and cut it in half and freeze them separately. I don't cut up the chops until I defrost the loin to reduce the chance of freezer burn. I cut up the loin into 1 inch chops.  This is easily done if you leave the loin a little frozen. One of the best seasonings I have ever found is Herbes De Provence. I've bought several brands and they're all usually the same. The next thing I use is garlic salt. Now, not all garlic salts are the same. I can go through a bottle of garlic salt a month but it'll just sit on the shelf if it's a bad brand. I like the California style garlic salt from McCormick's. NOT the regular one. It is one of maybe three things I still allow that is still a "processed" type of food.  I make this dish with a veggie or salad. I love creamed cauliflower that is mashed like potatoes.

Garlic and Herbs De Provence Pork Chops

2-3lb pork loin cut up into 1 inch chops
California style McCormick's Garlic salt
Herbes De Provence
Extra virgin olive oil
butter or ghee

Coat chops pretty well in garlic salt and then crush the herbs in your palm and really coat the chop. The herbs are mild and won't be overwhelming.  Heat the pan a little above medium. Add the olive oil but wait till you can smell the olive before adding the chops. When you add the meat let it stay where it is. People start poking at it and moving it around and it won't get a lovely crust or pull up easily. I usually let it sit 5-8 min then flip and cook the same. If you over cook them they'll be dry and hard to chew. If you tend to get chops like that increase the heat and reduce the cooking time on each side. Pull one off and check it. If done remove the rest to a plate and let rest 5 min before serving. I put a little butter on the top of each one and fresh garlic salt sprinkled lightly. It's a simple recipes but everyone thinks these are fabulous.

The cinnamon peach tart is a sugar free, grain free paleo dessert but can be primal if you add a little whipped heavy cream with stevia.

8-10 peaches peeled and stones removed, sliced
1/8 tsp cinnamon
couple dashes cardamon
2T ghee or butter
Stevia to desired sweetness


1 1/2 c soaked, dehydrated, ground almonds (don't over process)
3T softened honey
3T ghee or butter chilled
1/2 tsp stevia
couple dashes cinnamon if desired

In a food processor grind the nuts down making sure not to over process and make almond butter. I soften the honey in either the microwave or dehydrator before adding  it to the nuts. Mix well then chop up the butter and add to processor. It will gather in a slight ball. On a cookie sheet place parchment paper and press this into an oval about 12 inches long 8-10 inches wide with the sides a little thicker. Bake 325 pre-heated oven for 20 min or more. I like it a little more toasted but make sure it doesn't get too brown. Remove from oven and let cool. This crust crumbles easily so be careful after it cools and move it to a decorative platter.

Meanwhile, put the filling mixture into a pan and saute till desired tenderness about 10 minutes and this will help the juices to thicken. Taste and adjust for desired sweetness. Remove this to a bowl and let cool. Assemble right before serving. I whip the heavy cream for 2 min with my blending wand in a jar with some stevia and top it with cinnamon.

Homestead tip:
You can also make up lots of this filling and freeze it in individual containers to make this in the winter for a taste of summer. Most of my peach bounty will be sliced then frozen on a cookie sheet then placed in zip lock bags for smoothies and desserts.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Peaches, Cherries, Tomatoes Oh MY!!!

I decide to relieve my tree of about ten pounds of peaches this morning. My punky is loving the peach tree this year and is eating about 2-4 a day. I'm going to try making dehydrated peach slices like the apple slices I did the other day and see if we like them. We also love fruit leathers and I plan on doing some of those with the peaches also and see how they turn out. Maybe mixing some other fruits in with the peaches and a little stevia. The store bought kind are full of sugar and unpronounceable chemicals. Bonus they'll be free!

These are called ground cherries although they're kinda more like a tomato.

They have these adorable little paper sheaths around them kinda like a Chinese lantern. The sheath stays green until the fruit is ripe then turns paper like and brown. Sometimes they just fall to the ground and sometimes they stay on the plant and can be picked off. The shell protects the fruit when it falls to the ground and keeps it from going bad for a couple days. They have seeds like a tomato but aren't in the gelatin coating that has to be removed for saving. I got these as a plant from Seed Savers Exchange this year. I missed some of the fruit when it fell and it started a new plant. So I think they'll be easy to start next year inside before the last frost.
Above is the plant, it grows to about 4 feet wide so leave some room if you plan to grow these babies. They also grow close to the ground so they are aptly name "ground cherries." 

Homestead Tip:
Start saving seeds midway through the summer so you don't forget.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Dehydrating our Bounty and Smoothie Recipe, tips

So today I started storing some of our bounty. I sliced some tomatoes and dehydrated them for "sun dried" tomatoes. I cut them 1/8 inch thick for the first batch but think this is too thin once they shrink down. I did some apples also that we had picked last week at a "pick your own" farm. They're a little pliable still which I like and the punky boy loves them. I also did the rest of the grapes for raisins, so we are done for the year with them. Punky loves raisins and the are a staple in my purse for him along with soaked, dehydrated almonds. He also loves these pouches that I get for him. I use them for emergencies, they're organic fruit and veggies pureed. I don't want to stop at a fast food place because I'm unprepared for snacks.  He is a typical 3 year old and doesn't eat as many veggies just by themselves so I sneak them into his food. Last night for "dessert" we had a green smoothie. He never balks at a smoothie and it's a great way to get greens and veggies in him.

Green Smoothie:

1/2 bunch kale (about 6-8 leaves if you grow your own)
1 peeled zucchini rough chopped
1-2 cups mixed frozen fruit
1-2 frozen banana's
2 cups water
2 tablespoons hemp seeds
1 handful of almonds
1 T stevia powder or more to taste

When you go to make one of these put in the water first, then the ingredients as they are listed. This way the greens get blended really well and everything moves nicely. I have a Vita mix and you really do need a high powered machine for really smooth, creamy smoothies. It was one of the best investments I have ever made hands down. We use it daily and sometimes several times a day. I do a frozen strawberry, cream and stevia ice cream in 3 minutes that beats any strawberry ice cream easily. I also use it for making almond milk and soups etc. My husband and I pooled our money from Christmas one year that everyone had given us and then we used the Vitamix as the present for both of us from eachother too.

Homestead tip:

Use zucchini and other veggies in smoothies with the fruit. Also an important tip,  you have to use either a banana or avocado to make a smoothie creamy and smooth that stays together and won't seperate. Compost the peels.

Bonus tip: I saw on a blog the other day but can't remember who's sorry, freeze blended kale in ice cube trays for the winter if you can't use up fast enough.

My Tiny Homestead

Well, I call it a homestead but we are still in town and we are far from self sufficient. We are in the planning stages to move and that is always so exciting. Anyway, as for right now we grow some of our food.

I started grapes when I first bought the house and raspberries that turned out to be mismarked and were blackberries. My husband has hacked those poor blackberries to death. I understand why, they have thorns and scratch you when ever you walk by and sprout up everywhere in the lawn. We had a huge harvest on just the two grape plants this year. I estimate around maybe 45lbs or more.
 I started to dehydrate them and they're a little sweet tart and a lot smaller than what you get at the store but, they're homegrown and organic. We also have an apple tree that had an underwhelming harvest. The birds were terrible and pecked at most if not all of the survivors. But one of the largest apples was 5 inches wide and 4 inches tall.  We have a lovely peach tree that is drooping all the way to the ground.

I had removed a ton of the blossoms to get a larger yield but we still have a ton. One of the branches finally cracked under the pressure so I went around the tree and removed about 20lbs but it doesn't even seem like I harvested any. I want to let them get a little more ripe and soft. They're brightly colored but once picked they'll get soft but not sweeter. There has to be around 100lbs or more on the tree. I'm planning to weigh everything out as we pick to keep track of the yield. We also have rhubarb but I made the mistake of planting my yellow zucchini to close and it took over the whole area, so the rhubarb stopped growing. I may cut the zucchini back a little later so I can get a fall harvest from the plant. The only other perennial edibles are mint, lavender and lemon balm. I'll go into the garden on another post.

Our only animals are three shih tzu's right now. We have a male Frasier and female Ashley that are about 11 years old and another female Madison that is 7. We always used to talk about having a Shih Tzu farm (in jest). When we move we're thinking about chickens. Layers and broilers and maybe a cow for milking but we're not sure on the cow. I was thinking about goats for milking and cheese but my husband doesn't like the cheese and doesn't think he'll like the milk. I grew up on goat cheese and love it. But, it may be easier to just get the milk through a share program.

Homestead tip:  
Plant trees and edible perennials when you first move into your homestead. It takes a while to reap what you sow. I love going out and eating from the garden and seeing my harvest all stored up.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

About Me

Where to Start:

I'm a lover of DIY! In almost every area of my life I like to do it myself, much to the dismay sometimes of my patient husband. I like to research almost everything and then research it a little more then take a whack at it. Most of the time everything turns out peachy. I've reupholstered furniture,  painted furniture, tiled a kitchen, done plumbing, a lot I never thought I would, but never doubted I could. I figure if someone else can learn to do it I can. In the last 12 or so years I have become a determined cook. I like to go as far as making my own cheese if I feel like it. It's funny how people look at you a little sideways when you mention you made this or that yourself. Sometimes I think they're shocked other times I'm positive they think it was a little crazy or unnecessary. Fortunately a lot of people are turning back to DIY in so many areas of their lives. This has prompted me to start documenting some of this to help others and sometimes to receive help where I can't do it on my own.

I think DIY is a lot more than just repainting furniture or making it from scratch. I like DIY food, jewelry, repairs, demolition etc. I have become a gardener and never, ever thought I would be. I hated pulling weeds as a child, HAAATED! Now I find pulling weeds relaxing. Go figure. It took me almost all of my life to realize I am an outdoor person. I am just not happy if I can't be outside at some point during the day and sometimes most of the day. My husband comes from a family of "pay someone to do it". I come from a back ground of  "I have to do it myself"  because I've been on my own for most of my life. We have little clashes in this area. Well maybe "little" is not the right word sometimes. I'm frugal most of the time but do realize you have to pay a little more for some things to get things that last. But, I have also been a dumpster diver, again to the shock of my husband. I have to say I was blessed to find him. We are each others opposites sometimes. My weaknesses are his strengths and his weaknesses are my strengths for the most part.

So I'll be getting into almost anything,  but focusing more on backyard homesteading aspects. Right now we live in town on a regular plot of land. I bought this house before we got married and started the whole nesting thing. I'm learning as I go about homesteading and trying to get more self sufficient. I know when people talk self sufficient a lot of people start envisioning a back woodsman living in a shack. But I think that point of view is changing greatly with all kinds of people starting to realize we depend too much on, stores, our government the stock market etc. Things seem to be staying the same or getting worse as far as the recession and I think people are just plugging away and not really grasping how the situation is now.

I think as a society we can do a lot more for ourselves and stop being just consumers. I have started to get a passionate about healthy living and all that it entails. Taking the responsibility for knowing what I put into my body.