Leather Britches

I'm kind of lazy when it comes to preserving food.  The heat and humiditiy of July and early August is about enough to do me in, never mind adding a canning bath to the mix.  No, you won't find me canning green beans, but without a freezer, what's a girl to do with all this garden goodness that I so desperately want to save for winter.  I started reading around about dehydrating veggies and it seems like just the right solution for us.  A solar dehydrator has been added to the list of projects, but I kind of doubt it will be done this year.  In the mean time, I found an old fashioned way of preserving green and waxed beans called leather britches.

Basically, here's how it works...
Pick the beans.
Snap off the ends.
Rinse the beans {if needed}
Cut a piece of fishing line about 24 inches and tie a small stick onto the end.  Most instructions say to just use a bean as a stopper, but mine kept breaking through the line.  Stick stayed put.
Thread a darning needle with the fishing line.
Sew through the middle of each bean.
Make a knotted loop for hanging.
Hang out of direct sun until completely dehyrated. {not sure how long, yet.} They were so pretty to look at that I've got ours hanging from the rafters in the house.

I'm planning to use them for soups and stews during the winter, so I'll let you know how it goes!

Have you ever made leather britches?


Homemade Mayo Recipe

Mayonnaise.  It's one of the only things I miss about not having a refridgerator.  My boys love deviled eggs, summer mayo salads and sandwich fillings.  We even tried keeping mayo in the cooler, but wasted so many jars that we stopped eating it all together.  I don't know why it had never occured to me before, but small batches of mayo from scratch seemed like the perfect solution.  I watched a few videos, took a deep breath and gave it a try.  For my first batch, I used this recipe.  It set up perfectly and looked absolutely beautiful; full of color and life, unlike the store bought brand. Everyone gathered round the table in anticipation of trying the condiment.  We all took a lick from the spoon and then looked at each other in horror...  it was terrible!  What went wrong?  Back to the computer for a quick search on how to make homemade mayo taste more like what my guys were used to, you know, without all the nasty ingredients.  Turns out it was the olive oil, along with a few minor adjustments. We switched to a more neutral oil, sunflower, and just like that it was the most delicious mayo we'd ever tasted.  I can't tell you how thrilled I am to be able to use our farm fresh eggs and a few simple ingredients to make a healthy version of one of our favorite foods.  Here's the recipe that we settled on.

Homemade Mayo Recipe

1 egg yolk
1 cup sunflower oil
1T. mustard {more or less to your liking.  We like a lot.}
1t. sugar {optional}
1t. salt and pepper {again, more or less to taste}
2T. lemon juice

In a mason jar, beat the egg yolks and mustard with a stick blender. Very slowly, drizzle the oil until it starts to thicken.  Add salt and pepper, sugar, and lemon juice at the very end.

Have you ever made homemade mayo?  Any tricks you'd like to share?


We Didn't Die

We passsed our one year anniverary on the homestead just over a month ago.  Celebrating a specific day doesn't seem quite right.  It's more like a season.  We moved here in the early summer and those first few weeks were such a shock.  When I talk longingly about those first few weeks in the camper, Mike reminds me of how easily I've forgotten just how hard it was.  The relentless rain.  The mosquitoes biting all night.  The end of the rain and then the drought.  The heat in the middle of an open field.  The dynamics of living in a pop up camper with five people.  Our oldest son leaving when he turned eighteen, trying to find his way in the world.  The uncertainty of being self employed artists. 

Oh, I haven't forgotten.  

I also remeber waking up every single morning to watch the sun rise and the deer graze in our field. The sounds of nature right outside the camper's screen; the frogs and the crickets.  The smell of dew on the grass.  Growing food.  Still not enough, but more than we ever have before.  Building a house with our own two hands.  Going to bed at mosquito time and reading by candle light.  "Best and worst", a nightly ritual we all had to find the good in the day as well as acknowlege the difficult moments and work to make them better.

Day by day it got easier.

We don't do best and worst on a nightly basis anymore.  

This life has changed us.  We all agree, and could never go back to the way things used to be.  

And, as we like to boast... we made it through the fifth coldest winter on record and we didn't die. 

That's something.


Wild Daisies

The daisies are almost done blooming now in the small patch of wild flowers I saved from the tractor. Other's like Goat's Beard, Bee Balm and Black Eyed Susan have taken their place among the midsummer splendor.  I hand't noticed before living here, but hawkweed seems to bloom all season long.  It's one of our favorites.  I wonder what it's medicinal properties are?

While the daisies were in full bloom, I harvested a bundle for a new herbal soap I wanted to try.  A tea was made from the blossoms and then added to the mix in place of water.  It turned out even better than I could have hoped.  The scent is a sweet smelling mix of sunsine and meadow.  You can find our handmade Wild Daisy Soap  here in our shop.   

And becasue I just can't get enough of these summer flowers, I made a new felt crown with braided woolen ties and a wood button, as well.  It would be so sweet for a mid summer birthday or festival.


A Good Trade

Haying the field.  It's needed to be done for two years now, but we love the wildflowers so much. Lack of tractor, rake, and balier have helped to make our decision, too.  Last year, we mowed and raked by hand a small acre to be used for the chicken coop, compost, and gardens.  It's hard work, let me tell you and not something our bodies will allow us to do for long.  We mentioned to a neighbor about needing the field mowed and he mentioned a farmer who came up short on hay last year.  We kept a bale for ourselves.  It was a good trade.

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