Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I've had a question or two now about composting. About everybody who comes in our yard wants to know about our bins too. I thought I'd share about our composting. It's gross stuff. It's good stuff. It's makes my garden grown.

Here's our set up: This is the back fence at the far end of the yard. There is an old compost pile on the right. I was using it as the compost pile when we moved in last fall through this past winter... then it got full of sticks in the early spring. When we built the new bins this spring, I moved some of the old pile and then just abandoned the rest. I've been moving it and using it little by little. I think next spring it will be ready to really turn under. Sticks take a long time to compost.

Next to that is Bee's volunteer garden. It just started growing. She has several tomato plants and a huge mystery vine. It hasn't produced any fruit, just blooms. It must be from a seed of some hybird produce that was composted. Bee took it over and has taken good care of it. Her things grew well and next year, we will be moving some things around and will have more plants back there. Next to that are the two compost bins.

We keep a bowl or container on the kitchen counter. Hubby hates it. When it's full, I dump it in the bins. It's supposed to be Bee's job. She will only do it if someone walks out there with her.

We've been attracting butterflies this summer. They love the peaches. There are some flies, depending on what's on top. If I cover frequently (which I am too lazy to do) with yard waste (grass clippings, leaves, etc) then that keeps them away mostly. We also have had the occasional raccoon.

Paper will break down too, we don't usually add this, but you can see a grocery sack made it's way in there. Occasionally, we have something start growing on the pile. Here, several cucumber like vines started. They didn't live long.

So, in the bins, we place the kitchen scraps (no meat or dairy). That means it's egg shells, coffee grounds, fruit peels, vegetable scraps, bread, etc. Also, we add yard waste, specifically non-woody waste.... I throw the sticks from the yard and the long branches that fall in another pile. That leaves grass clippings, leaves, greens from pruning, old plants, etc. Using a shovel, I turn it over every month or every other if I forget.

Fast forward a few months. When the elements have done their job, you get some lovely rich composted goodness. This can and should be added directly to the garden at planting and fertilizing time.

Add it to help your vegetables grow,

or your flowers.

Here are the questions we get asked a lot:

Q does it smell?
A If you sat in it, it might smell. We certainly don't smell anything in the yard. The bowl in the house can smell if there's something funky in there like corn cobs, cantaloupe rinds, etc.

Q does it attract bugs?
A yep. And worms too. You need bugs to help it all break down. They stay with the pile. Why would they leave? It's not crazy like they are swarming all over or anything... it's more like when you dig around, they are there. You don't need to buy bugs, they'll come.

Q don't I need one of those fancy bins?
A Not at all. The guy who taught the workshop I went to a few years ago said they aren't even as effective as open air bins or piles. Seriously, you can put your stuff in a pile. I got fancy this year with fenced in bins. It makes it harder to stir.

Q but I don't garden?
A You can use your compost with flowers, around shrubs, etc.

Q I thought you had to turn it a lot?
A You can. It will compost faster. You dont' have to. You can be as involved in the process as you want... or not.

Q I thought it was hard... isn't there a formula for green and brown stuff?
A It's not hard. There is a formula and tons more info out there about the technicalities about it. You can be as laid back about it as you want. It will still break down no matter what formula you use. Google it if you want to have real technical info. There's tons out there. Here's the first thing I found.

Are there other FAQs I should add to my list?

Monday, August 30, 2010

travel pouch

My neighbor is going to Africa next month to do some mission work. She's going with a medical team who serves those in the prisons there. She's amazing. She asked me to make up something so she could carry a little money under her clothes. She described a skin(ish) colored pouch. I think we came up with something that will work perfectly.

So, this actually goes under your clothes. Nobody wanted a picture of that. It's flesh'ish' color to help keep it from shouting, "Here's my money- come on and take it." It's thin muslin to help keep it from being too hot. She's going to the equator though... I don't think there's any getting around the hot part. I had to put a some pretty fabric inside.

We bounced around several ideas about the belt part. It needed to be somewhat elastic so she could wear it comfortably 24/7 and move it around depending on what she was wearing that day. There are two snaps on the belt. We talked about velcro, but it didn't feel secure. Then we thought maybe no fastener might be best, so she had to step into it. Then we got worried that what if something happened and she did want to remove it quickly. Snaps seemed the happy medium.
It's just a bit bigger than US paper bills. We weren't sure what currency she'd be carrying and if it was the same size as ours. It has a little wiggle room for that.

I can't wait to hear about her trip. I know there are amazing things there waiting for her.

I'll be linking up to these great parties this week.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

childrens book

Here's a broad topic. I need a children's book on Friendship. There's tons out there.... I need the perfect one for a read aloud to a group of 3 year olds. I went to the library and got a bunch, but I'm not in love.

What's your favorite children's book about friendship... or with friendship as the underlying message? Thanks.

Friday, August 27, 2010

canned taco seasoning

Really, the only thing that makes this 'canned' is that it's in a canning jar. It doesn't even have to be in a canning jar... so it's really just homemade taco seasoning.

I found a similar recipe for taco seasoning awhile back on a random message board. I didn't even mean to print it out, but printed something else out and it came with it. Divine printing. I've tweeked it just a bit.

Homemade Taco Seasoning

1/2 C flour

1/2 C Onion Powder
2 t garlic powder
4 T chili powder (more or less for the amount of spice you want in your life)
1 Tbs dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1 Tbs table salt

Mix well. Use 6T per 1 pound of ground meat and 1/4 c (+ if needed-depending on the fat content/wetness of your meat) water and cook until meat is done in frying pan.

I made this up in July, but it wasn't until last week that I actually tried it out. I was very pleasantly surprised. The kids all liked it too. I think we preferred it over store bough. See, divine printing.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

canning dill pickles

I can't believe I have no other photos of the making of these pickles. Actually, I probably do, all of the many photos of jars are starting to run together in my photo albums.

I am glad that I waited until this canning week to share these because I was able to finally (after 5 weeks) open them and taste. Oh, my, these are good. Hubby said they smell. Making them stunk and eating them stinks. Sometimes good things are worth a little stink.

I followed this recipe from Never Enough Thyme. Now that I have tasted them, I might make more. I have a lot of things I want to make another batch of...

Kosher Dill Pickles
pickling salt
vinegar 5% acidity
dill seed or fresh dill head
black peppercorns (it's fun to spill the entire jar all over the kitchen floor!)

sterilize your jars and lids. For each quart of pickles, bring 1 cup+ water and 1 cup+ vinegar to a boil. In each jar, place 1 T plus 1 t salt, 1 T dill seed or 3 fresh heads, 6 black peppercorns, 2 halved garlic cloves.

Pack cucumbers into jars (cut cucumbers however you like). Pour boiling water and vinegar over cucumbers. Affix lids and rings.

Process in hot water bath for 20 minutes. Let sit 4-6 weeks plus before opening. Do it. Wait. Don't cheat.

Quarts ingredient Pint
1 C water 1/2 cup
1 C vinegar 1/2 cup
4t salt 2 t
3 heads fresh dill 1 1/2 heads
6 peppercorns 3
2 garlic cloves 1

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

canning tomato juice

The first thing you need to can tomato juice is a good tomato picker. I have one. Sort of. She's easily distracted.

I bought a food mill on sale this summer. Don't tell hubby that it came from Rural King, he is under the assumption it was a garage sale find. I had been looking without luck. I didn't lie, he assumed. Because I used a food mill, I didn't have to peel the tomatoes. Total time saver. I just cut out the stems and any undesirable spots.

I cooked the tomatoes for a little while. They got all juicy and nice in the pot. It probably took 15 minutes. Then, several tomatoes at a time, I ran them through the food mill.

It was kind of fun. All the flesh mushed into juice and then all the juice ran through to waiting pan. All that was left were the smooshed skins.

And in the waiting pan, I had some delish tomato juice. I brought that back to a boil and then added it to my clean jars. I did about three different batches this past month. In one I added the optional 1 t salt per pint. In the others, I didn't. In two batches, I added 1/4 t lemon juice. I've read that you really don't have to do that though, so I didn't on the last batch.

I processed one batch in the pressure canner at 5 pounds for 10 minutes. I did the other two batches in the hot water bath for 35 minutes.

I haven't opened what was canned, but have tasted the leftover that didn't fit in jars. It was pretty good. I sure hope I don't spend all winter opening jars being disappointed. One thing I didn't do that I should have was to note on the jars which recipe and which canning method was used. If one taste better than the other, I won't know which it was. Live and learn.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

canning pasta sauce

It's canning week at a Latte' with Ott, A. I'm playing along. Here' my next canning adventure. Pasta sauce.

The results: The kids turned their noses up at it, I liked it, Hubby smiled and said he was indifferent. He's smart. 11 years of marriage have taught the boy a little something.

Here's the recipe I used, sort of:

tomatoes- lots (I peeled some, other not), chopped green peppers, chopped onions, chopped garlic, 1 chopped zucchini, 1 chopped celery, just a few small chopped carrot, 4 basil leaves, 2 bay leaves, little bit of salt, splash of olive oil.

Pretty exact, huh? I cooked the contents until everything was nice and tender and the mix had thickened up some. It cooked on the stove for at least an hour with the lid ajar.

Now, I've made three batches. Each one was a little different. I just started mixing things up and tasted as I went. I had trouble deciding how long to process the sauce. I read that I could use a hot water bath, but I added so many other veges that I really thought I should use the pressure canner. I processed pints at 10 pounds for 45 minutes.

I am eager to hear other peoples pasta sauce canning recipes. I wouldn't mind one more batch this year.

Monday, August 23, 2010

To save is to serve

It's canning week over as a Latte' with Ott, A. I'm all in! I'll try to stick to canning posts all week. So, today, since I don't yet know how she's organized the week and if there are themes, etc... I'm just sharing this book.

Here's a good buy, although it was was really free. I found this little gem while paper recycling this week. It's a copy of the Ball Blue Book. If you're a canner or from a family of canners, you know the Ball blue book.

This particular one is circa 1943. Maybe you don't know this particular one. It was 10 cents then. I think they are just $6-8 now.

It has some lovely photos. This is so me in my canning pantry!

There are several little handwritten recipes from friends. Here is Flora Tinius' pepper relish which was received October 19, 1946.

There are some interesting recipes. Should you need to preserve your frog legs and can't find a recipe, here you are:

There are all these little handwritten notes. How many quarts the different sizes of crates made. She also recorded that in 1944 she put away 270 quarts. The next year is was only 250 quarts.

My favorite page is the back page, which reads:

To Save is to serve
Home-makers can food because it is pleasant, convenient, economical, and healthful to have a well stocked pantry in time of peace. In time of war, home canning must be done so that all may be well nourished. All surplus fruit, vegetables and meats must be saved by canning for every jar of home canned food will be needed by you, your children, your neighbors, and your nation. Today the Stars and Stripes fly over a land of freedom. We can, we will, keep it so, if we remember that the wages of waste are high and that saving on the Home Front bring victory on the Battle Front.

Apparently, our Nation is depending on us. Come on homemakers lets get canning!

Slightly off topic... Look at what we picked this week. It from the same vine as this mystery vegetable... which, I did say at the time tasted like a pumpkin. Could it be that my neighbors are growing pumpkins and we are getting a funky cross pollination?

Unfortunately, Our real pumpkin vines don't seem like they are doing well and this vine was damaged during some tilling this weekend in preparation for the fall seeds. This might be our only 'pumpkin' from the garden this year.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

sensory tub

I'm calling this one a borrowed thing. A borrowed idea. I've been reading about sensory tubs over at counting coconuts. We've done a rice box and water table and of course we play in sand... but the idea of a seasonal or themed sensory tub is new and borrowed. The kids love playing with craft supplies and putting things in cups and pouring... now there is a spot designed for that.

I thought a school themed tub would be fun. There is a large bag of dried red beans covered with varying sized pom poms. There are several scoopers and shovels, an empty crayon box, a little tin tub, an empty drawstring bag, and an empty peanut butter jar. I added a ruler and two paint brushes on a whim and the kids have found uses for them. I removed the apples, they didn't serve any purpose and the kids took them out on their own for more room to play anyway.

My kids and the neighbors played with the tub and then I took it the nature center for the early arrival kids. Those little ones liked it too. I am already thinking of other themes... cooking, snowballs, sewing, Christmas, Easter, beach, etc. I plan to take the tub to preschool to use as an activity during arrival time.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

diego vest in the shop

I've been making the Diego bag for awhile now and I sometimes get asked to make a vest. In fact, I made a few last year around Halloween. All were special requests. I finally have the diego vest is in the shop.

I have found a material I like working with for the fabric. It's a tea stained muslin. Some others I tried were just too stiff or too thick.

It has two functional pockets with flaps.

Of course, it has Diego's signature badge. It's handpainted on canvas.

It goes nicely with the diego bag.

Both are washable and very much kid tested.

Caution: they seem to make you very strong, very brave, and very adventurous.

There are animals to rescue after all.

Friday, August 20, 2010

girls and boys... on a trip

The moment Lou was born and they showed us that slimy baby boy freshly pulled from my midsection, Hubby and I both said "He looks just like Bee." Jinks. He owed me a coke. That is where the similarities stopped. They are both smart, sweet children, but could not be more different. We tried to make sure we offered gender neutral toys to both, but Lou, without hesitation, gravitates to trucks, cars, gross things, balls, and all things boy. Bee dresses up, wants makeup, plays babies, and is into all things princess. We treated them the same, God just made them different.

I was noticing how different they are last weekend on a little get away we took. We went back to the cabin. This time with kids in tow. We love visiting my aunt and uncle and cousin, and so enjoy a little trip to the lake.

The girl made a comfy spot and did and little reading.

The boy wanted to wrestle.

And wrestle.

And run. He's a superhero of course. He's an active fella.

The girl got up early each morning to be near the water to take in the morning sounds and watch for animals starting their day.

She is a calm creature. So nice.

There was some canoeing.

The boy was eager and impatient.

He's a worker. He said, "I can paddle, I know how. "

The girl did cartwheels.

The boy longed to be with the big boys putting the boat in the water.

The girl was more worried about getting dressed up for her boat ride.

She sometimes raises her hand to speak.

She has an adventurous side, mind you. She didn't pass up an offer to drive the boat. The boy wanted to drive, but he's too shy to sit on someone's lap.

Both boys could have spent hours in the kayak just cruising along.

The girl said no to boats, she preferred to swim.

Even with all their differences, they do play so nicely together. It's so nice as a mama. They are very good friends. He sure does miss her when she's at school. I think Bee and Lou compliment each other ....and I think they compliment us too.

Happy weekend to you!