August 31, 2016

Caramel Apple Butter & Blueberry Applesauce

The last days of August have found me busy trying to finish up with apples. When we first planted our two apple trees I wondered if the two semi-dwarfs would produce enough. I'm not thinking that now! I've been canning apples slices, freezing pies, and making applesauce.

The other day I made apple butter from a recipe I found in my Ball Blue Book. This book is a classic standard guide to food preservation. It's been around since 1909, but they seem to come out with a new edition every so many years with up-to-date information and new recipes in each one. The recipe I used came from the 1999 edition, but I tweaked it quite a bit. I cut the sugar in half, doubled the spices, and omitted the lemon juice.

About the sugar. Yes, I know all sugar is bad for you, but I don't produce enough honey to replace it entirely, so I compromise. I buy an unbleached cane sugar instead of standard white sugar. What's the difference? Legally sugar can be either cane sugar or beet sugar. Since all the sugar beets grown in the US are genetically modified, I choose cane sugar over it. In addition, this brand is unbleached, economical, and widely available. Plus I like the sustainable way Zulka manages it's sugar production (you can read about that here.) Okay, so much for the pitch; on to the recipes.

Caramel Apple Butter
  • 12 cups applesauce
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
Mix applesauce, water, and spices in a crock pat. Caramelize the sugar and add.

To caramelize the sugar, simple heat it in a pan and stir continually to keep it from burning. Do not be distracted from your task, even if the cat tells you he's starving to death.

Riley: "But I am starving to death!!!"

Eventually the sugar will melt into a thick caramel brown syrup.

Pour into the apple butter. It will bubble and harden immediately.

Stir it in (along with the crystallized scrapings from the cooking pan). It will melt and blend with the apple butter. Cook until thick. Can in boiling water bath canner, 10 minutes for half pints.

Caramel Apple Butter

My yield was eleven half pints.

Blueberry Applesauce

Nothing difficult here. After I measured out the 12 cups of applesauce for the apple butter, I added the year's last blueberry picking to a couple cups of it, whirred it smooth in the blender, then stirred it into the remainder of the applesauce. It was heated and canned as for regular applesauce - 20 minutes in a boiling water bath canner for pints.

It's a very pretty color, don't you think? I got about five pints of this, and also used the last of my regular mouth Tattler canning lids. And I'm still not done with the apples! That's ten dozen in use! Definitely need to get some more.

August 28, 2016

Double Mom Ducklings

This has been a prolific and interesting year for ducklings. We've had ducklings raised by our Buff Orpington, ducklings raised by an attack duck, and now we have double mom ducklings.

Two ducks chose a spot under one of our fig trees and made shared nest. One of the other was always there, so we were never sure how many eggs they laid. One day I heard peeping from the direction and went to take a cautious look.

It was impossible to get a head count. Both mothers fussed over them, and were suspicious of me. Several days later, they brought them out.

They move around a lot and the mothers always position themselves between the ducklings and anything else, so it took awhile to get a head count.

There are 17 of them. That brings us to a total of about 30 Muscovy ducks! Time to figure out what to do with all of them.

Double Mom Ducklings © August 2016

August 25, 2016

Little Barn: Interior Wall for the Milking Room

Very rough sketch of the Little Barn floor plan.

Let's see. I told you how we changed the name of the goat shed to the "Little Barn," and showed you the new hay mow. The next step was to begin working on the milking room. Dan started by building a new wall to separate the goats from the milking area. The old one looked like this.

This old photo was taken back in Nov 2014, right after we added
the overhang to the shed. This is the wall we wanted to replace.

My idea was to use the wall for feeding as well as separating. After a lot of brainstorming, we came up with this.

Rough sketch of an idea to incorporate feeders into a milk room wall.

Dan did an excellent job making it a reality and I'm only sorry I didn't get any photos of its being built. I was busy in the kitchen!

The feeders hang on the outside because I have a couple of goats who
are forever knocking them down and dumping feed all over the place.

Theoretically, it can accommodate six goats.

Realistically, keeping each goat in her own spot is another matter, because in the goat way of thinking, what other goats have is always better than what Self has (even though it's the exact same thing). So I added eye screws with double ended bolt snaps by each feeder for clipping to their collars.

The eye bolt helps hold the feeder in place.
The double bolt snap helps hold the goat in place.

That kept them from running around, but they could still manage to get their noses into their neighbor's feeder. In the end I had to assign places and rely on routine to keep peace at feeding time.

As with all things goat, peace in the barnyard largely depends on routine. In the morning they get fed one at a time on the milking stand. In the evening I put three goats on the feeding wall, one (Violet, who can somehow manage to wiggle the snap off) goes on the far wall and the last one is fed on the milking stand. Now that they know the routine, they let me clip them to their spot and then wait to be fed. Routine is a goat keeper's best friend.

They are amazingly calm and patient once they know the routine.

I'd also like to mention that the feeder is a stand-alone wall. We'll be able to move it to the Big Barn eventually. In the meantime, the next step for the Little Barn is to make a proper milking room. I'm very excited about this, because I've been making do for five years now. Details soon.

August 22, 2016

Lone Baby Chick

A couple weeks ago I told you about Mama 'Lorp and her three baby chicks. I had a second Australorp setting as well, so I was curious as to how many she would hatch. Well, after sitting on her clutch of eggs for several weeks she suddenly switched to the nest box next door. At least we thought it was her; could have been a different hen next door with the original setter out for a breather. We kept an eye on the nest, but the one hen remained in the box next to it, and the eggs appeared abandoned.

The next morning Dan came in from chicken chores to tell me he'd heard a frantic peeping from the abandoned nest box. Sure enough, one lone egg had hatched and there was one tiny baby chick in the nest crying for its mama. I tried to pop the chick under next-door mama but got a good stout peck for my efforts. Trouble was, she pecked at baby chick too. I poked it under her anyway, but worried for the rest of the day that she might kill it.

That night I went into the coop with a flashlight, picked up the setting mama hen, and found the little chick still alive. I removed it and put it under the 3-chick hen. I got a peck for that effort as well, but figured since chickens can't count she'd be none the wiser in the morning.

Shortly after the chickens had gone out the next morning I heard desperate peeping from inside the coop. New baby chick didn't know to follow the others outside and was stranded! This got Setting Mom clucking, so I tried to put Baby under her again. This time she moved to the next nest box. Poor baby peeped its little head off!

While I was standing there thinking that I did not want to raise a lone chick under the brooder lamp, Setting Mom went back to baby chick's nest and settled down to keep him warm. Was this success?

A couple days later she abandoned the nest altogether and took to mothering lone baby chick.

She was a long time in taking him outdoors, but once she did, she and 3-Chick Mama started hanging out together. The two hens and four chicks are always together, so that the babies seem to have two mothers. The chicks know which is which, however, and go to their own hatch mother at night.

I love happy endings.

Lone Baby Chick  © August 2016 

August 19, 2016

The Garden's Second Wind

It's been a hard summer on my garden. Upper 90s since the beginning of May, and eight weeks with less than an inch of rain forced the plants into survival mode. It seemed all I could do to keep them alive, never mind fretting about there being nothing to harvest. When it finally started raining again in the middle of July, the garden began to respond, and at least I am getting my summer harvest.

I had an early start on my cantaloupes, so we enjoyed quite a few of these
early in the summer. Their comeback means we'll enjoy a few more!

I'm glad to see the green beans thriving once again. I got a few quarts
canned earlier but will be glad for more. We like canned green beans.

My sweet peppers barely made it! The little one
on the lower right will be our first of the season.

Okra is another favorite but I have yet to harvest enough for a meal.
It's growing and flowering now, so I'm looking forward to a harvest!

Pickle making has commenced.

We usually plant a quarter acre of field corn every summer. This year we didn't because Dan was busy milling the lumber for the new barn. Since corn seed is only viable for a year or two, I planted a seed patch in the garden.

My seed patch of field corn.

All the pretty pictures don't mean I'm not having problems.

The tomatoes have blight, but the sweet basil is doing very well.
Tomatoes go into the freezer for sauce making at a later date.

And the rain brought on plenty of weeds.

Can you tell there's a cushaw squash vine in there?

Trouble is, there's no time to weed. Every day is spent picking and preserving all day long. One of the reasons for that is because our fruit trees and bushes have done exceptionally well. We had a very rainy winter so there was plenty of moisture to make a lot of fruit. I worried about them when it was so hot and dry, but the rains came just in time to plump everything up. I can hardly keep up with it all.

Apple and pear sauce. So sweet it doesn't need sugar.

My 3/4 jars were prefect for canning it.

This was the first year I had enough pears to can by themselves.

I also canned half a dozen quarts of pear mincemeat
I found the recipe in the Ball Blue Book.

Those pickles I mentioned. Two kinds of dill, one with the last of
the garden dill, the other with seeds I dried and saved last year.

I canned lots of figs, plus froze some for making jam this winter.

Blueberries are still coming on.

Of course we're eating well too!

Apple pie. I've been freezing pies too: blueberry, fig, apple. 

So that's my garden report for going on the end of August. It's hard to believe it's almost time to start thinking about fall planting! How is everyone else's garden doing?

The Garden's Second Wind  © August 2016 

August 16, 2016

Progress on the Little Barn (Formerly the Goat Shed)

I haven't blogged lately about the goat shed we reroofed (which really doesn't seem like a shed anymore so we renamed it "Little Barn" as opposed to the "Big Barn" which will be next summer's building project). But we've been making progress! There were several things we wanted to do to make it more goat keeper friendly. Dan decided to start with a hay mow, because we wanted to get the hay out of the tarp hay hut.

The first step was to tear down the top half of the wall between where the goats live and where the hay will be stored.

Goat side

A hay feeder will be build under the opening.

People side. The door will come down too, for a solid half wall.

This is because I'm about tired of having to wade through a crowd of pushing, shoving goats to fill the hay feeder. It will make life so much easier to give them hay without getting my toes stepped on. The feeder will be built when we work on the goats' area. First we had to get the hay moved.

Initially we put up a cattle panel as a wall of sorts between the hay mow and what will become the milking room on the right. After we took apart the hay hut, we pondered what to do with the deck it was build upon. The deck was made from the old front porch floor, and is quite sturdy. We didn't want to dismantle it, but didn't know where to store it either. I suggested we use it as a wall between the hay storage and milking room.

The hay hut floor makes a good wall with ventilation at the top.

The underside faces the future milking room
and feed storage. (Goat area is in the back.)

The underside framing of the deck suggests shelves, and Dan said he can add more. At least the deck is out of the way, still available if needed, and useful in the meantime.

One more view from the hay feeding side

Once the hay feeder is built, I'll just have to
pitch the hay over the wall to fill the feeder.

A length of welded wire fence contains the hay for now. It's a setup I'm really happy with.

So that was the first step for the Little Barn interior. Progress is always happy and it feels good to have the hay secure and out from under tarps. The next step is to build a new wall between the goat area and milking room. More on that soon.

August 14, 2016

Giveaway Winners & How To Print Your Prepper Copies of My eBooks

First, the winners!

Of the paperback copy of How To Bake Without Baking Powder


Of an eBook of their choice from The Little Series of Homestead How-Tos

Kev Alviti
Tricky Wolf
Lynda D

Congratulations! Click on the link above to see what your choices are.

Winners, if you've given me a way to contact you I'll be in touch. If not, then it's up to you to contact me by the end of the week, or I'll select another winner for your prize.

Now, what do I mean by "How To Print Your Prepper Copies of My eBooks"? The copyright for each of my The Little Series of Homestead How-Tos eBooks includes this statement - "Purchaser is granted permission to make one print copy for their personal preparedness files." This post is going to tell you how to do that.

If your copy came from Smashwords, then you have the easiest go of it. Once you've purchased a copy (with either cash or coupon) you're entitled to download updates plus other formats of the book. Simply select the PDF version to download and make your copy from that. 

If your book came from Amazon, then it's a bit tougher to print a copy of a book, because you'll have to covert the book to PDF yourself. Most of my Kindle books are not DRM enabled, which means they can be converted from the Kindle format to another, such as epub or PDF. Here are some links to help you with that:

Once the book is in PDF format, it can be printed out, although I admit this is not the most economical way of obtaining a hard copy of a book. For How To Bake Without Baking Powder, for example, it is probably cheaper to simply buy the paperback depending on your cost per page. Mine is 15¢ per page, so for 105 pages that's $15.75. I'd rather pay the $5.99, but your cost may be better than mine. Just do the math. (QualityLogic has an article, here, on ink cost analysis that may be helpful. It's a couple of years old, but I doubt the cost has gone down.)

I'm sure I don't need to ask you not to make multiple copies for your friends and family; the copyright permission is for Purchaser to make one copy for themselves. Writing and selling books is the way I help support the financial needs of our homestead. Regular readers of my blog know we struggle financially. I could put a "tip jar" widget on my sidebar, but I'd rather trade useful information for money than to ask for it for free. Self-earning (as opposed to working for someone else) is part of my self-sufficiency formula. Research, writing, and experience are what I have to offer.

Questions? Ask and I'll answer if I can. Winners! If you don't hear from me please contact me by the end of the week so I can get your prize to you. And everyone, please stay tuned. I have more eBooks for this series in the works, which likely means more giveaways. Also I have plans to "bundle" like topics for both electronic versions and paperbacks.

Want to know when new books in the series become available? As excited as I get about publishing them, I don't want my blog to turn into one big ad. So to know when new titles become available you can bookmark my The Little Series of Homestead How-Tos webpage, here, like the series' occasionally updated Facebook page, here, or just keep an eye on my sidebar.

August 7, 2016

Book Giveaway!

I'm pleased to announce that How To Bake Without Baking Powder is now available in paperback! I'm calling it my prepper edition, because if SHTF or TEOTWAWKI, then Kindles and other eReaders won't be as useful as they are in a world filled with electricity. Call it a personal preference, but when it comes to information I want to hang on to, I much prefer owning a hard copy than having to rely on an electronic device. And this book contains the kind of information you need in a hard times, emergency, or survival situation.

I have expanded it to include my hardwood ash baking experiments plus a discussion about the different kinds of lye, lye water, and how they differ from ash water. It has been formatted for twelve charts and an extensive index (two things eBooks cannot do). You can see the chapter and chart titles here.

All the information in the charts is included in the electronic version, but they are visually easier to find and read in the paperback. One of the charts for example:

Paper copy books allow for the use of tables to make charts.
Electronic books cannot, and so charts must be line items.

The paperback edition is 6 inches by 9 inches, 105 pages, and retails for $5.99 (which is close to the lowest price Amazon will allow me to set it.) 

Both versions still include 54 modern and historical recipes for 20 different leaveners. In the print book I've added several pages for you to write in your own recipes. For the eBook, I've reformatted the recipes to display one recipe per screen. I think that will make them easier to follow.

If you already have the eBook you can get the updated version for free. If you bought it from Amazon, you should automatically get the update via its Whispernet. For Smashwords, once you've paid for it, you can download any new versions for free. BUT, I'm giving away one free copy of the new paperback version of How To Bake Without Baking Powder, plus 6 free eBooks from The Little Series of Homestead How-Tos. Each winner of an eBook will receive a coupon code to download the eBook of their choice for free at Smashwords. That includes the three new eBooks I've written since my last giveaway.


How To Grow Ginger: how to grow, harvest, use, and perpetuate this tropical spice in a non-tropical climate

Chapters: Why Grow Ginger?, How To Select Rhizomes, How To Plant, How To Keep Your Ginger Happy, How To Harvest, How To Store, To Peel or Not To Peel?, How To Keep a Continual Supply, Pests and Diseases, How To Make Crystallized Ginger, How To Dehydrate, How To Make Powder, How To Lacto-ferment, How To Make a Ginger Bug, and Medicinal Uses.

How To Get Cream from Goats' Milk: make your own butter, whipped cream, ice cream, & more

Includes: Natural homogenization, how to check goat milk for cream, how to collect (hand skimming, cream separators), how to make butter (making, washing, salting, preserving, salting, clarifying, making ghee, French butter keepers), how to make whipped cream, sour cream, crème fraîche, and ice cream. Includes 8 recipes.

How To Make Amish Whitewash: Make your own whitewash, paint, and wood stain 

Chapters: What's Up with Whitewash?, All About Lime, Safety Precautions, Basic Whitewash Recipe, How To Make Your Whitewash More Durable, How To Make Your Whitewash More Waterproof, How To Color Your Whitewash, Care And Maintenance Of Whitewash. Includes a collection of homemade whitewash, paint, and stain recipes.

You can see all 11 volumes at (and who knows, I may have the next one out by then too.)

To enter, simply leave a comment. If you help me promote my giveaway (or the new paperback version of How To Bake Without Baking Powder), I'll give you two extra entries per shout out. If you do a blog write-up, I'll give you three extra entries

The other stuff:
  • This giveaway is open to anyone in the world.
  • Each winner will receive one book, so there will be a total of 7 winners.
  • Coupon codes will be sent to you by email, after you've contacted or replied to me.

I'll be back on Sunday, August 14 to announce the winners. In the meantime, I'm going to spend the week doing some much needed computer updates.

Book Giveaway!  © Aug. 2016 by Leigh