Thursday, May 31, 2012

Zucchini Bread

I'm still working through the squash, but I love this recipe so much I just may grate the rest of the zucchini and freeze in 2 cup increments to have on hand for instant baking!

 I remember the very first time I was introduced to Zucchini bread. A sweet friend came to see me in the hospital after the birth of the twins 24 years ago - has it been that long?!  and blessed me with a loaf of this delicious bread. I'd never heard of it before, and I agree, it doesn't sound so appealing. As a matter of fact, I hesitate to tell kids the name of the bread before I serve it. Once it gets gobbled down, then I break the news. I know that if I tell them beforehand they might not eat it, but once they've tried this bread they'll wait in line for more!

So, if you've never tried Zucchini Bread and can get past the sound of it, I guarantee that this will become your go-to recipe for delicious, sweet bread all squash season long...and beyond!

This recipe makes 2 loaves and it freezes well too!


In a bowl combine:
* 2 cups grated zucchini
* 3 eggs
* 1 cup oil
* 1 TBSP vanilla

Mix dry ingredients separately:
* 2 3/4 cups sugar - which is Way Too Much! - I use 2 cups sugar
* 3 cups flour
* 1 TBSP cinnamon
* 1 tsp baking soda
* 1 tsp salt
* 1/4 tsp baking powder
* 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Mix wet and dry ingredients and pour into two greased and floured bread pans (or two muffin tins, or 1 Bundt pan)
Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

This Weekend We...

Mostly Bob, but I was right there for moral support and to do what I could!
                                                      * Opened all 20 hives...

      inspect and get ready to transport to town for the 2nd honey flow

                                               * Made and canned zucchini salsa

                                              * Taught two range safety classes

* Finished the 2nd Gardenhouse and moved some of the potted tomato plants from here...

                                                               ... to here

                                 * Dug and planted 36 fence posts for larger paddock.

                                     * Made zucchini lasagna (with goat cheese!)

                                               * Put up 440 feet of fencing

                                             * Cleaned the fish filtration system

 * Built a temporary outdoor pen for the turkeys and moved them out of the house.   ...and it's a good thing too, because...

                                                     * the Guineas are hatching!

I think I'll take it easy today - I'm a little tired. Poor Bob has a 14 hour workday ahead of him -  I'll rest for him too.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Zucchini Salsa

Recently I was blessed with three buckets of squash. I hate to see things go to waste so I was compelled to find new ways to use zucchini. One of the recipes I found was Zucchini Salsa - what a great idea! So here's how:

  • 10 cups zucchini, peeled & shredded
  • 4 onions, chopped
  • 2  green peppers, chopped
  • 2 red peppers, chopped
  • 1/4 cup pickling salt
  • 1 tablespoon pickling salt
  • 2 tablespoons dry mustard
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 5 cups chopped ripe tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 12 ounces tomato paste 

*  In a large bowl combine zucchini, onions, peppers and salt.  Mix together, cover and let stand overnight.

*  Next day - Rinse, drain well, add remaining ingredients
*  Place in a large pot, bring to a boil and simmer 15 minutes.
*  Ladle into hot, sterilized jars.
*  Carefully wipe rim and add lids.

*  Process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes.

*  Makes 8 pints

Stay tuned for more ideas on what to do with all that squash!
Hint: Zucchini Bread, Zucchini lasagna...

If you have a favorite recipe that you'd like to share I'd love to try it!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Chickie Mama and Auntie

This is Chickie Mama

Several weeks ago, I noticed her on the same nest for three or four days in a row and thought that perhaps she was "broody" and was going to sit her eggs. Because of the prevalence of incubator hatched chickens nowdays,  most hens have lost the inclination to sit eggs. I talked a little about that in  THIS  blog. It took me a few days to decide that maybe her intentions were pure, but until then, each day when she left the nest to eat the grain I throw every morning - talk about mayham!

Each morning about 30 chickens greet me at the porch steps and walk with me - in front of me - under my feet - to the gate, where another 30 or so join in the procession to the feed barn. They all crowd around me, quite frightening really, like an Alfred Hitchcock movie, while I scoop a can of oats to throw, just to get them away from me. Then hastily I scoop feed for the two horses and another can of oats (I find it takes them longer to eat scattered oats than layer pellets, which I throw for them later, after the horses are fed.  I have to act fast because when the oats are finished a good many run to try to steal the horses feed. Obnoxious!

I digress.  For days I took the eggs out of Chickie Mama's  nest while she ate, until I saw that she had  the intention of patiently sitting her eggs for 21 days until they hatched. So I let her be.  Because chicken nests are community nests, I assumed that other hens had been laying there, and, that there were probably quite a few eggs under her. I was sadly disappointed when she got up the next day and there were only three eggs in her nest. I added 7 more.  And there she sat.
I really didn't pay much attention to her - she just kinda did her thing and I did mine until one day I saw THIS...

and became concerned that she had deserted her nest. I also noticed the large number of eggs gathering in the nest behind her. Broody hens become quite territorial and a bit aggressive when sitting eggs, so I had neglected to gather the ones in the back that I could not easily reach.
And then later I saw THIS...

I was disheartened to think that Chickie Mama had given up sitting her eggs and had moved to another nest. As I've mentioned before, I've had a chicken sit a nest of eggs for 18 days and then get up and walk away. It takes a full 21 days for chicken eggs to hatch, which, when you think about it, is a really cool thing. For days, chickens lay their eggs in a community nest until a broody hen decides that there are the correct amount of eggs in the nest and that she is ready. Some of these eggs may have been sitting in the nest for a week or more, but once a hen begins to set, in exactly 21 days all the eggs that are fertile will hatch, and a day or so later she and her brood will leave the nest. (Of course, this story has a different ending and will not give credence to my chicken facts)
So here I was, afraid that not only had Chickie Mama ruined the chance of  these eggs hatching, but that now she was going to waste another nest full of eggs. She obviously hadn't honed her "setting" skills.
And then I saw THIS...

Ah, back on her rightful nest and "hunkerin' down". I was relieved. It shouldn't be long until her eggs begin to hatch.  Wait. WHAT'S THIS??...

NOW it all makes sense. There are TWO chickens: Chickie Mama and Auntie.

One morning, not long after, while Chickie Mama was out feeding, I spotted a yellow peep in the nest. Now, typically, a hen will sit eggs in a hidden location and then appear with her hatched brood of chicks. Chickie Mama, on the other hand, had chosen the center of commotion to sit eggs, and throughout the 21 days, when she left the nest for short periods of time, other hens had come and laid their eggs in her nest. I believe this is what fouled her incubation rate. Within two days, two more chicks hatched, and yesterday, Chickie Mama left the nest with her three babies and began showing them the ways of the world.
Auntie has decided that she would rather be outside helping than sitting so she is the self appointed guardian of the flock.

The two hens will scratch the dirt almost continuously and cluck to their chicks to show them how to hunt for bugs and grain.
They will return periodically to their nests with the babies to rest.
Except... Who the Heck is THIS??

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Uh Oh. This does not look good. I noticed this last night. Bob and I plan to open all our hives this weekend and get them ready for transport, but it looks like I'll need to do something today!

This is called "Bearding" and it occurs when the hive is too hot. In the summertime a hive stays a constant 95 - 97 degrees. On hot days, to cool a crowded hive, bees will encourage air flow by moving to the outside of the hive. Inside, water droplets are brought in and the brood chamber is cooled as the droplets collect the heat as the bees fan their wings over the water. The evaporated water is then ushered out of the hive reducing the temperature inside.

The opening to this beehive is too small and there is probably not enough room inside. When a home becomes over-crowded the bees inside begin preparations to find a bigger home - or "swarm".  For more about swarming read  THIS ARTICLE.
  Today I'll open this hive, inspect all the frames to look for queen cells - an indication of a pending swarm, remove any I find, add a queen excluder, and place an empty honey box on top, giving the hive more space and making it easier for the bees to regulate the temperature in the brood chamber, which is generally the larger bottom box of a hive body.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Amish Friendship Bread

It's the end of a school year and time to take my Amish Friendship Bread starter out of the freezer and be sure that it's viable.  This sweet bread is a staple in our home; versatile, delicious, fun to make and perfect for get togethers, meetings, and gifts!

Typically introduction to Amish Friendship Bread is made by a friend who will approach you with a ziplock starter bag and a typed sheet of instructions.  I've posted requests for starter bags on line, but recently I've found that it's very easy to start your own batch of bread from scratch.

Here's how:

Amish Friendship Bread Starter
1 pkg dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp or 1 TBSP)
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup milk

Dissolve yeast in water. Let stand 10 minutes.
In a 2 qt glass, plastic or ceramic container mix flour and sugar thoroughly.
Slowly add milk and yeast mixture.
Cover loosely and let stand until bubbly.
This is your starter. Day 1.
Transfer to a one-gallon Ziplock Freezer Bag.

*  Do NOT refrigerate
*  Do NOT use metal bowls or implements - use plastic, glass, wood or ceramic.
*  Release gas from bag as the starter ferments

DAY 1:
You receive (make) your starter - DO NOTHING

DAY 2:
Squish Bag periodically

DAY 3:
Squish Bag 

DAY 4:
Squish Bag

DAY 5:
Squish Bag

DAY 6:
Add to bag: 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup milk. Squish

DAY 7:
Squish bag

DAY 8:
Squish Bag

DAY 9:
Squish Bag

DAY 10:

*  Pour entire contents into a NON-METAL bowl
*  Add: 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup milk 
* Mix with NON-METAL utensil. 
*  Measure out 1 cup starter into three separate bags - 1 to keep and two to give away with instructions.

Instead of giving away starter bags I bake three batches and keep a starter for another time.

* Preheat oven to 325 degrees
* To the remaining  starter add:

3 eggs
1 cup oil
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

Mix together:
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 TBSP cinnamon
1 pkg powdered instant pudding mix - any flavor

Add dry ingredients to wet

Pour into (2) greased floured bread pans, or 1 bundt pan or 2 muffin tins.
Bake 1 hour

This is a very versatile bread - here are some flavor options:
* Chocolate pudding mix and 1 cup chocolate chips
* Vanilla pudding mix and 1 cup craisins
* 1 cup raisins and 1 diced apple
* Butterscotch pudding mix and 1 cup butterscotch chips
* Lemon pudding mix and 1/4 cup poppy seeds
* Banana Cream pudding mix and chopped nuts
* Cheesecake pudding mix, white choc chips, macadamia nuts
* Dates
* Walnuts or pecans
* Cranberries 
* M&M's
* Coconut
* Pineapple
* Blueberries
Obviously you can use your creative imagination! 
Keep this recipe on hand - the holidays will be here before you know it!

Note: starter can be placed in the freezer for another time.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Emergency Preparedness

It's May. Hurricane Season begins June 1st and I've decided it might be a good idea to begin preparing now. I've been watching the weather and the Gulf temperatures and I'm concerned that present conditions and percentages indicate that we have every potential to be in for a rough ride this summer. I think that we, along the Gulf Coast, have been very fortunate these past few years - that we've skirted major hurricanes while all conditions were prime. I, myself, tend to become complacent in times of calm, but I think it is time to begin to prepare for the worst. That way I'll be ready for anything.  My husband and I play "What if."  We enjoy talking out all different scenarios and how we would respond / react to different situations. We believe that the time to decide courses of action is before events take place that may require rash, immediate decisions. We prefer to already have a thought out a plan to put into practice. This is why I'm giving Hurricane Preparedness much thought and research so that we may be prepared were calamity to strike. Throughout the next weeks I hope to post different aspects of hurricane / emergency preparedness and steps to follow to be able to do things in steps rather than become overwhelmed with all the necessary precautions all at once in time of an emergency.

This week I'm going to begin to make a plan. I'm going to decide in the event of  a Category 5 Hurricane or other emergency...

*  Would we stay or would we leave? - Even if we decide to stay, it is a good idea to know area evacuation routes and have a plan as to where we would go if evacuation were absolutely necessary.
*  Household members should know emergency procedures for each other’s work, school, or other places where they regularly spend time.
* Discuss how to reunite if a disaster strikes while household members are away from the home. Make plans for where household members should go and whom they should contact when the home is not habitable, safe or if they cannot return to the home
*  Agree on out-of-state contacts in the event family members cannot immediately communicate locally.
* Make and distribute a hard copy to each family member.
*  Keep the gas tank full - I plan to top off as soon as the tank reaches 1/2 full. It's a wise habit anytime, but during a hurricane/disaster gas lines can be long and prices generally go up. Fuel in the tank increases your range of immediate travel without stopping to compete with everyone else for the same commodity.
* Decide what to do with animals in an emergency situation.

* Make a list of important/emergency phone numbers.

     * Mom                                                   Phone                                Alternate Phone

     * Dad                                                     Phone                                Alternate Phone

     * Child One                                            Phone                                    e-mail

     * Child Two                                           Phone                                     e-mail

     * Child Three                                         Phone                                     e-mail

     * Child Four                                          Phone                                      e-mail


       Name                                                   Phone                                Alternate Phone

       Name                                                   Phone                                Alternate Phone

     * NEXT OF KIN
        Name                                                   Phone                                Alternate Phone

         Name                                                   Phone                               Alternate Phone

        Name                                                   Phone                                Alternate Phone

         Name                                                  Phone                                 Alternate Phone

        Name                                                  Phone                                 Alternate Phone

     *  POLICE                                             Phone

     * AMBULANCE                                    Phone

     *  FIRE DEPARTMENT                       Phone

     *  GAS COMPANY                              Phone
     *  ELECTRIC COMPANY                   Phone

     *  WATER COMPANY                        Phone

     *  TELEPHONE CO.                           Phone

     *  CABLE / INTERNET                        Phone

     *  HOME INSURANCE                       Phone                                      Account Info.

     *AUTO INSURANCE                          Phone                                     Account Info

     * POISON CONTROL                        Phone

I shut down my computer yesterday due to lightening storms and it occurred to me how dependent I've become on this pc. Without it I have no access to information.  No news, no weather, no outside contact  - even things such as this emergency preparedness list, so I've decided to make a hard copy of important items I otherwise keep on the computer. Without power these would be inaccessible.

BEGIN TO GATHER VITAL INFORMATION  - in the event of an emergency it is important to have a copy of these documents available.
  • Birth certificate
  • Passport
  • Driver’s license
  • Social Security number
  • Bank account information and stock/bond certificates
  • Will and other legal papers
  • Medical data, allergies, medications/dosages, doctor contacts, and health history
  • Deed or mortgage documents
  • Insurance policies and cards
  • Inventory and photographs of your valuables (prints or on a CD)
  • Any other document that would be difficult to replace (auto pink slips, adoption papers, etc.)
Though this list may seem lengthy and intricate, it's just the basic steps of preparedness for a majority of possible occurrences.  There is much comfort and assurance in being prepared and knowing that you've done what you could do to control uncontrollable outcomes.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Grow Your Own Pineapples

Recently our Boy Scout troop helped us pull all the pineapple plants out of our greenhouse.

It's time to clear the floor to make room to begin experimenting with aquaponics. (So far, noone has come for the fish! -You can read more about that HERE and HERE.)

I've been spending time doctoring my neglected plants: adding fresh compost to the pots and watering regularly. Later this summer we plan to build an extension onto the greenhouse to be able to plant the pineapples in the ground.. We probably have 50-60 pineapple plants, so where did they all come from? Believe it or not - the grocery store!

Pineapples, named for their resemblance to the pine cone,  are a tropical plant. They have a shallow root system and long, slender, stiff leaves, which are adapted to hold moisture for long periods of time.  Fruit is produced 1 to 2 years after planting and is comprised of small individual flowers which join together to make the fruit that grows from the center of the plant. Each stalk bears one pineapple.

To Grow Your Own Pineapples:

Choose a pineapple from the grocery store with the center intact. Beware - some marketers destroy the center of the plant to make propagation impossible.

Cut the top from pineapple and set it on the counter for two days to allow it to partially dry out.

Plant in sandy, well-drained soil.        That's all - too easy right?

    From this

 To This

                                            TO THIS!

* Pineapples do not tolerate freezing temperatures, so bring your plants inside during freeze warnings. 

* A pineapple stops ripening the moment it is picked. For the best flavor, a pineapple must be picked after it has ripened fully. When ripe, a pineapple has a solid sound when thumped.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

When Homeschoolers Visit

Last week a sweet couple and their four children came to visit. I was in the milking barn when they arrived but heard the squeals of excitement from across the farm. When I came out to greet our guests I was met with a flurry of children on the go - racing here and there to see it all in the first 5 minutes - from chickens to dogs to goats and back.

 Thankfully my husband was home and was able to begin the tour while I finished milking. As former homeschool parents ourselves we appreciate that most things can become a fun learning experience, especially Homestead Life. Prompted by the children's inquisitiveness, Bob began by giving a quick lesson about honeybees.

Then it was time to feed the baby goats

Next they all helped throw hay for the billies and then came to visit me in the milking stall

where they learned to milk a goat. They were very good at it too!
They fed the fish and gathered eggs.

And they remembered to leave one egg in every nest - a "seed egg".
We brought the milk into the house and made and ate Chevre - goat cheese on crackers with homemade strawberry jam.  It was yummy!

Now it was time to explore a little so Bob brought the adventurers down to the creek

where they cooled off while we moms visited in the AC.
Everyone enjoyed the reptiles: we have a Savannah Moniter, a Bearded Dragon and a Corn Snake.

Both Lucy and Dixie loved the children's attention AND the apple treats!

A quick lunch and then it was time to open the beehives.  We had to check to be sure a queen was released from her cage. She was, but we were unable to find her. It became apparent that she was not in the hive so we took a frame of eggs and brood and an already built queen cell from another hive and put it into the queenless hive.

Playing with bees is an incredible experience and how much more fun when you can do it without the traditional heavy, hot beesuit and veil!

I think Phil thoroughly enjoyed this! What a great smile!
He even got to point out the queen in another hive.

We had a wonderful day together! So much so that we're planning another get together next week. Though I have to admit, after our guests loaded up and headed home both Bob and I took a break, relaxed in our recliners, and fell fast asleep! There are times when I wonder how we managed to raise four children of our own!