Why I Don’t Make My Own Laundry Soap

There are two things I don’t do around here. One, make my own cleaning products and two, use cloth diapers. There I said it!

I can hear all of you gasping for air…. “What kind of homesteading mama is she?”

One who likes to keep her sanity!

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Believe me, I have tried making laundry soap on several occasions. The truth is, it does not work. My husbands laundry is smelly and dirty. Who am I kidding, mine are too. We work hard and play hard. Plus, that huge bucket took up way to much space in my laundry room.

The reasons I like homemade laundry soap is that it seemed to be the safer alternative for our very old septic system.  The previous owners did a great job of keeping it in working condition, so I really do not want to break it.

My problem…. I could not to find a laundry soap or a bleach alternative that I really liked that was environmentally safe as well as safe for our septic system.

My accidental discovery happened while at the health food store buying Grace and Hannah omega vitamins. The owner of the shop introduced me to the Melaleuca Company. I heard of them before and how great their cleaning products were.  Needless to say I went home and did some research. What I found out about the cleaning agents I was using was shocking. Caustic chemicals in my hand soap, dish soap, shampoo, and so on, absorbing into mine and my families bodies. These chemicals can act as hormones, cause asthma, skin issues, cancer, and infertility.

WHAT!!! I have been trying my hardest to keep my family healthy and safe by raising our own food and eating fairly clean, but I was blind to what we were cleaning our home and our bodies with.

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It was a wake up call for me. We are now a part of the Melaleuca Company. The best part, their cleaning products ROCK! They really work. That little bottle of hand soap has lasted me two months and it is only half way empty. Not to mention I can order everything on my computer and it comes right to my door. That means less trips to Target tempting me to spend more money. Now if Melaleuca only sold diapers.

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Home Cheese Making Class

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Fear can be one of those things that cripple us into not pursuing our passions. For some of us, there is a nagging voice in the back of our head telling us that we are not good at _____and we will fail. So today I am going to try and overcome a fear. I am no expert, by no means, but I have been making simple home cheeses and yogurts for a few years. When I was looking for classes I could not find anything local. Yes, I learned from reading, youtube, and through purchasing a kit. But, I still wanted that personal interaction with a real live human being! Something we do not get enough of these days. So after much thought, a practice class with friends, and wrestling with my fear I am offering a basic home cheese making class to you.  If you are local to Lancaster County, PA, join me and another fellow cheese lover for a night of exploring CHEESE!

What you will experience:

  • 2 ½  hours learning terms, making, sampling, and conversing with likeminded individuals.
  • Making ricotta, mozzarella, chevre, and learning about kefir.
  • Sampling what you make and taking your final product home.
  • Small class size. Limit 2 persons per class.

Price: $35.00 per person.

Dates: October 14th and October 28th

Time: 6:00pm – 8:30pm

Special instructions: Please bring a quart size mason jar with lid or something equivalent and two containers for your soft cheeses.

**I do use raw milk from a local farm. I believe it makes a better cheese product.**

 

How do I sign-up?

E-mail me at thefarmhand08@outlook.com with your contact information and I will get in touch with you. I will post when classes are filled and put you on a waiting list for next month.

Weekending

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Oh September…warm summer like days and crisp autumn nights. We rang in the first weekend of fall with some fair fun and then a September picnic. It was full of good friends and family, delicious food, and cozy fireside conversations. I think my favorite part was watching the kids running up and down the hill making their own kind of fun. Sage was in her glory with all the kids to play with. The agenda for today is to cut and stack wood for winter preparations. Hope you are enjoying your weekend just the same.

Gardens, Girls, and Dessert

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Thursdays have become girls day around here. It started with Grace and I visiting my parents on a Thursday. Now with all the girls being born into the family along with my aunt and uncle recently moving into the area, we all seem to congregate at my parent’s house. The guys go one way and the girls hang out with coffee and magazines. This past Thursday we mixed it up a bit. Everyone came to my house for lunch and a trip to The Conestoga House and Gardens. If you are local to Lancaster County, this is a free garden to visit. They are open on Wednesdays and Thursdays through September. I suggest you gather a group of your best girls or even your honey for a stroll around these beautiful grounds. End your time there with a picnic or just a simple dessert like we did.

Goat Milk, Kefir, and Nursing

At 10 weeks Sawyer developed a milk allergy. She was allergic to the lactose in any dairy product I ate, even if it was the last ingredient in a baked product. It showed itself through her having really bloody stools after nursing. I know gross and TMI. Well it happens and it was very scary. After two visits to the doctor and a trip to the ER (all in one day) we still did not have a definite answer as to what was causing it. So, I called the lactation consultant the next day because I had to pump and give her special formula for several days while we tried to rule out the causes. She immediately knew the problem and explained it to me much better than any doctor could. Without going into to much detail, her body could not digest the lactose and it irritated her intestines to a point that it would cause blisters and when she did number two they would pop and thus the bloody poop. Sorry folks, just letting you know incase other mothers out there are having these issues. 

 What does this have to do with goats? Most babies can outgrow this around 4 to 6 months of age. In the meantime I had to find a way to get my probiotics other than taking it in a pill form.  Goat milk is more easily digested and contains less lactose than cow milk. So I found local goat milk and used my kefir grains to make kefir.

What is Kefir?

 Kefir grain is a symbiotic union of yeast and bacteria to create a culture. When these grains (they are more like curds) are added to milk they ferment and make Kefir. See my step by step instructions below. I mix my kefir with Naked brand juice because I would never drink it straight up.

 Sawyer is 5 months old and I am still able to nurse. I still supplement with Alimentum formula. I have eliminated dairy from my diet and added coconut milk, almond milk, and goat milk kefir, and homemade goat milk cheeses. I am slowly adding hard cheeses to see if she has a reaction. I live on dairy products and get most of my protein from dairy. It was difficult at first. Believe me, I was ready to throw in the towel many times, but she needed that comfort only nursing could have on a newborn. Plus, I still needed that bonding time with her. There are so many options these days. So if you are a mother to a child with a dairy allergy you do not have to give up, it does get easier. As my lactation consultant said “As long as she is getting one nursing session a day she is acquiring the immunities she needs from your breast milk.”

 Making Kefir Using Cow Milk or Goat Milk

 Start with a kefir grain. My mom split hers and shared it with me. They do grow in size so you may be able to find someone local who sells them or you can make your own using a culture. Try looking here.

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Add fresh raw cow milk or goat milk. You can use pasteurized milk but raw milk produces a much nicer grain. Only add 3 to five times the amount of milk as the size of your grain

Cover the jar with a coffer filter and a rubber band.

Let it sit on your counter for 18 to 24 hours. Sometimes I do let mine go longer. You will start to see the milk separate into curds and whey.

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Skim the grain off the top and place in a clean jar. What is left in the other jar is your kefir. I transfer it to a large container so I can keep adding to it. Cover it and place it in the refrigerator. Drink a small amount at first and work your way up to more once your body adjusts. This is an amazing probiotic. In my findings, it is much better than a tablet or even yogurt.

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Start the process over with your grain. Once it starts to grow larger you can split it and share with a friend or simply make more kefir.

If you forget about it for a week. Simply rinse off the grain in water and start the process again. It may take two days to get it started again.

When I have a lot of kefir I place fresh milk on the grain and put it in the refrigerator until I need to make more. It may take two days to get it working again.

Add your kefir to smoothies or mix it with a thick juice like the Naked brand juice.   

 

 

Why We Do What We Do

 

Around here canning season is starting and soon to be in full force. This means less sleep and less of my undivided attention on the children. This is the time when my anxiety levels rise because there is never enough time in the day. The house is usually a disaster zone because all my effort goes into stocking up.  I question our motives for why we do what we do.  We seem to take on more and more each year.

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I have been scribbling notes on this topic because it has been on my mind of where we are, where we have come from, and where we are heading in the future. Seven years ago when Brook and I got married we began our little garden. Oh how I wish we had pictures to show you. It was not pretty! Brook got his love of gardening from helping his grandfather on his organic farm. I had a small garden growing up and helped my mom make jam and freeze beans and corn.  I can remember riding the bus as a young girl and passing one farmhouse with a big red barn, daydreaming about the day I would live in a place like that.

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Setting out on this path to self sufficiency we never thought of it as homesteading. We really just wanted to know where our food came from and to stock up on a few things for the winter. Each year it grew into more. First the chickens and later the beef cow and the pig. We added a few fruit trees to the place we rented. Next, we planted a few berry bushes and along came the bees. Then the Lord blessed us with our dream home. A farmhouse and barn to raise our children. It has just enough acres to plant our roots and establish a small homestead. Over the years things have evolved into more than just wanting to know where our food comes from.

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 It has become so automatic to go to the store and grab some food without a thought of how it was grown or raised.  Do you really trust the government with the quality of food you eat? It is a satisfying feeling when you sit at the table and look at what you have grown and produced with your own hands. Just the other day Grace wanted to go to a particular restaurant. We were running errands all day and so I agreed, thinking it would be fun for my girls and I to go out to eat together.  I was really disgusted with the quality of the food and the price I paid for soup and salad. That moment made me appreciate the work Brook and I put into raising, growing, cooking, and baking wholesome food for our family.  We could throw in the towel at any moment, but that is not us. When we sit around our table and say our prayers there is a connection to the land and the past generations who lived this way. It was the only way they knew. Nothing was artificial or overly processed. The ingredients were real and honest. Today we do it by choice, because we want to get back to the basics of real, honest, and wholesome food that tastes good and is good for us. It is a joy to watch the girls race to the chicken coop when they hear the chicken clucking or to sit with me and help me prep tomatoes for sauce.

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Homesteading is more of a way of life for us. We can show and teach our children that things are not automatic. If you want something you need to work for it. This kind of life is hard work, but it is so rewarding. Around here if we need something we work for it or we make it ourselves. There is not much to spare at the end of the month but that is the choice we made. We are investing in our children right now. Not only are we nourishing there bodies with homegrown foods but also their minds, souls, and faith. We are raising them to have a connection to the land. For everything there is a season. Our season now is our children. We do not have a penny to spare on retirement or even putting away for college savings. My plan for now is to sell the farm to pay for some of the girl’s college. We believe they should have to put toward their school of choice. Then buy a VW Vanagon and be hippies with no strings attached. We all know the Lord has better plans.  Brook hopes so! As for me, I think I would not mind it.

Vanagon - down by the river. Not quite what I have but the sentiment is there.

The Corn Roast

Every year at the end of August we gather at a friend’s house just down the road from us for the annual corn roast. Come early and stay late. An open fire pit with corn roasting in burlap and an abundance of clams, beer and friends make this an event we look forward to all summer. This year I made a bruscetta using this pesto recipe. While making it I sipped on my new favorite drink. A recipe from my sister. A sweet blush wine, peach schnapps, and cranberry juice over ice. Oh the smell of peach schnapps reminds me of my grandmother. She liked her cocktail of schnapps and iced tea.

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Enjoy your last days of summer folks with whoever you are with and wherever you may go. 

Hey There Chicky

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It is that time of year again. Time for chickens. These are our meat birds. We did not raise any last year due to the move and oh how I missed them. The breed we chose this year was the good old faithful Cornish Cross or sometimes known as Cornish Giants. They are ready to butcher at 6 to 8 weeks. We have had freedom rangers in the past, but they take longer to grow and I find that they do not get as meaty. 

The girls are enjoying the newness of these chickies, all 50 of them. Yes 50! We only planned on 30, but it really was a better deal to go with the 50 lot. If you live in Lancaster County, please visit Reich’s Poultry. It was much better to pick up our birds than having them shipped. I am so glad I found a local place to buy my meat birds. I will visit them again for my laying hens. The girls already understand that these chickens will become our food and they totally understand. This is what they know because we have explained it to them over and over again. It is a good feeling knowing we raised the food we are putting into our body. It is just the way of life around here. There is a connection between the food we grow and eat. 

Tale of Two Tables

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You know the old saying “A cat has nine lives.”  Well I think this table might have just as many. It was picked out of the dumpster by the greatest dumpster diver of all time, my father-in-law. He always finds the greatest treasures. They may not look like much when he brings them home but they usually turn into something very useful. The moment I saw this table it was not love. It sat behind the horse trailer at our previous house and added to the junk yard. Then the industrial craze started to take hold and I looked at it differently. Brook thought I was nuts. I had big plans for it in a future studio. Well, Brook chucked it in the dumpster again before we moved into the new house. I made sure we kept it. Once everything was moved to the new house last May I noticed the legs were missing. Hmmm…. well they were bent anyway. I was just happy he saved the top. Just last month I found a pair of legs on craigslist that matched the top of the workbench perfectly.  So Brook got to work.  He put it together and I decided the top was really weathered. He took the metal frame off the sides and flipped it upside down. We decided on two pieces of barn wood for the bottom shelf. After pressure washing, sanding, and minwaxing, I sealed the wood with three coats of Zars floor sealer. I love having this huge work space to create.  I wish I had a picture of what it looked like before we started but I am too impulsive and forget about these things. Sorry, trust me it was bad!

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 The second table was another one I had to convince Brook of saving. When we moved into this house the previous owners left a few things and one of them was an old rickety table made of conduit piping and plywood. I fell in love with it and Brook just laughed at me for seeing the beauty in it. I love my old farmhouse but the one thing I could use more of is counter space. I thought if I could make a breakfast bar it would free up some space on the counter. We decided to throw out the microwave and toaster and buy a toaster oven. I have my reasons for getting rid of the microwave.  Just those health conscience hippie reasons, if you know what I mean.  It has taken me a while to do it, but I am glad I did.  I was on the lookout for table options when Brook mentioned the table in the barn. It was about 6 feet long so he discarded the top, cut, and welded the frame to about 4 feet. Once again we went to the barn for some wood to make a top. At first we used three boards but decided it would look better with four. After more pressure washing, sanding, and using minwax, I sealed it with three coats of Zars floor sealer. 

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What more could a girl need other than a coffee bar and a place to create.

More coffee = more time to create. Who needs sleep?

A Weekend Recipe

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I have been savoring the last of the blueberries. Our blueberry bushes are coming to the end of their production. I think the birds got more of them this year than we did. I will be purchasing netting for next year because I had to buy a box of blueberries for freezing. I saved a few and made this yummy breakfast treat. I make it every year just like my mom. The recipe came from an old newspaper clipping and it has been a favorite in our family. This year I doubled the recipe because it never lasts long in this house. You may want to do the same thing. Be sure to bake it for double the amount too. It is a perfect Saturday morning breakfast. Serve with fresh peaches. Enjoy and have a blessed weekend.

Alaskan Blueberry Coffee Cake

1 1/2 c. flour

3/4 c. sugar

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1/4 c. oil

3/4 c. milk

1 egg

1 1/2 c. fresh blueberries

Topping

1/2 c. flour

1/2 c. brown sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 c. butter

Blend flour, sugar, baking powder, salt. add oil, milk, egg, and one cup of blueberries. Spread in a greased square 9 inch pan. Make the topping: Combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter until crumbly. sprinkle this mixture on top of the batter and top with remaining blueberries. Bake at 375 for 35 to 45 minutes.