Now that summer is in full swing we take a Laissez-faire approach to our learning. Don’t get me wrong, we are ALWAYS learning, but it is much less structured in the summer months. We don’t “school” year round but are still discovering and learning daily. Our summer usually includes all sorts of outdoor, hands on experiences that will be recalled all next school year. However, this came across my radar recently and here are a few great resources that can be used this summer, or ordered now for use when, dare I say in a few months, we all begin back to school with our kiddos.
We love to learn around here, often my kids find that when it seems like "fun" and not "school" all the better. We try to mix it up, OFTEN, and keep the desire for learning new information alive. How about you?
You've heard it said that we should eat a healthy diet full and rich in a rainbow of colors. Here is a recipe that is sure to fulfill that requirement. I made it up on the fly with some fresh produce and a hearty appetite for something savory, here you go!
1 cup shredded Carrots
1 cup shredded yellow squash
1 cup shredded zucchini
1 medium red onion, shredded
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
2 T flour
Mix all ingredients, drop by the spoonful pancake style into a frying pan on medium high and fry in olive oil, lard or coconut oil.
We have had success! With two of the female Dwarf Hotot rabbits bred and a litter of kits with a not so good outcome, we are now on the winning side. Meet Callie, our 1 year old Dwarf Hotot mama to 5 perfectly beautiful baby kits.
We have learned a lot in the time we have owned this breed, I say we because although this is my 12 year old daughter's venture into the world of entrepreneurship, I am certainly helping guide her along the way. This new litter was born 6/17/16 and thus far, all appear to be perfectly marked Dwarf Hotot standard kits.
Let me start by saying that this breed is HARD to find. My daughter therefore thought it may be a good one to start with because hey, if they are hard to find, they will likely sell well! I hope she's right. In helping her research the breed I have learned so much too, fascinating information, so lets get to the point!
1. Rabbits are Pregnant for 28-31 days
If only human pregnancies were that quick, wait, maybe not...I might have more than what I could handle if that were the case!
When breeding a female rabbit you take her to the male, not the other way around. (Females are much more territorial and you don't want a black widow kind of outcome)
Once you breed the doe it is customary to wait 12 hours and breed again. STOP THERE. Don't be tempted to continue the breeding because a double pregnancy can actually occur. Yes, someone call Maury Povich because you would have multiple pregnancies at the same time. This is not so good because when the doe is ready to deliver the first litter, she will deliver all of the kits, even ones who are not fully mature enough to be born. Sad outcome.
2. Domestic rabbits need PLENTY of nesting materials
We use hay. Give your doe a nesting box to keep the kits safe and away from the sad situation of a doe giving birth "on the wire" meaning, outside of a nesting box where drafts can cause a huge problem.
About 3 days before the due date (so day 25 after you have bred the doe) put your next box in and load it with nesting materials as well as adding plenty of extra to your doe's enclosure. It is TOTALLY normal for a doe to either make and re-make, and re-make her nest....OR... not make the nest or pull hair at all until immediately before delivery. Our doe routinely pulls her fur within the hour she delivers and not a moment sooner.
That leads me to another fact about nesting. Mama rabbits will pull the hair from their dewlap or underbelly to line their nest. If you ever have a litter pass away be sure to keep some of the doe's fur in case you need extra nesting material in the future (this stuff sells for ALOT online if you have to buy it during the winter!)
3. You ABSOLUTELY CAN handle newborn kits
I have heard so many old wives tales about this one, and it rings true for wild rabbits. But, I have talked to SOOOO MANY breeders who have a completely different take on it. Here is the deal. If you are the main caregiver for your rabbit, you generally hold and pet your rabbit, you should have no trouble.
I am not suggesting trying to play with newborn kits, but within the first 24 hours checking the nest to count kits and be sure you don't need to cull (remove) a dead one is absolutely fine. We rub the mama doe with lots of loving pets to get her smell all over our hands and then simply check out the new little ones. Holding and snuggling for longer periods should wait until at least 1-2 weeks and the bunnies at least have their eyes open.
3. Newborn kits only nurse for very short intervals
Unlike other mammals who spend the majority of their post partum days nursing new babies, mama bunnies do it quick. In fact, rabbits do EVERYTHING quickly! You likely will not see the mama doe nursing her babies at all. This can be a cause of concern but a good way to tell if the kits are being cared for is to take close stock of the nest and, if you like, place something very small on the top of the nest, a thread or something, then you can see if the doe has been moving the nest materials to feed and check on her kits.
Also, newborn kits will usually only nurse 2-3 times total in a 24 hour time span, and the nursing sessions can last as short as 5 minutes...see, like I said, its quick!
4. In the winter provide extra heat, in the summer, provide cooling measures
This is just as much for the mama doe as it is for the kits. In the winter if your rabbits call a barn or other outdoor area home consider making sure they are WELL sheltered when they have kits. If in a barn, block of drafts and if possible and safe, provide a heat lamp if temperatures really dip.
In the summer be aware that rabbits can overheat, VERY easily. If you see that a mama doe has uncovered her kits in the nest, don't re-cover, leave them be. Also on especially hot days be sure you have plenty of ventilation. Right now our outdoor temps are in the 90's so we make sure to open the barn doors wide to provide plenty of air circulation throughout the day. Another cooling measure, keep old pop or water bottles in your freezer and as the temps rise, put a frozen bottle in the cage or hutch with mama (not near the kits) that way she can cool off and stay comfortable.
5. Be aware of genetics, especially with Dwarf breeds
There are a few things when breeding dwarf rabbits that you need to be aware of so that you aren't caught totally off guard should you come across one in a litter. First with dwarf breed there are some genetic mutations, one being the "peanut." A peanut is a kit that is born and is a fraction of the size of the others in the litter. These kits are much smaller and weaker but unlike a runt, these guys possess a double dwarf gene and therefore are not viable. They will usually die on their own in a few days.
The second genetic misfire is the Max Factor gene. This gene is not expressed quite as often as the peanut or double dwarf gene, but is something to be aware of. The Max Factor is a genetic mishap in which the rabbit is born with its eyes open, therefore rendering it blind. The rabbit will also have frog like legs that are splayed out making hopping almost impossible. These rabbits are pretty easy to identify immediately but often will not just pass away and therefore render a breeder with a decision to make.
Luckily we haven't had any of those genetic mishaps in our breeding program, but I am glad to be aware of them so that I know what to do should I ever see such a thing. The above picture was taken on day 2, it is amazing how fast the naked little bunnies start to become covered with soft peach fuzz.
This is going to be a fun next few weeks!
Sometimes, when you are living out the homestead dream, there are nightmares and sad endings. I still wouldn't change my lifestyle choice or all the things I have learned but when you practice animal husbandry, there is heartache.
Last weekend a dear friend and I were texting when she sent me this picture and let me know that her sow was in labor, I was pretty excited too because we were planning on buying a piglet or two to raise ourselves. Also, I have never seen a pig born, watching the circle of life on a farm can be joyous and awe inspiring so that was just what I was hoping for when I asked if I could stop over since I had just put my little ones down to bed.
What's kind of interesting is that same night, my husband was keeping tabs on one of his hunting dogs that was also in labor. She had her first pup earlier in the day and as is her usual, she was slowly delivering her litter over the course of hours on end.
As I was heading out the door my 10 year old son decided he really wanted to tag along, and hey it isn't every day that you see piglets born so off we went.
When we arrived we were greeted with the sweetest, cutest little piglet I have ever seen. It was strong and healthy and running around the barn, but mama sow didn't look as good. I wasn't as concerned as my friend because I had no idea about pig labor, she let me in on the cause for concern though. Apparently sows give birth rather quickly and most deliver their piglets 15 minutes or so apart with no long pauses like our dog at home. It had been awhile since the piglet was born, over an hour so my friend was beginning to fret.
Let me start by saying when you live on a farm, you don't call the vet for every little thing. Most farmers, homesteaders and country folk who practice animal husbandry do an awful lot of care at home having learned through experience, or from others how to handle most any problem that comes along. Most vaccinate their own animals, help as a midwife when needed to animals in labor, and nurse runts back to health all without a single veterinary visit.
As the sow continued to labor but no more piglets were born an acquaintance from a local pig farm was contacted to provide advice, by now it was getting almost too late to call on friends but a call was chanced.
What is amazing about fellow farmers is that they drop and run more often than not to help one and other. This was no exception. Upon hearing what was going on with the sow, the friendly pig farmer and her son showed up in a record 15 minutes with a barrage of tactics to help the labor progress. I learned more in the hours I was there about how to help a pig labor than I ever cared to know, but I am thankful for the experience, you just don't get that kind of information from books.
What we learned was that there was a piglet stuck in the sow's birth canal. The local pig farmer seemed completely unfazed and let us know that this kind of thing happens pretty often and she and her son have both had plenty of experience helping sows deliver stuck piglets. It got pretty interesting watching the next few moves, I will spare you the details but needless to say I was quite impressed by the abilities of a determined pig farmer and her 12 year old son who were totally fine rolling up their sleeves and getting super personal with a pig.
The situation wore well into the wee hours of the morning, despite every known trick we tried, there was no progress for the sow.
What did happen was camaraderie was born between neighbors and acquaintances that had the sole purpose of uniting to bring about a positive outcome for a poor laboring sow. Let it never be said that homesteaders who raise animals for food are calloused, we are not. We are affected by pain and suffering just like everyone else.
My son and I stayed around helping as best we could until well into the morning hours. I was keeping tabs on our laboring dog at home as well as helping with the sow and piglet in any way that I could. I learned that we had lost a pup during delivery and my husband was planning on staying right near the dog for the remainder of the night.
My son however was enjoying staying up way too late and hanging out with the other kids in the barn, they eventually made a nest for themselves in the hay as the morning hours wore on.
We eventually did head home with the promise to return immediately if we could be of help in any way, and we meant it.
I messaged my friend again early in the morning after a few hours of sleep, sadly the situation had changed very little. It was certainly not for trying EVERY means available to get the piglet out. Short of providing a cesarean section to the pig, EVERY option was exhausted.
My friend was worn and sad when she let me know that the vet was en route to the farm to see if there was any hope left. At this point I think we all knew the inevitable, the sow was likely not going to make it, I believe we all still had hope that there might be some piglets before the end.
At home that same morning we were up to 9 pups, sadly 3 didn't make it despite our own best efforts as well. So our number was down to 6 living pups.
I decided to head over to offer my friend some moral support, and also hopeful that I could help if there needed to be more hands to care for any live piglets. Guess what? The pig farmer showed back up too, I think we all felt a need to see the situation to it's end.
It wasn't meant to be for the sow, or her piglets. The vet offered little condolences as he heavily sedated the sow and performed a cesarean section right there on the barn floor. There were 6 piglets still inside the sow, all had passed. We still don't know if the piglet stuck in the birth canal was a giant or not, we never did see it.
According to the vet there was a combination of the sow being too fat (I mean seriously have you ever heard of a pig that was too fat???) and her birth canal being too narrow. The sow had to be put down as well.
The only light in all the sadness was a cute little piglet that my friend initially called lucky. She is very sweet and seems to have earned herself a stay of execution on the homestead, that is saying a LOT. She is currently enjoying life being babied by a slew of doting children where she is being bottle fed and as far as I know, napping like the queen of Sheba on pink pillowcases alongside a cute 4 year old.
Back at home the 6 little German Shorthair pups were doing well as was mama dog. It was a pretty wild 24 hours and I learned a lot.
As I write this we are also waiting on a littler of bunny kits to be born. The last litter my daughter's rabbit had all passed away. We are hoping for a MUCH better outcome this time.
Like I said, the life of animal husbandry and homesteading can be very sad indeed, but when you do witness the wonders it makes it all worth it, at least most days.
NOTE: This post may contain affiliate links, they cost you nothing but help with the cost of running my blog site if you should decide to make a purchase through an affiliate. Thank you!
I have had a number of friends approach me over the last several years with questions. Maybe they have seen what the life of a homeschool family can look like, maybe they are dissatisfied with their current educational choice, maybe our current public school education has left them wanting.
Whatever the reason they have begun searching. They all seem to have some of the same questions, I had them as well. So I am going to attempt to put forth some answers to some of the basic questions I often hear.
1. It isn't difficult and you don't need to be brilliant in every subject
One of my biggest hangups when we began our journey into homeschooling was the concern that I had a gifted child, about to enter middle school, and I was HORRIBLE at math. How was I ever going to teach her upper level mathematics when I barely passed them myself? Even in college I had a tutor that aided me in making it through the math portion of my degree (luckily my degree had very little math involved but still!)
From one homeschool parent to a hopeful, it can be done. I just located a program for us that did all the teaching, took out the guess work, and removed me as the teacher. I don't do this in all subjects but math was my biggest concern. My piece of advice, though homeschooling does not have to be expensive, spend the most on the subject you are least proficient in.
We went with a program called "Teaching Textbooks" for our math. All the instruction including practice is captured on computer dvds that are interactive. My children watch illustrations on the lesson and then have a chance to practice, if they get a problem wrong, they have a chance to click and see the entire problem worked out for them. Another bonus? The program is self grading so all I have to do is log on and I can see on any given lesson what percentage they got right/wrong, if they looked at the step by step answer for wrong problems and how they do on all tests. It has been a lifesaver! Teaching Textbooks is useful for all grades (we use it now from elementary through highschool) and each grade corresponds with the number (i.e. Math 4 is 4th grade, Math 7 is 7th grade) Love this program!
2. You SHOULD NOT recreate standard school in your home
Let me, and any other veteran homeschool mom for that matter, warn you. DONT DO IT! You may be tempted to buy cute little desks and dedicate a room as the "school room" in your home complete with a teacher desk and chalkboard but most (if not all) the veteran homeschool moms will tell you that re-creating school in your home sucks the life out of you and also removes the spontinaity and creativity you are afforded in your homeschool ventures.
After removing 3 of my 5 children from the public school system this was a hard won lesson to learn. I had been taught in public school and that was what I knew. I thought I had to recreate the skeleton thereof complete with recess and gym class. What I failed to realize was that I was boxing myself into a corner. We now (through much trial and error, mostly on my part) have come to a much happier place where we have structure and form to our homeschool day but we make it our own.
If we want to read literature aloud over cocoa and coffee (mine of course) for our history, we can do it while sitting on the trampoline outside in the sun.
If we have trouble focusing (mostly my boys) on a task, sometimes a quick "gym class" of laps up and down the driveway makes focus a whole lot easier.
When we want to allow a nature walk to find some of the insects we are learning about in science, we can take off.
This is what works in our homeschool, each of us has to find what works and step away from the idea of how we are supposed to do it. There really aren't rules to the manner in which you teach, it is what suits your students best.
3. REACH OUT: find a local homeschool group and plug in
Homeschooling can be a bit lonely if you let it. This is a recipe for disaster. We need encouragement, we need creative ideas, we need affirmation. Find a homeschooling group that you can mesh with (you sometimes have to look hard) and make some friends. This may take awhile. I know that when we first stated homeschooling and I began looking for such a group I was inundated with a number of places and people to become involved with.
What I quickly learned though was there were some groups that were helpful and others that I really didn't fit with. I am homeschooling with a Christ centered base so I did not fit into a secular homeschooling group. I didn't have time to commit to a co-op so i forfeited that as well. I settled on an amazing local group that offers moms nights out as well as field days and all manner of organized field trips. It is free, full of like minded moms and it helps us.
The other HUGE benefit to becoming involved in homeschool groups is the ability to get first hand reviews of curriculum you may be considering. One of the best things was when I started homeschooling this group's leader invited me to her home and showed me all of the curriculum she used. I asked questions, I thumbed through pages, I talked to the kids. I found that some of it would not be a good fit for us but some of it was SPOT ON. This was such a help to me when I was but a newbie. Find other moms like this.
4. Attend a Homeschool Convention
.There will always be a reason not to go. Not enough money, no babysitter, too far away. Let me tell you that especially if you are new to homeschooling, this may be the single most important thing you do. You don't have to spend ANY money, just go to look if need be.
If you need to save money HERE is a post I did for another blogger regarding how to do that.
If you need to attend a convention with children HERE is a post I did for another blogger regarding how to do that.
Even I still make a point to go yearly HERE is why.
5. Start By Learning the Laws in Your State
Sounds daunting doesn't it? It isn't. Every state has their own set of rules/regulations when it comes to homeschooling. Some are more lenient (for example TX, OK, MO, IA, IL, IN, MI, ID, AK, CT and NJ do not require ANY notification by the parent of their decision to homeschool) All the other states have varying degrees of restriction/expectations.
Even if your state is one that requires more of homeschooling parents, know that it is legal in all 50 states to homeschool your child. There are even a number of legal defense advocacy groups just to protect that right.
The laws really aren't difficult to navigate, HERE is a listing of all 50 states, click on any state for details.
6. Recognize the Difference Between Parent-Driven Curricula and State-Driven Online Curricula.
This one confuses most people. Online schools are the buzz word right now, they are touted as an amazing way to homeschool your child for nearly free as the books, curriculum and computer are all provided to you free of charge. But...someone is paying that bill. This is what I like to call State-Driven online public school.
The technicality of it is that yes, your child is at home. However, know that the entity providing the materials is the one in charge. Meaning, if you don't want public school indoctrination and you want say, a creationary standpoint discussed in the education for your children, this may not be the option that would best suit you.
The second option is what I call Parent Driven Curriculum. This is where the parent chooses either a particular company to adhere to either on a per subject basis or an all-inclusive grade level basis. Or, totally different than that, the parent develops their own curriculum to teach their child. This is where the homeschool resurgence began, with parent driven curricula, however the public schools losing money as children began staying home for school are now offering their own brand of homeschooling, via the online avenue.
7. Educate Yourself
A very good place to start is with some amazing resources available that will encourage you, educate you, and help you on the rough days. Google information such as "test scores of homeschoolers as compared to public schools," Learn about the move of Ivy league colleges to begin recruiting homeschooled students. Talk to other moms who have taken the plunge into homeschooling and not looked back.
Then begin reading...There are a number of books I read when I began this journey, I gleaned bits and pieces from each of them and I felt better about my decision after each read. Here are a few of my favorites.
8. Give Yourself Grace
Homeschooling has a definite learning curve. What works for one child, may not be a perfect fit for a sibling. That is the beauty of homeschooling. You can adjust your schedule, curriculum, and teaching methods as often as needed.
During the learning curve though, know that a bad day here and there, or even a bad week for that matter doesn't define your homeschool. We all have rough spots, even teachers in traditional school settings will tell you that, just ask any teacher who has taught a classroom full of children the week before Christmas Break and the week before Summer break.
Do know that if you jump on this train, and you stick with it...you will begin to see amazing results. It may not be immediate, but then again nothing worth having ever is. You will get to know your children better than you ever have, you will see relationships in your home in an entirely new light, and you will be amazed at just how much you too will learn along the way. Give yourself some grace if you begin this journey, you have to. It isn't easy, but it is SOOOOO worth it!
One of my favorite things to do in the evenings is to go either on a Gator ride or 4-wheeler ride with my littlest treasures. As we troll along I often will quiz my 4 and 2 year olds about the different wild flowers, berries and plants we see along the way. So far they have gotten pretty good at identifying Honeysuckle, Clover (purple and white), raspberries, blackberries, mulberries, blueberries, as well as "poison berries" (red nightshade) that they are NEVER to touch. Still working on poison ivy identification with them.
I relish in these cruise alongs because my boys still hold the wonder of all that they don't yet know and mom is still seen as the uber wise sage that knows all the answers. (boy do I still have them fooled). We ride on trails we have made both on our own property as well as a few vacant properties of just land near us that we are careful not to do damage to.
This particular evening our goal was to check the progress of the millions of blackberries that are in bloom all over both our property as well as 2-3 neighboring properties that we have permission to pick from. These are all wild berries so the importance of regular spying on their development is of the utmost importance as we have competition. The birds.
As we passed through one of our "secret" trails (a little slip I made through the pine trees) we were almost belted in the face by the bounty. I had forgotten to be on the lookout at our normal honey hole for mulberries because it is of course mulberry season for us. There they were like glittering, juicy amulets of perfection. The boys just about flew off of the 4 wheeler to begin picking and stuffing their chubby little cheeks full of the sweet goodness.
I know that my husband and several local "old timers" have always told us that you shouldn't eat too many mulberries because they will cause you to "run" (to the bathroom that is). It seems to me that any fruit in excess can cause this so I don't generally offer any severe limitations on consumption and this day was no exception. Therefore we had a long soak in the tub to remove all of those amethyst stains.
The soak however didn't come right away, we first had to spend nearly an hour picking every juicy bit that they could fit into their mouths. Since that day there have been daily requests to run to the mulberry patch, so off they go with visions of granduer regarding pies and cobblers, only to return with their berry receptacle empty and hands and faces stained.
I thank God that I am able to raise these children learning about nature and enjoying all of his creations out here off the beaten path.
When you think of bullies and cliques it is usually middle school that comes to mind. All of those feelings of inadequacy and awkwardness that come with hitting the prepubescent period of life. I am observing that, even in the animal kingdom, these same behaviors come out in force and likely also due to a surge in hormones and “teenage” behavior though this time of the poultry variety.
It all began as a normal round of morning chores; I stepped to the Dutch door of our new coop and peeked in as I love to observe all these crazy chickens and their behaviors. It was then that I noticed one of our Indian Runner ducks had blood caked all over its side (still not sure if this is a female or male duck). Worried, I stepped into the coop for a closer look at the poor duck, wondering aloud who could have harmed such a sweet duckling. That’s when I noticed that the duck didn’t appear to have any injuries but also had some blood on its beak…the plot twists.
I followed the trail of blood droplets until it led me to one of our laying hen breeds. The poor girl had all of her tail feathers plucked out with nothing but a bloody stump of flesh in the place where the plumage had been emerging. Poor girl. Now, if you don’t know chickens, they are a bit on the vicious side when they want to be. And, they are like a teenaged acne victim who cannot control the urge to pick. They will pick at an open sore of another animal until sometimes, they kill it. I have seen this happen before and it isn’t pretty.
I quickly scooped up the poor Australorp for a quick getaway and some R & R.
She was put into isolation.
She peeped, she cried out, but it was for her own good.
I then went back to the scene of the crime…who was the offending chicken, or band of chickens who bullied this poor girl to a bloody pulp? I have my suspicions; “Punk” is one of the prime suspects at this time, he/she the androgynous wonder will be watched very closely.
“Punk” is one of 6 Polish chickens we purchased for my son’s 4H project, “Punk” seems to be the ringleader in some of the gang activity I have witnessed these 6 hoodlums (3 Silver Laced Polish and 3 White Crested Polish) wreaking havoc in the hen house, and often chest bumping at their accomplishments after riling up the whole slew of hens.
I will be watching…
What they don’t know is that as soon as we pick the best looking one or two of them, any that show signs of being of the undesirable rooster variety will be banished for a quick exit on Craigslist.
So even in the animal kingdom, there are bullies. The difference is that I get to be the one to hand down the court marshall if necessary. I don’t tolerate bully roosters.
Cilantro...I love it. It is fantastic in salsas, paired with chicken, in salads, it is fresh and delicious. I am aware that this is one of those herbs that creates a strong reaction in people, they love it or they hate it, not too many in between. My love for it probably came from the time I spent living in Mexico and drowning in fabulous cuisine peppered with this culinary delight. Regardless, you should be growing this herb because the little known fact of the matter is, it is the only one I am aware of that is a dual purpose herb.
What do I mean by "dual-purpose"? This herb is one that is a 2 in 1 delight. When the plant first emerges and begins its journey into true leaf existence it is called Cilantro. Pungent and flavorful it is a member of the parsley family but is called different things depending on the point in the life cycle you harvest it. It becomes Coriander later in the cycle, another well known culinary delight.
It is originally native to the Mediterranean you will also find it in Thai and Chinese cuisine as well as Hispanic and Indian dishes. Interestingly enough this herb is so well known that they are even mentioned in the Bible. Ancient Romans used the herb to preserve meat and it can also be steeped as a tea. Cilantro is said to have stomach soothing properties that when consumed in large quantities, offers a significant source of Vitamins A and C.
Okay, so back to the dual purpose idea, when the plant is new and relatively low to the ground (6-8 inches in height) it is the delicious cilantro. However, what happens is that it will "bolt" in the heat of the summer. This means that it goes to flower as the plant prepares to change to its seed form, a self propagating wonder. Once the stalks rise well above 12-18 inches the plant leaves change to a more carrot top looking spindly type and they begin to flower.
From this point the cilantro begins to take on a very bitter taste and is not, at least in my book, edible any longer. The plant will continue to dry out and the little flower buds will change to hard, round, brown seeds. This is Coriander. A spice used in cooking as well either whole or ground. The beauty of it all is that you can either harvest the coriander for your culinary use or save it for planting again next year.
NOTE: Wherever you plant this herb it is likely to perform like a perennial, meaning because it self seeds it will come back year after year. Even the most diligent gardener is usually unable to harvest EVERY seed that drops to the ground so you again have the dual purpose advantage of a re-seeding plant as well as a second herb to use, Coriander.
This post may contain affiliate links while they cost you nothing, they can help me with the cost of running my website. Thanks for your support!
One of my favorite parts of summer is the cool and refreshing beverages that will quench a gardener's palette. Few rank as high for me as sweet tea, lemonade, and limeade (preferably with crushed berries). But, what about that tell-tale sludge of gooey sweet sugar residue that is always present at the bottom of your homemade lemonade or sweet tea? What about when you make a batch of sun tea but want to offer your guests the option of making it sweetened or unsweetened. What about then, what do you do? You make a delicious batch of simple syrup and keep it on hand for just such occasions. No more sugar sludge at the bottom of your glass, no more excessive stirring while trying in vain to get the sugar to dissolve into an iced beverage, nope, this is easy and quick!
What is simple syrup? It is, simply put, sugar and water. Sugar dissolves very well in water, but only when the temperature is raised. Who wants hot sugar water? Not me. The best way to do this is to make your simple syrup on the stove top and then store it in a mason jar in your refrigerator to use on a glass by glass basis or in larger batches when making homemade lemonade or limeade.
1 cup Sugar
2 cups water
Simply stir the two ingredients together over medium heat and watch as your water turns clear without the sugar crystals (if you use pure cane sugar your water will turn a slightly brown clear but still delicious and perfect). Once the water is void of crystals simply let it cool and then store in a mason jar in your refrigerator.
I usually make a larger batch and keep it in the refrigerator for the endless parade of children that are swarming through my home on a daily basis, that way as long as I have lemon juice I can whip up some lemonade in about 3 minutes flat and serve the masses. The larger batch I use is typically 4 cups of sugar to 8 cups water then I store it in a half gallon mason jar like these in the refrigerator (I also store my sun tea in these as well).
The process is so simple and the quick ease of access is wonderful to have on hand as an easy sweetening solution.
In case you were curious about my lemonade recipe, HERE it is and now it is so much simpler because I no longer have to wait for the simple syrup to cool!
Here is another one I wrote for GRIT magazine's official blogging team, what do you think... (make sure to read it all first!)
Beginning the life of homesteading is a noble thing; those partaking of this venture often have grandiose ideas, brilliant plans and tenacity. The life of sustainability is, at its core, a little against the grain of how society as a whole does things. Society is taught to depend on big farms to produce our food stuffs, big box stores to provide for our every whim and need, and most have lost the basic skills that would even allow for the idea of homesteading to come into play. Therefore, those who go against this current or tide of how things are normally done are often viewed as noble, yet they are often misunderstood. They may be misunderstood for their intentions, their drive, or even their motives, but they persist, a peculiar and fascinating sort of folks we are. Let me say though, with all this going against the grain and becoming independent of what we are told we should do, be careful of these crazy ideas that may just pop into your head. If you are going to be self sufficient and not rely on others as much as the populace as a whole, you may even consider educating your own children at home so that you have the control over what and how they should learn…watch out I warn.
There it is, homesteaders shouldn’t homeschool, the idea has popped into your head, but wait, you shouldn’t jump off that cliff, UNLESS...
1. You want to raise children who understand responsibility
Children of homesteaders learn this skill early. If you aren’t responsible for the care of your animals, they won’t thrive and may not survive. If you are truly homesteading and raising some of your animals for food, improper care of your animals or neglect can lead to problems in your food supply, bad idea. Children of homesteaders who choose homeschooling will often incorporate all of this vital information into daily lessons. Those homeschooling children may learn about rations of feed, variability in weight gain, gestational and sexual maturity ages and all kinds of things related to the instruction in animal husbandry. This is not typically a class taught in most schools, rarely would you find this elective, but the responsibility of animal husbandry is something that these crazy homeschooled homesteading children may learn.
2. You want to allow your children time to learn STEM skills from play
Another skill your home educated children may learn is an aspect or two regarding STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) but they may simply learn this from the hours they have at their disposal to just be playing on your farm. Any child who has decided that a rope swing from the top loft of a barn to the floor may be fun has gone through some engineering feats to accomplish the exact right height of the rope, the knot and the arc so as not to break bones and cause mom to squeal. These same children may be observing spring tadpoles in the creek and through frequent trips to fish will watch as the slimy whip tailed creatures begin forming legs and eventually losing their tail only to hop away while in hot pursuit by said child. The play involved in constructing forts and hideaways from the great world at large will also require some mathematical skills as well as engineering, however because they are playing, these homeschooled children may not ever realize the skills that they are exercising and learning along the way. Don’t forget the logic and problem solving skills that these children learn while creating some of these play items, this time may be seen by some as invaluable, don’t fall for it.
3. You want to teach your children a valuable sense of family
Those homeschooled children are together all day, every day. It has been said that if you can get along with your siblings, you can get along with anyone. These homeschooled homesteading children learn this and then in turn often find their best friends live in the same house as they do. By spending so much time together age gaps don’t seem as insurmountable and you may find that toddlers and 10 year olds can play together for hours. These bonds that are created because of the time the children are allowed to spend together are invaluable. Children also quickly learn that their family is their home base and the most important asset they have, unlike many schooled children who inaccurately come to believe that their friends are the most important.
4. You want your children to have time to learn
These homeschooled children often have what seems like an endless amount of time to grasp a concept when they come across one that is difficult. There is no class moving ahead without them, no time table they have to rush to meet so that a state standardized test can measure their abilities. They have the luxury of learning at their own pace. Also, if you think about a typical school day with homeroom, bells ringing for class changes, bathroom breaks, disruptive children and fire drills being all removed, it is no wonder that these homeschooled children can often finish their lessons in a matter of 2-3 hours or less. Compare that to the average school day of 5-6 hours (with or without added transportation time included in that number).
5. You want to create an environment where your children love learning
These homesteaders who homeschool have figured something out. You can incorporate passion driven learning into any homeschool with brilliant results. If your child is interested in robotics you have the freedom to hop down that rabbit trail and exhaust the information superhighway for everything they want to learn. If cooking is their forte, you have the ability to allow them to incorporate cooking shows and a real live “lab” to whip things up in while they impress the family with some new found delectable. What about art you ask? Many traditional schools have had to forgo this one but these homeschoolers have the ability to explore museums, learn art history, and create masterpieces all without having to worry if there is enough government funding for the art and music program available.
There you have it, Homesteaders SHOULD NOT homeschool UNLESS they are interested in any of the areas mentioned above. Seriously, be warned, who wants children that love learning, have time to learn what they are passionate about, enjoy strengthening family bonds, learn from playing and learn some serious responsibility? Yeah, I didn’t think so…me either that’s Why We Homeschool too.
While out working in the garden my hubby cruised by on our gator and told me to hop in, he had something to show me. I reluctantly put down the hoe and climbed in, afterall there are only so many hours to be out in the garden in the mornings before it just gets too hot. I figured he was about to show me some new deer blind he was thinking about putting up somewhere or maybe a nest of something he found while bush hogging. Nope, he surprised me ladies. He knows how much I LOVE blackberries. He showed me something amazing…
Let me share for a moment so maybe you will understand. When we moved to our property in the spring a few years back I was over the moon to discover that there was a section of our fence about 15 feet long that was covered with wild blackberry bushes. I watched them like a snake stalking a small field mouse checking almost incessantly so that I could beat the birds to the harvest, and harvest it was. That first year we had blackberry pie, jam, ice cream, and so many other treats. I was in heaven! Well, it got even better the next year as I discovered that a vacant lot very close to us was also covered in the berries. We got permission to pick them and though that year there were not as many, I was still thrilled to be on the hunt for not only delicious but free food for the taking.
The following year was not a bumper crop year. There was enough around for some fresh eating but after a few trips out with my little ones whose hands came back stained mercilessly with the deep hues of berry picking, there was nothing left over, not even for a pie.
SIDE NOTE: Interestingly enough blackberries are part of the Rosaceae family. This is the same family as the rose bush. We have rose bushes outside the front of our house and I have made an interesting observation. In years when we have beautiful large roses blooming all over our rose bushes, there are bumper crops of berries. In off years for the berries, very few roses. Hmmmm.
So, you are waiting with anticipation, what did he show me??? As we drove down the fence line in the gator he showed me blossom after blossom of blackberries. Not only do they cover the fence line but they have popped up down 2 paths we use, all over the property that we pick them on and everywhere else. There are literally thousands upon thousands of tiny green berries starting and they are in such abundance that I can almost taste the juicy pie made with grandma’s special crust recipe. I believe that the berries will be early this year so I will begin my diligent watch in late June and hope for the bumper crop I see brewing so that I can make some of the amazing things I am about to share with you in this round up.
Wife to a wonderful husband, Daughter of the King, Mother of 6 (one with an xtra chromosome), and an incidental farm girl.