Author Archives: Courtney @ hisandhershomesteading

A Fall update

Life has been busy here this summer.  We’ve barely kept our house clean or our children for that matter.  Our primary focus was our garden and our animals.  Here’s what we did this summer.

Picked zucchini and then cooked it 101 different ways

Fretted over our failed tomato crops

Listened to my son scream with excitement every time I pulled up a potato plant to expose all those hidden potatoes

Marveled at how fast a cute piglet can turn into a huge hog

Discovered ‘lemon cucumbers’ to be the only worthwhile cucumber to grow

Harvested 15 meat birds and several roosters in our backyard and still have the feathers around to prove it.

Watched our sweet baby girl turn into a toddler

Picked some more zucchini

Truly understood why it’s an insult to say “you eat like a pig”

Finally got our first egg and I no longer have to protect the hens from Robert’s hungry stares

Pleased that our daughter’s first animal sound was a turkey “gobble, gobble, gobble”

Burned through one pair of ‘Lightning McQueen’ rubber boots

Witnessed a fox kill our turkey then watched Robert kill the fox

Saw it rain…once

Helped save a beautiful and endangered breed of American turkeys, the blue slates

Thanks, Courtney.

How to cook a pumpkin

Thanks Robert for that update on the storage potential of winter squash.  Now I bet you want to know how to cook them.  I personally like to roast them and make pumpkin pie healthy food for my family.  Here’s how I roast them.  It’s pretty easy and requires no monitoring, so you can go about your other chores.  You can roast pumpkins or any winter squash this way.

First, preheat oven to 350°F.  Now, cut them in half.  Be careful, they can be very hard, which makes cutting a little dangerous.

Next, scoop out the seeds.  (You can roast the seeds later if you’d like)

Now pop them in a roasting pan, cut side down, like so.

And finally add some water to the bottom of the pan, maybe a cup or less.  It depends on the size of the pan and how many you are roasting.  Mine has a groove along the outer edge so I like to add a little more because I know the pumpkins won’t be sitting in the water.  Cover with aluminum foil tightly and  roast for 45 minutes to  1 1/2 hours.  Until they are tender when you push them with your finger.  If they aren’t done, it makes them tougher to scoop out and the pulp is often more stringy and fibrous.

Here is butternut squash, acorn squash and sweet dumplings.




Here’s a link to a really yummy Thai coconut curry soup from Weight Watcher’s that uses butternut squash but I think you could substitute any winter squash.

Please share a link to your favorite squash recipes in the comments section.

Thanks,  Courtney

Words to make one think…

While checking out a gardening blog of ours that provides much inspiration, Subsistence Pattern, I saw this quote and had to share it will you all.

“Maybe a person’s time would be as well spent raising food as raising money to buy food. ”  — Frank A. Clark

Deciding on a Grain Mill

We are in the market for a grain mill.  We can’t wait to join the thousands hundreds dozens of other folks who spent countless hours preparing their own flour.  Now you know us, we don’t want just any ol’  electric mill that you can buy at Walmart and that will grind your flour in mere seconds.  We want one that you have to crank yourself.  And we want one that won’t break.  That appears to be a tall order.

So we’ve done some internet searching and consulted our favorite bloggers.  At least those who like to do things the slow way old fashioned way.  I think we have settled on a Country Living Grain Mill.  Everywhere we look, we only find satisfied customers.  We were also considering the Wonder Junior Deluxe mill, but the reviews were mixed.  One reviewer said it took her 1 1/2 hours to grind wheat fine enough to use for bread, which required double grinding.  That seems like a really long time to me.  The cost is about half that of the Country Living mill so we are tempted to try it.

And talk about getting the horse before the wagon, we’ve already purchased a supply of wheat, corn and oatmeal.

Thanks, Courtney.

Ricotta with my Home Ec Club

We made ricotta a few weeks ago.  We, as in my friends from church, and ricotta, as in the cheese.  That’s right folks you heard correct, I made cheese.  Even though I really just watched, I still consider it a personal accomplishment.  I’ve tried 3 times in the past to make mozzarella and 3 times it ended in tears.  (It was all the milk’s fault; it was UHT milk, not at all the right thing)

Now about the Home Ec Club, that’s what we’ve coined it, a group of ladies from church, all with an interest in seeing how cheese was made, got together and did it.  Just like that.  Everyone brought different talents to the party, we had two dairy farmers, one woman who pasteurizes goat milk, one experienced cheese maker, one food scientist who can’t make cheese to save her life (that’s me), one mom who was happy to leave her kids at home with dad, one mom who was just happy to get out of the house and one mom with four kids who love cheese, and cartoons.

We started out our lovely cheese making adventure by enjoying a cup of coffee, or two, or three and chatting.  An hour later we watched a pasterization demo, chatted, watched two far more talented ladies than myself make the cheese, chatted some more and then ate lunch.

It was so much fun.  I encourage you to start asking your friends if they would like to learn how to make cheese too.  You may end up making new friends as well as cheese.

Oh and I was sent home with a wedge of fresh ricotta.  It was delicious.

Thanks,  Courtney

My favorite dollies

You may have noticed lately, especially if you have flipped through a Pottery Barn catalog or the recent Martha Stewart Living magazine that handmade dolls are trending right now.  I can see why.  They are so individual and charming, so unlike a cookie cutter doll from Mattel.  I recently ordered two matching dollies for our twin god daughters.

My blogger friend, the dollie’s creator, has the cutest little blog Meg + Andy Made with all kinds of DIY stuff, like hair bows and bow ties.  She is an artist and creates all these great things in her spare time which consists of practically nothing since she is a stay at home, homeschooling mother of 4 (including a set of 3 year old twins)!!  Somehow she manages to whip up the cutest dollies and sells them at art fairs and at her online dollie shop.

Here are some pictures of the dollies that she made for me. And here is a link to more pictures of the dollies posted on her blog.   Please try not to snicker at my terrible photography once you see her shots of the dollies.  Clearly she excels in not only doll making but photography as well.

All I did was contact her and tell her their hair and eye color.  She has an amazing sense of style so I wanted her to design them completely.  She’s like that hairstylist that you love because you just sit down and they instantly know what hair cut and color will look best on you.   Anyways, I just love them.  I reeeeally wanted to keep them but I couldn’t see how depriving two little girls was a good thing.  I do get to order one for my daughter but I have to wait until I can tell what color her eyes and hair are going to be.

I’d love for you to check out her dollies.  They make such great gifts for little girls.  Plus it supports an actual artist who puts love into her work.

Thanks, Courtney

Gardening tip: Make all beds the same size

It’s garden planning time around our house.  Just so you get a feel for what it’s like around our house right now, our coffee table is stacked high with gardening books, seed catalogs and graph paper.  Robert and I are both obsessed and our poor children have to either scream for our attention or physically remove the book from our hands.  I like to think that I am the master gardener in the house but he seems to think that he is.  This leads to many arguments over where to plant things and what to plant.  Our latest argument is about how much to plant.  I always want to plant less, he always wants to plant more.  Since he usually wins the how much to plant argument, we need to figure out where it all goes.

Since reading Four-Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman, which I highly recommend, Robert recommended that we use a technique talked about in the book and that is make all beds the same size and all the foot paths the same size.  Why didn’t I think of that?  As I sketch out the garden I am constantly consulting Johnny’s Selected Seed catalog to find out plant spacing and row width, etc.  I get a little carried away, as is my habit, and the plans end of being somewhat complicated.  So to simplify, this year we are making all our beds 30 inches wide and all our foot paths 12 inches.  Done.

If you want to learn more or how to plant different veggies in those sized beds, you’d better check the book out of the library or order it on amazon.  It’s a good one.  I have consulted it at least a few hundred times in the last week alone.

Thanks,  Courtney

Wish me luck on my upcoming battles with self proclaimed master gardener, Robert.  🙂

Gardening time: Order your seeds

It’s that time of year, when the world falls in love…with seed catalogs.

Go ahead, buy way more than you need, we did.  We already placed our order with Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

Here’s what we ordered:

5 lbs Kennebec seed potatoes

5 lbs Adirondack Red seed potatoes

1 lb Russian banana seed potatoes

Belgium endive, Totem

Asparagus, Jersey Knight

Leeks, Megaton

Onion, Copra

Here’s what I forgot to order:  shallots, popcorn corn and cantaloupe.  Oops.

What are you planting this year?  Anything new?

Thanks,  Courtney

Dehydrating 101: The taste and texture of dehydrated fruits and veggies

Okay, here’s another one in the dehydrating series.  Check out top 10 reasons why I love dehydrating, how to dehydrate and how to rehydrate.

Today it’s all about taste and flavor.  My personal fav being a sensory scientist I could go on all day about the differences in the taste and flavor but here’s my summary.  Basically everyone seems to want to know, does the fruit taste the same as fresh?  The short answer is no.  They taste the same as cooked though.  Here’s why, during the dehydration process the fruit heats up, low and slow, but still it gives the fruit a slightly cooked flavor.  The vegetables are pretty much the same.

The apples we dried to a crispy finish.  This turned out to be a good thing because the variety we dried was red delicious and so they were very sweet.  When dried long enough, they turned crispy and crunchy like the apple crisps you can buy in the store.  They were nothing like the chewy, squishy dried apples you normally think of.  I actually really preferred the apples crispy.

Someone asked if you could rehydrate the apples to make apple pie all year long.  I think this would be a great idea, we didn’t dry baking apples, nor did we peel them, so I don’t think it will work with ours but I think it’s a clever idea.  Maybe partially rehydrate them, in apple cider perhaps.  The trick will be to get just the right amount of water and not to overcook them so they don’t cook down to a mush.

As far as the veggies are concerned, the zucchini and tomatoes had exceptional flavor.  Once rehydrated in soup the texture of the zucchini and tomatoes was very similar to the cooked variety.  The cucumbers we read can be eaten like potato chips and dipped in your favorite chip dip.  I never tried them but Robert said they tasted great, better than eating them fresh.  The dried bell peppers and jalapenos plumped right up.  I haven’t used the cayenne peppers but I think I may crumble it and use it in place of my red pepper flakes.

I think this may be the last in the series, unless anyone else has some questions.

Thanks,  Courtney

Dehydrating 101. How to dehydrate fruits and vegetables

Here is another installment in my dehydrated foods series. Check out my other posts in the series,  Top 10 reasons why I love dehydrated fruits and veggies and how to rehydrate fruits and veggies.

We dehydrated our veggies using an Oster dehydrator this past summer.  We dehydrated zucchini, cucumbers, green bell peppers, hot wax peppers, cayenne peppers, anaheim peppers, strawberries, apples, peaches and tomatoes.  Anything we had left over or couldn’t eat before it went bad, we dehydrated it.

Robert and I used the Ball Book of Canning as a guide for how to cut the fruits and veggies, how to dip them to prevent browning and how to tell when they are done.  I wish we had written down how long it took for everything to dry, but we did not.  I do remember everything taking a really long time though.

We tried to dry everything until it was crispy because we figured it would keep better and longer that way.  For instance our peaches were cut thin and are dry enough that you can snap them in half.  Yeah, we all like the store bought variety that is soft but we wanted these to last… forever.

Fruit leathers are another great way to use your dehydrator.  The only downside is that some recipes say to refrigerate the leathers.  This defeats the point of having something shelf stable in our opinion.  But they do taste great.

We have also dehydrated tomatoes in the oven.  We followed a recipe but it went something like this.  Turn oven to lowest temperature, insert a spoon or fork in the door of the oven to keep it slightly ajar, cook tomatoes for something crazy like 24 hours.  We really enjoyed the tomatoes made this way, but it was a hot option especially in the summer.  It is necessary though when you have a bumper crop of tomatoes all ripe at the same time.  You can really fill up your oven, more than will fit in the dehydrator.

Make sure to have a well ventilated space for your dehydrator because some of the vegetables get quite stinky.  The hot peppers for instance will not only make your house stink but burn your eyes as well.  We do these in the garage.  The fruits are much more pleasant so the basement or spare room works great.  The dehydrator is also kinda noisy so finding just the right spot can be tricky.

Thanks,  Courtney