Friday, October 29, 2010

Kill-A-Cold Recipes

For some reason, Cold & Flu season always takes me by surprise.  Here in Texas it is still so pretty outside and all of a sudden, everybody is sick.  Papa the Farmer came down with a cold last week.  He got over it, but not before he passed it on to the little farmhands.  Children (as any parent will tell you) pretty much only get sick at night, so after 3 nights of not much sleep, my resistance was low and now I’ve got it too.  So, the Good Old Days farm is waging full-scale warfare on our colds this week!

Over the past several years I’ve pretty much been perpetually pregnant or nursing and so we’ve turned to natural remedies to help cure many of our ills.  Since so many people are fighting colds right now, I thought I would share with you some of our favorite (and more unusual) natural remedies for the annual fight against colds:
This is a yummy anti-cold drink using herbs!  (See that little farmhand’s face?  This tastes pretty good!)  First, we boiled about 1 1/2 cups water.  After the water boiled we turned the heat off before adding herbs.  (Boiling the herbs will destroy their healing properties.)  Next we added a handful of chopped fig leaves that we picked off one of our fig trees.  We also added a handful of fresh oregano (about 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano), 1 tsp thyme, 5 or 6 bay leaves and some licorice root extract.  Now, I know that sounds pretty yucky, but after we let that steep we added 3 or 4 cups of pineapple juice to make it taste good… and it sure does taste good! 

Onion tea is another favorite of ours that we drink when we have sore throats or coughs.  You would think that onion tea would be so strong, but it tastes so good that the children ask for it even when they don’t have coughs!  First we just chop up an onion and cover it with water:

We boil it and let it steep like tea.  I drain the onion out by placing a strainer over the cup.  (I save the onions to use in soup later!)
Then we add some honey:
  And it is steamy-delicious!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fall Harvest of Persimmons!

Remember last spring I posted these pictures of persimmon blossoms:



Well those little green flowers have turned into this:


A local farmer was telling me that pumpkins don’t grow in Texas.  (So Texans, if you’re taking your children to pumpkin patches… all those pumpkins have been shipped in from somewhere else!)  I guess God knows that everyone should have an orange crop in the fall.  It’s just so… autumn!  So He gave Texas persimmons!  Aren’t they pretty!

I grew up in small-town Ontario (Canada!), so the first time somebody presented me with one of these beautiful little orange fruits, I bit right into it … and had a big disappointment!  Wow!  Can they be astringent!  They have this way of sucking all the moisture out of your mouth and making your mouth and teeth feel fuzzy.  I really didn’t see what the big deal is about.  So, I was less than thrilled when Paper the Farmer decided to plant various types of persimmons in our fruit orchard a few years back.

This is the first year we’ve had a significant crop of persimmons!  And let me tell you!  There is a WORLD of difference between eating a store bought persimmon and eating a persimmon while you’re standing under the persimmon tree!  They are so sweet and succulent and juicy.  In fact, one website about persimmons calls them “food for the Gods.”  The thing is, you have to pick them when they are really soft… almost squishy… for them to be sweet.  So I guess they’re not really a highly transport-able item.  And I suppose they would spoil quickly if you let them ripen on the tree.  I wouldn’t know about that though.  We eat them too fast around here!

I’ll leave you with two more pictures.  This tree has dropped all its leaves, but the persimmons seem to be just ripening up now:

And here is a different variety of persimmon.  It is lighter in color… a beautiful autumn golden-yellow!  Can’t wait to try this one! 104-0499_IMG

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Farmer Has A Birthday!

This year, for Papa the Farmer’s birthday we surprised him with a most unusual present!

We have been vegan vegetarian for a long time now.  A few years ago we discovered that our children seem to have a gluten sensitivity.  Gluten sensitivities are often an inherited trait and I suspect that Papa the farmer (and his father too!) have the same sensitivity.  So, I put everybody on a gluten free diet.  We’ve been eating gluten free for a couple of years now.

Now think about what that means… No wheat, no oats, no barley, no rye.  No grain that has gluten in it.  Basically, if it comes in a package, we can’t eat it.  And if it is dessert it almost certainly contains something on the “no-no” list. 

Papa the Farmer has been really missing his desserts.

When he woke up on his birthday and came into the kitchen, the table was set and covered in a bed sheet.  He was pretty surprised when he lifted the bedsheet…


to find 3 turkey platters full of vegan, gluten free birthday treats!

How did I do this?  Basically I used gluten free oats (which are expensive!  I only buy them on birthdays!) and replaced a lot of the wheat in recipes with millet flour.  As far as gluten free grains go, I like millet flour the best.  It has a good texture and can be used in a variety of recipes.  (I’ve had good success making gravies and “cream of…” soups with millet flour.)

The little farmhands helped to make all these goodies, of course!  Here’s a picture of them showing Papa the Farmer who made what.

My personal favorite dessert was the “Fudge.”  I can’t end this blog post without sharing the recipe. 
Nutty Carob “Fudge”

In a bowl mix together the following ingredients:
1 1/2 cups honey (or 1 cup honey + 1/2 cup maple syrup)
2 cups sunflower seed butter
2 tsp vanilla
 (I use the sunflower seed butter because almond butter is expensive and Papa the farmer is allergic to peanut butter... It would probably be good with peanut butter!)
Add 1 cup carob powder until well blended.
Add various seeds and nuts of your choice, totalling 6 cups. I used:
1 cup sunflower seeds, 2 cups chopped walnuts, 3 cups chopped almonds
Stir until well mixed.
Pack into sprayed pan and refrigerate!  Then try not to eat it all in one sitting!  =)

Car-Clutter, Be Gone!

I’ve heard it said that the state of your vehicle reflects the state of your life.  That quote has been stuck inside my head for a while now. Every time I go somewhere I hope that no one will look inside my van and judge me by anything they might find in there.  Really… those little toy cars everywhere aren’t mine.  Neither are the rocks, sticks and leaves you’ll find in the backseat.  The coloring books and mini “magna doodle boards,” dolls, waterbottles and sunglasses floating around back there aren’t mine either.  And I promise, I didn’t know anyone had left crayons in the car that day it was 108 degrees outside…

I decided to take charge. Admittedly, there’s stuff in there that’s my fault too.  (Like old gas receipts that should have been thrown away a long time ago!)  A car organizer is just what we need!  So, being too cheap to actually purchase some, I decided to get creative with a striped bedsheet, old jeans and scrap fabric and sew some.  

Here is my attempt to tame the clutter-beast!
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Notice they’re all different?

They are very simple to make… Just measure the van seats, mark where the headrest attaches to the seat and make buttonholes there, then add whatever pockets suit your fancy.  The bulging pockets on the left side of the denim strip are actually cup holders.  The pockets immediately below that hold a full size coloring book.  The red pockets in the lower right corner close with an elastic and will hold a number of large items (which I added at the request that I make a pocket large enough for a certain somebody’s doll!) 

Now we just need to take a road trip!

Homeschooling 101

Over the course of the summer, we have been gearing up to begin homeschooling!  I have a degree in teaching, so I thought this would be pretty easy, right?  Wrong.  I forgot one key thing:  Homeschools have no janitor!  Actually, there is a janitor… but I’m it!  When you teach in a classroom, if there is a spill (or worse yet, if someone wets their pants or throws up), you press the little button on the public address system and the janitor comes and cleans it up.  But when there is a messy event in a homeschool there’s no little button to push and no janitor to come running.  So, between janitorial work, cooking, laundry, diapers, all the other things a mother has to do AND figuring out how to balance all this with teaching…I haven’t had time to update the farm blog.  In fact, to be honest with you, after the first week of homeschooling I took a 3 week vacation.  I didn’t go anywhere, but I spent that time rearranging my life and decluttering my house so that my days would be more efficient.  But now I think I’m on a roll and expect to have more time to think about the farm.

I get a lot of comments from people that our decision to drop-out of city life and take up farming is pretty unconventional… and I say that’s a pretty reasonable statement to make!  Well, our school is pretty unconventional too!  Yes, we are using curriculum to teach reading, writing, grammar and math.  Once in a while, I will pop onto the blog with something to say about one of those curriculums.  What I like most about our homeschool is that we are learning from what is right here around us!  Nature!  Nature is science and it is full of opportunities for experiments, drawing, investigating, writing, thinking, creating….


As a little sampling of some of what we are doing, I want to mention a wonderful set of books I found at the library called “Let’s Read and Find Out Science.”  They are meant for young children (grades 1 and 2) but they are so full of good information!  I am learning almost as much as the children.  (I say “almost as much” because inevitably they remind me of things in the books a few days after I have forgotten.)  One night we read the book “The Big Dipper” from the “Let’s Read and Find Out Science” series.  A few minutes after reading the book, we went outside to lay out on the hill and look at the stars.  Immediately, my 5 year old was able to spot the big dipper!  And it took her only a moment longer to find the little dipper!  Now, I’m impressed.  I know a lot of adults who can’t do that!  The book explains the secret and the next day we did some artwork to help us remember:

Big Dipper Art

Do you see it?  Once you find the big dipper, you trace an imaginary line between the two stars on the far side of the dipper and extend that line to the nearest bright star.  That is the North Star.  And once you’ve found the North Star, Voila!  You have the Little Dipper in sight!