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Homeschooling The Well Prepared Child: August 2014

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Attitude Is Everything!

   People ask me all the time how homeschool is going.
"FABULOUS!" I always say. 
     Honestly, there are ups and downs to every day. Some days, my children wake up bright eyed and busy tailed, ready to learn. Some days, it is a battlefield with teeth gnashing and hair pulling. Let's get real, this is real life, and real life has it's ups and downs. Just because we are a happy, homesteading, homeschooling, gardening, prepping, working, playing, and all in all fabulous family does not mean my family is full of rainbows and glitter all of the time! 
     Life is still pretty good even with it's ups and downs. I believe your attitude is everything. It can change everything. If you are running around with an attitude about things you don't want to do, don't like or things just are not going your way, having a bad attitude makes things even worse! Having a bad day? Yell out to the world, "THAT'S IT! I'M DONE! FROM NOW ON, TODAY WILL BE THE BEST DAY EVER!" Try it, it really works.. At least for me it does. 
     When you have a child in full swing 'I'm going to be a woman soon' mode, ya... not so much. When you are homeschooling said child, things can escalate quickly when she feels she 'Can't do it' or 'It's too hard' or the phrase I get a lot, 'Really, Mom? Do I really have to do this?' Well, yes you do! ATTITUDE! 
     ~Sigh~ Sadly, I have to report this is the attitude I got today on our first day back officially homeschooling. This summer, we did a bit of a review on things we learned and/or mastered last year to help with her retention. We also did new research and activities for our homesteading side. But, today was our first official day back into the homeschool swing of things. At first, she was happy and kind of excited about what I chose for her first assignment. We got new chickens that are very cool and different from our other chickens. Since we do not know anything about them, I asked her to research them online, find out a bunch of interesting facts on them, take photos of our new chickens, write up a report on them, and then I would edit that report and she would be a 'reporter' for me on my blog. 
     This morning, she was excited about this, even told a few of my co-workers. By the time we got home, her attitude about the assignment had changed. Maybe someone said something, maybe she got tired, maybe pre-pms caught up to her.. I don't know. All I know is, suddenly my child had major attitude about the whole thing and I was not having it. The stern looks and me saying, 'Watch the attitude!" were not helping. Her slam/bouncing a crayon onto the counter top because she did not want to go get a pencil to write with, was almost enough to change my attitude. So, I decided it was time for a change in hers. 
Recently, there was a photo posted of a 
chart that looked like this... 
I have no idea who to give credit to for this photo, but this is amazing! 
     So she was sent huffing and puffing back into her room for a pencil AND a spiral notebook. I started her out by writing a few letters out and leaving space between the first line and second line, she finished the rest. Then under it we added the numbers. She was intrigued at this point. I told her we were going to find a secret message that would make everything better. And it did make everything better. Saying it was a secret code made her relax and become interested in finding out how much 'hard work' added up to. She was not happy with the extra math for the day, but her attitude had greatly improved by the time she had found out the sum of 'knowledge.' By the time she was on 'attitude' I had my rainbows and glitter girl back. 
"What is the secret code, Mom?"
"Let me ask you this first, baby. Do you know what 100% means?"
     She told me if you get 100% on your paper that means you got them all right. I smiled and explained 100% means all, everything, the total of something. 
Sometimes things are hard for us, you can work hard
and still you might fail. 
You might have all the knowledge in the world 
and still not succeed. 

 But your ATTITUDE determines EVERYTHING!

     She looked at me with a 'Okay, you got me!' half smile and turned the page in her notebook. Then, she got out her computer and typed in 'All about Jersey Giants' on the Google home page. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Dried Applemint And Other Herbal Stuff


      My extremely awesome neighbor gave me some Applemint cuttings that sat in a cup of water to root in my kitchen window. I transplanted it a couple of months ago into a flower pot that sits under a tree in my front yard. Not sure why, but it does not smell like apple like it used to. Still smells nice, just not like green apples and mint anymore. 

     After getting my dehydrator, and our bananas not being ripe enough, I decided we needed to try dehydrating the applemint. My daughter went out with me and helped pick leaves. 

Then we brought them in and rinsed them off, making sure there was no dirt, dead leaves or bugs left on them. 

After they were dry, my daughter placed them on the dehydrator trays and we turned on our machine for the first time.
Yes, we actually clapped.

We let our leaves dry until they were crispy. It took about 3 hours. 

We did not want to break up the leaves, so we were careful when we placed them into the little jar we recycled from a minced garlic jar. We love recycling, re-purposing and reusing!
     But now what do we do with it? I have never tried making my own herbal tea. My daughter can't stand any sort of hot tea or herbal tea. (Insert sad face here!) I nibbled on a piece of dried mint leaf. Ya... not so good. I still wanted to try making an herbal tea from them though! I asked my friends if anyone knew of any posts, blogs or articles on making your own herbal teas with dried mint leaves and I got a lot of different responses. Not all were about teas, but definitely worth the read! I will list them at the bottom of this post so you can read and learn too! 
     It just so happens, a few days after reading about mint's herbal properties I ended up with a tummy bug. I was miserable. Anyone that walked into the bathroom after me was miserable as well. (Sorry for the TMI!) So I took the leap and decided I would make my very first home grown, self brewed cup of Applemint herbal tea to help with my upset tummy. Tea leaves in the bottom of the cup are something I did not want. I have nothing to hold tea leaves or a tea pot. My dilemma was solved when I saw the tulle I used to strain out the tomato seeds in. I cut a 6x6 piece of it off, added some tea leaves, gathered it at the top and them secured my little bag with a small rubber band. 
 Pretty ingenious don't you think? It worked! 
Barely any tea leaves!

     I seeped it for about 5 minutes. I was worried because it was not very dark. When I tasted it, I was pleasantly surprised. It tasted just like an herbal mint tea I would have up in my cabinet. I added a bit of local raw honey and enjoyed. I could not get my daughter to try it, but the hubby did. I expected all sorts of funny faces, (was kinda the point in letting him try it,) but he liked it as well. Success! AND, it settled my stomach enough that I was not running into the bathroom every 10 minutes. 

Now onto the learning links!

The Medicinal Mint Family and Herbal Instruction:

More Mint Ideas From The Nerdy Farm Wife:

Amazing Herbal/Medicinal Properties of the Raspberry Leaf:

Great Info Explaining Tinctures, Elixirs and Cordials:

Robin's Nest Naturals- great video tutorials on making Tintures:

Learning Herbs- Free Herbal Remedies and Kits You Can Buy:
http://learningherbs.com/ Also, if you sign up for their newsletter you get a very cool ebook on wildcrafting herbs

Richter's Herbs- The Best Source For Everything Herbal

Monday, August 18, 2014

My New (To Me) Dehydrator And Making Banana Chips


    A couple of weeks ago, I posted on my Facebook page that I was in the market for a dehydrator and a pressure canner for cheap to free. My post was lost along my page and I had no idea someone had responded until my mother called to ask if I had picked up the dehydrator yet. Well, no... I had no idea a friend had commented on my post. One of the great ladies at our Ag Extension Office had an extra one, I just needed to go pick it up.
Waring Dehydrator instructional manual and Drying Guide
     I am very excited to have a dehydrator! The Lady that gave it to me said, 'It's an oldie but still a goodie!' So far, I have to agree. It does not have any fancy knobs, no cool attachments.. But my daughter and I could not be happier. Learning to grow, harvest, and preserve foods we grew ourselves is an important part of our life learning experience. We homeschool with a whole life aspect. 
     So far we have dehydrated applemint leaves and have bananas in there today. Doing bananas first was my daughters choice, but after reading some instructions, we realized our bananas were to green. That is when we decided to dry the applemint leaves from the plants our awesome neighbor gave us. You can see that post HERE
      After a couple of days, our bananas were finally ready. We followed the instructions we found on a mommy blogger page. (We were so into making the banana chips, we forgot to take photos of the steps. Whoops!)
Dehydrating Bananas

  1. Peal your banana and slice it into 1/4 inch rounds. (We ate the ends as we cut them.)
  2. Soak in fresh lemon juice to prevent over browning. 
  3. Oil your dehydrator trays and place the bananas around the tray making sure the edges do not touch. 
  4. Place trays in your dehydrator that is set to about 135 degrees. 
  5. Leathery/chevy slices will take up to 12 hours. Crisp chips take around 24 hours. Move the trays around to different levels to insure even drying.
  6. For long term storage, it is better make them crispy rather than chewy. Moisture aids in bacteria growth and will cause them to spoil faster. You can use food grade mylar bags and oxygen absorbers to store your bounty. You can find them HERE. However, I am going to put these in a jar so we can munch on them for a while. :)

We had not found the instructions about oiling the trays before placing them on, so about 4 hours in I realized there was a problem. I flipped them when they were already in the process of drying so they were stuck just a bit. That is why they do not look all flat and pretty like other people more experienced. This does not effect the flavor, so we are not worried about it.)

     They took a lot longer to dry than we expected. We are were nearly 24 hours in and they were still kind of chewy. Since I am not planning on storing them long term, this is not a problem. Bananas in any form or fashion do not last long in my house. (Just ask us how long the freeze dried bananas lasted us!) 
     One thing I have read that surprised me, but also gave me an common sense moment, was people tend to eat more of dried fruits than they do fresh fruits. They are smaller, but the only difference in a dried fruit and a fresh one, is the water content. So eating 1/4 cup of dried fruit is the same as eating 1 cup of fresh fruit. Yes, some of the nutrients will be lost in the process, however, home dried fruits retain a higher level than processed, store bought dried fruits. Both dried fruits and fresh fruits are both healthy, but fresh fruit contains needed water to keep you hydrated and feeling full for longer and faster. We are learning about long term storage of fruits and vegetables, so this does not bother me. 
     Back in grandma and grandpa's time. Fruits and veggies were seasonal. We have forgotten what is like to not be able to go to the big box store and get our favorite fruits and veggies when we want them. (But what if you could not just run to the store and get what you want when you want it? Dried preservation and canning is what grandma and grandpa did!) Now, honestly, bananas are not something we can grow ourselves in our area. This was still a learning process we enjoyed. We have peach trees and wild plums on our property (our nectarine tree died early this year) but we did not have the dehydrator when we had those fruits to practice drying on. Next year we will be busy!

    Want to learn more about dehydrating foods? Wikipedia and The National Center For Food Preservation has a lot of interesting facts, history, and how to information. By far the the best info I have found has come from Dehydrate2store and  Wikihow

This blog is for entertainment purposes only, do your own research before attempting to any dehydrating on your own. This post may contain affiliate links.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Day With The Boys

This post contains no Affiliate Links
     My nephews came over today. The boys are 5 and 3. They love coming over to Aunt May's House. I had forgotten to set my alarm, so I was awoken by the sound of knocking on the door. I am barely coherent until I have had at least one cup of coffee. As soon as my sister left, I was bombarded with questions of 'Have you feed the animals yet?' 'Can we go feed the animals now?' o.O 'Hold on boys, let me get a cup of coffee first.' I had not even had time to stir my spoon in the cup before they were asking me again... I downed half a cup and went looking for my shoes. We went out side to get the feed, me in my pjs and all. 
     The oldest is full of questions, 'Why do you put your feed in there?', 'Why do you feed them that?' 
     The youngest stares my over grown pig/dog down suspiciously. 'He is a nice pig. right?' He asks me this question more like he is stating a fact. Almost as if he is trying to convince himself. 
     On to the chicken coop. 'Why you have to hook that thing to the door?' 
     'We hook it open to keep it from slamming shut on the chickens just in case we get some wind.' 
     'Why you feed them like that?' 
     'So they do not fight over it and they all get some.'
     'Can I feed the bunnies?'
     'You sure can." 
     On to the bunny pen. 'Why does that bunny have red eyes?' 
     'Why does that bunny run away?'
     'Do they like it in here?' 
     'Can I pet them?' 
     My nephews ask questions faster than I can answer. 
     I finally get a word in and ask them, 'Why do YOU think?'
     'God made him that way.'
     'I think that bunny thinks we are crazy!'
     'I think they like it in here, there is lots of room to run around and hop and stuff!'
     Now on to the garden. 'Are we going to get to pick some vegetables out of the garden today?'
     'Let's see if we can find something.' 
     Just one zucchini and one cucumber is ready to pick. The oldest gets to hold them both because the younger decides to ask questions about to cherry tomatoes. I take one off of the plant and offer it to him. He looks at me like I have lost my mind. So I pop it into my mouth. Both boys say 'EWWWW!' and laugh. They both like tomatoes. They are funny boys though. 
     We went back to the house. Breakfast, movies and hide and seek until lunch time. We have a picnic lunch outside in the front yard under the tree. 
     After lunch, and a whole lot more coffee for me, we went outside again. This time my daughter is with us. 'What you doing Aunt May?' 
     'I am going to get the shovel and the rake so I can clean out the chicken and rabbit pens.' The younger one takes my hand and walks with me, 'I go with you!' I open the gate and start walking to the back shed. The older boy runs to catch up, 'I want to help too!' With three kids in tow, I get out the rake and shovel. My daughter gets the tote we use to gather and carry the poo in. One boy gets the shovel, the other the rake. 
     We clean the chicken coop first. 
     In the laying basket is an egg. 'Guess what I found?' I ask the older one. His eyes lit up. 'An EGG!' He gets the egg out of the basket. His first egg ever! His smile stretches from ear to ear! The little one insists on raking out the coop all by himself. The chickens come back in the coop, thinking they will get a treat, my little nephew runs out. My daughter is now in charge of raking out the chicken coop. The little one works hard at shoveling the old hay and poo into the tote. 
     The oldest boy is petting the feeder pig. 'Why you name him Pork Chop? Are you going to eat him?'
     'But why?'
     'Do you like bacon?'
     'Pork chops?' 
     'Sometimes I eat them.'
     'I love ham!'
     'Well then, that's why!'
     We talk about eating chickens as well. Both boys agree chicken nuggets and chicken stew is 'Yummy!'         
     Time to clean the rabbit's pen. The older one decides its his turn to use the shovel. The little one rakes. I take the chicken poo/hay over to the garden. My daughter pets the bunnies, then starts to gather leaves that have already fallen from our trees. The rabbit pen is clean. We all fill up the pens with fresh hay. After making sure the rabbit pen is securely closed. We take the rabbit poo to the garden. As we walk I tell them, 'You can eat rabbits too.' 
The older one is full of questions, 'Is it good?' 'How you cook it?' 
'I have never tried it before, but after we get more rabbits, I am going to try some. I think fried like chicken will be good' 
'Can I try?'
'Sure buddy.' 
     This is a strange request from such a picky eating child. 
     We spread the rabbit poo around the garden. The boy's noses squench up. "Why you put it in your garden?' 'Because it is like vitamins to the plants. They grow bigger and stronger and make more veggies.' They are both satisfied with this answer. Done for the day. 
     After washing up, we are all rewarded with ice cream cones. After a little quiet time, they spent the rest of the afternoon playing with Uncle Mike and Zoey outside. Right before their mom got there, I had them come in and wash up again. When my sister got there, I told the boys, 'Tell your mommy what we did today!'
     Their answer, 'Nothing...' 

  Man I love these kids! 

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Power of White Vinegar


     I have never been a fan of vinegar. It stinks, tastes horrible to me (except in pickles), and I have always avoided the egg dye kits that ask for it. People say to run white vinegar and water through your coffee pot. EWWWW! I don't want to even think about vinegar even coming close to my precious coffee! I did not see the point of even having vinegar in my house at all. 
     A few years back, a friend of mine was looking for ways to cut costs around the house, because with 4 kids, she became a stay at home mom. She started posting on her Facebook about how she started making her own household cleaner using vinegar, water and a a small amount of essential oils. I thought she was nuts! And then I decided to start canning pickles from out of our garden... 
     I picked up a gallon of vinegar from a small local grocery store near me. It was about $2.19. Making about  20 quarts of pickles still left a whole lot in the jug. Nice price to last so long. I can do a lot of pickles with one little gallon! However, I kept seeing posts about the cleaning potential of vinegar, and yet,I still refused to try it. 
     Then one day I ran out of a my favorite spray cleaner. My nose pricked up at the thought of putting vinegar into my spray bottle to disinfect my kitchen counters... I had to do something, I had just butchered a chicken... But does vinegar disinfect? Yes it does, although not as well as bleach, but it does disinfect! So I thought, why not? If my house gets all vinegar smelly, I can just rewash with hot soapy water right? Guess what, it smelled, but not for long. My counters also seemed so much cleaner. I'm a believer now! 
     On the back of my gallon jug of white vinegar is a list of household uses. I will share these with you. 

Always Save Brand Distilled White Vinegar 

Household Uses For Vinegar

  1. Glassware: 1/2 cup of distilled vinegar added to a gallon of rinse water will remove soap film from glassware and make it shine.
  2. Toilet Bowl: Clean and deodorize your toilet bowl by pouring undiluted white vinegar into it. Let stand for about 5 minutes then flush. Stubborn stains may require scrubbing. 
  3. Bathtub: Wipe down bathtub with vinegar and soda to remove film buildup. Rinse with clean water.
  4. Ants: Ant invasions can e deterred by washing counter tops, cabinets, and floors with distilled vinegar.
  5. Grease: Filmy dirt and greasy residue can be removed from stove and refrigerator by wiping with vinegar.
  6. Grass or Weeds: Kill unwanted grass on sidewalks and driveways by pouring on vinegar.
  7. Chrome: To polish chrome and stainless steel, moisten a cloth with white vinegar and wipe clean.
  8. Shower Curtain: Rub a cloth dampened with vinegar to remove soapy, steamed-in film an mildew from your plastic shower curtain. Then rinse clean.
  9. Coffee maker: To remove stale coffee residue, fill the reservoir with vinegar and run it though a brewing cycle. When the cycle is finished, run two cycles of water to rinse.
  10. Irons: Remove burn stains from your electric iron by mixing one part salt with one part vinegar in a heated small aluminum pan. Use this mix to polish the iron as you would silver.
Other Great Things About Vinegar
     Last night we were washing dishes and my metal meatloaf pan refused to come clean, again, second night in a row. (Okay, I burned it just a little. Meatloaf was perfect, but what was stuck to the sides of the pan was rock hard.) I gave up scrubbing it for the second time, but instead of leaving it in soapy water, I added a splash of vinegar. This morning I woke up and the crusty stuff in the pan wiped off with a touch of my finger! Who knew! (Okay, probably everyone but my stubborn self!)

     According to EAT BY THE DATE .COM, vinegar lasts indefinitely. Making this a great prepper item to buy and store. Depending on how it is stored, it may get some settlement at the bottom, or it may become cloudy in appearance. Eat by the date.com also explains this as well. Do your own research and see what you think! 

     TREATS BY TANYA has recipes to make window cleaner and fabric softener. I am now in the market for some great essential oil smells so I can make cleaners that smell great!

For more ideas on how to use vinegar around the house, see these pages: 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Update On Landscape Garden- The Mystery Plants


      Edible landscape is a gardening technique we tried out this year. In the front yard, I planted 3 little mystery plants that had fallen out of the egg container and away from their labels. 
     At the time, they were just little balls of dirt that had not seeded yet. I was not sure what they were, and decided to name them my 'Mystery Plants.' My choices they could be were watermelon, cantaloupe, squash, and cucumbers. Either way,  aesthetically, I love the lovely green plants and yellowy/orange blossoms of all of these plants. Win, win right?
     I planted them in our little front yard, around our flowering Bradford Pear tree, thinking the flower bed would resemble having elephant ears in a way, circling our tree. I imagined after they grew and produced fruit, we would just go out and pick what we needed. A beautiful landscape with the added benefit of harvesting it's production. Ahhh.. daydreams... 

     The reality of it, I no longer have a front yard. The pretty little setting above, quickly turned into the monster below...

     So what is this 'Mystery Plant?' Well, if you are an experienced gardener, you might have already figured it out. Maybe, I should have figured it out as well. However, every time it started to fruit, there would be wrinkly little yellowish balls on it that would quickly die out. Hmmm... maybe cantalope? I was really hoping for cantalope or maybe zucchini. I posted pictures of it in gardening groups asking, 'What is it?' No one had an answer for me. I was told to just wait and see.

      In the mean time, my 3 little plants started to take over the front yard. And while they were lovely, I was not expecting to have to pick up they 10ft vines so my son could mow around them either.

So what is this mystery plant? 

Pumpkins... Pumpkins? Are you serious? 

     Not that pumpkins are bad, just was not expecting these plants to be pumpkins. Yes, I seeded out pumpkins, but I thought they were part of the regular garden that died out after the freak end of May freeze. I am a little disappointed. We do not eat any pumpkin products except for the seeds. We LOVE pumpkin seeds, but I was wanting something I could feed my family with a little more. We eat pumpkin pie only once a year at Thanksgiving and we are not big 'pumpkin flavored' fans. 
     At first, only 6 pumpkins grew from the 3 plants. I guess that was okay. Then we got cooler weather and lots of rain. Now we have nearly 20 pumpkins growing. We have decided to keep a few and try selling the rest. 

     We harvested the first 6 this week. It took a hack saw to get them off the vine. We were told to leave them on but one started to rot. Never smelled something so foul in my life! We cut it in half to see if the seeds were salvageable. HUGE mistake! PEE YEW!

     So what will we do with the pumpkins we harvested? Storage is going to be an issue. I have no pantry, cellar, or any cool dark, dry place to store them. Right now they are on the living room floor. 
     My daughter could not wait for seeds and decided to cut one open so she could roast pumpkin seeds for a snack. Our pig also got a snack. He was very grateful. My neighbors were over while she was carving the pumpkin. While we sat on the porch watching her, my husband and our company talked about how much they love pumpkin pie. How wonderful it must taste fresh! Really? Okay, Google how to make homemade pumpkin puree and pie filling. Maybe I will be able to feed my family from this unexpected bountiful harvest after all! Maybe I will even try my hand at making pumpkin bread.... Maybe... 

So let's make a list of all I can do with my 'Mystery Edible Garden.'
  1. Pumpkin seeds to eat
  2. Pumpkin seeds to put back to grow for next year
  3. Feed the animals (natural dewormer in pigs)
  4. Less gas used mowing front yard
  5. Make pumpkin puree for baking pies and bread
  6. Sell extras for a little profit
  7. Halloween Jack O'Lanterns that will save me $10 this fall
Not bad! (Even with it taking over our yard!)