Friday, June 29, 2012

War Against Mosquitoes

Not only are mosquitoes one of the peskiest creatures alive, they can also be harmful as they carry potential diseases through the blood they are always borrowing (and without permission I might add)! Stagnant water is their breeding grounds which means that those of us with ponds and water troughs must be proactive.  I actually went a bit crazy the first year we farmed here because I was completely unaccustomed to these little monsters. After doing much research, I incorporated anything I could to remove the presence of these bothersome critters! Here are some ways to rid your home and land of these insects.

"The days were warm. Mosquitoes came out of the Big Slough at sundown and sang their high, keen song all night as they swarmed around Ellen, biting her and sucking the blood until she ran around and around on her picket rope. They went into the stable and bit the horses until they pulled at their halters and stamped. They came into the claim shanty and bit everyone there until great blotches raised on faces and hands.

Their singing and the sting of their bites made night a torment."

By the Shores of Silver Lake, Laura Ingalls Wilder

Outdoor Ideas:

The thing which I felt was most beneficial was the use of mosquito dunks and bits. I have a once a month email reminder to apply these to our pond and water troughs because these are their breeding grounds. The troughs I do more often as the water is used more often. What these do is kill the larva of the mosquito using a bacteria called BTI which is only toxic to mosquito larvae. It is therefore safe for any other animal life to drink (also labeled for organic gardening by the usepa though not safe for human consumption). The dunks are more suitable for larger ponds and last for 30 days. Each dunk is effective for 100 square feet of water. Just drop them in! The bits are for smaller areas such as water troughs, puddles or any other small area of stagnant water. (If anyone has heard of any reason why these shouldn't be used, I would love to hear from you.)

Mosquitoes also dislike lavender which makes me love it more! I planted lavender bushes around the entrance of my front and back doors and near our patio area. They are so easy to grow and very low maintenance. They also attract lovely butterflies.

"This will never do," Pa said. "We must have mosquito bar on the windows and door."

"Besides, all the prairie grass is full of mosquitoes too. I'll go to town today and get some mosquito bar."

~ By the Shores of Silver Lake, Laura Ingalls Wilder

Ideas for the Home:

In the home, keep fans going all night. The moving air is a deterrent. You can also continue with the lavender theme indoors by burning lavender scented candles.

Mosquito nets (like canopies) can be draped around the bed at night when you are really in dire straits.

Bath and Body:

*We use lavender castile soap and tea tree oil castile soap as a body wash to further discourage their attraction (I don't know how much it helps but when you are desperate you try different things). We also dab a few drops of lavender oil around our temples before bed which aids in sleep and repelling the mosquitoes (though for a short time as the scent does wear off).

Natural Bug Spray Recipe:

You can also make a natural bug spray with these ingredients:

Mix inside a spray bottle and reapply every few hours. I found this recipe here.

"There!" he said, "I guess that fixes the mosquitoes."

By the Shores of Silver Lake, Laura Ingalls Wilder

Historical Note:

This battle of the bugs have been around forever, ever since the fall...

Dr. Livingstone's Mosquito Curtain
"Camp sweet and clean, but it, too, has mosquitoes, from which a curtain protects me completely—a great luxury, but unknown to the Arabs, to whom I have spoken about it. Abed was overjoyed by one I made for him; others are used to their bites, as was the man who said that he would get used to a nail through the heel of his shoe. "
~ Journal Entry of Dr. David Livingstone, Missionary Doctor in Africa, 1873

* You can find all these natural products on IHERB very inexpensively. There is always FREE SHIPPING on orders over $20. Also, $5 off first time orders with the code: SOK942.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Enriching Family Travels and Trips

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Great American Road Trip I

Something our family began doing and have really reaped benefits from is enriching our family travels with information and preparation. I love to glean knowledge from wherever we go and be organized when we finally go to do it! We like to travel on "creation vacations" which we call the places that exhibit God's greatness and also "historical" areas which bring all our homeschool learning to life. We strive for wholesome and educational experiences rather than seeking high-paced amusement. Life is fast enough and we prefer to slow down when spending time together.

Here are some ideas that we utilize when planning out lengthy trips...

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Map of the World

Mapping Out Your Travels:

Something that you can enlist your young men (or maidens) in is mapping out the route that you will be taking. Have them research and print out directions and highlight potential routes on photocopies of the atlas or maps. This aids in teaching your sons the necessary geography skills every young man should have (girls too!). Older children can also investigate opportunities for any local areas of interest around the main destination you will be visiting. This is good to do in advance because a few times we realized we were really close to some neat places but only found that out after the fact. That is always a hard pill to swallow.

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Old Barn and Yellow Pick-Up Truck
Auto Maintenance:

Sons can also engage themselves in checking to make sure the fluids in your vehicle are at the right levels, check tire pressure and make sure there is enough windshield wiper fluid. These measures are important for young men to learn and they will be an invaluable helper to your husband so that he can focus on other things prior to the trip.

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Picnic Basket with Picnic-Ware

Packing & Food Preparation:

Another suggestion is to put an older daughter in charge of food for your road trip. Have them write out a menu and prepare it a day ahead of time to allow you extra peace for packing. This also serves to give your daughter a practical lesson in home economics. This is a great opportunity to teach them about packing appropriate foods for the road which are full of protein and packaged for easy handling.

If you will be camping out and providing food for a longer trip, it helps to create a master meal list in advance.

I also have saved in the computer, a list of items to take with me on all family trips of lengthy time. This helps me so that I don't have that nagging fear of forgetting something each time we leave home. Once the "master list" is made up, I can just print it out for each trip which makes it so much easier and stress free!

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Map of the World

Rest Stops:

I would encourage you to use rest stops to let the little ones out of their straight jackets and have them toddle around. Have your children do a few quick sprints around the restroom facilities to encourage them to get out any "wiggles" that they may have been storing up.
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Great American Road Trip II

Education on Vacation:

Something we like to do is bring media (books, audio books, etc.) which pertain to our destination with us on our travels. The purpose of this is to enhance the experience of our trip by giving ourselves more information about the place we are going to visit. Sometimes it is a chapter book, another time a picture book and it is many times a non-fiction source. I also write a dedication inside the books I bring which includes the date of our trip, ages of everyone at the time of departure and a message relating to the subject matter of our vacation. This makes a nice keepsake since we do not spend money on souvenirs but rather invest in these types of educational mementos. Every time your child takes these books from the shelf once home, they will be reminded of the time you spent together.

For example, if we are going to the zoo, I would bring Jonathan Park Goes to the Zoo: A Creationist Audio Guide to 100 of the Most Popular Animals at Your Local Zoo! [Audio CD]. This adds a wonderful learning element and brings to life what we are about to embark on.  If we were going to visit some historical areas, then I would bring along books and audiobooks that take place in those time periods.
Buy at
Great American Road Trip III

As I have mentioned before, audio books have been a blessing when travelling distances. We bring ones that offer Biblical and character development. Once we have heard the story, we have family conversations which elaborate on "what would you have done in that situation" and so forth. We can discuss the important issues of that particular book and how it applies to our lives today. Hence, you have a beautiful Scripture lesson on the road and before you know it, you are finally "there yet"!

I would also bring some "new" type of toys and rotate them if you have any toddlers. ("New" can also mean a favorite toy you removed from their use for a few weeks to make it special again.) It is also fun to find a picture book to engage their minds in which pertain to your trip. If you are visiting an aquarium, then bring along a sea animal board book. When they see the creatures in real life it will be that much more exciting because they can relate to what they have seen in the pages.

Buy at
The Trip

I hope these ideas will provide you with an enriching time together which will create beautiful bonds of fellowship. I will be sharing some of our family trips and what we did together in future posts in order to present more ideas. I hope to see you there… It is refreshing to the mind, body and soul when we reflect together on the "good things" and take a break from this "million miles a minute madness" that many of us live in. {Linked up to the Geography Hop.}

"And he said unto them,
Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while:
for there were many coming and going,
and they had no leisure so much as to eat."
~ Mark 6:31

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Freezing Squash

Too much squash... already? It is an easy process to freeze it for the future. Since chilly weather is only a few months away (I know that is hard to imagine but tis true), some home grown produce stored in a bag would be a blessing. Think additions to savory stews and pasta sauces… 

First, wash your squash with cool water. The fresher produce, the better. Remove the ends and cut into 1/2 inch slices.

Now it is time to blanch these beauties! Simply dump into a large pot of boiling water (making sure there is ample room for squash and plenty of water). Cover with lid and begin timing for three minutes. Keep an eye on the water level and if doing many batches, you will have to replenish your supply.

The reason for the blanching (or quick submerging into boiling water followed by a treatment of quick chilling) is because it helps to prevent the active enzymes in your produce from causing a loss of flavor, color and texture. It also aids in retaining the vitamins in your frozen foods.

Once the three minutes are up, remove squash using a large slotted spoon (or a colander with a handle) and quickly submerge it into an ice water bath. This is meant to stop the cooking of your food. Let it sit about five minutes or until completely cooled. You will have to keep on adding ice as you prepare more batches.

Then, place squash into a colander to remove excess water. You may also want to throw them in the salad spinner for this very reason. After a few minutes, they are ready to freeze.

Place desired amount into plastic bag and suck out any extra air with a straw. Seal contents and freeze immediately. I like to even out my squash in the bag to make it as flat as possible so that it is stackable in my freezer.

  • If you want to store shredded squash for recipes, do the procedures above but replace the blanching technique with a steaming treatment. Prepare small batches and steam for two minutes instead.
  • Each vegetable has its own requirement of blanching time. You can find out that information here.
  • The general rule of blanching is one gallon of water to one pound of veggies. I just eyeball it to make sure there is ¾ more water than produce.
  • When squash is thawed, there will be some water in the bag. Remove it prior to cooking. 

This squash is obviously not going to be crispy as it was in its peak but does make a good stir fry companion. We like to saute onions and garlic in olive oil until tender, add in thawed squash, cook until golden in areas and then simmer it with some italian flavored tomato sauce. Serve it on a bed of rice in the winter. Frugal and good.

You can also season them and toss them in to your pan of roasting meat in the oven (or slow cooker) during the last 15 to 20 minutes of cooking.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Summer Inspired Activities

Summer is a sultry time;
Then the glare of light oppresses;
Lilacs fall, and gay laburnum,
Parts with all her golden tresses.

Summer's a delightful season;
Then we view the gorgeous flowers,
Fragrant scents are wafted to us
While we sit in shady bowers.

~ Excerpt from "Seasons" by Sara Coleridge

The warmth of the summer season beckons us to the outdoors. Here are some wholesome and educational activities to do with your family during these sun filled months...

Children and Seaweed by Edward Killingworth Johnson
  • Breakfast on the beach (I suggest going to the secluded areas in the morning before all the scanty wardrobes make their appearance). Lay out an older quilt and bring a basket full of warm muffins, thermos of hot tea/coffee, container of freshly cut fruit and hard boiled eggs. What a pleasant way to start a summer day!
  • Walk along the sandy shores, gather some sea samples and/or take pictures of them. When home, make a seascape collage, add into a nature journal, or create a shadow box with your findings. Label the date the specimens were found and at what location.
  • Create an ocean memory jar to display in your home. Layer jar with samples of sand, then a layer of shells, another sample of sand and top with the prettiest seashore find of the day. Place a lid on the jar, tie twine around the rim and hang a tag which labels where and when you found the contents in the jar. (Make sure it is lawful to take samples from the area you are visiting since it is not always allowed. If not, take pictures and drop the nicest photo strategically on top of the sand for a unique look.) This would be fun to do for all your outings as you would have a lovely display of nature jars showcasing your travels on a fireplace mantel.
Calling the Bees by Edward Killingworth Johnson
      • Pick and press some flowers. Create cards with them to send to your loved ones.
      • Tour local historical and botanical gardens.
      • Go to a pick your own strawberry patch, gather some fresh goodies together and make freezer jam, strawberry pies or chocolate dipped strawberries.
      • Listen to some character building audio dramas while you are traveling together. Wonderful lessons can be learned while driving. Sir Malcolm and the Missing Prince is our family favorite.
      Summer Days by Edward Killingworth Johnson
      • Read summer inspired picture books:

      Summertime in the Big Woods (My First Little House Picture Book)

      Ice Cream ~ The Full Scoop by Gail Gibbons

      Bluebird Summer by Deborah Hopkinson

      Saving Strawberry Farm by Deborah Hopkinson

      Happy as the Day is Long by Edward Killingworth Johnson

      • Read some summer inspired poetry:
      Bed in Summer

      In winter I get up at night
      And dress by yellow candle-light.
      In summer quite the other way,
      I have to go to bed by day.

      I have to go to bed and see
      The birds still hopping on the tree,
      Or hear the grown-up people's feet
      Still going past me in the street.

      And does it not seem hard to you,
      When all the sky is clear and blue,
      And I should like so much to play,
      To have to go to bed by day?

      By ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

      Sunbeams by Edward Killingworth Johnson

      Biblical Poetry

      "Thou hast set all the borders of the earth:
      thou hast made summer and winter."
      ~ Psalm 74:17

      Linked up with the following:

      Saturday, June 16, 2012

      Basic Beginner Steps to Healthier Eating

      "Food means more than nutrition. It means family fellowship and celebration. It means security and comfort. It means cultural identity. It means giving, receiving, and sharing love. It is unrealistic to strive for betting eating for nutrition's sake if these values we place upon food are ignored, overlooked, or sacrified. Therefore, we have approached this subject of eating better in the broader context of the role that food plays in our lives."
      by Emilie Barnes & Sue Gregg

      I am sure we are all interested in maintaing a healthy home. We have been in the process of upgrading our eating habits for the last ten years! It has been slow steps for our household because we recognize that anything hastily done isn't likely to last in this home. A few steadfast steps towards a healthier lifestyle is more beneficial than the overnight binges which are so easy to collapse. Here are some ideas we have slowly implemented into our home. Though we are not exceptional eaters by any means, this is a good start for those of you who are just beginning to care…

      Basic Beginner Steps Toward a Healthier Home
      • Eat Fresh and Raw Whenever Possible: This sounds so simple and it is! The less added preservatives and weird ingredients that you can't even begin to comprehend, the better. Cooking from scratch safeguards you from all the added junk. Also, the more raw food placed on the table, the better. Make it a point to add at least one raw dish to every meal in addition to a salad. Some ideas are homemade salsas, guacamoles, and coleslaws.
      • Avoid Eating "Out": I hate to be the one to mention this but most restaurants are a for-profit business and their concern is finding cheap food and substitutes in order to make an income. They are not concerned with our health but with their financial reports. The only way to determine the quality of your food is to prepare it yourself. This will also save you money.
      • Avoid Pre-Packaged Food: Again, cooking from scratch is the best way to discern what your family is eating. There are times when a packaged item does come in handy but don't abuse this convenience. Again, you will also find this an excellent way to save money since those are the most expensive items on grocery shelves.
      • Incorporate Whole Grains Into Your Meals: The way I have slowly achieved this is to replace one cup of white flour with a whole grain counterpart. Keep on replacing these flours slowly in your recipes until you notice a distinct change of taste (then back it off a notch and stop there for awhile). Once you get accustomed to those changes, take it to the next level. This pizza crust recipe is a good example.
      • Rethink Sugar: Replace sugar with raw honey, coconut sugar or pure maple syrup. Slowly reduce sugar in recipes.
      • Less Carbs, More Protein: This is probably a hard one for many people because carbs are so cheap! For starters, eliminate the need to serve bread at every meal. Add more hard boiled eggs, grilled chicken and fish onto your plates which satisfy your hunger without leaving you sluggish like bread will.
      • Use Real Oils: Vegetable oils, shortenings and canola oil are a man-made nightmare for your body. If possible, purchase olive oil, grapeseed oil or coconut oil for your cooking and baking. Extra virgin olive oil is wonderful when eaten raw in salads, coconut oil is excellent in baking (and light frying too) while grapeseed oil can be used for both.
      Yes, we still like our desserts... I suppose it is obvious by some of my posts! However, it is not a daily occurrence but rather a weekend treat. Is it Friday yet???

      One older, Bible based book which I really appreciated for its down to earth ideas was "A Realistic Approach to Healthy Lifestyle: Eating Right!" by Emilie Barnes & Sue Gregg. They share "real" ideas for the average American home to incorporate Many books out there are written with great information but let's face it, our husbands would not necessarily go for some of that stuff! (Note: This book was written a while back when soy was considered the wonder food. I do not condone the eating of soy which research has now shown to have a horrific effect on the body if not prepared in a fermented fashion. Read here for more disturbing information.) 

      "Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
      And your wages for what does not satisfy?
      Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
      And let your soul delight itself in abundance."
      ~ Isaiah 55:2 (NKJV)

      {Visit here for "Five Steps to a Healthier Life"}

      Tuesday, June 12, 2012

      Canning Pickled Eggs ~ A Tutorial

      Canning pickled eggs is somewhat of a risky business according to the canning authorities. However, many country women have been doing it for years and with absolute success. I was introduced to this idea by the West Ladies in their Canning DVD and was excited since I was over-run with eggs at that time (they gave no indication of it being controversial in their video as they probably never had problems). They (witness #1) gave a recipe on their DVD which I wrote down. Later I went to consult the Ball recipe book for more specifics but found that they wouldn't print a recipe. Thus began my sleuthing. The author of Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens claims she has been canning pickled eggs for years (from her bantams) without any problems (witness #2). After doing some "eggs"tra research, I adapted the West Ladies recipe to a stricter set of rules which should create a safer canning experience. 

      Four important RULES to follow…

      Here are the basic principles that I followed which I applied to the "revised" recipe:
      • First, use medium size eggs or smaller (not large) when canning in order to ensure that the brine penetrates to the middle of the egg in order to safely preserve them.
      • Second, do not use any knicked or cracked eggs once they have been peeled (can't give the reason for that but I didn't want to take any chances since that was a suggested practice with some people).
      • Third, do not overcrowd your pint jars with eggs as that may not allow the brine to penetrate into egg completely (which seems to be the main concern). I suggest five medium sized eggs per pint jar.
      • And last, I cut out the water in their (the West Ladies) brine recipe and replaced it with more vinegar to make sure that the pH levels are nice and safe which was also a concern.

      Now that I have probably frightened half of you with the dangers of canning pickled eggs, are you ready to attempt this hazardous activity*?

      To begin, sterilize seven pint jars. You can either place them in the dishwasher, run them through the complete cycle and leave the jars inside to stay warm until ready to use. Or, hand wash the jars and place in your canner. Cover with water and bring to a boil for about 10 minutes. This water should be kept hot for processing your pickled eggs in the boiling water bath once they are ready (so keep it simmering). If you are doing the dishwasher method, then now is the time to fill up your canner ¾ full of water and bring to boil as you start preparing everything else.

      Next, place your seven washed lids in a sauce pan to simmer and keep gummy until ready to place on the jars. There is more information about canning basics here.

      Boil about 40 eggs (I gave you extra in case you accidentally knick an egg when peeling which you shouldn't use) until they are nice and peelable (is that a word?). I cooked them for about twenty minutes. Keep in mind that they will continue to cook in the boiling water bath so a softer egg is good but it also may be hard to peel so do your best to not over-boil the eggs. Carefully peel them to avoid nicking/cracking of the eggs, set them aside and then prepare the brine.

      For the brine, bring to boil 2 1/2 quarts of vinegar (at least 5% acidity) and 1 cup of canning salt (I use fine sea salt).

      While brine is waiting to boil, add 1/2 tsp. turmeric and one peeled clove of garlic to each of your sterilized pint jars.

      You can also add 1/2 tsp. of crushed cayenne pepper to each jar but that is optional. I personally think it enhances the flavor and gives it a prettier look.

      Now, gently place five medium, perfect (no nicks or breaks) and whole peeled eggs inside each pint jar.

      As I mentioned earlier, resist the desire to cram more eggs into each jar than the five mentioned above because you want the brine to be able to fully penetrate and safely preserve the eggs. An overcrowded jar might jeopardize that goal.

      Pour the hot brine into the filled jars making sure to leave 1/2 inch headspace from the top. 

      Next, wipe the rim of each jar in case anything splashed on it during the preparation which would hinder the final seal.

      Now, using your trusty magnetic wand, place a sterilized lid onto each jar. (See this post regarding all the handy canning supplies and what their uses are.)

      Now, carefully screw on the lid but do not make it too tight (just turn until firm) because potential air bubbles need a chance to escape during the boiling water bath processing. Place your prepared jars into the canning rack to be placed in the canner full of boiling water. This is called "processing".

      The jars should be completely submerged in the boiling water (at least an inch above the jars) and should be processed for ten minutes. Do not start timing them until the water returns back to a rolling boil.

      Once the timer goes off, remove the jars from the canner and let them rest for 24 hours prior to handling them. I would use these gems up within the year so be sure to label and date each jar.

      These are tasty inside potato salads, macaroni salads and also add spunk into a green salad. My husband likes to eat them plain.

      *You can find my free printable of "Pickled Eggs" canning labels here*

      You can either print them out on plain paper and affix them with a glue stick (I do this since it cleans off easier than sticker labels) or you can print on label paper or plain sheet sticker paper. You can also use a sharpie and mark the contents and date directly on the lids. If you would like a printable "pickled eggs recipe" I would be happy to email you one. I just don't want to post it on a public site and have someone who has not read the safe canning methods involved with eggs to use the recipe. Leave a comment in the box with your email should you like one.

      * Disclaimer: No guarantee is given that the information provided in this website is correct, complete, and/or up-to-date. I have made my best effort to share safe techniques. I make no promise regarding accuracy, applicability, fitness, or completeness of the contents of this blog. Therefore you are responsible for the results of your efforts. The information contained on this blog is provided for general information and educational purposes only and do not constitute legal or other professional advice on any subject matter. The owner of this blog does not accept any responsibility for any loss which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Thank you for understanding.

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