Saturday, September 28, 2013

Harvesting and Storing Butternut Squash Throughout the Winter

"The rind was so hard that Ma had to take Pa's ax to cut the squash into peices. When the peices were baked in the oven, Laura loved to spread the soft insides with butter and then scoop the yellow flesh from the rind and eat it."
~ Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House in the Big Woods

Butternut squash is one of the easiest crops to grow. Because of this, we plant a lot! Usually, I fear for some of our harvest because they can overwhelm you when ready at the same time. This is not so with butternut squash because they "keep" for you if properly harvested and cured.

My husband brings them in by the barrel and it is very satisfying to know that you will have some source of free, fresh food throughout the autumn and winter months. These butternut squash will provide our family with vitamin A, C, potassium and fiber.

Here are some ways we enjoy them:
  • Peel them (and remove seeds), cut them into cubes, steam them until tender (remove water) and stir in coconut oil until they are all coated. Serve with rice (simmered in bone broth is best) and a green salad.
  • Peel them (and remove seeds), cut into cubes, coat with olive oil, sea salt and Italian seasoning. Roast them in your oven until squash is tender and a bit caramelized (we have done this over a barbecue pit in a rack which was also very tasty).
  • Our favorite way to use them is in creamy butternut squash soups! I will share our recipe soon.
  • Make pumpkin pies with them! Yes, that is right. If you read this article here, you will see that canned pumpkin isn't really pumpkin. It is made of various winter squashes such as butternut.
Harvest Tips
  • It is best to harvest them prior to the first frost, when the skins are tough and hard (and can not be punctured by your thumb nail).
  • What we learned (after the fact) was that we should have left at least 2 inches of the stem on each squash to deter the growth of bacteria (thankfully we didn't end up with too many casualties last season). The proper way to remove your squash from the vine is by cutting it with a knife (don't rip them off).
  • Use any split-looking squash first as they will not store well (you will notice some scarred ones in the barrel). 

How to "Cure" and Storage Tips
  • In order to store them for a long period of time, you need to cure them first. Simply lay them out for a few weeks in the sun right after they are harvested (unwashed).
  • When the proper time has elapsed, store squash in a dark, dry and cool location with good air circulation (basement, root cellar or garage perhaps). Do not let them freeze.
  • It is best to store them in a single layer without touching each other (if space permits). Placing them on a pallet is a good idea.

Last season, we were able to enjoy our butternut squash all the way through the following spring!

All the fine print. This post may be shared with some or all of the following link-ups: The Art of Home-Making MondaysModest Mom Monday'sMonday's MusingsMake Your Home Sing MondayGood Morning Mondays,  The ScoopTitus 2 TuesdaysTuesdays with a TwistRaising HomemakersWise Woman Link UpHomestead Blog Hop Wow Us Wednesdays,  Coffee and ConversationHomemaking ThursdaysHome Sweet HomeOur Simple HomesteadAwesome Life Friday Link UpFive Star Frou Frou Friday, and Shabbilicious Friday. Thank you lovely ladies for hosting these. This post may contain affiliate links (which are merchant links that help to support this site at no additional cost to you if you purchase an item through them).

Friday, September 27, 2013

Autumn Potpourri of Posts ~ What To Make and Do This Fall

“Days decrease... And autumn grows, autumn in everything.” 
~ Robert Browning

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"Ways of Her Household" ~ A Modern Day Herbal ~ Free Printable

"The kitchen is a country in which there are always discoveries to be made.”
~ La ReyniƩre

If the concept of creating your own "herbal" excites you as much as it does me, then I would love to share our printable with you! There are so many ways that one can organize an herbal.  I have included many "subject tabs". You can print out what you think would apply to your household. This is basically a "shell" as you would be responsible for filling it with recipes/instructions that pertain to your home. We will be sharing some printable recipe packets for each topic in the future. We will also be doing a one-month link up series to help you fill your herbal (details are shared below).

For more information on "What is an Herbal?", visit here.

List of recommended supplies:
  • Optional: Sheet Protectors (I put my recipes in these so they can be wiped off when dirty.)
  • Our Free Printable which includes a cover page insert (shown in first photo), spine label insert (shown above), subject pages which you may want to tab (as shown below) and a back cover page insert (shown in last photo).

Suggested Use:

Print off your herbal (located at the bottom of this post), place the subject pages inside plastic page protectors (optional), tab the subject pages for easier access (adhesive tabs are nice for this), place all your recipes inside plastic page protectors and insert them behind the appropriate subject tab. Place all content inside a sturdy binder (I found mine at Goodwill for $1.00). 

Here are some ideas of what to include in your herbal per "subject tab":

Recipes for soap-making, lotions, lip balms, bath salts, body scrubsnatural bug sprays, creams, bath oils, body washes, shampoos, etc… 

Recipes for canning, drying, freezing and fermenting foods… This might be a good place to store instructions on how to make cultured dairy products, kombucha, kvass...

How to make potpourri, room sprays, candles, herbal wreaths, how to dry herbs, herbal sachets, pressed flower decorations, etc...

Recipes for all purpose cleaner, window cleaners, cleansersfurniture polish, carpet deodorizer, etc… 

Note: You will find our convenient printable recipe packet for household cleaners here.

Recipes for clothes detergent, alternative bleach recipes, fabric softeners, natural stain removers, linen sprays, etc…

Options: Print out a Stain Removal ChartTen Tips for a Perfect WashMartha Stewart's Stain Basics Chart or our Wash Day Prayer and add them behind your "Laundry Room" section. 

"Healing by herbs has always been popular both with the classic nations of old, and with the British islanders of more recent times. Two hundred and sixty years before the date of Hippocrates (460 B.C.) the prophet Isaiah bade King Hezekiah, when sick unto death, "take a lump of Figs, and lay it on the boil; and straightway the King recovered." 
~ Herbal Simples Approved for Modern Uses of Cure by William T. Fernie, M.D. (1897)
Information for making your own cough syrupscough medicinecold fighting medicine, ointments, tinctures, poultices, chest rubs, first aid sprays, fever inducers, herbal tea remedies, etc…

Options: Frugally Sustainable offers a free "Herbal First Aid Kit" printable that I included in my herbal.

Do you want to be authentic?

An herbal of old would include sketched pictures of medicinal plants. It would detail its many uses along with its characteristics such as aroma, texture or habitat so that you can easily identify them.

Option: You may want to consider using this section to inspire you to document your backyard plants and give you incentive to study what useful herbs and flowers you have in your area. To make it easier, you can print out the proper botanical pictures (instead of sketching), paste your photos onto paper and handwrite your findings. This would help you to conveniently identify your herbs for future use, for future need. An index of knowledge pertaining to your local plants would be very wise to have! You may want to make this into a home education project (this is our plan).

This might seem like a duplicate page because of the "Food Preservation" section. However, I thought that this would make a nice area to include other useful information such as homemade mix recipes (pancake, muffins, cake mixes, cornbread, etc…), making your own extracts (such as vanilla or lemon), making your own apple cider scrap vinegar, creating your own condiments (mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard), custom tea blends, how to render tallow from beef, etc…

Options: Include our "Essential Pantry List" printable in this section. I have also added a chart inside ours on "Soaking Grains".

And alas, the final section which will include those odd items that don't really belong anywhere else… 

For frugal medicinal, bath/body, pantry, housecleaning recipes, etc., visit here.

I have also included a subject tab on "Aromatherapy" due to my recent rebirth in essential oils but wasn't able to include it in the pictures because of the last minute addition.  This section can showcase the medicinal properties of each essential oil or anything else of that nature.

Matching Label to Further Customize Your Herbal

We also included a blank page which you can fill in to fit any additional needs you may have. Perhaps you would like to add a "Dairy" section because you own a cow and would like to document cheese making, kefir, yogurt recipes, etc… Or some of you may want to create a "Farm Animal" section where you place tips on how to care for certain animals, etc… We are sharing the blank label above to further customize your herbal.

Finally, the back cover insert page is designed to give you more inspiration while adding some decoration to your herbal.

Do you feel the vision? Are you ready to make your own herbal? Do you want to link yourself back to the chain of resourceful women who acquired invaluable knowledge (such as how to survive without a Walmart)?!... I thought so!

All the fine print. This post may be shared with some or all of the following link-ups: The Art of Home-Making MondaysModest Mom Monday'sMonday's MusingsMake Your Home Sing MondayGood Morning Mondays,  The ScoopTitus 2 TuesdaysTuesdays with a TwistRaising HomemakersThe Homesteader HopWise Woman Link UpHomestead Blog Hop Wow Us Wednesdays,  Coffee and ConversationHomemaking ThursdaysHome Sweet HomeOur Simple HomesteadAwesome Life Friday Link UpFive Star Frou Frou Friday, and Shabbilicious Friday. Thank you lovely ladies for hosting these. This post may contain affiliate links (which are merchant links that help to support this site at no additional cost to you if you purchase an item through them).

Monday, September 23, 2013

Learning to Read with Dick and Jane & Other Helpful Resources

Dick and Jane…

See them run.

See them play.

See child read.

See how easy?

One of the scariest thoughts about homeschooling our first child was, how do I teach her to read? In the beginning, I begged my husband to place our children in a school where they can teach literacy first and then I would step in once the basics were established. He didn't buy into my appeal. He was convicted from birth. I was a bit more hesitant, not trusting my patience level, not trusting my teaching ability, not trusting period.

I began an online search for all the fancy curriculum and phonics programs. However, when I looked at the instructions for these packages, I was already worn out! If I hated to read how to do it, certainly our daughter would be done with it too (If not from pure distaste, then from the frustration she felt from mother while doing the activities). So, back those went… and it became very overwhelming.

The World of Dick and Jane and Friends (Treasury) (Dick and Jane)

This is when I decided it was time to get back to the basics… What teaching tools were used prior to all the dazzling programs? What came to my mind was the classic alphabet sets and the Dick and Jane books. 

We  played with the wooden letters, sounded them out and placed them inside the proper slots. She began to recognize the letters and make the appropriate sounds herself. We casually practiced this for five minutes a day (no pressure for I had learned my lesson here).
“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.”
 ~ Emilie Buchwald

In the midst of all this, we read *ALL* the time in our home. That was our "curriculum". Books were a way of bonding and teaching at the same time. Because she was exposed to the excitement and fun of books, she developed an interest in wanting to read herself (which I think is the key to all of this).

“Reading aloud with children is known to be the single most important activity
for building the knowledge and skills they will eventually require for learning to read.” 
 ~ Marilyn Jager Adams

Once our daughter "learned the letters", we brought out the Dick and Jane books. I placed my finger along with the letters, sounded them out and made them into words (nothing professional, I assure you). I asked her if she wanted to try. "See" was the first word she read and it was pure bliss!!!

From that point on, the reading increased as we continued our practice for a few minutes a day (or more when she seemed interested). If she didn't pick it up quickly, I was going to be okay with it. She will in time. And she did… at the age of four!

Note of Caution: Do not be led to believe there is a "normal time" for everyone to read. Some children are 7 while some are 9 (and none are normal!!!). Reading books by Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore will help to release you from the "ideal age" thinking in your homeschool and free you from unnecessary pressure.
The next challenge came with the blending words. For some reason, to say "rat" was easy but not "drat". She couldn't understand how to blend the consonants. This is when resource number three came to the rescue (a blending board game). It was remarkable and achieved in one sitting what I had been working on in one month!

The last obstacle was the "sight words". Many she knew since we read together so often but there were some issues. We sought another game since we had success with the last one. Sight Words Bingo was the easy solution.

And the rest is history. Her vocabulary grew and pronunciation of the longer words increased. We continued to read together every day but also appreciated the help of audiobooks. I had her read along with the tapes so that she knew how the harder words sounded. This was a priceless tool in our homeschool and is still used to this day (It also gives mother a chance to catch up on housework).

Between alphabet puzzles, classic books and fun games, we were able to accomplish the task which I had "dreaded with all my heart"! Perhaps this little post can ease your mind a bit. Sometimes the answer in home education is simply to simplify.

In fact, she took to reading so much that I caught her in the shower with a Bobbsey Twins chapter book (she was 5 years old)! I did a "s.w.a.t" style invasion because her showers became excessively long. I knew something "sinister" was occurring. How does one read while showering you may ask? That will be saved for another time, another day…

“The end of all learning is to know God,
and out of that knowledge to love and imitate Him.” 
~ John Milton

Saturday, September 21, 2013

More Herbal History for the Homemaker

"The real descendants, so to speak, of the herbal are the quaint old still-room books (see below for explanation of the still-room), many of which survive not only in museums and public libraries, but also in country houses. These still-room books, which are a modest branch of literature in themselves, are more nearly akin to herbals than to cookery books, with which they are popularly associated. For they are full of the old herb lore and of the uses of herbs in homely medicines.

It must be remembered that even as late as the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries every woman was supposed to have some knowledge of both the preparation and the medicinal use of herbs and simples."

Old English Herbals by Eleanour Sinclair Rohde

Gathering Herbs by Camille Pissarro

"The still room is a distillery room found in most great houses, castles or large establishments throughout Europe dating back at least to medieval times. The lady of the house was in charge of the room, where medicines were prepared, cosmetics and many home cleaning products created...

Herbs from the kitchen garden and surrounding countryside were processed into what today we call essential oils, and infused or distilled, or brewed (etc.) as required to make rose water, lavender water, peppermint based ointments, soaps, furniture polishes and a wide variety of medicines. It was a working room: part science lab, part infirmary and part kitchen. In later years, as doctors & apothecaries became more widely spread and the products of the still room became commercially available, the still room became increasingly an adjunct of the kitchen. The use of still room devolved to making only jams, jellies, home-brewed beverages and as a store room for perishables such as cakes.

Originally, the still room was a very important part of the household, run by the lady of the house, and used to teach her daughters and wards some of the skills needed to run their own homes in order to make them more marriageable by having those skills. As practical skills fell out fashion for high born women, the still room became the province first of poor dependent relations, then of housekeepers or cooks. The still room was later staffed by the still room maid."

~ Excerpts from Wikipedia

Woman Gathering Herbs by Camille Pissarro

Friday, September 20, 2013

Little House on the Prairie Mini-Series ~ Family Movie Night

The Little House on the Prairie Mini-Series Movie is the latest addition to Our Wholesome Video List (and not to be confused with the TV series). With over 4 hours of playing time (2-DVD set for only $4.96!!!), it was a great investment for our family library.

We love the pioneer genre and this movie did not disappoint. Full of family bonding, frontier adventure teamed with heartache, this series brought the "Little House" books to life. The cinematography was also beautiful! Due to the content of some hair-raising scenes on the prairie (nothing "scary" but real life troubles on the trail), you may choose to show this to older children of 8 and up. And finally, no childhood romances, swearing, nudity, and so forth (*sigh* of relief)...

What is it about?

"Marking a return to the autobiographical books by renowned author Laura Ingalls Wilder, Disney's epic production of LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE celebrates the magnificent and heartwarming story of a pioneer family's brave travels into the untamed American heartland. The majesty and grandeur of the frontier come alive with breathtaking cinematography and a host of classic characters. Disney's critically acclaimed miniseries chronicles the magical adventures of the Ingalls family as they stake their claim to a rugged parcel of land on the Kansas prairie. Their exciting journey brings them face-to-face with mysterious Indians, wild animals and their peculiar new neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Scott. Spend some quality time with "a fine family drama," says the New York Daily News. Presented on two DVDs, LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE is hours of rousing entertainment for everyone."
~ From

Homeschool categories:
  • American History: Pioneers/Westward Movement
  • Character Building: Obedience/Perseverance

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Reinventing the "Herbal" for the Modern Day Homemaker

“In Tudor times, in the sixteenth century, the pantry could be described as the control center of the domestic economy. It was here that the countrywoman would store her precious herbs and spices, and make lotions, potions* and distillations. In doing so, she could be described as the family doctor, pharmacist, herbalist, perfumer, candlemaker and pest controller all rolled into one, and the health and well being of everyone in the household was her responsibility.”
~ Stephanie Donaldson, The Country Store

*Note: Although "potion" is often referred to in the occult world, it's definition can also mean a liquid with healing properties.

I love reading about women in history, how they lived and what they were responsible for. Something that has always interested me was that our female ancestors survived without modern stores and conveniences. They were well acquainted with herbal remedies to treat their ailing loved ones. Countess Juliana van Stolberg had her own private apothecary (pharmacy) inside her castle.  Puritan women such as Anne Bradstreet were also skilled in the art of natural healing which was necessary in the primitive "New World".

Not only were they educated in herbs and plants, but they created their own simple soaps, body care products, household cleaners and more. They were experts in food preservation methods such as fermenting and drying. They knew how to create distilled floral waters such as lavender and rose. They handcrafted beautiful items for their home such as herbal wreaths (to ward off certain insects and odors), they hand-poured their own candles and prepared colorful potpourri of various sorts.

"In Elizabethan England it became customary for gentlewomen to write down the secrets of their household management in a book to pass on their skills from one generation to the next. As well as recipes, this book would include simple remedies, lotions and potions*, potpourris and polishes, many of which we would recognize and even keep in our pantry today."
~ Stephanie Donaldson, The Country Store

The educated women of that day would write down their recipes to pass down to their daughters. Their knowledge of running a household was recorded in an "herbal". Though some remedies were undoubtedly based off superstition of the time, many were viable sources of medical information.


Would you like to reinvent this concept for modern use?

Here are some ideas... Collect methods on how to make medicine out of basic pantry staples, how to prepare a poultice, how to treat a burn or how to soothe colic. We could record recipes for the bath and body such as lotions, balms and scrubs. We can incorporate instructions on how to ferment foods or prepare cultured dairy products. We can include practical recipes like homemade extracts, condiments (mayonnaise, ketchup) and other items that wouldn't be found in an ordinary cookbook. Another section might include how to dry herbs and how to utilize them. We can include tutorials on room sprays, candle-making and sweet smelling sachets...

The object is to acquire a broad spectrum of knowledge for your household and document it into one place. Like our ancestors, we can pass down our favorites to our daughters and daughter-in-laws. This is what your herbal will be... An encyclopedia of household wisdom! Doesn't this sound fun? You will find our printable herbal here.

Note: Many of you love Pinterest and rely upon their record keeping of your favorite ideas... However, living on the farm, our internet is not trustworthy and hard copies are always appreciated. Also, you never know when an unforeseen circumstance will occur and you will need valuable information when there is no electricity. It is also convenient to have a mobile book to take with you into the kitchen or anywhere else in your home where you would prepare your recipes.
Buy at
Here is what we have shared thus far in this Series:

I hope you will enjoy this new series as much as I have in creating it!

"She looketh well to the ways of her household,
and eateth not the bread of idleness." 
~ Proverbs 31:27