Monday, March 31, 2014

Pantry Inventory Notes and List ~ Spring Preparation

It is always helpful to do a pantry inventory of your "prepared" food storage before another season of harvest arrives. It gives you an idea of what you need to use up and what you may have processed too much of (excess canned goods can always be given away as gifts providing they haven't expired). It would also be wise to go through your freezer and use up anything from last year to make room for a fresh supply (make it a challenge to spend less on groceries by utilizing your reserves, don't buy when you have).

It may look like a poor inventory but I did do a lot of preserving this past year. The reason for the bare shelves it that we were intentional about using what we had. I would focus my menus around our garden, pantry and freezer foods which led to much savings. Our mentality was, what do we have to eat rather than what does the grocery store have to offer. And yes, that means that when cabbages were in season, we ate a lot of cabbage!

Here is a list of our current inventory of pantry items which we prepared ourselves:

What this list tells me is that we could use more tomatoes (zero inventory left)! You can never can enough tomatoes because they are so versatile (think soup bases, pasta/pizza sauces, Mexican dishes)! Also, the dried bell peppers, pickled cauliflower/carrots, pickled peppers and dill pickles are completely gone so we will try and increase our supply of these this season.

All the fermented food have been consumed so we purchased more Fido jars in order to accommodate more of that kind of food storage. We also purchased three, large, 5 liter Fido jars (I found them on clearance for $3 each and took the last ones!) which will be great for preparing bigger batches of apple cider vinegar when those scraps come in.

Our empty canning jars have been organized in size order and we have restocked our inventory of lids. We are now ready for the next batch of garden goods, are you? 

"The best preparation for the future is the present well seen to,
and the last duty done."
~ George MacDonald

Friday, March 28, 2014

Peter Rabbit's Tummy Tincture ~ A "Dose of Chamomile"

"I am sorry to say that Peter was not very well during the evening.
His mother put him to bed, and made some camomile tea;
and she gave a dose of it to Peter!
'One table-spoonful to be taken at bed-time.'"
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

Stomach aches are not limited to little rabbits, humans of all ages are susceptible. A "dose of chamomile" would be a blessing to have in your pantry. Since chamomile is helpful for insomnia and is stress relieving, adults would benefit from this herb as well!  It also boasts anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-allergenic properties. Chamomile is known to soothe teething babies and reduces colic. Would you like Mrs. Rabbit's recipe for making a chamomile tincture?

Ingredients and Options:

All that is required is chamomile (dried or fresh) and  80-100 proof vodka or apple cider vinegar. While vodka is the best choice for extracting all the medicinal properties of the herb (and is odorless), you can also use apple cider vinegar if you don't want the worry of alcohol (though it won't be as potent of a tincture). Keep in mind though, if adding your "dose of chamomile" into a cup of hot tea, most of your alcohol will evaporate off in a few minutes which would solve that problem. Vodka also boasts a longer shelf life (up to 5 years in your pantry) while the apple cider vinegar will last for approx. 6 - 12 months (with refrigeration being recommended by some sources). Use either one you feel comfortable with.

"Adding a small amount of almost boiling water to the tincture dose in a cup and allowing it to cool effectively evaporates most of the alcohol, making it safe."
~ Excerpt from Home Herbal by Penelope Ody

To begin, fill a clean jar 1/3 to 1/2 way full of dried chamomile flowers (if you purchase a pound, you will have plenty of leftover for our future projects). If using fresh chamomile flowers, fill the jar 3/4 of the way.

If you want a larger quantity of tincture, use a quart jar. For a smaller quantity, use a pint jar.

Next, fill the jar to the very top with the liquid of your choice (vodka or apple cider vinegar). You want to make sure that the flowers are submerged. The idea is to have the liquid cover the herbs by 2 to 3 inches (more on that later). 

Because we used dried flowers, I ended up needing to refill the jar within 15 minutes because the dried flowers absorbed the liquid. Keep an eye on your tincture to make sure the liquid level is always full.

Next, screw on your jar lid or cover jar with plastic wrap and then cap if using a metal lid as shown in picture (you just don't want the metal to be in contact with the tincture).

Label your jar with name of herb and date. Store in a cool, dark area.

Shake every few days to infuse the herbs into the liquid (it is easy to remember if you place your tincture in your kitchen cabinet where the cups are so that when you reach for a glass of water, you are reminded to shake your tincture). My chamomile kept floating to the top so I shook the jar daily to keep it from molding.

Let the tincture sit for 4 - 6 weeks for a nice, strong blend.

When the time is up, place a small strainer over a glass bowl. Line the strainer with a piece of lightweight fabric or thin cheesecloth. Pour your tincture through.

Once contents are emptied into the strainer, gather your fabric into a small satchel and squeeze the leftover herbs to extract the last of the golden medicinal liquid.

You will be left with a beautiful tincture! Make sure to label and date your jar (we included a label in our printable recipe below). 

If you have a clean dropper bottle, then place some of your tincture inside and add it into your medicine cabinet. The remaining jar of tincture can safely be stored in your pantry for up to 5 years if using vodka (and 6-12 months for vinegar).

We included two sets of labels on our printable recipe below. One for your jars and one for the dropper bottles. We also share two designs, one whimsical and one with an apothecary appeal. We just couldn't decide ;)

Although Peter's mother prescribed a tablespoon for chamomile tea, this tincture is highly concentrated and requires much less!

Dosage (To get a better idea on determining tincture dosage, visit here):

**For adults, a dropperful (1/4 tsp.) or two taken in intervals (3 times a day) as needed and added into a small glass of hot tea, water or juice is plenty.

**Children can be given 1/2 of the dose mentioned above.

**Wellness Mama shares information on treating infants and babies with chamomile tincture here.

**And remember, if using the vodka based tincture, place in a hot cup of tea first for a few minutes to allow most of the alcohol to evaporate off.

Note: If you want to do a sweet, glycerin based-tincture, here is a tutorial that you can use with chamomile. Though the medicinal properties aren't as strong as the alcohol based tincture, the benefit is that your children will love the taste.

I personally love adding something medicinal to our pantry as part of our preparedness plan. It would be like a food storage for medicine which really appeals to me since a dried herb loses its strength after one or two years, and this tincture preserves for much longer. You are welcome to print out our recipe (found here) for your herbal.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Embracing Ma's Practical Pioneering Spirit During Lean Times

"The prairie looks so beautiful and gentle," she said.
"But I wonder what it will do next.
Seems like we have to fight it all the time."
~ Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little Town on the Prairie

In this earthly life, we will all experience hard times. As the Good Book says, the rain falls on the just and the unjust. The question is, how do we handle our storms? As we read through the "Little House" series, I am inspired by the spirit of the pioneer women. What calamities and sorrow came their way! What is interesting is that, they didn't feel themselves as victums. They hadn't read magazine articles teaching them that they "deserve" happiness for themselves or that this earthly life is meant to be easy. Instead, they accepted what came their way and attempted to make the best of it.

"This earthly life is a battle," said Ma. "If it isn't one thing to contend with, it's another. It always has been so, and it always will be. The sooner you make up your mind to that, the better off you are, and the more thankful for your pleasures."
~ Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little Town on the Prairie

After  a "Long Hard Winter" (where the Ingall's were living on rationed wheat berries during a blizzard filled season because the cargo of food couldn't make it through the snow), they were waiting in hopes for spring. It was a time to rebuilt on the homestead and begin anew. Their oat and corn crop was thriving, Pa had secured some money in town doing construction work and Mary would finally be sent to a school for the blind.  Life was going according to plan!

Then the blackbirds came… pecking at their oat crop, the very oat crop that would help to pay for taxes and coal that year. But Pa would shoot his way to a clear field with victory. The following day, the blackbirds found the corn. This was to be the other cash crop. The blackbirds had multiplied as abundantly as their beautiful corn! Pa goes to town to purchase more ammunition while Ma and the girls spend hours running through the fields to protect their future.

"They ran up and down, in the sun and heat, stumbling over the rough sods, screeching and shouting and waving their arms. Sweat ran down their faces and their backs, the sharp corn leaves cut their hands and cheeks. Their throats ached from yelling. And always the swirling wings rose and settled again. And always scores of blackbirds were clinging to the ears, and sharp beaks were tearing and pecking. 

At last Ma stopped. "It's no use, girls," she said.'"

~ Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little Town on the Prairie

Charles and Caroline Ingalls

Oh, the dreadful words!.. "It is no use". But, Ma knew there was a time to fight with all her heart and that there was a time to let go. Sometimes, it is when we stop battling the circumstances and accept them for what they are, that we can see a bit of blessed light peaking from the darkness. Though their cash crops were lost, Ma found something else to focus on. They would eat like kings!

"After breakfast Pa came to the house,
bringing both hands full of birds he had shot. 

"I have never heard of anyone's eating blackbirds," he said,
"but they're as fat as butter."

"Dress them, Laura, and we'll have them fried for dinner," said Ma.
"There's no great loss without some small gain...

And the day was not even Sunday.
As long as the blackbirds lasted, and the garden was green,
they could eat like this every day."
~ Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little Town on the Prairie

But how would they survive in the future? What would Ma do? She would take the practical route, the only one available to her. And many times dear reader, it is the only one available to us.

"Don't worry about it, girls," said Ma.
"We must cut our coat to fit the cloth."
~ Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little Town on the Prairie

We all have our share of struggles. My desire is to glean from the practical, pioneering spirit of our fore-mothers when we endure ours. They took each situation in stride and were thankful for their daily bread. The future they knew, was in the hands of the Almighty. The blessings they knew, would be there today if we chose to find them.

"Laura thought, "Ma is right, there is always something to be thankful for."
~ Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little Town on the Prairie

" everything give thanks;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you..."
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:18

You will find our *free printable* of this here if you are interested.

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 Scoop, Tuesdays with a TwistRaising HomemakersWise Woman Link UpHomestead Blog Hop Wow Us Wednesdays,  Coffee and ConversationHomemaking ThursdaysHome Sweet HomeOur Simple HomesteadAwesome Life Friday Link Up and Create, Bake, Grow & Gather. 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). Illustrations by Helen Sewell and Garth Williams.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Peter Rabbit's Gift Tags ~ For Fun Friday! ~ Free Printable

"Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-tail, who were good little bunnies, went down the lane to gather blackberries:
But Peter, who was very naughty, ran straight away to Mr. McGregor's garden, and squeezed under the gate!"
~ Beatrix Potter, The Tale of Peter Rabbit

Poor Peter! If only he knew how much his sorrowful tale has been told. The lost jacket, his near death and ultimately, his health! I hope he doesn't mind our sharing these gift tags with the "good little bunnies" in our life!

For who wouldn't love a brown-paper package, tied up with string, which has this sweet tag attached to it? These would be perfect for baby gifts or a small spring trinket for children. These tags will also compliment our other Peter Rabbit Projects and can transform them into thrifty presents. 

Simply download and print your copy from HERE. We printed ours on white card-stock, hole punched them and added some ribbon. What will you do with yours?


 You may also be interested in these lovely books by Beatrix Potter (pictures are linked).

Monday, March 17, 2014

Raising Chickens Naturally ~ Fresh Eggs Daily Book ~ Egg cetera...

"This book is the result of years of my own informal research and the in-the-coop "testing" to show you how you can keep your chickens healthy and productive without the use of chemicals, medications or harsh commercial products, and how to have some fun while you're doing it!"
~ Lisa Steele, Fresh Eggs Daily

If you have begun raising chickens or are already in full swing, then Fresh Eggs Daily is just the book to further your adventures! Though there is some information about beginning your flock for the first-timer, this book really shines at providing natural suggestions for maintaining them. I was fortunate enough to win a copy from a giveaway at The Nerdy Farm Wife (more on her wonderful blog later) and wanted to share this lovely book with you as well.

Usually animal husbandry books are dry and encyclopedia-like. This book is pretty but practical (just my style!). Full of beautiful photographs, you will be inspired to take your chicken-keeping to the next level. The author gives many suggestions on herbal treatments, all-natural DIY's and chicken nutrition. 

Pictured is a list of calcium-rich veggies for strong eggshells that you may be interested in. If you have ever collected paper-like or rubbery-ish eggs, consider adding these scraps to your chicken feeders.

I really appreciate the make-it-yourself recipes that Lisa provides since most ingredients can be found in the pantry and garden, making prevention an easy task. Perhaps you would like to try this spring worming recipe?

This book excited my daughter and before long, she ordered her own set of baby chicks and placed them in a small area strewn with lovely lavender garlands. She had concoctions of all-natural sprays being formulated and a keener interest in these little creatures. Using many of Lisa's ideas, she raised her first babies (all-natural) without any loss (usually we have a few casualties) and was very excited!

Though some of the ideas are a bit far-fetched for our busy lives (such as privacy curtains for the coop), I appreciated them just the same. Perhaps one day, when this coop of ours is empty, I can place a little more love in our outdoor one...

The Nerdy Farm Wife Shares Her Homemade Peanut Butter Egg Recipe Here
"Egg" cetera:

And since we are on the subject of eggs, here is my favorite kind! Peanut butter and chocolate eggs (I wonder which breed lay these)!  This tasty looking recipe (photo shown above and used with permission) is from Jan Berry, author of The Nerdy Farm Wife and the sweet woman whom I received this book from. I wanted to introduce you to her darling but very informative blog. Those who are interested in a home-made medicine cabinet will be delighted. There are so many recipes of hers that I have on my list to try (such as rose oxymel and herbal throat spray)! Perhaps you would like to take a peak into her wonderful world here.

You may also be interested in these other "egg" related posts:

Friday, March 14, 2014

Mr. McGregor's (Peter Rabbit's) Seed Packets ~ Free Printable

Truth be known, Mrs. Rabbit's garden was planted with seeds harvested by Peter Rabbit, which he procured on one of his mysterious outings in the woods. If only she knew! Yet, the woods were a place of foraging and foraging it was to a little rabbit of Peter's mind.

"First he ate some lettuces and some French beans;
and then he ate some radishes..."
~ Beatrix Potter, The Tale of Peter Rabbit

It is very clear that he came across quite a bit of produce! There were the lettuces, french beans, radishes and of course, the parsley to calm his upset stomach. And then there were the cucumbers, cabbages and onions which also made themselves available.

"And then, feeling rather sick, he went to look for some parsley..."

~ Beatrix Potter, The Tale of Peter Rabbit

"But round the end of a cucumber frame, 
whom should he meet but Mr. McGregor!..

Mr. McGregor was on his hands and knees planting out young cabbages,
but he jumped up and ran after Peter,
waving a rake and calling out,
'Stop thief!'"
~ Beatrix Potter, The Tale of Peter Rabbit

Like Mr. McGregor, there is one frustration I had with this little project. The back side of the seed packets share an appropriate excerpt from the book. However, I didn't think to give the text enough room at the top so when you fold over your packet, it covers some of the verse. Being a busy wife and mother, I just couldn't redo them all and so I apologize for that (here the author releases a sorrowful sigh). However, a dear reader mentioned this help, "the top can be tucked inside and glued as well as outside".

If you are interested, here are the printable packets for your supply of seeds. There are *15 different vegetables* (plus chamomile) included along with *one blank printable* that you can customize.

Gardening with Peter Rabbit by Jennie Walters

These can be used to store your surplus, be given as gifts, make a fun craft for little ones or encourage a young gardener to begin their own journey in the soil. A nice basket of seeds, garden tools and gardening book would make a lovely present for a child. These seed packets would also make fun favors for an outdoor party. What will you do with yours?

Simple Supplies:
All you need to do is print out our printable, cut around the outline, fold in/glue the back together, insert appropriate seeds and finally glue the top flap shut. The End...