Sunday, June 29, 2014

Tickling Your Funny Bone ...

When discussing bed sizes Farmer Boy said, "I don't know why it's called a twin bed.  It isn't anywhere near big enough for twins."

Extending the Shelf Life & Saving Money

Purchasing sale and reduced for quick sale items is a fantastic way to save 50% or more at the grocer.  However, when purchasing large amounts of sale items or any reduced for quick sale item one must pay attention to expiration dates and shelf life.  Even if a food item has been purchased at a great discount, if it spoils before consumption that's like throwing money into the trash - literally.
I never pay full price for meat products.  I purchase meat products in large quantities when I catch a fabulous sale or, I purchase it from the reduced for quick sale bin.  If I purchase 25 packages of bacon when it's one sale at a 30-40% discount once every six months or purchase sirloin steaks at 1/2 price from the "reduced" bin, I must immediately use the item or extend it's shelf life through preservation.  We certainly can't eat 25 pounds of bacon within a few days and on shopping days, I usually fill up my crock pot before heading into town, thus, we wouldn't immediately eat the "reduced for quick sale" sirloin steaks, pork chops or chicken thighs for supper (and I often find several packages of reduced for quick sale items in any given shopping trip).

 Knowing I have food storage system, a young mother recently inquired as to how I preserve all my food for such a long time, especially meat products.  Although I've canned meat, my preferred method of preserving it is freezing.   My food saver, given to me as a gift by my dear sweet sister, Mrs.A, has been the perfect tool for preserving meat products and preventing freezer burn.  I've personally found that it really does extend the shelf life of foods.  The food saver has allowed me to freeze meat for up to 18 months and many fruits and vegetables up to a year without any freezer burn or spoilage.

When using my food saver I like to place my food products, especially food with a high water content like fruits and vegetables, in the freezer for about 1/2 an hour prior to sealing.  This allows some of the food's natural juices to "firm up" resulting in a more complete and better seal.

If not purchased on sale or with a coupon (preferably both), food saver bags appear to be expensive at first glance.  However, because the bags are so thick and durable they can be reused 3-5 times.  To get the most out of my bags, I carefully cut them open as close to the seal as possible.  I wash the used bags in very hot water and, when dry, store them in the used bag section of my kitchen drawer.  When I have a product to seal and freeze, I first leaf through the used food saver bags and find an appropriate size to re-use.  The bag in the above photo has stored (1st use) frozen ears of corn, (2nd use) frozen chicken thighs and now (3rd use) frozen sirloin steaks.  And, I fully expect that same bag to get at least one, if not two more uses.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Hodgepodge of Recent Happenings

The snow and ice finally took a vacation ushering in a mild spring and, so far, a mild summer up here on the northern prairie.  Since the cold weather hung around for so long, we've been trying to "catch up" thus, the past few weeks have been extremely busy.  Since we homeschool and live in a very rural setting, our mornings are usually not as rushed as city folks. But lately we find we must get up and get going, not only early, but also fast. 

I am a firm believer that a hearty breakfast is necessary for a productive day.  A quick bowl of cold cereal leaves Songbird and Farmer Boy grouchy and sluggish after less than two hours  - it isn't hearty enough to get them through a morning of manual labor.
A big bowl of strawberries with whipped cream, a couple sausage patties, toast and a glass of milk has proven to be a fast and hearty breakfast for them.  Egg & cheese sandwiches with a banana and often a bowl of oats garnished with brown sugar and chopped nuts accompanied by a slice of toast have also proven to be a fast fix and filling enough to last all morning.

All the fruit &  nut trees and bushes we ordered several months ago arrived while I was very ill with an upper repertory infection (I was so ill the doctor told me that if I didn't improve after 3 days of antibiotics, she'd have to admit me to the hospital).  As miserable as I was feeling, I somehow dragged myself outside and with Songbird and Farmer Boy's help, we got all 28 saplings planted.  Because of his out of town work schedule, Mr.B wasn't home to assist.


Farmer Boy's baseball team had a great season.  They took 1st place in their league and Farmer Boy was selected for the post-season All-Star team.   He is one of two southpaws on his team and on Sunday he hit the ball out of the park.  There are three other farm kids on his team and they are all power hitters.

During the regular season, Farmer Boy played 3rd base and is also playing 3rd for his All-Star team.  Baseball is one of the reasons our days are so busy.  The All-Star team practices 4 days per week, 3 hours each day and they play in tournaments each weekend.  Since we are in a rural area of Montana, we find ourselves traveling 100 plus miles for tournaments.  The State Championship Tournament will be held in a town more than 400 miles away from our home.

Songbird has traded  her beautiful Daughter of the King formal gown in for her daily farm hand attire.  During the school year she was babysitting for two families.  However, one family has decided to temporarily employ extended family home from college during the summer months.  Songbird was disappointed to loose this client, but God has opened another employment opportunity door.  She has been hired as a swathing operator during haying season.  Her employer is super cooperative regarding her commitments to her remaining babysitting client and Bible study schedule.  Songbird's work days are long and by season's end she will have cut more than 2,000 acres of hay. 
As busy as baseball and homestead chores keep him, Farmer Boy has also been earning more of his own money.  He has mowed a couple lawns in town and with local advertising, he sold more than 10 dozen eggs this week.  When our older boys were home, they too worked through their Jr. High and High School years.  We believe it instilled a strong work ethic, helped them learn the value of a dollar earned, developed a since of responsibility and added to their self worth.  Once all the big boys left home (before aged 20), they were, and have remained, financially independent.  Mr.B and I are confident that learning to work at a young age has contributed to their financial independence.
Prior to planting the garden, Mr.B commented that he didn't think we grew enough potatoes and corn last year.  So, the garden was, once again, expanded.  I overheard Songbird recently telling someone, "She's gardened for the past 13 years and every single year she increases it's size.  It's now so large you could build two large houses on it!"  Well, what did she think was going to happen ... more potatoes and corn need more growing space.  Speaking of gardening, our afternoon rain shower has passed - the garden and orchard are calling out to me.

Lost and Found

 This past weekend a fellow congregant, asked me if I would dog sit her shitzu, Kiko, while she was out of town.  Although I am not fond of small dogs, nor do I regularly allow animals inside my home, (The exception being newborn farm animals that are temporarily housed in our unfinished basement while it is still below zero outside), I wanted to be helpful and thus, agreed to dog sit.
Little Kiko was at our house only 4 hours when Mr. B asked Songbird to walk her while I cooked supper.  Songbird proceeded to open the front door and let Kiko out to run free without a leash.

Kiko immediately ran off into the hayfield, pictured here.  She would not come when called and, as you can see from the photo, it was impossible to see her in the thick, tall grass.  After an hour of walking the field and calling for the dog, I had to phone the owner and tell her that I'd lost her precious 12 year old Kiko.  The owner sent her daughter over hoping the dog would respond to her familiar voice.  NO, NOPE, NADA ...  After another estimated hour of tromping through hip high, stumbling thick hayfields, we finally spotted the little escapee in our driveway circling and sniffing the daughter's car.
Explicit instructions were given to ALWAYS keep the dog leashed when outside. 
Whew! That was a close one.  Word travels fast in this small community,  I do not expect anyone to request dog sitting services again.