"Lo, Children Are An Heritage of the LORD: and the Fruit of the Womb is His Reward" - Psalm 127:3

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Prickly Business

I spent about an hour and a half picking rose hips tonight.

Thankfully these spikey thorns are toward the bottom of the plants, away from the hips. On second thought, my legs aren't so thankful for that :(

The spot I picked from had literally millions of rose hips just waiting to be picked - perfect rosy crimson berries. I love the colors of nature - especially in the fall. God is Good!

I'm not sure whether you can tell or not, but these plants are all wild roses, loaded with rose hips, and just beyond that is a beautiful lake. This is my idea of a relaxing evening.

I felt a little guilty picking all these rose hips when I kept seeing chipmunks perched on rose bush branches, challenging me for the juicy treats. See the one in the middle of the picture? I saw at least 4 different chipmunks and heard several more. It felt a bit like I was robbing their pantry, but then like I said, there are literally millions of these out there, most of which are out of my reach anyway. Feast away Chip and Dale!

I was a bit disappointed in how many berries I ended up with. This is a bigger bowl than it looks in the picture, but still, after being able to grab handfuls of chokecherries and Oregon grapes, rose hip picking seems tedious. It's mostly one berry at a time ... that is, unless you enjoy acupuncture.

I can't complain too loudly though. This fall has been very productive berry-wise. Now we're off to a busy weekend. My in-laws have a couple loads of firewood that need to be split and stacked, we're going to put in a sidewalk and rock their parking space, make jelly and syrup, and somewhere in there make a trip for groceries in a town 100 miles away. Oh, and I don't think I've mentioned it, but I got the crazy idea to take online college classes, so I'm in the middle of a semester with loads of homework on top of my already packed schedule. That explains the lack of crafting lately. But I'm on the upswing with that. I ordered an assortment of felt to use with one of my newest books - Fa La La La Felt. Great book by the way. I'll have to do a post on it when I get my felt in.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

More Chokecherries

I did get to go berry picking last night but I only had about an hour. I had planned on picking chokecherries and rose hips, but decided to focus on the chokecherries since the rose hips would last until later this week and I didn't think the chokecherries would.

I found a large bush loaded with berries. They were plump and much darker than the ones I picked before. They were also much juicier - and a mess to pick.

See how dark these are? Very purple/black. The ones I picked before looked more like cranberries.

I thought I had picked about the same amount as before, but I didn't get nearly as much juice as the first time. The jug on the right is from the berries I picked last night. I cooked them down early this morning. I will combine these later - I didn't want to add hot juice to the cold juice. Don't want to risk having it go bad before Saturday. Now, on to rose hips. That will have to wait at least until tomorrow though, since I have a kids' Bible club to teach tonight.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

It's Been a Good Week

I haven't had a chance to post in awhile because we've been busy with company. My dad and his friend Patty have been here for a week visit. It's been a good week. Here' some of what I've been up to.

We met our oldest son for dinner a week ago as he passed through the area. He is in the Air Force, so we don't see him very often. We had a nice visit.

I also took time to boil down my chokecherries and make them into juice. I'll be making jelly and syrup this weekend, but I needed to get them juiced so they would survive the wait. I ended up with about 3 quarts of juice from the berries I had picked. I'd like a little more than that so I'll have to see if I can find any more ripe berries. I'm almost too late, I think.

We did a lot of playing outside this week. It's been beautiful, perfect weather, with perfect fall colors for Dad and Patty's visit. We were trying to teach the 6 year old to catch a football. He's got a ways to go ;)

It was homecoming this week, and even though we homeschool, we do get into the fun of the football games and parade. My daughter's boyfriend (also homeschooled) plays on the local team, so we were really excited to see the game. Unfortunately the game didn't go well, but we still had a fun evening.

Then on Saturday we took the boat out and enjoyed a perfect day of fishing. Patty had never fished before, so it was fun to see her catch the first fish - a 19" mackinaw - as well as the most fish. They were really biting, and we caught a total of 12 fish - 10 from the first lake we visited, then 2 later that evening at a different lake, where we had only intended to cruise around and look at scenery. Never hurts to put a line in the water!

The water was smooth as glass and perfectly still most of the day.

The reflections with the fall colors were gorgeous!

I LOVE living in Wyoming, and fall is my favorite season. We'll be out hunting very soon.

Saturday night, my daughter and her boyfriend joined us for the second lake. Then we had a big cookout at the lake with Dad, Patty, my husband's parents, my daughter's boyfriend and all of our family. We had ribeye steaks cooked over the campfire, dutch oven potatoes (my mother-in-law's specialty - YUM!), corn on the cob, garlic french bread and chocolate peanut butter bars for dessert. I didn't get any pictures of the cookout because we didn't finish fishing until dark, so it was very dark when we got to dinner.

Here are the ten fish we caught at the first lake. The longest three are just short of 20" long. We had a full gallon ziplock bag of fillets when we finished, so we had everyone over here for dinner Sunday night for a fish fry. Yum again! I didn't think to take pictures of the two we caught at the second lake, but they were about as long as the biggest of these, and we did keep them and fillet them too.

Then last night, we went back up to the lake where my in-laws had been camping all weekend, and roasted hot dogs and smores. We had the rest of the corn on the cob and a big salad with my mother-in-law's homemade blue cheese dressing, which I will have to post the recipe for sometime. It was delicious. I picked a few rose hips before dinner and plan to do more picking tonight. I think I'll see if I can find a few more chokecherries too, and I need a lot more rose hips. I love harvest time!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Time for More Jelly

Friday evening last week I took the boys berry picking again. This time we were looking for chokecherries. And boy did we find them.

I forgot to take my camera along, so these pictures are from my phone. I didn't think to take pictures of a bush we came across later that had literally millions of berries on it. I picked 90% of my berries off that other bush within 30 minutes or so ... while holding a cranky 22 month old who was terrified to be set down in the tall grass. Since we were at a lake and there is a very nice, expensive restaurant at the lake, his screaming was not an option. The yells carried across the water like a loud speaker. I was just sure I was going to be investigated - ha. But I couldn't pick and hold him at the same time, so I would set him down, pick furiously while he screamed, then pick him up again and settle him down. It was very exhausting.

So anyway, I managed to get quite a few berries - not quite as many as the Oregon grapes - but more than I expected. I could have easily picked for days, there were so many berries up there I didn't even make a dent. But really, how much jelly can one family use?

These are so pretty - they remind me of cranberries ... the perfect fall color.

I enlisted the not-so-enthusiastic help of my teenage daughter to sort the berries last night. We will make them into juice today.

I'm thinking I'll make both jelly and syrup out of these. We have so much Oregon grape jelly that I think it will be a challenge to use it all. But I do have to say, it is delicious!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Homemade Laundry Soap, Part I

I've been making my own laundry soap for a couple of years now and I love it. It's practically free - I spend maybe $3 per batch, (10 gallons) which lasts me around 3-4 months. It's a little messy and time consuming, but well worth the pay off. It cleans every bit as well as any brand name soap. The recipe is not original. I found mine in the Duggar's book "20 and Counting". Here's how we make it...

Gather your materials - one bar of Fels-Naptha soap. You will find this in most grocery store laundry isles. Some Walmart stores have it and others don't. I have found it most often at the grocery store. You will have to look carefully - it's small and they usually put it on the very top shelf. It costs around $1.35 per bar.

You will also need 20 Mule Team Borax. You only use 1/2 cup of this per batch, so it will last you a long time.

The last ingredient is washing soda. This and the borax are also found in the laundry isle. You will need one cup of the washing soda per batch.

Other things you will need are a grater, a long handled spoon or spatula (I use a cheap barbecue hamburger flipper), a medium sized pot that does NOT have a teflon coating - glass or ceramic is ideal. Melting the soap will remove all the teflon from your pan and make a huge mess ... trust me, I know. Then you will need a 5 gallon bucket with a lid, and a smaller old laundry detergent container with a lid. I'll explain all this as we come to it.

Step one is to grate the Fels Naptha. Use the smallest holes on the grater. It will help the soap dissolve easier.

This is the worst part, so I usually bribe someone else to do it ;) You need to get all the chunks the same size - as small as possible. It's tempting to just throw in the remaining scrap of soap, but it won't dissolve ... ever ... so don't bother.

See how fine we have grated this?

It's like a fine powder similar to cornmeal when you're done.

Add water, then place on low-medium heat. You want this to warm SLOWLY. If it boils, you will have bubbles all over the place and your soap will not be melted. Take your time, but make sure you stir it often. It will be goopy, and clumpy until it really starts dissolving. Be patient.

Add more water as needed. You want to leave room in your pot for expanding though. It's better to use a larger pot because more water makes the next step easier, but when this is almost done, it starts bubbling up and can boil over pretty easily if you're not careful.

Continue stirring throughout the dissolving process.

While you wait for the Fels-Naptha to dissolve, get out your clean, dry bucket and put 1 cup of washing soda and 1/2 cup Borax in it. Break up any clumps.

When the Fels-Naptha is all dissolved, pour it into the bucket with the dry ingredients.

Stir until the dry ingredients are dissolved. It is very important to do it this way. I tried once to dissolve the dry ingredients with water, and it didn't work. The end result was not good and I had a lot of waste.

Once it's all dissolved, you're ready to add water.

Gently add very hot tap water to your bucket until you have 5 gallons. Look on the side of your bucket - most of them are larger than 5 gallon quantity so you will have extra room for stirring.

Once you've added all your water and mixed everything together, scrape the foam off the top of your soap.

Can you see the little yellow chunks floating by the edge of the bucket? This is why you need to scrape the foam off. These are undissolved bits of Fels-Naptha, and they will never dissolve, so you don't want them in your wash or you'll end up with chunks on your clothes. It won't hurt anything, but you'll have to wash them over again, and who wants to do that? So just scrape them off now.

This is what the soap looks like when you're done. Well, actually, you're not done :)

Put your lid on the bucket and let it sit overnight. Then read part two to see how you're supposed to use this. There is some very important information in part two, so don't skip it.