Photo: Great grandparents at their farm in Blandinsville, IL, with five of their six children .. my grandpa was yet a twinkle in grandma's eye. Stable boy and governess also pictured. Hodges farm, circa 1903-4

Monday, June 29, 2009

I've written before about the no-no using bleach with our septic system. There comes a time when even oxy-type stain remover has trouble keeping up with my heavily used white kitchen towels. In grandma's day, they would take a big kettle and steep some tea leaves. I've gone an easier route and have used regular black tea bags. First, take a large pot and fill with water 2/3's full. Add about six or eight tea bags ... the more you add , the darker the tea will stain your fabric. When the water has boiled with the tea for a spell, turn off the heat and remove the bags. Add several dry all cotton towels (that have been washed with mild soap) and stir them around in the tea. After a while check the color ... you can keep the towels in for as long as overnight. Just be sure to stir several times for an even color. When you're ready ... wring out the cooled fabric and rinse in a sink of cool water with a bit of white vinegar 1/2 to 1 cup is good. Rinse again until the water is clear then dry on the line. I have plans to do a little embroidery work to give my 'tea' towels a true vintage flair

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Floral-bundance! I just love to make up new words. And 'floral-bundance' seems to fit the description of this lovely bouquet I picked from the garden when my parents were visiting. Included are peonies, cat mint, wild lupine, and spirea.

The Beginning:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of god was hovering over the waters ... Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: see-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds ... and it was so."

From Genesis, Chapter 1 (NIV)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Soap Saver Ideas: The price of liquid hand soap can range from about a buck to twelve dollars a bottle at some higher end bath shops. After using the soap you are left with another plastic or glass bottle to deposit in the landfill or recycle. When I started making bath soap I gave up buying liquid hand soap. I have replaced the fancy store bought products with small guest size home made soaps. One problem with bar soap is that it tends to turn goopy when left sitting in a soap dish. Take a peek at my new method of washing up at the sink. The teacups .. now soap dishes were my husband's grandmother's ... we inherited them (without saucers) when she passed away. They make the perfect soap holders. Teacup saucers work as well. To keep the soap from getting soggy, place a small piece of loofa sponge under the soap. This will allow the water to drain through to the bottom of the dish. About twice a week, I gather up my soap dishes and give them a good cleaning ... washing the loofas with hot water and 'steaming' them in the microwave for about 45 seconds (while still wet) to kill bacteria. When they are cool, a few drops of tea tree oil can be rubbed in to help keep your soap smelling good and act as natural germ killer.

Helpful Hint. My mom gave me this great tip several years ago about getting the most from a steel wool soap pad. After using your soap pad, gently squeeze out the excess water and wrap in a piece of aluminum foil. The pad will be reusable for many more scrubbing chores without turning rusty.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A good gardener's hand soap can be easily made using the following method. The measurements are vague ... because that's the way I operate ;) ...

Take a bar or two of bath soap ... can be home made or store bought. Castile soap sold in some laundry sections of the grocery store is preferred if you don't make your own bath soap bars. Grate soap using a cheese grater (medium to fine shreds ... not the side for hard cheese ... that will take too long. Place the soap gratings ... about two cups (approximate) into a double boiler placed over rolling boiling water. Heat until warm/soft (it shouldn't completely melt. Add about a tablespoon of finely ground egg shells* and a teaspoon of your favorite essential oil. I happen to like tea tree oil ... so that's what I add. Mix with a fork ... it will be stiff. When the soap shavings have been mixed ... carefully take about two tablespoons of it and form a ball (think of making a meatball ;). Press firmly making the soap as round as you can. Let dry for several days or until hard. This soap will really scrub the garden dirt from your fingers and make them soft if you use a good quality soap. Yields approximately 3-4 soap balls.

*ground egg shells: I save my egg shells by washing them, patting them dry, then baking on a cookie sheet for about 3-5 minutes at 350F to kill any bacteria. Then they are ground up in my spare coffee grinder to a fine powder. Wait until you have at least a dozen egg shells so you have enough to make it worth the effort. (These shells are also sprinkled in the garden around the carrots and lettuce when I plant to increase the calcium in my veggies.) I hope you try this easy to make hand milled soap. You don't have to use lye ... because you start with already made bars of soap. Sometimes I even add a teaspoon of finely ground oatmeal and a pinch of finely ground dried lavender.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The turnip greens are growing. I had to thin out this section of the garden. Soup's on! Today's fare included the wilted turnip greens and a few small turnips, thinly sliced ham, garden garlic. Can't get much fresher than that!
Last winter when time was plentiful, I froze and canned chicken stock ... and cooked white beans to freeze. These are handy items to have available for a quick batch of soup at lunch time.

To freeze cooked beans: Sort and wash your beans. Soak overnight. Discard the water and place the beans in a large pot. Add water to cover the beans by one inch. Add some diced ham if available (optional). Add a few pinches of salt and bring to a boil cooking until just barely tender. Let cool. Ladle beans and liquid into freezer jars 2/3's full to allow for expansion when frozen. Label the container and date. These will keep frozen in a deep freezer for at least six months. To thaw and use, just remove from the freezer a few hours ahead of time. I like to rinse the beans before adding to soups. If I'm short on containers, I've used plastic quart size freezer bags ... just squeeze out the air before freezing.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The garden this week received four afternoons of rain showers. This is the type of deep watering that can really make a garden 'take off' ... a good thing. My parents are visiting for a few weeks. Dad grew up on a family farm and has been a great help clearing a path around one of my veggie gardens. Wild berry growth was pushing up against the deer/moose fence surround ... we can now walk around with ease. He is eighty years young and is used to hard work. This is what has kept him so young and in good shape for so many years.

With the garden growing leaps and bounds, we have begun harvesting (finally) some edible crops such as radish, lettuce, herbs, and using up the thinned out onions in salads. I have picked a few turnips and will use them along with the green tops in a nice rustic Italian soup for lunch tomorrow that includes greens cooked with smoky bacon, white beans, chicken broth, garlic, and topped with bread croutons.

Speaking of the deer/moose fence, a few moose have been spotted this week lumbering around our neighborhood. I'll never tire of seeing them ... of course, if they find a way inside the garden fence, then I'll be hopping mad!

Friday, June 05, 2009

The 'Mother' ...

of all mothers :)

Have you tried organic raw apple cider vinegar??? If not, run out and buy yourself a bottle. It's the best tasting stuff since ... since I don't know what! I bought this brand at the health food store. We like to slice fresh garden cucumbers ... or the English store bought ones .. sprinkle with a little course sea salt, a few pinches of sugar, and a few splashes of the vinegar. Tonight I made a salad dressing with this zesty ingredient.

The 'mother' is explained here and is what makes the vinegar so flavorful, special, nutritious, and delicious.

Salad Dressing:

1/2 C vinegar
1/3 C olive oil
1-2 tbls honey
pinch of sea salt to taste
1-1/2 tbls. dijon mustard

whisk and enjoy

Ex-chlorine-bleach-queen discovers old method proves efficient.

Being unable to use chlorine bleach products with our septic system, I have resorted to scrub some of our whites with my handy dandy wash board. It's very efficient and convenient as it sits next to my electric washer in a laundry tub sink. There's even a place for my handy-dandy bar of Fels-Naptha laundry treatment soap. This soap works great for removing stains and is part of the ingredients used when I make my home made laundry soap. If we should ever not be able to afford the electric bill in years to come, I can wash the clothes manually and hang them up to dry on my outside line;). Gosh, now I know why our forefathers only had two sets of clothes.