Monday, April 28, 2014

Canning Day Checklist ~ Six Ways to Plan and Prepare

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and 
I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” 
~ Abraham Lincoln

Do you love to plan? Do you love a list?  I will admit that both bring me pleasure and so I invite you to join me in our canning preparations! Here are six things you "can" do for the upcoming food preservation season to make everything go more smoothly and efficiently:

1. Make sure you have enough canning jars, rings and fresh lids for the amount of canning you hope to do this year. If in doubt on what size jars to purchase, always stick with wide mouth because they are more versatile . You can also find canning jars for pennies at yard sales and flea markets. Check your local ads for people trying to get rid of their excess. If you plan on fermenting this year, stock up on my favorite choice for the job, Fido jars.

2. It is also helpful to arrange your jars in size order and label boxes accordingly for canning day convenience. When doing so, make sure there are no nicks and/or cracks in your jars (remove these for a different purpose such as a vase, pencil caddy, etc., and discard the very damaged ones). 

3. Make sure you have all the proper canning supplies (and in good condition). I had to replace our canning rack recently because it was so rusty (don't leave your rack inside your canner and forget about it or it will rust *sigh*). Visit this post for all the basic gadgets that are helpful to have.

4. Stock up on vinegar, canning salt (I use fine sea salt) sugar (and/or honey) and pectin (if you will be jam making). The worst thing is to have all your produce ready to preserve to find out that you need to go to the grocery store! 

5. Have some recipes ready. For example, if you planted rows of beets, have some beet related recipes handy and so forth. You can record your goals in our Food Preservation Planner Printable.

6. Take inventory of what you have in your pantry from last year and try to use that up in the next few months to clear shelf space. Visit this post  for more details.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Most Creative, Most Important Job on Earth

“A true home should be the container for reviving real hospitality, true culture and conviviality, real fun, solid comfort, and above all, real civilization. And the most creative thing that anybody can do in this world is to make a real home. Indeed, the homemaker is as important as the house, and being a “housewife” is the most creative, most important job on Earth.”

~ John Seymour (aka "Father of Self-Sufficiency")
"The wise woman builds her house,
But the foolish pulls it down with her hands."
~ Proverbs 14:1

Visit here for more encouragement and inspiration.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Food Preservation Planner ~ Free Printable

"Alexandra often said that if her mother were cast upon a desert island, she would thank God for her deliverance, make a garden, and find something to preserve. Preserving was almost a mania with Mrs. Bergson. Stout as she was, she roamed the scrubby banks of Norway Creek looking for fox grapes and goose plums, like a wild creature in search of prey. She made a yellow jam of the insipid ground cherries that grew on the prairie, flavoring it with lemon peel; and she made a sticky dark conserve of garden tomatoes... When there was nothing to preserve, she began to pickle."

~ Willa Cather, O'Pioneers

Though I have never read the book (and therefore am not endorsing it), the moment I saw this quote, I was smitten. I am "Mrs. Bergson". While my husband enjoys pouring over seed packets and catalogs in early spring, I begin my gardening journey by "digging" through food preservation cookbooks and archived recipes. 

What will we do with all the produce that is being planted? I contemplate recipes I have seen for sweet and colorful jams, salty sour pickles and other useful foods to stock our pantry. I document the recipes I want to try so they aren't forgotten in the hustle and bustle of it all.

Make Medicine




Bell peppers

We also like to make sure we have prepared certain foods for the freezer and that some foods get dehydrated. A portion of the herbs may be made into medicines or dried for teas. These goals are also recorded.

I don't like being in the kitchen at the last minute trying to come up with preservation ideas while those buckets of veggies are staring at me. It is very intimidating :) And so, this "food preservation planner" was born (sample of chart shown above).

The planner is broken up into three sections: fruits, herbs and vegetables. The most common produce have already been entered in our chart but there are also blank boxes that you can fill in with the garden goods that I didn't include. This is intended for both the spring and autumn harvests.

To give you an idea, in the bell pepper section, where it says "dry", I will write in "diced" because that is how I like to prepare part of our surplus. In the "freeze" section, I will pencil in "blanched strips" because I like to have these handy for pizza toppings and fajitas. In the "can" section, I will enter in "sweet & sour peppers". If applicable, I will include the web-source or cookbook page number for the recipes I hope to utilize. The fermented and medicine section for bell peppers would be left blank since I have no plans for them in those categories.

What about you? Are you a preservation planner or are you a seed packet gal? Perhaps you are both? I would love to share our printable with you if you are interested. Simply download from this link HERE.  You will find more pretty and practical printable projects here.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Spring Cleaning with Children ~ Lessons in Home Education

"Another important item in systematic economy is, the apportioning of regular employment to the various members of a family. If a housekeeper can secure the cooperation of all her family, she will find that "many hands make light work." There is no greater mistake than in bringing up children to feel that they must be taken care of, and waited on by others, without any corresponding obligations on their part. The extent to which young children can be made useful in a family would seem surprising to those who have never seen a systematic and regular plan for utilizing their services."

~ Beecher, Catharine & Harriet Beecher Stowe, American Woman's Home, 1869

While magazines and blogs are inspiration to some women to clean those cobwebs, it takes a different kind of motivation for children. Here are some ways to involve them in spring cleaning (and in the name of home education):

  • If you have older children, put them in charge of creating some all-natural cleaners (home economics, science). They can measure out the safe ingredients for these recipes (math) and prepare the cleaning solutions for you (chemistry). Be sure to discuss the safety tips mentioned at the last page of the printable and share the reasons for avoiding harsh chemicals in cleaning.
  • The day before, get out the art supplies and have your children color and cut out our cleaning labels to place on your homemade cleaners. Or, they can create their own labels (arts and crafts).
  • Place one of your mate-less socks on the hand of your energetic toddler. You may want to dampen it first with a spray of all-natural furniture polish. Ask them to wipe the surfaces they can reach for you (such as baseboards, lower shelves, etc). If anything it will keep them busy while you clean (pre-school).
  • Ask your older children to choose one item each week to do from the "Monthly Work Section" or "Spring Cleaning" Checklists. It is handy to print them out and have children record the date each time they complete a task so they can track what hasn't been done in awhile (home economics). This will also encourage them to complete the list when they see their progress.
  • You may also be interested in organizing the children's room at this time. Here are some printable labels from our sister site (menu link below). Just have your children place like-items in plastic storage containers. When sorted, label each box and store away neatly (home economics, basic skills).

Friday, April 11, 2014

Peter Rabbit's Bookmarks ~ Fun Friday! ~ Free Printable

"Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were— Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter."
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

Once upon a time, there were also sweet stories for children. And those same stories helped to inspire sweet children.

Looking on the bookshelves today, I wonder what has happened? Why pour into that tender soul, something that isn't pure, lovely and good?

And so I hope these little bookmarks will remind us of the sweet moments of childhood. And that we will have a desire to instill them in the lives of our little ones. That they may rest their heads upon their pillows at night and have sweet dreams. 

Simply download your free copy from HERE. They are best printed on a thicker card-stock and make a lovely gift when paired with a beautiful book or these printable projects.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Clothesline Collection of Wash Day Inspiration

The Washing Line by Helen Allingham

"When that's all done," said Ma, "I want a clothes-line."
~ Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House on the Prairie

Together by Daniel F. Gerhartz

“Oh no, I never do much ironing, except the outside clothes. We must not iron out the fresh air and sunshine, you know. It is much more healthful not to, the doctors say.” Seriously, there is something very refreshing about sheets and pillow slips just fresh from the line, after being washed and dried in the sun and air. Just try them that way and see if your sleep is not sweeter. ” 
~ Laura Ingalls Wilder

Wash Day by William Merritt Chase

Spring is in the air which means fresh breezes followed by a season of warm summer winds. It brings to mind our cozy little clothesline. Do you have one in your yard? A place to dry all your linens and garments? I have become a romantic when it comes to them. They have come to symbolize peace and tranquility in my daily routine. Here are some other reasons that I love our line:

"Sunshine and fresh air are valuable for the purposes of bleaching and purifying."

  • Less wear and tear on your clothing than from using a dryer.
  • Clothing doesn't shrink on the clothesline (but they can in a dryer). 
  • Extra exercise as you squat, pick up and stretch your hands to the line to hang out laundry.

"Truly the light is sweet,
And it is pleasant for the eyes to behold the sun…"
~Ecclesiastes 11:7

  • Gives you that daily dose of vitamin D that we mothers sometimes lack because we hibernate inside our cozy homes. Fifteen minutes of time in the sun without sunscreen is recommended by the Nat'l Institution of Health. This is especially important for older women because it gets harder for your body to produce vitamin D as you age. This time in the sun will benefit in the following areas including an overactive immune system, heart disease, osteoporosis, breast, colon cancers, helps fight insomnia and depression. Vitamin D from the sun also aids your body to absorb calcium and utilize magnesium which affects many areas of the human body (source).
"I think you might dispense with half your doctors if you would only consult Dr. Sun more."
~Henry Ward Beecher

  • $aves money! 
  • A clothesline is energy efficient.
  • It is very therapeutic! Read the reasons here.

If you find yourself too busy and overwhelmed to maintain a full-time clothesline,  why not attempt to try your towels and sheets. These only take a few minutes to hang because of their size but will still provide you with some of the benefits which we described. You may find yourself longing for more time with that cozy little line!

Hanging the Washing by Helen Allingham

"There is always plenty of washing to do;
Beds to be made, and garments too;
Meals to be got, and clothes to mend,
And just for diversion (?) the babies to tend.
No matter how well these duties are done, 
They come again, with to-morrow's sun;
A never ending circle it swings,
Happy the woman who works as she sings."
~ Excerpt from The Ohio Farmer's Home Guide Book, 1888

I hope you have enjoyed this article and invite you to visit here for more Wash Day Inspiration!

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 HomemakersThe Homesteader HopWise Woman Link UpHomestead Blog Hop Wow Us Wednesdays,  Coffee and ConversationHomemaking ThursdaysHome Sweet HomeOur Simple HomesteadAwesome Life Friday Link Up 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).

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Make a Clothespin Apron ~ A Simple Sewing Project

This clothespin apron could also be used as an impromptu kitchen apron or for a child beginning to explore the culinary world. The best part is that is takes minutes to make, uses only simple sewing skills and can be prepared with fun fabrics or vintage linens from your stash.

Simple Supplies:
  • large napkin, bandanna or other squarish-linen (our napkin measured 18 by 18 inches)
  • handkerchief or other finished fabric such as a place-mat (measuring smaller than the main piece so that it can be your "pocket or pouch")
  • long ribbon to use as a tie for waistband
The first step is to iron out your pieces and arrange them attractively to resemble an apron. Your handkerchief (or other scrap) should be a bit smaller than your main piece. Your ribbon should be long enough to tie around your waist or the recipient (should it be a gift).

The second step is to make a fold along the top of your napkin (about an inch or so) and iron down. Make sure you have enough room for your ribbon tie to be placed under your fold as this is your waistband. Once everything fits properly, sew your fold down at the bottom so that you have a long pocket across the top (see photo below) to string your ribbon through (more on that later).

Next, arrange your handkerchief (or fabric scrap) so it is centered on your napkin and pin down the sides and bottom. Make sure to leave the top part open as this is your pocket. My hankie was a bit too long so I folded it under prior to pinning it so that it would fit on my napkin.

A word of caution: Make sure your "pocket" fabric is sturdy. A vintage piece is lovely but if you will be using it for your clothesline, your clothespins will eventually break through if the fabric is too delicate.

You are now ready to sew around the three sides that you pinned for your pocket to keep it in place. We gave ours a 1/4 inch seam around.

You may want a shallower pocket so that you aren't bending your hand down so far to reach your pins. I ended up sewing an extra seam higher up because of this.

The final step is to prepare your waistband. Simply pull your ribbon through the top area that you created earlier.

To make it easy, attach a safety pin to the end of your ribbon, push it though, gather your fabric through it and continue to push through until you reach the end.

Alas, your project is complete! Now you must decide what it will be for... We chose to use ours for clothespins so that they are easily within reach when hanging on our line.

"The clothes may dance upon the line,
And flutter to and fro:
My faithful clothes-pins hold them fast,
And will not let them go."
~ Excerpt from "My Clothes-Pins" Poem by Marian Douglas, 1875

Should you desire more wash day inspiration, I invite you to peruse the following:

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