October 15, 2016 Leave a comment

That’s how many days since the birth of Little Matt; and what an event that was!  We’re happy to have shared each and every one of those days with him.


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Ruthie 4.0

September 13, 2016 1 comment

29577479991_d632e83bdf_bCelebrating the 4th anniversary of the birth of our littlest lady Ruth Elizabeth.

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The periodic…..stand?

September 12, 2016 Leave a comment

He may be a chemistry nerd, and kinda camera shy, but he sure can build some solid, and good-looking furniture.  28968605973_bd05bbe3a4_bWe had an old decrepit cabinet that we were using in a corner of the kitchen to hold up the berkey water filter.  It started to disintegrate, so Ian and I spent an hour or so this past Saturday putting together a super sturdy new stand for the water filter, and a place for Taya to store cloths and towels.  Here’s Ian sheepishly showing off his handiwork.


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September 8, 2016 Leave a comment

As in…. 72 pints of salsa, 45 pints tomato soup, 24 quarts spaghetti sauce, and 3 pints ketchup. Wow. Taya and the children have really put in the hours processing tomatoes this year! We planted about 75 paste-type plants, and 20-25 “eating” plants – heirlooms, cherries, and a couple new varieties to try. We had a good year with tomatoes for sure, and I learned that the Lemon Boy variety is not for us.

The biggest thing I realize each and every year – Taya absolutely hates tomatoes, but she puts them up for us each year anyway. Hours spent processing and canning, for something you don’t even like. That, my friends is sacrificial.

Here is one day’s worth of processing, literally from dawn until dusk.

Step 1 – harvest: I picked about 2 bushels of tomatoes early in the morning. Starting at about dawn. This is the after about an hour of picking.28493484734_39c6f8e1fa_b

Step 2 – cut and process: Taya cored and cut all those tomatoes, then the children cranked the Roma food mill to extract the juice for sauce and soup. The “guts” get saved to make Taya’s delicious salsa. Add onions, peppers, spices and cook. MMMMM.29116354425_0b2e682f70_b

Step 3 – cook: Using our outside stove, the sauce cooks down for several hours to thicken, and meld the seasonings together. Looks delicious.28498987393_fb708a47e8_b

Step 4 – preserve: In order to enjoy the fresh tomatoes all winter long, we have to run the pressure canner for 90 minutes a batch. Notice how it’s dark outside now…. Literally dawn to dusk. But it’s so worth it.29042631771_fb10975d3c_b


Another year’s tomato harvest is pretty much over. 29097480700_796b6e5b73_b I’m pulling out most of the plants, as the determinate plants are pretty much done, and the indeterminates are starting to get hit with late blight. I’m trying the “vehicle method” for making sundried tomatoes with some of the stragglers, but the big rush of the tomato season is over. We’re definitely grateful for a bountiful harvest, and for giving us the skills and facilities to preserve it for the cold months.

Until next time…..

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6 years!!!

September 3, 2016 1 comment

It’s hard to believe we’ve only had Liberty with us for 6 short years.  Yesterday we celebrated the 6th anniversary of her birth.  Wow they get big fast…..

Happy Birthday Liberty Faith!



Until next time…..

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September 2, 2016 3 comments

29283774122_63ec90aea3_bI don’t think there’s enough milk and sugar to make this stuff drinkable!!!

A couple weeks ago, I stumbled across a YouTube video from David The Good called Totally Insane Compost Tea Recipe that got me to thinking.  I had read about this idea a few years ago in Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture, and kind of filed it away as something to try later.  Well, it’s later…..

We’ve had a big morning glory problem in our gardens this year, with all of the late rain and hot/humid conditions, and I needed a way to dispose of it.  I had been yanking it up, and hanging the carcasses on the fences to dry out, or chucking it into the driveway where it hopefully will not re-root.  Morning glory is one of those weeds I consider  noxious, even if the USDA doesn’t agree with me.  Once it gets started, it will take over quickly, and strangle plants and bushes.  If you pull it out, and don’t get every little teeny-tiny bit of the root, it comes back with a vengeance; kind of like horseradish.  And if you let it go to seed; well you just don’t want to do that.  It’s not something you can really “chop-and-drop” either, I’ve had plants re-root themselves and grow back after pulling it up.

Now unlike horseradish, I don’t know of too many redeeming qualities for morning glory.  I don’t think it’s really edible, the flowers are nice- but very short-lived, it does provide a living cover- but it tends to kill whatever it covers, the vines really aren’t good for doing anything with- unlike wild grapevines.  What on earth was it created for???  Well thank you David The Good for showing me a way to use morning glory, and reminding me about the benefits of compost tea.  Turns out The Creator actually had a purpose in mind for this noxious weed we call morning glory.

An unused, shady corner of our big garden had become an absolute massive jungle of morning glory.  Impossible to even walk thru.  I scared up a barrel, and started working on cleaning up this corner.29357749216_e56f02e924_z  Why the barrel?  Well, it’s one of the important parts of the compost tea; the other 2 parts – water, and weeds.  I spent several mornings pulling morning glory vines, and stuffing them down into the barrel.  I put a lid on the barrel to keep the mosquitoes out.  After filling the barrel, and packing it down, I had nearly 100 pounds of morning glory vines in a 40 gallon barrel!  I said we had a morning glory problem.  I filled the barrel up to overflowing with water, and let it work for a few days.  Oh, and if you watch the video all the way to the end, there’s that secret ingredient that I added as well.

After about a week in the heat,  I ended up with the WORST smelling liquid I’ve ever run across.  I was a little afraid to dip it out, but I dunked a half-bucket out, watered it down a bit, and poured it on some of the fall cauliflower, broccoli and brussel sprout seedlings.  The smell was so strong, I half expected the plants to either wilt over, or grow 2 feet in an instant; kinda like in a cartoon.  That didn’t happen, but within a week’s time, those puny little seedlings definitely put on some growth.  I’ve since dosed the okra plants, and seen some noticeable results.  I missed a couple plants, and they aren’t putting out the okra pods yet, like their neighbors are starting to.

Another benefit of the Insane Compost Tea – since the weeds are rotting away in the water, I feel fairly safe in using the rotted remains of the vines as a mulch (mulchilizer).  I would never consider doing this with even dried up morning glory vines.  I would be afraid of one of them taking root again.  But the remains of these vines could not possibly be viable – I hope.  I just planted a fall crop of peas and snow peas today, maybe I’ll side dress the seedlings with some morning-glory-vine-mulchilizer.

Anyway – hopefully this will inspire some folks to try the Insane Compost Tea, and turn an otherwise useless, noxious weed into valuable fertility for the garden, and delicious, nutritious home-grown produce.

Until next time…..

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Send in the clones

March 17, 2016 1 comment


Grape juice, grape jelly, grape wine, grape wine vinegar.  We use grapes in so many ways, and we never seem to have enough.  So back in the early part of February this year I decided to try my hand at cloning our grape vines.   After a little light reading and a trip to the feed store, I was ready.  Early to mid February is the best time around here to prune grape vines.  It’s past the cold part of the year, so any diseases or pests are dead; and it’s before it starts really warming up, so the sap is still down and the vines won’t bleed.24464289084_03b883d53c_b


  • Pruners- make sure they’re sharp
  • A sharp knife
  • A container of bleach water (a half-capful in a pint jar is plenty strong)
  • Rooting compound powder
  • A bucket of wet sand
  • A plastic grocery bag


Prune your vines like you normally would, and choose your best looking vines to clone.  You want the section closest to the main stem – the fatter part, and make sure they’re about the diameter of your pinky finger or bigger.  If you’ve ever pruned grape vines before you know the huge pile of cuttings you end up with.  You can be picky; make sure there are no diseased or damaged sections.

24976845772_a659f43e14_bCut them down to size – you need 3 or more “nodes” – the bumpy part of the grape vine – on each cutting.  Leave ½ to 1 inch below the bottom node (yes it matters top and bottom).  Then take your sharp knife and scrape just the outer layer of bark off the vine to expose the green part underneath.  Immediately dip this section into your bleach water solution, and then into your rooting powder.  Roll it around and completely coat that green part, and the bottom node too.  The rooting compound has a hormone in it, derived from willow trees t25001317381_f20d359bdb_bhat stimulate root growth in your plant.  You want to coat that bottom end really well.  After you’ve got it coated, stick it down into your bucket of wet sand.  I ended up with about 15 cuttings in each of my buckets of sand.  You can do as many as will fit, or you can even do individual pots if you don’t want to have to re-pot them later; just make sure you cover each one up to the second node with sand.  Then you have to cover the container up.  You need something to keep the humidity extremely high during the rooting process.  I use plastic grocery bags; they’re big enough to go around the tops of the buckets, and stay on nicely.  24727877059_56351b203e_bOnce your container is covered, put it in a warm area, out of direct sunlight.  It doesn’t have to be a dark room, but it can’t be in the sunlight, or you will bake your grapevines.  I stuck them in the shower, since a couple of the buckets had cracks and leaked; kind of a pain to drag them out every time to take a shower, but it kept the floor dry.  Check them every week or so to make sure that the sand is still wet.  You don’t want them to be under water, but you don’t want them to dry out at all.  It’s critical to keep a high humidity level at this stage.25465741232_87fbb6f6a1_b

After about 4-5 weeks, you should begin to notice the buds swelling, and leaves starting to form at one or more of the nodes of the cutting.  You can take the cover off at this stage, but be careful to keep them hydrated.  It’s best to water them every day at this stage; because there aren’t any real roots to speak of yet, and the plant can dry out very quickly thru those new leaves.  If you notice the leaves starting to droop, go ahead and put the vine sections back under their plastic bag tent.

After about another month or so, I should begin to see new growth on my cuttings, and the roots should be starting to form too.  I’ve re-potted mine before this happens, as I don’t want to damage the new baby roots.  25568208300_bc75abdb60_b  I put them in a potting mix with some added vermiculite to help keep things hydrated, and allow the roots room to form.  I’m keeping a close eye on the leaves for signs of wilting, which will tell me that they are getting dehydrated, and I need to tent them to increase their humidity level.  In late May, I hope to be able to plant the started cuttings in the ground.

Hopefully by next summer, we’ll be harvesting some grapes off these cloned vines.  Even if things go extremely well this year, and these start to try and produce fruit, we need to pinch off any fruit that forms, so the plant can put energy into roots.  Next year should be ok for a limited amount of fruit, and after that we should be absolutely swimming in grapes.  I made 64 cuttings, and 61 of them seem to have taken.  So I now have 61 little grape starts with lots of new leaves on them, waiting to take root.  Kind of exciting watching God’s creation spring to new life this time of year.


Until next time…..

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