This is an old recipe that belonged to my mother.  It is my Dad's favorite thing to eat during the holidays, so I thought I would share it with you all.  Happy New Year!
 
 
I put some celery ends in some bowls, on top of water-filled paper towels, a few days ago.  They are already growing!

Don't Throw It, Grow It!



 
 
This year, I grew sunflowers along one side of my garden, the theory being that birds will perch on them to hunt bugs down on the ground.  That, and I love them; I think they are just beautiful, and so huge, and I do really love to eat the seeds. 

I planted fifteen seeds, and all fifteen came up.  And they are hardy  little buggers.  When other plants were wilting from the Sahara like heat that we had this summer, the sunflowers were smiling.  When the sprinkler didn't quite hit them and it hadn't rained for weeks, the sunflowers still stood tall and bright.  When I didn't get out there for bug control (due to frantically planning a reunion at my farm, which is another story), the sunflowers didn't miss a beat, even though their leaves were getting eaten.  This is the first year I have planted sunflowers, and they were very quickly rising to the top of my "love" list of plants.

When the growing season was over and the flowers had gone to seed, I went out to remove the heads.  As an aside, sunflowers are covered with tiny little bristles, which apparently I am allergic to.  After slathering some Benadryl on my arms and waiting for the swelling to go down (yes I wore gloves and a long sleeve shirt, but the sleeves moved up as I was working!!), I went out to the porch to break all the seeds out of the flower heads.  I was able to gather about half of a paper bag full, and left them on the porch to dry.

My plan was to soak them in salt water and then roast them.  Once they were completely dry, I put them in a bucket and added some water, along with a good bit of salt.  I set them in the corner, and promptly forgot about them.  Once the reunion was over and I was cleaning up, I saw the bucket.  Oh.  Crud.

I really, REALLY didn't want to look in that bucket.  I had a lid just sitting on top of the bucket and hadn't closed it up all the way; didn't want them to rot.  Ha!  When I removed the lid, not only were they rotten but the layer on top all had sickly white sprouts coming out of the seeds.  And man, did they stink.  GAH!!  Ruined!  All of them!

I dumped the bucket outside, and came back in the house, extremely disappointed, and embarrassed, that I had messed up so badly.  Not only had I done all that work for nothing, but I had wasted the product of those beautiful flowers that took a whole season to grow.  Now I had to wait an entire year to repeat the process, and hopefully do it right. *sigh*

The bright spot in all of this is that I do learn as I go.  Next year, I will process a little bit at a time, all in one sitting, rather than setting them aside.  And learning is what this experience is all about, right?


 
 
My family and I were gathered around around the tree Christmas morning, bleary eyed and happy.  We were all decked out in our brand new jammies, courtesy of the Christmas Eve elf, the adults drinking very good coffee and the kids surrounded by stocking stuffers and Santa presents.  We began opening presents, one by one, when the power started flickering.  I shook my head, thinking it was funny that we were supposed to have a blizzard but it never showed up, and now my power decided to pretend as though there was twenty feet of snow on the ground.  There was no reason for my power to go out, but it did.  And I did not care.  What a fantastic feeling of calm, knowing that my family was just fine.  In control and  self-reliant, our woodstove for heat, our lanterns and candles for light, and our hand pump on the well for water means that no matter what, my family doesn't have to depend on anyone.  No outside forces that we cannot control are going to hold us hostage. 

I have watched so many people after some sort of natural disaster waiting on government or power companies, Red Cross or just anyone to help them, bring them food and water, set up places where they can get their children warm, and I just can't understand WHY people leave themselves so open to chaos.  Failing to plan is planning to fail, and if you have children, failing to have a way to keep them safe and warm is just something I can't understand.

My children are the reason we moved out here, they are the reason I have spent so much time researching and working to achieve independence and self-reliance.  I don't usually get on any kind of soap box here on this site, but honestly, I can't understand why anyone would leave themselves, and their families at the mercy of some larger entity that you cannot control.  Please, if you haven't already put a plan in place, use today to get started.  You will be amazed at the feeling of calm that comes with knowing your family is safe, no matter what.
 
 
I am grateful to have a partner in my endeavor to learn all I can about getting back to the land.  Her name is Sue, and this past September we stayed in Winfield, KS to attend the annual Kansas Native Plant Society's weekend of learning about our native prairie plants.  The society has events planned all over the state throughout the year, and each fall the KNPS has one huge weekend event.  It just so happened that this year the annual event was held not far from where I live. 

I have often wandered around my property with several books and my camera, trying to identify and catalog the many native plants and trees on my farm, wishing there was someone who could come out and wander with me, telling what this flower was, what that tree was, what they produce and how to use them.  On one of my endless internet research quests I came across http://www.kansasnativeplantsociety.org/ 
  
The people who lead these excursions, as well as most of the members, are extremely knowledgable about plants and identification.  Some were biologists, explaining how the plant is used by the insects and animals within the ecosystem, some were teachers by trade, so were great at putting things in terms others could understand, some knew all the Latin names and subspecies of each plant, and others were people like me who are just interested in the world around them (although everyone there knew more than I did, and I mean
EVERYONE!!!)

My goal in learning all of this is two-fold; I want to restore my land as much as possible for the benefit of my livestock as well as the local fauna, and I have been studying the medicinal uses of plants for many years.  My plan is to only plant things that are beneficial and serve either a food or a medicinal purpose.  I want to accomplish this by using as many native plants as possible, as my back acreage was farmed for many years and because of that the soil is off balance, leading to an imbalance of native plants and allowing non-beneficial
weeds to thrive, essentially eliminating any chance of growth for desirable native species.

Sue and I had a great time, drove all over the place, spent hours and hours in the middle of nowhere, and were shown places that I never even knew existed, and I've lived here my entire life!  

We stayed in Winfield for three days, visiting private ranches, the Slate Creek Wetlands in Oxford, KS, http://www.kdwpt.state.ks.us/news/KDWPT-Info/Locations/Wildlife-Areas/Region-4/Slate-Creek , and the Chaplin Nature Center in Ark City, KS, http://www.wichitaaudubon.org/cnc.html.  If you have never been to the Chaplin park, I suggest you check it out. If you think the Arkansas River is dirty and fairly unattractive, visit this state park and see the river as it is supposed to be, beautiful and clear.  And who knew there was a wetland preserve in Kansas?? I plan to go back to both in the spring to see what is blooming at that time of year.

One of my greatest loves is bees.  Not only do I think that they are adorable, but without them our food supply, and the food supply for the entire ecosystem, would suffer greatly.  People so often react negatively to bees, and attempt to kill them out of fear.  But without bees to cross pollinate trees and plants, humans would be in trouble.  The fact that we can also harvest honey from them, which never spoils and can treat a myriad of health problems, makes them invaluable.  I use honey inside and out for all the beings here at my farm, for all sorts of ailments.  If you aren't allergic to it, using honey on cuts and scrapes is the best way I have found to treat them.  Honey is also a natural antibiotic.  Putting up bee hives here at my farm is on my list for spring, so watching the underground hive activity really was a treat.

While at the Slate Creek Wetlands, I saw the most amazing thing; an underground colony.  I knelt right in the middle of it, watching the bees go about their business, leaving the hive to go find food, then coming back covered in pollen to take back to their underground home.  Fascinating!  I could have watched those bees all day.

And happily, while venturing off on our own, sure that we could make it to our destination, Sue and I got lost and ran across a candy store in Dexter, KS, that still makes their own candy!  We drove past the old store, and Sue asks me if we should turn around.  My response?  Of course!!  When would I ever get back, and how often do you run across a family owned candy store in the middle of nowhere??  The store even has glass partitions that allow customers to watch them make candy.  Still family owned, Henry's was opened over fifty years ago by
Tom Henry.  Ever had an O'Henry candy bar?  Mr. Henry invented it.  Sue and I bought a boatload of candy and were late getting to the nature center, but I am so glad we stopped.  

Henry's Candy Company, as is fitting for a store that makes you feel as though you have stepped back in time, does not have a website.  I did however find this site, http://getruralkansas.org/Dexter/57Explore/450.shtml, that gives a bit more information, as well as lots of information about small towns in Kansas.  The lesson?  Get out of the city and support these tiny businesses, before they are all gone!

Even if you don't live in Kansas, most states have native plant societies.  Look them up.  So often I find myself taking my surroundings for granted, and I forget to appreciate the beauty of my piece of the world.  This trip opened my eyes and taught me to not only to look, but to see.


 
 
We moved to this property in November of 2010, and it had never been used as a farm for animals.  The back land had been farmed for hay, and at one point (before the house was built), there were horses here, but when we bought the place it was not set up for homesteaders.  It did have a huge metal barn that was used in the past for the horses, but it was wide open on the inside with no stalls or gates.  The previous owners just used it for storage.  We had our work cut out for us to try and build, along and along, into self sufficiency.  I figure that will take another twenty years.  ;)

The first animals I purchased were day old chicks; 14 Buff Orpingtons and 13 Barred Plymouth Rocks.  When they arrived of course I had no coop, and it was freezing outside anyway.  We set up an area in the basement with a heat lamp, some wood chips, and some hastily screwed together pieces of wood to make a rectangle shaped enclosure.  Then we got to work figuring out what we wanted for the coop.  I still to this day have a terrible habit of buying the animals that are part of my plan BEFORE I have their enlcosure or fencing done, but I suppose that is another post for another day.

While we were trying to get the coop finished, the birds grew to the point that we could no longer keep them in the house.  We moved them out to the shop, into a big round bale holder that was out in one of the pastures when we moved in.  Worked well for the teenaged birds through January and February asl ong as we kept a couple of heat lamps there for them.  Toward the end of their stay in the shop the birds had all their feathers and could fly out of the trough.  As a result, the shop was COVERED in poo; we couldn't get the coop done fast enough.

These are photos of the finished coop.  We built it off of the ground so nothing could dig into it, and it is metal so snakes can't slither up into it.  The hatch has a lock on the inside, so the raccoons and possums can't raid the joint at night.  Hubby used two pieces of clear corrugated fiberglass in the roof to let light in, and made Dutch doors so that we could check on the birds without letting them out.  The floor is solid plywood, with some leftover linoleum from our old house on top of the plywood, so that it wouldn't rot.

The roost is made of a big crepe myrtle that had died, and left behind it's perfectly round, smooth branches and trunks.  I have a couple more single rung roosts in two of the corners, as well as a row of nesting boxes.

This coop has served us very well for the past two years.  The solar system works perfectly, and is the same system as the one from Harbor Freight that I posted a while ago.  Now I just need to get the broody house finished for the setting hens in the spring!
 
 
I received so many great gifts, it is hard to choose a favorite.  Cast iron skillets, huge stainless steel pot, scaffold ladder, an egg turner for my incubator, the ENTIRE history of Mother Earth News on cd, and this, a treasure trove of useful information...Rodale's Encyclopedia of Herbs.  We had a great Christmas, and we hope you all had a Merry Christmas too.
 
 
We have many people in our family who have food allergies, as well as seasonal, animal, and plant allergies.  Histamine release is the reaction you body has when you come into contact with something you are allergic to.  Medicines like Claritin and Benadryl are anti-histamines, which means that they assist with stopping your body's histamine release.  There are natural ways of mediating histamine release and the discomfort that it causes, and one of them is to eat a diet that is low in histamine.  I ran across the Low Histamine Chef website the other day, and I thought I would share it here.  The recipe that she posted today is for Fennel Apple Coleslaw.


The Skinny

In studies, fennel exhibits “inhibitory effects against acute and subacute inflammatory diseases and type IV allergic reactions and showed a central analgesic effect.” (Link for the study is on the LHC website)

Russian studies (the only ones I could access for free on the net) show that tarragon shows “highlight potential
anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective, and anti hyperglycemic effects”. (Link at LHC site)


Apple Fennel Coleslaw
Antihistamine & Anti inflammatory
Prep Time: 5 | Cook Time: 0 | Servings: 2 |
Difficulty: Easy


Ingredients:


3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh
tarragon
2-4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons apple juice
(fresh)
3 celery stalks, thinly sliced
2 small fennel bulbs, thinly
sliced
1 apple, julienned

If interested in directions on how to make this salad, please visit The Low Histamine Chef!



 
 
 
What an easy, beautiful way to fence the garden.  We have lots of willow trees on our property, which would be perfect for building the woven part of this fence.  This is not my fence, just an example.  I am always gathering photos for projects I want to do sometime in the future, they inspire me!
 
 
Start with a couple of pots, or stack some old tires.  Take out a couple of boxwoods and put berry bushes in their place.  Plant an apple tree and stick a sprig of mint in a corner and let it go wild.  Food prices are going to continue to go up, and nothing beats going outside and grabbing something to eat, something that YOU grew!  The sooner you get started, the sooner you get to experience food security.