Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Fall is in the air!

I.LOVE.FALL!!  It is my favorite season! I have been busy, busy, busy!!   From August to October, I have been filling my pantry with canned goods, and filling up my freezer.  It has been a very abundant harvest at our house this year, and I couldn't be more pleased, and feel SO very blessed!  However, it has kept me on my toes, and busy, busy, busy!  This was definitely the year for fruit.  My grape vines, were overflowing with big beautiful clusters.  I was so excited!!

I was able to make around 28 quarts of grape juice! We are finally getting to a point, where our own trees and fruit bushes are finally producing and I am having so much fun trying out new recipes for our family.

I am thinking next year, we may want to invest in a juicer if our grapes keep producing, like they did this year. 

We also had some apples on our trees this year!  I was very excited about this as well.  Next year they will be four year old trees, so we are making progress, and I hope in the next few years, I will no longer have to buy apples from an outside source.  I did find a good deal on some apples at a local orchard and purchased enough for applesauce, apple butter, pies and juice.

I just wanted to share how, a family of 7 makes enough applesauce for canning.... In my opinion, the easy way.  I use my roaster!  As we are peeling and coring the apples, we place them in the roaster as we go.  I add 1-2 cups of water, and then start adding the apples.  When the roaster is full, I add my sugar/honey and seasonings and slow cook.  My favorite thing to do, is cook the apples all night. In the morning the house smells wonderful, and I'm ready to can my applesauce.  I run my jars through the dishwasher on the sanitize cycle right before I go to bed, and when I wake up, my applesauce is ready and my jars are sanitized.  And as an added bonus, everyone has applesauce for breakfast!  This year, I used two roasters at once.  That is a lot of applesauce!

I had such good success with my roaster, I decided to try the same method with my pumpkins.

Max loves to cut open the pumpkins and save the seeds.  This may be our new favorite variety of pumpkin.  The Cinderella pumpkin is one of the best pumpkins for baking.  We decided to buy one from a local farmer, and we were so thrilled with the taste, I may never bake with another variety of pumpkin again.

We washed the outside of the pumpkin, cut it open and cleaned out all the seeds (and saved them for next year)  I added no more then 1/4 cup of water to my roaster, and placed the pumpkin pieces inside, and placed the lid on top.  I cooked on 250 for 60-90 minutes.  When the pumpkin was soft, I turned off the roaster and let it cool.  The pumpkin was SO soft and the skin just peeled right off the flesh. I then pureed the pumpkin with my immersion blender and placed into freezer bags. From ONE pumpkin, we were able to get 22 cups!  I was very pleased!!  From here on out, I will be cooking all my pumpkins in the roaster!

This past week, was absolutely beautiful, and I have been enjoying the view.  This is what an early Midwest morning, in October looks like....

♥ Shannon

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


I have been so busy, I've had absolutely no time to blog about it!!  We are having a great summer!  The garden is taking up most of our time these days and producing lots of cucumbers, beans, carrots, red potatoes, onions and cabbage.  The tomatoes and peppers are slow, but surely coming.  It's been a cooler, wet summer, so it may take more time.  To make things easier,  I'm just going to share pictures of what our summer looks like.  So here goes:

Lake Michigan with Max, Menter and Elliott (my nephew)

We visited our friends dairy farm and even got a hay rack ride!

The BEST trip of the summer!! Springfield Illinois where we visited Abraham Lincoln's home, tomb, his boyhood home, and the state capital.  Molly also, was recognized and awarded at a dinner, as the State photo winner for Whiteside County and the Conservation Office.
Lincoln's New Salem

Lincoln's Gravesite and tomb

Lincoln Home in Springfield, Illinois

Illinois State Capital Building

At Home:


We harvested about 500 onions and they are set out to dry.  Max is here, planting 300 more bulbs.


This last weekend we attended a wedding for Brent's younger sister in Iowa.  We had a great time visiting family and friends.  The kids had a great time visiting with 17 of their 18 (soon to be 19) cousins!
It has been a lovely summer and we have a few more events before it's over!  Next week is the county fair!!
♥  Shannon

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Homemade Yogurt

I have been making my own yogurt for a few months now and we are loving it!  It's so easy, I wish I would have tried it sooner!  Like usual, I did some research and looked over many yogurt recipes.  There were crock pot, stove top, using a cooler, or oven methods.  I took bits and pieces of each recipe and did what would work best for me.  I also knew I wanted a thicker yogurt and vanilla flavor, as we use our yogurt mostly for smoothies.  So what I have come up with works wonderful and I'm so pleased with the results!  It's delicious and creamy!

What you need to get started:

1 gallon of milk (I started out using whole milk because that is what most recipes called for.  I then switched to 1% because I really wanted a lower fat yogurt, and it's works just as good)

1 cup of yogurt starter (you can use one cup of plain Dannon or Yoplait, or a cup from your own previous batch)

candy thermometer

4 or 5 quart glass canning jars and lids (I always sterilize mine in the dishwasher)

1.  Pour one gallon of milk into a large, heavy bottomed stockpot.  Heat the milk to 185-195 degrees.

2.  Place the pot in a sink filled with cold water and let the milk cool to 120-130 degrees.  (this happens fairly quick, maybe 10 minutes)  (as soon as you place the pot in the sink, turn on the oven to the lowest setting)

(while the milk is cooling, if you want to make vanilla yogurt,  you would now add 1/2 cup of sugar, and 1-2 tbsp. of vanilla.)  Otherwise, skip this step. (I have also tried using honey instead of sugar and it's tastes just as good, but the yogurt isn't as thick)

3. Once the milk is cooled, remove the pan from the sink, and stir one cup of yogurt starter into the cooled milk, using a whisk.  Stir well to ensure that the starter is thoroughly incorporated into the milk.

4.  (this is a step I added to make it thicker)  I now add 1/2 cup of powered milk and stir into the milk until it's dissolved.

5.  Ladle the milk into mason jars (wide mouth works better) and put the lids and bands on.

6.  Turn off the oven and turn on the oven light.  Place the jars in the oven with the light on for 3 hours. 

7.  Remove the jars and place in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight.

In the morning you will have a delicious, fresh, yogurt.  I love to make homemade granola (here), to top off the yogurt and some fresh or frozen fruit! 

Speaking of frozen fruit.... our local grocery store had a sale on fresh peaches this past week, so I stocked up!  My kids probably ate a few good pounds, and then I froze the rest.  It was more of a process then I imagined, but I know it will be worth it.

I know it saves me a lot of money, by taking the time to do these things, and I really do enjoy it!  I figured with the yogurt, I can buy the milk for $1.99 a gallon.  So each quart averages out to about .50 cents.  That definitely beats the $2.50 I was paying in the store.  It also gives me the satisfaction of knowing exactly what is in the food they are eating and it's healthy for them!

♥  Shannon  

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Fruits of our Labor

 "Build ye houses and dwell in them; and plant gardens and eat the fruit of them;" Jeremiah 29:5

This month marks two years since moving into our home in Illinois.  First of all, it flew by.  Two years of homeschool, "big time gardening", new friends, and new adventures for our family.  It's been amazing and we have really enjoyed living in this part of the Midwest.

We made it a priority to plant as much as we could that first summer.  From apple trees, to grapevines, to blueberry bushes, to even rhubarb and strawberry plants.  I wanted to share the progress.  Everything is doing amazing and producing fruit this year.  I am so excited to finally enjoy some of the "fruits of our labor":

Strawberry Plants
Last year, I lost a lot of my strawberries due to the drought, but this year a few came back and I was excited to see a few strawberries for the first time.  I planted a few more plants this year to fill in where I had lost some.
This is my first season to finally have some rhubarb.  We enjoyed some rhubarb crisp over the holiday weekend. 
Blueberry bushes
Raspberry Patch
I planted about 40 new raspberry plants (which were given to me by a neighbor and friend), and started a whole new patch around my picket fence.  They are all doing very well, and I think it will be a lovely place for a raspberry patch.
Cherry trees
Apple Orchard
We have 16 apple trees so far, and are hoping to add a few more this year.  They all are full of buds and I'm so excited, even if the harvest is small.  Last year we had half a dozen apples and this year, we should have a few dozen.  I know each year will produce even more, so I get excited with each passing year.
This grapevine has very special meaning to me.  It may not look the prettiest, but whenever I look at it I remember when I planted it 9 years ago in northern WI.  I remember the first time we had grapes and my "little" kids and their tiny hands, picking the grapes and eating the sweet fruit.  This grapevine has come with us wherever we moved.  It has been from Wisconsin, to Iowa, to Indiana, and now in Illinois, where it is finally again full of clusters!
This is one of my favorite and most decorative.  It is along the front walkway into our home and is just full of beautiful clusters.  One thing I have found to work very well is coffee grounds.  Every single morning we mix our coffee grounds with water and pour it all over and around  the grapevines.  We also do this with our blueberry bushes.  It has been a wonderful, natural fertilizer and the plants are so beautiful and lush!
This has been a good lesson for the kids, to see that it takes hard work, patience and diligence, but in the end, the reward is great!
♥  Shannon
(all photos were taken by my talented daughter Molly)


Monday, May 13, 2013

Mother's Day 2013

What can I say, it was a great day/weekend.  My mother and sister and kids came to visit.  My husband cooked and cleaned for everyone ALL weekend.  Friday night, our family performed for a Mother Daughter Banquet at a local church.  Saturday evening we had company for dinner followed by a Sunday, Mother's Day brunch at church.  I am realizing more and more, just how blessed I am, and I don't want to take it for granted ever. 

And lastly, it wouldn't be a Mother's Day without a dandelion bouquet...

♥  Shannon