All posts by Donna Spudis

Homeschooling mother of ten. Wife of one husband. Christian.

Watch Portions

Just a reminder to watch amounts when you are doing the laundry, cleaning, showering, or doing the dishes. What do I mean? If you are showering just to cool off, time your shower and use a small amount of bar soap. If you are doing dishes and you had a salad instead of fried fish, put less dish soap on the sponge to clean the dishes. When you do the wash and it is only a small load, use less than the suggested portion of laundry soap.

Recently the maker of our fabric softener enlarged their cap. Why? I do not know. When you are accustomed to filling the cap halfway, you are likely to continue filling the cap halfway. Since the cap is larger, you will use more fabric softener. Be alert!

Donna Spudis, August 1, 2015

Bountiful Berries in July

Officially canning season begins on August 15, but there is much to harvest right now. Strawberries are finished unless they are everbearing, but the harvest continues.  Cherries, black raspberries, red raspberries are being harvested right now. Blackberries and blueberries are ripening as well.

When picking berries always use a hard container such as a bowl or plastic container. Summer is a great time to reuse and recycle. When you go berry picking use an clean, used yogurt container or cottage cheese container. Give the little ones one of these free containers and hold the bucket yourself. You can take a clean bucket and pour the smaller containers into the larger container until you have enough.

If a friend offers you free food for the picking, you should take advantage of their offer within 24 hours. Your friend is trying to preserve the bounty God has provided and share the blessing. If a person has a bounty of strawberries for instance and has a day when she cannot get out to the patch and pick, she calls you to pick. If you do not get there that same day, some of the berries will rot and be wasted. Did you know that?

If you go to a friend’s house to pick, you will be getting the freshest produce that you did not have to plant or weed around. You didn’t have to feed the plants or water them. At times pruning is involved to produce that food, and you did not have to do that. Please, if someone offers for you to come pick some food, drop everything and go. Try to process the food or eat it that day. Life is busy. If you pick berries and you do not have time to process them that day, you can wash them, put them in the freezer bags and  into the freezer. If you lived elsewhere in the world, you would go because you would appreciate what a blessing free, usually organic, food is to you and your family. Americans tend to take food for granted, but not us we appreciate every blessing and delve into every good opportunity!

June is the Time to Organize Winter Clothing!

Is not it beautiful outside?  After 10 weeks of ice and snow, the beautiful greens of the plants and trees and the blues of the sky are such a balm to the eyes.  Before we forget about the harsh winter we endured, now is the time to wash and inspect all that winter wear.  Wash all the snow pants, coats, winter underwear, wool socks, and winter headwear. Inspect the items after washing them. Hanging clothing on the wash line is a great way to inspect clothing and the sunshine used to dry your clothes is free! Throw away clothing that is ruined. Donate items that fit no one in the house any more. Mend any item that is ripped or needs a new zipper. Make a list of potential needs, such as snow pants for the seven year old because his older brother ruined the last pair which should have been passed down.

Pack everything away in boxes or airtight bins. Put the boxes and bins in the attic or closet and forget about them. When winter returns in a few short months, everything will be clean and neat. You will have some idea what you need for this winter because of your list. With everything packed away, you can forget about winter clothes and be guilt free.  If you wait it may be so hot you will not want to touch those insulating clothes. Get those winter clothes organized now!!

Perennial Beds Attended in the Autumn

While you have been preserving the bountiful harvest, you may have been neglecting your perennial beds and strawberry plants which should get some attention before the frost comes. Once the killing frost comes, strawberry plants can no longer be weeded. The strawberry plants tend to get ripped out with the weeds once they have gone dormant because their roots are not deep.

Be certain you have removed the dried flower stalks from your day lilies.  If you have flags or irises, you can cut them down to about three inches from the ground. Rake your flower beds to clean up any debris.

If you have a compost pile with composted material in it yet, fall is the time to spread the remainder of the pile on your garden and flower beds. Preparation is one of the keys to success in life. Autumn is the time to prepare the garden for next year. Pull all the weeds. Pull the dead plants. Be careful to leave perennials untouched. Turn the soil in your gardens and flower beds. If you have room, you can make a compost pile by combining all the weeds, dead plants, leaves and even vegetable scraps from the kitchen.  Pile all those things together, water it thoroughly, and let it decompose over the winter. If you do not have much room in your yard, you can compost fallen leaves in a garbage bag. Have fun enjoying the outdoors. Breathe in the fresh air and count your blessings.

Loading the Larder

Anyone who is trying to make do should be loading their larder right now. What is a larder? A larder is another name for a pantry closet or a place where food is kept.
Frost is right around the corner, then all this bountiful harvest will be gone. Visit your local growers, dust off the dehydrator and get to preserving food for the winter.

Proverbs 6:6-8 reads “Go to the ant , you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, Which having no captain, Overseer or ruler, Provides her supplies in the summer, And gathers her food in the harvest.”

Canning, freezing, and drying are the three main ways to preserve food for the winter. Grab a book on preserving from the local library and start putting away food for the winter.  Applesauce is fairly easy to make, you could start with it.
Tomatoes, peppers, garlic, onions and vinegar can be combined to make a delicious concoction called salsa. Salsa not only helps feed your family inexpensively through the winter, if it tastes good, you can give it as gifts to cut down your Christmas budget. Salsa is great to serve at parties. Salsa needs to be canned not dried but it is an awesome way to use the abundance of the harvest to save much money. Make salsa as a family and save money as well as draw the family closer together.

Red raspberries are ripening for the second picking. Apples and pears are ripening as well. Canning some applesauce or pears is a great way to preserve this year’s bountiful harvest for enjoyment this winter. To preserve berries for the winter: pick them, rinse them in cold water, put them in a freezer bag, remove excess air, and freeze. You never know what you can do unless you try! Load up the larder now so you can gaze at those pretty jars when the snow is falling and begin to make do!

Courageous Canning

Canning is hard work! Canning can be monotonous, hot, and exhausting. Because I am writing this blog, I measured the temperature above the stove as we were canning. Guess how hot it gets while you are canning? The temperature was over 120 degrees Fahrenheit! On Monday we canned for over 12 hours. It was nine o’clock in the evening when we turned off the canner. If you have a person who cans in the family, please honor them in some way the next time you are enjoying the fruits of his or her labor.

There is no way around it; canning is hard work.  The most obvious benefit to canning is enjoying the sight of the pretty jars nicely arranged in your cabinet or on your shelf. There is such a feeling of accomplishment seeing those jars neatly displayed. Another reason to can the bountiful harvest is the food is already paid for. I have a friend who doesn’t can her own sauce. She buys a sauce with three cheeses, in the space of one month in the fall the price of her sauce doubled. How can we afford that?

When I can, I do not add any dyes or high fructose corn syrup. I believe my tomato sauce is more healthful than what you can buy in the store. No dyes means easier clean-up.

Here is a food preservation tip. Do your legs get tired while you are in the kitchen preserving the harvest? One way to help alleviate aching legs is to have about three pairs of shoes in the kitchen all with different size heels. Every hour or so change shoes so that your legs get a different work-out. For one hour wear flats. The next hour try a pair of sneakers. For the third hour put on a pair of comfortable dress shoes. Changing shoes can help you get your canning finished with less stress on your legs and your legs may even get a workout. Preserving the harvest will be a little more comfortable. After all there is not much one can do about the heat!!!

Visit Your Local Growers

If you are trying to make do, summer/fall is an important time of year. Now is the time to visit your local growers, including farmer’s markets, orchards and pick-your-own places. Proverbs 10:5 reads “He who gathers in summer is  a wise son; He who sleeps in harvest is a son who causes shame.” Tomatoes, zucchini, peaches, apples, beans and many other fruits and vegetables are ripening.

If you want to save money, visit your local growers, and learn how to preserve the bountiful harvest that is available now, but soon will be gone. We enjoy dried apples all winter long. Canned tomato sauce is a welcome addition to many wintertime meals including lasagna and spaghetti. Frozen corn is one of our favorite vegetables to enjoy when the snow is flying. If you can or dry your food it takes no additional energy to keep it preserved. Freezing food means keeping a freezer running all winter but is often easier to do.

A simple way to preserve spices from the garden is to freeze them in ice cube trays. For instance you pick the basil and rinse the leaves with cold water. Place an empty ice cube tray on the table and cut the leaves up with a scissors above the tray and allowing the small pieces to fall into the tray. When you have cut up all the leaves or the tray is full, cover the pieces with water and freeze it. Dispose of the stems. When the cubes are frozen solid, remove them from the tray and place them in a marked bag. Immediately replace them in the freezer. In the winter when you need the basil, take the one or two cubes out of the bag and place them into your soup or sauce.

Harvest is a very important time for people that are trying to make do.  Be diligent.  Preserve as much fruits and vegetables as your family needs to make it through the winter and a little extra to help others or for gifts.

Gardening in August

Are you getting the most out of your summer? Are you balancing enjoying the outdoors with harvesting and preserving the bountiful fruits and vegetables of the season?
In our garden the cucumbers are coming in faster than we can eat or preserve them. Now is the time to bless people who do not have gardens or who do not have the same vegetables as you,  with some of your extra produce.
Our first sowing of beans did not come up. Our second sowing is blossoming now so we will have beans soon. Canning or freezing beans is a great way to have garden grown produce when the ground is frozen.
Peaches are ripe now and the peach season is very short in our area. Get some peaches. Can peaches to enjoy on your oatmeal when the snow is falling. Peach jam is what you make when you cut up your blanched peaches for canning and they do not look so nice. Our favorite jam using peaches is blushing peach jam which is made from peaches and raspberries. Use your slightly disfigured peaches to make jam and then nothing is wasted.
Blackberries are ending. Pick the blackberries. Rinse them with water and put them in the freezer. You can make blackberry jelly or jam in the fall or winter when it is cold.
Apples and tomatoes will be ripening soon so we can make tomato sauce and dried apples!
Now is the time to plant fall crops. A second crop of peas, spinach, and plants from the cabbage family can be planted now for a fall crop. Soon the snow may be flying and the ground may be frozen so plant and harvest now.

Gardening in July

Gardening in July is a little challenging because of the weather. In order to make the most of your garden in mid-summer, you need to be in your garden every day. It is hot, so you need to get up early to check your garden. We are picking cherries so it is very important to be outside as early as possible, otherwise the birds will devour all our cherries.

In our garden we are picking the last of the peas and the spinach.  The cucumbers are blossoming and may be ripe already in your garden.  Onions are growing and can be picked for immediate use.  Onions should be harvested when the stems start to bend over, so they should not be ready yet.  Keep weeding so your plants have room to reach their full potential!

Another reason to be in your garden every day is to keep an eye out for anything that is attacking your garden.  July is the time for Japanese beetles to be hatching.  Potato beetles are a potential threat to potato plants and related plants.  Sometimes ground hogs try to invade your garden.  You will experience the least amount of loss from pests if you are watching for them daily.  Luke 21:34 reads “Be on your guard, so that your minds are not dulled…”  Just like we have to be on our guard to protect our minds, we have to be on our guard to protect our gardens.

Black raspberries or as they refer to them locally, black caps, are ripe in July.  Black raspberries grow wild so if you do not have any in your garden, you may be able to pick them in a nearby hedgerow.   Picking black raspberries in July is a great way to save money.  You can freeze the berries after rinsing them, to eat in the winter.  Black raspberries make great pie filling.  You can also cook down the  raspberries to make juice which you use to make jelly.  Black raspberry jelly is one of our favorite jellies.

Red raspberries are also ripening.  Red raspberries can be made into delicious jelly as well.   They make great muffins too.  Red raspberries do not usually grow wild.

Gardening in July can be challenging with the heat and also the many items that need to harvested.  To motivate yourself, think of how much it will mean to you and your family to have the food you grew, safely packaged in the freezer or canned in jars down in the cellar this winter.  The winter of 2013-2014 was extremely cold and heating bills may have been very high.   When you can food or freeze it, you will have quality, nutritious food safely stored in your home.   Proverbs 19:15 reads “Laziness casts one into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger.”  Gardening in July is challenging because of the heat and the many  vegetables ripening at the same time, but keep in mind the cold winter that may be in store for us and keep motivated to harvest all you are able.

Planting in Early Spring

     If you want to reap a harvest, you have to sow.  Now is the time to start planting your garden if you want to make the most of the growing season.

      You can start your garden as soon as the soil is tillable.   In zone 5 where we live, the soil has just warmed enough to be planted.  At this time of the year, you can plant peas, spinach, onions, and potatoes.  Pea seeds once planted can withstand temperatures down to 10 degrees Fahrenheit, so plant them early and know that they will sprout as soon as they are able.  Peas need to be planted near a fence so they can climb the fence as they grow.  Plant pea seeds about 4 inches apart in a row about two inches deep.

      Most spinach seed packets say to sow the seeds in a row wait for them to come up and then thin them.  In other words you plant seeds too close together, wait for them to come up and then pull out most of the plants. 

    To me this practice seems like a waste.  In our garden we turn the soil with a digging fork until it is loose. We stand on boards that we have in the garden so that we are tilling the soil in which we are going to plant.  At this time we add compost to the soil if we have any and turn the soil again.  We rake the soil nice and flat.  Raking breaks up the big clods of earth as well.  All the time we are doing this process we pick out the rocks and put them in a bucket.  We cut paper grocery bags in half.  The paper bags are laid on top of the soil.  We put rocks on the edges of the paper to hold the paper down.  Now we are ready to plant.

     After that is finished, we take a sharp object like a metal pipe and poke throught the paper and into the ground.  We put a seed or two into the hole.  Cover the seed with dirt.  We make our holes in the paper about eight inches apart for the spinach seeds.

     Onions are planted as sets not seeds in the north especially.  Prepare the soil. Rake it flat.  Push the one onion set at a time into the soil about four inches apart.  So if your space is twelve inches wide, you can plant two rows of onions in that space.  If you stagger the onions, you can fit more onions in less space plus, there will be less room for weeds to grow.

     To plant potatoes, prepare the soil by turning it.  Potatoes require much nutrients in the soil so add a large amount of compost.  Turn the soil again.  Take a shovel and dig trenches on either side of the potato bed you are going to create.  Place the soil from the trench between the treches.  Rake the long pile of soil you created so the top is flat about ten inches or so wide.

     Dig a hole in which to place your seed potatoe, but do not cover it.  Builders paper works best for the next step.  Roll out the builder’s paper on the top of the bed.  Secure it with just two rocks at the end.  Now cut a hole in the paper over the hole in the soil where the seed potatoe is located.  Then cover the seed potato.  Again if you stagger the potaoes in a zig-zag pattern, you can fit more potaoes in the same area.  About fifteen inches across the bed diagonally dig another hole, put in a seed potato and repeat the process until you have filled the bed.  Place more rocks on the edges and even in the middle to secure the paper.  Cover the entire paper with slightly composted wood chips.   This process may seem time consuming at first, but it greatly reduces the time required for weeding!  Include the whole family and the time spent becomes valuable as family together time and an investment in the garden that will pay off in the fall.