Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Always Check the Bargain Bin

Our local grocery store has a produce bargain bin which, on the right day of the week, is filled with some great deals. A couple of weeks ago the deal was spinach. I think the check out lady may have thought my name was Popeye when I loaded my cart with every bag of bargain priced spinach. I bought 8 bags of spinach at 50 cents a piece! I had nothing to lose thinking if I couldn't use it the chickens would. 

 After a couple days of fresh spinach smoothies, spinach salad and sauteed spinach, I realized that I should do something to preserve my abundant supply of spinach. Other than a few pieces for the hens, the majority of the spinach was in excellent condition. After doing a little Google research I decided to steam, puree and freeze my load.
Spinach to steam, bucket of spinach for my hens, a pile to pick through
My favorite steamer

Draining the steamed spinach

Puree Spinach

I added a little coconut water to assist in blending the spinach 

Freezing in ice cube tray to enable easy servings for my morning smoothies.
I now have a freezer bag filled with spinach cubes!

Power Up Morning Smoothie 
1/2 c. Coconut Water
1 c. Milk
1 T. Chia Seeds
1 T. Ground Flax
1/4 c. Yogurt
Add a variety of fruits and vegetables. My favorite is 1 banana, a handful of spinach and a handful of blueberries!

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/Hearth & Soul Hop

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

My Homeschooler

It is week 3 and I'm joining other homeschoolers on the "Not" Back-to-School blog hop which means it's time to share a photo of my student. 
Isaiah, 7th grade 2012

Since school hasn't started yet (we usually wait until a week after public school begins), I'm sharing a photo from my son's trip to Canada. Two weeks ago my dad took my boy on a fly-in fishing trip. I love that my dad enjoys teaching my son his favorite hobbies. While in Canada, Isaiah was responsible for cutting firewood, starting the evening fire and keeping it going. He also practiced his fishing and fish cleaning skills. He returned home just in time to begin football practice, followed by a weekend camping his Boy Scout Troop. I think he may be too tired out to start school in two weeks. :)

Photo Fun

Yesterday, as I was searching for a free photo editing site, I stumbled across http://www.befunky.com/.

I changed this photo:

To this:

Free, fast and easy

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Mint from My Garden

My little herb garden. Stevia, lemon verbena, lemon balm and mint.

Mint is rich is Vitamin A and Vitamin C as well as containing a small amount of Vitamin B2. 
 Benefits of mint:

  • Aids digestion and can ease an upset tummy
  • Here's an obvious one ~ discourages, or covers up, bad breath. 
  • Eases morning sickness. I remember mint chocolate chip ice cream being one of my favorite "cures" for morning sickness when I was pregnant with my daughter. Unfortunately, when I was pregnant with my son, I only found Pringles to give me temporary relief from morning sickness.
  • Stress reducer. A cup of tea, with the warm scent of mint, can be so relaxing.
  • Reduce migraines with a cup of mint tea (goes along with the stress reducing properties of mint).
  • Antioxidant which may prevent cancer.
  • Helps alleviate nasal allergies.
  • Relieves congestion and head colds.

I've found the easiest way to dry herbs is on a hanger. I secure a rubber band around the hanger. I then wrap the rubber band around a few sprigs of herbs.

I added a few fresh sprigs of mint to a jar of water to make a little sun tea. Yum.

Or use your fresh mint in a tabouleh salad! Recipe HERE.

Hearth & Soul Hophttp://www.likeamustardseed.com.com 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Five Minute Friday ~ Stretch

I know, I know, it's not Friday. It's Saturday (again) but that's when I'm able to write a bit more spontaneously in the quiet of my house while sipping coffee in my pajamas. So forgive me for being late to the party (as usual). 

Lisa Jo gives a prompt every Friday and women around the globe unite as they write for five minutes on this same prompt word. During these five minutes I fight back the urge to edit, to rewrite, to check spelling and let the words flow. Five minutes goes quickly. Today's (or yesterday's word, if you want to get technical) is STRETCH.

Psalm 143:6

Last weekend, after working in the bee hives, I took off my mud boots and bee jacket as the warm morning sun deemed necessary. I grabbed my camera and found a place to sit just a few feet from the hives. The sun was warm but the breeze was cool. In the quiet I watched my bees, snapped a few photos and pondered how God had brought us through this summer. This summer which will most likely be remembered as the "Summer of the Accident".  Though more accurately could be named the "Summer of His Goodness" or the "Summer of His Faithfulness" or the "Summer He Drew Us SO Close to Him". 

As I tossed my head back with eyes closed to the radiate sun, I stretched my arms to the heavens. I welcomed Him. I stretched out my arms in supplication. Lord, use me! Lord, take me! Here I am. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Top Ten Steps in Saving Money, Living Green and Eating Healthy

I'm not a coupon clipper, although the thought intrigues me. It seems when I do look for coupons I only find coupons for processed foods. I'd rather save my money in other ways. I've also found that being frugal can naturally lead to living green and eating healthier.

1. No paper products except baby wipes and toilet paper because, to put it into simplest terms, I don't like dealing with poo. Which means I still haven't switched to cloth diapers for my daycare babes. I use cloth napkins and washable hankies made from old t-shirts.

For day care licensing the kids are to have "single use" towels to use after washing hands. Instead of using paper towels I have a basket of wash clothes that are used for "personal" hand towels. If I entertain for a crowd larger than my supply of dishware, I do buy paper plates and napkins but otherwise I try to make do with my washable stock.

2. No canned foods (or limited). I make my own "cream of" soups and use dry beans. 

3. No margarine. Butter bowl left at room temp makes the butter soft for spreading on bread.

4. No cleaning products - use microfiber cleaning cloths and water. I also use borax, baking soda, vinegar for different cleaning recipes.

5. No chemically laden "beauty products". Most are homemade or consist of one ingredient (facial moisterizer is simply jojoba oil). I use diluted castile soap for shampoo. Homemade deodorant and lotion.

6. No plastic bags/ziplocs. Bread bags, if we happen to have any, are occasionally reused otherwise reusable containers are used for food storage. I use glass canning jars for storing almost everything!

7. No canola oil. Eww. Instead I use only butter, coconut oil (my personal oil of choice), grapeseed oil, and olive oil.

8. No chemicals, no highly perfumed products in the laundry room. Fabric softner sheets have been replaced with homemade, wool dryer balls. Laundry soap is homemade.

9. Avoid plastic shopping bags. I'd love to say "NO plastic shopping bags" however occasionally I forget. Over the years I've collected many cloth shopping bags. I try to leave these in the van so I always have them with me.

10. Stretch meat. Meat is spendy so I've learned how to add "fillers". Instead of using one pound of hamburger for one meal, I add veggies and grains to make stews and casseroles. I base my menu plan around meat that I find on sale. 

Hearth & Soul Hop

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Bee Essentials

Many styles of bee suits abound. I decided against the full body coverall type suit when a bee keeping friend mentioned how warm one gets while working with the bees in the heat of summer. I opted for this style solely on the fact that it was cheap....or cheaper than all the others. It works as I've yet to get a bee in my bonnet or have a bee crawl up my sleeve. Knowing that I'm safe from bee stings because, really, there are only a few people crazy enough to enjoy bee stings, helps me to keep calm when there are hundreds of bees buzzing around my head. Being amidst a swarm of bees is really an amazing event….as long as you can keep your cool, which is what my bee jacket does for me. Only once was it necessary for me to walk away for the deafening buzz so that I could regain my composure (and sanity).

I also opted for the bee gloves thinking that they too would protect and provide me with a sense of security. Although they accomplished these tasks, they are also big and bulky making it hard to work with anything. It’s hard to hold on to the hive tool or the frames and it makes picture taking impossible. My same beekeeping friend likes to use disposable nitrile gloves which enable easier dexterity while working in the hives. The gloves do work well. However, it gives little protection when you bend your fingers and, in the process, accidently squeeze a bee. I know, as this has happened to me. However, with a pull on the glove, the stinger is removed easily. Yesterday I decided to try my garden gloves. I hate wearing gloves in the garden because they too can limit dexterity; however my hands usually break out into an itchy mess after spending any time in the garden. This spring I decided to splurge on a $15 pair of bamboo gardening gloves. These gloves are awesome in the garden but I found were equally awesome in the apiary! My garden gloves were cheaper than bee gloves and more user-friendly. I can even snap a few photos with my gloves on. Bonus.

Rubber boots prevent bees from wandering up my pants. Nothing worse than having an angry bee stuck in between you and your clothing. My boots also help keep the dew on the tall grasses off my pants. Head to toe, I’m covered to prevent any unnecessary bee stings.
The bee brush is handy to have when trying to gently remove the bees from a frame or hive box. It’s easy to squish a little bee friend when you are working in the hive. My son and I work together; one will brush the bees away while the other is putting the boxes back together.

In a bee keeping class we took last winter, the speaker suggested buying more than one hive tool. The bees create a sticky mess that bonds the hive bodies (boxes) together, as well as the frames. It’s very difficult to check the health of the hive when you are unable to pry anything open. I, foolishly, not wanting to spend the extra moola, and thinking that I would NEVER lose my hive tool, did not heed this advice. I know now that this was sound advice. As you may have guessed, my hive tool is MIA. Here’s some more advice: don’t try to substitute a crow bar for a hive tool. Aside from the fact that it doesn’t work very well, a crow bar can damage your hive boxes. Yes, this too I have learned the hard way.

Yesterday I FINALLY got the smoker going and kept it going the whole time I worked with my hives. This is an accomplishment. I crumbled up a sheet of newspaper, lit it and shoved it into the smoker. After letting it flame up good I added wood shavings that I had scavenged from my dad’s woodworking shop. Unlike my other attempts, I resisted the urge to fill the smoker full of larger wood/sticks. My bees were much more docile with the help of the smoker.

Unfortunately I haven’t had as much time as I would have liked this summer to observe, learn and care for my bees. One of the hives is thriving despite my neglect and one hive is disappearing. I’m not sure if this is by my error or just something that would have happened regardless of my inexperience. I do know that I didn’t catch it in time to try to remedy the problem. At this point I could combine the hives but I’m not sure if this would negatively affect the healthy hive. I’d rather not take my chances.  I am very glad that I took the advice of my instructor in having a minimum of two hives my first year. Without a healthy hive in which to compare my dwindling hive, I may not have guessed that something was wrong.

I’m slowly learning, through trial and error, the ways of a beekeeper.