Thursday, June 28, 2012

Freedom Ranger Chicks

Today the phone rang early with news that our chicks had arrived at the post office! There was no problem persuading the children to dress quickly and gulp down breakfast so we could pick them up.

Last year we raised meat chickens for the first time. We chose the basic Cornish Cross chicken breed. Though the Cornish Cross did well for us, we were interested in trying the Freedom Ranger breed of chicken.

From what I've heard, the general opinion is that Freedom Rangers act more like a chicken. They scratch, they run, and they are excellent grazers. Freedom Rangers often have few leg problems and some people even claim the meat tastes better.

On the other hand, as anyone who has raised Cornish Cross knows, those birds were bred to eat and put on weight. Though we raised our chickens last year in a moveable pen and gave them fresh grass several times a day, the Cornish Cross laid on their bellies with their heads in the trough and ate.

This spring, the folks at Freedom Ranger Hatchery (a Mennonite family and a reader of this blog!) offered to give us some Freedom Ranger chicks to try out the breed for ourselves.

Today, 26 one day old chicks arrived from the the Freedom Ranger Hatchery. Located in Pennsylvania, they ship all over the US and the chicks arrived in the mail in great shape.

Within minutes of being introduced to their new home, the chicks were running around, picking feed, and drinking water.

Our children are having wonderful fun with the chicks.

Thanks Freedom Ranger Hatchery for the opportunity to try your chicks.

I'll keep you all posted on our opinion on raising Freedom Rangers. And in the meantime, I'd love to hear your experience. Have you raised meat chickens? Have you tried Freedom Rangers?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

BBQ Burgers

Another burger recipe...this one we've enjoyed for years.

BBQ Burgers

1 egg
1/4 cup quick oats
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 cup barbecue sauce
1 lb. ground beef

Mix all together well. Shape into patties. Grill.
If desired, baste with additional barbecue sauce while grilling.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Fifth Annual Dutch Oven Gathering

If you have been around here long, you know that every summer we invite family and friends to a dutch oven cook off.

Saturday was the date chosen this year and as usual we enjoyed lots of fun and good eating.

A dutch oven is a cast iron pot with three legs and a lipped lid. Coals are placed beneath the pot and on the lid to cook the food. Ed stacked all four of his dutch ovens on top of each other so the coals were heating the bottom of one pot and the top of another.

As usual, the variety of food cooked in the pots was amazing.


Baked Potato Casserole



Rhubarb Coffee Cake

And much more!

We all voted on our favorite and my brother Eric won with his Toll House Pie.

It was baked perfectly and oh so yummy!

Looking forward to next year!

To see past Dutch Oven Gatherings - 2011, 2010, 2009

Friday, June 22, 2012

Garden Notebook

This time of year, a small notebook gains a place of prominence in my kitchen.

The year I married, I chose a ruled journal for our garden and preserving record keeping. Each year since then, I've drawn an outline of our garden and noted what we planted where. I also listed each kind of vegetable and fruit and how much we preserved.

It has been an invaluable record to look back and see what we've planted so that we can rotate plants in our garden. My memory just can't remember where I planted the tomatoes two years ago.

For preserving, I count up how much I have left at the end of the year (if any) and figure out my target number for this year.

In those first years, I did well at recording the varieties planted, the dates of harvest, and the weather conditions that year.

In the past years, I have not done as well at recording the details, but even limited information is helpful.

I usually keep a paper tacked to my fridge through out the summer. I can make quick notes on the paper without getting out the notebook.

For example, I picked strawberries for several weeks. We didn't have a plentiful crop this year but whenever I had an extra quart or two, I would put them in the freezer and mark the amount on the paper on the fridge. At the end of the season, I was surprised at the amount I had amassed, a little at a time. I then recorded this number in the notebook.

This garden notebook has been simple enough to work for me. I'd love to hear what works for you.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Three Baked Beans

For as long as I can remember, my mom made three baked bean casserole for picnics.

Now it has become my husband's favorite side with burgers. I like that it is super simple. The recipe can be adapted several ways and I rarely even measure anything but I'll try to give you an idea of how I make it.

Three Baked Beans 

3 or 4 16 oz cans  different types of beans, drained

1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup brown sugar OR 1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup ketchup
1 T. vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all together. Bake in oven for one hour at 350. Or simmer on stove. Or heat in slow cooker for about four hours.

I usually use kidney beans, navy beans, great northern beans, and green beans. Typically I use my own home canned beans. If you use a can of pork and beans, do not drain.

Instead of the sugar, ketchup, vinegar, and seasoning - you can substitute your favorite BBQ sauce.

If you wish, you can add browned ground beef, sausage, bacon, or even hotdogs.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Child to Call My Own

Many women have known the heartbreaking reality of infertility and miscarriage. To some, God opens the miraculous door of adoption.

A Child to Call My Own is a brand new book to share inspiration on the journey of infertility and adoption. Three adoptive moms, Marilyn Wiens, Kaylene Hartzler, and Yalonda Horst banded together to compile this book and they generously offered me a review copy.

I surprised by the size. I wasn't expecting a 300+ page book. Over 30 women shared from their heart the grief and joys on the road to adoption. Within the first few pages, I was sharing their tears and hopes on their journey.

Most of the devotionals are one page in length. Each page includes a Scripture to read and a hymn. Many of the words of the hymns ministered to me - and I'm not even an adoptive mom. In fact many of the lessons in the book on waiting on God's timing, giving up my dreams, trusting His leading, and surrendering my will are lessons all of us face in some area of life, whether in singleness, illness, or death.

Intertwined throughout A Child to Call My Own is the precious value of children, the marvelous gift of life, and God's love for the helpless and orphans. I was reminded again and again of the wonder that God adopted me into the family of God.

Though we have never considered adoption, reading the book helped me know how to give support to friends who are on the adoption journey. The authors of the book are Mennonite women who are part of churches where children and large families are valued highly.

The book is divided into sections covering infertility, the first dreams of adoption, the waiting, and the joy of "a child to call my own."

Whether you have experienced the sorrow of infertility and the joys of adoption - or just want to know more about it, I recommend A Child to Call My Own.

To purchase contact:
US contact -- Kaylene 478.357.2436
Canada contact -- Marilyn 604.794.5832
Wholesale prices and volume discount prices available

Friday, June 15, 2012


It begins to feel like an obsession.

I've recognized in myself a drive to make everything possible from scratch. While good intentioned (homemade food is cheaper and more nutritious) I've had to draw a line. In the last several month, I've purchased more things like rolls and tortillas though I knew I could make them myself. 

I'll probably always enjoy making things from scratch, but I have to admit, "I can't do it all."

I can't make all my food from scratch and still have time to enjoy eating it. I can't read every book I'd like to and  have time to put what I learn to practice. I can't do all the projects I dream of without neglecting my family. I can't raise all my food from the ground without missing opportunities to serve others.

Maybe you can. But I can't do it all. I choose to sacrifice some things that I would enjoy, to have time for the things that are more important.  

I want to come to the end of my life and hear "Well done, thou good and faithful servant." 

Knowing I could make a perfect loaf of bread or grow a lovely head of brocolli won't be important if I've missed the better opportunities God has given me.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

2011-2012 Curriculm

I have frequently been asked what homeschool curriculum we use. I hesitate to write on the subject because I'm relatively new to homeschooling (my oldest is only eight). If I recommend a product, it does not mean that I've used all the available curriculum options. There may be a choice much better than the one I chose.

But I love discussing curriculum and hearing what other homeschool moms are using. Since I was homeschooled myself and my mom is still homeschooling my younger siblings, I have the huge blessing of having been around homeschool material most of my life. And I know how overwhelming the multitude of options can be.

So here is a run down of what we used last year and a few of my thoughts. My two scholars were in first and second grade. For most subjects, we study together; even the pre-schoolers listen in. The only specific grade level subjects are math and some of the language arts subjects.

Math - Christian Light Education 
We have used this math curriculum for two years and love it. Well, at least as much as we will ever love math. Our family is definitely more the language than math type!

Phonics - Beginning Steps to Reading from Eastern Mennonite
My first grader completed this phonics program last year. He still wasn't a fluent reader so I've been using Phonics Pathways for additional practice.

Spelling - Sequential Spelling
Began using this with my second grader this year. We took it slower than the book recommends but liked this program.

Grammar - First Language Lessons
I have an older edition of FLL that contains first and second grade in one non-consumable book. We enjoyed first grade, but not second grade as much. I don't plan to continue the First Language Lessons series for third grade.

Handwriting - Memoria Copybooks
I like the Scripture and poetry in the Memoria copybooks for practice in handwriting and modeling good grammar.

History - The Story of the World, Middle Ages
We love, love, love history and our trip through the Middle Ages was a highlight of the school year. We used Story of the World as our spine and added in lots of other books about the people and times of the Middle Ages. Maybe I need to do another post just on all the books on the Middle Ages. The Story of the World is not from a conservative Christian perspective but since I was reading it aloud to the children, I could edit and add as needed.

Science - Various materials
Our science study is rather haphazard. We spent the year reading books from various sources on numerous nature topics. Some of our favorites were Pablo Yoder's books, Answers in Genesis books, and Nature Friend magazine.

I love to read what curriculum other homeschoolers are using. If you have blogged about your homeschool curriculum choices, share a link in the comments!

This post contains some affiliate links.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Chili Burgers

We eat a lot of burgers in the summer and we enjoy finding new recipes. Chili burgers are our latest favorite.

Need a good side dish with your burgers? Try my friend Rachel's potato salad. She claims it is the best potato salad. I think she might be right! 

Chili  Burgers

1 egg, slightly beaten
1/4 cup ketchup
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp seasoning salt
1-2 tsps Worchestershire sauce
2 T chopped onion
1/4 cup quick oats
1 lb. ground beef

Mix all together. Shape into patties. Grill.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Finished Project - Stamped Concrete Steps

Some of you followed our house addition project last year. When we poured the concrete for the porch and walk, knew that it was too big of project to also pour the steps on the same day.

A year later, we finally finished the project. Though the house addition was at the back of our house, we are using it for our main entrance. We needed better steps from our parking area to the walk at the back of the house.

Two of my brothers that built our addition, also poured the steps.

On Thursday, they built the forms. The curved steps were a little more difficult than any concrete project that they have done but they love a challenge.

On Friday, they poured the concrete.

After the steps were poured. They trowled in a dye powder.

Then the forms were carefully removed. You don't get a second chance with concrete.


With a second color of dye powder in a mold release, the steps were pounded with a stamp to make a random stone-like pattern.

On Saturday, Ed power-washed the steps and sprayed on a sealer.

I love the final result! It is fulfilling to be able to call a project completed!


If you live local, I don't think I am biased to recommend my brothers for your future building/concrete needs!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream

It is crazy how the days that I have the most to write about are the same days that I have the least time to write.

I want to share some of the new recipes I've tried with our seasonal produce and our favorite cook-out food. I hope to show updates on our home project. Maybe even share the seasonal recipe organizer that appears to be working well for me.

But for now, I'll just share the dessert I made for our work crew this week.

Does anything say summer like homemade ice cream? With fresh strawberries in our garden, strawberry ice cream is a logical choice. I tried a new (to me) recipe from Passionate Homemaking. Not only was it super simple, it incorporated honey! If you prefer to use sugar, replace the honey in this recipe for one cup of sugar. I find that it is hard to cut back the sweetener in ice cream. Somehow freezing seems to disappear sweeteners.

My ice cream churn was large enough to hold a double batch. And it didn't last long!

Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream

2 cup cream (Since I use raw milk, I just skimmed some cream off my milk.)
2 cup milk
2-3 cup mashed strawberries
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup strawberry jam (optional for greater strawberry flavor)

Blend all together. Pour into ice cream maker. Freeze according to ice cream maker's directions.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Kitchen Tip - Measuring Honey

When replacing sugar with honey, one of my annoyances was how sticky it is to measure.

One easy way I found to measure honey is to use the same measuring cup as the oil. Often times, especially in bread baking, I measuring olive oil and honey.

If I first measure the oil in the measuring cup...

Then measure the honey on top of the oil (it will fall to the bottom)...

Both pour out quite easily.

Do you have a simple kitchen trick for measuring ingredients?

Friday, June 1, 2012

How To Make Your Own Baking Powder

One of my bizarre "make-it-myself" items is baking powder.

I say bizarre because it may sound like a futile act. What value is there in mixing up baking powder?

I've heard that making your own baking powder is cheaper than buying aluminum-free baking powder, but I've never figured it out myself.

I started mixing up my own baking powder when I was given a large container of cream of tartar and didn't know what to do with it.

That container of cream of tartar is used up now but I continue to mix up my own baking powder. I like that I can mix up as small or large as amount as I wish so that my baking powder always stays fresh. I buy cream of tartar at my bulk food store. I keep a slip of paper with the ratio in the cream of tartar container so that I can mix up a new batch in minutes.

The ratio for baking powder is -

1 baking soda to 1 cornstarch to 2 cream of tarter

Mix together whatever amount you wish. You can use teaspoons, tablespoons, or cups. Mix well and seal in air tight container. I use an old baking powder container for ease of measuring.

What is the most bizarre item that you make yourself?


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