color me orange

Candied orange peel on the left; orange marmalade, right; and fresh eggs, front and center

Candied orange peel on the left; orange marmalade, right; and fresh eggs, front and center

Ever wonder when it would be beneficial to have a thick skin? We have had some cold nights and that made me fear for the navel orange crop. Though we only have one navel tree, it produces fine, large oranges. Thankfully, those thick skins protected the fruit enough to see them through the tree-ripening process.

In some historical novel, I read of a treat that the pioneers enjoyed: candied citrus. Wait, turning orange peels into a sweet treat? Well, I just had to give it a try! After all, the compost pile does not seem to benefit quickly from citrus peels. I found the online recipes were pretty much the same so I chose one and proceeded to make the delicacy. The results? Hubby won’t touch the stuff–as I suspected. (He discourages me from using ZEST in anything, too.) I found it to taste like, well, ORANGE PEEL covered in sugar. But, still, ORANGE PEEL. When some other homeschooling moms were over, I offered them a sample. Two of the women actually wanted to eat several pieces. So, I guess it is true that people like different things. Though some recipes showed lovely chocolate-covered candied orange peel, at this point, I could not see wasting good chocolate on it!

I also gave a standard orange marmalade recipe from the canning guide a try. The recipe suggested adding cinnamon bark, if desired, so I tried some variations of this, in addition to the ordinary marmalade. It is true that only my mom and I like orange marmalade–but it is made in small batches. I think that I have eight half-pints–some for me and some for Mom.

One day, I feared just too much for the state of the navels, so I dragged the orchard ladder over to the tree and picked them all! We enjoyed fresh juice almost every day for a couple of weeks. The key, I found, with navel orange juice, is to drink it right when it is juiced and juice only what you are going to drink right then and there.

We have been happy with the hens laying again. So, now my refrigerator will be overrun with eggs if I don’t come up with more ways to use eggs! It’s a happy place to be! I thank the good Lord for His blessings to us, for navel oranges and fresh eggs.

From House to Chicken Coop

The now-demolished house from which we salvaged roofing and siding.

The now-demolished house from which we salvaged roofing and siding.

Our new coop taking shape.

Our new coop taking shape.

I have heard of chicken coops that have been converted into little cottages but, here, we have done the opposite (sort of). It all began when we started with chickens for the first time, which was last spring (2013). As the chicks grew, they demanded better housing. We started them in a large trough, meant to water livestock. Later, we put them in a corral. Soon, Mr. and Mrs. Pepper, black and white Wyandottes, began an evening ritual of flying onto the top of the corral and strolling along the rails. What a pair they were! Alas, wings and courage strengthened and we had to move the chickens into a dog kennel with a cover over it to keep them contained so our neighborhood’s wandering dogs would not kill them.

Meanwhile, back at the farm planning headquarters, my husband began searching for coop plans. He went so far as to purchase a set of plans online, at my suggestion. Then, as we were at Home Depot shopping for the supplies, he began to hem and haw over it all. Next thing I knew, he was scrapping those purchased plans and designing his own.

Across the street, a house was slated for demolition. It was once a charming little two-story cottage, I believe. Roses still clung to it, hoping for better days, again. Vandals had desecrated the insides with disturbing graffiti and the owners were required to remove the house when they made a guest quarters elsewhere on their property, due to county zoning ordinances. My husband had received permission to salvage some aluminum roofing panels and wood siding from the house before tear-down. So, we had these old materials on hand and my husband decided to use them on the new coop.

He built the coop during most weekends over a three month period. We have our nine hens in there now and they have begun to happily lay eggs, again, with the longer daylight hours provided with a timed light. We joke about the cost of each of those eggs as we gather them. I will not state the amount of money this coop ended up costing us to build, even with the salvaged roofing and siding–because it is unreasonable. But we also console ourselves with the knowledge that the new coop will outlast any other outbuilding on our property. Someone down the line may appreciate that it was built well–and they won’t have to worry about the cost!

I absolutely loved the look of the old siding on the coop. However, my husband insisted that we paint it afresh to protect the wood. The finished coop is now barn red with white trim. I will be painting a mural on one end and on the two doors, come spring. Also, it was just too cold to finish painting the trim. I found that paint just does not flow well in cold weather. I look forward to my part in this project!

horseradish

horseradish

I planted one bare-root horseradish this past spring. Fall is ending and I decided to dig it up and give it a try! Here is what the root looked like and what a couple pieces of the root look like after being peeled.

I love that tangy Arby’s Horsey Sauce on the roast beef sandwiches. However, have you ever taken a look at the ingredients? Well, I try to avoid that junk so I am going to try making my own sauce.

Do you have a favorite horseradish sauce recipe? What do you like to use it on? 

old jeans and fabric scraps

Rag quilt made of old jeans and scrap cottons

Rag quilt made of old jeans and scrap cottons

 

I made a car quilt for my little one and it didn’t cost me a cent! For the material, I cut 6-inch squares out of our old jeans that were too far gone to wear and out of cottons from my fabric stash of leftovers from quilts I had made. There is no batting in this quilt because it is heavy enough due to the denim squares.

To get started, I met with some friends who also wanted to learn to make denim rag quilts. It was a fun time and we each made some progress toward our goal. One friend brought a finished quilt for us to see and we discussed how it was put together.

I decided to make things hard for myself and make mine reversible, with the lighter denim and darker cotton prints on one side; and the darker denim and lighter cotton prints on the other side. Warning: Do not attempt this! It wasn’t really worth the effort, I don’t think. It became very confusing to lay out and to avoid having like fabrics too close together.

Here is a photo of the quilt after the cut edges have begun to fray. I have washed and dried this four times now to achieve this level of ragging. Now the quilt is ready to wrap and put under the tree! My daughter will be warmer in the car and the denim should hold up well to all that climbing in and out (and over) that takes place in the car! And this is one present that didn’t cost me a cent!

Day 30: Month of Thankfulness

I want to wrap up this thirty days of thankfulness with thoughts of something beautiful: Flowers! These are one of my favorite things that God made for us to appreciate. Most are probably not edible, though some are, so I think that means that God appreciates beauty for the sake of beauty–and that it’s okay for me to do the same! I note this because I have a tendency toward valuing practicality. William Morris, a British designer, seemed to understand this when he made his famous dictum: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” I observe that Morris used two different verbs when dealing with things useful or things beautiful. He used “know” with “useful” and “believe” with “beautiful.” This is telling: The things that we find useful are known to us to be useful by experiences with them; whereas the things that we find beautiful are beautiful in our opinion. All this to say that I believe flowers to be beautiful–and would love to fill my house with them! So, here is a beautiful bouquet:

1. apple blossoms; 2. amaryllis; 3. bee balm; 4. bachelor button; 5. buddleia; 6. cosmos; 7. carnation; 8. columbine; 9. daffodil; 10. daisy; 11. delphinium; 12. echinacea; 13. foxglove; 14. gladiolus; 15. hollyhock; 16. honeysuckle; 17. iris; 18. lily of the valley; 19. lupine; 20. lavender; 21. lantana; 22. morning glory; 23. peony; 24. poppy; 25. Queen Anne’s lace; 26. rose; 27. sunflower; 28. scabiosa; 29. sweet pea; 30. zinnia.

“Jesus, You are the Beautiful One, the Creator of beauty. There is so much beauty in this world that only You must see–that trillium hidden under the fern deep in the woods; that passion flower growing on the other side of a fence; those fragrant orange blossoms at the tops of the trees–and yet You have blessed us with others that we can see, and for those I am most grateful! Each of these flowers is so different, one from another. There is so much wonderful variety in Your creative works. Thank You, Jesus, for the beauty of flowers. And for my sight to see them. And for my nose to appreciate their soft fragrances. I ask that You bring a flower to someone’s attention today, someone who needs a lift that seeing beauty can give. Thank You, Giver of good gifts. Amen.”