Easy as Pie Homemade Pie Dough Recipe

Today’s pie bake is adapted from my newly bought, The Amish Cook’s Family Favorite Recipes Cookbook by Lovina Eicher that I recently purchased from Amazon.com. This is one of the many wonderful books published by Rodale Publishing.

Amish Cooks Cookbook Cover

I plan to make many great from scratch meals from my new cookbook.

I recently received a mail offer from Rodale Publishing to buy this book on time by making payments and my interest was piqued. The total cost of the hardcover book, with 4 monthly payments and the shipping and handling was over $40.00. I wanted this cookbook but I did not want to make payments and quite honestly I do not buy books that cost that much. Instead I searched for it on Amazon and found a used book being sold by a library. I paid just $6.95 for it and that includes book rate shipping. Oh happy day!

This book intrigued me due to its wonderful collection of traditional home-style Amish recipes, photographs and lifestyle tips shared by its Amish born author and writer. I find a lot of my recipes on-line, but of course due to their religious practices, I do not see many authentic Amish recipes shared on-line.

Pat a pan pie crsut done

Like its name, Pat a Pan Pie crust is patted in the plate using your fingers.

Today I decided to try my hand at what the cookbook calls “Pat a Pan Pie Crust.” I have never been a pie maker (my mother worked full-time and did not cook or bake) I tend to make a fruit crisp if I am baking a dessert.

My husband absolutely loves a fruit pie but I have been lone nervous about making a pie crust and pie from scratch. I generally do not make many sweets as we are trying to cut back on our sugar intake but I wanted to make this pie for him as a special treat for our 18th anniversary.

Pix mix before

It’s so easy. Just mix the flour, olive oil etc. right in the pie pan.

Finally I decide my fears were just plain silly as no one taught me to cook or bake (I figured it out by myself) and if I could make delicious holiday fruitcake and stolen from scratch, I could certainly make a tasty pie.

So I tried this recipe and it was, as I mentioned above, as easy to make as pie! LOL! My photographs are definitely not magazine worthy, but you get the idea.

Crist in the making

This is what is look like as I stirred the crust with the fork.

The recipe is called Pat a Pan Pie Crust and according to Amish cookbook it is easy enough for a child to make. This is the one for me!

Apple pie cooked

The crust and filling ready to go into the oven.

I adapted the original recipe slightly using tapioca to hold it together. In my one fruit pie experiment many years back I used tapioca with a health food store-bought whole wheat crust and it was delicious. I especially liked that it was not overly sweet either. The filling is held together by the Tapioca so I can add much less sugar than a conventional pie and I do not have to make a sugar and cornstarch batter-type filling.

Tapioca box rotated jeg

I know this is one tiny ingredient that is not from scratch.

Pat-A-Pan Pie Crust:

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons cold milk

Place the flour, sugar and salt in a 9″pie pan and mix with you fingers until evenly blended. In a measuring cup, combine the oil and the milk and beat until creamy. Pour all at once over the flour mixture. Mix with a fork until the flour mixture is completely moistened. Pat the dough  with you fingers, first at the sides of the plate and then across the bottom. Flute the edges.

The shell is now ready to be filled. If you are preparing a shell to fill later or your recipe requires a prebaked crust, preheat the oven to 425 F. Prick the surface of the pastry with a fork and bake until golden brown. Check often and prick more if needed.

The Apple Filling:

Core, peel and simmer your apples on the stove top with ¼ cup water, for about 10 minutes over low heat. To assemble your filling add:

The Tapioca and Fruit Mix:

Using 6 cups of slightly cook apple slices, add 2 TB of tapioca granules and 1/2 cup of coconut sugar. Mix well.  Fill the pie shell.

Cook the filled pie shell, 25-35 minutes at 450 degrees or until done. If the crust starts to brown to fast but the apples are not fully cooked, wrap the edges of the crust in foil.

Serve warm. I was very happy with my experiment and thought it was delicious.

Small House homesteader, Donna

The Real Value of a Home Cooked Thanksgiving Dinner

Last night as I was driving to physical therapy I saw a sign at the Big Boy restaurant in town, it read, “Turkey dinners On Thanksgiving Day, $8.99 per person.” I thought to myself in my 5 p.m. tired fog, I am doing this wrong. Taking my son and family to dinner would cost us about $36.00, plus drinks.

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A fun Thanksgiving game of dominoes with our grand daughter.

Today as I processed the idea overnight I began to realize that my special order organic 9lb. chicken at $4.00 a lb. that the chicken alone equals the monetary cost of the meal advertised on that restaurant sign. Add to that expense the cost of organic; potatoes, carrots, stuffing, Seven Superfoods Salad ingredients, corn bread, Jell-O w/ fruit (for my 6 yr. old granddaughter), two vegetables and dessert, cider, lemonade, cider and tea. And I quickly realized that for many cheap food is a real and deceptive lure.

Add to that my 2015 Thanksgiving Schedule:

Monday: Make the shopping list and grocery shop.

Tuesday: Make the Jell-O and Seven Superfoods salads and bake the pies.

Wednesday: Clean house, change tablecloth, makes the table arrangement and set the table.

Thursday: Get up early to cook the food and entertain the family.

And yet the flip side to this coin is the reality of what a home cooked meal prepared with love truly means. As life gets busier and busier, welcoming family and guests into the warmth and security of our homes for the day is becoming a lost art. But I feel it’s an art worth pursuing and keeping.

Because we use locally raised foods, we are not footing the bill for transporting ingredients across the country or around the globe. So it takes less fossil fuels (or energy) to cook a locally sourced meal at home. Studies show that it takes double the amount of energy to process, package and transport food than it does to grow it

Because we have control over what we are cooking and eating our meal will be more nutritious with less salt, additives and empty calories. Food we cook a home is just plain healthier and the cooking process itself empowers us to make heathier choices.

Cooking at home is also better for the environment as there is less food waste and fewer tossed out items like food wrappings and paper napkins and tinfoil cooking pans to enter the waste stream.

It’s a terrific way to teach introduce children to new dishes as well as about the taste, texture and pleasure of well-prepared food. This process turns the time spent together in the kitchen or dining room a family bonding experience.

The real truth is, the food I cook at home just tastes better. Once I began eating “real foods” I quickly recognized the difference between what I was now eating and the “dead food” taste of the foods in my past.

Their is also the pride I feel when I plan and cook a great meal at home and my family devours it. This is something I cannot put a price on. I know I am giving something of value to them and this is a way for me show my love for my son and granddaughter.

Because we will be using the whole chicken we have less waste. We will eat that chicken for our Thanksgiving dinner and then have leftovers to work with for the rest of the week. For us that means making a homemade chicken pot pie later on that same week, one of my husband’s all-time favorite meals

After that I will take the bones and skin and vegetable trimmings and boilthem into a rich chicken stock. This will be the perfect starting point for a pot of delicious homemade soup later on this winter.

Anything left over will end up in the compost bin and in a year or so it will be turned into wonderful soil and free fertilizer and the leftover bones and skin will be given to the chickens to peck over as a treat.

While we build the basics of a healthy from scratch meal we also build community and lifelong bonding with our loved ones. We make and keep traditions and create memories that are priceless.

The only real ingredients I need for my happy Thanksgiving are real food and my family. And I believe that cooking still matters.

Small House homesteader, Donna

A Day of Thanksgiving Gratitude at Small House Homestead

Everything we have is a gift. Today is a celebration of the harvest, fall, food and gratitude.This is a day set aside for counting our blessings…and the simple gift today is family and friends to enjoy this celebration with.

Brenna Gene and Elsa in hats cuts      Our granddaughter and Elsa the Rhodie enjoy the balmy weather.

TODAY’S THANKSGIVING MENU:

  • Roasted organic pasture raised chicken with red potatoes, carrots tomatoes, flavored by ground pepper and basil
  • Jell-O and frozen peas (both for my 6-year-old granddaughter)
  • Raw Seven Superfoods Salad
  • Roasted Brussels Sprouts
  • Dishes of green olives, black olives
  • Organic lemonade and fresh local cider

Mom's Stuffing

Mom’s Turkey Stuffing Recipe Yield: Serves 8-10.

Ingredients:

  • 1 loaf of day old French bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 10-12 cups)
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 2 cups each, chopped onion and celery
  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • 1 green apple, peeled, cored, chopped
  • 3/4 cup of currants or raisins
  • Several (5 to 10) chopped green olives (martini olives, the ones with the pimento)
  • Stock from the turkey giblets (1 cup to 2 cups) (can substitute chicken stock)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning or ground sage (to taste)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)

Method:

1 If you haven’t already made the stock, take the turkey giblets – heart and gizzard – and neck if you want, and put them in a small saucepan, cover with water and add a little salt. Bring to a simmer; simmer for about an hour, uncovered. Strain the stock into a container for use with the stuffing. Alternatively, you can use chicken stock or just plain water with this recipe.

2 Toast the walnuts by heating them in a frying pan on medium high heat for a few minutes, stirring until they are slightly browned (not burned) OR put them in the microwave on high until you can smell the aroma of them toasting, about a minute or two. Let them cool while you are toasting the bread, then roughly chop them.

3 Heat a large sauté pan on medium heat. Melt 3 Tbsp butter in the pan, add the bread cubes, and stir to coat the bread pieces with the melted butter. Then let them toast; only turn them when they have become a little browned on a side. Note, if you aren’t working with somewhat dried-out day-old bread, lay the cubes of bread in a baking pan and put them in a hot oven for 10 minutes to dry them out first, before toasting them in butter on the stove top. The bread should be a little dry to begin with, or you’ll end up with mushy stuffing.

4 In a large Dutch oven, sauté chopped onions and celery on medium high heat with the remaining 3 Tbsp butter until cooked through, about 5-10 minutes. Add the bread. Add cooked chopped walnuts. Add chopped green apple, currants, raisins, olives, parsley. Add one cup of the stock from cooking the turkey giblets or chicken stock (enough to keep the stuffing moist while you are cooking it). Add sage, poultry seasoning, salt & pepper.

5 Cover. Turn heat to low. Cook for an hour or until the apples are cooked through. Check every ten minutes or so and add water or stock as needed while cooking to keep the stuffing moist and keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Brussel Sprouts on cutting oard

Seven Superfoods Salad (Adapted)

(Adapted from The Farmhouse Deli, Douglas, MI)

This is my current favorite raw salad. Not only is it raw and tasty it is chocked full of healthy nutrition.

SALAD INGREDIENTS:

Raw organic broccoli, Brussels sprouts, purple and green cabbage, cauliflowers florets, curly kale, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, cherries or craisins.

I like to make this as fresh as possible so I make what can be eaten in approx. two days. So my measurements are done according to that.

DRESSING:

The original recipe called for Agave but I used raw, unfiltered local honey. Both work fine.

Mix ½ cup honey and 4 TBLS Braggs apple cider vinegar (with the mother)

  1. Using the Cuisinart, dice 1 cup of the following; broccoli, Brussels sprouts both cabbage and kale. Toss well and set aside.
  2. Add the dressing to the raw vegetable approximately. two hours prior to serving.
  3. Just before serving add ½ cup of sunflower seeds and ½ cup of craisins.
  4. Toss and serve.

Chicken uncoked in pan

Locally raised pastured chicken in the pot with vegetables.

It was wonderful day with family. I am blessed.

Grandma Brenna Else in front of house USE

Small House homesteader, Donna, Elsa and Brenna

Soil Is the Great Connector of Lives

 A nation that destroys its soil destroys itself. Franklin D. Roosevelt

Cert with compost

Our garden cart and 5-gallon buckets are an essential part of my garden labor.

A granddaughter of a dairy farmer I never realize the real importance of the soil until I came to the Small House Homestead. I have learned that a high quality, healthy and organic soil makes the difference between being able to grow and not grow. Healthy organic soil is the foundation of food security.

Compost Gene shveling with truck USE

Gene is shoveling bark chips from the truck to the buckets.

Our most important job as vegetable gardeners is to feed and sustain soil life, often called the soil food web, beginning with the microbes. If we do this, our plants will thrive, we’ll grow nutritious, healthy food, and our soil conditions will get better each year. This is what is meant by the adage ”Feed the soil not the plants.

Every season I work to make our soil healthier through making my own homemade compost. Kitchen scraps, chicken poop, spent flowers and leaves; everything that is not meat or bones goes into our compost pile.

Leaves bins woods USE

Our 6-bin compost station built of pallets and T stakes is not fancy but it gets the job done.

Today I spread our homemade compost on the fruit trees, shrubs and some of our perennials. I was able to make about 12 5-gallon buckets this year. Every year I make more compost and every year I do not have enough to go around.

Comppst buckets close USE

I have to decide which plants most deserve the composted soils and then top dress them with well composted horse manure for the rest. We are fortunate to have as much horse manure available as we can haul home.

VERT comppst in buckets USE

5-gallon buckets of compost and manure lined up waiting to be spread.

This is a big deal for us because our Oak Savannah forest soil is lean, sandy and pretty much nutrient free.

In compst bin heads up best USE

I let the chicken do the work of turning the composted soil.

Our soil building formula is simple; homemade compost, horse manure and bark chips as mulch. Without this I don’t think I would be able to garden or grow at all.

Making soil and growing food and flowers is my calling.

Soil is the great connector of life

Small House homesteader, Donna

Fall to Winter Chicken Nutrition

Fall is upon us here on the homestead and in Michigan this means that winter is not far behind. Some years we get four weeks of fall weather and some years we only get two. So we are quickly getting prepared!

Rhodies pecking on top of leg

Two Rhodies pecking bit of leaves and seeds from my legs.

This is a transition time for us and our chickens. As the seasons change here in Michigan, so do the nutrition needs of my chickens. I have been focusing on adding more protein into their diets and giving them more free range time in the woods to scoop up the last of the worms and bugs that reside in the fall leaves.

In compst bin heads up best USE

Free ranging in the “black gold” soil of compost bins.

Fall to Winter Nutrition Starts for us in the Coop;

I have started giving my girls what I call the “High Test” each morning and each night. This is a mix of high protein feeds to give them more internal heat and to help them warm-up for the day ahead. These food choice also boost their protein after the brooding and molting time of year.

Chives and barley for chickens

Laundry rack sprouting station.

You may recall that our Cochin’s spent almost six weeks brooding and that was followed by a severe molting process. They looked pretty tattered and torn. Poor girls!

Waters and Chrystal

Crystal vegging in the Cochin’s coop prior to laying her egg.

I’ve experimented with various feeding trays; from rubber foot wipe mats to deep rubber bowls (which I now use fill with water in the non-freezing season) and old plates. What I have found to work the best, and what I prefer are clay pot trays that you can buy in various sizes or find at garage sales. They are heavy-duty enough to not get kicked over, with a short lip they hold the food while keeping dirt and leaves out and can easy be easily washed in soap and water every night. I periodically sanitize them using vinegar and a day baking in the sunshine.

Close up

Cochin/Phoenix mix bantam.

Honestly my chickens still prefer to eat their food right off the ground, but I offer it to them first in the clay pot trays stacked on pieces of 2 X 4’s or blocks to lift them higher off the ground. Raising them higher can keep the dirt and leave s from being scratched into them. In the winter months it’s a constant battle between human and naturally scratching chickens, but I do try to keep the poop and the food separate.

Rhodies in front of bins best

My Rhodies love to scratch for tasty treats in and around the compost bins.

High Test Chicken Feed in Olive Oil w/ Fresh Chopped Garlic

I use a wide mouth canning jar to mix the “High Test” feed in. After each use, I pop the jar into the dish washer for a very good wash. I don’t measure the feed, I just eyeball the mixture and that has worked fine for us. Each ingredient measures about 1/3 of a cup. The chickens receive half of this mixture in the a.m. and the last half of it in the p.m., just before they roost for the night.

Small House Homesteads High Test Mix:

1/3 organic layers feed (for their vitamins and minerals)

1/3 meal worms (their favorite food)

1/3 BOSS (black oiled sunflower seeds for protein and heat)

I toss these three items above into the jar, add my pre-mixed olive oil mixture and give it a quick stir.  For my olive oil mixture recipe see those details below.

Small House Homesteads Olive Oil Infusion Mixture:

Using a second quart-size, wide mouth canning jar I mix up the following items; chopped fresh garlic, dried herbs and fill the quart  jar to ¾ full of olive oil. Like an infusion, I let this mixture steep throughout the winter changing out the jar from time to time.  My herbs vary between chopped up dandelion roots and culinary herbs like oregano, basil and always chopped raw garlic for my girls good heath.

Coop walking into run USE THIS as ONE

The Cochin’s coop just after it was completed.

Each day I let my chickens out to free range for between 30 and 60 minutes. Mine must be human supervised so some days their free range time is short and some days I might be able to manage and hour and a half. Generally this is enough time to fill their crops with tasty worms, bugs and seeds and satisfy their deep need to scratch and peck. Often times they are content to be called back into the coop for a nice long drink of fresh water after that. On a beautiful sunny fall day I might even be able to let them out twice in one day.

Raspberry barlet frame with cross board through fence

The outdoor bare seed area. Those pieces of wood on top keep the birds out.

This fall I have been taking them to the leave strewn path in the woods where the worms are hiding under the many layers of leaves. The chickens have really enjoyed this activity and have been very busy scratching and pecking. The also discovered the old dirt pile this fall. This pile has been where we threw any extra dirt or weeds we did not want in the compost bins. This fresh compost pile has never been turned or worked in any way so the chickens have delighted in that dirt this fall.

HORZ Rhodies run very close up USE

The Rhodies coop inside of their secure run.

We also removed the boards from the back of our 6-part compost bin and let them jump up and in and work that soil as well. All of these food centers are located at the back of our property under the wood lots edge located behind the blacksmith forge and are protected from the wind. And now that the trees have lost their leaves the sun shines down on this area throughout the day. It is the perfect place for chickens to free range right now.

Rhodie close in leaves USE

Happily pecking and scratching in our deep White Oak leaves.

Around 4 or 5 p.m. in the afternoon I toss out sprouted barley greens to make sure that they have eaten enough live greens each day and the last of their high-test feed. In the early fall before the snow comes they eat their barley greens that are growing right in the soil of their run where I have planted three large patches. When those greens are gone or the frost has arrived, then I begin to sprout indoors. I make and give them sprouts because will have many times more nutrition than the adult plant of the seed to begin with.

Barley green and frame USE

Of course they have water with garlic, their chicken layers feed and dried egg shells to free feed throughout the day.

Single Rhodies on straw bale USE

Bales of hay to block the wind and for a chicken jungle gym!

As you can see nutrition for humans, dogs and chickens is serious business on our homestead!

Small House homesteader, Donna

Sprouting Barley Seeds in my Laundry Room

Gene and I are still fighting the nasty flu bug that had been going around our area so our homesteading efforts this week are minimal. I made a big pot of homemade chicken and vegetable soup today and I am hoping that this natural medicine can help us to feel a bit better and soon. On to today’s post.

It is sprouting greens season again.

Rhoide prancing USE

Sprouts are simply whole grains or seeds that are grown with water before being fed to the chickens. Sprouting grains is an easy way to provide chickens with fresh, nutritious greens any time of year with very little effort.

Chickens need a mix of protein with an adequate source of energy vitamins and minerals as well as water. These requirements are met by feeding them while grains in addition to the protein source. Sprouting grains is one way to stretch a feed budget for the average backyard flock as a supplement to their diet but not as their primary feed source.

In addition, I am always looking for ways to give my more chicken live greens, especially in the winter months. Sometimes I sprout mung beans in a quart jar in my kitchen and in warm sunny weather I plant barley seeds right in the soil of their chicken run. This makes greens available to them anytime they are outside pecking and scratching.

Thinking ahead to winter, when it will be too cold to grow the barley seeds out-of-doors, I am experimenting with sprouting barley seeds in a plastic dish washing tub in my laundry room right now.

Barley green and frame USE

I like to have live green sprouts available for my chickens.

Sprouting can be done on your kitchen counter or in your laundry room. No special lights are needed just a room temperature around 45 degrees F and 69 degrees F.

Rhodie run and barey frame USE

This winter I am using an old black metal shelving unit that has been used in both of my homes and more recently in my art gallery. I set this stand up in my laundry/mechanical room near the sink for rinsing near the natural sunlight shines in from a south-facing window. Our laundry/mechanical room is the warmest room in our home due to winter use of our clothes dryer, our hot water boiler heating unit and the south-facing sunshine…so it’s the perfect place in our home for sprouting.

I bought my barley seeds from the Amish feed store in our area. I requested untreated seeds and they were able to order them from an Amish farmer in Indiana. This is the closest I can get to organic whole grain seeds. Barley is a cover crop that is high in nutrients when sprouted because the nutrition then become more bioavailable.  My chickens love seeds of all types and sprouted barley seeds are no exception.

There are several ways to make sprouts but this is the one I use.

  1. Put the grains in a bucket and let them soak for 12 hours.
  2. Pour off extra water and smooth the grain out to a thin and even layer.
  3. Put trays on my food shelving rack.
  4. I rinse and water my trays of barley seeds twice a day. I do not reuse the water.
  5. I grow these sprouts for around 5-8 days and when they are sprouted, I grab two handfuls and toss them into the chicken run.

I make my barley sprouts in a newly bought plastic paper holder I purchased  from the Dollar Store and an old retired white dish pan that became available when I bought my new metal dish pan this summer from Lehman’s, www.lehmans.com/ I always love to repurpose things when I can and not add to the landfill problem.

I love Lehman’s because all the wares they sell are solid made and they have been providing non-electric alternatives since 1955. They offer homestead needs from oil lamps, wood stoves, off grid necessities to kitchen ware that will last a lifetime and still be passed on. I recently splurged and bought a solid blue graniteware washing tub, an Amish made tack cloth clothes pin holder for my clothesline and a study, metal dust pan. None of these items will ever have to be replaced, not in my lifetime or in the lifetime of my children either..

Sprouts can be fed to the chickens at any time but the nutrition benefits max out at around day six.

There is a lot if information on sprouting on the internet if you need more details, of free to contact me and I’ll help you any way I can.

Small House homesteader and chicken keeper, Donna

 

The Small House in its Autumn Glory-Photo Diary

I apologize for being so out of touch lately. Fall is such a busy time of year for us at The Small House that the outdoor work just takes over our lives. Hopefully I can make up for fewer blog posts of late with some interesting and lively photographs sharing the beauty of our homestead in the autumn.

We’ve had a hard frost already here in SW Michigan. Hard enough that it froze my remaining potted annuals and tender hydrangeas but once again the weather has turned warm. In these parts we call these warm days, our Indian Summer. I am enjoying the warm sunshine as are our animals who love to lay in the warm dirt and dust or nap.

Small House under bog tree USE

Our small house under the big SW Michigan sky. 

The surrounding woods are taking on new shades of reds, yellow and amber thanks to the cooler nights. There is a vivid beauty about the countryside now that stirs my soul.

HORZ turn around coop in rear USE

This bed, with its ornamental grasses and mum’s really shines in the Autumn.

As those of you who homestead know; this time of is year we call “The Crunch Time” or “The Fall Rush.” I imagine that you are working as hard as we are to gather the last of the vegetable harvest, to close down the gardens and get the animals and their pens ready for winter. These seasonal chores plus my plantar fasciitis, physical therapy and various doctor’s appointments have kept me on the run.

While I honestly prefer a more home-center, slower-paced way of life, I know I must take care of my health right now and that means many appointments in town and twice-weekly working out.

Mums foreground trellis grasses USE VERT

The billowing and blowing grasses are among my favorite native perennials.

The fruits of our labor can be enjoyed in our perennial gardens right now. Native perennial plant, stones hauled home from farmers fields and roadside ditches, mingle with my carefully chosen plantings and projects all lovingly built and maintained, that shine during the Michigan fall. I enjoy every season here but if I had to choose my favorite, I think it would be autumn.

Fencegate raspberries USE

The fenced-in black raspberry patch is one of our chicken’s favorite runs.

Here is a peek at the Small House Homestead this week in all of our lovely fall glory.

Bird grden shrub and birdfeeder USE

Shrubs and feeders provide food and shelter for our beloved songbirds.

Fence and pool shack USE

Our non-working in-the-ground pool resides nestles up against the forest edge.

Gene cart Rhodies on straw USE

Bales of hay will block the winter winds to the chicken run and coop areas. Then next spring these bales will be broken down for mulch in the garden.

Pole barn under sky USEThe chicken condo complex is nestled under our majestic White Oak trees.

Meadow nice USE

The pool shack, meadow grasses and the wood lot in late October.  

North west side of house with hydragneas geen

Our 1950’s era ranch-style home. Yes, that is an old-fashioned TV antenna not a UFO!

Pool shack fall USE

The pool shack storage shed with our home in the distance.

Fence and pool shack USE

The pool complex, storage shack and garden.

I hope you enjoyed you enjoyed a taste of fall on our homestead.

Small House homesteader, Donna

A Cup Half Full and a Belief in Miracles

Gene and I had “The Talk” yesterday. Fall is a time of intensive labor on our homestead; what we call “The Fall Rush.” So much has to be done in a short amount of time, the stress builds and tempers flare. We are working hard to beat the first flakes of snow and the big freeze that is soon to arrive on our SW Michigan property.

Vegetable Garden July 25.15

Our vegetable garden at its peak this past July.

While we do struggle with the massive amounts of work to keep up our homestead and gardens here, I shared with Gene how blessed and fortunate I believe we are.

We are in fact truly privileged. We have health insurance coverage, we have a warm, comfortable and safe home, we own two, paid off vehicles and while none of these belongings are new or fancy, I have made the choice to look at our life like a glass half full and feel the bounty not the scarcity.

Meadow boarder gorgeous USE

The meadow edge is the perfect habitat for butterfly’s, dragonflies and birds.

I remember vividly when 18 years ago we met at ages 45 and 50, both divorced and he was in massive debt. We had nothing between us except my small, 75-year-old Fairview city home. With only our mid-life energy, a dream and a drive to rebuild our lives together we set a goal to retire here and to build a more sustainable life together.

Goldy side view on star use

One of our four rescued Cochin Bantams.

With the tools of a strict budget, books, the Internet and nothing but the hard work from our own four hands we now own a productive 5-acres, a nicely fixed up older home, food gardens, chickens and a debt-free retirement. Neither of us had high paying jobs, divorce support or an inheritance – just a solid plan, a belief in the abundance of the Universe and our trust that miracles can happen and one did.

Apples egg chives todays harvest

Today’s homestead gatherings’ apples, chives and a Rhode Island Red egg!

I am grateful for every sunrise, every tomato and apple and every day of good health. We are not just counting our years…we are making our years count.

4 275 gallon totes

Our water collection and storage system irrigates our property.

Here a piece written by Permaculture expert, Ben Faulk…it says what I would like to articulate today but cannot.

VER frame horse trought sunfloers interesting USE

The chicken coop, run (in progress) and water trough from the vegetable garden.

“Perhaps it’s good when something you expect doesn’t happen because it enables you to appreciate all the other things you might have missed. And as long as we’re sufficiently fed, what’s life about anyway? Certainly, for me anyway, NOT simply more physical yields. This makes me think of Fukuoka’s dictum that “the ultimate goal of farming is not the cultivation of crops but the perfection of human beings.” I don’t like the word “perfect” but with each passing year I find myself agreeing with him more about a lot of things. In permaculture we say “Obtain a Yield.” Hmmm. Sounds a bit colonial for permaculture. And “A” yield? Singular? Color, shade, aroma, beauty, companionship, pollen, soil, nesting habitat, oxygen. All these things and many more have already been yields of these trees and they’re just getting started. At some point a tree’s yield in fruit or nut or wood becomes a bonus, not it’s core value. We need to eat, to be sure. But yields are subtle and myriad. “Get a Yield?” Sure. But perhaps we should say instead “Don’t forget to notice all the yields.”

Our Small House homestead yields are more than just tasty organic food and eggs, our yields also include a safe, warm home, a healthy organic environment of plentiful oxygen provided by majestic White Oak trees, their leaves and the blessings of flowers, sunshine, clean air and human happiness.

Small House homesteader, Donna

Can’t Grow Your Own? Buy Local!

We aren’t as sustainable as some homesteads here at the Small House. But what we can’t grow or produce we can buy from local growers. I’m a softie when it comes to eating my own chickens so this year I ordered them from a local farm.

Chickens in coolor USE

Cornish hens ready to take home for Sunday dinner!

Today we picked up our 18 organic pastured chickens that we ordered last August from a nearby chicken farm owned by friends, Blackberry Pine Farms.

Blackberry Pines Farm sign

The greeting sign at Blackberry Pines Farm

We took a tour of the farm today when we picked up our birds and I was pleased at how clean and orderly it is. Blackberry Pine Farms raises and sells chickens, turkeys and peafowl.

Sign gate and pines

White Pines line the driveway to the farm.

My friend Ann and I went in together on our order and I pre-ordered 18 Cornish hens between us. I made the arrangements, placed the order, picked up the processed chickens and we met today for lunch and a handled the pick-up. She drove down from Newaygo with her husband Terry and we sat on our three season’s porch with lemonade and hot tea and caught up.

Ann & Terry USE

Gene and I spent the day with my high school friend and her husband Terry.

I wanted organic meat chickens in the freezer for the year and decided to test out Farm raised Cornish hens. My plan is to roast one chicken per month over the winter and to cook up a 9 lb. hen for the holidays.

Guys and coolor USE

A cooler full of processed chickens on their way home to my freezer.

We had a nice visit on our sun porch and then drove into Fennville for lunch and to enjoy a bit of the annual Fennville Goose Festival.

Chicken Tractor

The chicken tractor ah la Joe Saladin.

We ate lunch as a great restaurant owned by another friend, Roots, and watched the small town parade go by our window. The Festival is the typical mix of food booths, bands, fire trucks, muscle cars, hay wagons carrying the local football team, the Goose Queen and King and so on. Our lunch that was made from locally sourced foods, was well prepared and tasty. And it was especially fun for the four of us to sit and chat and catch up what is for us, a very unusual day off.

The fall weather cooperated beautifully too; with blue skies and sunshine, warm breezes and lots of autumn color coming on in the trees and shrubs.

This day off was a rare country pleasure and a fine way to enjoy the autumn before the heavy snowfall arrives and prevents company visiting for another winter.

Small House homesteader, Donna

Gooey Peanut Butter Chocolate Crockpot Cake

I love to use my crock pot for cooking. I can put in my ingredients and walk away to continue my work in other project and places. I know we are all trying to reduce our sugar consumption but once in a when a special occasions happens and we want to treat ourselves and our families. Making this cake was one of those rare times.

Crock pot choc cake

Today I experimented with anew recipe, Gooey Peanut Butter Chocolate Crock Pot Cake. This was a hit with Gene and would be an easy to make dish to take to a potluck as well.

Chocolate cake in white bowl

Gooey Peanut Butter Chocolate Crock Pot Cake

(Adapted from Taste of Home Slow Cooker)

1 ¾ cup sugar divided (I use coconut sugar)

1 cup 2$ milk (I used almond milk)

¾ cup creamy peanut butter (I used almost butter)

3 Tbsp. canola oil (I use olive oil)

2 cups all-purpose flour

¾ cup baking cocoa, divided

3 tsp. baking powder

2 cup boiling water

Salted peanuts, optional (I use walnuts)

  1. In a large bowl, beat one cup sugar, milk, peanut butter and oil until well blended. (I used a blender.)
  2. In another bowl whisk flour., 1/2 cup cocoa and baking powder; gradually beat into peanut butter mix (batter will be thick.)
  3. Transfer to a greased 5 qt. slow cooker (I greased with olive oil)
  4. In a small bowl, mix the remaining sugar and cocoa. Stir in water. Pour over batter (do not stir.)
  5. Cook covered on high 2 to 2 ½ hours or until toothpick comes out clean.
  6. If desired sprinkle with peanut or walnuts.
  7. Serve also with French vanilla ice cream or yogurt.
  8. Cake closeSmall House homesteader, Donna