Thursday, October 29, 2015

Homestead Happenings - Sept 2015

September was a busy month between family birthdays galore, the Pendleton Round Up, our first honey harvest and homeschooling. I'll start with Rina's first Pendleton Round Up. Her boots and hat were a little big for her, but she rocked them nevertheless. We were blessed to have my inlaws come visit during that time. They were a big help with the kids as Michael had drill that weekend. 

 Most interesting Westward Ho Parade entry for this year, in my opinion.
 The kids each got new cowboy boots and then they got to ride the mechanical bull. What can I say, it's tradition ;)

 Had our first frost September 4th, so started building some fires every now and then. Take a good look at this carpet, cause it is going away soon. Can you hear the angel choir? Yes, much rejoicing around here! Can't wait to get rid of this 40 year old, nasty carpet!

 Josiah turned twelve and decided to have a WWII themed party. He basically planned the whole thing by himself and even made the cake. He and his friends had a great time as Michael put them through their paces, and made an obstacle course for them.
 We have a lot of camo around here, so their was plenty to go around. Even had a Russian hat and helmet.
 They spun each other around in the office chair and then had to walk over a thin wooden plank.
 They carried ammo cans around the "military vehicle".
 What's an obstacle course without push ups?
 They all had to try to climb the rope.
 Sit ups time! Only thing missing is a cup of coffee in Michael's hand. I think he enjoyed his role a little too much, LOL ;)
 Grandma Kricket was "Rosie Riveter".
 Water balloon grenade toss and then waterballoon fight to wrap up the games.

 I let Josiah make and decorate his cake. I tried my hand at making a yellow cake with homemade key-lime filling and cream cheese frosting for the adults. It was delicious!
 Josiah got a nice, light-weight sleeping bag for future Boy Scout campouts. He has slept in it every night since.
My mom, aka "Rosie Riveter", got some Rina snuggles at the party. A fun time was had by all. We had 1940's music going the whole time, for added ambiance. It is nice to see Josiah making good friends in our new homeschool group. An awesome group of friends he has too, many of which he sees weekly at his homeschool Latin class.

I'm going to try to get to October soon. We've been super busy with the Prairie Primer homeschool unit study, but we've been having a great time and learning a lot. So worth the extra effort! Hoping to get caught up on reading some of your blogs soon.

God Bless,

Thursday, October 22, 2015

First Raw Honey Harvest on Mission Rd Homestead - Trials, Errors and Successes

 Oh boy, did we learn a lot this year! I've promised to always tell you our homesteading mistakes as well as our successes, and this post is no exception. The first mistake we made was waiting until the end of Sept when it was starting to get cold in the evenings to harvest the honey. This would have been a much faster process had we harvested honey when it was in the 90s at the beginning of Sept.  We were so blessed to have been able to borrow this large spinner from a friend. My hat goes off to beekeepers of the past who didn't have this handy device to extract the honey with. As you can see by the picture above and below, the second mistake we made was not getting far enough away from the bee hives. As quickly as Michael tried to extract the honey, the bees were trying to get it back to their hives. He set up his honey extracting station almost on the other side of the property, which was not enough space!
 Michael managed to get the spinner full and spun it, but there were lots and lots of bees down in the honey, most of whom were alive (amazingly) even after going through the spinner. We filtered bees out of our honey (saving many) for three days once we finally cleared out the shed enough to put the spinner in it where we could keep it away from the rest of the bees. We had to wait until nightfall and the bees were back in their hive (with the exception of the hundreds of bees stuck in the spinner) before we could move the spinner into the shed. When Michael was trying to process the honey outside, he made the mistake of leaving 5 frames sitting out open next to the hive while he was hoping to soon put them in the spinner. Wrong thing to do as the bees from both hives stripped those frames clean of honey within a matter of a few hours and put them back in their brood boxes. They are efficient little creatures for sure!  We lost probably about a gallon of honey from those frames alone.
 Josiah and Michael and I took turns for the next three evenings, straining honey and saving honey bees. It was chilly, so we had to keep a heat lamp on the bottom of the spinner to help the honey flow. It seemed like it took forever! We managed to save a lot of bees trapped in the spinner. We would strain them out and take them back to the hive, even the ones we thought might be dead. We put them at the hive entrance and the other bees would clean them up and bring them back into the hive if they were alive or kick the dead carcasses out. Some of the bees we thought for sure were dead, were revived. It was fascinating to watch.
 Look how thick that honey is! Took forever to filter even with a heat lamp on it. We used a fine mesh strainer set in a jar funnel.
So here was the basic process we used once we got the honey frames and the spinner away from the bees. We took the honey super frames into the kitchen and using a knife warmed in hot water, we cut the caps off. We will definitely use an electric hot knife next year. We got a lot of broken comb and honey that we had to strain separately.

We then took the opened honey frames out to the spinner, now located in the shed. Here is a shot of the frames in the spinner after spinning it for 15 minutes. Look at all that delicious honey in the bottom!
 Josiah is checking to make sure all the honey is out of the frames.
 In the meantime, there was a lot of honey left in the caps because we tore some of the comb as we tried to cut the caps off. It is an imperfect process when not using an electric hot knife, for sure. Took Josiah and I some trial and error to come up with a plan to strain the honey from all those caps. We put the caps in a clean muslin baby swaddle blanket, tied it off as close to the caps as possible and then tied the loose ends of the muslin to a large bbq brush, propping it up on the edges of my large 4 gallon stock pot. To keep the bag from hitting the bottom of the pot, I added a veggie steamer. It actually worked very well and allowed the honey to flow better from the bottom of the bag.
 We placed another clean muslin baby blanket over the top of everything, securing it with a large rubber band so as to keep the bees out, then we placed it outside to warm in the sun on the deck. We kept the caps hanging like this for two days. We ended up with almost a gallon of honey from the caps and broken comb, so definitely worth the effort. Again, this would have been much easier had it been warmer out!
It took us a good week to process all this raw honey, which we know we can do much faster next time. We got about 7 gallons from the 40 frames we spun. Not bad at all! We will keep 2 gallons for ourselves and let the kids sell the rest to family and friends. After tithing, they will use the money to reinvest into either more hives or an animal they can raise to sell. We also have experimented with melting down and straining beeswax, which is another adventure of its own. Will post on that later. What I love is that nothing goes to waste when beekeeping. Everything can be used.

Looking forward to next year's bee adventures on Mission Road Homestead!

God Bless,

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Prairie Primer 2015 "Little House in the Big Woods"

 Now that Hailey is in 3rd grade, I decided to do the Prairie Primer again with my kids (it has been three years since the first time we did it) when Josiah was in 3rd grade. The kids are having a ball reviewing what we did last time or learning the things we had to skip over due to lack of time. This is an incredible fun and educational unit study written by Margie Gray. Since I had a baby this year, I decided to start a small co-op at my house to do this study, with just a couple of homeschool families I've met since moving here.  We're meeting every Friday and having a blast! We did a lot more than what is shown, but here are just a few of my favorite pics from the "Big Woods" section of the study.
 We all enjoying singing and playing songs from "The Laura Ingalls Wilder" Songbook. We usually do two songs followed by trivia questions each week. Love it when the kids really get into it!
 The first week, we dissected owl pellets as one of our activities. Gross fun!

 We grated a carrot and colored our cream to make our butter even more yellow, because "Ma liked things pretty". Ma would color her butter in the wintertime because the cows weren't giving such yellow cream as their nutrition in the winter months was not as good.
 Amanda took this sweet pic of our resident "Baby on the Prairie". She's along for the ride in this crazy household, and seems to be fitting right in. It is nice to have lots of "Mas" to help hold her while I'm doing activities or cooking.
One of the things I love about the Prairie Primer is it motivates me to get the dust off my fiddle and learn new songs or review old ones. It is a special treat to be able to play my great grandpa's fiddle that I just had restored. He was born in the 1880s. Very special! Love the growl of this old fiddle. 

Michael and I made lard and cracklings out some pig's fat we had saved back. We use the lard for making homemade soap

 Josiah did a presentation on bears. and cougars and how to load a musket.
 Cougar hide
 Our friends did an experiment showing different waves of light. It is awesome to see the progress of several of the kids in the group who are extremely shy (yeah, not my redheads). They are already feeling more comfortable speaking in front of our group and are gaining confidence every week. Awesome!
My living Prairie Doll, Rina. It is a wonder she has any skin left on her face from all the kisses she receives daily. 

Another Primer friend, Alli, is making homemade whipping cream for the pumpkin pie we were having at lunch.

 Dinner time was pleasantly quiet as the children (on their own) practiced the idea of "children should be seen and not heard". They did better than I expected - especially my talkative redheads. Gracia and Naomi's father is our "Pa" who works nearby and comes to eat with us every Friday. It is always fun to have him join us and try our food.
 We had elk roast (instead of venison) with veggies and brown gravy, cornbread flavored with cracklins and homemade butter that we made ourselves, and pumpkin and apple pie with homemade whipping cream sweetened with honey. Delicious!
 After dinner the girls made corncob dolls. Gracia is showing hers off.

 Sorry, couldn't help but throw this pic of my cutie pie in there wearing her plaid prairie dress. 4 months old in this pic!
 The next week we had pancake men, hasty pudding (cornmeal mush), ham and heart shaped cookies for dinner.
 Hailey helped me make "johnnycake", which you eat with butter and maple syrup, honey or molasses. Kind of chewy.
 Hailey taught us about the California Gold Rush. The week before she taught us about gun safety.
 We made cheese the last week of the Big Woods. We made my basic raw queso fresco recipe and the kids loved eating the raw curds. Alli is cutting the curd in this pic.

 Naomi is stirring the curd.
I'm putting the curds into the cheese press. 
The Primer asked us to study about honeybees and how to process honey. How nice to have bees in residence and just go out the backdoor to look at a hive and pull a frame to harvest. 

 I'm showing the kids how to cut the caps off with a hot bread knife. Don't saw back and forth or you will get wax in the honey.
Josiah quickly took over and had it down pat. Our fresh, raw honey is the best I've ever tasted. So light!
The Primer asked us to do a meatless meal. So this is what we came up with. Beans, fresh cheese curds, johnnycake with butter and fresh, raw honey, and pumpkin pie with raw whipped cream.

In addition to these activities, we recited Psalm 91. It is 16 verses long, and it always amazes me how much these kids can memorize. They work on a passage of scripture each book.

I plan to post at the end of the month many of the really fun things we did for each book. It takes us about a month to get through each book.  

Hope you've enjoyed seeing what we are up to on Mission Rd Homestead. This is homeschooling at it's most fun. So privileged to be able to do this with my kids. Love watching deep friendships develop as a result of meeting every week. A little healthy competition never hurt anyone either. Love getting to teach a lot of things I've learned over the years as I enjoy getting back to the basics of living when I can.

God Bless,


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