Tuesday, November 29, 2011

DIY Laundry Detergent - The Winner!

Good Tuesday morning!  and it is a beautiful one, bright sun shining and very crisp and cold.

I did my normal early morning house chores, made the bed, folded some laundry, put fresh sheets on a guest bed, and tidied up the kitchen.

Over Thanksgiving I had laid out an extra pie crust to thaw in case we wanted a different pie....didn't have to use it so I made jam pasties this morning.  I never know what to call them, but Cindy over on Chickens in the Road posted her pastie recipe with meat filling and I thought they looked like my little ones with jam....so jam pasties they are!

I had a jar of over-processed peach jam where I had cooked down the sugar and peaches  with no added pectin and I overdid it on the cooking.  I thought this would be a good use of the jam and it was. I just roll out the crust pretty thin and use a can for the cutter.  I put a dollop of jam in the center, brush edges with water, fold over, crimp with a fork and sprinkle the tops with raw sugar.  I baked them at 400° for 15 minutes and they were done perfectly.

DIY Laundry Detergent

OK, so the real purpose of this post is to tell you about the laundry detergent.  I have thus far tried two or more DIY recipes, one liquid and we were never happy with how our clothes came out.  Now you must factor in that we are active farmers and we get some serious dirt both animal and mineral on our clothes and I am a messy cook and wipe my hands frequently on my aprons (but not my pink one!) which leaves greasy spots.  These never came out with the other trial soaps.

I found this one on Keeping a Family Cow forum .
It was originally posted by Mountainmama and the founder of the forum had made it and was very pleased with the results.

I had everything already on hand except the Oxyclean from my previous trials.
My husband does our laundry and it the resident expert on all things involved with keeping our clothes clean.  I defer to him on all things laundry and he is happy with this one.


2 bars grated Fels-Naptha
2 cups baking soda
3 cups washing soda
3 cups Borax powder
1 cup Oxyclean (buy the generic one; I bought Sun Oxygen cleaner at Wal Mart)

Use 1-1/2 Tablespoons for normal load and 2 Tablespoons for very dirty clothes.  We just use the scoop that came in the Oxyclean.

The added plus is the clothes feel like you have used a rinse, very fluffy and they have a nice clean smell.  We have very hard water and so far this has worked equally well as Tide w/bleach which is all we would use up to this point.

I just read that  Oxyclean is the bleach product in Tide!  No wonder it works so well.  I think it was the addition of it that made this one DIY one work.

I will give a report on the new Oat Bread Cockaigne that I made yesterday tomorrow...
and using coconut oil.

Monday, November 28, 2011

We are having a period of colder than normal weather here.  It began raining Saturday and drizzled all day; we got another inch which is very good.

Well when I read my previous post, I saw I didn't get done all I had set out to do...no surprise there!
I didn't get the fridge cleaned...I made a small batch of fudge but it was a total disaster; very sugary. If any of you have a "no fail" recipe I will be most grateful!  This was so bad, I froze it hoping to find a use for it at some point.  I can't make decent brownies either!

Our company left around 3PM Saturday afternoon.  I go into a let-down mode and pretty much drop into my easy chair and recuperate for a long while after company and big dinners.

Sunday I was somewhat back to normal mode and  vacuum sealed lots of turkey and ham and dressing.  I have two quarts of turkey broth to freeze today. 

I didn't milk when I said I would but I did yesterday morning.  We were completely out of milk and were reduced to drinking some 'store' milk DH's mom brought out left from her dinner.  She can't drink regular milk; has lactose intolerance.  The minute I have Willow's milk DH won't drink the store milk.....

 We are down to a few slices of Oatmeal bread so today I will be baking....

Random Farm Picture

I haven't taken pictures lately... I took this a few weeks ago.  It is in a 7-acre pasture that marks the western boundary of the farm.  I can see it from the west side of the house.

Rain has stopped for we have had a few gloomy days with no sun in sight.

I know most of us are busily preparing for Thanksgiving dinner/dinners so I will just jot down some of my doings.

First, I got started reading Nina Planck's book "real food" again and got worked up once again.  I keep coconut oil on hand but use it mostly for soaping.  I will be changing that after reading about its beneficial qualities in her book.  I decided to test it by using it to make biscuits this morning.  I used my regular 2 cups of flour recipe and use 1/2 cup of the coconut oil.....perfect biscuits in every way.  That will be a new routine .  Now I don't order online and get organic, cold milled which may negate all the benefits of my Walmart buy....I don't know.

I have my two pie crusts laid out thawing for making pies for MIL's dinner tomorrow.  I made rolls yesterday and will take some also.  The rest I will freeze for our Saturday dinner.  I have the ham thawed and will cook it Friday since my daughter and family will be here...leftover for the Saturday dinner alon with the turkey.

I cooked two bags of .99 Ocean Spray cranberries for sauce; taking out one pint for whole and running the balance through the Foley's Food Mill for the smooth sauce.

But the big news is I defrosted the upright freezer so I can actually see things again.  I took out three bags of sliced apples and cooked them for chunky applesauce for an alternative to the cranberries.

Funny thing about making the rolls so early;  I was preparing to make a test batch of the Oat Bran bread and already had the 2 packages of yeast proofing and began looking for the hot oat bran cereal the recipe calls for....not to be found (which led me to the defrosting project!)....I didn't have any.  By now the yeast is getting reading to flow over the sides of the measuring cup.....I decided to just make the dinner rolls instead of the bread.  I had every additive known to the bread-making world but no hot oat bran cereal!

Today I fully intend to clean out the bottom freezer drawer of the fridge....bet I find the oat bran cereal...maybe. It would hurt to clean the entire refrigerator either.

I will also milk this morning so I won't run out.  My kids are big milk drinkers, especially our icy cold raw milk. I raised 'em right!

Sis called yesterday evening around 5:30 PM...she was visiting with her DH and she told him she was going to call and they had a bet I would be in my jammies.......easy money.!  Of course I had on my jammies; it was dark outside ergo, I am ready for bed.  Well she kept me up until 7:30 so I managed to stay awake until 8:30 PM.  The time change is killing me...

I am going to make fudge today.  Our granddaughter has asked for it twice now.....this time she is getting it.  I will be sending it home with her.  I can remember when she wouldn't touch anything chocolate.

to be continued...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Bean Soup and odds and ends - Onion and Garlic Harvest

We have had some pretty disagreeable weather for a few days, overcast and even got some more rain; about 1/2 inch. They are predicting heavy rains along and south of I-44.  We are about 10 miles north of I-44 so we may not be in the heavy zone, but we hope we are.  The ground is pretty wet now so that would mean run-off that would refill ponds for farmers.

I just read Ilene's blog about cooking beans and having leftovers and it reminded me of what I did with some leftover beans last week.  First I cooked a large pot of white beans with a very meaty ham bone and we enjoyed it with cole slaw and cornbread (I baked this so I would have some leftovers for dressing for Thanksgiving).  The next day I didn't want beans again  so I modified my Bean Soup recipe that called for stew meat.  I cut all the ham off the bone and added it back to the beans pot.  Then I diced up 4 potatoes, an onion and some celery, covered with water and cooked it until very soft.  I used the potato masher to slush it up some.  I then added about half the leftover ham and beans to the potato mixture.  I added salt and pepper to taste and brought back to a boil.  I used the masher again.  I could have used an immersible blender but mine is for soap making....At the last minute I added a large dollop of butter.  It was better than the original beans!  I still have a small portion of beans left which I will make into baked or barbecued beans today.

I think I will make another oatmeal type bread today and check it against the Grandma's bread recipe.  This will be a good bread day....it is cold and having the oven on will be very cozy.

I started a quart of buttermilk yesterday and it still hasn't clabbered.  I used store milk for a starter so I don't know what happened; will just leave it out longer.

Pictures of the Day

Candy onions and garlic.  I had lots of Super Star white onions but I have used all of them already; they don't keep quite as long as the yellows. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Post No. 2 (optional) How to Fix CD RW Drive

This one is almost funny but it saved me a lot of time, trouble and money!

You may skip this one if it is of no interest to you.  I probably would myself.

I have two computers.  They are hooked together so I can access either from the new one.  The old computer has two CD/DVD drives, one rewritable.  The new computer has only one Multimedia Drive.  For some time now the RW drive on the old computer would not open....computer told me everything was working...still couldn't open the drive.  I wanted to burn some copies from MP3 disc (the funeral......don't ask me why!)OK,ask.....MIL requested them for other relatives.....I made one from a file I downloaded on my new computer and it took a long time to then burn it to a cd.  This would be so easy with the dual file so I was determined to take both computers in and have a second drive installed on the new computer and have the non-working drive fixed or replaced on the old one.  I called Office Depot and Staples....one would have to order the drives...I had to go in to order it; they wouldn't take a credit card over the phone....I couldn't wait while they repaired it. The other store had the drive but was a few days behind....couldn't wait for that one either.  I didn't want to leave either one in the stores since all my financial data is on them.....

When all else fails, Google!  There it was how to repair the old drive.  It required a straightened paper clip!  Yes, a paper clip....you stick it in the tiny hole in front of the drive; push it in and it releases a locking mechanism and out pops the drive!  Amazing.  So now, I will just live with the single drive on the new one.

I figure it saved me about $200.

Refinished Cedar Chest

I finished this yesterday.

I have it in front of the sofa like a coffee table.  It looks crowded here but the room is 19 x 16 and it leaves plenty of space.
and here is the real reason I bought it:

This let me get rid of a table in a bedroom that had stacks of bedding on it and empty some zipper bags of blankets out of the closet.  There is still room for more in the chest.  It is 48 inches long.

We are liking having a coffee table in front of the sofa...haven't had one in years.  Now DH has yet another place to stack all his reading material, glass and coffee cup and all the other detritus he seems to surround himself with! 

I wanted to report that I made my 6-crust recipe for pies and used the newly rendered lard to test it for taste.
I made a small blackberry cobbler and the crust is wonderful...no piggy taste at all.  I am set for Thanksgiving pies now.  All are frozen singly so I just take out what I want and let  thaw. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Heirloom Petunias - Onion and Garlic Harvest - Pumpkin Sheet Cake

It is a  very cold morning here; our first hard freeze (28° for three hours).  We will sink down to around 26 by daylight.  I meant to get some rose cuttings...may be too late for that.

So far the heirloom petunias I grow have been improved by the cold....I will see what this does to them when I go out to milk this morning.

This is a little patch that reseeds itself  right by the garage door.  I just leave them be and we walk  around them.
These are growing outside the back porch door among the late lettuce I planted.  I just tossed the seeds out during the summer.

They are such a carefree plant...no hybrid ruffly things for me!  I love the simpler blooms of all heirlooms the best.

The lettuce is still good too.

If I have shown this picture before, forgive me.....I didn't want to look it up...I did gather all the cured onions and garlic a couple of weeks ago and got it stored in a freeze-free zone (the milk parlor).

The onions will be gone long before winter is over...the garlic might last forever (it will go bad before then).

I made the Pumpkin Sheet Cake as promised and we kept out 4 pieces and the rest is in the freezer for the Holidays.and iced and cut into squares.

Pumpkin Sheet Cake

1 can (16 oz.) pumpkin
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs lightly beaten
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Beat pumpkin, sugar and oil together. Add eggs and mix well. Combine flour, b. soda, cinnamon and salt. Add to pumpkin mixture, mix well. Pour and spread over a greased 15x10x1 inch baking pan. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or done.

Cool and then frost with cream cheese frosting.


1 pkg cream cheese softened (3oz)
5 Table. butter softened
1 teas. vanilla
1-3/4 cups powdered sugar
3-4 teaspoons milk

Chopped nuts (optional)
Beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla until smooth. Gradually add the sugar and mix well. Add enough milk to get the right spreading consistency. Frost cake and sprinkle with nuts.

Yield 20-24 servings.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Fall Roses - Lard

We have been having some wonderful warm weather....if you don't count the wind. However, yesterday was just perfect....with no wind at all.

I have been catching up on some odds and ends of projects.

First, I rendered the last two bags of ground pork fat and got 6 lbs of the wonderful stuff.  It renders so quickly on top of the stove in the maslin pot so that is what I always do.  I started with this,

and ended with this
From Blog photos

This time of year my roses always look better than any other time of year.  I have 4 or so blooming now.

This first one is Paul McCartney which I planted sometime in the early 1990's.  That is a very long time for a rose to last in my gardens.

It was so windy the day I took these photos that trying to catch the blooms up close was tricky.
That is my excuse for these being very off center,and this is a single bud that I finally anchored with my hand,
and this last one is called the last rose of summer and it is also the first rose  of spring.  It is an ancient China rose called Parson's Pink,

I have two others blooming that I will try to photograph before another hard freeze.

I started refinishing the cedar chest I bought.....ended up just sanding off the finish and will do a coat or two of poly to seal it.  I sanded the inside to refresh the cedar smell.  I hope to bring it in today.  I plan to store extra bedding in it.  It wasn't in pristine condition.....

Saturday, November 12, 2011

It was another early morning here.  2:45AM!  I am thinking reaction to the Prednisone....but my arms and hands are well....
It was much warmer this morning, 50° but will be another windy day.  Deer season starts this morning so I will not be outside much...I could hear the neighbors shooting out yesterday afternoon.  That always scares me.

I wanted to report that I made the pumpkin cake from Denim's recipe.  I love recipes that make small cakes since it is just the two of us.  I was very surprised at how light and fluffy the cake was.  I thought because of the pumpkin it would be pretty dense but not so.  It is all gone but two pieces now.

I have added some really good new recipes from blogging friends which is just another plus from enjoying  reading the blogs.

A gardening friend recommended these new toys because of my hand issues.  I got them 'free' with points on my credit card which was a real plus!  I have just used them a few minutes to test and know I will love them.  The loppers cut through some smaller saplings like butter.  They are recommened by the Arthritis Foundation.
Bless Amazon's corporate heart, I found them there.  They haven't failed me yet!  Amazon that is.

Some time ago I mentioned that I made a 'new' DIY laundry soap recommended on my favorite cow blog.
I am still in the testing it mode, but washed a set of flannel sheets yesterday and they came out fluffy and soft and slightly fragrant.  We haven't been using a rinse with Tide and the towels have been pretty stiff.  DH washed a load with jeans last evening but they weren't really soiled and he liked how they came out.  I am tentatively thinking it will be the one we use.....more to come later when I test some really soiled clothes.
 I have now tried a liquid and a granular and we didn't like either.....this one may be a keeper recipe.  I haven't figured the costs yet but it has to be minimal compared to Tide at $14 a box!

A little fall color:

This is what I call the 'Grace' bed for the smoke tree that is the star.  It has two crepe myrtles on the right and a red barberry on the left with a very dark red mum in front.  Nothing is spectacular this year because of our hot and dry summer.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Trials on Oatmeal Bread

Up at 3AM.  Rains are gone and it is in the 30's. 

Well, I began the trial baking on oatmeal bread yesterday. The first one I did was called Grandma's Oatmeal bread.  Here are  some various pictures.
It looks beautiful.....until I show you the other side.

As you can see it exploded.  Now I would rather I get a nice tall rise than not, but this is overdone!  I may not have had the sealed part on the bottom enough.   Or maybe the pinch of ginger helped the yeast a bit much.
But we have decided we  don't care.  It was just an excellent bread, very fine textured and soft and should make for some great sandwiches.  We find whole wheat breaks a little to much for good sandwiches, especially after a few days.

This one is well worth trying.

Grandma's Oatmeal Bread

From Blue Ribbon Breads by Hodgson Mills

2 pkg yeast
½ cup 115° water
1-1/4 cup boiling water
1 cup quick-cooking oatmeal (I have just chopped up regular in the food processor before)
½ cup light molasses (or honey)
½ vegetable oil
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
6 to 6-1/2 cups unbleached flour (you may mix with whole wheat- I did)
2 eggs beaten
solid shortening to coat bowl and two 9x5x3 loaf pans

1 egg white
¼ cup oatmeal
1 T. water

Add yeast to ½ cup warm water and let stand 10 minutes (this is proofing the yeast)

Combine boiling water, oatmeal, molasses or honey, oil and salt. Cool to lukewarm. Stir in 2 cups flour. Mix well.
Add 2 whole eggs and yeast mixture. Mix well. Add remaining flour to make a soft dough. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, 10 minutes by hand or 4 in mixer. Put in a greased bowl, rotate to coat top. Cover with a damp towel and let rise about 1-1/2 hours. Knead down and let rise a second time until doubled, about l hour.
Divide into two equal portions form into loaves and place in greased pans and let rise about one hour.

While dough is rising preheat oven to 375°.

Brush loaves with the egg white coating mixture and sprinkle with oatmeal.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes until top is golden brown. Remove from pans immediately and let cool on racks.

Makes 2 loaves.

Note:  I added 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
I used half honey and half molasses since my molasses was dark
I used half olive oil and half canola oil.
All else exactly the same.

I told you it is hard for me to follow bread directions to the letter!

Random Cat Picture

Our granddaughter took this one.  It appeals to me.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Recipe for Chocolate Sheet Cake

I am still having trouble adjusting to the time change; now getting  up around 3 AM.  It does give me some nice, quiet reading time...

Today is much cooler and windy.  I  took a few pictures  and was pretty cold by the time I came back in.
I am getting color on my October Glory Maple at last.

and this is the west yard.....I do no ornamental gardening here and I love it.....

My trees are a swamp oak, a white oak, the pin oak and some silver maples....and the red maple.  Note:   I don't do leaves....might windrow some with the mower later....or not.

I was surprised to see this late lovely yesterday in all the rain.  This is the old standby 'Immortality' iris.

I have had some requests for both the oatmeal bread and the sheet cake recipes.  Here is the sheet cake, a very simple, no-fail recipe:

Secret Cake

I have been making this cake for so long, probably since 1971 when this local cookbook came out.
It was called Symphony of Cooking, fifth movement published by the Springfield Symphony Orchestra presented by The Women's Division of the Springfield Symphony Association.

When I make it for the whole family, I take out half the icing for plain and add the nuts and coconut to the rest....I then have a half plain iced and half other....we seem to be divided on who wants what!

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
½ Teaspoon salt

l stick butter
½ cup shortening
1 cup water
3-1/2 Tablespoons cocoa

½ cup buttermilk
2 unbeaten eggs
1 Teaspoon vanilla
1 Teaspoon soda

Sift first 3 ingredients together. Bring next 4 ingredients to a boil; pour over sugar mixture and blend well. Add last 4 ingredients ; mix well. Batter will be thin. Pour into greased 11x16x1 inch pan. Bake at 400° for around 20 minutes.


1 stick butter
3-1/2 Tablespoons cocoa
½ cup buttermilk
1 box powdered sugar
1 Teaspoon vanilla
1 cup black walnuts or nuts of your choice
1 cup flaked coconut

Boil first 3 ingredients until slightly thickened. Remove from heat; add rest of ingredients. Leave cake in pan; frost while still hot.

This freezes well.
Yield: 20 large servings or 5 dozen brownie size.

As for the Oatmeal bread, I had it in the freezer and I have about 3 recipes for oatmeal bread and don't know which one I did.  I also notoriously ad lib with various additives.  So this morning I am making two loaves of one of the recipes and actually following the recipe (maybe a couple tiny ad libs...) and will test and see if it is my best one.  Besides, it gave me a good reason to make bread!  More to follow...

Ilene mentioned salt for the mincemeat.  I don't think I added any....will add a bit to the package in the  fridge.  I use vinegar too.  I will post me DIY recipe soon.

I am making my Iowa sis a care package this afternoon.  She will be getting  package of mincemeat, a batch of Goat's Milk soap with lavender and rosemary fragrance, and a package of vanilla beans and my recipe for vanilla.  I have almost let it all slip a time or two.  I like to surprise her!  I want her take on the mincemeat.  It isn't for anything special just fun.  She does love the soap.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Back At Last - Lots of Rain and other odds and ends

We have been getting wonderful rains at last.  First 1/2 inch and then 2.5 inches and counting with  this last system.  We are so grateful. Pastures should grow here until the ground freezes hard and stays that way.  The cows will be happy!

I have been missing from Blogland for a while now.  My FIL passed away last Wednesday and we have been busy with family, services and all that entails.  His death was a blessing; he was completely helpless and semi-conscious the last few days.  Funerals are usually an anathema to me and I was delighted that we had what I imagine an Irish Wake to be only minus the whiskey and food!  The minister had asked for remembrances from all of us and when a story peaked his interest he would ask for more details.  One involved  Jack letting a new car back into the lake while my very young son was holding the boat by a rope....Jack was afraid the boat would pull Steve into the water so he jumped out to save him, not setting the brake....Steve saw the car backing into the water and yelled at him.....he jumped back in but not before telling Steve to let go the boat.  He set the brake and was now sitting in water up to his waist.  Steve ran to get help and they were winched out of the lake.  He then parked the car  and they fished the rest of the day!  The audience was laughing before the story was finished.  Lots of wonderful memories were shared.

It was the first time I felt better after a funeral than before  The vocalist sang some wonderful old hymns and asked the guest to sing along and many did.  I looked back over the small crowd and realized most were in their 70's and way beyond.  It was mostly their church friends.  Jack would have loved it.

Sylvia is doing quite well as I knew she would.  She has no regrets and planned the funeral like she knew he would want.  Max asked for a military funeral for him.  He served in the Navy during WWII.  It was very impressive!

We all feel now that life goes on and we are not sad.

I had the immediate family out to the farm and we had sandwiches on my French  and Oatmeal Bread.  I also had a huge pots of hamburger soup with two kinds of crackers and served that Chocolate Sheet Cake that some call Mississippi Mud Cake. 

All company was gone by Sunday morning.  I had to take Monday off to rest!  I love them all dearly but it takes a little energy to deal with all the food things.  The blessing was my hands and arms were finally back to normal.  Thank you Prednisone.

I was cleaning out the fridge of leftovers (chickens love that!) and found I had thawed a package of piecrust that needed to be used.  I hadn't sampled this year's mincemeat yet so I made tarts.  Only two are left; even DH ate them and he isn't a big fan of mincemeat. I didn't think this year's batch was up to snuff but I can't figure out what is missing.