May 15, 2018

Helping Dawdlers

Helping Dawdling Children
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

Tomorrow I'm having surgery; since I'm busy prepping for that, I'm updating an older post, rather than attempting to write a whole new one. The good news for you is that instead of reading about my beginner's experience with dawdlers, I can now offer you 12 years of experience!

That's because my daughter is a Dawdler Supreme. I have never seen a child dilly-dally as much as she does. Throughout her life, I've tried a lot of things to help cure her of dawdling - primarily because (I admit it!) it drives me absolutely crazy! Some things have helped more than others, and even though she still dawdles, as she ages, we see improvement. So my first word of advice is:

* Remind yourself (repeatedly!) that teaching your child to get a move-on is probably going to take years.

Additional helps:

* Keep in mind the big picture. During those times when all you want to do is yell at your dilly dallier, pray instead - while remembering the ultimate goal is not to upset your child or make him feel bad, but to help him learn the joys of being punctual and getting work done.

* It doesn't help to give a lecture on dawdling when you're in the midst of trying to hurry your child. Instead, find a relaxing few minutes later in the day to discuss why it's important not to dilly dally. Talk about the negatives of dawdling, sure, but end with the positive effects of getting things done in a timely fashion.

* Ask yourself whether you're expecting too much. Is the thing you want your child to do age-appropriate?

* Break down the steps for your child. For example, if you ask a 4 year old to get dressed, she might get overwhelmed and not know where to start. But if you stand nearby and talk her through the steps - one at a time - I'll bet she can handle it. Yes, there are definitely times you'll need her to get dressed without your help, but before you can do that, you must carefully teach her how to do it.

* Help your child become a problem solver. When you're not in the midst of trying to rush, sit down with your child and discuss one area where he or she repeatedly has trouble with dawdling. Ask your child to come up with come up with solutions that either you or your child can implement.

* Sometimes dawdlers just need more time. For example, if your child takes forever to get into bed, maybe you need to start the bedtime routine earlier in the evening.

* Make it a race. Some kids respond well to competition, so you can say something like, "Whoever gets dressed first gets to [insert special reward here]!"

* Give your child a checklist. If your child is too young to read, simple pictures showing tasks like brushing teeth or getting dressed may help.

* Help your child recognize cause and effect. Sometimes saying something like "I see you've changed your clothes before 7:30. That's great! Now there's time for us to sit down and read a book together." Other times, you might have to gently say, "It's already 8:00. I'm sorry; there's no time for a book this evening."

* Teach kids clock awareness. Help your child become aware of the ticking minutes by saying things like, "It's 12:30. That's lunch time." And "It's 1 o'clock. Lunch is over." Another great project is to give your child a stop watch and a list of activities (like "toast a piece of bread," "prepare a bowl of cereal," and "feed the cat") and help him or her time each one. Most dawdlers have a bad sense of how fast time passes, and activities like this can make them more aware of time moving.

* Help your child notice time passing - without nagging. Say something like "You have 5 minutes to get your shoes on." At 4 minutes, say, "You only have 1 minute left, hon. If your shoes aren't on in 1 minute, we're going outside without you." It's important not to yell. Or repeat.

* Use a timer or - better yet - the Time Timer. The Time Timer (pictured right) has a red section that allows children to easily visualize how much time they have left. My daughter responded exceedingly well this little clock and we had good results with it. I even used it for her homework; for example, I gave her a set of math problems, set the Time Timer to a reasonable time limit, and told her to "try to beat the clock."

* Use a timer to help feel time pass. Get your child started with whatever job he needs to get done, then set the timer for, say, 10 minutes. Tell him this is only to help him feel time passing. When the 10 minutes have passed, have him evaluate what he's accomplished, if anything. Then set the timer for another 10 minutes...and so on. When I used this method, I no longer heard things like, "It can't possibly be time to leave yet! Only a minute has passed!" I don't believe that when my daughter said such things they were an exaggeration. I think that's how the passage of time really felt to her. We often say that our dear daughter just has a different internal clock. By using this method of noting how time passes, we are helping her to adjust her internal clock to become more in line with the rest of the world.

This original version of this post appeared in June 2011.

May 11, 2018

Weekend Links

Spring on the homestead.
In which I share my favorite posts from this blog's Facebook page.

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site! 

"In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety."

Psalm 4:8

* I'm getting a hysterectomy for Mother's Day. Thankfully, I can chuckle about this! I'm not looking forward to the surgery, or to the recovery time, but I am looking forward to (Lord, willing) feeling better once I'm recovered. By the way, an awful lot of people think a hysterectomy is "no big deal." Mmmm...not really. It's a major surgery, with the removal of major organs, and recovery time varies considerably depending upon how the surgery was done (there are three basic methods, depending upon the health issues being addressed). So I'm prepping as best I can for the six week-ish recovery my doctor says I'll need, knowing t will likely take even longer to feel myself again.
The first line-dried laundry of the year!
But what an awful time of year to do such prepping! I was hoping to empty our freezer, now that my canning kitchen is complete. After all, it won't be too long and we'll have fruit in our orchard  needing preserving. I've made a good go at this task, canning up salsa (from last year's frozen tomatoes; click here for my salsa recipe, and here for info on freezing whole tomatoes) and some stock (click here for directions). I've also freeze-dried ham (bought on sale this Easter), split pea soup, and a variety of frozen veggies. But finish the job of emptying the freezer? It's just not gonna happen before my surgery.
First time using my canning kitchen.
And then there's the garden. Not only has acute anemia (which negatively affects every organ in the body) slowed me down this spring, but so has our weather. Like a lot of areas of the U.S., we've had a cooler than usual spring. This means my seedlings are smaller than I might otherwise expect at this time of year. Which means they are by no means ready to go into the garden. Which, incidentally, I still don't have. (I was thinking of doing a straw bale garden this year, as a quick and cheap alternative to trucking soil into my rocky garden spot, but it hasn't happened yet.) I did get some nursery-purchased tomato plants into the soil of the greenhouse, but everything else isn't ready to repot or move. So...who knows what will happen to this year's garden!

One area where I've been a bit more successful is making freezer meals for my family, so I don't feel the need to cook for a couple of weeks after my surgery. I don't normally do a lot of freezer meals, so it's been interesting to try to think of simple meals my family likes and that are so easy to reheat my kids can do it.
You might be a redneck if...your new raised bed is an old bathtub you found in the bushes.
I will be blogging during my recovery, although I'm not sure how often. (I wanted to write up a bunch of posts and schedule them to post periodically, but it just hasn't happened.)

* Amazon is barring a Christian organization from using its Smile program, yet allows other questionable groups to use it. My livelihood comes primarily from Amazon, so I am particularly disturbed about this. PLEASE take a moment to write to Amazon, complaining, and please consider ending your Prime subscription if Amazon doesn't amend this situation.
Using frozen tomatoes for salsa.

* Recall on ground beef.

* Recall on fresh oysters. 

* Recall on detox tea.

* An interesting article on how changing your diet can be a spiritual move. I think there's a lot of truth to this.

* Growing figs. By me, for Self-Reliance magazine.

* A clever way to freeze eggs.

* Tips for purchasing the best parental control router. 

* "Is curing patients a sustainable business model?" I have learned the hard way that pharmaceuticals and even health organizations you might trust believe the answer is NO.

Oldies But Goodies:

* How to Kill E.coli on Vegetables and Fruits 

* Eating Dandelion Flowers

* Use up your garlic scapes with these great recipes!

* Got rhubarb? Here's what to do with it.

May 8, 2018

Freeze Dried vs. Dehydrated Food (What's the Difference Between Freeze Drying & Dehydrating?)

Freeze Dried Food vs. Dehydrated Food - what's the difference?This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

At first blush, freeze-dried food and dehydrated food - or using a freeze dryer vs. using a dehydrator to preserve food -  may seem the same. So why would I buy a home freeze dryer when I already have not just one, but two dehydrators on our homestead?

Both methods of food preservation remove moisture from food, which then may be re-hydrated with ordinary water. I've even heard some people say that one method is just as good as the other. But there are several important differences between freeze driers and dehydrators.

How a Food Dehydrator Works

Dehydrating is an ancient practice. During biblical times, people made their food last longer by drying it in the sun. The Romans dried vegetables and fruit in “still houses,” which sped the process through fire. Today, most dehydrated food is made in an electric dehydrator, but the process is essentially the same: hot, dry air hits the food, removing much of its natural liquid, but not fully cooking it.
A home food dehydrator.
* Home dehydration removes about 80% (some sources say only 70%) of the liquid in food.

* Because of the affect of heat, around 60% of the food's nutritional value remains after dehydration. (Learn more about the nutritional value of dehydrated food here.)

How my plums went into the dehydrator...
...and how they came out of the dehydrator.
* Dehydrated food is shriveled and chewy. Once rehydrated (a process that's optional), the food is still quite different from fresh.

* With a few minor exceptions, only fruits and vegetables can be safely dehydrated. Low-fat meats may also be dehydrated, but without added preservatives, must be kept frozen.

* Home dehydrated food lasts a couple of years, under the right cool and dry conditions. Commercially dehydrated food often has preservatives, which can make it last up to 8 years. (In addition, commercial dehydrators remove more moisture from food, making it last longer in storage.)

* Home food dehydrators come at many price points, but the least expensive (yet still quality enough to do the job - click here for tips on choosing a good dehydrator) costs about $75.

How a Freeze Dryer Works

Freeze drying is a relatively modern technique, first reliably used during World War II to preserve medicine and blood plasma. Food is placed in a vacuum chamber, where the temperature is lowered to below freezing. Once the food reaches -40 degrees F., the machine raises the temperature until the ice (formerly liquid in the food) goes from a solid state to a gaseous state. (This is called "sublimation.") Finally, the machine removes the vaporized ice from the vacuum chamber. This process keeps the structure of the food intact. Despite what some internet sources claim, you cannot freeze dry food without a freeze drying machine.
A home freeze dryer.
* Home and commercial freeze drying removes 98 - 99% of the food's moisture.

* Freeze dried food retains about 97% of its nutritional value.

* Properly freeze dried food is not shriveled; it closely resembles fresh food.

* Freeze dried food is crisp. Once rehydrated (a process that's optional, unless we're talking about raw meat), it's very similar to fresh food. (In most cases, you're unlikely to know the food was ever freeze-dried.)
Strawberries fresh out of my home freeze dryer.
* Vegetables, fruit, meat, and some dairy can be freeze-dried. Only very fatty foods (like butter) do not freeze-dry well. Some surprising foods that can be freeze-dried include milk, cheese, and ice cream.

* Freeze dried food lasts 20 - 30 years.

* Only one manufacturer sells freeze dryers made for home use; a small unit costs just under $2,000.

Apr 30, 2018

Harvesting & Drying Elderflowers for Medicine

Elderberry Medicine
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site! 

I was so excited when I learned elderberry grew on our homestead. As you might already know, elderberry is a scientifically studied treatment for the common cold and flu, and is also used by herbalists to treat sinus infections, respiratory problems, and inflammation. Now imagine how sad I was when elderberry season finally appeared...and the berries were all red. Because like most people, I'd read over and over again that red elderberries are poisonous and therefore not good for medicine the way black and blue elderberries are.

Fast forward to the day I read the book Herbal Antivirals by Stephen Harrod Buhner. It's an impressively well-documented tome written by a respected herbalist, and among the things I learned from it was that all the fuss about red elderberries (as well as "poisonous" elderberry leaves, stems, and bark) is new-fangled. According to Buhner, native peoples - and notably, the Chinese - used red elderberries and all parts of the plant as medicine...without making themselves sick. The trick, Buhner explains, is in the preparation of the herb. (He also points out that red, blue, and black elderberries are not poisonous - that is, able to kill. They can, however, be toxic, causing nausea and vomiting if eaten in quantity and without the proper preparation.)

As of today, I haven't tried using red berries, but I do use the flowers from our red elderberry plants. Elderflowers are oerhaps best known as an ingredient in European food and drink. What most people don't know, however, is that they are medicinal, just like the plant's berries.

Watch my video on how to harvest, dry, and use elderflowers for medicine, and see my written how-tos, below.

To Harvest Elderflowers

1. Use only fully opened, fresh (not browning) flowers.

2. Cut off the flowers just above a two-leaf split. This encourages the plant to grow and thrive.

3. When you've gathered all the flowers you want (being sure to leave plenty behind so the plant can produce berries for animals and procreation), trim off the stems at the bottom of the flowers.

To Dry Elderflowers

1. Place the prepared elderflowers on the tray of an electric dehydrator (here's the latest version of the one I use) and dry at 95 degrees F. until flowers and slender stems are completely crisp. If preferred, keep the stems on the flowers and tie bunches together with string. Hang in a cool, dark location (like a closet) until fully dry.

2. Store dried elderflowers in an airtight jar in a cool, dark location.

To Use Dried Elderflowers as Medicine

The easiest way to use elderflowers as medicine is to make tea.

1. Fill a tea ball (like one of these) with elderflowers, crushing them as they go into the ball.

2. Place the tea ball in a cup and pour boiling water over it.

3. Cover the cup with a saucer, to prevent steam from escaping. This helps maintain the medicinal properties of the tea.

4. When the tea is cool enough to drink and no longer steaming, remove the saucer and drink. You may have the tea 2 or 3 times a day.

WARNINGS: According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's NIH website, "The leaves, stems, raw and unripe berries, and other plant parts of the elder tree contain a toxic substance and, if not properly prepared, may cause nausea, vomiting, and severe diarrhea. Because the substance may also be present in the flower, consuming large amounts of the flower might be harmful; however, no illnesses caused by elderflower have been reported." According to Herbal Antivirals, elderflowers are the part of the plant least likely to cause diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. He stresses, "the various parts of the plant are emetic (and purgative if you take enough) if used fresh."

That said, any plant or medicine has the potential to give somebody an adverse reaction, so practice common sense by trying a small amount the first few times you use elderflowers. To avoid vomiting and nausea, never consume fresh elderflower stems.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, nor should anything on this website ( be considered medical advice. The FDA requires me to say that products mentioned, linked to, or displayed on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information on this website is designed for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for qualified medical advice or care. There are no assurances of the information being fit or suited to your medical needs, and to the maximum extent allowed by law, I disclaim any and all warranties and liabilities related to your use of any of the information obtained from the website. Your use of this website does not constitute a doctor-patient relationship. No information on this website should be considered complete, nor should it be used as a substitute for a visit to, consultation with, or the advice of a physician or other qualified health care provider.

Apr 26, 2018

Low Sugar Blackberry Jam (No Added Pectin, with a Seedless Option)

Wild Blackberry Jam Recipe
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site! 

Lately, I've been trying to empty the freezer by freeze drying meats, stock, and veggies. (It's SO easy! I love this method of preservation!) But I had quite a few bags of blackberries in the freezer - wild blackberries we picked by the bucketfuls last summer. I'd set them aside for pies, crisps, and jam-making, simply by throwing them in a Ziplock bag and dumping them in the freezer. I didn't really want to freeze dry clumps of berries, so I decided I'd better use my canning kitchen as a canning kitchen (for the first time!) and whip up some jam.

But do you know how much stinkin' sugar is called for in traditional blackberry jam? Holy smokes! More sugar than berries! That just won't do, around here. I could have ordered some Pomona's Pectin (which allows you to customize the amount of sugar you use, unlike typical store bought pectin), but I wanted to can right away. I also could have used one of a myriad of "no sugar" blackberry jam recipes found online...but they aren't truly sugar free. They use juice or honey...which is still sugar. I also could have cooked the jam on the stove top and made freezer jam, using only enough sugar so my kids liked the jam. But I was trying to empty the freezer.

So I decided to make blackberry jam the old fashioned way. You see, blackberries contain natural, so adding pectin is unnecessary. However, in order to get no-added-pectin blackberry jam to gel, you gotta cook it down more than you would if you used store-bought pectin. This means your berries won't make as much jam...but I'd rather have fewer jars of jam that are low in sugar than more jars of jam and that have crazy amounts of sugar.

No Added Pectin, Low Sugar Blackberry Jam

Another bonus to making jam the old fashioned way is that you can double, triple, or otherwise expand the recipe without fear of the jam not setting!

2 cups crushed blackberries (wild or domestic)
Granulated cane sugar
2 teaspoons bottled lemon juice

1. Pour the blackberries in a heavy-bottomed pan. (Lightweight pans will scortch your jam.) Add sugar, to taste. (I used 1 scant cup of sugar. I recommend starting with less sugar than you think you need; then taste and add more sugar if needed.)

2. Place the pot over medium high heat and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.

3. Stir in the lemon juice. (Because the lemon juice adds acidity, it makes mold and bacteria less likely to grow in the jam. Use bottled juice, which has a standard acidity, instead of fresh juice, which could be less acidic.)

4. Boil and stir and boil and stir and boil and stir until the jam is thickened. The best way to know when the jam is done is to use a good  thermometor.* When the jam reaches 220 degrees F. (at sea level; click here for temps at higher elevations), it's done. If you don't have a thermometor, all is not lost! Use the "sheet test" or the "freezer test," as described at The National Center for Home Food Preservation website.

5. Ladle jam into hot 4 or 8 oz. jelly jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace, and process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes. (If you live at a high altitude, read this important information about adjusting canning times.)  

FREEZER JAM OPTION: Don't want to break out the canner? Simply allow the jars to completely cool on your countertop, then pop them into the freezer.

TO MAKE THE JAM SEEDLESS: Before step 1, place a mesh strainer (like this) over a large bowl. Spoon the mashed blackberries into the strainer and press them through the mesh with the back of a wooden spoon. The seeds will remain in the strainer, while the berry pulp will plop into the bowl. Proceed with making the jam, beginning with step 1.

* Be sure your thermometor is accurate! My first batch would not come up to temp. Finally, I realized the jam was thicker than it should be...and that my thermometor simply wasn't accurate. Grrr! TO CHECK THE ACCURACY OF YOUR THERMOMETER: Bring some water to a rolling boil and take it's temperature (without allowing the thermometer to touch the bottom or sides of the pan). Wear an oven mitt so you don't burn yourself. Water boils at 212 degrees F. (sea level).

Related Posts:

Apr 24, 2018

The BEST Salsbury Steak Recipe (Keto, Low Carb, LCHF)

keto recipe, low carb recipe, LCHF recipe, diabetic recipe
I have kids. And being kids, they are picky eaters. In fact, the only things I can count on them always eating are pizza, hot dogs, and hamburgers...Oh, and Salsbury steak! Actually, Salsbury steak has become one of my entire family's favorite meals, and this recipe (which I orgianlly found over at Low Carb Mavin) pleases everyone - whether or not they are eating keto.

P.S. I know the photo shows a very large serving of meat. I don't eat so much meat! It's my hubby's serving :) BEST Salsbury Steak Recipe

1 1/4 lbs. ground beef (I use 80/20 ground chuck)
3 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons Montreal Steak Seasoning
1/4 cup crushed pork rinds (If you oppose this ingredient and aren't low carb, sub breadcrumbs; you may also omit this ingredient altogether, but the resulting Salsbury steak isn't nearly as good!)
1/4 cup + 1/3 cup heavy cream
Bacon drippings or olive oil 
1/4 cup finely diced yellow onion
8 oz. button mushrooms, chopped fine
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon beef stock or bouillion
1 tablespoon butter

1. In a small bowl, combine the pork rinds (or breadcrumbs) and 1/4 cup heavy cream. Set aside and allow to soak for about 10 minutes.

2. In a medium bowl, use your hands to combine ground beef, Worcestershire, and Montreal seasoning. With a spoon, stir in the pork rind mixture.

3. Divide the beef mixture into 4 sections and form each into patties. Season both sides of each patty with salt and plenty of pepper.

4. Warm a large skillet over medium heat. One hot, add a teaspoon or two of bacon drippings or oil. Once melted, add the beef patties.

5. Cook beef patties until their internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F. Remove from the skillet and set on a plate, tenting with foil. Set aside.

6. Reduce heat to medium and add the mushrooms. (If there's little fat in the pan, add a dollop of butter.) Saute for about 1 minute. Add the onions and saute until tender.

7. Add the stock and water, deglazing the pan by scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the skillet.

8. Add the cream and any juices that have accumulated on the plate the patties are sitting on. Simmer until sauce thickens a bit. Stir in the butter and season with salt and pepper.

9. Serve the patties with sauce spooned over them.

Makes 4 servings. Estimated nutrition, according to SuperTracker: 430 calories; 27 g. protein; 4 g. carbs; 1 g. fiber; 34 g. fat.

Apr 16, 2018

Why I Bought a Harvest Right Freeze Dryer

Why I Bought a Harvest Right Home Freeze Drying Machine
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site! 

Well, I did it. I pushed the button on a home freeze dryer. I can hardly believe it - but I feel great about the decision! Yes, it's a little bit of an investment, but I have some specific reasons for adding the machine to our homestead.

Why a Home Freeze Dryer?

First, let me briefly explain how freeze drying is different from dehydrating. Both processes zap moisture out of food, making it suitable for storage without refrigeration or freezing. But freeze-dried food is a superior process that allows food to last for 20 years or more. It also doesn't shrivel the food or change its texture. (I will explain in detail the differences between dehydrated and freeze dried food in a future post.)

One of the most common reasons consumers are willing to spend a chunk of cash on a home freeze dryer is that they believe the federal government when it says every citizen should keep at least 3 weeks of food in storage, in case of emergencies. Yes, you can do this with store bought canned food, home canned food, home dehydrated food, or store bought freeze-dried food. But home freeze drying has distinct advantages.

* Freeze dried food takes up very little space. The same amount of food that would require a large shelving unit if you used home canning jars, or an entire freezer if the food was frozen, fits in a small box if freeze-dried.

* You don't have to worry about freeze-dried food going past an expiration date. It's good for at least 20 - 25 years - and since most of us rotate the food in our pantry, we can feel assured the food isn't going to go bad on us.

* Freeze dried food is less susceptible to damage during an emergency. In an earthquake, canning jars break. During a power outage, food in a freezer goes bad. Flooding ruins dehydrated food. But freeze-dried food in sealed bags is unlikely to suffer much.

* Freeze drying retains more of the food's nutritional value than any other long-term preservation method - 95% of its nutrients remain intact. Dehydrating and canning can't boast that.
What the medium-size freeze dryer looks like set up on our homestead.

However, store bought freeze dried food is expensive! Cheap 1-serving meal packets are at least $5 each, and more decent-tasting single servings are upwards of $9-10 each.

And, typically, commercially freeze-dried food isn't very healthy. Look in a camping store, at Amazon, in the food storage sections of Walmart or Costco, or at a manufacturer's'll see most freeze-dried food is packed with preservatives and other questionable ingredients, like soy. (Valley Food Storage offers the healthiest freeze dried food I've ever seen...and it's tasty, too! Read my review of their product here.)

My Reasons for Buying a Home Freeze Dryer

I've never been one to buy freeze dried food. I'm too frugal, and I always figured a combination of my home canned and homegrown food served my family well.

However, when I discovered I was diabetic and could reverse my blood sugar to normal by eating a keto diet, I had to question my former rationale. If for some reason I couldn't get food at the grocery store, what would I do? At first I thought: I'll just get sick...and if the situation lasts long enough, I'll die. I was okay with that...Then I considered what a burden this would be on my family. So what could I do to store a little keto food for emergencies?

I could dehydrate a few things. For example, I could home dehydrate jerky, low carb fruits, and low carb veggies. But homemade jerky without preservatives doesn't last long unless it's frozen...and frozen food is only good for maybe a year. And what if the power goes out and we lose all the food stored in the freezer? In addition, home dehydrated fruits and veggies only last a year or two. Plus, I'm personally not a big fan of dehydrated vegetables.

Our first batch came out wonderfully!
I could can some things. Meat is easy to can and lasts for as long as the seal on the jar stays good. I like canned meat, but if it was my main food source, I know I'd quickly tire of the texture and taste. I honestly don't like eating canned veggies. And what about my natural fats - the food that keeps me full and fueled? (On a keto diet, your body burns fat as fuel, instead of carbohydrates.) I'd have to trim all the fat off meat in order to can it safely - and it's not safe to can or dehydrate fatty things like dairy. Plus, they are predicting "the big earthquake" in my area. This could easily destroy all or most of my home canned food. (Click here for tips on protecting canning jars from earthquakes.)

I could buy freeze dried food, even though it's expensive. But trying to find keto-friendly options? Ugh! Pretty much impossible.

And yes, I'd still have my garden (barring a fire or flood or some other devastating problem) and in the future, we hope to have more animals that feed us. But what if it's a bad growing year? Or something destroys the crops? Or animals aren't producing the way we'd hoped? This kind of thing happens more often than most of us want to admit.

For me, the answer was purchasing a home freeze dryer. (Incidentally, only one company sells home-use freeze dryers: Harvest Right.) In it, I can preserve any vegetable, any meat, and many dairy products. In other words, I can create keto-friendly meals and foods in an easy to store package that's less susceptible to disasters. A win!

Other Uses for My Freeze Dryer

Once I made the decision to buy a home freeze dryer (a machine that, incidentally, cost about the same as the midline refrigerator we bought upon moving to our new homestead), I felt pretty excited. I realized that not only can I preserve food for my personal health, but I may end up doing more freeze-drying than other forms of food preservation. Here's why:

Our freeze dried green beans.
1. Freeze drying is a lot less work than canning. I love canning; I really do! But it's a lot of work to prep the food, heat it, put it in jars, monitor the canner, remove it from the canner, and get another batch going. With freeze-drying, you pop prepped food into the machine, check it once or twice, and then remove the food and seal it in a jar or bag. With canning, you have to be present through the entire process...and it can be exhausting. With freeze-drying, you can do other things while the machine is doing the work.

2. With my various health issues, I'm finding I'm way more fatigued than I wish I was. What if the fruit from our orchard is on, and I just don't have the energy to can it? Even without much energy, I can pop some fruit in the freeze dryer. I might even coach my kids to do the work - whereas there's no way they can safely can.

3. I love that freeze-dried food takes up so little storage space! I already mentioned this, but it's a big deal when you live in a small house like ours. I plan to put my home freeze-dried food into mylar bags with oxygen absorbers, then put those bags in plastic storage tubs to prevent the food from being crushed.

Our freeze dried cauliflower.
4. There's the possibility of using the freeze dryer to make money on the homestead. For example, I could freeze dry dog and cat treats and sell them. Or I could start a business drying bridal bouquets. Or I could dry other flowers to sell at craft fairs. I might even freeze dry and sell people food. (Check with your state's cottage food laws to see what is and is not allowed, and whether a licence is necessary.)

5. Freeze drying prevents food waste. It's true we don't often have leftovers around here. (Seriously, my kids need to get jobs to pay for the enormous amounts of food they eat! Ha!) But when I do have leftovers, I can pop them in the freeze dryer and know they won't spoil.

6. Freeze drying will be the bomb for medicinal herbs. Since freeze drying retains almost all the nutrients and properties of fresh food, I think it will be an outstanding choice for perserving the medicinal qualities of herbs.

How the First Batch Turned Out
Our freeze dried peaches.

Once our freeze dryer arrived and we set it up, I threw in a batch as soon as possible, wanting to immediately test the machine for any issues that might arise. On the off chance that the food didn't "turn out," I chose mostly pre-frozen food, which is cheap and already prepped. My first batch contained frozen green beans, frozen cauliflower, fresh strawberry slices, and (for my hubby) frozen peach slices.
Our freeze dried strawberries.

We were delighted with the end results! First, we tried everything without rehydrating it. The green beans and cauliflower were very good. (I think they'd be amazing properly seasoned and eaten without rehydrating - a tasty, healthy, crunchy snack!) And the peaches and (especially) the strawberries got gobbled up the same day.

We also rehydrated a portion of each food. Everything tasted fresh once we allow it to absorb some water. Amazing!

Expect More

I'm excited about the possibilities here, so as I learn the freeze-drying ropes, I intend to keep you up to date on my difficulties and successes. Keep an eye out for more freeze drying posts!

Apr 7, 2018

Weekend Links

The plums are blooming!
In which I share my favorite posts from this blog's Facebook page.

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"Pray without ceasing."

1 Thessalonians 5:17 ______________________________________

* I don't talk about my health issues much, unless I feel I can help others by doing so. But I know the power of prayer, and I could really use here goes. Not long ago, I was diagnosed with anemia. I'll probably be having surgery to correct the underlying problem, but this could take time...and in the meantime, I feel like a little old woman. The anemia causes a speeding heart, dizziness and seeing black (it's probably responsible for my super low blood pressure spell a few months ago), muscle pain and weakness, extreme fatigue, inability to think straight, and probably other things I'm forgetting due to my brain being so tired, too. Folks treat me like I should be able to handle homeschooling, writing to help support my family, doing all the housework, and other stuff...when in reality, I just need to go to bed. The doc may insist on an iron infusion (he says it's risky) or blood transfusion (obviously not that desirable, either) before my surgery if I can't manage to up my iron supplements, which make me seriously nauseated all day and often make me vomit or have digestive issues. Would you pray for me? Thank you.

* On a lighter note, English shepherds are a superb dog breed for homesteaders. You can even teach them to help in the garden :D

* Lately, a lot of people are asking how long it takes to dehydrate such-and-such a food. While there are writers who give times, I DO NOT. And I have good reason! Too often, I've seen people dehydrate by time, and end up with an under-dehydrated food that gets moldy in storage. That's because there are way too many variables to give accurate times on dehydrating. For example, if you cut your food thicker than I do, it will take longer to dry, or if the room your dehydrator sits in is more humid than mine, a longer dehydrating time will be necessary. CONCLUSION: To truly know if you've dried food long enough, you must rip it and look and feel for moisture. If there is any sign of moisture, keep dehydrating! Otherwise, the food is ready to go and should be placed in an airtight jar in a cool, dark location. (Or, you may seal it with a Food Saver.) Desiccant packs may also be prudent if you live in a humid location. (Learn more about how to dehydrate food here.)
I dehydrated rosemary last week.
* I enjoyed picking wild Siberian Miner's Lettuce last week. I used it mostly for salads. I love the veggie keeper I use to extend its shelf life. (Here's more info on finding Miners Lettuce in your area.)

Greens keep really fresh in this container.

* A really interesting read. Among other interesting tidbits: " He gave his cows the choice to consume the conventionally grown corn or BT corn. His cows ate the conventionally grown, however they smelled the BT corn and walked away from it. 'That’s not normal,' says Vlieger. He has tried this with many other animals and found that if they have not been forced to consume GMOs in the past, they won’t eat them and will go for the conventional feed instead."

* Recall of diaper cream, due to microbial contamination.

* 40 Years of Low Fat Diets are a Failed Experiment, says the latest research.

* Managing headaches and migraines, naturally.

The seeds are started!
* Pine sap as medicine.

* Want to save vegetable seeds this year? Here are some important considerations before doing so. Make sure you don't contaminate your seed! 

* Have a neighbor or relative with a plant you love? You may be able to easily propagate it, using just a small stem.

* 15 herbs to grow in the shade.

* Teaching your kids how to write a book report? This free printable makes it fun! I printed each page of the "sandwich" in an appropriate color. For example, the tomato page was read, the lettuce page was green, and so on.

* To the Mom Who Wants to Raise Godly Kids.

Oldies But Goodies:
Hubby found another pink bath tub - I mean, garden planter - in the briars!

* Early Spring Wild Edible Walk. (video)

* Is Your Birth Control Causing Abortions?

*  Making Dandelion Jelly (such a fun project to do with the kids!)

* A Proverbs 31 Woman's Priorities

* Age Appropriate Chores for Kids