Monday, September 8, 2014

Save those Heirloom Tomato seeds!

Yep , its that time of year.. .Tomato season is coming to an end *sniff sniff............. I am thoroughly enjoying the last of my daily tomato sandwiches, canning some salsa, and   of course....saving my seeds!

Saving most seeds is fairly easy, you scrape out the seeds and set them out to dry,but tomato seeds require a couple extras steps, on account of the tomato that is stuck to the seeds.. To save heirloom tomato seeds you need to seperate the tomato flesh from the seeds.. And today I am going to tell ya how to do that ;)

What you will need
* Your favorite heirloom tomato ( this is a big rainbow in pic)
* a small glass ( I have a shot glass in the photo)
*saran wrap or plastic bag

*Cut tomato in half and scoop out the seeds, place in glass..

*Fill Jar with about 1.5" of water

Cover Jar with either saran wrap or plastic bag and place rubberband over jar. Poke holes in the top of the plastic to allow air circulation.

Stir mixture once a day every day for about 3-5 days until you see a fairly thick film on top of the water. It will aslo have an unpleasant smell, don't panic,, haah, this is normal..

Rinse seeds with water while dumping out the yucky water.. the yuck will dump out and the seeds will stay at the bottom of the glass.. Pour SLOWLY so you don't dump any seeds out.
Place on napkin or plate and let air dry!!
THATS IT! place in envelope , label and seal.. place in a cool dry place..

No more buying heirloom seeds! Ok who am I kidding,, no matter how many seeds I save, I always buy another variety the next year ;) But this is a great way to save money and grow those heirlooms you love!!!

**Fermenting the seeds will  also help kill any disease present, but please beware that it will not kill all disease. so try to stay away from infected plants.

What is your favorite Heirloom tomato?? I am always looking to try new varieties!

The Cools

Thursday, September 4, 2014

How to: canning Grape Juice

Labor day weekend, I was lucky enough to be invited ( by a friend) to go pick some grapes. A fella she knew apparently had TONS of grape vines that his grandfather planted ( so yeah these are some old vines), and being near 80 he just didn't really have use for all of them.. Best of all , they are all ORGANIC! never been sprayed.
Needless to say we picked A LOT of grapes.. we each came home with about 40 lbs worth !

I knew I could make Jam (but my canned goods cubbard is plum full of jam ) but wanted to make something else. I thought about grape juice and what do ya know..........
My friend Tree from posted a recipe for me, from her blog. She did say it turned out a little sweet.. So I decided to look around online and found a wonderful recipe for Grape Juice Concentrate.

What you will need:
Grapes: Concord are probably the best for juice, but other varieties will work too.
-Boiling water.

1. wash and sterilize Quart Jars.. then place in canner in hot hot water for atleast 10 minutes.
2. remove Jars from canner.
3. Fill each Quart Jar with 2 Cups grapes and 2/3 cup sugar

4, Pour boiling water over mixture and stir up. Leave 1" head space.
5. Wipe rim, add lids and rings and boil for 20 minutes in a water bath canner...

THAT IS IT.. It is probably the easiest canning recipe I EVER encountered!

One jar boiled over a bit when i took it out of the canner, so that gave me the wonderful opportunity of trying the juice,, and it is going to be DELICIOUS!

I am not sure as to how long you should let the Jars sit, but I am going to bet a couple months would be good, the longer they sit the more concentrated and flavorful they will be :)

When you are ready to open and serve:
strain out Juice through Cheescloth and discard grapes into compost. Add 1 qt Cold water and serve!

Next up:  WINE :)

The Cools

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Bee Kind Family Farm Honey Giveaway!!!!

Ok,, its giveaway time!! We have been extremely blessed this Bee Season. We have expanded to 64 Hives at the present time and have pulled a whole lotta that liquid Gold!! So I figure its time for a giveaway..
The winner will receive a 1 lb jar of our Summer Harvest Honey.. This is a blend of (the all time favorite here in the mountains) Sourwood. and other various wildflowers including a plant we have here called Japanese Knotweed...
Follow the instructions in the rafflecopter box below!!
each one counts as an entry, so if you do all 3, you get 3 entries in the raffle :)
* follow my FB page
* Make a Comment on this post.. it can be anythign Honey bee or homesteading related :)
*Follow My blog!

Good Luck!
Winner will be announced September 5th!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Homesteading: The true story

Ok, its a little embarrassing, OK, its a lot embarrassing and I am sure my husband is wondering why I would post a picture like this..
If you are wondering what this is, its our wood shed that has somehow turned into a storage shed..
Its the middle of august, and we have NO wood split.. thats right, NONE.

I wanted to show the REAL side of homesteading.  With so many blogs and facebook pages out there showing pretty pictures with lovely quotes attached, I wanted to show what it can REALLY be like....Its not all running through a field of daises, swimmin in the creek  and cookin beans over a cookstove while we all sit around and craft and tell stories and live some laid back fantasy life.. ( well ok maybe in the winter we sit around a bit more;)

This is the reality of having a LOT going on....THIS is the reality of trying to be self sufficient, it can get ugly,, haha

we went from about 20 hives to 60 this year. and between that, gardens, the farmers market, raising a 7 yr old, canning our harvest, and everything else life has to offer, we are just a litttttle behind.

Being completely off the power grid, this is our only source of heat, Hot water and how we cook and bake from about october to may. so we go through A LOT of wood.

Robb assures me we are ok, and he is going to start splitting that big ol pile soon. but thats not even close to what we need . If he have to buy a load this year, I am ok with that.. its  hard to do it all, and we just have to remember that sometimes its not possible...and sometimes ya have to pull out the checkbook to keep your own sanity.....

This is what homesteading looks like at times.. its a never ending battle to keep up!!! But what else would we do if not this??? its our life :)

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Summers done come n gone, my oh my...

Yes, yes it has. And I have again managed to neglect my blog.  Its been insanely busy around here, and I just don't have time to blog, or when I do I am dog tired... So how about a photo gallery of our summer here on the homestead? We had an amazing bounty from the garden this year, and now have 60 Hives!
We stayed busy gardening, canning, selling at the market. we even managed a trip back to our hometown for My dads retirement Party. It was a nice break from work at home and a long overdue visit with my family!

                                                                      Norah Helping Process Chickens

                                             a bountiful year for honey (600 lbs so far!),, and look at the rainbow of color!
                                                                       Our Market Booth
                                                                 our Market Booth
                                                                       Norah selling her honey from her hive
                                                                   dads retirement party!

Cousins :)

I hate to say it, but I feel fall in the air.......... Its been nice prepping the falling garden on these cool days,, but I am not quite ready for winter ( neither is our wood shed :0 )

Savoring the last of the summer days.........................................

Until next time
The Cools

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Market Days * Life Lessons

 Market season starts just as Norah gets out of school. And now that she is 7 yrs old, its a lot easier, not having to chase a 3 yr old around the booth! She helps with the signage, selling, setting up, and of course wooing the customers. Really, I think we sell more when she starts talking to them ..hehe
She loves shopping at the market, and was so excited to get her Purple Cauliflower from Zydeco Moon Farm. She also loves the sugar snaps and of COURSE the homemade chocolate chip cookies.

She has been quite a help around  the homestead too! Last week she helped us process 18 chickens, she plucked, carried plucked birds to dad, filled the coolers with ice and water..

I am so proud of her and hope she carries these lessons into adulthood....

This week she has camp, so I guess I am left harvesting, washing and packaging solo.

We love Market days!! A great way to spend the afternoon as a family..

Find your nearest Market and Support your LOCAL farmer!!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Solar Hot water Round #2

So. last year, if you read our previous posts, we built a passive solar hot waterbread box for our hot water in the summer. And while it worked, it was just too far away from the shower, so by the time the water got back to the shower the tank filled up with cold water, it was just too far of a run. So we really only got a about one showers worth of hot water on a sunny day. and as soon as the sun went down the temperature of the water in the tank dropped immediatly.

So this year my husband built a solar hot water collector. Which is actually a solar panel. Some people think of solar panels as the part that generates the electricity, but this is actually not true, that is called a solar module. A solar panels are actually water heating devices.

So we are going to do our best to explain to you  how we built our solar hot water panel.


- repurposed glass ( we used sliding glass door, you want something about that size , about 32x80", which is pretty good size) double paned is better
-some lumber to build a frame, treated 2x4's and treated plywood ( because this will be sittting outside on your roofe)

- some type of insulation , foam board insulation  to line the inside of your box

- a metal absorption plate, we used some repurposed metal roofing spray painted black

-spray paint, black, flat works best

- some type of copper tubing to build your heat exchanger, depending on size .. we got a couple peices of 3/4" pipe and also a few rolls of the soft copper refrigeration tubing.
( please note that there are many different ways to build an exhanger which will require different amounts of copper, fittings etc) we chose this method because I could drill holes in the 3/4" pipe and insert the small tubing braze around it to make like a ladder type effect

- temperature controller, ours is a a close on rise temperature controller. ours is a honeywell.

-fasteners, misc nuts and bolts and glues and caulk etc :)

- air vent

- pressure releif valve ( Very important, for safety issues!!!!)


We decided to keep our hot water storage tank (which is well insulated) so that way the water you heat up stay hotter longer.. so if the sun goes down you still have time to take a shower.. so its not connected anymore, its just a storage tank.
So first we built a box for the sliding glass door to sit on.

Then, we put blueboard insulation on the inside of that wooden box.

Then we put our metal roofing , cut to fit, and set on top of the insulation and then screwed it down.

Next we built our heat exchanger to fit inside of that box..
You can sodder or braze or the copper. Robb Chose to braze. it saved money on purchasing extra copper connectors etc..

once you build your heat exchanger you need to locate your air vent and your pressure temp relief valve at the highest point of your heat exchanger so that they operate correctly.

After the panel is built you can run your water lines to your storage tank, (our storage tank serves as a storage tank for our wood fired hot water in the winter as well) so all we had to do was put in some T's and a couple of extra valves and we were pretty much set.

Since our sytstem is shared with the wood fired system, we have a second temperature controller, which is split my a center off switch, so for example: on a SUNNY winter day, you can have wood fired hot water in the morning, switch the center off switch to the other position and finish it off with SOLAR hot water... which we arent sure how many of those days we will have, but we will see.

We also put in some T's and some valves a the lowest part of the system so we can drain the water from the exchanger during the cold winter months, so it doesn't freeze,

I hope this gives you some ideas and inspiration !!
Here are some photos to give you a better idea ! There are so many ways to do this, find what works for you and go for it!

The Cools