Friday, October 11

Sometimes Dreams Come True...and miracles do happen

 Some of you may have heard by now, but I am guessing most of you have not.

 It became official this afternoon. 

I want to welcome you to our farm and future home. Yes, you read that right. 

We are the new owners of 20 acres of land just three miles down the road. 

There is no house, no barn, no fence, just rows and rows of soybeans planted by the farmer who is leasing the land. 

The story of how we came to this place is a long one. So grab a cup of tea and make yourself comfortable. I promise it's good. :) 

We we first got married we talked of owning land. Just something big enough to grow a nice garden. We were living in an apartment in Illinois and had only been married 6 months. That fall we began our canning journey and made applesauce. We knew nothing about food additives, or GMO's or any of those things that are so common to talk over now. 
All we knew was the satisfaction of hard work and the taste of good food. 

Fast forward 18 months. We purchased our first house on one acre. It was a cute little Sears home with 4 bedrooms and 1 bath on the second floor. That spring we planted a large garden and grew peas, beans, corn, tomatoes, peppers, and a few other things. We now had two babies and I made them fresh baby food from the garden and froze and canned what I could. 
We talked of adding fruit trees.

Fast forward another two years and add another baby. We took a job transfer to Pennsylvania and purchased a house with 3/4 of an acre as that was all that we could afford. That spring we planted our garden with beans, tomatoes, and peppers. 
We added pressure canning to our list and another baby. 

Fast forward another three years and my husband lost his job during a buyout. By this time we had added those fruit trees and wished we had more land for animals. My husband took a job in New Jersey and began a daily commute of three hours. The job came with an amazing salary, a very large bonus, and a commuter stipend. We looked at buying a house there, even put in an offer on one. Thankfully that fell through and he kept commuting.

 We poured every penny we could into the mortgage. The job turned sour quickly and he began applying to other jobs in six different states. Our goal was land and we knew we couldn't afford anything here. We heard nothing for two very long years. Then he was hired on at a company just fifteen minutes from our house in Pennsylvania. We had come full circle
We planted grapes and a fig tree. 
We still dreamed of animals. 

Fast forward another year. My neighbor was downsizing and looking for a home. One day she called me to look at a place on In the process of looking  I came across a listing for a piece of land. A foreclosure just 3 and a half miles down the road. It should never come up in the feed, the price was out of the range of the search parameters I had put in. I mentioned it to her and then thought nothing of it. But dreams don't die, they may get buried or set aside, but they never go away.
We still dreamed of land.
Web Soil Survey- find the soil survey for you property.

 I mentioned it to David about a week later in a tongue and cheek manner. We drove by it the next day. We kept thinking about it and made an appointment to meet with a Realtor. The land was perfect.
David began the process of the financing, which can be tricky when dealing with land and a foreclosure. There has not been one glitch in the whole process everything has gone smoothly. We closed on the land this afternoon. 

 We now dream of a farm.
We dream of a farmhouse with a root cellar and walk in pantry.
We dream of a barn and animals and fences.
We dream of bees, an orchard, and gardens.
We've come a long way in 14 years. 

Now for the best part. The ONLY reason we could ever afford to buy was because of the job my husband had in New Jersey. Because of that awful, painful, terrible, experience we had almost paid our mortgage off, allowing us to have money to buy the land we had dreamed of for so many years.

 Land that is truly on the outskirts of town. 
God is good! 

Looking toward the road.

So, I welcome you to the future home of Shining Stars Farm.

 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.
Philippians 2:14-16

Monday, October 7

Making Applesauce

Last week we set aside a day four our annual sauce making. The children love applesauce day, and love to help make the sauce. They are now all old enough to help cut, stir, crank, and fill the jars. All of their help really makes the process go fast, or at least compared to when I used to do it by myself when they were to little to help very much.

We started with six bushels of apples this year. I had decided that I need at least 100 jars to get through to the next season and we eat sauce almost every day. I do have about 35 quarts left from last year. Hopefully it will be enough. With the boys eating more I am not sure how we will do this year, only time will tell. 

I bought 4 varieties of apples. Golden Delicious, Smokehouse, Empire, and McIntosh. We like the sweetness of this combination best. I don't have to add any sugar.

This is our set up. I found this table at the thrift shop last year. My plan is to refinish it, but we use it all the time I can't imagine taking it out of the kitchen to work on it. It's perfect for clamping the strainer to.I use a Victorio Strainer strainer and love it. I made sure to wash all the jars ahead of time so I wouldn't have to take any time away for that. 

The first thing we do is wash the apples in the sink. To keep the flavors even we select 8 apples of each variety dup them in the water and then begin cutting them. I found that this is the perfect amount to fill my pots for cooking. All we do is remove the stems and cut into about 12 pieces.

I have a 22 quart stock pot and a 16 quart pot that I use. Just make sure your posts have a thick bottom to prevent burning. When a pot is full of apple pieces I add about 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup of water to the bottom and cook them down on medium heat. Since one burner has the canning pot I rotate the pots so one is cooking while one is getting strained and then we fill a bowl with cut apples until a pot is free. This keeps the process going smoothly and without breaks, unless we get ahead of the canner! 

The strainer makes it so easy! Put the cooked apples in the hopper turn the crank and out comes the applesauce. Hot fresh applesauce has got to be one on the best foods on this earth! 

After we have sent one pot full of apples through we then take the peels and sent them through two more times. By the time they are pressed that many times they look like paper. 

I have a stainless steel bowl that holds 8 quarts. I know when it is full that it is time to start filling the jars. I keep my jars war in the oven at 170 degrees until I need them. Then I pull them out and fill at the end of the little table. After doing this for so many years I have found out the most efficient way to make sauce in this kitchen. From here they can go right into the canner. 

Applesauce processes in a water bath for 20 minutes. I ran out of my Tattler lids and had to use the metal ones. I was quickly reminded why I love Tattler for applesauce. With the metal lids I have seepage that runs down the jars and makes them sticky. With the Tattler due to the tightening after they  come out of the canner I don't have this problem and cleaning the jars for storage is so much easier! There you have it one really long day and 108 jars of sauce for the pantry. 

I left them on the table for a few days before I washed and moved them all downstairs. They are so pretty all lined up in rows. 

Tuesday, September 24

weekend review

It was another busy weekend here at our house. The tomatoes are still coming in so I made another batch of spaghetti sauce. It's taking me longer this year due to how juicy the tomatoes are. I tend to dice them and then let them sit overnight and then strain some of the water out of them before I make the sauce. It seems to be working and I am getting the thickness we like, It just takes a bit more time.

3/4 of a bushel of carrots!

 David spent Saturday cleaning up the yard and garden. He tilled in the old bean rows and harvested the carrots. This is the first time we have gotten a decent crop out of our little garden. I am so excited to have carrots. I hope to can some of them for winter storage. We don't have a good root cellar to keep them over until spring. I'll put that one on the list for someday.

After tilling he and the children planted buckwheat for our cover crop. Hopefully we can harvest it and eat it as a little experiment. I do wish we had more space to grow everything we need. However God provides and this little patch have given us an abundant harvest this year.

I managed to take some time to get to the good will. I am on the hunt for more jars as most of mine are full. I was blessed with 27 jars on Wednesday last week from a friend at church. I had forgotten that I mentioned I was looking for more! Then I came across 24 more for 50 cents each. Usually I don't pay that much for jars but when you need them it's still cheaper than new ones. I like older jars better anyway they tend to not break as easily for me. Oops, I must have all ready started to wash them when I took the photo.

I also found this little bread box. It will fit right in in my kitchen and it was only a dollar. I love little finds like this.

How was your weekend? 

Monday, September 16

Meet Inky

I thought I would introduce the newest member of the family. After out last cat passed away from a heart condition we knew we would eventually want to get another one. Last year about this time my sister in law posted a picture on facebook of an adorable black kitty that they found on their door step. As much as my sister in law loves cats they could not keep him and so it came to live with us.


This was soon after we got him, he was such a tiny little thing! He is a true alley cat and loves to scrounge for food, especially apples and applesauce.


The bandit cat. 


He loves to go outside and chase bugs and generally getting into trouble.

He loves to nap in the afternoon sun in all sorts of strange cat positions.

And lets not forget drinking out of the toilet. 

He also loves his dinosaur, it is his best friend. 

He is such a wonderful addition to our house, well maybe not his litter box. 

Tuesday, August 27

Summer Busy

I have been trying to find some time in the past couple of weeks to hop on here and share with you all. Apparently that is harder to do than I thought! It's harvest time and the food is pouring in. Thanks to all the rain we had this year the crops are going crazy and the fruit is juicy and big. 

Last week I ordered 2 two bushels of peaches and put them up for a total of  51 quarts.

We also harvested about 3/4/ of a bushel off of the one tree that produced this year. I took those after we ate as many as we could and made cinnamon spiced peaches. I have never done these before so I am looking forward to trying them in a few weeks. They smelled so good as I as putting them in the jars. 

We also went and picked blackberries to make some jam. 

The berries were beautiful, and the vines were so full. 

I also made dilly beans, canned green beans, garlic, and banana peppers. 

And lets not forget the tomatoes. I've lost count of how many gallon Ziploc bags I've put in the freezer to deal with later. I am so thankful to have so many this year. Last year with the lack of rain and disease I had to buy whatever I needed. I am looking forward to spaghetti sauce again after we ate out last jar in April.

Through all of this we have been doing school also. I normally don't have anything planned for August but due to all the moving, not moving, having the house on the market, etc. we felt we were a bit behind. So I have been using this summer to catch up.  It has been lots of fun as we are studying the Revolutionary war and finishing up our botany lessons. I am looking forward to our first 6 week break and a couple of field trips to Valley Forge, and  Brandywine Creek. I also have a post in the works about our curriculum for the new year starting on September 16th!  Now, I must get back to the kitchen the tomatoes are calling smelling.

Thursday, August 1

The post that explains it all (or why we are still here)

Back when I stopped blogging there were so many things going on in our lives that I couldn't share because my husband had asked me not to and we were just trying to survive the days. This blog became one of the things pushed off the list of must do's, I even stopped taking pictures it was just to much. This is the story of why and the happy ending that God gave to us as a gift.
Glass House (8)
As you may remember my husband took a job in New Jersey about an hour and a half away when his company was bought out back in 2009. We spent all of 2010 deciding whether to move or not . Then we made a decision and I spent the early part of 2011 preparing the house to sell. We thought we would put our house on the market, sell it and move to New Jersey. Well, we tried that  for 6 months. We had so many people walk through and always got the same feedback. Beautiful house, but... It gets to be so tiring trying to keep it perfect for 6 months. We decided to take a little break. I even wrote about that here. 
In the meantime things at my husbands new job turned south and it was not a good environment to be in, especially tacking on a 3 hour commute round trip. He went through some seriously difficult things while working there. He started to look for another job and even a career change and move south closer to family. He spent the winter of last year applying to over 25 positions is various states. Then we heard nothing. Silence, not even a rejection letter. 
Waiting can be so difficult especially when emotionally drained by work conditions and being so far from home every day. God was the only one who got us through such a dark time. One day in March of 2012, after a particularly bad day at work my husband noticed an open position at a company 10 miles from our home. He applied and was hired in June. He quit his job in July and started the new one in August after a month of much needed vacation and a mental break. Despite the fact that we tried for 3 years to move out of the state of Pennsylvania, God kept us right here in the same house and with a job that my husband calls his dream job.
We laugh about it now and often when we run into someone we haven’t seen in a while they ask us what we are still doing here. We have settled into a routine now and moved past such a difficult time in out lives. Waiting can be so stressful and put such a strain on people but it only brought us closer together and closer to God at the same time. He is good even when you can’t see beyond the next day and I’m so thankful for all the lessons learned during that time.
So what’s next? Only time will tell, for now I am working on some projects around the house and we are still gardening and of course homeschooling takes quite a bit of time. It's nice to finally put down a few roots and be able to commit to things like volunteering at Church, hosting people for dinner, and planning things out a bit more than "just next week".
  I hope to share some of the projects we have done, updates on our garden, and just daily life stuff which I am so thankful for!

Friday, June 7

Pardon the Dust

I'm coming back! 
Please pardon the dust as I make some changes to this poor neglected blog of mine. 
I have missed being here. It may take a few days but I hope to be posting again in the next week or so. 
I have so much to share. 
A lot can happen in fourteen months. 
Stay Tuned! 



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