Monday, December 31, 2012

Making Your Own Herbal Teabags

I have been growing, cutting, drying and rubbing my own herbs for years. The most time-consuming part is rubbing them and cleaning out all the tiny little stems. I have found a way to beat that, for the most part - herb bags, made from coffee filters! 

They are not just tea bags but culinary bags as well. I mix all my spaghetti/lasagna sauce herbs together in one bag. When I make sauce, I just toss in a bag or two. I don't have to spend hours rubbing the herbs to a fineness and picking out the little stems. I do this for soups and stew too. 

I have spent hours in front of movies in the evenings, rubbing and cleaning the culinary herbs, until I started making the bags. I never did that for the tea herbs until recently, as I strained the herbal tea anyway. 

They are so easy to make!

Today I am making feverfew tea bags so that my hubby can make himself a cup of feverfew tea when I am not available. We use feverfew for headaches and it works very well. It's not a pain reliever but will lift the pressure off almost immediately. It only works this well if it is fresh and pure. You can buy it at herbal stores but, like I said, the commercial mix doesn't do much for a headache. We are both very pleased by how well our own fresh, home grown works on migraines! 

It's easy to grow and very hardy. It is also a perennial and a beautiful addition to a flower bed.

I don't bother cleaning the tea herbs, as I said, so this dried feverfew is rough. I do take out the bigger stems but don't spend a lot of time on it.

I cut each filter into thirds and trim off the round edges. I then sew together three sides and leave the fourth side open to stuff in the herb.  Mine are square but you can make them round, as well. 
I use a simple in and out stitch, just enough to hold it together. You can do a much faster and neater job on a sewing machine, which you may want to do if you are going to be gifting these. Since they are only for our own use, this is good enough. 
We remove the bags from the tea with a spoon but you can sew a piece of string into one corner for handling. 

For medicinal herb tea, it is important to bring the water to a full boil, then let the tea steep for at least five minutes, ten is even better. I can usually only wait the five minutes when I have a migraine. I know how well it works. 
I brought a large pot of feverfew with me, to grow as we travel and camp. It is still doing well and surviving. When spring comes I will put it out in the sun where we are camping. 

Soon I will plant some purslane seeds and take a pot of that with me, as well. I will always garden, wherever I am! 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

New Free E-Book on "Chicken Keeping"

"Keeping a Few Chickens At Home" is a new book that I have just finished. Like my other books, it's free for download but I do ask for a donation to keep these books free. If you cannot afford to make even a $5 donation, please feel free to download and use them anyway. I have, after all, written these books to help others who are trying to make ends meet in their new self-sufficient lifestyle. I realize that sometimes this means a large financial adjustment.

I am happy to just be able to help in any way. I hope this book will make it easier.

This is the table of contents for the new book:
 Chapter 1   Basic Introduction
 Chapter 2   Egg Laying and Care
 Chapter 3   Housing
 Chapter 4   Feed
 Chapter 5   Gardening With Chickens
 Chapter 6   Pests and Diseases
 Chapter 7   Hatching and Raising Your Own Chicks

You can download it, along with my other books, here:

Free E-Books

You can also get any of my E-Books from the tab at the top.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Foraging in the Wilderness

I have been researching edible weeds for years and eating them too! I have found it to be a great way to supplement our diet with healthy foods that are not only good for you but free, as well. Free is always good! lol!

As we are starting on our new adventure, I have put all the info I have into a book to help others who are on the road to self sufficiency.

It contains a list of 39 wild plants that are usually considered weeds, some mushrooms, etc that are edible, listed in alphabetical order with pictures and a little information.

You can download it here: "Foraging in the Wilderness"

You can also get it from the "Free Books Page" tab at the top. I am writing these books to help others on their journey to a more peaceful life of self sufficiency. Even though I do ask for a small donation for using my books, if you are searching for a life of self sufficiency, free of society's stressors and can use these books, please feel free to download them and use them, even without a donation. They are there for your benefit. Just donate what and whenever you can. The Lord will take care of me :-)   and may God bless your efforts.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

"The Homemaker's Handbook" E-Book

I have just made public "The Homemaker's Handbook" as a free download with a donation. I wrote this book over a course of many years while raising kids, working, farming and just keeping up with life. It has 12 chapters, listed below, including the largest one exclusively about food and recipes. I hope it will be interesting reading and will have some items that are helpful to everyone. 

"The Homemaker's Handbook"
A book for everyday people with tips for almost every area of day to day living including an extended chapter on cooking and recipes.
Table of Contents:
Chapter 1.  Cleaning Your Home 
a.   Cleaning the Kitchen
b.   Polish Sparkle & Shine 
c.   Walls, Floors & Furniture 
Chapter 2.  Organizing Your Home   
Chapter 3.  Children 
a.   Safety 
b.   Babies 
c.   Toddlers 
Chapter 4.  Health and Dieting 
a.   Health 
b.   Dieting 
Chapter 5.  Outdoors 
a.    Yard, Drive and Walkways 
b.    Shrubs, Trees and Flowers 
c.    Vegetable Garden 
d.    Major Structures 
Chapter 6.  Houseplants 
a.   Necessary Elements
b.   Forcing Bulbs 
c.    Problems 
d.   Some Common  Plants and Their Care 
Chapter 7.  Herbs 
a.   Growing Indoors 
b.   Growing Outdoors 
c.    Using Herbs 
Chapter 8.  Food Preservation 
a.   Freezing 
b.   Drying
c.    Root Cellar
Chapter 9.  Holidays & Entertaining 
a.   Christmas 
b.   Autumn Holidays 
c.    Parties All Year 
d.   Wines for Entertaining 
Chapter 10.  Beverages 
a.   Tips 
b.   Liqueurs 
c.   Water 
d.   Recipes 
Chapter 11. Food 
a.   General Tips 
b.   Eggs 
c.   Dairy 
d.   Poultry 
e.   Beef & Pork 
f.    Fish & Seafood 
g.   Vegetables 
h.   Pasta – Noodles 
i.    Sauces, Dips, Dressing & Spreads 
j.    Soups & Stews 
k.   Salads & Hor D’Oeuvres 
l.     Desserts 
m.   Squares & Brownies 
n.    Pastry 
o.   Candies
p.   Fruits & Berries 
q.   Cakes 
r.    Frostings 
s.    Cookies 
t.    Breads 
u.   Muffins 
Chapter 12.  Potpourri 
a.   Essential Oils 
b.   Making Your Own 
c.   Using Potpourri

I have written three  books so far. 
"The Homemaker's Handbook"
"Making Organic Soap At Home" 
" Making Organic Wine At Home"

All of these books are now free with a donation and can be accessed on our farm site page: "Providence Acres Farm -  E-Books". You can also access this link on the " E-Book" tab above, just under the header.

I have endeavored to make these books easy to follow with pictures, clear directions and explanations. I intend to write more books of this type. I have started one entitled "Keeping A Few Chickens At Home" but have not finished it yet. Not that we are starting a freer lifestyle, I will have more time to write these and will finish the next one soon, I hope. These book sales will help us to keep ourselves off grid and give us both the time to write. In exchange I believe that you will be getting a great deal of value for your money! This type of detailed information is hard to come by online! I have had feedback on "The Homemaker's Handbook" and have been told that it is the single best free download available out there. I sincerely hope you enjoy it!

Whether or not I continue to write books like this will depend mostly upon the popularity and success of the ones I have already written. If you use one of these books, some feedback would be appreciated, IF it is polite and constructive. :-)  Please don't bother if it is not, and thank you!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Seedlings in the Cold Frame

I have seedlings growing in my cold frame!
A lot of them! 


These are my Hopi black squash seeds. They are doing very well. With all the rain and warm weather we have had lately, everything is healthy and growing well! 


I also have a couple of striped cushaw squash and about a dozen sweet dumpling plants. 


I have 62 tomato seedlings now! I have never planted that many before! They are all organic, mostly heirloom tomatoes. I planted 2-4 of each kind and I have dozens of different varieties!


These are purple hyacinth beans. I have several of them growing and doing well. These are a beautiful, flowering annual vine!


I also planted several nasturtiums coming up. They are annuals so won't go into the ground until the end of May.


They are all in the cold frame now. They can go into the garden the first of June. Our last frost date is May 24, but I always wait another week before planting out. 


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Planting Seeds

I planted seeds indoors this past weekend. I brought up my shelf from the basement and positioned it in front of the south facing patio door. This is where all my indoor seeds grow until they get big enough for individual pots. Then they go into the cold frame. The tender bulbs get planted in the other cold frame. I have that still to do but want to get it done this coming weekend.

I like to reuse, reduce and recycle so I use plastic food containers for seeds. They work well if you cut holes in the bottom and put another food container underneath to catch the drip.
(We eat a lot of mushrooms!)

Already the 'Love Lies Bleeding' amaranth is up! (see top picture) Wow! That was fast! I also grow 'Intense Purple' amaranth and love them but I don't have to plant those. They self seed all over every year. I might plant a few, just in case...

I am cutting back a lot on what I grow this year. I have just about planted everything early thing that I intend to, mostly tomatoes and flowers. The tomatoes I planted this year are, for the most part, heirloom tomatoes with the exception of 'Manitoba' and 'Buckley's 51 day' tomatoes. These are the varieties I have planted: San Marzano, our own Portugal (of course), Black Krim, Terhune, Prince Borgese, Vincent Watts, Livingston Perfection, Rev Morrow Long Keeper, Giant Belgium, Aunt Lou's Underground Railroad, Chocolate Cherry, Azorian Red, Jaune Flammee, Matt's Wild Cherry, German Cascade, Ailsa Craig, Manitoba and Buckley's 51 day.

I don't plan to plant peppers this year at all. I still have many bags of them chopped in the freezer from last year.

One more thing I do want to plant are 'Collective Farm Woman Melon'. I have to plant something with a name like that! It's just too interesting!

I have one planted container on my shelf with no label. :-( I'm going to have to think about what that might be! lol! I might recognize it when it comes up, maybe.

I planted a few castor beans for the flowerbed, the 'love lies bleeding' amaranth mentioned above, and some broken coloured four o'clocks. I have some special honeysuckle vines coming up in a cold frame, as well.

I am going to enjoy my gardening this year, without the pressure of previous years when I grew way more than I needed and spent way too much time in the garden!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Over Wintering Dahlias

In past years I have overwintered the dahlias in a plastic container or bag filled with wood shavings . The large roots are usually fine but I lose a lot of the little ones. New ones are usually too small to make it until spring, which is always a great disappointment! Last fall I had some little pieces and small, new dahlias that I didn't want to lose so I potted them up to grow indoors for the winter.

I kept them as houseplants, sort of, in front of the south patio door. It gets as much light as is possible to get anywhere indoors, as it faces south and has no overhang. My kitchen is also freezing in the winter, which helps.

They sprouted and grew in the pots. They didn't grow fast, but they did grow and are picking up more now that spring is here with longer days and stronger light. I had no problems with them indoors in the winter at all! No bugs, no rot, nothing. I kept them on the dry side and, like I said, rather cold. I'm very pleased with the result!

I will be "storing" my small dahlias and little pieces like this through the winter from now on!

I love my 'Keri Blue' dahlia! Last fall I added a red one with yellow centers and tips and also a dark, rich purple dahlia with white tips. I am looking forward to getting huge blooms from them this year!

They make great cut flowers!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Wintersewing Success Story

Back in January, I posted about this year's wintersowing. You can read that post called, "Wintersowing". (I'm not big on fancy, complicated titles...)
That project was a success! I only got around to planting one thing in pots, the echinacea "Double Decker" and it's up! I did plant a lot more seeds in a cold frame. I will have to check those today to see if they have sprouted, as well!

I'm so thrilled!
The echinacea "Double Decker" looks like this.
OK, now that I know it does work, I will be trying other things next winter.

I have done wintersowing before but never had much success with it. I think it's because I used shallow trays (top picture) that dried out too quickly. This year I used a soda pop bottle cut in half.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Chess Pie

For those of you from the north, chess pie is an old southern favourite and it's delicious! I don't know why it's well known in the south and not so much up here. It's not like pecan pie, where the pecans are grown there and sold in huge bags, cheaply, at the side of the road. There is nothing in a chess pie that everyone doesn't have in their kitchen.

It's a new discovery for us, sort of. I grew up in the south and my dad used to buy chess pies a few times a year from Mississippi State Univ, along with their edam cheese balls, but I had forgotten all about them until recently, many decades later. It just hit me one day when I was thinking about waxing cheese balls - "Chess Pie!".

I Googled it and found the actual Mississippi State chess pie recipe online. I gave it to my husband.

I don't do a lot of actual cooking around here. I experiment a lot and play around some with recipes and DIY stuff. I do some gluten free baking and usually make the muffins, but I'm not the "cook". Hubby is, and he is marvelous at it! He's the best natural cook I have ever known, so I gave him the recipe.

He played with it a lot, making it several times over and over again. Looking up various other recipes online and comparing them all, adding ingredients and taking away others. After many chess pies that were not up to his standards (many were delicious anyway) he came up with the perfect recipe.

Most chess pie recipes out there are runny. There is a lot of discussion on how to prevent this out on the 'net. Hubby has perfected it. Preheating the ingredients, actually cooking some of them, is the key.

Here is his recipe with directions:

Chess Pie Perfected
1/4 lb butter or hard margarine
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon yellow corn meal
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon vinegar
3 eggs, beaten

Melt butter, add sugar and vinegar. Bring this to a boil, stirring constantly. Mix together the eggs, salt and vanilla. Add the hot butter mix to the egg mix and beat well. Pour into unbaked pie crust. Bake at 325F for 40 minutes.

Serve cold or hot. Personally, I like it hot, about 1/2 hour out of the oven, with whipped cream on it.

It's so simple! I could not believe that one of the most delicious pies I have ever eaten has only these simple ingredients in it! The top of the pie cooks to a lovely golden brown, sort of like creme brulee and the flavour is fantastic!

Chess pie is reminiscent of butter tarts, but so much better! It would be nice with pecans in it, or raisins, if you like them in butter tarts, but it's just fine without either!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Handmade Hair Toys

I made the decision a few years ago to grow my hair out, very long. Only recently have I discovered using hair forks and sticks and I love them, particularly forks! These are usually very expensive at stores and online, so I have been experimenting with making my own.

I have a DIY personality to the extreme! lol! I must try to make it myself before I give up and buy one and I can make so many more when I do it myself.

The picture above is a hair fork I recently made. (I wouldn't be caught dead wearing pink. This one is for a friend.) It's steel, shaped, sanded and painted by me with beads added. Here is another picture of the one above:

I have made several of these. Here is one I made for myself, in my hair. I like copper! It goes with just about everything I wear and I have other copper jewelry to go with it.

The copper wire is not as neatly done as I would like. I was just playing around with old wire I had on hand. I'm going to redo it with neater, tighter wrapping.

I also have them painted with a high gloss lacquer in dark violet, burgandy, rusty copper, burnt red. I hope to acquire other colours soon, maybe some blues and greens! I am going to experiment with twirling the paint colours or just dipping the pointed ends into another, coordinating colour!

Making things yourself is so much more rewarding and fun than buying everything, and cheaper too! I can make one to go with everything I wear and give some to friends!

The one at the top is the only one that I have finished so far. I love the way they look in the hair.

These are made with heavy, galvanized steel fencing wire. I sanded it then shaped it. After getting the shape I want, I file all the marks off until it is smooth and paint it with nail polish. Ta-da! Hair forks! Seriously, it is so easy! 

Friday, January 27, 2012

World Class Meatloaf!

This is a fantastic meatloaf! It's juicy and delicious with just a slight hint of cheddar flavour. It's Lloyd Gallant's recipe, developed in his kitchen.

World Class Meatloaf!

3/4 lb ground beef
3/4 lb ground pork
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup milk
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 large egg
2 tablespoon parsley
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon sage

Mix well, bake at 350F for 1/2 hour covered with foil. Remove foil and bake another 1/2 hour.

This makes a great meatloaf with well browned sides and bottom!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Well, winter is here, sadly. It's been winter here for about a month now. We probably won't see the ground again until spring. The only way a hardcore gardener like myself can survive this, is to plant in the winter too. I know it's not the same, but at least I am playing in the dirt and sorting through my seeds, dreaming of spring.

"Wintersowing" is a relatively new thing, as far as gardening goes. I first heard the term about 15 years ago, and that is new for gardening terms. It refers to someone planting seeds in containers and putting them outside so they get the freezing winter temps they need to germinate, but are up off the ground and enclosed. These wintersowed containers will warm up and thaw faster in the spring than the ground and the seeds will germinate much sooner.

You could plant these same seeds in the ground in the fall and get the same, eventual result, but wintersowing is faster. It also gives gardeners a chance to plant and garden in the middle of the winter.

Wintersowing is better done in deeper containers. The more shallow ones, as in the top picture from a few years ago, dry out too fast in the spring. Plastic pop and clear plastic juice bottles work well.

Here is one I did today. This is echinacea 'Double Decker'.

I drilled a few holes in the bottom center and cut more around the outer edge with a knife. Then I cut it almost in half, just enough that I could lift the lid to fill and plant but not enough to take the lid off completely. I want it as securely attached as possible outside.

I filled it with storebought potting soil, since our ground is frozen solid, and planted the seeds. Echinacea seeds need a winter to germinate and they also need a little sunlight, so they get covered very little, if at all.

I stuck in a label and put it on my south facing deck with a block of ice behind it to hold it in place during winter storms. I don't have many of these seeds and would be quite frustrated should it blow over and be destroyed. I planted about half of the echinacea 'Double Decker' seeds that I have, saving a few in case these don't germinate. (It's a foolish gardener who plants all of his seed!)
I have a few more seeds to wintersow this year. This is just the first one. I'm looking forward to these special echinacea seeds for the flowerbed. As far as the herb uses go, it doesn't matter which one I have since they all have the same properties. I have single purple ones and the 'White Swan'. These flowers look like this:
Almost anything that needs a winter to germinate can be wintersowed. I plan to do a lot more this month, if I have the time.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Winter Bulb Care

That is my favourite dahlia, growing in the chair in the picture above! It's a 'Keri Blue', called that because of the slight blue tint in the very center. It's beautiful and I take no chances with these during their winter rest in my cold cellar. Also wintered over in the cellar are other dahlias, cannas, glad, 4 O'clocks and geraniums (pelargoniums). Many winters, if left alone, the small dahlias will dry up. Some of the other ones do too. This has always been a great disapppointment to me in the spring!

This year I decided to take steps to make sure that didn't happen! I read that it helps to take them out of storage in early January and soak them for a day or so, then dry well again and pack in cold storage for another couple of months.

I did that this past week. I took out the small dahlia divisions and small new dahlia bulbs, as well as the 4 o'clock roots and soaked them in room temp water for a few hours. I then laid them out on the kitchen floor on newspapers to dry for a few days. Today I repacked them in wood chips in plastic bags in the basement.

I had planned to leave them for a few more days but our wonky male cat, Shadow, who has cabin fever in the snowy winter, spent his morning attacking them and shredding the papers. lol! Since they were dry again, I put them away. It won't help him. He just attacks the little rugs and the furniture, rolling around on the floor and killing them with all four feet and teeth! lol! Abby, the female cat, prefers to play with and carry off any little hard things she finds around. Anything is fair game. Hubby swears that she has stolen a couple of his tiny wrenches from the desk. I have seen her batting other things to the floor and knocking them around, as well as finding wood pellets scattered all over the house in the morning! (I won't be the only one glad when spring comes! lol! We love them both dearly!)

I only soaked the small and new dahlias that would, in past years, be dried up in the spring. In past years I have tossed them down there to be completely forgotten until spring. This year I have new ones that are important to me, so I am tending them carefully, checking on them whenever I am down there and making sure they are not getting shrivelled.

The geranium roots are hanging up, dry. This is the first year I have wintered them over in this fashion. Usually I pot them up and grow them as houseplants all winter, and I did do a few like that, also. Geraniums love spending their winter growing in a sunny window and bloom continuously, right up until they go outside in the spring. I didn't have room for all of them this year. I am considering soaking the bare geranium roots hanging in the basement, too. Has anyone done this and does it help or will they be fine hanging bare root in the cold cellar until spring without intervention?

I had calla lilies and some dwarf white cannas last year, but neither survived last winter in storage. I grew them all from seed and was very disappointed when they didn't make it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Homemade Detergent Update

A while ago I wrote a couple of posts about making your own laundry detergent and making your own dishwasher detergent. The laundry detergent was a roaring success and I have been happy using it since with no problems! Not so the dishwasher detergent.

I have used that recipe for dishwasher detergent with citric acid for many months. At first it clumped so badly it was unusable. Then I added some dry rice to absorb the moisture and it helped, but didn't eliminate clumping altogether and I didn't like putting rice in my dishwasher. The clumping is the citric acid absorbing moisture which makes it work not so well in the dishwasher.

It did work VERY well when first mixed, however and all the dishes came out sparkling clean with no detergent residue whatsoever. It's the citric acid that does it. Now I use store bought dishwasher detergent or my own homemade without citric acid in it. I keep the citric acid in a small jar by itself and just sprinkle a little into each load - no more detergent residue! We are much happier doing it this way and with very little added trouble. I top up the rinse agent each time anyway.

For those of you who are on the journey to self sufficiency and are having difficulty with the dishwasher detergent recipe, try adding the citric acid separately.

Self sufficiency is a continuous journey, one that starts with the first step. That first step is not all that hard to take, either. I don't believe anyone actually gets there. I don't think it's possible to achieve true self sufficiency. You wouldn't be reading this on a computer if you had...