Saturday, November 22, 2008


The definition of compost is a mixture of decaying organic matter, such as leaves and manure, used as fertilizer. Compost is the best fertilizer for organic gardeners, and anyone who wants to improve their soil. Compost helps to break up clay soil, add substance to sandy soil, and enrich loam. We add compost and sand to our heavy clay soil to make it lighter and richer. Here is how I make my compost. There are more scientific methods, but this works well for me. Composting is not a difficult process, but it does take some time. Step one is make your compost pile. Step two, cover it with dirt and let it sit for a few months. Step three is to put it on your garden. Start your compost pile with a layer of dry leaves or straw to permit drainage. Continue with layers of grass clippings, vegetable peelings and dry bread from your kitchen, manure, and more leaves or straw. You can put nearly anything on your compost pile, but do not use meat scraps because they will attract animals. Manure from horses, cows, goats, chickens, or rabbits is fine, but do not use dog, cat, or human waste, and do not put dead animals on your compost pile. They introduce dangerous organisms to your soil. A compost pile can be made inside a small cage or crate, free standing, or in special drums that you can buy. When the pile is two to three feet across and two to three feet high, you cover it with dirt. Now is the waiting period. It takes about three months for the pile to compost, but you can use the rough compost before that for mulch, and it will continue to rot in the soil. During the waiting time, you can occasionally stir your pile, and water it if it seems very dry. When you dig into your compost pile and you can no longer tell what it was, and it smells like earth, it is ready to be put onto your garden. For more information on composting read see these books.
Let It Rot! by Stu Campbell
The Rodale Book Of Composting by Grace Gershung and Deborah L. Martin

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Homemade Pretzels

I have been wanting to make homemade pretzels for a long time now, and decided that today would be the day. My sisters, a friend and I all made the pretzels together and we had a lot of fun. They were easier to make than I expected, and turned out delicious. Next time we want to make them with a cinnamon sugar coating instead of the salt, and maybe some with a mustard glaze. Here is the recipe I used. It is from the Food Network.


* 1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
* 1 tablespoon sugar
* 2 teaspoons kosher salt
* 1 package active dry yeast
* 22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
* 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
* Vegetable oil, for pan
* 10 cups water
* 2/3 cup baking soda
* 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
* Pretzel salt


Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Homemade Laundry Detergent

We have been making this laundry detergent for almost a year now, and really like it. You are probably wondering why in the world we make our own laundry detergent. Well, one of the reasons is the cost. Homemade is cheaper than buying from the store. Another reason is that when you make your own, you can avoid chemicals that are in commercial laundry detergent. We use our washing machine water to water our yard and trees, and sometimes use it on our garden. We do not want to be putting chemicals into our soil, and possibly into our food that we are growing. This recipe makes a no suds detergent which is perfect for the high-efficiency front loading washing machines. Grating the soap does take some time but we think it is worth the effort. Do not buy any soap but the Fells Naptha. Other types do not work. We buy it at Krogers.

Powdered Laundry Detergent
1 cup grated Fells Naptha Laundry bar soap
1/2 cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
1/2 cup 20 Mule Team Borax
Mix and store in airtight container or bag. For light loads use 2 tablespoons. For heavy loads, use 3 tablespoons.

For more frugal tips go to Biblical Womanhood.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Good Side of Fat

We (as in our culture) are obsessed with skinny. We are told from childhood that to be skinny is to be beautiful. Fat is bad. Everywhere you look is an advertisement for the latest fad diet. Foods are labeled low fat or labels boast about how few calories they contain. What no one seems to remember is that the human body needs a certain amount of fat.

The scientific name for fat is adipose tissue. Adipose tissue is a connective tissue stored between the dermis ( the bottom layer of skin) and muscle. There are two types of adipose tissue; white adipose tissue and brown adipose tissue which is found primarily in infants and disappears as the child grows.

The main function of adipose tissue is to reserve lipids which can be burned to meet energy needs of the body. You will not starve to death during a few days of sickness and not eating because your body has an extra store to be released when caloric use maxes intake. Even a breastfeeding mother can continue to nurse when she can not eat for a short time. Her body will produce milk from energy stores.

A second function of adipose tissue is to cushion internal organs. The kidneys and eyeballs are enclosed in a layer of fat to absorb shock. Other organs are also protected by fat. Adipose tissue provides protection of skeletal muscle to prevent rupture of small blood vessels (bruising).
Adipose tissue insulates the body and helps conserve body heat. This is where brown fat comes in. Brown fat is a specialized form of adipose tissue in infants. They are born with stores of brown fat mainly around the neck. An infant's body can break down brown fat to produce heat. Because infants are unable to shiver or take other measures to warm themselves, this may be vital in an infant exposed to cold.

Finally, adipose tissue is an endocrine tissue, which means it secretes hormones, the primary one being Leptin. Leptin is an appetite-suppressing hormone. When released, it signals the hypothalamus that fat stores are sufficient.

Adipose tissue is necessary to the proper functioning of the body. An overabundance is harmful. But remember, not all fat is bad.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Homemade Granola

Granola is my favorite cereal. It is so expensive to buy, though, that we hardly ever had it. Then I started experimenting with making my own. This is the best recipe I ever tried. I found it at Biblical Womanhood and adapted it a little bit.

Lazy Granola
Combine in a small saucepan:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup oil
Bring to a low boil. Add two teaspoons of vanilla.
Into a large bowl measure:
6 cups whole oats
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup oat bran
3/4 cup pecan halves or pieces
3/4 cup coconut
Drizzle syrup over oats and stir well to coat. Line two 9 by 13 inch pans with parchment paper. Place half of the mixture in each pan. Bake at 375 degrees for ten minutes. Take pans out of oven and stir granola. Put pans back in the oven. Turn oven off, and go to bed.
After the granola is baked you can stir in raisins or other dried fruit.

You can also toast the granola in a skillet. Our oven is not working right now, so I put half the granola at a time in our electric skillet and toasted it, stirring constantly, until the oats and coconut were lightly browned. I left the first half in for about ten minutes,( at 350) but the oats were burning a bit. For the second batch I turned the temperature down 25 degrees and toasted a few minutes fewer.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Our family has moved several times in the past few years and I want to share an idea we have learned that helps make it a little simpler. A few days before you leave, pack a bag with enough clothes for several days, toothbrush, and any other personal items you need. That way if it takes you a few days to find everything, you at least have clean clothes and your toothbrush. If you think you'll be getting to your new home late that first night, try to put your pillows and enough blankets for a pallet where you can find them easily.
We moved to Oklahoma for a few months and when moving there, we were really thankful for our little bags. All of our dressers and hang-up clothes were on a trailer that Dad was planning to pull behind the U-haul moving truck. Well at the last minute, literally, he discovered that U-hail now uses a new type of trailer hitch, and the ball on our old trailer didn't fit! So we left the trailer behind and went to OK with just our bags. We had to do laundry every other day until Dad and I made a trip back down for the trailer, but we were so glad for a change of clothes. When we moved back down here, I was not going to get caught short again; Just in case something happened, I packed as many clothes as I could fit in my bag! We got here with all our belongings, but I was prepared.