Fermented cranberry sauce
This is the week when families gather to spend time together enjoying delicious food and sharing their blessings with those they love. I am fortunate to have part of my family coming to spend Thanksgiving with us this year for the first time since we got married, so I am very excited, though still have a lot of preparation to get done before they arrive on Wednesday...

Our Thanksgiving table will be filled with a bounty of goodness - more from our own harvest every year, or at least, that is the hope! We have plans for the usual turkey and stuffing, with carrots and onions and celery from our own garden, plus our own mashed potatoes with homemade turkey gravy, loads of mixed greens from the garden, green beans that I froze from the garden this fall, homemade sweet potato pie with my mom's sweet potatoes, and a blended salad with my mom's lettuce and our arugula and fresh radishes.

And of course, we can't forget the cranberry sauce! Cranberry sauce is an essential ingredient for me when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner. I'd almost forgo the turkey in favor of cranberry sauce if I had to choose! :-) 

Of course, cranberries don't exactly grow here, so these will always have to come from elsewhere, but I can still put my own twist on them. In fact, I recently heard about naturally fermented cranberry sauce, so of course, I had to learn more!  As you may know, I've become kind of obsessed with fermenting things over the past couple of years... :-)  Not just because of the many health benefits, but also because of the important place that this almost-forgotten art holds in human history - and lastly, because fermented stuff is just so darned delicious!

I had never thought of fermenting cranberries, but I have been in a flurry of fermentation this fall, and I feel like I'm really starting to get the hang of it, so why not try something a bit more advanced? I'm still mastering ginger ale and hard cider, but I feel like I've got the veggies down. Right now we have 2 batches of sauerkraut, a half-gallon of kimchi, a quart of pickled pepper salsa base, and a quart of mixed vegetable antipasto (100% from our garden except for the olives) all stashed in the fridge.

I'm not sure if this recipe will have time to ferment by Thanksgiving this year, but I will definitely be trying it soon!

Food preservationGreen beans - pickled, & ready for freezing.
Hey, I'm back, and I apologize for the lack of a post last week. I had the best of intentions, but with my mother and sister visiting, I wasn't able to break away long enough to get on the blog last weekend...

It was a lovely visit - we went apple picking, sat around our new fire pit on a windy fall evening, and had plenty of laughs and great meals together. My mom is such a workhorse she cleaned out a great big section of the garden where we will be laying out next year's hay bales soon, and also cleaned up my front flower beds. It was great to see them, and I'm so excited my little sister will be only 2 hours away for the next few months!

Along with all of the visiting, I've been in major food-preservation mode for the past few weeks. This year's tomato harvest was amazing despite all of our garden challenges this season, and we ended up with more canned tomatoes than we have ever made before, plus various pickles, and loads of frozen veggies as well. Below are some of this year's efforts, though it is still a work in progress! (Want my recipes? Just follow the links in the post below...)

Back to Eden gardening method
A year or so, I was introduced to an interesting concept popularized by the gardening documentary, "Back to Eden."

In short, the concept is that God (or nature) grows plants perfectly and with no effort, and we have made gardening difficult by trying to change things and go against the way that nature works.

This appeals to me in a number of ways. Being a believer as well as a very curious person, I am always interested in learning more about how God works in the world all around us, and why things are the way they are. And of course, reducing the work it takes to maintain our large garden is always a welcome blessing! So I watched the movie and found it very interesting and inspiring.

We haven't truly implemented this system in our garden just yet, but I think we are starting to move in that direction. Here's what I learned from the movie, and what we have done with the information so far...

Salad greensPeas, peas, and more peas!
I know it has been ages since I did a homesteading update for you, so I figured I would go ahead and share the good, the bad, and the ugly for the season so far...

Spring was early this year, and then late - back and forth between unseasonably warm and unseasonably cold all the way up into May. But somehow the garden still ended up ahead of last year - except for the parts I am still behind on! We already have little green tomatoes of all kinds out in the garden, okra is up (this time last year I hadn't even planted it yet), and lettuce and peas are almost finished (our best pea crop so far, by far!).

For some reason, every year I think this year I will somehow manage to be not as stressed out during the hectic spring and early-summer in the garden, but it never happens! Last year I thought I would be done with preparing new beds for a while (always an incredibly laborious and time-consuming process), but then we ended up with fewer hay bales this year, so I decided to create one more row of beds so that area wouldn't to go waste this year. Well, it's nearly July and I STILL don't have them done, although getting close, and I should finish them this week at last... Our soil is so heavy and dense, it is nearly impossible to dig if it's not the perfect moisture level. For most of the spring, it has been either way too wet (with standing water in the aisles), or way too dry (like concrete - can't even get a fork into it), so I've been lucky to get one day out of the week sometimes where it is actually workable.

Fortunately, we got 2 1/2" of rain a few days ago, after a long, hot, dry spell, and now it is cool, breezy, and beautiful - perfect for working outside, and the soil is nice and moist - so I'm on the home stretch! My husband is finishing up the bed boxes today, so we should have them framed by the end of the week - so I can finally plant the beans!

Homegrown Food Summit 2017
Welcome to June! For this month's "free giveaway," we're handing out tickets to an amazing event that anyone who is interested in real health, self-sufficient living, or making sure that the food you feed your family is safe and healthy will NOT want to miss!

That's right - registration is now open for the 3rd annual Home Grown Food Summit.

This awesome event kicks off Monday, June 12th, and it includes presentations from more than 38 experts on food, homegrown and natural medicines, homesteading,
urban gardening, raising livestock for dairy, eggs, and protein, and many more health and self-sufficiency topics - plus, you'll have the opportunity to win some really cool prizes for your homestead! (See below for details.)

Get your FREE Ticket here, or learn more about the event below.

Mother Earth News Homesteading Summit
I'm back! "Blogging Break Week" was awesome, and I got to work on a number of projects I hadn't had time to focus on over the past few busy months. I also got a lot of stuff done in the garden, and it was a nice break.

But, a bit to my surprise, I actually missed blogging before the week was even half over! So it's good to be back, and I've been busy lining up all of our regular blog posts for the week.

If you haven't checked out our other blogs, you can find them at www.sustainablegardeningnews.com, www.sustainablelivingreport.com, and www.holistichealthwire.com - come on by and check out some of our articles on these special topics!

I also wanted to let you know about a really awesome online event coming up in just a few days. One of my absolute favorite publications (both online and offline) is Mother Earth News. I've learned so many awesome tips about gardening, homesteading, and sustainable living there! If you're a Mother Earth News fan, you may already know about the annual Mother Earth News Fair. These awesome events provide people with loads of workshops, hands-on-learning opportunities, and the chance to meet many like-minded individuals interested in living a healthier, more sustainable and self-sufficient lifestyle. However, if they're not in your local area, you've probably never had a chance to attend.

That's why I'm super excited that, for the first time ever, Marjorie Wildcraft from the awesome Grow Network has teamed up with Mother Earth News to bring you the first ever ONLINE version of the Mother Earth News Fair - the Mother Earth News Homesteading Summit!

Canned salsa
It has been a while since I posted a recipe, and I thought summer would be a great time to share one of my favorite ways to preserve some of summer's fresh garden bounty!

My husband and I both love homemade salsa, but we usually make the fresh kind, which only lasts a couple of days. Last summer, I was so overwhelmed with our incredible tomato harvest that it was all I could do to keep up with just canning plain tomatoes. However, I wanted to try canning some salsa and see how it turned out, so I made just a few pint jars as an experiment, using a recipe I found online.

It was honestly some of the best salsa I've ever had - made even better by the fact that most of the ingredients were from our own garden! This year (after a panicked search for the recipe through my recipe books and Pinterest account, when I finally found that I had printed it out on a piece of paper) I doubled the amount, and perfected my method with a few tweaks.

Here's the recipe (with pictures), plus a few tips for success:

Garden fresh foodNothing like dinner from the garden!
Well, the moment I had been waiting for all summer finally arrived last week: my first cucumber & tomato salad! :-)  Although we have been regularly harvesting some form of produce from our garden for at least two months now, for me, the REAL harvest doesn't begin until the tomatoes are ripe. This is always a bittersweet moment for me though, for as much as I love garden-fresh ripe tomatoes, it also signifies that the end of summer is drawing near.

This summer has been a perfect example of why I think people find gardening so interesting - and so frustrating,  at times: Every year is different

This summer is completely opposite from the last, at least weather-wise. Last summer our main challenge was keeping our plants from drowning due to the nearly constant rain! Cooler than normal temperatures made the season long and a bit slow, but most of our plants loved all the water.

This year has been okay with rain so far (at least in our neighborhood) - until the last couple of weeks (but really no extra to speak of, and I haven't seen the garden "moat" since May). Now the grass is beginning to turn brown from lack of rain, and I am having to water almost constantly. The long, cold spring delayed many crops from going in the ground until much later than usual, but the consistently hot summer has helped things catch up - particularly the peppers, which have been producing for several weeks now - more than a full month earlier than last year!

Now that the tomatoes are finally starting, the bounty begins in earnest: counters loaded with so many piles of produce it's hard to keep them all straight. Overflowing trays and colanders of ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash, zucchini, eggplants, green beans, oh, and did I mention cucumbers? 

Salad gardenOur beautiful spring salad garden!
I realize it has been a while since I've posted an update on the homestead. Partly that is because we've just been too darned busy, and partly because, well, it has been a slow and frustrating year when it comes to gardening....

Our early warm spell gave way to an unseasonably cold April and May, and between the cold and the rain, and then some dry spells, everything has been quite delayed. For some reason, I also experienced numerous problems with seed germination for both our peppers and melons - both of which I re-planted several times indoors before I got a good crop of seedlings to plant outside.

Luckily, it seems that summer has finally arrived! With a few weeks of hot weather, we seem to be getting back on track, and I finally feel close to finishing "the final frontier" of our garden - the last few beds that we did not get done last year. It has been exhausting work, and I'm ready to take a break from forking and shoveling dirt, but the light at the end of the tunnel is giving me the incentive to push onward and get it done!

Check out the pictures below to see how everything is growing so far...

As I was driving home the other day, the passenger's seat piled high with bags of rice noodles, soy and fish sauce, coconut milk, and other goodies from my quarterly trip to the Asian supermarket (stocking up for light summer Thai soups & curries!), I began reflecting on the peculiar pleasure that comes from shopping.

We all know it's fun to shop - heck, some even call it "retail therapy" it feels so good! Sure, there are some people who go overboard with it - even becoming "addicted" to shopping. (And I'm not making light of that at all - it can be a very dangerous problem that can get people into a lot of financial trouble.) And in some cases there are deeper psychological issues at work. But in general, we all just like to shop!

So why is that, exactly? What is it about spending money or buying "stuff" that gives us that little jolt, or "rush" if you will, of satisfaction?