Iced Bulletproof Coffee: Bliss in a Mason Jar

I am following the rules and stating here at the top of my post that there just MAY be some links contained in this here post which I could just possibly benefit from. There. So there. I’m following the rules, see, Mom? :)

I have some shocking, and rather sad (albeit a temporary sadness) coffee-related news.

Here it is: I stopped drinking my morning bulletproof coffee a couple of months ago. In a rash moment and a terrible spate of longing to fit into my pre-winter jeans (they are a bit snug after a long winter of not enough daily walks and a bit too much heavy warm meals) I started watching how many calories I was consuming every day. I wrote down my daily calorie counts. I ate more salads, veggies and I wrote down every calorie, like they tell you to do. Most every calorie, that is. Nearly every calorie. Most days. Except, of course, on days when I was too busy. Or on days when I blew it by mid-morning, and decided that writing calories down at that point was a waste of time and just determined to Start Anew Tomorrow. In essence, for about two days I wrote down every calorie. Or so.

Joy in a cup. Yum.

Joy in a cup. Yum. I miss you.

But that’s not all I did. I started wearing a pedometer to count my steps, until I lost it one day while hauling hay to the garden. Perhaps small farmers like me (not as small as I’d like to be, admittedly, or else I’d fit into those pre-winter jeans, alas) should learn their lessons and not attempt to wear pedometers? I don’t know.

On my to-do list: Buy a pedometer that doesn’t just slip onto (and off of!) the waistband, but somehow snaps on, so it cannot be lost, even if I’m carrying bags of chicken feed, or bending and twisting and moving hay bales, or whatnot. The sad thing is (another sad thing, unfortunately, though not coffee-related and regrettably not temporary, either) that I lost it on an amazingly high step day, when surely I would have been very proud indeed of myself, because of all my jeans-area-slimming movement. Maybe not 10,000 steps, but perhaps close to it. Oh well.

Anyway, does anybody have this type of pedometer? Gentle Readers? Talk to me!

Back to the coffee-related news.

I decided after a few weeks, that cutting out the morning Bulletproof coffee wasn’t helping me lose weight at all, and I was losing out on other things, instead. I missed my morning cup of bulletproof coffee, and the benefits it provided: a lot of energy. More mental sharpness. And honestly, I struggled with sugar cravings again, usually all day long. I realized that cutting out the Bulletproof coffee (with its beneficial fats) was probably working against my efforts to lose a few pounds. I lost not an ounce. I lost my pedometer, lots of energy, and a bit of mental clarity. But not a pound, nay, not even an ounce. (Moping about it still.)

And so, do you know what I did? You’re way ahead of me, aren’t you, Gentle Reader? Well, of course I started drinking it again. Ahhhh. I’m so happy about it, too. I wake up early, thanking God for a new day, praying for my family and friends, and looking forward to my morning cup of bulletproof coffee.

Here’s my original post about how to make my version of bulletproof coffee. I say “my version” because the original Bulletproof® coffee is the brainchild of Dave Asprey, who writes an amazing blog called “The Bulletproof Executive.” He’s the guy who coined the term “Bulletproof Coffee” and is a very active and wondrously productive guy who has developed his own brand of coffee beans which are supposed to be lower in toxins and thus much better for you. He’s a biohacker. Dave claims that his original Bulletproof coffee “has a massive impact on cognitive function.”

I completely believe him. I feel sharper and more energetic and smarter when I’m drinking a cup of bulletproof coffee every morning, even though it’s my version, not his.

Here’s how I refer to my version: “bulletproof coffee.” Here’s Dave’s version: “Bulletproof® coffee.” See the difference? In my original post, I called it “Joy in a Cup.” I stand by that claim.

Biohacker, by the way, is a term not made up by my generation, ya’all, but Dave’s. I think it’s pretty cool. (“Cool” is a my-generation term. Also “neat-o” but not–contrary to popular belief–”groovy.” “Groovy” predates even my generation, so there, kids.) “Biohacking” can refer to (I looked it up) managing one’s own biology using a combination of medical, nutritional and electronic techniques. It can go even deeper then this, and get into magnetic implants, and also do-it-yourself gene sequencing, but I doubt if even Dave Asprey takes it that far. Of course I haven’t poked around on his website that much. You can, if you want to.

A modern example of a biohacker, of course, is Ironman, who is cool by any generation’s reckoning. And, possibly, even groovy.

Oh yeah. Ironman is a biohacker. A pretty cool biohacker.

Dave Asprey makes his cup of coffee with lots of added butter from grass-fed cows, and a special oil that he has developed that is a mix of palm and coconut oils. He claims that his health and his life is enhanced by drinking this special brew every morning. I believe him. He also appears to make his living from selling these products on his website. I applaud him. He sounds like an amazing guy!

I usually just drink a cup of bulletproof coffee in the morning, when I get up early to do my writing, but sometimes I like a cup in the afternoons, too, especially if I’m having a really busy day when I have to get lots done.

But in the summertime, when it’s hot in the afternoon, I don’t want to drink something steaming hot, even if it does have a delicious foamy froth on the top and gives me lots of energy. But I discovered how to make iced bulletproof coffee, and that really tastes amazing on a hot day. It’s easy to make, but you really have to know a couple of tricks to do it right.

Aren’t you lucky, Gentle Reader, because I’m going to share them with you! I call my bulletproof coffee “Joy in a Cup,” and this iced bulletproof coffee I’ll call “Bliss in a Mason Jar.” Clever, eh?

Here’s what it looks like:

See the slush on the top? One word: Yum.

See the slush on the top? One word: Yum.

Here’s how I make it:

First, make a large mug of bulletproof coffee per my instructions in this post, including dumping it all into your blender and whipping it all up nicely, so it has that delicious froth on the top. That is the fats all emulsified with the coffee. Then, instead of slurping it all down (though you will be tempted!) put it into a mason jar with a lid and stick it into the freezer.

This is important! If you let it sit on the countertop, or stick it in the refrigerator, the fats will probably separate and you won’t have this beautiful iced beverage to look forward to.

You may want to label it. "Keep your mitts off!"

You may want to label it. “Keep your mitts off!” (cough) PLEASE. “PLEASE keep your mitts off!”

Your iced coffee will stay nicely in the freezer for several hours, just getting icier and icier. Don’t leave it there overnight, or it may freeze solid and explode in your freezer, which wouldn’t be nice at all. But 3 or 4 hours is about perfect.

After the chilling, pour the iced coffee over a big glass of ice and enjoy! That’s it!

By the way . . .
have you discovered these handy plastic mason jar lids yet? I use a lot of mason jars in my kitchen–I store leftovers in them, I freeze stuff in them, I transport soup in them. These plastic lids are great! They are perfect for popping on the top of your iced bulletproof coffee, too, before you pop it into the freezer.

As long as I’m waxing on about things that I like, I really like the Gold Medal Virgin Coconut Oil that I buy from this company. In fact, I’m going to have a fantastic new giveaway of a quart of this luscious stuff later this week, so be sure to stop back by and enter!

By the way . . . Tropical Traditions doesn’t pay me anything to endorse their products, although if you click on the link below and make a first-time purchase from them, you’ll get a free book on Virgin Coconut Oil (yay!) and I’ll get a merchandise credit of some sort, which is kinda sweet. Check it out!






I’ll be linking this post up with the nice folks over at The Prairie Homestead. Come on over, you’ll like it!

Posted in Beverages, Recipes, Tropical Traditions, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments

The Excruciating Sweetness of Spring, and a Secret (shhhh)

It’s here. And it’s unbearably sweet, or at least it approaches unbearable sweetness. Spring is the dandiest season, and we wring every drop of enjoyment out of it, we’re so hungry for it. We savor. We luxuriate. We revel in spring. Perhaps we’ve earned this right, after making it through one more winter.

Winter here in Nebraska is always rough enough on us, and long enough for us, that we spend weeks (months, in little Mack’s world) longing for it. Craving sunshine. Searching the landscape, hungrily, with our eyes, for color.

To wit: about two months ago, when winter still showed no hint at easing, when the bitter wind was whistling around the corner of the house, and the temperatures were still flirting with the 0° mark (or horrors, way below it), little Mack doggedly hauled as many of my houseplants (surprise, I have quite a few) as he could manage to his room. This surprised me, but (since he is my boy) of course I knew why he was doing it. He tried to explain to me, and all he could manage was “I just need some greenness.”

Yup. That’s my boy. We all need some greenness in mid-February. And mid-March. And here, in mid-April, we finally see just a bit of greenness.

Winter is charming at first, with the sparkle to the air and the promise of snow and ice, and the crowding about the wood stove for warmth and companionship and the hot soups and endless steaming cups of ginger tea and the sledding and skating afternoons on the pond and the chapped cheeks and the hot chocolate afterward. But it gets old and tiring, after a time, and universally we believe that it hangs on too long here in Nebraska.

Quite simply, winter outstays its welcome. We long to really stretch our legs outside, to hear the birds again, to spend entire days outside with our hands in the dirt and our minds pleasantly busy. Or empty, depending on our mood.

Willa Cather and I, I’m sure, would have been kindred spirits. Although it is perilously dry here, and much of the world is still brown and barren, there are signs of life everywhere. Thank God, who made Spring. And winter. And little boys. And big mamas. Spring is coming, after all.

The first flowers to pop out of the dry ground at our place are the crocus.


The colors of these precious crocus really pop when the rest of the world is still so brown. (image by Amalia Miller)

I think the day that we discovered these daffodils blooming, little Mack and I stood and stared at them for a solid five minutes.

Daffodils: very sweet, no?

Daffodils: very sweet, no?

(photo credit Amalia Miller)

(photo credit Amalia Miller)

Inside the house, are surefire signs of spring, too: baby tomato plants!

Yup. Little hairy tomato plants. I pinch their leaves every day just to smell that luscious tomato smell.

Yup. Little hairy baby tomato plants. I pinch their leaves every day–gently, gently, after all, they’re just babies!–just to smell that luscious tomato smell.

Not to mention, in the hoop house.

baby radishes in the hoophouse

Oh, so cute–baby radishes in the hoophouse!

The chickens are greedy for green, too, and wait anxiously at the gate every afternoon, for me to let them out. I’d let them out to free range all day long, except that the grass is still very slow to grow and sluggish (it’s hungry for rain, too!) and I’m afraid they’d just clip it all to the roots, and then where would we be? Grassless . . .

This is the early morning chickens' buffet: a trail of sprouting grains, with kitchen scraps.

This is the early morning chickens’ buffet: a trail of sprouting grains, with kitchen scraps.

The farmers in our area have cleaned out the trees and brush that used to be growing on our shared property line, and have put up a very stout 5-strand barbed wire fence, instead. The trees and brush were a good windbreak. The fence, not so much.

The first day it was up, both dogs had to learn to navigate it, and Ollie got into trouble. He had been used to running across into the fields around our place without any fencing at all to stop his mad joyful bounding. He evidently ran full faced into the fence, cutting a line down his nose and two small (but deep) cuts just inside his eyes. Poor fella. I’m glad it didn’t get his eyes. We’ve all had some rather narrow escapes lately.

Our poor Ollie. So glad the barbed wire missed his eyes, although just barely!

Our poor Ollie. So glad the barbed wire missed his eyes, although just barely! That’s how far apart the barbs are. I’m hoping the hair will grow back, but it doesn’t show signs of it yet.

He has learned his lesson, and hopefully he won’t have to learn it again . . . and again . . . and again. Actually the first day of The Big Fence, he got trapped in the farmer’s field and couldn’t figure out how to get back across to our yard. Don’t ask me how he got over there. After dark, I heard him yelping forlornly. I went out to the fence, where he sat sadly on the other side, told him to sit and then to lie down, and I pulled on his collar and helped him shimmy back underneath the fence.

I’ve moved my grain sprouting operation out of the bathroom, and into the hoop house, much to everybody’s relief, including my own. :)

sweet spring

The stinging nettles don’t care how dry it has been all winter: they are coming up in great profusion, and I’m glad. I’ve missed having them for my green smoothies. Did you know that you can eat stinging nettle leaves? They’ve been consumed for centuries. They were used primarily as a diuretic and laxative in ancient Greek times, and are believed to be a blood purifier and good to combat inflammation. It always strikes me a bit odd, that I can eat something that I can’t touch.

Nettles! Out of my way! I'm making a nettle smoothie for lunch!

Nettles! Out of my way! I’m making a nettle smoothie for lunch! (Where are my gloves?)

These little grape hyacinths came up early in my hoophouse. They piggybacked a ride into a flower bed with some mums that my mom gave me. They are so sweet.

These sweet little grape hyacinths popped up in the hoop house.

Okay, so I can’t wait any longer: here’s the secret. It’s a little hard to tell what this picture (below) is, because I very badly didn’t want to disturb the subject. It’s my goose Lucy, and she’s sitting on eggs. But not her own eggs. Her own eggs would not be fertile, since we do not have a gander (a male goose). I discovered that she had made a nest behind a board in the nursery area of the chicken coop (a highly desirable spot for the chickens to lay their eggs), and had claimed a clutch of chicken eggs for her own. Included were a few of her eggs, so I removed them and left the (undoubtedly fertile) chicken eggs for her.

This is an experiment. A secret experiment. I so hope it works. I’ve heard of ducks who have hatched chickens, and hens who have hatched out ducklings, so I’m hoping that my broody goose will be able to hatch chicks, and then mother them, too. She hatched out goslings years ago, when we still had a gander. I’d dearly love to watch her be a mother again, and it would be sweeter than sweet to see her with a clutch of chicks, don’t you think? Especially since she so wants to be a mother, and her own eggs just won’t do.

Of course her leading them to the water will be confusing for all concerned, but since Lucy isn’t sure if she’s waterfowl or chicken, I think she probably can handle it.

Lucy’s story is a confusing one . . . friends gave her to us when she was a gosling, along with a few chicks, and we raised her in the chicken coop with the chicks. Then my dad and my sister gave me a baby gander for a birthday present, and we named him Seamus. He and Lucy went on to raise a couple of families, and to live in the duck coop, on the other side of our place from the chicken coop, and close to our little pond.

Here Amalia holds our lone goose, Lucy, and little Mack assesses how close he can safely get to her.

Amalia holding Lucy, and little Mack.

While a couple of geese on the homestead are charming, a whole yard full is not, so we sold the young geese when they were big enough, but kept one baby (Blossom) for company for Lucy. But then Seamus came to an untimely end, and a couple years later (the year of the Dreaded Varmint) poor Blossom was murdered, as well.

The day after Blossom disappeared, Lucy moved back in with her cousins, the chickens, and she has been there ever since. She eats and drinks and sleeps and hangs out with the chickens. I provide enough water in the chicken yard that she can take a bath in one of the buckets, to satisfy her goosey heart. So maybe it’s not such a stretch to believe that she can be a mother to some chicks?

Don't mind me, Lucy. Just taking a quick photo.

Don’t mind me, Lucy. Just taking a quick photo.

We’ll see. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, figuratively speaking. In any case, Lucy has earned the right to have the nursery to herself, and also her own food supply for the next three weeks or so.


These three hens are all broody, too. When I was picking up eggs, they were fighting for the right to sit in this desired nesting box. The funny thing is: there are no eggs beneath them. But they sit there in their broody trance, all three of them jostling for position.


I don’t know whether to call this photo “Dumb, Dumber and Dumbest” or “Larry, Moe and Curly.” I’m a little worried about the well-being of Butterscotch, the little bantam on the bottom.

Maybe after Lucy is finished with the nursery, I’ll pick one of these broody hens to give it a go. They certainly are determined, but I’ve only got one Sitting Room. I wouldn’t mind not having to raise chicks myself this spring . . .

Such promise . . . !

Such promise . . . ! (photo credit Amalia Miller)

Thank you, Gentle Reader, for checking in with me today. I do hope that spring is bursting out all over at your place by now, and that you are able to take some time to enjoy it!

Oh! Two quick things before I take off to do some more planting . . . I’m sharing this post with the great folks over at The Prairie Homestead’s weekly Barn Hop, and I’d love it if you popped in, too.

And secondly . . . my book giveaway! There are just 6 days left, so if you haven’t entered for a chance to win a signed copy of the New Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes cookbook, you probably ought to do that today don’tcha think? Here it is:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Posted in backyard chickens, feeding chickens, Gardening, Giveaways!, homesteading, how to garden in a hoophouse, Little Mack, starting seeds at home, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 18 Comments

Crumble-topped Bacon & Cheddar Muffins: oh my!

We probably don’t eat as much bacon as we’d all like at our house. It’s a conflicted food. There’s the whole nitrites/nitrates thing. And the fat thing. And the getting-as-big-as-a-barn thing. Despite all that, we love bacon. It tastes so good. It makes the house smell like heaven. And just a little bit will pack a powerful punch, flavor-wise.

I can tell that you’re squirming a little, since I brought up the awkward nitrates and nitrites issue. Here is what Chris Kesser, a very popular food writer, has to say about limiting your bacon consumption because of the nitrates and nitrites deal: “When it comes to food, vegetables are the primary source of nitrites. On average, about 93% of nitrites we get from food come from vegetables. It may shock you to learn that one serving of arugula, two servings of butter lettuce, and four servings of celery or beets all have more nitrite than 467 hot dogs. And your own saliva has more nitrites than all of them! So before you eliminate cured meats from your diet, you might want to address your celery intake. And try not to swallow so frequently.”

If you want to read more, here’s the rest of Chris’s post on why you shouldn’t fear bacon. But don’t forget to come back to learn how to make these bacon and cheddar muffins. Oh my. They are so good. And then, you can have a second one without guilt or misgivings. Maybe even a third.

My daughter Amalia is the Princess of Muffins at our house. I am one blessed mama (actually I guess that would make me the Queen of Muffins), because she is so good at making muffins that I have been forced to completely relinquish that crucial job to her. In three years, when she flies this blessed coop, I’ll have to remember again how to make muffins, but for now–I’m living in muffin heaven, baby.

Muffin Heaven!

A few weeks ago, we participated in a cool local-foods affair, Taste the Bounty of Seward County, and Amalia made her famous mile-high muffins, in three different kinds. No matter what kind of muffin my daughter makes, they turn out to be beautifully shaped–domed, very tall, and the tops cracked just right. She came up with a new recipe for these wonderful crumble-topped bacon and cheddar muffins, and we all agreed (through mouthfuls of muffins and ecstatic rolling of the eyes) that it was a winner, in so many ways.

It’s so easy to make good sweet muffin recipes, but savory muffins are a bit harder to get right, in my opinion. Amalia got these right.


And because I love you, my Gentle Reader, I’ll share Amalia’s recipe with you. Don’t worry, she gave me permission. ;)

5.0 from 2 reviews

Crumble-topped Bacon & Cheddar Muffins: oh my!
Recipe type: quick breads
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: Makes 24
Bacon and two kinds of cheese and parsley makes for a delicious savory muffin! These are delicious with dinner, or for a hearty breakfast. Or for a snack. Anytime, actually.
  • 8 ounces smoked sliced bacon, fried until crispy, drained, and crumbled
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups unbleached flour
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 5 tsp baking power
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2½ cups milk
  • 1½ cups unsalted butter, melted
  • For crumble topping: ½ cup butter, ½ cup flour, ½ cup grated cheddar cheese and ½ cup Parmesan cheese.
  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Grease two 12-cup muffin tins.
  2. First make crumble topping: mix butter and flour, stir in cheeses.
  3. Mix flours, sugar, baking powder, and mustard in large bowl.
  4. Stir in parsley, cheddar cheese, and bacon and season to taste with pepper.
  5. In another bowl, mix together the egg, milk, and melted butter.
  6. Pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix briefly until just combined.
  7. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, dividing it evenly, then sprinkle the tops with the crumble mixture.
  8. Bake in oven for about 20 minutes, or until well risen and lightly browned.
  9. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool–although they are best eaten HOT!

This is what you have to look forward to . . . . :)

Baconyummmm . . .

Baconyummmm . . .

Because I know they will love them, I’m going to share this post with my friends over at The Prairie Homestead Blog Hop. I don’t think those folks are afraid of bacon, either. :)

Posted in Quick Bread Recipes, Recipes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 20 Comments

The garage is for what, exactly? Lenten de-cluttering anecdotes

I have a sad confession to make. Here it is: I’ve fallen behind (dreadfully behind) on my Lenten De-cluttering Challenge.

Here’s what my original goal was: to spend a scant 20 minutes a day, every day, tackling a corner or a drawer or a room, and purging it of clutter, and to do this every single day of Lent (40 days, or actually 39 because, me-like, I started it all a day late). Child’s play, right? My dream was that if I did this every day for 40 days (or 39, whatev) that, come Easter and springtime and time to frolic out in the warm delightful sunshine, that my big, dirty, cluttered home would have 40 (39) very clean and organized spots, which would inevitably spread to the rest of the house–like, say, a beneficial pox–and would permeate our lives with peace and delight. And joy. Oodles and oodles of joy.

Inline image 5

That was my dream. And my goal. And then, of course, Life interfered, as Life so often does, the inconsiderate ninny. My kitchen stove broke. In fact we narrowly escaped having it burn down the house. It was a bit traumatic. That was a day or two before we hit a deer with our ‘Burb, totaling it (the ‘Burb) and grounding the kids and me for more than a week (well, actually, it totaled the deer too) as we searched for a new family vehicle. That was traumatic, as well. I got to the end of each day, several days in a row, Gentle Reader, and fell into bed, realizing that I hadn’t had 20 extra minutes that day, and that I didn’t get any de-cluttering done. Alas.

And THEN guess what happened? We woke up one morning, and there was no water. The faucet, when I turned it on, didn’t even drip. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t a bit surprised. It was just that kind of week. It was the icing on the proverbial Bad Luck Cake. We actually are blessed to be living right on top of the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world’s largest aquifers, but I wasn’t surprised that our gloriously deep and productive well had run dry, not one bit. Bryan rushed down to the basement to see if perhaps (crossing our fingers) we had blown a breaker or some other odd improbable thing, while I moped in the kitchen.

No car. No stove. And now, no water. What a week. Beam me up, Scotty. Calgon, Take me the heck away.

It was at that moment that I heard little Mack say, in a quiet voice, “April Fool’s.” Hmm. Man. He got us. I was a little surprised that our 7-year-old son knew how to turn off the water supply to the entire house, but maybe that’s proof that he’ll make something of himself, after all, despite his being blessed with such doltish parents.

Scrambling to make meals (my family insists on three every day) without the benefit of an oven or a stove, and not being able to jump into a car and run to town if I needed something, took its toll on my fine-tuned productivity skills. It takes time to be a prairie woman, does it not? True, I learned some great new survival skills (if you plan ahead, for example, and put the potatoes on the wood stove early enough, you can have hot potatoes for lunch) and I didn’t mind having an excuse to stay home more, but it did take time.


But back to the de-cluttering challenge: I’m squelching down the little screaming idiot that is standing on my shoulder, next to my ear, who is hinting in a very shrill voice that I have failed. I’m trying to listen, instead, to the calm voice of reason that says that I’m still ahead of where I was when I started. I haven’t de-cluttered every day, true, but I’ve got several nice clean spots where a couple of weeks ago, there was clutter and disorder. For example: my junk drawer is still tidy and neat, and where I had a spot for a pair of scissors and a roll of tape, there are now three pairs of scissors and two rolls of tape.

Do you know what that means? Somebody in the house (it wasn’t me) found two pairs of scissors and a roll of tape, and they recognized that very spot as being the spot for them. This is huge to me. HUGE. :) Somebody besides me put something away! Shazam!

And this means that I haven’t failed, in my book. I’m making progress. I won’t have 40 clean spots (nay, not even 39) by Easter, but I may have 15. Or 20. Which leads me to a couple of “after” photos.

Here is the bathroom sink I tackled, before:

I'm hoping that putting it in black and white makes it look a little less disgusting. Does it?

I’m hoping that putting it in black and white makes it look a little less disgusting. Does it?

Here it is, after:


Hooray! Clean space abounds. It’s a miracle!

And here’s my sock and undies drawer before I reclaimed it, for, er, my socks and undies:

Swim suits! T-shirts! Everything, in fact, BUT socks.

Swim suits! T-shirts! Everything, in fact, BUT socks and undies.

I actually kept all my socks in a box (a decorative box, but still!) shoved under our bed, just because my sock drawer was so full of things that weren’t socks. Things I didn’t even use. But I ruthlessly reclaimed it for socks and undies, and here it is!


Okay. Enough gloating! Now for two new challenges:

Challenge #1: Clean up a pile in the garage. NOTE that I didn’t say “Clean out the entire garage.” For me, that would take much more time than 20 minutes I’m going to allow myself. I mean, really. You should see our garage (heavy sigh). But please don’t come look at it.

What is the garage meant for, exactly? For providing a place to park the cars, of course, out of the weather. Do you think we can get our cars into our garage? The answer, Gentle Reader, is: not yet. But I plan to reclaim the garage, the same way I reclaimed my sock drawer. I’ll start with one cluttered corner: feed bags that need to be hauled out to the garden, aluminum cans which I’ll give to my mom, and some sunflower seeds for the wild birds. Which I will give to the wild birds, bless them.


Challenge #2: Clean out the pots and pans cabinet. Can you believe that something I use so much, every day, is such a mess?

pots and pans

I like the graphics on this pan, but it’s in the front of my pots and pans cabinet, and guess what: I’ve never actually used this pan. Now does that make sense to you? I have to reach around this (admittedly, very cute) pan every day, in order to get to the pots and pans that I do use. Every day. And the pans that I do use the most, my cast iron skillets, I store on the stove, or in the oven, because there’s no room for them in the cabinet. Now this is just silly. Don’t you agree? So I’m going to do something about it. Now.


That’s it for today, Gentle Reader! I hope you have a lovely day, and that it will include a bit of de-cluttering, or a bit of re-claiming, that will boost your spirits!

Did you know that I have a Facebook fan page, located right here, where I share lots of good stuff that doesn’t make it onto my blog?

For instance, yesterday I posted pictures of our digging up some prairie to plant some grapevines, and a picture of little Mack and me riding high on the hay wagon. I get lots of great input from my readers on that page, and you really ought to “like” it so you don’t miss out on a thing! You can do that quite simply by clicking on the link above. And thank you, in advance!

Oh, hey! And  don’t forget my cool giveaway!

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3 Ways You Can Use Hydroponic Gardening This Spring

Have you heard of hydroponics yet? Are you at all curious about this popular new way of growing a garden?

Well, then, I have something exciting to share with you today! Chris Wimmer is an urban hydroponic hobbyist who uses hydroponics to maximize his 400 square foot yard, and extend the short growing season in Chicago, where he lives.

Chris blogs about his hydroponic experiences at and on facebook.

Chris has written a guest post for me today, all about this popular new gardening method. It’s pretty cool stuff, Gentle Reader, and I know that you’re going to enjoy learning a bit more about it. Be sure to note, at the end of this post, a most generous and fascinating FREEBIE that Chris has offered to you!

I’ll be quiet now, and turn this space over to Chris:

What is hydroponics?

Hydroponic gardening is a great and fun way to grow your vegetables, herbs, fruits, and flowers in a more controlled way.

The easiest way for me to explain hydroponics to people is to say that it is gardening without dirt. This usually gets their attention right away and gives them a puzzled look. An inert ‘medium’ such as rockwool, coco coir, or clay pellets are used in place of soil. The medium provides a place for the roots to form and grip but does not give of any nutrients to the plants.

The plants instead gets their nutrients from a nutrient-rich water solution which the roots either sit in, or is pumped over the roots. Below is a simple deep water culture or lettuce raft:

Infographic of deep water culture

What are the Benefits of Hydroponics?

I have seen well over twenty benefits listed for hydroponic growing but here are my personal top 5:

  1. I can grow more plants per square foot of space.
  2. Systems can be automated. (For example, I feel very comfortable checking my plants just once a week if necessary.)
  3. My kids seem to be more interested in helping me with hydroponics than my dirt garden.
  4. I can grow inside during the Chicago winter.
  5. Hydroponics gives me something cool to talk about that many people are really intrigued by.

Hydroponicly produced tomatoes, potatoes, lettuce, etc.

3 Ways to Use Hydroponics (without going all-in!)

So just in case you aren’t ready to completely redo your spring gardening plans and build a full scale hydroponic garden, here are 3 ways you can benefit from hydroponics without going all-in.

Baby steps are cool, right?

1) Improve your watering system

Gardening with hydroponics doesn’t have exclusive rights to dripper systems. In fact, most dripper systems are used in traditional soil gardens. A hydroponic water supply is kept in a reservoir and pumped over the plants. However, a really simple way to water a standard garden is dedicating a faucet in your yard as your water source for your dripper. Adjusting the drippers and adding a simple water timer will let you optimize your watering. Once it’s set you can actually take a summer vacation without relying on your brown thumb neighbor to watch your garden!

2) pH soil testing

One of the biggest realizations I had once I started hydroponics was the impact of the pH levels on the health of my plants. When was the last time you tested the pH of your soil?

My answer was never.

I learned in hydroponics that no matter how well you managed your liquid fertilizer, it could all be undone by pH issues. Plants need many types of nutrients even beyond the Macro nutrients of Potassium (K), Phosphorous (P), and Nitrogen (N). However, if pH is outside of 5.5 to 6.5, the nutrients might as well not even be there. Plants simply can’t utilize it when the pH is out of whack.

Testing kits like the one below for soil or hydroponics cost between $10 and $20 and are a great investment.

3) Trick your kids into gardening!

If you have kids, the educational value of showing them true garden to table is amazing! So many rich teaching points that can last them a lifetime are available through gardening. However, some kids just aren’t interested. Last year, this was the case with my oldest.

I still planted a mixed garden of soil and hydroponics as I enjoy both forms. I noticed that my daughter would help build, plant, and tend the hydroponic garden but would completely ignore the rest.

When I asked her why she gave me two reasons: First, my little princess didn’t want to get ‘dirty’ in the traditional garden. Second, she said the hydroponic watering system was like a ‘cool science experiment’.

Whatever it takes, right?

While your kids might be different, it’s great to provide them different ways to get interested and hooked on gardening.

One more way to get into hydroponics!

Spring is always a time for renewal and new projects. So if you are interested in jumping into hydroponics, I just completed a spring hydroponic growing guide and would like to offer it to everyone at for free (that’s you, my Gentle Readers!). It covers all the basics of hydroponics, what questions you should answer before you start, and even a couple easy-to-build systems that will support herbs, tomatoes, lettuce, and other leafy greens.

If you’d like free access to this Spring Hydroponic Growing Guide, just click here.

Thanks again to Chris, er, that is Captain Hydroponics, for this guest post and for this Spring Planting Guide. I’m intrigued by hydroponics and I’m loving learning more about it!

Hey, I think it would be awesome to show Chris a little appreciation by liking his Facebook page and checking out his website. Thanks again, Chris!

Don’t forget to enter this awesome giveaway for the copy of the signed New Artisan Bread in 5 Cookbook that I’ve got going . . . remember that you can enter every day, to increase your chances of winning!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

As is my wont, I’m popping in to Jill’s fun event over at The Prairie Homestead, and linking this post up with her barn hop. Come on over, ya’all!

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The Night the Deer Hit the ‘Burb: Extreme De-Cluttering

It was on my de-cluttering challenge list: CLEAN OUT THE ‘BURB.  I knew, from a recent, cursory glance at the condition of the back seats (there are a lot of them, you know, in a Suburban) that there was an unusual amount of clutter in our vehicle, even for us. Remember the wrestling tournament in Kansas that we went to, lo, these many (many) weeks ago? Well. In the very back seat, there were still books–clothing–blankets–and snacks–from that trip, still wedged there. That trip was nearly a month ago. Oiy.

Of course since the adults in the family ride in the front seats, usually, we don’t see that embarrassing collection of quietly molding snack foods, petrified french fries, wadded up tissues, lost library books, misplaced toys, and whatnot (gobs of whatnot) that is the habitat of the very back seat of the ‘Burb. But. All that was going to change. With my Lenten De-cluttering Challenge, it was a simple thing to add a clean-up of the ‘Burb onto my list. Which I had, so I knew it would get done.

It would be akin to childbirth: painful and gory, but glorious and totally worth it afterward.

After I de-cluttered our ‘Burb (and I knew it wouldn’t take any more than my allowed 20 minutes to do so, especially if I could get little Mack to scrabble about underneath the seats for the Lego pieces, pencils, crayons, coins, rubber bands, and marbles that resided there) I knew that it wouldn’t be so hard to keep it neat.

And then, last night on the way home from a movie, we hit a deer. Or rather, the deer hit us. To be precise, several deer hit us. There were three or four of them that rose up out of the ditch and dashed across the road in front of us. I suspect that we hit more than one, though only one was left dead in the ditch, next to the pieces of our grill and our bumper, our Chevy insignia from the front end, and our front headlight.

We were all belted in, so we were able to walk away, a bit shaken, but with nary a scratch. Well, I had to scramble out across the driver’s seat, with nary a scratch, because my (passenger) door wouldn’t open, due to the fact that hood had been pushed back into the top of the door and had dented the door pretty badly.

Yup. Deer can do real damage to a vehicle, even one as heavy and stoutly-built as our poor 2004 Suburban. I could make a human parallel here, about the heavy and stoutly-built part that is, but I’ll refrain. Under the circumstances.


Takeaways from this experience:

  1. Always, always, always buckle your seat belt. Before you start the wheels rolling. Unfortunately, I can imagine quite clearly what would have happened (I spent much of that night imagining it, over and over again) if we hadn’t have been buckled in. I would have gone through the windshield and collided with that wretched deer in mid-air probably, and would have ended up next to her in the ditch. Little Mack would have been thrown who-knows-where, bless him. Bryan would have been thrown into the steering wheel, or right out his window. I don’t know. I am in such astonishment when I hear about fatal crashes where the seat belts weren’t being used. Why not? In a heartbeat, a deer can jump out in front of you. Or an oncoming car can swerve into your lane. You don’t always have time to react.
  2. Life Is Such A Gift. Although I do look forward to meeting Jesus and spending eternity with Him, there are blessings on earth that are easy to take for granted, if you don’t remember this simple fact: Life is a gift. God has given us such riches! Riches that we, perhaps, don’t even appreciate. I blush to think about what I complain about, what trifles occupy my mind some days, when God has given me so much: my beautiful, funny, sweet children. My patient husband. My absolutely astonishing grandchildren. The stars and the moon to gaze at, at night. Birdsong in the mornings. A beautiful world to live in. It’s perilously easy to complain about the disappointments of life, and we complain aplenty: about the weather. The wind. The rain. The drought. The condition of the roads. Pretty much everything. But there is simply so much good that God has given us here on earth.

[Tweet "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.--James 1:17

the night the deer

3.  You never know when it'll be the last time. This has been a theme that has been in my heart a lot lately, especially as I sift through all the clutter and detritus of the last few years of our lives. When I found those plastic pants in the kitchen closet--from little Mack's baby days--I wondered about the last day that he wore them, and if I realized that it was going to be the last day. Probably not. The same thing with a baby bow from Amalia's hair that I found in the junk drawer. Or the lost pacifier I found in a file drawer. Or: a ride in a faithful old car. There's not time for you to note the date, or to appreciate the fact that you won't be in this spot in your life again.

Ever. Ever, ever, ever.

the night the deer

4. Don't put off getting right with God. Our elderly neighbor Orvella in Story City, Iowa, used to remind me soberly that "you're only a breath away from eternity" and it's true, although we tend to stay so busy and distracted that we forget. Sometimes we may forget for days or months or years at a time, that life on earth is such a brief thing. Then something happens to remind us.

[Tweet "You do not know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." James 4:14]

I was surprised at how emotional I was, for days, about the fact that our Suburban was totaled. After all, it’s an old vehicle, and was pushing 200,000 miles. It didn’t owe us a thing. It has some quirks–an electrical problem which is too expensive to fix keeps the ticking blinker sound going nearly all the time.

the day the deer

“Tick tick tick tick tick tick . . . ” Yup, it can be annoying, though Amalia and I have coped with it best just by making up the “Endless Ticking Blinker Sound Song” and singing it loudly, when it starts to get to us. The ‘Burb also drips oil and leaves big spots if we park it anyplace too long. It has a few dimples and dents, and is beginning to rust in spots.

But it is the car that we had just a few years ago, when we still had six children under our roof–for that brief, exasperating summer when little Mack was a newborn and our oldest, Matthew, was home from college and struggling with missing his True Love, who had up and gone on a trip to Japan for the summer. And who didn’t write. Because his letter to her had gotten lost in the mail. (True story.) We did a bit of travelling in the ‘Burb, all eight of us, that summer, for the one and only time. Ever since then, we’ve watched Matthew, and then Andrew, and then Bethany, spread their wings and leave home. Timothy is very close behind them. It all goes so fast. That’s not a cliché. It’s a fact.

the night the deer

This car represents our family all together under one roof. It is our Young Parent Days car. Our “we’re a family of 8 and so happy of that fact” car. I know that big families are a bit of an oddity these days, and often not welcome or looked upon favorably, but I was (and am!) always immeasurably proud of our big, noisy, funny, beautiful family. This Suburban was the vehicle of our young parent days, when we had a new baby, and all six of our children were still living under our roof.

But. Not any longer. We towed the ‘Burb to the mechanic’s shop the next day, and we looked closely at all the damage. It could have been worse. Lots of people hit deer in our area, and some times all you get is a cracked bumper (that’s what happened the last time we hit a deer) and other times, much worse. We were blessed to escape “much worse.”

The next day was Sunday, and thankfully the car dealership where we towed the ‘Burb was closed, so only a few passersby witnessed the embarrassing spectacle of our cleaning months of detritus out of our beloved vehicle, that afternoon. I found white candles from last year’s Christmas Eve service, Gentle Reader. Melted crayons. Enough Legos to build a life-size model of the ‘Burb, no kidding. It was a brutal and painful reminder of how messy my life is. 

the night the deer

As rattled as I was by this experience, it wasn’t lost on me that this was the best clean-up of the ‘Burb that we had ever done. :(

But–things are getting better on that count. Every day that I do my 20-minute De-cluttering challenge for Lent, I chip away at the clutter and the mess and the STUFF that has been dragging us down for years. I can see a light at the end of the tunnel.

So that’s the story of the night the deer hit the ‘Burb. So long, faithful vehicle.

On another note, and speaking of seizing the day (we were addressing that, right?) please remember to enter my current giveaway: for a copy of the fabulous new edition of The New Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. It’s so easy to enter, and you can enter every day, if you’d like! This copy is signed by the authors and would be a wonderful gift for yourself or possibly a beloved baker in your life. Mother’s Day is coming up soon, you know! Enter today!

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If you enjoyed this post, could you do me a favor by sharing it? You can use the handy buttons to share in a number of ways, with your friends who might like it, too. Thank you!

Jill at The Prairie Homestead runs the best blog hop on the web, and that’s why I like to link up with it every week. Hop on over and see why it’s so great!



Posted in de-cluttering, deer-hunting, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 24 Comments

Cleaning out the chicken coop can be FUN! It CAN. Honest. (It can.)

Okay, maybe not really. But it’s got to be done, nevertheless.

By the way. Here’s a homeschooling tip for you young mamas: this is what you say when your littles complain about doing math, or indeed, anything they don’t want to do. Chores. Latin. Cleaning the bathroom sink. Etc. “Math (or whatever) doesn’t have to be FUN, it just has to be DONE.” Brilliant, eh? Isn’t that why you stop in at this space now and again? For Brilliance?

What do you mean, “Not so much”? Oh well. (Shrugging.)

In the same vein: “Cleaning out the chicken coop doesn’t have to be FUN, it just has to be DONE.”* See what insightful content you find on this blog? ;)

Cleaning the manure and bedding out of the chicken coop is one of the Big Jobs in the springtime at our place. I use the deep litter method of chicken coop management (someday I will get around to writing a post about this, I will, I will!) and so by spring, the chicken coop really has . . . you know . . . DEEP LITTER. It’s beautiful stuff, honestly, especially if you tend to burn down your compost pile again and again by mistake (snif) and need to build it up again, and if you value well-rotted manure for your garden. Which (sigh) I do, and I do.

So here’s a quick picture-tutorial of how to clean out your chicken coop, if you are also faced with this chore every spring. And a list of tips. Tips of brilliance, by the way.

Tip 1: Don’t complain. Your tomatoes and beans and cucumbers and radishes are gonna just love this stuff! Honestly. When your neighbors’ eyes widen at the beauty of your gorgeous tomatoes, the thickness of your awesome rhubarb stalks, the size and glossiness of your cucumbers, etc., you can blush and say “Oh, that. It’s the manure.” And you’ll be right. At least, partly right.

Here’s a picture of the Good Stuff: well-rotted chicken manure, a winters’ worth, mixed nicely with rotting leaves, hay, and so forth. It doesn’t get much better than this, Gentle Reader. This is a powerful breakfast smoothie for your garden. The best garden multi-vitamins ever. An injection of some powerful secret organic growing agent. Yup. In disguise.


Tip 2: This is a chore best done when it’s still cold outside. Early spring is perfect. There are no flies yet, and it’s still early enough that you can apply it to your garden. And the chicken coop won’t be uncomfortably steamy, as you work. Besides, fresh chicken manure tends to be hot, so it’s good for it to have a month or two to cool down before you plant your garden.

Tip 3: Assemble your tools. You don’t need much: a pitchfork, a square shovel, and a wheelbarrow (or better yet, two of them) will do it. A willing helper is optional, but very, very nice. And to make the chore go quicker, two wheelbarrows are better than one. You can be filling one, while your helper is emptying out the other one.


4. If your helper is not willing, refer to handy phrase* above.
In fact. It might be good to memorize that catchphrase. And, of course, say it with a gentle smile. Although you may get this slanted-eyes, smile of sarcasm, in reply. Oh well. You’re the Mom. You’re tough. You can deal with it.


Here’s a picture of the chicken coop, below, before our clean-out. The hay and leaves and manure, though I turn them with a pitchfork every week (it only takes a few minutes, and it keeps the compost-building progressing, and also keeps the odor level of the coop down), are pretty firmly matted down, as you can see, especially under the perches.

And, because I provided water in the coop during the coldest parts of the wintertime, and because chickens are often clumsy and tip over their water buckets, there are a couple of areas that are very wet indeed. The bedding from these wet areas really ought to have been removed when it got dumped, but I don’t always get to that (guilty grimace). Also, since I’m on a de-cluttering rampage (my kiddos’ words) I’ll take the excess buckets out. I’ll leave the bucket with the oyster shell and the bucket with the sand/ashes combo, though.

5. Use the pitchfork to lift up the top layer and transfer it to the waiting wheel barrow, and then as you get down to the smaller particles underneath, use your shovel to scrape the floor clean.


6. In the early spring, you can apply the chicken manure and bedding to your garden, in a thin layer, to be dug into the soil. If you don’t clean out until later in the season, it will be best to make it a dandy addition to your compost pile.

fling lightly!

fling lightly!

7. Your garden will smile all over, and will appreciate the manure, as well as the rotted hay and leaves. The manure adds nutrients, and the rest will improve your soil structure, especially if you continue to add goodies like that to your garden every year. My garden always needs more organic matter. And my hoop house, too, for that matter.

8. Rototilling the composted manure/hay/leaves/etc. combo into the soil is preferable to letting it sit on top of it, especially if you’ve got tomato seedlings in the house that are triggering dreams of planting in the weeks to come. Which I do. And hopefully you do, too, by now. :)

My good dad came out to rototill my garden for me.

My good dad came out to rototill my garden for me. He always does a beautiful job.

Check out the hoop house soil before rototilling, with the manure sitting on top, and Ollie standing out in front:



And after Dad gave it a pass or two with the ’tiller. Nearly ready to plant!


9. It’s always best to have company when doing these sorts of jobs.


10. Cleaning out the chicken coop can improve your complexion, even if it already is pretty much perfect.

"My rosy-leaf complexion? Oh, that's easy. I owe it all to my mother, who makes me help clean out the chicken coop every spring."

“My rosy-leaf complexion? Oh, that’s easy. I owe it all to my mother, who makes me help clean out the chicken coop every spring. It’s not pleasant, but it’s worth it for the bloom it puts in my cheeks!”

11. Once the coop is cleaned out, add fresh hay, or leaves, or straw, or whatever you have, to start the Deep Litter process all over again. Then stand and watch the chickens dig in, for a minute or two, at least. Pretty satisfying, eh?

Here’s the “After” shot of the chicken coop. The chickens were grinning. Honest.

"Oh. Lovely. Lovely fresh hay. Don't you just love that farm woman?"

“Oh. Lovely. Lovely fresh hay. Don’t you just love that farm woman?”

Hey, I’ll be linking up with the good folks over at The Prairie Homestead’s weekly Barn Hop. Join me!


Posted in backyard chickens, Chickens, Homeschooling, homesteading, Life Lessons, mulch, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 20 Comments

The NEW Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day GIVEAWAY . . . and a Guilty Secret

Gentle Reader. Do I have a cool giveaway for you today! You are going to be so happy that you checked in with me today. So happy.

But first, some pre-cool-giveaway build up. ;)

Much as I absolutely love homemade bread, here’s my guilty secret: I’m not one of those mamas who makes bread every day. I know many of these wonderful ladies. I would love to be one of these wonderful ladies. My children, even more so, would rise up and call me “Blessed” if I became one of these wonderful ladies. Sigh. But no.

My children do get enough homemade bread to turn up their noses at store bread (“air bread” is what they call it) but they will eat it, if pressed. Some days are just too doggone busy, with school and errands and music lessons and admiring my newly-sprouted (yes!) heirloom tomato seedlings (yes!) to mix up another batch of bread which, truth is, will mostly be eaten within an hour (no lie) squished out of shape (that’s why you don’t slice hot bread straight out of the oven, I remind them, but nobody listens) and spread thickly with butter. And possibly drizzled lightly with honey.

Did I mention that my oven just stopped working yesterday? It’s true. It was a dramatic experience and, I suspect, a bit dangerous. If pressed, I will tell you the story. But that’s beside the point. Which is: baby tomatoes!

baby toms

Gosh, I think I need to make some bread. Suddenly I’m very, very hungry for a slice. With just a skiff of butter and a drizzle of honey . . . ?

There is just nothing like the smell of homemade bread to make a home welcoming and warm, and just a nice place to be. Don’t you agree?

But I just wanted to get that out of the way: I don’t make bread every day. I’ve always felt like in A Perfect World, I’d have time to make bread every day. Someday, when my super-secret cloning experiments prove to be a success, I will instruct my willing clone (who doesn’t argue or roll her eyes, ever) to make bread every day. Deal, kids?

But. When I discovered the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day cookbook a couple of years ago, I got closer to that ideal of making bread every day. This makes my family so, so happy. It makes me happy, too. This method of making a very wet dough, and storing it for up to a few hours to a few weeks in the refrigerator, and then quickly shaping loaves and baking them in a very hot, steamy oven, is so easy and convenient. It takes (literally) less than 5 minutes to mix up a batch of dough, and then later, less than 5 minutes (literally) to shape the chilled dough into loaves.

And it comes out looking like this: crusty, chewy, hearty, lovely.

Mocha-Honey Rye bread: I'll share the recipe with you sometime soon: it's so gooooood!

On of my Artisan in 5 Minutes a Day recipes: Mocha-Honey Rye bread. Yum.

This easy method of bread making is an amazing innovation for those of us who love fresh homemade bread, and it makes hot daily homemade bread easy and even (yes) realistic for a busy mama and intense gardener and children teacher and chicken farmer like me. And we have Zoë François and Jeff Herzberg, M.D., to thank for it, because they are the authors of Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day, the cookbook that has helped busy mamas like me to bake more bread in less time. (Thank you Zoë and Jeff!)

Can you picture it? . . . here’s my typical bread-making routine: I mix up 4 or 5 or 6 buckets of dough on the weekend. It takes me, roughly, 15 minutes. I sock them all away, feeling very smart indeed, in the refrigerator (we have an extra ‘fridge in the basement). Of course you can do this on a smaller scale, putting just one or two buckets into your ‘fridge, if you don’t have that extra ‘fridge space available. It’s all good. I realize that not everybody has 32 people that they are feeding on a daily basis. Or is it 64? Or 108? So hard to remember, and it varies from day to day. Lots.

This dough is very versatile. What will you do with it? Perhaps you decide on honey cinnamon rolls for breakfast on Monday morning (my family needs something special on Monday mornings, doesn’t yours?), and then on Tuesday let’s say you’re making a quick spaghetti for dinner, so you shape some cheese bread to go with it, which rises as you make the rest of your dinner. On Wednesday, it’s 5:00 before you know it, and you need to make something really quick for dinner so you make some “Crunch time” Stromboli and a big green salad and call it good. Everybody else calls it good, too. It smells so good while it’s baking!

OH this is so easy and so GOOD!

OH this is so easy and so GOOD!

On Thursday, you’ve got just a bit of time before you’ve got to run your little boy to Taekwondo (gosh that sounds familiar) so you shape some buns really quickly before you leave (you can do this, because this dough isn’t fussy about rising times: an hour is fine, an hour and a half won’t bother them a bit) and you plan to fry hamburgers to go in them, while they bake, when you get home. And on Friday, of course everybody wants pizza for dinner, it’s FRIDAY after all. It’s pizza night! You’re tired (it’s FRIDAY after all) and initially you think, Oiy, homemade pizza, but then! You remember that last bucket of dough and you (smugly) pull it out, and start rolling it out into pizza crusts.

Here are a few batches of bread on Farmer's Market day last summer.  Doesn't it make you happy just looking at them?

You can make so many types of bread with this “bucket dough.”

Your family, after all, rises up and calls you Blessed. You blush and feel just a bit guilty, because it wasn’t at all difficult to work fresh bread into every day’s meals. Because of that stash of bucket dough in the ‘fridge. (Thank you again, Zoë and Jeff.) And tomorrow–you’ll take 15 minutes to whip up another weeks’ worth. Can you picture it?

So using the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day method of making dough is a great boon to you if you’re the one who is responsible for making the meals at your house. But it’s also very handy if you make bread for a crowd. When I carried the same “bucket dough” method to my farmer’s market table, everybody was happy there, too. Truth is, making traditional homemade bread, with its required rising and re-shaping, kneading and tossing about, was really taking a toll on my hands and wrists. I’m no spring chicken, you know.

But. Then my sister Mollie suggested that I try Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day for some of my farmer’s markets breads. First, I checked the book out of the library. Then I bought it. My copy now, after several years’ use, is well-worn, full of post-it notes and written notes and bookmarks. I’ve just used it and loved it to death.

Here's my old edition, with lots of notes written inside, post-it notes and bookmarks.

Here’s my old edition, with lots of notes written inside, post-it notes and bookmarks.

My sister Mollie blew my mind away again a couple of months ago and shared with me that Jeff and Zoë, the authors of the original Artisan Bread in 5, had written a new and revised book, much bigger and even better than the original. I didn’t wait for the library to get it this time. I bought a copy right away. Good thing my sister Mollie keeps me in the loop about such things. I do tend to live under a rock.

This new book has gobs of brand new recipes, lots of gorgeous new photos, revisions on some of the recipes that I’ve used hundreds of times, and lots more! I just love it!

Here's the new edition! (Happy dance)

Here’s the new edition! (Happy dance) Isn’t it beautiful?

And here’s the good news for you: The authors, Jeff and Zoë, and their publisher are giving me a signed copy of the The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day to give away to one of YOU!

Jump right onto the cool Rafflecopter giveaway thingy here and get as many entries as you can! If you’ve never done one of these before, it is so easy and will only take you a few seconds. You can even enter every day, if you want to increase your chances of winning this cool signed copy. And while you’re at it, check out Jeff and Zoe’s website. It’s always packed with new recipes that aren’t in the books, question and answer sessions, very helpful tutorials, and much more.

So without further ado, here’s the giveaway:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck, Gentle Reader. And thanks again for checking in with me today! I appreciate it, I really do! If you have a bit of time and want to learn something new, by the way, hop on over to The Prairie Homestead’s weekly Barn Hop. It’s fun and I guarantee that you’ll learn something new!

Want a copy of this excellent book right away? I don’t blame you–click here to get your own copy!

Posted in Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, Book recommendations, bread making, Bread recipes, Giveaways!, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 89 Comments

End of the Hoop House Season Soup, tra-laaa!

These are things that I found in my hoop house this week: curly dock (I did not plant it, but I’m gonna eat it) a few parsnips, a few leeks, and a couple of carrots. My sense of adventure and my absurdly fine-tuned frugality decided right then and there that I was going to make soup. Soup. Spring hoop house gleanings soup. And it was going to be GLORIOUSly delicious. I hoped.

This soup was going to be my pitiful little fists shaking at winter, with its bitter temps and its ongoing grayness and its absurd length this year. And its lack of snow. I’ve always been of the opinion (I realize that many do not see eye to eye with me on this, and I understand and accept this without rancor) that if it’s going to be cold, there might as well be snow on the ground.

Just think about it for a moment. Snow is pretty. It turns everything blue at sundown. Blue is my favorite color. Snow covers up the gray and the brown and the sad, forlorn, emptiness of the garden. Snow is a consolation to those of us who must endure at least half of the calendar year in cold, blowsy, often-bitter winter.

We did have a bit of snow before Christmas, and plenty of ice on which to try out little Mack’s new ice skates. So our winter has not been a total bust, winter-fun-wise.

But this winter was curiously dry and unreasonably cold here in Nebraska. Sadly snowless. Did you know that little Mack and I haven’t made even one snowman? We went sledding only once. Winter has been stingy with us this year, and we are ready for the old gray man to scoot on outta here. Thus, the End of the Hoop House Season Soup. Tra-laaa! Take that, Winter!

I hadn’t actually been in the hoop house for several weeks. I knew that I had left some leeks out there to freeze (alas) and also some carrots (rats) and I figured that they were (figuratively speaking) toast long ago. What self-respecting carrot, I ask you, can withstand temps of -10°? None that I’m acquainted with.

So I was astonished to find not only a few leeks, still crisp and happy in their bed of wood chips (thank you Paul Gautschi) but also some carrots (hard to find because their tops froze, but still there!) and some parsnips (the tops of which were putting out new growth, what optimists!). I dug these amazing winter survivors up and took pictures of them since I had my camera in my pocket.

Absolutely they deserved their own pictures, wouldn’t you say? Like all of us here in the Midwest (and many other frigid areas of the world, too), they actually deserved a party just for Making It Through.

Here's what the winter-weary leek looks like on the outside. . .

Here’s what the winter-weary leek looks like on the outside. . .

Here is my collection of winter-survivors, destined for the soup pot. . . . say cheese!


Check out this crazy carrot! (The show-off!)


As I chopped and sauteed and stirred and simmered, I thought to myself that if this soup was any good, I’d share the recipe with you, my Gentle Reader. Because I figured that if I was sick and tired of winter and needed a lift that a clear-brothed, veggie-packed, herb-laced soup would give, well then, you might, too.

It was good soup. It was delicious soup. So here we go. Here’s what it looked like:


And here’s how I made it:

5.0 from 4 reviews

End of the season hoophouse soup, tra-laaa!
Recipe type: spring soup!
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8 to 10
You can use frozen veg for this soup, and you can also add a cup or two of cooked chicken, if you have it, and you’ll have a heartier main dish soup for the men :) in your life who don’t think it’s supper if there isn’t any MEAT. (I was inspired by a soup that Jenny from Nourished Kitchen made, by the way.)
  • 2 Tbs lard
  • 2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large leek, white and light-green parts only, washed and thinly sliced
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 6 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and sliced
  • 2 cups frozen lima beans
  • 8 cups Chicken Foot Broth or any good chicken broth
  • 2 cup baby artichoke hearts, halved
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ cup torn fresh basil
  • ½ cup torn fresh cilantro
  • ½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 cups cooked chicken (optional)
  1. Warm the lard and olive oil in a heavy stockpot over medium heat. When the lard melts, stir in the leek and lemon zest and fry until begin to smell wonderful and the leek softens, about 4 minutes. Stir in the carrots and parsnips and saute, stirring from time to time, until crisp-tender, 5 to 7 minutes.
  2. Stir in the broth, lima beans, and artichoke hearts. Cover and simmer until the vegetables become tender, about 
30 minutes. Season to your liking with salt and pepper, stir in the herbs and serve. Also optional chicken, if you like.
  3. Crock pot directions: After sauteeing the veg, stir all ingredients EXCEPT artichoke hearts and herbs, into your crock pot and let cook on LOW for 4-6 hours, stirring in artichokes and herbs and cooked chicken right before serving.

Oh! And here’s how to make the chicken feet broth, if you are so inclined. :)

I’m sharing this link with Jill and the good folks over at The Prairie Homestead, if you’d like to pop over and see what all the fuss is all about!

Posted in hoop house veg recipes, Recipes, soup recipes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 16 Comments

Onward and upward: outward and trashward

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I’ll tell you, Gentle Reader, this 40 Day Lenten De-cluttering Challenge has been the best thing that I’ve done for myself, and for our home, in a long, long time. I would recommend it highly to anybody. Take just a few minutes on a daily basis and dig in. Sort! Toss! And do it quickly! I’d love to write about it every day, but there are other things going on around here, too.

To wit:

  • My pepper seeds have germinated! This is an accomplish, since the temperature has been wintry-themed again (19 degrees this morning, alas) and everybody knows that pepper seeds need warmth to germinate. They’re fussy that way.
Aren't they cute?

Aren’t they cute?

  • Turns out that our adorable granddaughter Anya, er–I mean Princess Anee–is newly crazy about “princess movies” so we are trying to schedule princess movie dates with her as much as possible. Tonight we’re watching “Frozen.” I hope Anee wears her tiara. We’ll eat supper together first, and then do our nails. We’ll let Uncle Mack apply the polska-bots. Natch.

Here’s our princess all fancied up for a tea party. (photo credit Sonia Miller)

  • Our grandson Emmett turned one this month! And he has taken a few steps. Somebody–quick!–slow down the clock!

Emmett. (photo credit Rachel Miller)

  • Little Mack earned his yellow belt in his Taekwondo class. He is very proud of himself, and I think it’s beginning to connect in his brain that if he practices at home, he does better in class. That’s a nice lesson for him to learn. :)

Here is little Mack with his teachers, Tom and Cathie. They are terrific people. He is blessed.

Back, though, to the de-cluttering: two neat things have happened, after two weeks of daily de-cluttering tasks:

1. For a change, we were home all weekend. But that’s not the neat thing. Well, it was neat. But guess what everybody was doing. De-cluttering. I’m not lying. I did several make-up 20-minute de-cluttering sessions myself; Bryan worked in his shop; Amalia spent much of Saturday in her room (she said she was cleaning); and little Mack–well, okay, he was the exception–he tooled about, watching everybody else’s progress, and frequently flopped down on his stomach to read Calvin and Hobbes.

I wanna be a seven-year-old boy! Waaaaa!

There. I got that out of my system. Here’s the kicker, Gentle Readers: all this de-cluttering was not suggested by me. I said (note my self-control) not a word. I didn’t nag or cajole or coax or whine. Or gloat.

But my tiny (teeny! tiny! itsy! bitsy!) daily successes in de-cluttering–I am astonished to report–have begun to cause a ripple effect in my home full o’well-meaning, but messy folks. I didn’t expect this.

In essence, that means that I have cloned myself in my mad de-cluttering abilities. Kinda. Not really. But maybe? In the very least, it means that (if it continues) because of my resolve to de-clutter 40 areas in my home during Lent, that even more than that will get de-cluttered, without my lifting a finger. Cool, eh? Every mother’s dream!

The weather turning back to winter may have had something to do with all the cleaning, too, but still—!

Can we discuss the weather for just a minute? We’ve experienced the classic bait-and-switch of springtime in Nebraska. The weather finally, finally, after months of bitter cold, warms up for a day or two. Tra-laaa! We all sing, happily, and dance, failing to notice that everything outside is still very dead and brown, and that the calendar on the ‘fridge still very clearly shows that it is March. Not May. Not June. In ignorance and bliss, we shed our cumbersome woolen coats, we cast aside our dark depressing colors, our multitudinous layers which have begun to make our shoulders droop. We toss all the winter clothing into the donation bag, and we go outside for a frolic. In springy colors like lime green and pink. We possibly even bare our toes.

And then. Boom. Winter returns. We wake up the next morning and it is 9° again, a stiff 30 mph wind is blowing from the northwest, and snow is in the forecast. And then we take a look out the window–oh yes, it is still brown and gray out there, could it be–?—and our eyes catch sight of the calendar–oh yes, it is still March, which–last we checked–is still winter in Nebraska. Sigh.

We pull out the board games and scrapple about in the donation bag for the woolens, and add some wood to the fire. Resigned, we make one more pot of a stew with beef and potatoes and carrots in it, and we pull the quilts up a bit tighter to our chins. We try not to complain. We’ve still got a few weeks, after all, to go.

But back to the de-cluttering successes: imagine this, if you will: A neat junk drawer that can be opened without having to jerk all the junk around first. A tidy mud room with open spaces on the shelves. A neat kitchen spice cabinet, with no cascading of spice jars or candy pumpkins or sesame seeds spilling out every time you open the door. Oh. It’s just nice, nice, nice.

2. Another thing that I’ve noticed is that once a small area is de-cluttered, it tends to stay that way. We’re such slobs in our house, this doesn’t really make sense, by all accounts. But take my “tricky closet” project. I was (literally) trembling at the thought of digging into this closet. It was so full, and I just couldn’t even imagine what was at the bottom of that pile.

I dug into it after supper one evening. I set the timer. I grabbed the trash can. Everybody fled the kitchen while I was doing this, at first. For once the kitchen was empty and quiet. I’m sure nobody wanted me to ask them to help. What a job! But then, eventually, everybody came wandering back in, just to watch. It was fascinating. It was like a prehistoric dig. I found old potatoes that had sprouted years ago, grew a bit, and then died and dried up. Plastic pants from when little Mack was a baby. A bottle of soda that was eight years old. Some lunch bags from Subway that Andrew brought home to me when he worked there over six years ago. Phew. It was bad.

I hope you don’t turn off your ‘pooter in disgust at this, Gentle Reader, now that you know about The True Me, and that I am so flawed that I actually have prehistoric rotting potatoes in my kitchen closet and seven-year-old plastic pants and bottles of eight-year-old soda.

I don’t think people even use plastic pants on their babies any more, do they?

Here’s the before picture:

Yikes! Even Ollie is a bit disturbed by this mess.

Yikes! Even Ollie is a bit disturbed by this mess.

And here’s after a 20-minute (plus a few extra minutes) de-clutter:

Our cat Pippin had to check it out.

Our cat Pippin had to check it out.

In the picture, the closet still looks cluttered, but actually it isn’t. After I dug everything out of there, I sat back and thought about what I really needed to store in there: egg cartons. The broom. A few aprons. Some plastic bags and a few shopping bags. I tossed all the rest of the stuff. That felt goood, baby.

I haven’t decided yet what to do with those plastic pants. I am curiously drawn to them.

So! Onward and upward. What next, you ask? Here are the two challenges for the next few days:

1. My first challenge is to donate some books. We love books, all of us. Every time we go to the library, we study carefully the “donation” table, jammed full of the bookshelf-cleanings-out of others, for any titles that we are missing in our own library. We order books online. We buy books at bookstores. We give each other books for gifts. Our local library has a BIG BOOK SALE with a donation box, every summer. The librarian actually makes a point of calling our family, the week before, just to remind us to come, because they know we’ll haul away a goodly portion of those books.

Well. I’m exaggerating, but only just a bit. But it is the truth that we have more books than we’ll ever have the time to read. And sometimes when you get that many books, you spend more time dusting them (although I can’t say that I dust very often) and rearranging them and sighing over your lack of bookshelf space* and looking for the one book you really needed today, and so forth, than you spend actually curled up in a chair reading one.

That’s really a sad state of affairs, wouldn’t you agree?

So I’m determined to pull out books that I suspect we’ll never read, and put them in a box for donating. I will promise myself not to try to sell them or try to find homes in somebody else’s house, but just to do the quick and easy thing, and plunk them into a box and donate them to a worthy place. Just 20 minutes’ worth, too.

There’s one bookshelf in particular that looks dangerous to me, and I keep passing by it thinking that we don’t really need all those books, so I’m going to pick on it this time. Also I want to move it to another place, which means it has to be emptied first.

Here’s the “before” photo:

This looks dangerous.

This looks dangerous.

2. The second challenge I’m setting out for myself is just to clean up around the bathroom sink. I don’t know how it gets so cluttered. I mean, really–DOTS? Why are they in here? And why on earth is the rug sitting next to the sink, instead of on the floor? (I’ll tell you why, because for a while that was the preferred napping spot for our kitty, so I left it there. But she has moved on. And so, I believe, should I.)

Here’s the “before” picture.

I'm hoping that putting it in black and white makes it look a little less disgusting. Does it?

I’m hoping that putting it in black and white makes it look a little less disgusting. Does it?

That’s it for today, I guess! I think I’m rambled long enough and that now I need to get up and get busy!

Thanks as always, Gentle Reader, for reading. See ya next time! :)

By the way, I’m going to share this intoxicating post with the great folks over at the link-up party at The Prairie Homestead. Join me!


Posted in Anya, de-cluttering, Emmett, Lent, Little Mack, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 14 Comments