Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

It’s long been said at our little country church that you must always remember to lock your car doors, especially in July.  The risk is not in what might be removed from your vehicle but rather that you might become the recipient of a gift …someones surplus zucchini. 
Well, it’s that time of year again.  The summer squash and zucchini are filling the garden and overflowing unto the kitchen counter.  This week wanted to share some of the fun and delicious ways we like to prepare zucchini.  Yesterday it was these amazing chocolate muffins.  I stashed a few away in the freezer and the rest are going fast! They are so moist and yummy!
*I like to use the BIG zucchinis for baking.  You know, the ones you didn’t see hiding in the garden or the ones really cheap at the farmers market. They work just fine.  I just remove the majority of the seed before I start shredding.  Extra shredded zucchini can be portioned out into freezer containers and tossed into the deep freeze for use another day.
 

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

3 eggs
2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup applesauce
1/3  cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups grated zucchini
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2  teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

 Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two 12 cup muffin tins. Beat the eggs. Beat in the sugar, applesauce and oil. Add the cocoa, vanilla, zucchini. Stir in the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Mix until just moist. Pour batter into prepared muffin tins filling 2/3 of the way full. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool on a wire rack.

 Yield 24 muffins

Linked to The Morristribe’s Homesteader Blog Carnival

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Blueberry Pie Filling

Last night I finally got my blueberry pie filling made.  I was disappointed when 3 of my jars didn’t seal.  Ive never had that happen to pie filling before but my only thought is that I may have gotten them a little full. However,  this morning as  I ate a bowl of Greek yogurt with a spoonful of blueberry pie filling on top, I could feeling that disappointment melting away!  It was SO good, even if I had to share half of it with the little man child who climbed up next to me and repeated demanded, “Booberries mama, booberries.”

Here is my recipe-

Blueberry Pie Filling

6 quarts Fresh Blueberries
6 cups granulated sugar
2 1/4 cups Clear Jel
7 cups cold water
1/2 cup lemon juice

 Wash and drain blueberries. Combine sugar and Clear Jel in a large kettle, stir. Add water. Cook on medium high heat until mixture thickens and begins to bubble. Add lemon juice and boil 1 minute stirring constantly. Fold in berries immediately and fill jars with mixture without delay, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Adjust lids and process. Process in boiling water canner (pints or quarts) 30 mins for 0-1000 ft altitude.
Yield -7 quarts

Creamy Dill Cucumber Salad

The first veggies ready in the garden this year are cucumbers.  One of my favorite ways to eat cucumbers is chunked up with a little creamy dill dressing.  Because I  am the only one who will eat cucumbers in our house I just mix it up and put it in the fridge.  When Im ready, I just chunk up the cold cucumbers and drizzle with the dressing.  Later in the season when the tomatoes are ripe, I’ll chop up one and throw that in too. I remember eating this all summer long with my dad, it was one of his favorites.  Cool and Refreshing! This is a great summer recipe.

Creamy Dill Cucumber Sauce

1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon dill weed
1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1 teaspoon minced dry onion
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper (optional)

Financing homestead improvements

One of the biggest challenges for us on our little homestead has been financing our new ventures and improvements.  With only one income funds are limited and are a consideration for most every project.  I would absolutely love to build a brand new polebarn, but it will likely be some time before we have enough saved to do so.  We recognize that if we choose to wait to grow our homestead until we have perfect facilites, it may never happen.  And because we choose not to incur any additional debt one good option is often to reuse materials we already have laying about.

When the Handy man built this Beautiful coop several years ago it was a wonderful home for our chickens.  However, now it is much too small for our 40+ laying hens. We are in the process of deconstructing a  13 X 12 foot  greenhouse that was once used to overwinter plant material.  We will move this structure into place and cover it with steel to be the new house for our hens.   I am hoping to repaint the old hen cottage and sell it to help offset some of the cost of the metal.  We will also be using lumber from a swing set we had that was damaged in a storm some time back.

This structure has also had multiple lives.  It is 17 X 32 and is curently housing a large wood pile, prior to that it housed pheasants.  We will be reinforcing this structure and covering it with metal as well as it will soon be a new winter home for our growing goat herd.
Some of the places that we have found building materals at a discount or even free are-
*Our families farms  (Thanks!  We love you so much)
*Craigslist
*Garage sales
*Habitat ReStore
*Materials we can reuse from other projects.
I would encourage anyone who is considering starting a new homesteading venture or expanding one to not be discouraged by lack of funds but rather to consider what resources you do have available and think “outside of the box.”  If you can make it work…..go for it, Im guessing our hens wont care if their home used to be a greenhouse as long as they are warm and dry, and Im sure yours wouldn’t either.

Preparing to be without power

This weekend storms swept across the midwest and the Ohio Valley, according to the most recent article on CNN literally millions of people remain without power.  Those millions of people include almost all of my husbands family who live in rural Southeast Ohio.  Being without power for them is certainly an inconvenience but as inhabitants of “Gods country”  as the Handy man refers to it, is nothing new.  Because of all the trees and back country roads, they have been known to lose power during ice, wind and snow storms more often than the rest of us. So, they tend to be more prepared to deal with these outages. Which leads my to my next point.  This weekends storms gave us the opportunity and motivation to revisit our level of preparedness in the event we are not so lucky next time around.

For most people their biggest concern in water.  Be are blessed to have multiple sources of water available.
1) We storage potable water in our basement for drinking and cooking.
2) We have a 2 acre pond on my parents farm within 200 yards of our house.
3)  A quarter of a mile down the road there is a spring at the local community church.  Fresh cool water has not stopped flowing from it in the 25 years that we have lived here.
4) We have a ravine at the back of our property with a fairly steady stream, at least in the spring and early summer.

Having said that, the Handy man and I did talk at length yesterday about the pros and cons of putting in a cistern, so that we would have access to clean water via hand pump here on our property,  however as funds are always a consideration…….discussion to be continued.

We have a generator but we unfortunately do a lousy job of keeping gasoline stored for it.  We try to keep the gas cans full but before you know it we end up using them for the 4 wheeler, the lawn mover, the chainsaw……. Having seen the pictures of people lined up for miles to get gas at the only gas station in hubbys hometown that had power was a BIG wakeup call.  What good is the generator with no fuel?  He estimates the generator needs about a gallon of fuel an hour when running under load.  We have GOT to get serious about this and get a tank put in.  The first thing we did was go fill all of our gas cans up with fuel.  It cost us about 150.00 but is well worth it for the piece of mind it brings.  The second thing we did was to secure a 250 gallon tank to have here on the property.  As soon as we get it moved over here, and save up the extra funds we will have it filled as well.
Aside from the above mentioned concerns, my next concern for being without power is conserving food and preventing loss due to spoilage.  We purchase our beef and pork by the side.  We get whole chickens by the dozen through a local amish farmer.  We freeze corn and beans.   We have ALOT of food in our 2 chest freezers.   It wont take much time to lose alot of food and alot of money.  I would like to put up enough meat in jars to get us down to one freezer. (I also think it would be awfully convenient to have the meat precooked for soups, BBQ beef and the like.) I have found a few recipes for canning chicken and beef and will be trying my hand for the first time this week with canning meat in the pressure canner.  Ill let you know how it goes.

4-H Fun

One of the things keeping busy this summer has been 4-H projects.  I was in 4-H growing up and honestly I forgot how much work is involved in completing the project activities, leadership activities and books.  This year was Sunshines first year, she took 4 projects.  She has 2 goat projects, a cooking projects and a vegetable project.  She has by far enjoyed the goat project the most.  I would say the Vegetable gardening project has been her least favorite.   She has learned a great deal about plants, pollination as well as plant care. We have also been studying nutrition and some cooking basics. More than anything else it has been a good reinforcement in demonstrating responsibility.  She knows that it is her responsiblity to feed, water and exercise her goats as well as to help with the weeding and watering in the garden.  She has been doing a great job and I am very proud of her.   We are all looking forward to seeing her show one of her goats at the state fair in a few weeks.

This is a picture of Sunshine working the the garden.  (I can assure you the big smile did not show up until the camera did.)  She likes weeding even less that I do.