Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Vermont Cranberry Beans

We are deep into harvesting season right now and so my words will be few.

But, I wanted to share my adventure of planting and harvesting Vermont Cranberry Beans.  For my first time venture into the land of dried beans I think it went very well. I will definitely be doing it again. 

I learned a few things that might be handy to keep in mind if you ever plant a bean that you intend to use for dry use.  I let my beans dry down on the plant while they were still in the garden.  As the plants dried out I pulled them out of the ground and stripped the pods off of the plant.  This worked great for the first 1/3 of the row that I picked. 


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We shucked the beans into bowls and then I transferred them onto cookie sheets (which I covered with dish towels) to finish drying.




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After about 4-5 days I placed them into a quart jar.

I waited for the plants to continue to dry down and then I picked again.

This time, however, I noticed that some of the beans had started to mold from too much moisture.  And upon further investigation we saw that some of the beans had gotten so wet that they were starting to sprout inside the pods.  It made for an interesting science discussion for my younger two, but it wasn’t so good for yields!

So, I learned that I need to pick sooner, keep a closer eye on the weather, and pluck those babies out of the ground if it looks like it is going to be wet for a while.  I need to keep in mind that I can always hang the plants to let them finish drying down.  Or just shuck the beans out of the pods and let them dry the rest of the way on cookie sheets.


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All in all I would say that growing Vermont Cranberry Beans has been a success and the proof is in the pot!


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MMMMM …..  So Good!!!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Homeschooling Myth #1- Debunked

Okay, today I’m putting myself out on the line… no hate mail, please….


Homeschooling Myth #1:  If you homeschool you will have an abundance of free time.

Have you ever heard this myth? 

Yes, I say myth, because after twelve years of homeschooling I haven’t seen it come to fruition.  Thankfully, I’m not seeking a landfall of free time anyway, but I think some families go into homeschooling thinking it will free a large amount of their time.  I am here to debunk that, not to scare anyone away from homeschooling, but rather to be honest and up front about what homeschooling is really about.

It’s a lifestyle, heart changing commitment.  It will alter your life and teach you things you never knew before about life, people, ability, persistence, attitudes, and family.  It can feel overwhelming at times and yet so fulfilling.  It requires A LOT and yet for us and many others there is nothing we would rather be doing.


There will probably be some homeschoolers who would disagree with me on this, but for me it is truth…. Homeschooling consumes my weekdays.


I can’t tell you how many times I have heard this question, “Is it true that you can get all of your schooling done before lunch?”  

And I have to honestly reply… “ Um, Yes in the elementary and Junior High years, for the most part we do get all our school done before lunch each day.”

However, if they were looking for a long drawn out answer (which I know they are not) I would probably say…

“Well, we start school at 7:30 am.  We gather together in our sitting room, still in our P.J.’s, wrapped in warm, fuzzy blankets and we do our Bible/devotions, memory verse, critical thinking, and top it all off with history and literature for the younger three.  Then we have breakfast.  My children then do their daily house and outside chores. Followed by their own personal devotions.  Around 9:00 am, we start math and move through our remaining subjects from there.”


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Here is a little example that shows some of what is required of me at this point in our homeschool.   I am literally teaching four levels of math one of those being pre-calculus.  And yes, I do teach them, they are not just computer babies (two of the boys have their lessons taught on the computer).  These children of mine have a momma who works the problems out right beside them and teaches them step by step if need be.  Ask my oldest!  Today he had to write down the 6 steps for changing a basic quadratic equation into the vertex form of the quadratic equation (using a bit of visual and kinesthetic  learning here).  He was struggling to get the concept, so we took it step by step writing out what needed to be done then working the problems together.  Half an hour and 9 problems later we took a break for lunch. WHEW!  Our brains needed refueling.

And this is only an example of one subject.

My children may have more time that isn’t filled with paper work than a public school child, but the learning in our home is constant.  Today there was a discussion started by my son about World War I where he supplied all kinds of facts and information, as I listened in. At one point he couldn’t remember all the details and so he looked them up.  Not me, him.  Learning, learning, learning and not forced learning, I love it!


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Your children may have a bit more “free time” this is true, but honestly its all in how you define free time! Smile   Currently my children’s “free time” consists of some quiet time in the afternoon usually about 1 1/2 hours for my older boys, my daughter at 7 gets a bit more time to choose her activities. This “free time” is often broken up with activities that mom or dad choose to require help for.  For example, this afternoon my children’s “free time” was broken into when they were called upon to help harvest the potatoes out of the garden and pull up and discard the cucumber vines.  After that was done the boys went back to their “free time” which consisted of making a movie (self learning anyone!). 


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Then when Joel got home he rallied all the boys around him to go fix, patch up, and erect deer shacks, blinds, and tree stands.  As I write this I hear them, through my open windows,  back in the woods, hard at work, moving a shack and pounding in stakes.

All of this to say, that as a homeschool mom I am very involved in my children’s learning.  It takes from 7:30-3:00 most days for me to finish what I need to do, to organize, re-think lessons that may be confusing my kids, to re-teach, to walk alongside, to correct, and to listen.  All of this and more is what is required of me if I am to be the teacher my kids need me to be.   Some days it takes longer. 

So, in all honesty, if you are looking for huge chunks of free time, homeschooling may not be for you.  It takes major commitment and dedication.  You have to feel called to do this, because it is a hard, important, life altering job and not one to be taken lightly. 

BUT, if you are looking for an opportunity to build amazing relationships with your children, to learn alongside them, to know pure joy when they “get it”, to spend your days with your most favorite people, then by all means GO FOR IT!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

End of the Garden…. Recipe

The garden is winding down and yet there is still more than we can eat most days.  It’s a good conundrum!

Enter….  End of the Garden Pickles. 


Got a a couple handfuls of green beans?  Not enough to freeze or can? 

How about a few too many cucumbers, but you can’t put up another jar of pickles or your shelf in the basement will collapse.

How about an herb garden loaded with dill just begging to be used.

Or a need for a creative use of Eggplant?

Your solution lies here.

Make a quick brine, pack in your veges, let cool and then refrigerate.  Easy Peasy



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WE are enjoying and savoring these end of garden treats, because now we really don’t have any cucumbers and the beans are dwindling, too.  Thankfully I made 6 quarts and we still have several that we haven’t devoured.  Want to make them?  Here’s the recipe I concocted after viewing at least 10 different versions.  Yep, you can thank me later for all the recipe hopping I saved you.


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10 cups soft water

3 1/2 cups white vinegar

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 cup salt

Mix in a large pot, cover and bring to a boil.


Prepare your vegetables.  I used the following:

I head of Cauliflower, cut in florets

4 handfuls of beans (my precise measuring here is astounding, I know)

6 pickling cucumbers, sliced

3 carrots, sliced

2 eggplant cut into slices

(I actually blanched my beans, carrots, and cauliflower for two minutes in boiling water and then placed them in an ice water bath to stop the cooking process.  I think this worked great for these 3 harder vegetables.)

***You could also use celery, peppers, onions, etc. whatever you have on hand…. be creative.


Place in each hot sterilized jar:

1 head of dill

1 teaspoon mustard seed

2 cloves of garlic

1 teaspoon black pepper corns

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes.

Place your washed and prepared veges into the jars on top of your spices.  Then pour the hot brine over the vegetables.  Place on heat protected surface and let cool.  Once the jars are cool enough, put on the lids and place in the refrigerator.  Makes 7 quarts.


Wait 3-4 days before diving in…. if you can possibly restrain yourself… Joel couldn’t….  I really wasn’t surprised.

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